The Polish city Wroclaw, the City of Dwarfs, dates back to 1242. Over the period of last eight centuries it has been ruled by different powers that include the Germans, Communists etc. Therefore remains of these past rulers can be seen all over the city.
Somehow whenever I visit a new city I get more fond of its history rather than what the city is now. I feel that knowing about the history of the city gives you a sense of belonging to the place and therefore it garners deeper interest into what the city is now like. The people of Wroclaw have definitely done a good job of not only preserving the city’s history but also making it presentable to anyone who visits the city without any prior knowledge. Just outside a public library near the University of Wroclaw is a pathway that has been decorated with the most important years of the city’s past… So let’s take a walk through Wroclaw’s history on that pathway.
It is interesting to make cross references when you come across these years. 1526 is also the year when Babar conquered India and laid foundations of the Mughal Dynasty, which ruled India for the following 331 years.
So now that we know a good deal of this city’s history, let’s start the city tour. A good starting point at the city centre for the tour is the statue of Alexander Fredro, a Polish comedian-poet of the 19th century (1793-1876).
In this square you will see many different buildings that were rebuilt after the war period as more than three-quarters of the square was destroyed during the world war. In one of the corners of the square you can also see a picture of the place taken 1945, by the end of the Second World War. The black-n-white, framed picture displays the devastative results of the war on the city and turning your head just 10 degrees to the right gives you a glance on what the place looks like now. See the following pictures of the same place from the same angle.
There are many interesting stories hidden in every corner of this city. I discovered a few of them during my visit and here is the most interesting one. It is about the church you see in the picture below. A tradition narrates that this Church used to be a catholic church in the 16th century. But in 1526 the father of the church (who was catholic) met the Evangelical priest in a local pub. They ended up playing a card game with the father of the Catholic Church putting his church on the bet. He lost and the church was transferred to the Evangelical faith! Some days later the top of the church tower fell off and that gave people a chance to theorize that God was against the decision of transferring the church to the other faith.
The image below is of a street popular for meat exchange during the 15th and the 16th century. Butchers used to rely on a barter system of trade for the meat and used to sell one animal’s meat for another. The streets used to serve as the meeting place and has some dwarfs of the animals as a reminder of its past. Someone told me, by the way, that according to a legend touching the goat’s horn enhances venereal prowess so I decided to take a try in that!
I always have been fond of visiting universities so having the University of Wroclaw in my tour made a great day. The university’s front is adorned with artifacts of traditionalist art in a seemingly Gothic fashion. This university was founded in 1702 (making it the second-oldest in Poland) and schools 30,000 pupils. This university produced 9 Nobel Prize winners in the 20th century!
The River Odra cuts through Wroclaw and one of its islands constitute as the Old Town of the city. One of the river islands, the Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek) holds a special significance because of the destruction it underwent during the Second World War. The following two pictures show the same place at the island: one in 1945 and the other a few days ago in 2016.
And Yeah… the island is a happy island now as it is evident from the fact that the Tumski Bridge over river Odra, connecting the mainland to the island, is now popular as a Lovers’ Bridge: ladened with locks of all colors and sizes!
As I mentioned earlier, the past power that reigned over the city have left their traces all over it. An important period of the city’s history was the Soviet Communist Rule (1945-89). At several instances you come across buildings dating back to that time and from their peculiar appearance you can tell so.
The tour is not over yet… Remember at the very beginning I said Wroclaw is the ‘City of Dwarfs’? This is because dwarfs are the cultural symbol of this city and you can spot these cute and spectacular miniatures all over the city! So for the last stop of this tour let’s take a walk around the Dwarfs dwelling in Wroclaw!
I really hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of this exciting city. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and let me know if you feel I have missed out on something important. I hope to be your guide again soon for the virtual tour of some other place. Take care and love your life.
When you see Sri Lanka on the map of the world, you see a small island in the southeast direction of India. There are many island countries bigger than Sri Lanka but this as a fact does not represent what Sri Lanka has to offer. The island has a greatly varied geographical terrain and one of the most culturally diverse societies. The history of this island traces to as back as 5000 B.C. and yet, the most enthralling fact about the Sri Lankan culture is that the little island hosts two mother-tongues: Sinhala and Tamil. I said that this is the ‘most enthralling’ fact about the Sri Lankan culture because over a sufficiently prolonged period of history, smaller cultures often get dominated by the larger one around and the most grievous outcome of such a dominance is that the language pertaining to the smaller culture gets lost, usually forever. However, Sri Lanka is different in this regard as it has not only preserved two of its languages but also still reserves its own unique socio-cultural outlook of life.
I moved to Sri Lanka with my family in 2011 and today I have an almost 5-year-old relationship with this country. During these five years I have been to a great number of different tourist destinations across the country and for the obvious reason I cannot introduce you to each and every one of them. Rather I would select my top six favorite destinations in the country and write about each of them. Over these years I have amassed a great deal of useful information regarding tourism in Sri Lanka and I would be more than happy to help you out in any way possible because this blog post, though handy, is clearly not sufficient. Just comment below and I’ll be there to discuss your tour with you!
So as said, the following are my top-rated places to see but it is very difficult for me to arrange them in a particular order. So for my convenience, I will order them according to their respective distances from Colombo (this will save me discrimination because I value them all almost equally!). So here they are:
The Mahadevi Park
The Viharamahadevi Park, formerly the Victoria Park, is located opposite to the Colombo Municipality. A large Buddha statue sits right at the entrance of the park and it is one of the biggest found in the Colombo city. Well, the best thing about the Mahadevi Park is its suitability for a morning walk; that is, its suitability as a place to start your day at! The park is a lush-green one with an exhaustive variety of trees around. It has a special track for the joggers and many places sit around and immerse oneself in the spellbinding greenery around. Apart from being an amazing place for a morning walk the Mahadevi Park also provides scenic view for photography, something I like it particularly for.
And not only morning and photography, there is obviously a lot more to the park than that. It is also an amazing place to eat around as you will find a number of food stalls here, but I would advice that the best plan for having a wonderful evening at Colombo would be to have the main course from somewhere else and then come to the park for the after-snack and the all-important evening walk. The park also has a small hill located at its side so it might also serve as a light hiking adventure but of course, if hiking is the main aim then there are a lot better places around.
Kithulkanda (The Mountain Rock)
Kithulkanda would make an amazing place for a one-day tour, where you leave Colombo in the morning and come back before or around sunset. It is only about 90 minutes drive from Colombo and gives an absolutely mesmeric vicinity to relax and spend your day at. However, you might be wondering that the same is true for many other places around Colombo so why do I rate this one out for the pool. The reason lies in the bewildering way in which the resort at the mountaintop is constructed. It is also just called the mountain rock resort. The whole building of the resort has been erected around the mountaintop rock! This means that the rock was not dynamited away when the resort was to be constructed; rather it was scratched at different places to make space for the resort. As a result, you can see the rock at many different places from inside the resort! And not only that, since the resort is at the pinnacle, the views from the top are stunning. Added to this is the natural beauty that surrounds.
There are many different things to be done at the resort itself. Firstly, you can enjoy the delicious Sri Lankan cuisine as a lunch shortly after you arrive at the resort. And after that, you can move out and take a walk around the resort to see the scenery around and hopefully, for some photography. And just now I got reminded about one thing that I should have told you about at the very start. Mind that Sri Lanka has a very rainy climate; out of the year’s 365 it has more than 200 rainy days so always, always take an umbrella with you has you move around! And now let me tell you how I remembered about it. I was visiting this resort with my friend Yasir and suddenly a heavy rain shower poured on us while we were busy exploring the resort. But thankfully we had our umbrellas with us and things did not go too bad, rather the rain made the environment even more pleasant. So an umbrella in Sri Lanka, always!
The resort also offers some nice sports facilities. I remember that after I came back from the little hike I played table tennis for sometime and then left with a group of Sri Lankan guys to play football (yeah, there was a spot of some plain area on the mountain and as it appeared, it was obviously not natural). Since the resort is located at the summit, I strongly suggest that you leave well before sunset so that you have the daylight to drive down as driving down at a hilly terrain without sufficient light is never a recommendable thing. And I do not think I had all of it, because I did not get enough time to see everything the resort has to offer so there is almost certainly a lot more than what I have elaborated here.
Kithulgala (River Rafting)
One of the most adventurous things to do in the central Sri Lankan region is the River Rafting at Kithulgala. Located at about 2.5-3 hours drive from Colombo in the east direction is the Kithulgala Rest House, which is on the shore of the Kelani Ganga River. When planning a tour you might want to drop in at the rest house for refreshment before leaving for the river rafting. Once you start driving towards the river you will find a number of spots in the way where the rafters would be waiting for customers with their boats piled on top of each other on the roadside. It would always be better to contact one of them before (through a simple Google search) but you can also get one right on the spot when you come across them.
Since it is only river rafting you do not need to go for the safety drills you have to do in case of Scuba Diving. However, they will be providing you with safety jackets to put on. A worker from the group will accompany you to the boat and operate the motor while the boat is in the river. The river itself is quite serene and a pleasure to be rafting in. Both banks are covered with the dense trees and at several occasions you would even get to see some marshes and swamplands. Still there was something that stood out of the rest in terms of its appeal to me. I saw a stone structure somewhere in the river. It was actually an eerie sight. I wondered at purpose of the room-like structure in the middle the river. Asked the boatman and he enlightened me that it is a temple used for worshipping by the religiously devout! I was amazed at the enchanting experience someone would have worshipping inside that room alone, surrounded by the entrancing calm of the rippling water.
Moving on, the boat underwent several bridges and at some point the river widened to such an extent that it looked like a lake. The water was generally calm in the wider, deeper area. However, it soon narrowed down again and this time the river-bottom was quite shallow and the course heavily intercepted by rocks. This geared up the flow of the river and now it was actually the time to hold fast to the ropes on the boat-sides. Speeding through the river has the thrill of its own as the bouncing waves splash you right away with a drenching shower.
Still that is not the most exciting part of the river rafting at Kithulgala. It was yet to come. My boat-driver asked me if I would like to have a fish-massage for an extra charge and because I was quite bewildered at listening the words ‘fish-massage’ for the first time I readily agreed. He took a turn into a narrow ‘alley’ and brought me to a place where I saw a collection of rafts on the river surface. I found out on closer look that those were actually fishponds. And not quite the usual fishponds; there were more fish in them than water! Dipping my feet in that pond was a complete out-of-the-world-feeling. The fish would bite, scratch, tickle, and itch my feet and I just couldn’t stop giggling at that moment. See for yourself…
Galle (Dutch Fort)
The Galle city is an almost 131-km drive from Colombo down south. I think that at a reasonable driving speed it would not take more than 2.5 hours to reach the destination. The main reason behind the popularity of the city is obviously not the cricket stadium over there; the city is famous because of its deep connection to the period when the Dutch controlled it. The most fascinating thing about the Galle Fort is the prominent Dutch ‘color’ in the city’s architecture. Well that is a matter of fact because many of the structures inside the fort date back to the Dutch period of the Sri Lankan history, more than four centuries ago.
The landmark of the Galle Fort is the lighthouse located on its shore. If you’ll buy a postcard from that area then most probably you will see the lighthouse appear on it, as it is the most popular tourist attraction of the region. Again the lighthouse dates back to the Dutch era and it is absolutely brilliant that it still stands!
There are actually many things to do around the Galle Fort and the city. A lot of food stalls mark the area to appease your taste buds and of course, you can always find antique shops nearby. Yet one thing I would specifically mention is the ‘snake-people’ (or I do not know what they are called) who roam around to show visitors performances of their snakes as they play the flute to summon them out of the baskets. They also allow you to touch the cobras! (But I do not know if it is actually safe). Still another amazing fact about the place is the view you get of the Galle city from an elevated position at the fort.
Of course there are many other places I could've talked about but I obviously cannot end up writing about all the amazing places I saw in the country. Please comment below about what you think about this post and if you've got any other thoughts. I'll be glad to read'em.
Located in the southwest of Sri Lanka are the mesmerising islands of Maldives. The country itself is a collection of scattered islands with its capital, Male, being one of the larger ones. I arrived at Maldives by a morning flight from Sri Lanka, the place I was spending the winter break at.
Sri Lanka has deep connections with Maldives that are not only limited to the tourist industries of both countries (both countries have their economies heavily dependent on the tourists and the income they bring in). It would not then come as surprise that both countries exchange 5-7 flights a day. On the morning of 25-Dec-2015, I took the morning flight from Sri Lankan capital Colombo which departed at 7:20 am and at local time 8:15 am, I was at Maldives (hardly an hour of flight time). The morning flight is recommendable so that you get the whole day to enjoy.
The entry procedure at the airport did not take long and soon I was at the dock. The island on which the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is located is connected to other islands, as all the other islands also are, by travel through speed boats, yachts and ferries. There were a number of speed boats docked at the sea side soon I was able to locate the boat which I had booked earlier for me to escort me to the Paradise Resort, my place for the stay. The short journey in the speedboat was amazing as boat went up and down over the rippling waves of the sea. Within about ten minutes I was at the resort but then came a little surprise. I showed my reservation at the reception counter only to discover that they do not have any reservation for me! For a moment some chills ran down through on the thought of being stranded on an island but the receptionist cleared my mind explaining that I had arrived at the wrong island! I was at the Kurumba Resort while my booking was for the Paradise Resort. Well, I got lucky enough to see another resort while my boatman sped back to pick me up from the wrong island. Before long I was Paradise Resort with its absolutely stunning views.
By 10:30 am I had already checked-in and was in my cottage. I could see the beach next to it and as you see in the picture, the view was enough to make me fall in love with Maldives. Well, I rested for some time before I left for the lavish Hi-Ti lunch. Coming back from the lunch, I retreated to the wooden chairs and spent the later part of the afternoon reading. Soon it was sunset: the time I had been waiting for to call in my photographer (the resort provides the photography service at a charge). Some of the clicks I got were actually amazing and nothing makes happier than a perfect or a near-perfect silhouette. As far as photography is concerned a good picture never comes by itself. One always has to try over and over. A perfect click is a matter of chance.
And now I just remember something important: always pack-in a sun protector and a mosquito lotion for your trip to Maldives. I got the former one, but it did not cross my mind earlier that mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Speaking of tips, I just remembered one more. Carry a pack of bottled waters and soft drinks with you to the resort. Not only for Maldives, but having about a dozen of water bottles and soft drinks saves a lot. The hotels and resorts provide these items in the little refrigerator in the rooms but who doesn’t know that how extravagantly those are over-charged. So making use of your own drinkables would go a long way.
With this, the dinnertime approached and my appetite gave way. Paradise Resort is particularly good with the food variety. If there is anything you ever dislike about the hotel or which is worth not the pricey tag then I can bet that it won’t be the food. Of course it is never good to give in to the temptation to sleep directly after a heavy dinner so I mustered up some courage to out for a walk along the beach before ending the day.
As I had slept on time the night before, I started the day of 26th December quite early in the morning and quickly went for another hour of the photography service because I did not want to have the regrets of missing out on the morning-time beach photos. Morning-time beach photos have their own charisma! And not to forget, the shore water is at its clearest at the early morning time.
My picture on the beach with the tripod on the bag is one of my favorites of the tour. It is only clicks like these that make me realize that a perfect picture not only captures a view but also the feelings linked to it at the time of the click. This one clearly depicts a lot more than a boy on a beach (well, at least for me). After this I started walking towards the restaurant for the breakfast but just then I felt that the bridge would actually make an excellent place for a few more clicks. I am so lucky I took that decision. Just halfway across the bridge spotted a cluster of fish in the water. The view was bewilderingly gorgeous. You won’t trust me unless you have a look yourself at the selfie I made with the fish.
After the breakfast I went for a walk around the resort to see the places I had not before. As you might have noticed in the pictures, the white sand makes it particularly picturesque. However, you do not get this type of weather all the year round. Year-end or the year-start is the ideal time to visit the island to get the suitable wind pressure. Of course, wind pressure is an important factor in the visit because that the most important determinant of how enjoyable the sea is going to be. Another nice point about the visit was that I got a mild wind pressure on the first two days that made the breeze quite pleasant. However, on the third day, the day of departure, there was very little wind that soared the humidity level.
Well, I spent the late morning and early afternoon figuring out what activities the resort has to offer. The sports center of the resort is particularly rich in this regard. They have table tennis, gymnasium, squash, lawn tennis, basketball and volleyball. These facilities are not free charge and come at an hourly rate. For example, I inquired about squash to discover that it takes $17/hour for the equipment and the court. If money is not a question then you can also add these to make your time more eventful. However, something more exciting than the sports was the water sports center located at the west end of the resort. The water-related activities are numerous. Scuba diving, snorkeling, speed boating, paddle boating, wind surfing, shark feeding, parasailing and under-water photography are a few to name. Maldives receives most of the high-end tourists to South and East Asia and charges accordingly. Speed boating, for example, is $221/hour and parasailing is $146 for 15 minutes. And yeah, talking about the water sports center, I found two talking parrots nearby!
After some time thinking about the options, I decided to go for paddle boating. It did not pre-requisite a lot of skills and the $25 tag for half hour seemed a fair one. So I was off for my first paddleboat experience! I had seen some other people paddle boating before and it did not seem a very demanding task to me, well, at first. The good thing about the facility is that they do not just rent you out the equipment but also an instructor accompanies you to the sea. At first, I fell down several times as I found it unexpectedly hard to balance myself on the shaky paddleboat. I think I fell into water more than ten times before realizing the catch: firstly, switch hands each time you switch the paddling side and secondly, put some pressure on the left foot to slightly tilt the paddleboat to the left when you paddle the right side and vice versa. When I got set, I thought that the boat was fully in my control.
It was only at that point when I realised that wind actually plays the most important role in any water sports at the sea. The wind was eastwards at that time and therefore it was being difficult for me stay near the water sports centre where my instructor was. I decided to go with the wind pressure and told my photographer to take pictures of mine from the shore. After some time, I turned back to glance at him and to my surprise he was desperately signaling at me to come back. I felt as if something was wrong and just then realized that it actually was! The experience was so indulging that I failed to take note of crossing into the deep waters! I thought that it would be easy paddle back just as I came that far but only for my lessons, it is impossible paddle against the sea waves.
The paddleboat was completely out my control and deep in the sea I had zero safety equipment.
I rose up and shook my left hand to signal emergency to him. He got my signal and ran to the rescue. Meanwhile, I tried to balance and stabilize the paddleboat under me as best as I could. I did not panic at the time and that proved to be a sensibility. Panicking could only make things worse. I sat down on the paddleboat and made no movements. Sitting down was effective and the boat stopped moving quickly. I think I stayed still in the water for about five minutes and then the rescue boat appeared on the horizon. That was a moment of relief and after that things went safely: the rescuers helped me mount the boat and dropped me off at the shore. The experience was thrilling nonetheless!
With all that, it was almost the sunset time and I left for my room to start working on this blog. I wrote for sometime and again it was the dinnertime and I obviously had to leave. Later, I went for a walk by the beach and retired to bed early, as I had to see Male and catch the flight next morning. Packing up and checking out procedures went smooth and the boat, which I had booked earlier, arrived right at its time, 10 am. So on the morning of 27th I left for Male. Since Maldives is collection of islands, the ferries are mainly used as the prime mode of inter-island public transport.
The city Male is not quite large itself. It has a radius of 4 km and a population of only 150,000. I did not write about it earlier but I found it particularly amazing about Maldivians that a population of only 450,000 has its own language, Dhivehi, which is written in its own script. The script closely resembled the Arabic one but still it shared little even in that resemblance. I had never seen that script before. But another amazing thing is that the taxi driver could talk in Urdu and he told me that most people in Male could too! The Pakistani and Indian movies are quite famous there too and, as in Sri Lanka, most locals in Maldives know Urdu because of the movies. And not only that, Maldivians love cricket as I saw street cricket going on three different places in the short taxi trip and what more, they have their own cricket stadium in the small city. Of course, this makes them the perfect South Asian country! However, the city is very congested and you can estimate this from the fact that the speed limit is 20 km/hour inside the city. Speaking about income levels, Maldives is categorized under the high-end, expensive tourist destinations. Maldives receives about 1.2 million tourists an year and a typical family spends $15,000-$25,000 on a visit but the wealth does not seem to trickle down. Judging from what I could see during the taxi ride, most of the people in the city seemingly live hand-to-mouth; they are well-to-do but not ‘rich’. Nevertheless, they live on an immensely beautiful island.
And that was it: I was at the airport and the usual airport routine followed. My flight got delayed and I landed back at Colombo an hour later than I supposed to. Thank you so much for reading about my trip and please share your thoughts in the comments; nothing would make me happier than reading your comment. All Good!