If you’re a World War II aficionado or history buff in general, there’s no other trip quite like seeing the sights left behind by the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Some were bombed into obsolescence, others were destroyed to cover over the reminder of the atrocities of war, but many significant spots remain accessible to the public today. Here are 10 historically significant WWII sites to see in Germany:
1. Vorbunker/Führerbunker -Berlin
Vorbunker and Führerbunker were once the places where Adolf Hitler took shelter and eventually lived. The elaborate underground concrete bunker complex was designed to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler, his family and his guards. While the site has been redeveloped into the current residential housing that stands today, this remains an important place of WWII significance as it was in the Führerbunker that Hitler committed suicide. Today a commemorative sign can be seen explaining the layout and significance of the bunker complex.
2. Dachau Memorial and Museum -Dachau
Dachau was the first of many Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany and was designed to hold political prisoners from Germany and Austria as well as Jewish prisoners. It was also open the longest, from March 1933 to April 1945 spanning nearly all 12 years of the Nazi regime. Today the site of the former concentration camp is home to a memorial as well as a museum and can be visited by the public.
3. Nazi Party Rally Grounds -Nuremberg
The rally grounds of the Nazi party covered about 11 square kilometers in Nuremberg’s southeast and were the site of six Nazi rallies between 1933-1938. While not all of the historic buildings remain, many are preserved and can be visited by the public as the entire site is now a memorial.
4. Holocaust Memorial -Berlin
This 4.7 acre site in Berlin was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold and serves as a tribute to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs known as ‘stelae’ and includes a Place of Information on the site’s eastern edge which lists the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.
5. St. Nicholas’ Church -Hamburg
This Gothic Revival church was once the tallest building in the world from 1874-1876 and played an important role in WWII. During the extensive air raids on the city of Hamburg, the church tower served as a goal and visual orientation marker for the Allied Air Forces. Unfortunately, on July 28, 1943 the church was severely damaged by bombing and was reduced to the only remaining tower which can still be seen today.
6. Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) – Obersalzberg
The Kehlsteinhaus or ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as it’s known in English speaking countries is a Third Reich-area complex that was given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday as a retreat to entertain friends and guests. The Kehlsteinhaus sits on a rocky outcrop known as Obersalzberg near the town of Berchtesgaden. Today the Eagle’s Next can still be visited by the public as it houses a restaurant, beer garden and tourist site.
7. Colditz Castle -Colditz
Colditz is a Renaissance castle located in Germany’s Saxony state. During WWII the castle was converted and used as a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who were particularly dangerous or were regarded as escape risks. The German’s believed the castle’s location on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde made it an excellent spot for a high security prison, however Colditz POW camp had one of the highest records of successful escape attempts during WWII.
8. Mittelbau-Dora Memorial -Nordhausen
Mittelbau-Dora was a WWII Nazi concentration camp located near Nordhausen in the German state of Thuringia. This camp was notorious for its extreme cruelty towards prisoners and roughly 1 in 3 of the 60,000 prisoners sent here did not survive. Today the site is home to a memorial and history museum and serves as a place of mourning and commemoration of the victims of this concentration camp.
The Soviet War Memorial is located in Berlin’s Treptower Park and was build to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who fell during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. The main feature of the memorial is a 12-m tall statue of a Soviet soldier with a sword holding a German child, standing over a broken swastika. The central area before the monument is lined with 16 stone sarcophagi, one for each of the 16 Soviet Republics. Each of the sarcophagi are adorned with carvings of military scenes and quotations from Joseph Stalin in both Russian and German languages.
10. Besseringen B-Werk -Merzig
The Besseringen B-Werk is the only completely preserved fortification bunker located in the Siegfried Line; a 630 kilometer defensive system built between 19 and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. 32 bunkers in the Seigfried Line were built to construction standards or thickness ‘B’ hence the term B-Werk. Post-war, the site was used as a rubbish dump but it was restored and opened in 2005 as a museum which can be visited by the public today.
The common old saying, ‘the best things come in small packages’ holds true when it comes to Canadian small towns. Visiting small towns isn’t normally at the top of our bucket list, but we’ve come up with a list of great towns that are perfect just the way they are, which is often quiet and out of the way, typically passed by on highways and main roads, tucked neatly away on the outskirts of a city. This list is a baker’s dozen compiled small towns to love, we’ve covered all our bases including one from each province and territory. What are you waiting for? Get going!
13. Nelson, British Columbia
For a town of under 10,000 people there is a whole lot going on in Nelson. The skiing in the Kootenay Rockies is sensational. When it’s time for water skis, Lake Kootenay offers any activity you want on and under the water. There are thermal and natural baths and less than an hour away, as is the beginning of the province’s fabulous wine country. Nelson is something of an artistic community with a surprising cache of Victorian, Queen Anne and Beaux Arts architecture. The town website claims more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. It also likely has more hippies per capita as the counterculture is bred by American draft dodgers during the Vietnam War and continues on today.
12. Legal, Alberta
A proud little town whose website says it “puts unity back into community”. It’s close enough to be considered a suburb of Edmonton, but it retains its separate identity with its old rural charm intact. Still bilingual, it was founded as a French-speaking settlement in 1894, before Alberta was a province and less than a decade after French Canada’s champion Louis Riel was hanged for treason. The stop signs still say ‘Arret/Stop’. Legal is renowned for its 28 French murals and its summer Fete Au Village, or Town Festival.
11. Forget, Saskatchewan
This town is nothing like it sounds, rather it’s sure to give you an unforgettable experience. It is a one of those places through the Canadian and American Midwest that serves as a reminder that French explorers were the first Europeans to pass through and that many of the early post-Confederation settlers were from Quebec and their descendants still proudly call themselves Saskinoises, as did Canada’s first woman to serve as Governor General, Jeanne Sauvé. Despite its minuscule size (at last count 104) it has become known as an artists’ colony. The old Rectory built in 1904 is now The Ananda Arthouse. Its French Catholic roots are evident in the name of a much-praised hangout and kitchen called The Happy Nun. And should you go there, please recall it’s pronounced for-JAY.
10. Flin Flon, Manitoba
There are few more quintessentially Canadian towns than Flin Flon. A sub-Arctic hardworking mining community with a stellar hockey history. Six hundred miles northwest of Winnipeg in the Manitoba Lake District, it boasts a big trout festival and wilderness activities in summer and with the exception of downhill skiing, a full range of winter sports. It is one of Canada’s hockey factories, having sent a number of big stars to the NHL, including Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Blaine Stoughton. And there is of course its iconic name with a minor literary pedigree, the only town named after Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, a character in a 1905 science fiction book The Sunless City. The venerable American cartoonist Al Capp was so intrigued by the story, he created the statue of the town’s namesake that still stands.
9. Port Hope, Ontario
Sixty miles east of Toronto, Port Hope is a pretty little town with a lovely and well preserved 19th century downtown. The Capitol Theatre opened in 1930 and is one of a dwindling collection of ‘atmospheric theatres’, an ornate style movie house that resembles a palace. It has been cited for the province’s Community Leadership award for exemplary “leadership in heritage conservation and promotion”. The antique shopping is renowned as is the fly-fishing in the Ganaraska River. A timeless scene of Victorian Ontario.
8. Hudson, Quebec
Hudson is a picturesque, historic place set on the Lac des Deux Montagnes that dates back to New France and celebrates its 150th birthday as a town in 2015. Now it’s also known as where the late Jack Layton called home. Forty miles west of Montreal, it has long been known as a wealthy Anglophone enclave with a Yacht Club dating back to 1909 and a polo club from 1901. It re-established in the 1990’s as the Club Nacional and is was well-known for its star players that included some of the great Montreal Canadiens from the teams that won five Stanley Cups in the 1980’s. Now it has a nice arts scene, great antiques. It’s not a place you would spend a week, but perfect as a weekend destination or day trip. It just might even leave you trying to figure out ways to move there for good.
7. Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island
When it comes to flat out, good old fashioned small town charm, it’s very hard to beat the Maritimes. Victoria lies on the island’s south coast just 20 miles from Charlottetown. It was once an affluent, busy trading port and the pretty houses and stores don’t seem to have changed much, except for fresh coats of brightly colored paint. Another charming little (population: 200) place that attracts artists and craftspeople. The Victoria Playhouse has been written up by no less than the New York Times. The mandatory red sand beaches and Lighthouse museum are present and accounted for. Sea kayaking in the Northumberland Strait is the main offshore activity. The town website almost brags that when the Trans Canada Highway passed the town by, so did the malls, fast food joints and tourist traps.
6. Saint Andrews, New Brunswick
The town was settled by Loyalists from Maine in 1783. Thirteen of the streets are named after the offspring of George lll (aka Mad King George) not to mention King, Queen and Prince of Wales Streets. Like much of the region, its economic apogee passed with The Steam Age. After decades of bad times, the onset of the railway plus, the ocean breezes and natural beauty, brought well-to-do visitors seeking respite from the heat and filth of the industrial northeast. Saint Andrews became the country’s first resort and was rewarded for its economic stagnation with unspoiled downtown and surroundings that became their major industry and engine of growth. Thelegendary Algonquin Hotel remains a wonderful example of CPR hotel architecture (or ‘Parkitecture). Kingsbrae Gardens is an award winning masterpiece of horticulture and whale watching has been added to the array of watery attractions.
5. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia
Another coastal gem, Mahone Bay was founded in 1754 and was a shipbuilding center for over a century. The shelter of the Bay encourages sailors, kayakers, and fishers to explore the 365 islands that dot the waters of Mahone Bay, including Oak Island, with its legend of buried treasure. It’s a summertime boom town, attracting visitors for its beaches, biking and ski trails, along with a rich history and oceanfront location. Not to mention that fresh, fresh seafood.
4. Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador
Fisherman were summering in relative safety in trinity bay since the early 16th century. It is full of heritage buildings of saltbox architecture dating from the 1850’s. All the towns on this list are scenic, but only The Rock combines mint conditioned, brightly colored historic buildings with rugged beauty of the unforgivingly harsh Newfoundland rock face which is a base for hiking and boat tours to see whales and icebergs. Its preserved perfection of houses from the 1850’s attracted the makers of The Shipping News and there are tours of where the famous cast shot scenes and stayed, some of them were so taken by the land and people, they bought houses or cottages nearby!
3. Dawson, Yukon
You can still pan for gold and have the famous Sour Toe cocktail. For a more satisfying taste – attempt to make it yourself! It was parodied by a Dawson banker named Robert W Service in the “Ice Worm Cocktail” a story of a gullible Englishman who downed one with great trepidation and comic results. The romance of the Gold Rush, even more than a century come and gone remains. Such was the transient wealth, it was called the Paris of the North. Heritage buildings from its 15 minutes of wealth and fame abound. And yes, you can see the can-can girls at Gambling Gerties, but it’s not a one-trick pony. Cruise the Yukon River and/or hike 1700 feet up the Midnight Dome and take in the views of it and the Klondike Valley. Parks Canada has a nice tour from Crocus Bluff to Service’s cabin in the hills, conducted with excerpts from his legendary poetry.
2. Rankin Inlet, Nunavut
In Inuktitut, it’s called Kangiqtiniq – ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ, meaning ‘deep inlet’. It has become the gateway to the territory for civil servants, mining execs, scientists and adventure travel aficionados, hence the cell phone service and golf courses not common to the rest of the region. There is a thriving Inuit art scene, especially in ceramics and carving. For exploring the stunning, pristineIqalugaarjuup Nunanga (‘the land around the river of little fishes’) Territorial Historic Park has hiking, fishing and fauna that you won’t see south of 90 degrees north. There are also habitations and graveyards from the 13th century. To celebrate spring Pakaluk Time there is a festival which includes music dancing and the famous, unique Inuit sport competitions.
1. Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
Fort Smith deserves a place on the bucket list if for no other reason than it being a place that is a gateway to the remote, spectacular World Heritage Site, Wood Buffalo National Park. The northern boreal plain and forest is home to endangered species like wood bison, whooping cranes and peregrine falcons. Seemingly endless acres of pristine natural beauty that are a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Its name in Chipewyan is Thebacha or ‘beside the rapids’, and those rapids on the Slave River are a major attraction for white water buffs today.
If you are into over the top stadium foods, and not afraid to eat thousands of calories, this is the year to indulge in some crazy foods. From burgers that come complete with half pounds of cheese, nine patties and funnel cakes instead of buns to dessert dogs to vanilla bean apple-pie bacon milkshakes to chicken and waffles that require no cutlery; these over the top stadium foods will either have you begging for more or groaning in stomach pain.
12. Big Mother Funnel Burger – Appleton, Wisconsin
Executive chef Tim Hansen created this monster concoction that debuted at minor league’s Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Stadium. This funnel cake bacon cheeseburger will cost you $20 and contains a whopping 3,500 calories. It consists of 2 funnel cakes dusted with powdered sugar, a 1-lb burger, half a pound of cheese, eight slices of bacon and some lettuce, just to make sure you got your veggies in. We can’t promise that this heart-stopping creation won’t give you a stomach ache but the combination of sweet and beef is well worth it.
11. Sweenie Donut Dog – Wilmington, Delaware
This sandwich contains a lot of ingredients that don’t seemingly go together, raspberry jam, bacon, tubular meat and a Krispy Kreme donut. It debuted this year as the Wilmington Blue Rocks stadium and they even let fans choose the name of the dog. The chosen name, is a shout-out to former Blue Rocks player Mike Sweeney, who went on to play for the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, and the Phillies. This donut dog has a bun made out of a sticky Krispy Kreme donut, with a hot dog in the middle, topped with crumbled bacon and raspberry jam.
10. Tailgate Stack – Kansas City, Missouri
This sandwich pays tribute to Kansas City’s famous tailgate traditions. The Tailgate Stack features burnt ends topped with cheddar, malted beer grain syrup, bacon and fried egg, all served on a piece of deep fried bread. The Stack will put you back $13 but considering its both breakfast and lunch, we think it’s kind of a steal. Visitors can purchase the Tailgate Stack only at Gridiron Express stands located in sections 103 and 135 of Arrowhead Stadium.
We have heard of bacon apple pie, much in thanks to Pinterest but has anyone ever thought to put it in a milkshake? Apparently Chef Michael Symon who runs the B Spot Restaurant at the Cleveland Browns Stadium thought this would be a wonderful idea. Luckily guests of the restaurant thought so too. This restaurant is actually located on the club level of the stadium so fans will have to shell out serious dough for tickets. This shake even looks delicious with crumbled bacon bits on top, a large straw to slurp through and flickers of vanilla bean throughout. Hold onto your hats Browns fans as this milkshake will knock your socks off. We suggest making some wealthy fans to eat at this amazing restaurant and hope they pay for your milkshake too.
8. Chicken and Waffle Cone – Houston, Texas
If you are craving chicken and waffles and prefer to eat something on the go without any sort of cutlery, the Houston Astros have the solution for you. New to the stadium this year is the Chicken and Waffle Cone, and although waffles have been replaced with a cone, you still get that same great taste. What is consists of are pieces of fried chicken, along with mashed potatoes and topped with honey mustard, all stuffed into an easy to eat waffle cone. Although this culinary creation is loaded with calories, the team that produced this cone produced the much loved BBQ baked potato last year and we can assure you that this chicken stuffed waffle cone will be just as big of a hit, if not more.
It contains a remarkable 2,200 calories and the place to get it is at Citizen’s Bank Park. This enormous burger consists of a whopping nine patties and nine slices of cheese, weighing in with 139 grams of fat. It also contains lettuce and tomato, in what looks like an effort to make it look the least bit healthier. Wayback Burgers are the masterminds behind this enormous burger and they can be found at Alley Grill in the stadium. We aren’t quite sure how anyone is going to wrap their mouths around this tall burger, but we cannot wait to see pictures.
6. Churro Dog – Phoenix, Arizona
Chef Michael Snoke is the man responsible for the invention of this dessert Churro Dog that is now offered at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It will set you back about $8.50 and consuming it means consuming over 1100 calories but fans are insisting that it is well worth it. Essentially this dog is a sundae that is designed to look like a hot dog, the churro replaces the dog, A chocolate-glazed Long John doughnut cut in half makes up the bun and instead of the typical hot dog toppings, you get three scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt, a generous serving of whipped cream, and significant drizzles of chocolate and caramel sauces. Every churro dog is made fresh to order and we suggest eating it rather quickly as once it starts to get soggy, things go downhill. There are only two designated churro dog spots in the stadium so prepare to wait with everyone else dying to try this over the top dessert.
5. Fried Nachos on a Stick – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee truly outdid themselves this year in terms of offering over the top food at their stadiums and fried nachos on a stick are no exception. Appropriately named “Inside the Park” nachos, they can be found at Miller Park, home of the Brewers. Each nacho is stuffed with taco meat, rolled in crushed Doritos, deep fried to a golden crisp and topped with cheese and sour cream. We aren’t sure what kinds of Doritos were used in the making of the deep friend nachos but we can assure you, they picked the right flavor. As an added bonus, this kind of nacho is far less messy than the regular kind and you can keep the stick, as a souvenir, or proof that this food really does exist. Our only question is why didn’t someone come up with this idea earlier?
4. Bacon and Sriracha Deviled Eggs – Detroit, Michigan
Detroit has really outdone themselves on this twist of “bacon and eggs” and fans from all over rushed the stadium to try them. Essentially what the culinary team has come up with is a thick slab of flat-top grilled bacon on the bottom with three equally delicious deviled eggs carefully placed on top. These aren’t your typical deviled eggs though. They are made with sriracha and feature fried jalapenos on top. Slightly hard to eat, you may want to make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand for this dish. Deviled eggs lovers will find this concoction at the portable cart at Section 125 and at Michigan Craft Beer, because who doesn’t need a beer to go with their eggs?
3. Pulled Pork Parfait – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This stadium food actually has its own Twitter account and although it looks completely unappetizing, fans of the Brewers actually love it. The parfait looks like a typical dessert complete with ice cream but in fact is far from it. Made up of pulled pork, gravy and mashed potatoes; this parfait is served in a parfait cup with a dash of beans on top. It seems as this dish is very American so you may be surprised to learn that it originally made its debut in Canada. Hank Daddy’s BBQ, based in Maple, Ontario, bills itself as the “Original Home of the Pulled Pork Parfait” and debuted the dish back in 2010. Since then companies all over have been replicating it and we see a long strong future ahead of this over the top, weird but delicious parfait.
2. Fried S’mOreo – Dallas, Texas
Texas Rangers fans had something to celebrate when this new dessert dish was introduced to their stadium this year. The Fried S’mOreo looks absolutely delicious, tastes absolutely delicious and we cannot promise it won’t give you a heart attack. So what is it exactly? First off two Oreos are battered and deep fried. A marshmallow is than covered in graham cracker crust and also deep friend. It is placed between the Oreos on a skewer and then the whole shebang is drizzled with an incredible chocolate sauce. In case that wasn’t enough, a side of chocolate is served with it for extra dipping opportunities. At $8 a serving, this heart attack on a skewer isn’t cheap but may just be worth it for the taste.
1. Breaded Chicken Waffle Sandwich – St. Louis, Missouri
It was the hottest new food item to hit the stadium in St. Louis this year and the breaded chicken waffle sandwich came out with a bang. The culinary team at the stadium worked long and hard to create this unique dish. Essentially the sandwich consists of a breaded chicken breast that is stuck between two waffles and loaded with maple bacon gravy. The waffles are cooked to order, making them fresh and fluffy while the maple bacon gravy pulls the dish together. This sandwich is served with queso tater tots topped with sour cream and fresh herbs.
Ireland is a country that exceeds the expectations of everyone who visits. The town’s really are that colorful, the land really is that green, the landscapes that spectacular, the food that good and the people that friendly. It is a land of juxtaposition; the harsh climate and rugged coastline combine seamlessly with the sprawling farmland, gently rolling hills, and the pristine lakes leading up into the dramatic peaks. No matter where you are in Ireland though, one aspect remains constant: the people. The locals are truly some of the friendliest and welcoming people you will come across in your travels. Their prime objective is to help you fall in love with their country as they once did. They are a proud people, but joyful and happy; the locals in Ireland are what makes this country such a wonderful place to visit at any time of year!
7. Aran Islands
If you want to step back in time, to a place where the animals far outnumber the people and cars are almost non-existent, then come to the Aran Islands. Named for the cluster of three islands that makes up this archipelago, (Inishmore, Inishmaan, Inisheer) the Islands in the Atlantic Ocean are a place where locals are friendly and welcoming while the food is home cooked and delicious. The best way to see the islands is by bike; all three have rental companies with plenty of options. Inishmore is the largest and the most often visited by tourists on day trips from Galway or Dublin; if you want the whole island to yourself, plan to stay overnight – almost no one does, and you are treated like royalty by the locals if you do. Explore the historical landmarks, like the Dun Aonghasa and the Worm Hole and marvel at the Cliffs of Aran, a spectacular and dramatic 300ft coast, not unlike the Cliffs of Moher (but with fewer crowds). The beaches are beautiful, clean and uncrowded, but almost always freezing! Before you catch a ferry back, wander some of the local shops for your chance to buy some traditional Aran Wool alongside some beautiful and handmade products that make for a perfect souvenir!
In a country famous all over the world for its music, the city of Galway is probably home to some of its best. Located on the west coast of Ireland, Galway is a small and colorful seaside town overwhelmed with music and culture. You could spend all day wandering the streets and listening to the locals; most of them are looking to make a living and “be discovered”, but they all love what they do, and that joy is evident when you stop and listen to them play. The atmosphere in Galway is toxic, but in the best way; the music on the streets enters your body and warms your entire soul. If you weren’t outside walking on a busy street, you could just as easily be listening to a musician playing in their home at Christmas time – it is that special and intimate. The rest of Galway is beautiful, the food is delicious, the buildings are unique and the landscape is beautiful, but it is the music you hear that you will forever remember.
5. Dun Laoghaire
The first stop for many tourists visiting Ireland is usually Dublin; the Guinness Storehouse, the Book of Kells, pubs and the nightlife are all excellent reasons to visit. But because of its popularity, it is almost always busy and jammed with tourists. Lucky for us, we know of a secretly quiet spot. Located just 13 km southeast of Dublin is Dun Laoghaire, a beautiful seaside town with plenty of historic and scenic locations, on a much smaller and intimate scale. Because Dun Laoghaire plays host to fewer tourists each year, it seems that the locals are much more willing to open their doors and share their culture (that’s not to say the people in Dublin aren’t friendly!) One can relax and enjoy one of the many local pubs, or take an early morning stroll along one of the piers to watch the local fishermen bring in the catch of the day. Dun Laoghaire is underrated, but shouldn’t be; there are plenty of walking trails where you can take in the brightly colored houses, local history and small town Irish charm.
4. The Island of Skellig Michael
Although not an Irish town, Skellig Michael is such an important Irish landmark it had to be included on this list. Listen to a local talk about this landmark, and their faces light up – you can hear the pride in their voices. These two small islands, located 11.6km off the coast of County Kerry in the Atlantic Ocean, have captivated tourists and locals for hundreds of years. Skellig Michael, the larger of the two, is the site of a well preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period. In order to become closer to their God, Christian monks decided to completely remove themselves from civilization and today it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The second island, Small Skellig, is famous in its own right: it is the home to nearly 27,000 pairs of gannets (the second largest colony of gannets in the world). Step onto Skellig Michael and you can’t help but be awestruck and overwhelmed with a sense of spiritualism and beauty; with the solitude and surroundings it almost invokes a sense of magic. The islands can only be reached via ferry (most commonly from Portmagee) and the ride over is usually quite rough. But if you can stomach the ferry, as well as the near 700 jagged steps straight up to the monastery, it truly is one of the few sights that will take your breath away.
3. Glendalough, County Wicklow
Glendalough, in County Wicklow, is one of Ireland’s most beautiful visitors’ destinations and receives thousands of visitors a year. Commonly referred to as “the valley of the two lakes” this area is home to some spectacular scenery that is overflowing with unique flora and fauna and important archeology and history. The Christian monastery on site, dating back to the 6th century, is unique and not to be missed, but it is the Glendalough valley located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park that attract the tourists. Plenty of walking and hiking trails are all over the area, as well as many lakes and valleys; pack a picnic and head out for the day to be amongst what is quintessential Irish landscape – one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
2. Kinsale, County Cork
Kinsale offers all the Irish charm and culture of Cork City, but on a much smaller scale. A popular resort for both Irish and overseas tourists, Kinsale is known for its water activities, especially yachting and sailing. The town is quaint and colorful, with plenty of historical buildings and interesting architecture to satisfy everyone. The food here is especially good and the locals are proud of their cuisine – the town even holds an annual “Gourmet Festival”. This small port town is distinctly Irish: from the locals who go out of their way to make you feel welcome, to the brightly colored doorways and the prominent fishing community, a visit to Kinsale will leave you with a clear feeling of happiness.
1. Dingle, County Kerry
Picture old Irish men in tweed hats walking down the cobblestone path and cute Irish women ushering you in from the cold – this is what you will find in Dingle. Quintessentially Irish, this peaceful, colorful town is a popular stop in County Kerry. As the only town on the Dingle Peninsula, is often visited by those driving along the spectacular Ring of Kerry. The beaches along the coastline are safe, beautiful and world class. If you can brave the cold, you won’t find a better place for swimming and surfing. After the beach, head back into town, where you will for sure be ushered in to a cozy room with a fireplace, and be treated with a home cooked Irish meal that will warm your soul, and your toes!
While churches are regarded primarily as places of worship, they have also been long treated throughout history as the centers of cultural and social activity within a community. This especially rings true of the hundreds of centuries-old parishes, cathedrals and basilicas scattered around the world that today stand testament to not only the religious commitment of worshipers, but also to the social and artistic progression of our civilization. Ranging from medieval Gothic Cathedrals to rare Expressionist Parishes, and whether with religious or artistic inclination, here are 10 churches worth checking out (and gawking over!) on your next international adventure.
10. St. Augustine Church, Philippines
This active parish was built of coral stone and bricks in 1717 and can be found in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Commonly known as Paoay Church, the building is also an example of “Earthquake Baroque,” which, exactly as it sounds, is an architectural term coined to describe the modified Baroque-style rebuilding in places that experienced destructive earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most noticeable characteristic of this style is the use of large buttresses on the back and sides of the building (which can be seen at Paoay Church at about 5.5 ft thick) to guard against future earthquake destruction. Also making this site unique is the adjacent coral bell tower, built in 1793 and rising 3-storeys above ground level, used historically as an observation post in several conflicts.
9. Salzburg Cathedral, Austria
The site of this Roman Catholic Cathedral in Salzburg, Austria has endured centuries of fires, reconstructions and consecrations (774, 1628 and 1959) with the current building displaying a stunning example of early Baroque architecture designed by Santino Solari. The majestic exterior is quite a sight to behold as it rises above the Old Town cityscape, but it is the interior that is truly awe-inspiring, with the sepia-and white walls adorned by murals, a 4,000-pipe main organ and cathedral portals made my Scheider-Manzell, Mataré and Manzu. Also to be found here are Mozart’s baptismal font, and an exhibition of the excavation of the old, Romanesque cathedral.
8. Bedkhem Church, Iran
Also known as Bethlehem Church and Beyt Lahm Church, this Armenian Apostolic Church was built in 1627 in the Isfahani architectural style (traditional Persian-Iranian). Located in the Julfa quarter of Ishafan, Iran, it was built by Armenian merchant Khaje Petros, to whom an inscription is now found on the south portal of the structure. Though famous for its gilded domes and historic architecture, it is the 72 paintings found within that account for the exquisite beauty of the church, depicting the life of Christ in two rows of masterpieces by notable Armenian artists.
7. Kizhi Pogost, Russia
Located on a narrow island strip on Lake Onega, Kizhi Pogost, known alternatively as the Church of Transfiguration, is a 37 meter tall structure made entirely of wood, using scribe-fitted horizontal logs joined with interlocking corners (no nails!). The alter was laid in 1714, after the previous church here was struck by lightning, with the updated design providing more efficient ventilation and contributing to its preservation till this day. There is also an aura of legend around the site, with rumor stating that the head builder used only one axe for the entire project, and upon completion chucked it into the lake, exclaiming, “there was not and will not be another one to match it.”
6. Grundtvig’s Church, Denmark
This amazing example of Expressionist architecture created by chief architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint and completed by his son, Kaare Klint in 1940 is a Lutheran Church built to commemorate the Danish priest, poet and reformer N.F.S. Grundtvig. Located in the Bispebjerg district in Copenhagen, the most notable exterior feature is the west façade, standing 49 meters tall and resembling the exterior of a church organ. Also quite famous is the interior, which with high, vaulted ceilings and simplistic décor, evokes an atmosphere of tranquility despite the size of the space and the imposing design of the outer façade.
5. St. Stephen’s Basilica, Hungary
As Budapest’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Basilica can hold up to 8,500 people simultaneously, and provides a panoramic view of the city from the Cupola. A prime example of Neoclassical architecture, the building took over 5 decades to complete, (due primarily to political conflict and structural issues) and changed builders several times before being completed in 1906 by Jozsef Krauser. The ornate interior is truly a site to behold with stained glass windows designed by Miksa Roth and a considerable amount of frescoes, statues and mosaics throughout. Also to be seen here is the “most precious treasure of Hungary,” the mummified right fist of King Stephen, for whom the Basilica is named.
4. Sagrada Familia, Spain
This “Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family” occupying a 12,800 square meter plot of land in the center of Barcelona remains incomplete till this day. Initial construction began on St. Joseph’s day (March 19) in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano who later resigned due to disagreements and passed the project to Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s vision for the Temple, besides being a place of worship was to “artistically represent the truths of religion and the Glorification of God and His Saints” a concept clearly explored when he abandoned the previously drafted Neo-Gothic design in favor of a more “monumental” design of his own innovation. We see it today in the symbolism of the structure, with each of the 18 towers specifically representing Christ, the Gospels, the Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles, and the verticality of the structure itself representing elevation towards God.
3. Milan Cathedral, Italy
This spectacular architectural feat standing 108.5 meters tall took over 500 years to complete, and was the life work of many architects, master builders and financial backers. Originally commissioned by bishop Antonio da Saluzzo in 1385 and funded by 1st Duke of Milan, Glan Galeazzo Visconti, who had visions of creating the largest church in the world (he wasn’t far off, it is currently the 2nd largest Gothic cathedral in the world), the cathedral was consecrated in 1418 when the nave was undergoing just the beginnings of construction. Today, after several restorations and final additions, the structure is amazingly uniform in its Gothic design, with nave columns reaching 24.5 meters in height and the some 135 spires linked with flying buttresses. The Cathedral is adorned with about 3,400 statues, progressing in style from Gothic to Art Deco, and public access is available to the rooftop providing unparalleled views of the surrounding city.
2. Westminster Abbey, England
While this is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most famous historical attractions, it is also one of the world’s best examples of Medieval Gothic architecture, albeit with an English twist. This is most evident in the intricacies of the northern façade (tourist entrance) and in the extremely expansive vaulted ceilings of the interior (the highest Gothic vault in England, at 102 ft) made to look even taller by narrow single aisles. Today, the Abbey is neither a Cathedral nor a parish church (as it had been throughout history) but rather a “Royal Peculiar” subject only to the Sovereign, and is the site of every British coronation since 1066 as well as the final resting place of a number of notable historical figures.
1. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia
Rising 100 meters above the bottom of the Guaitara River Canyon, near Nariño, Ipiales in Colombia, the Gothic revival basilica—which is built in-to the rocky cliff on one side, and connects via bridge to the opposite side—looks more like the inspiration for a Disney castle than a Sanctuary. The present day structure was built from 1916-1949, with a history dating back to 1754 when, during a storm, Maria Muences’ deaf-mute daughter exclaimed that she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary over the “laja” (name for flat sedimentary rock similar to shale) after-which she was cured of her afflictions. The first shrine to the “Lady of Las Lajas” was built at this site in the 18th Century and has since been upgraded to what we see today. The sanctuary was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1951 and declared a minor basilica 3 years later.
AirlineRatings.com has released a list of the world’s most dangerous airlines to fly, basing them on a rating scale out of seven stars. The airlines below all have a rating of two stars or below and are rated on factors such as is the airline certified by the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), are they blacklisted from the European Union, have they been fatality free for 10 years, are they FAA approved and do they meet all 8 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety parameters. To explain; the IOSA certification is an evaluation system designed to assess the management and control system of an airline whereas the ICAO measures the standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity. Most of these airlines do not offer in-flight products, have terrible on time performance and have been grounded or investigated at least once in their lifetime. Between bomb threats, hijackings, overshot runways and crashes; these twelve airlines have a history of being unsafe. Discover the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com.
13. Yeti Airlines
Yeti Airlines is the parent company to Tara Air (mentioned later); an airline that was rewarded only one-star by AirlineRatings.com. Yeti Airlines comes in with two-stars however, being rewarded for being fatality free and FAA endorsed. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal this airline was established in 1998 and together with Tara Air forms the largest domestic flight operator in Nepal. Yeti Airlines serves ten domestic destinations with seven aircrafts in operation.
In the past decade Yeti Airlines has had a handful of incidents resulting in the deaths of over thirty passengers and crew as well as destroying a couple of aircrafts. They do boast the highest on time performance of any airline in Nepal though and offer beverages and snacks on flights. Yeti Airlines also offers an hour long express Everest mountain flight that remains popular with visitors. Like all Nepalese airlines they are banned from flying into the European Union airspace and have not completed any components of the IOSA.
12. Sriwijaya Air
This Indonesia airline comes in with a two-star rating as the country’s third largest airline. Sriwijaya Air is a privately owned airline that started its operations in 2003 and services cities within Indonesia and 3 international destinations. This airline is classified as a medium service airline and does offer snacks and beverages throughout the flights. They had hoped to be a full-service airline by 2013 but that has not yet happened as of 2015.
In regards to safety, Sriwijaya Air is lacking in a lot of departments. With no international safety recognition, blacklisted from flying into European air space and not being FAA approved it was only the lack of fatalities that earned them any stars. Not without incident though, this airline has had a number of runway incidents that have resulted in injury and aircraft damage. Sriwijaya Air has a large fleet of aircraft, totaling 39 with an average lifespan of 24 years old and has been in negotiations to replace a large number of the aging aircrafts. Perhaps with newer aircrafts and added destinations this airline will consider participating in safety certifications that will bump their star rating up in the coming years.
11. Air Bagan
One of the only two-star rated airlines on this list that is allowed to fly into European airspace is Air Bagan. Established in 2004 Air Bagan operates domestically in Myanmar with over 20 destinations. International flights were a go-ahead in 2007 but since have been cancelled due to safety concerns. Only one international destination remains on their flight schedule. Another fact about this airline is that U.S citizens are prohibited from dealing with this airline due to U.S sanctions against the Myanmar government.
With two accidents and a handful of fatalities Air Bagan looks to be slightly safer than most others on this list especially considering they are well on their way to completing the necessary requirements for the ICAO audit. Air Bagan also offers good in-flight products with meals and beverages offered on all their flights no matter what the flight length and distance. Passengers seem to like this airline so we expect to see them rise in ratings as they obtain further safety accreditation.
10. Susi Air
The airlines of Indonesia seem to be heading up the race for two-star ratings from AirlineRatings.com. The combination of extreme terrain, smaller panes, weather, non-cooperation from local tribes and communication difficulties with air traffic control are all factors that contribute to the safety of these airlines. Susi Air operates commercial and charter flights throughout the islands of Indonesia and has been around since 2004. They are one of the only airlines in Indonesia that hires most of their pilots from Western Countries; most often hiring young pilots wanting to clock up their flying hours.
Besides being banned from flying into the European Union, Susi Air has another type of ban on them. After a rough decade of crashes and casualties United States Embassy personnel are now prohibited from flying on this airline. Due to the nature of the planes, don’t expect any flight crew other than the pilots. With an open cockpit and access to all of the pilot’s controls passengers who are rowdy also pose a serious safety threat to these flights. Although Susi Air is said to be one of the better Indonesian Airlines, expect them to stay at about 2 stars in the safety rating from AirlineRatings.com.
9. Merpati Airlines
Merpati Airlines was established in 1962 by the Indonesian government as the second-state airline. Currently it is a major domestic airline with service to over 25 destinations in Indonesia, as well as flying to East Timor and Malaysia. The history of this airline has been a financial mess and as of January 2015 the airline is not operating any flights. The fate of the airline is up in the air as the Indonesian government has promised to invest the money they need to start flying again.
As for their safety record, in the past decade they have had over 50 casualties over six serious incidents and are banned from flying in any European airspace due to safety concerns. Merpati boasts a training center and pilot school which makes their safety record even more surprising. In the past this airline has expressed interest in obtaining their IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) from International Air Transport Association but with unpaid fuel bills, unhappy employees and frozen operations we would be shocked if they are still an airline by the time this study comes out again next year.
8. Daallo Airlines
This two-star safety rated airlines has some of the worst passenger reviews in regards to safety, cleanliness and service. Daallo Airlines is a Somali owned airline with its headquarters in Dubai and its main operating hub at Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport. Destinations include the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Facts and information are hard to come by about this airline and perhaps this is what makes it even more unsafe.
All flight operations were grounded in 2010 for Daallo Airlines but resumed later in the year; with no reason given as to why. As for the safety record, although this airline hasn’t suffered any casualties there have been a couple serious incidents. An unsuccessful hijack attempt took place in 2009 and in 2010 a man tried to board a flight with enough explosives to blow up the plane. Now banned from the European Union with no recognized safety certificate; you may want to add Daallo Airlines to your list of airlines to avoid flying.
7. Ariana Afghan Airways
The largest airline of Afghanistan comes in with a safety rating of two stars according to AirlineRatings.com. Established in 1955 this airline has been blacklisted from the European Union since 2006 due to safety concerns. During the Taliban era the airline was completely grounded and has to rebuild itself after the overthrow. The UN lifted the sanctions that were preventing the airline from flying internationally although the EU blacklist continues to this day.
Due to its age and history the safety record of Arian Afghan Airways is not a pretty one. As of 2014 they had written off 19 aircrafts and counted a total of 154 casualties. Although most of these incidents occurred in the late 1990’s; there are enough of them to justify a low safety rating. No internationally recognized safety audit certificate also bumps this airline down to two stars. Currently operating to three domestic sites and seven international destinations it seems this airline isn’t proactive in trying to earn further safety accreditation.
6. Bluewing Airlines
Bluewing Airlines, a regional carrier based out of Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo, Suriname has operated since 2002. This small airline generally transports passengers to destinations in the interior of Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean. The airline has spent time on and off the blacklist for the European Union and currently in 2015 remains banned from flying into the EU.
Bluewing has had its share of problems from aircraft safety issues to crashes. In the early 2000’s the four Antonov 28s that were part of their fleet came under fire for not meeting specific safety regulations including the absence of Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) on board. In the past decade there have been a number of crashes with both crew and passenger deaths. With a poor safety record, a blacklist from the EU and often poor landing conditions it is not likely that this airline will be awarded more than two stars in the near future.
5. Tara Air
Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Air (previously mentioned) is a newly formed airline being established in 2009 and uses the Yeti Air fleet. With its main hub at the Tribhuvan International Airport this airline operates the short take off and landing services, focusing on remote and mountainous airports and landing strips. This small fleet of 8 aircraft earned its one star from being FAA approved.
The safety record of Tara Air, to put it gently, is not good. In the years 2010 and 2011 there were three incidents that resulted in 22 deaths of passengers and crew. Small aircrafts combined with the extreme mountainous terrain make flying this airline a risk. Tara Air is also banned from flying into the EU and has no internationally recognized safety certificate although rumor has it that this airline is working towards obtaining possible IOSA recognition in the future. We will keep an eye on this airline over the coming years to see if they can move themselves up on the star rating.
4. Lion Air
Indonesia’s largest privately run airline started operations in the year 2000 and perhaps has the worst safety record on this list, along with a slew of other issues it has faced since being established. In the fourth most populous country the demand for medium-haul jets has been on the rise and Lion Air has stepped forward with significant orders of Boeings and Airbus. Lion Air flies passengers to over 80 destinations and has jointly established two additional airlines in Malaysia and Thailand.
The safety record for Lion Air can rightfully be called atrocious with over eight serious incidents and a number of fatalities in the last decade. From overshot runway landings to water crashes it’s surprising that this airline hasn’t had more casualties. Just recently in 2012 Lion Air came under scrutiny for pilots and crew being in possession of methamphetamine (aka crystal meth). As expected they are banned from flying into the European Union and as of January 2015 the ministry of transportation had frozen fifty-three of their routes. It’s no shock that Lion Air is only given one-star from AirlineRatings.com and expects them to stay at that rating for some time, unless drastic changes are made.
3. Nepal Airlines
The only airline in the one-star category to even get an in-flight product rating is Nepal Airlines, formally known as Royal Nepal Airlines. It was Nepal’s first airline in 1958 with a handful of domestic flights. It has now grown to flying to over 39 destinations including seven international ones. None of these destinations include anywhere in the European Union as all Nepalese airlines are blacklisted; including Nepal Airlines.
The safety record for this airline isn’t pretty. Since the 1960’s there have been numerous incidents and accidents resulting in the deaths of passengers and crew members. The most recent accident occurred in 2014 when a plane went missing on-route to Jaumla and crashed; resulting in the deaths of 18 people. Nepal Airlines has not participated in any of the internationally recognized safety audits and continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous airlines according to AirlineRatings.com. This airline has recently purchased a few new aircrafts including an Airbus A320 and will be using that to fly to Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
2. SCAT Airlines
The low cost carrier SCAT Airlines was established in 1997 and operates out of its man hub Shymkent Airport with service to all major cities of Kazakhstan and neighboring countries. Rewarded a ranking of one star by AirlineRatings.com this airline is deemed one of the most dangerous airlines in the world according to this study. The airline is in fact FAA approved and that is what earned them the one star. SCAT is banned from entering European airspace though after an audit by the ICAO deemed them non-compliant in keys areas of regulatory oversight.
SCAT has been accident and incident free for the most part since operations commenced but just recently in 2013 suffered a loss. An aircraft carrying 21 people crashed while flying from Kokshetau to Almaty and all onboard perished. A few other minor incidents have occurred with this airline and it continues to operate without an internationally recognized safety audit certificate. The good news about SCAT is they are genuinely trying to improve and working towards professional accreditation.
1. Kam Air
Coming in with just one star Kam Air is amongst only 4 others that topped the list for the most dangerous airlines in the world. This Afghanistan based airline is based out of Kabul and has been in operation since 2003. Kam Air was the first ever privately owned passenger airline in Afghanistan and operates domestic passenger’s services and regional international services. Kam Air did try to schedule flights into Europe but as of 2010 the European Union (EU) banned all afghan carriers from flying into the EU due to safety concerns.
Kam Air has had its share of incidents in the past 12 years which include a crash that resulted in the deaths of 96 passengers and 8 crew members. Other incidents include a bomb threat that resulted in the plane being diverted and a tail strike incident that was not taken seriously by the airline; thus resulting in the ban from the EU. Along with not completing the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) audit Kam Airlines is also not allowed into American airspace. This airline is clearly failing at becoming a safer airline and will most likely remain on the bottom of this list for a long time.
One of the most common fears worldwide is a fear of heights. Known as “acrophobia”, the fear of heights is ranked as the 5th biggest phobia by LiveScience.com. But, where there are fears, there are those who want to conquer those fears. A lot of risk takers are finding ways to safely stare massive heights in the face using skywalks around the world. For instance, the now famous CN Tower EdgeWalk has done wonders for the site’s tourism, allowing participants to go to the top of the highest structure in North America, where a massive population looks like ants below them. If you come across one of these aerial adventures on your travels, consider it a must do…you may get those shaky legs and your palms might get clammy but it’s sure to be a once in a life-time kind of experience.
10. The Willis Tower – Chicago
Once known as the Sears Tower, The Ledge (a series of glass bays) is part of the structure that was opened in 1974. The Skydeck protrudes out 4.3 feet meaning visitors are able to stand high above (103 floors to be exact) Wacker Drive. Over 1 million tourists grace The Ledge annually, and with Chicago having a magnificent skyline, this makes the ascent of the Willis Tower a special one.
9. OCBC Skyway, Supertree Grove – Singapore
The Supertree’s of Singapore are one of the most remarkable attractions found in the country. The trees rise 80 to 165 feet above the ground, and serve as massive vertical gardens. During the day, the large canopies provide shelter from the sun, and at night they are converted to provide an entertaining light show. The OCBC Skyway provides travelers a chance to get up close to the trees, suspended 72 feet in the air.
8. Skywalk on Tianmen Mountain – Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China
This remote skywalk is 800 miles from Shanghai, 4,700 feet up in the mountains. Despite the spectacular views high up in the peaks, the search for workers willing to clean the glass floor has been unsuccessful, meaning visitors are required to wear sock boots while up on the skywalk. The floor hugs the side of the mountain, providing breathtaking scenery.
7. Top of Tyrol – Austria
The mountains in Austria are already a spectacular sight to take in, but stepping out onto the steel floor at Stubai Glacier means visitors can see through to 10,500 feet below, a frightening realization. From the platform which juts out 30 feet from the rocks of the glacier, tourists can see Italy from where they are standing. While this platform is seldom open in the winter, yoga and meditation can be seen atop the summit during the summer months. Despite this being more of a platform than a skywalk, the views are still just as thrilling.
6. Grand Canyon’s Sky Walk – Arizona
This skywalk was built in 2007 and is a modern and spectacular way to take in what is already a hotspot on any traveler’s cross-country trek through America. Built in a horseshoe shape, the Canyon’s sky walk takes the tourist out into the gap of the Grand Canyon itself, overseeing the Colorado River, and the open mouth of the world-famous natural wonder.
5. SkyPoint Climb – Australia
In a land known best for its barren outback terrain, one would be forgiven for thinking Australia wouldn’t be home to a breathtaking skywalk. Skypoint Climb over the Q1 building sets the record straight with a thrilling skywalk the overlooks Australia’s gorgeous Gold Coast. Visitors can take in an incredible view of the waves as they roll onto the golden sandy beaches, and of the tropical mountains below. While there may be some more famous climbs down under, the SkyPoint Climb is the highest external building climb in the country.
4. SkyWalk – Auckland, New Zealand
The SkyWalk in Auckland, the largest urban area in New Zealand, offers a thrilling walk on a narrow outdoor walkway around the top of the city’s famous Sky Tower. Situated 630 feet above the ground, this skywalk is daring as it is but guests who would rather a bit more intense experience can try the SkyJump. For those brave enough to try, don’t just walk around the tallest building in New Zealand, hurl yourself off it! Jumpers reach speeds up to 85 km per hour as they plummet toward the ground.
3. Glacier Skywalk – Alberta
A brand new attraction in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, the Glacier Skywalk is located on the Icefields Parkway near the border of picturesque Banff and Jasper National Parks. The views of the mountains and glaciers are truly unforgettable, enhanced even more so by the glass-bottom platform that is suspended over 720 feet in the air over the valley below. The whole 1 hour experience is told in an interpretive story-telling format, allowing guests to really connect with the natural world around them.
2. Skywalk X – Macau, China
Situated on a narrow outdoor walkway, some 765 feet in the sky, Skywalk X provides a view from above in Macau, China. If being that high up in the air isn’t enough, there are no handrails to hold on to as visitors are supported by a harness alone. For those who want to push the boundaries of bravery, guests are allowed to sit on the edge or lean over, with night time providing an even more breathtaking experience.
1. EdgeWalk CN Tower – Toronto
The first glass floor of its kind can be attributed to the CN Tower in Toronto Canada, but that wasn’t enough. 13 storeys above that floor (for a total of 126) at 1,465 ft., walk around the entire circumference of the CN tower on the EdgeWalk. This is the world’s highest hands-free walk, and participants can even go home with their own video of the experience, as well as take a peak into the Rogers Centre to see how the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team are doing that night.
The West Coast Trail is a breathtakingly beautiful 47 mile (75 km) backpacking route on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, BC. The trail was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail because it was built in 1907 as a way to rescue shipwreck survivors along the coast. The trail is now a part of Pacific Rim National Park and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the island to hike what’s widely considered one of the world’s best hiking trails. Be forewarned, this trek is not for beginners due to its length and difficult terrain and each year many hikers are evacuated from the trail due to injury, illness and hypothermia. If you’re planning on taking on this most rewarding challenge here are some tips from experienced hikers who’ve done the trail to help with your planning:
1. Waterproof Everything
If you’ve ever bought waterproof hiking equipment you already know it usually comes with a hefty price, but in this case it’s worth it. BC is widely known to get lots of annual rainfall and the old growth forests in which the trail runs through are actually rainforests (Yes, rainforests in Canada!). So be prepared for wet days with a good breathable rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof boots (Gortex is a good option) and a rain cover for your pack. It’s also recommended that you line your pack with a garbage bag and make sure your sleeping bag is in a waterproof dry bag or compression sack. Also, be mentally prepared because being wet for days on end can take its toll on the most experienced hikers.
2. Blisters Will Happen
If they don’t, consider yourself lucky! Chances are though that you’ll experience a few of these while out on the trail. Good boots can help minimize your discomfort but some feet just blister more easily than others. Some ways to help this are to use moleskins which are pre-cut fabric bandages that can be built up around an un-popped blister to minimize friction. Duct tape is also very handy and it seems to stay put on your feet longer than a bandage alone. In the morning before putting your boots on for the day, carefully pop and drain the fluid from any un-popped blisters, put on some antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage, then use duct tape over the bandage to help keep it on longer. For the most part, the beautiful scenery of the trail will distract you from thinking about those sore feet!
3. Your Body Will Hurt
You can prepare for this by training and getting ready fitness-wise but after having a 30-40lb pack on your back for 7 or so days, things are bound to get sore. Feet, shoulders and back are common complaints and trudging through sand and gravel on the beach routes will really work your legs but your body should adjust a little after the first couple days of carrying this heavy load. Just another mental challenge to overcome as when one thing seems to stop aching you’ll find an entirely different one has come up. Just remember pain is temporary and your WCT memories will last a lifetime.
4. Love Your Pack
It’s going to be both your best friend and your enemy for the next 7 or so days so it’s advised you select your pack wisely. Taking along one you’ve had for a while is great because you should know its fit and how it feels on you but if you’re buying a new one, get professional help with fitting from the store staff. Not every pack will work on every body type and bags often come in short, regular and tall sizes. Before heading out on the trek, put some weight in your pack and take a couple walks with it on to get a feel for the weight and help identify any areas of discomfort.
5. Invest in a Good Tent
Getting a decent night’s rest is important when you’re hiking all day every day, so investing in a good quality tent is important. While borrowing a friend’s tent or using that old one you’ve had for years might save money, you don’t know what you’re getting performance wise so if you go this route make sure you test it out beforehand. Something good in the rain is important because there’s nothing worse than waking up in the night with a wet sleeping bag. We recently tested the Tadpole 2 by The North Face out on the trail and found it performed extremely well, especially on the rainy days. It was quick and easy to set up and fit 2 adults quite comfortably. Best of all, while others in our group woke up with a wet tent, ours kept us dry and warm.
6. Selecting the Right Sleeping Bag
This one is almost as equally important as choosing the right tent because the right sleeping bag can mean the difference between a good nights rest or walking up cold in the night. When chosing between a down or synthetic bag, consider the possability of wet weather is very high and if a down bag gets wet it will no longer keep you warm. While the major disadvantage of a synthetic bag is heavier weight and more bulk in your pack, we believe it’s worth it to ensure a warm sleep. On the trail we brought the Dolomite 20/-7 by The North Face, which is a 3 season synthetic bag and found that even when it got a bit wet from condensation, it still kept us toasty warm. Another benefit was the space this bag offered with its tapered rectangular shape which provides more room to stretch than compared with a mummy-style bag.
7. Importance of Good Meals
You’ll burn A LOT of calories out there hiking the rugged terrain of the West Coast Trail so to keep your energy levels up it’s important to consider your meals carefully. Many outdoor stores sell the easy freeze-dried backpacker meals and while these are simple, lightweight and deliver a generous calorie count, they often lack balanced nutrition. Yes carbs and protein are important while hiking but that doesn’t mean fruits and vegetables aren’t. If you have the time (and enthusiasm) try dehydrating your own fruits and vegetables for the trail as you’ll get great nutrition without the preservatives of store-bought dried fruits and veg. Fruits can be eaten straight up or added to oatmeal for simple delicious breakfasts while vegetables can be rehydrated and added to pasta, rice and beans or couscous.
8. Animal Encounters
The West Coast Trail is both remote and wild so it’s no surprise you’ll be sharing the space with some beautiful but dangerous animals. Black bears can be common throughout the Pacific Rim Park so care should be taken as they will defend their cubs and their territory if threatened. The bigger concern on the trail is cougars. These large cats while elusive are at the top of the food chain and have historically attacked and consumed humans. One small animal not mentioned in many WCT guides are the mice that inhabit the campsites of the trail. Keep your pack closed up or you might just get a little surprise when you reach in as they’re looking for any crumbs they can find. To protect yourself from the more dangerous animals, you can carry bear spray (which can also be used on cougars), hike in a group and make lots of noise, ensure all food and other scented products are properly stored in bear bins at night, and most of all respect these creatures and their space.
9. North-South vs. South-North
Hikers have the option of doing this trek in either direction; by starting north from Pacheena Bay near Bamfield and heading south or starting at Port Renfrew in the south and heading north. The southern part of the trail is notoriously challenging, much more so than the flatter boardwalk sections in the north end. Which way you choose to go is really a personal preference. Some say doing it north to south will ensure your pack is lighter once you get to the ladders and elevation down south however we opted to do it south to north and were happy to have gotten through the most challenging parts while our energy levels were at their highest. No matter which approach you choose you’re guaranteed a challenging and rewarding experience.
10. Water Filter
Since water weighs a lot, you can’t carry more than a couple bottles on your back while hiking those long days. You’ll be filling up your bottles at the many rivers and streams that run through the trail but it’s important not to drink the water without treatment because it can carry many different viruses and pathogens that can cause illness and disease such as Giardiasis. There’s several options for water treatment; boiling your water can be done in the evenings while at camp but while hiking it’s really a choice between iodine tablets or a water filter. Tablets are easy and light but won’t get rid of any particles that might come out of the stream and they also take 30 minutes to be fully effective. We chose to use a water filter, specifically the Saywer Squeeze filtration system. We loved this filter for its light weight and ease of use. All you do is fill up the pouch in the stream, screw on the filter and squeeze the water through right into your bottle. It filled up a standard Nalgene bottle quite quickly and best of all it has the highest filtration level on the market at 99.9999999%.
11. Poles or No Poles
Most advice you’ll find on the WCT will say that poles are a must and we won’t really disagree with this though our experts were split as some of them used them and some didn’t. Here are the pros of using trekking poles on the trail: they help with balance on slippery rocks and logs, help spread the workout to your upper body while going up or down the big hills and help you navigate where to step through the thick (and often deep) mud bogs. The cons: There are apx. 38 ladders on the trail that you must ascend or descend and the poles can get in the way (you can collapse them but this takes time and they can still get in the way). The poles can also get jammed up with sand and mud preventing them from collapsing when you need to. In our opinion the pros outweigh the cons on this one.
12. Mid-trek Treats
Yes the rumours are true…you can get a burger on the West Coast Trail. At km 45, just south of Carmanah Lighthouse you’ll find Chez Monique’s; serving up burgers (both beef and veggie), snacks and drinks to many ravenous hikers. Prepare yourself though because this burger comes with a price tag of $20 for a regular one or $25 for a ‘loaded burger’ with cheese, bacon and mushrooms. You’ll probably pay the hefty bill and not think twice about it because at that point any fresh food is just amazing. The second of the trail treats is a little more what you might expect in this kind of setting; at Nitinat Narrows where you must cross the water by ferry to continue the trail, you’ll find a First Nations family serving up the freshest seafood possible…including succulent crab pulled right from the water you ferry across. It’s a culinary experience that’s hard to pass up.
There are 13 ‘official’ campsites along the West Coast Trail with some other unofficial sites along the way as well. It’s recommended you camp at an official site rather than making your own and we agree that this is just easier because the sites provide bear bins so you don’t have to hang your food and outhouses for well…you know. Most sites are right on the beach but some have sites into the tree cover. Be careful of where you set up your tent on the beach because tides will fluctuate throughout the night. The most southern site known as Thrasher Cove offers an amazing sunrise while Tsusiat Falls in the north has a large waterfall and offers a reasonably good spot to bathe.
Even though the West Coast Trail is in a pretty remote location, there are several options for transportation to/from it. One of the cheapest options is to drive yourself as vehicles can be left at a number of locations near both the north and south trailheads. If you don’t want the hassle of driving yourself or if you’re traveling from elsewhere specifically to do the trail you can take a scheduled bus. The West Coast Trail Express shuttle bus service provides transportation from Victoria and Nanaimo to both north and south trailheads. With either land route option just be prepared for a long and bumpy ride as the northern route is a gravel logging road. There’s also the option of a ferry boat service between Bamfield and Port Renfrew which helps shorten some of the time spent on those bumpy logging roads.
The amount of time it takes to hike the West Coast Trail varies greatly depending on your speed (or that of your group overall) and on your individual approach to the trek. If you’re looking to break records and test your fitness abilities, some people have been known to run this trail in a day with the record being just over 9.5 hrs by a male in the summer of 2014. The average time for doing the WCT however is 6-7 days which is moving at a more leisurely pace that we feel allows time to stop and appreciate all the natural beauty you’re surrounded by because isn’t that why we’re all out here?
16. Aboriginal Lands
The West Coast Trail passes through the reserve lands of 3 different First Nations groups: Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht. Each group has a guardian stationed along the trail to help monitor and patrol the area. If you get the chance to talk with any of these guardians during your trek it’ll be a great experience as they’re always willing to share stories of their time on the trail, the area and their own culture. Always make sure you respect all signs while trekking through reserve lands as these are considered private property and hiking though these lands is considered a privilege, not a right. If you’re interested in learning more about the First Nations groups of Vancouver Islands west coast, there are many opportunities available through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserves.
We live in a modern age of travel where it’s just as possible to fly to the other side of the globe as it is to drive to a neighboring state. With this new found accessibility comes demand from consumers who yearn to see things few others have seen. But what’s the thing that many consumers say they hate most about traveling? Flying. Traveling and taking vacations are memorable experiences but the catch is always getting there. Confusing airports and busy terminals, lost luggage, tight cramped quarters, poor service and delay after delay after delay… This is often the reality faced by passengers world-wide and while some airlines are better than others, there are definitely those that are worse than others as well. These 15 airlines have all been called ‘the worst’ in one way or another and have reputations for delays, poor customer service and even some questionable business practices. Many have received a very poor 2 star rating from Skytrax Global Airline Ratings which bases its ratings on quality of product and service standards.
15. US Airways
One of the largest American airline carriers, US Airways has made attempts to change its reputation for lost luggage and poor overall quality and customer service. According to flightstats.com, the company’s global on-time performance for the first quarter of 2015 is an average of 75.34% with February reaching a low of 73.15% on-time. The good news is that the stats show US Airways seems to be making improvements, albeit they are slow ones. Their most recent stats on lost baggage claims as per the US Department of Transportation were 2.70 claims per 1,000 passengers. Not as bad as many on this list but definitely not good either.
14. Frontier Airlines
While American small carrier Frontier Airlines may have received an overall 3 star rating from Skytrax, a look at the closer details show many areas in which they were only given a 2 star rating including waiting times, standard of customer support service and boarding service efficiency. They actually only received a 1.5 star rating for handling delays/cancellations which is exceptionally low. Surprisingly, lost baggage isn’t as big of an issue with this airline as their stats for lost baggage show 2.21 claims per 1,000 passengers, though we attribute this to the much smaller size of this air carrier when compared to other American airlines.
13. United Airlines
This large American carrier has built a reputation for poor customer care…maybe even bordering on abusive as there have been cases of customers being left on the tarmac for hours on end. This reputation got so bad that in 2013 the US Department of Transportation actually fined the airline over $1 million for this offence. For the first quarter of 2015 they only have an on-time performance average of 75.39% with the month of February going as low as 72.96% on time. Not only are the delays a problem but lost luggage is a relatively common occurrence as well with a reported 3.66 baggage claims per 1,000 passengers according to the US Department of Transportation’s most recent statistics.
Tigerair, originally Tiger Airways is a Singapore born carrier that was meant to be on a similar level as low-budget European carrier Ryanair (mentioned later on this list). Singapore service started in 2004, with the carrier expanding to Australia in 2007. In both markets Tigerair is widely considered sub-par by passengers due to their poor customer service and cheap product where absolutely everything costs extra. The company was even known to use their own poor reputation and complaints record as a publicity stunt to show their bottom-basement airfare prices. It seems however that even Tigerair is trying to start a new and better reputation as in 2013 they changed their name from Tiger Airways to Tigerair. They should probably realize it’s going to take a lot more than a name change to get off the worst airlines list any time soon.
Europe is infamous for its number of low-budget air carriers and UK based EasyJet is exactly one of these airlines. No one should really expect luxuries with any budget carrier but that doesn’t mean passengers should have to sacrifice service just to get a good deal. In the Skytrax quality rating, the airline received 2 stars or lower in the areas of in-flight entertainment and handling delays/cancellations. They also received only 2.5 star ratings for airline product information, in-flight service information, and arrival assistance. It sounds like if you fly with EasyJet you’d better prepare yourself for a lack of information.
10. Pakistan International Airlines
If you’re the kind of person who values timeliness Pakistan International Airlines is not one you should consider flying with. So far in 2015 their on-time performance average is a dismal 37.53% -granted they only fly about 3,000 flights a month compared to a major carrier like US Airways who operates nearly 90,000 each month but one would think less flights might make it easier to be on time. In addition, the Skytrax ratings show only 2 star ratings for important areas like check-in services, arrival assistance, transfer services and staff language skills.
Dublin based carrier RyanAir isn’t just a budget airline it’s an ultra-budget airline. They’ve taken the phrase “you get what you pay for” to the extreme and with their cheap fares comes a cheap product as well. They’ve seemingly built their business on cutting corners in order to offer the lowest fares possible but as a result, customer experience is pretty atrocious. Seats do not recline meaning you’re upright the entire flight, they have no seatback pockets and historically the airline has even reduced the number of washrooms on board to make room for extra seats. Everything costs extra with Ryanair, from having an allocated seat to bringing an infant on your lap and even using a credit card.
8. China Eastern Airlines
Another airline to avoid if you can’t stand delays, China Eastern Airlines is headquartered out of Shanghai, China and operates as a budget carrier. According to flightstats.com global airline arrival performance, the company is plagued by issues with delays and cancellations. Their average on-time performance for 2015 thus far is 53.87% which is not only bad, but is worsened by the fact that this airline operates around 50,000 flights per month. We’d expect as large a carrier to have better organization and practices in place but then again, a look at some reviews on Yelp paint a clear picture of a very low-quality product and almost non-existent customer service.
7. Lion Air
Established in 1999, the Jakarta, Indonesia based airline Lion Air is the largest low cost carrier in Asia with service to Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, mainland China and Hong Kong. Despite being the biggest, the budget airline is certainly not the best. In fact, it’s far from it with problems like chronic delays and even drug use by pilots and crew. In 2011 the company was forced to ground 13 planes due to poor on-time performance until an OTP of 80% could be reached and in 2012 there were several incidents of pilots and crew members being found with crystal meth. In one case, a Lion Air pilot was arrested after testing positive for methamphetamine and had been scheduled to fly to Surabaya only a few hours later.
SmartWings is a european low-cost carrier based out of Prague, Czech Republic. They were established in 2008 and are owned by parent company Travel Service Airlines. A look at many reviews of this carrier paint a picture of deceptively low airfares with some even claiming poor business practices of charging fares and spontaneously cancelling flights a week before departure with no options to re-book. Skytrax ratings only gave the airline a 2 star overall rating with a mere 1 star in areas including product information, service information and online check-in. They also only received 2 stars in the areas of arrival assistance, cabin cleanliness and check-in wait times.
5. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines is the only 2-star rated airline on this list that operates in America. They’ve gained a strong reputation for being cheap to the extreme…and not in a good way. Outrageous fees like charging for carry-on luggage and strict no-refund policies all worsen the customer experience. Seats do not recline and passengers often complain about the cramped conditions. Skytrax gave them very poor ratings in the areas of in-flight entertainment, cabin cleanliness, staff enthusiasm and attitude, staff response to requests and handling of delays/cancellations. It seems the only good thing about this airline are the low-fares but clearly these come at a cost.
4. Nepal Airlines
This tiny national carrier of Nepal is based in Kathmandu and has a fleet size of only 7 active aircraft, most of which are relatively old. Skytrax only gave them a 2 star overall rating for product and service quality with only 1 star being awarded in areas like on-board comfort, in-flight entertainment, washrooms/shower facilities and the company’s website. They may not be the most reliable of airlines either with many passenger reports of sudden flight cancellations. This is clear when looking at their on-time performance for February 2015 as they’re on-time performance of 34% is nearly matched by their flight cancellations at 32%. Rightly so, Nepal Airlines was banned from flying within the EU in 2013.
3. Pegasus Airlines
Pegasus Airlines is another low-cost budget carrier and is the second largest airline in Turkey. It was named the cheapest low-cost European carrier in both 2013 and 2014, but cheap usually comes at a cost. Pegasus operates only 1 flight class on their aircraft with no in-flight entertainment or meals. Skytrax ratings gave nothing higher than a 3-star rating for any of the rated categories with the areas of standard of customer support service, handling delays/cancellations, in-flight entertainment and staff language skills all receiving below 2 stars.
2. Bulgaria Air
A relatively new carrier, Bulgaria Air was founded in 2002 and is based out of the
Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Even though this article is focused on product and customer service rather than safety, it’s worth noting that there are reports of numerous incidents where this airline has had aircraft skid off the runway and has had sanctions on flying in American airspace due to a lack of equipment safety documents. Skytrax ratings gives the airline a 2 star overall rating with some of the poorest rated categories being in-flight entertainment, staff response to requests, transfer services and arrival assistance.
1. Air Koryo
This North Korean state-owned carrier is the only airline to receive a 1 star overall rating from Skytrax airline rating system. That easily puts Air Koryo in the #1 spot for worst airline for product and customer service in the world. The amount of extremely poor 1 and 2 star ratings in the Skytrax categories are too numerous to name but here’s just a few: check-in service, transfer service, arrival assistance, comfort, language skills, and staff response to request all the the lowest ranking of 1 star. Air Koryo was also banned from flying within the EU in 2006 due to safety and maintenance concerns. In 2010 they were allowed to fly certain Tu-204s aircraft into the EU after improved safety features, however all other aircraft in the company’s fleet remain banned.
Few travelers would argue that dealing with their stay at the airport is like running the gauntlet. There are numerous reasons to hate it, ranging from enduring security measures to navigating the vast expanse. That said, the most irritating part of being at the airport is other travelers. Many also exhibit some pretty outlandish behavior. Here are the 12 most annoying things travelers do in airports.
1. Conversing Loudly
You’re sitting in the lounge at your gate, just trying to enjoy a book or catch a few winks. Meanwhile, the person next to you is having the world’s noisiest conversation. They don’t seem to get that nobody’s interested in their dirty laundry. It’s almost as if they think that nothing you’re trying to do could possibly be more fascinating or important than hearing about their personal business.
2. Loud Music
The day they came out with cell phones featuring speakers was the day the world let out a collective groan. As if hearing loud, awful music from passing cars wasn’t bad enough, you’re now forced to endure it in airports. Maybe it’s the rise of social media that causes people think it’s okay to make spectacles of themselves, but that doesn’t make it any less rude. Nobody wants to listen to your music. That’s why headphones exist.
3. Disgusting Food
While a tuna and limburger sandwich might seem delicious to you, it makes everyone else want to vomit. Bringing your own food is a wise decision, but please leave the stink at home.
4. Misbehaving Children
Every parent knows that kids can be difficult to control. However, that doesn’t make it alright for parents to let their children go nuts. Few things are more grating than small children running around and screaming. What’s even worse is when no real attempt is made to control them. Sorry parents, but politely asking little Brittany to use her “inside voice” isn’t going to cut it. Furthermore, kids running amok poses a hazard to other travelers. Hot coffee is hot, and all it takes for someone to get third-degree burns is for an unruly child to crash into them at full speed.
5. Joking With Security
Shockingly, this happens a lot. When asked whether they packed their own luggage, someone just has to get smart. What happens then is that security, bound by law, must thoroughly inspect that person’s bags. As a result, everyone else gets held up. It might be tempting to crack jokes, but it’s not worth it unless you like being embarrassed.
6. Crazy Attire
While it’s ridiculous that you can’t wear whatever you want on the plane, that’s the way things have become. The news is awash in stories of travelers being denied boarding rights because of short shorts, low-cut blouses and shirts with potentially offensive messages. Body piercings also present a problem. All that metal is going to set off the detector, and the more you have to take out, the longer you hold everyone up. Do everybody a favor and leave the shocking attire at home.
7. Obnoxious Chewing
Eating and chewing gum are all fine and good, that is until it gets obnoxious. How many times have you been seated next to someone who insisted on chewing with their mouth wide open or incessantly popping their gum? If you’re like most, once was too much. Even in a crowded airport, a certain level of table manners should be displayed.
8. Argumentative Passengers
There’s always somebody who feels the need to argue with staff about their baggage or some other triviality. Besides making a scene, this also forces everyone to wait longer.
9. Slow Walkers
This is understandable for the elderly or disabled. However, there’s no reason why a young, able-bodied person can’t get a move on. Airport goers are already in a hurry and slow-pokes just make matters worse.
10. Carousel Crowders
Standing as close as you can get to the baggage claim isn’t going to make your luggage come out faster. Nor are most people interested in taking whatever might be in them. Crowding just makes everything more inconvenient, especially for people with large or many bags.
11. Not Paying Attention
There are always people in the security line who, despite what everyone else is doing, don’t realize they need to remove their shoes or empty their pockets. When they finally get to the checkpoint, they’re surprised and annoyed that they must follow suit.
12. Public Diaper Changes
Many a horror story circulates the Internet about parents changing their kids’ diapers right there in the terminal for all to see. Dirty diapers don’t just smell putrid. They’re also unsightly and unsanitary. Plus, who wants to sit in a seat that a poopy baby has been changed on? There are changing stations in the bathrooms for a reason. Try to use them.