LandLopers http://landlopers.com Thu, 21 May 2015 06:05:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Few Things I Love (And You Will Too) About Freiburg Germanyhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/20/freiburg-germany http://landlopers.com/2015/05/20/freiburg-germany#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 04:56:41 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29715 A new city for me when I visited a few weeks ago on a trip with the German National Tourist Board, Freiburg in southwestern Germany quickly became a very pleasant … Read More

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A new city for me when I visited a few weeks ago on a trip with the German National Tourist Board, Freiburg in southwestern Germany quickly became a very pleasant surprise. More than once I caught myself wondering why more people don’t know about this town not too far from the Swiss border and maybe they do, but I certainly didn’t know a lot about it before I showed up on an early summer day. Like many who have visited before me, I began to fall in love with the city and by the time I left, it had quickly risen in the ranks of one of my favorite towns anywhere in the world, not just Germany. So what makes it so great? Rather than an itemized list of stuff to do, because no one has time for that, or just a mix of nice photos, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite moments and quirky things I love about Freiburg hoping that it will inspire you all to add it to your own personal travel list.

Freiburg Germany

Canals

The Freiburg Bächle are small water-filled runnels that can be found throughout the old town. These were once common sights in many European cities during the Middle Ages, but only a few are left and Freiburg has one of the most complete systems in the world. They were originally used to fight fires, provide water and to cool off the city in those famously warm summers. Today of course they’re just for show, a pretty reminder of the past and a feature that locals and tourists alike have come to love. I always find comfort in water, and seeing these small canals full of crystal clear water from the nearby Black Forest was a nice feature to my explorations, even if I did almost step into them more than once. That’s a fairly common occurrence though and it’s said that if you do mistakenly step into one, then you are destined to marry someone from Freiburg. Marriage or not, the bäckle are a reason why many people visit, to see a bit of the Middle Ages still alive and well in a modern city.

Weather

A southern city, Freiburg is famous around Germany for its amazing weather. With more days of sunshine than any other place in the country, it’s not uncommon to see tourists there just to bask in the warm glow of the sun. I was there in mid-April when my hometown of Washington, DC was still cold and rainy. I arrived off the train in Freiburg in a flannel shirt and winter coat and immediately looked like I had come from another planet. My timing was perfect and I arrived just as one of the first days of ‘early summer’ arrived, and all around me I saw folks in shorts and t-shirts obviously thrilled to once again be outside enjoying the spectacular day. Every day was like that for me in Freiburg, the sunshine transforming the colors of the buildings into bright hues that seemed to pop against the backdrop of a perfectly blue sky. As someone who normally only sees Europe in the off-off season, it was a thrill to enjoy a nice day in Germany and to see what a difference experience a warm, summer day can bring.

Great hidden spots

I was surprised by just how much water there is in Freiburg and that more than anything else became the feature I loved most. Sure you have the small bäckle, but there are also canals and rivers creating many special places around town to just sit and relax, or hang out with friends and have a nice afternoon. It’s an old city of course, so the old town can be a little confusing but joining a local guide I was shown all the best spots in town. One of my favorites was near the old mills where today the rush of the water fuels the energy of the crowd as they spend time at the outdoor cafes admiring the scenery. Freiburg is also a very young city, thanks to its impressive and world-famous university, and like most other college towns that constant infusion of youth adds a certain vibrancy to it that similar towns lacking a college don’t have. It’s thanks to those students that the green spaces, which are abundant, are so well used and it’s thanks to them that the city enjoys a general feeling of active living that is fun to experience in person.

Food and culture

Naturally this can, and is, said about most German cities but it’s not the presence of great food and culture that is important, it’s what form they take that we should pay attention to. Surrounding the massive Freiburg Minster, the city’s cathedral, is a daily market that has probably been in use for centuries. In the middle of town it is the perfect location, and it’s fascinating to consider the fact that we’re a continuation of that important tradition. Selling fruits and vegetables, flowers, toys and crafts there are also of course food vendors, and it was from one of their trucks that I found my lunch one day, a long red Freiburg sausage. Just about every town and city in Germany has their own special sausage recipe, and in Freiburg it’s a longer version that is served with grilled onions on a toasted bun and in my opinion is the perfect lunch on the go. Adjacent to the Black Forest, Black Forest cake is naturally popular as are bakeries in general; I saw more in Freiburg than in any other German city I visited. More than just food, the active university life brings with it a number of shows and performances year-round, meaning a well-rounded cultural experience for tourists as well. It’s just a really fun place to be, for all the right reasons.

I hope it’s obvious just how much I enjoyed my time in Freiburg, a city that’s hard not to love frankly. It’s also tough though to explain the intangible. Sure, I had a wonderful experience there for all the reasons listed, but it’s so much more than that. It was just a general feeling of contentment, and that’s nothing I can give advice about – you’re just going to have to go and experience it for yourself.

Have you been to Freiburg, what did you think?

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Quiet Tropical Beach In North Queenslandhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/20/photo-beach-north-queensland-quiet http://landlopers.com/2015/05/20/photo-beach-north-queensland-quiet#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 04:50:31 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29785 The post Quiet Tropical Beach In North Queensland appeared first on LandLopers.

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Tropical North Queensland Australia

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Instagramming Around The Whitsundays in Queensland, Australiahttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/19/instagramming-whitsundays http://landlopers.com/2015/05/19/instagramming-whitsundays#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 03:10:08 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29767 I’m on the tail end of an epic trip to Queensland with Queensland Tourism, seeing as much of the state as I can fit into three weeks. I started the … Read More

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I’m on the tail end of an epic trip to Queensland with Queensland Tourism, seeing as much of the state as I can fit into three weeks. I started the trip off with a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since I first saw photos of it – the Whitsundays. A collection of islands off of the central coast of Queensland, even before I first set foot in the area they seemed like paradise made suddenly real. So many times we’re disappointed by how reality seems in comparison to the photos, but if anything seeing the Whitsundays in person was even better than I could have hoped. As a way to offer a first introduction, here are some photos and stories of my first thoughts about this beautiful part of Queensland.

Whitsundays Queensland Australia

Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island

Arguably the most iconic photo from the Whitsundays, it was also my first introduction to the islands. Flying high in a helicopter seeing the swirling waters of Hill Inlet was a beautiful thrill. As the tide shifts, the white silica sand and turquoise blue waters of the inlet blend seamlessly to create a breathtaking view of swirling waters. Even better than flying over the inlet was landing on adjacent Whitehaven Beach, routinely named one of the best beaches in the world.

Queensland Australia

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island

After landing the helicopter on the beach, the pilot gave me a picnic lunch and a towel and told me to enjoy myself. Spending a couple of hours there, almost alone except for my thoughts was a moment of true and utter perfection. I’m not usually a beach guy, but that warm afternoon there was no other place in the world I wanted to be more. Accessible only by boat or helicopter, Whitehaven Beach is something right out of a dream. This 7-kilometer stretch along Whitsunday Island in Queensland is known for its brilliant white sand thanks to the 98% silica composition, which also means it doesn’t get too hot (great for walking) and oddly enough is good for cleaning jewelry. Standing there alone with only the bright blue sea in front of me is what I always imagined the Whitsundays would be like, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. An odd name, Whitsunday comes from the voyage of Capt. Cook in 1770 when he sailed through this passage on what he believed to be the religious holiday known as Whitsunday – the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun or Pentecost observed 7 weeks after Easter. No matter what you call it, there’s no doubt in my mind that not only is Whitehaven Beach and the entire Whitsunday collection of islands one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, they just have to be one of the most beautiful places in the world – period.

Hamilton Island Queensland Australia

Hamilton Island

The hub of tourist activity in the Whitsundays, Hamilton Island is popular and with good reason. A small island, it features not only amazing beaches and beautiful views, but it’s a great place to launch day trips to other parts of the region, including the Great Barrier Reef. Every night, many of the visitors to the island take their golf carts (the only mode of transportation on Hamilton) up to One Tree Hill, to watch this legendary sunset over the nearby islands and the Coral Sea. It’s a beautiful moment made better by sharing it with others, all brought together for the same reason.

Heart Reef Queensland Australia

Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef

A bucket list item for me for many years, finally visiting the Great Barrier Reef was just as wonderful an experience as I’d always hoped it would be. A great way to understand its size and beauty though is from the air. I traveled out to the reef by boat for a two-day, one-night experience and my first order of business once I got there was to go on a brief, ten-minute helicopter ride along this small sliver of the reef. A collection of reefs, it’s the largest living organism in the world and can even be seen from space. It’s hard not to feel small seeing it from above, but it immediately instilled in me a deep love for this natural wonder and an excitement to explore it on my own.

Great Barrier Reef Queensland Australia

Great Barrier Reef

Sure, seeing the reef from above was great, but the experience everyone longs for is beneath the waves. I’ve snorkeled all around the world, but in all honesty I’ve never seen anything as impressive as what I found along the reef. Beautiful waters teemed with fish of nearly every size, shape and color. It was like living inside an aquarium and I kept jumping back in the waters, eager to see something a little different or new. I also used the opportunity to do my first scuba dive; an intro experience that allowed me to see even more of the coral and fish from an entirely different point of view.

These are just a few preliminary photos and thoughts about this one region of Queensland. I have a lot more to say not only about the Whitsundays, but Queensland as a state but I first wanted to share with you my own sense of wonder and awe at spending a few days living inside a postcard.

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Magnificent Tablelands of Queensland From A Hot Air Balloonhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/19/photo-tablelands-hot-air-balloon http://landlopers.com/2015/05/19/photo-tablelands-hot-air-balloon#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 01:57:27 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29782 The post Magnificent Tablelands of Queensland From A Hot Air Balloon appeared first on LandLopers.

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Queensland Australia

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A Few More Reasons Why I Love Europehttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/18/love-europe http://landlopers.com/2015/05/18/love-europe#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 04:56:02 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29714 I’ve always had a love affair with Europe, ever since I was a kid and long before I first step foot in the Old World. In recent years I have … Read More

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train italy

I’ve always had a love affair with Europe, ever since I was a kid and long before I first step foot in the Old World. In recent years I have found myself there more and more often, somewhat on purpose as there are few places I enjoy being more. I often get asked my favorite country in the world, which is an impossible question, but Europe just may be my favorite region and continent. There’s something very special about being there but on a recent trip I tried to think of the exact reasons why I enjoy spending time there so very much and came up with these ideas.

Public Transportation

I’m a big fan of public transportation systems around the world, just the travel geek in me I suppose. And while the US does a fairly good job at having comprehensive systems in major cities, the moment you leave town you’re on your own. But in Europe it’s different, you can get just about anywhere without ever driving a car. At the crux of this is the European train experience, something that is a rite of passage for most American tourists. While most Europeans have since moved on to using the cheaper budget airlines to get around the continent, we refuse. We can do that anywhere, instead when we’re in Europe we want to take the train as often as we can. Luckily for us, we can. While it may take a few connections, even the smallest of European towns seems to be connected via rail line making them all easy to visit and explore. While sometimes late, the schedules are generally kept to making it efficient as well as fun. I also think it’s just more pleasant to leave from the middle of a town and arrive into the middle of another town. Airports are fine, but they can take so long to get to and navigate through that trains, at the end of the day, usually don’t take that much more time. There is also just a natural romanticism to train travel that appeals to us all on a very base, human level. As people we’re fascinated by the mechanics of it all and for me it’s a core part of my European experience no matter where on the continent I go.

The Food

Perhaps this is a little too obvious, but if I had to choose a last meal it would absolutely be centered entirely on European cuisine. Thanks to the diversity of cultures in a small space, the choices seem to be limitless and the differences stunning. It’s an amazing concept that you can travel just a couple of hours and experience food that is vastly different from each other. For as much as I eat in Europe though, I never gain weight. Sure, part of it is thanks to the extra walking around towns and cities, but it’s also thanks to the quality of ingredients. I have always noticed a stronger reliance on fresh, local foods, something that’s a trend in the US but certainly not the norm. Chefs walk down the street to local markets and the food on your plate was either alive or in the ground a few hours earlier. It’s this high quality that makes it so healthy, and it’s also my own proclivity towards avoiding mass-produced foods while visiting as well. Sure, there are McDonalds all over Europe, but I never eat at them, instead opting for something local and therefore fresh. Ignore the health benefits for a moment, and the food in Europe is iconic and delicious. Unlike so many other areas of the world with nondescript or even boring cuisines, European food is well known, distinctive and delicious. Starting off my day with a fresh pastry and robust coffee, enjoying some market or food stand food for lunch, snack on cakes in the afternoon and finishing up the day at a local brasserie – that is my idea of the perfect foodie day in Europe.

FREIBURG GERMANY

The Attitude

This is a gross generalization and definitely varies from country to country, but on the whole I find the European mindset to be much more positive than the American thought pattern. Even in the most high-strung of European countries, there’s a basic understanding that balance in life is important. In the US most of us don’t use all of our vacation time and when we do take breaks to schedule in “work catch up” time in between visits to the beach. In Europe, most people understand that work is important, but so is time off. In France it is mandatory that Sunday is a day off and in Spain, hanging out with friends over a long lunch is the norm instead of an abnormality. Even in Sweden, the afternoon coffee tradition of fika belies an understanding that slowing down and catching up with friends is an important part of life. I believe that combined, the amalgamated mindset makes most Europeans more productive in the long run than their American counterparts. Sure, we may literally work ourselves to death, producing a lot in the process but by the time we retire we wonder what happened to our lives. My mother used to tell me that in life we should do everything in moderation, and it’s a lesson we should learn from our European cousins.

Angoulême Cathedral, France

Cultural Diversity

When compared to North America, Europe isn’t that big. But within that compact space is an amazing degree of diversity spread out amongst dozens of different and distinct countries and cultures. That’s an amazing fact if you stop to think of it. Centuries of history and geography have created traditions that may be separated by only a few hundred miles, but are as different from each other as Thailand is to Canada. It’s as if in the US, Virginia and Maryland spoke different languages, ate different foods and had completely different histories. It’s a wonderful part of the European experience and thanks to that degree of diversity, makes traveling even a short distance fun and endlessly fascinating. I think this is something that most Europeans take for granted or just don’t think much about, but for non-Europeans visiting the continent it provides a lifetime of enriching experiences. I could easily spend years visiting Germany and France and not see everything, but I can’t say the same of Iowa or Indiana. That’s the difference.

So those are just a few of the many reasons why I love Europe and traveling around the Old World. What other reasons would you add to the list?

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Flying Over A Rainforest in Cairns, Queensland Australiahttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/18/photo-skyrail-cairns http://landlopers.com/2015/05/18/photo-skyrail-cairns#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 04:45:47 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29779 The post Flying Over A Rainforest in Cairns, Queensland Australia appeared first on LandLopers.

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Cairns Queensland Australia

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Sustainable Luxury – My Experience At The Feynan Ecolodge in Jordanhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/17/feynan-ecolodge http://landlopers.com/2015/05/17/feynan-ecolodge#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 22:41:30 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29712 Even though it looked beautiful, I wasn’t excited about the hike; 16-kilometers in an admittedly beautiful but hilly valley through the Dana Biospehere in Jordan. Getting older I’m learning that … Read More

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Even though it looked beautiful, I wasn’t excited about the hike; 16-kilometers in an admittedly beautiful but hilly valley through the Dana Biospehere in Jordan. Getting older I’m learning that I have certain limitations and a 16-kilometer hike through the desert seemed to be high on that list. But, as usual, I was wrong and also as usual, I was thankful not just for the hike but where it finished – at the remarkable Feynan Ecolodge.

I’m all for sustainable travel, but I also like luxury and it’s not often that the two are married and very few around the world do as good a job as Feynan in Jordan. Routinely named amongst the best ecoresorts in the world, staying at the Feynan Ecolodge is unlike any other experience I’ve ever enjoyed.

Feynan Ecolodge Jordan

The first thing I noticed arriving at night was how dark everything was. Approaching along the trail I expected to see the hotel lit up in a blaze of lights amongst the desert hills, but that’s only because I hadn’t done my research. You see, there are no lights at Feynan and that’s just the start of their eco-friendly ways. More properly said, there are no electric lights at Feynan, instead the rooms and common areas of the resort use candles, candles made by local Bedouin families as a way to create not just environmentally sustainable practices, but cultural sustainable ones as well. It was the perfect introduction to the ethos and philosophy of Feynan, a place that consistently surprised me.

Conceived of and built in the early 2000s, the design of Feynan was inspired by local traditions. In centuries past, camel caravans passed along the same routes that are still close to Feynan and they routinely stopped at small desert inns, restocking and resting before continuing onwards along the Silk Road. Known as caravanserai, the builders wanted to create the modern equivalent while drawing upon the traditions of the past.

Everything about Feynan Ecolodge was built with sustainability in mind, from the stone slabs used to regulate temperature even in the middle of the summer heat to offering economic opportunities to the local Bedouin tribes who really do still call the hills and mountains of the Dana Biosphere home. Looking around the resort I was amazed at all of the sustainable touches found everywhere. What little power Feynan does use comes entirely from solar panels on the roof. There are no wires connecting the property to anything, it is as off the grid as you can get. Cooling and heating are both done naturally through the design process and the water comes from a local spring. That also means there aren’t refrigerators and thus there’s no meat, so that the experience for visitors is a healthy one in addition to being responsible. Almost everything used is produced with the help of the local tribes, from the soap to the candles and countless other little items most guests won’t notice. But what about that guest experience?

Being sustainable is great, but ultimately people visit in order to enjoy themselves, to be on vacation. As I learned during my brief time there though, this dedication to sustainability doesn’t hinder the guest experience, instead it greatly amplifies it. My first thought about being in the middle of the desert was that there wouldn’t be anything to do. In reality, there are almost too many activities from which to choose, all of which combine to create a wonderful visitor experience.

Dozens of hikes and walks around the hotel are available, featuring everything from the natural beauty of the desert terrain to an old copper mine in the area and even some archeological sites as well. I was surprised to learn that biking is also popular amongst the guests, visitors testing their mountain biking skills around the nature reserve that the Feynan Ecolodge calls home. Perhaps most important though are the local community experiences available, opportunities to learn more about the culture of the people who have called the area home for generations. Learning about Bedouin traditions, hanging out with a shepherd for the day, even cooking classes are all designed to bring the visitor into close contact with locals, instead of separating them as so many other resorts try to do.

Feynan can also be relaxing though; this is a vacation after all. The lodge itself has many community spaces to lounge in and for those chilly desert evenings there’s a fireplace and board games. A favorite activity though is watching the evening sky. Feynan is off the grid and in the middle of nowhere, so there is no light pollution allowing visitors to see the night sky in a way that may be totally new for them. Expert guides lead guests through a tour of the heavens from the roof of the lodge, arguably the most popular activity at Feynan.

Rooms are of course though at the crux of the guest experience, and the 26-rooms of Feynan are all designed with comfort in mind. Comfortable beds, lounging areas and balconies are a little utilitarian, but infinitely comfortable and relaxing. It may take you a night or two to get used to the candles at night, but once you do you’ll understand not only are they environmentally sustainable, but they add a certain ambience that makes staying at Feynan so very special.

Of course you don’t have to trek those 16-kilometers to reach Feynan, more traditional vehicle based options are available for guests who stay at the ecolodge. But no matter how you get there I can promise that after a few days you’ll never want to leave and instead will wonder how you lived this long without experiencing something as special as a stay at the Feynan Ecolodge.

Have you stayed at an ecolodge before? What was your experience like?

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Beach Perfection In Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast of Queenslandhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/17/photo-beach-surfers-paradise-queensland http://landlopers.com/2015/05/17/photo-beach-surfers-paradise-queensland#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 22:38:29 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29775 The post Beach Perfection In Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast of Queensland appeared first on LandLopers.

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Surfers Paradise Queensland Australia

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Walking Along Brisbane’s Leafy South Bankhttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/15/photo-brisbane-south-bank http://landlopers.com/2015/05/15/photo-brisbane-south-bank#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 06:42:26 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29772 The post Walking Along Brisbane’s Leafy South Bank appeared first on LandLopers.

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Brisbane Australia

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Great Entrances Around The World – Photo Serieshttp://landlopers.com/2015/05/14/entrances http://landlopers.com/2015/05/14/entrances#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 04:55:41 +0000 http://landlopers.com/?p=29763 This week the FriFotos theme is ENTRANCES, which can mean many different things if you think about it. Here are some of my favorite entrances around the world, from traditional … Read More

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This week the FriFotos theme is ENTRANCES, which can mean many different things if you think about it. Here are some of my favorite entrances around the world, from traditional interpretations of the word to the more unconventional.

Rothenburg Germany

Entrance to Rothenburg, Germany

Luxor Egypt

Entrance to Luxor, Egypt

Chandelier at the entrance of Four Seasons Budapest

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Entrance to Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Petra Jordan

The Siq, the entrance to Petra

Nuremberg Germany

Nuremberg Christmas Market entrance

Marriott Curacao

Entrance to Marriott Curacao

Valletta, Malta

Entrance to Valletta, Malta

Door Taiwan

Door knocker – Taiwan

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Looking down at the entrance to Dubrovnik, Croatia

giant staircase venice

Fancy entrance, Doge’s Palace in Venice

Lantau Island Hong Kong

Entrance to the Big Buddha, Lantau Island Hong Kong

Windsor Castle UK

Entrance to Windsor Castle, UK

Whitsundays Queensland Australia

Entrance to Hill Inlet, Whitsundays – Queensland

 

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