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Visit Albarracín for a Perfect Getaway

Mountain tops and city of Albarracin, Spain

Visit Albarracín for a perfect getaway in Spain.

Albarracín is a magical city located in east-central Spain.  The city is surrounded by high cliffs and is nestled upon the Guadalaviar River.  The town’s location provides beautiful scenery from every corner.   Albarracín’s population is a whopping 1,075 inhabitants.  This is why we suggest you visit Albarracín for a perfect getaway in Spain.

Located 3,878 feet above sea level, the town has weather changes throughout the day and can leave you scrambling to one of the few shops that provides umbrellas and beanies.  Unfortunately, I know from experience.

Albarracin with falling snow.

Things to Do

Albarracín provides visitors with several things to do during your stay.  The town is rich in history and has hardly changed since medieval times.  Taking early morning walks through the charming streets of the town provides amazing opportunities for photos and videos.

Play the video below to learn what to see and do in Albarracín.


Where to Stay

City of Albarracin with cliffs in the background.
View from my hotel balcony.

We recommend the Hotel “Al-Banu-Racin” due to its location and views of the city.

Hotel “Al-Banu-Racin”

C/.Subida a las Torres, 14, 44100 Albarracín, Spain

website:  www.albanuracin.com

email:  recepcion@albanuracin.com

T.663.765.050

Where to Eat

After an amazing dinner at Rincon del Chorro, I had to return the next night and they did not disappoint.  This is a family owned restaurant and the owner, Carlos is friendly and personable.

Rincón del Chorro

Calle Chorro, 15, 44100 Albarracín, Teruel

website:  http://rincondelchorro.es/

T.  978.71.01 12

El Bodegón

Calle Azagra, 2, 44100 Albarracín, Spain

Other Things to Do

Visit the Museum of Albarracin

Climb the high mountain and walk on the towns medieval walls

Take a walk along the Guadalaviar River

Captures images of the city at night

Night picture of Albarracin with town in the foreground and church tower in the background.

More Photos

Picture of Albarracin with castle walls in the background.

 

If you love Spain as much as we do then join our Facebook group and get travel tips on Spain.

 

Picture of World Travelers Today's Spain Facebook Group.


©2018 World Travelers Today

 

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Visit Cureil de Duero’s Castle Hotel

Visit Curiel de Duero’s Castle Hotel | Have you ever stayed in a castle hotel?  We had the opportunity to stay at Curiel de Duero’s Castle Hotel and it was an amazing experience.  The hotel staff made us feel like we were Spanish Royalty and the food at its famous restaurant was delicious.  We were in the area building our new Ribera del Deuro Wine Tour and were looking for hotels that would match our private and exclusive tour.  We are happy to share that Curiel’s Castle Hotel is perfect for our needs.  Not only is the hotel luxurious, private, and charming but they also have a private winery built inside of a 1,000 year old church.  What more could one ask for?

The Hotel

The hotel sits upon a high hill in the famous Ribera del Duero wine region.  Although the hotel has only been in operation for 20 years, the hotel sits upon an old Roman fortification.  At the bottom of the hill is the city of Curiel de Duero.  The hotel has 24 rooms and each room is named after a King or Queen from Castilla y Leon.  There is a private conference room for meeting and movies.  There is also an amazing terrace with stunning views of the surrounding country side.

The Winery

The hotels private winery is called La Antiqua San Martin and is located in the city of Curiel.  Although the main structure has now been converted into a winery, there is still a small private chapel inside.  We were able to discuss prices and availability with the hotel owner to ensure it will be available for our Ribera del Duero Wine Tour.

Travel Video of Curiel Castle Hotel



Photos of the Castle and Bodega

How to Get There

We rented a car from Madrid and drove two and a half hours to Penafiel.  After a two night stay in Penafiel we drove 10 minutes to Curiel.

Address:  Calle Trascastillo, S/N 47316 Curiel de Duero España
Reservas:+34 983 880 401
Anulaciones:+34 983 880 401


Join World Travelers Today on our Ribera del Duero Wine Tour and experience Curiel Castle Hotel first hand.

 Ribera del Duero Wine Tour


©2018 World Travelers Today

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel and Disabilities: The Growing Need for Cities to Change


Articles

Love It or Hate It, Tourism Is an Important Element of a Country’s Economy and Culture

By Jim Sutton

Travel provides significant social, economic, and cultural benefit worldwide. It ranks among the highest forms of learning and provides the opportunity to interact with people from many countries, cultures, and languages. The fondest memories we have often involve the experiences of travel. Not only does tourism play an important role in our personal development and education, but for many countries of the world it is the main source of jobs and economic development.

It is reliably estimated that over half-a-billion people travel outside of their countries of origin each year, and several hundred million travel within their countries. It is not surprising then, that tourism has become a powerful driver within regional economies, a means to potentially obtain prosperity and peace, and a transformative force that can improve millions of lives around the world.

Yet for all the benefits that tourism can provide for both travelers and host countries, unpredictable conditions can make it challenging to have safe and enjoyable vacations. To meet those challenges, you must be prepared to adjust to possible contingencies you might confront during your journey. Access to information and situational awareness are key.

Travel and Disabilities

The United Nations (UN) declared 27 September World Tourism Day in recognition of how travel allows us to come across new people, new experiences, and new ideas. Travel changes our perception of the world and our role in it.

For all the benefits of travel and tourism, not everybody has equal opportunity to do so. For many, travelling can be quite a difficult process. As noted in a recent United Nations publication:

15% of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. That is 1 billion people around the world who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights.

Accessibility for all should be at the center of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity.

With the world’s population ageing, all of us will benefit sooner or later from universal accessibility in tourism.

Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet hundreds of million people around the world are living with disabilities. Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility, or cognitive impairments are unable to travel to many tourist destinations. In addition, young children, seniors, and other people with age-related conditions may need special accommodations while traveling.

Countries, regions, and cities that wish to expand their tourist appeal need to address fundamental access challenges. They also need to do a better job in providing clear and reliable information, well-organized transportation, adequate public services, and physical environments that are navigable for all.

In many parts of the world, tourism is an important component of the local economy. In some countries, tourism is a critical element of the GDP.

To prepare for the inevitable and eventual upswing in tourism, the industry needs to improve and diversify. Whether the focus is on social, cultural, or environmental aspects, tourist destinations must create a sense of pride for the people who live and work there. Local inhabitants are often the best qualified to share their area’s charms and understand the meaning of quality tourism and sustainability.

In your own life, think of the lasting friendships and experiences that resulted from travel. It is essential to developing a realistic worldview and learning to understand and appreciate other people, languages, and cultures.

References:

United Nations World Tourism Day (http://wtd.unwto.org/)

World Tourism Day 2016 – Tourism for All Conference Program (http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/pdf/wtd2016_programme.pdf)

Tourism for All – promoting universal accessibility: Good Practices in the Accessible Tourism Supply Chain

To mark the theme of the World Tourism Day 2016, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released this booklet which presents six selected case studies illustrating some of the key parts of the Accessible Tourism supply chain. The examples show some of the best practices in the most relevant aspects of accessible tourism provision.

Anti-Tourist Sentiment

For many people, desire to travel has been tempered by news reports of violent incidents, natural catastrophes, and an increasing number of people expressing anti-tourism and anti-immigrant sentiments.

We have recently witnessed demonstrations against tourists in the popular destinations of Barcelona and Majorca, Spain, with banners declaring that “tourism kills neighborhoods.” This new anti-tourist movement in Europe should not be ignored, particularly for those planning travel in the region.

Economically, these confrontations pit residents and neighborhoods against one another. Culturally, they point to the rise of a general sentiment against people who are different. In these cases, the political repercussions are temporal but significant.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, the loss of income from tourism will likely lead to a change in view. The sorts of social and cultural schisms seen today have happened many times before in the past. History shows that eventually societies and cultures regain a sense of balance. Tourism and travel will ultimately survive, endure and grow.

Hazardous Contingencies

Harmful contingencies fall into two categories. The first consists of catastrophic, unforeseen, and unanticipated events. The second includes slowly developing contingencies, whose danger and ultimate impact we may fail to recognize in time to avoid harm.

Events within the first category are generally catastrophic acts of nature. We are unable to predict or control the scope and severity of these events. Such catastrophic events range from low-probability, high-consequence events such as meteorite strikes or volcanic eruptions to more common, yet serious events such as avalanches, tsunamis, and earthquakes.  The extent of personal harm you may suffer is largely dependent on your initial reaction. Unthoughtful reactions driven by fear, panic, or hysteria can turn a manageable contingency into a tragedy.

There are recorded incidents where – seemingly against all odds – people managed to survive catastrophic events such as plane crashes, stampedes, or shipwrecks. Their survival often resulted from maintaining situational awareness and taking advantage of whatever opportunity they could, however small.


©2018 World Travelers Today

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Carlos San Pedro Wine Tour

 


Wine and Cuisine


Laguardia, Spain

If you love wine then Laguardia, Spain is a place you should start planning to visit on your next vacation.  The city dates back to over 1,000 years and is till protected by city walls.  We had the opportunity of visiting this beautiful Spanish town which is located in the region of Rioja Alaves.  The town is located on a high hill and it is surrounded by many famous wineries such as Bodegas Ysios and Marques de Riscal.  However, we wanted to visit a winery that was not so well known internationally, but one that was known locally.

I stayed at the Hotel Castel Collado and the staff were very friendly and highly recommended the Winery Carlos San Pedro.  There are dozen’s of other wineries, but Carlos San Pedro is very unique.  The winery is over 500 years old and is located deep in the caves of Laguardia.   The caves once served as store houses for military supplies to defend the city but were converted into wineries centuries ago.

Here is a video of WTT visiting the winery.

 


Where to Stay

Hotel Castillo el Collado is an amazing refurbished hotel sits atop the hill of Laguardia.  From the top of the tower you can see for miles in every direction.  The hotel has 10 unique rooms that vary in size and layouts.  There is also a restaurant in the hotel which we highly recommend.

 

How to Get There

Car

We rented a car from Bilbao and drove for a little over an hour before we arrived in Laguardia. Parking is limited atop the hill near the hotel, so try to arrive as early as you can.

Bus

There are buses from San Sebastian and other surrounding towns like Bilbao.

Train

The nearest train station is located in Logrono and a bus can be taken from there.

Join World Traveler’s Today on our Basque Country Wine Tour.  Visit our tour page to learn more.

Are you a wine lover?  Join World Travelers Today in Spain for our Basque Country Wine Tour. 

 


 

©2018 World Travelers Today

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Ribera del Duero Wine Trip


Wine and Cuisine

Spanish Wine

Have you ever visited Spain’s Ribera del Duero wine region?  Did you taste some amazing Protos wine?  Have you stayed at the historic Convento Las Claras Hotel?  Join me on a journey through Spain’s famous Ribera del Duero wine region.

I arrived in Penafiel via Madrid which is a nice two hour ride from the Spanish capital.  I was excited to visit the region again after a seven year absence.  The purpose of my journey was to research the area for World Travelers Today’s new Madrid & Ribera del Duero Wine Tour.  The month of October is a busy time of year in the area due to the harvest and wineries were crowded with visitors and locals alike.  Luckily, I was able to visit several local wineries and taste some delicious red wine.

Historical sites will always be apart of my journeys and this area is rich in history; from Penafiel Castle to the ancient Roman amphitheater in Clunia the area is an historians playground.  I was able to visit a few churches and century old bodegas that have a history all their own.

Check out my video to partake in wine tasting at several wineries along the golden mile, eat delicious meats at an Asador restaurant, and discover history all around you.

Don’t to forget to follow our blog to stay updated on WTT’s adventures and tours.

Places Sam visited:


©World Travelers Today

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ADVENTURES IN AUSTRIA’S WINE COUNTRY


Traveler’s Spotlight


 

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By Sonja Eberly & Maria Milton

 

 

 

Being half Austrian, half American, I’ve been to Austria many times in my life. As a child, my visits centered around seeing my grandmother, or “Oma,” in Vienna. I have fond memories of walking with her to the local bakery for fresh rolls and cakes each morning, trying to catch hedgehogs in her garden, going to the Zoo at Schoenbrunn Palace, staring up at the impossibly ornate, vaulted gothic ceilings of Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) in the city center, and having an ice cream at Vienna’s famous Tichy ice cream parlor. All those things are great. You should do those things when you’re in Vienna.  More recently, though, my visits to Austria have been for its wine.

As the wine director of a busy neighborhood café and wine bar in the Washington, DC area, I was invited to come along this year on the annual wine buyers’ trip organized by one of the main importers of Austrian wine with whom I do business. This is fairly common in the industry. Buy and promote enough wine from one wine importer, and you might get an all-expenses paid (aside from airfare) invitation to Greece or Chile or France.

Through wineglass at Tegeernserhof vines

Of course, this is the importer’s way of saying thank you for the support. But it’s also an incredibly educational and enriching opportunity to understand the wines you’re buying on a much more intimate level. To see first-hand where the wines come from, smell the air, feel the soil. To meet the people who painstakingly tend the vines from winter’s dormancy to springtime budbreak to Autumn harvest, praying all the while for the good graces of mother nature and the weather gods. To meet the families who have made the wines for generations. To understand the unique culture and history and philosophies and traditions, which drive winemaking styles. To taste the finished, bottled product and to share a meal with the people who made it, often in their own home.

My first buyers’ trip to Austria was in 2013. It was life changing. Literally. I was inspired by the people I met, by the striking quality of the wines that I tasted, by the incorporation of wine in daily life, and of course by the desire to connect on a deeper level to my own heritage (I found out a few years ago that my great grandmother was a vineyard hand in the region of Burgenland). I was so inspired that I decided to quit my wine job in the US to work the harvest and live in Austria in 2014. Over a year later, to have the opportunity to return once again, to revisit old wine friends, familiar vineyards and cellars and to taste the new wines from those cellars, was something I wasn’t about to pass up. And this time I decided to bring along my friend and coworker, Maria. It was her very first time traveling abroad.

New to Austria

Start of the Trip

Sonja Eberly & Maria Milton

“If you’re like me, with a first grader’s grasp of German and you really want to practice, Austrians are just as happy, eager in fact, to help you polish your Deutsch.”

I can’t deny that I felt a certain sense of pride and excitement that Austria would be Maria’s first international experience. I did have a certain amount of apprehension about what it would be like for her being out of the US for the first time. (Book a direct flight; it’s absolutely worth saving the time and the achy muscles.) But in all honesty, for anyone deciding on their first international travel destination, Austria should be on your top five list.

Nearly everyone—I mean, really everyone—even in the smallest of towns will speak at least a little English. Go to Vienna and you’re golden; practically everyone speaks English. If you’re like me, with a first grader’s grasp of German and you really want to practice, Austrians are just as happy, eager in fact, to help you polish your Deutsch. Just keep in mind that Austrians revert to regional dialects at times, even in Vienna, and especially outside of the city. They may throw in a word or two that doesn’t quite mesh with school-taught “High German.” Personally, that’s one of quirks I love about the country. Learn how to say “Oachkatzelschwarf,” correctly and watch peoples’ faces light up. You’ll make friends instantly.

Getting Around

Navigating our way through Vienna was easy from the airport. We took the City Airport Train (CAT) into the city center, where we switched to the subway. In Vienna, there are several modes of public transport, all of which are incredibly efficient, safe and relatively clean. Between the buses, the street cars, the subway, the CAT, and the actual trains which connect all of Europe, you can get basically anywhere you need to go. You can always ask someone in the OBB train info office at each station, or someone in a uniform around the station. I also discovered on this trip that Uber exists in Vienna! As long as I was connected to WiFi, I could use the Uber app I already have on my smart phone to request a car, which ended up being helpful more than once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have the time, getting lost in Vienna like Maria and I did our first day isn’t all that bad, either (though going 24 hours without sleep after an overnight flight was probably not the best idea). Wandering the city, you might happen upon a festival celebrating the food, music, crafts, culture and wine(!) of Austria’s Steirmark region right in front of city hall. Or you might wander into a nearly deserted amusement park after getting caught in a rain storm, discovering mirrored fun houses, giant clown faces, and bumper cars in the truly enormous city park called the Wiener Prater.

Vienna is big and is broken up into 23 different named districts, or “Bezierke.” But the city is delightfully walkable for the most part, especially within the Ringstrasse, the avenue that encircles all of the old inner city. And if you get tired, you can always pop into a smoky Stuberl for a little beer, or perhaps a stiff nip of schnapps to keep you going.

A note about most bars and restaurants in Austria: like most of the rest of Europe, smoking is still allowed indoors in most places, so if you’re sensitive to cigarette smoke, beware. On the plus side, Austrians love sitting outdoors and you can find beer gardens and wine patios nearly everywhere.  

Wine Regions

Sonja-Maria

There are very basically four main federal wine regions of Austria, which spread over the crescent of Austria’s eastern borders. I always tell people to imagine Austria as a chicken drumstick, with the bone pointing to the west. All of Austria’s wine regions form a crescent around the meaty other end.

Vienna itself is one of these wine four main regions and is one of only two European cities to also be recognized as an independent wine region (the other city being Madrid). We skipped Vienna for winery visits only because we didn’t have the time on our own and because none of the wines our importer carries are from Vienna.

The other three main wine regions are Neideroesterreich (“Lower Austria”), Burgenland, and the Steiermark (Styria). You can definitely travel by train, but to visit these regions properly, I recommend renting a car and spending at least a week exploring. You’ll save time with a specific itinerary and appointments set up in advance, but it’s just as easy to tool around, stopping into the small towns, tasting at wineries with open tasting rooms and discovering which of the local Heurigers are open that day. As a buyers’ group, we traveled on a swanky government wine marketing-funded tour bus, complete with beer cooler and a TV that played this beautifully choreographed video, which was really cool the first five times we watched it.

Heurigers
“I spent many a wonderful evening making new friends at communal tables, getting to know local grape growers, tasting the years’ new wines from productions way too small to be sold anywhere outside the family tavern.”

Heurigers are one of my absolute favorite parts of Austrian wine country, and it was one of my big regrets that Maria didn’t get to experience going to one. It didn’t stop me from pointing them out to her every time we passed one. I spent many a wonderful evening making new friends at communal tables, getting to know local grape growers, tasting the years’ new wines from productions way too small to be sold anywhere outside the family tavern.

Heurigers are only allowed to be open 6 months out of the year and most will be open during the wine harvest, or “Wein Herbst,” from August to November. This is of course the optimal time to visit wine country. But there are always one or two Heurigers open in each town during other times of the year. Keep an eye out for a “Buschenschank,” a braided wreath or evergreen frond hanging over a doorway or a sign along the road reading, “Aus’gesteckt is,” to find the closest open Heuriger.

Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Get ready to eat. A lot. And really, really well.” That’s one of the first things I told Maria when preparing her for Austria. Each and every winery we visited made it a point to welcome us–how else—with lovingly prepared food to accompany the wines we were tasting. We toured almost as much of Austria’s food as we did its wines.

We were served the most comfort-foody of traditional dishes like the tears-of-joy evoking Paprika Gulash that Christine Netzl made for us in Goettlesbrunn, the melt-off-your-fork Tafelspitz with apple and horseradish sauce prepared for us by Mathias Jalits’ mother in their family restaurant in Eisenberg, and the perfectly tender and crispy Backhendl served for dinner at Weingut Strauss in the Steiermark, which Maria truly loved, Southern Belle that she is. I couldn’t get over dipping hunks of freshly baked bread in the most delicious Kürbiskernöl, made from local Pumpkin seeds.

We were also served the most gourmand of meals, including breathtakingly delicate Zander (freshwater perch) served with perfectly cooked Spargel (white asparagus) after an even more breathtaking tasting of single vineyard Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings (they’re, dry) with Martin Mittlebach of Tergernseerhof winery in Austria’s famous Wachau region. Our grand finale meal was hosted by Anton Bauer at the uber-fine Mörwald restaurant, housed at Graffenegg Palace. If you’re looking to splurge on an unforgettable culinary experience and you find yourself within driving distance of Schloss Graffenegg, make sure to visit and taste at Weingut Anton Bauer in Feuersbrunn, and then take a taxi up to the palace for dinner.

Amazingly, in the eight days we spent in Austria, not once did Maria or I eat Schnitzel. Take that, stereotypes. (Ok, but really, Schnitzel is actually fantastic, especially with fresh lemon squeezed over the top. If you’re in Austria, go to the most local non-chain looking restaurant you can find and order it. At least once.)

Spargel

Spargel

Spargel.

We visited Austria in March, which meant we didn’t see any grapes on the vines, but we were just in time to see the first bud breaks all over the vineyards. We were also just in time for Spargel! But just barely. Spargel is the supremely coveted and celebrated white asparagus that decorates farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands beginning around mid-March. While prices don’t get reasonable until April when the season really sets in, we were very fortunate to have been treated to numerous meals featuring this delectable albino vegetable. The best part is seeing your Austrian dining companion’s excitement when they see Spargel on their plate, an enthusiasm that’s easy to adopt.

Desserts
“There is no end to the fine selection of carefully confected patisserie in every bakery window, every glass café case, even on the breakfast tables!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would be committing a grave mistake if I were to exclude a nod to the sweeter side of Austrian cuisine. Yes, perhaps it’s a truism to say that Austrian pastries—particularly Viennese—are the envy of the world (though I’m sure the Parisians would have something to say about it). There is no end to the fine selection of carefully confected patisserie in every bakery window, every glass café case, even on the breakfast tables! But of all the memorable desserts, the Kardinalschnitte made by Roland Steindorfer’s mother at their family home in Ilmitz by Lake Neusiedl is legendary. Perfectly airy, it’s almost a cloud of cake and cream, and there is nothing more suited to accompany this fluffy dessert than a sip of what the Neusiedlersee region is most famous for: Trockenbeerenauslese (“TBA”), i.e. liquid gold. This also happens to be one of the types of wines (though young Roland is developing his dry reds and sparkling roses now, too) that the Steindorfer family is most famous for. Impossibly, shamefully sweet, equally impossibly balanced and vibrating with acidity. Wonderfully harmonized. Amazingly long-lived. That is a Steindorfer Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese. Amazing cake and amazing sweet wine that create magic together; go figure. We definitely poured some of our TBA right onto our cake. Perfection.

Neusiedlersee and Burgenland

 

Lake

Lake Neuseidl in Austria’s Burgenland region is the largest body of water in the country. Yet, they say that a man over six feet tall can walk across the entirety of the lake without drowning. The lake itself is absolutely gorgeous and a favorite day-trip destination for people and families from all over lower Austria. On nice days, couples, families and individuals alike flock to its shores to sunbathe on docks, take boats out on the choppy waves, parasail, fish, raft, or just sit out on the deck of one of the many wine-centric restaurants overlooking the glittering waters. When she saw the photos we posted online, my mom was full of fond recollections of childhood trips to the “sea” with my great-grandmother Anna, who herself worked the nearby vineyards as a teenager.

This uniquely shallow body of water creates an amazing microclimate of humidity in the region, perfectly suited for the formation of Noble Rot, that grape-shriveling fungus which means death to red grapes, but sweet immortality for the right white grapes. This fungus is what allows for the extremely labor-intensive creation of ethereally sweet dessert wines.

The rest of Burgenland is primarily celebrated for its incredible range of red wines, from supple, silky Pinot Noirs like those of beautifully, wholistically Biodynamic Meinklang winery just across from the Hungarian Border, to Mathias Jalits’ structured, thoughtful, moody and complex library of Blaufrankishes, which come from the iron-rich soils of the Eisenberg DAC. And then there’s former super model Leo Hillinger’s super hip, ultra-modern winery in Jois, with its toasty, oaky robust reds. Burgenland nurtures reds for all palates and preferences.

Steiermark

Steiningerwine

Further to the south, along the border of Slovenia, is the Steiermark, the “Green Heart of Austria,” where white wines dominate production, and mirror the styles of Italy’s Alto-Adige region more than the Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners of Niederoesterreich. Yet to put Styrian wines in any category other than their own is totally wrong. There is a distinct mineral expression in the wines that’s like no other wine region, while the whites can range from the lightest and most aromatic of Muskatellers to the nuttiest, creamiest of single vineyard Chardonnays. These are the sorts of wines and the sort of variety that you will find from Weingut Strauss, located directly across the road from the famous Gamlitzberg, a cross-hatched mountain of vines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Styria is by far, the most mountainous of all the wine regions, with gut-wrenchingly dramatic vistas and hopelessly steep vineyards. We learned that at least one person dies from a tractor tipping over in the vineyards every year. And yet, looking down at the vines plunging below the wine road along which we drove, I couldn’t help but feel an aching sense of beauty and connectedness as well. Those mountains felt like home.

Niederoesterreich

Klaus (left) Franz Netzl of Netzl Wineries (center) and Sonja Eberly (right)

If you like red wines, fear not, there are certainly parts of Lower Austria that boast a range of reds, from Burgundian-trained Anton Bauer’s subtly oaked Pinot Noirs and velvety Blaufranksich and red blends, to the ancient roman ruins of Carnuntum, where Netzl cellars regal red blends and single vineyard Merlot, Zweigelt and St. Laurent.

That being said, white wines—specifically Gruner Veltiner and Riesling (it’s dry!)—are crucial. And when you taste the whites from regions like the Kremstal and the Kamptal and the Wagram and the Wachau (all about 15-30 min apart from each other), you’ll see why each of these designations matters so much. 15 minutes, heck, 15 footsteps, can mean a completely different personality in a bottle of wine made from the same grapes in the same year, from even the same winery.

 

Do yourself a favor and take the time to really delve into the whites wines of this area. There’s Tegernseerhof, with Martin Mittelbach’s pure, mineral-driven single vineyard Rieslings that will leave your taste buds reeling. And Steininger, where father Karl and daughter Eva produce not only some of the most beautiful and classically expressive method-traditional sparkling wines in Austria (they might even let you try to saber or disgorge your own bottle), but also a mind-bogglingly wide array of Kamptal-specific and reserve still wines.

And when you’re completely tuckered after a very full day of tasting gorgeous wines, and hiking the 7km winery-sponsored Weinweg through the vineyards of Langenlois, trust me when I tell you that the Loisium hotel and spa is exactly where you want to end your day. If there’s only one place you decide to splurge during your time in Austrian wine country, make it this hotel. I can’t think of a better way to start and end your day than by floating in a heated pool in the middle of the vineyards, the onion domes of Baroque churches peaking up over the tiled roofs of the town and a glass of your new favorite Austrian wine at the ready.
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Хамбара (Hambara): Sofia’s Hidden Bar


Bartender’s Best


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By Samuel Garza

 

 

Sofia’s Hidden Bar

It’s not very often that you walk into a bar and drop your jaw out of pure amazement. That is exactly what happened to me when I walked into Hambara in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Hambara means bar and what a perfect name for this hidden gem. The look and feel of Hambara is entirely bohemian. The bar can be difficult to find and that’s exactly what adds to its mysteries.  In the past, the bar was a rendezvous for an elite social class of Bulgarians or intelligentsia.  Knocking on the door did not allow access into their secret world.  You had to say the passcode to be allowed in.  There is no passcode needed today, but you will have to knock to be allowed into the bar.

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The door is always locked so you have to knock to be allowed into the bar.

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Once you walk in, you can go upstairs or choose to sit on the first level.  I walked around the bar to take photos and figure out where I wanted have my first drink.  I eventually found a seat at the bar and ordered my first round.

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The address is 22, 6th of September Street. Once you arrive at the address, the bar is behind another bar and its only access is through a small walkway that leads up to the entrance. Once you walk up to the door you will need to knock to be allowed inside.  However, be warned.  Leave your attitude, problems, and issues at the door.  If you don’t, the bartender will notice and you might not be welcomed back.

Drinks

The bar serves beer, wine, and whiskey.  They do not serve food, but they sell bags of chip so make sure you eat before coming to the bar.  My beer of choice was the Pirinsko.

Hours

Opens daily at 21:00.


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BALI: A LITTLE R&R WITH SOME TEMPLES


Traveler’s Spotlight


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By:  Sara-Jane Murray

 

 

 

Bali:  A Little R&R With Some Temples

Bali has been on my travel hit list for the past couple of years so when a friend mentioned she was travelling there a few months ago and asked if would I like to join, it seemed rude to decline. Undeterred by the fact it was rainy season and jollied along by the idea of sipping ice cold cocktails by the pool I re-juggled the travel plans I already had to include a five day trip to Bali- Island of the Gods.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what my expectations of Bali were. I knew I wanted to relax, enjoy the sunshine and be a little bit of a culture vulture but without feeling exhausted by the end of the trip. I am lucky enough to have travelled in India, Thailand and New Zealand so I had no desire to ride elephants or go white water rafting. I wanted a little bit of R and R with some temples thrown in for good measure!

I was fascinated by the eclectic group of people waiting to go through customs and immigration at Denpasar Airport. Bali seems to pull people in from all walks of life. There were Australians looking for cheap beer and a good party, British families coming to celebrate weddings and get a suntan and those searching for something more spiritual. It would seem that Bali, although its tiny, has a little something for everyone.

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I spent my first two nights in Seminyak which is famous for its beaches, shopping and sunsets. It benefits from being a short drive from the airport and is more peaceful than its rowdy party time neighbour Kuta. I arrived late in the evening and was slightly surprised to find that most bars and restaurants had already closed for the night. Only the more questionable establishments were still open for business…I arrived at the hotel, was adorned with jasmine garlands, given a sugary fruit nectar drink and packed off to my room for the night.

After the 19hr flight and not the best nights sleep I was more than happy to kick back and enjoy being a pool bum for 24 hrs. After zooming around Europe for 10 days I embraced my day lazing by the pool, partaking of a siesta and waking to the sound of the afternoon rain bouncing off my balcony. Happy Hour cocktails, new friends and an early night finished off a stupendous introduction to Bali

Determined not to spend the whole time lazing by a pool we organised a two day trip to the inland town of Ubud. We used the same company (Buffalo Tours) who had successfully managed to extract us from the crowds of tourists at the airport to drive us to Ubud and back.The drive from Seminyak to Ubud was a superb adventure. The roads in Bali are still extremely rural so after leaving the motorway we spent two hours winding and bouncing our way through the potholed back roads.

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The scenery was spectacular, lush vegetation and rolling mountains but possibly more enjoyable were the sneak peaks into village life. The Balinese are wonderful people. Kind and utterly charming with a strong sense of family and religion. I was kept highly amused by the antics of the ridiculous number of free range chickens who seemed have a death wish and didn’t mind playing in the roads. In India you could easily get stuck in traffic should a cow decide to stop in the middle of the road but chickens ?!?! We took our time driving up, pausing along the way to visit silk and printing factories, silver markets and various art studios featuring pieces from local artists.

Before arriving in Ubud our driver suggested we stop for lunch at a local place for some delicious Mie Goreng (Indonesian Fried Noodles).The dish reminded me of Pad Thai and was equally as delicious. We had noticed a distinct change in the weather and watched in amazement as the rain clouds started to gather for the afternoon downpour. Being Scottish I am more than accustomed to a bit of rain but the downpours in Bali are quite spectacular and extremely enjoyable to watch but only if you are safely inside. If caught, even with a huge umbrella and jumping to avoid puddles you can still end up extremely wet!!

Quietly nestled in terraced rice paddies Ubud is like a salve to the soul. It is very popular area for yoga and spiritual retreats but its probably better known for its arts and crafts. On your way into town you pass by the Monkey Forrest, home to some extremely cheeky long tailed macaque. We were lucky enough to spot some visitors feeding a group of macaque who were chilling by the roadside enjoying the late afternoon sun. Not only did the monkeys leave with full bellies but they also took two pairs of sunglasses and an umbrella. So be warned, if you visit take care of your belongings!

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Our hotel in Ubud (Wapa di Ume) was remote but simply stunning. As there was no tv or internet access I made full use of the mammoth sized bath tub and was rewarded by a spectacular show from a posse of fireflies outside the window. It was magical !! Serenaded by the chirps, croaks and peeps of the numerous beasties who had taken up residence in the lush gardens and woken by ducks quacking out orders as they moved from one rice paddy to the next. I took my coffee out to the balcony and watched the rice planters slowly and methodically tending the rice paddies, chasing the ducks away as they went.

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After breakfast,we took a taxi into town to visit Ubud Palace and spent the morning wondering around the grounds and keeping an eye out for meandering monkeys. As lunch time was looming we decided to go in search of the famous Babi Guling. Bali is famous for its Babi Guling (suckling pig served with rice, vegetables and a heavenly mix of spices) so it seemed only right to test it out. It was pork overload but worth every mouthful.The rest of the day was spent meandering down main street and the market buying jewellery and other trinkets, drinking coffee and fresh juices and enjoying the very laid back vibe of Ubud. After such a stressful day we rewarded ourselves to a traditional Balinese massage and an evening of cocktails at the hotel bar with some other travellers.

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To make the most of our drive back to Seminyak we stopped by a small nature reserve that produced the famous Kopi Luwak coffee (civet coffee). While it sounds disgusting I have to say the coffee was extremely delicious and smooth but nothing will ever take the place of my beloved Italian espresso. The reserve also produced various teas and other coffees including a coffee and durian concoction which smelt as bad as it tasted, but while in Bali it seemed wrong not to try it. We left after an hour with enough boxes of tea to open our own tea shops.

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On the way back our driver told us about the Balinese new year celebrations which were rapidly approaching and especially Nyepi which is their day of silence. New Years Eve, or Nyepi Eve, starts with blessings at the family temples and continues with a ritual where family members chase away evil spirits called bhuta kala from their villages. Using pots, pans, drums or any other loud instrument they make their way through the village with fiery bamboo torches chasing away evil so they can start the new year fresh and pure. Its a great party time. However on Nyepi day Bali comes to a complete standstill and calm enshrouds the whole island. No flights leave or land, cars stay parked and people stay inside with family and loved ones for a day of contemplation, meditation and relaxation. No electricity should be used and in the traditional communities there are patrols to enforce the rules. Sadly we flew out several days before the celebrations began but it would have been an amazing experience.

Our last day in Seminyak was spent back at the pool and enjoying happy hour. I took a walk through town in the early evening before sunset and again, I was amazed at the mixing pot of people who come to visit Bali. I understand why some people come to visit and never leave and while others would never visit again. It has a strange charm, a gentile manner and I am looking forward to returning in the summer.