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Monday, August 16, 2010

Travelogue: Jordan (Day 16 - 20)

From Europe we headed towards Middle East, Jordan being our final destination. Though it was the onset of summer in Jordan and not the best time to visit, we still decided to go there. There are a lot of places of interest in Jordan but we chose to visit the Petra and Dead Sea.

DEAD SEA

Dead Sea, also known as the 'Sea of Salts' borders Jordan and Israel. What makes it unique is that it is 400meters below sea level, the lowest point on the earth's surface on dry land and one of the saltiest bodies on earth! (It is supposed to be 8.6 times saltier than an ocean). Because of its high salinity and buyoancy, you can very easily float in the sea. Trust me, this feels awesome, especially for someone like me who does not know to swim and is hydrophobic! Floating effortlessly in the sea was a great feeling (the terribly salty water getting into your eyes is not)!! The minerals, mud and salts in the sea are used to make a lot of cosmetics and herbal products which are very popular...

Dead Sea is about 1.5hrs drive from Amman (the capital of Jordan). We arrived at Amman airport way past midnight and took a taxi to Dead Sea. Though it was peak summer, the night was very cool and pleasant. The Mariott and Movenpick resorts at Dead Sea were simply superb! Each had a private beach of its own and a breathtaking view of the sea and sunset from the room balcony. After a tiring Eurotrip we just chose to unwind and chill, enjoy the 5 star hospitality and take a dip in the dead sea :)

The dead sea is surrounded by land and mountains on 3 sides. So water from many rivers and lakes enters the sea from only one direction and has no place to go. The evaporation is very high so all the water just evaporates from the sea once it reaches there, which explains the huge amount of salt deposits.

A visit to the dead sea once in a lifetime is a must! You will never see something so unique anywhere in the world!



PETRA


If you have seen the latest Indiana Jones movie, you will know what Petra is :) Petra was chosen by BBC as one of "the 40 places to see before you die". It is regarded as the 8th wonder of the world which comes with a lot of ancient history and is declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. In the ancient time Petra was supposed to be the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade and one of the main commercial routes...

Petra city is about 4 hours drive from the Dead Sea. The drive was extremely uncomfortable coz it was through the mountains with a lot of bends and in addition to it the weather was terribly hot! We again stayed at The Mariott hotel in Wadi Musa which is just about 8kms from the Petra historic site. We reached the site early morning at 6 and started with a horse ride from the entrance till the main street and walked from there to The Treasury (image below). Continued walking to see the theater, the temple and the royal tomb... The pink/ rose colors of the rocks are a beautiful sight to see!

The walk inside can get extremely tiring when it becomes hot so it is a good idea to start off very early in the morning and come back before mid-day. It is said that you need 2-3 days to explore Petra completely, which is true coz you cannot spend more than 4-5 hours each day inside there. So you can puchase the entry tickets based on how long you wish to stay there. I was happy seeing it for half a day... it was one of the most tiring walks I've done in my life! :)



The Mariott at Petra had a nice viewpoint from where you could see the vast desert and the sunset. Watching sunsets is something I absolutely love! It gives me immense joy and peace and it was a perfect end to a very memorable trip!


So this post finally ends my travelogues. Once I started writing about the travels, the readership of my blog has surprisingly increased by 400% !! So I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed travelling!



P.S: The images displayed here are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced anywhere without due credits or my consent.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Travelogue: Rome (Day 12- 15)

After 2 tiring days we headed from Florence to Rome, coz all roads lead to Rome ;-)

Rome, the capital of Italy, is supposed to be the 3rd most visited city in Europe with almost 2000 yrs of ancient history! So you need at least 3 days to barely see the city. If you are an art lover, then there are tons of museums and monuments to visit, so consider spending at least a week.. In a couple of days we were there, we managed to see almost all places of major interest, especially the ones mentioned in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code/ Angels & Demons :)


Vatican City

This tiny country within a country is the world's smallest. It is the center of the catholic church and home of its Popes and popular piligrimage spot of its devotees. The first thing we saw here was St.Peter's square and Basillica which is truly incredible and a must see, whether you are a catholic or not. The next was a self guided tour in the Vatican Museum which we felt was way too expensive and not worth it. The only thing of my interest here was the Sistine Chapel, unfortunately at the end of the museum but completely worth it!! The paintings on the walls and the roof are extremely beautiful and breathtaking. But you are not allowed to take photos inside and have to maintain silence... The exit leads to the back of the museum from where you can tour the basilicas and tombs of the Popes..




Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is my favorite of all the spots in Rome - stunningly beautiful, especially in the night!! It's a must visit and something you need to see both during the day and night. There is a belief that if you throw a coin into the fountain you obtain good fortune and will come back to Rome, to the fountain :)



Piazza Venezia
This piazza is in the central hub of Rome and almost any bus you take will pass through this lovely piazza. It takes its name from the adjacent Palazzo Venezia, the former embassy in the city of the Republic of Venice. It's worth a watch!


Roman Colosseum
I was suitably impressed with this ancient architecture. Hard to believe that a civilization thousands of years ago could actually create such an awe inspiring amphitheater like this! You can see where the emperors and the crowds sat and where the gladiators came to fight. Inevitably the first thing you think of is the movie Gladiator.. They also play visuals from the movie inside the colosseum.. :)



Piazza Navona
After reading about it in Angels & Demons, I was keen on seeing the Piazza Navona. It's probably one of the most beautiful of all the piazzas you can see in Italy. It is exceptionally long and features many fine old buildings, a beautiful church (of Sant'Angese) and 3 stunning fountains out of which the center one is Bernini's spectacular fountain - la Fontana dei Fiumi. Piazza Navona is an extremely lively place with a lot of open air cafes and artists painting public portraits... It's a great place to spend a perfect evening...


Pantheon
Pantheon is an ancient magnificient temple in Rome which was later converted into the church of Santa Maria. It is the burial place of several famous Italians and it remains an active church. It is also a major tourist destination and a popular place for weddings. The structure was under renovation when we visited and almost about to close. We were lucky to have got about 15mins to see inside of the Pantheon.


P.S: The images displayed here are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced anywhere without due credits or my consent.