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FLORENCE     Florence –  the capital of the Tuscany region and the cradle of Renaissance   We opted for Flix Bus while traveling from Venice to Florence. The road journey takes about three and a half-hour. In Florence, it terminates at the rear end of Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station. One of Italy’s busiest stations, it got its name from Santa Maria Novella Church just across the plaza from the main entrance. We debarked at the station and refreshed ourselves at McDonald's before hiring a cab for our hotel. Florence, popularly known as ‘Firenze’ by the Italians, is located in central Italy. This dreamy city with a romantic name is the regional capital of the lovely Tuscany region.   Columbus Hotel, where we stayed, is located in Lugarno District. We always prefer to book our hotels through Booking.com as we always land up getting good hotels at good locations. Despite being a little away from the heart of the city and Santa Maria Novella station

Capturing the Wild

From my early years I showed a lot of interest in collecting copies of National Geographic - not just for the heck of it but for the fascinating photographs and great articles on travel,wildlife,natural science and history published in it. The photographs were so captivating and real, they created a great passion for adventure in me and an urge to know more about my planet and my universe  . In sixties when I was in school, I could find only one shop dealing in second hand books which sometimes used to keep some back issues of National Geographic. The shop was located in Hazratgunj area of Lucknow, close to Capitol Cinema . So ardent was my desire to get a copy of a second hand National Geographic ( a new National Geographic was extremely costly during those days) that that was the only occasion when I bothered my parents for money for buying it. In this regard they were very supportive and liberal. A lot of changes have taken place since then over the decades that followed, and the most encouraging of them is availability of the magazines at almost all book / magazine stores in India. Now we also have a TV channel by the same name. The first issue of the magazine was published in 1888 under stewardship of  Gardiner Green Hubbard who had formed an elite club named Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.,USA. Elite group of academics,wealthy persons interested in travel,explorers and scientists used to gather at the club to organise a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge. Gardiner became the first president of the society and on his death in 1897 the mantle was passed down to his son in law Alexander Graham Bell. Apart from being an eminent inventor Bell as a child displayed a natural curiosity about his world, resulting in gathering botanical specimen as well as experimenting even at an early age. Bell's son in law Gibbert Hovey Grovesnor was named the first Editor of the magazine and continued to serve the organisation for 55 years (till 1954). Chris Johns is the present Editor of National Geographic.He is the first field photographer to take over as Editor in Chief. During his recent visit to India Rudraneil Sengupta of Mint interviewed him which was published in the Mint of 28 October 2011. If you view this interview  you will discover the rare courage and guts these passionately adventurous team of National Geographic musters to bring  you some great fascinating facts of our planet Earth and the Universe year after year.For instance Chris Johns recounts here a blood-curdling situation he experienced while trying to photograph a pack of wild dogs from underneath his Land Rover in order to to capture the pack at ' dog's level'.

The following story by Rudraneil Sengupta was published in the 'Travel' section of MINT on October 28 2011.

Where the wild things are - Travel - livemint.com


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