Around the World: Gentse Gruut Brewery

GHENT, BELGIUM

Belgium is famous worldwide for its beer brewing. In fact, the Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has repeatedly been rated the world’s best beer. And yes – the beer is still brewed by monks. With so much good beer around, it’s hard to choose which breweries to visit.

Whether your clients are very much into craft brew or simply looking for a good ale while in Belgium, Gruut is the place to go. It was only established in 2009 and while reviews are very good, it’s not as well-known or crowded as older breweries.

HISTORY OF GRUUT

Gentse Gruut was established in 2009 by Annick De Splenter. She has a history of brewers on both sides of her family. Some of these ancestors even worked for well-known brands. When she was older, Annick decided to become an independent brewer. This was not easy. She wanted to try a medieval style of brewing that does not make use of hops. After extensive research and a biochemistry course, she finally had what she was looking for: five varieties of gruut.

MEDIEVAL BEER

If you’re not familiar with Belgian history, the country has always had two dominant cultures: French and Flemish. French language and culture tends to dominate the southern part of the country while Dutch is found in the northern part. In medieval times, the river Leie divided the city of Ghent into these two cultures. In a sense, Ghent was a microcosm of the country as a whole. The right bank of the river used traditional ingredients like hops while the left side, which was controlled by the French, used a mixture of herbs and spices called “gruut.”

A HEALTHY BEER

Consuming too much hops can have negative side effects, including an estrogenic effect similar to consuming too much soy. Unfortunately, the main source of hops is in beer, especially IPAs, which makes avoiding hops a difficult undertaking. Gruut however does not use hops.

TYPES OF GRUUT

There are five types of gruut brewed here and each one has unique characteristics:

  1. White – aromatic, fruity, and hint of creaminess
  2. Blonde – barley aroma with a cloudiness
  3. Amber – A deep copper color with a smooth finish
  4. Brown – A rich, nutty flavor
  5. Inferno – Golden ale
20141031105559594-glas-en-flesje-wit.jpg-square
Gruut White Beer Photo Credit: http://www.gruut.be/en/Bieren/Index/194/gentse-gruut-white

MAKE YOUR OWN BEER

For a small fee, visitors who wish to go beyond the tasting experience can actually create a bottle of their own brew. Expert brewers will instruct visitors on how to practice “beeralchemy” as they call it – mixing ingredients and finding which ones work best together. Once satisfied, visitors may take home a bottle to share with friends and family. The brewery will actually create and bottle a visitor’s recipe in larger quantities. However, keep in mind that bottling orders come in very large quantities and are expensive.

  • 1000 bottles: 5.5€ a bottle
  • 500 bottles: 6€ a bottle
  • 250 bottles: 7€ a bottle

HOW TO GET THERE

Ghent is a very walkable city and so the fastest way from downtown is a 10-minute jaunt. It’s only a few hundred feet from the river Leie and just south of Baudelopark. When it comes to airfare, we’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to the Netherlands. Call or email us today to get started!

 

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

Around the World: Wereldmuseum

Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Dutch Golden Age lasted approximately from the 17th century until the end of 19th century. During that time, art, science, and trade flourished in the Netherlands.  So it’s not surprising that a country that traveled to exotic lands would begin to collect artifacts from other cultures. Thus, the Wereldmuseum was born.

Wereldmuseum

More than 1,800 objects, representing cultures from all over the globe, are displayed at this museum. Its purpose: to illustrate the development of Rotterdam as a world city by offering glimpses into other cultures. 160 years of collecting and 2,000 years of history combine to make this magnificent museum what it is today. The artifacts showcase aspects of everyday life including food, beverage, clothing, war, religion, art, weapons, trade, horticulture, and more. Free guided tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays.

Some of the beautiful artifacts on display on shown below:

Photo Credit: Wereldmuseum.
Photo Credit: Wereldmuseum.

Sioux Moccasins from North America

 

Photo Credit: Wereldmuseum
Photo Credit: Wereldmuseum

Artifact from Holland

Marquesas Islands
Photo Credit: Wereldmuseum

 Conch shell, Polynesia 

 

HOW TO GET THERE

From the city center, the path to the Wereldmuseum is only a 14-minute walk. To get across the ocean, trust Sky Bird Travel & Tours. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to the Netherlands. Call or email us today to get started!

 

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

Around the World: The Green Ranch

Kumasi, Ghana

 

The Green Ranch

There’s no better way to see the countryside of Ghana than on horseback from the Green Ranch. This place specializes in horseback tours by certified expedition guides. The friendly staff provides delicious vegetarian dishes and the ranch offers the chance to stay on-site in one of three comfortable, handcrafted rooms. Horseback tours are available from 1 hour to a 10-hour full tour of the nearby lake.

Photo Credit: http://www.greenranchlakebosomtwe.com/photo

green ranch 1
Photo Credits: http://www.greenranchlakebosomtwe.com/photo

Lake Bosomtwe

The Green Ranch is on the shores of Lake Bosomtwe, the only natural lake in Ghana. It is situated within an ancient impact crater about 6.5 miles in diameter. Estimates have placed the age of the crater at 1.07 million years old.  Local Ashanti people consider Lake Bosomtwe to be sacred. Should your clients opt for the 10-hour horseback tour, they will be guided around this lake and the surrounding rainforest.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Lake_Bosumtwi%2C_Ghana.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Lake_Bosumtwi%2C_Ghana.jpg

Lodging

Three rooms are available for guests who wish to remain on-site. These rooms are handcrafted from a mix of natural materials including wood, mud, and rocks. Guests will enjoy the comfortable, cool feel of the rooms. Laundry is also available upon request.

 

How to Get There

A little over an hour by car will bring guests to the ranch. As for flying to Ghana, we’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to Ghana. Call or email us today to get started!

 

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

 

 

Around the World: Isimila Stone Age Site

Dodoma, Tanzania

A four-hour car ride south of Dodoma leads to the town of Iringa. From there you can take a designated route to one of the most significant Stone Age finds ever discovered: Isimila.

Delving into Prehistory

The site was discovered in 1951 by Mr. D.A. Maclennan of the St. Peters School in Johannesburg, South Africa. The most important finds were Stone Age tools dated between 60,000-100,000 years old.

Brief History of the Stone Age

The Stone Age is a broad period of human history that lasted from about 2.5 million years ago until about 2000 BC when metalworking was developed. Essentially, the Stone Age is the amount of time that early humans used stones to make tools – namely arrowheads, axes, and knives. Indeed, knives and oval stones, for use in slingshots, are some of the artifacts found at Isimila. Many of these artifacts are now on display at the on-site museum.

Photo Credit: http://www.tanzania-experience.com/blog/isimila-stone-age-site/
Photo Credit: http://www.tanzania-experience.com/blog/isimila-stone-age-site/

In addition to tools of early humans, many animal fossils have been discovered here. The ancestors of the beloved giraffe and hippo have been discovered near this site.

Geological Formations

Aside from the historical contributions made by this site, unusual sandstone formations dot the surrounding area. Sandstone is a sedimentary rock that is made of sand-sized minerals. Over time, the erosion process left formations that resemble chimneys.


This photo of Isimila Stone Age Site is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

Explore the Surrounding Area

A covered picnic area near the museum is perfect for families and those looking to enjoy the African landscape without the blazing sun. The village of Lulanda has forest reserves within the tea plantations of the mountains. As such, this area is sought after for hiking excursions.

 HOW TO GET THERE

Clients wishing to visit East Africa will rave over all the amazing sites of Tanzania. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to get them there. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

Featured image Photo Credit: By Paul Shaffner from State College, PA, USA, United States – maganga_view, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15950834

 

Around the World: Archaeological Site of Lixus

Casablanca, Morocco

 

This site has ties to four ancient cultures: Romans, Carthaginians, Phoenicians, and Moroccans. Famous for its baths, mosaics, and column ruins, Lixus will transport visitors to ancient times.

Country: Morocco Site: Lixus Caption: Original mosaic of Poseidon at Lixus, Morocco Image Date: 1970 Photographer: Mohssine Dahhan, Common Ground Provenance: 2010 Watch Nomination Original: from Share File
Original mosaic of Poseidon at Lixus, Morocco Photo Credit: https://www.wmf.org/project/lixus

 

Phoenician Settlement

While the native inhabitants of Morocco, Berbers, have been living in the North African region since at least 10,000 BC, it was the Phoenicians who settled Lixus in the 7th century BC. The Phoenicians inhabited modern day Lebanon. Master sailors, the Phoenicians traversed the Mediterranean to establish trade and Lixus was one such settlement.

The city came under the rule of Carthage until 146 AD. During the Third Punic War, Rome destroyed the city of Carthage and assumed control of its empire.

 

Roman Rule

When Carthage eventually fell to Rome, Lixus became one of the main cities of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana. Its citizens enjoyed the full rights of Roman citizenship, which was unusual for conquered territories of the time.

 

City of Legend

It was believed that Lixus was the site of the Garden of Hesperides. In Greek mythology, the Hesperides were nymphs of the evening and sunset. It was in their garden that the famous golden apples were said to have grown. Hercules, the famous Greek hero, was tasked to retrieve some of these golden apples.

 

How to Get There:

If your clients are eager to go exploring in these romantic ruins, call Sky Bird Travel. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to get them there. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

 

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

 

Around the World: The Sundarbans

Bangladesh

 

Not Your Usual Tropics

Most people venture to the Caribbean or the South Pacific to get a breath of warm, tropical air on vacation. However, the overlooked Sundarbans of Bangladesh offer a unique tropical experience. The Sundarbans span an area mainly in southwestern Bangladesh but also parts of India’s easternmost regions. This region is a natural area and with 3,900 square miles of jungle, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has much to offer.

The Sundarbans are home to over 260 species of birds as well as crocodiles, Bengal tigers, mongooses, and hundreds of plants. In fact, the Sundarbans are home to the largest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world. Mangroves are unique in that they can thrive is both fresh and salt water. Being near the Indian Ocean, the mangroves are able to utilize the water to grow whereas most trees would not be able to handle the salinity.

 

River Tours

There are many opportunities for river tours in the Sundarbans. Guides will navigate through the winding rivers and streams and guests will experience these unique tropics up close.

How to Get There:

The Sundarbans are the ideal place for eco-tourism or for those simply looking for something different to visit. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to get them there. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

Photo Credit:

By bri vos – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2794869

Around the World: Taj Mahal

Jaipur, India

 

History of Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire spanned 300 years and covered parts of four modern countries including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Established in the 1500s, the Mughal Empire reigned until 1857 when it was overthrown by the British East India Company. There was also a brief period of overthrow by another empire, but this only lasted 15 years before the Mughals were able to regain power.

 

Taj Mahal

The Mughal emperor, Shan Jahan, ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal for his late wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was well-documented by court historians at the time that Mumtaz was his favorite wife and adored her more than any other. Together, they had 14 children, but despite her many pregnancies, Mumtaz traveled extensively with Shan and was his trusted advisor. Unfortunately, she died young – just 37 years of age – after complications giving birth to their 14th child.  Shan was so devastated that he mourned her death for a year, refusing to see anyone but his oldest daughter. When a year had passed, he ordered the construction of the Taj Mahal.

It was completed in 1643 and is one of the most elaborate examples of Islamic architecture in the world. Characteristics of the building include jai inlay, which involves cutting and polishing stones and placing them within marble to create images. Marble lattices and a long reflecting pool are also well-known features of the monument. But perhaps the best-known attribute is the round dome. This was likely inspired by a similar tomb: the tomb of Tamerlane, emperor of the Timurid Empire. Tamerlane was an ancestor to the Mughal emperors. Emperor Shan and Mumtaz are buried side by side in stone sarcophagi in the lower levels of the building.

Taj_mahal_detail_outside_wall
Close up of jali inlay. Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71430

The Taj Mahal was chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and it’s not hard to see why. The great artistry is unlike anything else on earth. Just as the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of France, so too has the Taj Mahal become a symbol of India. Moreover, the structure stands as a testament to undying love.

 

How to Get There

Whether your clients are visiting friends and family or seeing India on vacation, they won’t want to miss this exquisite treasure. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, so no matter their city of departure, we can get your clients there. As a top airfare consolidator, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to get them there. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

 Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

Photo Credits:

By Rajesnewdelhi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29053600

 

 

Around the World: Sigatoka Sand Dunes

Nadi, Fiji

 

Sigatoka Sand Dunes

You’ve probably seen those odd, square shaped bottles of Fiji Water at the store. If this is your client’s only experience with Fiji, it’s time to change that. From the tropical vistas to the ancient culture, Fiji is an experience unlike any other and the Sigatoka Sand Dunes bring all of it together.

 

History of Fiji

Fiji is a country in Oceania made up of 332 islands, of which 106 are inhabited. The main island, which is also the largest, shares the name of Fiji. (It’s exactly like the Big Island of Hawai’i sharing the name of the state.)  Aside from Fiji being a popular destination for those seeking a tropical getaway, the main island is brimming with culture and natural beauty.

 

Fiji’s Ancient Culture

The stunning Sigatoka Sand Dunes are home to one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. Human remains found here are helping anthropologists piece together the history of Polynesia. In addition, many excavated pottery shards date to 2,600 years ago. This suggests that settlers to Polynesia arrived 500 years earlier than what was previously believed. In addition to its historical significance, these dunes make for a fun day trip. Guided walks are available and the park frequently has special programs available for those wanting a more in-depth experience.

 

How to Get There

When your customers are ready to explore Fiji, Sky Bird will help you get them there. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, including Fiji Airways – the national airline of Fiji. Whether your clients are looking to relax on the beach or explore the forest, Sky Bird Travel has the lowest net fares to get them there. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

Are your clients looking for something off the beaten path? Are they not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

 

Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A177,_Sigatoka_Sand_Dunes_National_Park,_Viti_Levu,_Fiji,_2007.JPG#/media/File:A177,_Sigatoka_Sand_Dunes_National_Park,_Viti_Levu,_Fiji,_2007.JPG

Around the World: Lake Rotoiti

Christchurch, New Zealand

 Lake Rotoiti

New Zealand: the country in Oceania that seems as though it’s in the middle of nowhere. However, the grueling flights are well worth the visit to these magical islands. If you happen to venture to the South Island, be sure to check out Lake Rotoiti.

 

A Brief History

This lake is packed with surprises. First discovered by Europeans in the 1840s, Rotoiti was renamed Lake Arthur, but in recent times the original Maori name has been put back into usage. Rotoiti is 269 feet (82 meters) deep and is located within the borders of Nelson Lake National Park.

 

The Coolest Thing in New Zealand

When visiting New Zealand, if you do nothing else, you must take a nighttime kayak trip to the glow worm caves. These creatures make their own light source through bioluminescence. The light is a product of a chemical reaction between luciferin (a waste product), the enzyme luciferase, adenosine triphosphate (ATP – the energy molecule) and oxygen.   Their glowing creations often resemble the night sky. Expert kayak guides will take you to nearby caves where you can see these incredible creatures in action.

Take in the Countryside

While on a kayaking trip, be sure to take a breather in the nearby thermal pools. It’s the perfect way to relieve achy muscles. While you’re relaxing, snap a photo of the sunset over the lake. If kayaking is not your thing, you may want to give tramping, the New Zealand version of hiking, a go so you can see the natural wonders of New Zealand up close. Recreational fishing and waterskiing are also popular activities.

How to Get There

When you’re ready to dive into New Zealand, Sky Bird will get you there. We’re partnered with over 90 airlines, including Air New Zealand – the national airline. Call or email us today to begin your adventure!

Looking for something off the beaten path? Not interested in tourist traps? Stay tuned for our Around the World series. Several times a week, we share interesting things to do in exotic places. Give your clients a new experience in old places!

Photo Credit:

http://www.waimarino.com/images/tours/gw.jpg

Around the World: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Sydney, Australia

Only 16 miles north of Sydney, Australia lies one of the oldest national parks in the country: Ku-ring-gai.  Within the national park is a stretch of Aboriginal sites, including rock paintings, rock carvings, and burial sites. These cultural treasures can be viewed on the park’s “Aboriginal Heritage Walk,” a designated trail that highlights some of the best sites. Part of this trek includes the Red Hands Cave where you will see painted stencils of hands made over 1,000 years ago.

 

Before Sydney Was Sydney

Long before Stonehenge or the pyramids of Giza were constructed, the Aboriginal inhabitants were roaming Australia in nomadic bands. Aboriginal culture remained unbroken for more than 50,000 years. As such, it is the longest unbroken culture on the planet. The original inhabitants of the area where the park now stands were the Garigal people, also known as the Carigal people. However, the name of the park comes from the Guringai people who were also inhabitants of the region. They relied heavily on the bays and harbors for the majority of their food. All told, there are over 800 Aboriginal sites in Ku-ring-gai. This is part of the reason Ku-ring-gai was placed on the list of Australian National Heritage sites.

 

Ancient Astronomers of Australia

Some of the artwork has led anthropologists to believe the ancient Aboriginal people had a firm grasp of astronomy. Several paintings correlate to cosmological bodies in the Milky Way. One such body in particular is quite apparent in the rock engravings. The Coalsack Dark Nebula is referred to as the “Emu in the Sky” by the Wardaman people. An engraving of an emu lines up perfectly with the position of this nebula when real life emus lay their eggs. (See picture above.) This suggests Aboriginals may have used the engraving as a primitive calendar.

 

Experience Sydney’s Backyard

Aside from being a treasure trove of Aboriginal culture, Ku-ring-gai is a great way to experience the natural beauty near Sydney. Picnic areas are great for taking a break from a walk and enjoying a meal with the family. Numerous boardwalks allow you to choose how extensive your hike will be. If you’re looking for something more aquatic, there are several areas perfectly situated for boating and fishing. Ku-ring-gai is also brimming with wildlife including wallabies, bush turkeys, native ducks, and goannas.

For more information, visit Ku-ring-gai’s website here: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Kuringgai-Chase-National-Park

 

Photo Credit:

http://www.atnf.csiro.au/people/Ray.Norris/SydneyRockArt/sites/Elvina/index.htm

/Ray.Norris/SydneyRockArt/sites/Elvina/index.htm