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 Tales Around the World

St. nicholas, Krampus, Salzburg

St. nicholas, Krampus, Salzburg

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.

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The True Meaning of Christmas

Witches' Night, Heidelburg, Germany


Setting Sun

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.

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Romanian Myths, Monsters, and Heroes

Carpathian Giant, Pietrele Doamnei , Romania

Carpathian Giant, Pietrele Doamnei , Romania

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.

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Caernarfon Castle

Caernafon Castle, Wales

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

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle, Wales

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

Cuchulainn’s Castle

Cuchulainn's Castle, Dundalk, Ireland

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

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland

Tenth Stop: Urquhart

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”.

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A Crash Course in British Castles

Caernarfon Castle, Wales

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).

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh 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

Newcastle… er, 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

Tamworth Castle

Tamworth Castle and gardens.

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

Coffee and Walnut Cake with Coffee Cream

Coffee and Walnut Cake

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

Volunteer Abroad: Workaway, HelpX, WWOOF

Makvaerket Kitchen, Knabstrup, Denmark

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.

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Managing your Budget

Jesper, Nathanael, Ashleigh, Budva, Montenegro

The serious business of beer-tasting.

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.

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Icelandic Myths and Creatures

Iceland landscape

Iceland landscape

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.

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Haunted Castles of Britain

Mow Cop ghost

Mow Cop ghost

Some of the most infamous British haunted castles.
Some of the most infamous British haunted castles.

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.

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Norse Cosmology of Yggdrasil

Yggdrasil the world tree, Iceland

Norse Cosmology– The Worlds of Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil the world tree, Iceland

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.

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