Category Archives: Tourism

Early-bird registration for project forwarding training offers big savings

Early-bird registrations for the PPG Project Cargo Forwarding Certificate from 17-18 October in Houston during the Breakbulk Americas education program – offering a saving of US$200pp – closes on August 18.

Attendees must book and pay before August 18 for the course that includes a USB Flash Drive with over 70 proven documents and all course presentation slides (value US$500), Breakbulk exhibition hall pass and invitation to the official welcome reception. The training is open to everyone involved with project forwarding services including terminal operators, forwarders and shippers, or new entrants interested in joining the project freight sector. Further information and online registration about the ISO accredited course is available at Project Professionals Group.

Project Forwarding Certificate graduates Breakbulk 2015
Project Forwarding Certificate students at Breakbulk Americas 2015.

 

Content that boosts destination awareness

I am currently seeking travel and leisure writing opportunities during July 2015 in and around Guangzhou, London, Oxfordshire and Amsterdam. I specialise in generating tourism destination awareness through publicity and travel features that tap into the everyday life, feelings and spirit of the destination. To further discuss potential storylines please contact me via suncomm@icloud.com Travel writers logo - Copy (192x196)

Bremen visit wears well

By Rodger Hall

Rub the front hooves and nose of the donkey on the statue in the old market square in Bremen and your dreams will come true in this picturesque German river city according to an old folk story.
The internationally acclaimed bronze sculpture features a donkey with a dog a cat and a rooster standing on top of each other. The fairytale recorded by the Brothers Grimm says all are unwanted and set out for Bremen to live without owners and become musicians. On the way they find a house with a fine table filled with food about to be eaten by a band of robbers. The donkey put his front hooves on the window ledge, the dog jumped on the donkey’s back, the cat climbed on the dog and the cock flew up and sat on the cat’s head. The donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat miaowed and the cock crowed, and their unusual ‘music’ scared off the robbers.
Known as the Bremen Town Musicians the statue was only erected in 1951 and has surprising pride of place considering this is a fine example of a medieval town. However, you don’t have to go far to experience Bremer Altstadt (old quarter) that includes the Town Hall, a world heritage listed site, built between 1405 and 1410 and regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings of its kind in Germany. Nearby is the Protestant/Lutheran St Peter’s Cathedral with its distinctive Gothic architecture that dates from the first half of the 13th century.

Bremen’s picturesque red-brick old quarter is certainly one of the best preserved of its kind in Europe and home to regular markets, and plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops.
Within walking distance is St Martin’s Quay and the River Weser that also played an important role throughout the history of this seafaring city.

Bremen is known as ‘The village with a tram’ because of its compact size by European standards and its excellent network of transportation via trams. The river pathways, idyllic parks and open space are also a feature and cycling is popular with the area boasting the most cycleways in Europe.
Bremen is also home to Germany’s space industry and two of its famous corporate inhabitants are Mercedes-Benz, who have a factory here, and Beck’s Brewery.
The brewery tour offers an insight into the history of beer and the international success of this company. The tour takes about two hours and includes a sampling test at the end where visitors get the chance to try the lesser known Haake-Beck brew. Our guide informs us that beer is 7000 years old and tells the story of how a women invented beer.
In the last two weeks of October the city hosts Freimarkt regarded as the oldest fair in Germany and is similar to the Octoberfest in Munich. The traditional German food and drink and a massive fairground are all part of the festivities known as the Fifth Season in Bremen.

You could not wish for more in Bremen, but judging by the shiny front hooves and nose of the donkey there are plenty who have.

DONKEY TALE: The famous Bremen Town musicians are said to bring luck to those who rub the hooves and nose of the donkey.
DONKEY TALE: The famous Bremen Town musicians are said to bring luck to those who rub the hooves and nose of the donkey.
DOWN MEMORY LANE: The winding medieval streets of Bremen’s old quarter.
DOWN MEMORY LANE: The winding medieval streets of Bremen’s old quarter.

Wily baboons share beauty of Cape Town

The baboons are getting too close for comfort in Cape Town, South Africa, with plans for ‘fewer negative human/baboon interactions’.
My heart races a little faster as I read in the morning’s Cape Times about a bitter row over who is liable for damage to people and property caused by the baboons. I wonder what the city’s officials mean by wanting urgent funding to produce ‘visible results’ in regard to the ‘negative interactions’.
This is particularly concerning considering I’m booked on a day tour that leaves shortly for the home of these highly intelligent creatures in the Table Mountain National Park and Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
The up-close-with-a-baboon pic is on my list to take home along with the dramatic landscape of Table Mountain, the tip of Africa where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and Robben Island, the prison home of Nelson Mandela during apartheid. All mandatory experiences for any visit to the Mother City of Cape Town. So called because it is a world in one city being home to people from many parts of the globe.
They did not all arrive by choice. Slaves from Africa and Asia in the 17th and 18th Century, political and religious exiles from the Dutch colonies of the East Indies, along with Portuguese and British colonialists.
The day tour is a great way to sample this rich culture and the region’s wonderful scenery, but our guide looks horrified when I ask what my chances are of getting the baboon photo.
“No one gets outside this bus, but you’re welcome to take photos through the window,” she says before recounting that much of the trouble has been caused by visitors feeding the baboons.
She recounts that the baboons are smart enough to open doors and enter homes where they riffle kitchens. They also seem to know the bedroom is sacricant for humans, and love to mark their territory by leaving a calling card on the sheets.
If that’s not enough to flip residents over the edge, they will also eat fruit and veggies in the kitchen and garden. Homeowners are forced to baboon proof their rubbish bins with special locks, but some of the intruders have already worked out how to open them.
I’m not sure whether she’s happy or sad about one aggressive male baboon who was shot a few days earlier because he outwitted the park rangers after working out the noise of the remote car locks going off meant he had access into parked vehicles, and the chance to rummage through purses and wallets while their owners looked on helplessly.
She laughs as she says: “Baboons taking a sandwich off a tourist is considered a mugging in Cape Town’’.
These baboons love the taste of seafood. They are the only ones in Africa that roam the beaches feeding on sand hoppers and shellfish at low tide. Maybe the ‘brain food’ is why they are so smart.
Reluctantly ‘intimate’, or for that matter any, experiences with baboons is crossed off the list as we head down one of the world’s most scenic drives via Chapman’s Peak to the Cape of Good Hope.
This is the most southwesterly point on the African continent, originally named by the Portuguese explorers Cabo Tormentosa (Cape of Storms). This was a prelude to what has become one of the great marine graveyards with more than 650 shipwrecks over the past 400 years. Navigators had to contend with the infamous Roaring 40s, treacherous currents and hidden rocks to safely sail pass the Cape.
In what was probably the first bit of spin doctoring, the King decided to rename this rocky headland Cabo de Boa Esperanca (Cape of Good Hope) as he wisely thought it would encourage more people to settle in the colony and promote the opportunities for traders in the Far East.
The area is a nature reserve covering over 7750 hectares of rich and varied flora and fauna.
The cold Benguela current on the West Coast and the warm Agulhas current on the East Coast mix at the dividing point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The water being a few degrees warmer on the eastern side, but still normally only between 12C and 17C.
The nearby cliffs tower 200 metres above the sea, and it’s a wild and woolly walk to the top of the nearby Cape Point to see the lighthouse that is often blurred by dense sea mists and experiences around 100 days per year of gale force winds.
The drive back to Cape Town on the east side of the Cape is just as spectacular with its rugged shoreline, scenic bays and quaint villages.
The historic navy base of Simon’s Town, near a penguin colony, and Fish Hoek, with one of the most beautiful beaches on the South African coastline, are popular for a stopover.
The original land owner of Fish Hoek stipulated there be no alcohol sold there, and the local council has ensured this was the case as the area developed. A large retirement community lives here attracted by the apparent peace and quiet that the alcohol ban encourages.
However, the good news for thisty visitors is that alcohol is now available in restaurants and bars, but there are no bottle shops.
Wherever you drive around Cape Town, the looming backdrop of Table Mountain is never too far away. It’s a majestic site rearing up from the waterfront.
The taxi ride from the city to the cableway takes about 15 minutes, and the journey up the 1000-metre sheer cliffs less than five minutes offering stunning views from all angles as the floor rotates.
You certainly feel on top of the world with ocean and mountain views to the horizon. Maclear’s Beacon is the highest point at 1086 metres. Sir Thomas Maclear built the three-metre cairn in 1844 as part of his efforts to measure the arc of meridian of the earth.
The flat walking trials are extensive and many have lookouts over geographical and historical points of interest.
Visiting the top of Table Mountain is weather dependent with cloud and strong winds closing down the cable car.
Usually by mid-morning a southeasterly wind picks up that forces the warm air over the shear sides of the mountain forming a ‘table cloth’, before it is funnelled down into the city. The Cape Doctor, as it is known, can reach speeds up to 130 km/h. It’s an eerie site watching the chilly, cloudy mist blow in before your eyes and swirl around those still exploring the rugged terrain.
The panoramic views, peace and tranquillity on top of Table Mountain is a never-to-be-forgotten experience and best enjoyed as early as possible during your trip, just in case the weather causes any delay.
Try the Table Mountain breakfast at the small restaurant near the cable car exit and keep an eye out for the ‘dassie’, meaning badger in Dutch and Afrikaans. The agama is a small lizard that cleverly blends into the rock face.
Just before you board the cable car for the descent, have a rest on the wooden bench donated by grateful heart transplant recipients in recognition of the skills of South African surgeons Professor Chris Bernard and Dr Susan Vosloo.
Such is the dominating presence of Table Mountain that we are told the world soccer authorities are insisting Cape Town’s new stadium, to host matches during the 2010 World Cup, be designed to ensure a clear view of this giant monolith. Not a sod has so far been turned on this site that is currently public parkland. Hopefully the preferred location, without such good views, in one of Cape Town’s underprivileged areas will prevail.
On the waterfront, the Victoria and Alfred precinct (V & A) is the hub for diverse restaurants and cafes, shopping at major South African chain stores or the chic designer fashion boutiques.
The Portuguese steak at Tasca De Belem is an unusual and flavoursome offering. A range of meat dishes are also served up on giant skewers for diners to carve into juicy mouthfuls.
Emily’s offers local food such as the traditional Bobotie (beef pie) served with rice, poppadom, banana and chutney.
The historic clock tower is the centrepiece of the V & A built in 1882 for the port captain. The area continues to be a dynamic working harbour and houses the ferry terminal for Robben Island tours.
The Island is 11 kilometres away and best known for its incarceration of political prisoners. Former president Nelson Mandela was an inmate from 1964 to 1982 before he was transferred to a prison on the mainland and finally released in 1990.
His small grey cell is part of a guided tour that often includes commentary by a former political prisoner about the brutal labour forced on inmates in the limestone quarry, and other horrific hardships.
The 13 square kilometre island is now a World Heritage Site with the museum tour designed to tell the story about the victory over apartheid. Robert Sobukwe House is a testimonial to the founding leader of the Pan African Congress who was kept there in solitary confinement.
The World War two defences remain intact with the 9.2 inch guns, never fired, still in excellent condition.
The leper graveyard is also a reminder of this barren island’s grim past.
These days the only permanent inhabitants are rabbits and around 24,000 penguins, the largest colony outside the arctic.
The old church is a popular venue for marriage ceremonies on St Valentine’s Day.
Our guide tells us only one person has every successfully escaped Robben Island by stealing a small boat and rowing it to shore.
The Dutch were astounded that anyone could survive such a treacherous crossing.
Perhaps it’s something that the City bureaucrats should consider for any of their wayward baboons.

On the waterfront: When the ‘table cloth’ covers the mountain it’s time to hit Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred precinct for shopping and dining.
On the waterfront: When the ‘table cloth’ covers the mountain it’s time to hit Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred precinct for shopping and dining.
Beware baboons: Taking a sandwich off a tourist is considered a mugging in Cape Town.
Beware baboons: Taking a sandwich off a tourist is considered a mugging in Cape Town.

Aarhus the city that smiles

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is very popular, loves to smoke, is a straight shooter with a great sense of humour, and does not mind a tipple. So the locals in Aarhus tell us as we wait for her to arrive to open Festival Week in Denmark’s second largest city. Her daughter-in-law Crown Princess Mary hails from Tasmania so we think her majesty will surely stop and say ‘G’day’ to a couple of Aussies.
The Queen approaches to within a couple of metres but the 68-year-old monarch is whisked by along the red carpet by the local mayor into the Aarhus Concert Hall. She is running 30 minutes late but we are happy enough to feature on the local television news in a background shot.
Queen Margrethe duly opens a spectacular show to launch the largest multi-cultural festival in Scandinavia. It runs during the first week of September and features theatre performances, concerts, opera, ballet, music, and sporting events.
The city’s youthful energy is generated by 35,000 students who attend Aarhus University. This inspires an active and diverse nightlife with 22% of the city’s 300,000 inhabitants under 18 years of age. With its youngish, well-educated residents innovative art and crafts flourish in the region.
Nestled on the east coast of Jutland, Aarhus lives up to its name as the City of Smiles.
Visitors will find plenty to smile about. This includes the uplifting natural beauty of the beech tree forests running down to the shores, vibrant culture, fascinating Viking history and the zestful locals who love hiking through the nearby woodlands.
Sipping the famous Danish beers, Tuborg and Carsberg, and chatting to the friendly staff at the sidewalk cafes and restaurants are sure to create plenty of cheer.
Outdoor activities such as kayaking and sailing are always popular pursuits in Aarhus Bay. Just remember summer runs from June to August with an average temperature of 19 degrees centigrade while February is the coldest month when temperatures plummet to single figures.
Aarhus is a major port first settled by the Vikings in the eighth century. It has thrived ever since on its trading heritage and harbour development that drives a positive economic outlook.
The Vikings were attracted to settle on the banks of a small river that today remains the unpretentious urban heart of Aarhus known as Vadestedet – meaning the place to wade. Here the edges of the River Aarhus have become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants. Exploring this area, like many in the city, is easily done on foot or bicycle.
The streets in the city centre are all for pedestrian use only but there are plenty of places to park your bike.
Not far away is the Old Town a heritage-listed open air museum made up of 75 historical buildings, gardens, exhibitions, houses, shops and workshops. This is a living and breathing experience of what it was like in the days of Hans Christian Andersen.
The mix of old-world charm and contemporary buzz intertwines with new and ancient architecture. At one end of the scale the Aarhus Cathedral is over 800-years-old and the longest in Denmark while the ultra-modern Light House is currently under construction in the new harbour-front district, and at 142 metres will be the tallest building in Denmark.
A 15-minue drive away is the Moesgard Museum that is set in beautiful surroundings and tells the tale of the region’s Viking heritage.
Eating out in Aarhus offers international and local food. For a traditional Danish night out visit the Raadhuus Kafé established in 1924 and located in the heart of Aarhus. This has an informal and cozy atmosphere that offers hearty Danish meals with local herring dishes an excellent choice.
Accommodation options are plentiful with the Helnan Marselis Hotel at the upper end of the scale near woods and beaches and located less than 3 kilometres from the city centre.
The City of Smiles is more than a slogan first coined by the council in the 1930s. It now signifies a lifestyle that leaves visitors just as happy and relaxed as the inhabitants of this very liveable city.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark arrives at the Concert Hall in Aarhus – known as the City of Smiles.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark arrives at the Concert Hall in Aarhus – known as the City of Smiles.
Vadestedet on the edge of the River Aarhus has become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants.
Vadestedet on the edge of the River Aarhus has become an elegant canal promenade filled with cafés and restaurants.

Tall tales in Texas

They are off and racing armadillos near Corpus Christi in south Texas, USA.
This is one of the more unusual pursuits for those planning to visit this city that badges itself as all-American and hugs a coastal bend in the Gulf of Mexico.
Armadillos are part of the Texas folklore, and there’s even a World Armadillo Breeding and Racing Association.
This is cowboy country and Matt Strange’s family operates a real-life Texas themed events business that offers award-winning catering and entertainment that includes armadillo racing. Matt’s a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to these cute critters.
He says there are 18 species of armadillo and they don’t bite, but use their molars to chew food.
“They can walk underwater and hold their breath for six minutes to cross river beds. They can clean-up 30,000 ants a day which is just perfect to keep the fire ant population around here in check,” Matt said.
He instructs me to put on a pair of gloves and pick one of the two fenced lanes that are used for racing. The object is to herd the armadillo up the runway and close the doors on the box at the finish line. First one to do so wins the race.
I am paired up with an English visitor who looks very apprehensive when he is handed his armadillo. Matt’s the starter and we’re away, but my ‘mount’ is a wayward runaway while the next lane is fast and direct.
The nine-banded armadillo is common in these parts with its relatives having made their way from Brazil via Mexico. The mothers give birth to four babies all of the same sex.
These bizarre creatures have a bone-like external shell and resemble mini-dinosaurs. They are referred to by the locals as a ‘Texas speed bump’. Unfortunately drivers certainly feel a bump in the night from these hard-shelled mammals.
Matt says he used to run pig racing, but racing armadillos is hilarious and generates greater interest, particularly with international visitors.
The food’s just as good as the fun, with Matt’s family business well known for its catering. They were hired by former president George Bush and Mrs Bush to organise a congressional barbeque on the south lawn of the White House.
Corpus Christi is the largest coastal city in south Texas with a population of around 300,000. In the middle of the year it’s hot and dry with temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade accompanied by strong winds.
You can cool down with a Shiner Bock. This dark beer is brewed by the oldest independent brewery in Texas. It might be a local joke, but if you happen to walk into the wrong bar and ask for a Shiner, you may wind up with a black eye instead of a beer.
Corpus Christi is also home to former World War II aircraft carrier the USS Lexington that is a now a floating museum accessed via a walkway from the shore. This interactive experience includes five self-guided tour routes up and down steep ladders that take you through the flight deck, bridge and decks below. The mega theatre turns your seat into a cockpit of a jet fighter during war games.
Scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster Pearl Harbour with Ben Affleck were filmed aboard the vessel known as the Blue Ghost because of her paint colour and the fact she was the only carrier not to wear camouflage. Japanese propaganda announced her sunk many times but she was always to ‘reappear’ to fight again.
Other attractions of interest include the Texas State Aquarium with animal feedings and hands-on programs.
Dining out in these parts includes lots of beef, quail and chicken. Cheese grits made with oats topped with cheese, and even sausage grits are popular to kick-start your day. South Texas is also heavily influenced by zesty Mexican food specialities. Corpus Christi airport is serviced by short haul jet flights from Dallas and Houston.

THEY’RE OFF: Armadillo racing is harmless and part of Texas folklore.
THEY’RE OFF: Armadillo racing is harmless and part of Texas folklore.
BATTLE STATIONS: Relive the climatic battles of the USS Lexington when you board this floating museum.
BATTLE STATIONS: Relive the climatic battles of the USS Lexington when you board this floating museum.