"Setting out on the voyage to Ithaca you must pray that the way be long, full of adventures and experiences."
- Constantine Peter Cavafy "Ithaca"
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©2008 W. Ruth Kozak

Founded in 710, Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital. (Until then, each new emperor established a new capitol.) Nara rapidly became one of Asia’s most splendid cities. It also became a major centre for Buddhism. For many, this area of Japan is sacred. As are the deer, for they are the messengers of the gods.
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Every year, thousands of coffee lovers flock to the Hacienda Puerto Limon Plantation to see how one of the world’s finest organic coffees is harvested and processed. And for a bonus, visitors get to walk amongst some of the most tranquil countryside in the world and explore a historic hacienda.
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This is one of South Africa's most famous streets – the only one in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu) – and it has long been a must-see tourist attraction. Every tour to Soweto - Africa's biggest township - stops at Vilakazi Street. There is a famous reason why.
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We enter the historic part of Orihuela City by the town hall and are immediately transported back in time. The town is decked out medieval style. A feast for all senses, we are greeted by colourful tents, the smells of exotic spices, teas, paellas, fresh baked bread, pastries, and goat milk soap.
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As I look out onto the Viñales Valley and into the tobacco fields below, a sense of calmness washes over me. Founded in 1875, following the expansion of tobacco cultivation in Cuba, Viñales became a World Heritage site in 1999. The valley is devoted to agriculture, mainly tobacco.
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In the Muslim quarter of Xi’an there are countless vendors selling many dishes that use mutton or beef with eastern spices as the base. In the neighborhood near my hotel just a few blocks of walking took me to an amazing Muslim restaurant where they served a dish called du wah (pita bread soaked in lamb soup).
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The only thing worse than being sober, is being drunk on Chinese alcohol, or so I thought. Luckily my imaginings were wrong. For the discerning eye, there is a whole world of completely random and strange beers that seemingly pop up out of nowhere and in the most unlikely of places.
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Sacred even before the Daishi established his monastic retreat here in 816, Koya-san is only two hours by train from Osaka. Farmers with conical straw hats worked fields cultivated for centuries. It was a scene lifted straight from the anime of Hayao Miyazaki (famous for classics such as Spirited Away and My Friend Totoro).
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