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Fascinating Facts about the Colosseum (Rome)

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The Colosseum
Iconic!  Magnificent!  The Symbol of Rome!  The Greatest Roman Architectural Work!

These and many more adjectives and praises have been poured upon the glorious ruins of stone and cement that sit in the heart of modern Rome. It is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Any and every movie that features the city has to have a shot of the Colosseum in it!

Here are some interesting facts about the Colosseum that you may or may not know.

•    It stands just east of the Roman Forum

•    It was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people

•    It was built on the site of Nero’s Golden Palace. An enormous complex that Nero had built for himself after a great fire ripped through Rome in A.D. 64

•    Nero also built a statue of himself – the Colossus. This gigantic statue gave the building its current name.

•    It took only about 8 years to build; a relatively quick time period for such a grand project

•    Officially opened in A.D. 80 by Vespasian's son Titus

•    Was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre

•    The opening ceremony went on for 100 days with games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights

•    During the course of the inauguration some 9,000 wild animals were killed.

•    What stands today is only a third of the original structure

•    It measures about 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters) and is a freestanding stone and concrete structure.  It stands more than 48 meters (159 ft) in height

•    The great amphitheatre covers 6 acres

•    It was clad in marble

•    There were 160 larger-than-life statues in the arches on the upper floors

•    The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world

•    Unlike previous and other amphitheatres it was not dug into hillsides for support

•    It has four stories – above ground – with 80 arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns

•    The columns on each storey are different in style.  The lowest were the simple Doric columns. Above them were columns of the Ionic form and topped by the intricate and beautiful Corinthian style

•    The Arch of Constantine was built in A.D. 315 near the main entrance

•    At its peak usage the Colosseum could seat more than 50,000 people – must have been quite a squeeze!

•    The upper story contained seating for lower classes and women

•    The lowest story was preserved for prominent citizens.

•    Below ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena

•    The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). It had a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.

•    The Colosseum was covered with a giant sail known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun and rain. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes.

•    The events featured gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights

•    There were over 20 different types of Gladiators

•    There were also larger and dramatic mock naval engagements for which the arena was flooded with water

•    Most of the combatants were men (though there were some female gladiators). Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war

•    From its early history, the Colosseum has suffered damage from natural causes such as lightning and earthquakes

•    It has been plundered for its materials that was used in numerous buildings including St Peter’s Cathedral, Cathedral of St John Lateran, the Pallazo Venezia and fortifications along the River Tiber

•    About 2/3 of the original Colosseum has gone.  Its original marble facing, the statues decorating the arches and the lavish decoration of the interior have either disappeared of adorn other buildings in and around Rome

•    Restoration started in the latter part of the 19th century and still continues today

•    Before the overgrowth of vegetation was cleared away in 1871 over 400 species of plants grew on the ruins

•    Was in regular use for over 400 years

•    42 Roman Emperors witnessed the events at the Colosseum

•    An estimated 700,000 have people died in the various sports at the arena

•    There isn’t much evidence to support the claims that early Christian martyrs met their fate in the Colosseum
 

Photo Credit: jimmyharris

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Skiing in Rossland

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Skiing in Rossland; Credit - Alarobric

Deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies sits the little big town of Rossland. Located in the Monashee Mountains, it was a former gold mining town. Rossland is just about 5 miles (8 kms) from the US and south-eastern British Columbia border. It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Spokane.

What is outstanding about this little nook in the mountains of West Kootenay is that it is a fabulous destination for all snow related sporting activities. The region is blessed with an annual snowfall of about 300 inches (750 cms). It is light, dry and powdery.  

The Rossland area offers nearly every grade of slope and trail for enthusiasts (professional and amateur) of hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding and cat-skiing. The diverse, challenging and magnificent terrain is magnet for many other sports fans too including mountain bikers. Of course the main activity is skiing.

The Rossland Ski area comprises of two main summits – Red Mountain and Granite Mountain. The base is 3,888 feet (1,185 metres) above sea level. It has a terrific vertical drop of 2,919 foot (884 metres). There are also superb glade tree skiing and wide-open groomed runs, terrain parks – all of which are easy to access.

Red and Granite Mountains are serviced by four chairlifts and a T-Bar. This affords nearly 4.5 square miles (6.8 square kilometres) of skiable area. Then there are vast skiable areas not serviced by chairlifts. Overall the Rossland Ski Area has more than 10 square miles (17 square kilometres) and 88 runs of for winter sport activities.

A third summit, Grey Mountain, is being expanded and developed. It should be ready for the 2013 season. That means there will be an additional 900 odd acres of ski slopes; a Sno-Cat shuttle and a quad chairlift.

Rossland is the oldest skiing area in North America. Skiing in Rossland has a history that is closely tied up with the Norwegians who came here during the gold rush of the 1890s.  Olaus Jeldness, a mining engineer, who came to Rossland in 1896, was responsible for starting and popularising the sport.

The first recorded skiing competitions in Canada were held here. These were held as part of the Winter Carnival, held from as early as 1896 until 1918. The Carnival still takes place every year.

The Rossland and Red Mountain region has been voted as “Best Powder,” “Best Steeps” and among “Top 5 Free Ride Spots.”  To cater to all the skiing enthusiasts and just plain holiday makers there are modern and fine ski schools, equipment rentals, free shuttle services, ski inns, cafes, spas and pubs.
 

Photo Credit: Alarobric

 

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Seattle Art Museum- Where Past meets Present

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Welcome to Seattle!  Owing to the long spring season, the Emerald City (Seattle) has been a famous tourist hub among the travelers of all ages. February marks the beginning of beautiful tourist season when rains relent and the shades of narcissus and plum change the hues and scent that would last for months. It is perhaps one of the few American cities where travelers can be outdoors all the year-round without either shivering or sweating. There are many things to do and see in Seattle. Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle Aquarium are a few among these.  If you are connoisseur of art, a visit to Seattle Art Museum is a must visit attraction.

Established in the year 1933, Seattle Art Museum has been a top-notch institution of visual arts for about 8 decades now. Aficionados of art would find no better place than SAM to experience the nostalgia of 20th century and developments in 21st century together. When SAM was founded it had only 1926 pieces of art and by the end of 2008 its collection grew to almost 25000 pieces of art.

Ever since its establishment, Seattle Art Museum has been received a good number of visitors. In the very first year 346287 people visited the museum and in 2007 attendance grew to 797127. "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris" held in 2010 had been the most remarkable event in the history of SAM when more than 405,000 people attended the exhibition.

The permanent exhibitions at SAM consists of African art, American art, Ancient Mediterranean & Islamic art, Australian Aboriginal & Oceanic art, Chinese art, Decorative art, Southeast Asian art, European art, Japanese art, Korean art, modern and contemporary art native and Mesoamerican art,  and northwest art and textiles.

SAM has three major facilities: SAM, SAAM and Olympic Sculpture Museum.  

Seattle Asian Art Museum: The museum of Asian Art in Seattle nestles at Volunteer Park on the Capitol Hill. Abbreviated as SAAM, Seattle Asian Art Museum incorporates the 1933 Art Moderne building, the original home of SAM's main collection.  

Admission is free on the first Thursday and Saturday of every month.

Olympic Sculpture Park: Opened in 2007, Olympic Sculpture Park attracts visitors because of its uniqueness. Sprawling over 9 acres, it has an outdoor sculpture museum park and also a beach. Amazing museum, isn’t it?  

Admission to outdoor sculpture park is free.

Author Bio: Rachna Dave works with CheapOair, one of the best known online travel brand in the U.S., to promotes travel and tourism globally. They offer low fare guarantee on economy as well as business class travel.

Seattle Travel Tip by Author: Tourism in Seattle surges up in spring. To book cheap flights to Seattle, plan your travel in advance. Prior booking at times helps in getting a business class travel deal at a fare of economy class.
 

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White Salmon River, Washington

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White Salmon River

The very name conjures up shimmering, silvery bodies of fish flashing through the water on their way upstream to spawn. Green trees throng its sides and shrubs lean over the banks of the river as it picturesquely twists and turns it way down canyons. And that is exactly what you get with White Salmon River.

The river has a length of only 44 miles (71 kilometres) and runs on the southern border of the Pacific North-western US state of Washington. It has its source in the glaciers of Mount Adams and runs partly through the Adams Wilderness region.

White Salmon is a tributary of the Columbia River, emptying into it near the community of Underwood. In 1986, the strip between Gilmer Creek and Buck Creek was designated “Wild and Scenic” and in 2005, the upper stretch near Gifford Pinchot National Forest was designated the same.

The river is stunning and truly beautiful. Its white-tipped waters churned by rapids and fed by numerous springs and glacier melting has made it a favourite destination for white water rafters and kayakers. There are excellent boating opportunities in calmer waters of its lower reaches. The Native Americans, particularly those of the Yakama Nation, have lived off the bounty of the river for centuries.

Yet the reason for the river’s name was lost for 100 years. That was because of the Condit Dam. The 125 foot high dam was completed in 1913 and proved impassable to the salmon and steelhead fish. They were restricted to spawning in only three miles of the river.  The dam also affected the river’s natural cycle as mineral rich sediment was blocked from moving downstream.

Fortunately the dam has outlived its usefulness and in October 2011 was breached. In November 2012, the final concrete section of Condit Dam was removed and the river now runs free. In the short span of a year there is nothing to show that the dam ever existed.

What is even more amazing (and exciting) is that in the same time the salmon have returned and are spawning abundantly.

As a recreation and adventure holiday site, White Salmon River is easily accessible. It is only about 90 minutes from the Portland/Vancouver area. The river has plenty of Class III and IV rapids as it surges through thickly forested gorges.

Now that the dam has gone and the fish are back, you can add fishing to the attraction of the river. As if that were not enough, the White Salmon River area is forested, enjoys great weather and the water itself is clear. So hiking or rafting trips of one or two days is a great way to spend the holiday.
 

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Munich Attractions

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Munich

Munich is the capital of the German state of Bavaria and located on the beautiful and gentle River Isar. Munich is derived from the word munchen (meaning “near the monks place”). It was the Benedictine monks who founded the city in 1158 and thus the monk image on the city’s coat of arms. By many European standards it is a relatively young city.

For all its youthfulness, the city is a marvellous place to see many of Europe’s architectural masterpieces. What is also amazing, and thankfully so, is how many buildings and monuments survived the ravages of bombing and house-to-house fighting of World War II. Of course many were rebuilt including the city centre. The inner city looks the same as it did during the early 19th century.

Besides the architecture there is much that Munich has retained especially a gentle, warm, friendly and old-world atmosphere. It also has a vibrant and world exciting cultural scene. As a world city Munich is the base for many multi-national companies across a broad range of industries including being a financial and publishing centre. It is also a centre for engineering, research, studies (two universities) and museums. Oh yes! Its staid and proper image disappears during the annual Oktoberfest!

Residence
The Residence was originally a palace and now an important museum. For five hundred years its 130 rooms were the seat of Bavarian kings and dukes. Some of its highlights include the portrait gallery, classic apartments, the Antiquarium: a large and most beautiful Renaissance hall.

The Residence has large sections of unique and fabulous gold works dating from the Middle Ages. There are numerous pieces made from crystal, ivory and precious gems. Two outstanding pieces are a statuette of St. George and the Gisela Cross.

Nymphenburg Palace
Home to the Wittelsbach rulers, this baroque palace has sumptuous interior decorations of which the Gallery of Beauties stands out.  Then there is the banquet hall with its Zimmerman decorated ceiling. The palace is a series of beautifully symmetrical buildings that contain many finely crafted works. It also houses the Marstallmuseum, the Porcelain Museum and a landscaped park and Botanical Gardens.

Badenburg
One of Badenburg’s claims to fame is its heated indoor bathing pool – the first of its kind in the world. The pool and pavilion adjoins a beautiful stucco marble hall built in 1719.

Deutsches Museum
For over a century this has been one of the finest science and technological museums in the world. Covering 50,000 square metres it is also the largest of its kind. It houses an amazing array of sailing ships, models of atoms, windmills, space probes, diesel locomotives, industrial robots, organs, and lifeboats.  The museum also houses all kinds of vehicles – from a Formula 1 car to a bicycle. The Flugwerft section focuses on airplanes.

Around 1.3 million people visit the museum every year.

Marienplatz
In the heart of Munich city is a large open square, the Marienplatz. The square is named after an imposing column that stands at its centre. At the top of the column stands a statute of the Virgin Mary. The square also contains two impressive buildings, the Old and New Town Halls.  Three gates of the medieval fort that once stood there still remain. The square was once the site for jousting tournaments and markets.

BMW Museum
A futuristic bowl, shimmering and shining, the BMW Museum contains exhibits of pioneering technological and engineering achievements. The museum also highlights prototypes of cars, motorcycles and alternative and innovative propulsion methods.

Allianz Arena
The arena dominates Munich’s northern landscape. It is the first stadium that changes colour.  This arena (also known as the inflatable raft) seats about 69,000 spectators.

Oktoberfest
This beer drinking tradition first started as celebrations to mark the end of annual horse races presided over by the Bavarian Royal Family. Today it is a 16 day long orgy of beer-binging, called “die Wiesn” by Munich locals. It has become an integral and world famous part of the Bavarian cultural landscape. The ‘fest’ has been held since 1810. In those 200 it has only been cancelled 24 times – that too because of cholera outbreaks and war!

The 2013 edition will begin on 21st September and run till 6th October.
 

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Easter Around the World

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            This Sunday countries all around the world will be celebrating the Christian holiday of Easter. From an Easter egg roll with the President of the United States to decorating tress and bushes in Germany, Easter is wide spread holiday in both landscape and culture. Some traditions are joyous and others are sacrificial, however all celebrations are known to bring a variety of cultures and nationalities together.
 
United States of America
            Started in 1814 by First Lady Dolley Madison, the White House Easter Egg Roll is an annual event held on the White House Lawn for children and their parents. The roll happens on Easter Monday and is a race, where children push an egg through grass with long-handled spoon. This long time tradition has evolved over the years, and has hosted celebrities such as J.K. Rowling and Justin Beiber. In 2009, President Barack Obama and his family held their first Egg Roll and made headlines by being the first President to formally invite gay and lesbian families to attend the traditional event.
 
Cyprus
            Along with celebrating the traditional painting of Easter Eggs, the remote country of Cyprus has a customary tradition for people to light great fires in schools or church yards on Easter Sunday. This tradition is known as the Holy Fire and was first mentioned by the pilgrim Bernard the Monk in 870 AD. The Holy Fire is celebrated in many Orthodox countries, but is best known in Cyprus for it’s fierce competition between the neighborhoods over who has the supreme fire. Fighting for scraps and wood to create the biggest fire is a traditional ritual in Cyprus.
 
Germany
            Ostereierbaum, or Easter egg tree, is the German tradition of decorating trees and bushes with Easter Eggs. The origin of the tradition has been lost over time but the importance of the egg, as an ancient symbol of life, holds great importance to the German culture. Eggs are hung on branches of outdoor trees and bushes throughout the country, and also other German-influenced countries like the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and even the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the United States. The Germans also decorate the streets with Easter eggs including public wells or fountains on Good Friday. This tradition is called Ousterbrunnen, meaning Easter Well or Easter Fountain.
 
Colombia
            Instead of indulging in eggs and chocolate for Easter, Colombians like to eat iguana, turtle and the world’s largest rodent for their traditional Easter dinner. However eggs are incorporated into the cuisine with plates like turtle egg omelets, iguana soup, cayman stew, fried yucca and capybara, which is the world’s biggest rodent. Colombians travel for hours to spend the holiday with family and to prepare special meals, bringing exotic animals from faraway provinces to their relatives in big cities.
 
Great Britain
            In the United Kingdom “pace-egging” is a popular Easter ritual, which involves the rolling of decorated eggs down grassy green hills. The tradition is celebrated all throughout the United Kingdom, and was started with eggs originally wrapped in onionskins then boiled to give them a mottled gold appearance. An old Lancashire legend that says the broken eggshells should be carefully crushed afterwards or they will be stolen and used as boats by witches was turned into a customary tradition that is still practiced today.  You can join in on pace-egging at Holcombe Hill in Lancashire, Avenham Park in Preston, Bunkers Hill in Derby and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. 

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Holi – The Indian Festival of Colours

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Holi; Credit-WoodlouseThe Hindu festival of Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day (or Poornima) in the Hindu Lunar calendar month of Phalgun. The days and dates vary every year. This year, 2013, the dates are March, 27th (Wednesday) and 28th (Thursday).

The Indian festival of Holi celebrates the arrival of spring, and all things new. It is probably the oldest of Indian festivals. It has ancient agricultural origins rooted in the wish for good and abundant harvests. The festival was inspired by nature’s colours, which covers the land after the grimness of winter; thus, the alternative title of “Festival of Colours.” It also marks the bringing in of the Rabi crop.

Without question it is one of the most colourful festivals in the world and the emphasis is on all things colour. It is a festival that is celebrated right across India – and the vast Diaspora around the world. In most places Holi is celebrated over two days but in some parts (especially the state of Uttar Pradesh) it lasts for over a week.

Celebrations take the form of people smearing coloured powder on each other. The colours are predominantly red, yellow and green. The powders are also mixed with water and thrown or sprayed by pichakaris (water pistols) at each other. On the first night there is also a community bonfire. There is much singing and dancing.

The festival has also taken on religious connotations with various stories associated with its origins. A popular and widespread one revolves around Krishna and his consort Radha.  Krishna had a mischievous nature and often played pranks on people around him. He would drench the village girls, including Radha in coloured water.

The other story is about the legendary demon king, Hiranyakashyap, who tried to kill his son Prahlad. The king got his demoness sister, Holika, to carry Prahlad into a fire. She was reputedly immune to the flames. However, in this instance she died while Prahlad came away unscathed. It is a moral tale of the triumph of good over evil.
 

Image credit: Woodlouse

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Touring of Mount Titlis, Switzerland

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Mount TitlisTravelling to Mount Titlis is a joy in itself. The journey from Zurich unrolls picture postcard perfect scenery in the way that only Switzerland produces.

The mountain is located in the heart of the Urner Alps in Central Switzerland. At 3,238 metres it is the highest mountain in this region. It has three main faces. The Titlis Glacier occupies the north face. The steeper and rockier southern face houses the Wenden Glacier.  The east side is also covered by the Firnalpeligletscher.

What gives the mountain its greatest attraction is the fact that a large part of the mountain is above the snow line. This means that its slopes are clad in snow for all 12 months of the year. It is subject to freezing temperatures, even in summer, and that brings in the visitors and snow enthusiasts. The Engelberg-Titlis combination has over 82 kilometres of slopes and five cross-country ski runs.

The mountain dominates the surrounding region – the Engelberg valley – in the Obwalden Canton. The slopes offer absolutely clear and stunning panoramic views of the area around.  Titlis and Engelberg provide much more than scenic photo opportunities for visitors. The facilities are excellent and typical – if rather expensive – Swiss high quality.

Skiing is the biggest and most obvious activity taking place here. However, you cannot ski all the way down from the top. Despite that there are several great runs down the mountain, one of which is via Jochpass, that takes you right to the village. The FSI organises an annual world ski jumping event in Engelberg. You can indulge in free-style or cross-country skiing.

The many slopes can be used for sledding, tobogganing and other snow-related activities.  There is long sledging slope of almost 4 kilometres. You can also go winter hiking or don a pair of snow shoes and take one of several trails.

What also makes Titlis famous the world over is its cable car system. The cable car was inaugurated in March 1967. The system incorporates a rotating gondola. Known as the Rotair this revolving car is the first of its kind in the world. A ride in it is a must and your breath catches several times on the way up because of the sheer beauty of the place and the novelty of the ride.

The system comprises of three stages that takes you all the way – from Engelberg to Klien Titlis (the summit). The first stage takes you up 1,262 metres to Gerschnialp; the second to Trübsee (1,796 metres) and finally the Stand (2,428 metres). There are shops and restaurants around the cable car station at every stage.

The last part rises above the glacier and from the station you can visit a glacier cave. The cave is brightly lit, which is a bit cheesy. It would have been more fun and exciting if you had to walk in with only a torch!

If skiing is not your style or you don’t know how or if you don’t have the time you could take a guided coach tour out of Zürich and spend the whole day at Engelberg-Titlis. That way you can enjoy the scenery and snow without the pressure (or expense) of staying and skiing.
 

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Why Travel Insurance is Mandatory

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Travel Insurance

Travelling abroad is still a big deal, even today when it is so commonplace. Vacationers will research and make the most painstaking plans about what they will visit; where they will stay; the activities they will undertake and the tours they will get on. They make contingency plans for funds, should they over spend on the budget.

Yet one of the most important aspects of travel is very often neglected. That piece of the travel package is insurance. For many prospective tourists it does not even enter into their thinking.  They do not cover themselves especially at a time, when more and more travelers are planning daring and adventurous overseas trips involving risky activities.

Every year millions of people are travelling abroad for a variety of reasons – vacations, study, work, business and sightseeing. Yet they assume that there will be no problems and that the trip will be trouble-free. Any one of a hundred things can go wrong when travelling abroad.

There are a host of reasons why you should take out travel insurance when travelling abroad. They could range from small yet important inconveniences to medical problems. You should make sure you buy comprehensive travel insurance because it provides the most effective cover in case your property is lost or stolen or you get injured or sick while you’re abroad.  Effective travel insurance may be the safety net that could save you in the event of unfortunate and unforeseen incidents or accidents while far from home.

One of the most common problems is the loss of valuables. For a variety of reasons things such as cameras, mobile phones and wallets get lost or stolen. Lost luggage by airlines is another common occurrence. Do not depend on airlines to compensate you for losing your luggage.  Legally airlines only have to pay per kilo of lost luggage. That does not mean that the value of your belongings will be compensated.

Another high risk possibility is a medical emergency either from an accident or from an existing condition. Medical treatment abroad can be expensive. A good insurance policy could save you spending a small fortune in such an event. Whether you are travelling on business or pleasure you do not want the trip ruined by illness and huge medical bills.

A good travel insurance policy should cover the following possibilities:

•    Medical and injury cover
•    Accidents
•    24 hour emergency assistance
•    Lost and stolen belongings
•    Cancellation of your trip
•    Bad weather
•    Strikes
•    Terrorism coverage
•    Cover for the entire duration of your trip

When looking for a good travel policy – find the right product rather than a cheap one. It might not be worth the initial saving. Older travelers may be taking a huge chance if they do not buy travel insurance. Studies show that one in ten of them don’t take any insurance at all. Many people deeply regret not taking out travel insurance. Don’t wind up being one of them.
 

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Houseboat Cruises, Kerala

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Houseboat Cruise, Kerala; Credit - PandiyanOn the tip of the south-western Malabar Coast of India lies a tiny piece of green heaven.  Self-titled, “God’s Own Country,” and rightfully so it is the state of Kerala. Bounded by the blue Arabian Sea to the west and the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats to the east, the state has many treats for the visitor.

One of Kerala’s most exquisite features is the vast network of natural waterways, canals, lagoons and rivers that criss-cross the state. They stretch from Kochi to Quilon. The backwaters of Kerala have always been a source of livelihood for the natives. Their transportation, agriculture, fisheries, culture and entertainment are derived from these waterways.

These picturesque, serene and languid backwaters provide a superb backdrop and means of seeing a rural and otherwise untrammelled Kerala. And the best way to truly experience the magic of the state is to take a languid houseboat cruise through these waterways. Places bearing exotic names like Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Kottayam, Kollam and Kuttanad drift by as you enjoy the fabulous and spicy cuisine from the comfort of your cushioned water palace.

Your Houseboat

The Malayalee word for houseboat is kettuvallam, which can be hired from a number of private operators, through travel agents, hotels and also the Kerala Tourism Department.

There are several options to the tours. The State Water Transport Department has half day and one day budget cruises between Alappuzha and Kollam and from Kochi with several departures during the day. Then there are the more upmarket, leisurely and luxurious tours.  You could choose from a wide range of time-tables, budgets, routes and destinations.

The choices could range from as short as a day to a week. But keep in mind that monotony and boredom on the longer trips can be a hazard. Two days (or 48 hours) is probably the best length of time – enough for you to take in most of the various sights and scenes along the way.

The houseboats are rather large barges that can vary in length from 80 to 110 feet. You will have plenty of space to lounge and stretch your feet. The houseboats’ capacity can vary from two to a family size with multiple bedrooms with many being quite exotic. They have living rooms with onboard kitchen facilities. Many are also air-conditioned! You can get fresh-cooked meals and drinks.

Here is a sampling of some of the dishes that you could on your cruise. While not watching the passing scenery you could get your fill of Kerala’s unique foods, many served on traditional banana leaves.

Karimeen Pollichathu: A fish offering baked with a paste of chillies, spices and curry leaves.

Fish Molee: Sear fish cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with spices.

Appam & Mutton Stew:  Appams are soft-centred, lacy pancakes to be had with mutton, banana, or mixed vegetable stew.

Fresh Coconut Water:  The best drink in Kerala.

So depending on the length of the cruise, the number of people and the boat facilities the prices can range from US$80 to almost US$300. You can generally hire a houseboat without too much notice or advance booking except during the tourist high season.

The high season runs from December to the end of January when the weather is relatively cool and dry. March to May is very hot and humid – so an air-conditioned boat is a good idea. Doing a cruise during the monsoon period has its own magic but the monotony is terrific as it can rain non-stop and visibility may be rather limited.

The houseboat cruises is a brilliant and delightful way to slowdown and relax from a hectic travel schedule all the while experiencing a visual and scenic paradise.
 

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