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Dear Old Nakhchivan

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Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s westernmost province, welcomes everyone – including a novelist with no guidebook; it is heralded as a museum without walls. This region of Azerbaijan stretches on over 5,500 square kilometers and borders Armenia, Iran and Turkey.

Despite of the economic blockade imposed by Armenia government against Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (for over two decades), the birthplace of Architect Ajami ibn Abubakr Nakhchivani – and home of Prophet Noah – has dedicated most of its territory solely to illuminating research into: ancient civilizations, global archeology, human history, Azerbaijani historiography and sociology and is testimony of ancient life and inventions that have enabled men to live in harmony with nature. Some of these culturally peculiar monuments are: Alibay Kehriz, Alinja Mint, Arafsa site and its Sacred Place.

Strolling in the Tabriz Street of Ordubad City, tourists will be fascinated by the historical monument of Alibay Kehriz (a kehriz constructed by Alibay):   it was built in the floating deposits of Ordubad river and is a simple shape kehriz monument that continues to preserve its characteristic nature up to this day. The stairs of this monument proceed down perpendicularly to the kehriz stream. The base, bottom half of kehriz has been enlarged in size, overtime: its length is 1.8 meters, it has a width of 1.5 meters and a height of 2.3 meters. The walls of Alibay Kehriz have been carved neatly, however at the top section there is a big rock piece that has remained untouched. Based on the early plans and its current structure: the length of the monument is 4.93 meters; its width is 1.5 meters; and has a depth from the ground surface of up to 4.56 meters. The height of the entrance from the ground surface is 1.9 meters. The fresh water resources of Alibay Kehriz is used by locals for daily consumption.

In the East of Khanagah, Julfa Region is located Alinja Mint: it was built as a vault where precious items and monetary currency would safely be deposited.

In war times, the Alinja fortress garnered a reputation for its defense walls and for safeguarding the state treasures and members of the families of Azerbaijani feudal rulers; it served as the headquarters of minting currency during different periods.

In early XIV century, Alinja Mint was the center of silver coins, the minting of these items was done under the orders of Elkhanilar and Teymurilar; many coin samples were found in the area; indeed, Jalairi Sultans had established a well – organized process of coin minting.

The late Bronze and the early Iron ages are represented in Julfa region with Arafsa Cultural monument, located on the right banks of Alinjachay (branch of Araz river) in Alinjachay Village.

This territory is 5 acres of archeological treasures where monochrome painted clay tableware samples belong to II millennium BC. In 1974, Professor V. Aliyev and other International Scholars encountered obsidian fragments and other traces of a civilization that had been living in Arafsa since the II millennium BC. Pieces of black clay tableware of monochrome paint and polished stone labor tools (grain stones, graters, mortar and pestle) were discovered in this attractive archeological site that has recently emerged as an important destination to French tourists.

Based on the international archival documents, Arafsag settlement had taken this name in 1590, it reflects the heritage and the name etymology of Sak Turks; a local ethnic group that lived in Nakhchivan, since the II millennium BC. According to the archeological discoveries conducted by Prof. I. V. Fedorov in 1895; the local tribes have migrated from Nakhchivan to the north and subsequently spread over the Middle and Central Asia, in Altay and on large swaths of the Siberian territory.

It must be emphasized that based on meticulous investigations conducted by L. N. Gumiliyev, I. M. Dyakanov, E. E. Kuzmina, it is scientifically certain that the background of Sak tribes derives from the Turk-Azerbaijani tribes.   The component of Arafsa consists of ‘Ar – ev – sak’ meaning “the place (land) of Sak, courageous people.” Per historical sources and based on research conducted by Prof. Rzayev F.; the territory of Nakhchivan has 23 habitable settlements that are archeologically related, scientifically proved, to be connected with the Sak Tribe (Sakazur, Sigat, Sakli, Kansak, etc.)

The Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place was established in the middle ages in the village of Arafsa, Julfa Region, is located on top of a hill, to the left of Alinjachay. This ancient place, consists of two big rooms, with balconies to the south and the north. The main pilgrimage attraction is the grave in the central room, found to be somewhat large in its size. The name of this sacred place has been taken from the name of the village, a rural site that once was a metropolis and an ancient bastion of the Sak Turkish tribes; many years ago, this site has served as a center of religious dervishes.

The City of Ordubad, Arazin Necropolis, Alinja Mint and the Sanctuary of Arafsa Sacred Place are unique archeological sites where tourists are infinitely connected to their passion.

Source: Rzayev F.; “The traces of Kas and Sak Turks in Nakhchivan: the problems of Azerbaijan onomastics.” B., 2003 Nr. 11.

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Extra flavour and fraud prevention on the menu for Europe’s beer and wine industries

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BY DANIELA DE LORENZO

The debate over whether fermentation was a more important human discovery than fire will continue forever. In the meantime, with Europe as the world’s premier producer of wine and a significant manufacturer of beer, Horizon-backed scientists are researching ways to reinforce Europe’s competitiveness in the drinks industry.

In 2019, European Union wine sales were 16 billion litres with an export value close to € 20 billion, while beer production in the EU in 2020 amounted to 33.1 billion litres. Europe accounts for 63% of global wine production while the number of breweries in Europe now exceeds 11 000.

The wine sector has built its reputation and dominant market share based on quality but all the turmoil of recent years and the risks from climate change mean that the drinks industry cannot afford to stand still, especially with imported beverages becoming increasingly popular.

Enhancing beer and wine flavours through research into new yeast strains is one way the drinks industry is trying to keep ahead. At the other end of that, more secure supply chains are needed to ensure delivery of a quality product. This will help Europe’s drinks industry retain its market position.

Distinct aroma

Alcoholic flavours result from complex metabolic reactions performed by yeasts. A type of fungus that transforms sugars into alcohol during fermentation, yeasts also help to give each wine its distinct aroma and taste.

The Horizon-funded Aromagenesis project, led by the University of Dublin in Ireland, focused on understanding the genetics and biochemistry in yeast strains that are responsible for aromas and flavours in lager beers and wine.

‘The traditional wine and beer industry uses specific and limited numbers of yeast strains,’ said Ursula Bond, professor of microbiology at the University of Dublin. ‘We thought it was important to make a big survey of different wines’ and lagers’ yeasts and characterise them to see whether some already existing in nature have more favourable aroma and flavour.’

Aromagenesis, which finished researching in May this year, assessed whether science could help by varying the flavour profile of certain strains. Working with the drinks industry, through experiments, co-fermentation and hybridisation, the researchers were able to select new yeast strains.

They then created a bank of natural yeast that can produce different flavour compounds and in varying amounts. This led to a bounty of new yeast varieties and taste profiles.

Yeast palette

The new yeast palette is currently available to companies involved in the project. They include German brewer Erdinger Weissbräu and Canada-based Lallemand, who develop of yeasts for the global market.

‘We are now finishing the first trial fermentations in our experimental wineries,’ said Jose Heras, technical manager at Lallemand Oenology in Spain. Spain is Europe’s second largest exporter of wine with 27% of the market in 2019. The project will turn to the winery to ‘validate four of the hybrid yeast strains created for aromatic white wines,’ he said.

The drinks industry intends to put the yeast research to immediate effect with commercialisation of more flavourful Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo wines potentially starting in 2023, according to Heras.

Some consumers have reservations about genetically modified organism (GMO) products, so the research was conducted exclusively with non-genetically modified (GMO) yeasts. This will potentially broaden the appeal of the results within the drinks industry as a whole, according to Bond.

Aromagenesis research is published as a publicly available resource which could also end up benefiting many others in the drinks industry. 

‘Part of our research is open-source and our data will be published soon,’ said Bond. If a beer or wine producer wishes to avail itself of the new strains, it can make licensing agreements, she said.

Wine fraud

Alcohol ranks among Europe’s most counterfeited products. Unfortunately, the consumer appeal of such household names as Spanish Rioja, Portuguese Porto and Italian Prosecco, attracts the attention of criminal gangs seeking illicit profits. Wine fraud, where a cheaper product is passed off as a fine wine, is estimated at €1.3 billion annually, or around 3% of total sales.

At the moment, a wine label provides consumers with information about the origins and flavours of the product. However, it can’t enlighten them about the number of intermediaries between the vineyard and the shop or restaurant where it’s purchased.

The TRACEWINDU project, which began last year, has set out to change this.

The Horizon-backed project is focusing on a decentralised blockchain technology that, with a printed QR code, could register information about a wine bottle’s whole life cycle in a manner that is transparent.

Blockchain technology is familiar to users of so-called digital currencies such as bitcoin, because it promises security and traceability.

‘Wine producers are concerned about illicit trade, so we need to identify in an unambiguous way the origin of the wine,’ said Gustavo Pérez González, senior project manager at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.

Tracewindu are also investigating the possibility of including information derived from analytical chemistry techniques in the QR code. These can be used to specify the unique features of a bottle of wine, such as the geographical location, providing a further guarantee of the contents.

Winemakers participating in the project also suggested tracking the temperature during transportation. This would help ensure that the wine hasn’t been degraded when it reaches its destination, creating improved consumer satisfaction.

Environmental goals

In line with the European Green Deal plans to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers, the project also has environmental goals.

‘We are now looking at ways to reinforce the immune system of grapevines and therefore reduce the need for additional chemicals,’ said Pérez González.

This resilience will be reflected in the label too. If it can be shown that the organic characteristics of the wine are not altered, this feature could add value by showing which winegrowers comply with European sustainability goals.

Pérez González also foresees a possible bottle-return system. This would require winemakers to commit to the QR coded and laser-printed bottles on a long-term basis – but it would align with the circular- economy objective of reusing food packaging rather than producing more of it. This would lead to job-creation in the traceability, distribution and logistics sectors.

Research in this article was funded via the EU and it was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine. 

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Discover Unexpected Adventures at These Unique Beach Locales

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DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Racine Harbourwalk

Those hoping to hear waves crashing and feel sand beneath their toes are naturally drawn to coastal hotspots such as Miami and Waikiki. While these destinations no doubt offer a chance to unwind and relax in a sun-soaked setting, they aren’t the only beachfront vacation spots worthy of exploration. 

From marveling at towering redwoods to floating in delightfully clean freshwater, spotting harbor seals or fishing from a downtown pier, these beach locales offer unexpected opportunities for waterfront adventure.

Embrace Clean, Accessible Waters

When planning a beachy getaway, don’t overlook the salt-free waters of the Great Lakes. Nestled along the Lake Michigan shore, Racine offers a bounty of sandy beaches in a setting brimming with Midwestern hospitality and charm. Be sure to check out Wind Point Lighthouse, one of the oldest and tallest active lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and sunbathe on North Beach, Wisconsin’s first Certified Blue Wave clean beach. Not only is this freshwater playground free from pollutants, but it also offers a Mobi Mat, a non-slip mat that allows persons with disabilities to enjoy the beach.

When it comes time to settle in for the night, stroll on over to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Racine Harbourwalk. The hotel’s harbor front location offers the chance to take in lake views from your room, or while sipping a cocktail in the hot tub!

ATV Over Sand Dunes

California has more than its fair share of well-known beach towns, and while you may find crowds flocking to southern hotspots like Santa Monica and Laguna Beach, consider heading north instead to the wetlands of Arcata Bay. Located just a half-hour away from Redwoods National Park, home to the tallest trees on earth, Arcata offers epic birdwatching opportunities, making it an ideal spot for nature lovers to explore. But thrill seekers will also find plenty to love at the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area, a sandy off-highway vehicle play area where you can go for a thrill ride in an ATV or other off-road vehicle for a wild, wind-swept adventure!

Cruise down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, check out even more redwoods at the Arcata Community Forest, take in live music in downtown Arcata, then settle into your room at the ideally located Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Arcata.

Stroll a Tree-Lined Bayfront Trail

The original commercial pier in the alluring town of Fairhope now serves as the city’s town square. Designed for both strolling and fishing, the pier offers sweeping views of Mobile Bay. From here it’s an easy walk to North Beach Park and the Beach Park Tree Trail, which contains nearly 500 species of trees. The town’s easygoing vibe makes it a picture-perfect setting for a waterfront getaway.

Downtown Fairhope boasts a delightful array of boutique shopping, restaurants, and street markets. Stay within walking distance of them all at the Hampton Inn by Hilton Fairhope-Mobile Bay, which is situated across the street from the exhibits at Fairhope Museum of History.

Soak up Harbor Views from a Hammock

A vacation to the “Great White North” might evoke images of snowy tundra and thick parkas, but the coastal Canadian town of Halifax offers a mix of sandy beaches for sunbathing and boating excursions that provide opportunities to spot whales in the wild. The city’s Harbourwalk is one of the world’s longest continuous boardwalks, dotted with brightly colored orange hammocks that make for ideal seating for taking in the sweeping water views and gentle breezes. As you explore the area, keep an eye out for harbor seals and jellyfish at high tide, and clusters of white barnacles and black mussels at low tide. 

In downtown Halifax you’ll find street art, museums, gardens, parks, playgrounds, shopping, entertainment, and waterfront restaurants teeming with the day’s fresh catch. Located in the heart of it all is The Hollis Halifax – a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel, which also offers an indoor pool should you crave a swim in temperature-controlled waters.

Experience Coastal California as it Once Was

Nestled between popular Santa Barbara and Malibu you’ll find the town of Oxnard, which serves as the gateway to the Channel Islands. Accessible only by boat, and protected by national park status, the Channel Islands offer a truly natural look at coastal California. The largest of the islands, Santa Cruz Island, features steep cliffs, large sea caves, coves, sandy beaches, and the chance to view local wildlife.

After catching a boat back to the Oxnard visitor’s center, check into the soon-to-be reimagined Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton. Guests of this Spanish Hacienda-style oceanfront resort can pack light and enjoy a wide range of amenities, from longboards and hoverboards to craft coffee and cocktails, while savoring a luxe environment in which to unwind after days filled with exploration. 

Regardless of where your travels take you, keep in mind that Hilton Honors members can earn up to 5,000 Points and save on qualifying car rentals from Alamo, Enterprise and National. And if you rent a car for five or more days between Aug. 15, 2022 and Oct. 5, 2022, you’ll receive 1,000 Bonus Points on top of the Points you already earn. 

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A dream getaway at Rokeby Manor, Mussoorie

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Dreams are beautiful and it’s even more beautiful when reality is better than a dream. Mussoorie is a beautiful Himalayan destination in North India. Often called the Queen of Hills, it attracts travellers from afar. Rokeby Manor is a quaint place in Mussoorie and hands down my favourite place to stay. 

Rokeby Manor is a mandatory annual trip that I make every year, ever since I got introduced to the property. Here are some things that I absolutely love about the place. 

It’s located in Landour Cantt – Landour Cantt is even above Mussoorie in terms of height above sea level. We get the best sunset views from the spots around Landour. More than anything else, it’s cut off from the noise and bustle of Mall Road offering a truly serene getaway for those looking for some peace and genuine connection. I’m not a big lover of noise or crowds so Rokeby Manor is definitely my favourite choice of place to stay. 

Landour Bakehouse is at a walking distance – Rokeby Manor infact owns and runs the mysterious Landour bakehouse with its wonderful desserts and baked goodies. Be it their cinnamon rolls or cheese croissants or the beautiful Himalayan views, Landour Bakehouse attracts people from Dehradun all the way only for their breakfast. Can you believe it? People drive up almost two hours just to grab breakfast here and go back home! Honestly, I traveled all the way from Mumbai for their cinnamon rolls. 

The rooms are rustic and homely – Mussoorie has grown over the years and it’s charm has attracted many commercial hotels. However, none of them present an authentic rustic Himalayan feel. There is nothing like Rokeby Manor with its rustic rooms, homely feel, direct views of the Himalayas and the most beautiful sunset in all of Mussoorie. 

There are meaningful quotes painted on their walls – In life, we search for meaning. No better place to find meaning than Rokeby Manor’s walls with the hard hitting quotes about life that make you realise how important it is to connect with yourself. I truly felt connected with myself when I was there. It was almost like I was surrounded by signs telling me to live in the moment and connect with people I was close to deeply. 

Beautiful views of the winterline – Mussoorie is one of the only places in the world from where one can see the Winterline, a false horizon that’s created during sunset time. I’ve seen stunning Winterline views from Rokeby Manor while sitting in their tea garden. I watched magic in the mountains right in front of me. The mountains were mysterious and I felt like something beautiful was unfolding before me. 

Every room has something special – On holidays, I want to feel special. Rokeby Manor has something special for everyone in the rooms. No two rooms are designed the same way. One room had beautiful views of night sky, the other is facing the tea garden and the rhododendrons, there’s one with a focus on other flowers. Each room is designed uniquely. What’s even better is that they have rooms for families and solo travellers too, basically no matter who you are, you’ll find a place here. 

The food is some of the best I have ever had – Emily’s is a famous restaurant at Rokeby Manor Mussoorie. Their food is some of the best I’ve ever had. With overlooking views of the Himalayas and Dehradun city, the food at Emily’s tastes even better. Much like Landour Bakehouse, people come to Emily’s from distances afar! 

The stunning Char Dukan walk goes around here – There’s a road diverging in the woods from Char Dukan that leads around Victor Banerjee’s house, crosses a church and some rustic homes. This route is often traversed by locals who want to explore the woods and find peace. The sunrise view from here is stunning because during sunrise the clear sky leads a view to the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas (ones generally hidden because of clouds in the sky during normal hours of the day). When you’re at Rokeby, you’ll have the privilege to explore this path. 

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