05 Oct How traveling taught me to listen: {stop. look. listen.}

[caption id="attachment_2175" align="aligncenter" width="200"] Appreciate quite moments in unfamiliar places.[/caption] So you’re sitting in a busy coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, chatting with a friend who is just across the table from you. Although there are at least 20 other people in this small space all having their own conversations, it is no problem for you to tune out the other conversations around you and engage in your own. Think of all the words, sayings, inflections, laughs, exclamations, et cetera that are happening in this little shop, and yet your brain has no problem focusing on only the words involved in your conversation. When broken down like this, it may seem like some sort of feat that we all do this everyday when really it is like a second nature now. That all changes when you’re tossed into an entirely new culture and language, however… I remember my first few moments in Prague: it was like all of my senses were heightened and sharpened. I could hear everything, smell everything, and see everything so clearly—talk about overwhelming ( in the best way! ). I especially remember my ears being entirely alert because of the new language surrounding me. New sounds, new words, new accents—and although I couldn’t understand any of it yet, I was entirely intrigued and loved listening. Listening: something I came back from Europe much better at. Of course it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, always. It’s especially...

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06 May Where the World Vacations

Spring is here and with it comes the inevitable urge to travel during the upcoming summer months. Though the vast majority of Americans travel domestically, there are still those who wander farther. These are the people who dream of tropical getaways to Mexico, or hiking adventures in the northern wilds of Canada. These are the travelers who don’t feel fulfilled until there is a new stamp in their passport and a new security tag on their baggage. Seasonal wanderlust is hardly limited to Americans. In fact, Europeans are famous for their vacations. It certainly helps to live on a continent full of distinct nations easily reached by a car trip or short plane flight. Interestingly, a study conducted on travel trends for the EU noted that vacation destinations differ by nationality. Here are some of the results. Italians vacation in France. Yep, even Italians need a break from pasta occasionally. They head inland to the mountains and cities of France for a refreshing getaway. British go to Spain. It’s no secret that the Brits love the Mediterranean coast. Tans, tea, and tapas; Spain is the dream destination for everyone looking to escape the grey skies of England. The Irish visit the UK. This is a bit of a surprise until you consider that you can get a round trip from Dublin to London for $50. $50! You can hardly buy a suitcase for that price! Czech tourists choose Slovakia. Though not well known in the US, Slovakia is a gorgeous...

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06 Apr Path Less Traveled

Avoiding the Beaten Path in Prague Prague is best described as an eclectic mix of old and new, where history can be seen and felt no matter where you are. Whether you are dancing the night away in a modern club housed in a two hundred year old building or eating traditional Czech food in a centuries-old restaurant along a winding, cobbled street, you will feel the past merging fluidly with the present. In the last few years people have begun to recognize Prague as a melting pot of culture, entertainment and beauty, which has increased the tourist traffic dramatically. For those of us who want to experience all that Prague has to offer while avoiding the crowds of people flocking to the most well-known venues, here 4 alternative experiences that can only be found in Prague.   Vyšehrad (High Castle) Though much less well-known than the Prague Castle, Vyšehrad is a favorite spot for locals because of the amazing view of the city, the popular beer garden located on the grounds, and the castle cemetery which is full of famous Czech people. At Vyšehrad you can drink like a local while looking at the graves of the more permanent locals.   Františkánská zahrada (Franciscan Garden)   Experience a peaceful oasis just off the famous (and famously busy) Wenceslas Square. The Františkánská zahrada is a small garden that was established in 1348 and which offers an ideal escape from the crowds without being completely removed from the energy of...

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12 Jan Wish, Kiss, and Touch

The new year is here! 2015 is the year for travel and discovery, and all the personal wealth that comes with it. We’ve put together a list of places for you to go this year that are not only beautiful and entrenched in history, they will bring you good fortune. 1. Edinburgh, Scotland- Grayfriar Bobby Statue Meet the most famous and beloved terrier of Scotland, Grayfriars Bobby. His life-size statue stands near the main entrance of Greyfriar Kirkyard, a cemetery in Edinburgh’s Old Town. The statue was erected to memorialize the Skye Terrier who kept faithful watch over his master’s grave for 14 years until his own death in 1872. A tombstone marks his actual burial site in Kirkyard, where he rests eternally near the grave of his owner John Gray. The story has unfortunately been discredited by recent research, but tourists still enjoy rubbing the nose of the loyal pup for good fortune. City officials encourage you to pet gently, not because he bites, but because his nose has undergone some damage over the years from repeated touching. [caption id="attachment_1340" align="alignnone" width="189"] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Greyfriars_Bobby_statue,_Edinburgh.JPG[/caption] So sweet. 2. Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland- Blarney Castle Kiss it, it’s Irish! When you’re in Ireland, be sure to visit the Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone for the “gift of the gab.” According to legend, proprietor of the castle Cormac MacCarthy was being denied his land owning rights by Queen Elizabeth I. Feeling helpless to argue his case, he...

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12 Oct Castles and ales, a fine Saturday in Czechy land

[caption id="attachment_2294" align="alignnone" width="660"] Such a nice little weekend castle.[/caption] Built and enjoyed by King Charles IV of Bohemia from 1348 A.D. until his death in 1378, the Karlstejn Castle was only known by men. Men and men only were invited by the King to the weekend lodge of sorts to hunt fox, drink beer, and talk dirty. Think of it as his Man Cave, but a gargantuan one with secret passageways and guards, spreading many acres. King Charles made the castle pilgrimage from his usual castle in Prague (one can’t have too many castles) to bring his revered crown jewels—en tow by dozens of nobles on horseback and carriage—to Karlstejn for safe keeping. Picture a cross between the pomp and circumstance of the palm waving Queen Elizabeth in limousine, and the hooting and hollering of a circus entering town. That was the summer trip from Prague to Karlstejn that King Charles made. You’ll take it too, but on train and with locals. The train chugs along and drops you, your Panrimo coordinator and fellow Panroamers off a little less than a mile from the castle entrance. What simplistic joy and connectivity to nature the mile walk to the castle elicits. I’ll leave visualization of the gargantuan rooms and the stunning crown jewels’ display to your own Internet searching. But trust me, this is a must see. --- “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” Ben Franklin is known to...

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09 Jun What I’ve seen from a bar stoop on Stepanska

[caption id="attachment_2172" align="alignnone" width="660"] Musings of a traveler.[/caption] Bar Nota serves only drinks, and that’s OK with me. There is no Czech food (Czechs aren’t known for their cuisine, unless you consider dry dumplings and fried cheese a staple diet). There also are few tourists here, which is a pleasant surprise since Prague in summertime is flooded with them. Nope. Just Bernard beer, Jamiroquai and jazz music and St. Stephen’s Church across the street at which to stare. It caught my attention because of the black musical note hanging from its door. Outdoor seating sealed the deal, so I took to a table and chair. I don’t speak Czech, but raising my hand flat from table to ceiling, saying “Bernard,” the bartender and I soon spoke the same language. A moment must be taken to explain the Czech Republic’s fascination with beer. Unlike in the States and Canada, drinking beer is second to breathing air in Czech land, and done for fellowship. It began a thousand years ago or more in this area then called Bohemia. Later, in 1838 in Plzen, Czech Republic, brewmasters mixed just the right amount of mineral water (the best in Europe, arguably), barley and wheat to a fermented state. Pilsner Urquell was born. I see Czechs—men and women—drinking a beer for breakfast. It is a social function, something that brings Czechs together, and happily so. It’s comparably in the States to Friday night dinner with the neighbor couple and a...

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