Saturday, January 8, 2011

Las Vegas Strip Boulevard

There is plenty to see and experience along the most spectacular street in world: the Las Vegas Strip. Some of the world’s largest hotels dominate the skyline, while legendary attractions perform for pedestrians. Without a doubt, there is no other street like it in the world.
Once known solely for twinkling lights and big names on big marquees, the Strip is now famous for grand facades, dazzling light displays, elaborate fountains, choreographed attractions and heart-pounding thrill rides.
Beginning on the southern end of the Strip, you will find Mandalay Bay, Luxor and Excalibur. These three resort properties spare no expense in keeping with their themes.
Mandalay Bay uses thousands of palm trees to lend to its tropical flavor, as well as an exhilarating opportunity to state eye-to-eye with sharks at Shark Reef.
Luxor’s pyramid shape, obelisk and Sphinx create an Egyptian wonderland while the spotlight emanating from the tip is the brightest man-made light in the world.
Only a few steps away from this stunning pyramid lies a fire-breathing dragon, the centerpiece of the moat at Excalibur, a Las Vegas style royal kingdom.
Farther up Las Vegas Boulevard you’ll find the world’s largest hotel, MGM Grand (best known for its superstar entertainment), Aladdin and New York-New York Hotel and Casino. Constructed to mirror the New York City skyline, New York-New York also features the Manhattan Express Roller Coaster, an exciting thrill ride that loops dives and races around the skyline.
Beyond The City of Entertainment and The Greatest City in Las Vegas lies Bellagio and Paris Las Vegas. The dancing fountains in front of Bellagio have quickly become a favorite among visitors. At times propelling water 240 feet into the air, the fountains produce an elegantly choreographed display that leaves millions of Las Vegas visitors breathless.
Cross from Bellagio’s lake and fountains is a half-replica of the Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of Paris Las Vegas. Visitors can take a trip to the top of the tower for a beautiful view of the vibrant colors and amazing facades of the Strip.
Beyond this elegant stretch of the Strip you will find Caesars Palace and The Mirage, which features one of Las Vegas’ most legendary attractions: the Volcano. Every few minutes, this mountain of cascading fountains begins to rumble with anticipation. Soon after it erupts with pillars of fire and plumes of smoke in a dazzling spectacle.
Next door to The Mirage Treasure Island and the palm-encircled cove of Buccaneer Bay. Every 90 minutes after dusk, the serene bay turns into a swashbuckling brawl. Pirates and sailors wage a full-scale battle, complete with explosions and firing cannons. Across the street in The Venetian, an upscale resort that brings the soul of Venice to the heart of Las Vegas.
What Las Vegas experience would be complete without an eagle’s eye view of the whole spectacle? At the northern end of the Strip, the Stratosphere Tower not only offers this, but also fine dining and the world’s highest thrill rides.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. However long it takes for you to experience it, no visit to Las Vegas is complete without a trip down the Strip.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Belgrade – beauty in brick and stone

A pedant chronicler has noted that during its tumultuous history Belgrade had been destroyed exactly forty six times. The city had been reduced to ruins by the passing armies of the foe and friend alike, and further ravaged by the passage of time.
Of its destruction, everything is known. It is history. And precisely because of this history, composed of wars, large and small, it has almost been forgotten that Belgrade had been built at least as many times as it has been torn down. Sometimes, it rose again from the ashes, and sometimes it was only dolled-up, with make-up covering its scars which go along with every important historic personality of such stature and standing.
An aesthetics-minded hair splitter may note that the city is, in fact, a huge mish-mash of styles and architectural epochs, wherein a normal person can hardly sort anything out. But Belgrade finds beauty precisely in this diversity. To them, the Baroque perfection and monumentality of a Vienna and a Budapest are somewhat monotonous, the gleam of Paris a mere indiscretion, while Manhattan makes them immediately thinks of elevators…
At the beginning of the 20th century Belgrade started slowly changing from an oriental town – “the last caravan-saray” of the once powerful Ottoman Empire – into a European city. Anticipating future trends, Serbian Prince Milos Obrenovic embarked on the first city zoning mission. The Prince Milos Street, the main Belgrade thoroughfare, does not, therefore, bear his name only by accident: the Prince had really laid out this busy street himself, and it was partly built during his lifetime.
The features of oriental architecture entirely disappeared in the second half of the 19th century, especially after the Turks departure from Serbia. At the time, Belgrade became a Mecca for builders and architects from Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Each of them left his mark on the capital’s architecture. The most important works of the period have by now almost entirely disappeared from various tour books, but the Serb school of architecture – whose traces survive into the present – its origins then.
This school – of native Serb genius coupled with foreign experience and expertise – involves a beauty tailored to fit the city’s size (and the investor’s wallets, of course), achieving a splendor still to be recognized in the granite facades of the Kneza Mihajla street, the city’s most beautiful pedestrian mall. Some may object by saying that this beauty is merely cosmetics, and that solely the fronts of the ornate buildings have been preserved. But even the awareness that the beauty of happier days may and must be preserved is a sign of spiritual health.
It is a beauty not perceived by many. Much like any other international center, Belgrade is also divided into three horizons, or levels. As of recently, it has begun to grow downwards: fabulous business and shopping malls and train stations have been appearing underground. The street level is made pretty by the cordial smiles and the beauty of the city’s female inhabitants, by the glow of shops windows, and by the greenish patina coating the old monuments. The third horizon consists of the facades and the pigeons. Nowadays, however, in the hustle and bustle of our age, there are not too many Belgrade inhabitants – or even visitors – who can spare a glance and have the patience to enjoy the rich mixture of this everlasting city’s styles. Hence this testimony recorded by the camera.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Novi Sad, Serbia

Historians include this city among the younger ones as it was founded 300 years ago, or more precisely in 1694, although the first archaeological sites relive the traces of settlements back to 3000 years BC. The first inhabitants were 12 soldiers with their service on Petrovaradin Fortress and 20 bakers, butchers and other craftsmen, engaged to meet the needs of the garnison there. Perhaps the history book of Once Sad is not to thick compared to other European cities, but since 1694 the actual bridgehead was built opposite to Petrovaradin Fortress, and around it, on the Danube riverbank where the Petrovaradiniense or Rascianica civitas trans Danubium situate, the suburb of Petrovaradin or Raska town across the Danube – the book is written with the constant struggle and striving for the better, useful nice and peaceful life to the advantage of all citizens, at first those were Serbs, Germans, Yews, Greeks, Hungarians and Cinzars… When you say Novi Sad you think of the crossroads of all highways, the centre of the largest river cin this part of Europe – Danube, protected and enriched with beauties of Fruska Gora – Wholly Pannonia – the foundation of the Orthodox religious spirit in the North, the city in which you can see the time from far away buy with no haste, the city of wide boulevards and winding streets – the network with which you can feel each of its quarts, the city of candelabras, special windows, wine and wine cellars, jazz, al sort of clubs, the irresistible Vojvodina cuisine, the city of galleries, off theatres and cinemas, memento collections, monuments, bust and large gates, University and traditional education centre with 13 faculties and colleges, sports treasury with over 200 organizations on land and water, the city of artists and numerous ateliers, the city of congresses and expos..

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jewellery as part of Serbian national costume

Jewellery is a universal part of human culture; its individuality – social, ethnic and personal – lies only in how its universalness responds to the traditional aesthetic rules and values typical of a particular group, nation or individual.
In view of this, the jewellery loosely defined as Serbian denotes ornaments that were worn (though not necessarily made) in the lands inhabited by the Serbian people. The jewellery was there for adornment, as well as an obligatory part of the traditional dress. The national costume has undergone a series of transformations over the centuries, to go out of use completely in the mid XX century. Fate has decreed that both national costumes to live in museum collections, as carefully guarded valuables, cultural wealth whose historical and financial value cannot be estimated by conventional standards.
Serbian national jewellery was extremely diverse; it differed endlessly in form and shape, in the parts of dress and body which it adorned, in the material it was made from, and it the techniques employed in its manufacture. Some of the ornaments were made at home, from relatively simple materials. However, jewellery properly so-called was made in specialized shops by artisans and craftsmen known as smiths. Smiths made jewellery mostly from silver alloys, often with a thin gold coating. Pieces of coloured glass or more expensive materials, such semi-precious stones, pearls and coral, were often inlaid for effect.
The techniques used were many and complex: forging, cutting, casting, embossing, lacing, enameling, engraving, enchasing, and many others. The most beautiful jewellery, however, was made in the filigree technique. By twisting thin silver wire, with an almost obligatory addition of ornamental studs, the artisans achieved outstanding decorative effects and wonderfully imaginative forms. This technique was used to make necklaces, bracelets, sashes, rings, hairpins, brooches, ear-rings, belt buckles – in fact, all kinds of jewellery worn by girls and young women, as well as men, though in a far lesser measure. Filigree workshops were to be found in all major centers in Serbia, though the highest quality filigree jewellery, unsurpassed to this day, was certainly made by the masters of Prizren. The filigree tradition in Prizren dates from the distant past. In the 19th century, this town had numerous specialized workshops for the manufacture of filigree jewelerry. However, new times and a gradual abandoning of the traditional way of dress has weakened the interest in old jewellery, affecting the supply and quality of the products and finally leading to the dying out of the craft.
Jewellery was worn on formal occasions: feast days visits to the church and, mostly, weddings. It was the custom to bedeck the bride with a large quantity of different jewellery, not only for adornment, but also as protection against evil believed to threaten the bride on her wedding day, jewellery being considered to have magical properties. Greatest attention was devoted to decorating the woman’s head: on the forehead was worn a complicated headdress held in place at the back of the head by hairpins, and the ears were hung with massive earrings. Across the chest were worn strings of chains enchased with coins, at the waist, a webbing belt with silver plates, and rings on the fingers and bracelets on the wrists.
Men’s jewellery, although much less luxurious in terms of variety, was no less beautiful than the women’s. The best known men’s adornments were massive, richly enchased filigree watch-chains worn by well-to-do town tradesmen visibly displayed across the chest; above all hung chains made of row upon row of gilded silver plates, adorned with rosettes, huge metal studs and braids – unique jewellery in kind and look, whose origin is the subject of many ancient legends.
The aesthetic and artistic value of traditional Serbian folk jewellery lies in the endless wealth of form and design. Although there are typical repetitions, each individual artifact is still unique in itself, with its own distinctive stamp bestowed by a detail which makes it an original and inimitable work of art. Some of these pieces of jewellery could take their place alongside the choicest products of the goldsmith industry in the world and be an asset in any elite jewellery collection in Europe and the world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Southern Maine Coast

Grab a towel and sunscreen, we’re headed for the beach. Unlike the rest of the coast, where rocks, ledge and cliff define the landscape, along the Southern Maine Coast, from York through Old Orchard, miles of wide sand beaches are the rule. Build a sand castle, go surfing, play beach volleyball, swim or simply walk for miles.
Equally magical and plentiful are the region’s nature preserves. The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm comprises 1.600 acres. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is divided among 10 sites. Bird watchers flock to the East Point Sanctuary, a Maine Audubon preserve in Biddeford. For a quiet retreat, try Saco Heath, a 500 acre preserve operated by the Nature Conservancy where trails lead through woods and fields.
Off the beach, antiquities and architecture buffs can tour the Sayward-Wheeler House, in York Harbor, and the Georgian-style Hamilton House and the Federal-style home of writer Sarah Orne Jewett, in South Berwick. Legend has it that the ornately decorated Wedding Cake House, in Kennebunk, was built by a sea captain for his bride as a substitute for a wedding cake when he was called to sea. The Brick House Museum leads architectural walking tours through Kennebunk’s historic district.
Immerse yourself in Colonial history in the Old York Village Historic District. For a taste of 19th century village life, spend a day at Willowbrook at Newfield. Military history buffs should begin in Kittery at the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum. Nearby Fort McClary is an 1846 hexagonal blockhouse. Delve into the region’s maritime history at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and the Kittery Historical and Naval Musem.
The arts are well represented here, too. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art shows works by Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent and others; don’t miss the sculpture garden. Catch a play at the Hackmatack Playhouse, in Berwick, or the Ogunquit Playhouse, a classic summer stock theater that regularly attracts well-known actors. The beautifully restored Biddeford City Theatre is listed on the National Historic Register.
Maine’s southern coast has plenty to entertain kids. There’s the Wild Kingdom zoo and amusement park in York. Amusements parks in Saco and Old Orchard Beach deliver big thrills with roller-coasters, carousels, waterslides and other riders. A gentler ride is available at the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport, where you can view more than 200 streetcars and take a four-mile ride on one.
Shoppers take note: Kittery has more than 125 outlet stores; antiques stores are plentiful in Wells; and boutiques, galleries and specialty stores crowd Perkins Cove, in Ogunquit, and Dock Square, in Kennebunkport.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Maine – Mid Coast

Craggy fingers of spruce-clad land reach out for the sea. The fragrance of beach roses permeates the air. Traditional fishing villages survive in the shadows of more cosmopolitan towns. Choose among fine restaurants and lobster-in-the rough; large resorts and cozy inns; galleries and boutiques; antiques and flea markets; nationally renowned museums and historic meeting houses. Add in a wealth of offshore islands, a handful of beautiful sand beaches, an abundance of lighthouses and historic forts, and scores of postcard-perfect towns. Top it off with a rich cultural scene including frequent festivals, concerts and live theater. The blend makes Mid Coast Maine shine.
A trip through the Mid Coast will dip you into Maine’s maritime history, from past to present, from five-masted schooners to Aegis cruisers. It all began at the Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Popham’s settlers abandoned the colony in 1608, after building the first English ship constructed in the Northeast. Listen for the ghostly footsteps of marching soldiers as you clamber through the ruins of Forts Popham, Edgecomb, William Henry, Pownall and Knox. Maine’s shipbuilding and seafaring heritage is documented at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, and at Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum. Learn about Maine’s own Civil War hero at the Joshua Chamberlain Civil War Museum in Brunswick. Stop by the Shore Village Museum in Rockland to view the world’s largest collection of lighthouse memorabilia.
Artists have long flocked to this region, inspired by the natural beauty of soaring headlands, rugged shores, cozy harbors and sleepy villages. You can view their works at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland and Rockport’s Center for Contemporary Maine Art. Take home a treasure from a Belfast gallery, a Wiscasset antiques shop or an area arts and crafts show.
Mid Coast Maine is a great to get physical, too. Hike to the summit of Mt Battie for a birds-eye view of Camden. Explore the coast by sea kayak. Take a swim in the clear waters of Damariscotta or Megunticook Lakes. Explore the peninsulas of island by bicycle. Most of Maine’s historic windjammers are based in this region, and you can take a cruise on one of a few hours or a full week. Ferries from several ports carry passengers to the islands; excursion boats from Boothbay Harbor and other ports take visitors out to see seals, puffins and whales. You can even go out on a working fishing boat. End your day with a lobster dinner, either a traditional one at a dockside shack or an inspired rendition created by one of the region’s nationally recognized chefs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Maine Lakes & Mountains

Few places offer so many ways to enjoy the seasons as does Maine’s Lakes & Mountains Region. Mother Nature displays her artistic side in fall, painting the countryside with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, using the deep greens of Maine’s towering evergreens as a counterpoint. Autumn’s pleasures are many: Country fairs, antiques and artisans’ shops, apple orchards, covered bridges. Have lunch at a general store, take a brisk hike or a leisurely paddle, and then wile away the evening by the fire at a country inn or a lakeside cabin.
When snow blankets the region, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice skating become the outdoor pursuits of choice. At Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, alpine skiers and snowboarders enjoy the only above tree line skiing in the East. Sunday River, in Bethel, sprawls across seven peaks. In Rangeley, Saddleback Mountain shares its ridgeline with the Appalachian Trail, providing a remote wilderness experience. Hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails lace the region. Cross-country skiers and snow-shores have their own back-country trails as well as modern centers with maintained trails.
When spring arrives, so do the fishermen. The crystal-clear lake waters are home to legendary brook trout and landlocked salmon. Then there are those lazy days of summer, perfect for sailing, canoeing, hiking and bicycling. Nine-mile-long Rangeley Lake is the centerpiece for 112 smaller lakes and ponds that feed into it, including beautiful Flagstaff Lake, the state’s fourth largest. Sebago, Maine’s second-largest lake, with waters so pure that it provides drinking water for the city of Portland, is popular with water sports enthusiasts and justly famous among anglers for its landlocked salmon. Long Lake is prized for its majestic White Mountain views. Rivers and stream delight paddlers as well as fisherman. The swollen Carrabassett challenges kayakers and canoeists in the spring while the peaceful Saco is a summer family favorite.
Outdoor recreation may be the region’s calling card, but there’s much more to do and discover here. Visit the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community and Museum in New Gloucester, the only Shaker village still functioning as a religious community. Immerse yourself in 19th century rural life at the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. Learn about America’s first international diva at the historic Deertrees Theatre and Cultural Center in Harrison or view the works of Marsden Hartley, Lewiston’s most famous artist, at the Bates College Museum of Art.