The mouth of the January River sang more than just the first beats of samba and the smooth rhythm of bossa nova. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s balmy balneário by the edge of Guanabara Bay, boasts a rich and regal repertoire of cultural heritage and untethered beauty. Encountered by the Portuguese on New Year’s Day in 1502, the city served as the imperial capital of Portugal during the time of Napoleon. It was the only instance in history that a European nation was ruled from one of its colonies.
Yet, there’s neither a trace of pomposity nor of royalty’s rigidness. Rio de Janeiro is as casual as can be. From street corners, the soul-stirring aromas of coconut milk and shrimp call out to empty stomachs. Equally as tempting are the Cariocas themselves, the unabashed residents of Rio who saunter up and down the beachfronts wearing nothing more than Havaianas and a strategically placed strip of polyester. There’s a flirtatiousness even in the way they speak: chewing, guzzling, and gushing their syllables like waves of honey. Every detail is an invitation to be ensnared by the allure of the Southern Hemisphere’s tropical Babylon. Continue reading “Carioca Dreamscapes: Reveries from Rio de Janeiro”
A crown rests gently on its soft cushion of crowberry bristles. Amid the early morning air tinged with the tang of sun-dried kelp and cracked crab, the urchin’s chassis is an echo of a once underwater aria. In the eons since the Vega Islands were lifted from the ocean, soft shales and hard granite have moulded this Norwegian archipelago into a kingdom whose curling hillsides, sharp peaks, white sands, and capricious coasts have enchanted, protected, and, on occasion, terrified humankind. Continue reading “Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom”
Drive an hour to the southeast of Zurich and you’ll arrive at the foothills of the Alps, where the flat plains of the Swiss Central Plateau starts to pinch into pleats. This transition zone, the Voralpen, is home to some of Switzerland’s most beautiful terrain. What it lacks in staggering altitude, it makes up for with charm: limestone peaks with trailing capes and lakes mirroring the summer’s hues will captivate the heart of anyone lucky enough to lay eyes upon them. Continue reading “The Obersee Valley”
Situated at the carrefour between Balkan, Austrian, Italian, and Hungarian realms of influence, the Slovenes have managed to carve out a distinct identity for themselves: a unique mélange of Alpine and Slavic heritage with a spritz of the Mediterranean. The country’s landscape is diverse, ranging from hills and vineyards to breezy coastal towns on the banks of the Slovene Riviera.
Bled, located in the northwestern region of Slovenia known as Gorenjska, lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps. (‘Julian’ after Julius Caesar, who founded the Roman town of Cividale del Friuli on the other side of the range.) Here, the mark of the mountains is evident at first glance: wooden chalets with balconies of cascading of geraniums evoke a suspicion that Heidi might be hiding just around the corner.
Continue reading “Finding Bliss on Lake Bled”