Located on Museum Island in central Berlin, the Pergamon Museum is an exceptional window into history. Constructed between 1910 and 1930, it houses the Pergamon Altar, Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market Gate of Miletus, among many other treasures brought by German archeologists from Turkey and the Middle East. It also has space for rotating exhibits of classical and modern Islamic art and special exhibits on Middle Eastern history.
The history of Germanic collections of antiquities dates back to an acquisition by the royal family of a collection of Roman artifacts in 1698. The current iteration of the museum came about because of the volume of artifacts excavated by German-led teams at the turn of the 20th century. The centerpiece of the museum is Pergamon Altar, constructed as part of the acropolis in the city of Pergamon in the 2nd century BC and excavated by Alexander Conze and Carl Humann between 1878 and 1886. The Ottoman and German governments reached an agreement in 1879 to allow the excavated relief panels to be displayed in Berlin, in part as an attempt to preserve them from stone robbers.
So, worth it? Sadly, right now, no. The Pergamon museum is stunning and there is nothing quite like walking into the hall that houses the altar and being dwarfed by its size and beauty. But the museum began extensive renovations in 2012, closing the altar room to the public in 2014. The renovations are expected to be completed in 2026. Until then, parts of the museum are still accessible to the public, but because admission is still full price for less than half of the offerings and because the wait to get in can be over an hour, it’s not advisable to try to go.
New York City is iconic for so many things, from its food to it’s buildings to it’s cultural
institutions and nightlife. But if you’d like to avoid the hordes of foreign families that seem to
descend on the city in the summer, here are some ideas for alternatives from the typical spots.
Pizza - Perhaps no food is as tied to New York as pizza. Every few blocks there is a place to
grab a slice and there’s no shame walking down the street as you eat it and try to avoid getting
covered in grease. But rather than settle for an ordinary and tasteless slice, head uptown to Sal
and Carmine’s on Broadway and 102nd St. A wood fire oven, hand tossed crispy crust, and the
right ratio of sauce to cheese makes for a practically perfect slice.
Cupcakes - Due in large part to Sex and the City, cupcakes have seemed to replace
cheesecake as the iconic dessert of New York. And while their moment may have passed for
locals, you will still find lines around the block to get into Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker St. Skip
that and instead head to Chinatown for a more unique sweet. Grab a red bean or taro bun from
Fay Da on Centre St, or a pineapple bun from Lung Moon Bakery on Mulberry St.
Park - After stuffing yourself with pizza and baked goods, it would be a good idea
to stroll though a park to digest. There are tons of iconic spots in Central Park, from the
Bethesda Fountain to the Alice in Wonderland sculpture, but skip it in favor of Prospect Park.
More wild, less crowded and easily accessible, this park is 2/3rd’s the size of Central Park but
will still make you feel like you’ve left the city behind. Or if its summer, hop the ferry and check
out Governor’s Island Park and explore the crazy art installations.
Historic Site - While visiting the Statue of Liberty may seem like a fun idea, know that it will take
most of the day to get tickets, ride the ferry, tour the island and get back, all while fighting
massive crowds and without the assurance of being able to climb up the interior. Instead, head
up to Harlem and scratch your Hamilton itch (especially if you can’t get tickets) and visit the
Hamilton Grange National Memorial. The preserved home of the founding father was relocated
to St Nicholas Park and tours and admission are free.
Theater - Seeing a Broadway show is a timeless New York tradition. And while you maybe be
able to score a deal at TKTS for a cheaper seat last minute, why not explore a smaller venue for
something more daring and unusual. The Public Theater has a lot of variety in their programing,
from cabaret shows to more full scale musicals. For dance check out NY Live Arts on 19th St.
Or hop out to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for the latest imported avant guard
production from Europe.
Concert Venue - Seeing a show at Madison Square Garden can be an amazing experience,
from watching a top international star to singing along with 20,000 other people. But why not
check out some up and coming talent at a smaller venue. Bowery Ballroom and Mercury
Lounge have shows almost every night. Shea Stadium and Glasslands in Williamsburg cater to
a young hip crowd. The Bell House in Gowanus hosts everything from bands to comedy shows.
And there are tons of warehouse spaces that host roving EDM parties almost any night of the
1. Cha yen (Thai Iced tea)
2. Gai Bing (chicken skewers)
3. Khao Pad (fried rice)
4. Pad Thai
5. Som Tum (green papaya salad)
6. Khao Niew Ma Muang (mango sticky rice)
7. Khanom Buang (thai crepe)
8. Thai sukiyaki
9. Khao gang (curry rice)
10. Khao mun gai (Haianese style rice with chicken)
For anyone with a passion for ancient history, archeology, myth or just an adventurous spirit,
Egypt is a premier destination. Although recent events may make some travelers reluctant to
visit Cairo or Sinai, the region of Upper Egypt (south of Cairo along the Nile River) has been
stable and without major security concerns for the last several years. Upper Egypt is also the
area where most of the great archeological discoveries related to the Pharaohs are. Luxor is
home to the Karnak and the Luxor temple, as well as the Valley of the Kings, a series of utterly
impressive tombs carved into mountain sides on the West bank of the Nile. Aswan, 220kms to
the South, is also a tourist hub, offering a mix of Egyptian and Nubian culture on a calm
expanse of the Nile.
While Aswan and Luxor get most of the acclaim, there are some truly special sites to visit in the
stretch between the two cities. The temples of Esna, Edfuand Kom Ombo are smaller and somewhat less historically significant, but offer a unique look into the Ptolemaic period. They also have some of the most well preserved complexes in Egypt.
The temple at Esna is the closest to Luxor. Dedicated to the creator deity Khnum, it was built between 180 and 145 BC then taken over, and eventually abandoned, by the Romans several centuries later. The roof is still intact, which is unusual for structures in the region. This is because the temple was buried under more than 9 meters of sand, silt and debris. The currently accessible
area was excavated beginning in the 1840s and allows visitor to see the ornately carved columns that support the roof of the main hypostyle hall.
The temple at Edfu was dedicated to Horus and built around 237 BC. Also buried under centuries of sand, the temple is one of the best preserved in the region despite efforts by opposing religious believers to destroy pagan imagery inside the temple. Replicas and the original remains of statues of Horus, depicted as a regal falcon, line the entrance. The interior is full of intricate wall carvings and elaborate columns.
The temple at Kom Ombo is a hidden gem. Not as well preserved as Edfu and a bit harder to get to than Esna, it’s not visited as often. Situated on the edge of the Nile about 50 kilometers north of Aswan, the temple is unusual because it was dedicated to two deities. The southern half is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, while the northern half is dedicated to Horus the elder. Both halves of the temple are perfectly symmetrical. The temples have been damaged over time by Nile flooding, earth quakes and scavengers, but there are still interesting reliefs and carvings to be seen. The contemporary addition of the Crocodile museum, included in the entry price, showcases some of the more than 300 mummified crocodile remains found in the area.
So, worth it? Yes, if you’re already in Egypt and don’t mind being in and out of the car all day. Depending on how long you take at each temple and if or where you stop for lunch, seeing all three can take between 6 and 8 hours. But if you’re a history junkie, this area is not to be missed. And if you didn’t get a fill of Ptolemaic temples, once you reach Aswan you can also take a trip to the temple of Philae on a quite island in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Damn.
Bogota is a city with an outsized reputation. The first image that comes to mind for most people
is the unfortunate history of violence associated with the narcotraficantes. In the late 80s and
early 90s, at the height of Pablo Escobar’s reign, Bogota was a dangerous place for Colombians
as well as tourists. But much has changed in the last two decades and Bogota has emerged as a
wonderful travel destination in South America, with a burgeoning culinary scene, artistic
enclaves and a generation of young people determined to shape the country into their image.
Bogota is said to be founded by conquistadors searching for the fabled city of Gold, El Dorado,
in 1538. But this alitplano in the Andes has been inhabited by civilizations since the Plasticine
era. The modern city grew out of the Muisca Confederation, a loose grouping of indigenous
Muisca tribes from the Andes, that established a settlement on the altiplano. The Spanish came
in the early 16th century and established the site as the capitol of the New Kingdom of Granada.
A mix of Spanish colonists, indigenous peoples and slaves were part of the rapid population
increase in the 18th and 19th centuries and Bogota remains one of the most populated cites in
South America to this day. It is also the third highest capitol in South America, at approximately
2600 meters above sea level.
The traditional and historic center of the city is the neighborhood of La Candelaria. The Plaza de
Bolivar is the heart of the old city, said to be the site of the first church. It has been used as a
site for public events such as markets and performances since it’s founding and now serves as
the location of the prominent state institutions, with the plaza bordered by the Palace of Justice,
National Capitol, the mayor’s residence at Lievano Palace and the Cathedral of Bogota. Plaza
de Bolivar is now mainly a tourist area, occupied by people selling the same toys and gifts you’d
find in any other major city. The one unique touristy offering is the indigenous people who have
hiked down from the Andes with their llamas, who’ll allow you to take a photo with them for a
Just off Plaza de Bolivar you can have a taste of traditional Colombian cuisine at La Puerta
Falsa. One of the oldest restaurants in Bogota, the menu is limited to just a few dishes, such as
tamales and Colombian chicken soup called ajiaco. Despite their humble nature, they are some
of the most beloved dishes in Colombia. Also try the chocolate con queso if the weather is chilly,
which can be any time of the year because of the extreme elevation.
Once you’ve eaten something, you can wander around the streets of La Candelaria and admire
the Spanish Colonial architecture, the neoclassical gem Colon Theater, or pop into one of the
many museums. And be sure to keep your eyes out for all the impressive street art, murals and
graffiti that decorate almost every wall. Though it might be well known, the Museo de Oro is
spectacular and worth a visit. It showcases craftwork, jewelry and gold objects collected from
the native population of the region that predates the Spanish colonists. You can view pieces
used as part of shamanistic ceremonies as well at the Muisca golden raft which was said to
inspire the myth of El Dorado.
Near the city center is Monserrate, the highest point in Bogota and the site of a 17th century
church that is popular destination for religious pilgrims. The mountain can be climbed on foot,
but at more than 3100 meters, it may be more advisable to take the cable car or funicular to the top. While the shrine is certainly worth a visit, the main attraction is the view, which puts all of
downtown and some of the northern and southern parts of the city on display. It’s very popular
as a sunset destination.
After checking out La Candelaria, the other up and coming neighborhood to explore is
Chapinero. A middle class neighborhood with lots of students, it is starting to gentrify and
evolve. Chapi, as its known by Bogotanas, is one of the best areas to dine out. There are
options for every palate and budget. For comfort food and live music, try La Hamburgueseria.
For something more sophisticated, check out El Cievero y El Oso, which offers both a meat
filled and a meat free menu in quirky presentations. Have a coffee at Cafe de la Estation, a
repurposed train car with espresso and snacks. Or have a beer at Chelarte, a local brewery. If
you can’t decide, go to Zona G, a concentrated area of restaurants, and stop in wherever looks
good. And while you’re nearby, wander to La Macarena, the smaller area that is fast becoming
the destination for the artistic community being displaced from Chapinero.
Head north of the city center to the Usaquen neighborhood for a different perspective on
Bogota. An enclave for artists and creative types, the neighborhood has lots of cute shops and
restaurants to check out. La Bodega De Abasto is the best place to grab something local and
delicious, as they have a market of fresh produce they use in all their dishes and their constantly
changing menu. And you can purchase the organic fruits and veggies as well, in order to try
some of the special Amazonian treats. For more traditional fare, it’s hard to beat Casa Vieja,
which has been serving traditional dishes for the last 45 years. The flea market is the best for
unique gifts. Or check out the Hacienda Santa Barbara, a shopping mall that used to be the
home of a wealthy tycoon.
El Norte, the norther part of the city, showcases yet another side of Bogota, a moneyed,
cosmopolitan side. Development in this area has been brisk, with many high rise apartment
complexes and shopping malls lining the streets. And though it can seem like one generic block
of buildings after the next, there are some fun things to do in this area. A perennial favorite of
Bogotanas is Crepes and Waffles. Yes, its a bit cheesy and will remind you of a certain factory
that makes cheesecake, but the food is good, the atmosphere is fun and there are so many
desert options you can really indulge your sweet tooth.
It’s also a good bet to check out Juan Valdez, the Colombian coffee chain, for locally sourced
coffee. And the mini-chain of Wok, an Asian fashion restaurant with a mix of Japanese, Thai
and other South East Asian foods, it also pretty great. Check out their juices made from
Amazonian fruits that come in shocking colors. It’s particularly popular among the hipster set
who wouldn’t be out of place in London, Bangkok or Brooklyn. And Wok is also a company that
wants to make the world better, sourcing food from local producers in sustainable ways.
Bogota is a sprawling, adventurous city with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. There are so
many things to eat, drink and learn that it is impossible to enjoy everything this vibrant and
creative place has to offer in just one trip.
The weather is getting warmer with spring right around the corner and before we know it summer will be here. When that happens Dîner en Blanc events will start popping up in a city near you. If you haven’t heard of Dîner en Blanc it is part pop-up picnic and part collective art installation. Guests are required to dress all in white and are responsible for bringing their own food and table settings. The tradition began over 20 years ago in Paris when a group of friends decided to meet in the Bois de Boulogne. As this first meeting was before cellphones they all wore white so they can easily identify each other. Today, Dîner en Blanc events are hosted in over 100 cities around the globe.
I’ve attended this event four times in New York City and as a Dîner en Blanc veteran I’ve picked up a few things over the years that you may find helpful if you’re considering attending your first event.
Want to sound like a local during your next trip to South Africa? Here's a list of 14 slang phrases to help you sound like a local. Your accent may be a dead giveaway but the locals will appreciate your effort.
Howzit - “How is it going” The most common and often used phrase in South Africa
Hectic - Means the same as anywhere else but South African’s use it to describe EVERYTHING. Your commute can be hectic, an ideal weekend into too hectic. South African’s use it the way American’s use “crazy”
Just now/Now now - “In a little bit” Have patience in Joburg, there’s no need to be hectic
Ja nee (pronounced yah knee) Afrikaans for “yeah, maybe”
Befok (pronounced bee fok) Afrikaans for “amazing”
Eina (pronounced eye nah) Afrikaans for “ouch”
Eish (pronounced eye sh) Afrikaans for “wow”
Lekker (pronounced le kur): Afrikaans for “cool”
Izit - Afrikaans for “really?”
Braai (pronounced br eye) Afrikaans for “barbeque” either in the sense of a party with various grilled meat or an actual grill
Robot - “Traffic light”
Biltong - “meat jerkey” usually made from game meat
Nunnu - “bug” used as a term of endearment when talking to children
Shebeen (pronounced sha bean) “a speakeasy” usually meaning an illegal bar in a township