It's a trait that makes this present generation of Israelis one of the best-looking on the planet. Asian features combine with European physiques and produce tall, strong young guys and women who turn a hundred heads every time they walk down the street. But what's more noteworthy is the melting-pot of traditions that this marriage of ethnic backgrounds represents. Although technically all of the same ancestral descent, the lives of Jews scraping a few carrots from the frozen soil of Poland were hugely different to those seeking a living in the crowded markets of Baghdad. Every family brought with it the language of their country in which they'd been living along with the cuisine, traditions and attitudes of the place too. Israelis of Polish descent have the reputation to be deeply materialistic while those from North Africa are said to share the unpredictable nature and bigheartedness of their Arabic hosts. After more than fifty years since the birth of the state, many of these differences have subsided in the search for a national identity. The younger generation have little time for the past suspicions that existed between Jews of European and Arabic descent and prefer to think of themselves to be Israeli before anything else. But what is an Israeli? In the beginning everyone had their own thought of what it should be. The religious saw the return of the Chosen People to their homeland as a prophesy fulfilled and hoped that the synagogues might soon be filled with religious Jews. Others simply saw Israel as a place to escape discrimination and intended to carry on with their lives as before but this time in more thriving conditions. The same can be said for the 1 million Russian immigrants who swelled the population by 20%. But if what John Lennon said is true then 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans' and perhaps we are as much shaped by our environment as by our own choices. And it seems to me that this is the case with the Israelis who spend most of their lives trying to fight for their right to exist. But their day to day struggles are not with the Arabs or Palestinians but rather with each other. And this is the first indication in understanding their national identity. In lieu of an anti-semitic population to make their lives hell, the Israelis seem to intent on making life as taxing for each other as they possibly can. Whether in business, family or friendship, Israelis flourish upon stress and forever push for an extra inch. It's almost as though it were some kind of national decision to keep everyone in fighting fitness. The typical image of the Jewish mother is more than just a myth and the whole family will wield every last ounce of emotional blackmail to urge their children onto success. Countless times I've seen some smooth young guy in jeans, t-shirt and shades, hanging out on a street corner looking cool until he answers his mobile phone - his brow furrows, his eyes raise to the sky and within twenty seconds of listening to the rant of complaints from the other end of the line he raises one hand to the sky and shouts: "Mother!" Of course the fussing only comes from a loving heart but it's part of an Israelis education that if he wants to be heard he must yell. And not just in the home - an Israeli friend of mine described to me her first day at school when she moved to Israel as a child. "There were thirty of us in the classroom and we were all very eager about our first day. The teacher came in and put twenty-five biscuits on the table. Then he invited us all to come and take one. Me and a few other kids didn't push hard enough to reach the table in time and had to watch all the others enjoy their biscuits. "'You see?' the teacher told us, 'If you don't fight for what you want in this life then you'll end up with zero!'" These lessons extend to the workplace and business. Israeli employers haven't quite grasped the notion that workers deserve to be paid for the time that they've worked. One friend of mine waited two months to be paid for a weekend that she spent as a waitress in a cafe. "Every time I called my boss he gave me some reason or pretended that the battery on his phone was dead. Finally I just walked into his office with a hammer in my hand. 'Either you pay me now,' I told him, 'Or I'm gong to smash every window in this place!' He gave me this very disillusioned look and told me that he'd have to pay me out of his own pocket - like I could care less! But I got my money." So this is possibly the first part of understanding the people : Israelis are people who fight for what is theirs. And boy, do they know how to fight.
If you are looking for a nice get-a-way weekend, with all the charm of a country town and yet all the opportunities of a thriving city, then Belfast is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy life! Belfast is the second largest city in Ireland, Dublin being the largest, and with a population of over 200,000 it is filled with the charm of an old town shipping port alongside a thriving metropolis. Belfast originated centuries ago as a shipping passage through the Irish Sea, protected on one side by Ireland and the other by England. Today it is quickly gaining the reputation as being the place to go for a break, even more than Glasgow or London! Once you get here, either by boat or plane, you have a choice either to stay inside your bed and breakfast, or get out and see what Belfast has to offer. Below is a list of some of the things to do while in the area:- Shine nightclub plays extreme techno for dancing and disco.- Crown Liquor Saloon Is decorated in ornate, Victorian-era pub and is full of friendly faces.- Ulster Museum displays many artifacts of early Ireland and treasures from the Spanish Armada- W5 childrens Museum- Ormeau Baths Gallery well-known contemporary art gallery. Specialty shop inside.- Linen Hall Library Library founded in 1788, beautiful architecture.- Customs House Historic site.- Belfast Castle tour a majestic castle dating back to 1870s.- St. Annes Cathedral outstanding architecture; religious site.- Grand Opera House opera- Cathedral Quarter in upscale neighborhood, buildings of glass and chrome, cafes and wine bars. Scenic/historic walking area.- Botanical Gardens and Palm House walkthrough gardens.- Belfast City Centre and Laganside Walk historic walking tour around downtown area.- Harland and Wolff Shipyard shipyard down at the docks where Titanic was built- Mountains surround city and make a beautiful place to spend a day hiking, picnicking, horseback riding.- Have a fresh seafood dinner out on the Pier.Belfast is the kind of get-a-way everybody needs every so often. Its quaint restaurants and pubs, old town background, and the dated architecture cant help but lend a friendly atmosphere to all who enter. Whether you take a weekend, a week or three weeks, there is plenty for you and your family to do. If you need a rest, you can always slip down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon walking the shoreline and soaking up the sun. But once you come to Belfast, youll see why it is becoming the get-a-way city of Ireland.
Vietnam is a country deeply scarred by war and yet its outlook is forgiving and forwardlooking. Its people believe last centurys occupations, battles and political influences have enriched the nation.Washed ashore above the Mekong Delta, some 40km north of the South China Sea, Ho Chi Minh City, known also as Saigon, is a city on the march, a boomtown where the rule of the dollar is absolute. It is a testament to its wartorn past. Its history has made it resilient, effervescent, charged with initiative and roaring with trade.The centre of Ho Chi Minh is compact and ideal for wandering around. It boasts fine restaurants, immaculate hotels and glitzy bars amidst its colonial villas and venerable pagodas.There are many interesting places to visit including the markets, cathedral, riverport, Presidential Palace (perfectly preserved for some unknown reason!) and the nearby park which also houses a museum of Vietnamese History and Culture and a small zoo.Ho Chi Minh City started life as a fishing village known as Prei Nokor and during the Angkor period (the 15th century) it flourished as an entrpot for Cambodian boats pushing down the Mekong River. Cargo ships still to this day jostle with rice barges and fragile sampans (an Oriental boat propelled by a sail or oars), whilst porters sweat in the humidity loading the boats.During the 18th century, the Khmers by now had been ousted, Prei Nokor was renamed as Saigon and was made a temporary capital between 1772 and 1802, after which the Emperor Gia Long used it as his regional administrative centre.The French seized Saigon in 1861 and set about a huge public works programme by building roads and draining marsh land. The war against the French lasted thirty years after which Saigon was finally designated the capital of the Republic of South Vietnam.American troops withdrew in 1973 and two years later Saigon had been renamed as Ho Chi Minh City.This is a port that is steamy hot and searlingly stylish. The streets are lined with imaginative oneoff boutiques, design stores and busy cafes where you will be able to meet the local people on an informal basis. Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton streets are favourites for elegant silk clothing, hand embroidered scarves, and lacquerware. (Many stores will provide a service of organising a container to ship purchases home) In many ways Ho Chi Minh City is far more cosmopolitan and hedonistic than the capital, Hanoi.Ho Chi Minh is also full to bursting point with people for whom progress hasnt yet translated into food, lodging and employment, so begging, stealing and prostitution are very much in evidence. Petty crime, unfortunately, has increased in the last few years so much care should be taken when walking the streets or travelling on bicycles or motorbikes, especially after dark and around tourist nightspots. For more information on Vietnam, or any South East Asian topic, please visit http://www.Sticky-Rice.com
It's hard to believe that a short 30-mile bus ride from the Spring-break haven of Cancun is one of the top-ranked hotels in Central America and an exotic, unrivaled tropical paradise. While it sounds like typical romance copy, we're not just giving lip service ...the Mayan Riviera is not your standard Mexican vacation destination nor is Maroma Resort a regular lodging establishment, having recently received the Conde Nast Travel Magazine Reader's Choice Award as the #3 hotel in all of Central America. The local culture and natural resources are just some of the attractions that separate Riviera Maya from other popular destinations in Central America. For starters, the second largest barrier reef in the world is located here, providing unsurpassed water activities like snorkeling, wind-surfing, kayaking, sailing, diving, bottom fishing, deep sea and fly fishing. The unspoiled beach offers guests the utmost in privacy and unparalleled natural beauty.Maroma Resort is a showcase for unique arts and crafts produced in each region of Mexico, including statues, hand-painted bathroom tiles, hand-loomed natural cotton bedspreads, and decorative pillows and throws and soft wool rugs. The rooms and public areas feature original art by Mexican and International artists and each room also has its own special objects. Maroma has 58 rooms and suites situated among lush gardens, cooled and shaded by coconut palms on one side, open to the warmth of the sun and sea on the other.Relax in a king-sized bed, luxury bath with sunken tub, sparkling pool, or beachfront Jacuzzi-you decide what to do indulge in first. Afterward, let any remaining troubles melt away in the spa, where you can choose between massage, reflexology, Reiki, craniofacial, facials, whole-body treatments, mud, aromas, Ajurveda, yoga, meditation, rebirthing, crystal therapy, and the ancient art of the temazcal-the purifying and healing ritual of the Mayan steam bath.While you'll feel a world away from unnatural office lighting, congested freeways and the demands of everyday life, you have the choice of staying connected to the modern world. Maroma?s multi-media theater features a state-of-the-art sound and projection system with over 380 movies to choose from.
Germany has long been a mover and shaker of European history, creating waves in time for the rest of the continent to ride out. From Charlemagne and Otto von Bismarck to Nazism and the Cold War, Germany has become the epicenter of cutting-edge culture and music, and centuries of tradition and fine arts. The juxtaposition of medieval towns against ultra-modern industrialism is a fascinating reality to experience.Thriving Urban Centers of GermanyThe capital city of Berlin is by far the most dynamic and diverse metropolis for the German traveler. Despite reunification projects since the Wall came down in 1989, the city is still very much divided between the cosmopolitan chic of the West and the tattered Communist remains of the East. The Stasi Museum, located in East Berlin, is home to the former State Security Service. The intelligence body spied on and badgered citizens throughout the Communist era from this building. The Brandenburger Tor is a monumental building built in 1792 as one of the city's 14 gates. The history of this landmark is tied directly with the enclosing of West Germany from the East as it was essentially barricaded in by the Berlin Wall.In addition to the other popular urban destinations of Munich and Frankfurt, Aachen (also known as Aix-la-Chapelle) should not be missed on a German visit. It is considered the most international of cities in Germany, situated close to the Belgian and Netherlands borders. Many citizens and travelers enjoy regular access to both border nations. The main draw is the Aachen Dom (Aachen Cathedral), which is the oldest landmark in Germany. Emperor Charlemagne had the chapel constructed over 1200 years ago and Holy Roman Emperors were coroneted here for nearly 600 years. The cathedral is also alleged to possess Christ's loincloth as part of its collection.Fables and FairytalesThe German landscape is still comparable to your favorite fairytale or Robin Hood adventure. Castles in the sky preside over the rich green forests where Hansel and Gretel ventured to meet their witch. The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is famous for its intense evergreen canopy, vast outdoor activities and secluded get-a-ways. It also happens to be where Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse spent much of his life living and writing. The Maulbronn monastery, situated in the forest's north end, is a UNESCO World Heritage sight that has been carefully preserved. The entire wooded expanse is dotted with medieval and farm towns and is fairly easy to navigate by train.The notorious 19th century Bavarian king, Ludwig II (Ludwig Friedrich Wilhelm), left his personal legend all over the German countryside in the form of extravagantly ornate castles. Schloss Neuschwanstein is Ludwig's (and Germany's) most famous construction, particularly because he contracted a stage designer rather than an architect to do the job. Although the monstrosity was never actually finished, visitors may enjoy concerts in the castle's centerpiece, Minstrel's Hall, every September.Along Germany's southwest border, The Rhine Valley stretches as a monument to the country's timeless culture and love affair with art, wine, food and beer. The Middle Rhine Valley (also a World Heritage sight) is the most popular segment, studded with medieval and gothic towns and wineries that hold their own festivals annually. Additionally, WWII has left its distinct mark throughout the region despite the incredible restoration efforts undertaken over the years.Social revolutions, wars and a fair share of domestic turmoil combined with the legacy of the Holy Roman Empire and the split of the Protestant Church all make Germany unmistakably unique and internationally modern. Travel Germany and discover that it's not all about the Beer Gardens!For more information on travel to Germany and other regions in Europe, and discount airfare to Germany, visit www.cfares.com.