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Green Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Green

Asen’s Fortress Is A Hidden Day Trip In Bulgaria

asen's fortress

More than a few visitors coming to Sofia or Plovdiv tend to miss Asen’s Fortress, an easy day trip from either city tucked away in Bulgaria’s mountains. Likely built by the Thracians roughly 2500 years ago, its unassuming remains obscure the fort’s interesting past. Only two hours away from Sofia and less than 30 from Plovdiv, there are several tour operators running shuttle buses here but if you’re up for it, renting a car gives you more options with fewer crowds.

asen's fort bulgaria

During the fall, winter, and colder days of spring you’re likely to be the only visitors around, having the entire fort to yourself. Walking around the grounds though might not be for everyone, there are a lot of stairs and steep climbs to be aware of. Even so, just stepping out to the front entrance can give you nice views of below.

asens fortress church

Well preserved and restored if you do make the climb up you’ll see the Church of the Holy Mother of God. Built in the 12th or 13th century, it was the only remaining part of Asen’s Fortress which was mostly destroyed in the 14th century.

asen's fortress

Asen’s Fortress was strategically located close enough to the Ottoman capital Istanbul to be a viable staging ground for competing brothers warring to become sultan. Fratricide was common through this era of Ottoman history meaning brothers would murder one another to become sultan.

Church of the Holy Mother of God

Seeing the obvious issues a place like Asen’s Fortress might cause, it is thought Sultan Suleiman destroyed it to prevent a figurative thorn in his western side.

bulgarian flag

You can often catch wonderful views, even on a cloudy day as the winds tend to carry breaks in between the mists of the mountainside below.

asens fort

Asen’s Fortress is open Wednesdays through Sundays from early in the morning through later in the day (8am-5pm). There’s a nominal fee to enter this beautiful place to explore. During the colder months remember to wear good shoes, watch your step, and make your plans around any potential snow.

Further north you can find Belogradchik, a fort built into the natural rock formations, climb Vitosha if you’re staying in Sofia, while all the time keeping in mind they nod backwards here. So when ordering one of these local dishes at a restaurant, they will be bringing you a coffee – unless they’re nodding up and down.

Scottish Highlands Photos Are Why You Need To Visit Right Now

scottish highlands

Scotland as a people and a nation is seductive in all the varieties of that word. The northern reaches of the country it’s mountainous Highlands have an effect visitors so common it may be telling the story of the human heart. Perhaps I’m overly romanticizing but spend as much time over as many visits to Scotland as I have – and the rain, stories of honorably hopeless battles – plus lots of whisky will do that to you too.

The weather forecast here should be given in quarter hours, otherwise it’s like a 12 month forecast most anywhere else.

eilean donan castle

It will rain, it will be windy. Chilly but just warm enough after a short walk to make your armpits sweat. Maybe all of this. Maybe none of it. Likely all at once or not at all.

scotland highlands

I could tell you of the history here. There’s a lot of it. But just look up and know that to have lived here the Scot’s ancestors had to be crazy, tough, and carry a good sense of humor.

eilean donan castle

Fighting off the world’s best armies, Nordic psychopaths whose descendants would later give us Dancing Queen, plus each other at times probably meant you had to enjoy the moment in between.

scotland mountains

Got 10 minutes of sun? Take advantage of it then when the rain hits, drink the night away. The same is still true today for locals and tourists alike.

scottish mountains

The Scottish Highlands are one of the least densely populated areas in Europe (roughly 8 people per square kilometer) which comes with its own gruesome history.

scotland waterfalls

When you arrive you’ll be welcomed. A Saturday night drink in a local Portree pub will have you talking with locals, in between singing sessions.

portree isle of skye

More people should come here you think. But not too many, they’ll just muck it up.

scottish mountains

The Highlands are a geography that are unforgiving. Welcoming too. If tales of warriors fighting to the last person against hopeless odds to defend their land makes you nostalgic for centuries when you (thankfully) weren’t alive… or cows that look like they smoke weed all day make you say “aww” – or both – then you’ll love this part of Scotland.

highland cattle

The landscape and culture here speak to many parts of the human experience which is why it’s so alluring. Scotland’s Highlands are endearing but like the weather, for reasons that are unpredictable. It’s a region with a rolling story across seasons that are just as varied.

eilean donan castle

I’ll have more practical information for you in the coming days on visiting Scotland’s Highlands but why you should visit is where you can start. The reason is somewhere in us all, which is why you’ll love it too.

The Best Filtered Water Bottles For Travel

filtered water bottle

Water is essential for biological life but also the biggest ripoff in an airport. Not to mention it’s usually sold in plastic containers so a filtered water bottle can not only save you money but creates less waste as well. There are a variety of options for travelers making a straightforward accessory a potentially complicated decision.

To make it easy, there are basically two types of filtered water bottles to be aware of and these are the best filtered water bottles of each to travel with.

In Short, Two Types

Basically there are two primary types of filtered water bottle – those designed for hikers and those for tap water. For most travelers, the latter is what you’re looking for. The majority of filtered water bottles are made to purify tap water, which is useful at airports, new cities, or at the gym. Essentially, they improve the taste of and eliminate the most common bacteria (down to 0.01 micron) you might come across in already treated water.

The SurviMate won’t filter heavy metals or viruses meaning you can’t just fill it up from a lake and chug. But it can help you get cleaner water from drinking fountains at airports plus has replaceable filters.

Straight Outta Nature

On the other hand if you’ll be hiking or know you won’t have access to treated water, the GRAYL filters out nearly all bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals. GRAYL uses a manual pump system that can remove larger sediments as well. It might be a bit overkill depending on where you’ll be traveling but for the best portable water protection, the GRAYL is worth the investment.

More Options To Choose From

Of all the filtered water bottles I tested, the primary differences between the types were small. Tap water filters generally have a .01 micron limit and many SurviMate knockoffs don’t have replaceable filters. (Many claim the filters are “coming soon” but SurviMate’s been around a while and have filters that last a year under regular use of 4 liters/1 gallon per day.)

As for the wilderness water filters, the prices generally go up based on the amount of water being filtered but for backpackers a typical water bottle size is ideal. Other options like UV pens I’ve found aren’t as reliable since they can’t remove large particles or heavy metals from water like the GRAYL. You can check this map to see where you can and can’t drink the local water, filter tap as you go, or GRAYL for the great outdoors.

How To Travel With CBD

You’ve probably been hearing more about CBD lately since changes in hemp laws are making it available in a growing number of countries worldwide. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t have psychoactive effects and many claim it’s a remedy for a variety of issues, including jet lag.

Aside from its effectiveness there’s still a lot of confusion among travelers around if CBD is legal and how to travel with it. If you’re one of those travelers you can watch the video above or read on to learn more.

What Is CBD?

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, one of the two main compounds in marijuana. The other compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the one that gets you high if you smoke or ingest it. CBD doesn’t get you high (unlike khat) and its popularity is based on its potentially therapeutic effects. Being sold in familiar foods such as chocolates and gummies also makes CBD easy to market. CBD oil is also sold separately which you can use to add to tea, for example.

CBD is extracted from industrial hemp, then the THC removed yet many CBD products have trace amounts of THC. So long as the CBD contains less than the local permitted amount of THC, it may be considered legal. In the United States CBD extracted from hemp is legal if the THC content is below .3% – at least in most states. Because CBD is not regulated, the amount of CBD as well as trace THC often varies from what the label says.

Depending on the legal status of marijuana where you are, CBD with THC may also be available. This is an important distinction in a lot of places and for this post, we’ll focus on just CBD. If you’re curious what the local marijuana laws are around the world, you can check this free map or download GrassFox on iOS or Android.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
How To Travel With CBD

Obviously a lot of these rules will depend on jurisdiction but for now the best advice is not to travel with CBD internationally. The rules regarding CBD and marijuana are a complicated mesh which may or may not be well understood, even by those enforcing them. Marijuana possession is a very serious offense in a lot of places and CBD branding or oil droppers can easily be mistaken for it. (Or just no distinction made between the different cannabinoids.) Don’t put yourself in unnecessary risk by bringing CBD on an international trip but it won’t hurt to have some before you head to the airport.

cbd airplane

Within the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently clarified CBD derived from hemp (without THC) is legal to fly with. It’s important to note if you’re flying to one of the few states where CBD is not legal, you might run into trouble if you’re found with it. (At a traffic stop for instance.) National parks within the U.S. don’t allow CBD either because they are federal lands. Many theme parks as well as cruise lines prohibit CBD as well.

CBD is available in several European countries but again, since the rules may vary across international borders even within the Schengen Area, don’t go abroad with it.

Does CBD Help Jet Lag?

There is no cure for jet lag which is the result of a bombardment of things that muck up your sleep and body cycles. You can try shifting your body clock with peanuts or using these expert sleep tips but in both cases, the goal is to get good sleep at the right times. Although there’s not much clinical evidence of CBDs benefits, anecdotally it does help many people sleep better. Consumed in food, taking CBD an hour or two before you fly might help you doze off better.

CBD can’t make jet lag vanish but it has some promise for giving you improved sleep so you can more rapidly adapt to a new timezone. A lot is not known about CBDs benefits and side effects so be sure to do your own research and talk to a doctor if you’re unsure about trying it.

Is Globalism The First Step To Star Trek’s Utopian Society?

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2019.

This is a guest post by Joao, one half of No Footprint Nomads, devoted Trekkies who write about sustainable travel from their experience of over 9 years on the road. Top photo courtesy No Footprint Nomads.

no footprint nomads

On Earth, the creation of life has evolved from individuals to groups: first particles, then cells and on to more complex creatures like animals, who organize in their own social structures. Homo sapiens have also followed this natural progression. By first gathering in groups, then cities, later countries – and more recently, unions of nations.

When looking at the large scale of events, we are evolving towards consolidation, even though we sometimes feel we are living in the most nationalistic time of our common history. The often used term “globalization” is real and nobody can deny we are more connected now than ever.

Internet, extremely low travel costs and the rise of remote work have created an ever-increasing flow of movement around our planet that is surpassing records every year. We can already see the effects in locations like Venice, Italy, where they have to limit access for tourists to protect the local lifestyle.

This natural law will affect all areas of our society like capital and money – although we’re still far away from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Neutral Zone“. (Where several 20th-century people wake up in the future to find out capital and property are no longer present in society.) This may be difficult to imagine in today’s capitalistic world.

Planet Earth in the Star Trek futuristic world is a border-less society. Our current globalization trend (e.g. European Union) is a stepping stone to that world. And when we talk about modern nomads, we are talking about the first truly border-less individuals. I use the term “modern” on purpose because the original nomads were very different from today’s. Back in the day, they traveled for survival to find food and shelter; today’s nomads travel to experience the world’s diversity. Society 1.0 represents the first nomads on camel-back, sedentary societies became the norm for 2.0, and now we are becoming nomadic again, hence society 3.0.

A nomad sees the world as an endless opportunity for exploration, either for pleasure or for personal growth. Time and borders are not as important in their life, although we are still somewhat far from a totally border-less society. Visa limitations, strict immigration rules and warfare are still very present in our world and defy the ambition of true nomads. But nomadism is essentially a mindset, a way of looking at the world and not being blinded by borders, by human-created divisions when, in fact, we are all the same species.

airplane window sunset

A nomad can live in a country for awhile until they feel the need to explore something else, like meditation, and then move to Thailand to dive into that passion. The world becomes a potential open university, and borders don’t matter anymore.

I’ve been involved with the nomad community for some time and there are some trends that arise after years living this lifestyle. It reminds me again the same TNG episode when Captain Picard replies to the man from the past, who does not understand the reason for living without material needs:

“The challenge, Mister Offenhouse, is to improve yourself. To enrich yourself. Enjoy it.”

In the nomad community it is not unusual to talk about meditation, healthy food, book reading, stoicism (yes, Gene Roddenberry’s inspiration for Vulcans), yoga, self-learning and all other activities related to enriching yourself, just like Picard said.

Every day that I live this life and meet more inspiring fellow nomads, I can see a little more of our future the way Roddenberry, a true visionary, painted for us in the series. If you are a true Trekkie, then consider embracing the world as a true nomad and forget any differences we might have.

Thank you very much Joao for this Trek-inspired guest post! You can find Joao and Sara on this site, No Footprint Nomads, where they write about sustainable travel. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Qa’plah!

How To Visit Socotra Island

Socotra is a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean, inaccessible for the past several years not due to its location, but connection to mainland Yemen. It’s considered a step back in time, untouched by tourism at large and slowly became a wonderland destination for adventurous travelers. Tourism there peaked at 4,000 visitors in 2011, then, less than 4 years later, civil war broke out in Yemen.

Although there’s no fighting anywhere near Socotra Island (370 kilometers from the mainland) getting there since has been virtually impossible. The few companies that did pop up offering tours frequently disappeared – with everyone’s deposits in hand. Now however, there is a reliable way to visit Socotra. Here’s how to get there.

Visas Have Resumed

The primary reason for Socotra’s inaccessibility was the lack of a functioning Yemeni government. Visas weren’t being issued, which prevented airlines from servicing it, equaling no tourism. Recently, enough of a bureaucracy has developed to provide Socotra visas at least, so the main hurdle to visit Socotra has been cleared for now.

dragon blood tree

You’ll need a visa to enter Socotra, which costs $100. There are only two ways to get a visa to Socotra: either know someone on the island (here’s some contact information) or book a tour. A visa to Socotra and flight go hand in hand since you can only get both, in person, from either Cairo, Egypt, or Seiyun, Yemen. As blogger Norbert describes the flights:

It is every Wednesday, departing from Cairo at 3:30 am, arriving at Seiyun at 8:00 am. You spend over an hour on the plane waiting to pick up new passengers and depart at 9:15 am, arriving Socotra at 10:15 am.

For most people, that means getting the flights and visas booked though a tour company as they’ll make the arrangements for you. It’s also worth noting that Yemen will not issue visas to anyone with evidence of a visit to Israel (e.g. entry stamp) in their passport.

Costs To Get There

Norbert recommends the company he used in his post about Socotra, which cost roughly $1400. You’ll also need to add in round trip flights from Cairo (unless you happen to be hanging out in Seiyun), about $1200, plus $100 for the visa. Because flights only operate once per week, any trip to Socotra will be that long.

socotra beach

Keep in mind though, ever since flights have been going to Socotra, they’ve not been entirely reliable. In other words, I wouldn’t book an ongoing flight from Cairo the Thursday after Socotra’s Wednesday flight. Give yourself a buffer week (yes, week) just in case.

What’s Shorter Than Bucket List?

Even despite the somewhat reliable process in place currently to visit Socotra, it’s not the easiest place to get to. But it is worth the effort if you’re interested in seeing a mostly undeveloped UNESCO site with over 500 endemic plant and animal species, before most of the world catches on.

Either by increased tourism or additional flux in Yemen, Socotra’s current natural state is one you might not find for too much longer. More tourists will demand for infrastructure to be built or additional turmoil in the mainland could make Socotra visas hard to come by once more. Whichever happens, one will happen, and if you can visit Socotra before it does, you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More


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