the winner is Egypt

World Travel Awards have been given and Egypt is on top of the winning traveling spots. Althout all political problems of Egypt this year, it was not abandoned by tourists. In category "Africa" Egypt has won in categories like Africa's Leading Attraction with The Pyramides, Africa's Leading Beach Destination with Egyptian Sharm El Sheikh, Africa's Leading Beach and City hotels, resort and villa. However, Africa's Leading Destination was in 2011 City of Cape Town in South Affrica.

Cheops pyramid 01
Cheops pyramide, Egypt
The awards are given in categories based on their location and are grouped in continents. Awards are given since 18 years ago. During that time Egypt was the twice Africa's Leading Destination (Cape Town was awarded most often in this category).

Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza panorama

EURO 2012

2012 UEFA European Football Championship

UEFA EURO 2012 official logo.
European Football Championship (EURO) in 2012 will be hosted by Poland and Ukraine together. Shared organisation of such event was done before in 2000 by Belgium and Netherlands and in 2008 when Austria and Switzerland hosted EURO 2008 together. Poland and Ukraine are preparing for this event since few years. New stadiums had to be build and infrastructure around them prepared for all the football fans that will come to see this unique event. Hopefully Maya people were wrong and world will not end before EURO giving Spain a chance to defend their championship from 2008. 

For those who are not familiar with EURO, it is an equivalence of World Cup but only for teams from Europe. Some countries like UK have more teams that enter EURO and represent for example England or Scotland separately. However, most of countries are represented by their national teams. Games that are played during EURO are the finals and eliminations are happening long line before the actual event. However, EURO is divided into group part, where all teams play agains all from the same group and play-off part. The champion holds the title for four years until the next EURO.

Games will be played in four cities in Poland and Ukraine. Map below shows all cities that will host games during EURO 2012 in Poland (marked in red) and Ukraine (marked in blue).

View Poland-Ukraine EURO 2012 in a larger map

See also :
10 reasons to visit Poland

where is the Amber Room?

Amber Room

The Amber Room is a chamber with gold and amber decorations. It was made in XVIII century and disappeared during the II World War. It is estimated to be worth nowadays over 500 millions dolars and is considered an "Eighth Wonder of the World". The Amber Rooms known history ends suddenly and leaves many possible locations for its place of hiding.  Since its disappearance many treasure seekers were involved in the search. However, none of them succeeded yet.  

History of Amber Room

Frederick I of Prussia at the beginning of XVIII century ordered a decorative room for his palace. The room was designed by Andreas Schlüter and made in Denmark by Gottfried Wolfram from amber. Initially the Amber Room was installed in Charlottenburg Palace near Berlin in Germany. In 1716 Frederick I gave the Amber Room to Peter the Great to strengthen their alliance against Sweden. Peter the Great got the Amber Room installed in his Winter Palace in St. Petersburg as a part of the European art collection. The Amber Room has been moved again in following decades and while being adapted to the new location it has been also expanded. After years it covered more that 50 square meters and included approximately 6 tons of amber.

Berlin - Schloss-Charlottenburg
Charlottenburg Palace
Winter Palace Facade II
Winter Palace in St. Petersburg

The last legitimate location of the original Amber Room is Catherine Palace in Pushkin close to St. Petersburg. The palace is also a location of the modern reconstruction of the Amber Room. In its history, Amber Room was used by Peter the Great, Czarina Elizabeth, Catherine the Great and Aleksander I.

Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg

During the II World War and German invasion of Soviet Russia, the Amber Room was moved by Germans to Königsberg Castle and installed there. The Castle during the II World War functioned as a museum. In 1943 Alfred Rohde, working as a director of the museum, was in charge of moving Amber Room to different location. In 1944 the castle was burned down as a result of bombing. Königsberg Castle is the last known location of the Amber Room.

Königsberg Castle courtyard
Königsberg Castle, Kaliningrad, Russia

Where the Amber Room is now?

Known history of the Amber Room ends in the Königsberg Castle. The Amber Room was suppose to leave the castle and there is no information saying that it was there when the castle was destroyed.  There is many theories what happened to the Amber Room after it left the castle. One them says that it is in Wilhelm Gustloff ship wreck that has been sunken in 1945 by Russians in Baltic Sea. Other informations lead to Castels in Lower Silesia in Poland occupied by Germans during the II World War. One of the people that had informations about the Amber Room was Erich Koch that was leader of NSDAP in Eastern Prussia during the war. After the war he was sentenced with a death penalty which was never performed. He died in 1986 by natural causes in a prison in Barczewo, Poland. Over many years he was number of times interviewed about whereabouts of the Amber Room, never (officially) revealing any secrets. Other theory says that a secret organisation ODESSA that was suppose to help fugitive Nazis, could be responsible for its disappearance and possible current location. Treasure seeker from all over the world mention about 200 possible locations of the Amber Room.

Reconstruction of the Amber Room

The Amber Room has been reconstructed in Catherine Palace and is now a great turist attraction. Information how to get there may be found on, the site is for the moment only in russian. However, you may use Google Translator to get more informations until the english version apears. 

Bernsteinzimmer11 Bernsteinzimmer06 Bernsteinzimmer04
Reconstruction of the Amber Room in Catherine Palace

colors of Fall

Why do leaves change color?

Middle of September is usually the time when one can feel Fall coming. Fall is close and I am curious, whether you have ever wondered why leaves change color at this time of the year. Leaves contain many pigments in their tissue and during the growing season the green one dominates. Chlorophyll is taking an important part in the photosynthesis process and is part of the light harvesting complex. It is chlorophylls that makes plants and leaves green. During the photosynthesis process chlorophyll breaks down and has to be systematically produced.  Shorter daytime and lower temperatures turn plants into their "energy saving mode". The transport of water and minerals from the roots to the leaves will be gradually reduced and finally stopped. The chlorophyll reserves in the leaves will be gradually used and not renewed. The lack of the dominating in the vegetation season green pigment reveals other pigments that determine the leaves' color in Fall.

Kaiserstuhl - Herbst - Rebblatt im Gegenlicht Leersum Acer platanoides in autumn colors
All pictures from Wikimedia Commons

See also:
autumn - photography
park - photography

hot air ballons show, Indiana

Hot air ballons

After our first visit in the Indiana Dunes State Park I went to their web page to find some more informations about the park. I could not be more happy when I saw that in the neighborhood of the park, in Valparaiso in the following week there will be a Hot Air Ballons fest organized by Kiwanis Club of Valparaiso. The following week we headed to Valparaiso and enjoyed my first Hot Air Ballon show.

Air ballons group take off

When we arrived the hot air ballons were not set up yet and only one of them was partially filled with air and open for people to walk inside. Other ballons were spread on the grass and ready to be filled with hot air. Except the hot air ballons, there was a stage on the fest with local dance groups entertaining guests while they were waiting for the ballons to take off. Ballons were prepared to take off around 6PM and the weather did not delay it. About 12 hot air ballons take off together, almost at the same time. The take off and the flight took approximately 30 minutes and after that time we could see only few ballons on the horizon. All ballons were suppose to be brought back and set up again for the hot air ballons glow after the sunset.  The ballon rides were not offered this year but they were advertised for the next years ballon fest. 

All ballons were in the classical shape and different colors. From solid purple ballon with a large sign 'Plum Crazy' that we particularly liked to very colorful ones, all ballons looked very nice and all took off without any problems. Later during the evening it was announced that all ballons were part of a competition for a precision landing. 

When the pilots and their teams were landing and bring the ballons back to their take off spots, local tap dancing group from Valparaiso performed for about an hour. After them the local police department organized demonstration with K9 departments dogs and a bomb squad.

Ballon glow

After the sunset, around 8PM all ballons were suppose to take part in a hot air ballons glow. However, some of the participating ballons had problems setting up again and only half of the ballons glowed at the end. The hosts made them glow to the rhythms of the music which looked spectacular. Whole Air Ballon Fest was very nicely organized and although few hundreds of people came to see the show, it did not feel crowded at all. If you are in the neighborhood of Valparaiso, you should check out the next years fest and maybe get a hot air ballon ride.

See also:
Indiana dunes
Frank Lloyd house in Chicago
park - photography
autumn - photography

Indiana dunes

Dunes in Indiana

One day we went to see the dunes in the northern Indiana. Large part of the Michigan lake shore was turned into Dunes State Park. Although most of people go there for nice sandy beaches, the park has much more to offer. Lake shore is surrounded by forest with a lot of sandy, hilly trails. If you thought that the shore is a flat piece of land you will be very surprised. Deciding on the route to follow during your hike, you should know that even the middle difficulty path will involve a lot of uphill paths. From the top the sandy hills you will have a great view on the Michigan lake and dunes in the park.

Chicago skyline seen from Indiana Dunes
During your visit you will see the skyline of Chicago. Chicago is clearly seen better from Indiana than the other way around. Of course you will only see the tops of the buildings but the view is great. Dunes are very impressive and you may be surprised how can something grow on such a sandy soil. Do not expect plants sparsly scattered on the dunes. Whole hills are very green and fruitful. If you chose to visit the Dunes off the holidays season you will enjoy the nature not interrupted by many people. Southern part of the Dunes State Park has turned into a marsh and is a great place to spot a rare bird. If you are a fan of bird watching the Nature Center in the park will be definitely spot worth visiting.

Bird watching in Nature Center

Do not forget to visit the Nature Center in the dunes state park. The center is not only the information spot about the park and starting point for hike trails. The very back room faces the area behind the Nature Center building, that is not open to visitors. However, the Nature Center visitors may watch birds in their feeding spot without interrupting them from inside. You may easily see a blue jay, finches, hummingbirds and cardinals.

American gold finch Blue Jay

See also:
hot air ballons show, Indiana
honeymoon in Alaska - part 1
Frank Lloyd Wright house in Chicago
park - photography
autumn - photography

honeymoon in Alaska - part 3

Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward

The very south spot of the main street in Seward is a home for the Alaska SeaLife Center. If you do not have luck to see a puffin or seal from close distance then this is the perfect place to do that. The bird room can be viewed from above and from under the water. You will see diving puffins, among the fish native to Alaska. You will have opportunity to see and touch various starfish, see salmon in different stages of life, see sea lion and much more. Park rangers give lectures about Alaska and native Alaskans,  and if you like you may feed birds or have a close octopus encounter.

Anchorage museum

At the end of our Alaska adventure we spent one day in Anchorage. During whole week we got very nice weather, except our Anchorage day. From wondering around the town in rain or visiting museum we have chosen the Anchorage museum. The museum is divided for many sections and is not only about Anchorage. There is a popular science section, history of Alaska, native Alaskan, Alaskan modern art. Museum is definitely worth visiting.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Between Anchorage and Seward, at mile 79 of Seward Highway you will find Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center which is a great place to see animals that you may have missed in your Alaska adventure. You will find adult moose, muskoxen, elk, brown and black bears, bisons and much more. Center is also home for orphaned moose calves and brown bear cubs. You can drive around the center or leave your car and take a walk and watch animals. 

Moose Muskoxen Elk
Brown bear Brown bear cubs Bisons

Food and drinks in Alaska

I like fish and chips with beer so Alaska was heaven for me :-) Fish and chips is available with any fish you want and you can be sure that is fresh and comes from a local fisherman. From halibut, salmon and cod to rock fish, all delicious. Selection or beers that are brewed in Alaska is also very nice. All have a unique flavor and you should probably try them all, Alaskan Summer Ale was my favorite.   

Halibut and chips Selection of alaskan draught beers

We will be back!

Our trip to Alaska was a wonderful experience. An escape from a city life to small quite town surrounded by beautiful nature. Weather you are a mountain or ocean lover, Seward has both of them separated by a small cozy town. I strongly recommend it for everyone! We certainly will go back!

Cormorant and seagull Kenaj fjords tour boat at Fox Island Kenaj fjord national park
Bird view point at the Seward highway Three window point Seward

See also :
Honeymoon in Alaska - part 1
Honeymoon in Alaska - part 2
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...