Czech Republic Travel Guide, Fairy Tale Land

December 7, 2016 by

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The Czech Republic is a relatively small country in the European Union, with a land surface of 78, 866 square kilometers and a population of roughly 10 million. However, strong essences are kept in small bottles, hence the Czech Republic can be best described as a historic jewel located at the heart of Western Europe, boasting its impeccably preserved medieval towns, majestic palaces and castles, top notch spas and beautiful touristic resorts, not to mention the country’s scenic national parks.

Truth be told, despite having a relatively low profile from a globe trotter’s point of view, the Czech Republic has a lot to offer especially if you like beer. Because world’s finest beer is made in the Czech Republic, yes indeed, and I am talking about Budweiser folks. Are you interested just yet?

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Now, the beating heart of the Czech Republic is the culture crammed capital and main city Prague, a unique place which is dubbed as being the city of a thousand spirits, and I am not talking about alcohol again,don’t worry. Prague is home for beautiful cathedrals and churches whilst its cobbled streets, lanes and beautiful bridges dating back to the medieval age are all overshadowed by a castle which looks like it was teleported here from a fairy tale by Disney or something.

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Add to all these a pinch of fine restaurants, ancient monuments, bustling markets and old breweries, not to mention a fine selection of jazz clubs and you’ll understand why visiting Prague will make for an experience to remember.

However, if you’re just a city slicker who doesn’t like to explore the great outdoors, well, you don’t know what you’re missing. The Czech Republic harbors a number of extraordinary attractions for outdoors enthusiasts, just a short drive from Prague actually, and I am talking about the world renowned springs at Karlovy Vary. Or, why not, the humongous Karlstejn, an incredibly beautiful Gothic castle, not to mention Kutna Hora,  the horror church built using human bones. Or, last but not least, Plzen, the city who gave the world pilsner beer.

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The Czech Republic was formerly part of the communist republic of Czechoslovakia but after the Velvet Divorce that took place in 1993, Slovakia and the Czech Republic split up and the latter has emerged way more popular in terms of attracting tourists from all around the world. And its appeal is truly understandable, considering the country’s natural assets, like the epic wine growing county of Monrovia, which boasts its lush rolling hills, being the definition of vineyard country or cities like Olomouc and Brno, where traditional spirits and foods are attracting gourmets even from France, which is the world’s food and wine capital.

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Krkonose boasts its snow capped mountain scenery, not to mention the eerie rock formations you can admire in Cesky Raj, or Sumava National Park’s wild forests and, last but not least, the impeccably preserved medieval town of Cesky Krumlov which is proudly listed on Unesco’s World Heritage Site.

Obviously, the Czech Republic is way more than just the sum of all its natural beauty, cities and incredible sights, being a proud nation with a friendly and forthright people and even if it’s relatively petite as far as countries go, it will leave a strong impression especially if this is the first time you’re travelling to Europe.

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And while natural beauty and the country’s medieval atmosphere are as unique as they get, visiting the Czech Republic is a fine opportunity to enjoy the country’s hearty cuisine and excellent beer. The Czech food is dominated by meat, served with potatoes and bread, sometimes dumplings and lots of sauces. Germany, Hungary and Austria really influenced the Czech cuisine, in a big way actually but that’s a great thing in my view. Specialties include roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, thick beef stews served with a rich onion base and bread dumplings, deep fried Edam cheese served with fries and tartar sauce, pancake made from baked potato, breadcrumbs, garlic and egg, pot roasted beef tenderloin and veggies served with cream cheese sauce and cranberries, steak tartar seasoned with egg yolk and above all else, everything tastes better with a bottle of Budweiser Budvar, arguably the best beer in the world.

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Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Best Droid for the Money

December 7, 2016 by

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The Xiaomi Redmi 3S is the latest device pertaining to the 3rd gen Redmis and it was already overshadowed by the imminent launching of the Redmi 4,which was announced recently by the Chinese based tech company.

However, even if internet critics described the Xiaomi Redmi 3S as already obsolete, making for an useless addition to the series, I beg to differ, as the Xiaomi Redmi 3S plays and wins the hearts, minds and wallets of users all over the world in the best bang for the buck category.

The Xiaomi Redmi 3S follows on the beaten path by its predecessors, boasting a high end full metal jacket chassis and a lots of goodies under the hood, everything at an unbeatable price. Just like its Pro version, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S comes with a 5 inches wide display, complemented by a cool aluminum chassis, a finger print sensor on the back panel and a 13 megapixels main shooter, with a big 4100 battery on top of everything to keep the lights on. Ladies and gents, in my humble opinion, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is a winner by any metrics, especially considering that it offers Xiaomi’s latest MIUI 8 user interface.

What makes it different from the vanilla Redmi 3 you may ask? Well, consider this: unlike its predecessors which were known for using a type of ersatz octa-core architecture for their SoC, i.e. two CPU clusters by 4 cores, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S runs on a true blue Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 system on chip, which is the real deal, i.e. 8 CPUs, working in tandem with an Adreno 505 GPU, which is able to handle the latest graphic applications and will definitely improve the overall user experience.

The “old” Redmi 2 was universally acclaimed as the best smartphone in the world in its niche, i.e.  devices sold for under $100 and I bet that the Xiaomi Redmi 3S will do just the same next year.

To begin with, in terms of size and weight, standing at 139.3 x 69.6 x 8.5 millimeters and weighing 144 grams, the 3S is virtually identical with its Pro sibling. Considering its entry level pricing, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is as premium as it gets in its class, boasting a beautifully designed aluminum chassis, unibody of course, showing off its curvy edges and an awesome matte finish. The only thing missing compared to the 3 Pro is the diamond pattern on the rear.

Truth be told, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is a rarity these days for a 5 incher, being almost perfectly designed and shaped, offering excellent pocketability without compromising in terms of screen real estate. The metal/matte finish combo works great for boosting the grip, whilst the smartphone feels perfect in hand and in your pocket.

The Xiaomi Redmi 3S comes with a 5 inches wide screen of HD 720p resolution, which translates into 294 pixels per inch density. That’s almost Retina grade, which means it’s more than enough for sharp texts and crisp images, not to mention that a 720p doesn’t stress the GPU as much as a full HD 1080p, which means a boost in performance.

Despite lacking a Gorilla Glass coating and no mention whatsoever of any scratch resistance treatment, the display is above average quality wise, just make sure you don’t drop your smartphone too often. In terms of battery life, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is powered by a beefy 4100 mAh power plant which comes with an outstanding 104 hours of endurance rating, meaning you can use it hard for at least a couple of days on a single charge and up to four days if you’re not pecking at it constantly.

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The good news keep on coming, as the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is LTE compatible, together with 3 band GSM and quad band 3G connectivity. There’s also Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi Direct, GPS with Beidou and Glonass, Bluetooth 4.1, a micro USB 2.0 port and even an FM radio.

As I already told you, this baby runs on a QSD 430 SoC complemented by a more than decent 3 GB of RAM and the new Adreno 505 GPU, which is a significant improvement in all respects over the Redmi 2. The chipset is a great match  for the 720p screen, offering a fluid Android experience and being able to run any type of 720p content with ease.

The camera is the same 13 MP variety you can find on the Redmi 3, slightly improved with a new phase detection system for more accurate/faster auto-focus. Bottom line, the Xiaomi Redmi 3S is the perfect droid for budget conscious consumers, offering an excellent 5” screen, an impeccable build quality, amazing battery life, solid hardware/performance and a very capable camera for a very low price tag, ~120 euros.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egypt Travel Guide

December 7, 2016 by

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Egypt is one of those countries everyone should visit, at least once in a lifetime. Being the cradle of civilization and home of some of the world’s oldest and most enduring architectural wonders (the pyramids of course), Egypt makes for an unforgettable adventure and an exquisite travelling experience.

There’s an old saying, about how men fear time but time fears the pyramids. Well, to begin with, Egypt is a country with an incredible rich history which had passed through some turmoil recently, yet the country still stands its ground so to speak as accessible and welcoming for the intrepid tourist who’s not afraid to pay a visit to North Africa. With a land surface of approximately one million square kilometers and a population of 94 million, Egypt still has what it takes to thrill you times and times again, especially when it comes to its timeless pyramids and temples or its friendly and welcoming people.

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Some say that there are actually two Egypts, i.e. there’s a duality kind of thing, with the first being Cairo’s Egypt and the Nile, as Cairo is the country’s capital and a place buzzing with life, boasting its medieval bazaars, river cruises, the nose-less Sphinx and a British-era colonial exoticism, whilst the second Egypt is the Red Sea realm, the ideal place for water sports aficionados, where you can enjoy scuba diving and top notch resorts for sun seekers.

The best known large scale and modern resort is Sharm el Sheikh, where you’ll be flabbergasted by world-class hotels and top notch diving opportunities, not to mention the plethora of desert adventures available for intrepid tourists.

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Most of Egypt’s ancient architecture and treasures are due to the era of pharaohs, including  the last man standing of the world’s seven wonders, and I am talking about the Pyramids of Giza. Also, Egypt harbors the world-renowned lotus columned temples of Karnak and Luxor, Aswan, the Valley of Kings and the old temples of Abu Simbel.

These monuments are spread along the Nile’s course like a pearl of strings and they represent an ancient and proud legacy, drawing millions of visitors into Egypt for centuries, making for some of the most fabled treasures in human history.

Obviously, you can’t understand Egypt just from its coral reefs and great architecture. Impressive and beautiful as they are, you’ll have to understand Egypt’s people too and you’ll achieve that goal best bartering for a good deal in Khan al Khalil bazaar, Cairo’s ancient market, looking for a bargain whilst sipping hot tea and enjoying a nice and long conversation with a local art-dealer. Here you’ll understand what makes (and made) Egypt great, i.e. what gives it fortitude, character and color. Egyptians, of course.

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Besides Cairo, Alexandria is another great place to visit while in Egypt, being the country’s largest city, a realm imbibed in its French colonial atmosphere together with a laid back and relaxed Greek influence, making for an interesting melange of art deco architecture, continental cuisine i.e. French patisseries and excellent (yet crowded) sandy beaches. The museums are great, and don’t forget to visit the modern Bibliotecha and admire the mosaics of the old Roman Amphitheater.

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Theban Hills is the place which harbors the Valley of the Kings, the home of the mummy so to speak, where the remains of the greatest of the Egyptian pharaohs were put to rest for millennia. The tombs were pillaged centuries ago, but they still display incredible wall paintings, telling the story of the pharaohs life styles. Obviously, the most famous tomb to visit in the Valley of the Kings is that of Tutankhamen, which was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter in almost pristine condition.

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Don’t forget to explore the temples at Luxor, straddling the Nile river, especially the temple of Karnak which sits on the east bank and makes for a spectacular destination for architecture aficionados, where you can admire outstanding statues, lotus columned halls and obelisks, while in the city center is the incredible Luxor Temple which is breathtaking when lit up at night.

Visa and Passport requirements

You’ll need a valid passport to enter Egypt and sometimes a visa is required, easily obtainable from Egyptian consulates or at the port in Alexandria.

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Samsung Galaxy C5 Review, Ready to Go!

December 7, 2016 by

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The new Samsung Galaxy C5 plays in the best bang for the buck category and it makes for the latest member of the Galaxy family, being a relatively impressive droid considering the price tag vs the tech specs.

Samsung’s new C line boasts a slim and impeccably crafted metal chassis, being an incremental upgrade over last year’s generation, especially in terms of hardware, whilst the design remained pretty much the same. The current generation is composed of the C5, C7 and C9, the former being today’s star and also the cheapest of the bunch, though these babies actually share most of their hardware.

Design wise, they’re pretty much the same, almost identical, with the sole difference being the chip-set architecture. I must admit it though, the Samsung Galaxy C5 is a real looker, reminding me of the  HTC A9 or even the iPhone 6s, and that’s absolutely great in my view. Even if originality is not its strongest attribute, the Samsung Galaxy C5 is a charming smartphone by any metrics.  You’ll definitely fall in love by the gorgeous rear panel and the sturdy metal chassis which features an uni-body design, including a matte finish that’s smudge/finger print resistant, all built with Samsung’s obsessive attention to detail.

Generally speaking, Samsung rarely disappoints with regard to display quality and the C5 is no exception to that rule. The Galaxy C5 falls into “near phablet” territory with its 5.2 inches wide Super AMOLED display of full HD 1080p resolution. The screen is excellent, with punchy colors and high contrast, offering a great 421 pixels per inch density and impeccable sunlight legibility. Everything is at superlative considering that the C5 is a mid-ranged droid, all images look sharp and sort of punchy, which is the main characteristic of AMOLED displays.

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Color accuracy is equally impressive too, meaning that Samsung takes color calibration seriously and also that it constantly works at improving its displays.

Connectivity wise,the smartphone is equipped with twin nano SIM slots, of which one is a hybrid, meaning that you can use it as a micro SD card or for a second line via SIM card. LTE connectivity is capped at Cat. 4 which translates into 150 MB /second, despite the fact that the chip-set has an X8 modem inside, being rated for Cat.7 and that’s pretty weird.

Naturally, there’s Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2 with ANT+ support, NFC (Samsung Pay compatible) and a micro USB 2.0 port which comes with USB on the go. Samsung did not forget to put an FM Radio on board for your listening pleasure and that’s a nice touch in this writer’s opinion.

The Galaxy C5 comes with a 2600 mAh non-removable battery under the rear panel which has an endurance rating of 75 hours. That’s pretty good for a mid ranged droid, meaning that you’ll get 2 days of power on a single charge even if you’re a hard-core user, else you can use it for up to three days under moderate usage.

The C5 arrives pre-loaded with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box , boasting Samsung’s in house made Touch Wiz user interface on top, which takes the clutter down to a minimum so to speak, with just a hint of bloatware and all things nicely organized.

Being a mid-ranger, one should not expect miracles from the C5, yet the smartphone has enough power under the hood to make it through the day with flying colors. The droid runs on an octa core chip set architecture, a Snapdragon 617 respectively, working together with an Adreno 405 GPU and a plentiful 4 GB of RAM.

The camera is a 16 MP main snapper with an f/1.9 aperture lens, helped by a dual tone led flash. The sensor is made by Samsung and I am talking about the S5K3P3, which offers a pretty good camera experience. The selfie shooter is an 8 MP variety and both snappers are capable of video recording at full HD 1080p resolution.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a mid ranged droid which is basically an iPhone lookalike only way more cheaper, with an excellent screen, decent battery life, superb build quality and average performance, the C5 is the droid you’re looking for, especially if you catch it at a discount.

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Austria Travel Guide, the Good Germans

December 4, 2016 by

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Austria is a small country located in the heart of the European Union, with a long and well established reputation, at least from the intrepid traveler’s point of view. With a land surface of  83,871 square kilometers and a population just shy of 9 million, Austria is one of the most sought after touristic destinations in the world.

If you’ve never been to Austria, you probably know at least about the geniuses that made that country great and world-renowned, and I am not talking about Adolf Hitler either. When I think of Austria, I have my head full of names like Mozart (he was Austrian, you know), Strauss, Schubert, the Hapsburg Empire and, of course, epic Alpine visions.

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If you have these expectations in mind while travelling to Austria, don’t worry, they’ll be met and exceeded, with delightful grace. The mountain scenery in the country is absolutely outstanding, the country’s capital Vienna is bursting with culture and has all the old empire fingerprints still intact, the home grown classical music icons are championed (read played) everywhere, but there are also quite a few surprises kept up its sleeve by Austria.

Cutting edge architecture, contemporary art marvels and a truly out of the box and innovative cuisine, all these make the country to be one of the best places to live in the world, and it’s very easy to see why, provided you stay long enough here and you take a sip of everything, one at a time.

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The country already reached end history status, I mean everything is nice and clean, the life is easy, its cities offer you natural beauty, affordable culture and, very importantly in my view, lots of opportunities to learn new things and cleanse your eyes and your soul admiring elegant neoclassical and Baroque architecture. Oh, and the public transportation system works impeccable, so you’ll be able to ditch your car and enjoy the view.

Austria is also surprisingly diverse, as in varied, meaning that you can enjoy the bohemian life in one of Vienna’s numerous coffee shops, where coffee is almost a religion, or, why not, to have the time of your life in one of the country’s skiing paradises, the likes of, let’s say St Anton or Kitzbuhel. Summertime hikes are one of Austria’s main attractions for outdoors enthusiasts, while in the winter, besides skiing you can go ice skating on one of Austria’s numerous lakes.

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While in the city, you may stand in shock and awe admiring the intricate cathedral interiors or the almost ostentatious opulence of Hapsburg castles, or if you’re on the plebe’s side, take a more prole approach and imbibe yourself in the Mitteleuropa culture (that’s middle Europa) over the fabulously diverse  inner country inns where you can eat the best goulash in your life.

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Hundertwasser House is the place in Vienna which makes for a true Mecca of art aficionados, as visiting here you’ll be able to admire authentic paintings wearing the signatures of famous names, the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael and so on and so forth. Or, why not, to have the time of your life riding a horse through the country’s beautifully wooded tracts.

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It would be hard to squeeze it all in actually, so take your time, enjoy the show and remember that Austria is a place  of natural beauty which is best served calmly, one sip at a time. Austria is a country which indulges you to relax, recline and relish, being the end result of millennia of western civilization, boasting an impressive architecture, works of art, a deep and rich culture, all created by many hands and souls over the centuries. Allow yourself the most time you can afford to luxuriate and understand what’s going on, you’ll thank me later.

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Visa Requirements

Austria is a member of the European Union and it signed the Schengen treaty, hence if you’re an EU citizen, you’ll not require a passport, just an ID (if anything). For USA/Canadian tourists, a passport is required (no Visa though).

 

 

 

 

 

 

LG V20 Review, El Leader Maximo

December 4, 2016 by

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If smartphones would have their own super heroes, the LG V20 would be one of them definitely. Actually, after the not so great sales of the G5, which was an outstanding smartphone by any metrics, the Korean tech giant decided to go all in with the LG V20.

And the end result was nothing short of spectacular.The LG V20 has all the characteristics for achieving greatness. Two cameras, 2 screens, 2 apps on the home screen, 4 DACs, the list is as long as my arm.

Actually, the LG V20 can be described as a glimpse into the future, looking and feeling (and doing) like the next year’s flagships should do. This baby is a multi media monster, continuing LG’s experiment with dual cameras, a wide/normal lens combo, the same feature adopted by Apple with their latest iPhone 7.

Also, the LG V20 is the perfect tool to record ultra high definition videos, being a pocket music studio sort to speak, as its high quality microphones are able to record even a rock concert at impeccable quality sound wise. The audio playback is again in a league of its own, considering the fact that the LG V20 can (and will provided you’re into that racket)deal with drive studio quality high-end headphones using its audiophile grade DACs (four of them).

I bet there will be a day sometime in the future when we’ll look back at the LG V20 in awe and recognize it was a true pioneer of its times. And speaking of pioneering, this baby is the first smartphone to be shipped running on Android’s latest and greatest OS, the Nougat variety. Isn’t this something to contemplate?

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The LG V20 is what the German cars of the 80s and 90s used to be: over-engineered to perfection, including the physical durability (the LG V20 comes with a high quality aluminum chassis which is as durable as they get, being built to comply with military standards).

However, the back cover is removable, hence the battery is user replaceable, a rare feature in this day especially when it comes to flagships. Overall, I must tell you that the LG V20 is that kind of a smartphone which has all the characteristics to make LG great again.

The audio features of the LG V20 are nothing short of out of this world, but even the camera is one step ahead its competitors. Check this out: the LG V20 uses Qualcomm’s state of the art image stabilization gimmick which augments its optical system. And don’t forget what I’ve already told you: this droid launched with Android 7 Nougat before Google’s own Pixels were even announced, not to mention available.

The smartphone measures 159.7×78.1×7.6 millimeters and it weighs 174 grams, which means it’s lighter than its V10 brethren and thinner by a millimeter, yet it’s still complying with the MIL-STD-810G rating.

The chassis is built using a material which is very popular in airplanes,  AL-6013 aluminum that is, an alloy which is very light, strong and offers corrosion resistance. The top and bottom are made using another military grade material, which is incredibly resistant to drops/shocks and things of that nature and I am talking here about the siloxane polycarbonate.

As per the display, there are actually two of them. The main one is a 5.7 inches wide IPS LCD variety with QHD resolution and 513 pixels per inch density, while the second display is a single line, 2.1” in diagonal with a resolution of 160×1040 pixels, always on that is.

The main screen is excellent, sharp and bright, with perfect sunlight legibility. Connectivity is stellar, as LG V20 has it all: LTE Cat. 12, it supports even AWS 3, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX, USB Type C, the classic 3.5 mm headphone jack (kudos!), NFC, Miracast with Mirror Link etc.

The battery is a 3200 mAh variety, removable, remember that, and it offers 63 hours of endurance rating, being the only weakness of the V20 in my opionion.

The show is powered by a QSD 820, the weapon of choice for 2016 flagships, paired with 4 gigabytes of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. The phone runs smooth and fluid and needless to say, this is a high end droid running on high end software, so everything performs like it was expected.

Bottom line, the LG V20 is the best of LG, boasting a great build quality, an excellent screen, shock-proofing, a removable battery and an out of this universe multimedia department. If you want to give it a spin, be my guest, you’ll never regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuba Travel Guide

December 2, 2016 by

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Cuba is one of those countries in which old-school socialism is still alive. Despite being something close to the ideal place in terms of climate, landscape and touristic opportunities, Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a population of 11 million as per the 2015 census and a land surface of 110,860 square kilometers, despite its economical struggle, Cuba makes for a very interesting travelling destination.

One of the main advantages of visiting Cuba is the fact that you’ll be travelling back in time. From the pearl of the Caribbean, the new Las Vegas of the fifties, after the communist revolution in 1959, everything got frozen on this little island. Basically, 2016’s Cuba is just the same like it was 60 years ago. Even the cars are the same.

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However, everything is dirt cheap, I mean the prices will shock you if you’re from the EU or the US. The natural beauties of the island, like the wildlife rich rain-forests, its immaculate sandy beaches, its majestic mountains with tumbling waterfalls, everything is alluring for the intrepid tourist.

One may  even say that Cuba makes for one of the most unique traveling destinations on Earth…. In the fifties, Cuba was one of the richest, largest and most populous places in the Caribbean, with a booming economy and vibrant cities. After the socialist-communist coup, US imposed a trade embargo over the Castro regime, which confiscated billions of dollars in property from American companies and individuals. Subsequently, Cuba got frozen back in time, as today its cities  are still  boasting vintage American cars from the 50s and 60s, while in the countryside you’ll be shocked to discover that horses and carts are the main transportation method.

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As I already told you, visiting Cuba is like travelling back in time. The country’s capital is Havana, a city made of contrasts, making for a mind blowing melange of debauchery and dilapidation, a place where impeccably restored buildings dating back to the colonial era stand side by side with dirty slums which are the tenements of the plebes, i.e. the regular Cubans.

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However, Cuban people, the folks who didn’t make it to the US I mean, are very optimistic by nature and Havana makes for a vivid city despite the ubiquitous poverty, dancing on salsa rhythms around the clock, where people are very uninhibited and incredibly friendly, offering an enthralling and original urban experience like no other place on God’s green Earth.

Besides Havana, there are other interesting cities to visit, provided you get a visa. For example, let’s talk a little bit about Santiago de Cuba, which is the definition of a melting pot in terms of African Caribbean cultures, where multicolored buildings stand in the shadows of grand cathedrals. And then again, there’s always Trinidad, an old place which makes for a real life snapshot of the colonial era, with its cobbled streets and faded colonial architecture, a symbol of a bygone era if it ever was one.

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Cuba’s cities are very interesting provided misery and poverty are not a major turnoff, but for most of the country’s visitors, its splendid beaches are the main attraction. Christopher Columbus is quoted as saying about the coast of Guardalavaca as being the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And boy, Columbus did saw a few places in his lifetime.

And yes indeed, he was right, considering the incredibly white sands and turquoise waters of Cuba’s coastline, which make for some of the most exquisite places on the planet. And also, some of the loneliest, i.e. if you’re into secluded beautiful places, Cuba will not let you down. If you have the means to go visit inland Cuba, you’ll be in for a real treat admiring the green limestone peaks of the Vinales, which is the blessed land upon which Cuba’s world famous tobacco is cultivated.

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Today, Cuba is slowly opening up to the Western civilization, with Castro dead and all that, and as a consequence, modern tourist resorts are starting to pop up all over the place. However, if you want to take a sip from the real Cuba, the most rewarding experience will be offered by staying in casa particulares, i.e. private home-stays which are as genuine as a regular Cuban’s life gets making for a unique experience you’ll never be able to get staying in a hotel. Keep in mind that you’ll require a passport and a Visa to enter and stay in Cuba for up to 30 days.

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Huawei nova Review, A Star is Born

December 2, 2016 by

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Huawei nova is one of the latest Android running smartphones in the Chinese tech giant’s portfolio and if I’d have to describe it in a few words I’d say: look, it’s a Nexus 6p, deja vu all over again!

Huawei nova looks strikingly similar to the Nexus 6p, yes indeed, except it’s a tad smaller in size. But considering the fact that the Nexus 6p was built and designed by the same Huawei, well, it’s not unusual for a mid-ranger like the Huawei nova to follow into the steps of its nobler kin, which was a flagship grade droid by any metrics.

So, what is this device about after all? The Huawei nova is the definition of aurea mediocritas, which is the Latin equivalent of nowadays mid-ranger. The Chinese state owned giant just took a regular mid range droid, slapped a cool design over it, added a pinch of greatness, a slap of premium feel and a mandatory hardware minimum and voila, a star was born.

At first sight, the Huawei nova looks stunning, just like its bigger brother the P9 (another flagship), having the same full HD 1080p display, but the screen real estate was shrunk at 5 inches, which is actually great in terms of handling and pocketability.

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Of course, the system on chip was downgraded as the Huawei nova now runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, but don’t worry: the price tag was significantly shrunk also, whilst the droid still works buttery smooth in day to day use, provided you’re not a hard core gamer. Considering the price bracket and the class, Huawei made a great choice with the QSD 625, at least in my opinion.

Finally, on the rear panel you’ll find a 12 megapixels main snapper, which is again, as mid-range as it gets, but the Leica branding is now gone.

To begin with, the Huawei nova is 4 millimeters shorter compared to the P9 and weighs 146 grams, which is pretty good for a five incher, being rather light for its size actually considering that it features a full metal jacket chassis. The design is flawless, together with the build quality. Truth be told, the Huawei nova is a real looker and you’ll probably fall in love with its design. The chassis is made from hardcore-aviation grade aluminum, which means it’s both lightweight and sturdy.

The display is a five inches wide high quality IPS LCD variety with full HD 1080p resolution, boasting a density of 441 pixels per inch and the popular 2.5D glass that looks pretty cool. Overall, the screen is an average performer in all regards, sans Gorilla Glass protection though, which is kind of sad.

 

The battery powering this droid is a 3020 mAh power plant, non removable unfortunately but considering the 14 nm SoC, it comes with an impressive 84 hours of endurance rating, which means that if you’re an average user, the Huawei nova will last you for 3 days on a single charge. Not bad at all for a smartphone, don’t you think folks?

In the connectivity department, the Huawei nova is well equipped, featuring LTE cat.7, 2G/3G/4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC, including A-GPS with GLONASS and even an FM radio. Oh, and there’s also a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which is becoming increasingly rare nowadays!

The whole show runs on Android Marshmallow 6.0, improved with the company’s proprietary Emotion UI, a skin of sorts. In terms of performance, the Huawei nova relies on the QSD 625, i.e. an octa core architecture, with its Cortex A53 CPUs running at 2 GHz, together with 3 GB of RAM. Truth be told, the SoC is the only thing that stops the Huawei nova from playing with the big boys, in the premium niche. The SoC is manufactured in the 14 nm process, just like the high-end QsD 820, which is an uncommon feature in mid range chip-sets. The graphics department is taken care of by an Adreno 506 GPU and overall, the Huawei nova is an excellent smartphone providing a buttery smooth and more than adequate Android experience in all daily tasks.

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The camera is a 12 MP variety with a F/2.2 aperture lens, contrast detection hybrid auto-focus, phase detection and all the bells and whistles you could imagine, while the sensor seems to be the same one used in the P9, which is great news. Another good news is that the camera can record 4K videos, but I’d advise you to take vids in full HD, as they’re about the best I’ve seen in a smartphone recently. 4K recording is pretty good too, but the 1080p is absolutely outstanding.

Bottom line, the Huawei nova has a lot to offer: a great design, impeccable build quality, an above average camera and an excellent hardware platform. If you can afford it, as it was launched with a price tag of ~400 euros which is a tad rich, just go for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

United States of America, Land of the Free

October 24, 2016 by

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The United States of America is the greatest country in the world, at least in this writer’s opinion, and not necessarily from a traveler’s point of view. However, since this is a travel guide, I’ll refer to the United States of America as a touristic destination and I will not bore you with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Founding Fathers and so on and so forth.

So, to begin with, with a population of 321 million officially (the real figure is north of 350 million if we’re including the illegal immigrants) and a land surface of almost ten million square kilometers, the United States of America is a huge country after any metrics.

Truth be told, the land of the free, home of the brave is a place of incredible beauty and genuine diversity, ranging from the dramatic skyline of New York City, the most adulated and cosmopolitan city in the world to the dramatic landscapes, the likes of Arizona’s Mesas .

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If you’re for the first time in the Big Apple, nothing can prepare you for the “cultural” shock in advance, and I am talking here about your fist glimpse of Manhattan surreal skyline. If you want to be flabbergasted by God’s green earth, just take a trip to the Grand Canyon, or imbibe yourself with the magic nightlife and the neon lit excesses of the nouveaux Gomora, and I mean Las Vegas. These are just a few of the United States of America’s highlights.

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Truth be told, you can spend your entire life in this country and you’ll have the sensation you’ve only scratched the surface, provided you’re not a millionaire who can travel non-stop and live his life on the road. Of course, I am talking from a traveler’s point of view. America is so vast and the touristic highlights so many, it would be next to impossible to visit everything in a single trip, that’s the idea.

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After all, the United States of America is the place where you can trek through hill country, I mean trekking the soaring Black Hills in the state of South Dakota, or admire the incredible spectacle offered by the world renowned Niagara Falls, or go West, because the West is the Best, Get here and We’ll do the rest, as Morrison used to sing back in the day talking about California’s epic Pacific Coast. Lake Tahoe is the best place for skiing in the world, whilst traveling in the Midwest you’ll be able to re-live the cowboy life in a cattle ranching trip, or imbibe in the creole live jazz culture of New Orleans. Visiting the United States of America will make you understand the sens of the phrase “endless options”.

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Truth be told, the man made landscapes in the United States of America, and I am talking about its wonderful megalopolises, are almost as great sa the natural ones. The most iconic skyscrapers in the world are in New York after all, the likes of the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building.

However, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are equally recognizable architecturally speaking if you’ve watched Hollywood’s best movies.

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The folks who live in the United States of America are similarly diverse as the country’s  landscape and cities. America has them all, from the colorful and happy go lucky Cubans to the gun toting wranglers of Texas, this place is (or it used to be until affirmative action and cultural marxism) the definition of a cultural melting pot. Being a country built by European immigrants, at least until the sixties, 10 generations of English, Scottish, Irish, Italian, German and Northern European immigrants have shaped the United States of America’s national identity in almost every aspect, ranging from language, music, food and manners.

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The country’s capital is Washington DC and it was once derided as boring, but today the new Rome (the Empire’s capital) is a place bursting with life, hip new bars, beautiful boutiques and an incredibly culinary scene.

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Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, Hail to the Queen

October 24, 2016 by

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If you’re wondering what’s up with the title, well, I regard the newly released Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 as a queen, not a king, because Xiaomi is a girl’s name. At least in my view. But let’s not talk about Chinese girls names, shall we?

Now, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is the third Redmi Note I’ve reviewed on our website, and truth be told, this droid has some pretty big shoes to fill. Just to give you an idea, the last generation (Note 3) had become India’s hottest smartphone ever, becoming a best seller and also enjoyed a huge popularity in its home turf, China that is.

So, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 will have to prove worthy of its ancestors. Starting with the beginning, the latest Redmi Note generation is a more premium looking and feeling droid and as a consequence, it has a slightly higher price tag. But it’s also a tad higher when compared to the Redmi series mid-range status.

For example, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 boasts a premium looking and feeling full metal body design, being built from a high-grade aluminum alloy, just like its HTC and Sony competitors are doing with their premium smartphones.

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And secondly, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs on a pretty interesting system on chip architecture, the Helio X20 chipset which is somewhere between upper mid range and high end, in a blurry-gray territory.

As an added advantage, the High version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 boasts 64 GB of native storage capacity which is quite impressive considering the asking price of the respective flavor, which is under 200 Euros. Are you impressed yet? If not, keep on reading, it gets even better.

Since the Note 3, Xiaomi moved up in the ranks in regard to the manufacturing process, resulting in a sturdier, higher quality body which weighs a little more, but that’s ok in my book. The chassis of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is made from a solid aluminum ingot, beautifully polished, and the front glass boasts its 2.5D feature. Overall, the smartphone looks very beautiful and it has a premium look and feel, well above its price bracket.

The display is a 5,5 inches wide IPS LCD variety of full HD 1080p resolution with a 401 pixels per inch density, just like the iPhone 7 Plus.

In the connectivity department, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 offers the regular Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an IR blaster, but there’s no NFC on board. The battery is a beefy 4100 mAh power plant which comes with an endurance rating of 83 hours, which is quite a lot.

The droid runs on a forked Android 7.0 Nougat Core version with the company’s proprietary MIUI 8 user interface on top, which is great at text rendering and offers a bunch of enhanced video editing tools.

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 runs on a MediaTek Helio X20 architecture  which is an impressive chipset, which offers stellar single core performance, which is the most important metric by the way. The graphic processing unit is a Mali T880 MP4 variety, which is also quite competitive and considering the price tag, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is an absolute best-buy performance wise. I mean, considering its ~ $200 price tag, give or take, you’ll be blown away by what this baby has under the hood.

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In the camera department, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 comes with a 13 megapixels main snapper with an f/2.0 aperture, dual LED/Dual Tone Flash, phase detection autofocus and 1080p video recording capability. The selfie camera is a 5 megapixels f/2.0 aperture variety and the interface is a re-skin of the MIUI offering lots of effects and setting.

Truth be told, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 is that kind of a smartphone that has the capability of changing one’s buying habits, as it redefines the notion of best bang for the buck. The metal body evokes high end droids, the display is excellent, the hardware platform offers quite a punch and all these great features are at your finger tips in a sub 200 euro smartphone.

The build quality is definitely on par with HTC and Sony’s flagships, there’s a finger print reader available, the SoC offers best in class performance (price wise), the GPU is similar to a QSD 650 and overall, for that kind of money you can’t buy better gear.