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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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Exploring Italy by train

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Even if the 2023 summer tourist season has been somehow penalised by high prices, Italy nonetheless remains an extremely popular destination with international visitors, with a growing number of tourists travelling by train.

Italy is the most beautiful country in the world, and this is certified by the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, which has no equal. Our beautiful landscapes, history, culture, and food and wine make Italy a favourite destination with tourists from all over the world, and this summer 2023 was forecast to be a record season for Italian tourism. The definitive figures are not in yet, but those expectations have been at least partially downsized by spiralling prices, as a result of which many Italians were unable to take a summer holiday, or chose less expensive destinations.

Record-breaking season or not, however, Italy certainly remains a popular destination, as demonstrated by the data of the Italian Observatory on Domestic and International Tourism Flows, presented in Venice on September 1st. These data show that Italy is the fourth most popular destination for European tourists, who invested 12% of total tourism-related spending in our Country. July saw the highest growth in spending on hotels in Italy, exceeding even the totals for Spain and the UK. The largest numbers of foreign visitors to Italy come from Germany, Switzerland, USA, UK and the Netherlands, and travellers are increasingly choosing to travel around by train.

The train is one of the most popular means of transport in Italy

Trains are an increasingly popular choice for travelling across Italy, because of the fast, convenient, widespread rail network that combines efficiency and sustainability, and is often a more affordable option than others.

In the first five months of 2023 alone, Trenitalia transported 24% more passengers than in 2022.

Summer brought an impressive 75 million tourists onto the trains of the Italian state rail network. More than half of this figure was recorded in August, with a rise of 15% compared to August 2022. This result is a reward for the efforts made by Trenitalia to guarantee fast, convenient rail links to reach holiday destinations.

This return to rail travel also regards younger travellers, with 3.5 million under-15s travelling on Frecciarossa, Intercity and Regional trains, also thanks to the promotional offers aimed at families. One of the services that has proved most popular is the Family Area, which can be found on Intercity trains: a carriage for the whole family, where kids can enjoy dedicated entertainment during the journey, making it part of the holiday experience, rather than just a means of transport to their destination.

This philosophy is shared by True Italian Experience, the digital tourism hub of which Trenitalia is the main partner, and which promotes gentle, sustainable experiential tourism.

The summer’s most popular Italian destinations

For trips lasting more than five days, Italian seaside and mountain locations proved most popular in 2023, with Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Liguria the Italian regions that registered the most significant increases in visitors, compared to 2022.

A positive trend compared to 2022 was also recorded in Campania, Puglia and Emilia-Romagna, with Rimini topping the list of seaside destinations, especially for family holidays.

Major tourist flows were also registered in areas renowned for their natural beauty, such as the Dolomites, Lake Garda and the Langhe wine region, while the top three destinations Italian for city holidays remain Rome, Naples and Florence.

The main Italian cities reached by train by the highest number of travellers were Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Bologna, with the Apulian cities of Bari and Lecce among the most popular in Southern Italy.  

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A Gastronomic Odyssey at Yauatcha Mumbai: Where Tradition Meets Innovation

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When it comes to dim sum, Yauatcha Mumbai is undoubtedly a name that stands out in the vibrant culinary landscape of the city. Nestled in the heart of Bandra Kurla Complex, this upscale restaurant has consistently garnered praise for its exquisite blend of traditional and innovative Cantonese cuisine. During my recent visit to Yauatcha, I was not only treated to an array of delectable dishes but also had the pleasure of experiencing impeccable service from an exceptional team led by Akshay Sasane, the shift manager.

Service Excellence – Akshay Sasane

As I entered Yauatcha Mumbai, it was clear that the staff here were committed to making every guest’s experience memorable. Akshay Sasane, the shift manager, was the embodiment of professionalism and warmth. His welcoming smile and attentive nature set the tone for a memorable dining experience. Throughout the evening, Akshay made sure that every aspect of our dining experience was flawless, from seating us at a comfortable table to ensuring prompt service.

Culinary Mastery – Chef Gopi and Sous Chef Laxman Gaire

A restaurant’s success is often a reflection of its culinary team, and Yauatcha Mumbai is no exception. The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Gopi and Sous Chef Laxman Gaire, both of whom have honed their skills in the art of Cantonese cuisine. Their dedication to maintaining authenticity while incorporating modern twists was evident in every dish we tasted.

Our culinary journey began with the Umeshu, a delightful Japanese plum wine that set the tone for the evening. It was a sweet and aromatic start to our meal, perfectly balancing the flavors that awaited us.

Yauatcha’s tea menu is extensive and impressive. The variety of teas available caters to tea connoisseurs and novices alike. Our server, Mithila Kulkarni, provided expert guidance on selecting the ideal tea to complement our dim sum choices. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for tea were truly commendable.

Now, let’s delve into the star of the show – the dim sum. Yauatcha’s dim sum menu is a culinary adventure in itself, offering a wide range of choices that showcase the chefs’ mastery over this traditional Cantonese specialty.

Dim Sum Delights

  • Har Gow: The Har Gow at Yauatcha is a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to perfection. These delicate shrimp dumplings were a revelation, with thin, translucent wrappers that encased succulent, juicy prawns. The Har Gow practically melted in my mouth, leaving a symphony of flavors dancing on my palate.
  • XO Scallop Dumpling: For seafood lovers, the XO Scallop Dumpling is a must-try. Plump and perfectly cooked scallops were wrapped in a translucent skin, which was artfully pleated. The XO sauce added a spicy kick that complemented the sweetness of the scallops beautifully.
  • Wild Mushroom Dumpling: Yauatcha excels not only in seafood but also in vegetarian offerings. The Wild Mushroom Dumpling was a delightful medley of earthy flavors. The mushrooms were sautéed to perfection and encased in a delicate wrapper that allowed the umami-rich filling to shine.
  • Truffle Edamame Dumpling: Innovation meets tradition with the Truffle Edamame Dumpling. The infusion of truffle oil and the smooth edamame filling created a harmonious flavor profile that elevated this dish to a level of indulgence.
  • Prawn and Chive Dumpling: This dish was a marriage of contrasting textures and flavors. The crunchy chives provided a satisfying crunch, while the prawns remained tender and succulent. The subtle seasoning allowed the freshness of the ingredients to shine through.
  • Steamed Char Siu Bun: These fluffy, steamed buns were filled with succulent char siu pork that had been slow-cooked to perfection. The slightly sweet and savory filling was a true delight.
  • Spinach and Water Chestnut Dumpling: A vegetarian dim sum that stood out for its refreshing taste. The combination of spinach and water chestnut provided a unique textural experience, and the light soy-based sauce tied the flavors together beautifully.
  • Crispy Aromatic Duck Roll: This dish was a fusion of Chinese and Indian flavors, with tender duck rolled in a crisp wrapper and served with hoisin sauce. The contrasting textures and rich flavors made it a memorable choice.
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Dessert Extravaganza

No visit to Yauatcha is complete without indulging in their dessert offerings. We sampled the Raspberry Delice, a heavenly dessert that balanced sweetness, tartness, and creaminess with finesse. The chocolate soil and raspberry sorbet provided delightful contrasts in texture and temperature.

As our dining experience came to an end, it was evident that the dedication of the entire Yauatcha Mumbai team, from Akshay Sasane’s warm welcome to the culinary expertise of Chef Gopi and Sous Chef Laxman Gaire, had made our visit truly exceptional. Tabassum, the Retail Shift Manager, ensured that we left with a smile, and Mithila Kulkarni, the Retail Assistant, guided us through the extensive tea selection with grace and knowledge.

Yauatcha Mumbai is more than just a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey that explores the rich traditions of Cantonese cuisine while embracing innovation and modernity. The impeccable service provided by the team, led by Akshay Sasane, elevates the dining experience to a level of excellence that is truly unparalleled. From the Umeshu to the wide variety of teas and the exquisite dim sum, Yauatcha Mumbai is a culinary destination that promises unforgettable flavors and unforgettable memories. It’s a place where tradition meets innovation, and where every guest is treated like royalty.

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A Culinary and Artistic Journey at Indian Accent, Mumbai

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Nestled within the enchanting Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai, Indian Accent is a culinary gem that seamlessly marries the rich tapestry of India’s diverse flavors with the artistic heritage of the nation. From its resplendent art deco interiors to its thoughtfully curated menu, every aspect of the restaurant weaves a captivating narrative that tantalizes both the palate and the senses.

Art Deco Elegance: A Tribute to Mumbai’s Heritage

Art Deco, a movement that thrived in Europe and the US during the 1930s, found a unique home in Bombay, where over 200 art deco structures still stand, rivaled only by Miami. This era, known as ‘the jazz age,’ marked a time of innovation and spirited rhythms.

Drawing from Bombay’s art deco legacy, Indian Accent pays homage to the era’s style, music, and cocktails. Renowned photographer Rohit Chawla captures India’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, infusing them with art deco’s allure. These images, along with curated Mumbai art deco pieces, adorn the restaurant, creating a visual journey into an opulent past.

Indian Accent’s interiors echo art deco’s symmetrical lines, geometric patterns, and opulent materials. The chandeliers cast a gentle glow reminiscent of the era’s glamour, while the upholstery exudes sophistication. It’s a fusion of Mumbai’s unique architectural heritage and the vibrant spirit of ‘the jazz age,’ creating a dining space that bridges time, design, and culture. This melding of aesthetics and flavors transforms Indian Accent into a living testament to a bygone era, inviting guests to indulge in both history and modernity.

A Symphony of Flavors: A Culinary Overture

The tasting menu at Indian Accent is nothing short of a meticulously composed symphony of flavors, where every dish is a note carefully orchestrated to create a harmonious and unforgettable experience. As guests embark on this gastronomic journey, they are immersed in a world where tradition and innovation dance in perfect harmony, guided by the culinary virtuosity of Chef Rijul Gulati and the visionary direction of Chef Manish Mehrotra.

The symphony begins with the “Indian Accent Shorba,” a delicate overture that warms the palate and sets the stage for the culinary spectacle that follows. This traditional Indian soup, presented with an artistic touch, encapsulates the essence of comfort and familiarity, while signaling the start of the culinary adventure.

Moving through the menu, the crescendo builds with the introduction of the “Blue Cheese Naan.” This dish is a striking example of Indian Accent’s unique ability to blend contrasting elements into a harmonious whole. The naan, a quintessential Indian bread, is elevated to new heights with the infusion of pungent blue cheese. The juxtaposition of textures and flavors in this dish creates a symphonic balance that awakens the senses.

The “Smoked Eggplant, Maple Plantain” is a movement that takes diners on a journey of contrast. The smokiness of the eggplant meets the sweetness of maple-glazed plantain, resulting in a culinary melody that dances between savory and sweet. This dish exemplifies Indian Accent’s skillful mastery of flavors, creating a dish that’s both familiar and excitingly novel.

The symphony takes a playful turn with the “Dilli Papdi Chaat” and “Chhole Bhature.” These dishes are a tribute to India’s vibrant street food culture, transformed into elegant compositions that evoke nostalgia. The chaat bursts with tangy, spicy, and crunchy notes, while the chhole bhature presents an artful balance of rich flavors and textures. These dishes encapsulate the spirit of India’s culinary heritage, where boldness and creativity harmonize seamlessly.

As the symphony reaches its crescendo, the “Stuffed Morel, Gobindobhog & Mushroom Payesh” takes center stage. This dish is a grand symphony of flavors, where each ingredient plays its part in an intricate ensemble. The indulgent earthiness of morels, the nutty notes of Gobindobhog rice, and the rich sweetness of mushroom payesh are accompanied by the delicate truffle nuances, creating a masterpiece that transcends boundaries.

In each dish, Indian Accent presents a new movement, a new exploration of taste and texture. The symphony concludes with dessert, a sweet denouement that leaves a lasting impression. The “Mishti Doi Cannoli” and “Pista ki Lauj” are dessert symphonies in themselves, a fusion of tradition and innovation that harmonizes familiar Indian sweets with contemporary flair.

The tasting menu at Indian Accent is more than just a collection of dishes; it’s a meticulously composed symphony that takes diners on an unforgettable journey through India’s culinary landscape. With each plate, a new movement unfolds, showcasing the culinary expertise, innovation, and artistic spirit that define Indian Accent’s identity.

Chef Rijul Gulati’s culinary prowess and Chef Manish Mehrotra’s visionary guidance shine through in every note of this gastronomic symphony. Just as a symphony evokes emotions and tells a story, Indian Accent’s tasting menu transcends flavors, inviting diners to experience the rich tapestry of India’s culinary heritage through a beautifully orchestrated performance of taste, texture, and artistry. This is a symphony that leaves a lasting impression, resonating long after the last bite is savored.

Culinary Leadership and Artistry:

Behind every successful culinary masterpiece is a visionary leader, and Indian Accent boasts not just one, but two culinary maestros. Chef Rijul Gulati, the head chef, infuses his passion for gastronomy and creativity into every dish. Guiding the culinary direction is the acclaimed Chef Manish Mehrotra, whose innovative approach to Indian cuisine has earned him a place of reverence in the culinary world.

The culinary brilliance extends beyond the menu; it’s a philosophy that permeates every aspect of the dining experience.

A Grand Culinary and Artistic Affair:

Indian Accent at the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre is not just a restaurant; it’s an experience that transcends mere dining. It’s a celebration of India’s diverse flavors and artistic heritage, meticulously curated by Chef Rijul Gulati under the guidance of Chef Manish Mehrotra. From the captivating art deco interiors that pay homage to Mumbai’s architectural legacy to the thoughtfully crafted tasting menu that showcases the best of Indian cuisine, Indian Accent leaves an indelible mark on all who enter its doors.

It’s a testament to the fact that dining is not just about sustenance; it’s about storytelling, artistry, and creating memories. Indian Accent has mastered this intricate dance, and with each visit, guests are treated to a symphony of flavors, a visual feast, and an unforgettable experience that lingers long after the meal is over.

Indian Accent stands as a testament to the power of culinary artistry and cultural celebration. It encapsulates the essence of India’s past, present, and future, all within the confines of an exquisite dining experience. As the art deco interiors embrace Mumbai’s history and the tasting menu showcases the nation’s culinary soul, Indian Accent is poised to continue its legacy as a culinary masterpiece and a cultural beacon in the heart of Mumbai’s vibrant landscape.

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