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The Coastal Towns of Uruguay

La Mano or Los Dedos, Punta del Este There’s a reason why Punta del Este and its neighboring towns are the favorite vacation spots of Argentinians, Brazilians and North Americans. The wild coastline, quiet beaches, rustic towns, art museums and galleries and local cuisine are just some of the draws to this part of Uruguay. It’s time to visit this bewitching corner of the South American continent.  La Mano or Los Dedos (The Hand or The Fingers) has become the iconic symbol of Punta del Este. Sculpted in 1982 by Chilean artist, Mario Irarrazabal, the partially submerged fingers are a warning to visitors of the rough waters of Brava Beach on which it is situated. Abandoned hotel on Highway 10 in Santa Monica Driving along the coastal road from Punta del Este is a pleasurable experience. As you get farther away, there are less houses and the towns are far apart. It seems a world away. Faro (lighthouse) de Jose Ignacio The lighthouse was constructed in 1877 and stands at 25 meters (82 ft.).
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Cricova - The Underground City

Cricova Wine Cellar Who knew that the largest wineries in the world are in Moldova? I had no clue though I heard about these cellars from a friend. These cellars that stretch for 120 kilometers (75 miles) and hold over a million bottles of wine! In this underground city, there are warehouses, tasting rooms, event venues, a chapel, a museum and a wine store. Naturally there are street names and signs to help the drivers find their way in these labyrinthine depths.  Classic sparkling wines produced in the traditional method are kept here during the second fermentation process. These bottles are turned manually every day to dislodge dead yeast cells which collect at the neck of the bottle until it is removed through a separate process. This is the traditional method of fermenting sparkling wine. We toured the galleries underground in a mini train. Our first stop was at the cinema where we watched a documentary film about the history of Cricova Winery. After watching the film, we were serv

What I found at the Riga Central Market

Walking inside the cavernous halls of Riga Central Market, you wouldn’t know that there are only 619,000 residents in the capital city. Yet this market is so huge it could probably provide the needs of 1.87 million* people living in Latvia today. The Central Market of Riga is actually the largest market and bazaar in Europe with over 3000 stalls. Frankly, I got tired going from one hall to the next. And when I was done indoors, there was a bazaar outdoors to explore.  * Source: World Bank Fish section The Riga Central Market is included with Old Riga on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Dried fish Smoked fish The cheese and pastries section are in the same hall. It’s hard to decide what to get from the amazing selection. Meat Section Notice the architecture of this pavilion. Old German Zeppelin hangars were recycled to form the five pavilions of the Central Market. There is a clothing and bedding section both indoors and outdoors. I bought my souvenirs here at the Central Market. Th

Tea and sweets at a warrior's house

A Warrior’s House One of the highlights of our trip to Brunei was having tea at a warrior’s house on the Brunei River. It is a house on stilts.   I was very curious what these houses were like inside.  Thankfully we had the chance to discover this with our afternoon sightseeing tour. It was quite a challenge to get off the boat and climb up the narrow wooden stairs to the large porch of the house. I did so holding on to the steps with my hands for extra caution as I was afraid of falling into the waters below. Inside the house we sat in the spacious and tidy living room. We were allowed to take photos so I can show you this warrior’s house. Who are these warriors of Brunei? These are the men who formed part of the King’s military regimen or the King’s Guards. In the 16th century, they were often sent to fight outside of the sultanate and reported to the local chiefs. The Royal Brunei Armed Forces became the official military unit of Brunei after its independence from the British in 198

Pristina is a special place

Aerial view of the National Library of Kosovo I didn’t know much about Pristina (also Prishtina or Priština) before my visit last April. The only thing on my must see list was the National Library with its intriguing domes. My guide, Eddy, had a brilliant plan to ask his friend, Fatvera, a student at the university, to show us the library. We met Fatvera, a bright and articulate young lady, at the monument to Bill Clinton where we read the stone inscriptions of the statue and billboard of the former U.S. president and talked a little bit about his legacy in Kosovo. From there Fatvera suggested we go to the Cathedral to get a bird’s eye view of Pristina and that was the best idea ever!  Andria Mutnjakovič, a Croatian architect, designed the National Library which was inaugurated in 1982. His design has received mixed reviews. The domes have been compared to the Albanian national hat, “plisi”, which didn’t sit well with the Serbian community. The  building is covered in a metal net like