When you think of Vienna, you think of palaces, Orson Welles and sharp architecture, accompanied by apfelstrudel. You perhaps don’t put Vienna in the same price bracket as Reykjavik or Copenhagen, which draw as many worried glances as jealous stares when you tell people you’re going there.
Brace yourselves, kids, because Vienna is more expensive and demanding than you think – I found Reykjavik and Copenhagen much cheaper and friendlier for city breaks overall, and with more food choices, despite their pricier reputations. This makes it difficult when you’re a solo traveller in Vienna, or you’re a first-time visitor trying to see the city minus a hefty credit card bill.
2016 wasn’t exactly the happiest year on record – celebrities dropping like flies, not to mention Brexit and President Trump adding to our woes – but there were a lot of travel industry stories and trends making headlines as well. Here are some of the biggest developments from the last 12 months.
Europe was on high alert
Paris continued to mourn the victims of its terror attack, which happened at the close of 2015. Just days into 2016, the city marked a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Nice, Berlin and Istanbul sadly became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons in 2016 – Islamic State extremists struck again. These horrific acts have, of course, made people nervous about travelling, but they’ve also highlighted the scarily simple tactics terrorists employ.
My next travel destination is known for being effortlessly cool: Copenhagen has two famous Michelin -starred restaurants, internationally known fashion designers like Baum und Pferdgarten, and a hippy-founded ‘freetown’ called Christiania… but I’ve been tempted for other reasons. If you need convincing as to why Copenhagen should figure in your holiday plans, look no further.
History on Every Corner
You can’t ignore centuries of heritage: Denmark has been ruled from Slotsholmen, a small island, since 1167. Today it’s home to Parliament and the Supreme Court, and the Royal Family can be found in the nearby Amalienborg Palace. Christiansborg Slot, the castle, has been through more reinventions than Madonna, thanks to fires, renovations and an entire demolition. Underneath today’s structure are the ruined foundations of the original castle.
Who fancies a trip to the fictional state of Zubrowka, across several decades? You’ll need to bring an enthusiasm for stealing priceless paintings, an appetite for Mendl’s cakes (think pimped up Laduree macarons and you’re half way there) and an eyeliner pencil to draw on a false moustache like the lobby boy in the very best hotel Zubrowka has to offer. Oh, and a rich old lady clad in Fendi and Prada, if you know any.
No, I haven’t gone completely mad: I’m talking about Wes Anderson’s brilliant new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is an unashamedly quirky tale of tourism, family ties, money, murder and prison etiquette. I fell in love with the film at a recent screening, and I wanted to share some of its best travel-related talking points in more detail.
Part of being a blogger is having the freedom to legitimately over-share many aspects of your life, essentially brandishing a megaphone and yelling about what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you think about the issues of the day, with the enthusiasm of a small child.
Under that umbrella of over-sharing, telling you about my latest trips (whether you want to hear about them or not) makes up a large part of my travel blog, adding a sense of immediacy once I return to my laptop and a secure internet connection. Yet last week I went on a secret solo trip abroad, and I’m not sure when I will be allowed to talk about it fully.
It seems that the flat-pack furniture and free pencil purveyor IKEA has copped a lot of flak for its branded hotels scheme, which is set to be rolled out in no less than 50 European locations in the next five years.
The chain, which involves a partnership with Marriott known to be known as Moxy Hotels, will open its first branch in Milan in 2014, and already I can’t hide my excitement. Here’s a little story which goes some way to explain…
Back when the Croydon branch was brand spanking new and ready to be unwrapped, I was one of several lucky families who got to try out being not-so-mystery shoppers, drafted in by the big chiefs to help the staff get to grips with the sales and refunds process. We traipsed up to Croydon and got to wander round the store, as well as being given a list of items to buy and to return. As a reward, our primary school got a lovely shiny IKEA voucher, and I was hooked on the heady smell of meatballs, hotdogs and pine wood, not to mention the promise of free tape measures and pencils.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.