Monthly Archives: September 2016

Some Interest on Kyoto

Ruling as Japan’s imperial capital for more than a thousand years, Kyoto is a city steeped in historic lore and legacy, where ancient cobbled streets echo with the click-clack of geisha clogs, world-renowned art adorns majestic palaces, and bamboo screens conceal serene teahouses brewing ceremonial matcha according to age-old customs and aesthetics.

Unlike other Japanese cities, Kyoto escaped the mass destruction wrought by WWII, allowing it to remain a well-preserved window into the country’s mystical past. Visitors can pick between an overwhelming array of 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but it’s equally as enthralling to get lost among its labyrinthine backstreets uncovering hidden gardens, local markets and offbeat museums along the way.

Those with little time should make a beeline for easterly Higashiyama, the city’s richest sightseeing district, known for its picturesque wooden machiya townhouses occupied by tofu sellers, tea merchants and kimono rental shops. Sightseers can learn more about the Japanese way of life through the city’s thriving cultural scene, particularly in the geisha neighbourhood of Gion where time-honoured theatres stage all kinds of kabuki dance-drama, stylised puppetry and traditional court music.

For all its ancient allure, the cosmopolitan metropolis has its fair share of high-tech, high-octane draws, as anyone arriving on the futuristic Shinkansen (Bullet Train) can vouch. Add to this a dynamic nightlife of sake breweries and cocktail bars, a glittering dining scene boasting over 100 Michelin-starred restaurants, and a trove of stunning ryokan (traditional inn) accommodation, and it’s easy to see why travellers of all types are spellbound by the city.

Wonderful place on Venice

It might be nicknamed La Serenissima (the most serene) but there’s little that could be described as calm about Venice. Home to some of the most iconic architecture on the planet, its ancient colonnades and meandering canals are very much part of a truly modern city.

Built across 116 islands set in a formerly blue lagoon (now verging on brown), Venice benefits from a fascinatingly colourful past with scores of spectacular buildings and a sprinkling of stardust. The birthplace of Tintoretto and Titian has no shortage of artistic and cultural treats either, although the inspiration for many of their works – the city itself – is just as compelling.

Despite its reputation for canals, Venice is a never-ending maze of tiny cobbled courtyards and winding back streets, linked by arched bridges and dotted with osterie (simple bars serving food and drink), traditional trattorias and frequently tacky souvenir shops. But its real beauty lies in its unique waterways and striking bridges, such as the iconic Rialto.

Away from the canals, the city is dominated by the Saint Mark’s Basilica and for good reason: it’s truly one of the most impressive pieces of Renaissance architecture on the planet and its byzantine golden horses are nothing short of spectacular. Castello, the surrounding area, is just as magnificent with some eye-wateringly expensive palazzo hotels.

San Polo, with its beautiful Santa Maria dei Frari church, is also worth making time for, not least because it is also home to the Scuola di San Rocco, noted for its collection of Tintoretto paintings.

Quiet Santa Croce and arty Dorsoduro are not to be missed either, while Campo Santa Margherita is the place to go for late nights and interesting locals.

You might be amid ancient buildings, but in bustling modern Venice, serenity is the last thing you’ll find.