COM0011- Blog 6 – The enchantments of St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg is a place like no other. The distinctly regal feeling, the glamour, the imperial history and its long summer nights make this city an unforgettable destination. There is so much to see and do, you will probably need a few weeks there. I will list the highlights of our trip so you don’t get lost.

Let’s start with the Hermitage museum. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, it was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764. Originally, there was only one building housing the collection, but nowadays the museum encompasses many buildings on the Palace Embankment and its neighbourhoods. The Hermitage has three million pieces of art in several buildings across St. Petersburg.

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Outside one part of Hermitage Museum

29 kilometers away from St. Petersburg, the imperial estate of Peterhof is one of the most popular day trips from the city. The Grand Palace is opulent and extravagant, but the highlight of Peterhof is the Grand Cascade – a series of about 150 fountains and canals behind the Grand Palace. Beyond the Grand Cascade, there are impeccably maintained gardens with fountains, gazebos and some smaller palaces.

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The view of the Grand Cascade with the Grand Palace behind is truly breathtaking.

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The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one the most famous sights in St. Petersburg. It is located where Tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881 and it features 7000 square meters of mosaics on the interior. The church was built between 1883 and 1907, funded by the imperial family.

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Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

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Two of the best performances I have seen in my entire life were in St. Petersburg. Inside the Nickolayevsky Palace we saw an unforgettable folkshow performance. Two hours of a dynamic and colorful show, with folk songs and dance.

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The other grand performance was the russian ballet at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. The Swan Lake  has become a symbol of Russian art itself. A trip to St. Petersburg is not complete without seeing at least one of those performances.

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And…if you are lucky enough…you will stumble upon a bear cub around the city 🙂

 

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COM0011 – Blog 5 – Escape to Cancun & Tulum

Beautiful sugar-white beaches? Check. Lots of calm and serene spots? Check. Plenty of recreational options and water activities? Good food? Check. History? Sure. Nightlife? Of course. Sounds like the perfect travel destination…and Cancun really has it all.

The most beautiful beaches in Mexico with transparent turquoise waters and palm trees you will find in the Cancun–Tulum corridor. All those cool beach clubs that range from casual, bohemian alcoves to chic upscale lounges, you will be lost to choose from. The area is known as the destination with the best infrastructure and hotels in the Caribbean. The Hotel Zone has hundreds of nice restaurants and the authentic Mexican cuisine is very good with something to offer to every traveller. 

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What I love most about Cancun, aside from the beaches and the myriad of activities, are the Mayan ruin sites. Chichen Itza is the most spectacular site in the area. It is located inland about 2 1/2 hours by tour bus from Cancun. It is a day trip that you have to do. The ruin site of Tulum is gorgeous, and is coupled with a visit to one of the areas eco parks, either Xcaret or Xel-Ha. Xel-Ha is a beautiful park where you can relax in hammocks, snorkel with tropical fish in the warm, tranquil waters, float lazily on an innertube throughout the natural waterways and channels of the subterranean waterways, and even swim with dolphins.

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If you are travelling to Cancun, you cannot miss Isla Mujeres and the Royal Garrafon VIP Tour that takes you to Garrafon Park. The park is located on the south of Isla Mujeres and is the southernmost point of the island and the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s also the first place the sun touches the country of Mexico in the morning. The views are absolutely spectacular. Garrafon Park is a place where you go for relaxing and taking pictures of the breathtaking views.

Curiosities about Cancun

*Did you know Cancun’s beach is made of crushed coral? That means if you walk barefoot on the sand, Cancun’s sand won’t burn your feet even on the hottest of days.

*The Riviera Maya’s Cenotes have been rated among the best cave diving of the World.

*Between May and September, you have the once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and swim with the amazing whales and sharks.

* There is an underwater museum that has a total of 500 sculptures with three different galleries submerged between three and six meters deep.

For more info, visit: http://cancun.travel/en/

COMM0011 – blog 4 -A hidden gem around Rio

In the middle of protruding peninsulas and secluded beaches lies one of the most charming and exquisitely preserved historical gems of Brazil. Paraty has been a National Historic Site since 1966 and is not only remarkable for its historical architecture and colonial houses, but also because it has it all:  spectacular clear-water beaches, waterfalls, great restaurants, history, many activities, an abundance of islands in the bay, a rainforest and a range of hills that provides the fascinating backdrop.

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The town gets even more interesting with the presence of vacationers and travelers from all over the world, as well as, artists, writers and chefs, both Brazilian and foreign. Paraty hosts annually an international literature festival that gathers some of the best national writers and guest international authors.

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Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Church

 

 

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Several pristine beaches are within minutes driving from Paraty by boat or bus, while inland, there are parks like the Parque Nacional da Serra da Bocaina which provides protection for a remainder rainforest.  You can’t miss the boat tour around Paraty and a visit to Trindade!

Trindade is a village located 30km from Paraty. If you want to relax and get away from big cities, this is the place to be. It has some of the best and most beautiful beaches in Brazil, and is also surrounded by the rainforest. A hidden gem!!!

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And if you are wondering about where to eat in Paraty, I highly recommend Galeria do Engenho restaurant.They offer many tasty local dishes and it was so good we went there for dinner 4 times during our stay. It is a simply decorated restaurant with a friendly atmosphere that is fostered by its excellent staff. It gets really busy, but the quality and value are worth the wait.

For more information, visit:

http://www.infoparaty.com/en

 

COMM0011 Blog 3 – Riga

Europe is overflowing with quaint, old, exotic and modern destinations. So many options for every taste and budget. One of the countries we chose to visit was Latvia. Completely understated and unnoticed, people normally do not consider Latvia as a destination. However, the country pleases nature lovers, cosmopolitans, culture and history buffs. 

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House of the Blackheads in Old Town

 

Latvia became an independent country in 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, and for this reason, Soviet influence is still a complex subject of discussion there. Latvia’s long history is worth reading before travelling there though.

 

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St. Peter’s Church seen from Town Hall Square

 

The capital city, Riga, is the biggest city of the Baltics. It has very impressive architecture, offers a large variety of foods, and reasonable prices on most goods and services. Its medieval Old Town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and is filled with old, well preserved buildings, castles, restaurants, and churches. Most historic buildings were bombed during WWII or destroyed by fires, but have been rebuilt after the fall of Soviet rule.

 

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The Historic Centre of Riga has the finest and largest concentration of Art Nouveau architecture in the world, with more than a third of the buildings built in the style. The competitor of Gaudi,  Mikhail Osipovich Eisenstein, was the designer of most of the Art Nouveau buildings in the city.

 

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Art Nouveau detail

 

 

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The Daugava River, known as the River of Destiny, bisects the city, is 1,020 km long and drains portions of the countries of Latvia, Belarus and Russia before pouring out into the Gulf of Riga. It was the only route between east and west, “a road from the Vikings to the Greeks”.

 

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The Vanšu Bridge over the Dalgava River

 

Outside the historic center, there are many other interesting things to do, like walking around Bastejkalns Park, where you can visit the Opera House, the Freedom Monument, the chocolate factory Laima, or Kayak along the Daugava River and Riga canal at night when the city’s bridges and fountains are lit up.

 

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Opera House

 

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The Nativity of Christ Cathedral

 

Outside Riga, there is a fantastic beach resort in the town of Jūrmala, perfect for a day trip in the summer. The area is famous for its curative mud and mineral waters as well its many activities offered such as art exhibitions, local and international concerts.

 

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Beach near Jurmala

 

If you are not convinced Latvia is a fantastic travel destination yet, then watch this video!

 

 

 

 

 

COM011 Post 2 – Unexpected Spot in the Baltics

On the shore of the Gulf of Finland, lies one the most interesting cities I have visited during my years in Scandinavia. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, aka the Silicon Valley of the Baltics or hometown of Skype, has been listed among the top 10 digital cities in the world. Although Tallinn is not on many people’s bucket list, the place is not only remarkable for its technological and mobility infrastructure, but also for its history, art and architecture.

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Old Town lookout (May 2008)

 

The Old Centre is a walled area full of old buildings and fortifications. It was first expanded by the Danish who arrived and started ruling Tallinn in 1219. The Swedes invaded the city next in 1561. Then, in 1710, the Russians. In 1918, Estonia declared independence from Russia, but fell to the Nazis and then the Soviets during World War II. Despite all the wars and invasions, Tallinn’s historic centre has survived remarkably intact. It is so well preserved that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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Medieval walled area

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If you are going on weekends, you have to get there early in the morning before the crowds to get the most of its medieval charm. It’s the best time to sit and marvel the beautiful architecture and to picture the life there hundreds of years ago.

 

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Early in the morning near the Centre Square

 

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Centre Square after 10 a.m.

 

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Street made spiced almonds

Curiosities

  • For a period of time, Tallinn attracted many young men with the lure of cheap booze and prostitution. You can still see a great number of people taking the ferry in the Finnish capital and crossing the Baltic just to take advantage of the slightly lower prices of drinks, goods and services.
  • Estonian artists have recycled  13,000 mobile phones to make benches in the downtown area.
  • Not too far from the capital, there is a village called Kaali, on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. The last known occurrence of an impact event on a populated area happened there. The tourist area resembles a film set for The Game of Thrones. You can experience an authentic medieval meal at the surroundings.
  • Tallinn is the oldest capital in Northern Europe.

 

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A waiter showing one of the meals at the Olde Hansa restaurant.

 

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Our meal at Olde Hansa

 

Next time you plan a trip overseas, consider visiting an unpredictable destination like the Estonian capital. Just don’t forget the best time would be off-season when crowds are gone and you can dream yourself alive in a Game of Thrones setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

COM0011 (blog#1) Social Media Evolution in Brief

Do you remember how life was before social media?  It’s fascinating to see how social media has evolved and radically changed the way we communicate and our lifestyles. It has actually played a huge role in our lives and has enabled us to communicate with a greater number of people on a global scale. 

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But when did it start?

Social media did not start in 2006 when Jack Dorsey created Twitter and not either in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook. A commercial online service company called CompuServe began to offer the dial-up service to connect to the web in 1979, and in 1987 introduced the GIF standard and images. Then, home computers started to become popular and exchange of information between people more advanced. Six Degrees was the name of the first recognizable social media site in 1997 that allowed users to upload a profile and create a social network. In 1999, blogging sites became finally popular. MySpace, Linkedin and Flickr all appeared in the early 2000s, and YouTube, in 2005.

 

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Nowadays, it is difficult to keep up with all social media available with new applications coming up all the time. If you are passionate about food, there is Foodie, if you are a fitness freak there is Fitocracy. Do you like dogs? Dogster. Cats? Catster. Events? Meetup. Are you a doctor? Ozmosis. Are you a senior? Try ThirdAge. Do you have a dream? My last Wish.

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The evolution and growth of social media has also impacted business tremendously. It has become so important, that people ask their social networks advice to buy things. Marketers had to change completely the way they work. They now have to be very active in niche communities to build relationships with consumers. It all became a collaborative environment where consumers and service/good providers learn from each other. Before social media, TV and press controlled content. It was a one-way conversation. Today, information has been democratized and that trend will continue to grow.

Find your niche and have fun!

Source: http://www.inquisitr.com/830664/the-history-of-social-media-when-did-it-really-begin-you-may-be-surprised-infographic/