5-Day New York City Guide 2018 (Guest Post)

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff on Day 1. Day 2: West Side, Day 3: Central Park, Day 4: East Side and Day 5: Downtown.

Ok, here’s a suggestion of how I would do it, given 5 days. There is a lot of walking because New York is all about walking, by Jesse Richardsoriginally posted on Quora.

Day 1: Ugh, Midtown

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff. Go ahead, get it out of your system. We’ll wait. And I hear there’s a nice Applebee’s for lunch around there.

1. Times Square
2. Rockefeller Center
3. Bryant Park
4. NY Public Library 
5. Grand Central Station
6. Empire State Building
7. See a show (Broadway or Off)

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Day 2: West Side

Now the good part starts. Let’s walk around some of my favorite neighborhoods. Start at the Flatiron building and walk south on Broadway to Union Square, and south some more to Washington Square Park. Then take Bleecker all the way through the West Village. Don’t be too prescriptive; you’ve got plenty of time to wander around. To finish off the day, walk the whole length of the High Line north. It will be crowded, but it’s worth it.

1. Flatiron bldg
2. Madison Sq Park
3. Eataly
4. Union Square
5. Greenmarket (certain days)
6. Forbidden Planet & Strand
7. NYU
8. Washington Sq Park
9. Bleecker Street
10. Get lost in the West Village
11. Meatpacking district
12. The High Line

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Day 3: Central Park

And now, the most beautiful work of art ever created: Central Park. Afterward, there are a few million more pieces of art in The Met. Here’s a recommended path:

1. Columbus Circle
2. Chess & Checkers house
3. The Dairy
4. The Mall
5. Bethesda Fountain
6. Pass by the Bow Bridge
7. Strawberry Fields & Imagine mosaic
8. The Ramble
9. Belvedere Castle
10. Shakespeare Garden
11. Great Lawn
12. The Met

(If you are ever able to go to Central Park for a second day, check out the north half, including the Ravine and Conservatory Garden.)

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Day 4: East Side

Back to another tour of incredible neighborhoods.

1. Chinatown
2. Canal St.
3. SoHo
4. Lower East Side
5. Katz’s Deli
6. Alphabet City
7. Thompkins Sq Park
8. St. Mark’s Place
9. East Village
10. Take the L one stop to Williamsburg
11. Wander around Williamsburg
12. Check out the Pier

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Day 5: Downtown

Follow the beautiful series of interconnected parks around the tip of Manhattan, giving you spectacular views of the harbor and Statue of Liberty. Then, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and see even better views from the Brooklyn Promenade.

1. Rockefeller Park
2. Tom Otterness sculpture garden
3. South Cove harbor and Esplanade
4. Robert F. Wagner park
5. Battery Park
6. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
7. Elevated Acre
8. South Street Seaport (the museum is nice, too)
9. Brooklyn Bridge
10. Brooklyn Heights
11. Brooklyn Promenade
12. Skybridge down to:
13. Brooklyn Bridge Park
14. and DUMBO

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Day 6: Soak feet.

Don’t do too many touristy things. Just wander in the world’s best neighborhoods.

(All photos by Jesse Richards.)

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Why Snails Make Great Pets – GALs

Snail owners have a lot of fun picking out names for their snails, and yes, thousands are named after SpongeBob’s Gary. The best part of choosing a name is deciding on the snail’s gender. Although gender assigning is frowned upon in today’s society, snails really don’t mind as they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs…

In many areas of the world, snails live in abundance and are sometimes considered a pest. It is not uncommon for people to stomp on them, think they are gross or overlook them completely. Among select groups of people, however, snails are beloved pets, best friends and even family members.

Why are snails awesome?

I could spend days explaining this and it’s not all objective, so let me summarize some scientific facts for you. Snails have much longer lifespans than the average house pet, under special conditions they can live up to 25 years! There are around 35,000 species of land snails alone: some only grow up to a centimeter while the largest snail ever recorded was 40 cm long and weighed 0.9 kilos!

Snail owners have a lot of fun picking out names for their snails, and yes, thousands are named after SpongeBob’s Gary. The best part of choosing a name is deciding on the snail’s gender. Although gender assigning is frowned upon in today’s society, snails really don’t mind as they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs.

Everyone knows that snails are slimy, but why? The mucus they produce keeps them hydrated and allows them to hibernate in unfavorable climates and during colder months. It also has countless beneficial properties which are why some salons will offer to let snails race on your face.

Slow and steady wins the race is every snail’s motto. A common garden snail can reach the maximum speed of 1.3 cm per second. Snails are known for being one of the slowest creatures on Earth. But when in a hurry, they can take advantage of slime trails left by others. Traveling across a pre-slimed path gives them a turbo boost on their strenuous journey to a tastier patch of lawn. Because even snails think the grass is greener on the other side.

There’s no need to sing lullabies to snail babies: they are completely deaf but they can see, smell and feel. They are sensitive to bright sunlight as they are nocturnal and prefer to bury themselves underground during the day – unless it’s raining. They can also smell food from meters away!

Snails are shameless fatties and one of their favorite hobbies is eating. Calcium is vital in a snail’s diet and they can also eat fruits, berries, vegetables, all sorts of plants and even meat. Omnivores by nature, most snails will eat worms, small insects and even newborn rat or mice babies (pinkies). Veganism is not popular among snails, but cannibalism sure is among certain breeds.

Like ants, snails are strong and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight! They are tough and can heal a broken shell and survive great falls. Snail mothers are also very admirable, laying thousands of eggs a year. But even Superman has a weakness and a snail’s kryptonite is salt.

Why get a pet snail?

Now you know that snails are cool. But you may still be wondering why so many people dedicate hours of their time pampering snails, buying expensive food, decorations for their tanks and taking millions of photos of their slime-babies?

There is no single answer to this question, so I decided to get the scoop by surveying members of a popular Facebook group for snail enthusiasts, Achatina Snailcorner:

Kim Jonkmans, founder of Snailcorner:

“I have kept snails since I was able to walk but a few years ago I met someone who had some big Achatina fulica (Giant African Land Snail). In the months after, I became really sick and almost died. While I was in intensive care, I promised myself that if I survived this, I will put all my time into what I love most: snails.

I want to make a difference and I’ve started doing imports from Africa to create my own breeding groups to produce snails with strong genes. I work with scientists from the natural biodiversity center researching African land snails and I also do behavioral research on species from around the world. I think it was good to become so sick… it made my dreams come true.”

Krissie Cope:

“I suffer from depression and I find that owning many snails really helps by giving me something to love and care for. Caring for over 80 snails brings me lots of joy and happiness: making their tanks nice, giving them a wide variety of foods and getting them regular snuggles.”

Trepan Nashun:

“They are gentle peaceful creatures with each other. They have beautiful and kind mating rituals: kissing and dancing. Their biology is weird and fascinating – retractable eyestalks! They are devoted vegetarians, most of them, and a great way to put those peels and scraps to good use. Capaeas clean their shells like cats! Snails enjoy baths and showers.”

Luca Gulyás:

“I got my first snails because I wanted a pet that was easy to take care of and a bit unusual. Now I keep getting more and more snails because I love them and they come in so many species and variants that I cannot simply stop collecting them!”

Isaac Roosa:

“I love being a snail daddy because as far as pets go they are easy to take care of and fun to watch. They’re usually seen as gross but if you get up close to them they’re really cute.”

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‘This Place’ Exhibition in Prague in DOX

“I can’t call it Israel,” says photographer Gilles Peress while referring to flying to the location, “I call it Israelstein. It’s a combination of the two.” Peress’s photos are very clear; they show the different perspectives of one community. He remarked that in Israel and Palestine everything happens meter by meter, room to room. “You see stores disappearing one by one, I return to the same place again and again,” Peress explains his process of watching the changes. His pieces in this exhibition try to explore the reason why people don’t see the similarities between each other – “Desperate lives,” he sighs, “looking for differences.”

This Place is the name of an International exhibition currently shown in the DOX gallery in Prague. The DOX Center for Contemporary Art, Architecture and Design has been organizing and hosting exhibitions for six years now. It has presented over 120 exhibition projects and is ranked among the most progressive artistic institutions in the Czech Republic.

The exhibition shows the photographs of twelve artists, each with a unique angle of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The exhibition of over 500 photos opened on October 24th and will be on display until March 2nd, 2015. After Prague, the exhibition will move to Tel Aviv for six months. After that, it will be exhibited in the Norton Museum of Art followed by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition will officially end on June 5th, 2016. There are also thirteen original books produced for the exhibition – one with photos of each individual photographer and one comprehensive catalog. On Saturday, October 25th, I saw four of the artists talk about their experience of creating This Place.

“I can’t call it Israel,” says photographer Gilles Peress while referring to flying to the location, “I call it Israelstein. It’s a combination of the two.” Peress’s photos are very clear; they show the different perspectives of one community. He remarked that in Israel and Palestine everything happens meter by meter, room to room. “You see stores disappearing one by one, I return to the same place again and again,” Peress explains his process of watching the changes. His pieces in this exhibition try to explore the reason why people don’t see the similarities between each other – “Desperate lives,” he sighs, “looking for differences.”

The content of Wendy Ewald’s project differed greatly from those of her colleagues. She explored what different communities in the area considered most important. Ewald had a total of fourteen different mini-projects exploring the lives of groups that ranged from women attending an orthodox military school to elderly villagers. She taught them seminars on photography and observed: “how education forms the country.” Ewald taught these groups of people to take photos of what impacted their lives and taught them to use metaphors. Then she compared what different groups concentrated on in their photography.

Fazal Sheikh, like all the other photographers, had issues with photographing in the region. “I prefer an open perspective,” said Sheikh, “Israel is extremely constricting.” His project was about the transformation of the land. He visited a village that is now unrecognizable. It was transformed into a forest and the people who once lived there became displaced around the country. He decided to fly over the desert after spending time in a protest tent overlooking the dry barren land that would become a dense forest. He coupled taking photographs from a helicopter with listening to stories from combatants on both sides.

Joseph Koudelka, a Czech photographer, talked about originally denying Frederic Brenner‘s invitation to cooperate with this project. “I bought my own ticket,” said Koudelka, “to avoid having any obligation.” He was born in 1938 and experienced the German occupation of his village. Later he witnessed the Russians first liberating the Czechs and then occupying them. “I grew up behind the Iron Curtain and always wanted to see the other side,” Koudelka expressed his sympathy for the people in the area. His book doesn’t always show the people, but you can see the impact of mankind in every photograph.

The subject of the title came up in the discussion. All the books and the project itself avoid naming the area that has had so many in its past. Art can be a tool of propaganda and the Israel-Palestine topic is a sensitive one with extremists on both sides. A name that didn’t lean to either side of the conflict seemed the most appropriate and most objective to allow the viewers to interpret the meaning.

More information can be found on their website: http://www.dox.cz/cs/vystavy/this-place

Officially published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/this-place-exhibition-in-_b_6095398.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Prague vs. Amsterdam: Clenliness, Transportation & Alcohol

So Prague has much cheaper public transportation with gaps in enforcing everyone to pay. There have even been big groups of people who form in order to ride illegally and chip in when a member gets fined – according to them it is cheaper than everyone having to buy a pass. In Amsterdam, there is no possibility of doing this and the system tracks how long you are traveling for and which routes you take. This information can be very useful for innovating public transportation to make it more convenient and altered to travelers needs.

Prague and Amsterdam are two very different cities that are often compared to each other by tourists. Prague is the heart of Europe known for having beautiful architecture, pretty women and cheap beer. Amsterdam is known as a place with a crazy nightlife, legal prostitution and legal drugs. But of course, there is so much more to each city. After living in Prague my whole life and visiting Amsterdam for over a week I made a few interesting comparisons when it comes to cleanliness, transportation and alcohol.

Big cities are never perfectly clean. The major differences between Prague and Amsterdam are where you find the trash and how it got there. A lot of streets in Prague are covered in chewing gum that has been permanently stomped into the ground. The gum stays no matter how much Czechs clean – men and women in orange suits sweeping and picking up trash are seen regularly. With the large flow of tourists and the abundance of events held throughout the city, trash cans are often found overflowing with trash piled all around the bins. Otherwise, Prague is pretty clean and trash cans are on every corner, Amsterdam is a little different. It seems to have fewer trash cans than Prague, but the area around them is almost always spotless. The trashcans in residential areas have large areas underneath them so there is always more space and trash doesn’t get left on the side. However walking through the city and its outskirts, there is a lot of noticeable trash in areas in and around bushes and trees; wrappers, empty bottles and cups. Whether it’s the lack of trashcans or lack of fines for littering, like in Prague, there is more stray trash on the streets of Amsterdam. However, Prague has more visible trash in concentrated areas.

Both cities have reliable, safe and clean public transportation. But the price and method of paying are quite different. In Prague, you can buy a single-use pass around one euro, just under for an hour and just over for 90 minutes. There is also a one day ticket for 4 euros. In Amsterdam, the tickets are much more expensive with a one time pass costing 2.8 euros and a daily pass costing 7.5 euros. After purchasing the tickets there is a different process for validating the tickets. In Prague, one-day tickets are validated in machines right before entering the metro, or right on the tram or bus. There is also a possibility of buying a mobile ticket. Since some people have monthly passes they don’t need to validate them when they get on it creates the possibility of people sneaking on without paying. This is why Prague and especially the busiest stops have people who stop you and check your ticket with a fine of almost 30 euros for not having one. In Amsterdam, it’s different because you have to validate your ticket every time you get on public transportation and every time you leave. There is either a system that stops you from entering without placing your card on a sensor or there is a person watching everyone who enters.

So Prague has much cheaper public transportation with gaps in enforcing everyone to pay. There have even been big groups of people who form in order to ride illegally and chip in when a member gets fined – according to them it is cheaper than everyone having to buy a pass. In Amsterdam, there is no possibility of doing this and the system tracks how long you are traveling for and which routes you take. This information can be very useful for innovating public transportation to make it more convenient and altered to travelers needs.

Finally, there’s alcohol. It is one of the things that draws many tourists to both Prague and Amsterdam. Prague is known for its cheap and very tasty beer that is sold for around a euro in large pints. Prague has pubs on almost every street, and almost every shop or street vendor sells beer along with other alcoholic beverages. In shops, beer is sometimes less than half a euro. Amsterdam is quite different. Beer is more expensive, three euros on average if you’re drinking out. It is also served in smaller quantities, usually in 0.33 glasses. Beer is also not as accessible as in Prague. Gas stations and small street vendors rarely sell beer so you have to go to a supermarket or restaurant to buy it. However, the stores who do sell beer for around a euro and there are beers with a much higher alcohol percentage than in Prague. Neither city has strict enforcement against public drinking and beer consumption is high in both places. The final difference is that Czech pubs offer fewer beers, usually one or two alcoholic and one non-alcoholic. While many Dutch pubs have a much richer variety.

These are just a few comparisons that stood out during my visit to Amsterdam. Prague and Amsterdam are two very different and amazing cities and both are definitely worth a visit.

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Officially published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/prague-vs-amsterdam-photo_b_5981986.html

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Photos from Maidan: Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

Photos from Maidan was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/more-maidan-pictures/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed hriue to copyright or quality issues.

February 18th Photos – War in Ukraine

These pictures are from February 18th, when a large number of people lost their lives. Tetiana Kagui was one of the many people who gathered to go up to Verkhovna Rada, Ukrainian parliament, to demand them to return to the 2004 Constitution. She was the one who took all these pictures.

Going there everyone anticipated that something bad would happen, they all understood the danger. The pictures are in chronological order. They start out peacefully but the violence begins and escalates, until the women are asked to leave the dangerous zone by the self-organized Maidan protectors. As you look at these pictures imagine shots being fired, gas weapons being used, homemade weapons with exploding nails and fireworks are being used. But if you look at the peoples’ faces, you won’t see fear. Because they know that what they are doing is necessary for the future of Ukraine.

https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/february-18th-photos/