Category Archives: International

SMURFS: A BELGIAN CREATION READY TO TOUR THE WORLD

Holy Smurf! Come along to an unusual immersive experience that will prepare Belgians (and all Earthlings) for Smurf life. In 1958, Belgian writer Pierre Culliford, also known as Peyo, fell in love with the mischievous little blue gnomes while writing a Johan and Peewit story (The Flute with Six Holes). Sixty years later, Smurf Village 2.0 has come to the Brussels Expo. Come and meet Peyo’s star creations from 9 June 2018 until the 27 January 2019 in Hall 4. Their empire includes more than 50 million comics sold in more than 90 countries, 272 TV episodes broadcast in more than 100 countries, 41 YouTube channels, 3 feature-length films and 4 theme parks. If you haven’t heard of the Smurfs by now, ghastly Gargamel will turn you into salt dough! 

2018: YEAR OF THE SMURFS

Only a country as Smurf-tastically surreal as Belgium could name 2018 the ‘Official Year of the Smurfs’. The Minister of Foreign affairs is mobilising his global network of diplomats for this special occasion. Brussels Airlines is also transforming an Airbus A320 into a colourful ‘Aerosmurf’ (take a look at the background). Over the years, Peyo’s little blue gnomes have become the most authentic ambassadors for Belgian humour and values. The Smurfs made their debut in the world of comics in 1958, as minor characters in one of Peyo’s earlier Johan and Peewit medieval adventures. In order to celebrate the Smurfs’ sixtieth birthday in style, the IMPS society wanted to use their copyright to the Smurf universe to create a major event to celebrate Peyo’s impressive legacy. This initial idea was coupled with the creativity and know-how of Stéphan Uhoda and his team. This association gave life to The Smurf Experience.

LED BY SEASONED PROFESSIONALS

The Smurf Experience is a fully immersive show. ASBL L’Usine à Bulles will be responsible for production and creation, as part of a co-production with DC&J Création. Meanwhile, operations will be led by Cecoforma (Uhoda group), an organisation specialised in communication and events. They are well known in Brussels and Wallonia, and have a strong international network. Leading this unusual project is Stéphan Uhoda, chairman of L’Usine à Bulles and CEO of Cecoforma. Born in 1953 in Liège, Uhoda is a culture and heritage aficionado. He joined his family’s service station business after studying at the University of Liège Administration and Business School.

Also read: Smurfs are coming to Brussels Ice Magic!

In 1978 he went on to manage the company. Cecoforma was involved in the technical assistance sector, in both Belgium and abroad. Uhoda diversified in 1990 after the Wallonia Region bought Cecoforma on behalf of the European Commission. In 2016, he acquired Dynamic Events, a B2B and B2C event management company. As a collector of contemporary art, Stéphan Uhoda has also invested in a number of cultural institutions in Liège. “Arts and culture are sources of inspiration for people, including entrepreneurs. The Smurf Experience is a project that is at the intersection of different kinds of work that the Uhoda group carries out. Above all, it was the product, the Smurfs, which convinced us to take on this project. The Smurfs are an amazingly powerful communication tool for spreading important messages,” says Uhoda.

To bring the Smurf Experience to life, L’Usine à Bulles called on seasoned professionals, starting with set designer Marcos Viñals Bassols from Barcelona. He studied interior architecture at the Institut St Luc, followed by set design at La Cambre. He has worked extensively with Belgian directors and producers. He was responsible for, amongst others, the set design for the Battle of Waterloo Memorial. “I was raised on comics, Peyo’s work in particular. Nowadays, children grow up to cartoon Smurfs on the TV, in cinemas or on YouTube,” explains the designer. “The main challenge to overcome in the Smurf Experience set was how to translate the expectations of the different target audiences (children and ‘big kids’) into something coherent.” Meanwhile, L’Usine à Bulles chose Mario Iacampo as executive producer of the project. He is the managing director of Exhibition Hub, an international exhibition creation, production and distribution company. They have worked on projects such as Van Gogh-The Immersive Experience and The Art of the Brick, which showcased Lego sculptures of American comic-book superheroes.

IMMERSION 2.0 IN SMURF WORLD

From 9 June, the Smurfs are in Hall 4 of the Brussels Expo for six months. They are inviting you to join them in an incredibly immersive world for an unusual adventure that is fun and educational in equal measure. Visitors will feel like they’ve been shrunk to Smurf-size (thanks to out-sized interiors and characters) as they explore the enchanted world full of discovery and danger. In nine unique spaces covering a total of 1,500 m2, visitors can get a taste of the Smurf lifestyle, speak their language and fight their longstanding enemy Gargamel.

What is the Smurfs Experience? By diving into a giant comic strip, visitors will go deep into a magic forest to reach the Smurf village. They will taste a magic elixir in Papa Smurf’s house that will turn them into Smurfs themselves. Far away, Gargamel is working on a terrible machine that will destroy the village’s climate, our climate. Visitors will have to brave the enchanted forest, avoiding terrible traps that lead to the infamous Gargamel’s lair. They will need all the Smurfs’ help if they are to capture the evil wizard and destroy his awful invention. The adventure has a happy ending and visitors are invited to the village party where they can learn the Smurf dance!

PERFORMING ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY

By using the latest technical innovations, this immersive Smurf experience has a realistic interactive dimension. Animated hologram Smurfs are incorporated in the spaces. A computer graphic Gargamel, trapped in a cage, interacts with the audience thanks to live motion capture. There are giant projections on tarpaulins thanks to video mapping and technology developed by Faceshift means visitors can look into a virtual mirror and see a Smurf version of themselves reflected back! There will also be several amazing virtual reality experiences for them to try out. “This technology was specially adapted for the Smurf Experience through the creation of unique content. One of the big moments in the Experience is a virtual reality section where visitors escape Gargamel and fly back to the village on a stork. It’s a gripping, realistic flight!” says producer Mario Iacampo. Dirty Monitor is the company which developed the different apps used in the Smurf Experience.

“We wanted to present the Smurfs as modern characters that have moved with the times, not as old trolls with white beards, no offence Papa Smurf. Since their inception, Peyo’s blue gnomes have always had this amazing capacity for reinvention and relevance. We have ensured that all the technology can be used by all our visitors, young or old,” adds Chloé Beaufays, the Smurf Experience spokesperson.

The performing arts are present throughout this ambitious show. Throughout the visit there are different activities involving characters in costume. Two of them are at the entrance in a comic strip frame to talk to visitors. Others work Grumpy Smurf, Lazy Smurf and Jokey Smurf puppets from a 120cm stand. “These actors share spontaneous interactive moments with the audience. They can adapt each performance to their reactions,” says Mario Iacampo.

DEFENDERS OF UNIVERSAL VALUES

Part of the show’s appeal is the values the Smurfs espouse: honesty, courage, tolerance, solidarity and generosity. They have healthy lifestyles and care about protecting the environment. “These universal values transcend age, gender and culture, and it’s in this spirit that the Smurf Experience was created. The Smurfs’ values encourage you to reflect on the modern world,” explains Véronique Culliford, the CEO of IMPS.

In 2016, the Smurfs were chosen as ambassadors for 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) set out by the United Nations. 195 countries adopted these goals in 2015. The SDG correspond to three main objectives to be fulfilled between now and 2030: end poverty; protect the planet and guarantee prosperity for everyone. They have been chosen as the themes in the educational content incorporated in the Smurf Experience. Seventeen objects scattered throughout the visit embody the SDG and are accompanied by information sheets and projections. For example, there is a washing line for gender equality, a safe to reference the eradication of poverty and a rolling pin is a symbol of reducing economic inequality. There are also teaching materials for school groups which have been produced with the different education systems in the north and south of Belgium in mind. These materials are available in the three national languages.

“The SDG are a fabulous resource for making young children think about sustainable development,” says Marcos Viñals Bassols. “What’s more, as the Smurf Experience is expected to go on tour around the world, particularly in countries where children don’t necessarily know about the pressure our planet is under, this educational message takes on even more importance.”

A SHOW PARTLY FUNDED BY TAX SHELTER

With a 5 million euro budget, the Smurf Experience is an ambitious immersive show. A fifth of the budget came from Tax Shelter, which expanded to performance arts in 2017. Combining performance with innovative sound, image and set technology, the Smurf Experience corresponds perfectly to the newly expanded Tax Shelter framework. By using this funding source L’Usine à Bulles has collaborated with the DC&J Création cooperative, Tax Shelter specialists Inver, the Theatre de Liège and Theatre Jean Vilar.

The Smurf Experience also relies on the support of several private and public partners. Its main sponsor is Daoust, a Belgian human resources company that was named Business of the Year 2016 (Ernst & Young, L’Écho) and Best Career Transition Company at the HR Excellence Awards 2017. Daoust will be sporting Smurf colours throughout 2018. “The Smurfs are an important source of our national pride. Our collaboration with the Smurfs highlights the Belgian roots our family business holds dear. Beyond this Belgian spirit, this collaboration was a no-brainer as Daoust and the Smurfs share common values such as respect, friendliness and being family-oriented. These values are really at the heart of our famous “Welcome to the Family!” motto explains Giles Daoust, company CEO and recently named Young Top Manager in The Entrepreneur Awards.

Also read: Comic festival unveils great new features this year

BNP Paribas Fortis, as well as other public institutions (the National Lottery, Brussels Region and some of its organisations such as Visit Brussels, the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the German-Speaking Community) are also lending their support to the Smurf Experience.

AN INTERNATIONAL CALLING

In 2019, the Smurf Experience will set out on a five-year world tour. The sets, the storyline and the technology incorporated in the show were planned so that they can be adapted to a range of audiences around the world. Several interested parties from Europe, the Middle East and Asia have been in touch, before the Experience had even been launched. Peyo’s little blue gnomes have succeeded in the fantastic feat of becoming ambassadors for Belgian heritage around the world.

ONCE UPON A TIME…

It all began on 23 October 1958 in the pages of the Belgian magazine Spirou. Johan and Peewit were the heroes of a comic set in the Middle Ages. A little voice appeared on the 36th page of their ninth story saying, “Can’t you look where you put your Smurfs? You nearly smurfed me!” Then a little blue-skinned gnome popped up from behind a stone. It led Johan and Peewit to the village. The Smurfs had made their début in Peyo’s world. Nobody could have imagined that this modest beginning would mark the start of a global phenomenon. As minor characters in “The Flute with Six Holes”, they could have disappeared after “the end”, but the audience’s enthusiasm made that impossible. From then on, Peyo took them on their own adventures, firstly in short stories in a smaller format, then in a series of full size albums the success of which grew and grew.

Thirty-six albums later, with more than 50 million albums sold around the world, the Smurfs have become international icons of Belgian comics. But these mischievous little blue creatures soon leapt off the pages and onto our cinema and TV screens, and digital platforms. ‘The Smurfs and the Lost Village’ came out in 2017. It was the third feature-length animated film starring Peyo’s mini heroes and the first full-length CGI (computer generated imagery) animation. A new 3D animated series is planned for 2020. The Smurfs also have their own official YouTube channel available in 41 languages. They star in musicals and are special guests at theme parks in Antwerp, Dubai, Malaysia and Moscow (in 2019), and soon they will be heading to China too.

PEYO: A MODEST, SELF-TAUGHT MAN

Pierre Culliford (known as Peyo) was born in Brussels on the 25 June 1928. He had to work from the age of 15, starting out as a cinema projectionist, then moving on to working in a cartoon studio. The studio closed and Peyo decided to move on to comics. He published comic strips in a wide variety of daily papers, but it was difficult at first.

He did not become successful until he joined Spirou magazine. With fellow artists Franquin, Morris and Roba, their work formed a milestone in humorous European comics. After the Smurfs appeared, Peyo continued working on the adventures of Johan and Peewit, as well as Poussy the cat, and he created Benoît Brisefer, a boy with super-powers (known variously as Tammy Tuff, Benny Breakiron and Steven Strong in English). However, the global success of the Smurfs meant they ended up taking up all his energy. He devoted himself to them and their destiny (in all its forms) until his death in 1992. There are qualities that were embodied in Peyo’s art and were key to the success and timelessness of his work: clear storytelling, a poetic sense of humour, an effective style and constant creativity, not forgetting key values which transcend generations such as tolerance, belief in the future and respecting others.

Studio Peyo was founded in 1964 and trained several big names in Belgian comics, such as Derib, Gos and Walthéry. Six illustrators (three of whom were trained by the father of the Smurfs) still carry on Peyo’s work today. One of them is Thierry Culliford, Peyo’s son, who cowrites new stories with Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. The 36th album, ‘The Smurfs and the Dragon of the Lake’, came out in March 2018.

Some statistics about the power of the Smurf brand

• 700 active licences

• 100 million Schleich figurines sold

• 1 billion dollars of annual revenue generated by selling retail products

• Over 75 million video game downloads

• 1 Smurf Haribo eaten every minute around the world

60 YEARS OLD AND STILL GOING STRONG

The opening of the Smurf Experience on 9 June was one of the key moments in the “Official Year of Smurfs”, which is packed full of events.

• Since 24 March, one Brussels Airlines Airbus A320 has been flying with a Smurf makeover.

• In April, the studio that creates the Smurf comics created a special drawing for the 60th anniversary of the Atomium. It is on display in front of the kid’s sphere.

• On 24 May, the Expo Peyo, an exhibition telling the life story of the great comic artist, opened in the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris (opposite the Pompidou Centre). The exhibition is on until 28 October 2018

• On the 19 June, a Smurf mural will be officially unveiled close to Brussels Central Station (next to the Hilton Brussels Grand-Place). A second fresco will be inaugurated in Rochefort.

• On the 31 August, the Smurfs will once again serve as mascots at the Memorial Van Damme athletics event.

• In September they will be guests of honour at the 9th Brussels Comic Strip Festival.

• In October, the Smurfs’ birthday month, (their actual birthday is 23 October), a heritage book about Peyo’s work will be released.

Also read: A lot for comic lovers in Brussels this year

Have you ever been hooked by cartoon strips like Smurfs?  How far you can travel to be part of this experience? Please share your experience in the comments section below!

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Comics Festival unveils great new features this year


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Comic Book Festival
BOZAR © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier

There are not many comics festivals in the world like the now famous Brussels Comics Festival in the European capital. To mark its 9th year, from 14–16 September 2018, the Brussels Comics Festival contains its own batch of novelties. This year the brave Alix is celebrating 70 years of existence and will be honoured right through this weekend dedicated to the 9the art. Since its inauguration in 2010 by visit.brussels, the Comics Festival has come a long way. Launched after a year dedicated to Brussels about the 9th art, each year the Comics Festival welcomes nearly 100,000 visitors and more than 250 comics artists.

Comic Book Festival
Parc de Bruxelles – Warandepark © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier

This year, the Comics Festival will once again be taking up its place in Brussels park where the traditional tents will be pitched over 14, 15 and 16 September coming. Aside from the regular giant balloon parade or the rally of cars drawn from the huts of the greatest comics, the Comics Festival offers lovers of the genre talks, screenings, signings and other activities suitable for all.

Comic Book Festival
Parc de Bruxelles – Warandepark © Visit Brussels – Jean-Paul Remy

For its 9the year, this unmissable event for comics fans has its own batch of new features:

• The courageous Alix will be honoured throughout the festival. From the exhibition poster to the Balloon’s Day Parade, the Gallic hero will be present everywhere.

• There will be two exclusives exhibitions:

o “Alix–The art of Jacques Martin”:This is the show-piece exhibition of this year’s festival. In collaboration with the publisher Casterman and the Royal Museum of Arts and History (Parc du Cinquantenaire), it will be produced by all parts for the Comics Festival. This will bring together around 150 original drawings arranged by topic (historical references, treatment of women and homosexuality, treatment of the imagination, etc.) situated among the permanent museum collections in the Parc du Cinquantenaire and will be on display for 4 months.

Also read: A lot for comic lovers in Brussels this year

o “Live in Fran Disco”–Thierry Van Hasselt/FMK(Wallonia-BrusselsFederation): This exhibition honours the winner of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Prize for Comics (Prix Atomium 2017), Thierry Van Hasselt/Fremok for his work “Live in FranDisco”.

Comic Book Festival
BOZAR © Visit Brussels – Jean-Paul Remy

• A Smurf balloon will be appearing in the Balloon’s Day Parade.

• An exceptional comics improv contest: “Spirou vs Fluide Glacia: the clash!”In recent months, a curious tension has been noted in the relations between SPIROU and FLUIDE GLACIAL, two monuments of the comics newspaper press. No holds barred, it seems. As a sharp observer of this battle, Thierry Tinlot, former head editor of the two newspapers, has put himself forward as a referee and proposed an improv match during the comics festival! The only weapon of choice: humour! Players and artists will be defending the honour of their respective magazine. We’re talking here about Berco and Munuera siding with Spirou, and Mo/CDM and Ju/CDM with Fluide… Provided, however, this means the two publications don’t mutually destroy one another. This super-original face-off is taking place at BOZAR. In collaboration with the Belgian Professional Improvisation League.

• Lastly, there was one publisher missing from the Comics Festival. A very important publisher from the north of the country: The Comics Festival is proud to welcome Standaard Uitgeverij this year.

Comic Book Festival
BOZAR © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier

Second edition of the Atomium Comic Strip Prizes

Comic strips are an art that has fallen from favour in recent years. It has often proved difficult for professional comic strip artists to make a living from their work. visit.brussels, in close collaboration with the Brussels-Capital regional government, highlights the city’s support for creativity and brings together existing initiatives in awarding mainly cash prizes that will help the winners to finance their work.

Comic Book Festival
Parc de Bruxelles – Warandepark © Visit Brussels – Jean-Paul Remy

In 2017, as part of its 8th edition, the Comics Festival presented the Atomium Comic Strip Prize for the first time. Some 7 prizes, worth a total of 100,000 euros, were presented in September 2017 in BOZAR. Building on this success, the Comics Festival is reliving the experience in 2018, while expanding the concept even further: no less than 9 prizes will be given out for a total amount of 115,000 euros. The sponsor of the second awards ceremony will be French screenwriter Fabien Vehlmann, author of the series “Seuls” and “Spirou and Fantasio”.

Comic Book Festival
Parc de Bruxelles – Warandepark © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier

So if you love comics, then Brussels is place to be for you this September.

Have you ever been at Brussels Comics Festival? Share your experience with your favourite comic characters.

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Riding this Eel is indeed electrifying

SeaWorld San Diego threw open Electric Eel —  San Diego’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with astounding loops, twists and airtimeon May 10, 2018. Featuring multiple-launch experiences, Electric Eel propels riders forward and backward as they speed through the ride’s station house accelerating to more than 60 miles per hour in seconds. Riders then rocket skyward nearly 150 feet where they will brave an inverted “heartline” roll and a twisting loop for an exciting feeling of airtime as riders crest the top before breathlessly returning to the station.

“Electric Eel will bring a whole new level of excitement to SeaWorld,” said SeaWorld San Diego’s Park President Marilyn Hannes. “This new, first-of-its-kind coaster at SeaWorld will give riders the rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to move like an eel as they twist and flip along nearly 900 feet of undulating track.”

Complementing the Electric Eel roller coaster is a hypnotic live eel habitat featuring a collection of moray eels. The eel habitat, located at the eastern edge of the Ocean Explorer realm and already part of the guest experience at SeaWorld, features large viewing windows where visitors can plunge into the world of the eel as they swim and dart through the caves and crevasses of their naturalistic deep-ocean environment.

The Electric Eel attraction area will also feature an interactive educational experience called  Mission: Deep Discovery, which will allow a team of one to four players to embark on a virtual deep sea adventure aboard a manned-vehicle while they encounter the marvels of the deep ocean.

“We always strive to provide new reasons to visit SeaWorld and give our guests experiences that matter with a blend of exciting rides and incredible animal and educational experiences,” said Hannes. “We want our guests from around the world to not only have a great time, but be inspired to care about the ocean and the animals that live there.”

Electric Eel joins Manta and Journey to Atlantis as the third coaster-type ride experience at SeaWorld San Diego. It is located on an approximately 2-acre site on the eastern side of the park between Ocean Explorer and Journey to Atlantis. The new coaster is an expansion of the park’s Ocean Explorer realm, which opened in summer of 2017 as part of the park’s largest new attraction premiere in its history, also including the inspiring documentary-style Orca Encounter; and the summer nighttime extravaganza Electric Ocean, a nighttime transformation of the park into a sea of glowing color and energy, inspired by the phenomenon of ocean bioluminescence. Electric Ocean is set to ignite at SeaWorld on June 16 and light up the park on select dates through Sept. 2, 2018.

SeaWorld is open 365 days a year and is located on SeaWorld Drive off of I-5. Park admission is $89.99 for ages 10 and older; $84.99 for ages 3–9.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Have a look at a video of this Electrifying Eel on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Have you ever had such an amazing roller coaster ride? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

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India Summer Days return to Karlsruhe and lot more in SouthWest Germany


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On the weekend of 14th to 15th July 2018, the INDIA SUMMER DAYS return to Karlsruhe under the heading ‘Baden-Württemberg meets Maharashtra’: a small piece of India right in the centre of Karlsruhe, with all its sumptuous colours, music and dance. India fans can indulge in live music, an Indian bazaar, culinary delicacies and numerous other cultural highlights, as well as Ayurveda and yoga workshops.  Last year India Summer Days were held for the first time alongside the “Pre-Festival” in the middle of the Günther-Klotz-Anlage.

SouthWest Germany, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, is right in the heart of Europe and is bordered by France, Switzerland and Austria. Easy to get to, easy to get around, easy to have fun: that’s SouthWest Germany, a real four-season destination! With history and high-tech, romantic palaces and vibrant cities, natural beauty, glamour and fun, SouthWest Germany guarantees something for everyone. 

Also Read: Germany Unplugged – Holidaying in the SouthWest

Due to its varied historic and cultural heritage, South West Germany is abound in cultural monuments. Six of 42 UNESCO World heritage sites in Germany are located between the lake of Constance and the northern part of South West Germany. Ice Age Art in South West Germany, Historic Stone Age lake-dwellings on Lake Constance, the Frontiers of the Roman Empire , the Maulbronn Monastery and the Monastic Island of Reichenau. Worth mentioning as well, are the apartment buildings of the French architectLe Corbusier in Stuttgart, „the Weissenhof Estate“. Le Corbusier designed as well the master plan of the Indian City Candigarh in 1952 which was declared by UNESCO as World heritage in July 2016.

Wherever you go in Southwest Germany you are never far from a grand palace, a romantic castle, half-timbered houses – and something good to eat and drink. Stop in a café for coffee and cake; linger in a beer garden over a locally-brewed pint; taste wines at a traditional wine festival; sample schnapps and world-class gin in the Black Forest. Order traditional dishes in a Weinstube (tavern) and gourmet meals in Germany’s most Michelin-star studded region. In 2018 there are many foodie reasons to come to Southwest Germany, or Baden-Württemberg, as we call it.

Europa Park

In the heart of the border triangle, between the Black Forest and Vosges, lies the best theme park worldwide- Europa-Park. Whether Ireland, France or Spain ‒ 15 European themed areas with exemplary architecture, gastronomy, and vegetation are waiting to be discovered by visitors from around the world, embarking on a journey of discovery through Europe with over 100 attractions and shows and the promise of lots of fun and adventure for the whole family. The park’s own 4* hotels provide everything visitors need for a perfect family holiday or romantic wellness weekend with an authentic atmosphere and ambience unique to each themed hotel.

Shop till you drop! Read: Munich is a ultra-chic shopping destination

At India Summer Days, visitors will experience the great diversity of Indian culture and tradition in an authentic way. The focus will be on Maharashtra, Baden-Württemberg’s partner region in the heart of India, which has been linked to Karlsruhe for years. Last year Balaji També and a team of Ayurveda doctors, yoga teachers and cooks traveled from Atmasantulana Village, India, to the summer festival in Karlsruhe and offered many informative workshops on Ayurveda, Ayurvedic products, pulse diagnosis, Ayurvedic nutrition, healing music, meditation and yoga. Numerous other artists and musicians as well as yoga and Ayurveda experts will be arriving in Karlsruhe directly from India. This region has got special relations with Maharashtra. Stuttgart meets Mumbai wine festival also celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014. The long and enduring town-twining between Mumbai and Stuttgart which dates back to 1968.

India Summer Days, Credit: jowapress.de

Susanne Schlung, Marketing Director of the State Tourist Board said after her recent visits to Mumbai and Delhi that  she could see a lot of interest in traveling to Europe and especially the interests of travellers who travel the second or third or….time to explore a region of Germany – such as SouthWest Germany. She was really surprised that a lot of the people she met during our stay, know of Cuckoo-clocks, the Black Forest with its delicious Black Forest cake and Baden-Baden with its Spas and Casino.

Sharing culture! Read: A culture feast at Upper Rhine Valley

Susanne said, “Due to the demand for smaller family groups, apartments and smaller busses for more people are more relevant. Small groups and individual travellers also like to try our lovely traditional food and beverages (beer and wine) as well as our high level cuisine in lots of Michelin starred-restaurants. But on the third or fourth day of their journey they need to have Indian food again. No problem; south west Germany has a lot of Indian restaurants to offer! Indians also like Shopping! So, in south west Germany they have lots of possibilities to go shopping – from traditional souvenirs , e.g. the Cuckoo-Clock at the Tiitisee-Shops up to designer wear in the Outlet City in Metzingen which is a 30 minute drive to Stuttgart or Wertheim Village in the north of SWG. Outlet City Metzingen offers at about 80 different luxury designer brands (such as Hugo Boss, Prada, Nike, Michel Kors, Armani, Burberry, Gucci & Jimmy Choo).”

Europa Park

German cars, especially Mercedes Benz and Porsche are well-known and loved in India. There are two museums in the capital city of SWG, Stuttgart, were one can see a lot of cars and learn something about the history of the cars. Traveling by train, which is very fast and convenient in Germany is also very popular with travellers.

Have you visited SouthWest Germany or Europa Park? How was the fun? Please share with us all!

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The Jewel of Arabia gets a stylish new gateway

The first phase of Oman’s brand new Muscat International Airport is currently operational and has increased passenger capacity to 20 million- up from the previous 12 million passengers recorded in 2017. The state-of- the-art airport has been designed to be the shining symbol of the Sultanate of Oman. The new airport is designed as ICAO category 4F airports which will be able to accommodate the world`s largest aircraft, Airbus A380 and the runway will enable independent parallel operations. The passenger terminals built with the latest technology are aligned with IATA Service Level A standards. The total gross area for the new Muscat International terminal building is 580,000 m2 with an overall airport land area of 21 km2. 

Salim Al-Mamari, Ministry of Tourism, Oman said “The government of Oman is focusing on Travel and Tourism as a part of its economic diversification strategy. The newly opened Muscat International Airport, brand new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, revised visa rules along with other infrastructure developments seen in the recent times determine some of the efforts to increase tourism in Oman. India is one of the key markets for Oman and we are certain that this proactive initiative by the Ministry will drive a lot of visitors from India. Since 2014, Oman has witnessed over 23% growth in Indian arrivals. In 2016, Oman received 297,628 Indian arrivals as compared to 256,210 arrivals in 2014 that is over 16% growth within 2 years. In 2017, Oman received 321,161 Indian arrivals which is remarkably higher, showcasing growth of over 7.90 % in just one year.”

Oman’s new international airport has already welcomed over one million passengers, as it celebrated its first month of operations. The airport will undergo further upgrades in three consecutive phases which aims to boost the number to 24, 36 and 48 million passengers per annum. Presently, the Muscat International Airport is ranked among the top 10 airports in Middle East and has recently won the 2018 World Travel Awards as Middle East’s Leading New Tourism Development Project 2018.

For convenient travel, the new terminal’s departure hall allows guests to avail of three entrance gates that seamlessly flow to the 96 flight check-in facilities that are well located. First & Business class passengers flying with Oman Air will be assisted separately at 12 check-in counters and 3 supervisor counters, all of which personifies Oman’s magnificent hospitality. With an array of shopping and dining outlets, guests transiting through the new terminal will experience unrivaled service. The extravagant duty free is every shopper’s paradise with world-renowned brands and close to 100 outlets ranging from perfumes to jewellery, fashion and travel accessories along with a dedicated store for traditional handicrafts. Arrive re-energized at your destination with a comfortable stay at the 4-star hotel within the airport complex which houses 90 rooms, delectable food lounges and swimming pools.

Quick facts:

  • Muscat Passenger Terminal Building total area – 580,000 m2
  • Other Airport Buildings total area – more than 30,000 m2
  • ATC tower height – 97 meters
  • 96 check-in counters
  • 29 passenger boarding bridges
  • 30 aircraft remote stands
  • 5,500 bags per hour baggage processing capacity
  • Two parallel runways, capable to serve world`s largest aircraft A380
  • Airside hotel (90 rooms capacity for 12 MPPA)

So be there and experience the Jewel of Arabia in a new magnificent way. Till then, enjoy this beautiful video.

David moves on from Nahm and leaves a legacy of Thai food behind

After 18 successful years, multi-award winning chef David Thompson has concluded his involvement with Nahm, the restaurant he created with Como Hotels. Renowned worldwide for his dedication and commitment to Thai food culture, David took the decision to leave Nahm last year in order to continue his work exploring and protecting the history and legacy of Thai food and flavours and to pursue new opportunities through Aylmer Aaharn, the Thai food group he co-founded in 2014. Final Dinner Service under Chef David Thompson will be on Monday 30th April 2018. 

Photo Credit: mycitylife.com.au

Chef David Thompson, who was presented a lifetime achievement award in 2016 for his dedication to Thai food culture at Asia’s 50 Best, has left Nahm at a point of excellence. The restaurant has remained on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list for 7 consecutive years and was recently awarded a Michelin star in Bangkok’s inaugural year of the guide. 

Photo Credit : nytimes.com

David Thompson visited Thailand for the first time in his twenties and immediately got enchanted by the country, the culture and some of the cuisine. He hardly knew that in next three decades he would be one of the fines Thai chefs of his generation. That fated journey in mid 80s resulted in the beginning of his love affair with Thailand, its food culture and gastronomic history.  Initially he achieved success back home in Sydney in the 90’s, opening two popular critically acclaimed restaurants: Darley St Thai and Sailors Thai.  His research and connection with Thailand continued, as did his love for the language and people, allowing him to tap into ancient recipes and deeper layers of Thai food culture. In 2001 this research cumulated in Nahm, which opened in London and within 6 months it had achieved a Michelin star (the first Thai restaurant to do so).  In 2010 David took a decision to live in Thailand full time and opened Nahm in Bangkok. David Thompson also opened Long Chim in Singapore at the city’s Marina Bay Sands shopping mall in 2015 and in just third week of opening he was cooking for more than 50 of Asia’s finest chefs and restaurateurs.It was indeed a feat of sort for any cook. 

Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

David Thompson writes: “Nahm grew into an extraordinary restaurant with its success acknowledged in so many ways. I believe that this has been due to the hard work and talent of all those involved, but most particularly the staff. For me, the most rewarding aspect is that Nahm has been a happy restaurant. Even as Nahm’s reputation grew, refined its service and succeeded as a business, the restaurant always retained its sense of sanuk; the pleasure in looking after customers. The application of culinary integrity in the kitchen was never to the cost of the joy in doing what we all loved. This is what I will always remember. It is a rare restaurant that can achieve all of this”. 

Nahm restaurant in Bangkok. Photo courtesy: cwfoodtravel.blogspot.in

Nahm opened at COMO’s Halkin Hotel in London to immediate critical success and was awarded a Michelin star within six months. David received the ‘London Chef of the Year’ award at the Carlton Evening Standard Food Awards in 2003. Throughout this time David worked on his highly regarded cookbook, Thai Food, which provides a comprehensive overview of Thai cuisine, features over 300 recipes, and has won an extensive array of celebrated book awards. David opened the current Nahm restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok in 2011, again with the COMO Group. Aylmer Aaharn, the Thai food group headed by David Thompson, currently manages operations across six countries including Thailand and Australia.

Have you ever been to Nahm and tasted some of Chef David Thompson’s preparation? Share your experience in the comment section below.

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Creating young artists at Bali Art Centre

View from outside

Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.

A scene from Mahabharata at Bali Art centre

A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!

Even the bridges inside campus have artistic designs

In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.

Here is a photo journey of this excellent centre:

Kids striking poses in their training schedule-

rigorous training is quite hot!
Notice the name of the arena! An Indian feeling! Where gems are being polished!!

Amazing beauty! Read: Sea on Fire: Sunset at Bali Beach

Bali art centre campus is big and beautiful
Young student practicing theatre
While some learn sketch and painting….
….and many others learn traditional musical instruments

Art centre for wedding shoots? Read: From the Bali album- Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

Students are also assessed for there progress, when they perform on stage whatever they have learned
Time for some rehearsal before the show
Confident looking trainees for their evaluation

Bali has lot more to do. Read: White water rafting in Bali

Multi purpose open theatre with traditional architecture
Everything designed tastefully

When there are so many students around, then they ought to be hungry.  So there are plenty of options for them, like these ones-

A lady selling street food
Parents need to kill time as well, while kids are busy in training
A lot of options to eat
Young trainees having some refreshment in the interim

Moving in to Bali! Read: Bali from the sky- few captures

Besides imparting training, Bali art centre also preserves many artefacts and paintings.

This video is from such a class inside the centre, where young ones are learning the art of playing the traditional musical instruments.

Another video of kids taking training in Balinese dance. Such is the dedication that while watching this performance, you will feel as if you are viewing a stage performance, not a training class.

Have you been to Taman Budaya or any such art centre anywhere else? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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Riding on the sea: Amazing Bali Mandara sea link


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It is not yet five years old, as it was opened only in September 2013, but it certainly leaves tourists coming to Bali in an awe. Almost 13 km in length stretching across the Gulf of Benoa, the Bali Mandara sea link is often referred to as pride of Indonesia. This beautiful sea link runs over sea and some part of it through protected mangrove forests, making it a beautiful experience to drive. It gives wonderful views from the road and the sea as well! It is claimed to be one of the “most beautiful” road stretches in Indonesia. The name Mandara is an acronym for Indonesian words — maju (move forward), aman (safe), damai (peaceful) and sejahtera (prosperous).

Toll gates with Balinese architecture style
Toll gates with Balinese architecture style

Bali Mandara Toll Road or Nusa Dua-Ngurah Rai-Benoa Toll Road is a toll road carried by a bridge 12.7 km in length. This highway connects the city of Denpasar and South Kuta, Badung Regency, Nusa Dua and Ngurah Rai International Airport, thus providing additional link to northern and southern parts of Bali. The reason behind construction of Bali Mandara Toll Road would have been to prevent traffic jams on the Ngurah Rai By Pass Road, but slowly it has also become an attraction of sort. This toll road was officially opened on 23 September 2013 by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Whole project took just 14 months to be completed. It was an amazing feat, considering that there was no sort of foreign help involved at any stage.

Aerial view of the sea link
Aerial view of the sea link
Aerial view of the sea link

Numerous academics, scholars and environmentalists had voiced serious concerns over the construction of the sea link, which could have deviated from its approved environmental impact analysis and perhaps dangerously affect both the mangroves and surrounding marine habitat. Local fishermen and nearby fishing villages also no longer have access to their previous fishing grounds. Indonesian authorities however claim that this infrastructure masterpiece was built with environmentally friendly and advanced technology. Undoubtedly, the views from the toll road are breathtaking. Even the local norms and traditions were respected during the construction. You can see the water below the road and green mangrove forests all over the place. To minimise the impact of construction almost 16,000 pieces of mangrove trees were planted after the construction of link was completed.

Mangroves around the road
Mangroves around the road
Approaching the beautiful mainland

Want to know about India’s oldest sea link? Read: Pamban bridge enters hundredth year!

smooth traffic on the toll road
Bikers in the two-wheeler lane

The road runs over the sea and was built using 33,835 concrete columns, some of them through an area of previously pristine mangrove forest. The road has a separate lane for motorcycles on both the sides, thus providing separate drive ways for two wheelers and four wheelers and making it more safe. The length of Bali Mandara Road is equal to Penang Bridge in Malaysia which too is 12.7 kilometres in length.

Massive structure on the sea
Many loops, flyovers on the link road
Already an attraction for the tourists

The road runs through a fragile environment and rough seas. Hence, there are many checks and controls involved. There are strict speed limits and all activities are thoroughly monitored. There is exhaustive system of CCTVs and also a wind monitor to keep measuring the wind sped. Anemometer are installed at every toll gate (Nusa Dua, Ngurah Rai, and Benoa). If the wind speed reach 40 kph or more than the movement on this road is controlled or stopped temporarily.

Travel with me to this Bali Mandara sea link through this video on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-

So next time you visit Bali, get a driving experience on this Bali Mandara toll road. It will certainly be worth.

Have you driven on this amazing Bali Mandara Road? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Embracing diversity with open hands, loving world my way!

Being born to a typical north Indian brahmin family is no mean task. There are many prejudices one gets to live with throughout their lives, there are so many strings attached and a long list of do’s and don’ts always hanging above your head. Many preconceived notions lay hidden under the skin and there is misconceived veil of purity always around. Everything making them misfit to be a world traveller.

We had been tourists since childhood owing to father’s railway job giving us privilege to travel and army postings of other relatives privilege to logistics. We were certainly not travellers. Sense of purity was always a hindrance to explore the world. There was indeed an ‘under the wraps’ attempt to ‘depurify’ us with an egg-curry by a then family friend but that didn’t help a lot. It turned out to be an pen and shut case. Things started changing only when I finally moved out of the house for my future endeavours.

Too good to be a food! Live food in Bali

But the first moment of truth arrived, when more than two decades ago, after completing a winter trek to Dalhousie and Kalatop, we decided to have a detour to Jammu and Patni Top. One evening after spending the day visiting temples of Jammu, we reached to a small restaurant for our meal. One of our friend wanted to have a chicken for food. Third friend was a brahmin and vegetarian too like me. He chose to sit on the other table, to not watch somebody licking a leg-piece. Somehow, I decided that I will not change the table and instead share the table with my chicken-loving friend. I not only shared the table, but also made no pretension to not notice him whatever he was doing. I enjoyed my dal-makhani but I also kept all eyes on his dish and actually enjoyed the way he was enjoying his food. That incident changed my perspective for good. It was a bold first step in direction of making me a traveller.

Too beautiful to be a food! Live food in Bali

I still had a long way to go. I was still a vegetarian and was still fighting some food prejudices. I can’t say, I have overcome them all, but I am sure I was on the right direction after that incident in Jammu. I remember that another day, too far at Sepang in Malaysia, where I was present as a sports correspondent to cover the inaugural season of A1 GP at the Sepang Formula 1 race circuit.

As an accredited journalist, I had the access to official food area. That was more than ten years back. After the Saturday free practice in the morning session, we were off to the lunch. And I had to admit that it was a huge shock for me, I had not been to any such place before. I had heard that Malaysia is a heaven for sea-food lovers, but I never expected to be at any place for lunch where all I could see around was crabs, prawns, and that too huge ones, hanging everywhere. Honestly, I was bit terrified at the onset, but than I worked upon my mind and instead of moving out to some other place for the lunch, I stayed there and managed my meal from whatever I could find for myself. I thought that incident to be as big as the Jammu one in my transformation towards a traveller.

Too cute to be a food! Live food in Bali

While I had adjusted to meat and chicken but fish was still a taboo because of its smell. That too was something for me to fight for. Time came for that too, when on a trip to Sri Lanka, we stayed for a night at Negombo. And our stay their also included a visit to the fish market in the early morning at the trading time. I still can’t believe I did that. But in an instinct I was inside the market deeper and longer than anybody else in our group clicking photographs while standing in the midst of piles of all types of fishes, prawns, oysters, crabs, and what not. And, to win a battle within, I didn’t even cover my nose. I kept talking to people in an attempt to know more about the market. But somewhere inside, I knew that I was doing it more for my own sake, to probably Say Yes to The World. And, I am glad, I did that.

Don’t you want to Say yes to the world? Why don’t you do it this way!

What was your moment of embracing this world? Please share with us all.

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Block the dates! Seventh edition of the Eat! BRUSSELS, Drink! BORDEAUX this September

On 6, 7, 8 and 9 September, lovers of good food and wine have a date with Eat BRUSSELS, Drink! BORDEAUX Once again, the festival will spotlight the big names in Brussels gastronomy and the wines of Bordeaux. The visitors can embark on a culinary voyage, tasting the signature dishes offered by the great chefs of Brussels. All amid the greenery of the Parc de Bruxelles.

For the seventh year of the Eat! BRUSSELS, Drink! BORDEAUX festival, the best chefs in Brussels are once again taking over the stoves in the pop-up kitchens set up in the Parc de Bruxelles. Each of them will offer a gourmet public his (or her) signature dish. A great opportunity to discover the talents of Belgian gastronomy in a pleasant, convivial setting. visit.brussels have been in partnership with Les Vins de Bordeaux for the last five years.

Over fifty wine growers and wine merchants will be present at the event to show off the full range of wines from Bordeaux – reds, whites, rosés and crémants – that will be the perfect partners for the dishes concocted by the chefs. The 6 families of Bordeaux wines are each represented in their own special pavilion. Bordeaux Red & Bordeaux Supérieur Red; Côtes de Bordeaux; Saint-Emilion Pomerol Fronsac; Médoc & Graves; Sweet Bordeaux; Rosés, Dry whites and Crémants de Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Wine School will offer workshops in which novices can be initiated into Bordeaux wines and the more experienced can enhance their knowledge.

New features in 2018:

– An updated offering: New chefs will be joining the event to fly the flag of their restaurants. Several signature dishes will also have a vegetarian version. Ten restaurants have already confirmed their attendance. Returning are Vincent, Garage à Manger, Brinz’l, Le Tournant, Augusta, Rouge Tomate, Racines and Stirwen. And two new participants have already confirmed: Crab Club and San Bol.

– New cheese and dessert bar

– The festival will have 4 new, original themes for the Masterclasses: Crus classés from Graves, grands crus classés from Saint-Émilion, grands vins from Médoc from the 2015 vintage, Sweet Bordeaux & Belgian cheeses.

– The eat! Awards: This year, the eat! Awards will make their appearance. They will reward the chefs who were most successful during the event.

Photo: VisitBrussels/ ©E.Danhier

Have you enjoyed any such gastronomical event? How was the fun? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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