Exploring the Sunday Market in Kasghar, China

Sunday Market in KashgarWith over 50,000 people selling and buying, the Sunday Market in Kasghar is the biggest in China. Its origin goes back to the golden age of the Silk Route when delegations from all different empires came here to trade. Today guidebooks highlight the market as one of northwest China’s ‘must-sees’. Our expectations were high. Continue reading

Exploring the Jesuit Estancias in Argentina

Jesuit Estancia in Argentina

Estancia Jesus Maria

When in the 16th century the Jesuits came to Argentina, they founded schools and universities in Córdoba, an area today referred to as the Jesuit Block. In order to finance these institutions estancias were set up in the surrounding areas, where agriculture and cattle breeding prospered.

The Jesuits rapidly progressed to become rich, powerful and independent organizations. Too much so to the liking of the Spanish crown, which resulted in the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. The Jesuit block and its estancias fell into decay until UNESCO gave them World Heritage status (in 2000) and restoration projects got underway. Continue reading

Ouro Prêto on Foot, a UNESCO site in Brazil

Around 1700 gold was discovered in the state of Minas Gerais. In 1711 Vila Rica de Ouro Prêto (lit: ‘Rich City of Black Gold’) was founded, which soon became the capital of the state and epicenter of Brazil’s biggest gold rush. Thousands of slaves dug out the gold, which was taken to the town where it was weighed and melted into bars at Casas de Intendéncias (weighing stations). Continue reading

Taking the Narrow Gauge Train to Darjeeling, India 

It’s still dark when we walk downhill to the train station. Although the train will only leave at seven, we have been advised to arrive an hour early, as there are few seats. The famous Sikkim narrow gauge train runs all the way up from the town of New Jalpaiguri on the plains of Siliguri to Darjeeling (55 miles) a trip that takes 8 hours. However, we have opted for the 19-mile return trip from Kuensong to Darjeeling. Continue reading

Listening to Stories of the Dead in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina

City of Angels, City of the Dead, or City of Cats: These names all refer to the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. With 5000 sepulchers this eternal resting place is a rich synthesis of history, art, religion and death, and serves as a tribute to Argentina’s rich and famous. Continue reading

Appreciating Modern Architecture in Brasília, Brazil’s Capital

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“Why would you want to go to Brasília? It is an ugly city that lacks a soul,” is the most common remark I have heard from Brazilians about their capital. Despite these discouraging words I decided to visit the city and judge for myself.

My verdict: “Brasília is an ugly city that lacks a soul.”

Yet I stayed a midweek and enjoyed every single day. What happened? Continue reading

Stargazing in Chile – Cerro Mamalluca

The sun was setting on my arrival; it was still too early to see all the planets and stars. Our guide suggested taking a look at the moon. One by one we moved behind the telescope and admired a half-full moon. It felt so close that if I reached out my hand, I could actually touch it. Especially the craters were clearly visible, among which the Sea of Tranquility, where the Americans planted their flag during the first landing on the moon. Continue reading

Strolling Brazil’s City of Tiles: São Luís

In the doorway stands an elderly man. Our eyes meet and I shake his hand.

“You are lucky to live in such a beautiful building. What an incredibly tiled façade your home has,” I comment.

For the past couple of hours I have been strolling through the center of São Luis and I still don’t believe what I am seeing: this is by far the best-preserved center of any of Brazil’s major cities. Continue reading

A Boat Trip through the Flooded Forest of Anavilhanas (Brazil)

I feel as if I am looking at a scene in the cartoon of Jack and the Beanstalk. Amidst the flooded forest of Anavilhanas, I am looking up at a meters wide trunk of a tree that divides into three immensely thick branches that reach high into the sky, as if they are on their way to heaven.

We can’t climb to heaven, but we can go around the trunk scrambling over the buttresses protruding from the water. It is a balancing act, and a combination of stretching my legs as far as I can to reach the next buttress and squatting to carefully descend to a lower part; I feel like a child again, playing in the woods. Continue reading

Enjoy Tom Otterness’ Sculptures in Scheveningen (Netherlands)

I remember Scheveningen’s coastline as a stark and uninviting, right-angled boulevard with a busy road running alongside. No longer so. A three-year comprehensive renovation project in this seaside resort has resulted in an elegant, curved boulevard with separate lanes on different levels for walking, cycling and motorized vehicles (one-way). Some 195 stylish streetlights running on LEDs contribute to safety at night. The architect of this major project is the Spaniard Manuel de Solà-Morales. Continue reading

Visiting the Ghost Towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura (Chile)

A breeze carried the sound of squeaking hinges and creaking wooden panels. In the overwhelming silence of the desert the slamming of a metal roof plate echoed as if a gun had been fired. When listening carefully I heard voices from the past. Voices that told stories about promised fortunes and working yourself to death under the scorching sun of the Atacama Desert – one of the driest deserts on earth and, around 1900, home to Chile’s nitrate boom. Continue reading

Enjoying Uruguay’s Most Scenic Village: Colonia del Sacramento

I picked up the thermos and filled up the gourd with mate, a popular herbal tea in Uruguay. It’s a drink you share with others, so I handed the gourd to Coen, who took one last photograph before he sat down next to me. We were sitting on a low wall along the Río de la Plata, the river that divides Uruguay and Argentina. The sun slowly sank into the river and sets the sky aflame. Everything was perfect: my company, my drink, the sunset and Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay’s most scenic village. Continue reading