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Escape to one of Spain’s Hidden Treasures: Albarracin

Take A Personal Journey to One of Spain’s Hidden Treasures

Escape to one of Spain’s hidden treasures, Albarracín.  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 provide umbrellas and beanies.  Unfortunately, I know from experience.

Snow falling during the early morning in Albarracin.

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

Albarracin, Spain

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

 

More Photos

Albarracin at dusk.
Albarracin, Spain

Are you excited to visit Spain?  Allow WTT to build your personalized itinerary with our trip builder.


 

 

©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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WTT 001: Jim Sutton’s Tips on Traveling Safely Around the World


Podcast



Audio Player


Recorded on June 27, 2016, two days before the airport bombing in Istanbul, Turkey.  We would like to express our condolences to the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.

Joining me this week is Jim Sutton, Founder of the North American Intelligence Exchange.  Jim is also a former U.S. government intelligence analyst and FBI Special Agent.  Jim is a travel security expert and contributor to World Travelers Today.

I met Jim over 10 years ago while working on a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Jim was the project’s Intelligence Director and over the years, has served as my mentor and colleague on multiple security projects.  Jim has traveled the world for both business and pleasure, notably in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, Jim is going to share some valuable tips on how travelers can stay safe while overseas.  He will also share some insight into why terrorist groups target modes of transportation.  One question I had for Jim is, will the level of security at airports expand?

You will learn:

  • Traveling comes with inherent risks such as system failures, natural events, criminal activity, and terroristic events.
  • Tips on personal protection discipline.
  • How to stay alert while traveling.
  • Practice situational awareness.
  • How to know where you are at all times.
  • Calibrate your intuition by learning from past events.

I am looking forward to you hearing Jim’s tips on travel security.

Don’t forget to follow our podcast on iTunes and to also follow our blog.

Thanks for listening!

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©2016 World Travelers Today

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WTT 002: Travel Discussion with United Nations Consultant Robert Palmer


PodCast


I’m happy to have Robert Palmer, a United Nations Consultant speak with us on WTT’s Podcast.  Robert is a personal friend and former colleague.  Robert and I met at the University of Kent at Canterbury while we were both earning our MA in International Relations.  Robert travels the world for both business and pleasure and he will be sharing some advice on working at the UN, living in Rome, and traveling the world.

What you will learn:

  • Robert’s career advice on working with the UN
  • Advice on living and traveling in Rome
  • How to study abroad and earn an international MBA

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for new posting soon.

©2016 World Travelers Today

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The Medieval Streets of Cáceres


History Hiker


Samuel Garza

Samuel Garza

 

 

 

 

I traveled from Madrid to Caceres, which was my first trip to the Extremadura region of Spain. My friends in Madrid told me that visiting Extremadura is the perfect place to see old Spain. Like many areas of Spain, there have been settlements in or around Caceres since prehistoric times.(1) The city was founded by the Romans in 25 B.C. and the city still has it’s ancient walls and and much younger medieval streets and churches. I arrived via train and on my journey I saw a countryside filled with grazing cattle and pigs. In 1986, Caceres was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alfonso IX of Leon conquered the city from the Moors in 1227.(2) Soon after, the town grew in prosperity due to free trade that the town’s merchants implemented. Due to family dueling and bitter rivalries, King Fernando and Isabel ordered many of the town’s watch towers to be demolished.(3)

Caceres was untouched by the Spanish Civil War and stands gloriously as it once did. I was so excited walking around the city late in the evening and also early in the morning taking photos and drinking coffee in one of the many cafes sprinkled throughout the town. Caceres is known for it’s wine, which is a full bodied red that does not disappoint. You can also taste amazing goat and sheep cheese that pairs well with your Extremadura wine. A must try is Caceres’ famous stews, pork, and lamb. The food here was amazing.

Below I have provided a gallery of photos that hopefully express the beauty of the streets of Caceres. This is a city to get lost in, to wander with pure excitement, and to get lost and to use your camera like there is no tomorrow. Caceres was a wonderful city to visit and I learned enough about it’s history in just a few short days to want to return to the Extremadura region in 2016.

Plaza Mayor

Upon my arrival, the town square was buzzing with activity. A tent was erected in the middle of the square and inside the locals were tasting food and wine. I also came across a book sale (pictured below) but I decided against buying a few books due to lack of space and I just didn’t want the added weight.

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San Francisco Javier Church

I made several attempts to enter the church and each time I was met by a locked door. I couldn’t find the hours the church was operand and the tourist office nearby had no clue. Anyways, the exterior of the church is beautiful and worth seeing.

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Plaza De Santa Maria

Walking further into the winding streets of Caceres, I wandered into Plaza De Santa Maria. The plaza has several important building and it is ideal for setting up your tripod and capturing some beautiful images.

Iglesia de Santa Maria on the left.

Iglesia de Santa Maria on the left.

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Arco de la Estrella

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In 1726, Manuel Churriguera built this beautiful low-arched gate. The gate connects Plaza Mayor with the old town. It’s a beautiful structure and worth taking a few pictures early in the morning with less people crowding your shot.

Iglesia de San Mateo

Nestled in the center of the old town, is San Mateo church. Construction began in the 14th century and was completed in the 17th century.

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How to Get There

I arrived in Caceres from Madrid via train. The travel time is 2 hours and 50 minutes one way for around €58 round trip. I highly advise that you buy your tickets at the station. You can also travel via bus. The bus trip will take 4.5 hours at a cost of around €20.

Where to Stay

I stayed at the Hotel AH Agora, which is a few blocks away from Plaza Mayor.  There are plenty of places to stay, but book your rooms in advance to get better prices.

Address and Phone Number:  AH Agora/Parras, 25/Cáceres, 10002, Spain/Phone: +34927626360

View more photographs of Caceres, Spain by Samuel J. Garza.


©2017 World Travelers Today

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Five Easy Lessons for All Travelers


Travel Security Tips


Jim Sutton

By Jim Sutton


 Five Easy Lessons for all Travelers 

After several decades traveling around the world, including several “Hot War zones” I’ve learned several lessons about traveling.  I’ve narrowed my list down to the five most important lessons that have kept me safe during my travels.

Lesson # 1: You will make mistakes during your trip, but you must learn from your mistakes and move on. 

Most of us have realized that the best lessons are the results of mistakes we have made.  All of our mistakes have been learned in hindsight.  It reminds me of an old adage: “Experience is the mother of wisdom; experience can only come from living/enduring the consequences of our mistakes.” The greater the mistake the most memorable the lesson becomes.  You will make mistakes while traveling.  Learn from your mistakes and try to share the results and wisdom with other travelers.  However, allowing your mistakes, — losing your wallet, being robbed, or missing a flight–to overwhelm you, will taint your experience and possibly others around you.  Plan for things to go wrong during your trip.  Staying flexible while traveling will allow you to enjoy your time traveling.

Lesson # 2: Wanderlust is an essential component of being human and you can’t allow threats to deter you from traveling.  

We would not exist today as a species if our ancestors did not have the urge to move, explore, travel and visit. While every possible foreseeable precaution is taken to ensure our survival and wellbeing, it is nearly impossible to anticipate all possible contingencies. It is critically important to plan ahead before going on a vacation or business trip, and you should also also take into consideration local conditions at your destination.  Another thing to remember is for you to accept the fact that no travel is completely without risk. The key to travel security is to be well informed about the latest developments in the country you are visiting.  I highly recommend that you read up on the the country or city you are visiting.  Learn about their culture, past security issues, the political situation, and seasonal weather patterns.

Lesson # 3: Violence against travelers is the new normal.

Criminal violence including terrorism is the new normal.  Violence against travelers happens everywhere and each one of us must accept that we cannot assume “it will not happen to us.” Complacency, ego, and travel ignorance are the greatest challenges you will face as a traveler.  The new normal is here to stay and all travelers must realize that there have always been threats to travelers.  There seems to be an idea or theory that Europe has always been a safe place for travelers.  This thought process or belief is risky.  The most recent wave of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels are part of a long history of violence against travelers in Europe.

Lesson # 4: Make your travel fears concrete and specific in order to overcome them.

From personal experience, I can assert, that the best way to handle fear is to make the fear concrete and specific.  During my travels, I’ve had considerable concerns about the overall level of violence in some of the countries I was in,  however after introspection and time in the country, I realized that an unspecified fear was a psychological issue and not a real issue that could be managed. I have learned to develop the insight that nothing will screw/mess-up with my mind faster that my own brain. I was finally able to make my fear specific when I realized that my real fear was being taken hostage and losing control over my free-will.  Coming to this realization allowed me to better deal with my fear.  You cannot fight a defeat a ghost or an illusion. To defeat a real or imagined enemy you must first make your fear concrete and definable.

Lesson # 5: Stay informed and alert during your trip.  

It is very important that all travelers stay informed.  However, do not preoccupy your mind with rumors or second hand information.  Instead, rely on credible primary sources such as officials in the area you are visiting, or credible news sources with an established local, domestic, and international reputation.  This credible sources could be the Embassy/Consular officers of your nation of origin in the region. Remember, that not all the sources of danger come from the criminal or violent actions of others; but also from Mother Nature herself.

System Failures: We live in a complex technologically advanced world where the biggest source of danger and fatalities come from the system we depend on. Planes crash, ships and other maritime conveyances sink, buildings/hotels/hostels collapse or catch fire. These types of system failures are reported throughout the world on a daily basis.  Therefore, research and gather all the information you can on your airline, cruise ship company, hotel, and tour company.  It is your responsibility to make well informed decisions before and during your trip.

Natural Events: This includes all events caused by nature, from volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornados, intense rain storms, pandemics, epidemics, infectious diseases, avalanches, etc. Natural events are of such a large scope/magnitude they cannot be avoided unless we take precautions to evade them once their possibility has been defined or established by a credible source.  Several years ago, a volcano erupted in Iceland causing all commercial flights in Europe to come to a halt.  You should always plan for these types of delays by having emergency funds for food, hotel, and transportation.

Criminal Activity: This is by a the most statistically probable event you are likely to experience. Travelers are victims of crimes all over the world. Travelers can avoid being victims of crime by staying alert, being well informed, and exerciseing common sense.  This can be summed up in two words: Imprudence or Inattention. If you analyze all instances of victimization the cause of the all events is inescapable; it is one of the two “I’s) or a combination of both.

Terrorism: While terrorist incidents receive a lot of media attention, they are statistically the least probable to occur to you while traveling. They are commonly classified as “low probability/high consequence.” Remember, terrorism is political theater designed to frighten people and coerce a change in their normal routines and prove government and authorities are unable to provide real security. Unless you plan to travel into a “hot” zone known for political violence and instability, you should not worry about the unspecific fear of “terrorists.”  To be sure, travelers have been victim to terrorism, but as mentioned before, you are more likely to be a victim of crime or having your flight delayed while traveling.

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Jueves Santo in Toledo, Spain


History Hiker

 

Experiencing a Jueves Santo in Toledo, Spain will shake every emotion inside of you.  This is what happened to me when I was invited to experience Toledo’s Jueves Santo by my good friends from Madrid, Kiko and Beatrice.  I met my Spanish friends while living in Madrid in 2014. Beatrice was born and raised in Toledo and she knows everything about the city.  I felt blessed to have her and her husband take me around the town during this historic night.

Churches

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During Jueves Santo, dozens of churches are open to the public that are otherwise closed.  Several of the churches belong to monasteries.  In fact, many of the monasteries were built centuries ago.  While visiting the churches, I was surprised to see several of the nuns sitting in dark rooms behind glass windows looking at all the tourist flood into their church.  They seemed to be excited to see us because they were all staring through the glass window.  Beatrice informed me that many of the nuns have been in the monasteries for decades and Jueves Santo is one of the few times they can see the outside world.

Streets

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After visiting several churches we made our way through the beautiful streets of the city.  Beatrice shared stories of her youth and pointed out the best places to eat and drink.  I interjected several times and asked her about Toledo’s culture and economy.  I have had many conversations with them about Toledo before, but I can never learn enough about this historic city and Beatrice is a treasure trove of information.  One of the many things that makes Toledo worth visiting it that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Beatrice pointed out several statues like the one above of Pope John Paul II and several historic building that deserve a post all on their own  We kept walking through the large crowds and made our way to the Jewish Quarter to visit one last church before we joined the crowds for the procession of Jueves Santo.  Monasterio de S. Juan de los Reyes was founded by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I to commemorate the birth of their son and also to their victory of The Battle of Toro.  The monastery was completed in 1504.

The Jewish part of town was illuminated with graphics on the cobble stone streets.  The streets were also empty in this area because everyone was in the center of town waiting near Toledo’s main cathedral for the processions to start.

Procesiones/Processions

Beatrice knew exactly how much time we could spend wandering around the city tasting wine and visiting more historic sites.  Eventually, we made our way towards the cathedral in search of a spot to stop and watch the procession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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View the video below to feel the powerful experience of watching the processions and feeling the passion from the people of Toledo.

 

Dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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In pure Spanish style, we had dinner around 11:30 p.m. along with droves of Toledanos at a popular restaurant called La Abadía.  Having a late dinner is something that I have come to cherish over the past seven years.  I prepare for late dinners with with Zantac and Tums.  Beatrice and Kiko ordered the meat platter along with a delicious red wine from La Mancha.  The beef, sausage, and chicken were delicious.  I kept telling Beatrice and Kiko that I had my own plate to eat, but they insisted that I keep trying the meat.  How could I resist?

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I ordered a dish well known in Toledo, which is Perdiz (Partridge).  The meat melted in my mouth along with the tasty creamy sauce which did not detract from the quality of the meat.  The soil in La Manch is rugged and this region is not known for its fruits or vegetables.  No, La Mancha is all about the meat.

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I couldn’t have asked for more of an authentic experience.  In my humble opinion, this is what travel is about.  It’s not about checking boxes off a bucket list and it’s not about country counting.  Travel is about the personal experience and sharing that experience with others.  I am grateful to my friends Kiko and Beatrice for sharing this amazing evening with me.  Witnessing the passion, history, and culture of this city makes me want to come back for more.

Visit Toledo, Spain.  You will cherish the experience.


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