Wings for Life Run: Where are the zombies?

When I first heard about it, I thought it would be like running from Zombies.

There were no Zombies.  But there was running, lots of running.

At a race expo in February of 2014 I approached a booth with wings all over it.  The volunteers in the booth told me about their race, Wings For Life World Run.  There was no distance to the race.  You just started to run and 30 minutes after you started the finish line would start behind you and chase you.  Your race ends when the finish line, a chaser car, catches you.  I decided the chaser car was probably driven by Zombies.

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The race was happening simultaneously in over 35 locations across the globe.  All at the same time.  I was complaining about our 7am start and the guy quickly pointed out how much worse it was in Denver and Los Angeles.

Cool…but it would be better with zombies.

The guy agreed, and offered to take my entrance fee and my advice all at the same time.  I paid up, went to the race which was biking distance from my house, and had a great time.  There were the big TVs up showing the racers all across the globe on a live feed.  I just ran until I couldn’t anymore, not for any set amount of distance, and it was just fun.

I decided then that I would do this race each and every year, but at a different location.

For 2015 we had initially planned to go to Poland to run in Poznan, but we ultimately had to cancel that trip and stay closer to home.  Somehow we ended up choosing the race in Niagara Falls, Canada.  We roped a couple of friends into joining us and off we went for a lovely weekend with a giant waterfall and some scheduled running.

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The race itself is also interesting for yet another reason.  All of the fees go to support spinal cord research.  Let me repeat, all of the fees go towards research.  The race itself is sponsored and run by Red Bull and some of their corporate friends.  This year they told us they raised €4.2 million.

The run itself went smooth enough.  I saw Niagara falls with my friend early in the morning when nobody was there hogging the views.  I ran my butt of when I saw that chaser car behind me.   I managed to run a little further than I ran in 2014.  I met a Red Bull BMX athlete, competing a few weeks from now in the X-Games.  The crisp air felt nice and we all spent the rest of the time relaxing and enjoying ourselves.

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This years winners ran 79.9km (male) and 56.6km (female).  I ran 14.4km.  That seems a decent distance for outrunning zombies, some of them anyway.

Now the question remains, where are we going next year…and will there finally be zombies.

For more information about the Wings For Life Run, please visit: http://live.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en

 

3 Insane Hotels You Won’t Believe Are Out There

According to Jake Bush, a Braun & Steidl hotel architect and developer, anyone who makes it their business to craft a hotel considers the following: “who is the guest, and why are they here”. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why hotels across the board vary wildly—each one is trying to accommodate a specific kind of traveler.

For the most part, hotels are trying to cater to the business traveler, the luxury vacation traveler, and the budget-friendly traveler. However, there’s still another kind of traveler out there that some very unique and utterly strange hotels try to cater to, which is: the adventurous, experience-seeking, explorer.

These travelers want accommodations that are nearly the polar opposite of all the others—they want intrigue, danger, and a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else in the world—plus, they’re often willing to sacrifice a substantial amount of comfort, just for the experience. For every other kind of traveler, comfort is the last thing to be sacrificed when it comes to hotels. You can find out more at Accor, http://accorhotels.com.au/.

So, what kind of hotels does this kind of traveler frequent? Here’s my top picks for the world’s most insane, strange, and quirky hotels—some, you just won’t believe actually exist!

THE MIRRORCUBE |  Location: Harads—Sweden

What is This Place? Well, The Mirrorcube is exactly what it sounds like, actually; it’s an extremely lightweight aluminum box (4x4x4 meters) with one-way mirrors for walls.

Accommodations: At most, it can only accommodate two guests at a time—imagine the waiting list! However, the interior—albeit small—provides a double bed, a living room space, a bathroom, and the exterior roof provides a nice roof-tip terrace.

What the Adventure-Traveler Loves: Per the description thus far, The Mirrorcube might not seem that interesting, but I haven’t mentioned yet that this mirrored box is actually camouflaged within a tree canopy, suspended above ground, around a tree trunk that shoots up through the center.

How the world do you get in?! By way of a rope bridge, connected to a neighboring tree!

Fun Fact: Since The Mirrorcube is located in a tree canopy and is made of mirrors, occupants are provided a 360-degree view of the surroundings. Sounds cool, right? Well, to local wildlife—specifically birds that might fly right into it—it’s not so cool. To handle this concern, all of the reflective glass is embedded with an ultraviolet color that only birds can see.


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ICEHOTEL Location: Jukkasjarvi—Sweden

What is This Place? Again, the name really is what it is—it’s an entire hotel made from snow and ice! Apparently, it’s the largest in the world, which sparked this comment from me: There’s more than one?!

Accommodations: While the beds—as well as the furniture and fixtures—are made of solid ice, they’re covered in the finest, warmest, furs. From what I understand there aren’t individual rooms; guests enjoy a more of a community experience—sharing body heat probably helps!

What the Adventure-Traveler Loves: It’s a hotel made of ice—what wouldn’t an adventure-seeker like about that?! With temperatures never rising above minus 5 degrees Celsius, adventure travelers will have a wonderful time walking around in snow pants and furs, while enjoying the company of other like-minded travelers.

Fun Fact: The ICEHOTEL only exists in the winter months—it melts after that! Every year, in November, the ICEHOTEL architects get together and design a whole new structure. Several hundred tons of ice is used in the process and it provides return guests a different experience every year!

ICEHOTEL, Jukkasjärvi, konstkatalog 2012/2013.

KAROSTAS CIETUMS | Location: Leipaja—Latvia

What is This Place? It’s a prison—no, really, it’s actually a prison. Well, a former one, anyway.

Accommodations: It’s not terribly dressed up from being anything other than a prison. Guests sleep on grungy prison bunks, eat prison food, and even take a substantial amount of abuse from the guards—I’m assuming they limit that to verbal abuse. I think even the adventure-traveler draws the line at paying for physical abuse from the hotel staff.

What the Adventure-Traveler Loves: “A good hotel has got to be safe, clean, and have a good staff,” says our hotel developer Jake Bush, so the adventure-traveler loves that this hotel does all of the opposite. Karostas provides an experience—one that you can’t typically get unless you commit war crimes for a living.

Fun Fact: As a former military prison—constructed in 1905—Karostas imprisoned Stalin-era war criminals, revolutionists, and even KGB operatives.

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All photos courtesy of the respective hotels.  adventure travel

Living History While Traveling in Trabzon Turkey

It about three  years ago when we found ourselves traveling through Turkey during Ramadan.  Turkey itself is a wonderful place to travel but what we found difficult was that as we headed further east, to the more religious parts of the country, we encountered the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.  During the holiday, Muslims traditionally don’t eat during the day and instead pig out at night.  Trying to be sensitive, and challenged by what food options were available to us, we tried to do the same which left us hungry during the day and awake at night as our busses made frequent food stops.

This past week we read an article in The Economist detailing how a Byzantine Monastary was being used as a Mosque to celebrate Ramadan.  The article took me back to that time on the trip, travlling through that very city during this same very holiday.  Although we didn’t visit this specific site, The Hagia Sophia of Trabzon, we were passing through during Ramadan and did visit another Byzantine Monastery, the Sumela Monastery.  The site was itself quite beautiful and, as a tourist site, made a nice reprieve for us from the restrictions of traveling during Ramadan.  Reading the Economist article I am left to wonder if it may to find a day when its own purpose is changed to another religion.  This is something that happens all the time, especially in the Middle East, but I just can’t help to wonder what the future holds for sites such as this.

I intend to offer no opinion regarding the cultural and religious politics of that region of Turkey, but instead just want to offer a few photos from the Sumela Monastary

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A Really Really Really Really Long Walk

I once walked 100 kilometers in one day. We started at 3am, the four of us. It was an organized event so we weren’t alone but when I walked up to the finish line at midnight I had been alone for hours.

Somehow, I thought it would be a good idea to do that long walk again….in winter!

What started out as a simple dare quickly grew into a quest for myself and three other friends. (This was a different group from my first foray in long distance walking.) I had been hoping to rejoin the 100km walk again later this month but scheduling kept that from happening. In the process I heard about a 50 mile trek to commemorate the first time this walk was done, by Robert F. Kennedy, mentioned to my friends, and there was no turning back.

The group who started the 50mi Kennedy Walk
At the start there were 34 walkers. Only 12 would walk the entire distance.

Because this was was shorter, the start time was a leisurely 4am. In preparing for the walk, all I could think about was the immense pain and suffering I felt toward the end of the 62mi when I’d done it the first time. Yes, this was was shorter, but it was winter time so really no real benefit from the decreased distance. I’d walk a little less but have to deal with temperature control, freezing water and maybe even snow on the trail.

We got to the trailhead a bit late but still managed to start with the group. It was dark. It was cold. I wanted to walk faster than the rest of my group. We all wanted to sleep. The sun came up. We ate food. My water froze. I unfroze my Camelback’s hose so I could drink. It froze again. Fun, right?

The Towpath connects Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD
A lot of the path looked just like this. It was a beautiful day….in February!

The walk itself took place along the C&O Canal. The Canal was built alongside the Potomac River to ferry goods up and down river between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD; a distance of about 185mi. The walk I did before, the 100km, started in DC itself and went all the way to Harper’s Ferry, WV. The “shorter” walk I did the second time started further upstream in Great Falls, following the same canal and towpath all the way to Harper’s Ferry.

Chester and Lionel on the trail, with a bow tie!
You can see Chester’s bow tie…I tied it!

Eventually we all hit our stride and began to enjoy our day despite the cold. This is probably a good point to introduce the rest of my cohorts. There was Chester and his lovely bride Catherine. Chester and I knew each other from GWU where we played Rugby with the fourth member of our trip, Lionel. Lionel and Catherine, who for various reasons didn’t want to walk the whole way, each took turns shuttling the car while Chester and I walked the full distance. We were all dared to start the day wearing oxford shirts and bow ties (my bowtie fell off before our first pit stop) to help us commemorate RFK but Chester was the only one stupid strong enough to make the whole trip in a pair of Cole Haan dress shoes.

The walk itself is easy.  Technically, it is uphill, but 600 feet in elevation spread over 50 miles doesn’t really count for much elevation.  It’s that very flatness that causes the pain in the hip flexors and ankles, from doing the same thing over and over again for hours.  With the sun up, we warmed up quite a bit and I didn’t have any more problems with water freezing.  We walked some more and some more.  We talked politics and business and philosophy, as friends do, and then we talked about how much we hurt and what we wanted to eat.  A friend visited us a few hours before sunset and brought us hot chocolate and magic bars.  Amazing.  We kept walking.  Walking some more.  Did I mention this was a very long walk?  We saw some kind of strange albino deer. The sun set.  The temperature dropped a lot.  We still had miles to go. We kept walking.

In the end we didn’t finish too long after sunset, arriving at Harper’s Ferry right about 7pm.  Although 7pm sounds like a nice time to finish something, we’d been walking for 15 hours straight and were simply exhausted.  For me though, I was shocked at how much easier a 50 mile walk was compared to a 62 mile walk, and thankful that we’d not encountered any snow. When I’d finished this walk the first time, doing the full 100km, I could barely move.  Although I was plenty sore this time around things like stairs and hills didn’t look quite so scary.  We even went out for dinner and each enjoyed a nice pint of beer.

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Then we got to the B&B we’d booked for the night, and Chester removed those Cole Haans…  The shoes survived surprisingly well but the feet were another story.

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A Traveler’s Taste of Polish Cuisine

Editor’s Note: These Polish dishes sound absolutely delicious.  We may just have to make a trip to Poland soon..

We all know food plays a significant role when traveling the world. If you decide to head to Eastern Europe and spend a few days in Poland, there are certain dishes you might not be familiar with, but you definitely need to try them in order to have a taste of traditional Polish food. Polish cuisine might be considered by many as “heavy” and “stodgy” as most of dishes are made of flour and cereal (pastas, dumplings, noodles), but putting a few pounds on is absolutely worth it! You will discover a fresh taste of sour cream, cottage cheese, mushrooms and Polish sausages and your mouth will start watering when looking at Polish cakes.

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Here are 5 top traditional Polish foods you can’t miss:

1. Soups – Rosó? (Polish Meat Broth)
You can come across many different varieties of rosó?, but the one you should definitely have for your lunch or dinner should be traditional chicken soup, served with homemade thin noodles, fried onion, boiled carrot and parsley. This dish will definitely warm you up in cold days and get you back on your feet when you have a cold! It’s a custom to have it on Sunday.

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2. Starters –Polish herring
Polish people love eating pickled herrings for Christmas and Easter. It’s not only tasty and affordable, but also very easy to make it. You can either have your herrings in sour cream or oil with some pickled onion. Traditional Polish herring is slightly salty and sour.

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3. Main course – Polish pierogi
Pierogi (Polish dumplings) are made of unleavened dough and filled with either cottage cheese, cabbage with mushrooms, fruits or meat and vegetables depending on the season and the weather (strawberry and blueberry pierogi are mainly served in summer, cabbage and mushrooms in winter). Pierogi are extremely delicious, but difficult to make. They are boiled first and then baked or fried in order to get crispy texture.  Served with oil, onions and tiny pieces of bacon or sour cream and sugar (fruit ones).

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4. Snacks – Faworki
Faworki are thin and crispy biscuits sprinkled with icing sugar. They are often called “Angel wings” for the sake of their shape of twisted ribbons. Faworki are not very sweet, so it would be a perfect snack choice for anyone. If you want, you can put some strawberry jam or nutella chocolate on top. Faworki are eaten in the period just before Lent, often during Carnival and on Fat Thursday. I used to make them with my mom and  grandmother for Christmas too.

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5. Dessert – Hot szarlotka
Who would resist the temptation of a little piece of amazing Polish apple tart? Nobody, believe me! Especially when it is served with whipped cream or ice cream of your choice. Szarlotka’s crust is very sweet and it is made with butter, looks very sophisticated but is not that hard to make.

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As you can see Poland has a lot to offer in terms of its traditional food. Whether you feel an urge to try something super sweet, sour or salty, Polish cuisine will definitely live up to your expectations.

About the guest author:
Agness is a Polish vagabond who, after graduation, left her comfort zone and set off for a journey of her lifetime to China in 2011. She has been constantly traveling the world since then (slowly, but surely as she says), living like a local for less than $25 a day. She became a photography passionate and adventure blogger sharing her life enthusiasm and travel experience with everyone around. Connect with Agness on Twitter   or Facebook!

Photo Credit: Guest blogger Agness