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They have their way of messing with the river.I wouldn't have had ever thought that in any place of the world a river can be reversed,that it can be made to flown backwards.That it can be made green on St. Patricks Day.Merely 2 hours from Milwaukee,is the 3rd largest city in the US - Chicago.

Our friends Sandra and Slava taking us through the city of Chicago
Behind is 'Chicago River'

At first glance this city looks chaotic with the congested downtown traffic and yet holds a distinctive touristic interest in the heart of many.More than 35 million visitors visit Chicago every year and when you walk down the 'loop'(The Chicago downtown) the high skyscrapers look down at you.Coming from Milwaukee,the overenthusiastic crowd at the loop and the amazing tall buildings mostly of shiny reflective glass exterior was suddenly a change for me.

To know more about America,check my posts

At The Loop @ Chicago America

At The Loop

'The Loop' is also where all the major brand shops are.I got totally daunted by the infinite crowd at the loop.I could hardly shop on a Friday at the loop because all trial rooms had huge queues at most of the stores.

At The Loop

How Chicago Got Its Name?

Traffic Jam

Based on the shoreline of lake Michigan,this city is also called the 'Windy City'.Everything about Chicago is quirky including its name that comes from the Miami-Illinois word 'Shikaakwa' meaning 'Smelly Onion'. And that's because the Miami - Illinois people were known for naming landmarks based after plants that grew in that area.It is said that at that time these wild leeks(also called ramps that smell like garlicy onion) grew in abundance around Chicago river.When the french explorers came to that area,they frenchified the name and started calling it “Checagou" and hence came the present day name "Chicago".

How To Reach Chicago

Taking the Amtrak Train to Chicago

 We took an 1.5 hours Amtrak train from Milwaukee to Chicago.It costed us around $25 one way.The seats were basically chair car style and very convenient. If you want to travel in a much cheaper way,bus is a great option.We took the Greyhound bus next time when we went to Chicago($9,2 hours).Both Bus Station and Amtrak Station are near to the downtown.

Al Capone , Easy Eddy and O'Hare and The Story Behind O'Hare Airport

If you are a first timer to Chicago and coming by Flight from overseas(Chicago is a main hub for many destinations) you might have noticed the name of the airport as  O'Hare International Airport.The name O'Hare pays tribute to a fighter pilot and medal of honor recipient  Butch O'Hare who fought with a squadron of Japanese Aircrafts during world war II single handedly.

 Now Chicago once was home to a dreaded and famous gangster in 1920's named Al Capone who was into gambling,prostitution and organised crime.He never got into a trouble with the law because he had a great lawyer by his side named Easy Eddy(Edward Joseph O'Hare).Easy Eddy instead enjoyed benefits from him including a big mansion of the size of entire Chicago block.But Easy Eddy had a son who he loved very much and gave everything to.And in spite of his involvement with the bad,he wanted his son to know right from wrong.One day Easy Eddy decided to go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone.He testified in front of the mob and was brutally killed by guns.His son was O'Hare .O'hare during the World War II in spite of knowing that his fuel gaze was forgotten to be filled and and he had to exit from the mission midway was brave enough to fight on his way back when he saw the Japanese fleet.He blazed his guns till the ammunition got over,then he tried to clip a wing or a tail of those 5 enemy aircrafts and damaging as many planes as possible.Finally the Japanese gave up.

Let's take you to a quick photo essay with the touristic highlights first and then we go in a little more detail in my next post :

1)The Cloud Gate or The Bean

Cloud Gate or called as The Bean is a popular structure by Indian-born british Artist Anish Kapoor
The Cloud Gate was the result of a design competition.

The Sculpture surface reflects and distorts the city skyline

2)Millennium Park

Millennium park celebrates a millennium beginning with a transformation from an industrial wasteland to urban park.

The videos sculpture use light emitting diodes behind the bricks displayed on Crown Fountain fade to black every 15 minute.

Watch my video for 'Chicago in a minute' Musical:

3)Art Institute of Chicago

300,000 artifacts in the museum
Currently an event called 'The Gates of The Lord : The Tradition of Krishna' Paintings are running 
The admission ticket is for $25

Garden South of Art Institute

4)Chicago River

The Water tower of Chicago

The Chicago River: notice the current flowing backwards.The river was reversed
to prevent excessive Sewage with the help of canals.To know more

5)Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain:One of the largest fountain in the world

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Backpacking Venice:Italy

You can’t go wrong with patience in Venice,because that’s all you need - lots and lots of it.Everywhere I can see I can see water.Yes I have been to locations with splendid sea but not on locations that survives on vaporetto(water bus) 24 * 7 on the seemingly endless lagoon with islands.Getting used to the view that we seldom see everyday lost in the narrow alleyways(calli),squares(campi) and quarters(sestieri) of Venice,it is surprise reloaded and one of the most intriguing cities I have ever been to.This time  with no plans I had decided to let Venice be as casual as it can be for the three days I was there.

View of Venice from Bell Tower 

 Even when the sun used to come late and go early I came back content.In late October last year,it was mild cold and the sun would set by 4:30pm or max by 5:30pm.I wondered how the city was formed around water and how history shaped into such efficient water ways.Venice was also the first city I faced racism in Europe although the beauty of the place overpowered the negative aspects of it though not everyone faces it.We'll talk about it as we go further.

Previous Posts on Italy
Backpacking Rome:Hostel,Colloseum and Pizza
Backpacking Rome:Trevi Fountain and Piazza Del Popolo

 Rome To Venice:My Train Journey 

Venice is dream-like.

 As I told you when I backpacked Rome apart from a few essentials like stay and transfer tickets nothing was pre-decided - not even 'which places to go'.Stay and tickets because I could get great deals online prior.What I didn’t check prior was where I was going to stay(the reviews said the location is near and was but still) another island.That realization came when I boarded the train (Tickets Rs 1000) at Roma Termini to Ve.Mestre.You can buy your tickets at RailEurope.

I should’ve at least looked at the map which a family of four from Singapore in an adjacent seat on the train did it for me.They warned me that both Venice and Paris are going to be expensive.They warned me of pick pocketing. And they chatted with me the whole 5 hours which without them otherwise would have had been boring.

Strangers ain't always threatening.Sometimes they are who you need the most.

 I remember at one of the intermediate stations I was hungry and I had nothing to eat in my backpack.The stoppage was for a few minutes and I was little apprehensive of getting down from train and trying my luck at the station.However,the confidence the gentleman of the family gave me was unbeatable.He said his wife to go in.And we both ran towards the food box from where I inserted my coins in and sandwich came out and ran just in time before the train started running. The letters written on the box were Italian and we played a little 'what could be game inside' then and there.Sadly what we thought as plain old cheese sandwich(as the name resembled Cheese) was stale bacon sandwich with cheese.Enjoyed the experience but hard luck on food. Couldn’t chew a bit as the smell and taste both were bad even after the bacon removed.

Lesson Learnt:Carry light snack in your backpack or Know That In some countries Cheese Sandwich means Cheese Bacon Sandwich.

 There after,as we chatted,he opened his map and pointed his finger towards it 'You are in an island,look here - LIDO(spelt loud) - an island 12km long ’.And that's not the main island.There are 19 scheduled vaporetto lines that service locales within Venice and nearby islands : Murano and Lido.

Lesson Learnt:In Venice carry a map.Nowhere else I did.But in Venice walking or taking a veporetto becomes easier when you carry one.

Map Route of Venice

Their whole family was concerned on how will I manage alone and started helping me on how easy or difficult it's gonna be.They said they were staying at Mestre(last station) which had cheaper accommodation options but I would have to take a train to Santa Lucia.Another train? Well,I knew then and there Venice is going to be an adventure again.Not that I was stressed but I didn’t know if self-skipping the whole research part was a good thing but I chose to go with the flow.

Lesson Learnt:Even if you don't research,things most likely will go well.

 As they along with everyone else got down at Mestre,they bid me goodbye while I stood at the ticket counter to get my second class ticket on the station at Platform 1.I checked the departure times for Venezia S.L(Venezia Santa Lucia),got my ticket and validated my ticket on the platform.Do validate because if you don’t they can fine you when you board the train.The journey was for 10 minutes.

Lesson Learnt:Do Validate Your Ticket at the platform automated validation machine.There is no one standing to tell you so but they do sometimes check your tickets in the train.

Validate your ticket for Vaporetto and Buses too.

 The journey was beautiful.There weren’t many people on the train.The train took us through a lovely change from the land to the lagoon.When I got down at Santa Lucia,I got myself a 24 hour pass(1 day) on all modes of transport including water bus/vaporetto.The ACTV boat landings are about 50 meters from the station exit. I think I took the Line 1 from Gate E.It took about 1 hour of a ride.

Taxi = Water Bus :P at Santa Lucia,you will get day passes here and information on which water bus to take.

Right across the Station

For those willing to be nearest to the touristy landmarks,stay at St. Mark's(San Marco) although the prices are sky rocket high at St. Mark's as one of the tourist from India told me.Or like me or the family I met at train,Stay at Lido or Mestre or the islands.But remember you still would have to come to St.Mark's for the important land marks.That way you could be staying cheaper and better places of stay.

Me,in the vaporetto towards Lido

Sometimes in the Vaporetto the announcement on stations are not made.
Do keep looking at the chart in front with station numbers and get down at yours,especially at night.
Each Vaporetto has a chart with directions and sequence of station written in order.
Losing sense of direction in water for a newcomer is nothing new.
Most people in Venice know where to get down because that's their public conveyance irrespective of announcements.

The Lido Jetty Sunset

My hotel(Ca Del Moro) at Lido was great(2 nights 3 days costed me around 3391 Rs).It was quarters style and they had indoor tennis courts,sports center,an indoor cafe etc.When I reached Lido,I took a local bus to my hotel.The only glitch is since Lido is not as touristic,it gets deserted at mid night though not for a moment I felt unsafe just a very few souls walking by.The best part was that the buses and the vaporettos were timely.

The uncle at train had also told me Lido had a beach.I was excited but not sure if I could get time to see it all..

Visit Italia.It for Official Tourism Details

 Well with this lets begin our journey to St. Marks and Rialto :)

/* Thanks to Skyscanner and Blogadda that made me win 1 lakh in a contest and hence I could stay and travel a month in Europe */ 

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The Humble Amish And The Countryside of America

Horses Plough The Field

Imagine when togetherness of family relationships is defined by abandoning technology in a place like America.When we waved ‘hi’ to a farmer ploughing with his 4 horses in Hillsboro,he waved back a hi’.A moment later he was gone.May be he was confused on the attention he got - as it was his regular day but for us,ploughing with horses was new.I wondered how keeping horses was more cost-efficient than the cows but they live in an era that we as an outsider might never understand.I wish I could stop him and ask how things work.They abide by community rules that keep them humble and prevent boastfulness and are reluctant to adopt modern technology.They believe in simplicity.

 As we moved ahead,we saw traditional Amish buggies used as transport by families.Amish(Pennsylvania Dutch) Community in America is different - they have belief systems that unites family than separates them.They use no electricity.They believe that they would rather sit around a fireplace together than use a heater because a fireplace unites a family.They believe in using no cars and most often are seen in Bicycles or Buggies.They use gas bulbs than electric bulbs.Homemade brooms than regular brooms. They believe in the most basic form of living.Wikipedia says that Amish do not usually educate their children past 8th grade and believes that basic knowledge is what is needed to sustain ahead in life.

For all previous posts on America click here:US with Me
To know more about us,visit their official website:Discover America

We saw women holding onto the reigns of Buggy from inside.The carriage though was covered.
They use it as normal transport.

4 Horses one field.

And hence many a place in America have these Amish stores that sells stuff they themselves handmade or stone grind.That makes their stores full of varieties of pickles and jams you can get back.Many of those stores also sell vintage crafts work or handmade crafts you can get back. They have bakeries that sell fresh made cakes and deserts.They have fruits and vegetables locally grown.

Gas powered Lamps

Traditional Craftwork

Solar lamps

 The Amish Dress code represents vanity and vintage.Women wear long dresses accompanied with caps or bonnets.According to Amish,the women must have her hair covered.Men wear hats too.As I entered one of the store,I saw one of the Amish women dressed in a pretty long dress.As I had assumed prior, she was hesitant to get her pictures clicked which I happily agreed to.

An amish woman riding a cycle.

 Hillsboro happened when we(me and Crystal) did a short road trip from Cincinnati(Ohio) to Arc of Appalacia(Ohio) for the hikes.There are many places in US where Amish community resides.For example in Wisconsin,they have Amish Communities too.To know more:Click here

Zuccini bread and Pumpkin donuts anyone?

.Apart from the Amish Community that thrive on basics,the local farmer community sets up their own market along the way with their produce.A road trip is never complete without witnessing the countryside.The countryside of US is as diverse as ours.So when I saw the first truck with the hay,I was like that's nothing new.Pumpkins is hugely celebrated during the fall and we could see Pumpkins almost in every small shop that we stopped.The road trip took us to soybean fields that were golden and to farmers market that was random.

                              The one at the shop was merely 12,but had a heavy responsible voice.
                                     She told us,her field is further down from the shop.  
Pumpkins Everywhere

Different types of Pumpkins in US
Some used to decoration,some to eat

                                                    Crystal happy for the Soybean fields.

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Camkix Deluxe 5 In 1 Lens Kit Review

Every time I try to improve my hand at my DSLR,I often end up being an amateur.With the cameras in our phones getting better and with the desire to travel light every time,we often end up taking more pictures from our phones than our DSLR’s.I wouldn’t say what I write below is in any way a substitute to full blown DSLR lens,but nonetheless very useful to clip on with Digital Cameras,PC’s and SmartPhones(The lenses included in this set can be used with a wide range of cell phones and mobile devices including iPhone 6, 6+, 5, 5C, 5S, 4, 3; Samsung Galaxy S6, S5, S4, S3; iPad Air 2, Air, 4, 3, 2; and many more) and adds onto your photography.Let’s today review Camkix Deluxe 5 in 1 Camera Lens Kit.Watch my video for a more detailed review on how it works on phone and PC:

 The Lens Kit of Camkix keeps each of these small lenses in place.These lenses are so tiny that keeping them separate would mean losing them every time. The kit comes with a hook that can be attached to your belt or your camera bag belt.That means you don’t have to carry them separately,if you wish to.

 The Kit comes with 5 lenses namely - Telephoto,Macro,CPL,Fisheye and Wide Angle Lens.Compared to the full blown DSLR lenses,these are very affordable and easy to use.Each of them has its own purpose.

 Let’s begin with my favorite.My Favorite is Macro.

Macro Lens

Macro lens enables you to get super close to the object and pick up details.That also creates a blur surrounding the object not in focus and captures beautiful images.The above picture is of Orange Marigold(Genda) flower.

Fish Eye Lens

 A Fish Eye Lens captures rounded wide angle images.

Bee and surroundings captured with Telephoto

 Telephoto Lens captures images with 2x optical magnification ,so an object which is far would be near in your capture which is very useful in capturing a bit of a wildlife and other stuff.Since the zoom is 2x it will capture pictures a bit far but not extreme far.

 Wide Angle Lens helps capture wider scenes for example cityscapes,group shots and more.

Before CPL Lens

After CPL Lens

 A CPL Lens reduces glare and captures more vibrant colors.That comes handy when It's very sunny (rather shiny) and you want it to be a little toned down.

Advantages of Using Camkix Deluxe 5 in 1 Lens Kit are:

1)It helps to create different kind of pictures with your phone or your digital camera

2)You can view larger family members on Skype with wide lens.

3)Camkix lenses are sturdy,the built is well made unlike the last one(unbranded) which I bought which fell apart.

4)Very lightweight and easy to carry

Disadvantages of Using Camkix Deluxe 5 in 1 Lens Kit are: 

1)The Macro lens is not a replacement for a portrait( 50 mm) lens.You really need to get super close to the object to create the effect.

2)Telephoto Lens is ok when using the back camera as you are able to focus.But in front cameras,the pictures are not as clear when zoomed.

 For more examples and detail on travel product reviews and to request a product from our blog click here: ZippyTrippy

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Cincinnati:USA,Travel,Things To Do

The longest suspension Bridge in the world by Roebling in 1866

When we arrived at the Greyhound Station of ‘Biggest Small Town in US called Cincinnati from Milwaukee little did I know there’s more to the town that catches the checklist as suggested online.It happens for every small town - things we do not know often becomes things we should.The fact that the roadway named US 52 is a drive that takes to the farthest end of West Virgnia all the way to Texas makes me think how great the road trip would be if ever I do it from here.‘Take it easy’ is how the town can be described where in the evenings folks go fishing in the little Miami River.Your own car is very much needed in this town even though distances between two points ain’t that great but bus service is sparse and erratic.We will talk about US and its transport systems in the coming blogposts including Buses,Bus Services,Planes and Railways.Be assured some of the stories are gonna be hilarious but some worth keeping in mind.It isn’t as bad as many said it is.

Bengals In US?

 The ferocious Bengal Tiger that bewildered not only the land of Ganges but the Zoo of Cincinnati US kept in captivity in 1937 gave the entire team a name -the name of former and current professional football American team ‘Bengals’.It is the Royal Bengal Tiger that is the mascot and the outfit of the team represents orange and black stripes.There was a ‘Cincinnati Bengal franchise’ long before the present day ‘Bengals’.The former lasted for five seasons till the second world war.Post the war,they wanted to give the current squad the past connection to the previous one and hence the current team was named Bengal too.The name ‘Bengals’ however is not unusual in the US as many of the universities are inspired by the ferociousness of the tiger.

 The East side of the town and the west side of the town of Cincinnati are two different entities.The west side is the industrial township where the roads are built around the industries hence to many east siders,the driving in west side is crazy.And to many west siders,driving in east side is.Jokes apart,Cincinnati is famous for origin of many famous brands including Macy’s and Procter and Gamble,the area largely known for industries.

Union Terminal:Above the floods and Goodbyes of World War II Soldiers

Union Terminal was built above the Flood Level

 As every tourist does,we began our tour to the Union Terminal barely going inside,because by the time we reached the museums were closed but the stories still alive. Many many years back Cincinnati had 5 small railway stations,largely disorganized for the common man.When the Ohio river flooded,the city was partly submerged including all the 5 stations leading to the halt of the trains as well as the tracks.An idea was generated - which was to make a united station way up higher than the flood level.During the severe flood of 1937 when the water rose to 80 feet,the Union Terminal looked like an island in between the water.To rectify this,the tracks too were raised so that they never get flooded.

The 1937 floods and the then Union Terminal.
Image Source: wcpo

The Union Terminal had facilities such as Lounges and Bath tubs and Barbers for the waiting passengers. It was a vintage comfort that many did avail that time.

Paintings by German Artist that represent the evolution of work in US

The Union Terminal had facilities like the present day airports.

 German born artist Winold Reiss prepared paintings which were then turned into 23 glorious glass tile mosaic panels.Later after the World War II some of the mosaics where moved to Airport.Some of them still exist in the Union Station.The center of the Union Station is painted and the mosaics represent the transition of the present day Americans. The station became famous during the World War II when many soldiers would take the train and the greetings would follow.For some,that was the last goodbye they ever said to their families.After that,as the transport systems gradually moved to Airplanes,less and less folks frequented the Union Station.Today it has the present day Train Station running Amtrak trains in US and a museum worth visiting to.That’s what I heard.

OmniMax Theatre:As above so below

OmniMax Theatre - As above so below

 In fact,even if the museums were closed,we enjoyed the Omni Max Theatre inside the terminal.Omni Threatre is unlike any other theatre you may have seen.Imagine the five-story domed screen like a planeterium.And you are seating beneath in steps,making you watch as if you are living the sequence.We watched the movie on Whales and that made us feel we were inside in the ocean.Because as above and so below is what you feel.Many have claimed of nausea.If you are sitting in the middle,there are higher chances of the same.Back seaters can still enjoy without having to feel the world falling over them.And if you are in Terminal do not forget to taste the rosewood ice-cream.The decor of the room is desined with the ceramic tiles of the old age ceramic art pottery in the city and the ice creams are to die for especially the chocolate gelato which has chunks of huge big chocolates melting in your mouth.The fountain in front of the terminal is impressive too.

The fountain in front of Union Terminal

Janamashtmi:Celebration in Cincinnati

This is where salt is stored.

 So when,there was Janmashtmi(which celebrates Lord Krishna’s birthday) in India ,How can US be spared?It was surprising to see Indians in large in Cincinnati so many that the festival felt like we were celebrating in India. I have never seen 16 deities of different sections of India put together as statues under single roof of the temple which in the past wasn’t easy to set up.That means there was no God from North or God from South,in fact what was there was God from North and God from South and God from East and God from West together.The way all the festivals are celebrated as a community will enchant you.The huge gathering followed by Mantras and Prasad made us happy on how vividly the culture is followed in this part of the world.The Rath Yatra too was organized.What I also liked was the solar panels owned by various people that helps light up the temple.

 Moving on,lets talk about Fountains and the Downtown.What may seem like a sleepy city at first wakes up when the sun sets.So the pubs are full,the music is live and around the fountain are the events.The famous bronze and granite fountain symbolizes the blessings of water.It reminded me of the fountains in Europe.Streams of water flow from the hands of the Genius of water known as The lady,below which large human figures represents water’s practical uses,and on the base,the child represents pleasures of water.

Swinging Seats at Riverfront

The lady and human figurines

The Longest Suspension Bridge of 1866 

Roebling Bridge between Cincinnati and Covington

 As we walked ahead a witty message got my eye of a distressed poor fellow that said “I won’t lie.I want Beer’.We walked towards Akash India to have Indian food.The food was great.Walking down,we walked past this magnificent Blue Bridge over the river which had swing still chairs on the riverfront.As we looked far ahead,we saw many bridges on the river.The bridge in 1866, when the first pedestrians were finally allowed to cross, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.Built by Roebling between Cincinnati and Covington was the bridge built by the same man who later built Brooklyn Bridge in New York.There were initial reservations about the design in Cincinnati mostly by Ferry companies.This one is quite a must see.

 As we started walking towards the bridge,one of the cop said,we are closing all the bridges for the fireworks.Well,then lets watch the famous great American Riverfest in the next blogpost.

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