During the past 12 months I’ve posted nearly 60 articles on foXnoMad amounting to many thousands of words, most of which are colored with pictures taken with using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10. One things you might not know about this site is that almost all of the photos used are taken by me and although they’re the minority compared to sentences, those pictures often have a big impact on you.
When the Olympics Games end the structures built to host them are often re-purposed, demolished, or left abandoned after the closing ceremony. Olympic villages are most often converted into housing, stadiums taken over by local sports teams. In the case of the Winter Olympics, many event-specific constructions like the bobsleigh track can’t be used for anything else but Sarajevo‘s leftover 1984 course was used to host the Luge World Cup – until it became a front in the 1991 Bosnian War. See the rest of the pictures here.
In the middle of the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia’s pirate waters, is the Yemeni archipelago Socotra. Of its 4 islands, the main Socotra island is one of the most remote, visually stunning, culturally intriguing, and least visited places on Earth. See more pictures from Socotra here.
Huddled with a group of journalists a few hours after returning from Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, I’ll never forget one of them saying in a dead serious voice, “shit’s about to blow up here.” I couldn’t help but agree in what was my last night in Donetsk, where I spent several weeks, watching tensions rise as pro-Russian demonstrations became more frequent and fervent. See the rest of the pictures here.
There are few offers sweeter to a traveler than, here’s a new car and an open road: go find the most interesting places you can. I was handed the keys to Ford’s 2015 Transit Connect minivan mutated unminivan in Las Vegas right after the 2014 Star Trek Convention, aiming to combine the best science plus fiction stops along the way to Chicago. See the photos from the entire trip here.
Somewhere along your travels there’s a chance of unwittingly stumbling upon what you’ll soon realize is a perfect cafe. Positioned near the old fortress walls of 2013’s best city to visit Sibiu, Romania is Pardon Cafe And Bistro, where I shyly entered upon the recommendation of a local. See the rest of the pictures here.
Kiev, Ukraine’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti is visually intimidating yet conversely welcoming for a city center that resembles a war zone. Translated into Independence Square, locals simply refer to it as Maidan, a word that has grown to carry with it deep connotations in Ukraine. See the rest of the pictures here.
Did I Miss Yours?
Another very popular set of photos were those of the costumes and cosplay from the 2014 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention where you can also see me practicing my bat’leth moves. To take a longer visual RTW trip you can browse through my country specific galleries and let me know your favorites I missed in the comments below. Happy New Year!
The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament that’s run every spring on this site has become more controversial every year since I began running it 2009. During the past two years (some) people have been upset primarily because the cities advancing have been Romanian. What most of the complainers seem to ignore is that winning in The Best City To Visit Tournament isn’t just clicks on a mouse – there are passionate people behind what is often part of a larger campaign to bring travelers to a town.
Anyone who thinks Craiova isn’t deserving of winning the title of best city to visit in 2014 especially needs to plan a trip there so you can be introduced to all of the reasons why it is.
Fighting Under Its Weight
Craiova is the very unassuming 6th largest city in Romania that has to work hard to compete in a country where tourism is booming. Government officials estimate the number of foreigners visiting has doubled over the last 12 years so Craiova is not only working to differentiate itself from the Paris’ of the world but also the Brasov and Sibiu’s nearby. Though rather than trying to emulate stale croissants in a snobby atmosphere that many large cities pollute themselves with over time, Craiova embodies what travelers crave most – a local experience.
Saturday’s Blogger Meetup
Many of us dig through layers of a town to reach its kernel, which isn’t found inside large statues or restaurants overflowing with tourists but instead in small groups of people enjoying their version of every day life. Craiova doesn’t really have overpowering monuments or any pillar historical buildings on par with “those” places you think of when it comes to tourism, which means finding its essence isn’t much of a search at all.
On most Saturday nights in Club Q, you can meet up with the dedicated group of bloggers who love Craiova about a much as they like having fun. There are discussions about pretty much anything. When I visited there was a group of international students hanging out with the Craiova locals, reflective of the open invitation to anybody in town. The mayor, Lia Olguta Vasilescu, even stopped by and when I finally realized everyone wasn’t playing a prank on me, I was struck by what a unique experience Craiova can offer.
Refreshing On Both Ends
Craiova is an industrial city that’s now working as hard to build itself into a tourist destination as it does in producing cars. The old city is being completely rebuilt in hopes of a successful 2021 European Capital of Culture bid; a compliment to the larger Mihai Viteazu Square whose thoroughfare is lined with cafes like Restaurant Viena, leading back to it.
The Constantin Mihail Palace is being renovated to accommodate paintings that will eventually fill its new role as the local Art Museum.
Over 90 hectares makes the 111 year old Parcul Nicolae Romanescu one of the largest urban parks in Eastern Europe, accounting for 2% of the total national park area of Romania.
Craiova also has a number of churches, the oldest being the Cosuna Monastery, built around 1483 from a past that’s surprisingly Craiovan. A three hour drive from Bucharest, four by car to Sofia, and five to Belgrade, given its location Craiova has been a crossroads – or more of a dead end – for conquerors. Notoriously stubborn, Craiova’s was burned down in 1802 by frustrated Ottoman forces, and just north of the city you can take a small boat on the Danube River into caves where rebel forces fired canon balls upon trespassers.
What remains today is exactly why you should visit Craiova and part of the reason some were against the city winning in the first place. Craiova is growing and eventually, with all hopes, be the type of tourist destination many paying people will want to see. Before others catch on however, you can visit a city whose core is at its surface and meet a population of residents who are downright passionate about Craiova, a sentiment that leaves you infectiously feeling like a local. Mulțumesc Craiova.
I’ll be writing more about Craiova in the coming weeks, including what to see and do in the city but wanted again to thank everyone there for their kind hospitality. I’m thrilled The Best City To Visit Travel Tournament brought me to Craiova in 2014 look forward visiting again.
Over the next three months I’ll be using the interactive language teaching site italki to learn Arabic. I recently partnered with italki to see how well the service works and whether it might be able to help travelers pick up useful conversational skills before a trip. In this video I talked a bit about my goals for italki but here’s the breakdown of my strategy, motivations, and where I plan to put my Arabic skills to the test.
Where I’m Starting From (Hint: Zero)
Well, nearly zero. I pick up a lot of a local tongue before I visit a country using some of the best online language services; but my very frequent traveling ironically leaves me retaining little once I’m on to the next destination. Previous essential word combinations every traveler should learn fade into new terms or local dialects. Although the information is still tucked somewhere in my brain it becomes harder to conjure up on neural connections that vanish over time.
With Arabic, I’m starting at the beginning. I know a few critical phrases like, “hey my brother, can you please replace these shisha coals for me,” from my first visit to Egypt. There’s also a good deal of overlap vocabulary between Turkish and Arabic, which makes things a bit easier for me. The Arabic script is different however plus there are sounds which are new to my tongue and ears. Knowing some vocabulary only makes things simple once you know they’re related; besides words are often slightly different enough to make your brain default to the one you know, not the Arabic pronunciation.
Why I Set Arabic Goals
First, I don’t know how to write in Arabic and as you know by now, I don’t have much of a background in the language. Beginning with a blank slate seems the most logical way to clearly see the benefits of italki – three months from now almost all of the Arabic I know will be because of the online courses I take there. Aside from measuring progress, I also tend to travel a lot in the Arab-speaking world. I’m on a journey to travel to every country in the world but am not in a rush; I often go back to places I find interesting. Arabic will be useful for me as chances are, it will be the predominant language in an eventual upcoming stop.
I want to learn conversational Arabic, in the Egyptian dialect (as it has the widest reach), so I can wander around Dubai for example, without falling back on English. Or Yemen. Or one of the other many Arab-speaking nations I haven’t been to yet. In addition to speaking, I want to be able to read Arabic with enough consistency to comprehend common road signs, phrases, and words.
Updates Every Friday
On the Friday of every week through next February I’ll be posting updates about my progress learning Arabic with italki plus how it works (and doesn’t) as I get more familiar with it. I’ll be taking 5 hours of lessons a week initially, spread out more or less evenly and I hope you’ll follow along with me. I look forward to sharing updates with you in English plus some Arabic in the weeks to come.
There is no other city like it in the world and while Istanbul certainly has a well beaten tourist path, Wandering Earl and I would like to show you everything in between. Back in 2013 we invited you to our I Love Istanbul Tour and I’m more than excited to bring back the next version for 7 days and 6 nights beginning April 14th, 2015.
Istanbul Tour Details
I’ll be hosting the tour with my friend Derek Baron (Wandering Earl) who’s been running successful tours around the world for the past three years. Accommodation, daily meals, transportation, entrance passes are all included in the Wander Around Istanbul Tour which costs $1,000 for the trip April 14-20th, 2015.
“When I first signed up for the “I Love Istanbul” tour I thought – What have I committed to? What if Earl is a total weirdo? But I had no reason to worry. It felt more like I was traveling with friends who wanted to show me everything great about the city. If I had traveled to Istanbul on my own I would have hit all the main tourist destinations, but the benefit of following Earl (and fellow tour leader Anil) is that they know how to find the real treasures.” -Amanda O.
You can find more details and signup at the link here or ask me any questions in the comments below.
Wander Across India
In case you want to cure your wanderlust a bit earlier than next spring, Earl also has his Wander Across India Tour coming up on February 10th, 2015, a two and a half week tour of the world’s largest democracy.
I was with Earl to help out on his first India tour in 2012, which is a great deal at $1,850, considering meals, accommodation, transportation, and activities are included over 16 nights.
We’re Waiting For You!
We try to keep both the Istanbul and India tour groups small and in both cases they’ve already got a few spots filled; so don’t want too long to let us know you want to join. Those of you who are interested in either (or both, hey wanderluster!) can find out more and sign up the links below:
So you’re ready for whichever adventure you choose, check out this photo from shows the landmarks to look out for when flying into Istanbul and prepare for your first 48 hours in India.