THIS WEEK IN TRAVEL (ISSUE NO 19)


Lisbon, Portugal. Image: Diego Slosse.  

When it comes to travel, there is no shortage of incredible places to visit. And if you are like us, deciding where to travel to next can sometimes be quite a challenge. Narrowing it down to a continent is daunting enough, not to mention choosing which countries or cities to visit. Europe is no exception, offering an endless supply of beautifully diverse landmarks wherever you go. Check out Condé Nast’s list of 20 of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Europe, featuring the Monastery Alcobaça in Portugal, to West Norwegian Fjords in Norway, and many more wonders in between. Europe is a treasure trove full of hidden gems beyond the well-known cities of Paris and Rome. Here are six underrated European cities that should be on your radar on your next European getaway. Tip: Don’t go to Amsterdam without seeing the charming city of Maastricht!

Porto, Portugal. Photo courtesy of Huffington Post. Image: Hannah Loewentheil

Speaking of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, a new zero-emission passenger ferry is being built with the aim to protect Norway’s fjords. The ship, Future of The Fjords, which is set to launch in April 2018, will be completely electric and emission-free carrying up to 400 passengers to the popular tourist attraction while safeguarding this incredible landscape. Similar to Venice’s initiative highlighted in the last This Week in Travel issue, environmentally friendly solutions are necessary in order to lessen the impacts of tourism and protect the future of the fjords.

Geiranger fjord, Norway. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. 

While most places are eager to charm and entice sightseers, Florence hoses down popular tourist spots to deter them away. Florence’s mayor, Dario Nardella, is ordering street cleaners to hose down the steps of historical basilicas, Basilica of Santa Croce and the Chiesa di Santo Spirito, to rid dilly-dalliers from lingering at the churches’ steps at lunch-time. More so as a precaution for disrespectful tourists who leave garbage behind, Nardella says although the majority of visitors do respect their cultural heritage, there has been an increase among those who are discourteous. If you do choose to sit down, you just may get up slightly more damp than before. Makes us wonder where else you can use the “hose down” technique!

Rather a hot topic at the moment, Venice continues to take preventative measures in order to secure the well-being of their city by banning new hotels. In an effort to decrease the excessive tourist numbers in Venice, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has recently approved Massimiliano De Martin’s proposal to ban any new tourist accommodation in the city centre. Mass tourism has resulted in a substantial decline in the number of permanent residents residing in the city, due to increases in rent and occurrences of vandalism. A final decision on the ban is awaiting approval, but we suspect it may take more to dissuade tourists from visiting this romantic and beloved city.

In other accommodation news, Stockholm's floating hostel is celebrating almost 70 years as a youth hostel. Located on the banks of Skeppsholmen Island, the 19th century steel ship, af Chapman, is one of the city’s most famed landmarks. Built as a cargo ship in 1888, the ship became a hostel in 1947 managed by the Swedish Tourist Association. If you are in search of a unique place to stay along your travels, find out more here.

AF Chapman hostel in Stockholm. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. Image: Johan Solander

Are you an adventure thrill seeker searching for a new exhilarating experience? You need to book a ticket to Paris ASAP! For the next week, until Sunday June 11, you can zip line for free from la tour d'Eiffel (Eiffel Tower). The event has been set up to coincide with the French Open tennis tournament. Named the Perrier Smash, you can glide along the zip line (or more like slingshot through the air) at 90km/h. Not that this doesn’t sound amazing (and slightly terrifying), we can’t help but wonder, is this what it’s come to? And what do the local Parisians think about it?

Elsewhere in Europe, Madrid will change its traffic crossing lights for Pride . In preparation for World Pride Festival taking place from June 23 until July 2, Madrid will install new pedestrian lights featuring same-sex couples and will remain permanently even after the festival. Along these images of same-sex couples holding hands, there are also images of a man and woman holding hands and a solo woman. This positive, inclusive initiative is quite timely, as we all need to be reminded of the common bond we share, the need to love and be loved.

Into the wild, the largest wildlife reserve in West Africa will be revitalized over the next ten years. Pendjari National Park , one of the largest protected reserves in West and Central Africa, will be rehabilitated with the intention to secure and protect its’ inhabitants and animals. One out of the 45 projects, the Pendjari National Park aims to double the animal population of the parks. With these improvements, the government hopes to drive tourism and in turn, benefit the local communities; quite the opposite from Italy’s tourism initiatives.

Pendjari National Park, West Africa. Photo courtesy of Lonely Planet. Image: Christophe Cerisier/Getty Images

To our fellow Americans, if you have Cuba on your travel list, go now while you can. As President Trump considers reviving limits on travelling to Cuba, there’s no better time to travel to Cuba than now. If Trump reverses the reforms, returning to pre-Obama policies, as he has threatened to do so on Twitter, obtaining a visa could be quite difficult once again.  

Restricting the freedom of Americans, or anyone for that matter, to travel and do business where they please just doesn’t fit with the times. It’s a step backwards and denies us growth both as individuals and as a global community. As is the case with Cuba, Benjamin Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, said, “It’s clear that the Cuban and American people want to move forward, and nothing can change that reality.” We can’t help but agree, and we would like to take it one step further. It’s not just about Cuba, but anywhere on our beautiful planet that people want to travel to. The future is freedom.

 

Happy Travels!

The Kosan Team