Thursday, July 31, 2014
It's that time of year when the caravans are clogging the highways and byways of the world. It's that time when you see all forms of kayak, canoe, bicycle, and surfboard strapped to the roofs of every sort of vehicle on Earth. It's that time when people are getting out to enjoy the weather before the leaves die and the cold starts for the winter. This, in America, is what we call summer, and all of the weird things that you see driving down the roads are the signs of the season. As you all know, if you've ever read this blog, I am not beach people. This year I have been trying to keep my savvy and still bring some places to light for the beach people of the world.
Way back, when Germany was divided, the Soviets built themselves an airplane hangar. This is the largest free standing building in the world. That's in the world, folks. This place is big. It outdoes malls and airport terminals. That's huge. Anyway, the German's had to figure out what to do with this place after the Wall came down and things were once again German. The building, originally built for dirigibles, has nearly three quarters of a million square feet in area, and you could fit the Statue of Liberty inside of it. The solution?
Tropical Islands Resort and Spa of Krausnick, Germany. It's not far from Berlin or Dresden, and it's a real getaway. They have the largest wave pool in the world. They have the longest water slide in Europe. This is a tropical megaplex with everything that you can imagine under one stunningly large roof. It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has natural light that can give you a sunburn. It has rides, go karts, mini golf, bumper boats, botanical areas, restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping, lazy rivers, and so much more. You could fly a hot air balloon in this place. They do it all the time.
At night they just light the place up. There are shows and places to hang out. There's dancing and dining. It's almost Vegas, and it's all in one building. You can even camp in a tent on the beach inside.
The plants are real. The trees are real. The beaches are real. The waterfalls are not real, but they are really cool. It's a delight and it's the biggest place of it's kind in the world. They have so much to do, that you can't do it all in a day, although it is priced the same as an average theme park for a day trip. That's right, it doesn't cost any more than a day at Six Flags or Disney, and you can't get rained out. You can't get too cold. You can't be disappointed. Seems like a no brainer to me.
A lot of the restaurants are located in the international village where they have built buildings in traditional styles of several countries like Thailand, Bali, and Malaysia. It adds to the exotic atmosphere of the park, and they have some pretty good food, both local and Asian. There are many things to do at Tropical Islands both for families and couples. You just choose what you want and it can happen.
The Titanic Bouncy Slide is humorous, The balloon rides are infamous, the water slide is enormous, and the beach bungalows are luxurious. The animals are real too. This is a spot that's not to be missed. This is something that no one in the family will forget. It's fun, romantic, exotic, original, and the best way to use old Soviet stuff that I've seen yet. You can't have more fun inside. I'm pretty sure of that.
So, here you go beach people. This is a beach that never closes. You can't get more beach time than that. It's all inside. It's warm and tropical all year round. It snows a lot around Krausnick, and in this dome it's always warm and fun. It's the largest free standing building in the world, and it's a world of fun. You can't miss this. If you can find enough places to wear your bikini, then you haven't been here. 24 hours a day there's a beach party at Tropical Islands Resort. Come now and enjoy they're 10th anniversary.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
In the summer a lot of folks tend to head for the beach. Now, we all know that his is not my style, so I look for some more unusual things to do. But, I thought that I would throw in a little beach lore just to make the sunbathers happy.
Gdansk, Poland is one of the more historic cities in the world. It's a seaside city on the shores of the Baltic Sea, and it's got enough history to keep anyone busy for weeks. Gdansk is one of the most northern cities in Poland and they have been at the center of some serious conflicts. They've been taken over by the Germans, the Russians, The Prussians,The Swedes, The Fins, and Napoleon came knocking as well as Hitler. Many cities in Poland were completely destroyed in WWII, like Warsaw. But Gdansk is not only the shipping hub for this hearty souled country, it's got some of the best historical sites left in the country.
The crane in Gdansk harbor is the oldest port crane in the world. This city has an old town and a new town that is only slightly newer. It has the largest brick gothic church in the world. It has all kinds of buildings, monuments, and amazing things from days past. This city is full of culture and art. There are all kinds of museums and parks. There are so many things to do that you won't have time to be bored.
If when you're in Europe you're like me, you like to see castles and palaces. Gdansk is up to that task as well. Malbork Castle is a great spot to learn about the times of old and monarchies that went with them. Let's not forget the ongoing history between Russia and Poland that dates back to the times of Catherine the Great and the Polish Prince that may have been the father of the new Romanov Dynasty.
Water is a theme in Gdansk. The harbor is huge and full of cargo ships, and cruise ships. You can visit some historic naval vessels while you're in town, and if you're lucky, you can take a trip on the pirate ship. That's right. Everyone has been bitten by the pirate bug, and this is a great way to get a look at the city from the water. It's just for tourists, so be one and enjoy that ride.
So, you've come to Gdansk. You've gathered some Amber, seen some great old buildings, forts, castles, and a pirate ship. But, yes, I mentioned the beach.
Across a long bridge there is one of three islands in the area, and it's the one that's man made. It called Sobieszewo Island. This is a great place to not only enjoy the beach, but take a hike in the woods. This is a natural spot and it's gorgeous. You will love the scenery, the waves, the sun, and the quiet. It's not the most popular beach in the area, but it's good. Oh, did I mention that the area around Gdansk, Poland on the coast of the Baltic Sea is a hotspot for summer beachgoers? Welcome to Europe, baby. Forget the Riviera. This is hardcore.
There is a tricity area around Gdansk. Gdansk is one of the three cities. Gdynia is another. Here's a great place to take a ride on a go kart, see a warship, go to the aquarium, and hang out on great beaches. They are golden sandy beaches with lots of sun. This is more of a resort town, and a great place to visit.
But even Gdynia isn't quite the resort town that would make my eyebrows raise. The third city in this northern beach trifecta is Sopot. This is the resort town. This is the place that you will find resort hotels, water parks, crowded beaches and spas. This is the adventure for anyone. If you ever wanted to go to the beach, but you didn't want to go to the same old places. If you've ever wondered is there a place to go to the beach that isn't over one hundred degrees and one hundred percent humidity in the summer, then this is for you. The hotels are grand and old. The scenery is beautiful. There are great activities for the kids and spas for you and your significant other. This is where the Polish people go on local vacations. And it's as beautiful now as it's ever been. This is the place where you will still find little pieces of Amber on the beach. This is the place that was virtually untouched by most conflicts. This is the place to be.
And if you get tired of the beach, you can always go down to Monte Cassino Street and see some of the more interesting sights like Krzywy Domek or Crooked House. There is an endless list of interesting sights in this tricity area. You won't get tired. There are also monuments to war heroes, lost sailors, and the Jewish people who were murdered by Hitler's men. There's always something interesting and absolutely always something historical to do in this area.
Sopot, Poland is home to the longest pier in Europe, too. It hosts a lot of walking space, some great views, and a lot of amazing sunsets. It doesn't have an amusement park on it, or a hotel, but it's beautiful.
So, if you're looking for a beach, I found one. Not far from northern Russia along the Baltic Coast, where they are famous for their frozen winters, is a resort area like no other. Come and sunbathe on the coast of the Baltic in Sopot, Poland. Enjoy the tricity area of Sopot, Gdynia, and Gdansk. Have some history with your tan, and have a great time in the summer.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Greenville, Maine is one of my favorite hideaways. They don't have Walmart, which is exactly what I'm looking for. What they do have is some of the most amazing scenery in the country. This is not the shore. This is not what some people would call Northern Mass. This is the north woods. There are not many people. You don't have to lock your car. Most things never change. There's a saying on license plates that says "Maine, the way life should be." Well Greenville and Moosehead Lake are the way life should be. I can't speak for the rest.
Moosehead Lake Region has lots of lakes, lots of waterfalls, lots of dirt roads, lots of sea planes, and more moose than people. If you've ever wanted to go and see a moose, you will there. It's simply unavoidable. They are gorgeous and they are all over the place in every bog that you drive by on quiet roads.
Kokadjo is where we stayed this time. There really aren't many people there. There are some campgrounds and some cabins. The cabins are great. They are like having a whole brand new house. Ours even came with a jacuzzi tub. The restaurant and store have no name, but they have great food and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Marie and Fred are great hosts too.
Did I mention the view? It's positively amazing and that's right from the porch.
Did I mention the sunsets or the super moon? This is not an area where you will find a spa. This is not a place filled with water parks and theme parks. This is not a place where you are expected to sit at a resort all day. This is northern Maine, baby, and these folks get out year round. This is where you can rent an ATV, kayak, canoe, boat, skis or whatever. You get out around there. They will take you whitewater rafting, moose watching, and flight seeing. This is the ultimate in outdoor adventure.
Did I mention the wild life? There are hundreds of kinds of birds. There are all kinds of animals running everywhere. It's a great place to commune with nature.
Did I mention the moose? There are several places that you can go to see them. Lily Bay Road which goes to the cabins in Kokadjo is one of them. Just on the other side of the cabins is Lazy Tom Bog where the moose hang out. They claim that there are more moose than people in Greenville, Maine. They might be right.
One of the best things about this area of Maine is that people have a great sense of humor. One of the things that I love about eating at the Black Frog is that the menu is the entertainment. I love that the liver and onions may not be something that most people like but I like it and when you own your own restaurant you can put what you like on the menu. The menu actually says that. I also have always wondered what the question to number 6 on the ten most asked questions is, because the answer is "no." Fun is the main thing in the north woods, and the Jackman Trading Post is no exception. You never know what you'll find there, but it will be great and often really funny.
Then there are the waterfalls. We went to see Moxie Falls and The Falls this time. The area is full of waterfalls, including Gulf Hagas on the Appalachian Trail. Be prepared to drive several miles down a dirt road and sign a waiver if you go for that one. I've been, but didn't go there this time.
This time we climbed Mount Kineo. This is a huge rock, about 800 feet high that is an island in Moosehead Lake over in Rockwood. The trails aren't real good, they go mostly straight up. The fire tower at the top is shaky and quite interesting, but the views are tremendous. I'm really glad I did that one.
The roads in northern Maine are privately owned for the most part and Plum Creek is the company that owns most of them. They are well kept. The public does drive on them, they even live on some of them. They do have mile markers, but they also tend to have gates which close in the winter. It's fine. It looks menacing, but you can drive on them.
So, the people are nice and fun. The food is good. The lodging is good. The waterfalls and the moose are plentiful. The mountains are rolling. The world moves a little slower. The view is amazing. The sunsets are gorgeous. There is still a B-52 Bomber crash site up on Elephant Mountain if you want to see one of the strangest tourist attractions I've ever seen. There are a lot of places to ride ATV's, see moose, hike, boat, and raft. It's the way life should be.
Oh yeah, did I mention all the moose?
Thursday, July 10, 2014
It's that time of year when I just want the whole world to go away. I want to go so far away that no one can find me. I want to get lost. In the words of Southwest Airlines, "I wanna get away." Well, I found it. This is the most remote place I've ever heard of. Welcome to the Pitcairn Island Group.
Your adventure is the trip on this one. You need to make your way to Tahiti. That's where it starts. You will have to take a small plane to Mangareva. That's a small island in the French Polynesia group. Then what? Well, then it gets difficult. There isn't much of a way there. Every three months a ship travels from New Zealand to Pitcairn with supplies. The good folks of Pitcairn have worked in cooperation with the ship to turn it into a vessel for travelers.
The MV Claymore II makes up to 8 trips every three months to the island of Pitcairn. The accommodations are nice. They have staterooms and lounges and a dining hall to eat in. It takes a while to get to the island, and you may have to wait to get back, so make sure you don't have to be back at work. This is the most remote place on Earth that I've ever heard of. That says a lot.
Pitcairn Island has only about 50 inhabitants. There have only been two babies born there in the last 15 years. They do speak English as they are a British Overseas Territory. They have a Mayor for local government and a Governor in New Zealand that is their liaison with Great Britain. They do have a town square where they set up markets for the tourists. They have a school and a museum. They have a health center and a post office. There are accommodations that include some rentals and home stays. It's a real culture mindbender. It's quiet, it's far away, it's beautiful, and it's one of the more famous islands of the Pacific. That's right, it's famous baby.
These days, Pitcairn Island is most famous for it's postage stamps, but in the past there's a huge history. The original inhabitants of this island are from the Bounty. That's right that ship that had the famous mutiny in the Cook Islands. Turns out that Pitcairn was once inhabited by Polynesians, but that came to an end. When the whole mess went down with Captain Bligh, things got rough for the mutineers. Fletcher Christian set off with a few men, some women, some Tahitian slaves and a baby. They went looking for a place to hide and they found the mismapped island of Pitcairn. Christian was pretty sure that the British couldn't find it since they'd mapped the area wrong, so they settled down on the at that time uninhabited island.
That group formed the base of today's entire community. They started a new society that was peaceful and spiritual. The modern day Pitcairners are Seventh Day Adventists and a very traditional people. They enjoy a wealth of natural resources, abundant wildlife, moderate climate, and amazingly beautiful landscapes.
I know that it doesn't sound like a thrill a minute to be on Pitcairn, but think about it. Sometimes you just want some peace and quiet, and this is the spot. The most common cause of death on this island is old age. Beat that. The capital is Adamstown and it's the only town there. It's great. You have a chance to meet the locals, experience their lifestyles, and enjoy some beauty and space.
There's lots of hiking and beaches to lay on. There are a lot of handicrafts to shop for and a lot of locals to talk to. But this island has something strong and that's it's history.
Pitcairn and it's other islands are volcanic. There are some gorgeous rough rock shores. Bounty Bay is really the only landing spot on the island. Boats stop there and tourists are brought ashore by wooden boats that are sent out by the locals. Some cruise ships do stop at Pitcairn, but only if the weather is good. The only way you can count on getting there is on the MV Claymore II. If you want to go by another means, you must sail there yourself.
But, why would I tell you about this as an adventure for anyone? Well, the fact that it is one of the most remote places on Earth is definitely an adventure, but my main purpose is to tell you that you should go there to see the Bounty. That's right, the ship. You don't follow? Well, neither did I.
So, it turns out that Fletcher Christian and company burned the Bounty when they settled on Pitcairn so that Captain Bligh's men couldn't find it. And it's still at the bottom of Bounty Bay today. You can go out with a snorkel and see the Bounty for yourself. You can also climb up the cliff over the bay to Christian's Cave where he stayed temporarily. Or, if you don't want to do all the legwork you can just stop in at the museum in town. However you wish to put it, the place is a piece of history. It's more than worth the trip for any history buff.
So, you wanna get away? It's actually harder to get to Pitcairn Island that it is to get to Antarctica or Easter Island. This is an adventure. This is a beautiful spot to spend some time. This is a cultural mindbender. You will love this if you love to travel. If you just like being a tourist go to Disney. If you really love to travel, stop off at Pitcairn Island.