WILDTHG TRAVEL

Liechtenstein is tiny, and randomly really cool

by , on
Nov 28, 2018

I’m currently based in Zürich and had a few days’ off of work for the All Saints’ Day long holiday. I had never been to Liechtenstein (is that a thing?) and so figured why not! I didn’t really know that much about this tiny landlocked nation before visiting – I knew there was a Prince and had heard about it being a friendly billionaire tax-haven. After spending a few days in this country, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, I can attest to it being absolutely lovely, and very worth a visit.

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downtown Vaduz, Liechtenstein

To get to the capital city, Vaduz, I took a train from Zürich HB to Sargans, right on the Swiss border and then a bus to Vaduz, Post (quite central). The commute was stunning and I could hardly stop filming out the window – leaving Switzerland, the train passed Walensee with its beautiful turquoise color and quaint sailboats bobbing in the wind, and then once I switched to the bus, the scenery switched to magnificent snowcapped alps. The entire trip only took about 1.5 hours , which was very reachable and even more convenient than several trips I’ve taken within Switzerland!

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Views from the train en route to Vaduz

As it turns out, Vaduz is basically all things pleasant about cute European cities – quaint, pleasantly walkable, nice restaurants, (very) artsy, clean, organized, and photogenic. Not having known what to expect before going, I was pleasantly surprised and certainly happy that I went ahead and made the trip.

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Not knowing exactly where the most poppin part of town was when I made an extremely last minute booking, I ended up in a hotel just across the town border in Triesen (only about 20 min walk from downtown Vaduz). The Meierhof Hotel was super comfy, snuggly and the perfect little nest for a few days of exploring Vaduz.

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View from our room at Hotel Maierhof (technically in Triesen)

I only spent one night in Liechtenstein and for two partial days of exploring, feel that I saw Vaduz fairly thoroughly. I started with a delicious Italian lunch at Amarone, then headed to see Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle), the current permanent residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein and family.

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Pasta, raviolis and locally-brewed beer at amarone in downtown Vaduz

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view from a lookout point on the walking path up to Vaduz Castle from downtown (if you look closely, you can spot Red House on the right hand side of the photo!!)

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vaduz castle

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You will see several of these “no drones” signs throughout Vaduz but particularly closer to the castle – out of safety and privacy for the princely family

After stalking the Prince for a while, I continued on through the old part of Vaduz to the Red House, which was built in 1338 and is famous mostly for its color but has also passed ownership various times throughout the years and centuries… as one would hope.

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The famous “Red House” of Vaduz

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View of Schloss Vaduz from Red House (across the vineyard forming the Red House’s backyard)

Walking down from the Red House through the old town (Mitteldorf area of Vaduz) was very peaceful and the perfect place to experience a gorgeous sunset, with quaint vineyards of Red House and other small abodes in the foreground and Vaduz Castle, standing in front of impressive alpine peaks as a backdrop to purple billowing clouds.

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By the time sun had set, my exploring day had just about come to an end and I made it my mission to stop only twice on the way back to the hotel – at the chocolate shop Dolce, (you need this chocolate in your life) and at the Mövenpick wine store (also has wine-tasting available!). I actually made three stops by mistake, as I ended up buying shoes on the way home (eye roll) – they are warm comfy boots, how can you go wrong?!

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Chocolates and Nusstorte from Dolce and some red wine for a lovely evening in

After a solid night’s sleep and a lovely breakkie at Hotel Meierhof, I set out for exploring day 2, but with a different agenda in mind. I headed directly for Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, the 10 year old modern and contemporary art museum that houses a thoroughly interesting collection, largely comprising of the provate collection of the Principality of Liecthtenstein. The architecture of the building itself is quite renown for its “great structural complexity and and discreet simplicity,” built by Swiss architects and contributing significantly to the overall aesthetic of this central pedestrian street of Vaduz.

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Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Museum of Modern Art)

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unique art lining the streets of the old town

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something tells me I won’t be able to fit these babies into my luggage…

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At the time of my visit, the featured exhibition was Yuri Albert’s Elitist Democratic Art. This exhibition is the Russian-born artist’s first comprehensive solo exhibit outside of Russia. [In this series the artist contrasts the language of art with the languages of blind or deaf people or also the terminology of sailors and stenographers in order to analyse the individual semiotic systems and the system of art as a whole, their comprehensibility and accessibility. The museum visitor is always an interlocutor in these studies of the relationship between artwork and interpretation, image and text, visibility and invisibility, original and copy. Yuri Albert’s works draw us into a dialogue with and about art, inviting us to ponder the status of art: elitist or democratic.]

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“Arbat in the morning” by Yuri Albert

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meant to be read by the blind

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meant to be read by stenographers

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“how did it occur that I made this particular artwork in this particular style?”

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Yuri Albert’s collection of pieces dedicated to “who he is not” as an artist

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“I am not Andy Warhol”

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After absorbing (or not understanding anything as likely intended this time) of the delicous modern art, I set about buying a few souveneirs with my last hours in Liechtenstein. I visited the main souvenier shop that was open, as Hoi was closed for the public holiday. For souvenir hunters, you needn’t look further than this pedestrian walk, as the Landesmuseum Liechtenstein also has a unique selection, and further up the road, Nimrod AG turns the “traditional to fashionable” with dirndls and lederhosen – Oktoberfest plans, anyone??

For the museum fanatics, there are multiple museums precisely in this area of Vaduz, including the Landesmuseum (country history), Postmuseum (post office, stamps and related history) and various others. I was super content with my dose of contemporary and modern art in the morning, and after grabbing a cold Alpenlager at my hotel, was ready to head out for a leisurely return to Zürich.

Overall – Liechtenstein is just precious. Would I prioritize coming back every year? – maybe not, but if you’re wondering whether it is “worth” visiting (on a super packed Eurotrip, for example), I would say it is! If you are in the area and it is relatively convenient and not extremely expensive to get to, I would 100% recommend this tiny and fabulous mountain nation.

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LIECHTENSTEIN IN A FLASH:

Where to stay: Hotel Maierhof

What to do: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz Castle, Walk through old town (downtown), Red House

Where to eat/drink: Local vineyards, Mövenpick Wine Outlet, Dolce, Amarone

 

 

 

 

A Perfect Hiking Itinerary for the Alpine Loop Hike from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren and Gimmelwald

by , on
Nov 21, 2018

Ringed by 72 waterfalls and luscious, rolling green hills, Lauterbrunnen is a spectacularly beautiful place – not only renowned in Switzerland (and understandably, becoming more popular amongst global tourists) – but in the entire world. If you love the outdoors and want to get a bird’s eye perspective on this beautiful valley, there is no better way to acquaint yourself with the area than setting off for a gorgeous hike. Here I aim to provide you with a near-perfect itinerary to get you started on your journey.

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Early morning in sleepy Lauterbrunnen

In order to plan my hike, I modified this helpful hiking guide. There are many ways you could choose to walk, including starting at the other end of the valley and doing the complete opposite itinerary from what I will lay out. Based on weather, timing and overall experience, I’ve narrowed it down to something doable and enjoyable.

As the link summarizes, this hike can last 2-8 hours, depending on variation. An important thing to also factor in is how long and often you plan on pausing to take photos, picnic, enjoy the views, etc. As with all of my hikes, I did quite a bit of all the above.

While you can complete nearly if not all of this specific route by mechanized means, I only used them a few times; primarily to save time for when the hiking would really count and not waste time walking across less scenic areas. If you plan on moving fast or want more exercise or don’t feel challenged enough, just know that in the following plan, anywhere that I have taken a cable car or bus can be done on foot. My itinerary takes one from Lauterbrunnen Station up to Grütschalp, over Allmendhubel and down to the village of Mürren (part of the hike where I spent the majority of time), then down again to Gimmelwald and back across the valley to Lauterbrunnen.

Prep & Info

Adventurer’s paradise – Jungfrau Region

  • Cable car and bus schedules, maps: You can find a schedule of when cable cars run on a small pamphlet, available at the station or likely in most hotels, or the tourist info center. Likewise, a helpful map of the Jungfrau region, complete with hiking and cable car paths so you can visually connect the villages you’ll be visiting.
  • Dress for hiking: the trails above Lauterbrunnen to Mürren, Gimmelwald and around this area are not particularly difficult, but the uphill can be strenuous, especially if you take no pauses. As with any hike, wear comfortable clothing and good sturdy shoes/boots. I did this hike in the early autumn with still lovely weather, so did not cope with any snow or heavy weather conditions.

My Lauterbrunnen Loop Hike Itinerary

1. Cable car from Lauterbrunnen Station to Grütschalp

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View from the cable car to Grütschalp

You can purchase a cable car ticket at Lauterbrunnen Station and discounts are possible with a Swiss Rail GA Pass or 1/2 fare card. There are cars every 10-20 minutes, so you don’t have to plan too precisely. The ride up to Grütschalp only takes about 5 minutes and gives a gorgeous view over Lauterbrunnen valley (at least it would, if the world wasn’t completely socked in with fog like it was when I took this ride). Pro tip: get on very first or last to be near a window, the window facing out over Lauterbrunnen valley (on the left in direction of travel) is obviously best. Have your phone/camera ready for pictures and videos, some of these rides are even better than drone footage!

2. Hike from Grütschalp up and over Allmendhubel, down to Mürren

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There is a short and straightforward path easily visible from the Grütschalp train station that leads to Mürren in 45 min – 1 hour, so obviously I chose not to take this path. Instead, once you walk down the path a very short way, there will be a steep gravel and dirt natural path heading clearly and obviously uphill rather than onwards – take this. There are yellow signs at various crossing points pointing towards villages like Mürren; often there are multiple, up to three or four, different paths that lead to the same place, depending simply on the duration and type of hike you are looking for. Follow signs always to Mürren but using up as your guide.

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views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau en route to Mürren

If you have Google Maps, you can also simply walk directly towards the sign for Allmendhubel, which is the (“large hill” if you are from mountains; “mountain” if you are Dutch) that you will crest before descending to Mürren. This hike took me somewhere around 4+hours because I stopped constantly to take photos and admire the views – once the fog cleared. This leg of the hike takes you past beautiful grassy hillside meadows with wildflowers (a few were still left in October!), unique rock formations, and along nearly the entire way, breathtaking views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountain peaks – I mean WOW. Perhaps about halfway up the fog had finally cleared to reveal these three impressive mountains, and so we stopped near a very rocky area – you’ll know the place when you see it – for a picnic and to enjoy the views. Another way to recognize this spot is by the many rock cairns that hikers have built all over; Norwegian Rock Stacking pros welcome!

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Autumn alpine wildflowers

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strategically-placed benches to pause and enjoy spectacular views

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the only sounds in these hills are those of birds, cow bells and the alpine air stirring the grass and flowers

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surrounded by cute villages and happy cows

3. Descend to Mürren

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Amazing views at the end of an already magical hike

You will know you are nearly at the top of Allmendhubel when you start seeing lots of ski lifts and a little mini bridge, then a steep gravel hill. Turn left down towards Mürren. Now you will walk past smatterings of small country houses down in green valleys – passing a few of these, I always thought for a brief moment that any of these mountain villages could be Mürren, but be patient. You will see lots of happy cows and as you walk along the winding trail, enjoy the stunning alpine backdrop to the pleasant jingling of cowbells and the crisp mountain air. This section of the hike was probably my absolute favorite because by then, the fog had completely cleared, the sun was out, and clear blue sky illuminated the alps. The descent to Mürren should take about an hour max and again, towards the bottom when you begin to see Mürren (fantastic photo op), there are multiple paths you can choose from to extend this leg of your hike.

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overlooking Mürren after a long morning hike – one of my favorite views to date

4. Break in Mürren

Walking down through Mürren from above, it seemed like the whole village was deserted and very ghost-town style, the only sound to be heard was still cowbells. Finally after passing ski lodges and quiet houses, we came into the main downtown area, where the street was bustling with (mostly tourists). Little restaurants are open for lunch and coffee and there are a few souvenir shops. We simply grabbed a beer at the COOP and sat on a section of sidewalk right in the sun, and observed passerby while enjoying the pleasant ambiance of the village.

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Mürren village has everything you need for a pit stop – there are restaurants, bars, a grocery store and some souvenir shops

5. Cable car down to Gimmelwald

Many people choose to continue their hike to Gimmelwald at least, but due to how much time we had spent up in the hills, it was nearing evening and we wanted to have enough time to experience everything still in daylight, so we chose mechanized means from here. From Mürren Station, cable cars run regularly to Gimmelwald and then onwards to Stechelberg, down on the valley floor. You can choose to buy a ticket just to Gimmelwald or all the way down.

6. Quick stop in Gimmelwald

If you aren’t able to hike down to Gimmelwald, it is nice at least to stop for a short break, even just between cable cars, to see the small village of Gimmelwald. Similar to Mürren but even a bit more quiet, Gimmelwald doesn’t have a lot to see, but is another lovely Swiss village tucked away in the hills.

7. Cable car down to Stechelberg

Pro tip: this is one of the most scenic cable car rides and you will get lovely views over Stechelberg and the valley – try again to get a spot near the window and have your camera ready! Stechelberg is your final village stop in this loop journey before returning to Lauterbrunnen; you can choose to move right through, stop for a drink and dinner, or visit some of the popular attractions nearby, namely several waterfalls like the famous Trummelbach Falls. When we arrived into Stechelberg, it was evening and getting dark, so we vetoed the waterfall exploration idea, as much as we wanted to see them. There was a small local market going on with booths selling meats, cheeses and trinkets, so it was fun just to stroll through this and check out how the locals live. The small green field right next to the station is also apparently a popular landing spot for paragliders, and so we were able to watch several land!

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from above, the most Swiss views ever 

8. Walk or Bus to Lauterbrunnen

Because it was nearly dark and I was feeling lazy, we took the bus; it would take 45 – 1 hour to walk back and in warm summer weather, it would probably be a lovely walk, also passing by a few waterfalls. If there is time, highly recommended. This gets you back to Lauterbrunnen in time for cocktail hour, some warm dinner, and a good night’s sleep.

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relax mode in Lauterbrunnen

This itinerary heavily prioritizes time spent on the upper side of Grütschalp, Allmendhubel and on the descent to Mürren; on this itinerary, the majority of your time is spent admiring the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, which in my view is not a bad way to spend a weekend! You can easily choose to hike the parts in between where I took cable cars and buses, or even make the hiking day shorter by taking a proper train between Grütschalp and Mürren! For those traveling with disabilities, injuries or simply not looking for a strenuous and time consuming journey, Mürren and the other villages are quite accessible.

I hope you enjoy exploring and hiking Lauterbrunnen as much as I did!

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Day Trip to Mount Rigi from Zürich – The Perfect Natural Escape

by , on
Oct 17, 2018

Feeling cooped up with city life, or simply craving some crisp mountain air? Mount Rigi is the perfect getaway that you can do in one day (or even just a morning/afternoon), and without any special planning or gear. Trains from Zürich HB leave every hour straight to Arth Goldau station, from where the Rigi train departs. Ride the tiny blue train for about 40 minutes uphill at a snail pace, taking in some truly gorgeous views on the way up.

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Idyllic houses overlooking picturesque valleys

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Swiss life is the good life

I decided on a whim to visit Mount Rigi one afternoon and took the 2:09PM train from Züruch HB, so I arrived at the end station (Rigi Kulm) just before 4PM. This gave me a few hours to walk around the small peak grassy area and take in the stunning panoramic views of the hills and lakes below, and alpine peaks in the background, before sunset around 6:30PM (in October).

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You can even choose your desired difficulty – “the steep” path or “the comfy path” of the route to the top (it’s really quite a short walk) 

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There always seems to be someone parasailing in Switzerland!!

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The views that greet you as soon as you reach the top of Rigi Kulm are breathtaking – this is just one angle!

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The perfect place to ponder the meaning of life

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note that Swiss sheep also wear bells – definitely adds to the ambiance up here

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View over magical valleys

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I could sit up here all day

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Can you imagine living here?!

At the top of Rigi Kulm there is a full restaurant that is part of a hotel and it seems to serve proper hot meals all day (it was closed by the time we went but again, it was close to 6PM) – but you can still buy sandwiches, chips, drinks and snacks. We sat on the outdoor patio built like a jetty to jut out over the hill with a beautiful view of the mountains and facing the setting sun.

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After having a snack, we made our way down past the wooden lounge chairs to the edge of the fence to witness the stunning golden glow of a magical sunset.

 

I took this opportunity to test out a few different DSLR settings, but because I struggle with technology, I think some of my iPhone pics might have turned out better – I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Talk about location goals

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No photo could ever possibly capture the beauty of these colors

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The last rays of the setting sun were hot magenta pink – and magical clouds formed to the right and were illuminated bright pink then deep purple after the sun went down

The views from up here – and the sunset – are things I could never ever get sick of and it makes me think twice about city life. This is a perfect place to getaway from the hustle and bustle for a bit, even just for a few hours. Take your mind off things, breathe some fresh mountain air and let your soul drink in the beauty of this amazing planet. If you want to make it a longer trip, even for several days, there are several hotels in the area and plenty of daytime activities to keep you and your family busy!

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Golden hour at Mount Rigi

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A sky on fire 

There are several trains down for those of you that wish to catch the sunset (highly recommended if you’re already there during the afternoon!!!) I took the 7:00PM train, which sadly no longer connects directly to Arth Goldau, so the way back to Zürich HB involves two middle of nowhere bus connections and then a train, but as with all trips in Switzerland – my recommendation is to simply trust the SBB app to plan your trip, and make sure you have decent phone battery on the way down!

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Last glimpse of the molten-lava sun as it dipped beneath the skyline

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PSA: You can buy flaming beer that’s bigger than your head at this restaurant in Switzerland

by , on
Oct 10, 2018

Simply out of the goodness of my own heart (and because you need to know this, obviously), I wish to hereby make it known that you can actually buy flaming yes, flaming beer in Zürich.

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Not only is the beer on FIRE, it’s also larger than the average human head (care to drown away your sorrows, anyone…? quite literally).

You can order “Bier Flambé” (supposedly formerly called “Eidgenoss”) at Zeughauskeller, a restaurant in downtown Zürich that is a converted armory from long ago. The interior of the restaurant is reminiscent of Hofbrauhaus München, with long wooden picnic bench tables and a very lively buzz amongst the crowd, which still hadn’t died down whatsoever by 10PM on Monday night! The building’s eclectic decor is rounded out by some ancient-looking suits of armor and medieval weapons that complete the aesthetic.

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Zeughauskeller entrance (there are two) 

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The menu explains a bit of history so you can learn while you wait… or drink!

 

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Pro tip: book online in advance to avoid insane queues:

The restaurant has made its way onto tourists’ must-see bucket list, so book a reservation on the restaurant’s website directly to avoid queuing forever and possibly not getting a spot for dinner. Someone waiting in line behind us mentioned that their hotel had called for them and was informed that making reservations is impossible – this is not in fact that case as I successfully made one online (it is in German, mind you) and after telling the host my name, was soon shown to a table.

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Now, down to the important stuff (THE FLAMING BEER!)

Once you have ordered the Bier Flambé, it will be obvious when they bring it to you on the serving cart simply by the sheer size of the glasses (goblets?). You may want to have your (video)camera at the ready, because the preparation is quick but memorable. You will likely catch the attention of nearby diners surprised by the show, as we were because it didn’t seem many people knew about this option and most everyone around us seemed to have ordered the house beer special, which while I am sure is delicious, is far less exciting (and alcoholic).

IMG_1677Step 1: Pour in some sort of cognac/brandy (several shots worth, mind you – the picture doesn’t represent the real size of these fishbowls)

Step 2: FIRE. Light the alcohol on fire and your waiter/waitress will swirl the bright blue flames around for a few seconds before it’s beer time – this moment makes for fun photos and surprised onlookers!

Step 3: Douse the flames with a big bottle of house beer

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Now, these babies are all yours to enjoy / try to swim your way to the bottom of by the time you’re also finished with a huge meal of (likely, sausage and potatoes – because why else would you go to Zeughauskeller in the first place).

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The food at Zeughauskeller is traditional Swiss German fare and very delicious! I recommend trying a dish that at least includes sausage, as they are famous for the many varieties served here, as well as their house potato salad.

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Between two of us, we ordered and shared the special of the month, which included one type of sausage and potato salad, and the “Zeughauskeller Wurstspiess,” #222 on the above menu, which serves a variety of sausages (of the house) on a kebab stick alongside a few pieces of bell pepper and of course, potato salad. The heavy food actually proves quite helpful in soaking up what turns out to be a surprising amount of beer (and straight alcohol at the bottom of your glass).

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I’ve met my match. 

This place (like many in Switzerland generally) is not cheap – you can get a feel for the prices above, and this special beer costs nearly 16 CHF… but, I would argue that it is both worth it and the equivalent of having several normal, cheaper beers anyway.

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Visit Zeughauskeller for the experience and don’t miss the BIER FLAMBÉ – you won’t regret it (though your body might) – these memories last a lifetime.

Gelmersee: the Lake Louise of Switzerland

by , on
Oct 9, 2018

Any chance you’ve recently drooled over pictures of Canada’s Banff National Park? For very good reason; the stunning turquoise of the glacial lakes, like Lake Louise, is enough to make me want to go right now. Well, I can interestingly say that I’ve found the lake’s European TWIN, in Switzerland! Let me convince you of the likeness with a couple (ok, a TON) of photos.

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Mid-morning at Gelmersee in October 

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IMG_1531.JPGGelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir held by a dam that was constructed in 1932. The “lake” can be reached by taking the Gelmerbahn, a ride of duration 8-10 minutes with a maximum inclination of 106%! According to a map posted at the lake’s entrance, it can also be reached by foot via a hiking trail (in red, below). One can also continue hiking further upwards to reach the Gelmerhütte, a lookout point above the lake.

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Crisp autumn morning with touches of early snow

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The lake radiates a vibrant turquoise when the sunlight hits the water

Gelmersee is an excellent place for a quiet hike and to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the glacial water. There is a hiking trail around the entire lake, which takes about two full hours to complete with some stops. If you plan to take 3489283 photos like I did or want extra time to sit and enjoy the views every once and a while, maybe have a picnic halfway on one of the large flat rocks that are perfect for sitting and relaxing, it would be best to allow several hours up at the lake. It is important to plan your visit ahead because there is limited space on the Gelmerbahn and tickets sell out, especially in summer and during nice weather. Read more here about how to plan your trip and riding the Gelmerbahn. 

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Starting the hike around Gelmersee – The trail is quite rocky in places and narrow in others (at one point, there is a rope to hang on to for extra balance and security), so it is recommended to bring sturdy walking/hiking shoes with good soles and be relatively sure-footed if you plan to do the whole hike. It is relatively flat, so not very strenuous.

For me, this little piece of the world is a slice of heaven on earth, and I could honestly happily stay here for hours and hours and hours, hiking around the lake again and again, staring into the turquoise water and pondering my existence… alas, I had only booked 2.5 hours at the top before our return trip on the Gelmerbahn, so we had to really make every minute count – which we did!!

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Is this place even real?! 

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Attempting – and failing – to do a nice little yoga pose (it seemed fitting)

Needless to say, Gelmersee has earned a permanent spot on my life’s repeat bucket list, if that’s even a thing (you know, those absolute favorite places you simply must visit, perhaps at least once a year or every few months even?!) The dream is to visit this place in summer – even though I doubt anyone dares to swim in the ice cold glacial waters, I could totally get involved with sunbathing and reading on a rock all day, minus a few layers.

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Tips for visiting Gelmersee: 

  • Plan your visit ahead, book tickets on the Gelmerbahn
  • Allow as much time as you need, depending on how much hiking, photos and picnicking you want to do
  • Bring camera, sturdy walking/hiking shoes, layers/rain gear just in case

Why Zürich is totally underrated

by , on
Oct 8, 2018

When I visited Zürich two years ago from my base in Germany, I can’t say I was all that impressed with the city. Perhaps it was the rainy, cold gloom that had descended across all of Europe at that time, or the fact that when we went bar and restaurant hunting in the rather quiet and old neighborhood we were staying in, we were greeted with a lot of “closed” signs.

Fast forward two years, when I am calling Zürich home for a few months… and I really only have good things to say about this city! I have been here for a few weeks now and this place is nothing short of lovely. Here are are few things that I have enjoyed most about Zürich, and reasons it should have a spot on your Eurotrip list.

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Swiss people are friendly. 

Whether you are stopping to ask directions or purchase a Laugenbrötchen from a local bakery, you will find that in general, Swiss people are cute, friendly and overall cuddly – interacting with them is pleasant and you may just want to adopt some of them as your temporary grandparents. As with many European cities, I would say the English level is generally strong, but if you know a few words of German (Hochdeutsch is fine!), they will love you for trying.

It is very Instagrammable.

AKA, the modern way of saying it is simply a gorgeous city with lots of very aesthetically pleasing spots. Photographers love it, but even if you aren’t part of the Instagram game and don’t care to be, there are numerous spots around the city to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine or good book with an absolutely stunning view.

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Altstadt walking into downtown, Zürich

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Amazing view of Zürich from Grossmünster Church tower 

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Sunrise on Bahnhofstrasse, downtown

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Early morning architecture strolls

There is a lot of nature.

The fact that downtown Zürich wraps around Lake Zürich automatically gives this city a very unique outdoorsy and water-based vibe. I love being around water and for those of you that miss beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes terribly when living in/visiting cities, Lake Zürich provides the perfect remedy. Swiss people have a strong reputation for loving the outdoors, which is evident by just how packed the waterfront is every evening, really rain or shine – but especially during the long sunny summer days and golden autumn evenings. Nature in Zürich isn’t only limited to the lakeside – there are many green parks throughout the city where you can go for a jog, do some yoga, or again park yourself on a bench with your journal or a good book.

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There are tons of swans in Lake Zürich at all times – if you want to see them up close, it is easy to get a big gathering if you throw them bits of bread from the shore! 

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Boats docked at golden hour

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Evening walks along the waterfront are one of my favorite parts about living in Zürich

It is an easy walking city.

 

Even though the city is relatively well-connected by public transport including trams and buses, walking throughout the city and from place to place (even if you have somewhere to be) is both convenient and pleasant. I have simply walked from my home to the Central Station several times, even though it takes 30-45 minutes, simply because it is such a nice walk! Pedestrians always have the right away on crosswalks and drivers are cognizant and courteous to let you cross. When the weather is nice, tons of people have the same idea, and you see more people walking or on bikes than on public transport.

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The food is delicious. 

While Swiss food is excellent (hello?!, land of CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE!!!), there are so many options if you’re not into more traditional German-esque fare (think sausage, spätzle, bread, cheese, etc.). Zürich offers quite a range of international cuisines and there are many hip restaurants downtown and slightly on the outskirts that seem to be open on weekends (even Sundays) and late into the evening. Even casual restaurants serve mouth-watering food; aka, you don’t have to worry about going hungry in this city, and you will likely love what you eat – it comes at a price though, so be prepared to spend a little more than you likely would at home. Plus, there are COOP, Migros and Denner stores all over the place that sell lovely fresh fruits, veggies, fresh bread and healthy pre-made meals (salads, etc.), fresh bakeries everywhere, and most importantly, LINDT is the mainstream chocolate option… it only gets BETTER from there *drool*. Don’t plan to go on a diet when you visit Zürich.

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Fresh salad, Mamarita pizza & wine at STRIPPED PIZZA

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If you are a Joe & The Juice lover (like me), you’ll be happy to find several locations downtown Zürich! 

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Gruyere is life, but there are so many more options… a beautiful breakfast assortment of cheeses from the Alps

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There is a lot to do.

If you get tired of long walks by the lakeside (or if the weather prevents these), there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your time in Zürich. In my case, such activities revolve heavily around EATING, but there are many cultural and social things to keep you busy as well! Here are some favorite must-do’s:

  • Opera House/Theater – There are usually several shows going on throughout the season and if you are a culture-buff, you may enjoy catching one during your time in Zürich! See showtimes and book tickets here.
  • Take a boat ride on the Limmat – this website explains dates and times when you can take a cruise along the river and admire the buildings of the Altstadt, then continue onto the lake.
  • Relax your tired muscles in a thermal spa – Thermalbad & Spa Zürich (which was converted to a spa from an old brewery!) offers lovely hot baths and terrific views of the city; what else could we want?!
  • Go upwards for a bird’s eye view of Zürich – The most famous lookout spot for the best view of Zürich is the Felsenegg Peak, which can be reached by an equally aesthetic cable car ride. For great views of this beautiful city that don’t require as much of a trip or time commitment, you can simply climb to the top of Grossmünster Church (Karlsturm) (for 5 CHF per adult, 2 CHF for youth/children). The windows inside are also incredible (they are designed by German artist Sigmar Polke, who sliced semi-precious stones and put them together to form stunning stained glass-looking patterns) – unfortunately, photos are NOT allowed (and there is usually someone standing by to sternly remind unaware tourists of this rule), but the church sells postcards with beautiful professional photos of the windows for those interested. 
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    Views of Zürich from balconies atop Grossmünster Church

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    A fine sunny day in Zürich from Grossmünster tower

Have you been to Zürich? Let me know some of the reasons you enjoyed this city in the comments below!

How to ride the steepest funicular in all of Europe – Gelmerbahn

by , on
Oct 7, 2018

Set deep in the beautiful green canton of Bern, Switzerland, a little red train car chugs its way up and down a treacherously steep track – adventurous hikers can have the ride (and views!) of a lifetime on the one and only Gelmer Funicular (Gelmerbahn).

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The funicular was originally built in the 1920s to haul heavy materials and equipment up to the top of the mountain for the construction of the Gelmersee reservoir and dam. Now, the car shuttles 24 people each time, approximately 30 times per day, with the first ride up at 9:00AM and the last one down around 4:00PM (see the official schedule and book tickets here). The Gelmerbahn only runs in summer/autumn months, usually late May-late October.

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Alpine rail track

The ride takes 8-10 minutes one way (so the videos you have seen on Instagram making the ride look like an insanely fast rollercoaster are on hyper-speed!), and you have plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley and mountains. There is only a drop-down bar (think Ferris wheel style) to keep passengers safe, but the car neither jolts, tilts, nor goes fast enough to worry about safety.

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Once you reach the top, it is an absolute must to hike around the gorgeous turquoise lake (Gelmersee). This must be the Swiss-Banff equivalent; I swear, I have never seen water of such a stunning color. The hike around the lake takes approximately 2 hours, though if you are in the habit of pausing frequently or taking 23720 pictures (like me), you may want to allow yourself significant extra time, as this is not a place that you want to feel rushed. IMG_1293.JPG

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Some important facts and tips for your Gelmerbahn trip:

  • Book ahead of time; as there are only 24 seats available, each ride time fills quickly (arrive 15 min before ride time to exchange online tickets in office)
  • Plan as well as you can for how much time you would like to have at the top, hiking around the lake, etc. because you must stick to your pre-purchased ticket times; no exchanges
  • Bring layers, snacks, sturdy footwear, cameras
  • Hike around the entire lake takes 2+ hours; allow extra time for photos and picnic (I recommend going up for at least 4 hours if this is your type of thing and you love nature walks/being around beautiful lakes, and the weather is supposed to be decent)
  • Mornings=fewer tourists

How to get there:

By foot: if you are staying at the closely Handeck Hotel/Naturresort, you will only need to walk 5-10 min, either down the road, or over the hanging bridge (much more fun option) to get to the lower terminal of Gelmerbahn.

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By car: there is a parking lot out in the grass/meadow just down the road from the Gelmerbahn (follow signs)

By public transport: 5 min walk from nearby bus station Handegg, Gelmerbahn

Croatia is more than just Yacht Week

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Sep 14, 2018

My second time to the beautiful land of Croatia did not disappoint – my last visit was in 2014 – four years ago! Not a whole lot has changed; locals are still browner than ever, spending their days sprawled on rocky beaches, swimming in crystal clear waters and munching on crispy calamari – in fact, I would bet that if I compared my photos of this trip to those of the last one, the very same fishing boats will be parked in the main harbor! (Perhaps I should give that a try.) 

 

The main purpose behind my 2014 visit to Croatia was ULTRA music festival, occurring in Europe for the second time – it is hosted at the Stadion Poljud in Split every summer, usually in July. It was one hell of a party, and continued onto Hvar island several days later. Hvar is an equally stunning destination, complete with beaches, lovely ocean walks, delicious sea-to-table cuisine and the one and only Hula Hula Hvar beach bar – lots of great memories there.

This time, I was able to revisit Split on a bit of a last minute, spontaneous trip, and it was wonderful as expected! A few of my very favorite highlights revolve around my favorite things in life: sunshine and FOOD. So here they are! 

In Croatia, Life’s a Beach

I stayed at the Radisson Blu Resort for this visit in Split, which is perched on a hill; my room had a stunning view overlooking the ocean and a beach. You can’t imagine how much I wish this were my view waking up every. single. morninggg.

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Morning view from Radisson Blu Resort Split

After an epic breakfast buffet each morning, I would pack my bag with some sunscreen and a book and head off for some much needed vitamin SEA. The first day, I spent most of the morning and afternoon doing it “like the locals do,” lounging on the pebbly beach just a short walk from the hotel.

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Small beach – mostly locals – a short walk from the Radisson Blue Resort

The Croatian coastline (also of Split itself) is lined by multiple little inlets, bays and harbors and around each corner can be found a whole new little secret paradise – just on the walk from Radisson to the main harbor (where the Aci Marina and the major ferry terminals are), there are at least SIX separate inlets – some of which are small, private and calm and others, like Bacvice Beach, that are significantly more wild and touristy. IMG_4117

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Many beaches offer the option to rent lounge chairs and/or umbrellas, or just lay your own towel down anywhere!

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Small harbor on the walk from Radisson to downtown

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View of downtown Split from up the train tracks

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Aci Marina – downtown Split

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I loved walking this path every day, as close to the ocean as possible – from the hotel to the main harbor, it took about 30 minutes easy walking. The first evening, we walked into town for dinner. The main harbor at dusk is a truly beautiful sight – the boats swaying gently and fisherman and tour groups wrap up their workday and the sun reflecting off the sparkling water, throwing a golden glow over the beautiful old buildings.

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Walking into the main harbor, shortly before sunset

My second full day in Split was a bit more adventurous; I took the same ocean path all the way into the main harbor, soaked everything in and took an obnoxious amount of photos… and then continued on in the same direction beyond Aci Marina and past where the big yachts are docked, right alongside the path – (interesting story, one very friendly Uber driver told us that Split is a beloved getaway for several extremely wealthy Sheikhs and many celebrities like Beyoncé, who usually arrive via yacht, why not). I swear you could get totally lost aboard some of these things – they are legitimately the size of several houses, and I was surprised not to see a bowling alley and golf course on top; they have just about everything else!

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A “small” yacht docked in Split

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The destination of my daytime adventure was a favorite spot amongst locals and tourists alike: a swimming hole/cliff jumping spot called Uvala Ježinac (Jezinac Bay). This is a place that my friends and I walked to every single day that we spent in Split in 2014 – it was the ultimate ULTRA pregame: take a cold Karlovacko, some sunscreen and hit the beach for a glorious sunshine-filled morning before heading out to party. This time, it was just as good, even sans EDM-filled nights.

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Arriving at my favorite swimming “hole” – believe it or not, in this exact spot (over the blue graffiti), local boys and brave tourists jump from the wall on the right hand side of the photo, clear the path and railing, and into the water on the other side! (Don’t try this at home)

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Artwork by the ocean

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A slice of paradise in Croatia

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As happy as a clam in the Croatian sun – I spread my towel right down on these large rocks out in the middle of the water – my own personal mermaid rock! bikini from: Khassani Swimwear

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Eat All The Things

Now on to the really important topic – food and where to find it in Split. The first evening in Split, we ate at a lovely, eclectic little restaurant unassumingly tucked away into a literal hole in the wall, called Artičok. With funky, hipster decor and unexpected jazz music that strangely didn’t clash with the ambiance but in fact added to it, this place is an excellent spot for a date night or nice-casual dinner in downtown. The local wine (we tried one from the island of Brac) is a must – in all restaurants really.

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Exploring the beautiful downtown of Splitska

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Jet-lagged, but pretty excited to try the unique seafood & cheese appetizer at Articok – and some delicious local red blend!

My next top of list recommendation for restaurants while in Split is Bokeria – again, all of my favorite things – snazzy vibes, classy yet funky atmosphere and decor, unique and delicious menu – check check check! We tried the lamb, it was delicious, and this meat and cheese appetizer platter (with cantaloupe accents, fresh jam spread made from local figs and olives) was to die for.

 

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Meat & Cheese appetizer platter and local Croatian wine at Bokeria

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The last day of our visit to Split was a Friday, and luckily we were able to squeeze in one last ocean swim and a lovely lunch (and gelato!) before departing. The last lunch that we had was along the main harbor walkway, where there are many open-air restaurants lining the entire oceanside stretch. We chose The Olive Tree Vintage Caffe. Complete with real olive trees in planters and whimsical decor, this open air cafe is a bit of an experience in itself. I love finding unique, eclectic and out of the ordinary places to eat when I travel; something that connects me with the local cuisine and culture, but also brings some personality and creativity.

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This hummus like spread with bread came as an appetite starter before everything else – compliments of the Olive Tree

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Again with the meat, cheese and olives app – couldn’t get enough of this! (Apparently these olives were also local to the area)

I feel the same as I did following my 2014 visit to Split: Croatia is a lovely place and high up on my list of places I would happily revisit time and again. There is certainly something to be said for living in a place that has a ridiculous amount of sunny days per year (something like 320+!!!) and a stunning natural landscape. In case you have any trouble identifying locals from tourists, just look for the extremely tan, fit and beautiful people who clearly live on permanent island time – Croatians all seem to have this very chill, easy going vibe about them, which I love. It is a lifestyle I could get used to!

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There is still so much to be seen in the beautiful country of Croatia, and even in the surroundings of Split – this is my Croatia bucket list for future visits:

  • Krka Waterfalls
  • Plitvice National Park & Lakes
  • Dubrovnik
  • Boat back to Hvar and other nearby islands, like Brac
  • YACHT WEEK!!!

See you next time, Croatia!

GET HYGGE WITH IT: 10 Words From Around the World That Will Keep you Cozy This Winter

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Jan 21, 2018

Wintry days are here to stay (for those of us not lucky enough to be in tropics), and for those souls who claim to enjoy said brisk season, now is the time to bundle, bundle bundle – whip out the fuzz, the wool, the coats, scarves and hot cocoa, and commence with the crackling fireplaces, good company, coziness, and general snugglery. Here are some fun and snuggly words from around the world to get you through these frosty days and through to springtime!

 

  1. HYGGE (Danish) Hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, the Danish word “hygge” (pronounced “hooga”) has exploded in popularity around the world. It translates roughly to “cosiness,” but it means so much more than that. Hygge is more than a cosy room full of candles, company and good food. Hygge is a philosophy; a way of life that has helped Danes understand the importance of simplicity, time to unwind and slowing down the pace of life.
  2. KUSCHELN (German) To cuddle, to snuggle. Elicits images of cute fuzzy puppies napping in a basket.
  3. MYSA (Swedish) Nearly the equivalent to our English “snuggle,” but if you’re gonna be mysering in Swedish, you can do it with someone, alone, or even in a café – perhaps “to cosy up” fits the bill.
  4. GEMÜTLICH (German) Descriptive of an agreeably pleasant atmosphere; cozy, comfortable, lovely.
  5. SHEMOMEDJAMO (Georgian) The feeling of extreme fullness, but, because your meal’s so delicious, you can’t stop devouring it. If Thanksgiving were one word, it would be shemomedjamo.
  6. SOBREMESA (Spanish) While sobremesa literally means “over the table,” the more meaningful translation is a bit longer-winded. It’s that time spent after a meal, hanging out with family or friends, chatting and enjoying each other’s company. It can be applied to either lunch or dinner, and often includes family members, but also friends — and it can even include a business lunch. Descriptive of a cultural tradition not really practiced in the U.S., Sobremesa describes the importance of the act of eating and getting together for a meal itself, rather than just the type of food being consumed.
  7. ABBIOCCO (Italian) That sleepy feeling you get after a big meal. Everyone has succumbed to drowsiness after a meal at one time or another, but only the Italians have enshrined the phenomenon in a single word. When you wish you could take a nap after lunch, you’re “having the abbiocco.
  8. GEZELLIGHEID (Dutch) Comfort and coziness of being at home, with friends and loved ones, or general togetherness.
  9. GIGIL (Tagalog) The desire to pinch or squeeze something (or someone) that is overwhelmingly cute.
  10. CWTCH (Welsh) A hug. A safe haven given to you by the one you love.

 

Go forth and snuggle, friends – and stay warm through these last few nippy months – just keep in mind, spring is around the corner, and in the meantime, enjoy the coziness that only the cold can sometimes bring!!

A Weekend Getaway at the Mountain Resort, Koh Lipe, Thailand

by , on
Jul 9, 2017

Koh Lipe is a secret paradise in and of itself, and on the north most tip of the island, practically with its own private beach, is perched yet another paradise – the Mountain Resort.

 

After arriving to Koh Lipe by traditional Thai longboat in a sudden downpour, I was happily to drag my soggy self into a comfortable room in one of the several “garden villa huts” at Mountain Resort. In my room were two twin beds, both clean and well-made, classically decorated with Thai colors and fabrics. The furniture was minimal and tasteful, and the bathroom and shower were outdoors but walled within my room, separated from my bedroom by a sliding door (which later proved extremely helpful in keeping away unwanted mozzy visitors).

 

There are a number of different accommodation options at the resort, from hut-style single-bedroom villas to raised huts on stilts down on the beach, through to more condo-style, concrete and glass rooms within a larger cluster. All have nearly equally-stunning views of either the luscious green surroundings, the ocean, the neighboring islands, or all of the above. Some of the rooms would have a fantastic sunset view, along with their own little rooftop balcony areas (romantic getaway, anyone?)

 

What to do: If you came to the island to lay in the sun and read all day (cough cough), well you’re in luck – the beach is your backyard. If you came to go on wild snorkeling adventures, Mountain Resort provides all the gear you need, just visit the little shack down by the beach, down the staircase from the restaurant and check in building; you can easily float just off the shore and spot various underwater life amongst the coral reefs. The beach next to Mountain Resort is the one that shows up in so many Google images of Koh Lipe – the one that juts out and becomes a bit wider and circular right at the end, lending an oxford comma to the sea. Aptly referred to as “Sunset Beach,” this spot provides an excellent view for amazing, deep orange and red sunsets.

 

If you for some reason get sick of being at the beach (on a tiny tropical island that you decided to come to)… Mountain Resort has got a lovely, turquoise blue swimming pool that also has a pretty impressive view of the sea, so you have the option to float around here for a while, or alternate between ocean and pool.

 

What/How to eat: Granted, there’s not tons of food floating around Koh Lipe, even as it is becoming slightly more touristy as time goes on. There are a few warungs and of course, a mix of backpackers’ hostels through to hotels and resorts scattered along the main stretch of beach, but otherwise not the type of place that you can roll up expecting whatever dish may tickle your fancy. Luckily, my laziness for the weekend was reinforced by delicious food, right at the Mountain Resort’s restaurant. The continental breakfast that was included in the room was quite typical for Thailand and Asian hotels, serving up the usual variety of Asian hot and western warm, cold or somewhere in between dishes. Fruit, cereal, coffee… there are plenty of small snacks for those looking to grab a light breakfast in lieu of traditional noodles before hitting the beach. It almost wouldn’t matter what you choose to eat, because the entire experience is made by the simply astounding view from the restaurant, out over the sparkling blues of the water and onto the neighboring Koh Adang.

 

I came to Koh Lipe for a quiet, relaxing and tropical getaway, unperturbed as possible by traffic, noise and even internet-connectedness. While the resort has WiFi, the vibe (and slow nature of all connection due to the island’s remoteness) gives a perfect excuse to unplug, throw on your swimsuit, grab a book, your flippers and head for the beach. Mountain Resort, tucked away and significantly removed from any other accommodation spots on the entire island, provides just one more added layer of privacy and luxury to an already magical place.