Venice To Toughen Canal Rules After Tourist Dies On Gondola Ride

Venice Canal
Victor Hugo Marques, Flickr

Venice is one of the few remaining car-free cities in the world, but the famous canals may soon be treated more like roadways following the tragic death of a tourist earlier this month.

A German man died after the gondola he was traveling with his family in was crushed between a dock and a vaporetto, one of the city’s many waterbuses. The vaporetto, which was reversing at the time, didn’t realize anything was wrong and sailed off without a second glance.In response, the city’s mayor has announced a battery of measures aimed at controlling Venice’s chaotic waterways. The canals will soon be treated much like a street for motor vehicles, with plans to ban cell phone use while operating boats, drug and alcohol tests for drivers and more stringent rules when it comes to turning or overtaking other boats. Plans to station police officers with whistles and signs at various points along the Grand Canal are also one of the 26 measures that have been proposed by the city.

For tourists, the new rules could mean more restrictions on when and where they can take a gondola ride. Gondolas will likely be banned from the Grand Canal before mid-morning, to make room for delivery boats. Gondolas sailing from one side of the Grand Canal to the other may also be forced to cut back.

Getting To Know The Faces Of Holland


bikes


Holland‘s most recent campaign, “Faces of Holland,” allows travelers to get to know the iconic facets of the region. Here are the six “faces,” and how you can meet them for yourself.

Bicycles

Biking and Holland are almost synonymous. In fact, out of Holland’s 16 million inhabitants, 18 million own bicycles, which means there are more bikes than people. With a flat landscape and over 18,000 cycling paths, there are many opportunities to enjoy the active pursuit.

Renting Bicycles

Biking in Holland is safe and there are many marked routes, even in busy cities. In Amsterdam, a majority of bikes are old-fashioned, one-speed cycles with a back-pedal brake. You can get a biking map from the tourist office, which also gives information on safety, routes, repair shops and restricted areas. Major rental shops include Bike City, which use traditional bikes to disguise you as a local, Mike’s Bike Tours, which offers daily tours and rentals, and Damstraat Rent-a-Bike, one of the cheapest options.Amstel Gold Race

This race began in 1966, with the original organizers being sponsored by Amstel Gold. The brewing company has been a part of the event ever since. Generally, it’s held in April, with the best international professional teams riding from the market at Maastricht to the Cauberg in Valkenburg. The race is part of the UCI World Tour.

Limburgs Mooiste

Originally a touring version of the Amstel Gold Race, the event expanded into professional and family tours. Professional routes include two 60-mile tracks, one with more hills than the other, and a 93-mile challenge. The next event will be Sunday, May 26, 2013.

4Days Cycling the Achterhoek

At this annual cycling event, riders cycle distances of 16 to 37 miles in the Achterhoek past castles, windmills, forests and farmlands. The next event will be August 6 through 9, 2013.


cheese


Cheese

The Dutch love cheese. In fact, they eat about seven pounds of it each year per person. Holland is home to two famous cheese destinations, Gouda and Edam. Gouda, the city of cheese and stroopwafels, or syrup waffles, has earned an international reputation thanks to its rich gouda cheese. A visit to both places in the summer will allow you to see a traditional cheese market, with the delicacy being traded in the same way it was centuries ago. In Gouda, you can find the market on the square between ‘Waag’ and City Hall. In Edam, 18th century cheese warehouses sit along the canal, with the market being in Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square.

Even when it’s not summer, visitors can still enjoy Holland’s rich cheese culture. In Amsterdam, there are a plethora of cheese shops where you can go to sample a large variety of cheeses, which is one of the city’s top three exports. If you want many choices, head to L’Amuse, located on Stadionweg in the Oud Zuid neighborhood. With over 400 varieties, their cheeses are stored in climate-controlled facilities specific for each cheese. Additionally, Kaashandel Kef on Marnixstraat was the first to specialize in French cheese and is still well respected for their French and Dutch types. To taste cheeses from one of the most popular shops in the city, visit
Reypenaer Shop and Tasting Room on Singel. This small cheese company offers tastings and classes in their basement.

For another cheese experience, visit the Alkmaar Cheese Museum. Located on the second and third floors of the Alkmaar cheese-weighing house, visitors can learn about cheese making, its history and how it relates to the culture of Holland. Some exhibits include illustrating the contrasts between cheese making on a farm and in a factory, as well as historic portraits and life-sized costumes of North Holland 16th century dress. Guided tours are available throughout the year with a reservation.


portrait


Dutch Masters

Many influential and pioneering artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals were Dutch, developing an international reputation in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Dutch Masters changed the art world with their brush strokes before, during and after the “golden era of painting.” Additionally, they positively affected the culture in the 17th century as trade grew and battles were won, allowing more people to afford art.

There are various museums located around Holland where you can see the works of these Dutch Masters. In Amsterdam, there’s the Rembrandt House Museum, which showcases works from the artist and gives free demonstrations on how Rembrandt made his etchings and prepared his paint. There’s also the Rijksmuseum, which features paintings from the Dutch Golden Age as well as Asian works, and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, where you can learn about the artist’s life and see his art. Outside of Amsterdam, you can head to Delft to visit the Vermeer Centre and see the work of Johannes Vermeer. And in the Hague, you’ll find an expansive collection of Golden Age paintings in the Mauritshuis.


canals


Canals

Many Dutch cities, like Amersfoort, Alkmaar, Dordrecht, Leiden, Utrecht, Leeuwarden and Groningen, were built with canals as a focus. The most famous canal city in Holland is, of course Amsterdam, whose canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the city’s name is the “Venice of the North.” Along with simply strolling along these waterways, you can experience them in the following ways.

floating dutchmanRenting Boats

Renting boats and floating around the city, taking photos and enjoying a picnic.

The Floating Dutchman

The Floating Dutchman is a floating bus tour in Amsterdam (shown right), that starts at the airport Schiphol or the Amsterdam City Center, drives around the city then splashes into the water to continue the tour for 45 minutes through the canals.

The Houseboat Museum

Located in Amsterdam near the Anne Frank House, The Houseboat Museum was created by houseboat owner Vincent van Loon when he noticed how curious visitors were about his floating home. You can take a tour and learn about houseboat living and typical Dutch decor, purchase a gift in the shop or grab a coffee in the 1950s style Dutch-lounge.


tulips


Tulips

Holland is home to the world’s largest flower park, Keukenhof, where seven million tulips bloom annually. Their love of tulips runs deep, and there are numerous sites and events taking place each year to help locals and visitors experience it for themselves.

Amsterdam’s Floating Flower Market

Located in the Singel Canal, flowers are sold on floating barges. First held in 1862, the market is a symbol of the old days when plants were shipped and sold on boats. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is located in the Jordaan neighborhood and outlines the history of the tulip in the Netherlands. While small in size, visitors can learn interesting facts like how tulips were used as food during wartime and how the flower helped the Dutch economy during the mid-17th century.

Holland’s Botanical Gardens

There are many worthwhile botanical gardens throughout Holland showcasing their prized tulip. The oldest in the Netherlands is Horus Botanicus located in Leiden, which has been collecting and analyzing plants for over four centuries. There’s also Hortus Haren in Haren, which has 20 acres and 15 gardens of tulips, fruits, herbs, coffee bushes, cinnamon trees, Chinese gardens and more.

Events

There is an array of tulip events throughout Holland. “Get Into The Greenhouse” takes place the first weekend in April. This is when greenhouse owners allow visitors to learn about produce and flower cultivation, see demonstrations and take cooking classes. There’s also the annual Tulip Festival each spring in the Noordoostpolder, home the largest amount of tulips in the country. Attendees can hike, bike or take a wagon tour or a carriage ride through the flowers. In the winter, travelers can experience the Holland Flowers Festival and stroll through colorful gardens, learn about cultivation and be exposed to the latest trends in Dutch gardening.


windmills


Windmills

Windmills are a large part of Holland’s culture, with five of the world’s largest windmills being in the center of Schiedam in South Holland. They are over 130 feet high, and played a large roll in the production of gin. Additionally, in the village of Kinderdijk you can find a UNESCO Heritage-titled mill network of 19 polder draining windmills. Along with visiting these areas, you can experience windmill culture through:

Windmill And Beer At Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in Amsterdam is a combination of windmill and brewery, as it sits in front of Molen de Gooyer windmill allowing visitors to experience Dutch culture in two different ways. The beer is 100% organic, and the tasting bar is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Originally built in 1725, Molen de Gooyer is one of six original windmills in Amsterdam still standing today.

Molen de Valk

Built in 1785, Molen de Valk in Leiden was made into a municipal museum in 1966, with exhibits on the milling process, books and tools from the last miller. The windmill is still in operation, and you can purchase flour onsite.

Celebrating National Mill Day

Each year on the second Saturday of May, the locals of Holland celebrate National Mill Day. This is when 600 watermills and windmills welcome the public to come learn more about this Dutch icon. Not surprisingly, many locals like to explore the mills by bike.

[Images via the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions]

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 5: Morning Shopping

Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 35 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Travel Talk is back! After our fall hiatus we are excited to bring you our greatest adventure yet: Thailand.

From the vibrant heart of Bangkok to the remote countryside, we traveled by foot, car, boat, motorbike, ox cart and elephant to savor the the splendor of ancient temples, the energy of the muay thai ring, the serenity of rural life, and every single spicy bite of Thai cuisine. We’ll be bringing it all to you in the coming weeks as part of our special 12-part feature: Travel Talk Thailand.

In part five of our adventure, we finally make our escape from Bangkok and head out into the country, stopping on the way to do a little morning shopping- Thai style. Join us as we explore exotic markets, meet Thailand’s most reckless boat driver and see goods delivered to (or should we say “through”?) market in a whole new way.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


Subscribe via iTunes:
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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Milan’s Canals Rival Venice’s Famous Waterways

My experience in Milan was speedy and dirty; I had a several-hour layover in the city that I spent wandering around outside the train station. I literally had pesto between my toes, a pigeon that ate some bad Chinese pooped all over me, I witnessed one of the drunk men lounging on the overgrown grass outside the station break a bottle over another drunk guy’s head, and I paid 3 Euro ($6) for a can of juice. Needless to say, I felt I had little incentive to return, when there are so many other wonderful places in Italy, until I read this article about Milan’s magnificent canals.

I might have extended my layover if I’d known that Milan has a series of canals that stretches three times longer than Venice’s famous waterways. Emanuele Errico, chairman of Lombardy canals, maintains that “this density of canals joining a great city to the surrounding countryside is an example that is almost unique in the world.”

Regional leaders are hoping to refurbish the centuries-old system that made landlocked Milan a top Mediterranean port. Around 70 percent of the canals, which were once overseen by Leonardo Da Vinci, need to be rebuilt. Whether or not they are, I’ve now got a reason to visit Milan.

Thanks to Astilly on Flickr for the photo of a canal in Milan’s Navigli District.

A Canadian in Beijing: Suzhou’s Hidden Gardens

I’m tired of being stared at and so I’ve crouched down and I’m writing in here, tucked between two full benches in a room that holds one thousand people, easily. This is one of five waiting rooms at the Suzhou Zhan (train station) where people are waiting for their Labour Day trains to take them away from their lives for a few days. There really aren’t a lot of white faces in this town and mine has received a lot of stares, points, giggles and craning necks.

Today I came to Suzhou on a day trip from Shanghai. It was Jeni’s idea, really, and she even bought me a ticket here and everything. This is the site of some of the world’s oldest traditional gardens and I wanted to see them (or at least one of them) and take some photographs.

Today is Lao Dong Jie, or “Labour Day” as we know it, and it marks the beginning of a week’s holiday for nearly everyone in China. It’s amazing that I was able to get a return ticket back to Shanghai considering the line-ups at the train station this afternoon. The whole process took about an hour and a half. I stook in one line about one hundred feet long next to maybe thirty other identical line-ups just slammed with people. And while they moved fairly quickly, there was pushing and budding and shouting at the ticket windows, which made for some very stern clerks.

I waited patiently and when it came to my turn, I was given a wide berth – a sort of foreigner’s deference. Strange at times and common here in China, but today it was appreciated as it made it easier for me to communicate with the attendant and secure my return fare. I was the only white face that I could see in a room of more people than I could estimate and this photo (above) does not do the scale justice.

Suzhou is known for its beauty and many people retire here. It is a smaller city – only about six million people, or a bit bigger than the size of Toronto! – and it is full of greenery and lovely canals that line walkways and parks.

After the train station, I walked in the direction of the most recommended garden. There was so much construction on this road that I couldn’t find it and everyone I asked was either also visiting or was too shy to respond. I ended up joining the throngs on a small shaded patch of grass by a river to have a snack and to rest my walking legs.

When I started up again, I finally saw a historical landmarks sign that told me that I’d overshot that particular garden. “Mei wenti,” I thought (or, “no problem”), “I’ll just go to a different one!” So, I followed my nose and my eyes and zeroed in on an historic temple that cost too much to tour (but was free to photograph!)

I was sure that the temple would have some gardens to tour but I was wrong. I continued on. I even hopped a rickshaw for a large section of one of the busy streets. There was just something sweet about the rickshaw driver and he caught me with tired feet!

When I hopped out, I was supposed to be really close to the “Joy Gardens,” which were next on my map. I walked along the road and couldn’t see a single garden nor an entrance way or alley towards one. I did, however, pass a music shop.

That’s when it was all over.

A young man was sitting in the entrance way and was playing an erhu. These traditional Chinese instruments have always fascinated me and I even own (a broken) one at home. I walked past the shop and smiled but then a few paces later I remembered that I needed a guitar strap and so I doubled back.

The men in the doorway greeted me with smiles – both the proprietor and the young musician – and motioned for me to tour the store at my leisure. I asked about the guitar strap and promptly purchased it (only 10 kuai!) and then proceeded to ask some various questions about the erhu. Eventually, I imagine that my questions got a bit trying and they asked me if I wanted to try to play it. Of course I did!

They gave me an informal lesson on holding the bow and the instrument on my leg, finding the notes (doh, ray, me, fah, so, lah, tee, doh) and the correct posture. I was concentrating so much on trying to hear the pitch and land the notes correctly that I didn’t realize until I looked up about five minutes later that a small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk to watch this blonde foreigner make horrifying, out-of-tune sounds on the erhu!

The owner subtly motioned for me to move into the store and he sat me down half-way back and away from the onlookers and then plopped a children’s erhu lesson book in front of me. If was equipped with pictures and diagrams. He told me to keep working on it with an impatient “why-have-you-stopped?” gesture and so I did. It only took me about another five minutes to successfully nail the major scale. They applauded. I smiled like the little kids in the pictures and I knew that I had to buy one.

Only 175 kuai later and I had a starter erhu and case filled with extra strings, rosin and the shopkeeper’s well-wishes.

Now they wanted to hear me play the guitar and so I spent another half an hour picking and strumming away at a very cheap guitar that he pulled off of the wall for me to play. They clapped and laughed at my style of playing but kept encouraging me and I was easily baited into playing more. Finally, though, it was time to put the cheap guitar back on the wall in hopes that it would one day stay in tune.

I strung my new erhu over my shoulder and bounded out of the store with music in my step.

I was still looking for that garden, but I again couldn’t find it, even after asking the police who made a grand (and loud) show of miming how to get to the garden to me despite my ability to understand basic directions.

A half-hour later and I was no closer to any traditional garden. I had planned to meet some friends from Canada in Suzhou in the afternoon and I was already late. I caught a taxi and had to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be seeing any gardens this time around. The traditional gardens of Suzhou will have to wait until the next time.

(I’m sure they’re beautiful!)

I’d like to think of this music shop as my hidden garden in Suzhou. It was beautiful and full of tradition!

They’re calling my train now. Time for me to lift my stuff off of this dirty floor and make my way back to Shanghai. I have a “standing only” ticket (i.e. no assigned seat) for the ninety-minute, jam-packed trip back to Shanghai. . . so wish me luck!

Erhu image came from Deborah Koh’s page dedicated to the folk music of China.