Dabney B. on
Thursday, January 5th, 2012
For most of us, the closest we will ever come to a submarine is watching Red October, or maybe listening to Yellow Submarine. A select few devoted individuals can sign up for their nation’s navy for the chance to submerge in actual submarines and explore the depths of the oceans.
Most people don’t really ever expect to enter a submarine and cruise along the ocean floor. Evelyn Gridelet, the winner of the Guinness Experiences competition, wasn’t really expecting to go underwater either, but that’s what happened.
The folks at Guinness built a submarine for the sole purpose of letting one lucky Guinness fan and a some of her buddies drink a few pints in a freaking submarine. Could you imagine the cast of Jersey Shore being deep under the sea with access to all that beer?
Guinness created this submarine sea bar as part of their 250th birthday celebration, and they really spared no expense. They built the aquatic dive out of glass-reinforced plastic, designed everything to look like a submarine, and dumped the thing in the Baltic Sea.
The sub wasn’t just built by some architect who decided to go underwater. They actually had to follow strict marine standards to ensure that the vessel was safe and sea worthy. So, in essence, this thing has the Royal Navy’s seal of approval.
While I have to cheer on Evelyn for getting to experience such a remarkable thing, I think it’s a pity that Guinness didn’t permanently install the sub somewhere after the whole thing was over and make one of the coolest dive bars (literally) in London. What could be better than heading out to the docks with a couple of friends, descending into an honest-to-god submarine, ordering some fish and chips, and drinking a few beers?
Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Dubai’s kind of got a thing for stupidly ornate and over-the-top buildings, so much so that architects are always trying to outdo each other. That’s part of the mentality behind Al Mahara, an underwater themed restaurant. Nobody is really sure why they didn’t want to just go the extra mile and build it underwater; after all, they aren’t shying away from building a giant ice berg in the desert.
As I said, Al Mahara isn’t actually underwater, but every feature of the restaurant is supposed to replicate that feeling. With arcing, tunnel-like passageways, the building does follow the general architectural aesthetic that you’d expect. The main draw of the Al Mahara, though, is the enormous circular aquarium in the center of the restaurant.
Compared to other underwater themed restaurants, I would actually say that Al Mahara is the most impressive. At first glance, you’d think that Ithaa or Red Sea Star would be better because they are, actually, underwater. In reality, though, creating an underwater restaurant necessarily limits the building’s potential. You’re restricted by size and depth, and maintenance is extremely difficult and expensive.
By placing Al Mahara on land, the designers were more able to design a spectacular building and then add an aquarium in the middle of it. Completely submerged restaurants might be a bit more committed to the theme and just plain cool, but they aren’t quite as architecturally impressive. You’ve got to strike a balance, I suppose. The more extreme the location, the more limited you are by that location.
Al Mahara, which translates into “The Pearl,” is an absolutely beautiful and high class restaurant that transcends the only minor disadvantage of not being completely underwater. If given the opportunity to go to either Ithaa, the Red Sea Star, or Al Mahara, I think I’d go with Al Mahara.
Monday, January 2nd, 2012
Ever since Rome, public bath houses have been a popular means of promoting public health. While public bath houses haven’t caught on everywhere, they are certainly a unique form of cultural expression for a city. Nowadays, they can be found all over the world, especially near the Mediterranean and eastern China.
The city of Budapest is making full use of public houses, and for good reason – Budapest has more geothermal springs (80 in all) than any other large city in the world. Failing to utilizing such prime geothermal real estate would be a spectacular waste.
Of the various public baths dotting the city of Budapest, the Gellert Baths and Spa is perhaps the most extravagant and lavish. The décor is absolutely spectacular, featuring original pieces of Art Nouveau architecture, stained glass windows, and of course enough sculptures to make any ancient Roman bather feel right at home.
Not every feature of the spa is focused on making things feel classic and old fashioned. Gellert Baths roughly translates into “Disco Bath,” and the spa attempts to live up to that flashy title. It features thermal pools, artificial wave generators, massage, mud packing, and full spa services. I have yet to spot a disco ball in any of the pictures, though.
Whether the style is classic or modern, the actual bathing experience is what matters the most, and that is sure not to disappoint. The natural spring water filling the pools contains magnesium, calcium, sulphate-chloride, hydrogen-carbonate , fluoride ions, and sodium. The owners of the bath house claim that these chemicals help to cure a number of ailments, including arthritis and blood circulation problems.
Overall, the Gellert Bath is very different from a typical American swimming pool. It provides a dramatically different experience. It’s truly unfortunate that these types of bath houses never caught on in America.