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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Best Attractions in Athens, Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. It features some of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, including ancient temples and fabulous museums. In this article I will present some of them.

Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon

A great afternoon trip from Athens, this is one of those spots that is as much a favorite with the locals as it is with the tourists. It's a favorite sunset-viewing spot for everyone, and will give you a classically Greek moment against the ruined monument along with a terrific sea view. While it is possible to visit Sounion by public bus from Athens, most visitors prefer to drive or to take an organized tour. You can book one directly ahead of your trip, through your hotel or by visiting any travel agency in Athens.


Can't get away to the Greek islands? Or already missing the one you just left? Slip away to Piraeus, easily reachable by the Metro, and have dinner at one of the pricy but charming seaside taverns of Microlimano. Piraeus, the port city of Athens, is not quite a Greek island, but it will do. Allow yourself some extra time and stop by the excellent Piraeus Archaeological Museum or the equally-fascinating Nautical Museum first. You can also take an Open-Topped Bus Tour (find prices) between both Athens and Piraeus, making it an easy and interesting way to get back and forth between the two cities.

The Agora

This is one attraction that gets skipped, partly because it is readily confused with the Roman Agora and while you'd be falling over yourself to visit a Roman agora in Italy, well, this is Greece. (For the same reason, the very nice Egyptian antiquities collection at the National Archaeological Museum gets overlooked, too - except by Greeks.) But this spot offers an easy hour's wandering, with the almost-perfect temple of Hephaestus, a rebuilt colonnade housing the museum, and many minor monuments. A multiple-site combo ticket makes it a particularly good bargain to combine a visit here with the Acropolis and other nearby sites.

Lycabettus Hill

Want to rise above it all, especially on a hot day when the thought of the stony outcrop of the Acropolis seems too warm and bright? Take the easy way up to the wooded top of Lycabettus Hill by using the tubular funicular rail car and escape the heat and, if you're lucky, some of the tourist crowds.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The war memorial known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded by the city's famous statuesque evzones, the presidential guards whose uniform of short kilts and pom-pom shoes is based on the attire worn by the klephts (the mountain fighters of the War of Independence). The changing of the guard takes place every hour, while every Sunday at 11:00 the evzones perform an extended changing of the guard ceremony in full ceremonial dress, accompanied by a military band.

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National Art Gallery

Greece’s premiere art gallery showcases its permanent collection of modern Greek art and hosts major international exhibitions. Exploring the country’s art movements, the exhibits include post-Byzantine art and works from the Eptanesian School of secular painters; portraits and historical scenes from the War of Independence and the early years of the Greek state; and leading 20th-century painters. Prize exhibits include three masterpieces by El Greco.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The colossal Temple of Olympian Zeus (or Olympeion) is the largest in Greece and took more than 700 years to build. Fifteen of the original 104 massive (17m-high) Corinthian columns survive, along with the one that toppled over in a gale in 1852. Peisistratos began building the temple in the 6th century BC on the western bank of the Ilissos River, at the site of a smaller temple (590–560 BC) dedicated to the cult of Olympian Zeus (its foundations can be seen on the site), but construction stalled due to lack of funds. A succession of leaders tried to finish the job, making adjustments along the way, which explains inconsistencies in the temple. Hadrian finally finished the task in AD 131. The temple housed a giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus and one of Hadrian.

Panathenaic Stadium

The first modern Olympic Games, in 1896, were held in the imposing Panathenaic (or Panathenian) marble stadium, on the site of the original 4th-century BC stadium built for Panathenaic athletic contests. The Romans held gladiatorial contests where thousands of wild animals were slaughtered and it was later rebuilt by Herodes Atticus for the Panathenaic Festival in AD 144. The stadium was completely restored for the 1896 Olympics and for the 2004 Games. The stadium, which is known as the Kalimarmaron (meaning ‘beautiful marble’), made a stunning backdrop to the archery competition and the marathon finish. Public access is limited, but it is a site to behold.

Planning a trip to Athens? Visit and to get the best accommodation prices in real time, straight from the 100 best reservation websites in the world!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Amazing History of Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country's economic, cultural, and historical heart. In this article you can learn about the city's amazing mythology and history from its' foundation until today.

The Mythology

The legend of the foundation of Istanbul is derived from classical mythology: Zeus fell in love with Io, the daughter of Inachus, King of the City of Argos and God of the River of Argos. The King of the Gods temporarily transformed the girl into a heifer in order to protect her from the wrath of his wife, Hera, Queen of the Gods. In her wanderings Io crossed the Bosphorus, giving the strait its name (''boos-foros'',''cow-ford''). After reassuming her original form, she gave birth to a girl, Keroessa. Later, Keroessa bore the son of Poseidon, sovereign deity of all waters from the Pillars of Hercules to the Hellespont. Keroessa's son, Byzas the Magerian, in time became the founder of Byzantium and named the Golden Horn (Chrysokeras) after his mother.

Istanbul's Foundation

According to the archeological discoveries, Asian side of Istanbul was probably inhabited by people as early as 3000 BC. Eventually, in the 7th century BC, Greek colonists led by Byzas established the colony of Byzantium on the European side at the peninsula, today known as the Seraglio Point, where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn meet and flow into the Marmara (667 B.C.). Another legend has it that, Byzas chose the spot after consulting Oracle of Apollo at Delphi who told him to settle across from the "land of the blind ones." Indeed, Byzas concluded, earlier settlers must have been deprived of their sight to have overlooked this superb location at the mouth of the Bosphorus strait. This proved an auspicious decision by Byzas, as history has shown Istanbul's location important far beyond what these early Greek settlers might possibly have conceived.

In the early 100's BC, it became part of the Roman Empire and in 306 AD, Emperor Constantine the Great made Byzantium capital of the entire Roman Empire. From that point on, the city was known as Constantinople.

The mid 400's AD was a time of enormous upheaval in the empire. Barbarians conquered the western Roman Empire while the Eastern, also called the Byzantine Empire, kept Constantinople as its capital. In 532 during the reign of Justinian I, antigovernment riots destroyed the city. It was rebuilt, and outstanding structures such as Hagia Sophia stand as monuments to the heights Byzantine culture reached.

The attribute that made the city so desirable, its incomparable location for trade and transport between three continents, was also its nemesis. For the next several hundred years Persians, Arabs, nomadic peoples, and members of the Fourth Crusade (who for a time governed the city) attacked Constantinople.

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In the Ottoman Era

Finally, weakened by almost constant battle, the Ottoman Turks successfully conquered Constantinople in 1453. Renamed Istanbul, it became the third and last capital of the Ottoman Empire. It was the nerve center for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500's, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial center. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in world war one and Istanbul was occupied by the allies.

In the year 1453, the army of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror) conquered the city. The seventh and final Ottoman siege of Istanbul was carried out under the command of Mehmet II, the Ottoman Sultan historically known as Mehmet the Conqueror. Mehmet the Conqueror had the Rumeli Fortress ( Rumeli Hisari ) constructed on the European shore of the Bosphorus, directly across from the Anatolia Fortress, thus cutting off all Black Sea traffic in and out of the city. Nevertheless, Cardinal Isidore of Kiev, the Pope's envoy, arrived in Istanbul to seal the union between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. This union, proclaimed by Constantinus in Hagia Sophia ( the Church of Holy Wisdom ), caused unrest among the devoutly Orthodox Byzantines, and popular opinion swayed strongly against the Emperor. Meanwhile, Mehmet the Conqueror moved his galleons over the land by means of specially constructed sleds and pulleys and the Byzantines woke up one morning to find the Golden Horn invaded by the Ottoman navy. Enormous shell-holes were torn in the ramparts through which the Sultan's soldiers entered the city and, by means of a temporary bridge built across the Golden Horn, they crossed into the heart of Genoese Galata. The entire battle took place between April 6 and May 29, and on this final day, Istanbul, once the capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Turks. Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, was 21 years old and the city was 2120 years old (1453 A.D.) first of all, the oldest buildings and the formerly magnificent but dilapidated city walls were restored. On the ruins of the Byzantine foundations, the buildings of the basic institutions of the Ottomans were built. The great water system with its huge cisterns was repaired and returned to use. The city had developed its Ottoman identity, resembling its present character.

With the addition of the buildings of the famous architect Sinan, the city had again become the capital of a great empire. Together with the remaining population after the conquest, people coming from all over the empire, from all kinds of ethnic origins and religions, created a colorful mixture. In Istanbul - the new Constantinople - the cultural variety brought in by the immigrants enriched the cultural texture of the city. The bedesten where the merchants were settled and the many han where the craftsmen were to be found turned into centers that enabled this harbor city to develop trade with the outside world. Huge markets were built, further supporting trade. During the period of the height of Ottoman imperial power, the city was covered all over with tulips, in what is known as the" Tulip Era." In the 19th century, efforts modernization were undertaken. Istanbul entered the 20th century worn out and burdened by its history as the capital city of three great empires. At that time, the Ottomans were just about to end their imperial period of 630 years.

In the Modern Era

After World War I, resistance movements became active during the Allied occupation of Istanbul, an occupation that lasted for nearly five years. When the resistance movement in Anatolia finally gained success, the last of the foreign soldiers left the city on October 5, 1923. On October 6, the Turkish army entered the city heralding the message of a new government led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish independence war, and his colleagues had made a decision in the new National Assembly that Istanbul would turn over its function as capital of the new nation to Ankara. Under republican rule, much new construction activity took place in Istanbul, starting with the building of family houses in the 1930s. In 1950s, more than 7300 buildings were torn down and the road system reorganized. This caused historic changes in the fabric of the city.

Famous Istanbul historian Jak Deleon writes about Istanbul in his book named 'The Bosphorus: A Historical Guide': ''From Byzantium to Constantinople and from then to Istanbul, this fabled city, divided by the Bosphorus strait, lies in both Europe and Asia. The European side is separated into two by a scimitar-shaped gulf called the Golden Horn: the old town sprawls along one side, with its Byzantine ramparts and Ottoman palaces facing the Marmara Sea, the Propontis of antiquity; on the other side, one can see the ancient Genoese port of Galata and the more modern quarters beyond, with the legendary Bosphorus winding its way up to the Black Sea, the Pontus Euxinus of antiquity. It is this garland of waters which makes Istanbul, whose seven hills are crowned with imperial monuments, a unique city.

Planning a trip to Istanbul? Visit and to get the best accommodation prices in real time, straight from the 100 best reservation websites in the world!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Canada's Best Natural Attractions

Canada's natural attractions are absolutely extraordinary! Now, as it gets a little warmer in Canada, it's a great time to visit it's wonderful natural attractions. We brought you five of the best ones, here they are:

Bay of Fundy, the Maritimes

The Bay of Fundy extends from the northern coast of Maine into Canada between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Twice daily, the Bay fills and empties its 100 billion tons of water, creating the highest tides in the world - in some areas of the bay; tides reach more than 16 meters. The energy created by the force of these tides drudges up nutrients from the ocean floor that attract an interesting and wide range of animal life to the bay. The effect of the tides has also carved out a dramatic surrounding landscape of steep cliffs and sea stacks. In addition, water has worn away the shore's red sandstone and volcanic rock to reveal a plethora of fossils and signs of life from millions of years ago.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

With more than 168,000 cubic meters of water falling over its brink per minute, Niagara Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America and maybe the most famous in the world. The town of Niagara Falls is best known as a honeymoon spot, attracting millions of romancing couples every year; it's akin to a smaller, shabbier Las Vegas in that it has a reputation as an adult playground. Nevertheless, Niagara Falls has become more sophisticated, seeing the launch of a large, modern casino resort in 2004, which draws big name acts. The casino's success has had a trickle-down effect, with finer dining and other hotels opening up.

Northern Lights

The Northern Lights is a phenomenon seen in northern skies where solar particles collide with atmospheric gases and create a light show in the sky. Depending on how north the locations, the color of these lights are green, white, red, blue and/or violet. The aurora oval - the area where the northern lights occur most often and with greatest intensity - covers a huge part of Canada.

Rocky Mountains, British Columbia

The Canadian portion of this magnificent North American mountain range stretches along the British Columbia border and includes five national parks that attract millions of visitors each year for hiking, skiing, biking, fishing or just relaxing. Kananaskis Country is another popular year-round Rocky Mountain destination and featured prominently in the film Brokeback Mountain. Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, Fernie, Kimberley, Waterton, Canmore, Invermere, Revelstoke, Golden, Cranbrook, Valemount and Kananaskis, of course, are all alpine towns that boast world-class skiing.

Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Two hours east of Calgary is one of Canada's most unique National Parks where dinosaur history meets stunning scenery. Pinnacles, serpentine spires and other sculptural land formations jut up from these Alberta badlands, creating an eerie environment unlike any other in Canada. This awesome landscape is home to some of the most extensive dinosaur fossil fields in the world boasting the remnants of more than 35 species of dinosaur that lived here 75 million years ago when the area was a lush, sub-tropical forest. Visitors can choose from bus tours, hikes, expeditions and other educational programs. In 1979, Dinosaur Provincial Park was designated a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Planning a trip to Canada? Visit and get the best accommodation prices in real time, straight from the 100 best reservation websites in the world!



Friday, April 19, 2013 Introduces New Features and Services

The review and accommodation prices comparison website, scans the world's leading websites on-line and gets the cheapest prices in real time - to give users the proper tools necessary for making correct decisions regarding the selection of accommodations, all their types and wherever they are.

Recently, the website launched three new services to improve the user experience and assist in making informed decisions:

1. "Give and Take" Market Service for Hotel Booking - buying and selling of available hotel orders that cannot be refunded.

There's a new, revolutionary tool in the world of tourism -- Cancelon. Every day there are about 200,000 available rooms due to unexpected cancellations, and as a result the customers lose about 10 billion dollars a year, since their money can't be returned. This service allows users to buy and sell canceled reservations that can't be refunded, and save hundreds to thousands of dollars.

This service provides significantly lower prices than the prices offered by the hotels or reservation websites. Travelers who need to cancel their vacations due to unexpected events and made a booking without a refund option reduce the financial damage and also allow casual customers earn money. The seller gives an offer and the buyer has the option to agree or offer a lower price.

This service has been tested in the past and received warm recommendations of professional websites: BBC Travel and Tnooz.

Israeli Channel Two examined the service and recommended it as well.

2. Visual Service - Hotel Virtual Tours.

Full-screen high-definition 360 degree virtual tours (panoramic imaging), images, information and e-books of hotels, created by ICE Portal, that allow the user to experience the hotel online, in a level that hasn't been seen to this day.

3. Smart Video Service - Attractions and Tours around the Hotel.

In each and every hotel page there is an icon on the left side. Clicking the icon allows any user to view about ten video clips associated with the hotel and its surroundings. The information is collected from 47 different video sources.

We constantly work to improve the website and browsing experience to better serve the users, so expect more surprises!