Jun 4, 2012 12:24 - holly | 732 views
We are living a very comfortable life in big cities. Our days as hunters and gatherers are over besides when we are hunting the biggest goose for Christmas or the most affordable washing-machine for the flat. But every now and then we feel the need to go back to our roots and leave all our amenities and conveniences of daily life in modern society behind. Once in a while, everyone has the urge of simply running away, to turn off the mobile phone, shut down the laptop and go somewhere where no satellite can locate you and the closest hospital is hours or even days away.
For most people simply fantasizing about this is all they need to recharge their batteries, re-adjust to modern life and its technology that is developing so much faster than our minds are able to follow, but for others only daydreaming won’t do the trick. They need to feel uncut grass underneath their feet, smell fresh air that isn’t stained by exhaust-fumes, urine and the oh-so-convenient fast food grease, get woken up in the morning not by the ever- annoying alarm-clock but chirpy singing-birds instead, run around the forest chasing sun rays all day. This sounds like a hippie’s dream, doesn’t it?
Well, for me it was more than a dream. I even went further and romanticized about the idea of learning the skills needed to survive on my own. Into the wild-style. Gathering berries, hunting small animals with a make-shift bow and arrow and building your very own camp for a night underneath a stars-laden sky.
I wanted to turn this dream into a reality, however I decided to taste the light-version of a drop-out without quitting my job or leaving my family behind. I went on a long holiday in the rustic, untouched and yet to be discovered (if not by mankind at least by me) woods of Norway. Once the plan was made and everything was organized, the idea sounded daunting yet tantalizing.
Just before the trip, I copped-out. Not entirely. Only a little bit. I took my whole family and childhood-friends along. In the end it was 15 of us. I wasn’t going to learn how to survive on my own anymore. But I would acquire skills to show off with at parties and do it all with the people I love. What more would anybody want from a summer holiday?
For starters, it should actually be summer. Our trip was in October. You don’t need to be Norwegian to draw the right inference which we, over all our excitement and planning forgot to consider – the weather was horrible.
Out of 3 weeks it was raining for 21 days.
Try keeping up your optimism, good mood and songs about sunshine and freedom whilst crouching on the ground picking half-rotten berries in the pouring rain for more than 3 days straight.
It was hard. It was a survival trip in a Norwegian fjord four hours north-west of Oslo. What did we expect? Well, we didn’t think we would have to fight the constant temptation of luxury just around the third tree on the left.
Our guide left us to our own devices after showing us the ropes for three days and said good-bye with the appendix of “let me know when you had enough. There is a log cabin with Jacuzzi, bubbling champagne and satellite TV not far from here where I can take you in two shakes of a lambs’ tail.”
Great. Our motivation was already on a low and then he left us with this sentence. It didn’t take long until our numbers were dwindling. Two days later we were down to three.
I tried hard, very hard, but after everyone else was gone and enjoying the luxury that seems to be so much sweeter, warmer and dryer when forsaking it willingly and going out into the wild in order to chastise yourself for having enjoyed it all your life, I didn’t even last one more night.
Boy, it was indulgence deluxe! Not only did we spend the remaining days of our survival trip in this luxurious cabin, but we also got to use a proper fishing rod instead of a rope with a stopgap-hook which was pure luxury for us. We returned back home on a Europe cruise drinking champagne while gazing at the breathtaking landscape of the Scandinavian Fiordland – and all of it dry-shod.
May 31, 2012 17:57 - holly | 36 views
Hidden away in Switzerland, nestled between megabucks resorts Villars and Gstaad sits a small(ish), rural(ish) community called ‘Les Diablerets’. It takes its name from the vast glacier towering over it known as Glacier 3000 and tales gone by of little devils (‘diablerets’) mining crystal beneath the ice. It was said that if anyone interrupted their work the little devils would take their revenge, and true to form, since humans have set foot on the glacier there have been spates of avalanches. Whether this is due to folk tales or the extensive Glacier 3000 skiing complex is up to you to decide.
In this article we’re going to take a brief look at some of the fantastic adventure options offered by this beautiful village. They’re very keen on nature (I was once dismissed with a sad smile for requesting to hire a quad bike), so virtually all adventures to be sought here take advantage of the extremely mountainous terrain and uncannily good weather (the village is in the rain shadow of several surrounding peaks).
For now we’re just going to focus on the summer activities Switzerland offers although it gets pretty snowy and the winter activities have extensive appeal of their own. It’s hardly Alaska! Cruise through the tree-lined pistes down to a warm Cafe Lutz (local specialty – pruneaux in black coffee, deadly) – you get the idea. Let’s look at summer!
For the not-so-hardy
Those seeking adventure but concerned about physical limitations will still have access to a wide range of activities. While the terrain is extremely mountainous, walking routes are well-mapped (guides available free of charge from the Office de Tourisme), well-kept and clearly signposted. The Swiss tradition of ‘suggested walking times’ is strongly in force here – though, in my experience, you have to be a reasonably hardy mountaineer to stick to them. There is also tennis and mini-golf in the centre of the village.
For the slightly-thrill-seeking
Downhill mountain biking is very much in force across the entire canton of Vaud and, indeed, Valais. There is a commonly adopted downhill mountain bike system similar to piste colourings – ‘blue runs’ are for the eager learner, ‘red runs’ for the more intrepid and ‘black runs’ for the fairly insane. Bikes can be hired at a very reasonable rate from the central village, and the village’s ski-lift system adapts to hike bicycles uphill in the summer, saving you several thousand meters of ascent (and maximising downhill time!).
For the pretty barmy
If you’re looking for something more hardcore, there are a range of options available from the ‘centre d’aventure’ in the centre of the village. It does just as it says on the tin: hardy Swiss adventure-types will take you out for accompanied hang-gliding (parapente – there is a school to acquire your international solo licence, too), unstoppable downhill scooter rides (huge chunky tires ensuring a ‘comfortable’ trip), via ferrata climbing, kilometre-long ‘tirolienne’ (horizontal zip-wire) – and much, much more besides. More can be gleaned from the Les Diablerets Tourisme website.
All in all, it’s a beautiful holiday for a range of thrill-seekers. The folk of the centre d’aventure are notoriously laid-back and will do everything they can to ensure you have a brilliant time. Because it’s a small village – yet offering a huge range of activities – there’s a sense of personality, character and individualism to everything on offer. Go give it a try!
May 31, 2012 16:50 - holly | 1,370 views
Stunning Sydney is a premier destination for the cruise savvy, with the Australian cruise sector growing by over 35% in the last two years (compare this with the Europe cruises industry, which has grown by 9% in the same period). Sydney Harbour is also the only port in Australia with two world-class cruise passenger terminals. The main terminal, Overseas Passenger (the OPT) Terminal, is located at Circular Quay docks with front-row views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
If you’re ending your cruise in Sydney, or passing through on to the magnificent islands that surround the continent, it’s certainly worth disembarking to explore all that Sydney has to offer –gorgeous sandy beaches, friendly locals, lavish department stores , trendy bars and world-class restaurants – just to name a few of the attractions.
What to do:
Your Sydney sightseeing should, naturally, include Circular Quay. A couple of hours here allows you to take in the iconic sights of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge (you can even climb it if you have time!) and wander around the botanic gardens at dusk. A five-minute walk away is The Rocks, the historical area where Sydney began. Take a ghost tour of the cobbled streets, have a beer in one of the many colloquially-Australian pubs in the area or head to the weekend markets and pick up one-off jewellery items, clothing and unique artworks from local artists.
If it’s shopping you crave, then Sydney’s Pitt Street, which is walking distance from Circular Quay, is your next destination. You will need a day just to dedicate to the new enormous Westfield centre in Pitt Street. Designed by the internationally-renowned Tokyo-based interior design company Wonderwall, this impressive centre houses over 250 stores and eateries, including the biggest Australian and International brands. Before completion, the Westfield Group Managing Director Steven Lowy said “we believe the centre will become one of the iconic downtown retail destinations in the world, with a completed value – including the office precinct – of more than $3 billion.”
Of course, no trip to Sydney would be complete without visiting one of Sydney’s gorgeous beaches. The iconic Bondi beach is immensely popular with tourists and Sydney-siders alike but you may find it difficult to find an unoccupied piece of sand in the summertime. Nearby beaches Coogee and Bronte are less crowded and just as stunning.
Where to drink:
Over the last few years, Sydney has been giving the stylish Melbourne a run for its money on the bar-scene front with bespoke watering holes popping up all over the city. Grandmas bar (grandmasbarsydney.com.au), which prides itself on being the “Retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour” has taken up residence in Clarence street and its selection of cocktails, including their own home-made punch, is proving highly popular with the locals. Baxter Inn (thebaxterinn.com/home), run by Sydney-famous bartenders Anton Forte and Jason Scott –home, is your next stop on Clarence Street. This candle-lit basement bar blasts jazz and blues tunes and offers the thirsty traveller an impressive selection of wines and beers and a staggering 360 different types of whisky. Make sure you turn up early to get a seat as this tiny drinking establishment fills up quick.
Where to stay:
Circular Quay is the perfect location to set up camp while in town. It’s located at Sydney Harbour and has the convenience of a train station, many restaurants and tourist shops and is walking distance to the charming historic area of The Rocks and Sydney’s shopping district of Pitt Street.
For those looking for a touch of glamour, the five-star Shangri-La Hotel (shangri-la.com/sydney/shangrila), located in The Rocks, offers guests luxurious accommodation and picturesque views overlooking Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge Sydney Olympic Park or the beautiful Blue Mountains. The renowned Blu Bar on level 36 is an attraction in itself, offering 360 degree view of the city and top-notch cocktails.
Click Here for more accommodation options in Sydney, Australia.
When to visit:
Sydney doesn’t experience seasons as you may know them, with warm temperatures seen for most of the year. November through to April is the best time to visit however to make the most of long, perfect days and the multitude of summer events that Sydney does so well. But remember, temperatures in Sydney exceed 90 F, so remember to pack a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
May 23, 2012 13:54 - annadewinter | 1,874 views
Being of independent spirit, I have always enjoyed putting together my own holiday, rather than depending on someone else to organise it, and have found that being willing to go a little way off the beaten track leads to the discovery of interesting and unusual places. Road trips are one of my favorite excursions as they are great for both family outings and for a jaunt with a group of friends. It seems that more and more people think the same, and are finding ways to organise the journey of their dreams themselves.
Get Organised Before Leaving
I always start with a thorough check of the vehicle to be used for the journey. This is not always the family car –sometimes I use cheap car rentals, as the vehicles are taxed, insured, cleaned and fully serviced beforehand, and wear and tear is not a consideration. If you are traveling with a larger crowd and want to avoid paying high costs for accommodations RV rentals are also a great option. When packing the vehicle, I keep important documents, such as licences, passport and insurance papers, within easy reach, rather than buried under the luggage in the boot.
In case of an emergency, I like to pack a first aid kit, a bottle of water, torch, toilet paper and Swiss army knife. When choosing destinations I take into account whether the journey is with family members or friends – a tour of unusual or exotic city cultural institutions might be an adventure for my great aunt, but it is unlikely to suit the children who tend to prefer theme parks or opportunities to go cycling or canoeing.
Best Routes/Destinations for a Road Trip
For a road trip full of adventures, there is a wonderful choice of exciting places to see and things to do. For instance, in Kimberley, Western Australia, I found the Gibb River Road offers a legendary road trip experience, embedded as it is in a remote, wild landscape of highly coloured mountain ranges featuring gorges, waterfalls and rock pools.
Switch continents to southeast Europe and keen travellers can undertake a round trip from Dubrovnik that encompasses an adventure in Bosnia, including the chance to try out some rafting around the waterfalls at Mostar, the Bohemian nightlife in Sarajevo plus mountain biking and horse riding in the Bosnian mountains.
Across the globe in New Zealand, Christchurch on South Island is the starting point for a meandering, relaxing road trip to Nelson. Along the way, travellers can explore the vineyards at Walpara and the labyrinthine caves at Charleston in the Paparoa National Park, where brave folks have the opportunity to try out black-water rafting – an extraordinary, challenging experience.
Tips and Advice for Planning Your Road Adventure
I like to prepare for the road ahead by being armed with information about where I’m going and what I might see along the way. I find it’s much better when driving can be shared and some potential experiences can be mapped out in advance. Keeping an eye on the budget is vital as well, as running out of money halfway through a journey might be considered to be an adventure, but it is unlikely to be an enjoyable experience, especially if driver and passengers are stranded somewhere inconvenient. I always allow a few days within the schedule for unexpected stops and deviations – I’m going on an adventure, after all.
May 18, 2012 10:53 - holly | 1,470 views
Germany’s Berlin is a capital shrouded in a dark history. As the site of Nazi Germany’s headquarters and the menacing Berlin Wall that divided the East and West for 28 years, Berlin continues to reinvent itself to this day, forging itself as a hip, thriving city where the tourist dollar is pouring in.
On your trip to Berlin, whether you wish to understand the terrible events of the past, or discover the new Berlin, here are five essential items to add to your itinerary.
Visit the Holocaust Memorial
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honours and remembers the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The towering memorial consists of 2,700 concrete pillars (“Field of Steal”), each 95cm wide and 2.37m long, with heights varying from zero to four meters. The pillars are spaced 95cm apart, which means that each individual walks through the haunting structure on their own. The memorial “suggests that when a supposedly rational and ordered system grows too large and out of proportion to its intended purpose, it in fact loses touch with human reason. It then begins to reveal the innate disturbances and potential for chaos in all systems of seeming order, the idea that all closed systems of a closed order are bound to fail,” says the Memorial’s designer Peter Eisenmansays.
The memorial is located in the centre of Berlin and is free. Visit stiftung-denkmal.de/en.
Topography of Terror
For a macabre look at the events of WWII Germany, visit the Topography of Terror. Last year alone, 800,000 people visited this exhibition at the site the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office were located during the “Third Reich”. The exhibition chronicles the atrocities of the Nazis from 1933 to the events of their fall in 1945.Topography of Terror presents photos, newspaper articles and documents to illustrate the horrors of the period and some will be etched in your memory long after you leave.
The exhibition is located in the center of Berlin and is free. Visit topographie.de/en/.
Do a Walking Tour
A walking tour is a terrific taster of Berlin, introducing you briefly to the history and interesting facts on the city that only a local may discover. Berlin’s sightseeing tours are an entertaining stroll through the city with stop-off points at the many museums, historic sites such as Checkpoint Charlie, the still-standing remnants of The Berlin Wall, the site of Hitler’s Bunker and the headquarters of the Nazi party.
One could spend weeks trawling through Berlin’s museums but the Pergamon exhibition should certainly be on the list for a quick stay in Berlin. Pergamon is the first major exhibition dedicated exclusively to the history, art and culture of this 2nd and 3rd century BC city of Pergamon. Stroll through a life in the day of the inhabitants in 129 AD in The Pergamon Panorama. This monumental exhibit measures 25 metres in height and 103m in length, and depicts the buildings on the slopes of Pergamon, along with many of the statues featured in the exhibition. “You can now experience a festival honouring the god Dionysus, or accompany the emperor Hadrian on a visit to an ancient construction site,” says the website. “ You have the chance to observe life being played out in the alleys, the lively bustle at the market or to take a look into the workshops of sculptors. Why not ascend the hill to the acropolis and steal a glance into the temple of Athena, with its famous library?”(smb.museum/pergamon-panorama)
You absolutely can’t visit Berlin without tasting the food of the nation – Currywurst. The dish of steamed sausage sliced into pieces and seasoned with warm curry ketchup is simple but surprisingly delicious! You will find it pretty much everywhere you go (Germany is not big on vegetarian options). There is even a museum (currywurstmuseum.de/en/) for those craving more history on the dish.
So if you’re trying to decide on holiday destinations this summer, (we know Europe cruise is a popular one) consider a trip to fascinating, contradictory Berlin. For more information, visit visitberlin.de/en