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Travel Secrets

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What is the national dish of Columbia?

How to Shop Smart Abroad: 3 Useful Tips

How to order coffee in Thailand

What is Rassolnik?

This traditional Russian soup is known to have existed as far back as the 15th century, when it was called ‘kalya’. Today, famous with the name Rassolnik, the authentic Russian dish is prepared mainly with veal and lamb kidneys (or pork and beef kidneys), pearl barley, sorrel leaves and some pickled cucumbers! Yes, you heard it right. A ‘pickle soup’ it is!

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No matter how bizarre it may sound, but this bribing Slavic blend is definitely a bowl of happiness.  Rassolnik or rassoljnik, as it is known, varies from family to family and region to region. Some include barley and potatoes and is so thick, a spoon can stand up in it. Others make it with prime cuts of meat instead of offal.

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Despite of all the variations, the belief behind the recipe stays common, i.e. it is the one of the easiest and surest way of curing hangovers!  This is due to the fact that this savory soup helps the body to hold water and counteract the dehydration produced by over-imbibing, which causes hangovers.

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What is Lussekatt?

Buy This Whiskey, Own A Land In Scotland!

Planning to get a land in Scotland? Why not buy a bottle of whiskey instead! Yes, you read it right. Scotland’s one of the finest single-malt whiskeys, Laphroaig, offers a lease on a square foot of land with the purchase of each bottle. When you buy one, you lawfully become a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’. And, as a ‘Friend’ you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of the distillery land, represented by your own little flag!

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Currently owned by Beam Suntory (American subsidiary of Japan’s Suntory Holdings), Laphroaig was founded in Scotland in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnson. It is the only Islay Scotch whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales.

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Talking about the rates, a ten year old Laphroaig can cost you around US$50 (approx. ₹3344), an eighteen year old bottle can cost you around double of that (around ₹ 6688) and the 25 year old one will lighten your wallet by approximately US$ 400. (approx. ₹26755). So, once you get your hands on any of these three, just register the bar code placed on the bottle to the Laphroaig website. And that’s it! You will, then, be a proud owner of a piece of land in Islay, Scotland.

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Ever heard of an eatable Margarita?

No, this isn’t your traditional glass of tequila and fruit juice cocktail that you sip casually on a usual Friday evening. Doug Laming’s Margarita is definitely much more interesting than that! As suggested by the name, this cocktail was introduced by Molecular Mixologist, Doug Laming at his experimental lab i.e. Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining, Sydney.

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Laming uses ‘Cointreau Caviar Spherification’ to create spheres of Tequila, Cointreau and syrup, which results in little ‘pearls’ of alcohol that burst in the mouth!  While the glass is only there for decoration, to actually consume this margarita, one has to lift up the salt rimmed lime and eat the pink finger lime and the two types of the caviar pearls. One contains a Souza Gold tequila and sugar syrup and the other contains Cointreau. Basically, you eat these and lick the salted lime. It’s a margarita unlike any other kind that you may have had.

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Which is the most expensive cheese in the World?

Originated from Serbia, Pule cheese is made exclusively from the milk of Balkan donkeys. A characteristic feature of Serbian cuisine, Pule is not only extremely rare but also the most expensive cheese in the world. This exotic delicacy would cost you a whopping $576 for a pound!

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It takes 25 liters of donkey milk to produce just one kilogram of this white & crumbly smoked cheese. These donkeys are given the very best grass to eat and live as free rein as they can, living in the wilds of Serbia, they are farmed, milked and that results in this Serbian food-treasure!

A woman milks a donkey at a farm in Zasavica Resort, west of Belgrade

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What kind of bread is zopf?

What is a glogg?

111 days, 11 countries, 1 family: This Family Took An Incredible 111-Day Road Trip From India To France

My Travel Secret – Aditya Verma

2015 Travel Secrets Photography Contest

How do I Get a Better Hotel Room Without Paying Extra?

Superior Seafacing Room

Scout for soft openings: New hotels are generally keener to please, so check out hot new properties on hotelchatter.com, and pick up the phone!
Time your trip right: big city hotels have lower occupancy on the weekend, so that’s when your chances of getting an upgrade are higher. In leisure properties, weekends are packed, so try and travel mid-week.
Do some research and call the hotel in advance: Check out the property on-line, and identify the rooms and suites you like. Then write an email or make a phone call to request one of those rooms, even if they show non-available on-line. Remember, cancellations happen all the time.
Spell out exactly what you’re looking for: Don’t vaguely say, ‘May I have a better room.’ Much better to ask for a room with a view, or a bigger suite, or whatever it is that you’re looking for.
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Don’t book the cheapest room: go for a mid-range suite, so that you can be bumped up to a really nice one.
Check in between 3 to 5 pm: Most rooms are given out during this period, so the front office is surer of cancellations and availability.
Dress to impress: No need to turn up in a tuxedo, of course. Just be well-groomed—it will earn you more points than a sloppy, bedraggled appearance.
Be Nice: Hotel staff get to deal with some really pesky and nasty sorts. Strike a difference with your politeness. If the manager does award you an upgrade, let him/her know you’ll be happy to commend them in the Feedback Form.
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Play the emotional card: tell them you’re visiting on a special occasion. Tell them you love the hotel, and that it’s your third visit here (they’re not going to pull out records). It works like a charm. (Just don’t tell them you read it here).
Turn a glitch to your advantage: Baggage reached your room late? Faucet leaking? Request management to upgrade your room, in exchange for a No Complaints.

Take me on a Harry Potter Tour. I’m a fan!

What exactly is a champagne breakfast?

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It is, well, exactly as luxurious as it sounds: Breakfast served with champagne or sparkling wine and fruit juice, usually orange and/or peach.

This special treat is generally reserved for special occasions such as an Anniversary, Mother’s Day or a holiday. High-end hotels and vacation resorts often serve champagne breakfasts served in three elegant courses: bread, cake and fruit, followed by the main course, and finally, coffee, cheese and biscuits.

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To give you a clearer idea, here’s the romantic champagne breakfast menu at the Governor’s Suite in Hartness House, an Inn in Vermont, USA.

Ice-chilled Champagne in a bucket with two crystal flutes;

Freshly-squeezed Orange or Carrot-Apple Juice;

Freshly baked Crumb-topped Blueberry muffins
and Orange marmalade;

Strawberries with Framboise Creme Parfait;

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Your choice of:
Smoked Salmon and Green Onion Omelet, or
Almond and Graham Crusted French Toast; or
Governor’s Eggs Benedict

French Press Columbian Coffee with Cream

Decorated with a beautiful silk Rosebud in Vase and newspaper

This indulgence for two can be yours for an extra $75 USD!

The Titanic: Tell Me 10 Tantalising Facts

Although the Titanic lies in 13,000 feet of water, the tragic story still captures minds and hearts throughout the world.  1st September 2015, marked the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the Titanic, when a team led by American oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard and French diving engineer Jean-Louis Michel discovered the ship’s final resting place.

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Here are 10 things you may not know about the Titanic and its home – Titanic Belfast, Northern Ireland:

  1. Titanic’s design was conceived over a glass of wine and fine food! Lord Pirrie and J. Bruce Ismay decided speed would be balanced with quality of accommodation. It is rumoured that when Pirrie enquired as to the length of the ship, Ismay replied, glass of wine in hand, “build me a stable ship that will not disturb the sediment in these fine wines.”

2. The ship had three wheels for steering. Titanic’s funnels were wide enough to drive a train through!

3. Due to the size of the Olympic-class ships, of which the Titanic was one of three, the shipyard, Harland and Wolff in Belfast had to prepare for two years to be able to build them!

Titan Belfast, Northern Ireland (Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastva)
Titan Belfast, Northern Ireland
(Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastva)

4. The famous staircase, which was among the most luxurious appointments on the ship, was inspired by the staircase at Belfast City Hall, which can still be visited today.

5. Titanic was stocked with literally tons of food and drink – including 40,000 eggs and 15,000 bottles of ale!

6. At Titanic Belfast, visitors can view Dr Ballard’s high definition footage of what Titanic looks like today and can learn more about individual items in the wreckage using the interactive pods.

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7. The building can hold over 3,547 visitors at any one time, the same number as the capacity of Titanic. Titanic Belfast’s overall shape represents the bow of the ship. The hulls are also the same height of Titanic from keel to Boat Deck!

8. The last letter ever to be written on board the Titanic by Essex-born Esther Hart and her seven-year-old daughter Eva just eight hours before the ship hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912 is on display. It recently sold at auction for a world record sum of £119,000.

9. At Titanic Belfast, guests are now transported onto life size plan Titanic’s deck promenade as part of the experience. Guests can walk on deck, look out to sea, hear the ocean, hold onto the railings and feel the ships engines rumbling as if they were on the ship itself.

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(Image By- Nitin Gopal Srivastava)

10. It’s not only the galleries that tell the story of the Titanic but the surrounding buildings. On the plaza surrounding the Titanic Belfast is one of the largest maps of the Northern Hemisphere at 10,000 m2 and follows the route of the Titanic from Belfast.

Titanic Belfast is an iconic six-floor building featuring nine interpretive and interactive galleries. Explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the City and people which made her. It is the world’s largest Titanic exhibition!

Info courtesy: Tourism Ireland

Input researched by: Khushboo Tiwari

How do I select and enjoy the right Rosé wine?

1. Buy the Right Rosé Wine

Rosé wine is not a cross between red and white wines! It gets its delicate colour because the red grapes are crushed as soon as they arrive in the cellar. It’s best to buy young rosé, and serve it well-chilled. Look for bottles with screw caps. They keep wine much fresher than cork.

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2. Pair it with the perfect cheese

Salty feta or soft goat cheese complements Rosé beautifully. Roll the cheese in fresh herbs for a lovelier look and more flavour.

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3. Match it with a sexy salad

If your Rosé is dry with light fruity notes, its perfect companion is a fresh buffalo mozzarella & tomato salad. Also goes great with olives, tapenade and grilled prawns.

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How do I Take Great Wildlife Photos?

Noted photographer Archna Singh gave Travel Secrets writer Nirav Shah a quick tutorial in wildlife photography.

 

 

Be extremely patient. I have had to wait for 4-5 hours while a leopard slept on the tree just to catch different expressions on its face.

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Maintain distance. This is important to catch the animal in their natural behaviour, to respect them and their privacy and most importantly, for your own safety.

Early morning and late evenings before dusk are the best times to shoot. Most of the animals are out at this time, when the heat is low. The light is also softer.

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Never use your camera flash. It scares the animal away and is disrespectful.

Always keep the camera ready, even a 1-minute break can make you lose a wonderful shot. The animals always catch you off guard!

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Do not just take pretty pictures: try and bring out the emotions that the animals express

A tip for tourists: Guides/drivers at national parks in India will often park their cars in one place and claim that the animal will come here (based on sightings or pug marks). Do not listen to them, but make them take rounds since more often than not, this is a tactic to only save fuel, and you will never end up spotting any animal.

About Archna Singh

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Trained at: NIFT, and under acclaimed photographer Akhil Bakshi

In love with: Africa! She’s also a regular at Ranthambhore and Ladakh.

Showcases her work at: http://www.orahwildlife.com.

Her Kit (in 2012, when we published the story):

1. Canon camera – 1Ds Mark III (serial no. DS 126161/617957)

2. Canon camera – 1D MARK IV (serial no. DS 126221/1431300181)

3. Canon camera – G11 Power Shot (serial no. 0245200409)

4. Canon Zoom Lens – (EF 800MM 1:5.6) – Serial No. 14634

5. Canon Zoom Lens (100-400MM) – ET-83C (serial no. 462100)

6. Canon lens – (EF 200MM 1:2L) – Serial No. 11216

7. Canon Wide Angle Lens 16-35MM – EW-88 – Serial No. 1063057

8. Canon Lens (24-70MM) – EW-83F – Serial No. 1907442

9. Canon Fisheye lens -15mm – Serial No. 54259

10. Canon Extender 2xIII – Serial No. 8420002650

11. Canon Extender 2xII – Serial No. 132951

All images are with courtesy  Archana Singh

Input: Travel Secrets Correspondent Nirav Shah

Tell Me More About China’s Panda Park

China’s 600-acre Panda Base is located just about 20 km from the north suburb of Chengdu city. ‘Cute’ and ‘cuddly’ Pandas frolic here, in their lovingly simulated natural habitat. Our correspondents Rakhi Agarwal and Supriya Kantak take you there:

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Here, they swim, climb trees, munch on bamboo and roll in the dirt; just like they would in deep wilderness. Bamboo trees form a welcoming canopy overhead. Birds tweet in the bushes: your chance to spot some endangered species, and some well-loved ones. Think black-necked cranes, thrushes, cuckoos, Kingfisher. Stop by to share a snack with friendly peacocks and pheasants strutting freely about.

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Pandas are peace-loving, happy with their bamboo diet. But if provoked, their powerful jaw muscles and 150-kg weight can give you the shudders.

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Pandas get their name from the Chinese words ‘Pan and Da’ meaning ‘fat and big.’ In anticipation of a big bear hug, Supriya and Rakhi entered the protected area; a maze of winding paths with bamboo shoots forming an arch overhead. There are other trees, of course- mostly tall and big. Willows, Gingkos, Chinars, Yulans…the names aren’t all familiar, but the fresh air cools your face and warms your heart.

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The 60 acre Panda Base also houses a charming lake, teeming with cranes and Mallard ducks and well swans. But more than that it showcases nature’s genius at thinking up shapes and sizes and colour schemes! So while gazing at the Aquarians swimming together in happy harmony how can you miss the beautifully mismatched yellow, red and orange set against the blue water? Once you have had your fill of the lake’s beauty, enjoy a scoop of ice-cream. On your way out, you must stop at the souvenir shop; take a sneak, though you should know that the shops inside offer lower prices.

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This article first appeared in our July-August, 2012 edition.

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