4 Reasons to go to Zadar, Croatia

Author: KDanck

The Ryanair flight SDanck and I had booked for 20 Euros (yes, that’s a thing) just landed in Zadar, Croatia. This small city wasn’t originally on our list, but the cheap flight put it there and we were so glad it did.

Brief History:

Zadar is a 3,000 year old city (yep, older than Jesus), which was built in the center of the Croatian Adriatic. The city itself was first mentioned in history in 400 BCE as Jadar, though its name would be changed several times from Idassa to Jadera to how it is known today… Zadar.

Zadar has an extensive history of foreign leaders fighting to control it, enemies destroying it, and ultimately the city and people re-emerging. In 59 BCE, Zadar was declared a Roman municipium and became a colony of Roman citizens in 48 BCE. The Roman influence is evident in the ancient city, with the planned road network and main square. In 700 CE, Zadar became the capital of the Byzantine province of Damatia. The city would however would be burned and conquered by the Crusaders and Venetians in the 12th century. The Austrians took control of Zadar in 1797 followed by the French in 1806 – 1813, followed again by the Austrians in 1918.

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Kinda feels like a game of hot potato

Zadar fell under Italian rule until it was given to Croatia after World War II (This would be within the Framework of the Federation of Yugoslavia). However, peace in the region would be put on halt following the Republic of Croatia’s declaration of independence. Zadar was attacked by the Serbian rebels in October 1991, in an effort to conquer and destroy. The city suffered enormous loss.

Today. Zadar still holds onto the cultures that declared this city their home for years. It is home to the oldest Croatian university and the birthplace of the first Croatian novel (1).

The Sites in Zadar and the surrounding region:

Monument to the Sun (also known as Greeting to the Sun)

Artist Nikola Basic (2) built this at the edge of the Zadar waterfront. The 22 meter disc soaks up the sun’s rays and colored lights create a disco effect as night falls. There are even plans to make this attraction interactive. The repairs will also better coordinate the music being played by the sea organ (see below).

Tip: If if you do go to this area during the day, you need to make sure to return when it begins to get dark.

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greeting to the sun

Where it is:

Sea Organ

This is directly next to the Monument to the Sun. It is disguised as a series of steps reaching out into the sea, but as you head closer, you will hear music play. This art installation (again by Nikola Basic (3)) has pipes cut out of concrete which lead into the water. Music is created by the water entering and exiting these pipes

Tip: Go at sunset! The view is magical. In the words of Alfred Hitchcock from his visit in 1964, “Zadar has the most beautiful sunset in the world, more beautiful than the one in Key West, in Florida, applauded at every evening.”

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Where it is:

The Beach

Although SDanck and I did not have time to go to the beach (We made a road trip from here to Dubrovnik), Saharun is a short ferry ride from Zadar. The beach has white sand, which is uncommon for Croatian and turquoise waters, which remind visitors of the Caribbean.

How to get there
Take the ferry! They leave directly from Zadar. Click here to reach their main site.

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Nearby National Parks

SDanck and I will do another post on some of these (though we have not made it to all), but the Paklenica, Plitvice Lakes, and Krka are all a relatively short drive from Zadar.

    • Paklenica National Park
        • What: This park stretches for 145 km. The park creates a barrier between the coast and the mainland with the peaks of Velebit Massif.
        • What to do here:
          • Climbing: There are over 400 climbing trails
          • Hiking: There are over 175 km of hiking trails, with the two most popular being that to Pklenicia Mountain hut (about a 2 hour climb) and to the cave of Manita Pec (which takes about 2 ½ hours)
        • Price: These can be found here.
        • Where: This is about 45 minutes inland zadar map_01
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    • Plitvice Lakes
      • What: One of the most beautiful sites in Croatia with waterfalls and turquoise lakes
      • What to do here: Walk around and explore! You’re not allowed to leave the marked path, but feel free to hike around and check out the waterfalls. The views are breathtaking.
      • Price: This can be found here
      • Where: This one is definitely a bit further (and you will pass by Paklenica on the way up). Plan almost 2 hours for the drive (so leave early!) zadar map_02.jpg
      • plitvice
    • Krka National Park
      • What: More waterfalls!
      • What you can do here: Although from a glance, these may look less impressive than the Plitvice Lakes, you are allowed to swim here, which is a real plus
      • Price: Depends when and how long you go for here, check it out here.
      • Where: This is about an hour south, so if you plan on heading to Dubravnik, do this on the way.  zadar mpa_03.jpg
      • Krka.jpg

Have any more tips on places to visit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. : )

Sources:

(1) http://www.zadar.travel/en/about-zadar/history#.Wfiku2IrLcs

(2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/croatia/zadar/zadar-croatia-coolest-city-dalmatia-coast-adriatic/

(3) http://www.zadar.travel/en/city-guide/attractions/19-04-2007/sea-organ#.Wfij_WIrLcs

Haunting Around Salem

Author: SDanck

Time to get Spooky! KDanck and I are from New England and love this time of year. The leaves falling, the crisp smell in the air, apple and pumpkin picking make Fall our favorite season (I know… basic). And the best part of the fall is Halloween…. with ghosts and scary stories.

But as a history major, let’s start with some real ghost stories. Salem, Massachusetts is known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and it has many other ghost stories that will take you all over the picturesque New England harbor town. Try not to run in the opposite direction.

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The Witch Trials of 1692

What better place to start than with the story that made Salem famous (minor technicality that the trials actually took place in Danvers)  The trials began after three women were accused of witchcraft; Tituba (Reverend Parris’ slave), Sarah Good (a beggar) and the elderly Sarah Osborn (1). While the trials focused on Salem, several other towns in the Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties fell victim to the hysteria.

More than 200 people were accused and 20 were executed.  The documents that still exist today are hosted electronically by the University of Virginia, but Salem remembers her history well. The following sites will lead you lead through Salem and the trials:

  • The Salem Witch Trials Memorial
    • The stones of the memorial contain the names, type of execution and date of death of each innocent executed for witchcraft. The hysteria claimed 20 lives (14 women, 6 men).
    • Address: 24 Liberty St, Salem, MA 01970
  • Salem Witch Museum
    • The main exhibit is based on trial documents and will take you through trials through multiple stage sets. The second exhibit will take you through how witches and our perception of them has changed overtime.
    • Address: 19 1/2 Washington Square, Salem, MA 01970
    • Hours: 10 AM to 4:30 PM (presentations are every half hour and tickets can be purchased starting at 9:45 AM)
    • Price: $12
  • Witch Dungeon Museum
    • Be transported back to 1962 and experience a reenactment of a trial based on court transcripts
    • Address: 16 Lynde St, Salem, MA 01970
    • Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM with extended hours on select days in October
    • Price: $10
  • Witch History Museum
    • Meet Tituba in Reverend Parris’ kitchen and visit Old Salem village.  Follow the hysteria through 15 life sized scenes depicting the events.
    • Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM with extended hours on select days in October
    • Price: $10
  • The Witch House (Corwin House)
    • This house belonged to Jonathan Corwin, whose family would later play a part in the Trials. Corwin was a merchant, politician and be one of the judges who presided over the trials. The house offers insight into seventeenth century life and a deeper understanding of the people of Salem.
    • Address: 310 Essex St, Salem, MA 01970
    • Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM
    • Price: $8.25

Still looking to get spooked but have a little less of a history lesson? Here are a few haunted sites you can visit in Salem:

The Joshua Ward House

Built after the Witch Trials (1784), the Joshua Ward House is haunted by the ghosts of Sheriff George ‘The Strangler’ Corwin and Giles Corey (both men were involved in the trials). Sheriff Corwin used cruel methods to interrogate suspects and was probably into some BSDM was buried in the basement after his death in 1697 (later moved to Broad Street Cemetery).  Giles Corey was tortured and killed for being a warlock by Sheriff Corwin.

Wicked Good Books

First of all, you’re welcome for including a bookstore. Instead of spending hours scrolling through Instagram and pinning DIYs that you’re never going to do, visit this paranormal bookstore. The store sits on top of tunnels that were initially used by smugglers for illegal-not-Puritan-approved activities. They have even found human remains in the tunnels! TBH if I were a ghost, I’d be spooking up a bookstore too. Namely scaring readers away from Twilight bad books because I would be like Casper and be a helpful ghost.

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Bunghole Liquors

You just got your smarts on at a bookstore, now it’s time to get lit visit the local liquor store. Bunghole Liquors was once a funeral home, with a speakeasy in the basement during the Prohibition era. Because who doesn’t want to drink and gamble around corpses and embalming fluid?! Oh, wait. Me.
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Salem is filled with spooky stories so take one of the night tours and you’ll hear even more stories. Salem’s real horror stories not cutting it for you? Check out the Chamber of Terrors.  Wear sneakers as I’m sure you will be running out of there.

Don’t forget to visit the local shops and Ye Olde Pepper Company for some chocolate.  If chocolate helps after a dementor encounter, I’m sure it will help with all the ghost encounters you may experience while visiting the town.

P.S, J.K. Rowling, if you’re reading this…. I’m still waiting on my letter.

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Sources:

(1) http://www.history.com/topics/salem-witch-trials

Why Catching Flights Instead of Feelings Makes You Unhappy

Author: KDanck 

Bucket list items.

Beautiful sights.

Instagram filters.

Catching flights and not feelings.

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All in an attempt to chase happiness. To create those Instagram worthy moments. But travel without connections….travel without relationships…. This is a recipe for unhappiness and unfulfillment.

With the right trip, the right story, or the ability to make others jealous, we convince ourselves that we are happy. We remain unsatisfied in our relationships, appearance, or finances, since nothing we are or own is enough to fulfill us. “Research shows that people who focus their energy on materialistic and superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable and less happy in the long-run (1).”  Relationships are what make us happy, not a vacation.

In 1938, scientists began tracking 268 Harvard sophomores in an attempt to understand what leads to a happy life. Scientists continued to expand their research to include the children of these men (Harvard only had male students at the time) and other control groups (including wives and other demographics). They tracked these men and women throughout their lives to find the common denominator in what leads some people to be fulfilled and others not to be.  “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger who is the director of the study and professor at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation (2).”

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We are familiar with the idea that relationships better our well being, but we still struggle to form deep connections.  We protect ourselves from the hurt relationships can cause with the artificial sense of security found in social media likes or one way tickets.  Travel is a great tool that can be used to strengthen our connections, but can also be used to avoid the pain, loss and rejection that can be a result of letting others in.  We  “catch flights instead of feelings” and post the perfect photo looking for validation in our followers and not our friends or family.  

As the research shows, our relationships with our friends, parents, siblings, children, and significant others have a profound effect on our happiness. If these are toxic, our careers or greatest achievements will not satisfy us. If our relationships are healthy, we thrive and we are happy.

As Robert Waldinger points out,  “loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism (2).” When we use travel as a means of escaping feelings instead of deepening connections, we are setting ourselves up for failure. So as you travel, remember to spend that quality time with your loved ones and those you meet. The shared experiences, not the photos or souvenirs, add to our happiness.  It’s time, we allowed ourselves to catch both flights and feelings.

Sources:

(1) Mark Manson, “Stop Trying To Be Happy,” Mark Manson, June 23, 2017, accessed August 02, 2017, https://markmanson.net/stop-trying-to-be-happy.

(2) Liz Mineo, “Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life,” Harvard Gazette, September 26, 2017, , accessed October 26, 2017,
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/ And be sure to check out the TED talk also featured on this page

Top 10 Sites in Montreal

“Wow! It’s been so long!” I hugged my friend Priscilla, who I hadn’t seen in 5 years. The last time we were together we were in Heidelberg, Germany which felt like ages ago. She lives in France while I live in Boston. Priscilla  was visiting North America for the first time and her sister is about a 20 minute car drive from Montreal. I was staying two days, which would give me enough time to re-explore the city that I hadn’t seen in 2 years (despite it being relatively close).

Below, I compiled a list  of places for you to check out if you make the trek up. Hope you enjoy:

1. Jetboating

SDanck and I went jetboating back in 2015 on the St. Lawrence River. These high powered jet boats can hold up to 48 people and take you on a ride of the nearby rapids. Prepare to get soaked and for a fun ride! Visit their website here.

Tip: Bring extra clothes to change into. SDanck and I didn’t do this and ended up going on the nearby zipline right after soaked. Not recommended 😉

Where is it?:

Price: $69

How long it will take you: The ride is about an hour, though be sure to schedule some time to change.

When to go: Go when you are at the Old Port. The entrance is right there.

Where it is:

2. Old Port

The Old Port is right along the water and has a series of activities for you to do, especially in the summer. My sister and I went zip-lining (right after jetboating. See my note above about bringing extra clothes ; ) ). And they even have an adventure park and ferris wheel.

In the winter, there is a skating rink which will open on December 9th. For a full list of activities, check out their site, here.

How long it will take you: This depends entirely on what activities you have planned. But given the extensive list, you could easily spend a day or two here.

When to go: Summer has a lot more activities, but there’s still ice skating and the ferris wheel in the winter.

Where it is:

old port

KDanck and SDanck at the Old Port 

3. St. Catherine

Shopping. Shopping. Shopping. There are over 1,200 merchants here and this street is the “largest commercial artery in Canada” (1). There are also many access points to Montreal’s Underground City.

Tip: St. Catherine’s, The Quartier des Spectacles (below) and the Underground City are all close and can be combined together for 1-2 days of fun.

Where it is:

4. Quartier Des Spectacles

If you keep walking along St. Catherine’s, you will find yourself here. Packed with festivals and events, this is worth checking out:

Where it is:

5. The Underground City

More shopping! The Underground City spans 20 miles (2) underneath Montreal and features world famous shopping centers including:

Where it is:

6. Try some poutine

This is a staple food here and is pretty delicious. Poutine is French fries with gravy and cheese. It’s generally not vegetarian friendly. I ended up getting my vegetarian poutine at a poutine festival, but these places should also have them and for you non-vegetarians out there. These places are rated Thrillist’s top 5.

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Yum!

7. Go to a festival

Over 90 festivals take place in Montreal over the course of the calendar year. Some of the most well known include Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (June and early July) and the Oshega (which is a rock festival that takes place in early August). To align your trip up with a festival, check out Lonely Planet’s Guide here.

8. Mont Royal

This offers the best view of the city and is a short hike up. Taking a cab or parking your car (yes, there is parking) is the easiest way to get here, since it is a little out of the way. Parking is very cheap, but you will have to pay, so make sure to have a credit card or some cash handy.

Tip: Get here early. The McGill campus is nearby and entrance is free. If you don’t want to deal with a lot of students or fellow tourists.

How long it will take you: 30 minutes to an hour depending on how many photos you want to take. The walk isn’t very long from the parking lot.

Where it is:

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KDanck and her friend, Priscilla
9. Botanical Gardens

This was one of my favorite parts of Montreal. The botanical gardens here are huge with ever changing exhibits and gardens focused on various cultural themes (such as the Chinese and Japanese gardens). The food at their restaurant was also surprisingly good.

How long it will take you: We were here for half the day but you could easily spend more or less time there.

What to combine it with: We combined it with Mont Royal. There is parking here too, so it’s easy to combine these too (about a 15 minute drive from each other). Also the Biodome and Olympic Tower are right there.

Pricing: $20.25

Parking: $12 a day. Or if you park at the back entrance, you can park for free on the street if there are spots. (This results in about a 15-20 minute walk to the main part of the garden)
Where it is:

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Exploring some of the sculptures

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The Chinese garden

10. Biodome & Olympic Tower

While I haven’t had a chance to check out these two sites, SDank has! Both of these sites are located in the Olympic Park.  Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics in 1976 and continue to maintain and use the sites.

The Biodome has numerous year round exhibits along with special/seasonal ones (currently, they are hosting ‘The Great Pumpkin Ball! Get tickets here).  Visit here to learn more about the Biodome’s current exhibits and here to find tickets.

The Montreal (Olympic) Tower stands at 165 meters (541 feet!) and is the tallest inclined in the world (the incline is at a 45 degree angle, whereas the Leaning Tower of Pisa is only 5 degrees!). Take the elevator to the top of the tower and enjoy a panorama view of the the St. Lawrence River valley and the area of Montreal. Visit here for the schedule and rates.

They are right outside the botanical gardens.

Biodome Rate: $20.25+

Where it is:

Montreal (Olympic) Rate: $23.25+
Where it is: Right next door!

Friðheimar: Iceland’s Own Greenhouse Restaurant

Author: KDanck

Bloody Mary’s and Tomato Ice Cream

The sun shone in through the glass panels of the greenhouse with rows of tomatoes. Bees were humming as they pollinated the flowers. The room was filled with hungry tourists, making their way through the Golden Circle. I was holding a green drink in my hand as my roommates and I waited for our table.

“Wow,” I said as I took another sip. “I think I’m going to have to order another one.”

I was drinking a green bloody Mary, made out of the tomatoes that were directly next to us.

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Bloody Mary’s. Yum

We finally sat down and took a look at the menu.  4 different kinds of tomatoes grow in the garden and everything contains some of the freshly grown garden items. Since Iceland is cold, my roommates and I opted for unlimited tomato soup and freshly made bread (a nice compliment to our second round of bloody Mary’s 😉 ). The soup and variety of bread options were delicious. And for dessert, we had tomato ice cream which was served in a clay pot (yum!).

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Look at how cute this ice cream is!

About Friðheimar

Knútur and Helena bought Friðheima in 1995 and were the first growers to cultivate plum tomatoes year round in Iceland. Between 1995 and 2001, they built a 1,174 m² greenhouse as an addition to the already two existing greenhouses. They used a process called horticulture to grow the tomatoes and their produce averages a ton a day! 

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And there are horses

Knútur and Helena weren’t only interested in tomatoes. They have also been breeding horses since 1995, many of which have won first place titles. Unfortunately I was here in March, but if you visit in the summer months, you can visit Friðheimar’s own horse show: A Meeting with the Icelandic Horse. The show is offered in 14 languages, is accompanied by Icelandic music, and provides an overview of the history of Icelandic horses.

Where is it?

When should I go during my Iceland trip?

If you’re planning on doing the Golden Circle (which you definitely should), this place is a great stop.It is just outside of Reykholt in South Iceland. Check out their website to learn more. Do you have any recommendations for restaurants to check out in Iceland? Leave in the comments below

What Do a Bunny and Spain Have in Common?: Top 5 Spain Fun Facts

Author: SDanck

Alright, ladies and gents. It’s time to get cultured and have the greatest history/fun fact lesson of your life. Spain, one of the most mountainous in Europe, has a fascinating history of olive oil, wine, religion and conquest.

You’re welcome for keeping your ass educated and giving you fun ice breakers.

Spain Fun Fact #1: Olive you, Spain.

Spain produces the majority of the world’s olive oil. (1)

Wait, it’s not Greece or Italy (Two places where I imagine the locals breath, drink and bathe in olive oil)?

Nope!

Spain beats both countries and I must admit, their olive oil is GOOD.  Olive Oil has been a part of the Spanish culture for centuries and Montserrat, an ancient monastery north of Barcelona, is a testament to this.  

So where can you get your own bottle?

Well I got you covered:

The monastery of Montserrat is home to Catalonia’s patron saint, the Black Madonna.  The site itself has always held religious meaning. Pre-Christian times, there was a temple dedicated to Venus built by the Romans.  As the Christian faith spread throughout Spain, hermit monks took to the site and the monastery was officially founded in 1025 AD. (2) The monastery has a beautiful view, a famous boys Gregorian choir, and produces its own liquor and olive oil (recommendation: buy the olive oil variety pack, you’ll thank me later).

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me and KDanck. We’re ready for olive oil with a view at Montserrat

Some tips for Montserrat:

  1. Sign up for a tour so you don’t need to deal with the drive up to the site. My sister and I signed up for a morning tour which gave us full access to the site before it became overcrowded. You won’t have a chance to hear the boys’ choir as you’ll be on your way back to Barcelona before they start singing, but you will get a chance to see the Church and the view from the mountaintop without lines. #winning
  2. Seeing the Cross of Saint Michael: You have two options; climb up the mountain and skip the cable car (about a 15 minute walk uphill) or take the cable car to the top and prepare for a LONG walk down with little to no signage.  Prepare to feel very lost and concerned that you will never reach the bottom.  Every now and then you will see little red arrows, so follow those arrows. Wear comfortable shoes as those sandals that are soooooo cute (but give you blisters) will be your death on your way down the mountain.

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Wine: The real reason you want to come to Spain

Spain Fun Fact #2: Put a Cork in it

Spain (and Portugal) provide most of the world’s cork. You know what cork leads to? WINEEEE. A lot of my wine glasses have similar aesthetics to wine bottles. By that, I mean the wine bottle is my glass.  
Spain’s wine heritage is about 3,000 years old but took a brief (and very sad) break when the Islamic Moors took over the region in 744 AD. (3) With the Moors’ final defeat in 1492, wine made a comeback. #blessed

Go for a tour a winery and pair some local Spanish cheeses. If you don’t have time to go to a winery but are in Spain during those horribly-god-awful-pretty-sure-I-died-or-lost-part-of-my-soul hot summer months, order a Tinto de Verano (“red wine of summer”). Accidently day drunk you will appreciate previously sober you’s decision making skills.

Spain Fun Fact #3: ‘This is mine now.’ A Christian’s Tale of Cordoba

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This is one of the most visited sites in Europe. Prepare yourself for some heat waves outside though (It reached nearly 110 degree when we came)

The Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba has a rich history following the lines of ‘finders’ keepers.’  

We’ll keep this history lesson brief as the Mosque Cathedral sells audio guides that will narrate the entire site’s history in a British accent; something I could technically do, but not without insulting the entire United Kingdom.

Historians believe the site was first for Roman temple dedicated Janus but then became a Church founded by the Visigoths. The site later became home to the famous Mosque after Prince Abd al-Rahman escaped Damascus and started anew in the Iberian Peninsula.  In the 16th century, the building of the Cathedral in the Mosque’s center was approved. (4)  

Grab an audio guide and walk the halls of the Mosque Cathedral.

*Keep in mind this is still an active Church so plan your visit accordingly and dress appropriately.

Spain Fun Fact #4: How much Moor can you ask for? The Moorish Alhambra

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The complete name of Alhambra is “Qal’at al-Hambra”, which translates to “The Red Fortress.”  The walls have a reddish tone and are covered with beautiful, colored tile and Arabic inscriptions.

The Fortress was built by the Moors (Muslims from North Africa) originally as a military structure but was later transitioned into the Royal residence by Mohammed ben Al-Hamar in 13th century.

Following the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the Alhambra became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella.  It was in these halls that Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition from Ferdinand and Isabella.

Be sure you buy your tickets early here and prep yourself to dodge a few selfie sticks as you take in Alhambra’s beauty.

Spain Fun Fact #5: What’s in a name?

Through Spain’s rich history, the country has been given many names.  The North Africans first crossed the Straits of Gibraltar called Spain ‘Iberia’, which translated to ‘land of rivers’ (‘Iber’ means river). After the Greeks invaded the peninsula, they called the land ‘Hesperia,’ meaning ‘land of the setting sun’ (direct reference to the land being the westernmost point of the European continent).


In 300 BC, the Carthaginians traveled into Spain and called the land ‘Ispania,’ which translates to “land of the rabbits”. The Romans later Latinized this name to ‘Hispania’ which was modernized to ‘España.’

Who doesn’t love a story where the bunnies are victorious?

Sorry, Tortoise. You missed out on winning this race.

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Between the olive oil, wine and tales of bunnies, Spain has a lot to offer.  Visit Spain and immerse yourself in an amazing history, culture and possible heatstroke cuisine!

Sources:

(1) Sawe, Benjamin Elisha. “Leading Olive Producing Countries.” WorldAtlas. August 22, 2016. Accessed October 06, 2017. http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/leading-olive-producing-countries.html.

(2) “Montserrat monastery.” The Montserrat monastery. Accessed October 06, 2017. https://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-excursions-monastery-montserrat.html.

(3) “Spanish Wine History.” Wines from Spain. Accessed October 06, 2017.  http://winesfromspainusa.com/spanish-wine-history/

(4) “History of the Mosque of Cordoba.” Mezquita Cordoba. Accessed October 06, 2017. http://www.mezquitadecordoba.org/en/history-mosque-cordoba.asp

Travel & Breaking down Barriers

Author: KDanck

It was over.

It was truly over.

My life was about to end on my second day in Peru. My friends and I had taken the wrong trail down the Inca ruins.

In an attempt to save my life, my friend caused me to fall. I was now sitting in a ditch… covered in mud, sure my life would end. A dog was coming at me, prepared to bite us for stepping on what he deemed to be his property.

“Stop it,” a boy scolded his dog just as its teeth were coming in for the kill.

The dog turned and put his tail between his legs, unsure of why his owner was scolding him. We thanked the boy and continued on our way, with sticks now in hand, ready to defend ourselves against whatever was next.

Prejudice is a great time saver,” said Charlotte’s Web’s author, E.B. White. “You can form opinions without having to get the facts.”(1) Upon a single encounter, we had decided that all dogs in Peru were going to kill us. However, prejudice doesn’t just extend to dogs. Stereotypes regarding people of different races, different religions, different cultures, and different sexual orientations create barriers built on hate and fear. “When people have a negative encounter of a different race, it has a lasting impact that fosters fear and prejudice, scientists have discovered.”(2). Our sticks serve as a reminder of how we are ready to hurt others when we are afraid.

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As we continued to head down the mountain, we met another dog. This dog was white and brown, its tail wagging, though we didn’t notice.

“Back off,” my friend said as she swung her stick.

The dog, however, just tilted its head. Instead of being frightened, the dog began to play with it. With one playful nibble, this dog had broken down our fears. The dog continued to accompany us down the mountain, keeping us safe from guard dogs trying to keep their own families safe.

This dog stayed with us until we jumped into a police van (the cops felt bad for the poor tourist girls who couldn’t find their way home); Leaving our new friend behind was hard. The rest of the night we kept talking about the dog we had met in the mountains who had helped us find our way home.

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Our new friend and me. Please note: giant stick

As we came back from dinner, there was a dog waiting outside for us. We stared in disbelief. Although we had been at least one mile away, it was our dog friend!

The same dog who had escorted us down the mountain was waiting for us outside, giving us a chance to give him a real good-bye before we journeyed to our next town.

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Our dog found us!

Breaking down barriers is what makes travel so important. Humans fear what they do not understand. Fear causes us to view someone as the enemy, dehumanize them, and swing the stick. However, instead of swinging the stick, we need to seek common ground. Travel exposes us the most important truth of all: That we are all just human. We all have fears. We all love. We all cry. As Maya Angelou said, “prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”(3)

When we break down barriers and preconceived notions, we open ourselves up to incredible experiences. When we let go of fear, we allow ourselves to see the good in others (whether that be dogs or humans). When we open ourselves up to how others see the world, we may just discover something new about ourselves. So pack up your bags, and go explore. There are so many people and places to see.

Sources:

(1) Bio Staff, “E.B. White in His Own Words,” Biography.com, September 22, 2017, , accessed October 03, 2017, https://www.biography.com/news/eb-white-quotes-facts.

(2) Mark Henderson, “Racism is learnt from fear of the unknown,” The Times & The Sunday Times, , accessed October 03, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/racism-is-learnt-from-fear-of-the-unknown-bxj7skfsqxd.

(3) Opal Palmer Adisa, “Paving Her Own Road: A Tribute to Writer, Maya Angelou,” The Huffington Post, June 18, 2014, , accessed October 03, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/opal-palmer-adisa/paving-her-own-road-a-tri_b_5496436.html.

Willkommen zum Oktoberfest – Tips for Surviving Munich’s Oktoberfest

Author: SDanck

Welcome to Oktoberfest! The below tips are tried and tested so keep them in mind to have fun at Oktoberfest.

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Get there Early

The tents fill up early (lines to get in start forming around 7 AM) so be prepared to get there early and wait around. If you wait til later to get to the tents, you may not get into the tents or you will have to wait in line for a few hours. Some tents do take reservations but only for large groups and it’s expensive. Get there early and bring a deck of cards to keep yourself entertained.

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Pick the Right Tent

You’re going to be in one tent for most of it and each tent has its own vibe so pick the one that suits you best.  Some tents cater to a more international crowd, while others have a more traditional feel.  

I visited:

  • the famous Hofbrau tent (international vibe, lots of English speakers and they play some English songs like Sweet Caroline)
  • but spent a majority of my time at Löwenbräu (easily identified by the pillar with the large lion on top and has a more traditional vibe with more native German speakers).

Bring a Deck of Cards

You’re not going to have a deep philosophical conversation in the tent as you’ll have trouble hearing the person right next to you. A deck of cards will keep you entertained in line, in the tent and will also help you make friends with whoever you’re sharing your table with (you’re going to be really close to the people next to you, so you might as well befriend them!).

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Cash Cash Cash

Bring plenty of cash.  You can’t buy anything at the fest with a credit card so leave the card at home.

Leave the clunky purse/bag at home

There are a lot people at Oktoberfest and drunk you is not going to remember to watch your belongings.  Bring a small cross body bag to carry your phone and cash but make sure it’s one you’re ok with getting beer on. You’re going to leave Oktoberfest with at least a little beer on you and your purse may fall victim to beer spillage.

Wear comfortable shoes

If heels are your go to comfortable shoe, then go ahead and rock that look.  I, myself, am more of a Converse/Vans/any flat shoe type of person.  Some of the tents have standing areas and you may wind up in line for a chunk of the day, so be comfortable. Don’t be that barefooted person. You’ll see a lot of the people wearing dirndls with Converse so don’t worry, it’s an accepted look by locals.

Buy a Dirndl/Lederhosen

The crowd is mixed with people wearing casual clothes and tradition Bavarian clothing so you can attend Oktoberfest either way, but why not get festive? With a dirndl, you need to know how to correctly tie your apron! 

  • The bow on your left hip means single and ready to mingle
  • Bow on the right means in a relationship
  • Middle means virgin
  • Back means widow or waitress.  

My Oma forgot the rules so I ended up correcting my bow after chatting with some locals in the tent.

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See and they’re so cute!

Learn how to Prosit

In the tents, there will be singing, dancing and a lot of clinking Steins with your neighbors. Clink your Stein and say ‘Prosit!’ while making eye contact with whoever you’re cheers-ing (yes I made that word up). Otherwise it’s 7 years of bad sex and no one wants that (also there’s a thing called manners, you heathen).

Eat something!

Each Stein is liter of beer so get some carbs in you with a giant pretzel (a personal favorite), protein with roasted chicken or German potato salad (no mayo here!).

Need a beer break?

Because let’s be real. This is Oktoberfest and you’re not going to take a drinking break. Order a Radler (so good you should just order one to try it). It’s half beer, half lemonade and REFRESHING AF. Your drunk ass is very welcome.

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Yum! 

Make it home to sleep off the beer

As you leave the gates of Oktoberfest, there’s a park right across that lot of people think is a great place to take a drunk nap. Don’t be that person and get your butt home.  Germans will get good chuckle as they’ll pin you as a tourist or a first timer. 

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Have Fun & Explore the Rest of Munich

Munich is a beautiful German city and deserves to be explored. There’s so much to see besides Oktoberfest, from Neuschwanstein (the Mad King’s Castle) to the FC Bayern stadium and more! Oktoberfest is worth the visit to Munich, but Munich has so much more to offer.

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A Tour of Barcelona and Gaudi: The World’s Most Famous Architect

Author: KDanck

But first, who was Gaudi?

Gaudi was born in 1852 and is considered one of the most influential architects in modernism. Nature and organic shapes played a large role in his art “Gaudí himself once said: “originality consists of going back to the origins.”” (3). He began studying architecture in 1870 in Barcelona and upon completion of his degree, “Director, Elies Rogent, declared: “I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.”” (3). Many of his works (listed below) have become World Heritage sites and are staples to the Barcelona scene.

Gaudi died in 1926 after being hit by a tram on his way to the Sagrada Familia (a church you should visit, but is still not complete!). Since he did not have any identification papers on him, no one realized this was Gaudi until he was taken to the hospital. He was buried two days later (3).

Plaça Reial

Plaça Reial (translation: Royal Square) is located in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona and was designed by architect Frances Molina as a praise to the monarchy. A statue of the king at the time, Ferdinand VII, was planned, but never actually built. Instead the fountain of the Three Graces stands in the center (1). The two lamp posts that circle the fountain were designed by Gaudi and added in 1879 at the request of the City Council, with the winged helmet representing Barcelona’s commercial power (2).

Price: Free

How to get here

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Palau Guelle

In 1885, Eusebi Guell commissioned Gaudi to create a house for him in 1885, which Gaudi finished in 1890. “This building is perhaps the only finished piece of the master” and UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1984 (2). This mansion was meant to show off Guell’s wealth with stained glass windows, marble columns, and ornate ceilings. Although Eusebi Guell moved his residence to Park Guell, this site remained a private residence until the Spanish Civil War (when it was used as barracks) (2)

Price: 12 Euros. Buy tickets here.

How to get here: Tip: This is very close to Plaça Reial, so do these in the same day

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Casa Batllo

This is one of Gaudi’s most famous works and was considered revolutionary at the time of its construction. Using mosaic tiles and organic shapes, Gaudi created an interesting juxtaposition of different styles of art which blend together in a beautiful and unique way.

The building was orginally created between 1875-1877 and Gaudi added his own touches between 1904-1906 by Josep Batlo, a textile industrialist. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 (2).

Price:

(Get your tickets online to skip the line/ save money!) Tickets start at 28.50 Euros. Order here

How to get here:

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The house is several stories. This was on our way to the top

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The outside

Casa Mila

This was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 and belonged to Pere Mila and his wife, Roser Segimon. “La Pedrera has a highly unusual appearance and its façade is often described as undularting as no straight lines were used in its construction” (2). The site actually consists of two buildings with two separate courtyards (2) “Initially. The name “La Pedrera” was given by citizens who disapprevied and the term is translated to mean “the quarry.” It was given that name due to its stone façade, which many people found offensive and overwhelmingly bold (2)”

Price: 22 Euros. Buy tickets here.

How to get here

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Sagrada Familia

The unfinished church! Construction began in 1882 (2) and continues to this day (It’s projected to be done by 2026). In spite of being unfinished, 3 million people visit this site each year (2). This too is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and combines Gothic and Art Nouveau art and will have 18 towers when complete: 12 will be dedicated to the 12 apostles, 4 to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (also known as the 4 evangelists who are credited with the first 4 books of the New Testament) and 2 to Mary and Jesus (2)

Price: Tickets start at 15 Euros, but there are different options (including tours and viewing the tours). Buy tickets here.

How to get here:

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Park Guell

This project was also commissed by Eusebi Guell who envisioned this as a site with 60 family homes (2). “Park” in the name was meant to take on the British meaning, for luxury living. Gaudi worked on this site for 14 years (from 1904-1914) (2) and Gaudi’s famous use of organic shapes, fusion of old and new art styles, and mosaics can be found throughout the park.

Additionally make sure to visit the Gaudi house museum, where Gaudi lived before or after you enter the paid area of the park.

Price: Only a limited amount of people are allowed into the park at a given time. So book your time slot and make sure you are on time (or risk not being allowed in)! Get there early, since you will have a 5 minute walk from the entrance of the unpaid part of the park to the infamous tourist attraction (and paid part). This should cost you about 7 Euros. You can buy them here.

How to get here

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You get a pretty sweet view of Barcelona

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Sources:

(1) “Plaça Reial – Visit Barcelona,” ©Turisme de Barcelona, , accessed September 26, 2017, http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/1248/placa-reial.html.
(2) Fattore, Raul. The Gaudi Tour.
(3) “Antoni Gaudí Biography,” Casa Batlló, , accessed September 26, 2017, https://www.casabatllo.es/en/antoni-gaudi/.

A 360° View of Barcelona: Bunkers del Carmel

Author: KDanck

“It’s hill time!”

I was ready, carrying our backpack with water and sunscreen.

“Another one?” my sister asked me, though she already knew the answer. She was traveling with a marathoner.

“But just think of the view when we get to the top!” I exclaimed. “It will be worth it, I promised.”

My sister rolled her eyes as we began to climb to the Bunkers del Carmel for a view of Barcelona at sunset. Of course, we got lost on the way. But if you see a group of people sitting on a bunker, keep heading up.

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Hike, hike, hike!

What is the Bunker del Carmel?

Still viewed a little bit of an unknown tourist site, it offers a beautiful view of the city. It was built in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The Bunker was a line of defense against the Fascists (1) which transformed into housing and shelter from those suffering from economic distress postwar (1). It has gained popularity with tourists and locals due to the film Tengo Ganas di Ti, which features scenes from the Bunker (2).

What’s the price to visit?

The Bunker is free  to visit. So it’ll be the cheapest start to the night you will have in Barcelona : )

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Recommendations

Bring a bottle of wine and pack a picnic dinner. Spain can get pretty hot in the summer months, so later in the day is a great time to enjoy the view (cooler temperatures!). The view is breathtaking, especially around sunset and you’ll get a 360° view of the city!

How to get there:

As I mentioned, my sister and I got lost on the way. We found a hidden path that led us to a walkway where we hiked on some unnamed path behind a boy who seemed to be going in the same direction as us.

However according to Lonley Planet, there is an easier way! Take the metro to El Carmel, take the Llobregas exit and then go down the hill to reach a bus stop. Catch the 86 bus and you can ask the bus driver to tell you when you are close to the Bunkers, which is a 10 minute walk once you reach it.


Sources:
(1) https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/a-brief-history-of-barcelonas-bunkers-del-carmel/
(2) http://irbarcelona.org/barcelona-viewpoints/bunkers-carmel-turo-rovira/