Cityscape

In War-Torn Damascus, Syrians Flock to Burgeoning Bar Scene

John Davison

By a military checkpoint in Damascus's Old City, just a mile from the battered frontline between government and rebel-held territory, young Syrians sit on a garden wall smoking, drinking beer or soft drinks, and talking about anything but the war. It is a week night, but the Damascenes are keen to head out to a strip of new bars that have opened in the last few months -- some to socialize and others to work in the venues.

Time-Traveling in Peru: A Journey to Machu Picchu

Michael Verdirame

It is hard to say anything about Machu Picchu that has not already been said.  Discovered—or again, rediscovered—by Hiram Bingham in 1911, the site has been the subject of awe and fascination for over one hundred years.  While much about it has come to light in the last century, there is still much that is not known, and may very well never be known. Many historians believe that Machu Picchu served as a lush and secluded estate for the Incan emperor Pachucatec, though others have speculated that it served a more lofty purpose, perhaps for worshiping the Incan gods or as the end point of a religious pilgrimage.  

Report: Denmark Ranks as Happiest Nation on Earth

Philip Pullella

Denmark overtook Switzerland as the world's happiest place, according to a report on Wednesday that urged nations regardless of wealth to tackle inequality and protect the environment. The report, prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, showed Syria, Afghanistan and eight sub-Saharan countries as the 10 least happy places on earth to live.

 

Asmara Survives Conflict, Seeks U.N. Accolade

Edmund Blair

In an often forgotten corner of the Horn of Africa, Eritrea's capital boasts one of the world’s finest collections of early 20th century architecture and the authorities want it declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When Italy's colonial experiment in Eritrea ended in 1941, it left behind an array of Rationalist, Futurist, Art Deco and other Modernist styles in Asmara, a city whose historic heart has changed little since the Italians lived and worked there.

Cities With Successful Public Transportation Systems (and a Few Without)

Emily Logan

Americans took a record 10.8 billion transit trips in 2014—the most in 58 years. More cities are realizing the critical role public transportation plays. In addition to getting people from point A to point B, a solid system can make an area the most sought-after neighborhood and attract talent and jobs. As buses and rails rise in popularity, cities’ individual experiences offer lots of lessons, from best practices to cautionary tales about how to build and maintain a great public transportation system. 

Balancing Fear and Freedom in Israel

Michael Verdirame

Yom Kippur will even see a complete shutdown of Tel Aviv’s airport, with no flights allowed in or out.  With all that being said, Tel Aviv and its citizens seem more concerned with quality of life—time spent socializing with friends over drinks and tanning on the beach—than the seemingly endless religious and territorial conflict that surrounds them not only in Israel, but in the entire Middle East region.

Iceland: Land of Elves, Eruptions and Economic Recovery

Michael Verdirame

To find the true initial catalyst for the increase in tourism in Iceland, one has to travel a little further back to 2008, where the default of all three of its privately-owned commercial banks caused Iceland to enter a severe economic depression for the next several years, from which it is still recovering.  According to The Economist, relative to the size of its economy, Iceland’s systemic banking collapse was the largest experienced by any country in economic history.  Like any economic crisis, the price of goods plummeted, causing the country’s initial uptick in tourism, as it became much more affordable than it had been previously. 

 

Marveling at the Wonders of Greece

Sandra Bertrand

From that first step on Greek soil, be prepared to feel a little lightheadedness—a certain dislocation of everyday certainties is underway.  In the midst of a busy Athens intersection, Hadrian’s Arch, once a gateway to some of the greatest of Roman monuments, stands proud in the midday sun. On the Aegean island of Santorini, one dizzying gaze over the precipitous volcanic cliffs and the rumble of lost Atlantis may sound from the depths below.  Navigating another hairpin turn in Crete’s White Mountains, a cri-cri or wild goat leaps in front of your car window—its hooves as nimble as the Great God Pan’s. 

The Reality of Alaska on Reality TV

Michael Verdirame

Alaska, the place in question, is considered the last frontier by many—a vast, empty land with majestic scenery and an extremely sparse population density.  New reality television shows featuring Alaska are numbered in the dozens and still increasing, with “Alaska State Troopers,” “Buying Alaska,” and “Life Below Zero” being among the most popular.  Does the real Alaska, however, live up to the wondrous Alaska that has served as the inspiration for so much so-called reality?  

Getting Past the Past: How Colombia Reinvented Itself as a Tourist Destination

Michael Verdirame

Columbia is a country of extremes and opposites—beaches and mountains, old and modern, urban grit juxtaposed with breathtaking nature.  There is also a great disparity in the distribution of wealth, with the very rich sharing space with the very poor, and a middle class that finds it difficult to stay in the middle for very long.  Additionally, despite Colombia’s recent emergence as a viable tourist destination, that is not meant to indicate that all parts of the country are safe, leading to the perception of extremes between areas that are perfectly acceptable for tourists to explore and those that are dangerous even for locals.

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