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.


mirrorcube 3 Insane Hotels You Wont Believe Are Out There

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!

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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.

KAROSTAS CIETUMS 3 Insane Hotels You Wont Believe Are Out There

All photos courtesy of the respective hotels.  adventure travel 3 Insane Hotels You Wont Believe Are Out There

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.

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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?

CO Canal Towpath A Really Really Really Really Long Walk
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.

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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.

A table with Polish food A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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.

Chicken soup A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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.

Polish herring in sour cream and tomatoe sauce A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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).

Polish dumplings A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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.

Faworki A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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.

Hot szarlotka with ice cream A Travelers Taste of Polish Cuisine

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

New Year Celebrations Around the World

Not every New Year celebration is created equally. Some locales know how to throw an unforgettable New Year bash that attracts people from all over the world.  Thinking of doing this year with lots of fireworks, maybe a beach and some costumes?  Read on intrepid traveler…

Orlando

Florida in general is a top New Year’s Eve destination.  Just the other day I saw a list that 8 of the top 15 destinations in the U.S. for New Year’s Eve are in Florida.  It must have something to do with our beaches and perhaps our warm temperatures.  Anyway, if you are a kid at heart, Orlando offers the perfect low key and family  friendly New Year party option. Disney’s Magic Kingdom puts on a New Year’s Eve party that even 30 somethings can enjoy. From performances by Disney characters, and the general magic of Disney to the midnight fireworks, it’s a fun (although expensive!) place to ring in the New Year.

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He’s 30 and it’s still his happiest place on earth.

Paris

Ahh, Paris. Je t’aime. The City of Light is never brighter than on New Year’s Eve. The whole town is the perfect romantic getaway to welcome January in style. Much of Paris celebrates the New Year for an entire month. From January to February, Paris is engaged in an ongoing celebration. There is plenty of food and champagne to keep off the chill, and fireworks are nearly ubiquitous.

ParisNYE New Year Celebrations Around the World

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro has become one of the most popular places to spend New Year’s Eve and it’s not hard to see why.  We fell in love with Rio after only a few days, and I would love to go back to ring in the New Year.  The spectacular fireworks that line the coast leave people breathless with the beauty. The New Year is a time of new beginnings. The people of Rio de Janeiro celebrate this by wearing pure white clothes and casting a flower into the ocean at midnight while making a wish for the coming year.

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Looking for the girl from Ipanema?

Goa

Goa may be known year round as an amazing party destination, but this Indian province hosts some of the best New Year celebrations in the world. The entire region is festooned with brightly colored decorations. Strings of shining lights are hung from every tree branch and frond, and partygoers flock to the beaches to party. Dancing, live music and amazing food are abundant all along the coast of Goa. New Year’s Eve is the busiest time of year for Goa as international travelers take advantage of the moonlit beach parties.  If the raucous beach parties aren’t your thing (they’re not mine either!) there are plenty of fun, low key things do to in the area for New Year’s Eve!

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Goa. New Year’s Eve. What more do we need to say.

Berlin

Remember when we fell in love with Berlin? We may have been taken over by the museums and the nightlife, but the entire city of Berlin in Germany turns out in the streets to celebrate the coming of the New Year. The joy of the occasion is celebrated with dancing and drinking in the streets. The numerous costume parties mean that the sidewalks are filled with elaborately dressed revellers. The fireworks in Berlin are second to none, and many travelers come just to see the night skies lit with the fantastic array of lasers and sparkling lights.

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Now you know why we love Berlin. Bikes and Beer!