Uncornered Market http://uncorneredmarket.com travel wide, live deep Tue, 19 May 2015 12:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Next Up: Exploring Colombia and Finding The Lost Cityhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/exploring-colombia/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/exploring-colombia/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 17:51:48 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20620 By Audrey Scott

We’re headed to Colombia tomorrow. We’re off to see a country we were supposed to visit five years ago. We’ll be on the trail for Colombian culture — from the Andes to the Pacific to the Caribbean — and to find The Lost City along the way. Colombia. It’s one of the countries that got […]

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By Audrey Scott

We’re headed to Colombia tomorrow. We’re off to see a country we were supposed to visit five years ago. We’ll be on the trail for Colombian culture — from the Andes to the Pacific to the Caribbean — and to find The Lost City along the way.

Cartagena
The colorful streets of Cartagena, Colombia.

Colombia. It’s one of the countries that got away during the 15 months we traveled through Latin America a few years ago. We didn’t skip it because of safety concerns — in fact, even at that time ever more travelers were saying the opposite and urging us to go. We just happened to pass it at the height of rainy season and we figured we’d return when we were certain to have ample time to explore.

We didn’t expect it would take five years to return, but here we are.

We leave for Colombia tomorrow.

Note: In full disclosure, we technically have been to Colombia before. A couple of years ago, we enjoyed an eight-hour layover in Bogota, visited a friend in the city and tooled around for several hours. Dan thinks this counts. I do not.

Editor’s Note: Dan here. I’m not entirely certain what Audrey means by “counts.” Have I been to Colombia? Yes. Have I really “been to Colombia” in the Uncornered Market way. Not yet.

Colombia In My Imagination: Marquez

While many are introduced to Colombia by way of the news media – reports on things like drugs cartels and FARC rebels and the tenor of companion violence that comes with all that – I’d like to think I first met Colombia by reading Gabriel García Márquez novels, including Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Marquez’s characters and plot lines were so vivid and outlandish, but I knew those portraits were drawn from and grounded in personal experience, composites of people and life events as Marquez had lived them.

Marquez’s depictions conveyed an intensity in Colombian life, both in its joys and its sorrows. Scenes played out in colorfully painted towns and villages, albeit against the backdrop of corrupt politicians and clergy, all dashed with an undeniable Spanish colonial angst.

Cartagena Streets
Tropical, colorful and sweet — Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

This Colombia intrigued me. The Colombia of emotion, of color and perhaps a touch of calamity.

So after reading and hearing about Colombia for so long, we’re curious to dig in, to see for ourselves, to meet who we can, and to find what we will in the coming weeks.

Safety in Colombia

As we’ve shared our upcoming trip to Colombia with friends and family, among the first questions: “Is it safe there now?”

Dan and Audrey, meet the travel safety elephant in the room. Colombia has certainly witnessed its share of turmoil and violence, and although it isn’t competing with the likes of Singapore at the top of the list of the world’s safest countries to visit, it has made a great deal of progress in the last decade on those counts. This is not to say that incidents don’t still happen. However, we’ve found in our travels in nearby countries where awareness of visitor safety remains high (e.g., Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.), we often find locals quite protective of us, advising us on-the-fly as to where we should and should not go.

Medellín
Medellin: the public transportation gondola takes you high above the city.

We will remain aware and be mindful just as we would in cities anywhere — in the United States, Europe or elsewhere in Latin America. As we’ve written before, there are ways to remain safe yet open to local people and experiences.

What We Will See and Do in Colombia

We will spend a little over three weeks in Colombia, with the first week on our own and the next two and a half weeks on a G Adventures tour and Lost City Trek. Although we’ve done some research on Colombia, we are intent on gathering advice and tips as we go. So we welcome any recommendations.

Colombian Coffee
Going straight to the source for Colombian coffee: Armenia.

Our First Week in Colombia: South or West?

We will travel independently during our first week in country. We’ll spend the first couple of days at a friend’s cabin outside of Bogota, but after that we’re not entirely certain. We’d hoped to go to the Pacific Coast to the area near the town of Nuqui, but as there are no roads in that region we’re dependent upon flights and they are proving a bit problematic. So now we’re considering visiting San Agustín so we can explore the 500 stone statues left in the hills by prehistoric peoples living in the area almost 5,000 years ago.

Of course, all this may change between the time we publish and the time we land in Bogota.

Update: After talking with friends here in Colombia and getting feedback from you all on our Facebook page we’ve decided to go to the Sierra Nevada and Barichara for the week.

What is your advice? Where would you go with a week in either Colombia’s west or south?

Colombia Experience Tour

This is the time for all those places and experiences that dance in our heads when we think of Colombia. Medellin, Cartagena, coffee plantations in the hills, beaches and jungles in the north — they all come into play during the next segment of our trip. We’ll spend almost two weeks exploring the country on the G Adventures Colombia Experience Tour.

Bogota's Cathedral - Columbia
Bogota Cathedral. One of the few photos from our brief visit years ago.

A few highlights of this trip include:

  • Bogota: Although we spent an afternoon here many years ago (I refer you to the inline argument between writer and editor, husband and wife above) we are looking forward to returning, digging in and exploring its markets, neighborhoods and art galleries.
  • Armenia: We will spend time in the hills of Colombia’s main coffee-growing region, visiting coffee farms and meeting some of the people behind the coffee beans of Juan Valdez lore. We’ll also have some time to explore Salento and Cocora.
  • Medellin: The prevailing reputation of Medellin was once one of violence and drugs (think: Medellin cartel), but it now stands as another example of destinations that are not static, places that have witnessed positive change and will hopefully continue to do so. We know several people who chose Medellin as their home, and have heard great things about the laid back feel of the city and the friendliness of its people.
  • Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona: This is where we begin to shift gears and enjoy some of the beaches and Caribbean culture for which Colombia is famous. After all the photos we’ve seen of this region, we are trying hard to manage our expectations.
  • Cartagena: This coastal city seems to be the stuff of Marquez novels – colorful, vibrant, steamy. Every time we mention Colombia to someone who has visited, they always seem to have a story of Cartagena, one that they relate with a tinge of emotion – eyes cast wistfully or a hand placed over the heart.
Tayrona National Park
Caribbean coastline inside Tayrona National Park.

Lost City Trek

We end our journey with the Lost City Trek, a five-day hike in the jungle of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains, with the goal of reaching “Ciudad Perdida Teyuna,” (Spanish for “Lost City of Teyuna”). Although no one knows for certain, it is believed that Teyuna was founded around 800 A.D., some 650 years earlier than Peru’s Machu Picchu. The city was a central hub of sorts for a group of villages inhabited by the Tairona (among the predecessors of today’s northern Colombian inhabitants). Teyuna is composed of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside. It is connected by roads and thousands of stone stairs and was abandoned in 1599 after it was attacked during the Spanish conquest.

Lost City Trek
Found: The Lost City in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Rumor has it that local Kogi, Arhuaco and Wiwas indigenous groups in the area knew of Teyuna, considered it a holy place, and thus kept it to themselves. It was “rediscovered” a little over 40 years ago and opened to trekkers in 2005. So while this isn’t an entirely new trek, it’s not especially well known…yet.

Along the way we’ll pass through farms and villages and meet with some of the indigenous communities to learn about local culture, history and life in the region. The trail carves its way through thick jungle and follows the Buritaca River, arriving each night at a campsite conveniently located near a natural swimming pool so that we may cool off from the day’s efforts.

Hike to The Lost City in the Sierra of Colombia
Sierra Nevada jungle layers unfold to the Lost City.

This is a new trek for G Adventures so we’re excited to experience it before they begin offering it to travelers from mid-June of this year.

Our Trip to Colombia: How You Can Help

If you’ve traveled to Colombia and been to any of the cities or areas mentioned above, we’d love to hear your advice on markets, food, and other great experiences you’ve had. Although some of our itinerary is fixed with the tour –- in particular the destination cities — this G Adventures trip provides quite a bit of independent time so we’d love to hear your suggestions!

Any other Colombia destinations or experiences, hidden or otherwise, that you feel warrant a look or a visit, please share. We may be able to pursue them in our free time. If we cannot, our readers are sure to appreciate and benefit from your advice.

Follow Our Colombia Adventure

You can follow our adventures in Colombia using the hashtags #GadvColombia on Twitter and Instagram. We will also share updates on our Facebook and Google Plus pages. We’re excited to have the opportunity to share our Colombia experience with you!

Photo Credits: G Adventures, Marcelo Druck, Katie Bordner

Disclosure: Our trip to Colombia is provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. As always, the thoughts contained herein — the what, the why, and the how — are entirely our own.

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Switzerland by Train: A Mother-Daughter Journeyhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/switzerland-by-train/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/switzerland-by-train/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:33:21 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20478 By Audrey Scott

This is the story of why I went to Switzerland with my mom. It’s also a handy little Switzerland-by-train itinerary with recommendations and tips along the way. “Isn’t it hard to have your daughter so far away?” Angie, my mom’s friend from Basel, asked during our visit there. “Sure, but it’s kind of in the […]

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By Audrey Scott

Swiss Train
This is the story of why I went to Switzerland with my mom. It’s also a handy little Switzerland-by-train itinerary with recommendations and tips along the way.

“Isn’t it hard to have your daughter so far away?” Angie, my mom’s friend from Basel, asked during our visit there.

“Sure, but it’s kind of in the family. It actually began with my grandmother. She was from Basel,” my mom responded.

The story dates back to 1911, when my great-grandmother, then a young woman, fell in love with and was engaged to a young man, my great grandfather. Instead of insisting on tying the knot in Switzerland — I’m still not quite sure why — my great-grandfather set off for Argentina in hopes of finding better job opportunities and creating a new life.

Months later, my great-grandmother received word and some money for travel to join him. As an unmarried woman, she made the journey by train, then by boat from Switzerland to Argentina all on her own.

Talk about being ahead of the curve on solo female travel.

After her safe arrival in Argentina, my great-grandparents married and the rest, as they say, is history. My family story continues with my grandmother, my mother and me each leaving home for someplace far away when we were young.

For my mom, she re-established a connection to Switzerland after her parents moved the family there when she was 10. They lived in Geneva eight years, until the time she graduated from high school, whereupon she took a boat to the United States to attend university.

Wanderlust, you see, runs deep in my family.

Mother and Daughter Train Journey Through Switzerland - Geneva
Mother and daughter, reconnecting on a sunny spring day in Geneva.

So while Dan went off to Malaysia for a 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat (more on that soon), I hopped a train from Berlin to Switzerland with my mom so she could retrace a bit of her history. We spent ten days in Switzerland, beginning with the family roots in Basel, continuing with some of my mom’s favorite childhood spots and finishing with some new parts of the country, too. And we did it all on Switzerland’s fabulous — and prompt — train network, including a few of their famous Scenic Trains.

As we explored Switzerland, here’s what we found.

Bernina Express - Chur to Tirano, Switzerland
Inside the Bernina Express Panoramic Train, Tirano to Chur.

To skip ahead:

  1. A Photographic Journey of Switzerland by Train
  2. Tips for Traveling Switzerland by Train
  3. Using a Eurail Global Pass in Switzerland
  4. Switzerland Travel: Accommodation, Food, and Other Recommendations

A Photographic Journey Through Switzerland

Although I’d been to Switzerland before, this trip reinforced its essence: order, cleanliness, and plenty of mountains and lakes, all packaged in an often unbelievable fairytale backdrop. I was also amused to discover one of the supposed roots of the Swiss trademark promptness (which I somehow lost in the bloodline). It turns out that Calvinist churchgoers were fined for arriving late to church service. Hence, well-functioning public clocks were put in place to serve a holy purpose for the industrious.

Saint Bernard in Basel, Switzerland
A St. Bernard in Basel. So Swiss.

Switzerland may also not be known for its diversity, but that such a small country has four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romanish) is remarkable. You can feel and hear the regional differences, the quick shifts from canton to canton, and in between.

But if I’m perfectly honest, when I consider our time in Switzerland, I think most often of the stunning mountain and lake landscapes, perfect flower displays, and almost wickedly well-kept alpine villages.

Springtime in Switzerland - Montreux, Switzerland
Springtime in Switzerland.

Note: The photos below are in chronological order of our train journey to give you a sense of our itinerary and trajectory.

Basel – Geneva – Montreux – Cheese Train – GoldenPass Classic – Lucerne – Chur – Bernina Express – Zurich

Basel's Town Hall - Switzerland
Old Town Hall, Basel Marktplatz.
Vineyards and Snow-Capped Mountains - Near Lausanne, Switzerland
En route, Basel to Geneva by train. Vineyards and snow-capped mountains near Lausanne.
Geneva's St. Pierre's Cathedral - Switzerland
A view from our balcony in Geneva: St. Pierre Cathedral.
Rainbow and Jet d'eau - Geneva, Switzerland
Jet d’eau and a rainbow, taken aboard a public transport boat across Lake Geneva.
A beautiful little walk along Lake Geneva on our way to the Montreux train station, aptly named "Chemin Fleuri" (flower path). This is Switzerland in full springtime glory. via Instagram http://ift.tt/1b1DGja
A walk on the Montreux lake path. Stop, breathe, enjoy.
Château de Chillon on the shores of Lake Geneva with snow-covered Rochers de Naye in the distance. Montreux, you are spoiling us. #switzerland via Instagram http://ift.tt/1Dt4Z0V
Château de Chillon, Montreux. Looks like a fairytale, right?
Early morning reflections over Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), view from our balcony. This is Montreux, Switzerland. via Instagram http://ift.tt/1aDbV0a
Early morning reflections over Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), the view from our balcony in Montreux.
Cheese Train Begins with Wine - Montreux, Switzerland
Cheese Train begins with wine at 10:30AM? So maybe I am a bad influence on my mother…
Cheese Train from Montreux to Chateau d'Oex - Switzerland
The Cheese Train carves the hills above Montreux and Lake Geneva.
How Cheese Gets Made, Chalet Bio - Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland
How beautiful rounds of Chalet Bio cheese get their start.
Cheese Fondue at Le Chalet - Chateau d'Oex, Switzerland
How that beautiful cheese ends up, melted with a bit of wine, as cheese fondue.
GoldenPass Classic, eating in style - Montreux, Switzerland
A meat plate, wine, and a view of the mountains on the GoldenPass Classic. Not a bad ride.
GoldenPass Classic - Montreux, Switzerland
Bernese Oberland mountain views from the GoldenPass Classic, en route from Montreux to Zweisimmen.
En Route to Lucerne by Train - Switzerland
Interlaken to Lucerne by train, turquoise glacier lakes set in wrap-around mountains.
Lucerne (Luzern) Old Town and Covered Bridge - Switzerland
Lucerne’s Water Tower (Wasserturm) and famous Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke).
Chur City View - Switzerland
Chur, Switzerland’s oldest city, is our jumping off point for the Bernina Express train.
Arcas Square in Chur, Switzerland
Colorful Arcas Square, Old Town Chur.
Filisur Village, Bernina Express Train Views - Switzerland
Filisur Village, en route to the Bernina Pass.
Bernina Express Train Through the Mountians - Switzerland
Riding over the Bernina Pass (2,253m), Tirano to Chur.
Bernina Express Views, Mountains and Lake - Switzerland
More Bernina Express train views…
Frau Gerolds Garten in Zurich West - Switzerland
Frau Gerolds Garten in Zurich West – an urban space filled with art, pop-up cafes, restaurants, and good energy. Not exactly the traditional Zurich I had in mind.

Tips for Traveling Switzerland by Train

For such a small country, Switzerland features a vast rail system, including around 20,000 km worth of tracks that cut through mountains and over passes in a manner you think ought to be impossible. Not only can you get almost anywhere and everywhere in Switzerland by train, but you travel through absolutely stunning scenery as you do. There are usually frequent departures (e.g., hourly) for connections between main cities and towns, making it easy to remain flexible with your itinerary.

Finding Swiss Train Schedules: I found SBB’s website easy to use to check train schedules. The site will indicate if a specific train is expected to be busy, which proves useful in deciding which train to take and whether or not to make a reservation. I also used Eurail’s Rail Planner App for checking train times on my iPhone. This app does not require an internet connection, so it’s great for travelers who don’t happen to have mobile data (or wish to save their bandwidth for something else).

Getting Advice on Switzerland Train Itineraries: When we gave a talk on Haiti in London earlier in the year at the Destinations Show, I stopped by the Switzerland stand to ask for itinerary advice as I was worried about trying to squeeze in too much. I received advice on the spot from Switzerland Travel Centre (STC) that fortuitously flipped around my original plans. We continued the conversation on email to settle our final itinerary. STC is a sort of an all-Switzerland travel agency that advises on itineraries, books customized trips and sells Swiss train passes. STC takes care of transport logistics and accommodation, but in a way that allows customers to travel independently. Disclosure: STC kindly provided our train reservations on the GoldenPass Classic and Bernina Express, and organized our Cheese Train experience.

Storing luggage between seats: Unfortunately, we didn’t figure this trick out until the end of our journey. While some trains have storage racks at the front or end of the train wagon, many of the first class Swiss trains feature space between seats where you can slide your luggage on its side on the ground. Much easier than trying to lift it onto the racks above.

Affordable mobile data: If you have an unlocked smartphone, a mobile data plan in Switzerland is quick and easy. Swisscom offers a great deal where you pay 2Chf/day for unlimited mobile data (throttled after 2GB). Just buy a prepaid SIM card for 20Chf (you get that same amount in credit) and you’re good to go. Great coverage throughout the country, too.

Using a Eurail Pass in Switzerland

My mom and I each traveled with a 1st Class Eurail Global Pass in Switzerland (and Germany). This made it quite straightforward and easy to get around as reservations were not required for any of the regular (i.e., non-Scenic) trains we took. This provided lots of flexibility as we could decide on the fly when we wished to depart for our next destination, allowing us to shift plans as we went. For example, on my return I decided to stop off in Munich for the night to visit friends instead of heading straight to Berlin. Disclosure: Eurail kindly provided us with our Global Passes.

Choosing a Eurail Pass

There are endless options regarding which Eurail pass to choose. My advice is to figure out the general route you want to take and then see what the best option is for that route. For example, if you are only going to be in two or three countries, then one of the Regional Passes might be a more economical option for you than the Global Pass (28 countries). Eurail’s customer service is very responsive, especially on social media, so just ask for advice on what type of Eurail pass best matches your desired itinerary. Note: If you have a little flexibility with your budget, I can recommend that traveling in 1st class offers noticeable luxury and comfort: bigger seats, fewer people, and occasional free wifi.

Cost benefits of a Eurail Pass

Whether a Eurail Pass is cost-effective depends on your itinerary. If you plan only to take short trains in a limited area or region, then it might be less expensive to buy tickets directly. However, if you have some longer train journeys planned or you’re traveling in a country with expensive train routes (e.g., Switzerland) then it’s likely a Eurail Pass will prove cost effective.

To get a sense of whether a Eurail Pass makes sense from a cost standpoint, go to the website of the national railways service in the countries where you wish to travel and calculate the cost of your trip. Understand that some countries offer tickets that are cheap when purchased in advance, but nearly double in price when you buy them the day before or the day of the journey. Seat61 is an excellent resource for European train travel. Note: If the cost of buying tickets directly is similar to that of a Eurail Pass, go for the pass as it saves you the hassle of waiting in railway ticket lines and provides you with additional flexibility to change your plans as you go.

Understanding when reservations are required with a Eurail Pass

Here are the two easiest ways I found to obtain this information:

Eurail Timetable: Search for the route you want to take and the timetable will tell you whether a reservation is required, recommended, or not applicable at all. I used this to research our Berlin – Basel train and decided to make a reservation after seeing it was recommended. I was glad we purchased reservations and had assigned seats, as our train was full.

Eurail Rail Planner App: When you are searching for a train schedule within the app, select the option indicating “Trains without compulsory reservations.”

Using your Eurail Pass on Switzerland’s Scenic Trains

Switzerland features a collection of what they call “Scenic Trains” that occasionally require Eurail Pass holders to make separate reservations. You can find out the details of what is needed for each of the trains here.

Switzerland Travel: Accommodation, Food, Recommendations

Switzerland is not an inexpensive destination, especially after the government unpegged its currency, the Franc, from the Euro earlier this year. So it’s possible to travel more cheaply than we did, but when you travel with your mom, she gets to call the shots on budget and comfort level. Who was I to argue?

Geneva Practical Details

Accommodation: Hotel Bel’EspéranceRun by the Salvation Army, it would be hard to beat the location of this hotel. Rooms are simple, but very clean. Hint: bring food back to the hotel and eat dinner on the rooftop terrace as you watch the sun set over Lake Geneva.
Restaurants: Pizzeria da Paolo – We stumbled upon this restaurant our first night in Geneva and it is the real Italian deal – great pizza, roasted vegetables and salads. Super busy, so make a reservation or be prepared to take a drink at the bar until a table becomes available.
Geneva Public Transport Passes: Hotels often provide guests with public transport passes, so be sure to ask about this when you check in.

Montreux Practical Details

Accommodation: Hotel du Grand Lac ExcelsiorI chose this place because it mentioned “lake view” and boy, they weren’t lying (see below). From what we could tell, all rooms here face the lake (we were on the 3rd floor). It’s a bit of a walk from the Montreux train station, but the views are worth it. From the hotel it’s a 20 minute walk to Château de Chillon.

Balcony with a Lakeside & Mountain View - Montreux, Switzerland
My hotel choice in Montreux = mom approved.

Montreux Card: Your hotel will likely provide you with a Montreux Card, good for public transport and a discount for the Château de Chillon.

Cheese Train Practical Details

Tickets and Reservations: You can buy your tickets for the Cheese Train (runs December to April, Thursday to Sunday) at the Montreux Train Station. The price ranges from 39Chf to 89Chf depending on whether you have a Eurail Pass or Swiss Pass. Try to book in advance as the Cheese Train can fill up quickly.

In all honesty, we first hoped to take the Chocolate Train after seeing it listed as #1 on this list of top European Train Trips, but we were too early in the season (Chocolate Train departures begin in May). Chocolate Train meet bucket list.

Disclosure: The Cheese Train was organized and provided to us by Switzerland Travel Centre in London.

GoldenPass Classic Practical Details

GoldenPass Classic vs. Panoramic: Both of these trains take the same route. The Classic train has a rather cool, interior that harkens back to a bygone era while the Panoramic train features large, glass windows lending more visibility of the mountains around. The Cheese Train features wagons similar to the GoldenPass Classic, so if you’ve already take a GoldenPass Classic trip, then choose the Panoramic train for this segment.
Tickets and Reservations: While reservations were not needed for the GoldenPass Classic train that we were on, the conductor told us that during high season (summer months) reservations are essential. Even though they add extra wagons at that time, trains are often sold out for weeks in advance. We did not need reservations for the other two segments of the journey.
Food and drink: We were offered a smoked meat and cheese platter that was delicious. One would have been more than enough for the two of us. Given the high price of food in Switzerland, it’s actually a pretty good deal at 19Chf. Ideally, reserve one of these meat platters at the same time as you purchase your ticket or make your seat reservation.
Disclosure: Our reservation and meal on the GoldenPass Classic was organized and provided to us by Switzerland Travel Centre in London.

Lucerne Travel: Practical Details

Accommodation: Waldstaetterhof Hotel, Lucerne – If you are looking for a place near the train station (as we were), this is a good choice. Convenient location, comfy rooms and good breakfast included in the price of the room.
Lucerne Walking Path: We followed the Lucerne Tourism Office’s walking path of old town that is marked in red on their official maps. It’s a great walk that took us to the ramparts above the city, as well as into all the little squares and alleys through the medieval old town. Recommended.
Eating and Drinking: There are endless eating and drinking options along the Rathausquai where you can sit outside and gaze at the river. For something different we can recommend the vegetarian curries at Kanchi Indian Restaurant.

Chur Travel: Practical Details

Accommodation: Hotel Drei KönigeThis hotel serves as a convenient base for taking the Bernina Express train. It is about a 5-10 minute walk from the train station and on the edge of Chur old town. Our room was not especially large, but I believe there are other options.
Restaurants: We enjoyed a really lovely meal at Malena Empanaderia, a little restaurant run by an outrageously friendly Argentine family. Empanadas are the real deal, as is the homemade dulce de leche. Good salads and selection of Argentine wines as well. Da Mamma offers a good and affordable lunch deal.

Bernina Express Practical Details

Bernina Express Reservations: You can use your Eurail pass for the Bernina Express, but you need to get a seat reservation in advance if you want to sit in one of the panoramic cars (both 1st and 2nd class). We highly recommend this – the views with the wide windows are just fantastic.
Round-trip journey: We took the Berinina Express from Chur to Tirano (2 hour stop) and back to Chur. The round-trip journey was ideal. It makes for a 10-hour day, but it doesn’t feel that long. Also, as the light and angles are different each way it doesn’t really feel as though you are repeating the same territory. If you take the train only one way, then you would take a bus from Tirano to Lugano (separate seat reservation needed).
Taking photos from the Bernina Express: While the panoramic windows offer a great view, they don’t always make for the best photos because of glare and reflections. At the end of some of the panoramic cars there is a place whose windows can be adjusted and drawn. Several photographers shared the window to get clearer shots of the landscape and train.
Lunch in Tirano, Italy: It’s a nice bonus that you get to have lunch in Italy as part of the Bernina Express train experience. There are several restaurants right by the train station, but they looked a little too touristy for us so we walked into old town Tirano and had a wonderful lunch at Tratoria Gagin (Piazza Cavour 7, Tirano). It was full of locals. Food was good and prices reasonable.

Zurich Travel: Practical Details

Accommodation: 25hours Hotel Zurich West: We would never have discovered Zurich West — the tech, startup, artistic, and hip part of Zurich had we not stayed at 25hours Hotel Zurich. The hotel’s design and approach is just fun, from clever signage to thoughtful details in our room and in common areas. Just about everything features some sort of meaning or symbolism. After a week of cheese, smoked meats and heavy foods we also appreciated the light Israeli-inspired cuisine at the restaurant. Disclosure: Our night at 25hours Hotel Zurich West was kindly provided to us.

Relaxing in Lounge at 25Hours Hotel in Zurich West - Switzerland
Got a little too comfortable at 25hours Hotel lobby in Zurich and almost missed my train.

Exploring Zurich West: Even if you don’t stay in Zurich West, it’s worth taking the tram there to get a feel for “new” Zurich and to witness how a former industrial area became known for artists, creativity, and startups. Take a walk to the Viadukt and enjoy the big market hall and other shops and restaurants built under the train tracks. Then continue to the Freitag Tower, fashioned from old shipping containers, and finish your exploration with a visit to Frau Gerolds Garten. A very cool vibe.

Note: For the most part we booked the hotels above via Expedia (no, we do not have any affiliation with them) just a few days before we’d arrive in a destination. Employing this approach, we found the prices cheaper than booking directly with the hotel. Tip: always check both — direct booking and online travel sites — to see which option yields the best price. Note: We took our trip in the shoulder season. If you are traveling during the high season, you ought to consider booking further in advance than we did.

A big thanks goes to Eurail, Switzerland Travel Centre and 25hours Hotel Zurich West for supporting our train journey and experience through Switzerland.

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A Train Too Far? A Day Trip to Polandhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/szczecin-poland-day-trip-berlin/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/szczecin-poland-day-trip-berlin/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:58:12 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20385 By Audrey Scott

This is a story about going to Poland for the day, and the joy of deliberately infusing adventures into our everyday lives. Two large Tyskie beers kept us company as we waited for pierogies, savory Polish dumplings, to arrive at our table at a brewery restaurant in Szczecin, a town near the Polish-German border. Only […]

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By Audrey Scott

This is a story about going to Poland for the day, and the joy of deliberately infusing adventures into our everyday lives.

Berlin in a Manhole Cover
Starting our adventure, morning in Berlin.

Two large Tyskie beers kept us company as we waited for pierogies, savory Polish dumplings, to arrive at our table at a brewery restaurant in Szczecin, a town near the Polish-German border. Only hours before, we had been having breakfast in what was once West Berlin.

I considered the history of this region. For decades, freedom of movement in this part of the world simply wasn’t a concept. Borders not only existed, but they were also deliberate, apparent and imposing — all to deter people from crossing. Permissions were usually needed, if they were ever granted at all. Heck, in Berlin an elaborate wall existed to keep people out or in, depending upon how you looked at it and which side of the thing you happened to be on.

Across the whole of what is broad-brush referred to as Eastern Europe, this really wasn’t very long ago. The recent history of the region — from its World Wars to its Cold War — stands as a cautionary tale of the devastating effects of the blind rage of man, as well as testament to her ability to pick up the pieces and move on. Evidence as to how real change, even amidst seemingly impenetrable darkness, remains possible.

Countries, places, people, citizens — are not static.

From the consideration of great shared struggle and the friction-free invisible border between Germany and Poland that I’d passed only shortly before, I took another sip of Polish beer and settled back down to something personal. I reflected on how, even without physical borders, we humans are often tempted to draw barriers in our minds — barriers that prevent us from seeing and realizing new possibilities.

I reflect on my own situation — how lately I’ve felt as though I’ve been making excuses, putting things off. “When there’s more time, I’ll do it,” I say to myself. “When there’s a better time…” I rationalize. The problem is that this sort of deferment sometimes has a habit of becoming permanent. So it remains up to me to create the time — even when life feels “busy” — to do the things that need doing, the things I want to do. And then act on that. Otherwise, I run the risk of looking back and wondering ‘What if?‘ That’s not something I wanted for my life.

Szczecin on an early spring day - Poland
Szczecin’s old town on an early spring day.

In fact, just a few days before, when Dan suggested going to Poland for the day, my initial response was, “Isn’t that kinda far to go for one day?”

Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, isn’t “Why not?” a better starting point in the art of possibility?

To ask that question, to flip the orientation – it takes a re-framing to imagine what’s possible. Once I have made a decision and chosen to act, my life has proven time and again that the rest follows.

And so there we were: two hours and two trains later, in Poland, waiting for plates of pierogies. Going to Poland for the day was a decision pit against a never-ending list of things that “needed” doing. But it felt right to head out on a wee journey for the day and to reflect on where we are and understand a little better this part of the world. Berlin to Western Poland, a stretch that witnessed devastation, then isolation, and most recently rebuilding and creation anew.

Beautiful Plate of Pierogies in Szczecin, Poland
A delicious plate of homemade pierogies. Alone, worth the train journey.

“We’re in Poland!!” I did a little dance in my chair, shuffling my hands and feet — to Dan’s surprise…or perhaps chagrin. Ah, the little things.

Walking the Red Line

Szczecin, the subject of our day trip, was completely new to us. We had little idea what we would find. But that is adventure, after all.

When people ask us for travel advice on how to explore a new city, our first suggestion is to walk. Driving just isn’t the same. It’s too quick, too distant from the tactile, sensory interaction with one’s surroundings. Walking yields a quite literal on-the-ground feel of a place – not only what it is now, but often echoes of where it’s been and also where it hopes to go.

Audrey Photographs the Pomeranian Dukes' Castle in Szczecin, Poland
Photographing the Pomeranian Dukes’ Castle in Szczecin. Sporting a pair of Rockport Welded T-Toe Sneakers, comfortable for walking streets old and new.

By walking, you notice the unevenness of a medieval cobblestone street or the broken sidewalk under your feet. Moving slowly on foot allows you to better absorb, to take in the street art hiding in a corner, the smell of sweet poppy seed pastries emerging from an oven at the local bakery, the brightness of newly placed roof tiles amidst the old, and the pace at which local people move about you to and from work or school.

We were prepared to walk and explore for hours and hours, as we were testing out new Rockport Shoes for this adventure. Not only did they hold up to our tough usage, but they were well suited for the freak April storms by drying quickly and being light. And trust me, comfortable and dry feet do really matter. A lot.

Smoking Rat - Street Art in Szczecin, Poland
The smoking rat. Clever street art in Szczecin’s old town.

We are notorious for getting lost, even in places where everyone tells us it’s impossible to do so. Fortunately, the town of Szczecin is made for people like us: there is a red line literally painted on the ground to follow around the contours of its old town.

Peter and Paul Church - Szczecin, Poland
Peter and Paul Church in a moment of sunshine.

Szczecin Along the Oder River, Poland
Along the Oder River, hints of Brick Gothic meets industrial architecture.

So we walked the red line. We traced it, jagging in to catch a glimpse of a 13th century city wall or 15th century church, and then cutting back out again on the main road to follow the Oder River, taking the more than occasional detour along the way. For us, it’s all about the scavenger hunt: around corners, through courtyards, down cobbled alleys, to the foot of a castle wall.

Sites, sights, and the everyday.

Exploration without expectations can be liberating. To just go and see for ourselves and find where our feet — and perhaps even more importantly, our minds — might take us. This is how we gather experience and form who we are and our view of the world. We steal bite-sized experiential pieces of the world around us and commit them to our sense of the greater shape of things…and our place in them.

Dan catches snowflakes on his tongue - Szczecin, Poland
When Mother Nature gives you a freak snow storm in April, respond accordingly by eating “snow peas.”

Local Dinner, Broader Perspective

With just a few minutes to spare, after a dash to catch a photo of a bridge and a couple of last looks on the train platform, we hopped the train back to Berlin. The idea: to arrive just in time for dinner at our favorite little Italian bistro in the neighborhood. We caught the last empty table before the dinner rush, after which reservations would become a must.

We sat at a table in the corner and watched the theatre of a small, family-run restaurant unfold before us. Two waiters flitted between tightly-arranged tables — balancing wide bowls of pasta on the palms of their hands in one pass, carrying healthy carafes of wine on the next.

Amidst the managed chaos, our waiter, a dead ringer for a young Freddie Mercury, offered us complimentary shots of grappa at the end of our meal. “Please sit and enjoy this. Take your time,” he insisted, as a wall of hungry people stood waiting at the door.

From little shot glasses, we sipped our grappa, a perfect finish after a rich meal of homemade pasta with wild duck ragout and grilled polenta with salsiccia. As the warmth of the grappa consumed me, I reflected on the decision to go to Poland, a place that once seemed too far out of reach for just one day.

It only took a shift in mindset to realize that it really wasn’t that far after all. Distance is all too often in the mind.

Waiting for the Train in Szczecin, Poland
Have train pass, will travel. Rockport Washable Oxfords, light and comfy. Good in rain, too.

“But I don’t have a country two hours away from me by train,” you object.

You don’t need one. You just need a place, a new place, a place unknown to you that your mind assumes is just out of reach. A literal place, maybe a figurative place. A place that may even be in your hometown or just nearby, but a place that you know you want to experience nonetheless.

So grab a map. Choose a direction. Go. See what you find. Open yourself up. Walk the streets. Notice the details. Then, get a bit lost. Reflect. And when you do, reserve some space for the expected, the unexpected and a healthy does of gratitude, regardless of what you’ve found.

We tell ourselves that there’s not enough time — oh, the precious, limited resource that it is. However, when we challenge that assumption, we reward ourselves with possibility, the possibility of a mini adventure for one day, and also for life.

So that was my day trip to Poland, book-ended by Berlin, wrapped in a web of history that leaves my mind always wondering, sometimes wandering. Racing. And even though my trip to Poland this time was short, I’m grateful for the experience, and prefer it to never having had it at all.

Have you ever done something that perhaps sounded crazy at first, but then you thought: why not?

—-

We’d like to thank the folks at Rockport Shoes for asking us to think about the role of adventure in our daily lives and to share one of our days as part of their #MyDailyAdventure series and campaign, of which this article is a part.

You can also take part in the fun and have a chance to win weekly prizes! Share your own daily adventure by uploading a photo and story to Instagram using the hashtags #MyDailyAdventure and #Contest. Be sure to tag @RockportShoes to ensure that you are automatically entered into the prize drawing. Make sure you submit your entries by midnight on May 14, 2015. You can see all Terms & Conditions here.

Additionally, we have a special Rockport Shoes discount code for our readers. Just go to the online shop and use discount code ROCKUNCORNEREDMARKET25 when you check out to receive your 25% discount! Fine print: sale items excluded.

Disclosure: We were compensated by Rockport Shoes to write this article as part of the #MyDailyAdventure campaign. As always, the thoughts contained herein — the what, the why, and the how — are entirely our own.

The post A Train Too Far? A Day Trip to Poland appeared first on Uncornered Market.

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Haiti Trekking: A Beginner’s Guidehttp://uncorneredmarket.com/haiti-trekking/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/haiti-trekking/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:04:26 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20353 By Audrey Scott

The sounds of konpa, Haiti’s version of merengue meets jazz, floated from the kitchen to our spot on the front porch. We sat around a large wooden dining table, fleece jackets zipped up, our hands cupped around mugs of Haitian hot chocolate flavored with star anise, cinnamon, and Haitian bergamot lime rind. It was impossible […]

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By Audrey Scott

View from Pic Cabayo in Parc Nacional la Visite - Haiti
Pic Cabayo, towards a slice of Haiti’s Caribbean Sea.

The sounds of konpa, Haiti’s version of merengue meets jazz, floated from the kitchen to our spot on the front porch. We sat around a large wooden dining table, fleece jackets zipped up, our hands cupped around mugs of Haitian hot chocolate flavored with star anise, cinnamon, and Haitian bergamot lime rind. It was impossible not to be caught up in the unexpected moment. The crackling musical improvisations hearkened to a bygone era and punctuated the cool, dark stillness around us.

The men in the kitchen called it “ball” music – as in ballrooms where men and women dance close, and the woman who don’t want to dance close use special elbow moves to keep the men at bay. The music looped and time slowed, just as our sensations had throughout our four-day hike in the mountains just above the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

When I had imagined traveling in Haiti, this was not what I had envisioned. But when we reflect on our journey in the country, it’s this moment — the quiet punctuated by crackling tunes, the crispness of the air and the stillness of a Haitian night in the mountains – that really sticks with me.

Perhaps you ask, just as we did before our trip: is trekking in Haiti even a thing?

Yes, it is. And it probably ought to be for more travelers. But it takes a little effort to organize.

Here’s why it’s worth it, plus all you need to know to plan a trek in Haiti.

Why trek in Haiti? (Hint: It’s not just about the mountain scenery)

Mountain trekking in Haiti? In retrospect, this should not have come as a surprise considering the country takes its name from the indigenous Taino Ayiti, meaning “land of mountains.” Haiti is covered with layers of mountains, within which exist networks of walking paths intended to get locals from home to markets, schools and nearby villages.

Haiti, Trekking in the Mountains
Homes on top of the hills, family farms and trails mark the Haitian countryside.

Trekking in Haiti is not just about the landscape, but an unexpected natural beauty grounded by culture and complemented by people who live amidst it. Whether you’re en route in a truck or on foot in the hills, you have a chance to meet and engage with people — kids on their way home from school, market-goers, farmers working the fields, women washing herbal tea in the streams.

Haitian Schoolgirl in the Mountains - Haiti
A Haitian schoolgirl on her way home through the hills.

In contrast to that of its cities, Haiti’s mountain pace slows considerably. Open space and details emerge, like the color and texture of the hills, forest aromas, treetop winds, and the briskness of air. After spending time in the bustle of population centers like Port-au-Prince and Cap Haïtien, we welcomed the change and began to better process and reflect on all that we had experienced.

The challenge with trekking in Haiti is that information regarding routes and logistics can be difficult to find. In fact, when we searched on Google before our trip, we almost gave up on the idea as the photos and articles were neither inspiring nor useful. Additionally, limited road and accommodation infrastructure can make it relatively expensive. If you have more time and flexibility, you’ll find that you have more options.

So that’s why we are writing this. To share with you what we did, how we did it, and the various considerations and practical details. In other words: all that we had wanted to know about trekking in Haiti before our trip.

Our Haiti Trekking Itinerary and Route

Day 1: Jacmel to Mare Rouge by 4×4
Day 2: Climb to Pic la Selle, drive to Seguin in Parc National la Visite
Day 3: Climb Pic Cabayo and visit nearby waterfalls
Day 4: Walk from Seguin to outside of Port-au-Prince

Note: It’s also possible to take this route in the opposite direction, from outside Port-au-Prince to Seguin to Mare Rouge and then to Jacmel (or back to Port-au-Prince). We took the approach above as we’d come from Jacmel and wished to end up in Port-au-Prince without having to backtrack.

Truck in the Hills of Haiti
Colorful trucks and buses in Haiti provide artistic inspiration and comic relief.

Jacmel to Mare Rouge

For most of our first day, we were in a jeep, climbing from the seaside at Jacmel into the mountains. We made stops in small villages and on random hillsides to enjoy the scenery and details — the drawings on a family gravesite, the stone walls built up on farms to prevent landslides, or the way the sun came through the occasional dark raincloud that passed. Roads were rough and we felt as though we were covering ground seen by few visitors.

Scenes from a Haitian burial ground. Tombs in rural Haiti include symbolic references to Vodou spirits known as Loa/Lwa and a even a few hints of the modern influence of Christianity on the local ritual. Taken en route to the mountain village of Mare Rouge from coastal Jacmel. via Instagram http://ift.tt/1zkF8mR
Tombs in rural Haiti include symbolic references to both Vodou and Christianity.

We also noticed jagged rocks poking out of the ground across the hillsides we scaled. Thinking they were some sort of special geological rock formations, we asked what they were. They are called “dentelles”, jagged teeth in the local Crèole, and are the unfortunate manifestation of logging, deforestation and erosion. Indeed, those rock formations are a unique are part of the earth, but they really ought to be deep below the soil. Instead, they reveal themselves as scars born of human activity.

Rock Formations and Erosion - Haiti
A Haitian hillside full of jagged teeth.

Once we reached our resting place for the night, Mare Rouge, we bundled up and took a walk out to a nearby hillside to lay in the grass and watch the sun set. Peace and serenity driven by the winds in treetops and interrupted only by the occasional voice from a distant farm.

Sunset at Mare Rouge, Haiti
We close our day with a sunset at Mare Rouge.

Practical Details:

Getting there: The roads go from “not great” leaving Jacmel to almost non-existent on this route. You need a really sturdy 4×4 jeep or ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and an experienced driver, as we had. Alternatively, you could do this on the back of a motorbike (i.e., hire a motorbike driver), but make certain your rear-end is steel-reinforced as the road contours make for a bouncy, lively ride.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Helvetas/MARNDR NGO guesthouse, the Mare Rouge forestry center that was built to accommodate park rangers and staff. They occasionally have extra room for travelers. You or your tour company will need to contact them in advance to determine if there is space available. Cost: $40/person including room and 3 meals. Note that you’ll also need to pay this fee for your guide and/or driver.

Pic la Selle

Pic la Selle is Haiti’s highest peak at 2,680m (8,793ft), and is located in Forêts des Pins (literally “pine forest”). From Helvetas, the hike to the peak takes a couple of hours at a leisurely pace from a drop off point in the forest. As you make your way up in elevation, you’ll register subtle changes in landscape and vegetation. The surprising smell of fresh pine might motivate you to question whether you are actually in the Caribbean.

Dan on his way to Pic la Selle - Haiti
Dan, on the way up to Pic la Selle. The vegetation changes with altitude.

As with any trek, it’s worth moving slowly, taking time to hop off the trail for views that will cut right across Haiti to the coast. Look away from the coast and you’ll take in even more mountains in the direction of the Dominican Republic. Set off early in the day to avoid haze.

Haiti's Mountains - View from Pic La Selle
A view from Pic la Selle to Parc National la Visite.
Pic la Selle Forest Ranger and Guide - Haiti
Dieusel, a park ranger and our guide, takes out the guest book at the top of Pic la Selle.

Practical Details:

Pic la Selle logistics: The head of the forestry district drove us to a drop off spot (a sort of makeshift trail head) to begin our climb to Pic la Selle. We also had a park ranger with us as a guide. He simultaneously kept an eye on the forest and phoned in information regarding locals chopping at the trunks of trees to harvest sap-heavy wood chips used to start cooking fires. Cost: $45/group for the transport and guide.

Mare Rouge to Seguin transport: This is another route with a rough road so you’ll need a sturdy 4×4, ATV or strong motorbike. If you’re not pressed for time, you can also walk this route. We spoke with one of the park rangers who walks the route in three or four hours. For ordinary folks looking to take in the scenery, plan on approximately six to seven hours.

Pic Cabayo and Parc National la Visite

The day we walked from Auberge La Visite to Pic Cabayo in the national park proved our favorite day of trekking. The clear skies certainly had something to do with it. Regardless, we were blown away by the expansive, breath-taking views at the top of Pic Cabayo. Mountainous layers that roll for as far as the eye can see. This is a Haiti we certainly never knew.

Hiking to Pic Cabayo - Parc National la Visite, Haiti
En route to the Pic Cabayo overlook.
At the top of Pic Cabayo, Looking Out Over Haiti
Dan attempts to capture all of Haiti’s mountain layers on camera, at once.
Haitian Farmhouse in the Hills
Passing farmhouses and small villages on our trek in and around Seguin.

Practical Details:

Accommodation: In Seguin, we stayed at Auberge La Visite, a small bed and breakfast with a large porch, rocking chairs and a very relaxed vibe. The food is all made from local ingredients, including an incredible salad sourced from locally grown vegetables, edible flowers and watercress from the base of one of the waterfalls we visited. There are only a couple of rooms available so try to email or call ahead. Cost: $80/person for a room, including 3 meals. It’s also possible to sleep in an air mattress-outfitted tent in the garden, but you’ll have to check on the price of this yourself. Disclosure: We received a 50% press discount during our stay.

Breakfast at Auberge la Visite - Seguin, Haiti
Breakfast at Auberge La Visite, plentiful and relaxing.

Trekking logistics: Although you can probably find your own way around the national park, we asked one of the staff at Auberge La Visite to be our guide to Pic Cabayo and the nearby waterfalls. Along the way, we harvested watercress and went chanterelle forest mushroom hunting. It’s an absolutely terrific day out, provided the weather cooperates. Cost: Around $25 for the group

Seguin to Port-au-Prince Area

“Are you sure we can’t get lost?” we asked, knowing our propensity to lose our way just about everywhere. Our final day in Haiti’s mountains involved walking, guide free, on our own towards Port-au-Prince.

“Don’t worry, there’s only one road to Port-au-Prince. Even you can’t get lost. You’ll know you’re close to the pickup point because there will be one last BIG hill,” our guide, Cyril, advised us before leaving Seguin the day before.

Famous last words.

We did find the one path leading from Seguin to Port-au-Prince and followed the steady stream of people walking in both directions. Many women, on their way to and from the market, balanced baskets full of vegetables or fruit on their heads. The road was rubbled, inconsistent and steep, making their posture and ability all the more impressive.

Women Balance Goods on Head - Haiti
An amazing balancing act, women carry goods to and from market on mountain paths.

Together with Barbara, a German journalist trekking with us, we challenged ourselves to greet everyone we saw with a “bon jou!” and polite nod. Often, people would smile and laugh, amused to see three white people wandering randomly along this road in the middle of nowhere Haiti.

The day’s most memorable reaction was courtesy of a little girl of about five years old who decided to have a dance-off with Dan. She would shake her hips and jump around in front of her house, and Dan would copy her — dancing his way up and down hill as we continued our walk. This lasted for about three to four hills until we were out of sight, but we could still hear her giggles echoing across the hilltops long after we could no longer see her. Oh, if only you could include experiences like this on an itinerary.

Haitian Houses on the Hillside - Seguin, Haiti
Haitian houses and farms on a hillside.

After several hours of up and down, passing homes and villages perched on the top of hills, breaking sweats across steep terraced farmlands, we were certain we must be close. A big hill appeared, so big that the local municipality had built cement steps to help people navigate it, especially in the rain.

“The big hill. Finally, we’re here,” we thought.

Proud of our efforts, we turned the corner expecting to see the jeep waiting for us. Instead, there was another big hill, perhaps even more imposing than the first.

We remembered the Haitian proverb:

“Dèyè mon gen mon.” Behind the mountain, there are mountains.

That’s trekking in Haiti for you.

Mountainous Haiti, en route to Port-au-Prince
Green hills at the end of the rainy season in Haiti.

Practical Details:

You will need to arrange a pickup on the side of the road near one of the villages on the approach to Port-au-Prince, as we did. Alternatively, find a motorbike driver that can take you to the nearest town to hop on a bus or tap-tap to take you into Port-au-Prince.


Trekking in Haiti: Other Considerations

Other treks in Haiti

To expand your trekking options in the hills above Port-au-Prince, ask your guide or tour company about trails around Furcy or Kenscoff. You can also do the route that we did from Port-au-Prince to Seguin to Mare Rouge by foot. If you have your own camping gear, the options become even greater for the routes you can take.

Additionally, the Bradt Guide to Haiti by Paul Clammer has advice on different trekking routes and options around the country. It’s also just a great guide for general travel in Haiti.

Best time to trek in Haiti

While trekking in Haiti is technically possible year-round, the best times are December to March when there is no rain. We trekked in late November and lucked out on weather, but a colleague took a similar route the week before and had to cut back some of his plans because of downpours. We have also been advised that July to August can also be good.

Haiti’s deforestation problems

When we mention trekking in Haiti, we’re often asked about the environmental situation. Many people have seen this dramatic aerial photo showing the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Sadly, deforestation is a real and significant problem. Its history began with French colonists who cleared land for plantations. The problem has worsened in the last century due to a growing population needing to feed itself and that uses charcoal to cook. The accommodation providers we used on this trip all work in some capacity to reforest and educate local communities on the benefits of planting trees and using alternative cooking fuels. So the money you spend with them and on official local guides supports programs attempting to address these environmental problems.

What to bring with you

To avoid repetition, we suggest you check out our Ultimate Trekking Packing List for suggestions of what to bring with you. As food and shelter is provided everywhere in the route we cover above, you don’t need to pack much outside of good hiking shoes, some cold weather gear (e.g., fleece, waterproof/windproof jacket, hat), refillable water bottle, sunscreen, and snacks.

Note: During the time of year we hiked it gets chilly in the mountains, especially at night. So it’s worth carrying a few layers to ensure you are comfortable.

Trekking in Haiti independently or with a guide?

Trekking in Haiti, because of road infrastructure, infrequency of public transport in outlying areas, and limited accommodation options, is not something you just pick up and do on a whim. Unless, that is, you carry your own camping gear, have unlimited time on your hands and fluently speak the local language, Créole.

We met some Haitian people and long-term expats living in Haiti who opted to trek without a guide. However, if you are just visiting Haiti for a short time, we recommend you consider very seriously having a Créole-speaking guide so you can ask questions, engage in meaningful conversations with local people, have context regarding what you are seeing and experiencing, and avoid getting lost.

We coordinated our trek with Jean Cyril Pressoir of Tour Haiti, a local tour operator that also works with G Adventures. Cyril is quite passionate about Haiti in general, and especially about trekking in the country. We also used local guides at Mare Rouge and Seguin.

Tour Haiti also provided us with the 4×4 transport we needed to get from Jacmel to Mare Rouge to Seguin. This isn’t inexpensive, so it helps to pull in other travelers to help share the cost.

For more photos from our trekking in Haiti, check out our photo essay.

Any other questions about trekking in Haiti, just ask below in the comments!

————-

Disclosure: The trekking experiences above were organized and paid by us. However, our flights to Haiti (and other Haiti travel experiences) were provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program.

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How Street Food is the Ultimate Travel Guide: 40 Favorite Street Food Disheshttp://uncorneredmarket.com/40-favorite-street-foods-from-around-the-world/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/40-favorite-street-foods-from-around-the-world/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 21:41:56 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20091 By Audrey Scott

If it’s only food porn you seek, go here. Otherwise, if you enjoy elaborate threads linking travel satisfaction and street eats, read on. Food and travel, one of life’s great experience intersections. Although we enjoy our share of refined cuisine and elaborate meals at restaurants, it’s often our street food quests — raw on-the-ground journeys […]

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By Audrey Scott

Lady Selling Curries - Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand, our first street food love.

If it’s only food porn you seek, go here. Otherwise, if you enjoy elaborate threads linking travel satisfaction and street eats, read on.

Food and travel, one of life’s great experience intersections. Although we enjoy our share of refined cuisine and elaborate meals at restaurants, it’s often our street food quests — raw on-the-ground journeys that convey authenticity — that yield some of life’s most revealing moments and enlighten us in unexpected ways.

Food generally serves as a natural gateway to a more profound understanding of culture and history, people and place. Street food draws us naturally to explore, to press further afield than we otherwise might, allowing us to make greater personal discoveries not only about the flavor of local foods, but also the essence of the cultures they represent.

To those of you who agree, we preach to the culinary choir. But for others, food might be less a priority, a matter of sustenance. To you, we make the case that the active search for street food and novel street level culinary experiences not only fills the bowl, but also feeds the soul.

Here’s how.

Note: Street food aficionados, we use the term “street food” as shorthand for local, authentic culinary experiences. So bear with us as several of the examples in the 40 experiences below are taken from hole-in-wall restaurants, hawker food courts and fresh markets around the world.

5 Ways Street Food Quests Serve as a Tool for Exploration

1. They take your further

Use the street food dish you seek as the final destination. Many of the world’s most fascinating markets and remarkable street food stalls are found in areas well away from tourist centers and popular neighborhoods. The process of seeking out street food often creates a “mission” that takes you across town to and through neighborhoods you might otherwise not visit.

Whether you walk or use public transport, your quest for the ultimate dumpling, bean soup, taco or curry becomes an adventure in itself, with the meal as the goal, but the journey as the unexpected payoff.

2. They take you deeper

Street food is remarkably democratic, for we all need to eat. One of the best ways to meet and engage with ordinary, local people and land the holy grail of authentic local interaction (i.e., outside of tourism and service professionals) is by sharing a plastic table, communal condiments, and a bit of conversation.

If spoken language isn’t an issue we’ll often begin by asking questions about local food, which can lead to topics such as family, culture, and politics. If there is no common spoken language, we’ll practice our charade skills to inquire as to which condiments to use or how to properly tackle what we’re eating.

In any event, we find that almost everyone enjoys sharing their local cuisine with visitors.

3. They help you explore your boundaries

I may not be as intrepid or adventurous a street food eater as Dan, but the search for street food definitely helps build my culinary courage. If I can’t easily identify the food in front of me (e.g., it has come from a part of an animal I’m not accustomed to eating), I often shy away. But when I find myself in a street food setting where people are excited for visitors to try their food, it’s difficult for me to say no. I often find that my fears about the food were unfounded, and I enjoy it much to my surprise.

4. They help you exercise your language skills

If you are looking to exercise your linguistic chops, there’s no better place than over a shared meal with random strangers. And if you’re accompanying your meal with a cold beer, language inhibitions seem to fall away even quicker.

5. They teach you how simple it is to cook

Since you are so close to the action, street food lays it all bare. Street food chefs offer the opportunity — language skills permitting — for you to get a firsthand sense of the flow and preparation of your favorite local dishes as you admire the culinary magic up close. After you witness a beautiful dish emerge from a tiny gas stove and a kitchen equipped with only basic tools, you begin to understand the great lessons in limitation.

40 Favorite Street Food Eats from Around the World

The following is only the tip of the street food iceberg of possibilities, in alphabetical order so we don’t get into arguments as to whose is better. We include some traditional dishes as well as a few unusual suspects.

If you’re concerned about eating street food for fear of getting sick, read our tips for eating local and staying healthy: How to Travel Without Hugging the Bowl

Argentina

Although empanadas (stuffed pastries, usually savory) can be found throughout Argentina, the best ones are from the Salta region in the northwestern part of the country. It is also the only region where hot sauce is common. Hurrah!!

Market Empanadas in Tilcara, Argentina
Market empanadas in Tilcara, a village in Argentina’s Salta region.
More on Argentine food.

Armenia

Although kebabs — grilled ground or chunked meat on a skewer — are not unique to Armenia, we did find that when we wanted a quick and easy snack, a kebab wrapped in lavash (flat bread) was the street food of choice.

Kebab Vendor - Yerevan, Armenia
Kebabs wrapped in lavash (flat bread) – Yerevan, Armenia.

More on Armenian food.

Bangladesh

Singara are spiced potato and vegetable mixture pockets wrapped in a thin dough and fried. What distinguishes a good singara is how flaky the texture is. Some are so flaky, as if they’re made with savory pie crust. Singara are ubiquitous and inexpensive (as cheap as 24 for $1).

Street Food in Srimongal Market - Bangladesh
Singara at the market in Srimongal, Bangladesh.

More on Bangladeshi food.

Bali (Indonesia)

Nasi campur is essentially a Balinese mixed plate served with rice. Most restaurants will make the choice for you, but at warungs, the more local food outlets on Bali, the nasi campur selection is up to you. You can choose from delectables such as sate lilit, spicy tempeh, chopped vegetables, spice-rubbed meat, chicken, and tofu.

Plate of Nasi Campur - Sanur, Bali
A plate of nasi campur at the night market in Sanur, Bali.

More on Bali food.

Bolivia

Salteñas are empanada-like pockets filled with chicken or meat and finished with a distinctive slightly sweet, baked crust. The salteñas pictured below were filled with both chicken and ground beef, a boiled egg, herbs, and an olive. Spice options include fiery, hot, normal and sweet. Something for everyone.

Saltenas, a Favorite Bolivian Snack
Salteñas fresh from the oven in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Walk through downtown Sarajevo and it’s hard not to be gripped by the smell of ćevapi, the Bosnian national dish of grilled meat. Ćevapi is often served in installments of five or ten minced meat logs tucked into a round of flat bread. Our preference is with onions and a side of kajmak (thick cream). You won’t need to eat for days after one of these meals.

5 Cevapi in Bread at Zeljo Cevabdzinica - Sarajevo, Bosnia
Ćevapi with kajmak and onions at Zeljo Cevabdzinica in Sarajevo.

Cambodia

We found our tuk-tuk driver having breakfast with other drivers when we exited the temples at Banteay Srei. He invited us to join him and he introduced us to a fantastic morning soup. It consisted of a subtle yellow curry fish broth with fresh rice noodles, paper-thin chopped banana blossom, cucumber, and cabbage — all topped off with a spoonful of dark sweet sauce. A bowl of bitter herbs and long beans circulated our table for the final touch.

Cambodian Morning Soup (Num Banh Choc) - Angkor, Cambodia
Cambodian Morning Soup (Num Banh Choc), breakfast at the Angkor temples.

Chile

When we arrived in Chile, we were on a mission to eat a proper completo (hot dog). Although we usually practice hot dog avoidance, these beauties were hard to resist. The one pictured here merges avocado, tomato and mayonnaise in the flag-like completo italiano.

Completo Italiano - Santiago, Chile
The completo italiano in all its glory. La Vega market in Santiago, Chile.

China

Selecting just one street food dish from China borders on the impossible, but we’ll go with the crowd favorite Chinese dumplings. Of the hundreds of dumplings we sampled in China these pork, shrimp and leek dumplings at Da Yu dumpling joint near the No. 6 bathing area in Qingdao stick out. Fresh, delicious and perfectly steamed.

Da Yu Dumplings - Qingdao, China
Pork, shrimp and leek dumplings at Da Yu — Qingdao, China.

More Chinese food photos.

Ecuador

It seems like each country in Latin America serves its own unique style of ceviche, so we found it necessary to try it in each country we visited. While we have to admit that Peruvian ceviche is our favorite (see below), this bowl of shrimp ceviche with from the Central Market in Quito ran a close second with its fresh shrimp, plentiful herbs, and bits of tomato. Oh, and we were big fans of the popcorn as a side.

Ecuadorian Shrimp Ceviche - Quito
Ecuadorian style shrimp ceviche served with a side of popcorn at Quito Central Market.

Egypt

The first time we visited Cairo, Egypt was in December 2011 when demonstrations were still taking place on Tahrir Square and news channels around the world were lit up with scenes of violence and protest. But our experience in the almost 8-million person city was filled with encounters like this one, with a friendly sugar cane juice master of Old Cairo. And in case you’re wondering, we did not get sick.

Sugar Cane Juice on Streets of Cairo, Egypt
The sugar cane juice master of Old Cairo, Egypt.

El Salvador

Pupusas (stuffed corn tortillas) are the go-to street food of choice throughout El Salvador. Filled with refried red beans, cheese and a dash of chicharron (salty pork rinds), the pupusas below from a simple street stand east of central park in Juayua were the best we had eaten anywhere. Top with pickled vegetables and chili peppers. Delicious!

The Best Pupusas - Juayua, El Salvador
Pupusas on the griddle — Juayua, El Salvador.
More on Central American food.

Ethiopia

A traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony will likely take at least twenty minutes from start to finish for the first cup of coffee, but it is absolutely well worth the wait. You need to sample a few, and perhaps only then will you begin to fully comprehend how important coffee is to Ethiopia, the purported birthplace of the stuff.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony - Aksum, Ethiopia
Ethiopian coffee ceremony, complete with frankincense, in Aksum, Ethiopia.
More on Ethiopian food.

Georgia (Republic of)

Khachapuri, the ubiquitous signature Georgian cheese-stuffed bread oozes gooey goodness. A common site on the Georgian table — at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because the cheese inside is mildly brined, it’s salty goodness is like a diet-demolishing siren call.

Khachapuri - Mtskheta, Georgia
Cheese-stuffed khachapuri. Comfort food at its best.
More on Georgian food.

Germany (Berlin)

Everyone knows about döner kebabs in Berlin. But Mustafa’s is not your typical döner. Rather than flakes of beef or veal, shavings of chicken pressed with roasted vegetables fall from Mustafa’s spindle and are served with a fabulous mélange of potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, cheese and mystery sauce. If you are vegetarian, you can also opt for pure veg. You’ll know you’ve arrived at Mustafa’s when you see the long line snaking down the street.

Berlin's Urban Food Log at Mustafa's - Kreuzberg, Berlin
Audrey doesn’t waste any time diving in.
More on Central Berlin cheap eats.

Greece (Crete)

On the Greek island of Crete, it sometimes seemed as though all we did was eat. In the island’s main city of Heraklion, just prior to our departure, we were recommended to try bugatsa, a pastry filled with cream and/or cheese, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The most famous bugatsa is served at Kipkop, a bakery founded in 1922 by Armenian immigrants whose descendants dish the same original recipe to this day.

Bougatsa at Kipkop - Heraklion, Crete
Cheese and cream-filled bugatsa at Kipkop in Heraklion, Crete.
More on Crete food.

Guatemala

Guatemala served as our first stop in Central America. We took to street food in Antigua almost straight away. This, a chuchito (similar to a Mexican tamale – shredded meat and vegetables stuffed in a mass of boiled, ground corn), was smothered in fresh guacamole, salsa and cabbage.

Guatemalan Food, Chuchito - Antigua, Guatemala
A street-side chuchito for lunch in Antigua, Guatemala.
More on Central American food.

Haiti

Lots of street food in Haiti is fried — plantains, pork, other meat bits, potatoes, etc. But if you’re looking for a hearty meal for just a couple dollars, this dish of cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew (mayi moulen kole ak legim) is where it’s at. The cornmeal consistency is somewhere between polenta and cream-of-wheat (or cream-of-cornmeal, as it were).

Haitian Street Food Stand in Jacmel, Haiti
Morning stop for cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew in Jacmel, Haiti.

More on Haitian food.

Honduras

While the rest of Central America is all about the corn, Honduras’ staple street food dish — the baleada — is made with wheat flour. And honestly, this was a relief after three months of maize. Stuffed with combinations of cheese, beans, eggs, and various meats, baleadas quickly became our Honduran comfort food.

Honduran Food, Papusa and Baleadas - La Esperanza, Honduras
Breakfast of champions: bean stuffed pupusa and bean and egg baleadas (right) in La Esperanza, Honduras.
More on Central American food.

Hungary

How can anyone resist fried bread smothered in sour cream? That is why the Hungarian langos is an easy favorite. Make your way into just about any market in Hungary and you are sure to find langos, if the signature aroma of it doesn’t find you first. Try garlic langos and you’ll be vampire-free — and probably friendless for a few hours.

Langos Goodness - Budapest, Hungary
Our favorite fried bread from the Langos Centrum at Lehel market in Budapest, Hungary.

India

There is so much street food goodness in India, but we’ll have to go with this aloo tikki (spiced potato snacks) stand in Varanasi as one of our favorites. The aloo tikki was good, but the charismatic vendor who roped me in to cook for him is what made the experience. Note: if you do venture to eat street food in India, stick to the cooked products and be wary of fresh herb and vegetable toppings that may have been washed in unclean water.

Indian Street Food - Varanasi, India
I learn to cook aloo tikki on the ghats of Varanasi, India.
More Indian food photos.

Iran

After all the kebabs and meats in Iran, we were thankful to find this vendor selling a big pile of steamed, spiced fava beans in the mountains near Kermanshah. Delicious with a dash of vinegar and red pepper. I think he found our vegetable-deprived group a bit odd as we kept coming back for additional servings.

Steamed and Spiced Fava Beans - Kermanshah, Iran
Large piles of steamed, spiced fava beans in the mountains near Kermanshah.
More on Iranian food.

Japan

Octopus balls? Yes, please. Takoyaki are fluffy hot rounds of chopped octopus in herbed dough. All part of the experience: watching the masters quickly turn their takoyaki with long toothpicks in something that looks like a cupcake pan, so that the balls cook evenly on all sides. Takoyaki is often topped with a sweet sauce, oregano, and ample helpings of hanakatsuo (dried bonito fish flakes).

Takoyaki on Streets of Osaka, Japan
Takoyaki on the streets of Osaka, Japan.
More on Japanese food.

Jordan

Street food doesn’t always have to be savory. Knafeh is a decadent Middle Eastern dessert made from a gooey, white cheese base with semolina bits baked on top and covered in sweet syrup. Though we take every opportunity we get to eat the stuff, we have yet to find a knafeh better than what is served up at Habibeh (Habiba) in downtown Amman, Jordan. Every person we’ve spoken to who has visited Amman mentions this knafeh with a longing sigh.

Large Trays of Knafeh at Habiba - Jordan
Whopping trays of knafeh at Habibeh in downtown Amman, Jordan.
More on Jordan food.

Kyrgyzstan

Steamed manti, meat-filled dumplings. This is a staple of street food stalls, fresh markets and hillside animal markets across Kyrgyzstan. Be careful though, the Kyrgyz can be quite, um, efficient in their manti production. Sometimes, it tastes like the whole animal might have fallen into the meat grinder.

Steamed Manti (Dumplings) - Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Steamed manti at the fresh market in Osh.
More on Central Asian food.

Laos

It’s possible to visit Luang Prabang and be tricked into thinking you’re eating Lao food, as many restaurants pimp Thai curries as Lao food. After asking around we finally found Or Lam, a spicy stew with mushrooms, eggplant, meat, lemongrass and chillies. In the back is khai paen (spiced, dried river weed) and jaew bawng (a Lao dipping sauce). All of this goes perfectly with a cold Beer Lao.

Or Lam and Purple Sticky Rice - Luang Prabang, Laos
Or lam and munchies at the Luang Prabang market.
More on Lao food.

Malaysia

It’s worth traveling to Malaysia, if only for the cuisine. Malaysian street food is a delightful melange, drawing influence from China and from across Southeast Asia. And that doesn’t even touch the country’s Indian food scene. Many street food stands specialize in just one dish, and it’s not uncommon to find that multiple generations have worked together to perfect their recipe.

Malaysian Food, Squid and Fava Beans - Penang, Malaysia
Squid and fava beans in roasted chili, served on a banana leaf. Georgetown, Penang.
More on Malaysian food.

Mexico (Oaxaca)

When we decided where to spend two months in Mexico, we choose Oaxaca primarily because of its cuisine and street food scene. One of our favorite street food or market snacks was the tlayuda, a large semi-dried tortilla, sometimes glazed with a thin layer of unrefined pork lard called asiento, and topped with refried beans (frijol), tomatoes, avocadoes, and some variation of meat (chorizo, tasajo or cencilla, or shredded chicken tinga). It can either be served open, or when it’s cooked on a charcoal grill, folded in half. One is often enough to feed two people.

Tlayuda with Chorizo - Oaxaca, Mexico
Tlayuda chorizo at the 20 de Noviembre market in Oaxaca, Mexico.
More on Oaxaca food.

Myanmar (Burma)

Geographically, Myanmar sits at the intersection of South Asian (Indian), East Asian (Chinese), and Southeast Asian (Thai). Culinarily, it does too. This was a pleasant surprise for us and Burmese food exceeded our expectations.

Burmese Food, Spicy Noodles - Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar)
Noodles doused in spicy sauce, fresh herbs, and crushed nuts. Taken on the streets of Yangon.
More on Myanmar food.

Nepal

It’s hard for me to resist dumplings anywhere, and Nepal’s momos were no exception. Served steamed or occasionally fried, momos are a staple in and around the areas of the Tibetan plateau, including all over Nepal.

Steamed Dumplings (Momos) - Bakhtapur, Nepal
Steamed momos on the streets of Bakhtapur, Nepal.

Paraguay

When it’s brutally hot and humid and you’re waiting hours for the bus, a shot of tereré, the national drink (nay, the national sport) of Paraguay, definitely helps. Tereré looks like yerba mate, but it is served cold and can be enjoyed for hours.

This is Tereré - Paraguay
Cooling off with tereré at the Encarnacion bus station in Paraguay.

Peru

Peru was the culinary highlight of our travels through Latin America. The cevicheria at the Surquillo market in Lima bustles with people, especially on the weekend. A huge plate of mixed seafood ceviche runs about $4-$5. Discussions about Peruvian family life and politics are free of charge.

Mixed Seafood Ceviche at Surquillo Market - Lima, Peru
Mixed seafood ceviche — Surquillo Market in Lima, Peru.
More on Peruvian food.

Singapore

Hainanese chicken rice is a culinary specialty unique to Singapore. The description may sound unremarkable, but its flavor delights. The dish consists of chicken broth, slices of roasted (or steamed) chicken served with cucumbers and herbs, hot sauce, sweet soy sauce, and a light chicken stock soup with vegetables. Delicious in its subtlety.

Hainanese Chicken Rice - Singapore
Hainanese Chicken Rice at the hawker center between Waterloo Street and Bugis Street, Singapore.
More on Singaporean food.

South Africa

Bunny chow is essentially a hollowed out piece of plain, white sandwich bread stuffed with curry (or masala, if you like). Rumors have it that it was designed this way to make it easy for plantation workers to take their lunch to the fields. Bunny chow serves as culinary evidence of South Asian influence in South Africa, and more specifically in the city of Durban.

Ultimate Bunny Chow! 5-layer vegetarian via Little Gujarat resto in Durban #SouthAfrica #awesomesauce
5-Layer Bunny Chow in Durban, South Africa
More on Bunny Chow.

Thailand

Thailand is where our love affair with street food really took off. Thailand is one of those places worth visiting, if only for the street food. So while we know that Thai street food goes well beyond curries, a beautiful plate of shrimp red curry covered with fresh Thai basil was the dish got it started all those years ago on our first visit to Bangkok.

Thai Red Shrimp Curry - Bangkok, Thailand
Shrimp red curry on the streets of Bangkok for around $1.
More on Thai food and street food in Bangkok.

Turkey

There’s a lot of bad and soggy borek (stuffed thin pastry) in the world. During our visit to Istanbul en route to Iran, we became regulars for this man’s crispy cheese-stuffed borek. Convenient, too, as his shop was right across the street from our flat in Beyoğlu.

Borek Man of Beyoğlu - Istanbul, Turkey
The borek man of Beyoğlu – Istanbul, Turkey

Uganda

If you ever find yourself hungry in Kampala, head to the Mengo Market for some kikomando. Kikomando is a filling dish made of beans mixed with slices of chapati. It is said that if you eat a lot of it you will be strong like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Commando. Not sure about that, but a plate of it will stuff you for the rest of the day.

Kikomando, Filling Ugandan Street Food - Kampala, Uganda
Hearty plate of kikomando at Mengo Market in Kampala, Uganda.

Uzbekistan

Plov is the Uzbek national dish. Think rice pilaf with fried julienned carrots, red pepper, caraway seeds, and chunks of meat. Plov is so ubiquitous throughout the region that self-described local connoisseurs can discern differences that are imperceptible to foreigners, much like the relationship Americans have with pizza and chili. We’ll keep our radar tuned for the first Central Asian plov cook-off.

Simmering Plov (Rice Dish) - Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Street-side plov in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
More on Central Asian food.

Vietnam

Vietnam is another incredible destination for street food lovers. During our winter visit we tried cha ca which is a distinct hot pot meal of fish, turmeric, dill, coriander and other greens served with noodles, peanuts, vinegar and chilies. As with many meals in Vietnam, you’ll be served piles of greens, noodles, spices, and other tasty bits to tune your dish to the precise flavor profile you seek.

Hanoi Fish with Tumeric and Dill - Hanoi, Vietnam
Cha Ca, fish and turmeric hot pot, in Hanoi.
More on eating in Hanoi and in Saigon.

Xinjiang (China)

We place Xinjiang street food in its own category as the region is a distinct ethnic blend of Turkic and Mongolian. So although Xinjiang cuisine shows some hints of what one might call “traditional” Chinese influence, its dishes are often quite different from mainstream Chinese food. One of our favorites was pulled noodles, or laghman, which we enjoyed not only for the taste, but also for the flair of its preparation. Pulled noodles are tossed, beaten and pulled to ensure the right consistency before being dunked in soups and suoman, a blend of noodles, vegetables and meat.

Xinjiang Food: Laghman Noodle Making - Kashgar, China
Laghman noodle master at the animal market in Kashgar, Xinjiang (China)
More on Xinjiang food.


Now it’s your turn. Which street food quests have led you on an adventure?

The post How Street Food is the Ultimate Travel Guide: 40 Favorite Street Food Dishes appeared first on Uncornered Market.

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Traveling, Working, and Staying Together on the Road: Our Storyhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/couples-travel-our-story/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/couples-travel-our-story/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 16:24:15 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=20039 By Daniel Noll

Last year, we were asked by BBC Travel to share the story of how we — as a married couple — quit our jobs to travel the world. The editors asked that we focus on the decisions we made together and offer some tips and advice for traveling couples and others considering making the leap. […]

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By Daniel Noll

Last year, we were asked by BBC Travel to share the story of how we — as a married couple — quit our jobs to travel the world. The editors asked that we focus on the decisions we made together and offer some tips and advice for traveling couples and others considering making the leap. They requested also that our perspective reflect not only the highs of our journey, but also some transparency on the struggles we’ve experienced along the way.

No small feat to squeeze these various charges into one piece, but I think we did.

In honor of relationships, in all manner of their evolution, we thought it fitting to share a personal story of ours for Valentine’s Day.

Dan and Audrey
Musing on the streets of Haiti.

When people ask us, “What’s the most frightening thing you’ve done while traveling the world?”, they often expect a story from Iran, Kazakhstan or Rwanda. Yet while we have encountered plenty of challenges during our travels, many of which have been fodder for stories on our blog, our most difficult moment came before all that. It was when in 2006, as mid-career professionals, my wife and I handed in our resignation letters, setting aside the security of one life for the uncertain opportunities of another – together.

Both of us are American, but we were working in Prague at that time. Audrey, my wife, managed tax and legal issues for US media organisation Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I was a management consultant for the mobile phone provider Vodafone. After five years in Prague, and a combined 20 years of professional experience, we both had begun to feel as though our careers no longer challenged us. We needed a professional and creative re-boot.

Travelling together wasn’t new to us, having followed our simple 25-person wedding in Pienza, Italy with a five-month backpacking trip across Europe. But it was a trip to Thailand over Christmas 2004 that truly illuminated how we could make long-term travel a reality. Even though we could have budgeted for a pricier hotel, it was a 400 baht ($10) per night bungalow that brought us joy and satisfaction.

Sunset at the Beach - Haad Yao, Thailand
View from our bungalow on the island of Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand.

Back home, intrigued by the idea of acquiring life experiences over objects, we found other ways to adjust our spending habits. We cut back on items for our apartment, clothes and eating and drinking out. Our goal: to save up for a 12- to 18-month sabbatical that would let us both travel the world and develop skills that could transition us each into alternate professions – and into the next stage of our lives together.

The major mitigating factor? We are two people. When you act alone, you can just pick up and go. As a couple you must constantly communicate to make sure you’re still aligned in your goals and needs. It’s something we call “checking in”, a process we’d used somewhat informally in our daily lives, but now approached more deliberately given the major life decisions ahead of us. The decisive check-in happened one night as we sat together at the edge of our bed in Prague, probing possible reasons for making the leap – or not.

“Are we really ready to do this?” I asked.

“Well…maybe we can put it off just a little while longer?” Audrey responded, echoing my own ambivalence.

“But one year becomes five, five becomes 10. The next thing you know you are looking back and wondering ‘What if?’” I said. We looked at one another, knowing what we were about to do.

Audrey around the bend, on the edge of the cliffside, a few inches from a long way down (about 500m / 1600ft). Worth the terror, slowly facing fears. Backdrop = Gheralta, Ethiopia. via Instagram http://ift.tt/1n7MchY
Life sometimes feels like you are skirting the edge of a cliff.

Granted, our decision seemed a little unhinged, especially to those close to us. Luckily, we had prior experience with the challenging conversations and puzzled looks, having set off five years earlier from San Francisco to Prague in the mid-winter – with no jobs lined up. It was a decision that perplexed our friends and family, but also satisfied the nagging curiosity that we both had.

And so in December 2006, two years after our fateful Thailand trip, we handed in our resignation letters, sold everything except what we could cram into our backpacks and departed with two one-way tickets to Bangkok.

Over the next eight years, we travelled the Silk Road overland from the Republic of Georgia to China, climbed to the top of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, took a 60-hour train from Iran to Istanbul, witnessed the sun rise over the salt flats in Bolivia, followed penguins in Antarctica, trekked in the Himalayas, tracked tigers in Bangladesh and were continually humbled by the prevailing kindness shown to us by people we met.

That one-year sabbatical? It became a new lifestyle – and it did lead to different professions.

Dan holds the Fugu (blowfish) - Osaka, Japan
Fugu (blowfish) handling in Japan.

Our website, Uncornered Market, began as a creative outlet for stories of adventure coupled with tales of places and people that aren’t usually represented in mainstream media. We began its development alongside Buddhist monks in internet cafes in Luang Prabang, Laos, and put the finishing touches on it somewhere in Battambang, Cambodia. The blog’s success has since led to various brand ambassador gigs, professional speaking engagements, freelance writing and photography assignments and digital consulting projects – all of which help fund our continued journeys.

Even so, the big question isn’t how we’ve made our finances and careers work. It’s how we’ve made our relationship work.

As American writer Alexandra Penney once said, “The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree, but to hold hands.” We’d add, “…while traveling the world and running a business together”.

Dan and Audrey at the Equator in Uganda
Goofing off at the equator, one foot in each hemisphere.

In some ways, we complement each other well while on the road. One of us often needs a little push from the other to get past fears and grow. In early 2007, for instance, Audrey was reluctant to visit Turkmenistan. She knew from her previous job that it could be a dangerous country where journalists were incarcerated; some even died in jail. I wanted to take the risk and see for ourselves. So we decided to leave the decision up to fate, resting on whether our visa applications were successful.

They were. On our ensuing cross-Caspian Sea ferry from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, Audrey, despite her initial concerns, was the one who started chatting with other passengers, using the Russian she had honed from both her previous job and two months of travel in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The next thing we knew, we had arrived, and were being plied with glasses of vodka and watermelon by Turkmen vacationers on the beach.

Audrey with Women Pilgrims - Paraw Bibi, Turkmenistan
Welcome in Turkmenistan: Audrey is adopted by a group of Turkmen women.

Another difficult challenge was our own expectations. Ditching what we called the “perfection narrative” of our relationship – the idea that marriages are supposed to be easy and ideal, when in fact they are full of bumps and hard work as you inch toward shared goals – was especially freeing. And travel helps. Wake up after a week without showering in Nepal’s Himalayas and you have a new appreciation for who the person next to you really is. Later that morning, when that unwashed partner makes it over a 5,400m mountain pass and motivates you to do the same, you might just find your heart brimming over with pride.

Still, sometimes we must withdraw to our inner selves to maintain a level of independence and reflection. Allowing and respecting this need is especially important when one or both partners happens to be an introvert, as I am. This is where the ability to create mental space, even in shared (and small) physical space, can be a relationship-saver. We might sit next to each other on a 17-hour bus ride without speaking for hours at a clip. We aren’t angry at one another; instead, we are creating the circumstances we need to reflect and regenerate for the next adventure.

Holding Hands While Diving around Menjangan Island - Bali, Indonesia
Underwater exploration, Bali.

And yes: there are occasions where we fight, sometimes to blow-out proportions. One of those times was in Buenos Aires, the night before Valentine’s Day 2010 – and while I don’t recall what we fought about, the argument ended with us each boarding separate buses, headed in opposite directions, in the middle of the night. The next morning we reconciled, reflected and even wrote a piece on how to travel the world together without killing each other.

Today, we’re often asked for our secrets to travel, relationships and life satisfaction. Our biggest tip? The greatest impressions on life’s highlight reel need not always be attached to a several thousand dollar “trip of a lifetime”, but can instead be found, say, in the eight euro bottle of wine that you share under a tree behind an old train station on the France-Switzerland border.

As a couple, meanwhile, our travels have provided us the opportunity to create a library of shared stories and life experiences. Our respect and appreciation of our differences has helped us grow together, not apart. But it’s important to remember that travelling and working together forces issues to the surface; work through them immediately, rather than letting them stew and simmer.

Oh, and if you board separate buses, make sure they eventually wind up in the same place.

This article was republished with express permission from BBC Travel. The original story can be found here.

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Haitian Food: From Pwason to Piklizhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/haitian-food/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/haitian-food/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:18:41 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=19704 By Daniel Noll

Before recently traveling to Haiti, I had little concept of Haitian food. Sure, I had a sense of what it could be: island-informed, African-influenced, of Caribbean character, maybe even a hint of French. As with the country’s language, Haitian food has a sense of the Crèole, that is a blend of influences. Mixed roots and […]

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By Daniel Noll

Before recently traveling to Haiti, I had little concept of Haitian food. Sure, I had a sense of what it could be: island-informed, African-influenced, of Caribbean character, maybe even a hint of French. As with the country’s language, Haitian food has a sense of the Crèole, that is a blend of influences. Mixed roots and spices, basic yet zippy, simple and grounded by the reality of the tropics and the back-story of its African heritage, yet touched with a hint of French complexity.

Black Mushrooms and Spices at Marché en Fer - Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Black mushrooms, spices, bergamot, and more at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince.

Take pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables), breadfruit, bergamot, watercress and even rum-infused power shakes. Throw in Haitian hot chocolate, grilled lobster, plenty of beans, avocados and a dash of hot pepper and you have an eclectic mix that took some sampling and digging to suss out not only the depth of Haitian table, but more importantly the underlying essence and nature of Haitian cuisine.

What was it like to eat everything that passed our eyes on the table and in the street? What was it like to eat in Haiti, the country that makes its home on the western side of the island known as Hispaniola?

We went to find out. Now let’s dig in. Bon apeti!

Haitian Main Dishes

For us, food offers one of the most enjoyable contexts through which to understand a place. As we seek out certain types of dishes, we find ourselves in new experiences of all sorts. During our travels in Haiti we sampled food that ranged from street food to high end restaurants, and a bit of everything in-between. What you’ll find below is an overview of all that we ate and discovered culinarily while in Haiti. We hope that it may lead you to your own eating adventures.

Poulet Aux Noix (chicken and cashew nuts)

Haitian Chicken with Cashew Nuts - Cap-Haïtien, Haiti 
The northern Haitian specialty of chicken with cashew nuts.

A rich northern Haiti specialty of chicken cooked in a tomato-based sauce with cashew nuts that you’ll most likely find in and around the town of Cap-Haïtien. Where to get it: Lakou Lakay Cultural Center in the town of Milot near Sans Souci Palace.

Mayi Moulen ak Sòs Pwa, Poul an Sòs (cornmeal with beans and stewed chicken)

Stews are common in Haiti. Served on top of either cornmeal or rice, they are hearty, too. What makes Haitian stews special is the hint of warm sweet spices like clove and star anise. Where to get it: An excellent example of Haitian stew can be had from the street food woman at the end of the alleyway at Atis Rezistans (Grande Rue in Port-au-Prince). A single portion ($2) will be enough to feed two hungry people.

Griyo (fried pork)

Haitian Griyo (Fried Pork) - Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Griyo, the perfect Haitian dish for meat lovers.

For meat-eaters, griyo is an absolute must-try traditional dish of Haiti. It is most often served with cabbage salad or better yet, spicy pikliz (onions and other vegetables marinated in a spicy vinegar sauce). Where to get it: If you’re going out for a nice dinner, try the griyo at Quartier Latin in Pétionville. For a more low-key meal, order a big plate of griyo at Cinq Coins Restaurant (they sell it by the pound) in Port-au-Prince and side it with a cold beer or two. Perfect to share and enjoy with friends.

Lanbi an Sòs Lanbi Kreyol (conch in creole sauce)

Of all the fruits of the sea you can find in Haiti, conch seems to be among the most distinct to appear on restaurant menus. You can usually find it grilled (see below) or in a tomato-based creole sauce. Conch is a must-try if seafood is your thing. Where to get it: Presse Café serves up a good version of conch in creole sauce, as does Quartier Latin.

Lanbi Boukannen, Woma Boukannen (grilled conch, grilled lobster)

As seafood lovers, we did a happy dance in Haiti for the availability and freshness of grilled lobster and conch. These are readily available in most coastal areas, but especially along the southern coast in and around Jacmel, Jacmel Cayes and Port Salut. Where to get it: Chez Matante restaurant on Gelée Beach near Les Cayes may take the “heaping portion” award where a $15 mountainous serving of delicious lobster and avocado slices is enough to satiate two people. Another place for delicious grilled seafood (including langoustine) is Vue Sur Mer near Jacmel.

Tassot/Taso (dried fried meat)

Fried Dried Beef and Plantains - Cap-Haïtien, Haiti
Tassot with fried plantains.

Tassot is spiced, dried meat that is then fried. You may also have seen this in Mexico or Latin American countries as well, as tasajo. In Haiti, you’ll most often find Tassot Kabrit (goat) or Tassot Vyann (beef) sided with fried plantains. The description defies its tastiness. Where to get it: This was another favorite dish at Lakou Lakay Cultural Center in Milot.

Mayi Moulen Kole ak Legim (cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew)

Haitian Street Food in Jacmel, Haiti
Friendly street food vendor selling vegetable stew with cornmeal in Jacmel.

The legim (think legume) is the vegetable stew part. The cornmeal consistency is somewhere between polenta and cream-of-wheat (or cream-of-cornmeal, as it were). Where to get it: A delicious example of this dish can be found in Jacmel, past the airfield, right side on the road if you’re heading in the direction of Marigot. Go early as once they sell out for the day, they close the stand.

Diri ak Fèy Lalo ak Sirik (crab and lalo leaf stew)

A stew of crab and dark-green spinach-like lalo leaves. Rich and hearty. Traditionally, this is a specialty of Artibonite, the Haitian rice producing region. Where to get it: Get thee to the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince in the late morning to lunchtime. The woman between the food market and Vodou and crafts market cooks a big tin of it on weekdays.

Kalalou Djondjon (Haitian okra and black mushroom stew)

This is a sort of Louisiana-style gumbo made with okra and mushrooms, sometimes served with a kick of chili peppers. You can find it in some restaurants, but we experienced this dish stewed with chunks of pork and a healthy dose of crab legs (kalalou djon djon ak sirik ak vyann kochon) served atop white rice at a friend’s house. (Sorry, that location is sworn to secrecy.)

Pwason Boukannen (grilled fish)

Grilled Fish at Pointe Sable near Port Salut, Haiti
Grilled fish straight from the fishermen at Pointe Sable.

So many restaurants and seaside shacks serve grilled fish along the coast. We always asked for additional pikliz to go on top. So good. Where to get it: Our best fish feast was a heaping lunch portion at a simple beach-side stand at Pointe Sable in Port Salut. Great food, cold beers and a fitting view of the sea.

Sides, Starches and Condiments

Besides all the meat and seafood, rice, beans and tropical starches rule the table in Haiti. Note that fritay (fried foods) are often paired with spice and vinegar blends like pikliz (see below) to balance what goes into the digestive system.

Pikliz (picklese)

Pickled cabbage and vegetables (onions, carrots, peppers, etc.), grated or shredded, served in a vinegar base and often dashed with chili peppers. A perfect compliment to fried and heavy foods. We became slightly obsessed with pikliz and were guilty of ordering extra portions of it everywhere we went. If you are sensitive to spice, be sure to taste before topping your plate.

Diri Kole or Diri ak Pois (rice and beans) or Mayi Moulen ak Pois (cornmeal and beans)

Haitian Bean Mixture Served on Cornmeal - Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Bean sauce poured atop rice or cornmeal, a Haitian staple.

White rice cooked with beans or served with a bean sauce is very common throughout Haiti. Another variation of this includes Diri Blan ak Sos Pwa Noir (white rice and black bean sauce) or rice with a white bean sauce. Depending on the consistency the cook is after, cornmeal is often swapped for rice in these dishes.

Diri Djon Djon (rice with black mushrooms)

Diri djon djon (Rice with Black Mushrooms) - Cap-Haïtien, Haiti
Rice cooked with black mushrooms.

While white rice is usually served with a bean sauce topping (see above), diri djon djon is usually served on its own because of the distinct aroma and rich flavor of the jhon jhon mushroom.

Bannann (Plantains), Fried or Boiled

The most common approach to the ubiquitous Haitian plantain: fried plantains (bannann peze), which are often sided with any of the main meals mentioned above. Although perhaps not the healthiest option, they are also delicious topped with a heaping spoonful of pikliz. We were admittedly less excited by the boiled plantain option. Where to get it: The best bannann peze was at Vue Sur Mer Restaurant outside of Jacmel.

Lam Veritab Fri (Fried breadfruit)

Definitely worth seeking out. Sometimes you’ll find fried breadfruit mixed together on a plate with fried plantains. The first time this happens, you’ll say, “Man, I didn’t know plantains could be so good.” That, my friend, is breadfruit. The consistency is richer and more distinct than a plantain, and the taste is quite different almost bordering on a starchy version of jackfruit. Good thing is: breadfruit is widely available; it probably ought to be consumed even more than rice given how prevalent it is in the country. Where to get it: Our most memorable was at the sprawling highway-side market at Saint-Louis-du-Sud, where the breadfruit lady topped ours with an ample serving of spicy pikliz. Yum.

Avocado

When in season, avocado is plentiful and tasty. Get your fill, particularly as a side to various meat dishes and grilled seafoods. Pairs beautifully with a nice, tart pikliz.

Watercress

Beautiful Watercress Salad in Seguin, Haiti
A gorgeous — and equally delicious — watercress salad at Auberge La Visite in the mountains.

We’ve experienced blended watercress dipping sauces (see Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant in Miami Beach), but nothing beats the mind-bending fresh mountain salad at Auberge La Visite in the mountains near Seguin, Haiti. Watercress was fresh-plucked from the ground at the foot of the waterfall we passed on the return from a hike to Pic Cabayo. It’s then tossed with other vegetables and edible flowers, as in the salad pictured above.

Haitian Soups

Soup Joumou (pumpkin/squash soup)

Pumpkins and squash are quite common throughout Haiti. You may find pumpkin and squash soup on its own or — you guessed it — stewing in a pot of goat meat and other vegetables.

Bouyon Tèt Kabrit (goat head bouillon)

A hearty favorite in the hills just outside of Port-au-Prince. Trust us, it’s much tastier than it sounds. We sampled this in places like Mare Rouge and Seguin, just outside of Parc National La Visite and Pic la Selle.

Breakfast in Haiti

Travelers in Haiti can find breakfasts with the usual suspects such as eggs, toast or cereal in hotels. However, if you wish to breakfast like a local, here’s what you might eat.

Pwason Seche ak Bannann (dried fish and boiled plantains)

Fish Drying on the Coast near Jacmel - Haiti
Dried fish in the making, headed for a typical Haitian breakfast.

Particularly as you head south along the coast, you’ll see strings of morning-dried fish hanging on racks. Then they end up on your breakfast table.

Fwa Di ak Bannann (beef liver with plantains)

I joked with a Haitian friend that Haitian beef liver looked to me like dog food. OK, it was no joke. But as beef livers go, they are tasty for the copious use of spices like cinnamon and dashes of star anise. With this breakfast you likely will not need to eat until dinner — the following day.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti for breakfast in Haiti? Yes, spaghetti, the breakfast of Haitian champions. It makes sense when you consider the importance of starting one’s day with a hearty breakfast.

Power Shakes

Jus Blennde (blended shake)

Jus blennde is a staple of the Port-au-Prince night street food scene. These shakes are essentially meal replacements so that people can eat something hearty, but perhaps not as heavy as meat, at night. The version I enjoyed (endured?) was made from approximately 15 ingredients including boiled potato, carrot, manioc (cassava), and breadfruit; banana, papaya, peanuts, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, evaporated milk, ice, rum and a wedge of la vache qui rit cream cheese for good measure. If Popeye came from Haiti, this is what he would eat before he kicked ass.

Spaghetti Shakes

Yes, you read that correctly. I could not bring myself to try it, but the idea is apparently a filling, easily digested liquid dinner, based on blending wet spaghetti, tomato flavoring and other goodies. The Godfather is turning over in his grave. Or is that his stomach turning?

Phoscao

A ground corn and cocoa shake specialty hailing from the seaside Haitian town of Les Cayes. Rich, sweet and heavy enough to keep you full for the whole day. If you are seeing a pattern of filling food here, you are beginning to understand the “why” that underlies the historical function of food in Haiti. Where to get it: La Cayenne Restaurant in Les Cayes.

Haitian Desserts and Snacks

Haitians have a sweet tooth, no two ways about it. It’s not surprising considering the country’s wide production of sugar cane. Here are a few of our favorite desserts and treats that we found across the island.

Mamba (peanut butter)

Haitian peanut butter is all natural. It’s also a revelation. Northern varieties are purportedly six-times blended while those in the south are less smooth at four-times blended. What really sets apart Haitian peanut butter: spice. Yes, spicy peanut butter. You heard me right.

Spicy peanut butter varieties are made when ground peanuts are turned with a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper. After one taste of this, you’ll never look at the possibilities of peanut butter quite the same.

Dous Makos (Haitian fudge)

Slabs of Dous Makos (Haitian Cream Fudge) - Petit-Goave, Haiti
Dous Makos dries so it can be cut into slices.

Native to the Haitian town of Petit-Goave, dous makos production looks a kind of taffy production where milk and sugar are boiled in log-fired cauldrons. The signature look of dous makos: the three stripes, beige, brown and pink. Where to get it: You’ll find stands all along the road in Petit-Goave, but the best dous makos we sampled was at Chez Lélène Douce. Lélène’s product is smooth and features hints of coconut and other flavors that set it apart. Also, Lélène’s daughters are adorable.

Kasav (cassava bread)

In Haiti, cassava bread is less moist like bread and more dry like a cracker. The version we bought were stuffed with a not-so-sweet chocolate and paired with Haitian peanut butter. Cassava bread is an acquired taste and one that you come to acquire much faster when you are famished after hiking several miles in the hills.

Casava Break with Peanut Butter - Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Kasav ak manba (cassava bread and peanut butter), a great street snack.

But the best way to have cassava bread is fresh on the streets of Port-au-Prince with a dose of spicy peanut butter slathered on top. A wonderful — and local — street-side snack.

Tablèt Nwa (cashew ginger brittle)

Just like it sounds, where cashews and sugar cane are turned with ginger for a zip. You can find vendors selling it along the road from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince, but it’s a specialty of the town of Cavaillon. You can also find brittles around the country made with peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut, almonds and cashews.

Pain Patate (sweet potato cake)

If you come across sweet potato cake, give it a shot as it’s made with sweet potatoes, bananas and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. We had a very nice sweet potato cake, served in warm glaze at the restaurant at Habitation Jouissant in Cap-Haïtien.

Haitian Drinks

Chokola Peyi (Haitian hot chocolate)

Haitian hot chocolate is a terrific experience, particularly if you endeavor to buy the relatively inexpensive ingredients and requisite tools at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince. It’s a fun process and enjoyable way to engage with different vendors at the market.

Ingredients for Haitian Hot Chocolate
The makings for Haitian hot chocolate: raw chocolate, cinnamon, star anise.

Haitian hot chocolate production begins by shaving a ball of pure chocolate with a Haitian grater — that is, against the holed and hollowed out side of a tomato can. Then simmer cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and fèy bwadin leaves in water (we’ve been told that whole nutmeg or mace is good as well). Add your ground chocolate, some sugar, some vanilla essence a tiny pinch of salt, and thicken it with some evaporated milk (don’t skimp on this). Shave some of the rind of a green bergamot (a shriveled, pungent lime-like citrus fruit) for the final touch. Voilà! Not your average hot chocolate.

Learning to make Haitian hot chocolate — then consuming the fruits of our labors — in the hills above Port-au-Prince was one of our favorite memories of our time in Haiti.

Coffee

The history of coffee in Haiti, including its near disappearance as an industry, is a shame. Haitian coffee is quite good and in terms of flavor, its Arabica beans can hold their own against competing Central American and African counterparts. Of the major brands available in supermarkets, check out Rebo or better yet, Selecto. If you really wish to go off the beaten path, try the local bean at Fondation Seguin grown in the hills above Port-au-Prince where they are trying to train local farmers in coffee production.

Rum

Barbancourt Rum, Great for Drinking Straight - Haiti
Barbancourt rum: the ideal way to wind down the day in Haiti.

Given the prevalence of sugar cane in Haiti, it probably comes as no surprise that rum is the national spirit of choice. Although Haiti makes several types of rum, Barbancourt is the national standard dark rum that is available in a number of grades — most notably 3-star, a perfectly drinkable 4-year aged or 5-star, a perfectly smooth one-part spicy, another-part sweet 8-year aged. Although we rarely drink rum straight, we found ourselves doing this throughout our travels in Haiti. It’s that good.

And it’s no surprise that rum cocktails are everywhere you go in Haiti. Although rum juice punch is everywhere, our favorite is a rum sour with lime juice, sugar syrup, a dash of bitters or cinnamon, lemon or orange rind and often a cherry. We prefer it served in a plain, rather than sugar-encrusted, glass.

Kleren / Klerin

An unrefined spirit similar to white rum, kleren is distilled from cane sugar. We visited a family-run kleren manufacturer near Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti to witness the process from start — pressing the sugar cane to get juice — to its multi-distillation chamber finish. The resulting white rum used to be called “guildive” as it was considered so strong that it would “kill the devil” when you drank it.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, you’ll find colorful flavored or infused kleren concoctions. Think “street rum pharmacy” whose outputs feature dubious medicinal qualities, look a little like kerosene, and quite honestly taste a little like it too.

Prestige Beer

Prestige Beer on the Haitian Coast
A cold Prestige on the beach. Pretty. Perfect.

No trip to Haiti would be complete without drinking a cold Prestige on the beach. Prestige, a relatively heavy American-style lager, is the ubiquitous Haitian beer of choice. For various reasons, including the climate and the brew itself, it’s best served very cold. You may be able to find other beers in Haiti, including various lighter beers and malts, but Prestige is the most consistent.

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A huge thanks to Jean Cyril Pressoir, our G Adventures CEO (guide) in Haiti. Cyril humored us and our desire for Haitian street food at just about every turn, shared his favorite spots and never tired of our endless questions about his country’s cuisine.

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Disclosure: Our tour in Haiti was provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. We stayed a few extra days to go hiking in the mountains on our own dime. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price remains the same to you and we earn a small commission. Thank you!


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8 Ways Empathy Can Improve Your Travels…And Your Lifehttp://uncorneredmarket.com/8-ways-empathy-can-improve-your-travels-your-life/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/8-ways-empathy-can-improve-your-travels-your-life/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:00 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=19992 By Daniel Noll

On your next trip, don’t forget to pack your empathy. Whether on stage or on the page, I often assert that, “travel can not only improve each of our lives, but it can also make the world a better place.” I suggest this instinctively, but then I have to step back and ask myself, “Well, […]

The post 8 Ways Empathy Can Improve Your Travels…And Your Life appeared first on Uncornered Market.

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By Daniel Noll

empathy
On your next trip, don’t forget to pack your empathy.

Whether on stage or on the page, I often assert that, “travel can not only improve each of our lives, but it can also make the world a better place.” I suggest this instinctively, but then I have to step back and ask myself, “Well, how exactly does travel do that?

One of the pathways in my experience is through motivating a practice and expression of genuine empathy, or “the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective.” Listening to, understanding and connecting with the feelings, thoughts, and stories of others — especially those entirely different from your own — can not only enrich and improve your experience at hand, but it can also simultaneously improve your well-being.

The practice of empathy — and yes, it’s a practice — is about open-ness, creating an opening in one’s self to another. Empathy requires suspending your judgment of others and leaving your assumptions, stereotypes and fears at the door.

Which brings me to an observation-lesson about some of the most life-changing travel experiences we’ve enjoyed: if you wish a transformative experience, you must remain vulnerable to being transformed, and to changes, sometimes fundamental, in yourself. To achieve this, you must open yourself up and make yourself susceptible to impression.

Enter empathy.

Fortunately, empathy is self-reinforcing. Set off to travel with empathy, and the more empathy you are likely to develop along your journey. Empathy is also subject to amplification. As empathy serves as an access mechanism to deeper experience, deeper experience in turn tunes our sense of empathy. Likewise, the greater your expression of empathy, the more empathy is likely to be reflected back to you.

Compound empathy. It’s the snowball effect of practiced empathy that encourages greater shared understanding and connection in our world.

Sold on the concept of empathy? Now onto how practicing empathy can enhance your travel experiences.

1) Opens Others

Demonstrating empathy to others creates a non-judgmental environment and expands trust. When others are open, they share of themselves. When they share, they create moments by virtue of what and how they share. The sum of those moments affects us and motivates us to share in return.

It’s a cycle, whether it’s one composed of stories of personal struggle or common joys.

Audrey Chatting with Iranian Student
Taking the train from Iran to Turkey, Audrey listens to an Iranian high school student.

When we speak about moments in travel that we’ll never forget, we’ll find that they reside often in the company of others. Powerful and almost inexplicable in their simplicity and shared humanity, these shared moments re-affirm the essence of life experience and shed a little more light on the meaning of our own lives.

2) Allows New Experiences to Stream In

Travel is about new experiences. When we open ourselves up and turn off our judgment in the pursuit of understanding the feelings of people around us, we simultaneously expose ourselves to impressions and experiences that we might not otherwise register.

Think of empathy as aiding a heightened observation and sensual register. In that mode, new impressions and experiences flow in our direction and into our consciousness more freely.

3) Expands Our Range of Understanding

Empathy not only yields new experiences, but it also enables us to more broadly understand those experiences. Travel with empathy, and you’ll be more tuned into the socioeconomic and cultural contexts in which you move. This will enable you to ask better questions of people and to increase your depth of understanding of their homes and their culture.

After all, isn’t that one of the primary objectives of travel, and especially experiential travel — to understand our world better? The essence of empathy is understanding the world of another — their feelings, intentions, desires, and needs. The strange thing about understanding the feelings of another is that doing so may at once better help us to understand ourselves.

4) Builds Trust to Yield Greater Authenticity

When we listen to and attempt to understand others and reflect back to them our best understanding, it builds the “emotional bank account” between us. This account reflects and reinforces trust.

On the road, this yields two great benefits. It invites individuals to be fully real and genuine, rather than to wear masks and play roles, thereby encouraging greater individual authenticity – and as a consequence, more authentic experiences — to emerge.

5) Assists Immersion and Creativity

There exists great love for the term “immersion,” particularly as it relates to learning and travel. Practicing empathy helps us immerse ourselves through the act of opening up fully to the people and context around us.

Studies suggest that living abroad deepens our immersion and thus our creative thinking. From experience, I won’t argue with that. But let’s merge this wisdom. On your next trip apply empathy as a technique to immerse yourself. Though you may not feel the same creative thinking return as having lived in that destination, you’ll surely enhance it by connecting with the destination and its people more deeply.

The more we empathic we become, the more adaptive we will be to the ways of the world. And the more pliable we will be to the unforeseen circumstances thrown at us while we’re on the road.

6) Aids Conflict Resolution

Studies have also demonstrated that empathy is the active ingredient in conflict resolution. The demonstration of genuine empathy towards others allows them greater room to understand us. Unless you are fan of conflict in your travel transactions, the upshot of this is hopefully obvious.

Genuine empathy can not only can help you get more of what you want, but it will also enable both parties to come away feeling as if they are whole and have benefited from the transaction.

Whether you are negotiating an issue with a hotel room, logistics or the details of a day trip or entire itinerary, taking a moment out to understand the people with whom you are negotiating and interacting can help them deliver you better results. Particularly when emotions flare and people around us feel threatened, a little dose of empathy can help cool the situation, thereby helping others to help us.

7) Fosters Good, Pleasurable and Positive Feelings

I think we understand this on a personal level. Isn’t it a pleasant feeling when you know and feel that someone is really listening to you, attempting to understand not only what you are saying, but also the feelings behind the words you are using to convey them?

Friendly Discussion - Toungoo, Burma
Aiming to understand about life and dreams in rural Burma (Myanmar).

When you do this to others it comes back to you, and deep personal connections are formed, including some of the ones that remain with you your whole life.

8) Aids Understanding Others’ Needs So You Can Effectively Contribute

If you are altruistically minded and hope to help others on your travels or in your work abroad, here’s a question to ask yourself: How can I expect to help others if I don’t first seek to understand who they are and what it is that they truly need?

If you expect to have a lasting impact on the world, you must first tune yourself to the needs of its individuals and communities and ditch for a moment any assumptions that you know what is best.

For many, this is an offensive pill to swallow. Let me explain.

This is something we’ve seen go amiss in aid and volunteer programs around the world. Outsiders come in, usually from countries with more privilege, assuming from their background that they know what the local community wants, instead of letting go momentarily and truly listening and understanding the local context with suspended judgment. Perhaps this is why too many of these projects often fail outright, are not sustainable, or reap unintended negative consequences.

With the application of active empathy, there can be another way. This approach can help deliver better what the community needs and wants. It also empowers because the beneficiaries or stakeholders understand that you are listening to and respecting them as experts — in the thoughts and feelings they have regarding their own circumstances.



Great, Dan, but what if I’m not naturally empathic?

I can empathize. Empathy takes effort, particularly for those of us whose psychological preferences tend to the rational and the thinking, rather the feeling. That’s OK, though. Just because empathy doesn’t flow automatically from you like water from a faucet doesn’t mean you can’t prime the pump. You can begin to develop and cultivate your empathic capability by:

  • Listening, truly (it’s harder than you might think)
  • Slowing down, putting the devices away and being present
  • Setting aside and suspending your judgment
  • Acknowledging and challenging your prejudice
  • Seeking out and speaking to strangers whose lives and worldviews are vastly different than your own
  • Imagining what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of the person across from you
  • Looking for commonality, especially when things seem radically different than what you are accustomed to
  • Cultivating, especially in conversation, an interest in others

When you do this, it might feel a little uncomfortable, even painful. But like any muscle, the empathy muscle takes some development, some stretching. The more you work it, the more you’ll find yourself and others feeling remarkable when you do.

Empathy is self-serving. It’s good for you while simultaneously being helpful to the ends you seek. Your empathic responses while traveling also help build empathy in the people you meet. Together, you and they and we can understand the world a little better.

Why does this matter? It matters so that we might deliver on a promise, the promise that our travels can build a little more peace in ourselves and a little more peace in our world.

In travel as in life, empathy.

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Our Offbeat Hot List: 8 Destinations You’re Not Considering…But Shouldhttp://uncorneredmarket.com/off-beat-travel-destinations/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/off-beat-travel-destinations/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:09:28 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=19899 By Audrey Scott

There are plenty of “2015 Hot Travel Destination” lists circulating, even though the dust has settled a bit on looks forward. As we field questions about our own favorite destinations, most memorable experiences and where we recommend people to travel this year, we thought we’d add a twist to the traditional 2015 travel lists and […]

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By Audrey Scott

There are plenty of “2015 Hot Travel Destination” lists circulating, even though the dust has settled a bit on looks forward. As we field questions about our own favorite destinations, most memorable experiences and where we recommend people to travel this year, we thought we’d add a twist to the traditional 2015 travel lists and share some places that might not be on your travel radar — but maybe should be.

In travel marketing speak, one might call these emerging, recovery or even under-discovered destinations. But in our experience, they are simply fascinating places that travelers are either unaware of or actively avoid from a travel perspective. They are the sort of destinations that push you emotionally, sometimes physically, and always challenge you mentally — all with the result of returning you from your trip with a different view of the world and quite often with a different view of yourself.

Here’s the caveat. These places are not for everyone; they are not a universal fit for travel goals and style. They are the sorts of destinations in which things may not always go as planned; hotels and transport can even be a bit rough. Much time is spent outside the proverbial comfort zone in attempts to immerse yourself in a new culture, comprehend challenging socio-economic circumstances and process the stimuli swirling about you. Some days can even feel difficult.

But there is a payoff. If you were to sit down with us over a beer and ask: “I want to go somewhere different from what I’m accustomed to. I’d like a place that will make me think, feel and question some of my assumptions about the world and myself. Someplace not very well touristed, with a bit adventure and the unknown. Where would you suggest I go?

Here’s where we might suggest you go in 2015.

1. Kyrgyzstan

Line of Horses and Peak Lenin - Sary Tash, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is filled with stunning mountain views like this one of Peak Lenin.
Kyrgyz Man Drinks Tea Outside Yurt - Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
First snow of the season at a shepherd’s village near Song Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.

Why: To experience a country that is over 90% mountainous and littered with stunning landscapes. Add to that, a taste of traditional nomadic culture with a bit of a Soviet hangover, and you have the makings of a unique yet approachable destination. This makes Kyrgyzstan a great fit for trekkers and outdoor types, as well as those interested in culture and off-beat experiences. There is a terrific community-based tourism network throughout the country that makes it easy to connect and interact with locals. These networks can also organize mountain treks on horseback, homestays, and overnight yurt experiences.

Read more on Kyrgyzstan:

Kyrgyzstan Photo Essays

2. Iran

Fisheye of Hallway in Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque - Esfahan, Iran
Eye-bending Persian design at Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Esfahan.

Staying Warm in Iranian Mountains - Masuleh, Iran
Adopted in a village in northwestern Iran.

Why: To travel to a country where the on-the-ground travel experience couldn’t be more different than impressions left by the news. Iran also features some of the most impressive historical sites we’ve ever seen (including 17 UNESCO sites). Visiting 2500-year-old Persepolis, once the capital of ancient Persia, is a lesson not only in the strength of the Persian Empire, but a perspective regarding how civilizations and power come and go. Eyeball-bending Persian design and architecture that holds the gaze can’t be missed either. In addition to Iran’s Big Three (Shiraz, Esfahan and Yazd), expand your sense of the country with a visit to the northwestern part of Iran for even more surprises like fairy chimney villages and Armenian monasteries.

And again, it comes down to people. That’s what may surprise you most about Iran.

Note: Obtaining a tourist visa for citizens from the United States, Canada and United Kingdom can be tricky. Be sure to check out this article on how to get an Iranian visa (including the vast comment thread) for all you need to know.

Read more on Iran:

Iran Photo Essays

3. Republic of Georgia

Drop-off Point - Svaneti, Georgia
A ride into the high Caucasus mountains (Svaneti) turns into an adventure.

Sioni Cathedral and Narikala - Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi reveals itself in layers, both architecturally and culturally. One of our favorite cities.

Why: Despite all the history and remarkable mountain landscapes, the Republic of Georgia, at its very best, comes back to the Georgian people. Cross hospitality-obsessed with crazy gregarious and you’ve got a sense of the Georgian people. Add to this beautiful mountain ranges, a culturally and architecturally eclectic capital city, some of the most spiritual churches we’ve experienced, and incredible food. Then you’ll understand why Georgia is one of our favorite places in the world. We joke that in Georgia, one doesn’t need to make plans as the people you meet seem to create the adventures for you.

Read more on Georgia:

Georgia Photo Essays

4. Bolivia

Mother Nature's Exercise in Small - Salar Tour, Bolivia
Hot springs en route to the Salar de Uyuni.

Joy - Political Rally in Tupiza, Bolivia
A young Bolivian mother at a gathering in Tupiza.

Why: Stunning and often surreal landscapes blended with a strong indigenous culture. For various reasons, travelers often skip Bolivia in favor of its neighbors — Peru, Argentina, Chile — when making their way through South America. For Americans, some say it’s because of the visa fees and paperwork, but Bolivia is more than worth the extra spend and brief bit of bureaucracy. The Salar de Uyuni and in particular the journey from Tupiza features some of the world’s most beautiful and otherworldly landscapes with green lakes, Dali-esque rock formations and the mind-bending salt flats. And although you’ll see tourists around the Salar, you see much less throughout the rest of the country. We recommend stopping by Lake Titicaca and taking a hike around Isla del Sol, Tarija in the south for a taste of the Bolivian wine scene, Potosi to understand the realities of mining on people and communities, Sucre for a beautiful colonial city and La Paz for the capital with the most dramatic mountain backdrop. Personally, I’d love to return to Bolivia to take on some of these treks.

Read more on Bolivia:

Bolivia Photo Essays

5. Ethiopia

Hiking in the Gheralta Mountains - Tigray, Ethiopia
Hiking down from cave churches tucked in Gheralta Mountains of northern Ethiopia. An incredible experience.

Church of St. George, Lalibela - Ethiopia
Church of St. George. Carved top-down from red volcanic rock in the 12th century.

Why: Ancient rock-hewn churches carved from below ground, remarkable mountain landscapes, castles, ridiculously large plates of delicious local food. Need we say more? Ethiopia surprised us in so many ways, especially with its depth of history and culture dating back over 2,000 years to the Aksumite civilization and the adoption of Christianity in 330 A.D. (the 2nd Christian nation in the world). One could feel a direct connection between Ethiopia’s past and present through its adherence to ritual. We also weren’t expecting to be awed by its mountains and trekking options available in the Simien and Gheralta Mountains.

Read more on Ethiopia:

Ethiopia Photo Essays

6. Bangladesh

Boats Bringing Produce to Market - Bandarban, Bangladesh
Market day in Bandarban, Bangladesh (Chittagong Hill Tracts).

How to Imitate a Tiger in Bangladesh
Asking kids to imitate a tiger (name of the Bangladeshi cricket team) on the streets of Old Dhaka.

Why: To truly get off the tourist path and immerse yourself in a sea of humanity. We’re certain there are more tourists now, but during our five-week visit there a couple of years ago, we saw a total of five tourists. Bangladesh is funky. It’s intense. It’s Bangladesh. And the country actually offers more diversity in sights and experiences that you might first expect, from UNESCO pre-Moghul mosques and cycling through tea estates to tracking tigers in mangrove forests and visiting ethnic minority areas. But it’s the human interactions — and boy, are there a lot of them — that make visiting Bangladesh such a unique experience.

Read more on Bangladesh:

Bangladesh Photo Essays

7. Pamir Highway and Mountains (Tajikistan/Kyrgyzstan)

Donkeys Walking Home - Wakhan Valley, Tajikistan
On their way home to Langhar in Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley. On the other side of the river is Afghanistan and in the distance, Pakistan’s Hindu Kush mountains.

Yamchun Fort  - Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan
Ruins of the 12th-century Silk Road Yamchun Fort against the backdrop of the Pamir Mountains.

Why: To enjoy a road trip adventure in a mountainous region that not only stands out for the severity and beauty of its landscape, but also shines for the colorful, hospitable and fascinating Pamiri people who live there. The Pamir Highway, roughly speaking, begins in southern Kyrgyzstan and winds its way through Tajikistan, passing by some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen on our around the world journey thus far. As tourism infrastructure in this area ranges from little to none you’ll likely stay and eat with Pamiri families most of the time, one of the great joys of this journey. (There’s more in our Pamir Highway slideshow for BBC Travel.)

Read more on the Pamir Mountains:

Pamir Mountains Photo Essays

8. Haiti

View of Haiti's Southern Coast, in the Hills Above Jacmel
Mountains and coastline of southern Haiti.

Shy Haitian Girls - Milot, Haiti
Shy sisters who live near the sugar cane plantations of northern Haiti.

Why: Because Haiti is surprising, complicated and fascinating. Sure, the country has some beautiful white-sand beaches, but it’s the artists, musicians, waterfalls, hilltop fortresses, cave networks and the mysteries of Vodou that will likely leave the most lasting impressions on you. Although Haiti is only 1.5 hours away from Miami by air and shares the same island landmass as popular vacation destination Dominican Republic, it only sees a relative handful of travelers each year. At least for now.

Read more on Haiti:

Haiti Photo Essays

So, what did we miss? Which destination(s) would you add to the list?

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Year in Review: Best Travel Instagram Photos of 2014http://uncorneredmarket.com/best-travel-instagram-photos-2014/ http://uncorneredmarket.com/best-travel-instagram-photos-2014/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 20:02:34 +0000 http://uncorneredmarket.com/?p=19861 By Audrey Scott

The end of the year is almost here. For many, us included, it is a time to take stock of one year’s passing before moving onto the next. We take pause before the champagne gets pulled out on New Year’s Eve for reflection, gratitude, and perspective on life, work and travel. In full disclosure, 2014 […]

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By Audrey Scott

2014 Instagram Photos
The end of the year is almost here. For many, us included, it is a time to take stock of one year’s passing before moving onto the next. We take pause before the champagne gets pulled out on New Year’s Eve for reflection, gratitude, and perspective on life, work and travel.

In full disclosure, 2014 wasn’t the best of years for me. I lost my step-father and my grandfather earlier in the year, two people with whom I was very close. They were both inspirations to me in the importance of giving back, humility and telling great stories. They were always supportive of us and this site, even if neither could navigate the internet and understand exactly what we did, and they believed in the power of storytelling in bridging differences and bringing people together.

It seems as though each year we think we’ve slowed down on the travel front, but a quick look through our Instagram account provides perspective on how that’s not exactly the case. Dan has an amazing ability (proud wife here) in these iPhone images to capture details, feelings, and a sense of a moment that all conspire to bring me back instantly to that place — whether hanging off a cliff in the Gheralta mountains of Ethiopia or sampling Riesling along the Rhine Valley. We are grateful for those moments and for all the people we met who shared of themselves and their culture.

We hope you enjoy just a few of these favorite moments this past year. So without any further ado, let’s get to the best travel Instagram photos of 2014!

1. Up in the Air

Up in the air, Istanbul
Istanbul, up in the air on a clear day. En route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Up in the Air runner up: Spying on the Queen while flying over what I think is Windsor Castle on the way into London Heathrow.

More Up in the Air photos: Photos from the Airplane Window

 

2. Ethiopia

Gheralta Mountains of Ethopia
Late afternoon descent, Gheralta heights. Phenomenal hike and rock climb to the hilltop monasteries of Maryam Korkor. This is peak Ethiopia.

Ethiopia runner up: Church of St. George. Carved top-down from red volcanic rock in the 12th century, Lalibela’s most famous rock hewn church.

More Ethiopia photos: Ethiopia, Best of Photos, Ethiopian People, Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches, Simien Mountains, Ethiopian food

 

3. Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, La Petite France Canal
Peering down the canal, La Petite France. In town, pokin’ around before diving into the wine exhibition. A little bit of Alsace in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg runner up: Strasbourg Medieval Towers.

More Strasbourg photos: Strasbourg Photos

 

4. Uganda

Uganda Road
Ugandan road after the rains”>Africa red, Africa green. Roads carving the jungle, etched by the rains.

Uganda runner up: An early afternoon hike from the water’s edge to the Lake Bunyonyi overlook, where a fresh crayfish curry and a cold beer await. Unexpected Uganda.

More Uganda photos: Uganda, Best of Photos, Instagramming Uganda

 

5. London

Kensington Gardens, London
Something just a little magnificent. London sunshine, a walk in Kensington Gardens to a view of the Albert Memorial.

London runner up: Little Venice, London. Worthy of a brush and easel on a sunny, just-spring day.

More London photos: London Photos

 

6. Rwanda

Mid-morning light, the deck outside our peaceful little perch ($12/night) above Lake Kivu -- near the Congo border in Kibuye, Rwanda. via Instagram http://ift.tt/1qMXH32
Mid-morning light, the deck outside our peaceful little perch ($12/night) above Lake Kivu — near the Congo border in Kibuye, Rwanda.

Rwanda runner up: Overlooking the "Twin Lakes" (Burera and Ruhondo) from Virunga Lodge in the hills outside Ruhengeri, Rwanda.

More Rwanda photos: Rwanda, Best of Travel Photos

 

7. Haiti

Sans Souci Palace, Haiti
Audrey takes a walk with a local girl named Mika-Josephine that we met at the beautiful ruins of Sans Souci Palace. Perched in the hills of northern Haiti and built by Henri Christophe after crowning himself King of Haiti in 1811, the structure knew a short life until the great earthquake of 1842 left it in the state we see today.

Haiti runner up: Trekking at Pic Cabayo, Parc Nacional La Visite. Difficult to choose the best view.

More Haiti photos: Haiti, Best of Travel Photos, Instagramming Haiti, Haitian food and markets

 

8. Tanzania

Today, we were profiling a @PlaneterraCares project outside of Arusha-Kilimanjaro, Tanzania that partners with a local organization providing efficient clean-burning stoves to Maasai communities. Once you step into a smoke-filled traditional home (and suffocate), you realize how remarkable and life-changing these stoves can be. The Maasai woman here was one of our hosts. She was dressed for a party following a circumcision ceremony for a group of boys on their way to becoming warriors in a nearby village. She invited us to join her. Stay tuned for more on the party... via Instagram http://ift.tt/1mtUNLV
Profiling Maasai women for a Planeterra Foundation clean stoves project in northern Tanzania. Our host was dressed for a party following a circumcision ceremony for a group of boys on their way to becoming warriors in a nearby village. She invited us to join her.

Tanzania runner up: Tanzanian sky. Maasai women gather from the surrounding villages, offering gifts and goats.

More Tanzania photos: Tanzania Travel Highlights, Maasai Village Visits in Tanzania, Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

 

9. Zagreb, Croatia

Early Morning in Zagreb, Croatia.
An early morning stroll in Zagreb, Croatia. Before the town hits its stride, it’s just monks, nuns, and bakers.

Croatia runner up: Rolling hills, bending rivers. This is the Bosnian countryside, from the train en route Zagreb to Sarajevo.

 

10. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Of course, there be castles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This one: the Citadel of Počitelj. If you are having trouble wrapping your tongue around how to pronounce that, consider that it was built in 1383 by King Tvrtko, whose dying words were purported to be, "Can I buy a vowel?" via Instagram http://ift.tt/1uqDPoA
Of course, there be castles in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This one: the Citadel of Počitelj.

Bosnia and Herzegovina runner up: Stari Most, the Old Bridge of Mostar, at sunset.

 

11. Berlin: 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary
25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989). Taken from the East Side Gallery. Over a million visitors in town for the festivities, including the release of 8000 balloon lights from along a 15km segment of the wall.

Berlin runner up: A Berlin white-ish night sunset over the railroad tracks.

More Berlin photos: Berlin, Best of Travel Photos, Berlin Cheap Eats, Berlin Street Art

 

12. The Rhineland, Germany

Münsterplatz, Aachen
Münsterplatz, Aachen (Aix-La-Chapelle). A representative slice of the city’s architectural melange. Unsurprising given its proximity to Belgium and The Netherlands.

Rhineland runner up: Boosenburg Castle, Rüdesheim. A slice of the Romantic Rhine. If you’re drinking the wine, Rheingau is the region, Riesling is likely your grape.

More Rhineland photos: Travels Through the Rhineland: Aachen, Cologne, Rhine Valley

 

13. Best Beach Shot

Port Salut Sunset, Haiti
On the shores of Port Salut, southwestern #Haiti. Aiming for sunset, in the shade of a palm. Water is a beautiful carrier for some of light’s most life-affirming features: reflection and depth, color and warmth.

Beach runner up: South Beach Stopover. Kickin’ back at the lifeguard chair, considering the sunset.

More beach photos: Beaches around the world

 

14. Favorite Doorway

Doorway in Jacmel, Haiti
Favorite doorway candidate #36. Jacmel, Haiti.

Doorway runner up: Morning shadows and niches. Bethlehem, House of the Holy Bread, connected to Bete Maryam, in the 13th century New Jerusalem complex — Lalibela, Ethiopia.

More doorway photos: Doorways from around the world

 

Bonus: Most Popular Instagram Photo of the Year

While I do love the photo below, it did surprise me that this was the most popular Instagram image of the year. And I have to admit that it did give me hope that perhaps artistic photography can hold its own in this day and age when more popular topics like cats, dogs and sunsets tend to carry the day. Just maybe…

Kampala National Mosque, Uganda
A long way down. The spiral staircase of Kampala’s National Mosque. Afraid of heights? Don’t look over the railing.

Where will 2015 take you? Share the first step for making these life and travel dreams a reality below!

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