The Blog

Jumping Into Local Culture: An Interview with Lauren Studen

For most people, travel is the perfect way to explore another place. No matter what the destination, travel affords us the opportunity to experience the local culture, to get out of our comfort zone and try something new and different. At the very least, it gives us a chance to step into another life, even if it is momentary.

Here at LeafCanoe, we love talking to other travelers and hearing about why they travel. Recently, we chatted with LeafCanoer, Lauren Studen, who writes about her travels on the blog, “Girl x Departure.” Lauren is a student living and studying in Istanbul, and writes about her experiences traveling abroad. She also has some great reviews of destinations and hotels in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and provides plenty of helpful tips and resources to get you started on your own travels. Lauren’s blog has been featured on other blogs, including Tripoto and Perrero Travel. She certainly has a lot to share when it comes to travel!

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In addition, Lauren has written several great leaves on the LeafCanoe app, including her most recent one, “15 Things to do in Bangkok.” In it, she shares her suggestions for temples to see and things to do, as well as the perfect place to get the best view of the city or the best street food. It’s a great leaf to refer to for anyone interested in a trip to Bangkok.

When we reached out to Lauren, we wanted to hear about what it that is she loves about travel, and how she experiences the local culture during her travels. Here’s a snippet of our interview:

When did you start to travel and get the travel bug?
I started traveling as a child due to my multinational background (my mom is from Poland and my dad is from Serbia), but I really got the travel bug after living a year abroad in the US at the age of 16.

What do you look for when you travel?
I love to get a sense of how the people actually live in their countries. I try to have a local experience by trying the country’s foods, exploring local spots and learning about their culture.

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How many countries have you visited, which one is your favorite and why?
I’ve been to probably 18 countries and it’s so hard to pick a favorite. I think I have to go with Thailand and Turkey. Both countries have amazing landscapes, the nicest locals and delicious food!

What’s the most amazing travel experience you have had so far?
I really loved flying in a hot air balloon over the otherworldly scenery of Cappadocia in Turkey, bathing an elephant in Thailand, swimming with dolphins in the Red Sea and living abroad in the US and Istanbul.

What leaves can we expect next from you?
Definitely leaves about my hometown Berlin and my current location Istanbul.

We loved the insight that Lauren gave us about experiencing as much of the local culture as possible. This is most certainly the best way to learn about any country that you’re visiting. Besides her leaf about Bangkok, Lauren also has a leaf called “10 Free Things To Do in Istanbul,” as well as “Things To Do In Cappadocia, Turkey.” In these leaves, she gives us plenty of helpful suggestions to experience Turkey when you’re on a budget, as well as beautiful pictures to fuel your wanderlust for travel. To read more about these leaves, check out our posts, “How to Explore Istanbul for Free” and “The Best Way to Experience Cappadocia.”

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Ready to do your own exploring? Download the LeafCanoe app to get more ideas of how to experience the local culture in your next travel destination.

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Seven Can’t Miss 2016 Travel Destinations

Traveling the world is not just about seeing a destination, it’s also about experiencing the culture. One of the best ways to experience a place is by attending a local festival or event. 2016 is full of international events, both large and small. From high profile events like the Olympics Games, to lesser known festivals like the International Festival in the Sahara, we’ve compiled our favorite events and destinations to experience for 2016.

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So get your bags packed and cameras ready, here are the seven can’t miss destinations for 2016 travel.

Thailand
By far, one of the more playful festivals to experience this year is the Songkran Water Festival, which takes place all over Thailand in April. Songkran marks the beginning of the new year in Thailand, and is also the start of the summer season. Revelers traditionally celebrate the festival by splashing water on each other as a way to wish each other a year full of blessings. Bangkok has one of the largest celebrations of Songkran, but other cities such as Chiang Mai also have pretty big celebrations.

2016 travel

France
France has always been a destination on many travelers’ list. This year, it’s also the destination for the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament, also known as the Euro Cup, which will take place in June. In addition to Paris, matches will take place in cities like Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, and Marseille. Even if you’re not planning on attending any of the football matches, there’s always a good reason to visit France and explore this beautiful country.

2016 travel

Pamplona, Spain
Every year in July, the city of Pamplona comes together for the eight day festival of Saint Fermin. Although the most famous event of festival is the Running of the Bulls, the festival of Saint Fermin has plenty of other events worth checking out. The city of Pamplona itself is also worth exploring, as it has several Roman ruins as well as ruins dating back to the early Middle Ages.

2016 travel

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Besides being the site of this year’s Olympic Games in August, Rio de Janeiro has always been known for its beaches, music scene, and Carnival, the city-wide celebration just before Lent. This seaside city in Brazil has a lot to offer its visitors, from high end upscale resorts to down-to-earth hotels. These days, Rio has also become a gathering point for LGBT travelers, who number over one million each year.

2016 travel

Albuquerque, New Mexico
The annual International Balloon Fiesta is a perfect excuse to visit the city of Albuquerque. Held every year in early October, the balloon fiesta showcases hot air balloons from all over the world, and provides a colorful addition to the already stunning background of the area’s mountainous landscape. Albuquerque itself is rich with Southwestern culture, and some of the nearby cities like Santa Fe or Taos are also worth visiting.

2016 travel

Mexico
For a deeper taste of Mexican culture, head south of the border to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead. Considered a national holiday in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a day to honor the deceased. This holiday is celebrated around the days of October 31 to November 2, and is characterized by the colorful sugar skulls and bountiful food that is served during this time.

2016 travel

Douz, Tunisia
The final event to cap off the year is the International Festival of the Sahara, which takes place in November in Douz, Tunisia. This festival began in 1910 and is a four day celebration of Bedouin culture. The event attracts over 50,000 people, with more and more Westerners attending each year. The highlight of the festival is the camel race, but there are also music and dancing, as well as a Bedouin marriage ceremony, all set within the backdrop of the desert sand dunes.

2016 travel

These are our top 2016 travel destinations and events to check out. To see what LeafCanoers have to say about these destinations, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Eight Must-See Cities in Germany

No country in the world is as well-known for its precision and order much like Germany. With so much stress on efficiency and organization, one would think that Germany would be a dull place to visit. But nothing could be farther from the truth!

cities in Germany

LeafCanoer, sociokathy, recently shared her highlights from living in Germany in her leaf entitled, “Destination Dresden.” Focusing on the city of Dresden, sociokathy’s leaf is full of helpful tips and suggestions of what to visit in Dresde. But there is more to Germany than just the city of Dresden. The country is chock full of cities waiting to be explored. For those planning a trip, here are eight must-see cities in Germany:

Berlin
The largest city in Germany, Berlin is also the country’s capital city. Berlin was once a divided city, separated by a wall running through the center of the city. The western part of the city, known as West Berlin belonged to the French, Americans, and British, while the rest of the city, known as East Berlin, belonged to the former USSR. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the city of Berlin, as well as the rest of the country, became united.

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Cologne
Situated along the Rhine River, the city of Cologne is one of Germany’s most liberal cities. The main attraction in Cologne is the Dom Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those interested in religious architecture, the city has other historical churches and synagogues worth visiting.

cities in Germany

Dresden
The city of Dresden can be found in the state of Saxon. It is known as a cultural center in the region, and is a popular city to visit among Germans, attracting around ten million tourists each year. Many tourists enjoy visiting the city’s historic center, which has a large selection of interesting buildings, palaces, and gardens.

cities in Germany

Munich
The Bavarian city of Munich is also worth a visit. Known primarily for its Oktoberfest celebrations, Munich is also a technological hub in Germany.  For visitors to Munich, there are several royal avenues, squares, and palaces worth visiting. Munich is also one of Germany’s art capitals, and within the city, there are over 16 museums and 40 galleries to choose from.

cities in Germany

Hamburg
As Germany’s largest port, and Europe’s second busiest port, Hamburg is often called Germany’s Gateway to the World.  The fish market, located on the harbor, is worth a visit, as are other parts of the city, including city hall and the Speicherstadt, the city’s historical warehouse district. Besides the importance of the harbor, Hamburg has also become one of Germany’s media hubs.

cities in Germany

Dusseldorf
The city of Dusseldorf is known for its vibrant nightlife, abundant shopping, and exciting events. Each summer, the city hosts the Kirmes Fun Fair, which attracts more than 4 million people annually. One part of the city worth visiting is the Old Town, which is home to shopping malls, as well as bars, coffee shops, and brewing houses.

cities in Germany

Frankfurt
Known as the business and financial center of Germany, Frankfurt is a bustling hub of commerce and technology. The city is famous for its skyline, which features futuristic architecture, but there are also many well-maintained historical buildings scattered throughout the city.  Frankfurt attracts millions of tourists each year, and is one of Germany’s transport hubs, both for air travel and train travel.

cities in Germany

Heidelberg
The city of Heidelberg is the quintessential German city, full of beautiful historical architecture and neighborhoods. You can easily spend your days strolling through the Alstadt, Heidelburg’s city center, or take a hike up Heiligenberg mountain to see an aerial view of the city. In addition to the sites, Heidelberg also has more than eight theaters, to ensure your entertainment options are not limited.

cities in Germany

These eight cities in German are not to be missed, especially if you have a lot of time to spare on your upcoming trip to Germany. You can check out more of sociokathy’s leaf to get additional ideas of what to visit in Dresden. And to get information and tips on other destinations, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Visit Granada! Six Ways to Explore the City

The city of Granada has always been a popular tourist destination for Europeans. With its mild climate and beautiful historical buildings, it’s no wonder many people come to visit Granada. LeafCanoer, nikkistewart, recently posted about her trip to Granada in her leaf title, “Granada in Southern Spain.” Like many visitors before her, she was captivated by the beauty of the city’s architecture, and the abundance of activities to do in and around the city. For those wanting to see the sights for themselves, here are six ways to explore the city when you visit Granada.

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Moorish Architecture
Granada was once controlled by the Moors, a nomadic people from Northern Africa, of Arab and Berber descent. They came to the area in the 700s, and at one time ruled Spain, Portugal and parts of southern France. Their power began to decline in the 13th and 14th centuries, and by the 1600s, they were completely expelled from the area.  Although the Moors no longer dominate the city of Granada, their architecture still live on in many of the city’s historical buildings.

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The beauty of Alhambra
One of the most popular and well known buildings featuring Moorish architecture is Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex located in Granada. Originally built as a fortress in the late 9th century, Alhambra was renovated and rebuilt into a palace in the 13th and 14th centuries. Now, the palace is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site and is visited by over 2 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited sites in Spain. There are four groups of buildings within the Alhambra complex: Alcazaba (the oldest part of the fortress), the Nasrid Palaces (the most elaborately designed part of the complex), the Palace of Charles V (the newest portion of the complex, built for the Spanish emperor in the 16th century), and Generalife (the garden portion of the complex). Tickets are needed to visit the site, and tourists can choose among a daytime visit, a garden visit, or an evening visit.

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Magnificent cathedrals
Moorish architecture and Alhambra are not the only reasons to visit Granada. The city is also well known for a number of beautiful and magnificent cathedrals. One of the most visited is the Granada Cathedral, which was built in the 15th century, after the departure of the Moors. The architecture of the cathedral features Gothic and Spanish Renaissance design. The cathedral is still in use, and is the current seat of the Archdiocese of Granada.

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Proximity to the Sierra Nevada
For the outdoor enthusiast, Granada offers a quick trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains, as the city is situated right at its base. Skiing is a popular activity at the Sierra Nevada. In fact, the mountains are one of the popular skiing destinations in Europe, with over 40 kilometers of skiable area. In the summer months, visitors to the Sierra Nevada can hike, trek, camp, and even horseback ride through the mountains.

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Unique shopping experiences
Granada is also known for its flea markets. There are at least four flea markets in the city, happening on various days during the week. The Plaza Large flea market in the Albaicin neighborhood runs every day. On Wednesdays, the La Chana district holds a flea market, and on Saturdays, the city’s most densely populated district, Zaidin, also hosts a flea market. The Cartuja flea market is also a popular one for shopping, held on Sunday mornings in Almanjayar.

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Muslim influences with a European twist
If shopping is not your cup of tea, the final reason to visit Granada is to admire the neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods and sights in Granada have been influenced by the Muslims who once lived in the city. One neighborhood worth visiting is Albayzin, one of the former Muslim quarters in Granada. Parte Vieja, also known as the Old Quarter, is also worth visiting, as this was once the commercial center of the city. Additionally, the Realjo district is worth a stroll as it offers a wide selection of bars, cafes, and tapas bars.

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There are many reasons to visit Granada, and it certainly is one of the not-to-miss destinations of Europe. For more ideas on what to see and do in Granada, as well as other places around the world, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Seven Ways to Spend an English Holiday in St. Ives

The summer months may be long gone here in the Northern Hemisphere, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t still dream of warm sand and sparkling beaches. We often associate beaches with tropical destinations like Southeast Asia or Central America, but England actually has its fair share of excellent beaches. One of the best beaches in England can be found in St. Ives Bay in the county of Cornwall, England.

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Leafcanoer, declanbradley, recently posted a leaf titled “Things to do in St. Ives” about his visit to St. Ives. It’s packed with suggestions for activities to do and sights to visit in the town. For those planning a visit, here are seven ways to spend a holiday in St. Ives.

Soak in some art
St. Ives has long been a popular stomping ground for artists. Many of them are drawn to the town’s stunning landscape, and it is often reflected in the art that is produced, be it painting, sculpture, or photography. There are a number of art galleries worth visiting, including the New Millenium Gallery, one of the largest independent art galleries in Cornwall, and St. Ives Ceramics, which contains a collection of pottery from local and international potters. The Tate Gallery is also located in St. Ives.

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Lounge on the beach
St. Ives is best known for its beaches. Stretching over 50 miles along the coastline, the Bay of St. Ives has a number of beaches where you can enjoy a swim or a surf. The most popular beach is Porthmeor beach, which boasts amazing surfing and a great atmosphere for families.

Learn to surf
Because of the geography of St. Ives, the beaches in the area provide excellent waves for surfers. The St. Ives Surf School, popular among surfers, offers surfing lessons for surfers of all levels, as well kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.

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Stroll through a garden
No trip to England would be complete without a visit to an English garden, and St. Ives has no shortage of those. In town, there are five gardens that you can visit: Trewyn Gardens, Memorial Gardens, The Malakoff, Tregenna Castle Hotel Garden, and Chy-an-Gweal Gardens. Any of these gardens are worth checking out, and can provide a nice relaxing respite from a busy day.

Enjoy drinks at a pub
After a long day of playing on the beach, it’s nice to get a cold drink at the pub. The harbor has several bars and pubs to choose from, including St. Ives’ oldest pub, The Sloop. Nearby Fore Street also has a good selection of pubs.

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Sip afternoon tea
If alcohol is not your thing, perhaps you might enjoy a hot cup of tea instead. The Tearoom, located on the Wharf, is a favorite among visitors to St. Ives, as well as The Courtyard, located on Fore Street. Hotels like the St. Ives Harbour Hotel offers their afternoon tea on the hotel terrace, where guests can enjoy beautiful views of the water while sipping their tea.

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Take a boat tour
St. Ives Bay is a beautiful location, and worth exploring by boat. Many boat companies offer trips around the bay, including trips to Hell’s Mouth, Godrevy Lighthouse, and Seal Island. Excursions can be done via high-speed boats, or you can hire your own boat to explore the bay. For a more slow-paced option, many boat companies also offer kayak hire.

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St. Ives is a place worth visiting, with its wonderful beaches and abundance of activities and sights to see. Whether you’re there for a short weekend trip, or for an extended stay, you’re sure to enjoy all that St. Ives has to offer.

Ready for your own holiday in St. Ives? Check out declanbradley’s leaf by downloading the LeafCanoe app. Or explore the other leaves posted on Leaf Canoe for more vacation ideas.

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Experience Belgrade Street Art

No matter what part of the world, every major city has its own form of street art. Once considered a form of vandalism, street art has grown into a respectable art form, with a growing cadre of internationally-recognized artists among its ranks. Street art received its start in New York City in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when gangs would write graffiti on the sides of train carts and walls. As the years progressed, street art began to take on a more political stance, as youth would use this art form as an anonymous way to express their social and political opinions. Street art gained popularity especially in the 1980’s, when graffiti art was experiencing a boom.

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Since then, street art has spread all over the world, incorporating different mediums and methods. Street art can be seen in cities like Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Melbourne, and even Johannesburg. Several conferences exist to showcase the works of street artists, including one annual street conference called Living Walls. In addition to the traditional use of spray paint, street artists these days express their art through the use of stickers, stencils, art installations, and also video projections. Some of the more internationally known and influential street artists include Banksy, Basquiat, Os Gemeos, and Blek le Rat.

In the Serbian city of Belgrade, street art has become a socially accepted form of art. Though it hasn’t lost its socio-political messaging, the Belgrade street art scene has done much to bring color and culture to the city, turning once desolate neighborhoods into a vibrant place. Within the Savamala neighborhood, street art has decorated a large portion of the walls. Leafcanoer, grassrootsnomad, recently posted a leaf highlighting Belgrade street art called, “Savamala street art – Belgrade.” Street art in Belgrade has become so popular, visitors can even take a tour of the city’s street art.

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Street art came to Belgrade in the early 2000’s. Initially consisting of graffiti and murals painted in various parts of the city, street art began to take off, as artists came to the city to showcase their sticker and stencil work. Over time, these pieces gained publicity and popularity, and were eventually included in the city’s arts festivals. This was a big step towards the social acceptance of street art as a legitimate form of art, especially in Serbia. Currently, street art fills the walls of almost every part of Belgrade, even in building hallways and school yards.

There are several well-known Belgrade street artists, including TKV, Lortek, AID, Street Dog, and Sila. Their works can be seen throughout various parts of Belgrade. One prominent piece of street art, which consists of a mural on the side of the building, is a piece entitled “Waiting for the Sun.” This piece was created by artist, Aleksandar Macasev, and supposedly was loosely based on a vintage Hungarian matchbox, originating from the post-war Socialist period. A well-known artist and designer, Macasev is best known for his mass-media work.

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Once previously written off as simply vandalism, street art has grown to become an internationally recognized and respected form of art. With street artists living in all corners of the world, street art has absorbed the cultural, social, and political leanings of its locale. In the Serbian city of Belgrade, the street art has been credited with changing the city from an industrial relic of the Soviet era, to an up and coming urban cultural center.

Interested in exploring more Serbian street art? Check out more of grassrootsnomad’s leaf, “Savamala – street art of Belgrade.” For more ideas of where and what to explore in Serbia, as well as the rest of Europe, download the Leafcanoe app.

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Traveling to Greece During the Economic Crisis – A Good or Bad Idea for A Couple?

The Romantic Getaway on Everyone’s Lips in 2015

Without a doubt this summer belongs to Greece. The country has not only been a hot topic for the last couple of months due to its economic crisis, but, it was also on the lips of everyone planning  an affordable summer vacation with his or her significant other. This beautiful and archeologically dense country whose income is based largely on tourism is obviously an important topic for the LeafCanoe team, as we always strive to give you the most reliable and updated traveling tips and information.

In July, we’ve already written about “Pros and Cons” of traveling to Greece during its economic crisis (READ MORE), and right after our article, we have received many questions from the community regarding safety measures and other practical tips on traveling to Greece this year. You’ve asked, so we decided to investigate further and find out the details, as well as special recommendation on where to travel during the economical crisis in Greece.

We interviewed Alex, a LeafCanoer who traveled for 2 weeks across Greek’s islands with her boyfriend and another lovely couple. They came back with the hottest news and still-fresh memories of Greece! We are happy to share the details of their stunning journey and hopefully help you in planning your own dream trip to Greece in an efficient way!

Alex’s Point of View: 9 Things  She Learned About Traveling In Greece  In 2015

Alex, you traveled to Greece from Switzerland with your boyfriend and another couple by car….

1. Is Greece indeed a great destination for a couple?
It has the most romantic sunsets in the world, friendly people and angelic landscapes: just white and blue all around you. Plus, there are a lot of activities for couples who plan to stay for 2 weeks, including quad rides, kitesurfing or donkey rides, so you won’t get quickly bored.

2. Sounds fun. Just wondering, why did you choose Greece, again? You’ve been there for three times, already…
First of all, I’ve never been to islands before as I was hanging out mostly in the mainland exploring (for example) Athens. There’s plenty of things to see in Greece and one week will never be enough, unless you want to run instead of enjoying a truly romantic time with your significant other. Secondly, Greece is pretty cheap and only gets cheaper, and we planned a 2 week holiday on a budget in Europe this year.

3. You weren’t concerned about the big Greek economical crisis?
I was thinking about it for a while, but then we found a really good accommodation deal and  read through many positive reviews of others traveling to Greece. We decided to take the risk and it was worth it. At the end of the day there was practically no sign of an economical crisis everyone was talking about.  Well, we haven’t been to mainland Greece this time, so it’s hard to say what’s happening there, but on the islands it was just like an old, beautiful Greece – full of chilled people, delicious food and wonderful landscapes with lively-as-always villages.   

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4. How did you get to Greece from Switzerland?
By car through Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Albania…and it was a big mistake. Half of the time it took us getting somewhere, so out of 14 days of holiday, only 4 days I spent on my favorite activity which is beachin’. From the other side it was great to see majestic mountains and Vietnam rice paddies-like fields in Croatia, but if I had to choose I would simply fly over to Greece next time. Just to save more time for chilling in Greece.

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5. What place on the way to Greece did you love the most?
Probably Dubrovnik in Croatia, where they shot Game of Thrones…

 

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6. How long did the journey take?
Well, if you go straight to Greece it would probably take around 30 hours, since there’s around 2,500 km to do, but we stayed in Croatia and made other stops on the way to Greece. Also, roads of Albania are not the best, so forget about driving 100km/hour…you’d better have good driving skills if you choose mountainous roads on your way to Greece from Switzerland.

7. You mentioned that Oia, Santorini and Naxos were the best parts of your trip in Greece. How about other spots you visited there?
I did not like Fira that much, because it was crowded and a bit dirty. In my opinion you could easily miss out this part of the trip if you’re running out of time. About museums – I am a big fan of culture and art, but the museums on islands all seemed just the same to me. In every corner you saw the same folk culture. It’s enough if you visit the one museum and the rest of your time you spend outdoors.

8. The best memory?
Quads in Oia! You should try it too! It’s lots of fun.

9. What are you planning to see next time in Greece?
Kreta, Korfu and Zakynthos. I like history so this time I am going to choose places of even bigger archaeological value.

Thanks Alex!

Alex’s Point of View: Two Must-See Romantic Islands of Greece

Naxos
Naxos is the most fertile and the largest of the Cycladic islands – no wonder why it’s called the city of god. It had to be blessed by the god himself since its natural beauty, including the romantic sunsets and endless ocean horizons, are simply divine. All of this of course works like a magnet for the paradise-seeking travelers, especially for newly married couples.
However, apart from its highly attractive visuals, Nexos also boasts an interesting history. Did you know that the city was the birthplace of Zeus, king of the gods? Or that Theseus has infamously abandoned Ariadne after she had helped him escape the Cretan labyrinth? Fortunately, it did not take long before Dionysos (the happy god of wine and ecstasy!), took good care of her. From then on, the wines of Naxos have been efficiently soothing the pain of travelers’ broken hearts, but even if your heart is in good shape I would still suggest you try the wines!
In addition to the great wines, you will also find remnants of impressive archeological monuments and museums as Naxos is a unique blend of ancient ruins and beach culture. Now, lets’ see what other attractions Naxos has in store for couples searching for fun and romance. Read about 5 things you and your significant other should do while in Naxos:

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1. Hiking
Portara will be first thing you’ll see from the ferry upon arrival in Naxos. Portara is a marble gateway to an ancient temple that no longer exists and the symbol of the island. It’s also the spot of the famous sunset view of the island, so be prepared to wait a bit in a queue to take a shot there. To hike over there, choose a causeway to Palatia, as the marble gate standing on top of a small islet is connected to the Town of Naxos through a small passageway. This gate is the only one remaining from a 6th century BC temple of Apollo.
If you like hiking, don’t miss Mt Zeus (1004m; also known as Mt Zas) – the Cyclades’ highest peak lying in the vicinity of the enchanting villages of Halki and Apiranthos with traditional footpaths to follow between villages and picturesque churches. Just be careful because the village of Halki is known for producing one of the best citron liquors, like for example the liquor of Marc F.Vallindras a trusted family secret keeps producing the aperitif from the fifth generation. Go and visit Vallindras Traditional Distillery of Kitron, which offers a tour of the kitron liqueur distillation process. At the end of the tour, you can sample this traditional drink of Naxos.

Naxos

2. Enjoy the stunning beaches…but which one?
The ones in the western side of Naxos of course!
Beaches from Agios Georgios and Agios Prokopios down to Mikri Vigla and Alyko have crystal water and soft sand. Even though they are acclaimed, you can still find totally remote spots, another reason to recommend the accommodations on this beachside. However, if you like more “raw” beaches, Naxos also offers pebble beaches and beautiful black beaches typical of most volcanic islands.
If you are more of an active couple, try windsurfing in the lagoon of Agios Georgios, which is claimed to have ideal windsurfing conditions. Or, if you prefer kiting , one of the best kitesurfing beaches is the beach of the Mikra Vigla.

3. Have a romantic walk!
If like taking romantic walks, definitely check out Kastro, where you can explore on paved patches and among the ancient stone buildings. Kastro is called the Greek Venice and it’s the oldest quarter in Naxos Town. And no wonder — Kastro was indeed constructed by the Venetians in the Medieval times!

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4. Visit Churches
Mix with the locals and follow them to panigiri (religious feast) in the picturesque churches. The panigiria include a litany of the saint’s icon all around the village. And then — dancing, eating, drinking, dancing, eating, drinking… in the central square till you drop out at dawn. There are many religious feasts being held all around Naxos you can’t go wrong.

5. Participate in the Naxos Festival in Bazeos Tower
The Naxos Festival originally started in summer 2001 and takes place in the restored Bazeos Tower in the center of the island. The Bazeos Tower has been functioning as a monastery of Holy Cross from 1600 and now serves as residences and workshops of ceramists. For the last 100 years the tower has hosted exciting cultural events, especially during its acclaimed Naxox Festival. To get a great taste of Greek folk culture, be sure to participate in the plentiful musical concerts and art exhibitions. Festival lasts from July to September, read more here.

Santorini Oia
The road to Oia was narrow and steppy. The village can be reached by a road that meanders along the steep cliffs located to the eastern periphery of Santorini. At certain points this road is so narrow that it looks more like a ridge that can barely accommodate two lanes with no railing for protection.
Santorini is gifted with a unique natural beauty and a wild scenery created by past volcanic eruptions. It is known for the beautiful caldera and two small islands of black lava that are also the youngest islets in the Eastern Mediterranean.
White-washed and brightly trimmed buildings glittering in the Sun on a striking volcanic cliff, the crystal clear blue Mediterranean ocean, endless horizon and churches blue domes decorate every corner of the picturesque landscapes. There’s soooo much to see. Do NOT forget your camera! Like most volcanic islands, Oia has a rather a raw beauty covered with dark pebble beaches and sharp volcanic rocks. I’ve compiled a list of possibly best experiences to try out and enjoy in Oia based on Alex recommendations, so read what you should do below:

dont leave oia

1. Embarking on Caldera sailing cruise
Oia is often crowded during the touristic season as it has plenty of bars, restaurants and hotels positioned right on top of rocky ridge lines and promontories. Best known for its fabulous panoramic view and sunny Mediterranean backdrop, the Santorini Caldera will not disappoint. Oia lies above an under-water volcano; the northernmost part of the Caldera’s crater-like structure was formed by the collapse of land following a massive volcanic eruption. The crater actually looks like a “cooking pot”.
Some calderas are highly mineralized, thus are known for the healthy properties of their hot springs. Rent a boat and take off to the shore to swim in the natural hot springs all around. It’s surprising, but this part of ocean often has rough waters, so this swim isn’t for novices… be careful. Even strong swimmers can have a tough time to making it to the shore. Stick close to the boat. If you don’t feel like being a swimming champion, enjoy the cruise from inside of the boat. Be sure to take plenty of memorable pictures, eat, drink and observe the super romantic sunsets. I promise that you won’t get bored.

oia2

2. Watching the sunset
Talking about sunsets. Many travelers agree that the sunsets of Santorini are the most beautiful anywhere on earth. The best news is that the sunsets can be savored from countless vantage positions all over the island, and Oia is definitively one of them. Romantic lights decorate the newer buildings, including hotels and restaurants built on the cliffs, starkly contrast with the deep blue of the ocean and raw dark volcanic rock landscapes, providing you with truly mesmerizing views of Santorini’s natural beauty and rich Mediterranean history.
A truly great way to experience Santorini’s incredible sunsets is by embarking on a romantic sunset cruise. It doesn’t get any better than that.

oia7

3. Hiring a quad or a bike and riding around the island!
Hiring a quad or a bike is a lot of fun and it’s still a pretty cheap activity (around 15€ for the day plus fuel), and all you need to rent it is to have a standard driver’s license. Touring the island in this way will offer you a more intimate look at the landscape. That way, you will discover areas that are not normally accessible by bus plus you will have the amazing summer experience of salty Mediterranean breezes ruffling your hair. Who wouldn’t love that?
One of the safest roads are near Kamari and Perissa, where you can cruise down to their famous black sand beaches if you want to chill.

4. Staying in a Cave house
There are many lovely hostels “set in stone” and one of them is undoubtedly Caveland in Karterados. Due to its white-washed styling, bright blue doors decorated with fuchsia flowers, it is quintessentially Greek. And if you are a romantic couple, Oia is a perfect getaway and has definitely the best view of the caldera while remaining far away from the lively and crowded Fira. Couples who prefer to be in the center of action should choose Fira over Oia, but this is the chapter of a whole new story, since this time we are focusing on quiet and relaxing Greek islands.

santorini

Conclusion? Even with the economical issues, Greece is apparently more popular this year than we’ve seen it in many other years. The prices are cheap and the U.S dollar is strong. Romantic Greek island getaways continue to be attractive to travelers. So, if you are looking for lovely locations and breathtaking landscapes with staggering sunsets, Oia Santorini and Naxos are highly recommended by couples just like you. Whatever you choose, Alex recommends spending at least 4 days of getaway time on those beautiful beaches and relaxing in two of the most picturesque islands in the Mediterranean. What a great way to charge your battery for the wintertime.

ADDITIONAL PEEKS:
Oia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oia,_Greece
Santorini link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorini
Naxos link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxos
Kreta (Crete) link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crete
Korfu (Corfu)link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corfu
Zakynthos link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakynthos

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Five Ideas for Travel After a Divorce

Divorce and breakups can be difficult. When a marriage or a relationship ends, people often feel a sense of grief and loss, even if they were the ones who ended the relationship. Yet, despite the difficulties of a breakup, there are many ways to cope with the end of a relationship. One such way is through travel.

Travel is more than just a means to see the world. It can also be transformative and healing. Being in a new place can help bring a different perspective to your life. This new perspective can help you immensely on your path towards acceptance. Almost any destination can be a good place to start on your healing journey. The best way to choose your destination is by exploring what that particular destination has to offer. Though it may be difficult to take that first step, travel after a divorce can serve to help you move on from your breakup.

Take some time to be alone
After a serious breakup, it’s helpful to take some time to be alone and reflect on life. A train trip through Europe, for example, can offer a good balance of solitude and social interaction, as you work through your period of reflection. From the countrysides of France and Italy, to the streets of cities like Prague or Amsterdam, there are plenty of opportunities to hop off the train and engage in some solo exploration on foot.

Europe - Travel after a divorce

Simplify your life
Going through a breakup involves a major life change, and can often force you to rethink your day to day. Take this opportunity to visit a place that allows you to focus on the simple things in life. The laid-back culture of Jamaica is perfect for re-examining what is important in your life. Go at your own pace and enjoy exploring the country’s beaches and towns. Let Jamaica’s relaxed attitude influence the way you see the world.

Jamaica - Travel after a divorce

Test your strength
The emotional stress of a divorce can leave you filled with self-doubt and insecurity. Take this time to take on a challenge and test your strength. A popular travel destination for those looking for a challenge is the 15th century Incan site, Machu Picchu, located in Peru. Hikers and adventure travelers love to visit Machu Picchu, whose altitude at 2,000 meters above sea level poses a challenge for many travelers who come to the site. But it is this challenge that will ultimately help you in your road towards moving on from a divorce. Being able to overcome the difficulties of visiting such a site, can help reaffirm the inner strength that may have been lost when you went through your breakup.

Machu Picchu - Travel after a divorce

Rediscover the beauty of the world
The world is a beautiful place, and often times, the depression that comes with a divorce or breakup serves to obscure this fact. However, it’s good to take the time to appreciate what the world has to offer. African countries like Tanzania are a wonderful place to visit for witnessing the world’s natural beauty. From the wild animals of the Serengeti and the breath-taking views of Mount Kilimanjaro, to the serene waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania offers a wealth of natural beauty for you to soak in. Rediscovering the beauty of the world can help you move on from the depression and sadness.

Zanzibar - Travel after a breakup

Find balance
The final step towards recovering from a divorce is to find balance in your life. Practices such as yoga and meditation can help you achieve balance and maintain a sense of peace with your life. Although India is often known as the birthplace of yoga, places like Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali, has started to become a hub for yoga and meditation. With beautiful Hindu temples, serene rice paddies, and a plethora of yoga and meditation centers, Ubud is a peaceful retreat from the hectic and tourist-laden spots found on the rest of the island. Rent a quiet and secluded villa and spend your days meditating. By finding balance in your life, and accepting what the world has to offer, you are well on your way towards creating a new life post-divorce.

Bali - Travel after a divorce

No matter how you slice it, divorce is a difficult thing, and the feelings of sadness, self-doubt, and insecurity can often be hard to shake off. The wonderful thing about travel, though, is that it can have the power to help you in your process toward healing. By allowing you to do things like see a new perspective, test your strength, and achieve a sense of balance, travel can play an influential role in helping you move on from a divorce.

For more ideas of where to travel, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Historical Sites in Turkey - Perge

Time Traveling At Historical Sites In Turkey

Not many countries have as lengthy or prominent a history as Turkey. Since the Paleolithic era, the area now known as Turkey has been inhabited by people in some way or another. In ancient times, the famous city of Troy occupied the northwestern part of Turkey. Later, the area became a part of the Greek Empire, then the Byzantine Empire, and finally the Ottoman Empire. With so many historical sites in Turkey, the country, which officially gained its independence in 1923, holds a unique place in world politics because it straddles the line between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey shares many cultural influences from both of these regions.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Antalya Old City

This amalgamation of cultures is evident in the diversity of historical sites the country has to offer. Leafcanoer, Daijie, recently shared her experiences in Turkey in her leaf titled, My Favorite Spots of Our Turkey Trip. Incorporating highlights from her trip, below is a list of historical sights in Turkey worth visiting.

Derinkuyu Underground City
The Derinkuyu Underground City was said to have initially been built by the Phrygians in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. It was later occupied by the Christian Greeks, and was expanded to incorporate chapels and Greek inscriptions on the walls. By the time of the Byzantine era and after, the city of Derinkuyu served as a place of Christian refuge from the Muslims. Nowadays, visitors to Derinkuyu can access approximately half of the city’s underground tunnels and rooms.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Derinkuyu Underground City

Aspendos Theater
The Aspendos Theater is a Greco-Roman amphitheater in the Antalya province of Turkey. It is considered one of the best-preserved theaters of antiquity. Built in 155 by a Greek architect, the Aspendos Theater is still currently in use, with productions held there annually by the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Aspendos Theater

Hagia Sophia
In Greek, the name, Hagia Sophia means “Holy Wisdom”. This museum, which was constructed in 537, was initially a Greek Orthodox church, then a Roman Catholic cathedral, and then later a mosque. The museum’s structure, with its prominent dome, is a prime example of Byzantine architecture.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Hagia Sophia

Uchisar Castle
In the Cappadocia region, Uchisar Castle served as the main point of defense, occupying the highest point of the region. Built by the Byzantine army in the 15th century, the architecture of the castle is indicative of the architecture of that region, utilizing natural materials and consisting of rooms carved directly into the rock. The castle is most known for its breathtaking panoramic views of the Cappadocia region.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Uchisar Castle

Topkapi Palace
This palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans from 1465 to 1856. These days, it serves as a museum of the imperial era, holding Muslim holy relics, including the Prophet Muhammad’s cloak and sword. Due to its historical importance, Topkapi Palace is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, having been given the distinction in 1985.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Topkapi Palace

Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is named for the blue tiles that line the interior of the mosque. Built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmet I as a means to showcase Ottoman power, the mosque continues to be in use to this day. Visitors to the mosque come to marvel at the ceramic tile designs inside the mosque, as well as the over 200 stained glass windows.

Historical Sites in Turkey - Blue Mosque

There is no denying Turkey’s importance and influence in the history of human civilization. In the ancient world, Turkey’s prominence was exemplified by the influence of the city of Troy. And now in modern times, Turkey serves as the bridge between Europe and the Middle East. With so many historical sites in Turkey, a trip to that country is almost like a trip through time. No matter how old you are, Turkey is most certainly worth a visit.

For more insight into Daijie’s trip to Turkey, as well as travel destination suggestions and tips from other travelers around the world, check out and download the LeafCanoe App.

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Family Friendly Italy: 15 Activities For Any Age

No matter what age you are, Italy is a great country to visit. With its wonderful Mediterranean climate and rich history, the country draws millions of tourists to its shores each year. Leafcanoer, Helen, recently visited Italy with her family, and shared her experiences in her leaf titled, “7 days in Italy.”

As many travelers to Italy can attest, it’s easy to find family friendly Italy activities to suit kids and adults alike. Here is a list of 15 activities that will suit travelers of all ages:

Learn about ancient Rome at the Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings in the world. Once used as a temple for the gods, it is now used as a church dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs.

Family Friendly Italy - The Pantheon

The Pantheon

 

Pretend to be gladiators at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is an amphitheater in Rome, created in 80 AD. This ancient structure, with the capacity to hold 50,000 to 80,000 spectators, was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, and dramatic performances.

Visit a Roman Ruin
Besides the Colosseum and the Pantheon, there are plenty of other ancient sites spread throughout Rome worth visiting. The city is littered with ruins tucked away amidst modern buildings. These sites include the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, and the Piazza Navona.

Visit the Aqueduct archaeology site
Another fun activity to do to learn about Roman history is to visit the archaeological site of the Roman Aqueducts. The aqueducts was a system developed by the Romans to distribute water from distant sources to supply the city’s public baths, latrines, and fountains.

Climb the Leaning Tower
The Tower of Pisa is a popular spot for tourists. The tower’s famous lean is due to an inadequate foundation built on ground that was too soft to support such a massive structure.

Family Friendly Italy - Tower of Pisa

The Tower of Pisa

 

Appreciate Italian architecture   
From ancient Roman ruins to Renaissance era churches, Italy has an abundance of beautiful buildings to see and appreciate. In fact, much of the world’s architecture has been greatly influenced by Italian architecture.

Visit a castle
There are a number of castles that can be found in Italy. One such castle is Castel Sant’ Angelo in Rome, which sits on the banks of the Tiber river, and contains a tomb for the Roman emporer, Hadrian.

Visit St. Peter’s Basilica
One of the most famous and beautiful churches in Rome is St. Peter’s Basilica. This church, built during the late Renaissance, is considered to be one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world.

Hang out at San Marco Square
The Piazza San Marco is the main public square in Venice. This square, along with the Piazzetta (“little Piazza”), forms the social, religious, and political center of Venice.

Family Friendly Italy - Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

 

Eat Italian food
Italy is known for its food. From pizza to pasta, and gelato to espresso, Italian cuisine has made its mark in global cuisine. Italy is full of small mom and pop restaurants worth stopping by for a bite to eat.

Shop at a farmer’s market
Part of what makes Italian food so great are its ingredients, which can be purchased at farmer’s markets throughout the country. Markets worth visiting include the Rialto Fish Market in Venice, the Piazza Campo del Palio in Asti, the Piazza delle Erbe and Piazze della Frutta in Padua, and the Mercato Centrale in Bologna.

Ride the “Hop On Hop Off” bus in Rome
If you’re visiting Rome, a great introduction to the city’s historical sites is to catch a ride on the “Hop On Hop Off” Double Decker bus. It provides a wonderful opportunity for a rest (which is very important when traveling with kids), while still giving you a chance to see the sites.

Ride a gondola
For travelers to Venice, a must-do activity is to ride the famous gondolas throughout the canals. Rides on the gondolas can get quite expensive, though. For a more affordable option, you can ride one of the vaporettos, also known as water taxis, to explore the canals.

Family Friendly Italy - Venice Canals

Canals of Venice

 

Learn about glass blowing at Murano
A popular island near the city of Venice is the island of Murano, known for its glass blowing. Murano glass is famous for its beauty, and the various types of glass originating from this island include crystalline glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass.

Check out the colorful houses on Burano
Another Venetian island worth visiting is Burano, with its colorful houses. The island’s housing colors are closely regulated by the local government, and home owners must receive approval to paint their homes a different color.

Italy is full of fun and interesting activities for travelers of all ages. For more travel ideas and inspiration, download the Leaf Canoe app.

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