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Chinese history comes alive in Nanjing

MD Staff

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In southern China, the ancient capital city of Nanjing beckons travelers who long to immerse themselves in Chinese history and culture.

Nanjing served as the capital city of 10 dynasties and regimes over more than 1,800 years and is home to some of China’s most significant historical attractions, including the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum, the Presidential Palace and the City Wall, which dates back more than 600 years.

Here, past dynasties are alive and well, entwined with glittering modern skyscrapers. The misty Purple Mountain looms in the distance and the Ningzheng Ridge forms a crescent around this city in the heart of the Yangtze River delta.

If you visit Nanjing, don’t just see the sights like a tourist. Walk in footsteps of the past with these thought-provoking, immersive experiences designed to bring Nanjing’s history and culture to life.

Imperial Examination Experience

Do you have what it takes to be a top scholar? When you take part in the Imperial Examination Experience at Nanjing’s Jiangnan Imperial Examination Hall Museum, you will step into the shoes of an ancient Chinese civil servant and find out. Beginning in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.), citizens wishing to serve in the state bureaucracy were required to pass a rigorous government-issued examination. However, the test didn’t involve job skills. Instead, it assessed candidates’ knowledge of classic literature and literary style. Successful candidates were generalists who shared a common language and culture, which helped to unify the empire and shape the fabric of China’s intellectual, cultural and political life.

During the three-hour Imperial Examination Experience, you’ll dress in traditional attire and learn to create Chinese calligraphy with a brush pen and make thread-bound books to take home as a souvenir. You will walk away having experienced a glimpse of what ancient Chinese life was really like.

Photo by Kenneth Yang on Unsplash

Chinese Tea Culture Experience

Few things are as closely associated with China as tea. Its long history as an indispensable part of daily life runs like a silk thread through everything from poetry to painting to calligraphy to medicine. Travelers seeking a deep exploration of tea should be sure to book the Chinese Tea Culture Experience in Nanjing.

During this four-hour activity, you’ll see the stunning and peaceful Xuanwu Lake Park, formerly an imperial garden, before you disappear into a secret interior passageway in the Nanjing City Wall to find the hidden, speakeasy-style Lao Cui Teahouse. There, you’ll learn about the importance of tea in the Chinese culture from a tea master, who will guide you in the ways of brewing a perfect cup of tea. Finally, you’ll learn the ancient art of Chinese woodblock printing and create your own as a keepsake of the experience.

Nanjing Cloud Brocade Museum

Yunjin, meaning “as beautiful as a cloud at sunset,” is silk brocade exquisitely woven in a style dating back 1,500 years. Incorporating silk, gold and silver threads, and even peacock feathers, the fabric was once reserved exclusively for the ornate dragon robes worn by emperors. At the Nanjing Cloud Brocade Museum, the only one of its kind in the world, visitors can watch as artisans weave the brocade in the traditional style on self-powered looms. The craft is so intricate that the weavers produce only five centimeters of yunjin per day.

Nanjing Impressions

Founded in 1994, Nanjing Impressions is considered one of the must-visit restaurants in all of China for locals and travelers alike. Named a Top 50 Chinese Heritage Restaurant, it aims to preserve traditional Huaiyang cuisine, a popular and prestigious style of cooking in Jiangsu Province that has been designated as one of the four great traditions of Chinese cuisine.

The atmosphere in Nanjing Impressions transports you to the past with its interior designed like an ancient tea house, hundreds of hanging lanterns, wooden benches and authentic dress for the servers and chefs. The experience is vibrant, with servers shouting blessings as they pass traditional Nanjing specialties. You’ll find many duck dishes on the menu here, but make sure to try the city’s signature dish of Nanjing Salted Duck, a 400-year-old recipe that involves a complicated procedure of brining and dry rubbing that produces a rich, tender bird.

The Chinese believe a perfect meal consists of 10 dishes, so come hungry to experience this love letter to Nanjing cuisine.

Photo by Jennifer Chen on Unsplash

Qinhuai River Cruise

Float lazily down Nanjing’s Mother River on a romantic evening cruise, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time to the city’s roots. Distant strains of guqin, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, waft through the air as you cruise along the lantern-lit Qinhuai Scenic Area, with its quaint riverboats, footbridges and Chinese architecture including one of the world’s best-preserved Barbican gates. As the ancient Chinese world floats by, you’ll understand why the Qinhuai River cruise is one of Nanjing’s top attractions.

Ready to start planning your Nanjing experience? Visit gotonanjing.com for more information, details on tour packages, and other travel planning resources.

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Take a pre-cruise vacation and ‘live like a local’ on Florida’s Space Coast

MD Staff

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There’s something magical about taking a cruise. Is it the open ocean? The indescribable feeling of warm sea air blowing through your hair? The endless access to world-class food, drinks and entertainment? Whatever the reason, each year millions of people around the world set their sights on the fun, adventure and luxury that cruise ships have become known to deliver.

Located on Florida’s Space Coast, bustling Port Canaveral is one of the largest and busiest cruise ports in the U.S. As the home port to some of the most-innovative players in the cruise world, there’s a good chance that your next cruise might depart from this vibrant east coast venue.

With so much to see and do on the Space Coast, many cruise passengers extend their vacation by a day or two in this fun-filled port city, so they can settle in before their departure and bypass any last-minute travel challenges. It’s called taking a “pre-cruise,” and it’s a perfect way to immerse yourself into the rhythm of your vacation and ensure you’re well-rested and prepared for your cruise adventure. To truly experience and get an intimate feel for the special way of life on the Space Coast during your pre-cruise, you’ll need to explore the area like a local, starting with these five must-do activities:

Treetop Trek Located at the Brevard Zoo, the Treetop Trek allows visitors to climb, crab walk and zipline through different animal habitats and have an up-close experience with wildlife. With three different aerial obstacle courses, this heart-racing activity provides something fun for everyone.

Duran Golf Club What would a trip to Florida be without a few rounds of golf? And we’re not just talking about any old kind of golf. No, we’re talking a world-class course that attracts pros, beginners and everyone in between. A favorite among locals and nationally recognized players, Duran has been voted “Best Public Course” and ranked as one of the top 50 courses in the country for practice ranges.

Riverfront Park — Once you experience Riverfront Park in historic Cocoa Village, you’ll quickly understand why this is a favorite place for locals to hang out. With public access to nearly 10 acres of prime riverfront land, you’ll see plenty of people jogging, playing, relaxing and loving the sun, as good Floridians do. The park includes a playground, amphitheater, boardwalk, spacious covered pavilions and areas for fishing.

Ossorio Bakery & Cafe We could write pages about how delicious the food here is, but this handful of words usually will suffice: hand-rolled pastries and homemade ice cream. Caught your interest yet? Located in historic downtown Cocoa Village, Ossorio has been providing locals with unforgettable meals and treats in a relaxed and friendly setting for the past 15 years.

Superb FishingYou know how they say there are plenty of fish in the sea? Here, that’s literally true. Along the Space Coast, there are something like 500 different species of fish inhabiting the local waters. From deep-sea fishing to surf casting to quietly angling along a peaceful river or lagoon, there are numerous guides and outfitters who can take you on a fishing adventure like no other.

You’ve spent months, maybe even years, planning your dream cruise vacation. Take an extra day or two and make it even more special by exploring the Space Coast. You deserve it.

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A journey from Heydarabad to Alinjagala Fortress

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Vasif Talibov, the leader of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Azerbaijan), has shown to the world a deep commitment towards strengthening his country’s response to the threat of climate change, enhanced urban development, revamped sustainable tourism industry and promoted reforestation projects throughout the regions of Nakhchivan. The architects of the Paris Agreement and international community in general ought to pay a greater attention to the remarkable accomplishments that were proudly implemented by Chairman Vasif Talibov, who has made Nakhchivan, the westernmost province of Azerbaijan, become as developed as any western European country.  Over the last decade, Chairman Talibov has radically transformed the renewable energy production matrix of Nakhchivan, a region that has the world’s highest number of hydroelectric power plants per square kilometer, making this territory of Azerbaijan home of seven hydroelectric dams, one solar power plant and one gas turbine. Furthermore, the city of Heydarabad, only a few meters away from the border with Armenia and a hundred yards away from a desolate precarious Armenian village, is testimony to a perfect urban setting with paved roads, where a brand new middle school, health care center and a city hall make it an attractive tourist destination.

Vasif Talibov

Additionally, foreign visitors will appreciate a prosperous city with all amenities on the Azerbaijani side and on the Armenian side there is a terribly poor community with houses built out of adobe or mud bricks; indeed it appears to be an abandoned village that is artificially implanted by Yerevan’s fascist regime.

On November 23rd, 2017, as I was traveling from Nakhchivan city to Shahrur region, it is remarkable to observe the overwhelming reforestation campaigns organized by the Government of Nakhchivan on both sides of a widely paved highway, a project that had involved civil society leaders, Nakhchivan State University students and faculty and members of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

Chairman Talibov’s vision and dynamic leadership has encompassed another sector that is very important to Azerbaijan’s national economy, tourism infrastructure and restoration of historical, archaeological sites have proved to be vital in the promotion of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan across the world. The Alinja – Gala Fortress is an emblematic monument that has attracted thousands of tourists and rushed forward as a symbol of Chairman Vasif Talibov’s pragmatic leadership in restoring historical monuments and bolstering the tourism industry at a time when Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has been selected as the world’s capital city of Islamic culture.

Merely located one hour away from Nakhchivan city, Alinja – Gala fortress, a masterpiece of Chairman Vasif Talibov’s vision, is a genuine tourist destination and a cultural monument that is equally a brilliant engineering innovation established at the top of a rock on the VI century.  The fortifications crowning its defense system are at an altitude of 1,800 meters.  Indeed, in Azerbaijan there are other fortresses built at a greater height but they cannot be compared to Alinja – Gala fortress. The combination of natural obstacles and the art of fortification, make this structure impossible to conquer by force.

Up to fifty buildings have been located at the top: barracks, warehouses, and a prison for highly dangerous criminals, a bathhouse, stables, bakeries, a mint house, an extensive arsenal, the treasury and the ruler’s palace.  Many leaders have deposited their treasures in this fortress; including the great Atabeys of Azerbaijan, the Ildenizids, the Khulaguids and the Jelairids.  At that time it was hard to find a safer place than Alinja – Gala, the quantity of treasures deposited in Alinja-Gala can be ascertained from the fact that when a ruler from the Chobanid dynasty, Malik Ashraf, wanted to retrieve them out of the fortress, he needed 1,000 camels and 400 mules to transport his wealth.

The Eagle’s nest, in the fatherland of Mammad Araz Ibrahimov – a Nakhchivani poet – has only two mountain paths leading to the fortress.  On the eastern slope its narrow path, on which only two people could climb, was blocked by three walls and on the western side – by eight walls.  Each had a height of up to nine meters and was made not of brittle bricks, but of large stones.  There was no point in trying to destroy this structure with a ram or medieval cannons.  Moreover, watchtowers, and signal stations where built on the roads leading to the citadel, and on the slopes, there were small shelters for two to three arches at a distance of 20-25 feet from one another.  In general, in Alinja – Gala, every inch of land could be taken only at the cost of the invaders’ lives.

It is imperative to note that Alinja – Gala fortress is located at the helm of a steep mountain that would immediately bring to a total exhaustion every warrior equipped with an armored uniform, therefore becoming an easy target to the arrows of over 600 defenders of the fortress.

Such a historical monument epitomizes the best that Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan has to offer to international history buffs and to an audience that is eager to appreciate early medieval cultural monuments that are meticulously restored and easily accessible. Alinja – Gala Fortress is a signature piece of restoration led by Chairman Vasif Talibov, a transparent, effective elected official that has made Nakhchivan one of the top destinations in Europe.

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UNESCO and CHANEL empowering women in Madagascar through sustainable tourism

MD Staff

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© UNESCO

A new programme aims to help women in Madagascar who have missed out on the economic benefits of growing tourism.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with the almost 80% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. Tourism has grown significantly in recent years but the industry has often failed to translate into economic prospects for local communities, and, in particular, women.

UNESCO’s CapED Programme has been active in Madagascar since 2011 supporting the country’s vocational education and training, with particular emphasis on agriculture, being the largest sector. In January 2018, CapED formed a partnership with Fondation CHANEL  to further vocational education and training in the area of sustainable tourism, with a particular focus on women. The programme will benefit communities surrounding the Tsingy Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the western coast of Madagascar. While this site attracts a high level of tourism, the local population does not benefit from this opportunity.

The innovative partnership brings together expertise from UNESCO’s Culture and Education Sectors. It works to provide women with access to training and opportunities in the sustainable tourism sector to improve their livelihoods and help them become financially independent.

Two vocational training programmes encourage sustainable tourism and support local produce. Six hundred women will be trained to grow vegetables to sell in local hotels and markets or to produce marketable handicrafts, supported by a designer while preserving local traditions. These products will be awarded a Sustainable Tourism Label. The women will also benefit from literacy and accounting lessons. The second programme provides vocational training opportunities to local youth in sustainable tourism trades such as hotel or restaurant management and is offered through training centres already supported by the CapED programme.

The programme is co-financed by the Government of Madagascar, Fondation CHANEL and UNESCO’s CapED Programme, with in kind support from the US Embassy and National Geographic.

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