February 2016

Poland's Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland
Chuck Sun, 2016-02-28 07:00
Poles have been digging up precious metals and gems for centuries. Theirs is a mining country. In the 13 th century, they discovered salt in the town of Wieliczka (veal-LETS-kuh), just to the east of Krakow. For centuries it would make the region one of the richest in all of Europe. Today, with a package of table salt costing us pennies, it’s hard to imagine the worth of salt to medieval Europeans. People then didn’t value salt as a seasoning; its real value was as a preservative. Without refrigeration, salt was the primary way to preserve foods. At some points throughout history, salt’s...

Krakow, Poland's Medieval Capital

The Cloth Market in Krakow, Poland
Chuck Thu, 2016-02-25 07:00
Those UNESCO people really know what they’re talking about. After observing that so many of the places we have been visiting—and loving—lately (Split, Dubrovnik, Kotor) were listed as World Heritage Sites, we figure we should be paying attention to that designation. We might actually start going out of our way to see places on our list. Thank you, UNESCO people! For future reference, here is a link to the World Heritage Site website (a site-site, or for the technically and/or linguistically nitpicky, a metasite): http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/ You might have inferred so far into this blog,...

Reading Between The Lines of AirBnB Reviews

AirBnB logo
Chuck Tue, 2016-02-23 07:00
As we blogged recently , AirBnB is a big part of our travel strategy. Lori pointed out in that blog that a key part of our strategy is studying the reviews posted by prior guests. You can learn a lot about the property you’re considering by what other travelers have written about it. But given the adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” reviewers tend not to say everything they could, at least overtly. In today’s blog, we help you learn to read between the lines of AirBnB reviews. “Location, location, location” or “Location is what it’s all about here” This...

A Palacial Library in Budapest

Ervin Szabó Library, Budapest, Hungary
Chuck Sun, 2016-02-21 07:00
We love libraries. We love everything about them: the smell of the books, the storehouse of knowledge, the quietness, the understated majesty and mystique of words flowing through pages and time into people’s heads. And then put a library in a beautiful old palace…well, then, you’ve got some magic. The palace, in this case, is the 19 th century Wenckheim Palace, the Budapest residence of an Austro-Hungarian nobleman. In today’s special Sunday blog, we suggest that anyone’s to-do list for Budapest include the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library. It’s a real, working library of 1.1 million volumes...

Budapest's Cat Café

Budapest's Cat Café
Chuck Sat, 2016-02-20 07:00
If the number of tears-of-laughter inducing videos of cats doing crazy things on YouTube and Facebook are any indication, humans love their feline friends. We’re no exception, and this blog is about a puddy-tat-lovers phenomenon that we recently indulged in while visiting, of all places, Budapest. We’re talking, of course, of kitten juggling. I say that with a reverent nod to Steve Martin. Actually, the phenomenon we’re blogging about today is the cat café. A few weeks before we arrived in Budapest we came across a blog in our research announcing that Budapest had finally gotten a cat café...

Széchenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest

Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Budapest
Chuck Thu, 2016-02-18 07:00
There’s something wonderfully relaxing about being immersed in hot water with your head sticking up into frigidly cold air. We discovered this a few years ago when we rented a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains. It had a hot tub and it was January. After the mad dash-n-dive across the porch it gets a whole lot more enjoyable. And on that occasion it started to snow. We looked, I’m sure, like those little monkeys in Japan that sit in the hot water while the snow piles up on their heads. It might’ve snowed when we were in the thermal baths in Budapest, being January. But it didn’t. So at...

Budapest. Oh, My.

Hungarian Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary
Chuck Tue, 2016-02-16 07:00
I’ve wound up in a “live blogging” mode where I wake up and realize a new blog is due out and I have to whip one up before my workday begins. Usually I’m a couple of weeks ahead of my blogs, which is why today’s blog is about Budapest, but it’s been two weeks since we were there. This is just another indicator that life is as harried and confusing for us as it is for anyone. I’ll just be glad to say I have managed to get my blog out on my self-imposed schedule; perhaps in another week or two we’ll be able to “get ahead” of the schedule. So a couple of weeks ago we were in Budapest… And oh my...

Wash Day!

Washing Machine in Valencia, Spain
Lori Sat, 2016-02-13 07:00
In the spirit of our last blog on the everyday aspects of our travel life, Lori submits this blog on washing… Yep, I have to wash clothes. I tried convincing Chuck to just let me go shopping for new ones but that didn't fly. So it has become my job to do the wash. While I don't exactly love doing the wash, it's not that big a deal. We usually get a place with a washing machine (although I have had to hand-wash a few things on occasion), so it's just your typical matter of separating the whites from the darks and loading the machine. The hard part is usually deciphering the knobs and buttons...

The Travel Life

Star Wars Episode VII in Croatian
Chuck Thu, 2016-02-11 07:00
People tend to think we lead a glamorous life of travel. I can assure you it’s not all museums, grand cathedrals, and skiing in the Alps. Sometimes it’s art galleries, castles, and barefoot cruises on the Aegean. Of course I jest. I jest love our travel life (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The fact is that it actually isn’t all about the great stuff we see and do. Sure, we get to go and see some great stuff, but that’s only part of our time. A surprisingly small part, actually. Most of our days are filled with the mundane, only made special by the fact that they’re mundane activities in a special...

The Schonbrunn Palace, With a Dash of Mozart and Strauss

Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Chuck Tue, 2016-02-09 07:00
Vienna is practically packed with two things: sausages and palaces. The famed Vienna sausages are an expensive delicacy here, so enjoy their mass-produced fatty-jellied goodness for pennies back home before coming here. It’s the palaces that this blog is about, particularly the Schönbrunn Palace. We didn’t actually enter a palace until the afternoon of our last day in Vienna, this despite tripping over and bumping into palaces at every turn in Vienna. If I had a Euro for every time I said, “Oops, damn, there’s another palace”… We did “walk-by’s” of Vienna’s other popular palaces, the Hofburg...

Vienna, Austria

Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria
Chuck Sat, 2016-02-06 07:00
Had you asked us to describe what we expected of Vienna before we visited, we probably would have said: culture and elegance. Now that we have visited Vienna, we can authoritatively describe Vienna with the phrase culture and elegance . In other words, Vienna delivers. We spent a week in Austria’s capital. It was Chuck’s first visit to Austria (he’s finally caught up with Lori in her list of countries), and Lori’s first visit to Vienna (she visited Innsbruck on a trip in High School). Wien, as Austrians call the city (pronounced “VEEN”), was the center—geographically and politically—of Europe...

Skiing In Slovenia's Alps, and European Skiing For Americans

Vogel Ski Resort, Slovenia
Chuck Thu, 2016-02-04 07:00
One of the first things I learned about Slovenia is that they have skiing. A Slovenian economic development rep once told me that the Alps spill into the northwest corner of this tiny country. Usually where there are mountains, people will try to ride them. If there is snow, of course. There’s usually plenty of snow in Slovenia’s corner of the Alps. Their end of Europe’s famed mountain range is called the Julian Alps; I have no idea why and am feeling too lazy to look it up. I’m guessing Julius Caesar had something to do with it. Europeans like to name pieces of the Alps, I believe to give...