Skip to content

Category Archives: Travel Notes

Deutsch funicular vernacular: Genuine genius.

Somewhat infrequently, I come across something that’s both reeeaaally simple but at the same time reeeaaally amazing and astonishing. For example, the funicular in Wiesbaden, Germany.

At first glance – it’s just two tram cars going up and down a small hill: simple. However, on closer inspection you find out that these tram cars weren’t built say in the middle of the last century… No – it was actually 1888 when they were commissioned: amazing! And the engine they use?… Nope – no engine! The cars go up and down the hill using just gravity plus one other unlikely source of energy – water: astonishing!

Germany, Wiesbaden

Read on: how this hill-tram works?…

Underground Jerusalem

I have read and heard a lot about the about the excavations in Jerusalem, around the Holy Temple and under its walls. I have seen the pictures, licked my lips in anticipation but I only managed to visit the ruins of the city and one of the newly discovered tunnels (not the main one though) that runs under the Western Wall.

Then all of a sudden – a surprise!

Down the stairs, under the ground, from level to level, from floor to floor. How many of them have not been excavated yet?? Along the Roman cobbles, under the 700-year-old Turkish renovations, along the ancient walls of the Temple. Wow! I never even dreamed of it – but it really happened!

Underground Jerusalem

What is hoary antiquity for New York, is just last night for Jerusalem…

Sacré-Cœur – mon Dieu!

Next stop – France.

Here we were celebrating the 10th b-day of the KL France office. The goings-on deserve a post of their own really. For now though, it’s down the Champs-Élysées and onwards for some speedy surveying of the familiar spectacular Parisian places of interest I never tire of checking out…

Paris, France

Read on: My top-three fave places in Paris…

Tel Aviving the time.

My fall season globetrotting continues from country to country, city to city… What’s nice about it this year is that the weather just about everywhere is real good. My autumn coat hasn’t left the corner of my suitcase once yet.

Alas, the itinerary – as always – has been very intense – an intenserary! – and some of the ports of call have been decidedly un-resort-like, so dipping into some nice warm sea sadly hasn’t worked out. Until today! For here I am on the beach of Tel Aviv. Hurray! After the very tense official part of my visit to Israel I finally got to the shores of the Med for some serious chilling. Phew.

Beach time in Tel Aviv

But my beaching it in the Middle East is hardly worthy of a blog post in itself. However, while vegging out, I noticed in the corner of my eye a digital display on the side of the lifeguards’ tower. It took it in turns to show the time of day and the current temperature, much like similar digital displays the world over. But this one was a little different…

Read on: a brainteaser with digital clocks…

Ham yard, salad roof.

What ho, folks! Here I am in the center of London, in Soho, the area of London that seems to have just about everything – from the salubrious to the seedy, and from the chic to the cheeky. I’m staying in the outstandingly original Ham Yard hotel. I wasn’t expecting unexpectedness here – but then I didn’t look it up beforehand – we just needed a place in Soho as I’d a few engagements nearby, so it was booked on the fly. This hotel is however full of surprises, the most astonishing of which was up on the roof…we found there a huge vegetable garden covering the whole rooftop! In the center of a megalopolis!

Ham Yard Hotel London

Read on: no fuddy-duddy old hotel for old fuddy-duddies…

Hungry for hotness in Hungary.

I’d heard plenty of good stuff about Hungarian spas and hot springs. And I’d been to the country many times since first visiting it in 1998. But somehow there was just never the time to immerse myself in its thermal waters. But last weekend I made amends. And what can I say? It’s mega-cool hot! Alas, I didn’t have much room for my camera when in my trunks, so almost all the photos here are from the official site of the particular Hungarian thermal paradise we visited…

Soooo, the Gellért Baths in Budapest…

The world's best hot springs

Read on: A palace with thermal baths…

Floating history.

From a tourist’s perspective Washington, D.C. is far from the most interesting city in the world. I’d even go so far as to say it’s somewhat boring.

The Washington monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, National Air and Space Museum, and various other museums… and that, to me, seems just about it for the average tourist. So, if you’re ever stateside but don’t have loads of days to fill, I think it’s safe to pass on this place and get stuck into others, like San Francisco and New York, and then perhaps Arizona (in particular the Grand Canyon), California (especially the redwoods), and the volcanic north-west in Washington state. And if it’s July-September – why not Alaska? I could go on, of course, but the places I’ve listed I think are among the best.

But I was in D.C. this time, and in need of some touristic tidbits to tide me over for a day. It wasn’t looking promising… But then…

To my astonishment, I discovered that in Washington, D.C. there are a few discreet places which are full to the brim with treasures relating to the not-so-long but oh-so rich history of the U S of A and its empire. I visited one of them, and was bowled over by what it had to offer. It was the USS Sequoia, the former presidential yacht.

Presidential Yacht Sequoia

Read On: proudly serving the presidents…

Like sardines… ‘United’ in a can.

At first I was going to call this post something like ‘cattle wagon’. Then I had a think, and figured that’d be too malicious. Kinda like, ‘Shock, horror! The beluga caviar isn’t spread evenly here’; i.e., hardly appropriate outside my little world, really :).

Basically, this is just a bit of a whinge. One of those petty peeves we all have from time to time due to perceived poor levels of service…

So, there I was, sat on one of eight (8) seats in a row – in business class – on United Airlines’ UA988 flight from Frankfurt to Washington, and I was thinking back to a wholly different avia experience – flying from Singapore to New York on Singapore Airlines. That flight took 18 hours – non-stop (!), and there were just four seats to a row (but of course those seats were priced somewhat differently).

But on United the seats were arranged 2-4-2, to make up eight-to-a-row. What made things worse was that half the passengers in the row were faced forward, the other half – backward. I was lucky enough to be faced backwards, and, well, sitting backwards on a plane is one of the few things in this world that really irritate me. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was because they drummed it into me when younger that sitting like that on a train is somehow not right… I dunno.

United Arilines

Read on: Singapore Airlines vs United Airlines…

The Kurils: Why, where, how.

So, where on earth did the idea of a cruise, not around tourist-friendly tropical islands, but around mostly uninhabited – for a reason – polar-esque ones, come from?

It’s quite simple really…

My favorite place for an annual August ‘hard reset’ is Kamchatka: volcanos, geysers, hot springs, bears, and other similarly extreme extremities. But… well, I’ve done Kamchatka – and more than once. So something different but very similar was needed…

Now, every time I’m on Kamchatka the locals there are always saying “but on the Kurils they’re much better…”, and so on. Then kindred spirit Olga Rumyantseva had already been on the Kurils and wouldn’t stop raving about them… So my curiosity had been growing and growing for quite some years – until it reached a critical mass and it was decided, er, by moi – that the next annual August reboot trip would be to the Kurils.

After deciding where to go – about a year ago – the preparation for the Kuril trip began, only to end a year later. The ‘who’s going’ was established (mostly lovers of extreme tourism and extreme nature appreciation), the optimal route was calculated, the Kuril territory was surveyed, and the most suitable vessel for the trip was selected. Crucially, all participants were informed that this wasn’t going to be gym>beach>pina colada>spa>Cuba libre>paperback>single malt…tourism. This was wild marine-based tourism in a harsh climate on harsher islands, with neither Internet nor cell coverage.

Back to basics, back to nature.

Kuril Islands

Read on: 20 days on the Athens..

Onekotan: None better than.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason volcanos are my fave natural phenomena.

I’ve clambered up scores around the globe, and seen even more from up above in helicopters – more again from the side. The views they all provide are just breathtaking. Santorini, Mount Fuji, Gorely (before the eruption), Mutnovka, Ksudach… I’ll have to tot them all up one day.

All volcanos are unique in their own special way, and each is beautiful in its own special way, so to compare and rank them is no simple task.

However, now I know which volcano tops my list of the best of the best.

Easy: it’s the Krenitsyn volcano on the Kuril island of Onekotan. It’s also a rather exclusive volcano – just for the more discerning connoisseurs of volcanism; after all – it doesn’t even have its own Wiki page in English :).

The views it has in store are absolutely magical.

The almost perfectly round caldera is colossal – stretching seven (7) kilometers across. Inside the caldera there’s a correspondingly capacious lake, out of which peeps the cone of a new volcano (height 1324m). The volcano’s surrounded by the sea on all sides; the lake’s at a height of around 400 meters above sea level, and its depth is about 200 meters. That’s the basic run-down of this fantastical phenomenon of nature.

Kuril islands, Krenitsyn volcano

Read on: The view from up above is also impressive…