Discovering opulent architecture, gourmet biryani and a lush oasis in the Indian city
Golconda sits atop a 400foot granite hill and was once the capital of the Qutb Shahi kingdom. The 16th century citadel consists of four different forts encompassed by a six mile long outer wall with 87 semicircular bastions – some with their cannon still in place – four drawbridges, protecting royal apartments, temples, mosques and stables. The Fateh Darwaza (Victory Gate) offers a glimpse into the sophisticated engineering of the place; a hand clap at the entrance can be heard clearly at the Bala Hisar pavilion, the highest point in the fort almost a half mile away. This doubled as an alarm in case of attack and as a way for the sultan to eavesdrop on enemies within. The giant iron spikes in the gates are intended to keep elephants from battering them down.
If you have a little extra time, the fort offers a light and sound show after sunset. It takes about an hour, and the price for foreigners is Rs100 ($1.65). Afterwards, take a stroll through the narrow streets surrounding the fort. In the old shops and houses you can buy everything from naan bread to bangles. Hours from 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM
HUSSAIN SUGAR LAKE
Hussain Sagar Lake is an artificial reservoir dating from the reign of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah. This historical landmark, created in 1562 when a dam was built across the Musi, today forms the boundary between Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The surrounding shoreline is one of the most walkable places in the city, dotted with various parks, temples, statues and historical buildings. The 60-foot granite statue of Lord Buddha at the center of the lake is a relative newcomer; it was added in 1992. Boat rides to the statue are available from Eat Street and Lumbini Park. Necklace Road. Open 24 hrs.
Literally meaning‘four minarets,’the Charminar has long been the icon of Hyderabad. It was built on the spot where Quli Qutb Shah prayed for an end to the plague that had struck the city. The towers rise to a height of 160 feet, and from atop the minarets, you can get a spectacular panoramic view of Hyderabad. The Charminar stands in the middle of a busy crossroads with traffic on all sides, but work is underway to pedestrianize the site. Plan an early morning trip around 9 am if shopping is not on the to do list. Mon through Sat 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, closed on Fri. 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM for prayers. Admission for non-Indians is Rs100 ($1.65),Video cameras are Rs25 (40 cents) extra.
Just a short walk west from Charminar will bring you to Laad Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in Hyderabad. This is a fascinating place to stroll around, browse the shops cluttered with colorful bangles, take pictures and generally get a flavor for the city, pre-high tech boom which gives Hyderabad its nickname, Cyberbad. Even if you don’t intend to buy anything, Laad Bazaar is a feast for the senses. The many tiny shops are lined from floor to ceiling with stacks of thousands of shimmering glass and tin bracelets.
Before it was know as a high-tech hub, Hyderabad was famous for its pearls, and Laad Bazaar is also the center of the city’s still-thriving pearl trade. If you like to bargain, you can get some incredible deals. In addition, a decent selection of textiles is on offer as well, ranging from simple cotton sheaths to embroidered wedding saris. If you dare, try some of the fiery kebabs available in many of the little lanes that weave behind the main drag. Most shops are open 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM daily.
For a taste of royal Hyderabad, not to mention a taste of Hyderabadi cuisine, try the Taj Falaknuma Palace. Built by Nawab Viqar al-Umra in 1872, Falaknuma is the most opulent of the Nizam’s palaces. After a painstaking 10-year restoration, the palace has been turned into a 60-room luxury hotel featuring handpainted ceilings and chandeliers, and the works of Florentine sculptors. The whole jewel is set amidst 32 acres of immaculate gardens overlooking the city.
No visit to Hyderabad would be complete without sampling the cuisine of south India, and with an evening at the Taj Falaknama’s fine dining restaurant Adaa, you can take in both the palace and the unique culinary experience of biryani. This is the signature dish of the city, a blend of Mughal flavors and Nazim cooking techniques.Variations on biryani feature goat, mutton, chicken or beef, cooked with rice and garnished with pudina, fried onion and boiled eggs. While you may be able to find less expensive biryani in the city, you surely will not find a more exquisite setting in which to enjoy it. Best to make reservations well in advance. Open daily 12:30 PM – 3:00 PM, 7:30 PM - midnight; plan to spend about Rs2,000 ($32); tel +91 406 629 3306; tajhotels.com
SALAR JUNG MUSEUM
North toward the river a few blocks, you’ll find an enormous crescent-shaped building known as the Salar Jung Museum, which is among India’s finest. The museum features the world’s largest single-owner collection of art, relics and manuscripts from around the world, some of which date back to the second century BC. The building itself dates back to 1951 and houses 38 galleries spread over two floors.
Most of the museum’s collection was the work of MirYousuf Ali Khan, also known as Salar Jung III, an aristocratic bachelor who devoted 35 years of his life – and much of his fortune – to traveling the world, collecting artifacts. It includes everything from Mughal jade sculptures to Chinese, Japanese and European paintings. There’s also a huge collection of clocks, the most famous of which is a 19th-century musical timepiece that Khan purchased on a trip to England. Every hour, a tiny wooden man emerges from the clock’s face and rings a miniature bell, while a blacksmith hammers away at an anvil. Open Sat-Thurs 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM; entry is Rs150 ($2.45); Jubilee Post, Afzal Gunj; salarjungmuseum.in BT
BACKGROUND Park Hyatt Chicago is a member of the Park Hyatt luxury brand of Hyatt Hotels Corporation with the mission of providing discerning, affluent individual business and leisure guests with elegant and luxurious accommodations. Guests of Park Hyatt receive highly attentive personal service in an intimate environment. Located in many of the world’s premier destinations, each Park Hyatt is custom designed to combine sophistication with distinctive regional character. Park Hyatt features well-appointed guestrooms, meeting and special event spaces for smaller groups, critically acclaimed art programs and signature restaurants featuring awardwinning chefs.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? A most impressive hotel at a great location with exceptionally professional staff. The hotel occupies the first 18 floors of
a 64-story luxury residential building, with large picture windows and bustling city views.You’ll find yourself surrounded by contemporary luxury as soon as you walk through the door. Walls are adorned with original works of art. Award-winning chefs also create fine culinary masterpieces.
WHERE IS IT? The Park Hyatt Chicago is centrally located on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue premier shopping and dining district. Its also located within easy walking distance to many world-class museums. The subway system can be accessed within two blocks of the hotel connecting to most other Chicago neighborhoods. O’Hare Airport is about 18 miles away, or a 35 minute drive (depending on time of day) and Midway Airport is about 13 miles away, or a 25 minute drive.
ROOM FACILITIES Each room and suite is designed to provide a luxury experience in a comfortable environment. Offering a generous minimum of 550 square feet, each room is equipped with DVD player, plush robes, Geneva sound system, 42”flat screen TV and WiFi. Sleek modern décor includes luxurious bedding, glass desk, and elegant bath with walk-in shower, two sink vanity, oversized soaking tub and sliding privacy door that opens to the room and magnificent cityscapes.
In most of the rooms, window seats offer spectacular skyline views, and some have lake views. I found the Mies van der Rohe Eames chair with matching leather ottoman to be a wonderfully comfortable addition. The in-room safe also contains a built in laptop charger – another nice touch.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS NoMI Kitchen is open from 6:30 AM until midnight offering impeccable service from sincere and approachable staff with a commitment to the culture of great food. Flavors on the menu are inspired by Chicago’s four distinct seasons and regionally-sourced ingredients. NoMI Lounge is open from 5:00 PM to 1:00 AM with a swanky bar and stylish surroundings for having small
plates and specialty cocktails in a relaxed lounge atmosphere. NoMI Garden is also available for lunch and dinner on weekends only. MEETING AND LEISURE
FACILITIES Park Hyatt Chicago has over 5,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space. The 2,800-squarefoot Grand Salon Ballroom features four 14-foot-long chandeliers of crystal amber and can accommodate 300 guests for a reception or theater-style, or up to 180 for dinner. The meeting and event spaces offer individual controls for heat / air conditioning, sound, music, telephones, multiple electrical / special lighting effects / microphone outlets, and all of the latest audiovisual equipment. The hotel fitness center includes a three-lane exercise pool, along with state-ofthe-art cardio and strength equipment complete with flat-screen televisions and monitors. NoMI SPA offers a sensory journey that rejuvenates the body and soul. With soothing spa treatments based on what’s happening in their garden and what’s happening in your world, NoMI SPA inspires the essence of relaxation, results and experience. BT
— Curtis Forsythe
CHECK-IN Joy. That is not only the experience prior to boarding but it is also the first name of the airberlin station manager at JFK who delivers a great check-in and boarding experience, even at the end of a full day that had started almost 14 hours earlier.
After a very short queue at check-in and security, I gathered my ticket and made my way to the lounge. Airberlin’s partnership in oneworld gave me the benefit of escaping the bustle of the international terminal and enjoying complimentary access to a little peace and quiet in American Airlines’ Flagship Lounge. Found only in London, NewYork, Chicago and LA, the Flagship Lounge’s signature services and amenities enhance the already“joyful”and first class experience of flying airberlin.
BOARDING Compared to the relaxed atmosphere of the Flagship Lounge, the boarding area was a bit chaotic. Clearing past the economy queues, upper class, airberlin, equity and alliance partners boarded prior to general boarding. Other than being quite crowded, it was what one would expect when boarding an aircraft with 287 economy and 20 business class seats.
THE SEAT On this flight, airberlin offered a two class service - business and economy. The business cabin aboard the A330-200 has two configurations; this one was arranged 2-2-2 in business class. The seat had a 54inch (137cm) pitch and is 19 inches (49cm) wide, reclining to 150 degrees. The leather seats have personal in-flight entertainment with 15-inch touch screens that access a variety of television programs, movies, video games and music. Each seat is equipped with a 110V outlet as well as a USB port.
As a side note, since Etihad became airberlin’s major stakeholder owning just over a 29 percent share, the carrier has begun to adopt Etihad’s business class seating. We anticipate seeing new products and services as new aircraft are delivered and the existing fleet retrofitted. The equity alliance is expected to deliver many new things to airberlin.
According to airberlin, the modifications to its new business class are on track with almost half of the carrier’s long-haul fleet now equipped with the new 180-degree fullyflat beds. Each seat extends to a full 6-foot length and includes a built-in massage function and a 15-inch IFE monitor accessing over 200 hours of entertainment. The cabin is configured 1-2-1, allowing all business class passengers aisle access.
THE FLIGHT My in-flight experience really ran the cycle – food, movies and music, then sleep; repeat. Chief Purser Eric made it a comfortable and memorable experience for me and other passengers in business class. As I watched him operate, I got the impression that every passenger – better characterized as guest – was made to feel at home.
Once airborne, the crew offered menu choices from Herbert Seckler’s Sansibar kitchen, an offthe-beaten-path restaurant approximately150 miles (240 km) north of Hamburg, on the North Sea. Its founder and owner now commands worldwide gastronomic respect. The menu presented a wide variety, offering threecourse meals with my choice from among four entrees. The pairing of wines included selections from Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Following the meal, the thought of work quickly dropped to the bottom of the priority list. I grabbed the Tumi amenity kit and freshened up before popping on the headphones to doze into never-never land. I awoke shortly before breakfast and once again I was greeted by Chief Purser Eric, thankfully this time with a quick cup of caffeine to get the day started.
ARRIVAL I expected queues in passport and customs control, but Düsseldorf International Airport offers a pleasant surprise compared to its international rivals. The swift process offered time for a short and relaxing walk to Terminal B. Although connecting onward, I still had time to spare to visit the airberlin lounge in Terminal C, but chose instead the Hugo Junkers lounge closer to my gate. There, the amenities of a light snack, complimentary Internet, and a quick freshenup gave me a healthy kick-start for my day. BT
— Ross Atkinson