Living out of your backpack for a few months will quickly teach you what gear is essential and what is a waste of space. For those who want to travel light but also be prepared for a sleep outdoors, our recommendations will have you ready for the adventures ahead.
by Dario in Cluj-Napoca, Romania Mmmm, refried beans, a main dish accompanied by flavourful sides as well as a staple in burritos, refried beans are probably one of the healthiest comfort foods out there! We met Dario in Cluj-Napoca, Romania at our adopted home of Casa de Cultura Permanenta. While he wasn’t actively staying in … Read more Refried Beans
by Uli in Nürnberg, Germany Ooooh yeah, look at that delicious goodness. Spätzle, or Spaetzle, are a pretty straightforward egg noodle that will often accompany meat dishes, but you can also find spaetzle accompanied by fruit and sweeter spices. Uli has to be the most generous and wonderful couchsurfing host out there, we couldn’t have asked for … Read more Spätzle
Christmas is a popular holiday for many countries around the world, but it doesn’t mean that we all like to celebrate it the same way. In the Ukraine there’s a magic spider who spins golden webs onto the Christmas tree; Italy has a witch who hands out presents via flying broomstick; in Austria lives a hairy, horned hellion who whips naughty children with birch branches. If you think that’s weird, imagine what they think of our North American myth, with our toy-making elves, neon-nosed reindeer and a Coca-Cola Santa Claus. The craziest legends come to life during the Christmas season, some we’ve come to accept and some we know nothing about! So open your mind, let your imagination flow and pretend you’re a child again as we recount Christmas tales from around the world, starting with our very own Old Saint Nick.
Have you ever caught yourself wondering, what is the true meaning of Christmas? When you step back and take a real look at the strange and obscure things we do for the holidays, it doesn’t make any sense. Why do we decorate trees and exchange gifts? What is so special about December 25th? To uncover the roots of this winter holiday we must dig deep into the past, to the first “Christ Mass” during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine, further back to the pagan Yule festival, and then eons ago when a light, warm and bright, was your only source of hope in an illimitable and terrifying darkness. So keep a close circle around the fire while we delve into the Christmas past, and together we may yet uncover its true nature.
The epitome of dark myths and legends began deep within the wide forests of Romania, a country that was once harsh and full of mystery. Natural disasters, disease, wild animals, and war always felt too close to home and threatened to decimate the lives of the Romanian folk. Seemingly powerless against these terrible forces, the Romanian people created tales of monsters and heroes to give them hope and understanding. Earthquakes occurred only because your lack of faith erodes the Pillars that hold up the world. It was a vicious Pricolici that killed your cattle and a blood-sucking Strigoi that caused your mother to grow ill. Long ago, these superstitions were what helped the Romanian people deal with the harshness of life, as well as providing entertainment around a fire on a cold, winter’s night. All things begin and end with a story.
Final Stop: Flint The day was getting late and Flint castle was our final stop, the last castle we ever saw in Great Britain, last… and possibly the least. It wasn’t much to look at compared to what we had seen, and the gate was closed so we weren’t even able to enter. Little did I … Read more Flint Castle
Fifteenth Stop: Rhuddlan Rhuddlan’s Ruins When we first laid eyes on Rhuddlan castle, one of the last few stops we squeezed into our tour, we immediately asked ourselves, “Did a bomb go off here?” A great, gaping hole yawned in one of its bulwarks, half a tower was missing, and many stones looked as if … Read more Rhuddlan Castle
Fourteenth Stop: Conwy Conwy Castle in all of its glory At last we arrived in Conwy for Friday night and had a milkshake thrown at our heads. Not the kind of greeting I had expected but I took it as it was. Young partiers were driving their fancy cars down through the ancient gates of this … Read more Conwy Castle
Thirteenth Stop: Caernarfon Upon entering the seaside town of Caernarfon we were astonished and delighted by the sheer grandeur of its castle. There were eight massive towers (with smaller turrets crowning those towers), an impenetrable gatehouse, a colossal curtain wall with many twisting passages, two main gates, and even a water gate to the Seiont River– … Read more Caernarfon Castle
Twelfth Stop: Beaumaris Beaumaris Castle Catching the ferry from Dublin, Ireland we arrived in Holyhead, Wales and were promptly greeted by an extra-friendly Welshmen who informed us (in an amusing accent) of all the amazing castles there were to see in the area. We met up with Ashleigh’s brother, Braeden, (who had been on his … Read more Beaumaris Castle
Eleventh Stop: Cuchulainn’s Castle Cuchulainn’s Castle Following the path of “Cuchulainn”, an Irish folk hero and mythological warrior, was one of the many exciting adventures we experienced on our quick jaunt through the Emerald Isles of Ireland (read more about it here). From birth to death we followed Cuchulainn’s epic story to real life places … Read more Cuchulainn’s Castle
Urquhart Castle overlooking the beautiful Loch Ness
Our final stop in Scotland was at the ultra-famous Loch Ness. Interested in the idea of spotting the Loch Ness monster, we decided to spend the night camping along its shores. We found a lovely, not-so-legit camping spot with a pebble beach, grassy knolls, possibly some grazing sheep, and immediately next to us were the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Despite being surrounded by Japanese tourists, Urquhart is a picturesque beauty resting on an outcrop of land, called “Strone Point”, jutting out into the loch. The castle, though in a bit of a ruined state, is a massive tourist attraction– second to “Nessieland”.
Ninth Stop: Muness Arriving at the gloomy, stormy Shetland Isles on a rocking boat of sea-sickness, our high hopes for an exciting and eventful stay were soon dimmed. The tiny and most northern island of Unst at first glance seemed barren of life, trees included. For the first few weeks the weather was the absolute … Read more Muness Castle
Before coming to Britain, even before embarking on our European journey, I would often sit and dream of treading through stone passageways, patrolling the length of rocky defences, and keeping watch from the tallest turrets on a windy night. Castles were raised by the ruling powers through the blood and sweat of their toiling subjects; impenetrable fortresses of carved stone blocks atop rocky crags, castles are truly an awesome sight to behold. They were, at many times, scenes of bloodshed: from sword clashing medieval battles to the assassination of nobles. They were once the seat of lords and kings, protecting, as well as dominating, the countryside. They have stood for hundreds of years and will hopefully continue to stand for centuries more (partially thanks to the National Trust).
Eighth Stop: Dirleton Dirleton Castle. Dirleton Castle was the second stop on our tour generously hosted by Mike, only a 14 minute drive from Tantallon Castle. After passing through the gate into the grounds, we gazed about us in wonder as we trotted through the beautiful garden, full of marvellous flowers, up a path to … Read more Direlton Castle
Seventh Stop: Tantallon Hairy stud blocking Tantallon Castle. It was only through the generosity of our friends and neighbours that Ashleigh and I were able to visit more amazing castles than we were originally planning on. Roger brought us over to his friend Mike’s house one evening for tea and cookies. We sat in front … Read more Tantallon Castle
Sixth Stop: Rosslyn The ruin of Rosslyn Castle Rosslyn Chapel, made more well known by Dan Brown’s popular book “The Da Vinci Code”, is a Catholic chapel, built by the Sinclair family, filled and covered with intricate carvings created to tell stories to the unlearned and illiterate. As marvellous and interesting as that is, many … Read more Rosslyn Castle
Fifth Stop: Crichton Crichton Castle and THAT woman… We got a chance to explore Crichton Castle one sunny afternoon, thanks to our hosts Jane and Roger from Penicuik, Scotland. Roger had a wonderful singing voice and took some time out of every week to sing with his choir in the some of the many ancient, … Read more Crichton Castle
Fourth Stop: Edinburgh Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh is a sprawling, grey-stone, cobble-road city. Built on seven hills, its landscape dominated by an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat. Strolling up on a slow incline, Ashleigh and I passed restaurants advertising their tasty haggis, souvenir shops selling far too many knock-off kilts, and marvellous stone-work buildings. The Royal … Read more Edinburgh Castle
Third Stop: Newcastle Newcastle Keep. En route north to Edinburgh, we decided to spend a night in the quaint town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne before crossing the Scottish border. We enjoyed running around the city all night, exploring the many levels of cobblestone alleyways and bridges. We especially liked the Castle Keep and the Black Gate, all … Read more Newcastle… er, Castle
First Stop: Mow Cop Mow Cop Castle. The very first ‘castle’ we came upon was with one of our HelpX hosts in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Phil took us out on a day trip up to the top of Mow Cop, a small village leading up a mountain. We got a bit lost along the way, thanks … Read more Mow Cop Castle
Second Stop: Tamworth Tamworth Castle. Next on our list was Tamworth Castle, a fine example of Norman construction located next to the River Tame, in the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire, England. While we were staying in Stoke-on-Trent we chose to visit Tamworth simply because it was the closest castle we could find, and still being virgin castle seekers we … Read more Tamworth Castle
By Adela in Cluj-Napoca, Romania Ingredients: 2 Eggs 500 g Yogurt About 5 tbsp sugar/honey About ¼ cup vegetable oil 900g Flour 1 tsp Baking soda ¼ tsp Salt Lemon zest and lemon essence Oil for frying Whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt until everything is dissolved. Add yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon essence, whisking … Read more Minciunele
Inspired by Martin in Trenčín, Slovakia Ingredients: 32 oz. Sauerkraut, chopped 2 ½ qts Chicken broth Black peppercorns (to taste) 4 Bay leaves Salt to taste 2 cups Dried mushrooms ¾ lb Hungarian style dry paprika sausage ¾ lb Smoked ham 2 tbsp Vegetable oil 1 Large onion, finely chopped 2 tbsp All-purpose flour 2 … Read more Kapustnica Soup
By Marie in Ponikve, Slovenia Ingredients: For the Cake 1 1/2 tbsp Instant coffee mixed with 2 tbsp boiling water 3 oz. Walnut halves 6 oz. Self-raising flour 1 1/2 tsp Baking powder 6 oz. Softened butter 6 oz. Golden castor sugar 3 Large eggs (at room temperature) For the Syrup 1 tbsp Instant espresso … Read more Coffee and Walnut Cake with Coffee Cream
inspired by our adventures in Sofia, Bulgaria Ingredients: 3 Eggplants 4 Red bell peppers 3 Tomatoes 2-5 Cloves garlic, crushed Fresh parsley, to taste 1-2 Tbsp Red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar Olive oil, as needed Salt and pepper Preheat the oven at 350°F. Rinse and poke holes in the eggplants along its sides. … Read more Kyopolou
by Mia in Kurtköy, Turkey So I wasn’t able to get a picture of Mia’s Aubergine à la Parmesane because we all devoured it immediately, but this one is pretty close. We met Mia and her fiance Ken on a small farm in Kurtköy, Turkey. A Japanese couple who were on an adventure across the world (way to … Read more Aubergine à la Parmesane
by Hülya from Kabakum, Turkey I think it’s no secret that we fell in love with Turkey during our visit. The people are so kind and welcoming, there’s so much to see, and the food is SO good. We were visiting in the height of summer, so needless to say I was sweating literally from sunrise to sunset. … Read more Ayran Soup
by Hülya from Kabakum, Turkey Ingredients: 5-6 Eggplants, whole 5-6 Green pepper, chopped Garlic, sliced Lots of whole tomatoes, peeled Vegetable oil Paprika Salt, sugar Olive oil Some recipes call for the eggplant to be chopped (like in the picture above) while other people (like our host, Hülya) keep the eggplant whole. This recipe will be keeping … Read more Çığırtma
by Anna from Solbacka, Finland Ingredients: Bananas Coconut oil Cocoa mass (or powder if you like, but you may need more coconut oil) Lemon Optional: toppings and icing! (This one has edible flowers and fresh berries) Proportions in this recipe are up to you, depending on how big and chocolatey you like your cake! Blend the bananas … Read more Raw Cocoa-Banana Cake
by Pia from Solbacka, Finland Ingredients: Spruce tips (bright-green, young, and freshly picked) Honey (another source of sugar can be used if preferred) Pick enough young, bright-green spruce tips to fill a desired jar. Note: do not pick the top of a young spruce tree! It can stunt its future growth. Instead, look on the … Read more Spruce Syrup
by Ola in Krasnapol, Poland Ingredients: about 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped one large onion, chopped sauerkraut (as much as you would like) 1 heaping tbsp of bouillon salt pepper 2-3 bay leaves Peel and chop potatoes and put into a pot. Add water, salt, pepper, bouillon, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat … Read more Sauerkraut Soup
inspired by Dan in Baltasound, Shetland Islands, Scotland Ingredients: For the shortbread: 170 g plain flour 60 g caster sugar 120 g butter For the chocolate topping: 100 g (or more) bar of chocolate of choice For the caramel: 379 g tin of condensed milk 2 tbsp golden syrup 60 g castor sugar 120 g butter … Read more Millionaires Shortbread
inspired by Dan and Gabriela in Baltasound, Shetland Islands, Scotland Ingredients: For the cake: 8 oz cooking dates, stoned and finely chopped 175 ml boiling water 1 tsp vanilla 6 oz self-raising flour 1 tsp baking soda 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 3 oz butter, softened 5 oz demera sugar 2 tbsp black treacle 100 … Read more Sticky Toffee Pudding
Are you looking to get a first-hand experience of local culture? Get some help in your home or business? Learn a few new things? Meet some people? Then welcome to the wonderful world of workaway! The idea behind these organizations (HelpX, WWOOF, Workaway, etc) is to facilitate an exchange between a host and a volunteer. Volunteering through these organizations has been one of the most fulfilling experiences during our travels.
by Jane and Roger from Penicuik, Scotland Ingredients: 1 cup fish stock 1 cup milk 12 oz white fish 1 bay leaf 1/4 cup capers Potatoes 2 oz butter 1 leek 2 oz flour Pepper and salt Preheat oven to 180°C. Pour fish stock and milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add … Read more Fish Pie
by Pia from Fagervik, Finland Ingredients: One bottle of good quality vodka (55-60% alcohol) Fresh St. John’s Wort flowers One clean bottle Pick flowers fresh in the early morning (when potency is highest), but not after it has rained (as rain washes away some of the compounds). To test if flowers are good to use, … Read more St. John’s Wort Vodka
by Phil from Stoke-on-Trent, England Can you pick a more quintessential British dessert than an Apple Crumble? While we were staying with Carol and Phil in Stock-on-Trent Phil couldn’t resist introducing us to this national treasure. I particularly liked the addition of rhubarb in Phil’s recipe, yum! You will find a million and one variations … Read more Apple Crumble
by Karin from Björklinge, Sweden Ingredients: Potatoes Vegetable oil Seasoning spices Buckwheat Tortellini (or other pasta of choice) Onions Peel and boil potatoes. Once soft, remove the potatoes from heat and let them cool. Slice in 1/2 cm to 1 cm thick slices. Put oil on both sides of the slices and lay in a baking … Read more Karin’s Russian Pie
by Louis from Montreal, Canada Ingredients: 4 eggs 500 ml milk 250 ml cream 65 g sugar 1 tsp nutmeg Separate the egg white and yolk from each other. Mix the yolks with the sugar. Add the milk, cream, and nutmeg to the egg and sugar mixture. Mix the whites until they become frothy. Add … Read more Eggnog Quebecois
So a friend of mine recently showed me some great websites for free tours, and it got me thinking about how many cheap touring opportunities are out there, even in our home towns, that we never know about until someone points it out…
One aspect of travelling that a lot of people find intimidating is facing the fact that you are going to be spending money, quite possibly a lot of it. Don’t let that thought deter you! Instead, use your concern to your advantage. Anxiety is easy to overcome with a little preparation and planning, and being a little concerned will hopefully ensure you go above and beyond when it comes to planning your budget. This page will be dedicated to sharing advice on budget planning and our own experiences with actually following the plan.
Iceland was settled by the Scandinavians in 874 AD by adventurous people fleeing civil strife and over-population of the home states. With no native population, and no large predators, it seemed that the untamed elements were the only thing settlers would have to war against. But as time when on it became clear that amongst the black rocks and deep caves of this island lay ancient magic, and mystical people who had lived there since the giant ogre named Ymir appeared out of the thawing drops of a new, and fierce, world.
Everybody, in the back of their mind, believes in ghosts. Your heart races for a second when you see a shadow move out of the corner of your eye, or you feel the presence of someone standing over you as you try to sleep, or a gaping face in the window almost makes you scream, but disappears as soon as you flip on the lights. You can dismiss the paranormal as simply a trick of the eyes, an illusion of the mind, or a fear of the unknown. You can explain any ghostly encounter logically as a natural phenomenon; we would be foolish not to. But try spending the night alone in one of the most haunted places in the world, like the castles of Britain, and all that logic and skepticism won’t help you when you’re battling red-eyed dog wraiths with an iron poker! Maybe, as skeptics, we should not disregard the countless ghost stories without first seeking out our own ghostly encounters. Using our sharply critical mind we should visit these haunted castles and try to discern the truth with our own eyes– and maybe we can get through the night without weeing ourselves.
This is a very poor drawing that I worked very hard on, my map of Yggdrasil and the Norse cosmology: Muspell, world of fire giants, Alfheim, world of light elves, Asgard, world of the gods, Utgard, world of the giants, Midgard, world of man, Dvergard, world of dark elves, and Niflheim, world of ice and darkness, land of the dead.