Author: Richard Telling

Sail the 7 Seas

The most important decision you will face after you decide to go on a cruise is where you want to go. When people think of cruises they usually think of the big cruise ships in the Caribbean. Just imagine all that deep blue water and the sun shining down while you sit on the deck and enjoy cocktails. Ahhhh nice, and while that can be a lot of fun, you should keep in mind that you can go on cruises to almost any part of the world. Take a cruise through the Panama Canal, around the Indian Ocean, or follow the western coast of Africa into the Mediterranean.

Keep in mind that you are not just picking which part of the ocean you’d like to see. Almost all cruises will allow you to make side trips inland when the ship stops at a port of call. This can be either on your own or as part of an organized tour group. If you have always wanted to visit Australia try combining a trip to Australia with a cruise around the Pacific Ocean.

You should also make sure that you can find a cruise that will give you the experience you want. Obviously, a small cruise ship touring around the coast of Alaska will result in a very different experience from a large cruise ship meandering leisurely around the Mediterranean. While there are major differences in the cruising experience, this is not just about picking the right kind of climate for your trip. If you are looking for all night parties and poolside drinks, go on the Mediterranean cruise. If you want a more relaxed trip, curled up under blankets and whale watching, go on the Alaskan cruise.

You should also remember that certain cruise lines focus on different types of customers. There are cruise ships that will cater to those who want to spend all night drinking and dancing, there are cruise ships that focus on retirees and there are cruise ships that cater to a variety of tastes. Families should look for family-friendly cruises. These family-friendly cruises will have children’s activities and places for teenagers to hang out. The Disney Cruise line specializes in family style cruising.

The level of service you will receive is the biggest factor in your final price. If you are on a tight budget, avoid the high end luxury cruise. Instead go with a premium or even mainstream cruise. The location and size of your cabin will also make a difference. If you are really tight for cash, take a small cabin on the inside of the ship. While your food and cabin may not be as grand as fellow passengers on the exclusive decks, you will at least still be able to afford the airfare home. And you will have the same experiences as the higher paying passengers.

If you can afford it feel free to treat yourself with a luxury cruise and enjoy all the amenities that come along with staying at a fancy hotel. Except this hotel goes to many different and exotic places!!

While cruises are often all-inclusive, there are a number of things you should confirm before leaving home. First make sure that the cruise ship is aware of any special dietary or smoking restrictions. If your cruise ship will be coming into port, inquire if you need to book any shore excursions in advance. And most importantly, ensure that you have a way to get to the starting point and back again when the cruise is over. Some cruises do not end at the same port that they departed from. Ending a wonderful cruise by being stranded at the ships last port of call is not the best way to enjoy your holiday! Spending a few days in the last port of call before returning home will top off the perfect end to the perfect vacation. Happy cruising!

Marvelous Semmering Railway in Austria

About 20,000 men were commissioned to carve limestone rocks to pave way for the track. It is remarkable that the excellent quality of the tunnels, viaducts and overall infrastructure of Semmering, guaranteed that the railway would be in great condition for years to come. It is no wonder that Semmering Railway is hailed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

But aside from amazing engineering, the reason travelers should experience Semmering is because of the spectacular views of the mountainous landscape in between the Austrian towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag. The train ride on this railway highlights everything that is majestic about the eastern Austrian Alps and the Hungarian plains. The trains originally used for the track were powered by steam engines; but were replaced with electricity in 1959. Nevertheless, the overall design of the old train line, including the old tunnels and viaducts have been preserved.

The Semmering Railway ride lasts for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, going over Semmering Pass and crossing the Australian Alps. During the trip, the train will pass over 16 viaducts supported by many arches, and through 14 tunnels. Another highlight is the main tunnel, which is famous for stretching 1,430 meters. The railway is actually part of the greater S-bahn railway that goes in between Vienna and Graz. It uses an Alpine crossing that had been frequently used during the medieval times. This crossing connects to Venice and later Trieste, to Vienna.

The vintage train and scenery are not the only things to admire during your Semmering Railway adventure. There are also a number of fascinating attractions along the way that deserve a look. One of them is the S-bahn railway culture museum situated in Mürzzuschlag. This museum features Semmering Railway’s history and impressive engineering. Semmering town, in which the train also stops, is a mountain health resort that delights visitors with its relaxing ambience and fresh air. Once in town, you can easily engage in outdoor activities especially in the summer.

Going for a hiking tour on the railroad train is quite rewarding, because you will get outstanding panoramas and get the chance to admire this railroad engineering feat up close. Another lovely town near Semmering is Zauberberg, is a hotspot for tourists exploring the Semmering area. This popular ski resort offers 14 kilometers of downhill slopes and a split park. The other prominent ski resort in the area is Stuhleck Mountain, which is frequented for its exciting snow parks.

Travel the World in Cheap

Swap homes

As a matter of fact, home swapping is rapidly becoming a trend and you can even find this method on some of the most popular travel websites. The fact is that the majority of travel expenses go towards accommodations. Therefore, when you swap your home with other fellow travelers you eliminate this particular line of expenses and your trip becomes much cheaper. It also has perks like a fully equipped kitchen, proper bathrooms, and things that you won’t find in a cheap hotel.

Carpool

This is a term that relates to numerous people traveling within the same vehicle. For instance, you can look for someone who travels in the same direction and you can split the expenses in half. As you can imagine, the more people you get the less you are going to pay for the travel.

Hitchhike

This is an old-fashioned method of traveling for free. Basically, what you want to do is try and stop people on the road and get them to drive you towards the direction they are heading. It’s a great way to meet new local people and it’s completely free, even though some hitchhikers offer some money in exchange for the favor.

Become a crew member of a cruise ship

This is a way not only to travel for free but to earn a few bucks as well. Enjoy visiting a wide variety of countries on a regular basis and earn money while doing it. Of course, there are some downsides – you will obviously have to work so there might not be enough time for sightseeing but generally crew members get some days off when the ship reaches its destination. This should be the best time for you to look around.

Use budget airlines

A few years ago, several airlines were created that offer incredibly low rates for their tickets. This is mainly due to the fact that you will be flying with almost no additional comfort but, after all, your main purpose is to see the world, not to fly in first class airplanes.

Cycling the Munda Biddi Trail

True enough, this 1000 kilometers off-road cycling trail leads you to miles upon miles of eucalyptus tree adorned forests. Instead of perfectly paved paths, Munda Biddi is all about getting down and dirty while exploring Western Australia’s bushland, river valleys and undeveloped forested terrain. This part of the region is perfect for off-road cycling, not only because of its landscape but also because of its ideal weather.

Cycling Munda Biddi is all about enjoying the beauty of nature. Along the way, you will see a wide range of flora and fauna, some of which can only be found on this side of the world. Following the entire trail means having to spend more than a week, mostly in the wilderness. During the day, you can conquer the outdoors and visit gorgeous natural landmarks. And at night, you can stay in one of the campsites or in one of the lovely small towns along the trail. The towns are about 45 to 45 kilometers apart. Munda Biddi is rich in Aboriginal culture and heritage. While here, seize the opportunity to learn more about this special group of people.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist to enjoy what Munda Biddi has to offer. The trail has different sections that will fit a range of cycling pace and ability levels. You can also easily access most parts of the trail by car. This accessibility gives you the convenience of starting the journey at whichever trail section you like. For cycling enthusiasts who would like to challenge themselves more, there are more difficult spurs and loops waiting to completed.

The entire length of the Munda Biddi Trail stretches between Mundaring and Albany. The starting point for people coming in from Perth is the Mundaring Sculpture Park, which is about a 45-minute drive away from the city. The first section of the trail highlights steep hills and the Cannin River, and then terminates at Jarrahdale and its towering forests. The second section, which is from Jarrahdale to Nanga, features sites like scenic Serpentine, the Machinery Museum, the historic Whittnish Cottage and Langford Park.

The Nganga to Collie route, which is the third section of Munda Bindi lets you enjoy the clear waters of Lake Brockham, the Darling Ranges and the Harvey River. At the end of this section, lies the timber and mining town of Collie. The last leg of the trail takes you to the apple capital of Western Australia, Donnybrook, which is situated by the picturesque Preston River. Then, you will also get to visit Nannaup, situated in the stunning Blackwood River Valley.

Costa Rica Wildlife Holiday

The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

This colourful creature is absolutely unique, with the ability to morph from being red bodied with blue legs to green with black spots! Designed to survive in dense forests, the frogs are found throughout Central America. In the wild they are toxic, with their poison being created from the natural elements found in the habitat. These tiny reptiles are by no means endangered and you won’t have any trouble sighting them.

The American Crocodile

Another of the country’s more common inhabitants is the American Crocodile. Growing to over 10ft long, they are often seen much longer here. If you are on a Costa Rica wildlife holiday, you may see these reptiles congregating near bridges where tourists tend to stop and throw them food in exchange for a photo. Unfortunately, the crocodiles’ existence is now threatened, due to loss of habitat.

White-headed Capuchin Monkey

This clever little creature is seen all over the country and, hanging out in large groups of up to 40, they can live up to 50 years. They have been known to use tools as weapons and to get food, and they have also been seen rubbing plants on themselves, possibly for medicinal purposes. Some experts speculate this is what gives them their longevity.

Golden Orb Weavers

This stunning spider spins gold silk that attracts bees and offers them a means of camouflage in the trees. The webs are incredibly strong and have even been known to trap birds. This, the oldest surviving spider, has a nasty bite but would never attack a human unless threatened.

Ocelot

These stealthy nocturnal cats are rather small compared to some of the other wild cats, growing to about double the size of a domestic cat. They have huge feet that help them climb trees and, once an endangered species, now thrive in the country due to conservation efforts.

Discount European Cruises

One can experience the splendors of Europe from the comforts of a cruise ship, since most of the major cities are situated along the ports. The luxury of a European cruise can be enjoyed by the average American thanks to ‘discount European cruises’ advertised by travel agencies. Browsing through any travel magazine or website, you can find the highlighted caption ‘Discount European Cruises’ on the main pages. The reduced ticket rates are offered along with a range of services that were considered a luxury in yesteryears. The varied cultures, landscape, food and wine can be enjoyed thanks to discounted European cruises.

Discounted European cruises brings sailing luxuries to the budget traveler. Rather than air or road travel, more people are now choosing travel by ship. A major reason for this shift is the added convenience of not carrying the luggage form hotel. When docking a port, you just jump on a smaller boat and head for shore.

Discount European cruises are available on all major itineraries, such as the Baltic States, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe; cities like London, Paris, Lisbon and Dublin in Western Europe, and the Mediterranean region. The European trips are usually offered in packages of 7 to 15 days. These cruises are cheaper during the spring and fall, which are repositioning periods for ships.

You Should Travel Young

  • It helps you in making decisions about life: A young mind has all the energy and enthusiasm to think about various aspects of life but making decisions about life requires a strong and mature mindset. While you take a trip, you get to explore new places, people and discover many new vistas that eventually helps you in making opinions and decisions too.
  • You become Smarter: Traveling isn’t only about discovering new places, meeting different people, but it is also about making choices that matter and affect you directly or indirectly. It gives you the power of deciding between what is wrong and what is right, hence giving you a mindset with the help of which you eventually become smarter.
  • You become an interesting person: This is yet another positive aspect of taking a tour that makes you likeable among others. The places you explore and the people you meet influence you in one way or the other, thus you tend to understand their perspectives and give yourself a new personality which is interesting and different too. You can notice the change yourself after taking a trip.
  • You’ll grow culturally and socially: This particular point clearly signifies the importance of taking an excursion while being young. The more you travel, the more you will get exposure and the more you’ll grow. Making a move takes you to different cities, places and get to know various cultures that teaches you the values and importance of culture and social life.
  • You learn to manage your life: Now this is something we all need to do but if you are wondering how you can manage your life while going on an excursion, then here is the answer. No trip is easy, you have to face many challenges and take hardships to reach your destination, and similarly, life has many ups and downs that can be managed once you start exploring.
  • It changes your way of relating to the world: Everyone has a different vision and their own type of intelligence. The behavior and actions of a human being also vary to different situations and even places. You might act normal at your home but accept it you are different at various places and with different people too. So if you go on an expedition, you get to know more things and act accordingly.
  • Because you deserve it: Like totally! I don’t think that this requires a justification even. It’s your life and your time so live and enjoy as much as you can because nothing stays forever and time doesn’t stop for anyone. So, book a cheap flight soon and explore that place you’ve been planning from long.

About Botataung Pagoda

Located In Yangon, Burma’s former capital Rangoon, are the three very first pagodas of what is nowadays called Myanmar. They were built by the Mon and the first of these three pagodas is the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s best known and most visited pagoda. The Shwedagon Pagoda was followed by the Botataung Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda. The histories of these three ancient pagodas begin sometime in the 6th century B.C.This was a long time before the first Burman/Bamar appeared in this area.

Today I will visit the Botataung Pagoda, which is arguably Burma’s second oldest pagoda and you are heartily invited to accompany me.

Here we are now, in front of the Botataung Pagoda at Botataung Pagoda Road in Yangon, the former Rangoon. To our right is the Strand Road from which we have come and to our left is the Yangon River its banks lined with jetties (the closest is the Botataung jetty), wharfs, warehouses, etc.

This pagoda’s history goes like the Shwedagon Pagoda’s and Sule Pagoda’s back to the early times of the Mon kingdoms; the times of the small fishing village Okkala (the later Dagon), Mon king Okkalapa and the merchant brothers Tapussa and Bhallika. I am sure that no one who has so far written about this pagoda can justifiably claim to know when exactly the Botataung Pagoda was built, by whom exactly it was built and why exactly this spot was chosen as location. Much too little is known in order to unearth the truth. It is all speculation what explains that there are various legends and stories about the origins and genesis of the Botataung Pagoda in circulation. Some of them seem to be more credible than others but this does not necessarily mean that they are true. As always, the answers to the a.m. questions (when, who, why) will most likely remain were they are; hidden behind the a curtain of myth and legends. Maybe that is better because facts are by far not as interesting as legends. Here is the story of the Botataung Pagoda as far as it is known to me.

Some 2.300 years ago a mission of 8 monks from India came to Dagon and brought some relics (one hair and two body relics) of Gautama Buddha with them. They were received by the Mon in grand style and a guard of honour comprising 1000 (tataung) military officers (Bos) escorted the monks with the relics to the place where the relics were enshrined and the Botataung Pagoda built. This is essentially all that is known about the early history of the pagoda. Then the curtain closes and nothing further is known about what happened in the period of time between the completion of the Botataung Pagoda and the year 1943. It is to be supposed that nothing happened beyond the usual, which is that people came to worship and perform devotional acts.

On 08 November 1943, however, this changes dramatically and the curtain in front of the Botataung Pagoda opens again with a mighty bang; bhooommm! After the smoke has dispersed and the dust has settled nothing but rubble is left of the old Botataung Pagoda. What has happened is that during an air raid of the RAF aimed at the wharves in direct neighbourhood of the pagoda the Botataung Pagoda fell victim to a direct bomb hit.

However regrettable it may be that the old (original?) Botataung Pagoda was destroyed the fact remains that the findings made in the course of the removal of the debris and the following excavations have most likely more than compensated for the loss of the old stupa structure. What most probably would never have been found without the pagoda’s being destroyed by the bomb was an ancient relic chamber over which the stupa had been built. According to records the relic chamber contained a golden casket shaped like a stupa that, in turn, contained a small golden pagoda on a silver stand housing the hair and the two body relics of Gautama Buddha, a large number of precious stones, some 700 gold, silver, brass, marble and stone Buddha statues, numerous miniature pagodas, stupas, shrines and pagoda htis of various sizes, and a large number of terra-cotta plaques. Some of these plaques have as it is said historically significant inscriptions in Pali and Mon language that do beyond all doubt prove that it was the Mon who built this beautiful pagoda. What else these inscriptions say I do not know. Maybe they could tell us more about the genesis and early days of the Botataung Pagoda when it was known as Kyaik-de-att in Mon language.

The new Botataung Pagoda stupa, the one standing behind the wall in front of us, is said to be built in the style of the one that was destroyed. However, three significant changes were made to the reconstructed stupa. One of them is that this pagoda stupa is made of concrete (and not brick or stone), the other one that the stupa is hollow (and not solid like the original one) and the third one that a large part of the treasures found is, including the Buddha hair relic, now displayed inside the stupa so everyone can see them. The other part of the treasure, the most valuable part of it, such as the two Buddha body relics and precious stones are locked away and cannot be seen by the public.

In 1960 another ancient relic was added to the Botataung Pagoda treasures. This is said to be a tooth of Gautama Buddha. The one king Alaung Sithu of Pagan failed to get from the former Nan-chao kingdom, now China’s Yunnan Province, in 1115 A.D. The Buddha relic was presented to the Botataung Pagoda by the Chinese government. This tooth, too, is locked away. In 1981 the Botataung Pagoda got yet another treasure, king Mindon’s Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image. More to this later.

The construction work for the new pagoda started the very day Burma gained independence, on 04 January 1948. The wall to the right of the entrance is protected by a huge naga lying on top of it with her long body stretched over the entire lengths of the wall. The naga’s head is raised and the mouth is open. Ready to attack in defence of the pagoda. Oooooh, so frightening. The same over there with the wall left to the entrance.

OK, we go first into the small building in front of the wall of the pagoda compound to the right of the main entrance. There we have to pay our entrance fee and to leave our slippers. We have entered the pagoda compound now and in front of us is the entrance to the main stupa.

The pagoda platform is spread over a total area of some 221.830 square feet/20.608 square metre and the Botataung pagoda comprises the main stupa and a total of 18 pavilions surrounding the stupa. The pavilions are housing many Buddha statues of various sizes, eras and in different mudras.

The new stupa is resting on a square platform with a side lengths of 96 feet/29 metres and is 131 feet/40 metres high. As for the design pattern it is like the Shwedagon Pagoda. 1. The base of the Shwedagon stupa, a cone-shaped structure that gradually tapers towards the top, is a flat supporting block called plinth. 2. On top of this follow rectangular terraces (paccayas). What follows are 3. octagonal terraces (shit-mhaungs), 4. the bell (khaung laung pone), 5. the turban band (baung yit), 6. the inverted alms bowl (thabaik mhauk) with lotus petals, 7. mouldings (phaung yits), 8. the Lotus throne (1 row down-turned lotus petals, kya mhauk, and 1 row up-turned lotus petals (kya lan), 9. the banana butt (nga pyaw bu), 10, the umbrella (hti), 11. the cone, 12. the vane and 13. the diamond orb (sein bu) on top of the vane.

Before we go inside the main stupa we turn left and go over to the large artificial lake (well, actually it is an oversized pool/pond). Now we are standing in front of the ‘lake’ and you can see that there is a superstructure comprising a bridge and an island-like platform built over the surface of the water. There is a water fountain to the right of the bridge and in the water are hundreds, maybe thousands of small turtles and fishes constantly fed by the visitors of the pagoda for good luck. At festival times you can here at the beginning of the bridge buy small fishes (young catfish) to set them free in the pool what will also bring you good fortune. The bridge is covered with a tired roof (pyatthat) that is embellished with decorative bargeboards. The same goes for the Botataung Pagoda Guardian Nat Shrine on the platform.

After having crossed the bridge we have now arrived at the nat shrine. In front of us in one part of the shrine we see the life-sized Botataung Bo Bo Gyi and in the other part the female nat Mae Daw. Every Buddhist Pagoda in Burma has a Bo Bo Gyi guardian nat but here in Yangon the three most revered Bo Bo Gyis are the one of the Shwedagon Pagoda, the one of the Botataung Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda Bo Bo Gyi. These nats are very important not only for protection of the pagodas but also for the devotees.

You can see many worshipping people here because Bo Bo Gyi nats can as you already know fulfil wishes and make dreams come true. From the mountains of flowers, pagoda umbrellas, fruit baskets and other gifts as well as the banknotes (in the hand of the fully extended right arm) donated to and arranged around Bo Bo Gyi by devotees you can see how much they venerate Bo Bo Gyi and how deeply they believe in this guardian nat and his supernatural forces.

It is time to return to the main platform and continue our Botataung Pagoda circumambulation. Leaving the bridge we see to our right a Bodhi tree guarded by nagas that are placed on the octagonal walling around the foot of the tree, behind that the Hamsa Prayer Pillar and behind that in direction entrance a smaller stupa. I am not sure what it is but it could be a scaled down model of the main stupa.

We continue our walk clock-wise around the stupa along the structures to our left. The Buddha statues they are housing are of course worth being looked at but we will go to see the what I believe to be for Burmese Buddhists most precious Buddha Image here; and that is Buddha’s Bronze Image of the Royal Palace in Mandalay. The statue is in the building on the northern side of the platform. And that is exactly where we are going now. While we are walking please look to the right in direction of the main stupa. There you can see the planetary posts placed at the cardinal points around the stupa with people performing their cleaning ritual for good fortune.

We have almost reached the building with the Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image and on our right hand side you see the pagoda bell hanging between the two whitewashed pillars. The bell was completed on 05 May 1913 and has survived the bombing without damage.

Here we are inside the building and over there is the Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image. The hall has beautifully with mirror glass mosaic decorated walls, ceilings and pillars throughout.

Now you want to know what it is that makes this Buddha image so special for Burmese Buddhists, right? Here is the answer. By order of king Mindon this Buddha image was cast in his palace in Mandalay. The material used was a mixture of gold, silver, bronze, iron and lead. It is said that some not further specified sacred relics of Gautama Buddha were consecrated by king Mindon and then enshrined in this statue that became known as the ‘Royal Palace Buddha Bronze Image’ also called ‘Royal Glass Palace Bronze Image’.

Following the annexation of upper Burma by the British in January 1885 and king Thibaw’s and queen Supayalat’s being exiled to India the British took the Buddha Image to London and exhibited it in the Victoria and Albert Museum were it was kept for some 66 years. After being granted independence by the British effective 04 January 1948 the Burmese government requested the restitution of the Royal possessions taken from the Mandalay Palace by the British. The British government fulfilled the Burmese request and on 17 June 1951 the Buddha image arrived in Rangoon. From 16 May 1981 on the Botataung Pagoda is home to the Royal Palace Bronze Image.

Now we leave this building through the vestibule and walk back to the main stupa in order to take a close look at the interior where a part of the Buddhist treasures unearthed during the excavation after the bombing of the old Botataung Pagoda is displayed.

We have reached the main entrance to the interior of the stupa and walk through the door at the top of a short flight of steps. And now we are in a maze of narrow walkways with very high ceilings. All walls and ceilings are completely covered with intricately carved and gilded floral and Buddhist motifs. It is truly amazing. The matt glossy gilded surfaces of the walls are protected with glass panes.

A few yards into the hollow inner of the stupa we stay in front of a donation box and the walkway is parting into one leading to the left and one leading to the right. We take the left one and turning constantly left right, left right we follow the zigzack course of the walkway. Although the air-condition is running noisily at full blast the air in the stupa is warm and stuffy. To our right are many small triangular bays for private prayer and to our left (the outer wall of the stupa) glass showcases in which the Buddhist treasures are displayed.

In front of the glass showcases are century-old and ugly rolling-and claws grids covered with generations of paint coatings. These grids are providing protection and security. Another problem is that the glass panes in front of the exhibited objects are often not clear. My personal opinion is that this is not the most attractive way to display these ancient treasures Buddhists are so proud of to the visitors but maybe others see nothing wrong with it. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the feeling triggered by looking at these ancient Buddhist treasures is very hard to describe; awesome may be a fitting term.

Sea Kayaking

One of the simpler rules to follow is this: make sure it floats. Yes, the most obvious would be making sure the kayak floats and has no holes or gashes that would cause it to sink in the middle of the lake. However, most people don’t think of all of the other gear in their kayak. If your kayak rolls, most likely, all of your gear will be floating down the river, which is bad enough, but imagine if it the gear were to sink! You should put gear that isn’t waterproof into waterproof containers that will float. You have to remember that if your kayak rolls, even the waterproof areas in your kayak will get water in them.

One thing you should consider carrying in your kayak at all times is a PFD. A PFD is a Personal Flotation Device. A PFD is the single most important piece of equipment you could carry with you in a kayak. Some parts of the world don’t require you to bring one with you, but you should take one with you, if not wear it, anyway. They now make them to look good ad feel comfortable, while with storage pockets to hold your gear. There is no reason why you shouldn’t wear a PFD for it will not only help you save your gear in a roll over, but could also save your life.

When kayaking it is good to use the buddy system. You should never paddle alone. The weather conditions could change rapidly, and things could happen that you can not handle by yourself. A buddy can help you in these situations, and could save your life.

You can also increase your safety with the gear that you carry. You should carry a compass, map, food, water, matches, flare gun, cell phone and anything else you think you might need. It will all fit into one small bag or even into the storage pockets of the PFD you should be wearing. Also, a pump is a necessity because if your kayak is full of water after rolling or capsizing you are either going to get hypothermia or you aren’t going to be able to make it back to shore. Please make sure it floats because if you roll you won’t be thinking of is catching your pump.

Alternative Culture of Berlin

The Street Art Capital of Europe

Booking in to any of the city’s modern youth hostels makes an excellent starting point. The alternative culture of Berlin is but one facet of this complex metropolis. The best hostels capture a more mainstream ethos and the budget experience need not be a compromise on quality, yet they will set you right in the centre of a thriving hub of alternative living. On the surface, this aspect is perhaps best exemplified through the street art. From Kreuzberg to Alexanderplatz, there is no shortage of buskers, street-performers, galleries and independent artists’ studios closeted away in niches or on display in squares. Few cities in Europe can match this commitment to alternative expression, and the best establishments pride themselves on creating a truly immersive experience for the visitor.

A Performance Tour

One of the great benefits of staying in one of the youth hostels in Berlin is the connections you can forge. Often staffed by locals who are part of the network of alternative social groups of the city, they are a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped into. For example, many hostels run alternative tours or offer free entry into niche bars and performance spaces. You can discover hidden pockets of art, comedy, music, dance and philosophical discussion, with a distinct underground flavour, that you might not easily stumble across on your own.

Alternative Nightlife

Like other European capital cities, Berlin draws young people in droves for its eclectic nightlife. Thousands of travellers come every month to experience the bars, restaurants, theatres, music halls, and clubs that have infiltrated so many city streets and suburban enclaves. Knowing where to go and what special events are on can be hard for a tourist, but the youth hostels offer an easy and safe base to delve in to the most innovative and niche nightlife scenes in the world.

An alternative to the alternative

A key to the appeal of alternative culture anywhere is its ability to shape-shift. Ideas and trends are forever being challenged, renewed, and recycled and many people seek to find an alternative to the prevalent alternative culture! Berlin has a breathtaking array of evolving cultures to explore on the doorstep of the excellent youth hostels, and from permaculture tours to clandestine candle-lit book clubs, there’s enough to keep you busy for weeks.

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