Author: Richard Telling

Thessaloniki

Situated in the region of Central Macedonia, Thessaloniki holds the distinction of being the second largest city in Greece. One of the best features of the city is its ease of providing convenient connections whether it is via air, land or sea. Thessaloniki is also a cultural hub that loves hosting several events and festivals throughout the year. Aside from its inclination to foster fun and festivities, is also boasts a long history that takes us as far back as 3000 years. The nightlife scene is one of the highlights of a visit here. When the sun goes down, students studying at the Aristotle University, come out and provide a youthful and hip vibe to the streets.

Walk around the central part of the city, and you will soon appreciate its small size, its slew of attractions and its heritage. This is the oldest part of Thessaloniki, which is further divided into two sections: the historic city center and commercial district; and Ano Poli (Upper Town). Once in the city center, the sea is within easy reach. The city is perfectly situated on the southern part and most roads in this area are parallel and give access to Upper Town. In Ano Poli, you can admire colorful old houses surrounded by Byzantine walls and charming winding alleyways. This World Heritage Site district north of the city center, is also home to grandiose Byzantine churches.

Civilizations like the Ottoman, Roman and Byzantine that were once settled on these lands, still show visible remnants all around the city. Thessaloniki is indeed packed with a number of monuments built during the Byzantine period so much so that it is often perceived to be an open-air museum showcasing Byzantine architecture. One prominent Byzantine church around is the 5th century Acheiropoietos, which is known for its timber-roofed basilica.

After visiting Acheiropoietos, there are still a lot more churches to explore like the 17th century Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia), the Panaghia (Virgin) Chalkeon built in 1028 and The late 13th century Panteleemon, which is regarded as the first church with a cross-in square and four columns. Other structures to explore include Heptapyrgion castle, the cemetery basilica archaeological site and the 13th century byzantine bathhouse.

After strolling at the city’s large 12-kilometer seafront promenade, seek out the landmarks left by the Romans like the 3rd century palace ruins of the Roman Emperor Galerius and the Roman Forum. If you are looking to discover evidence of the Ottoman influence, you do not need to look hard. The 15th century White Tower, which has become an iconic symbol of the Thessaloniki, is the perfect testament. Other notable Ottoman structures include the Bezesteni building, the 15th century Hamza Bey Cami mosque and the Hamams or Turkish bathhouses.

About Volcanoes of Iceland

Hekla

Hekla is the appointed Queen of Icelandic volcanoes. It’s so consistently active that volcanologists the world over basically expect it to blow at any time, and especially when it shows signs of subterranean tremors like it did in 2013. It’s erupted at least 20 times since the first Norsefolk came over 1200 years ago, and was literally considered either the gateway to Hell, or Hell itself. Interestingly enough, it hasn’t caused that much damage in recorded history, though geologists can tell that from its birth around 7000 years ago until around 1000BC it caused massive damage and change to the Icelandic landscape. Since then, though, it’s lost its explosive force, and is more a pouring-lava style volcano with much less ash and smoke.

Still, the last eruption in 2000 gave only fifteen minutes’ warning, and locals know that climbing it is actually never really a very good idea. There is an 8-hour long round-trip trail to the top, but it’s for experts only, and authorization must be given for the climb.

Katla

This is another one of Iceland’s famously explosive volcanos, most specifically because of the eruption in 1918 that lasted for almost a month, but also for the nearly 20 other eruptions since the 9th century. It’s capped with glacial ice, so there’s nothing at all interesting about it visually, but it’s as well-known as its sister volcano Hekla for being highly active and basically unpredictable. Because it’s under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the main threat it’s posed to Icelanders has been massive glacial bursts, or runs, that flood the plains below with flash-melted ice. A small eruption or heat-up of the volcano that goes otherwise unnoticed under the glacier can cause massive torrents to rush from it, causing damage and mayhem.

Like Hekla, this is not a volcano to get close to, and basically an eruption is expected any day now. Earthquake swarms have been detected near it in the past few years, and systems have been put in place to warn the aviation industry immediately if, or more appropriately, when, it blows.

Eyjafjallajökull

Our bad-boy celebrity volcano! Eyjafjallajökull had its fifteen minutes of fame five years ago when decided to blow. Locals desperate to get off the island to warmer vacation lands couldn’t, and all air traffic in western Europe halted due to the massive plume of thick ash it poured forth. Technically the name means “Island-Mountain-Glacier” (jökull means glacier) but the glacier in reference sits on top of a live caldera and gives it its name. The air traffic havok this volcano caused in April 2010 meant that its nearly impossible-to-pronounce name became synonymous with trouble, and to this day tourist shops sell vials of ash, ash ceramics, and t-shirts dedicated to our most notorious modern-day eruption

Located pretty close to Highway 1 in the south, Eyjafjallajökull is easy to see from the road, though it’s not a volcano you’d want to walk on: the ice cap is steep and full of crevices. For more experienced hikers, though, the Fimmvörðurháls trail passes close by, offering a chance to greet this world-infamous caldera from a friendly but safe distance away.

Herðubreið

If you like looking at mountains that happen to be volcanoes that look like cake, you’ll love Herðubreið (‘Broad Shoulders’). Located in the northern highlands of Iceland, it’s flat-topped, high-sided, and until the winter snow covering melts away in high summer, covered in white which looks just like frosting. When Herðubreið was born many millennia ago out of the Ódáðahraun lava field (or ‘Desert of Misdeeds’, as some translate that name) it was pressed and flatted under the massive ice sheet of the last global glacial period.

It’s virtually unclimbable, and is showing signs of waking up, so this is a mountain that’s best seen from a distance, at one of the lovely look-out points along the main highway in the north. Artists have painted it, photographers have captured it, and some say it’s a contender for the most beautiful volcano in the world.

Askja

Askja is not actually a single volcano, but a series of remote craters in the highlands interior of Iceland, just north of the huge Vatnajökull glacier. Nobody even really knew this system existed as live eruptors until 1875, when it erupted massively enough to spread poisoned ash over the whole east coast of the island, ash which was also carried by the winds over to Norway and Sweden and Northern Ireland. Livestock suffered horribly, and for many Icelanders this was seen as the last straw – thousands packed up and emigrated. One of the main calderas has filled up with water, forming a round, milky turquoise lake that though lovely to look at is nonetheless called Víti, or ‘Hell’.

It’s a popular place to visit, all stark and eerie. The roads there are usually only open for a few summer months, though, and since temblors have been measured in recent years, and because of the recent Bárðabunga eruption close by, the area is currently closed to all access.

Bárðarbunga

Iceland just gave birth to a new lava field, one of the largest spreads of magma since the Laki flow of 1783. Unofficially named Nornahraun, or Witches Lava, it poured forth over the span of six months from a newly-formed fissure in the Bárðabunga volcanic system. This system sits just under the edge of Vatnajökull glacier, and so is another example of a live Icelandic volcano that’s just not that interesting to look at. Until, that is, it starts spewing bright red magma that shoots into the air in thin, high walls and pours across the landscape in molten rivers. At that point, it’s one of the most beautiful sights on Earth.

Historic Crowsnest Pass Canada

The “Big Sky Country” is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, but it also caters to history buffs and those who generally just want a relaxing vacation. One of the attractions that makes Alberta truly special is the Crowsnest Pass. Located along Canada’s Continental Divide and sitting in the province’s southwest corner, Crowsnest Pass is ideal for anyone who wants to experience a mountain retreat, away from the big tourist crowds.

All around this pass, you will see mountains, some of which are snowcapped, serving as amazing backdrops to incredible outdoor adventures. Once here, there is a wide array of activities you can engage in! Bike or hike the hills and mountains of Crowsnest! Fish or kayak in the river, or maybe do both. For each season, there’s always something to do or somewhere to explore.

Crowsnest Pass was originally a coal-mining hotspot. Its five 20th century communities make up the present municipality of the same name. These days, the communities, which are Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore and Coleman are highly regarded for their rich history and mining heritage. Luckily, they are only a couple of minutes’ drive from each other. This allows you to possibly visit all of them in one day. As an extra bonus for your effort, you will be treated to gorgeous mountainous countryside as you go from one town to the next. If you like hiking, then you can venture into some of the historic hiking trails located in and around these five towns

Another outstanding trait of Crowsnest Pass is its long history. One of its memorable, albeit tragic, moments was the 1903 Frank Slide, which buried a section of the mining town, under millions of tons of limestone. Today, the Frank Slide Interpretative Center stands to tell the story of the notorious rockslide. It has also become one of the biggest attractions in the area. The center is open all year round and offers an awe-inspiring view of the Canadian Rockies. While here, you can also participate in various interpretive programs and presentations. As if one tragedy is not enough to plague the area, another major mining incident took place in the Hillcrest Mine in 1914. With 189 men losing their lives that faithful day; this unfortunate disaster has been recorded as one of the worst in the Canadian mining history.

When you reach Blairmore, take the time to do the self-guided Historical Walking Tour, which leads you to a fascinating collection of heritage houses and old buildings. The last town of the municipality is Coleman. After this stop, the next major step is to cross the great Continental Divide to enter British Columbia. Whether you plan to cross over or return to the starting point (Fort Macleod), consider stopping by the remarkable Crowsnest Museum in Blairmore.

Sail the Cheap Cruise

The best thing about a cruise ship vacation is that you get something completely different. While a lot of vacations turn into nothing but shopping in a different country, cruise lines offer something unique. Travelers get to be trapped in a fun filled environment they’ll never want to leave. It’s true. If you get on a ship that offers the activities you enjoy or would like to try, you end up in a very social environment that offers you a chance to lay back and relax or spend your day playing games, watching shows and hanging out with energetic crowds.

For the inexperienced vacationer this all sounds expensive. The happy fact is that an average cruise can cost the same or less then equal time in a hotel. The better news is that a cheap cruise is by no means a bad cruise. Really, offers of cheap cruises are most often just better prices on the exact same trip everyone else spent a fortune on.

Getting the good deals isn’t at all hard. It does, however, require a less then picky taste. Also, like any other vacation, it leaves you traveling in the off season.

The first thing you can do to get a cheap cruise vacation is worry less about where the ship goes. If, for instance, you like the events, layout, and activities offered by a certain cruise line and you aren’t picky about which destination you wind up on, then you can get away with not planning ahead. Much like people who get cheap airfare by buying last minute tickets, you can get deals on a cruise the same way. Like any other transportation these cruises want to be full. When the ship is scheduled to leave no matter what, then selling a cheap ticket is better then selling no ticket at all. Further, the enjoyment of their guests depends on a populated boat.

This is the same reason why traveling in non-peak seasons can get you cheap cruise tickets. It also comes down to simple supply and demand. A holiday season brings with it millions of people fighting for tickets to any given place. In turn, the price goes up because it can. Going on vacation at a time when most other people are staying home can mean the difference between a five hundred dollar cruise and a fifteen hundred dollar cruise.

Story Mystic Barrel

After we received word of the wonderful news following very difficult and tense times, we went to celebrate in Malaga, Spain. And, this is a little story about my now favorite bar in Malaga.

At the end of last year, during the holidays and on a rainy day, we were randomly approached by a man who invited us to join him at the bar he was going to in order to have a drink. It happened just like that out of the blue and as a New Yorker, I was very quick to dismiss and ignore him. I wanted to go into the bookstore where my new English language order awaited me and we smiled and brushed him off.

However, sometimes, things are just supposed to happen. When we exited the bookstore and walked a few steps in the rain, we both turned to find the same man, who was now in the doorway of the bar once again beckoning us. Admittedly, he seemed as if he was already a few sheets to the wind, but he seemed harmless enough.

He invited us into the bar as if he was its designated ambassador. And that is how we wound up visiting the oldest bar in Malaga, Spain and discovering its sweet wines.

The rustic Antigua Casa de Guardia was established in 1840 by Don José Guardia and is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The local name for the bar is “El Barril Místico”, or “the Mystic Barrel” because there was a time when the wine was only for a select few because of its rarity.

As Jose, our self-appointed ambassador proudly told us while we stood (there are no chairs) at the oak bar slabs, history reverberates through the walls of this storied establishment and Queen Isabel II designated the tavern as the wine supplier to her court. This sweet nectar has been produced in the same manner almost since the time it was founded.

Jose said we absolutely had to try the Pajarete 1908, which was poured into small shot glasses due to the sweetness of the wine. He was right. I noticed the bartender noting the price for each with chalk on the bar slabs in front of us. They have probably been doing it this way since the beginning of time. What’s the use for paper or a proper bar tab?

Jose went on with his tales of Malaga, the wine and how we would never find anything like it anywhere else in the world. He is probably right because it took me an entire lifetime to taste a wine so sweetly delicious.

He then asked me for a pen, and this is my favorite part of this little story because it charmingly illustrates the difference in cultures. I am an American in Europe and I think like an American, and evidently speak very much like an American.

At one point, Jose asked me for a pen to write down the name of a place for us to visit in Malaga.

As he tried to get the pen to write, I asked in Spanish, “Does it work?”

He paused, looked up from the pen and paper and turned to me. He said he would teach me a more elegant way to ask the same question.

Caribbean Yacht Charters

The Bahamas contain 700 islands covering 150,000 square miles of tropical sea with approximately 5,000 square miles of land. The islands have flat coral formations and some low rounded hills.

Each island of The Bahamas has a unique personality. The cosmopolitan Nassau city has duty free shops, golf, museums and restaurants. There are bright, white sand beaches on the island.

If you love sea diving, the coast of San Salvador offers challenging and exciting adventure. The Inagua National Park offers the spectacle of nesting flamingos and other exotic wildlife. The Exumas offers a 100-mile-long cruise along a string of pristine cays.

The main cruising islands in The Bahamas are: The Abacos Islands, Bimini and the Gulf Stream Islands, the Berry Islands, the Exuma Cays chain, Harbour Island, Eleuthera and Cat Island, the Out-Islands, Grand Bahama, Freeport and Port Lucaya, Nassau and Paradise Island.

With more than 40 islands and cays, the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean archipelago are ideal cruising ground, particularly for the honeymooners. They are ideal for yachting and water sports as well.

To 60 miles east of Puerto Rico, the British Virgin Islands comprise of rugged mountain peaks silhouetted against blue Caribbean Sea. The islands have such unusual names as Prickly Pear, Fallen Jerusalem, Great Dog and Pelican Island.

Many of these islands are uninhabited and reachable only by boat, idyllic exploration grounds for those who seek solitude.

Christopher Columbus discovered the Caribbean islands in 1493, who named them after St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins slain by the Huns in the 13th century.

Honeymooners prefer the Virgin Islands mainly because of their quiet, pristine beaches. The yachts chartered by the honeymooners offer personalized and discreet service, magnificent accommodations and excellent dining.

Some couples even prefer to have their weddings aboard the yacht or on the Virgin Islands.

Arches National Park Utah

Encompassing a land area of 73,000 acres, Arches National Park’s terrain is mostly arid desert, which is adorned by thousands of pinnacles, spires, balanced rocks and of course arches, made of sandstone. This makes this American national park quite a picturesque and special place to visit.

Out of all the arches you will encounter, Delicate Arch is definitely something you must see before leaving the park. This natural formation has indeed become an iconic representation of the state of Utah. This structure is on the cover of postcards, magazines and travel guidebooks, but to see it with your own eyes is quite the experience. Get up close by standing under the arch. From here, you will truly appreciate the artistic talent of nature; and you can look out at the arid landscape and see the contrasting snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the distance. And the bonus is that the view will not fail to take your breath away.

Most visitors to Delicate Arch make their way to this marvelous landmark by hiking. In fact, Arches National Park is a popular hiking hub! Aside from traveling on foot to the arch itself, you can also make your way to the two official viewpoints, which are identified as the Upper and Lower. These viewpoints share the same trailhead and offer you a fantastic view of the Arch,which is about a mile away.

Second only to Delicate Arch’s popularity, The Devils Garden is very much an attraction worth visiting. The site actually refers to a well-maintained primitive hiking loop that cover 7.2 miles. The loop highlights an area populated by a number of arches and huge sandstone fins. This route is absolutely scenic and has been the longest maintained trail in the national park.

Aside from Delicate Arch and Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park offers hiking enthusiasts a wide range of trails that can suit all ability levels. Most of these trails are intertwined to conveniently showcase the park’s 2,000 sandstone arches. Your biggest challenge as a visitor is to choose which trails to follow. Although, coming back for more hiking adventures is never a bad idea! Some of the most popular hiking routes here include the Balance Rock Trail, the Double Arch, Eye of the Whale Arch, Lower Courthouse Wash and Fiery Furnace, which is often described as a sandstone maze. If you want to see the largest arch on earth, check out Landscape Arch. The Dark Angel is an interesting alternative to the usual arches as it is an impressive sandstone tower that boasts a height of 150 feet.

Cruise Line Ratings

Six stars is the highest rating. These cruise lines have everything of the finest possible quality. Interiors are lavish and made of high quality wood, leather, fabric. The crockery used is expensive. Food served is exotic and tasteful. The cabins are very large. The staff is quite large and they try to provide personal attention to all passengers. These are meant for very high income groups. The atmosphere is quiet and social with few activities and few passengers. 5 Star cruise lines are also of very good quality. They have more activities as compared to 6 stars. These are more suitable for upper middle class. 4 star cruises are quite affordable with good quality service and food. These are more suitable for family vacations and first timers. 3 star cruises are very popular and find customers coming back again and again. These are full of activity and good for any age group and budget. They exist in large numbers and cover many locations. 2 and 1 star cruises are very pocket friendly but lack the spic and span glamour of new ones. Services are not bad and provide a good experience of cruising at a very reasonable price. The number of passengers is also quite high. The mood is more festive and carnival like.

Cruise lines vary in their mood, atmosphere, activities, facilities and comfort. They can give you a life time of an experience if chosen well. Brochures and websites provide detailed ratings of various cruise lines. To decide, one can read them in detail to look at destination options, travel time, affordability and whatever caters to individual interests. Whatever the rating, any cruise line experience is, overall, enjoyable.

Vacation Travel Club

Travel Clubs

Travel clubs offer a unique traveling experience much like a timeshare; however you pay a fee to receive a specific number of points to use for travel within their network of resorts and destinations all over the world. This membership allows you and your family to use the points in a given time or accumulate those points over time to cash them in at a later date for travel with a larger group.

Other travel clubs offer discounted travel options where you pay a monthly membership fee and in turn you receive discounted rates for trips that are already planned out. All you do as a member is book the trip and pay. In some cases travel to the destination is on your own, but the information is outlined in each trip description.

With some travel clubs there are options for customers who are already members to make money and receive commissions for every person who signs up under them in the travel club program. This is a type of network marketing program where many people have made money or received free travel while others have made nothing and feel they have lost money. Network marketing is a legitimate form of business, but it is not for everyone. It is not a get rich quick program.

The perception of network marketing is that it is a “scam.” Many people have lost money in network marketing and many people have made a lot of money with network marketing. Those who have made a lot of money with network marketing have worked very hard to get where they are within the network marketing business. Yes, they talk about it like they enjoy it because they do enjoy their job, but they treat it as a job and work hard to recruit, sell and build their business.

Timeshare ownership

This is another perceived “scam” or way for people to take your money according. Timeshare ownership is another legitimate way to travel to one destination every year or every other year depending on your purchased week. Timeshare owners receive a deed to their property that they own for a set amount of days or weeks throughout the year.

Where many people feel this is a scam is when maintenance and taxes come in. Everyone pays for maintenance and taxes on the property that they own, so why would a timeshare, be any different? It is a deeded piece of property much like a house. These fees help with upgrades to the property as well as fixing things that go wrong throughout the year. Refrigerators quit working and walls need to be painted periodically and every owner is required to help pay those costs.

Timeshare ownership works great for those who actually use them. It is when people don’t use their weeks that they feel they are losing money. There are also options to exchange your timeshare into other cities and resorts using exchange companies like RCI and Interval International. These resources can help you get more value out of timeshare ownership.

Want to learn more about these two options check out my free report which outlines several different options when it comes to travel, foreign and domestic. There are so many options and ways to save money as well as programs to help you make money traveling.

About Viking Ships

The Viking ships basically fall in three categories, large transport vessels (Knarr), Longships, for military use, and small coastal sailing and exploration vessels (Karv). Although as often depicted, all Viking ships did not carry the ?dragonhead? or ?serpent? figures. They were used mainly on warships or ships owned by high-ranked people. The Knarr were known for their maneuverability and loading capacity. The other designs included Byrdling, Skute and Ferje. The longships also had a number of variations, the Busse, the Skeide, the Snekke, the Sud, and Drakkar. The Busse were reportedly large capacity Viking ships with cargo capability, such as the “Ormen Lange” of King Olav Tryggvason, and they could have as many as 35 pair of oars. The Skeide was a Busse variation with smaller size and capacity. The Snekke were the most common ships, used by
Canute the Great, and William the Conqueror, renowned for their speed and durability. The Suds evolved near the end of the Viking era and are said to be the biggest Longships. The Drakkar are the most easily recognizable Viking ships due to their distinct dragon or serpent design that symbolized the superior rank of the commanding warrior.

The basic characteristic of Viking ships can be summed up as having a single mast, exceptionally long parallel oars, and the clinker design used for construction, which involved overlapping thick wooden boards.

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