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How to Live Like the Locals in Croatia

Croatian Town

Complete with enough breathtaking scenery to lure HBO film crews for Game of Thrones, the gem in Southeastern Europe also has a unique culture with a rich history and traditions known to captivate visitors every bit as much as the country’s apparent beauty. The closer to capturing the life of a local in Croatia, the closer you’ll be to unraveling the mysteries of both ancient and modern culture in a country that is the rival of many of the top destinations in Europe for visitors looking for an unforgettable experience.

Experiencing modern Croatia in Zagreb.

Croatia’s capital and largest city has more than enough charm to make up for the lack of beaches and water views, which tend to be driving factors for visitors to Split and Dubrovnik. With terrific architecture, unique attractions (like the Museum of Broken Relationships), and plenty of opportunities to see both the old and new Croatia, Zagreb is a terrific place to get a feel for what everyday life is like for Croatians.
One place that is never too light on the foot traffic is Tkalciceva Street, a pedestrian-only pathway loaded with colorful buildings, outdoor restaurants/cafes, and boutique shops that draw in both locals and tourists alike. Formerly a red-light district (until WWII), Tkalciceva was once a creek before it was filled in with gravel and eventually paved, making it a city center that routinely boasts talented street musicians and families spending an afternoon on the town. It’s also a great spot for sipping coffee or locally made (and relatively inexpensive) Croatian craft beers, which have become extremely popular around the country over the last decade.
In the offseason, you’ll find plenty of locals gathering at hubs like the Zagreb 360-degree observation deck in the famous Ban Jelačić Square, where you can experience astounding, panoramic views of the red-roof dominated cityscape. The same goes for sites like Maksimir Park, where you can find a very tranquil scene of forest trails and ponds that are particularly great to explore in the early spring or late fall—when the weather is still mild, but it’s away from the peak of tourist season. For a genuine Croatian experience, slip through town in the electric tram and work on your Croatian linguistic basics, like hvala vam (thank you) and oprosti (excuse me).
Also consider: Zagreb is a very happening place for music, particularly within the indie-rock world. The midsummer INmusic Festival at Lake Juran tends to be a clear highlight of a city that has become very well-known for major concerts and festivals, and it regularly boasts famous bands/musicians like Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Alt-J, and more.

The international flavor of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.

Travelers aren’t the only ones who turn up for the internationally famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival, one of the most eclectic collections of artistic expression you’ll ever find in one place. From mid-July to late-August in the gorgeous southern city on the Adriatic, Croatians relish in the opportunity to see their city transformed into a stunning collaboration of different art forms at the peak of the summer. Not every summer festival can boast legendary actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench starring in a rendition of Hamlet, but such is the prestige of one of the most popular events in the country. More than just plays, there are world-class opera and ballet productions along with a wide range of musical concerts, which seamlessly merge with a host of other events to make it one of the most distinguished summer festivals in Europe.
But even though it’s a definite international draw that brings in artists from all over the world, the festival’s producers ensure an authentic Croatian experience that promotes longstanding ideals and traditions. Once a dominant maritime power, Dubrovnik has brought together a variety of different cultures since medieval days, and the festival continues to promote the diversity as a fundamental part of the Dubrovnik experience. Founded in the 50s, the festival has continuously grown and has become a fantastic way for visitors to mingle with Croatians from all over the country, creating a unique and lively atmosphere that is often seen as one of the fundamental experiences of visiting Croatia.

Spend a winter in Split.

The second-largest city in Croatia, Split also enjoys a reputation for being a seaside beauty, making it a natural gathering point for expats from around the world. In the spring, summer and (early fall), you can expect a massive international population as visitors enjoy the Mediterranean climate and plethora of things to do, from stunning coastal boat cruises and winery visits to inspecting the standing palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Once ruled by the Romans and later by the Venetian maritime empire, Split is an eternal port city that pops to life with visitors when the weather heats up, which is a tradition that goes back more than a millennium.
Then the winter comes, and any visitors remaining get a real opportunity to see how the locals do it in Split. With average highs in the low-50s (F), the winters are indeed on the mild side, which means that the city remains exceptionally active, with sidewalk cafes and pubs typically bustling with locals whenever the sunshine is out. At places like Marjan Forest Park, which hovers high above the coastline, families tend to be out walking dogs and playing with their kids—all while enjoying the limited number of international visitors that tend to pile up during the peak parts of the year. The viewing platform also yields radiant views of the city, harbor, and Adriatic coast.
Although snow isn’t all that common, a light dusting does happen every now and again, coating the rows of palm trees along the harbor to provide a photographic gift that typically isn’t seen by many tourists. Even with the cooler temperatures, the harbor remains an energetic hot spot throughout the winter, making it a great area to spend an afternoon or three wandering the waterside restaurants and shops that sit beneath the palm trees. For those who do want to enjoy some of the more popular destinations (e.g., Diocletian’s Palace or the Cathedral and Bell Tower of St. Domnius), winter visitors will also have more elbow room. Transportation and hotels in Split also tend to be considerably less expensive in the winter than the summer, which translates to more money for splurging on exceptional Croatian dining experiences and activities.

Digging into Croatian cuisine.

When you’re near the coast in places like Split or Dubrovnik, it’s not hard to see the Greek and Italian traditions that are often at the heart of the food scene – particularly when it comes to staples like seafood thanks to the prominent fishing culture. If you see any locals with (mildly) black teeth, it’s probably because they just had some crni rižot, a black risotto typically made with squid (or cuttlefish), red wine, and squid ink that is a bit of a classic in Croatia. There are plenty of other locally loved seafood favorites (e.g., buzara and brodetto), but you can also try unique pastries like a fritule, which is a version of Croatian donut that is typically served around the holidays.
Inland, you can expect flavors that more closely resemble the traditions of central European countries or other close neighbors like Hungary and Turkey, with plenty of hearty dishes featuring potatoes, cabbage, and root veggies. Cooked directly over burning embers in a terracotta, peka is a popular dish in places like Zagreb and around the rest of Croatia, with variations using lamb, octopus, chicken, or veal depending on the restaurant. For those with a sweet-tooth, the Zagorski Štrukli is a classic Croatian pastry that was even designated a dish of major cultural significance by the Ministry of Culture. A delicious combination of dough and a mostly cheese-based filling, the Zagorski Štrukli evolved from a similar Slovenian dish, but the Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions have made it uniquely Croatian.
Fitting for a nation that has long celebrated the act of creating their versions of traditions from around the world, the food scene in Croatia is diverse and loaded with opportunities for those with a wide variety of pallets.
Also consider: The Spancirfest music and street-food festival in Varazdin can easily be reached by train or bus from Zagreb and features food from some of the best restaurants in the country as well as favorite bands from around the world.

Final thoughts.

Traveling to Croatia during the peak summer season will undoubtedly yield a fantastic experience (especially if you go for events like the Dubrovnik Summer Festival), although those who prioritize living as the locals do might want to consider the rest of the calendar as well. For coastal towns and cities, the winter can be the perfect option to allow a closer look at Croatian culture, and it never hurts that accommodations will be considerably less expensive. As for inland cities like Zagreb, the dead of winter is still an excellent option for those who don’t mind a true winter atmosphere. The slightly warmer months of March and October are also good times that can help you miss the coldest weather and biggest crowds while providing a more significant opportunity to slip into the everyday lives of Croatians.

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A Foodies’ Guide to Street Food in Germany

What better way to discover a country than through its food? Let’s be honest: if trying out the most authentic food possibilities for your next destination is not on your radar, your taste buds are missing out. Eating new cuisines your trip might just be the best part. If you love food as much as we do, and you’re planning a trip to the old country, you should know about the types of food you can get that truly reflect your experience. Consider this your foodie’s guide to street food in Germany.

The Basics: Pommes, Rot Weiß

As is the case for most of the western world, french fries form the basic street food of Germany. Here, they’re known as Pommes, a short version of the French pommes frites. For anywhere between 2 and 3 Euros, you can get them on almost any street corner, often without any addition.
Germans use a special seasoned salt for their french fries, giving them a bit more spice than you might be used to. Ketchup is the most common condiment, but don’t sleep on the Mayonnaise, which comes in as a close second. In fact, the most common way to order fries in Germany is Pommes Rot Weiß, or red-white french fries—hinting at the delicacy of combining both condiments on a single plate.

The Many Faces of Currywurst

You can easily get Currywurst on any street corner, and it’s so famous that no less than three regions of the country are fighting for the right to call themselves its origin point. The essence of Currywurst is simple. As the name suggests, we’re talking about a typical Bratwurst, with a ketchup-based curry sauce and yellow curry sprinkled on top. The dish is typically served with french fries or Pommes, which also happen to taste great dipped into the sauce.
Beyond that, the details vary based on your region. In the North and Hamburg specifically, the Currywurst is a type of brat reminiscent of the Polish Kielbasa. In Berlin, it’s your typical German sausage. That’s the case in the Western-German Ruhrgebiet as well, but here pepper and onion dices are mixed into the sauce.
Which of the three areas first came up with the general concept is the subject of much dispute. Berlin has perhaps the best case, with a Currywurst Museum to show for it. Regardless of its origin, Germans enjoy no less than 800 million individual Currywurst dishes every single year.

Get Your Döner in a Fladenbrot

Foodies might have heard of Döner Kebab, the Turkish street food that has rapidly spread around the world since its invention in the early 70s. Americans know a similar but different version of it under the name of Gyros, but there’s nothing quite like the original, and that happens to be found in Germany.
There’s a reason for that: The Döner was actually invented by Turkish immigrant in Berlin. It’s kebab meat, typically veal or chicken put in a freshly baked Turkish flatbread. Add a salad and some vegetables like tomato and onion, along with either a yogurt or spicy red sauce, and your Döner is ready to eat. Alternatives include the Dürüm Döner, which substitutes the flatbread for a wrap for easier eating on the road.
A pro tip here: don’t fall for the wrap. Döner is best consumed in the flatbread, which absorbs the sauce just enough to become immensely flavorful in its own right. It might seem like your average New York City street food but if you leave Germany without having tried at least one original Döner, you’ll likely regret it.

The Southern Charme of Leberkäs

Döner, Currywurst, and Pommes Rot Weiß are popular across the country. Once you get to the south, though, you almost cannot leave without trying a local specialty: Leberkäs. Literally translated as liver cheese, it is much more flavorful than its name suggests.
Despite its name, this local delicacy contains neither liver or cheese. Instead, it’s ground-up pork, bacon, and corned beef, baked in an oven until its crust is crispy brown. You can get it in many restaurants, but it’s typically served with or on a fresh German roll on the street.
Leberkäs summarizes the beauty and delicacy of Germany’s south. It tastes a bit like Bologna, but richer. Try it with either mustard or pickles (or both) while exploring the streets of Germany.

Looking for a Laugenbretzn?

Think you know German soft pretzels? You don’t, at least not until you’ve had a freshly baked version of this delicious snack from a southern German street vendor. The standard seasoning is salt and is typically served without the dipping sauce you might be used to from the United States.
You won’t miss the dipping soft when eating a German soft pretzel since a Laugenbretzel has plenty of flavor and texture of its own. The inside is delightfully light and soft, while the crust is crispy. The dough, of course, is the same as a pretzel in the United States, but this German street food is still worth a try.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth With Schmalzgebäck

At any fair, major outdoor areas, or any type of large intersection, you will find a vendor for Schmalzgebäck. And once you try it, you’ll be hooked. You might even come back to Germany for another taste!
In its essence, Schmaltzgebäck is fried dough. It’s similar to Italian Zeppoli, but covered in powdered sugar for that extra little bit of sweetness. The result is an incredibly sweet, soft, and rich baked good that becomes especially popular around Christmas. You will eat it out of a bag with a type of toothpick, but you’ll likely use your fingers to get to the food more quickly.
Regular tourists go to Germany for its history, landscape, and people. However, a true German experience is not complete without its local cuisine. The above, of course, are only a few examples of the countless types of street food you will experience while in the country. Some options, like the Northern German pickled herring Fischbrötchen, only fit refined pallets. Others, like the basic Bratwurst, will leave a familiar taste in your mouth.
All of them add to the rich culture of this beautiful country. And when you pair the various types of Pilsner and Hefeweizen beers with the food, your trip will be one that your taste buds won’t soon forget.
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Finland for Foodies

When it comes to culinary expeditions, Finland isn’t usually the first place on a foodie’s radar. In fact, some high-profile chefs have called the cuisine tasteless and bland. But did you know that Finnish cuisine is packed with superfoods? By using all-natural ingredients like cured salmon and cranberries (and staying away from that processed junk), Finland offers travelers some of the healthiest food in the world!
If you’re looking for some local places to try, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Places to Visit

If you’re traveling through the Finnish capital, consider taking a tour with Heather’s Helsinki. Though the tour guide is a native of Australia, she’s a longtime resident of the city and knows her way around Helsinki’s culinary scene. With her guidance, visitors can experience the best food the city has to offer. She’ll even show you some hidden gems you wouldn’t otherwise hear about.
Not far from the capital, visitors can take tours of Finland’s oldest chocolate manufacturer at their headquarters in Vantaa. Guides detail the company’s history and how Fazer Chocolate revolutionized chocolate making. Most tours include a chocolate tasting, and all guests are given a freebie bag. Throughout the country, Fazer cafés also provide quality cakes and drinks.
Dubbed one of the finest restaurants in Lahti, Ravintola Roux won the Restaurant of the Year award from the Finnish Gastronomy Society in 2016. They’ve been serving seasonal cuisine for more than twenty years, with chocolate fondant and chocolate marquise being some of its most popular dishes. In addition to their desserts, the place is well known for its fried lamb and buckwheat blinis.
Also in Lahti, with humble beginnings as one of the country’s first microbreweries in the 1990s, Teerenpeli has become a favorite distillery and brewery that also owns a chain of restaurants across southern Finland. Visitors can stop at the nearby Taivaanranta Restaurant to see the original distillery and visitor center, where they can also try some Finnish whisky. The owners are more than willing to arrange tastings and guided tours for larger groups.
In the town of Hollola is a place called Kinnarin Tila. It’s a family owned farm that started in 1667 and has been going strong for over 350 years, most recently having been turned into an interior design boutique and café. Besides selling local produce, they also make traditional homemade rye bread, which is extremely popular in Finland. The farm is only open from May until Christmas, but if you’re in the area during that time of the year, it’s definitely a place worth visiting.
Further to the north, anyone exploring Finland’s culinary scene has to make a stop at The Snow Restaurant in Kemi. The place is constructed entirely of ice, even the glasses, and the bar, and is rebuilt each winter with new designs. Besides its unique appearance, The Snow Restaurant offers top-notch traditional Finnish dishes made only with local ingredients. The idea of having to stay wrapped up in winter gear during dinner may put some visitors off, but it’s worth it.

Foods to Try

Breakfast

Rice porridge (riispuuro) is a typical breakfast dish in Finland, and for a good reason. It may sound like very basic food, but it can be garnished however you want. Try it with butter, sugar, cinnamon, or anything else that’s available. People are generally too busy to make it from scratch anymore, but it gives a boost of energy that all travelers can use before embarking on their adventures. Though it may be tough to find homemade porridge, it’s available ready-made in most grocery shops and hotels.
Another popular breakfast food is koyhat ritarit. Think basic French toast, but with a twist. Rather than use white bread, Finns make it with pulla, a sweet bun with hints of cinnamon and cardamom that’s made to look like bread. Like typical French toast, it can be served in a variety of ways. Try it with fruit or berries, and top it with ice cream or whipped cream.

Local Specialties

Finnish folk are well known for having seafood and fish as the main staple of their diets. So it’s no surprise that they found a way to create a salmon-based soup (lohikeitto). It’s a favorite dish year round that’s made with fish, carrots, potatoes, onions, and full-fat milk or cream with dill and allspice to season it. Most restaurants in the country will have it on their menus, and it’s pretty easy to make on your own.
Reindeer are common in Lapland, Finland’s northernmost province, so their meat (poronkaristys) can be found throughout the country regardless of the season. While this may not be appealing to vegetarians, those who can eat it will enjoy one of the healthiest foods a person can consume. Besides being delicious, reindeer meat is lean and high in omega-3, omega-6, and vitamin B-12.
Finland is also well known for a mild cheese (leipajuusto) that’s usually made with cow’s milk, but makers can also use goat’s or reindeer milk. After being curdled, the cheese is either baked in a pie tin or fried and then cut into wedges. It tastes great with cloudberry jam and is easily found in restaurants and markets across the country.

Popular Treats

Finns have a real sweet tooth for korvapuusti, a popular pastry made with a butter, sugar, and cinnamon filling. It looks and tastes similar to American cinnamon rolls but is notably easier to make and goes great with a cup of coffee. Finland loves this treat so much that it can be found at virtually all restaurants and cafés.
Stuffed cabbage (kaalikaaryleet) may look a little strange, and the idea is not necessarily unique to the country. But the way it’s prepared in Finland is! It’s made by blanching a cabbage leaf, which is then filled with cooked rice and minced meat, rolled, and cooked in the oven. Depending on where you eat it, it may be served with mashed potatoes or lingonberry jam. While it’s easily found in most markets, it’s recommended to try it at a restaurant if possible or make it yourself.
These are just some of the many amazing dishes of Finland. You can find dozens of other specialties by exploring and talking to the locals. Remember to taste even the foods you’re not familiar with. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Iceland Destination Guide—Land of Fire and Ice

Icelanders are quirky, with the combination of creativity and tenacious survival in the face of severe weather. Visitors cite the breathtaking waterfalls, glaciers, ice caves, black sand beaches, and geothermal vents as contributing to the beauty and unusual flair of Iceland. At the same time, a thriving cultural scene in Reykjavik has made it a destination for partiers, shoppers, foodies, and anyone interested in Vikings and Norse Mythology.

The Highlights

Walking through the streets of Reykjavik, it can like one has stepped into a locavore’s paradise. Iceland’s locally roasted coffee, brewed beer, and even distilled vodka are all available in the stores and shops, while even simple pubs and restaurants can have a menu filled with shark, whale, or puffin entrees. A must-try dish is skyr, which is a delicate version of yogurt beloved by Icelanders and frequently served with berries, jam, or other adornments to make it into a dessert.
While museums like the National Viking Museum are great choices on stormy days, much of the appeal of Iceland’s attractions are outdoors. Within the city, you can visit the enormous pools and try their various hot tubs of varying temperatures, a popular activity with the locals during all times of the year. The most famous and popular collection of attractions in the Southwest corner of the country are along a route known as the Golden Circle, which takes visitors to waterfalls, crater lakes, geysers, and even the very spot where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet.
For the more adventurous and extreme guests, venturing farther north or to the Eastern coast of Iceland allows for a sight of the more rural fishing villages of the country. Tour companies will take trekkers into the heart of the glaciers and let them snowmobile, climb, and hike their way through the amazing natural ice and rock formations that decorate the heart of Iceland. Extreme sports are popular and with some practice, you could be traveling over snow that few people have ever seen.

The Geography

Iceland’s geography is deeply connected to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, making it a hotspot for volcanic activity in spite of being at such a high latitude. This results in a hot layer under the surface of the country that provides them with abundant geothermal heat—there are places you can watch bread being baked in the ground at spots where heat vents to the surface.
At the same time, glaciers have formed over the majority of the surface of the country. Large swathes of the landmass are only accessible via F-Roads, which can be closed at a moment’s notice due to unpredictable alpine weather. Trusted guides can take snowmobiles or hikers up to see the magnificent views from atop the various glaciers, but look out for Vatnajökull glacier simmers Bardarbunga, a volcano that could erupt any time now.
The weather is undoubtedly unpredictable and harsh, but the Icelanders know how to prepare for it. Bring your best winter coat and other items for bundling up if you brave the colder time of year, and plan to bring a good windbreaker regardless because even the summer months can have cool mornings and brisk winds.

Best Time to Go

For Northern Lights, the months of February, March, September, and October are best, but for weather, July and August are the mildest and the most brilliantly sunny. Times in between these will be less ideal for weather and the sights in the sky, but they make up for it with some very inexpensive airfares on Wow! and Icelandair.

Know Before You Go

If you travel in the summer, prepare yourself for very short periods of darkness and almost no “true nighttime.” It is often bright twilight until after midnight during summer months. Also, know about Icelandair’s policy of giving free layovers for a few days in Iceland when you are on your way to somewhere else in Europe or the United States: sometimes you can package a little trip to Iceland into another trip for no net additional airfare. If you want to see lots of the natural sites, compare prices for renting a car to the prices of various tours that are available. With a group of 2 or 3, you may save money simply by navigating the tour yourself, which is fully possible even without knowledge of Icelandic.

Weather

Iceland is known as one of the three windiest places in the world, so pack clothes that will block the wind regardless of the forecasted temperatures. In general, Iceland will be cold right up until June-August, though some nice and mild days may come in there. In winter, plan to bundle up, but also plan to keep an eye out for the Northern Lights!

Language

Icelandic is different from anything you’ve probably ever heard before, but it is related to Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and other Scandinavian languages. While you’ll hear it if you venture into a gas station, small-town bakery, or other areas, English is very widely spoken, especially in any tourism-related enterprise. In the smaller towns you may encounter while road-tripping across Iceland, it is possible that some people won’t readily speak in English, so its worth trying out a few basic phrases for asking and thanking in Icelandic.

Electricity

Using the typical Northern European outlet (50 Hz/220 volts), so plan to borrow or purchase at least one converter to get from your home outlets to the typical outlet there. If you really don’t want to bring an adapter, contact your lodgings ahead of time to check and see if they have one to loan you—this is a perk of a very tourism-heavy country.

Currency

The Icelandic Krona hovers at around 0.01 of the US Dollar, and if you think the prices seem high, that is probably because they are. You can save by finding budget accommodations and inexpensive airfare, but visitors should plan to splurge on food, souvenirs, and tours.

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The Ultimate Bulgarian Guide for Foodie’s

Bulgarians love to socialize, bond, and catch up with friends and family. Incidentally, most of this “catching up” is done while sitting at the kitchen or dining room table—while it is covered in the delicious cuisine of the country. A staple of any meal in Bulgaria is cheese, or sirene, as the Bulgarians call it, the white brine cheese known as feta in the English-speaking world. The cuisine has a perfect balance of meat, yogurt, cheese, and vegetables, and can be modified to suit any taste without sacrificing flavor. Other staples are salads, pork, and fish. Let’s review the traditions of Bulgarian food and talk about some dishes that need to be on your “Must-Eat” bucket list so you can be fully prepared for a culinary adventure.

Starting the Day

Breakfast in Bulgaria is usually a simple affair during the week. You won’t always find a selection of decadent foods and many Bulgarians choose to have breakfast on the go. Thankfully, there is no shortage of local corner bakeries where you can find something that fits the bill. Along with that all-important cup of coffee, you’ll find a delicious pastry known as Banitza. Made with filo pastry dough—or fini kori as the Bulgarians call it, it is buttery, cheesy, and most of all, incredible. Popular drinks include ayran, a salty yogurt drink, and boza, a sweet, thick brown liquid with a slightly acidic flavor that is made from fermented wheat.
Weekend breakfast in Bulgaria is an experience to remember. On weekdays, Bulgarians do not eat fried foods before lunchtime, but that rule is broken on Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll find a selection of fried bread or French toast served with homemade confiture, pancakes, and doughnuts, along with accompaniments such as homemade jam, honey, and sirene. Don’t miss out on the Mekitsas with sirene and ayran. This simple yet delicious deep fried dough is typically served with jam, honey, cheese, or yogurt, and can be topped with icing sugar. What a way to get your mouth watering.

Midday Meals

You’ll find some great salads on the menu for lunch. Shopska salad is one of the popular choices, made from tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh or baked peppers, and of course, sirene. Tradition states that this salad is what newlyweds eat as their first meal together after saying their vows. Ovcharska salad is similar, with the addition of ham and hard yellow cheese. Soup can always be found at lunchtime, with popular choices being chicken, bean, and the cold summer tarator soup, which is made with cucumbers, yogurt, dill, and walnuts.
Another “must-try” lunchtime food is sarma, made with grape, cabbage, rhubarb, or chard leaves, rolled around minced meat, usually beef, pork, or veal. It can also be made as a sweet dish of filo dough wrapped around a filling of chopped nuts. Don’t miss out on the kyufteta, otherwise known as Bulgarian meatballs. However, these aren’t your typical meatballs! They are flavorful, delightful portions of meat that are like nothing you’ve ever had. Simple, yet tasty, these small meatballs are often served with bread on the side and are a meal in themselves.

Bulgarian Snacks

When the time comes for a snack, there is plenty to choose from! Kebapche, a Bulgarian version of the Kebab, is made of minced meat, spices, and herbs rolled into a long sausage-like roll and topped with, you guessed it, sirene.
Another on the go snack is Lozovi Sarmi, which is grape leaves stuffed with minced meat, rice, herbs, and yogurt. Do like the locals and dip the stuffed leaves in even more creamy yogurt and drink some mineral water after every bite to appreciate the flavor.
Banichka, which is the mini version of the traditional round Banitsa, can be found in just about every local bakery in Bulgaria is great for a quick mid-afternoon snack.

Dinnertime in Bulgaria

Dinner is the main meal of each day, and the portions are generous. Be prepared to spend significant time at the table, talking, eating, laughing, and drinking. The locals usually enjoy plenty of Bulgarian wine, or the national drink, Rakia. Rakia is home-distilled using plums, apricots, pears, grapes, and other fruit.
A classic Bulgarian meal is Meshana Skara or mixed grill. It consists of consists of one kebapche, one kyufte, one pork steak and one skewer of pork meat. Also served with French fries, bean salad with chopped onions and lyutenitsa, you’ll want to drink plenty of beer with this dish.
Another dish that you need to try while in the country is Kavarma. The ingredients and preparation of the dish vary by region; however, the recipe mainly calls marinated cooked meat and vegetables, with herbs and spices being added to taste.
Bulgarians absolutely love stuffed peppers, and for good reason! The recipe is simple and delicious, so add it to your list. Red or green peppers are stuffed with ground beef or pork and rice and then boiled and topped with a seasoned tomato sauce or whisked eggs. The peppers can also be fried and stuffed with whisked eggs and cheese. One bite, and you’ll be hooked.

A Sweet Ending

One of the best parts of any meal in a foreign country is dessert, and Bulgaria is no exception! Baked apples are popular, made from peeled apples, butter, brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. Once heated, the apples are served with ice cream or vanilla syrup and are sure to melt in your mouth.
Look on any dessert menu, and you are sure to find baklava. Consisting of filo dough, and sprinkled cinnamon and finely crushed walnuts, then brushed with oil, baked and topped with chilled sugar syrup, this dish has been a favorite for years.
Kiselo Miyako, or Bulgarian yogurt, is a tradition. One of the best types of yogurts available, it is pure yogurt in its most elegant form. How you eat it is up to you, as it can be enjoyed with fruit, plain, or with any topping you like. The bottom line is, there is no wrong way to eat Bulgarian yogurt.
Bulgarians love to eat, and why not? With all of these wonderful and traditional recipes, the food is simply fantastic. A trip to Bulgaria is the culinary adventure of a lifetime!

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A Thrillseeker’s Guide to Germany

Adventure Travel Germany

Think about the Autobahn. Legendary across the world for its lack of speed limits, it’s an essential way for Germans to get from one city to the next. The fast speeds? Sure, they get your adrenaline pumping, but they become part of the environment for anyone spending considerable time in Germany.
The same is true across the country. Almost around every corner, new opportunities to find an adventure pop up for your enjoyment. Whether you enjoy galloping across white beaches or paragliding above mountain ranges, consider this your Thrillseeker’s Guide to Germany.

Experience the Alps from Above

The biggest mountain range in Europe is also, in many ways, it’s most exciting. Sure, you can hike long trails and get lost in beautiful villages. But if you’re truly looking for an adventure, consider going even higher in your quest for a good thrill and a lasting memory.
Tandem parasailing is a perfect way to get started. For a relatively low fee as little as $100 depending on location, you can take flight with an experienced professional who guides a trip between 15 and 30 minutes down a mountain range.
Once you get into the alps, almost any valley offers parasailing possibilities from a nearby mountain. Our favorite just might be Paraworth in Hohenschwangau, which guides you not just over beautiful vistas but past Neuschwanstein—one of the world’s most famous castles.

Hike in Germany’s Millenia-Old Mountain Ranges

Hiking opportunities exist throughout Germany. From the Alps in the south to the Siebengebirge in the East, you can enjoy fairytale forests with nature surrounding you as you make your trek. However, nothing quite compares to the Harz.
It’s not a particularly large mountain range, with its highest elevation coming in under 3,800 feet, but these mountains are steeped in legend. The Harz Witches Trail, for instance, is a 60-mile route through the mountain range that you’ll never forget.

Cycle the Ochsenweg to Old Viking Cities

We couldn’t talk about Germany without at least mentioning one of the many bicycling opportunities. No matter where you go, you will find residents using their bikes to get to work, visit friends, and simply enjoy time outside. Opportunities for adventures on two wheels are everywhere.
Consider the historic Ochsenweg (Ox Way), which leads from a suburb of Hamburg all the way to a Danish island. Since medieval times, this was the way that farmers brought their livestock to the market of the German trade capital, given the trail its name. Its origins are thought to date back more than 3,000 years, to the Bronze Age.
Today, it’s a perfect adventure trail. Enjoy old northern German towns, but make sure to park your bike in Schleswig. This northern German town is home to Hedeby (Haitabu in German), a museum at the spot of one of the few true Viking cities to ever exist. To this day, you can enter reconstructed houses, marvel at longboats, and more.

Race Across the Nürburgring

Without a doubt, one of the first things you’ll hear non-natives ask about Germany is the Autobahn. Famous for its lack of speed limits, it’s a system of interstate roads that connect all major cities and areas of the country. Simply driving a car on the wide lanes between Hamburg and Berlin will be enough to get your adrenaline pumping.
But why stop there? Germany happens to be home to the Nürburgring, one of the oldest and most famous race tracks in the world. It remains a regular spot on the Formula 1 circuit, perhaps the globe’s most popular race.
And it can be yours to enjoy. At the ring, you can book a ride with a professional race car driver, or learn how to drift around its 73 corners and turns. The fun may be over in a few hours, but it’s perhaps the best opportunity you will get to understand what it’s like to be behind the engine of one of the world’s most powerful cars.

Ride Along the Coastline

Adventure, of course, does not just mean speed. You might be looking for a closer connection to nature; in that case, consider a new way to explore the Baltic Sea beaches of northeastern Germany.
Germany’s eastern coastline stretches in an L-shaped curve between Flensburg and Ahlsbeck, offering miles upon miles of beaches just waiting to be explored. Some are heavy with tourists, while others are entirely abandoned. Along the beaches, you can find farms that offer riding lessons and accompanied horseback trips.
Few things compare with the feeling of a wild gallop across an almost-abandoned beach. It’s here that you feel close to nature, enjoying the wind around your ears as water splashes up around your ankles. Whether you plan a simple hourlong ride or a longer trip, this is the space to test your riding meddle.

Conquer the Rivers of the South

Where the north of the country is known for its beautiful coastline, the south offers its own watery adventure. Locals here maintain that you haven’t truly lived unless you’ve conquered its many rivers and streams.
The opportunities here are nearly endless. Canoeing in the Allgäu offers the unique mix of serenity and jumping off waterfalls. Log rafting on Munich’s Isar river, on the other hand, brings a feeling of community and calm as your guide steers your vessel. And of course, white water rafting opportunities are plentiful in Bavaria’s network of mountain streams and growing rivers.

A Country Made for Adventure

You know Germany for its castles, rich history, and food. And sure enough, as you first enter the country, all of those will be waiting for you. As you enjoy a Currywurst or explore the Berlin Wall, don’t underestimate Germany’s ability to wow you with thrill-seeking opportunities. It remains one of the best destinations in the world to truly offer adventure for everyone, pushing your adrenaline while quenching your thirst for exploration.
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Adventures in Bulgaria: A Thrillseeker’s Guidebook

Bulgaria Adventure Travel

The breathtaking mountains, glacial lakes, and unique geographical features scattered throughout Bulgaria can provide enough eye candy and excitement for a lifetime, making the southeastern European nation an outstanding destination for explorers of all appetites and interests. Before putting together an itinerary for a Bulgarian adventure, consider these options that highlight some of the best places to thrill-seek in Bulgaria.

Finding utopia for rafters and kayakers in Bulgaria.

Not far from Sofia, the Iskar Gorge in western Bulgaria is a terrific place to find some adventure without going overboard. Particularly suitable for beginners, Iskar River rafting is known for having a handful of legitimate thrills but also for a very scenic trip through the heart of the gorge, which is dominated by striking forests and rocky bluffs. From spring to the early part of summer, adrenaline levels tend to be elevated due to the increased speeds of the river, although the rafting remains spectacular all the way through the very colorful fall.
A couple of hours south of Sofia by car, near the southwestern corner of Bulgaria, the Kresna Gorge is where the more experienced rafters congregate for a whirlwind trip down the Struma River. Starting at the Vitosha Mountain and emptying into the Strymonian Gulf in the Aegean Sea, Struma is known for providing some intense rafting experiences through the Kresna Gorge that can be as challenging as they are beautiful to behold. Kresna Gorge also offers some excellent hiking, and the entire area is teeming with plant and animal life that are also major draws in the region.
Back to the more peaceful side of the adventure spectrum, kayaking down the mostly calm Kamchia River can be another exciting way to enjoy the Bulgarian countryside. Kayakers who paddle the Kamchia River Reserve on the way to the Black Sea enjoy thick forests, lush backdrops that seem lifted from a daydream (or painting), and plenty of great stopping points to break out a picnic lunch or camera.

Hiking to the famous Seven Rila Lakes.

Starting more than a mile above sea level, the Seven Rila Lakes are a natural attraction for Bulgarians looking to escape the summer heat and disappear into the lush green and blue landscapes the region is known for. A little more than an hour north of Sofia in western Bulgaria, it’s a hiker’s fantasy of mountain paths leading up to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, with green-coated bluffs hovering over the crystal-clear lakes that each come with unique and unforgettable features. Although swimming in glacial lakes like the Rila is typically only for the brave, the clear waters are a wonder to see once they thaw in June until the weather turns again in October. It also helps that the peak of summer is when the area sees a marked drop in storm activity.
Although it’s effortless to link up with a hiking tour company, it’s just as easy to independently put together a hiking trip from Sofia or one of the well-rated resorts or rentals of Sapareva Banya, a sleepy little town at the base of the mountains. For those who make it to Lake Peak and still aren’t done enjoying the scenic area, a separate trip to the Skakavitsa waterfall—the highest in the mountain range—is a thrill in itself merely due to the astounding power of the water’s plunge.
The Seven Rila Lakes aren’t the only source of terrific hiking in the area either, particularly for those hunting for an experience bordering on harrowing. From Govedartsi, hikers have an assortment of paths to choose from, including one that will take you to the so-called Scary Lake. Not only does the lake itself look like the backdrop of a horror movie but thunderstorms that rip through are naturally amplified by the setting, making for spectacular booms that have turned the lake into a legend (don’t worry, there’s a large and safe shelter right at the waterfront). The nearby Musala trail is also where you can find the highest point in Bulgaria, a stunning peak above the Borovets ski resort that is challenging but very doable for most regular hikers.

Hunt for a waterfall in a cave.

You can find Devil’s Throat Cave in southern Bulgaria nearly all the way to the Greece border, a scenic region in the Rhodopes mountain range that has all sorts of picturesque forests, blue lakes, and stream-spanning stone bridges. A stone’s throw from Trigrad Gorge, Devil’s Throat Cave isn’t for the claustrophobic, but visitors are typically enchanted with the experience of plunging down a winding, narrow path to the “Hall of Thunder” (or “Booming Hall“), where you can take in the roar of an underground waterfall. The descent is also filled with ominous rock formations that showcase the dark sense of mystery that has forever surrounded the cave.
With its nefarious rock formations and eerie setting, there are plenty of myths that have popped up about the cave, most notably that it’s the place where Orpheus descended into Hades chasing after his lover, Eurydice. Whether you believe any of the legends is up to you, but the journey tends to be one that piques the imagination and gives thrillseekers a memorable jaunt down into one of the unique settings you’ll encounter in Bulgaria.

Adventures along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

The Black Sea Coast is gorgeous enough to make many visitors want to just lounge and chew on the exotic backdrop, yet the adventure-traveler has more than a few options to spice things up a bit. The scuba diving season between April and November has also really started to catch on in recent years as a major draw for divers, mostly thanks to the spread of different shipwrecks that are known to be clinging to the sea floor. Historical artifacts have been found in Bulgarian Black Sea waters from as far back as 3,000 years ago, although a variety of shipwrecks from the 20th century are also natural draws for divers.
One of the most popular spots is just off Varna, where you can spot a Roman port wholly submerged. There are also submarines, Russian destroyer ships, and plenty of other vessels that reached their demise in the Black Sea, with many coming during WWII. While you’ll need to find a certified diving academy to get started no matter your experience level, there are plenty of great dives for beginners not quite ready to head all the way down to the famous shipwrecks. The marine life is also known for being outstanding in the Bulgarian Black Sea, showcasing anything from seahorses and needlefish to all kinds of shellfish that make for an inspiring and colorful dive.

Final thoughts and ideas before the trip.

Anyone who thinks Bulgaria is a place to find a beach without breaking the bank hasn’t considered the country’s many outstanding highlights—particularly for the traveling adventurer. No matter where you go in Bulgaria, the stunning natural backdrops and the long list of activities provide more than enough ways to fill up your itinerary, however long your trip happens to be. While many of the top spots for adventure are best experienced in the spring, summer, and early fall, the fantastic skiing spots (e.g., Borovets, Pamporovo, and Bansko) also give a thrillseeker four seasons of possibilities. Although you may not need as large of a budget as some of Europe’s other top destinations for thrillseekers, Bulgaria more than holds its own and is ideal for letting an adventurous spirit run wild.
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A Taste of Austria—The Ultimate Foodie’s Guide

With fresh ingredients, robust flavor, and a commitment to quality, the cuisine of Austria is beyond compare. Those who experience the tastes of this country will be introduced to a world of culinary delight that they have never before known. Although traditional dishes are simple, they are rooted in history, regional ingredients, and ties to neighboring countries. In previous times, Austrians were accustomed to having their larger meal at midday and eating lighter in the evening. However, due to the work schedules of most, the midday meal tends to be smaller, with the main meal eaten later in the day. Here is all that you need to know about the cuisine of Austria so that you can unleash your inner foodie and enjoy every taste and flavor that the country has to offer.

Starting the Day in Austria

Breakfast in Austria is usually of the continental type, as a typical Austrian breakfast is small. Along with the traditional coffees, teas, and juices, you’ll find yourself enjoying a spread of bread rolls with either butter and jam or cold meats or cheese. Austrians enjoy a sweet breakfast, and the most popular type of bread you’ll see is “Schwarzbrot”, a black bread made of rye and wheat flour. Bite into other bread rolls like “Kornspitz” or “Semmel” for a continental breakfast you won’t soon forget.
If you visit Austria on a weekend, you’ll likely find yourself in a coffee house for breakfast. Here, you’ll likely find “Wiener Frühstück”, which means “Viennese Breakfast”. It consists of coffee or tea, a bread roll or croissant, and butter, honey or jam.

Clear Soups

You’ll find different variations of an Austrian favorite, clear soups. In Austria, the locals enjoy clear soups with solid ingredients that can vary by region. The broth usually consists of basic ingredients such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, leeks, and celeriac, while the addition of ingredients such as semolina balls, liver dumplings, bacon dumplings, strips of pancake, soup pearls, and egg puffs are what makes the soup extra special. You’ll find a clear soup on just about every table in Austria.

Wiener Schnitzel

As one would expect, Wiener Schnitzel is one of the most popular foods that you will find in Austria. A type of schnitzel made from a thin veal cutlet that is breaded and pan-fried, this food is most often found in the city of Vienna. It represents the love and deliciousness of fried food and is a must-have while in Austria.
The traditional version is not the only version that you can get while in Austria, and you are encouraged to try different types. Schnitzel in cornflakes batter is quite delicious, as is the Cordon Bleu, two filets filled with ham and cheese and then fried in bread crumb batter. When you order a schnitzel at a restaurant in Austria, be prepared. Make sure you are hungry because it is usually bigger than the plate!

Goulash

No trip to Austria would be complete without first trying the goulash. A flavorful soup that is made of beef and vegetables, it is also known as “Wiener Saftgulasch” due to the thickness of the broth. It’s a comforting dish loved by Austrians and visitors alike. Almost like a stew, the dish is fragrant and nourishing. Those who try it can attest to the fact that the mention of it will leave your mouth watering.

Tafelspitz

The interesting spin that is put on this Austrian dish is that it is served with bread dumplings rather than the traditional potato type. Made from a chunk of beef boiled in a vegetable broth until it is tender and soft, and served with root vegetables and a mix of chopped apples and horseradish, the dish is simple and straightforward, yet delicious. One thing is for sure. Tafelspitz represents some of the best Austrian cooking that you can possibly have.

Brettljause

During your trip to Austria, you’ll surely make your way to the countryside and into the mountains of the Austrian Alps, where you will find an item called Brettljause. In Austrian, “Jause” refers to a snack eaten between meals, and “Brettl” is the wooden board that snacks of this type are served on. What you’ll typically find when you order this specialty is a board covered in fresh cold cuts and cheese, an array of spreads, pickled vegetables, and bread. This traditional Austrian farmer’s plate is one of the most delightful snacks you will find in Austria and one that is best enjoyed with a group of friends and lighthearted conversation.

Austrian Desserts

Save room for one of the sweetest parts of Austria’s cuisine, the desserts! Austria is known for being home to some of the best desserts in the world. While visiting some of the cafes and patisseries that line the streets, there are some delectable treats that every foodie should try.

Gugelhupf

Similar to the American bundt cake, Guglehupf is usually made with yeast dough, raisins, almonds, and kirschwasser. Usually served with afternoon tea or Sunday breakfast, this dessert has different variations. It can be made with dried orange peels for a burst of flavor or made as a marble cake. Dating back to the 15th century, Guglehupf is still one of the most popular desserts in the country.

Apfelstrudel

This Austrian classic is so delicious, you may want to splurge and order two! Apfelstrudel is translated to “apple strudel”, and is made from a puff pastry filled with apples, often served warm with ice cream, vanilla sauce, and fresh whipped cream. Locals think of this dessert as a “marvel dish” and one bite will have you think the same.

Topfengolatsche

A square-shaped pastry filled with cheese curd, the Topfengolatsche is usually eaten with afternoon tea. Don’t let its simple appearance fool you. This pastry is so scrumptious you’ll want to savor every bite. The first Topfengolatsche was baked in the 17th century, they have been a classic ever since.
All of these dishes and desserts represent the history and culture of Austria. Along with plenty of Almdudler, an Austrian soft drink with an herbal taste and the slight flavor of elderflower, as well as coffee and tea, and you’ll understand why the classic recipes have been deep-rooted in Austria’s tradition for centuries.

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The Way to Do Belgium if You’re a Thrillseeker

Adventure Travel Belgium

Here are some options to consider for those looking to spice up a trip to Belgium with a few exciting activities.

Biking in Belgium is not to be missed (particularly in Ghent and Bruges).

You don’t have to be preparing for the Tour de France to enjoy the pleasures of cruising around Belgium on two wheels, and it also happens to be a great way to both see the countryside and work off a few Belgian ales. A terrific option for many visitors is to tackle the Gouden Carolus route, a sensational 58-kilometer bike path that begins at Het Anker brewery in Mechelen and cruises past a series of iconic national monuments and buildings. After sipping the malty ale Het Anker is known for, visitors bike past the palace of Margaret of Austria and alongside tranquil waterways on their way to a famous single-malt whiskey distillery in Blaasveld. Travelers usually return to Het Anker to finish the route, although other paths are only 27 or 48 km for anyone not ready for the whole thing.
For a different type of eye candy, the Concrete Canvas Tour is a stunning trip through the heart of the art districts in Ghent. Known for being a hub for street artists, the back-alleys are a rolling canvas that is constantly updated with new and colorful masterpieces, which is why the Concrete Canvas Tour never looks the same twice. It’s also a very manageable 14 kilometers. If street art isn’t for you, however, Ghent has a handful of other outstanding bike routes, including a chateau route just outside the city that takes visitors past medieval fortresses and more beautiful countryside. Picking up a bike in cycling-friendly Ghent also couldn’t be easier, as you can scoop one up for a very low price at either rail station (Dampoort or Gent-Sint-Pieters).
Bruges also isn’t exactly lacking in terrific biking options either, specifically the Castle Triangle Route that connects a series of palaces and castles on a beautiful tour outside the city. Although at about 50 kilometers you might not want to do it in one day, it’s a comfortable ride with nice stops along the way that is known for being great for adventurous families. With bikes being very simple to get ahold of in Belgium and all sorts of memorable paths awaiting, the hardest part might be choosing only one or two routes.

Getting high in Brussels (literally).

It can be thrilling in itself to experience the world-renown flower carpet of Brussels, which culminates in a festival that brings about a million different flowers into the majestic Grand Place for a stunningly colorful display. But there are plenty of other ways to experience Brussels if you don’t happen to make the event, which only occurs every other summer.
An option growing increasingly popular in Brussels is to link up with a running tour (or just create your own route). A light jog can take you to all the icons of the city while you work up a sweat, allowing you to cover more ground and hone in on the places you want to come back to later on. Running tours—typically in the six to the ten-mile range—are particularly great for those who want to save time while still seeing the highlights of Brussels, and you’ll probably feel less guilty about the seconds of Belgian chocolates you’re going to be having later in the day.
But for a totally unique experience, how about hanging on an elevated platform overlooking the city and tasting creations by some of the best chefs in Belgium? “Dinner in the Sky” is a concept that first started more than a decade ago and involves being raised on a crane a few stories up from the ground, where you’ll sit with about 20 or so other diners and get served by famous chefs as you look out over Brussels. If that sounds a little too harrowing, scampering to the top of the Palace de Justice with a picnic lunch/dinner of authentic Belgian cuisine can be another easy way to rise above the crowds while enjoying the cityscape (it’s also free).
For next-level thrillseekers, joining the popular trend of “escape rooms” can be an exciting way to dive right into a unique and memorable experience. Brussels is loaded with difference escape-room adventures, which generally involves you being trapped in a room with strangers and trying to find enough clues to escape. Not for the claustrophobic, the escape-room games have all kinds of creative themes as well, including rooms devoted to classics like Alice in Wonderland. If you want to shake up your trip and meet some locals and travelers alike, heading to a Brussels escape room can be the perfect option. Many are also family-friendly and don’t take long (often around an hour), so if it turns out escape rooms are not your glass of ale, you can quickly be on to your next activity.

The dizzying world of Tomorrowland.

Belgium is also an internationally known country when it comes to summer festivals, with the enormous, electronic-music heavy Tomorrowland leading the way. Started in 2005 and held in Boom, Tomorrowland has regularly been dubbed one of the top music festivals in the entire world and is a staggering display of EDM that lasts a couple of weekends in the middle of the summer. The Extrema Outdoor is another spectacular display of EDM that has gained international fame, although Belgium has plenty of other major music festivals outside the world of electronica as well.
A much more mellow but equally as lively festival, the Couleur Café in Brussels, brings together a variety of types of music, including hip-hop, reggae, and different international flavors from all over. There are plenty of more traditional parades and concerts as well, but the vibrant and modern festivals can be a direct conduit to the contemporary pulse of the country.

No shortage of inspiring hikes.

A classic adventure experience is to pick your way through the best hiking trails of a country or city, and Belgium and its enchanting collection of old-world masterpieces are no different. Although Belgium is a terrific biking country as well, the series of excellent hikes make it an ideal place to experience at a walking pace. For the more committed hiking thrillseekers, the An derBerglanke (on the mountainside) is an intense but gorgeous glimpse of the countryside in East Belgium, taking hikers past about 14 kilometers of pristine Belgian wilderness, rivers, lakes, and even a remote castle (Reinhardstein). There are plenty of other outstanding hiking options as well, particularly in the east near the German-Belgian border.
Hiking through the many urban landmarks is another exciting way to see the most famous parts of the country. Though every major city in Belgium has a great hiking option or two, completing the 5km trek around Bruges is an easy way to see the many wonders of the classic medieval city, from the iconic architecture to the long stretches along the city’s famous canals. On the more challenging end of the spectrum for urban hikes, the trail through Antwerp should take you a full afternoon to complete (it’s about 14 kilometers) and offers the perfect showcase of the ancient port city of Flanders.

The old and the new.

The postcard-worthy medieval architecture tends to be the major selling point for Belgium, where you can find some of the unique and beautiful cities in all of Europe. But for those with an adventurous spirit, Belgium can also be a terrific place to toss away the typical game plan for an entirely different type of experience. From escape rooms and countryside bike tours to jumping into some of the biggest music festivals in the world, the Belgian way of life is an outstanding combination of the ancient and modern worlds. While you absolutely should experience all of the things Belgium is famous for (especially if you have a sweet tooth and love classic European cities), there are plenty of other ways to keep the blood pumping and mix in some thrills as you flesh out an unforgettable Belgian holiday.
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A Thrillseeker’s Guide to Experiencing Austria

Adventure Travel Austria

It also contains a whole spectrum of opportunities beyond Vienna, the usual starting point for many travelers who target Austria. If you’re a thrillseeker, you might not want to go to Austria without considering these options.

A toboggan run through the Alps.

A quintessential and timeless alpine experience, a toboggan run in the mountains is an easy way to cut right to the chase when it comes to what Austria has to offer. Although there are quite a few terrific toboggan runs throughout the country, one of the classics happens to be in Biberwier, a gorgeous little mountain town in Western Austria. The Biberwier run is the longest in the state of Tyrol, letting adventurers wind through 1,300 meters of track that snakes through the snow-capped mountains and green countryside.
Although the area also has excellent winter options as well, the summer toboggan run is a fantastic option from the spring all the way through the early part of the fall. The run is also perfectly tailored for a wide range of different adventure-based appetites, as the toboggan (sled) can whip down the mountain at a breakneck speed, or slow down for a nice leisurely slide through the countryside. That’s why Biberwier happens to be perfect for both thrillseekers and families, and everyone in between.
Like many areas in Austria that have toboggan runs, the hiking surrounding Biberwier is also outstanding, and it’s a great little place to experience a bit of authentic, small-town Austria when you’re not cruising downhill on a sled. And for winter travelers, the brilliant, snow-coated countryside makes winter tobogganing a great way to see the alps and let your lungs mingle with air that is about as crisp and clean as it comes.

Austrian biking—possibilities for everyone.

From the novice to the pro, Austria caters to many adventure levels when it comes to biking, one of the very best ways to see Austria. For anyone hoping to work up a sweat but not get carried away biking up mountains, renting an e-bike (electric bike) can be the perfect companion that lets you focus mostly on the scenery. E-bikes are specially made to give you a little boost, but they still will require effort and are not to be confused with the motorized bikes that take all the fun out of it.
One possible way to have a great e-biking—or just mountain-biking—experience is to hop on the trail surrounding Lake Piburg, a lake so clear that it’s known as the “mirror of Tyrol.” The trail shows off stunning views from high above the lake before descending to the shore, where it’s easy to launch boating, swimming, or fishing excursions. Located in the stunning Otztal Valley, Piburg is also known for being on the warm side for an alpine lake, making it ideal for taking a memorable swim at the base of the alps.
While trails like Lake Piburg offer a more tranquil experience, it’s also very easy to ratchet it up a notch by doing a downhill-biking adventure in different locations throughout the Otztal Valley. At Bike Republic Solden, there are more than 20 different trails that cater to various skill levels, but all require a stomach for at least a few thrills. For the very adventurous (or the casually insane), some of the top trails are internationally known among biking enthusiasts, which is why you need to make sure you’re up for the challenge and understand the skill-level required before choosing the right trail.

Don’t overthink it: hiking is unreal in Austria.

Not everyone is up for the more niche adventures that you’re able to experience in Austria, which is why you can’t go wrong with simply dusting off your best hiking shoes/boots and getting ready for some alpine eye candy. The country is littered with outstanding hikes that showcase the natural Austrian beauty. On the trail above Zell am See-Kaprun (known as Pinzgauer Spaziergang), you’ll spend up to six hours picking your way along a mountain plateau so spectacular you’ll think the scenery below you is airbrushed. If you’re ready for a day strolling through pristine Austrian wilderness, it’s hard to top a trail that lets you keep an eye on the snow-dusted Kitzbühel Alps, a tremendous glacier (Kitzsteinhorn), and the sunshine glimmering off the enormous Lake Zell, where picturesque villages huddle around the deep blue water.
You can also go well-beyond an afternoon hike. For those with serious stamina and hiking ambition, the 280km Eagle Walk has 24 stages between St. Johann and St. Anton am Arlberg and will challenge even the most seasoned hikers. It also has scenery every bit as sensational as you might expect. For everyone else, there are plenty of low to midgrade hikes as well, including family-friendly options like the Wildpark Aurach just outside Kitzbühel. More than 1,000 meters above sea-level, the Wildpark Aurach not only has the visual element but allows guests to see a spectacular array of different animals in their natural environment, from yaks and lynxes to ibexes and wild boar.
While many of the best trails are in central or Western Austria, those who are only making it to Vienna on their travels also have some great hiking possibilities as well. The areas around Vienna have plenty of different trails, and many of the best run right alongside the world-famous Danube River, like the majestic Hermannskogel trail.

Canyoning and rafting.

It’s also extremely easy to fold hiking into other activities in Austria, particularly for those who enjoy some of the other athletic possibilities awaiting in the mountains. Less than an hour’s drive from Innsbruck, the Lake Achensee region is renowned for being the perfect getaway for thrillseekers thanks to the lovely spread of options at any point of the year. While the skiing there is breathtaking in the winter, it’s also a summer haven complete with river rafting, tubing, canyoning, and much more.
The rafting and tubing experiences can be fantastic, although scaling down scenic gorges (canyoning) is the type of activity that is great for adventurers ready to push themselves just a little bit. Once you have on your wetsuit, a helmet and a harness, local tour guides will help teach newcomers the art of rappelling down a rocky gorge, often right alongside gushing waterfalls. For the more advanced, most local tour companies offer more difficult canyoning experiences that are intense enough to satisfy the veteran adventure-traveler.
Great rafting options are also prevalent throughout the rest of the country as well, particularly near Zell am See-Kaprun and Salzburg. With Austria offering rafting for Class II beginners all the way to the experts who take on Class V courses, the rafting experiences available in Austria compare favorably to any other country in Europe.

More than just Vienna.

Given the apparent charm of Vienna and host of things to do there, it can be easy for many travelers to target the Austrian capital and overlook the other treasures awaiting elsewhere. While you can still absolutely find plenty of adventurous activities both inside and outside the city limits of Vienna, thrillseekers looking to capitalize on Austria’s offerings are only a train ride away from a host of once-in-a-lifetime adventures. With options for everyone and countless chances to mingle with stunning landscapes along the way, it’s not hard to figure out why Austria remains a world-class travel destination for those seeking a wide variety of different experiences.
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