Beijing – Winter Olympics 2022 – Incredible

China-Beijing Something unexpected and really strange happened in the last couple of days – Beijing was selected as the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games!!! Isn’t that incredible…?  Why would I say that – well – very simple:  Beijing and its surrounding areas are NOT a winter wonderland!

Beijing is for sure a very dynamic, interesting, sports oriented and full of energy city.  BUT – that does not make it a good candidate for a Winter Olympics host.

The place is bone dry in the winter – cold and dry.  Usually, in the hotels you have to request a humidifier to ensure you get some help with the climate to help the skin on your body and make your stay more comfortable.

Now think how can such environment be conducive to winter and snow and ice dependent sports….?   The only answer is man-made snow !   But that is very water and energy dependent – and both of those are in relative short supply in the capital ….!

So I fully expect that the local government will mobilize an army of people to both clean up the city as well as man machines to generate snow.  If a country can pull off such a challenge – China is your choice – a society focused on the state’s success and good position in the global view.

I certainly hope the games are successful and snow abundant – I just wonder how was the choice made and was it purely investment dollars (RMB) driven with nature, natural resources, clean air – all being secondary and tertiary…!   Oh, well….!

China-Beijing-Skyline   Beijing-China

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Bulgaria: More About the Pirin Mountain Lakes

If you were intrigued about the picturesque mountain lake in the previous posting, let me provide you with some more visual clues to the origin of these lakes.   The Pirin mountain in Bulgaria is one of the big mountains on the Balkans.  Its peaks are high and nature stunning — you will find out more about that in the upcoming postings I will provide.

Here is a map with the general location of the area I will continue providing more information on:


In the meantime, here are some more photos to feed your imagination…


Pirin-Bulgaria-Summer-Snow      Porin-Mountain-Summer-Snow-hiking


These images of course are in low resolution to ensure the Web site loads up relatively fast…If you would like access to the full resolution including uncompressed (~30MB size) source images, please drop me a note via the feedback form below…

Stay tuned for more images and iBook I am planing to generate over the next 1-2 weeks as we complete the trip.

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Bulgaria: Pirin Mountain Lakes

One of the big adventures is hiking in new (for you) mountains.  There we came across some stunningly beautiful lakes.

Here is photo from the first one


One of the many lakes in the Pirin Mountain

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Istanbul: Bosphorus Tour Worth Taking

I will publish a set of postings about interesting exploits around Istanbul, but that will take me time to pull together.  In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with some views from an interesting and low key Bosphorus tour my family and I took last week.  We had done a tour of the place two years ago but at that time the tour we did was with one of the tourist companies which I thought was rather short and mostly involved sitting on a boat…

This time around we planned for this and purchased a tour on Sehir Hatlari, which is the big ferries company managing a whole fleet of ships criss crossing the Bosphorus and the ports on its both sides – the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.

We took the Long tour which leaves from EMİNÖNÜ stops several places and eventually docks at A.KAVAĞI where you will have just short of approximately 3 hours for exploring and grabbing a bite to eat in one of the local restaurants

Besides having some food, you can do a pretty steep hike to a local castle – Anadolu Kavağı Kalesi, initially built by the Byzantines (the East Roman Empire), then restored and reinforced by the Genoese around 1350s, and finally reinforced by the Ottomans.  The castle.   The location can provide you with some nice views of the Bosphorus and views of Istanbul.

Here are some photos I took:

A. Kavagi Castle, Turkey  New Bosphorus Bridge at the entry of the Black Sea

I will post a whole gallery shortly

The time table for the LONG TOUR is located here


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Photoblog: Texas Scenery – West of Austin

Building a Photoblog

I am migrating this blog more and more towards the photoblog concept – I will still continue to publish what I consider useful travel advice and tips but at I think many of you are looking for image pointers to be able to determine the likelihood of selecting a given destination….

I have noticed over the years that guidebooks are usually good, but there is nothing like images from a given destination to help you form a decision as to whether or not to pursue a trip to the specific location.

Many times over the years we have planned trips that turned out less than spectacular primarily because we expected something different from the destination – well hopefully my blog with its photo blog concept of postings will help you determine whether a given destination is along the lines of what you were expecting:

  • are the crowds too large for your liking?
  • is the given site really looking interesting?
  • …overall, is the image that you see what you were expecting….?

So, following my postings on a couple of different sites in Berlin, here we are in Texas, in the Hill Country are around Fredericksburg – and views from a ranch grounds and the Enchanted Rock State Park.   Enjoy!

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Afternoon in Berlin: The Brandenburg Gate, Then and Now

Afternoon in Berlin:  In my previous posting, you saw a brief glimpse of the Tiergarten in Berlin…Next, let’s continue through the afternoon hike in the city and proceed to the Brandenburg Gate – a rather famous site in this interesting and picturesque city.

The Gate was one of the famous symbols of the Cold War and the divided East and West Germany.  It is located at address: Pariser Platz 1 10117 Berlin.   You can take public transportation Metro Stop „Unter den Linden“ (S1, S2) , or Bus #100  (I took bus #100 to get back to Kurfursterdam and my hotel after visiting the Gate)

The Gate was built in 1791 but it is more famous as I mentioned earlier here is the symbol of the divided East and West Germany and the divided Europe.   That changed in 1989 — 22 of December 1989 to be more precise.

The interesting part is that I was in Berlin just less than 4 months prior to that historic date.  Here are my scanned photos from that time:

Germany-East-Berlin you can see the large number of Trabi cars (East German Trabant) parked in the foreground… What a picture…And of course the Brandenburg Gate in the background.

Germany-East-Berlin A closer view (I think the closest you could get to the Gate at that time)…

Now, take a look at the recently photographed modern view of the same Brandenburg Gate – 16 years later:

Well, enjoy the great scenes and think of your plans to visit the place in the near future!

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Afternoon in Berlin: Stroll Through the Tiergarten

Afternoon-in-BerlinAfternoon in Berlin – are there any particular ways you can spend it?

Berlin is an old city full of history and interesting sites to explore.  If you are looking for a green space where you can enjoy people watching, some exercise (biking or running or even frees-bee …), and just plain relax – if any of these interests you, then you need to find a way to get to the Tiergarten.

Here is it’s location in the city:


The park is beautiful – but as I often say – why talk about it when you can enjoy the photos I took from a recent visit there…. Here you go:


If you need to find out more about the place, you can explore the link here – this site offers good additional info.  Have a great travel!

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Photoblog: Stockholm Evening Views

Sweden-StockhomOn a recent trip to Stockholm, Sweden, I had the opportunity to walk through the center of the city, enjoy the grand architecture of the various churches, palace, museums and opera house, and government buildings.  This is indeed a very interesting city…. Earlier, I posted some collages and now let’s view the photo-album.

But then, this is what a photo blog is for – let the pictures speak for themselves…

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Austin Sunset Post Rainstorm

This gallery contains 3 photos.

The sky over west Austin on a Sunday evening – at sunset….I think the photos say it better than I would be able to describe…Weird yellow-red glow due to the heavy moisture in the low clouds.  Enjoy!    

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Conde Nast Traveler: Strange Article on Visiting the Great Wall in China

Over the years I have read the Conde Nast Traveler magazine on a relatively regular basis.  Until recently, I also thought their articles are thought provoking and of good value to the experienced traveler.  All that until now – I just came across an article that proclaimed a good way to have a visit to the Great Wall and avoid crowds.  Why, do I say the article was strange (and barely useful)?  Because of its key points – if you want to visit the Great Wall in a way that avoids the crowds you need to:

  • Go to Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai…
  • You will avoid bus groups
  • avoid souvenir hawkers

Here is the excerpt that made me laugh:

It’s more than a fantasy: We recently took a guided and chauffeured tour organized by the Opposite House, an ultramodern hotel in Beijing’s energetic Sanlitun district. With the help of a registered guide, fluent in both English and Mandarin, and a chauffeured Audi A6, we were able to bypass the popular, overrun Badaling section of the Wall to explore less-touristed stretches—Mutianyu, Huanghuacheng, Simatai, or Jinshanling—free from bus groups and souvenir hawkers.


No one knows about Mutianyu or Simatai…??? Hardly!!!

No crowds and no souvenir hawkers….??? Hardly!!!

Just take a look at the photos below and you will see the evidence of the opposite

Mutianyu Market     Mutianyu-Great-Wall-May

Now, can you enjoy the Great Wall in relative crowd free manner?  Yes, it is possible – just need to make sure you select the time of your visit carefully.  Pick a work day of the week, plan to visit one of the sections like Mutianyu and preferably do that in the months closer to the Winter…. E.g. March

Here are some views of the Great Wall at Mutianyu which actually reflect a day when there were hardly any people at the site.  Enjoy!

(Side note: here is the link to theConde Nast Traveler article...)

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