Countries With the Most Travel Friendly Passports

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Countries With The Most Travel Friendly Passports

I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.” Anonymous

I used to think that the USA had the best passport. We could go almost anywhere but we do need an awful lot of visas. The Henley Passport Index periodically measures the access each country’s travel document affords. The ranking is determined on the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa. It is based on the exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association, which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information. Here are the top countries starting with the best passports to have. We are not number one. 

Japan retained its top spot as the world’s most powerful passport in 2019 for the second time in a row with access to 190 countries.They believe it is due to strong security regulations, economic security and international reliability. They are good guests.

 Singapore is in second place with 189 countries. People from Singapore are welcome almost everywhere.

South Korea is in third place with 188 countries.The Asian countries are dominating this category.

Germany and Finland are in fourth place with 187 countries. Germany has given up its  previous first place ranking. (Finland)

Denmark, Italy and Luxernbourg rank fifth with 186. No one expects trouble from this group.  (Italy)

France, Spain and Sweden are next with 185. They are independent, they don’t usually break anything and they are quiet. (Spain)

Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland and Portugal are behind them with 184. I feel very welcome in these countries so I understand why counties like them.(Portugal)

Belgium, UK, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Canada and USA rank eighth  with 183. Brexit has not yet impacted the UK score -nor has our President changed ours. (Greece)

Malta has a  score of 182. This tiny independent,European Union country has a very attractive passport to many people.Wealthy individuals seeking secondary citizenship for security, have their eye on Malta, which doesn’t impose taxes on their worldwide income and assets and applies only a flat 15 per cent tax on money brought into the country. 

Czech Republic follows with 181. It is doing very well for an ex Communist country.

Lithuania,

Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Lithuania jointly share the eleventh position with access to 180 nations. (Iceland)

 The findings suggest that visa free access is improving in the world. The last time I went to Brazil I needed one. This time I do not.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far

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 Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far.

“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.” Michael Alexander,

Architectural ruins connect us to the past and bring history alive. There is something about visiting the sites of these ancient civilizations that fascinates me. You can see the potential that people all over the world and thousands of years ago had for greatness. Some of these amazing structures were built long before all the machinery, transport and communication tools that we have now. 

 Peru, Machu Picchu

The purpose of Machu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu (it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow-capped mountains because that is what they worshipped .How they transported all that granite up there  remains a mystery. It is believed that they quarried  it on site. No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake-proof constructions.

 Chile, Easter Island, Rapa Nui Park

Who carved such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms? The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions. Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes .In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Turkey, Cappodocia

The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities. Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Turkey, Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus was built in the tenth century. It was a large city (over 250,000 inhabitants in the first century BC) and a major port for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was known in antiquity for its sacred shrines, the most famous being the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain). Ephesus came under Roman control in 129 BC, and continued to prosper under Emperor Augustus as capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was also an important centre of early Christianity and its greatest Christian monument was the 4th century church of St. John the Evangelist.

 Turkey, Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the key Roman cities of Anatolia and the well-preserved remains hint at the grand spectacle that the city was during its glory days. Excavations reach back to the second century B.C. It  has one of the largest libraries in the world and one of the steepest theatres.

Cambodia, Ta Prohm 

Yes,Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.  It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century. It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

Cambodia, Angor Wat

Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone. It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today. It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

Jordan, Petra

 Petra is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the third century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery. Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Thailand, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the old capital of the Thai kingdom from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.  The site resembles a  graveyard of temples,  headless Buddhas (beheaded by the Burmese in the thirteenth century) and ruins showing what it might have looked like.

Myanmar, Bagan

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan kingdom. During the kingdom’s height between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

Mexico, Tulum

The ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean was a major trading and religious centre between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. 

Acropolis, Greece

The Acropolis looms over Athens, and is impossible not to recognize.This citadel includes the famous white-columned Parthenon, as well as the fifth century, Propylaia, Erechtheion and Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens.

Italy, Colosseum

The Colosseum has been regarded as an iconic symbol of Rome since the Middle Ages.  Built in eighty A.D, it is a massive structure and is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire. Being able to seat close to 50,000 spectators, it was the premier venue for wild beast shows and bloody gladiator combat.

Italy, Forum

Once the centre of public and political life in Ancient Rome, the Forum is a sprawling labyrinth of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. You’re standing in the very center of the ancient city, surrounded by the remains of famous temples and political buildings. The people of Rome saw the funeral of Julius Caesar here, along with the execution of Cicero and countless triumphal processions.

 Italy, Pantheon

The Pantheon was built as a temple dedicated to the worship of  Roman gods. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV and Emperor Phocas converted it into the Christian church we see today. The Pantheon is considered a rotunda, a circular drum structure. Perfect mathematically, the Pantheon’s dome has an opening in the center.  In fact, the Pantheon in Rome still holds the world record for having the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Croatia, Diocletians Palace 

Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century as a retirement seaside residence for the Roman Emperor, his family and seven hundred or so servants and guards in Split. The rectangular structure (520 x 620 feet) was two stories, fronted the sea and was built more like a fort than a palace. It is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. It is not a museum .Three thousand people live and work on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Ten Countries With The Most Smokers

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Ten Countries With The Most Smokers

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” Mark Twain

As everyone knows, smoking is cool. But it can also kill you and is addictive and expensive, which is much worse than looking cool for a minute.

Bucking the worldwide trend, smokers are increasing in Montenegro. Forty per cent of adults smoke making them the “coolest” country on the list. Even when laws are enacted, they are rarely enforced in a culture where coffee and cigarettes are the norm.

While smoking is declining across Europe, a growing number of young Belarusians are turning to cigarettes due to lax regulations and low prices. Cheap cigarettes from Belarus are also being smuggled into Western Europe.

It is very difficult to enforce anti smoking laws in Lebanon where smoking is somewhat of a cultural tradition.The law that banned indoor smoking irritated many Lebanese accustomed to shishas and cigarettes at restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs.

Greece is a nicotine addicts’s paradise. Smoking regulations in Greece have not been enforced in a country where rules like this are meant to be broken.

One third of the population of Russia smokes. Up to 400,000 Russians die each year from tobacco-related causes. This could be stopped through tougher regulations, but tobacco producers have blocked all efforts for years, successfully lobbying their interests with the ruling United Russia party.

Tobacco is one of the leading causes of death in Slovenia. The average age to start smoking is fifteen and a half years old.

Belgians love to smoke and stores selling cheap cigarettes have opened on the Belgian Franco border. There is a growing trade in smuggled cigarettes in Europe and an equally illegal growth of sales over the internet. Cigarettes are much cheaper in Belgium than neighboring countries. Many bars and restaurants ignore the smoking ban.

Jordan rates highly as far as smoking countries in the Middle East go. The ban on smoking in public places is not enforced.It is easier to fight drug use than cigarettes here. Cigarette smoking is highest among the poor population. Having coffee and cigarettes with friends and family is deeply rooted in Jordanian culture.

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China is home to three hundred million smokers, more than any other country. There is a lack of national legislation to ban smoking in workplaces. The national ban has been delayed because of the influence of the Chinese tobacco industry and its influence on government revenue. Some Local municipalities have banned smoking in the workplace but it is hard to enforce

Almost half the adult population smokes in Bosnia Herzegovina. Cigarettes are cheaper than Europe and Asia. Smokers fight the government against anti smoking legislation. Any bans are not enforced and teenagers smoke at least half a pack of cigarettes a day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,  Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

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Growing up in New York, with immigrant grandparents, the Statue of Liberty meant something. “Tell us the story of when your parents saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time again” we asked.   My mother would say that to her parents and many like them, the statue meant freedom to live in a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be. America was the place to go to flee from oppression, racism, class-ism and poverty. We understood that it was something special to be born in a country with ideals like that.

America is not perfect. We have racism and poverty. But that doesn’t destroy the dreams it was built on. Millions of people came to America to build a better life for themselves and for their families and still do to this day.

On the Statue of Liberty, there are words I know so well: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That’s the spirit that made me feel like an American.  I wouldn’t be here without that philosophy.

Fly safe.

JAZ

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

“I am starting to think that maybe memories are like this dessert. I eat it, and it becomes a part of me, whether I remember it later or not.” Erica Bauermeister

When the mood for dessert strikes, I am there. I consider it a necessity not a choice to try desserts when I am traveling.  There isn’t a problem in the world that a good dessert can’t make feel a little better. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Pastel de Nata – Portugal

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Baklava – Greece

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Red Velvet Cupcakes – USA

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 Semolina Halva –  Turkey (nice with fresh fruit)

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Black Sesame Ice Cream – Japan

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 Malva Pudding  (poeding) – South Africa

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Sweet Sticky Rice With Coconut Cream and Mango – Thailand

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Dulce de Leche –  Argentina ( on ice cream, cookies, cake, bread)

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 Fresh Acai  and Tapioca Ice Cream – Belem, Brazil

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Mango Pudding – Hong Kong

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Fly safe, JAZ

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit A Country

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit a Country

“Like I said before. Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”Anthony Bourdain

 Japan Sushi at Tsukiji Market, any dessert made with yuzu or green tea.

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 Turkey Pide, fresh pomegranate juice, anything with eggplant, and any dessert made with semolina.

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 Croatia Fresh tuna and bean salad, grilled calamari and swiss chard.

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Cambodia Fresh coconut water and amok (I loved Cambodian food).

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 Greece Avgolemono soup, baklava and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes and olive oil don’t taste the same anywhere else).

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 Italy Pizza, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  (My dream is to go to Sicily and eat pizza).

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South Africa Biltong (Im not even a meateater and I love it).

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Israel  Falafel and Hummus.

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Colombia Guanabana juice and Arepa con Quisito.

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Spain Churros, hot chocolate and real gazpacho.

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 Panama Sancocho soup.

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Netherlands Pofferjes and poached egg on brioche with smoked salmon, (first time that I have had that).

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Brazil Tacaca with shrimp and fresh acai ( not the watered down sugary stuff we get here) in the Amazon.

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 Thailand Thai iced coffee.

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 Peru Ceviche with giant corn.

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Argentina Alfajores from Havanna.

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Mexico Tacos, guacamole, mole or really anything in Oaxaca. (except not a fan of the crickets every day)

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USA When I come home I want a turkey burger from Golden State in LA.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering The Fear

Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering the Fear

“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” Orson Welles

My fear of small prop planes started on my very first one. I was flying from Santorini to Athens. There was a lot of seat shifting before takeoff. I was asked to move to the front. When I questioned it, the stewardess said to my friend in Greek, “We need to put the fat people in the back to equalize the weight on the plane.” My friend was American Greek so she thought that was what the stewardess said. I looked around in horror making sure that no one had lied about his weight. I believed my life was dependent on the people who had not stuffed themselves on vacation with generous helpings of moussaka, saganaki,  tiropites. spanakopita, pastitsio and baklava. To this day when I go on a small plane, I wonder if I should I tell them that I gained a few pounds.

The next incident happened when I was leaving Aspen Colorado, with my very young children who had their whole lives ahead of them.   It was late and the airport was very quiet and had only a few people in it. They said the plane had  just arrived. We did not hear anything.  Shouldn’t the airlines have told me if they were putting me on a sixteen seat prop plane through the Rocky Mountains at night all the way to Los Angeles? I asked the pilot if that plane was safe. He said, “Of course, this plane has real leather seats”.  I have no idea what that means. Were the seats the most expensive piece of equipment on the plane? The good news was that I had an individual very small solo seat by the window. So did each of my very small children. This way they did not have to see me plan my own death. Did it hurt more to crash into the mountains at night than to crash in the water and drown?

After that I avoided small planes at all costs. I planned vacations into larger airports and always looked up the plane I was going to be on.

I don’t know why I wanted to take a floatplane from Vancouver to Victoria, British Colombia. Life happened and my children have made it alive to adulthood so maybe a small plane was less scary now. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my son.

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My hotel window in Vancouver faced the water and I could easily see the small seaplane terminal. For three days I counted the planes that left and made sure the same number returned. I watched the Canadian News to make sure no crashes were reported. It was all good so far but it was exhausting being the safety police.

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My son and I have different meanings of the words, on time for a flight – especially when you can walk to the terminal. When we arrived, the plane was already full and we could not sit together.

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I happened to mention to the man sitting next to me that I was afraid of small planes. (in case I started clutching him in terror) He told me not to worry because he had been a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He proceeded to tell me every almost crash horror story that happened to him. “After all,” he said, We are flying during the day.  It isn’t like we are landing on what we believe to be an airstrip at night in bad weather, with no lights, in the mountains of India.”

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The plane took off. It was so quiet. There was no bumpy turbulence or loud noise of a prop plane. This time we glided into space like a bird in flight.

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It was so incredibly beautiful to look down at the Canadian landscape,

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Flying at a low altitude through the clouds, i saw a completely different perspective of the world below.

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The land looked dreamlike and other worldly.

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It was breathtaking and relaxing. The landing was just as smooth as we cruised into Victoria harbor.

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Its amazing when you find out that you can do what you are afraid to do. I learned that day to not limit my experiences because of my fears . I couldn’t wait for the flight back to Vancouver.

Fly safe,

JAZ