Estonia: Of culture, Skype and staying power; Elizabeth Zach; Mercury News

Estonia – Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn

When I thought to visit Estonia, I came up short for guidebooks. I found collections on all three Baltic states, or else Estonia was lumped in with guides for Scandinavia.

It seemed to me, however, that this country deserved more, in part to recognize some intriguing contradictions. Estonia, I knew, was the birthplace of Skype technology. Tallinn, however, had last year been honored for its elegance and heritage, as a European Capital of Culture.

Then there were the stag parties I’d heard about, of Brits and Finns prowling Tallinn’s cheap bars, much like what one sees in Prague. Yet I’d also read that when you visit, you somehow feel the distress of Tallinn’s occupations, the triumph and thrill of its liberations. It’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and rightly so: Only one street of the Old Town was razed during German air raids in World War II, so much of what you see is what has been around since the 13th century, with careful restoration, obviously.

This city, in other words, has bones.

Source: Estonia: Of culture, Skype and staying power

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Québec City: A Little Piece of Paris in North America; Cynthia Dial; JustLuxe

Canada – Historic District of Old Québec

Close your eyes and imagine winding cobblestone streets, a collection of world-class museums, sidewalk cafes serving crepes and croissants and French spoken everywhere. If your imagination takes you to Paris, you would be wrong.

Welcome to Québec City, Canada. Showcasing an Old Town behind fortification walls and buildings spanning four centuries (17th-20th) — all from a dramatic cliff-top location overlooking the St. Lawrence River — every corner unveils a piece of the past. It’s these historical credentials that explain its unique stature as North America’s first urban ensemble and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beginning as a fur trading post in the early 1600s, the history of Québec City is saturated with well-known figures, from its founder French explorer Samuel de Champlain to France’s Louis XIV, who transformed the modest outpost into a North American French provincial capital.

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Steeped in Bath – the English city with a hot past and future; Jamie Lafferty; The National

UK – City of Bath

The soothing hot springs of this English city are dynamic conduits of the past and future, writes Jamie Lafferty.

In volcanic terms, modern Britain is rather dull. Our calderas are extinct, our tectonic plates long settled. The best chance you have of seeing lava is trapped inside an ugly lamp. The Somerset town of Bath, 150 kilometres south-west of London, is one of the few exceptions. While hardly Krakatoan in its volcanology, here, water still bubbles from the underworld, and while there are one or two other spa towns around Britain, nowhere else is there thermally heated waters – nor quite so many million tourists visiting them every year.

That makes Bath unique, and when added to all that gorgeous Georgian architecture, makes it a city that’s extremely easy to love. Bath today is the quintessence of Englishness as imagined by fans of Jane Austen – the author lived here from 1801 to 1806. But simultaneously, Bath represents something pre-England altogether, a proto-Britain at the extreme edge of the Roman Empire.

Source: Steeped in Bath – the English city with a hot past and future

Phong Nha: Ten years like a dream!; P Linh; VietNamNet

Viet Nam – Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

VietNamNet Bridge – Phong Nha – Ke Bang in Quang Binh province, incentral Vietnam, is preparing to celebrate its tenth anniversary ofbeing awarded the UNESCO world natural heritage title.

This heritage began to be popular in 1991 when the British Caving Association came to explore this site. Since then, Quang Binh has been known internationally with extraordinary cave system.

The cave resources are the motivation to promote the image and sustainable development of Quang Binh.

Forests are everywhere in Vietnam and there are caves too. Any place that has limestone mountains, there are caves there. However, caves in Phong Nha – Ke Bang are unfamiliar with the other. They are exceptionally large, with magnificent stalactites, complicated structures, strange and mysterious about the length and the space.

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Unique section of the Great Wall draws in visitors; Bai Yang; CCTV

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As people all know what the Great Wall looks like but did you know that some of it is built over water? The Jiumenkou section of the wall in Liaoning Province in North East China is famous for just that.

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Enchanted Islands: Charles Darwin and The Voyage of the Beagle; Michael Marshall & Clover Carroll; Crozet Gazette

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Postcard: Hitting the wall; Fleur Bainger; Kiama Independent

I don’t sleep around. Except on very special occasions. Like when I took the Great Wall of China as my bedfellow, turfing out my fiancee so I could snuggle up to a mattress of solid rock.

Source: Postcard: Hitting the wall

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen… In Bergen, Norway; Yaya; Hand Luggage Only

Norway – Bryggen

One of the biggest sights I’d wanted to see in Bergen was the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bryggen. I’d spoken about it on the blog before and so when we finally booked our flights to Bergen, this was something I’d put at high priority on my itinerary!

First things first though, we checked into our hotel – the Basic Hotel in Bergen and met up with Linn (who’s also a blogger and lives in Bergen) for a few drinks in the sunshine and some planning on what to get up to in Bergen. Linn also caught us up on the best places to eat, the  best views and where to head out to later that evening for a drink or two! We also got given our Bergen cards – which by the way, are a great way to see the city!

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Australia Hosts Reef Live Event to Showcase Great Barrier Reef; Megan Snedden; HuffPost

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World’s best unknown hike: Japan’s Kumano Kodo; Maggie Hiufu Wong; CNN

Japan – Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

Wakayama, Japan (CNN) — I knew I was going to have to climb 538 stairs to get to Kamikura Shrine in Wakayama, Japan. What I didn’t know was that those steps — leading to the lofty highlight of my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage — would be on a 70-degree incline.

Ever tried climbing a rock face? Or the roof an A-frame house? Run a rolling pin over your calves a few times and you’ll get an idea of what I was looking at.

Already exhausted from hiking Kumano Kodo’s ancient trails in the Kii Mountains — the route starts about an hour by train from Osaka — the only things pushing me upward were the encouraging smiles from a grandpa, a girl wearing a long maxi-dress and salarymen in stiff shirts and dress pants who walked past me as if they were taking a stroll to the grocery store.

So, was that uphill torture worth it? Of course — what great hike isn’t?

Anyway, the rest of the trail was relatively easy to get through — the biggest obstacle was all the stops for photos.

Source: World’s best unknown hike: Japan’s Kumano Kodo