Thursday, 30 November 2017

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Food and Restaurants

Bosnian and Herzegovinians have a meat-centric diet. Traditional cuisine has obvious Turkish influences, and there is no shortage of the ubiquitous Balkan kebab. There are restaurants just about everywhere, even in small towns, where flame grilled meat and meat stews are staples. Don't miss the succulent jagnjetina, grilled mutton or lamb, as well as bosanski ionac , a form of meat stew that is cooked on an open fire. Many good restaurants are sprinkled around Sarajevo's central shopping district, as well as in the old town and they all serve exquisite and reasonably priced food.

Bars and Pubbing in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nightlife is vibrant everywhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in the capital. Clubs and bars stay open until early morning, but if you prefer people-watching, trendy cafés can be found along major attractions. Opera Bar (B Sarajeva 25, Sarajevo) is a popular stop for opera-goers and people in the performance arts community. It's also an excellent place for espresso and traditional Turkish coffee. 

Connectum/Klub Knjige (Veliki Curciluk 27, Sarajevo) is worth a visit for a typical bookstore-café experience.
If it's lively beats and electric crowds you are looking for, head to Sarajevo's nightclubs and cocktail bars. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the busiest, so think about reserving a table or at least arriving early to secure a spot in popular places like Central Café (Strosmajerova 1, Bascarsija), known for its tasty cocktails, good crowd and cutting-edge music. Tre Bicchieri Wine Store & Tasting Bar (Cobanija 3, Sarajevo) has a wide menu of Italian wines plus a relaxing atmosphere.

The old town is lined with lively dance bars where you can mix and mingle with the locals, as well as other tourists and night owls. Baghdad Café (Bazardzani 4, Sarajevo) is one of the more popular choices across from Hacienda restaurant, along with many other dance clubs that stay open late on weekends.

Other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina have a lively nightlife, too. Banja Luka has cool bars, while breweries can be found in cities such as Bihac. Mostar has a selection of nice Old Town lounge bars including Ali Baba's Cave (Old Town, Mostar), while Neum's beach scene is more low-key and geared towards families. Winemaking is a longstanding tradition for locals, dating as far back as Roman times. Popular regional drinks and spirits made from fruits are good. Try
sljivovica, a plum brandy or ioza, a clear brandy.

Dining and Cuisine in Bosnia and Herzegovina

All urban centers in Bosnia and Herzegovina have top-quality restaurants serving not only traditional cuisine, but international fares like Italian, Vietnamese, and Mediterranean. In addition to grilled meats and stews served jagnjetina and bosanski ionac-style, local specialties like burek and cevapcici are also worth lining up for. Cevapcici is the tasty local sausage made from beef and lamb, while burek is a type of pie (either meat or cheese) made with filo dough or pita. The old town in Sarajevo is bursting with shops that sell burek and other varieties of the pastry like zeljanica, krompirusa, and tikvinica .

When in the capital, simply follow your nose and you'll find a great restaurant. Bambus (Ferhadija 32, Sarajevo), right in the central shopping district, is a good choice for quality food at a reasonable price. If you are looking for traditional Bosnian food, head to Bsanska Kuca (Bravadziluk 3, Bascarsija), which is known for its veal broth ( muckalica) served indoors or outdoors. Vegehana (Ferhadija 39, Sarajevo) is another local favorite, as is Park Princeva (Iza Hrida br. 7, Sarajevo). Slightly more expensive, it is worth the extra convertible mark for its elevated location where guests can enjoy scenic views of the city.

There are many Turkish restaurants in Sarajevo, as well. Inat Kuca (Veliki Alifakovac 1, Bascarsija) is known for its tasty stews and riverside setting, while Ottoman Kebap House (Old Town, Sarajevo) serves up spicier fare. For quality Mexican food in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hacienda (Bazardzani 3, Sarajevo) is your best bet. Frequented by the hip crowd, this trendy place is known for house music, tasty cocktails, and it stays open until early morning.
Delicious vegan choices are available at Karuzo (Mehmeda Spahe, Sarajevo), but the place is small, with seating for only 18 people, so allow yourself plenty of time to spare if you want to give it a try.
Moja Mala Kuhinja (Sarajevo) features live cooking demonstrations and is owned by celebrity chef Muamer Kurtagic.

Outside the capital, both high-end and budget choices are still easy to find, with Banja Luka boasting the cellar-housed Kazamat (Tvardjava Kastel, Banja Luka) for excellent three-course meals. Mostar Old Town has the usual array of pizzas and grills, as well as places serving traditional Bosnian fare. Seaside Neum mostly features grill houses, many of which serve sardines.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Bosnia and Herzegovina - History and Culture

Bosnia and Herzegovina's colorful past is evident in its centuries-old architectural marvels, art scene and cuisine. There are three main constituent peoples in the country, namely the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats, and each group maintains its ethnic distinction. Turkish influence is evident in many elements of culture as the country was occupied by the Ottomans for almost 400 years. This caused the population to develop diverse religious sects, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Islam.

History

The current Bosnia and Herzegovina is a product of an interesting cultural, political, and social story. It started with the emergence of Illyrian civilizations, which evolved into the Bosnian Kingdom. The kingdom eventually became an annexation of the Ottoman Empire and later, the Austro Hungarian Monarchy. Long years of war followed, from WWI to the fight for independence in the mid-1990's.

Bosnia was under different empires throughout its history. It was first occupied by the Romans, then the Slavs and the Hungarians, until the Ottomans began attacking the region in the late 1300's. Ottoman domination caused a great shift in the culture, beliefs and norms of the people, evident in the fascinating mix of religious architecture throughout the country, especially in the old district of the capital. As Ottoman rule weakened, Bosnians joined forces with the Slavs from Croatia and Serbia in an uprising against the Turks. They were victorious in driving away the Ottomans, but Bosnians found themselves under new rulers.

After WWI, the Kingdom of the Serbs—which included Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia—was formed and Bosnia was annexed as a new nation. The country was renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. The region saw the horror of ethnic cleansing, and resistance movements emerged between Chetniks (Serbian nationalists) and the Partisans of Yugoslavia. The war ended in favor of the Partisans, and Bosnia-Herzegovina became a republic three years later. All six republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia) were under the communist leadership of Josip Broz Tito, who ruled with an oppressive hand. This led to a strong fight for autonomy, especially after the political instability and economic hardship brought on by Tito's death in 1980.

Nationalist Slobodan Milosevic assumed presidency in Serbia in 1989 and ruled on a vision of a Greater Serbia that was free from all other ethnicities. Following elections in the other Yugoslav republics, a Muslim party won in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the nationalists claimed victory in Croatia. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence and were granted freedom from Serbia in 1991 and 1992, respectively.

Bosnia, however, was left stuck between the two, and was eventually divided. This triggered the Bosnian War for independence between Croats and the Muslims of Bosnia, and between the Muslims of Bosnia and the Serbs which lasted until the mid-1990's.

The Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo) contains nearly half a million historical artifacts that epitomize the long, gruesome and rich history of the country. More interesting relics can be found in the Museum of the National Struggle for Liberation (Jajce). Monuments and memorials stand as a testament to the triumphs and tribulations of war and revolution that eventually led to the country's freedom.

Culture

Bosnian and Herzegovinian culture is heavily influenced by its rich heritage. Cultural diversity is the very core of the country. The population is divided into many groups, but a majority of them are Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats. People of Jewish, Albanian, Romanian, and Turkish descent live peacefully alongside other groups despite differences in their beliefs. Their diversity is also evident in social norms, religious and cultural festivities, music, art, and cuisine.

Regional dances and folk costumes are a treat to watch, and you'll see a lot of them during festivals. Often dancers are linked together either by holding hands or by gripping strings of beads, handkerchiefs, or a piece of each other's clothing as a sign of unity. These performances are accompanied by traditional instruments like flutes, drums, lyres, and violins.

There is strong religious influence in the art and architecture of the country. Among its many attractions are medieval tombstones that can be traced back to the Bosnian Kingdom. Art in the form of early church paintings and carved panels showcase various religious icons of biblical study and saints associated with Catholic and Orthodox churches, synagogues, and mosques. Centuries-old religious buildings are also proof of the diverse culture, along with many other religious landmarks like Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque (Sarajevo), which is the largest Muslim landmark in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Bosnia and Herzegovina Holidays and Festivals

Whatever time of the year you choose to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, you'll never run out of things to do. The locals have an innate love for festivities and celebrations, so it is impossible to get bored. Fascinating Bosnia and Herzegovina holiday traditions and Olympic-style competitions are held in different regions throughout the year, along with countless religious celebrations.

International Sarajevo Winter Festival

This festival began in 1984 and has since grown to become one of the most anticipated events in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Often held in the month of February, art exhibits from different parts of the world compete for the highest title possible, the Sestoaprilska Negarda Sarajeva.

Banja Luka Choir Gathering

Held during April or May, this annual gathering has a series of programs that features some of the most angelic voices in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kid's Festival

If you are planning a family vacation, try your best to catch the Kid's Festival, which is held during June. It is a great way to get children acquainted with the different types of art and to keep them entertained with workshops and fun. Performances feature jugglers, dancers and magicians.

Bascarsija Nights

One of the most popular cultural events in Sarajevo, the month-long festival of Bascarsija Nights features some 40 to 50 different events that honor the rich culture of Bosnia. It is marked by different children's programs, literary events, film showings, classical music, and even opera and ballet.
Summer on the Vrabas
Every year in July, this traditional celebration offers a unique mix of athletic competitions and cultural programs. It is held near Kastel Fortress and attracts athletes and artists who are eager to share their skills and display their abilities through presentations, racing and many other activities.

Sarajevo Film Festival

The Sarajevo Fim festival is held annually in August. Long and short regional films from a wide variety of genres are shown (some for free). It also serves as a huge venue for artists from all over the world to meet and share their passion for the arts.

Banja Luka Summer Games

Held in August, the Summer Games draw crowds from all over the world and Bosnia. Just like Summer on the Vrabas, this event takes place around the historic town of Kastel.

Jazzfest Sarajevo

Held in November, Jazzfest Sarajevo is the best place to enjoy Bosnia and Herzegovina's rich music scene. The city's café culture is at its liveliest.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Belgium - Food and Restaurants

A recent description of Belgian food likened it to 'French in German quantities,' but that's not all there is to this delicious, warming cuisine. Dining out is a favorite occupation everywhere in the country, and the regional variations make for a rich culinary treat overall. There's a huge choice of restaurants in Brussels, from upscale Michelin-starred venues to local eateries, and the selection of great places to eat in the country's other main towns isn't far behind in this gastronomic paradise.

Bars and Pubbing in Belgium

Famous for more than 400 kinds of craft beers, Belgium is party central from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. With its happening beat, Brussels, offers an international selection of bars, pubs, and clubs. Exotic night venues, traditional pubs, over 80 exuberant bars, and all-night dance clubs crowd the city, with Place St Geny the central hub of trendy, eccentric nightlife. For style, night hawks should head to Sablon district, and for cool lounge bars, the upper part of the city delivers its promise. Two of the best bars are the Music Village jazz bar (Rue de Pierre 50, Brussels) and the very French Goupil le Foi (Rue de la Violette 22, Brussels) for its quirky décor and fruity wines.

Upmarket and slightly more sedate, Bruges is a little short of noisy nightclubs, but strong on pubs and bars serving the best of Belgium's craft beers in a convivial and often historic atmosphere. Valmingstraat and Blekerstraat, as well as Kemelstraat are the streets to head for if you're into traditional pubs. For laid-back lounge-style drinking, Bruges's southern district, around Oud Sint-Jan, won't disappoint. In summer, the action moves outside to terraces and beer gardens and, in winter, the venues along the picturesque little streets are at their cozy best. De Garre (De Garre 1, Bruges) serves Belgium's strongest beer and restricts each customer to three glasses, and bohemian Cafedral (Zilverstraat 38, Bruges) merges medieval with modern, resulting in one of the hippest places in town.

The lively port city of Antwerp never sleeps, with its main pubbing and clubbing options centered in Grote Markt, Groenplatz, High Town, Stadswaag, and the area around the Centraal Station. Jazz clubs and other music venues merge with pubs, bars, discos, and nightclubs, most of which are open early until very late. The old-style De Engel (Grote Markt 3, Antwerp) is set in the main square and serves the delicious De Koninck local brew, and Kulminator (Vlemincveld 32, Antwerp) offers a selection of literally hundreds of beers and candlelit tables. Wild and wacky Het Zottekot (Vlaamse Kaai 21, Antwerp) is the place to be for the young set.

Dining and Cuisine in Belgium

Due to its EU connections, Brussels has more chef-controlled, Michelin–rated restaurants than any other city on earth. Advance reservations are essential at
Comme chez Soi (Place Rouppe 23, Brussels), one of Europe's finest classic French kitchens, and Le Maison du Cygne (Grande Place 9, Brussels) is haute cuisine at its best. Au Vieux Bruxelles (Rue St Boniface 35, Brussels) will delight with its traditional mussel and eel dishes, and rich local stews, and won't break the bank.

Outside the capital in Belgium's major cities, there's plenty of dining variety―both regional and international. Bruges can't be considered a cheap dining destination, but as in Brussels, it's all about chefs and quality. For a special evening, De Karmeliet (Langestraat 18, Bruges) is gourmet heaven and Den Dyver (Dijver 5, Bruges) is all about cooking using beer. One of Antwerp's favorites, La
Perouse (Steenplein, Antwerp), stays true to the city's maritime heritage with its seafood dishes, and 'T Fornious (Rayndersstraat 24, Antwerp) is a revered eatery in a 16th century stone house.

Mame vi Cou (Rue de la Wache 9, New Town, Liege) is one of Liege's hotspots for carnivores, with a fine reputation for the quality of its meat and the innovation of its dishes. As Ouhes (Place du Marche 21, New Town, Liege) serves the rich Walloon cuisine with flair and excellent service, as well as huge portions. Ghent's eateries also offer great value for money with their portion sizes, with the Belga Queen brasserie (Graslei 10, Ghent) great for seafood fans and vegetarians in Belgium, as well as carnivores, and set in a romantic 13th century canal-side building. Other tasty, meaty offerings in Ghent are provided by De Gekroonde Hoofde n (Burgstraat 4, Ghent), with spare ribs in honey an all-time favorite here.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Belgium - History and Culture

A recent description of Belgian food likened it to 'French in German quantities,' but that's not all there is to this delicious, warming cuisine. Dining out is a favorite occupation everywhere in the country, and the regional variations make for a rich culinary treat overall. There's a huge choice of restaurants in Brussels, from upscale Michelin-starred venues to local eateries, and the selection of great places to eat in the country's other main towns isn't far behind in this gastronomic paradise.

Bars and Pubbing in Belgium

Famous for more than 400 kinds of craft beers, Belgium is party central from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. With its happening beat, Brussels, offers an international selection of bars, pubs, and clubs. Exotic night venues, traditional pubs, over 80 exuberant bars, and all-night dance clubs crowd the city, with Place St Geny the central hub of trendy, eccentric nightlife. For style, night hawks should head to Sablon district, and for cool lounge bars, the upper part of the city delivers its promise. Two of the best bars are the Music Village jazz bar (Rue de Pierre 50, Brussels) and the very French Goupil le Foi (Rue de la Violette 22, Brussels) for its quirky décor and fruity wines.

Upmarket and slightly more sedate, Bruges is a little short of noisy nightclubs, but strong on pubs and bars serving the best of Belgium's craft beers in a convivial and often historic atmosphere. Valmingstraat and Blekerstraat, as well as Kemelstraat are the streets to head for if you're into traditional pubs. For laid-back lounge-style drinking, Bruges's southern district, around Oud Sint-Jan, won't disappoint. In summer, the action moves outside to terraces and beer gardens and, in winter, the venues along the picturesque little streets are at their cozy best. De Garre (De Garre 1, Bruges) serves Belgium's strongest beer and restricts each customer to three glasses, and bohemian Cafedral (Zilverstraat 38, Bruges) merges medieval with modern, resulting in one of the hippest places in town.

The lively port city of Antwerp never sleeps, with its main pubbing and clubbing options centered in Grote Markt, Groenplatz, High Town, Stadswaag, and the area around the Centraal Station. Jazz clubs and other music venues merge with pubs, bars, discos, and nightclubs, most of which are open early until very late. The old-style De Engel (Grote Markt 3, Antwerp) is set in the main square and serves the delicious De Koninck local brew, and Kulminator (Vlemincveld 32, Antwerp) offers a selection of literally hundreds of beers and candlelit tables. Wild and wacky Het Zottekot (Vlaamse Kaai 21, Antwerp) is the place to be for the young set.

Dining and Cuisine in Belgium

Due to its EU connections, Brussels has more chef-controlled, Michelin–rated restaurants than any other city on earth. Advance reservations are essential at
Comme chez Soi (Place Rouppe 23, Brussels), one of Europe's finest classic French kitchens, and Le Maison du Cygne (Grande Place 9, Brussels) is haute cuisine at its best. Au Vieux Bruxelles (Rue St Boniface 35, Brussels) will delight with its traditional mussel and eel dishes, and rich local stews, and won't break the bank.

Outside the capital in Belgium's major cities, there's plenty of dining variety―both regional and international. Bruges can't be considered a cheap dining destination, but as in Brussels, it's all about chefs and quality. For a special evening, De Karmeliet (Langestraat 18, Bruges) is gourmet heaven and Den Dyver (Dijver 5, Bruges) is all about cooking using beer. One of Antwerp's favorites, La
Perouse (Steenplein, Antwerp), stays true to the city's maritime heritage with its seafood dishes, and 'T Fornious (Rayndersstraat 24, Antwerp) is a revered eatery in a 16th century stone house.

Mame vi Cou (Rue de la Wache 9, New Town, Liege) is one of Liege's hotspots for carnivores, with a fine reputation for the quality of its meat and the innovation of its dishes. As Ouhes (Place du Marche 21, New Town, Liege) serves the rich Walloon cuisine with flair and excellent service, as well as huge portions. Ghent's eateries also offer great value for money with their portion sizes, with the Belga Queen brasserie (Graslei 10, Ghent) great for seafood fans and vegetarians in Belgium, as well as carnivores, and set in a romantic 13th century canal-side building. Other tasty, meaty offerings in Ghent are provided by De Gekroonde Hoofde n (Burgstraat 4, Ghent), with spare ribs in honey an all-time favorite here.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Belgium - History and Culture

Belgium's interesting, varied, and frequently violent history goes a long way to explaining the equally varied linguistic and cultural aspects of this small country. In spite of its troubled centuries, Belgium has influenced European art, classical music, literature, and the science of printing considerably, and its people's pride in their country is well justified.

History

Belgium as a settled region dates back to Roman times when it was named Belgica. It has long been a kingdom, although nowadays the Belgian Royal family lives in comparative normality outside the capital. During the Middle Ages and until the 17th century, the country was a hub for culture and commerce, and a favorite central location for battles between various European powers. This unfortunate accident of geography resulted in it being nicknamed the 'Battleground of Europe', a name which proved tragically apposite during WWI and WWII.

Considered a part of the Netherlands until the Belgian Revolution in 1830, the country became neutral and independent, establishing its position as a constitutional monarchy under King Leopold 1 in 1831. Its constitution is based on the Napoleonic Code, and democracy reared its head with suffrage for men in 1893, although women had to wait to vote until 1949.
Belgium was active during the Industrial Revolution, improving its economy as a result, and the acquisition of the Belgian Congo as a gift to Leopold II brought benefits including the marketing of rubber and ivory, as well as heavy criticism for the Belgians' poor treatment of the ethnic Congolese tribes.

The Germans invaded in 1914, soon after the start of WWI, and the Western Front battles mostly took place on Belgian soil. In 1940, history repeated itself with the country overrun by German troops, who remained in occupation until 1944, when liberation by the Allied forces took place as part of their push towards Germany.

The Belgian sites of the 20th century battles are now marked with monuments, landmarks, cemeteries of the fallen, and the ruins of German outposts and gun emplacements. For those fascinated by man's inhumanity to man, there's much to see and wonder at, especially in the Ypres region along the French border, infamous for its WWI horrors.

The Flanders Field Museum in Belgium gives an overview of the three major Ypres conflicts, during which hundreds of thousands died. WWII battles on Belgian soil included the Battle of the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge, in which a German offensive failed, opening the way to the final conquest of Germany by the Allied troops. The Royal Army and Military Museum in Brussels covers these battles and previous conflicts over a timeline of 10 centuries.

Culture

Any attempt at a general overview of Belgian culture will fall short of the reality, due to the division of the little country into three linguistic groups and the cultural influxes seeping across its borders from the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxembourg. The official languages here are German, Dutch, and French, although 33 percent of the inhabitants speak the old tongue of Walloon and a variant of Dutch, Flemish, is spoken by at least 60 percent. Within the three regions of Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels-Capital, individual cultures flourish, each with their own traditions, folklore, gastronomy, and priorities.

Family values take a central position in the lives of most Belgians for whichever province they call home, as do the values of appearance and cleanliness, both in personal and property matters. As a result, Belgium is a refreshingly tidy, clean country. Although friendly and welcoming, Belgians are somewhat formal in their greeting, with brief handshakes the norm until a friendship or business relationship is fully established.

A small gift is expected when you're invited to a Belgian home, and punctuality shows respect. If a toast is given, stand up, and it's polite to eat all you are offered, never mind how full your plate is. All Belgians are extremely proud of their local cuisine, making praising your meal a must.

Belgium's incredibly rich artistic tradition extends from its artworks to its architecture, music, literature, and traditionally authentic folkloric festivals, with all forming a strong part of the people's cultural awareness in the present day. Museum and art gallery visits are very popular, and the many medieval old towns are a great source of pride. Even the famous Belgian craft beers have a cultural identity, especially those from the six Belgian Trappist monasteries which are permitted to brew strong ale.

*culled from www.olaleone.com

Belgium Holidays and Festivals

Belgium holidays range from traditional events based on folklore or religious celebrations, to music and film extravaganzas, national days, sports events, and special occasions for tourists. Most celebrations take place during the warmer months of spring and early summer, with the exception of the Christmas and New Year season, which is celebrated all over the country with love and enthusiasm.

New Year's Eve and Day

Belgium's annual festival and event calendar begins late on New Year's Eve with parties, outdoor and indoor gatherings, street parades, and special events in bars and pubs―all going on before the magic stroke of midnight starts the firework displays put on to welcome in the New Year. Live music is a permanent staple, as is festive food and huge quantities of beer.

Carnival

The origins of the February Carnival are linked with the Roman Catholic period of Lent. This is traditionally a time of excess and indulgence in food, drink, and fun before the dietary restrictions of religion kick in. Brussels is the best place to experience Carnival, with its colorful street parades, local street parties, live music events, decorated homes and costumed residents, and food and beer extravaganzas.

Cinema Novo

This international film festival is based in Bruges, Belgium and draws movie professionals from across the world. Held every March, it's a truly international event featuring full-length and short films, as well as documentaries from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The event lasts 10 full days, with screenings taking place at the Lumière Art House and the Liberty blockbuster cinema.
Festival van Vlaanderen
This massive celebration of theater, music, and dance begins in April, closes in October, and takes place in venues across Brussels and all over Flanders. Fine performances of classical music, theater shows of all kinds, and dance are held in public venues, including historic buildings, abbeys, churches, town halls, theaters, and even outdoors during the summer months.

Procession of the Holy Blood

This stunning Christian pageant was first held in Bruges, Belgium in 1150, and is one of Europe's most important religious festivals. Every May, the relic of the Holy Blood, donated to the town in 1149 by the Count of Flanders after his return from the Crusades, is paraded through the town's medieval streets. Its journey takes a mile and the procession holds 1,500 chosen townspeople.

Zinneka Parade

The Zinneke Parade is held in Brussels amid the transformation of the city into a colorful hub of lively activities. Known as Big Z-Day by the locals, every May, the parade includes live music, concerts, dance, street parties, the wearing of costumes by all and sundry. 
Bar and pubs put on their own events and specials, and everyone has a grand old time.

Ducasse of Mons

This unique annual event is a must for all visitors who are in Belgium in June. Held in the town of Mons, it's one of the most ancient festivals in Europe and has its origins in folklore passed down over many centuries. It's based on a giant re-enactment of the St George and the Dragon legend, with the battle between good and evil taking place in the town square before thousands of spectators. After the dragon has been defeated, the parties run through the night.

Belgian National Day

Although Belgian National Day is celebrated all over the country on July 21, its biggest events take place in Brussels. Firework displays, street performers, costumed characters, and a huge military parade in the Brussels Park commemorate the country's independence, achieved in 1830 after the Belgian Revolution.

Meyboom

Held in Brussels, Belgium, Meyboom is the oldest traditional festival in the country. Mostly celebrated outdoors in the warm August weather, the event includes brass bands, a display of giant puppets, dancing, traditional folk music, and loads of food and beverages.

Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix

The last week of August is eagerly awaited by residents and visitors to Ardennes alike, as it sees the fabulous Formula 1 Grand Prix race at the city's Circuit de Francorchamps. The race draws thousands of visitors, with hotels full to capacity and bars, pubs, and restaurants crammed to the brim. Room rates soar and advance booking is essential. Whichever driver wins, it's an amazing spectacle.

Brussels Beer Weekend

This much loved celebration of Belgium's most famous product takes place in Brussels three days in September. Held at the grounds of the Grand Palace, it features stands selling almost every variety of the country's superb craft beers, all at reasonable prices. Entry is free, and live music makes the giant party go with a swing.

Brussels Flower Show

Held every October at the capital's Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this show is a must for lovers of floral extravaganzas, with the spectacular building filled with water displays, glorious floral arrangements, and rare plants.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Monday, 27 November 2017

Belarus - Food and Restaurants

Over the years, Belarus has honed its own cuisine, drawing influences from neighboring Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Although the food is sometimes said to lack the quality and originality of neighboring countries, Belarusian dishes proudly retain their own identity and flavor. Local restaurants serve up some fantastic dishes, including borshch , a beetroot soup, Minsk cutlet, and many pork and potato-based meals. Russian wheat vodka is a popular beverage, in addition to kvass, a drink made from fermented, malted brown bread or rye flour. Rye is common in many dishes and most local bread is made from the grain due to country's inability to grow wheat.

Bars and Pubbing in Belarus

Minsk's nightlife has steadily grown in recent years, offering tourists a number of places to go out in Belarus. Whether you enjoy throwing back a couple of local brews on the street or prefer a lively bar with music, Minsk city center is a great place to head. One of the favored hangouts is the vibrant beer hall of Rakovski Brovar (Vitebsk 10, city center, Minsk), which attracts a varied crowd throughout the evening and sells a plethora of beers and wholesome plates of meat. The less rowdy, chic café
Malako (Nezavisimosti 37A, Victory Square, city center, Minsk) is usually packed with hip youngsters and aspiring artists.

The area east of downtown Belarus has recently emerged as a thriving destination for drinkers and socialites, boasting some of the capital's top bars, including Loft Cafe (Brovky 22, Minsk), a funky place to grab a beverage in the early evening. It is ideally located near the trendy, progressive club Graffiti (Kalinina 16, Minsk), one of the capital's top live music venues.
The nightlife in Brest is far more low-key than in the capital; however, there are still a few bars worth checking out. Cafe Rondo (Savetskaja 45, Brest) is a favorite by travelers for its nostalgic, Soviet-style atmosphere, with shot glasses on every table and cheap vodka in abundance.

Magellan (Komsomolskaya, Brest) is another popular watering hole, with many of the local youngsters piling in before heading to the clubs.

Dining and Cuisine in Belarus

Minsk city center is the best place to savor local flavors, while also boasting a few good international restaurants. The charming, street side Grunwald Cafe (Karla Marxa 19, city center, Minsk) serves up dishes from around Eastern Europe, while the nearby Verhniy Gorod (Plaza Svobody 4, city center, Minsk) is popular for its eclectic menu and great views of the river.
A number of great restaurants just east of the center are also due a visit, such as the Graf Cafe (Nezavisimosti 116, Minsk).

Although the surroundings and decor may not be authentic, the establishment - located on the top floor of the National Library - serves up some of Belarus' most sumptuous local cuisine. A little further outside downtown, on the outskirts of the city, is the delicious Chomolunga (vulitsa Gikalo 17, Minsk), a seriously good sushi bar.

Although it can't compete with the food found in the capital, Brest is home to a few tasty eateries. The most notable restaurant is Jules Verne (Hoholija 29, Brest), a maritime-themed joint which peculiarly, yet successfully, combines Chinese and Indian cuisine. For a more authentic dining experience, head to
Traktir U Ozera (Park Kultury, Brest), located in a stunning park, to sample some of the city's best fish dishes.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Belarus - History and Culture

Belarus' history has been marred by war, conflict, and occupation, with the country eventually limping to independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union. While the people are recognized for their pleasant culture and hospitality, the area continues to languish in political, social, and economic unrest due to the totalitarian rule of the government.

History

Prior to becoming part of the once-powerful Polish-Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 1500's, Belarus was part of medieval polity Kyvian Rus, along with parts of modern-day Ukraine, Russia, and other Slav nations. It wasn't until the 1700's that the area came under Russian rule, by which time policies and trade were dominated by Poles and Jews, and the native Belarusians had become mere surfs. The large Jewish population continued to increase during the 19th century due to forced resettlements by the Russian Empire.
The country tasted autonomy for the first time during the closing months of WWI under German occupation. 

However, it was short-lived, as the land hurriedly passed back into the hands of Russia. In 1921, almost half of modern-day Belarus became Polish territory under the Treaty of Riga, which resulted in armed fighting in the streets.

The new state of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of the founding members of the USSR, and in the early years, culture, language, and heritage were encouraged. This was soon to be stamped out during the Stalin regime, which led to some of the country's darkest days. Forced industrialization, agricultural collectivization, and savage, ethnic cleansing grimly shaped the nation over the years leading up to WWII.

Belarus was one of the most severely affected European countries during the war, falling into the hands of Nazi forces in 1941. It remained on the frontline of battle throughout the entire conflict. The occupation resulted in the destruction and pillaging of countless cities, towns, and villages, with thousands of lives lost, especially in Minsk, which was nothing more than rubble by the time the country was recaptured by Soviet forces in 1944. An estimated 200,000 civilians were brutally executed in the capital during this period.

Prospects slowly improved in the post-war years, as Belarus became the industrial hub of the western USSR. However, disaster struck when the fairly prosperous nation suffered the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, which seriously contaminated a significant portion of the country. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Belarus, for the first time in its long history, gained independence. Unfortunately, it has been unable to benefit from self-government, with many Soviet-era policies remaining in place under the current structure.

Culture

Modern-day Belarus began to form a unique cultural identity independent from neighboring Ukraine and Russia, around the turn of the 18th century, after separating from the Polish-Lithuanian Grand Duchy. It went on to evolve into a rich and diverse heritage, which has produced some great art, literature, and architecture. The most celebrated Belarusian, Marc Chagall, is recognized as one of the most inspirational artists of the 20th century.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Belarus Holidays and Festivals

Most of the festivals on the Belarus holiday calendar fall toward the end of the year, including the vibrant Vitebsk Festival and Listapad Film Festival. However, the nation somewhat lacks traditional events due to its relatively recent formation and has few religious celebrations as a result of its communist past.

Menestral Guitar Music Festival

This huge, guitar-loving festival held every February and March attracts amateur and professional musicians from around Belarus. First held in 1992, the event occasionally draws a few big names (usually from Russia) who entertain the crowds with classical renditions of famous folk songs. If you plan on being in the country around this time, make sure to book a ticket well in advance as the festival sells out fairly quickly and accommodations are hard to come by.

International Festival of Arts in Vitebsk

This lively festival is held every July in Vitebsk and is devoted to the celebration of Slavic music. The event attracts participants from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Poland, in addition to those from the former states of Yugoslavia. Famous singers from around the region attend and perform Slavic songs, backed by the National Concert Orchestra of Belarus. The most successful country to date is Ukraine, with five wins to its name.

Lipstapad International Film Festival

Founded by the government to promote the country's film, this event takes place in Minsk every November. It brings together a vast array of talented movie makers and avid cinema-goers. It achieved international status in 2003.

Independence Day

Held each year on August 25, a garish, military-dominated Belarusian celebration sees the army parade through the streets of Minsk, tanks and all. It is an interesting spectacle to behold, but carries with it a creepy, overly Orwellian feel.

Defender of the Fatherland Day

A leftover festival from the Soviet era, Defender of the Fatherland Day is still celebrated in a number of former USSR countries on February 23, the date marking the massive 1918 Russian Civil War draft. After the fall of the Union, the event was renamed to honor Belarusian soldiers who served and men throughout the nation.

Chernobyl Disaster Commemorative Day

Respects are paid on April 26 to the victims of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters, which took place near the Ukraine-Belarus border. Large parts of the country were, and remain, severely contaminated by the explosion. The event is marked by a somber procession throughout the streets of the cities and the laying of wreaths and flowers at the Chernobyl chapel.

Kupala Night

A long-standing Slavic festival celebrating the summer solstice, Kupala is held on the night of July 6th and 7th. Many believe the festival has pagan roots and is extremely popular among young generations in Eastern Europe, who use the occasion as an opportunity to engage in fun-filled water fights.

Dziady

Another traditional Slavic festival, Dziady celebrates the dead when families come together to throw ritualistic feasts. The festival regained momentum in 1988 due to the efforts of the Belarusian Popular Front to revive nationalism in the country.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Azerbaijan - Food and Restaurants

Local culture is also defined by its food. Azerbaijan cuisine influenced by many other neighboring countries including Iran, India, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Turkey, and the results are a blend of flavor that is unique and distinctive. Lamb is typically the main ingredient; seasoned with cinnamon, coriander and saffron. 

The most traditional place to eat is the yemekhane, which is often attached to a teahouse or Chayhana. You will also find plenty of Azeri restaurants where you can enjoy barbecues with staples like bread, cheese and yogurt. The term "fast food" in Azerbaijan does not necessarily refer to western-style drive-thrus, but also to street stalls selling cheap and delicious meals. Aryan is among the local drinks served, which is made using yogurt based sour milk. 

Sherbet made from saffron and rose petals is also popular. Locally produced wines are also available alongside natural spring water. Lemonades are offered in some markets and are often infused with tarragon or pears.
Bars and Pubbing in Azerbaijan
Most of Azerbaijan's best pubs and bars are in the city of Baku. Traditional teahouses serve sweets and some alcohol to guests in individual nooks. 

Cafés also dot the city, but they typically have beverages at Western prices. In other cities like Sheki and Ganja, you can order western-style coffees and a variety of teas in cafés.

Teahouses offer piva (local beer), but not rum, gin, or tequila; for which you would need to find a pub. Most of the high-end bars in Azerbaijan are within hotels like the Hyatt Hotel (Bakikhanov St., Baku), but you can head nearby the History Museum (Finnegan's, 4 A. Aliyev Street, Baku) for more casual cocktails and reasonably priced beer. 

For a sports bar atmosphere, there is Adam's Sports Bar (6 Alizade Street, Baku) or the Caledonia Bar (38, Rasul Rza, Baku) which shows most games.
Baku may seem like a conservative city, but there are jazz clubs in town too.
Caravan Jazz Club (4 Aliyev Street) has a western-style toilet (somewhat rare) and free entry. For a more upscale ambiance, there is Room 103 (103 Nefticilar Prospekti).

Dining and Cuisine in Azerbaijan

The best restaurants in Azerbaijan are in Baku, where you'll find a mix of affordable, midrange and high-end establishments. Some serve not just Azeri cuisine, but also European, Georgian, Ukrainian, and Turkish specialties. Anadolu (Pushkin St. 5 and Rasul Rza St. 3/5) has both European and Turkish dishes, while Namli Kebab (near the Austin Hotel and Russian Dramatic Theater) is the place to be for Azeri and European fusion. 

Alternatively, there is
Respublika Luks (24 Khagani Street).
Some Azerbaijan restaurants have a nightclub-like atmosphere. If you like this vibe, drop by XVII esr (215 B. Safaroglu St.,) and Le Mirage (34 Nizami St.). There's a vast selection of draft beers in Munchen (125 Nizami St), which specializes in German cuisine. 

For Italian favorites, the Pizza Holiday (119 Lermontov Kuchasi, near Baku Soviet) and Dolce Vita (9 Aziz Aliyev) are good choices. Asian restaurants include Buddha (2 AZ Tagiyev Street), Taj Mahal (18 Khagani Street), and Maharaja (121 Akivstat Gykuyev Street).

For more sophisticated dining, Chinar (1 Shovket Alekperova Street) is a modern tea house serving Pan-Asian specialties. It is also home to a late-night cocktail bar. The elegant House of Sultans (Icheri Sheher Boyuk Gala #20) has Azeri and international cuisines.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Azerbaijan - History and Culture

Azerbaijan's name literally means "Guardians of Fire" which was derived from the Persian "Azar," meaning "fire," and "Baijan," "protector or guardian." The country's rich and colorful history is influenced by its location in the Caucasus region, bound by the Caspian Sea, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Iran, and Daghestan. It is home to several ethnicities from the surrounding areas, a majority of which are known as "Azerbaijani." The country was colonized by the Russian Empire for 80 years until the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was established in 1918. The Soviets invaded the nation in 1920, and Azerbaijan remained under its rule until 1991, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed.

History

There is proof that civilization in Azerbaijan started as early as the late Stone Age from evidence found in the Azykh Cave that proves the existence of Guruchay culture. The caves of Zar, Damcili, and Tagilar have also yielded evidence of settlements from the late Bronze Age and Paleolithic age. The Scythians were supposedly the earliest people to have lived in Azerbaijan in the 9th century BC, but afterward, Iranian Medes dominated the territory and established an empire sometime between 900 to 700 BC. Eventually they merged with the Achaemenids in 550 BC, spreading Zoroastrianism. A few years later, the territory was claimed by Alexander the Great and became part of his empire. The area's original citizens were Caucasian Albanians, who formed their own independent kingdom sometime in the 4th century BC.

The feudal era began when the Caucasian Albania kingdom was transformed into a vassal state by the Sassanids in 252 AD.By the 4th century, King Urnayr declared Christianity the state's official religion. Although the Byzantines and Sassanids launched several conquests, Albania remained distinctive until the 9th century. By then, the Umayyad Caliphate, an Islamic group, had driven the Byzantines and Sassanids from the region, turning the kingdom into a subordinate following Prince Javanshir's Christian resistance, which was stopped in 667. Several local dynasties were formed when the Abbasid Caliphate declined, including the Sajids, Sallarids, Buyids, Rawadids, and Shaddadids. The territory was gradually taken over by Central Asia's Turkic Oghuz tribes at the start of the 11th century. The Ghaznavids were the first of the dynasties to be established when they arrived in 1030, on the land now known as Azerbaijan. Before the Turkic Azerbaijani era, the natives spoke Old Azari language, which is derived from Iranian. When the Turkic Oghuz tribes came, there was a shift to Turkic language, but this became extinct by the 16th century.

Atabegs ruled the Seljuq Empire's possessions, serving as the Seljuq sultans' vassals, and considered de facto rulers. Persian literature was dominant during this period because of poets like Khagani Shirvani and Nizami Ganjavi. Later, Timur won the Jalayirids state, while the local Shirvanshahs became the vassal for his empire. After his death, two rival but independent states were formed: Ak Koyunlu and Kara Koyunlu.

Eventually, the Shirvanshahs came back and became autonomous, electing local rulers from 861 to 1539. When they were persecuted by the Safavids, the final dynasty forced Shia Islam to the Sunni population where they fought against the Ottoman Empire. The Iranians of Zand and Afhsar ruled the territory after the Safavids, while the Qajars took brief control over Azerbaijan. When the Zand dynasty collapsed, de facto khanates started arriving in the area and became more evident.

The treaty of Gulistan ended the Khanates' dominion, but they maintained control over affairs involving international trade routes to West and Central Asia.

Eventually in 1813, the khanates became part of the Russian Empire. Russia occupied the territory, particularly the area to the north of the River Aras. Persia recognized the sovereignty of Russia over the Nakhchivan, Lankaran, and Erivan Khanates through the Treaty of Turkmenchay. The Russian Empire collapsed in World War I, and Azerbaijan was transferred to part of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, which ended in May 1918, leading them to finally become the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

The Azerbaijan's parliament was the first to acknowledge women's suffrage. They also established Baku State University, the first modern Muslim college. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan became a republic and again waved the flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. 

Despite the wars that overshadowed the first years of independence, Azerbaijan continued to improve in terms of economy. Today, they are one of the most progressive governments with a foreign policy based on mutual interest and equality.

Culture

Azerbaijan's culture is heavily influenced by Europe and Islam with Russian, Turkish and Iranian heritage. The Azerbaijanis of today inherited the customs and practices of different ancient civilizations such as the Iranian Scythian tribe, the indigenous Caucasian Albanians, the Oghuz Turks, and the Alans, while western influence continues to seep in.

Azerbaijan is home to many ethnicities, most of them belonging to the Azeris group. Azerbaijanis are well-mannered and reserved people who treat their elders and women with utmost respect. It is impolite to blow your nose or pick your teeth during meals, touch someone without their permission, chew gum in public, or prop up your feet up while seated. It is also rude to slap someone on the back, give a bear hug, swear in public or shout in a public place so remember to be respectful and act proper.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Azerbaijan Holidays and Festivals

There are several Azerbaijan holidays and events throughout the year. The busiest month is May, largely because of Baku's many food festivals and jazz concerts. A majority of the locals are Muslims so Ramadan (also called Ramazan) is one of the most important and highly anticipated celebrations in the country. There are also plenty of national days honoring important historical events during the struggle for independence.

Gurban Bayram

Known as the 'Day of Sacrifice' or 'Qurban,' Gurban Bayram celebrates the end of the Haji pilgrimage and Abraham's sacrifice for God. A camel or goat is sacrificed to remember Abraham, who slaughtered a ram instead of his own son.

Ramazan Bayram

Ramazan Bayram (Ramadan) is internationally known as 'Eid Ul Fitr,' which sees an entire month of fasting, ending on the day of the full moon. Sweets and gifts are exchanged between Azerbaijan family members and friends. The two-day celebration is lively and interesting with people flocking to the mosques to pray. They greet each other with 'Eid-Mubarak,' which means 'May you enjoy a blessed festival.'

Novruz Bayram

The New Year of the Zoroastrian, Novruz Bayram is considered a public holiday in Azerbaijan. Traditionally, a novruz table is adorned with candles, colored eggs, dry fruits, and sweets. Foods that start with the letter 's' (such as sumakh, sir, sabzi, sib, serkeh, and sonbol) are served. The center of the table is never without a bowl of goldfish because it is believed that when the New Year comes, the goldfish will face north.

Victory's Day

Held every May 9, Victory's Day is celebrated to honor the Soviet Republic's triumph over Germany in WWII. It is also to show respect for the veterans who died in battle.

International Women's Day

Held annually on March 8th, a global celebration honors women throughout the world, of which Azerbaijan takes part. There are presentations and films about women's issues, empowerment workshops, etc.

Republic Day

A public holiday on May 28, Republic Day remembers the formation of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918.

International Baku Jazz Festival

Azerbaijanis love jazz, and every year, Bazu plays host to various concerts put together by musicians and bands from different countries. Jazz artists from Georgia, Israel, USA, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Canada come to perform.

Day of National Salvation of Azerbaijani People

June 15 is a state holiday celebrating Heydar Aliyev's return as the country's leader. Known for leading his people to significant social and economic changes, he ultimately improved the quality of life in Azerbaijan and brought stability to the nation.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

On The Neglect of Imam and Shata

In some sections of this week's Blueprint , there are stories about Hausa land's foremost artistes in the areas of music and literature. Alhaji Abubakar Imam, who was born in 1911 and died in a hospital in Zaria, Kaduna State, on June 19, 1981, was the leading creative writer in Hausa land. Alhaji Mamman Shata Katsina, who died in a hospital in Kano at dawn on Friday, June 18, 1999 at the age of 76, was the leading Hausa musician of our time.

Both men showed promise in their art forms right from a very young age -- barely 16 to 19 years. By the end of each artiste's life, he was able to attain a level of dignity, acclaim and command of a huge following, a prowess which has outlived him. Each became a fabled member of the ruling elite. Each was awarded the enviable national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) by the federal government and an honorary doctorate degree by Ahmadu Bello University.

This was because each had contributed immensely to the development of our country, using his God-given talents. As a journalist, Imam had waged a war against what he called the "three evils" militating against progress in northern Nigeria -- ignorance, indolence and poverty. He also participated in the nascent political awakening in the region. In addition, his books have remained a yardstick for measuring the sophistication of creative writing in the Hausa language.

Shata, on his part, is still entertaining us even though he is no more. His songs are played on radio and television, and they are available on CDs (courtesy of pirates) for use at home and in our cars. In them, he titillates, educates and enlightens us on all those three evils that ailed Imam during his journalism days. Shata was also an active politician in the Second Republic. He chaired the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) in Kankia Local Government Area and was the chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Funtua LGA during the Third Republic. He must have, therefore, contributed to political awakening through his participation.

An interesting aspect of the life of these two geniuses is that while they had great opportunities to accumulate wealth, they didn't. Many would be surprised to know that Shata in particular, whom some think was stinkingly rich, died almost a pauper. 

He lived as a humble man who would give away the monies and goods he received from his benefactors to lesser mortals, the way his father Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro did in his own lifetime.
Last week, Imam clocked 30 years in death and Shata clocked 12. This year also marks the centenary anniversary of the birth of Imam.

While it is a matter of joy that we are still around to witness this epoch, a careful look at the family of each of these men shows that the memory of each one of them has not been given its due by those who should do so. In fact, it is sad that their families are left to fend for themselves without having an opportunity to reap from the fruits of their father's/husband's labour.
While Imam's children live a comparatively better life because of the education they acquired, most of Shata's sons -- and the wives he left behind -- are struggling. Some of Shata's daughters are better off because they got higher education (at least four have acquired university degrees), but generally the family seems to have been abandoned by our thankless society.

This sob-story is similar to those of many other artistes in this country. My association with a variety of artistes has exposed me to many situations that make me sad any time I recall their fate. Almost all the artistes who were a cynosure of the society's eyes at one time or the other have been left to their own devices; many are sickly or existing on the verge of penury.

Governments at local, state and federal levels should do something to redeem this ugly situation. There should be a hall of fame funded by various levels of government, and NGOs dedicated to the betterment of the life of artistes who have reached old age and their families when they are no more. It is an insult to the memory of people like Shata that even the name of the street where he lived for decades has not been changed to his name. The Katsina State government should find a way to not only immortalise this music giant but also assist his family; Imam, who was originally from Niger State, also had strong links to Katsina. With the right will, it can be done.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Austria - Food and Restaurants

Austrian food may not be internationally renowned, but it is hearty and tasty. Typical delicacies include schnitzel (breaded and shallow-fried pork) and kaiserschmarn (a light caramelized pancake). There are also plenty of regional delicacies to try. Prices tend to reasonable, and even small restaurants serve decent meals. In the major cities there are great cuisine choices, from ethnic to international. Great eats can be had from street vendors, as well as sausage shops, many of which have small windows where freshly grilled sausages and brötchen (crusty bread rolls) are served. A beer or a glass of wine goes well with every Austrian meal.

Bars and Pubbing in Austria

There are plenty of good bars to enjoy in Austria and about 70 breweries producing beer for local consumption. Search for places called stuben or bräu , which indicate they serve beer; and many will have beer gardens in the summer. In Salzburg, head to the Augustinerbräu Kloster Mülln (Augustinergasse 4, Salzburg), which boasts a large beer hall located in a monastery. Opening hours are Monday through Saturday, 3:00 to 11:00 p.m. and 2:30 to 11:00 p.m. on Sundays. Make sure to try the Augustiner 
Märzen, a local favorite. Another beer hall is the Weissbierbrauerei Bernd Tobsch (Rupertgasse 10, Salzburg), which brews the light-colored wheat beer, Hefeweissbier. If in Linz, try the Josef Stadtbräu (Landstrasse 49, Linz) where the locally brewed Josef Dunkel (dark beer) and Josef Hell (light-colored beer) can be sampled.

In Vienna, visitors will find a tradition of microbreweries, called wiener kleinbrauerei, dotted throughout the city. These microbreweries offer beer brewed on site and mostly traditional Austrian food. Opening times depend on the brewery, with some open for lunch and others only in the late afternoon. Popular microbreweries are the Wieden Bräu (Waaggasse 5, Vienna), Perchten Bräu (Schönbrunner Strasse 98, Vienna) and
Stiegl Ambulanz (Alserstrasse 4, Vienna).

In terms of bars and clubbing, Vienna probably offers the best selection. Unlike in the US, most places will not 'card' patrons and welcome nearly everyone. The oldest club in Vienna is probably the Flex (Augartenbrücke 1, Vienna), a mainstream nightclub. For something more unusual, head to the Volksgarten Club Disco (Burgring 1, Vienna), which offers both open-air and indoor dancing. Most clubs are open until 4:00 a.m..

Dining and Cuisine in Austria

There are plenty of excellent restaurants in Austria, both in the city and the countryside. However, the further you venture from civilization, the more limited you are with local fare, but the food at these venues is nevertheless tasty and home-cooked. The cities offer a wider range of cuisines and prices than the countryside.

In the capital city, visitors will find a great number of restaurant options. Head to the famous Figlmüller (Wollzeile 5, Vienna), which is synonymous for Wiener schnitzel. The schnitzel served here is dished up in the traditional manner, pounded very thin, breaded, and crisply pan-fried, and served with a slice of lemon. An absolute must eat! For a wider range of Austrian fare, head to the
Steirereck (Im Stadtpark, Am Heumarkt 2A, Vienna), which is known for its great cheese selection.

Although some say the Café Sacher (Philharmonikerstrasse 1, Vienna) is over-rated, sampling a slice of the famous and scrumptious sacher torte (decadent chocolate cake with apricot jam in the center) and a cup of Viennese coffee is an absolute must. It is the quintessential coffee house dating back to 1832. The recipe is a closely held secret, and this is the only place where visitors can eat the real thing (but there are outlets of Café Sacher in Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Graz). Fallen in love with the cake? You can order one online to be delivered anywhere in the world.
Innsbruck draws visitors primarily with its outdoor activities, and its eateries offer hearty food for those just back from the slopes. At the high end is the Goldener Adler (Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse 6, Innsbruck), which offers classic Austrian fare and at budget to mid-range end is the Markthalle (Herzog-Siegmund-Ufer 1-3, Innsbruck), a small indoor market where there are food stalls and small restaurants. There are also plenty of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean restaurants to choose from.
Salzburg does not offer the huge range of restaurants that Vienna does, but it can hold its own. The city is especially known for its coffee shop culture, and visitors will find a café on almost every street corner. Salzburg has its own Michelin-star restaurant, the Magazin (Augustinergasse 13, Salzburg), which offers a three-course prix fixe meal. Want to eat where Mozart ate? Head to the Stiftskeller St. Peter (St. Peter Bezirk 1-4, Salzburg), which boasts a history dating back to AD 803 and a great schnitzel . For really traditional Austrian food, where waitresses dress in dirndl and serve bratwurst (grilled sausage), and beer, head to the Gasthaus Wilder Mann (Getreidegasse 20, Salzburg).

*culled from www.olaleone.com

Austria - History and Culture

Austria is a land-locked country that is steeped in history, having been dominated by the Habsburg dynasty from the 13th century until 1918. The country's culture is intricately intertwined with the people's love for nature and music. Austria has been home to some of the most famous musicians and composers in the world, with Austrians taking great pride in their musical heritage.

History

Austrian history has been tumultuous, first inhabited by the Celtics and the conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the Bavarians and Slavs that occupied the country. By the 8th century, Charles the Great conquered Austria, but power was taken by the House of Babenberg shortly after his death.

The Habsburgs, Austria's most famous ruling house, took over from the dying Babenberg around the 13th century and stayed in power until WWI. At one point, the Habsburg Empire and later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire consisted of modern day Bosnia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Serbia, and parts of Italy, Poland, and Ukraine.

Because the period of Habsburg rule was so long, it greatly influenced the culture and arts in Austria still represented today by the many beautiful historic buildings, castles, and palaces. The Habsburg rulers were great patrons of the arts, which explains why Austria has such as rich heritage of music and art.

Music greats, such as Joseph Hayden, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, FranzSchubert, Josef Strauss, and HerbertvonKarajan were all Austrian. Probably the most famous Austrian artists are Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Gustav Klimt.The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna showcases Austria's art history, and there are manyannual festivals that are tributes to these great artists.

After WWI, Austria became a republic and was briefly controlled by Germany's Third Reich. After WWII, Austria regained its republic status. In 1955, it became part of the European Union and declared permanent neutrality. A good place to learn about Austria's history is at the Museum of Military History or the Wien museum in Vienna.

Culture

Austrian culture has been greatly influenced not only by the Habsburg imperial family, but also by its neighbors. Vienna has long been considered the music capital of Europe,and is home to world class music schools. Famous composers such as Johann Strauss, Joseph Hayden, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozartall learned, composed, taught, and played in Vienna. This means that Vienna is also home to some of the best venues on the planet, such as the Golden Hall, the Vienna State Opera, and the Musikverein, to name a few. There is always something going on in the music scene in Vienna, including numerous festivals.

Also home to the Alpsand great outdoor sports, Austria has many world-class athletes. With all the peaks to conquer, it is no surprise that some of the globe's top mountaineers are Austrian including Peter Aufschnaiter, Heinrich Harrer, and Ludwig Purtscheller. Great Austrian skiers include Toni Sailer, FranzKlammer, and Hermann Meier. Austria's lengthy military history has created a long partnership with horses, and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna stands at the pinnacle of horsemanship in the world.

Being a land-locked country, Austria is bordered by the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. This means that Austrians are open to a diverse range of cultures, religions, and languages. Although German is the official language, most Austrians are multi-lingual. Depending onthe region inwhich they live, Austrians may speak Italian, Turkish, or Serbian, as well as regional Austrian dialects and English.

*culled from www.iexplore.com
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