We arrived by train after dark, but it was our first time visiting Slovenia so despite the late hour we were eager to begin exploring the capital of Ljubljana. Under the luminescent glow of a harvest moon it was only a five minute stroll to reach Prešernov Square—five minutes during which we were bewitched and felt as if we had stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.

Ljubljana Castle

With a magical castle perched overhead and the city center encircled by cotton candy colored buildings designed in the gaudy Vienna Succession style as if dressed for a ball, Ljubljana sets a bewitching tone for the entire country. It’s difficult to visit this pocket-sized nation without conjuring up thoughts of princesses, witches and trolls, perhaps even a handsome prince charging in to save a damsel in distress. There’s even a Dragon Bridge that is guarded by four large copper dragons, the symbol of the city.

Once upon a time Slovenia was the northernmost region—and economic engine—of Yugoslavia. When that man-made collection of Balkan states disintegrated in the 1990s, Slovenia was one of the first to declare independence. With a total population of only two million it seemed like a risky step, but the Slovenes, who had once been members of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, naturally looked toward Western Europe. They joined the European Union and are the only former Yugoslav republic using the Euro as its currency.

Ljubljana Slovenia

The country packs a little of everything into its compact borders, which encompass an area slightly smaller than New Jersey. Sweeping snow-capped Alps, quaint medieval villages, a sophisticated capital and UNESCO-sanctioned natural wonders provide an abundance of sights to keep visitors enthralled. It even manages to squeeze in a miniscule (30-mile) coastline on the Adriatic Sea, topped by a town that was an outpost of the once-mighty Venetian Republic.

As the clock struck midnight in Ljubljana’s pristine Prešernov Square we wouldn’t have been surprised to see Cinderella racing across the Tromostovje (Triple Bridge), leaving a glass slipper in her wake. The unique three-pronged pedestrian crossing straddles the diminutive Ljubljanica River as it meanders through the capital city’s medieval heart, which was transformed into a pedestrian zone in 2008.

Ljubljana Slovenia building detail

Much of Ljubjlana’s otherworldly atmosphere is due to Jože Plečnik, the de-facto architect laureate of Slovenia, who designed the bridge and river esplanades, along with many of the city’s decorative elements, in the early 20th century. Plečnik’s style is a sort of Steampunk merger between Art Nouveau and Greek Revival; it boasts a unique flair that is spotted on railings and streetlamps throughout the country.

Those longing to rescue Rapunzel can climb the 200-plus feet to Ljubljana Castle, which has been standing guard over the city for more than 500 years. (Or better yet, take the ultra-modern funicular, which will whisk you up in about 30 seconds.) The hilltop complex includes a selection of small museums and a medieval chapel, along with a commanding view of the city below, with the Alps in the distance.

While Rapunzel was growing her long locks, Sleeping Beauty could easily have been eternally dozing only 35 miles north in the foothills of the Julian Alps on Lake Bled. The crystalline waters are pierced by tiny Bled Island, barely large enough to embrace the 15th-century Church of the Assumption.

Lake Bled Slovenia

To reach his damsel in distress Prince Charming would have used the services of boatmen with a pletna, a traditional wooden craft resembling a large gondola that is still used today. The gnarled hands of our boatman were testimony to the demanding work of the unique motioned required to row the pletna 300 yards to the island. Despite the toil, the profession carries honor, rowers granted a license for this job decades ago pass the career down in families; boatman Janez rowed us out while his son Klemen squired us back to shore.

Visiting Slovenia Lake Bled pletna

After alighting from the pletna visitors to the island climb the 99 steps up to the church where they ring the bell for good luck. Unless you have an urge to unleash your inner Quasimodo, we suggest saving the six Euros required for the privilege and instead linger outside and listen to the results of other’s efforts while you savor poteca—a Slovenian coffee cake—at the island’s café.

Pin this image!Tiny Slovenia packs a multitude of attractions into it's fairy-tale-pretty borders.

If that setting isn’t magical enough, the lake is guarded by Bled Castle perched high atop a stone crag. It’s the oldest in Slovenia, the first references to it dating to 1004. Today it houses a cluster of craft exhibits and small museum and also offers a breathtaking view of the lake.

Lake Bled Cake

Perhaps the lake’s magical setting is due to the famous Bled cream cake. Rich custard and whipped cream sandwiched between layers of thin buttery crust and powdered sugar could enchant just about anyone. It’s available at restaurants overlooking the lake, but arguably the best view is from Belvedere, the Plečnik-ornamented teahouse perched on a hillside that was once part of Marshal Tito’s summer residence. The late “president for life” of Yugoslavia enjoyed bringing visiting dignitaries to this picture-postcard spot, which is now a luxury hotel that houses displays commemorating his glory days. Some of the former “glory of the workers” artwork is still on display.

Tito's Lodge Lake Bled Slovenia

skocjan-caves_foto_jame_id_1

Photo courtesy Škocjan Caves

Every fairy tale should feature an ogre or troll, and a perfect setting to find one is Škocjan Caves, which is the world’s largest underground canyon. The towering stalagmites and drippy stalactites along a three-kilometer subterranean trail could easily have been the setting for The Lord of the Rings (our guide assured us it was not). Nevertheless, traversing a narrow footbridge in a huge cavern 150 feet above the rushing underground river makes it easy to imagine Gollum lurking at every turn.

Sixty miles southwest of Ljubljana lays a land that is a mixture of Shakespeare and Arthurian legend. The 1000-year-old town of Piran occupies pride of place on a walled promontory along Slovenia’s brief slice of the Adriatic coast. Known colloquially as “Little Venice,” Piran reported to its big brother just 60 miles west across the sea. Perhaps that merchant of Venice Antonio strode the narrow alleyways to stock his ships en route to wooing his fair maiden back at the homeport.

Piran Slovenia

At a fishing pier south of Piran we met a modern day version of the Lady of the Lake. Irena Fonda is not seeking to resurrect Excalibur for King Arthur; she simply wants more fish in the sea. The PhD microbiologist, along with her scuba diving brother Lean, were concerned that the waters of the Gulf of Piran and nearby Adriatic were becoming depleted of seafood. They established Fonda Fish Farm to grow sea bass using largely sustainable practices.

Pira Slovenia waterfront

The Fondas’ efforts have paid off. The farm created an ecosystem that has attracted new sea life to the area, while Fonda sea bass is recognized throughout Europe as a premier brand. Visitors can tour the farm, boating out to the seabeds to help Irena feed her “babies”; sample the fish, along with other locavore products, back on land.

Visiting with Irena was like gently emerging from our fairy tale. We had glimpsed a land that seemed frozen in a magical time, yet while Slovenia cradles her past, she is progressive. With a myriad of historic sights, natural wonders and 21st-century business savvy, Slovenia is poised to live happily ever after.

Michael in Ljubljana statue

Traveler information for visiting Slovenia:

There are no direct flights from the US to Slovenia, however the main airport at Ljubljana has links to most European gateways. There is also excellent rail service from Munich and Vienna through stunning countryside.

The Slovenian Tourist Board: Excellent website with an overview of many sights, including Lake Bled, Ljubljana and Piran, along with practical information. www.Slovenia.info

Škocjan Caves: There are three hikes in the caves and canyons-two below ground and one above. The hike to the largest underground canyon is by guided tour only. Tour times are limited in winter, so plan ahead. www.park-skocjanske-jame.si//en

Fonda Fish Farm: Visitors can book a tour of the farm or a tour plus tasting. www.fonda.si/en/fonda/the-fonda-fish-farm

Slovenia castle
We’re global nomads who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

As we’ve been driving around the country seeking ghost towns we came across one that was unusual; the California City ghost town has a population of over 14,000 people so why would it be considered a ghost town?

California City ghost town welcome sign

A bit of background first. California City is a massive planned community that was carved out by developer Nat Mendelsohn in the heart of the Mojave Desert in southern California. That was back in the 1950s when it seemed like you couldn’t go wrong investing in California real estate, even if it was just sand. Mendelsohn was quite optimistic so the city he built is so big geographically that it’s the 3rd largest city by area in the Golden State and one of the largest in the country. That’s awfully big for the number of people who actually moved there.

California City street sign

Streets were put in and infrastructure for the large city was constructed. But then the market spoke and it turned out there weren’t enough people who wanted to live in the remote location.

California City ghost town

Driving around California City today there are people and schools and all the trappings of a small town. But the eerie edges yield to empty streets and the harsh desert pretty quickly.

California City ghost town street sign houses

On the bright side, neighbors don’t have to worry about being too crowded and there are a few steady employment opportunities in the area: Edwards Air Force Base and a prison, among other things. One other “growth” area seems to be the proliferation of real estate offices. After all, they have plenty of plots of land to sell.

California City real estate office

California City is located only 100 miles north of downtown Los Angeles so it’s an easy road trip if you’re in Southern California.

California City ghost town

Here are Amazon’s top books about California travel
If you make it to California City you’re only 30 miles west of Boron, California, home of the Rio Tinto Boron Mine, which is the largest open-pit mine in California and the largest boron mine in the world. If you’re familiar with 20 Mule Team Borax, this is where it comes from.

Borax Mine Visitor Center

There is a free Borax visitor center that includes a museum and overlook of the mine which is actually quite fascinating. If you’re in the area it’s worth visiting.

Route 66 El Rancho Motel sign Barstow California

And once you’re in Boron you’re only 40 miles west of Barstow, one of the scenic sights on the old Route 66 and the spot where it turns south to head into Los Angeles for its final stretch. That’s the fun thing about road trips, wherever you go there’s always something else to see just over the horizon.



28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

The death of Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey got us thinking about one of the group’s signature songs Take it Easy, which that was written by Frey along with Jackson Browne. Frey sang the lead vocals, one of which put a dusty old town along Route 66 forever on the map of rock and roll lyrics destinations:

“Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin’ down to take a look at me.”

 Winslow, Arizona was forever immortalized in the song "Take it Easy," written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. Visit the town that sits along historic Route 66.

Standing on a Corner Park in Winslow Arizona

Standing on a Corner Park in Winslow Arizona

In Winslow they embraced this burst of fame and created “Standing on a Corner Park” at the intersection of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue. You can’t miss it, there’s a giant highway shield of Route 66 painted in the road. Since the song doesn’t mention exactly which corner in Arizona the writer was standing on this one was chosen. It’s in the center of town so it works just fine.

Visiting Standing on a Corner Park Winslow Arizona

In a mural created by artist John Pugh there is indeed a reflection of a girl slowing down to take a look. To add even more realism, a bright red 1960 Ford flatbed truck is parked in the street for a unique photo op. While Winslow doesn’t get quite the foot traffic of tourists crossing Abbey Road in London does, we were surprised by the steady flow of people on a winter’s day. It’s estimated that 100,000 people a year visit Standing on a Corner Park.

standing on a corner park Winslow Arizona

The centerpiece of the park is a denim-clad statue holding an acoustic guitar called “Easy” which was created by sculptor Ron Adamson. While it does bear a passing resemblance to Jackson Browne, it was created to represent all songwriters. It was installed in September 1999. Upon Glenn Frey’s death the statue became a setting for tributes to the Eagles songster.

Winslow Arizona Glenn Frey memorial

 

Photo courtesy Standin’ on the Corner Park

Winslow itself is a pretty interesting town to visit. You can stay in the historic La Posada Hotel which is a former Santa Fe Railroad hotel from 1929. East of town there are a few relics from Route 66’s glory days of welcoming travelers and even a spot where the road literally ends.

Arizona Route 66 near Winslow Minnetonka store

Route 66 peters out below, replaced by the interstate.

Arizona end of Route 66 Winslow

Visiting Standing on a Corner Park in Winslow Arizona

Address: Intersection of 2nd Avenue (Old Route 66 eastbound) and North Kinsley Avenue. Winslow is 58 miles east of Flagstaff. You’ll take I-40 to get to Winslow so make sure to exit the interstate to get downtown.

Hours: 24/7

Admission: Free

Web site: StandinOnTheCorner.com

We’re global nomads who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Transfagarasan Highway signBrakes? Check. Map? Check. No fear? Check.  We were about to drive on the  Transfăgărășan Highway, made legendary by the BBC program Top Gear as one of the world’s great road trips. The winding, twisting road carries intrepid drivers over the Carpathian  Mountains back to Bucharest from Transylvania. Picture what a plate of spaghetti thrown against a wall looks like and you’ll have a good idea of this tribute to automotive spunk.

The road was built in the early 1970s under the command of former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, apparently as a monument to himself. Beginning in alpine forests it looks like it was designed by an engineer with a severe chip on his shoulder before reaches a bucolic alpine meadow.

drive on the Transfagarasan Highway

Although the road is only 56 miles long it boasts dozens of hairpin turns and switchbacks (we lost count) that resemble a giant alimentary canal. Drivers soon note that guardrails are few and far between as the Transfagarasan climbs to its peak of almost 6,700 feet to reach the pristine glacial waters of Bâlea Lake.

Transfagarasan Highway curve

Fortunately as the driver I got to sit near the centerline during our drive on the Transfagarasan Highway, while Larissa had to stare out the window at the yawning chasms beyond the road’s shoulder.

People sitting on guardrail on Transfagarasan Highway

At this overlook that offers the best photo op (notice the road twisting off into the distance) people like to get out and stretch their legs. We met this nice group of Romanian retirees who were out for a Sunday drive.

Vidraru Dam Transfagarasan Highway

Vidraru Dam Romania

On the down stretch towards Bucharest one of the highlights is driving across the 540-foot-high Vidraru dam, one of the tallest in Europe.

Statue of Electricity Transfagarasan Highway

A shiny metal statue of Prometheus wielding a lighting bolt rises to the skies above the dam. Also known as the “Statue of Electricity,” it’s a remembrance of an era of massive industrial projects in the communist country.

21922166128_1521f0d096_z

The Transfăgărășan can cause a few testy moments between the driver and the passenger, who sits on the outer edge staring down into the abyss. But it was better for me to drive because as Larissa will tell you, I make a lousy passenger.

21487244154_ef5e7c61ae_z

You never know what you’ll come across during a drive on the Transfagarasan Highway. The photo above is of a random German motorcyclist giving us a thumbs up as he drives by with an inflatable doll strapped to the back of his bike. Oh those crazy Germans.

Transfagarasan Highway

After arriving safely in Bucharest we treated ourselves to some tasty Romanian pastries.

Pin it!Romania's Transfagarasan Highway is a must-drive for road trip lovers!

Information for a drive on the Transfagarasan Highway

Location: When driving north start out in the town of Curtea de Arges, about 100 miles northwest of Bucharest via route E81. If you’re taking the road south like we did start your journey in Cartisoara, south of route E68

Open: The Transfagarasan Highway is usually closed from late October through May due to snow. For a full description and tips for this road trip go to drive the Transfagarasan Highway.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

We recently enjoyed a week in Bucharest, a city that pleasantly surprised us. While the Romanian capital is not among the first cities people think of when visiting Europe, we found it quite charming and extremely affordable. Initially we looked for enough activities to spend a week in Bucharest but ended up enjoying it so much we extended the stay.

Military Academy in Bucharest

Romania provides an authentic European travel experience at low prices that we haven’t enjoyed in decades. Part of that value is due to the strong dollar but part of it is also the fact that central and eastern Europe still provides many bargains. Those who treasure their old copies of Europe on $25 a Day would feel right at home here.

Bucharest park bench

During the late 19th century Bucharest was known as “Little Paris” and in certain sections, despite decades of an authoritarian regime that razed parts of the city, it actually does feel like Paris of times gone by, with a bit of Middle Eastern influences sprinkled in.

Bucharest School of Architecture

Avenues are lined with ornate domed buildings. Cafes with wicker chairs and tables sprout from wide sidewalks on sunny days while bakeries selling Turkish-style breads populate virtually every block.

Covrigul pretzel Bucharest

Don’t miss the covrigi (sunflower and poppy seed studded pretzels); in keeping with Romania’s good tourist value they sell for only 25 cents.

National Museum of Old Maps and Books Bucharest

Try to decipher Romania’s long and complicated history at the National Museum of Old Maps and Books; located in an old mansion at 39 Strada Londra in a quiet leafy neighborhood. Atlases and maps from the 16th through 20th centuries demonstrate graphically how the size and borders of Romania have transformed over the years as competing empires claimed parts of the strategically located country and also influenced its architecture, food and culture.

Romanian Athenaeum Bucharest 2

Bucharest’s orchestra hall, the circa-1880s French-designed Romanian Athenaeum, is an outstanding example of neoclassical architecture that is also a tribute to philosophy and culture. Names of great minds are chiseled in stone at the base of its dome: Moliere, Beethoven and others, along with our fair city of Philadelphia’s own Benjamin Franklin.

Romanian Athenaeum Bucharest

The best way to view the Athenaeum is during a concert. During our visit to Bucharest the biennial George Enescu Festival was taking place. While enjoying a chamber orchestra concert we were able to appreciate the interiors many murals making up the “Great Fresco”: 25 scenes related to Romanian history that ring the circular auditorium.

Romanian Athenaeum Bucharest

A few blocks away the Old Town section of Bucharest offers a pedestrian-friendly area of cobblestoned streets full of boutiques, restaurants and bars. The neighborhood is not yet inundated with the weekend party-seekers that have turned other cities’ historic sections into interchangeable outposts of faux Irish pubs and chain restaurants.

Old Town Bucharest

The funky Left Bank atmosphere attracts primarily locals—unlike similar neighborhoods in Prague or Paris where English and German speakers dominate—Romanian is the language most often overheard. As the city sees increased international tourism in the next few years this vibe may disappear, but for now it still feels like visiting “Old World” Europe.

Four decades of communist rule left an indelible mark on the city, yet Bucharest is assimilating that part of its past into the capitalist present. It is impossible to miss the Parliament Building, a brooding hulk of marble perched imposingly on a hill at the western end tip of Bulevardul Unirii (Reunification Boulevard).

Palace of the Parliament Bucharest

Ceaușescu’s massive monument to the glory of the party (and himself) was still unfinished at the time of his overthrow in 1989. It now is famous as the “world’s heaviest building.”  Unfinished at the time of Ceaușescu’s death, Romania’s central government now occupies it.

Venture two blocks from the Athenaeum to Revolution Square (formerly Palace Square) to witness the site of Ceaușescu’s downfall. In December 1989 Ceaușescu delivered his final speech from the balcony of the building fronting the square that housed the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party. Encouraged by the fall of the Berlin Wall, change was coming quickly to Romania. During the speech the crowd turned on the dictator, leading to protests that were met by government gunfire into the square. The resulting revolution was brief but bloody: over 1,000 civilians killed and a fleeing Ceaușescu and his wife executed within days.

Revolution Square Bucharest Romania

Today the space is peaceful with the pylon of the Memorial of Rebirth honoring the fallen piercing the sky. Rotating art exhibits fill the square while the Royal Palace across the street is now the National Museum of Art of Romania featuring Romanian artists along with Old Masters like El Greco, Rembrandt and Rubens.

Ateneuli Park, a small wooded space sandwiched between the Athenaeum and Revolution Square, is a perfect spot for an impromptu dessert picnic of a salted caramel éclair from the nearby French Revolution bakery. Like the fresco in the Athenaeum’s rotunda, Bucharest has come full-circle and “Little Paris,” with a few 21st-century twists, has returned.

For a tasty look at Romania check out our story on Romanian pastries.

 Visitor Information for a week in Bucharest:

  • There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Bucharest, however there are airline alliance connections through many European gateway cities.
  • The unit of currency is the leu (plural lei, pronounced “lay”). The exchange rate is around 4 lei to $1.00.
  • The language is Romanian, although most Romanians in Bucharest speak at least some English. Romanian has its roots in Latin; anyone familiar with French, Spanish or Italian will notice similarities.
  • Bucharest in Your Pocket is a free online guide that offers helpful, up-to-date tourist information http://www.inyourpocket.com/bucharest.
  • Our top travel guides for visiting Bucharest.

The lovely city of Bucharest, Romania offers plenty to see during a week-long visit

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

SaveSave

Classic American road trips are chock full of dusty forgotten towns with vintage neon signs advertising motels and roadside diners, still trying to lure passing motorists. Many of those signs are disappearing; victims of age, weather and neglect. However there’s a glimmer of hope as Read more

Here’s an excerpt from Philadelphia Liberty Trail, our historical travel guide:

According to folklore, early in the summer of 1776 George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross went to the Arch Street upholstery shop of a young widow named Elizabeth Griscom Ross Read more

The San Andreas Fault at Parkfield California

San Andreas fault parkfield pacific Plate sign

The town of Parkfield, California sits astride the San Andreas Fault and proudly bills itself as “The Earthquake Capital of the World.” On the water tower outside the Parkfield Cafe they even declare “Be here when it happens.”

San Andreas fault parkfield cafe california

Parkfield California population signThe remote town in central California (about 200 miles from both San Francisco and Los Angeles) consists of less than two dozen full-time residents, but that number swells when scientists from the United States Geological Survey visit their on-site monitoring unit. The unit is part of something called the Parkfield Experiment, a long-term earthquake research project that records seismic activity to help predict when the “Big One” will strike the Golden State.

According to the USGS website which reports on the Parkfield Experiment:

“Moderate-size earthquakes of about magnitude 6 have occurred on the Parkfield section of the San Andreas fault at fairly regular intervals – in 1857, 1881, 1901, 1922, 1934, and 1966. If such characteristic ruptures occur regularly, then the next quake would have been due before 1993.”

As you know, it is now 2015 so the next one seems a bit overdue.

One of the highlights of a visit to Parkfield is the bridge straddling the San Andreas Fault which separates the North American and Pacific plates of the earth’s crust. Signs at either end of the bridge even note that you are entering the North American Plate or the Pacific Plate. The bridge has shifted five feet in the last 80 years, which is evident when looking at the piers, but local residents take it all in stride.

San andreas fault shifting bridge Parkfield

As we were taking photos of the bridge a grizzled old farmer pulled up in his Ford pickup truck and yelled over at us, “You know, it’s all your fault!” At first I thought we had done something wrong until I got the gallows humor and gave him a wave.

San Andreas fault Parkfield California bridge

It seemed to make his day as he roared with laughter and drove off. I wonder how many unsuspecting visitors he gets with that line.

Here some popular books about California earthquakes.

Visiting the San Andreas Fault

We were only in an earthquake once, oddly enough in Philadelphia during the Virginia earthquake of 2011 that was carried up the East Coast and damaged the Washington Monument. Do you have any earthquake experience to share?

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

I love games and puzzles of all kinds. So when we had the opportunity to play a live-action escape game during a recent visit Prague we jumped at the chance. Could we find our way out of TheRoom?

The premise of TheRoom Prague is simple: you are locked in a room that is full of puzzles and clues, and given 66 minutes to “escape.” Sounds easy, right?

TheRoom PragueI figured I’d be a pro at this. I’ve played countless escape games online and know the way they work: you find yourself locked in a room (or a house, or an abandoned building . . . you get the idea) and must use clues and random objects to find the way out. Banging through the wall with a sledgehammer is not an option; this is a game of wits.
A seemingly random number on a wall photograph might be the combination for a lock on the other side of the room, or a key hidden under the sofa opens a box containing a key to a cupboard full of red and yellow balls that mean. . . what? That’s what you have to figure out.

We pushed the doorbell on an otherwise typical Prague building and were let into the courtyard by Susanna, who would be our “handler” and guide for the duration of the game. She explained the basics: the “escape” key for the exit was inside a box with 10 locks on it. We would have 66 minutes to find all 10 keys to the box and “unlock” our escape key.

The key to escape TheRoom Prague is in this box--find the 10 keys to open the locks in order to escape!

The box with 10 (!) locks that held the key to our escape

Susanna assured us that she would be in a hidden location and able to see us the entire time should we need help. There was a computer monitor that displayed time remaining; if we needed hints, we could ask out loud and she would post clues on that monitor. She also confirmed that we did not need to speak Czech–all of the clues were either in English or used numbers, shapes and colors. Lastly she pointed out the “panic bar,” which would let us out immediately in case of emergency, or if we just plain gave up.

We were playing the “Old World” version of TheRoom Prague, where the atmosphere had a Cold War spy flavor to it. (There is also a separate “Occult” version of TheRoom Prague.) We entered a dimly lit room (part of our task would be to find the lights), painted black and filled with some furniture and 60s-era Eastern European accessories like a chunky old phone and record player. Occupying pride of place in one corner was a big trunk with 10 locks attached. Game on!

TheRoom Prague has a Cold War spy atmosphere

The props in TheRoom Prague included Cold War era touches. Were those freaky goggles a clue to the escape, or just there for atmosphere???

We found our first key in about two minutes and thought, “piece of cake!” Wrong. Over the next 66 minutes we poked and prodded, knocked, tapped and puzzled, searching for clues and places to use them. As time wound down, we asked Susanna for clues more frequently. Finally our time was up, and we had only found six of the locks—epic fail? Not really. Susanna assured us that we were about average; about 50% of players escape with the help of clues, only about 10% can escape with no help at all. (Okay, so that makes us a little below average ?)

Reviewing the clues afterward it seemed obvious what we had missed. But hindsight is always clearer. We definitely need more practice at this type of game—and not just on a computer. It was great fun, a terrific way to exercise our brains, and a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with a group of friends. We highly recommend it.

The unassuming entrance to TheRoom Prague

The cost to play TheRoom Prague “Old World” is 50 Euros for a 90-minute session (66 minutes for the game plus time for introduction and wrap up) that accommodates 2-5 players. Reservations must be made in advance on the online reservation page. You will have exclusive use of the game during your session.

Have you tried it? Did you manage to escape?

Thanks to TheRoom Prague for hosting us during this game. Opinions are our own.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

(Note: As of March 16, 2016 a new law went into effect in Romania banning smoking in public places. We visited the country later in the year and found almost 100% compliance with the ban. Dining (indoors) in Romania is now a smokefree experience.)

We really enjoyed our time in Bucharest and the beautiful Romanian countryside. One of the things we did not enjoy is the lack of non smoking restaurants in Bucharest and all over Romania. It is one of the few remaining European countries that still allows smoking in restaurants and public places. One travel expert about Romania even refers to it as Europe’s smoking section and suggests, in a perverse sort of way, that they use that distinction to attract more tourists who smoke.

According to the official Romanian tourism web site:

“It sometimes looks like almost every adult in Romania smokes. Unfortunately, some of those who do smoke have little regard of non-smokers’ comfort. The Romanian Government recently approved legislation that bans smoking in every public place but as in many countries in Eastern Europe some smokers might ignore smoking ban.”

While I appreciate their honesty, I wish they would just enforce the rules to reflect that a majority of their citizens do not smoke.

With all the smoke in the air, we were reminded of when we first visited Europe in the 1980s. However, we found a few leading edge non smoking restaurants in Bucharest which we share below.

Non Smoking Guide to Bucharest

Pin it!A guide to finding smoke-free restaurants in Romania's capital city of Bucharest

Non smoking restaurants in Bucharest

Caciula lui Guguta Romanian pastry

La Placinte – A Romanian mini-chain that specializes in the foods of the Moldovan region. The setting is attractive and the meals are affordable and delicious. Since they also have locations in other cities, we were actually working our way through their menu during our Romanian road trip. Our favorite location was at Bd. Gheorghe Magheru Nr. 26 near the Old Town. The dessert pictured above is Caciula lui Guguta. Various locations.

Carousel Bookstore Bucharest

Carturesti Carusel (Carousel Bookstore– This multi-storied bookshop is located in an elegant 19th-century building. The first several floors are devoted to books but the sunlight streaming top floor houses the wonderful Bistro Carusel. The menu focuses on light meals as well as hot beverages and fresh-squeezed juices. It’s conveniently located right in the popular Old Town. Strada Lipscani 55

non smoking restaurants in bucharest

Tucano Coffee – Located at the edge of the Old Town, this coffee bar offers excellent South American coffees and North American desserts like Oreo cheesecake and brownies. There are also smoothies, milk shakes, alcoholic drinks and teas. For a light snack try a salad or panini. Notice the table above? No ashtrays, a rarity in Bucharest. Strada Lipscani 79 A second location is near Pizza Romana at Calea Dorobanților Nr. 18

Beca’s Kitchen – Per Trip Advisor this is the #2 restaurant in all of Bucharest and came highly recommended by everyone we know who’s been to the city. The menu is limited at this small place to ensure the freshest ingredients and preparation. Mihai Eminescu 80, Sector 2

Origo Coffee Shop Bucharest – Coffee, tea, ice cream drinks, alcohol drinks, fresh fruit juices and a few cakes make up the limited menu at this place with a slick atmosphere a few blocks west of the Old Town. Strada Lipscani,  9

And if you’re really desperate to find a smokefree establishment in Bucharest you can always count on chains like Starbucks and McDonalds. 

Non-smoking hotel in Bucharest

flowers b and B Bucharest

Flower’s B and B Bucharest –  Tucked away in a neighborhood a five minute walk east of Old Town, this comfortable small hotel offers clean rooms in a quiet setting. Cold and hot breakfast included. The rooms also boast a rarity in Europe, window screens so you can let in fresh air without also inviting in the bugs. We stayed there our last night in Bucharest and would return. Strada Plantelor Nr. 2

Airbnb in Romania – Airbnb is also a good option when looking for smoke free lodging in Romania. We stayed for a week in a smoke free Airbnb apartment in Bucharest near the Old Town. It was actually hard to find one because Romania is one of the few countries we’ve visited where many of the Airbnb properties allow smoking.

Please add below in the comments section any smoke free places in Bucharest we should add to this list.

In our smoke free dining in Romania we did enjoy a variety of sweet treats like the dessert pictured above. Here’s our guide to Romanian pastries.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

I must confess that I am not an opera fan but I found visiting the Luciano Pavarotti Home in Italy to be fascinating; sort of like Graceland for opera buffs. Recently opened to the public, the museum is set in a bucolic setting on a one-lane road outside his childhood home of Modena. Though he became one of the most famous people in the world who traveled everywhere, he was still a hometown boy at heart.

Luciano Pavarotti House Museum exterior

The house where he lived for the final years of his life, and where he died in 2007, is entirely open to visitors. This compares to Graceland where Presley’s second floor living quarters are off-limits.

Pavarotti House Museum in Italy

The audio guide that comes with admission shares the tenor’s role in designing the house and background information on the exhibits.

Pavarotti house museum kitchen

Visitors also learn about Pavarotti’s signature handkerchief which he always clutched in his hand during performances. He used it in his early years to overcome nervousness about performing. You’ll see them in his walk-in bedroom closet along with Pavarotti’s omnipresent Panama hats and Hermes scarves.

Pavarotti Hawaiian shirt

I didn’t realize that Pavarotti was also an accomplished painter. Many of his colorful paintings are on display as well as the equally colorful Hawaiian shirts he loved to wear offstage.

Pavarotti home costumes

Costumes from his key roles, revealing that he was not just a big man in girth but rather tall too.

Pavarotti Museum piano

An exhibit of letters from the great singer’s friends reads like who’s who of world celebrities and includes Princess Diana, Frank Sinatra, Bono and Bruce Springsteen. A room covered with pillows on the floor to sit on shows home movies of Pavarotti vamping it up around the house and getting ready backstage for his performances. In his unguarded moments you can see how much he enjoyed life and being around people.

During the tour Pavarotti’s music voice is paying out of a great sound system. Thus inspired, I went and downloaded my first Pavarotti album.

Pin it!You don't have to be an opera buff to enjoy visiting the home of the late maestro Luciano Pavarotti outside Modena, Italy

Visiting Luciano Pavarotti’s Home/Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

Address: Stradello Nava 6, Modena, Italy

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission: Adults, 8 euros; adults (over 65), children (12-18), 6 euros, children under 12, free. Includes audio guide .

Web: Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land Pass

The Modena is also the home of Ferrari. The Luciano Pavarotti House Museum can be visited as part of the Ferrari & Pavarotti Land Pass which provides admission to over a dozen attractions in the region including two Ferrari museums and artisanal food producers.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

From the end of World War II through 1989, when freedom spread throughout the Iron Curtain countries, the people of Hungary were under the thumb of a communist dictatorship. One way for the totalitarian regime to keep control was through propaganda which was demonstrated through massive statues Read more

Tet, the Lunar New Year in Vietnam, is the most important holiday of the year. For me it is also the prettiest. There are displays of blossoms throughout the city, along with fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. In Ho Chi Minh City the crowning glory of events is the Tet Flower Festival right in the center of town.

Tet Flower Festival-Ho Chi Minh City

Every year during Tet, Nguyen Hue, the main street in the central business district is transformed for one week into Nguyen Hue Flower Street. During this time traffic is banned on the wide boulevard and the central islands are decorated with magnificent floral displays. Throughout the week Vietnamese of all ages stroll through the impromptu park snapping photos and having fun.

Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City

“Eternal Spring” was the theme of the festival for 2012, also the Year of the Dragon. All along Nguyen Hue the eponymous dragon was displayed, in both floral and paper mache versions.Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City-Dragon

At the head of Nguyen Flower Street the statue of a benevolent “Uncle Ho” floating among lotus blossoms presides over the festival.Nguyen Hue Flower Street- Uncle Ho

Family photos are a popular souvenir with the beautiful floral displays as a background. Here one of the official event photographers organizes a family for their portrait by the dragons.Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City-Family

Hotels enter a competition for best flower arrangement, interpreting the theme of “Eternal Spring”. This entry from the New World Saigon Hotel features anthuriums, pussy willow, orchids, roses, lilies and an unusual accent of winter cabbage.Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City- Hotel Arrangement

Notice how the dad in this family is wearing a “Florida” shirt while his family mugs for the camera. . .Nguyen Hue Flower Street, Ho Chi Minh City-family with Florida shirt

Of course, a big event like this brings out all the celebrities, including this uber-chic little miss in her sassy pink dress!Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City-Sassy little girl

For 2013 the Nguyen Hue Flower Street Festival will run from February 11-16, celebrating the Year of the Snake.  Anyone who will be in Vietnam on those dates should plan to visit Ho Chi Minh City to see this beautiful exhibit. And as the Vietnamese say:

Chúc mừng năm mới! (Happy New Year)

Nguyen Hue Flower Street-Ho Chi Minh City-pretty little girls

To follow our journey around the world in search of the tasty and historic and receive valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Hawaii has long been associated with growing three foods—pineapples, sugar, and macadamia nuts—but they are now cheaper to grow in other parts of the world and aren’t as prevalent in the 50th state as the once were. On a recent trip to Hawaii we found a growing farm-to-table movement along with some unique foods (sushi Spam anyone?) we haven’t seen elsewhere. Here is our food lover’s guide to the Big Island of Hawaii:

Book a Food or Coffee Tour on the Big Island.

Hilo Farmer’s Market, Hilo

Hilo farmers market

The underrated town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of our favorite spots. It was marked for resort development in the 1960s but never really took off, giving a small town vibe in this gateway to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The Hilo Farmers Market is open seven days a week offering a variety of exotic produce, crafts, clothing and prepared food like King Laulau Poi and Mister D’s Grill Wagon (BBQ on a stick).

Hawaiian Vanilla Company, Paauilo

Hawaiian Vanilla Company orchard

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company on the Big Island of Hawaii is owned by Jim and Tracy Redekoff. After growing up on Oahu in a family “who can be traced back to grass shacks,” Jim and his family moved to this plot of land overlooking the turquoise waters of the Pacific to raise their kids on a farm.

Guests tour the “Vanillery,” where the fussy flowers are coaxed into blooming (for a single day per year, and only four hours at that), a prelude to producing the long skinny bean that is one of the world’s most expensive spices.  For full-on immersion, reserve a place at the “Vanilla Experience Luncheon,” where the tour and presentation are spiced up with a vanilla-inspired meal.

Sputnik Donuts, Hilo

Sputnik Donuts Hilo hawaii

The buttermilk donut at Sputnik Ralf’s in Hilo made our list of the top dozen donuts in America for the Huffington Post. We miss them already.

Hilo Coffee Mill, Mountain View

Hawaii Hilo Coffee Mill Jeanette Baysa photo by Milne copy

Jeanette Baysa, a former banker from San Francisco, moved to Hilo to open a café in 1992. She couldn’t find Hawaiian coffee to serve; there was no one to roast the local beans so she undertook the task herself and opened the Hilo Coffee Mill on the eastern slope of the Big Island near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Jeanette promotes locally grown coffee from areas other than the well-known Kona.  Visitors can sample local blends (including a quirky but surprisingly tasty pineapple coffee) and explore the 24-acre farm.

Hamakua Mushrooms, Laupahoehoe

Hawaii Hamakua Mushrooms

The sunny hillside spot along Hawaii’s northeast shoreline seems an unusual choice to grow mushrooms. But Hamakua Mushrooms are cultivated organically via a proprietary Japanese bottle method in incubation rooms that are naturally lit by the sun. As co-owner Janice Stang says, “We are enlightened mushroom growers.”

Almost the entire harvest of alli, pioppini, gray oyster and abalone varieties are sold locally. The Stangas also offer other “fungal in the jungle” goodies; be sure to try some of their mushroom brownies (which we have to admit, sound like something that was gobbled up by dazed hippies at Woodstock).

Kuaiwi Farm, Captain Cook

Hawaii Kona coffee beans

Thoughts of the 60s were definitely on our mind as we drove up a bumpy, unpaved road to the geodesic-domed Kuaiwi Farm, where Una Greenaway and Leon Rosner have been organic farming for almost four decades. Una describes herself and Leon as “a couple of old hippies who came to live off the land.”

Una packs a lot into their five acres above the Kona Coast. Call in advance to arrange a two-hour tour, where she shows off her 100-year-old coffee trees, avocados, cacao, bananas and whatever else happens to be fruiting or flowering and will brew up a pot of her “Old Kona Coffee” to taste along with house-made chocolate and macadamia butter.

Hawaiian Shave Ice

Mauna Kea Snow, Hilo

Mauna Kea snow Hilo Hawaii

We’ve seen Hawaiian shave ice stands all over the world so were glad to finally try them in their native location. Quite frankly, any dessert that’s bigger than my head qualifies as a favorite. Mauna Kea Snow on the Hilo waterfront is a combination cafe/Hawaiian clothing store that cranks out delicious shaved ice. I have to admit I chickened out and this is a small. (Note: Even though the ice is shaved, it’s still called Hawaiian shave ice.

Scandinavian Shave Ice

Scandis hawaii shave ice big island hawaii

Okay, I don’t quite get the name of this place in Kailua-Kona on the west coast; it does serve Hawaiian shave ice after all. Known by locals as Scandi’s, it’s been in business for over 20 years. Not only do they taste great, the workers put on quite a show in this happy place. Make sure to get sweetened condensed milk poured over it.

Click here to book a Food/Coffee Tour on the Big Island.

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!Savor the unique local flavors of the Big Island of Hawaii

We stayed at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel which has a cool retro 60s vibe.

Also check out our food lover’s guide to Oahu.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Besides being a surfer’s paradise, Oahu also offers many unexpected tasty treats. Here’s our food lover’s guide to Oahu with some of our favorites.

Click here for Food Tours of Oahu.

Garlic Shrimp Food Trucks of Oahu

Giovanni's shrimp truck oahu hawaii hot dog


The north coast of Oahu is festooned with trucks serving a local favorite: garlic shrimp. Visitors driving along the Kamehameha Highway to watch a surfing competition on the pounding waves of the North Shore will be hard-pressed not to stop once the heady aroma of sauteed garlic fills their car.

The shrimp are sauteed in a lemon/olive oil/butter/garlic sauce with chunks of caramelized garlic and are quite simply, outstanding. Success breeds competition and there now several other shrimp trucks in the area, several of which we also tried, but we enjoyed Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck the most. If you’re not in the mood for shrimp try their hot dogs, which may be the best we’ve ever tasted. Or read our full review of Giovanni’s hot dogs.

Madre Chocolate

Foodie Hawaii madre chocolate

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where cacao beans thrive. Nat Bletter is a co-founder and “Chocolate Flavormeister” of Madre Chocolate, Oahu’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker. He says, “We’re trying to turn the windward coast of Oahu into the Napa Valley of chocolate.”

In the historic Chinatown section of Honolulu, Madre offers classes and chocolate tastings that would be right at home in any popular winery. The comparison is apt; the first thing a visitor notices upon stepping into the shop is the musty, vinegary aroma of cacao beans permeating the air, similar to that encountered in wine caves.

Nat teaches how to extract raw chocolate’s unique qualities. We sipped raw cacao pulp, which was milky and tangy, evocative of crushed lychees. During the one-hour class visitors savor beans from various regions and follow their evolution from a fruit to the beloved superfood that it’s become today.

Take a Chocolate making class in Oahu.

Butter Mochi

Foods of Hawaii Oahu butter mochi

Butter mochi is baked custard with a twist that is a popular dessert in Hawaii. Checking out the ingredients–Mochiko sweet rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, Carnation cream, vanilla butter and eggs–it’s easy to see why.

Leonard’s Bakery Malasadas, Honolulu

Leonards Malasadas Honolulu Hawaii

Hawaii boasts two spots that made our list of best dozen donuts in America for the Huffington Post. Perhaps we should move there. Malasadas are fried balls of dough that originate from Portugal, just like the original owners of Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. Here they fill them with your choice of custard, chocolate or coconut cream then coat them with sugar, cinnamon sugar or li hing, a sweet and sour dried plum powder. You’ll wait about 10 minutes for your donuts since they are made to order. The wait is most definitely worth it.

Spam Musubi (Spam sushi)

Spam Musubi Hawaii
Spam Musubi Hawaii

Well, we couldn’t write about foods of Hawaii without mentioning Spam, could we? The popular canned meat was introduced to Hawaii during World War II and has never left. One of Barrack Obama’s favorite treats from growing up in Hawaii is Spam musubi. (Proof alone that he’s from there.) Take a slice of Spam, place a chunk of seasoned rice on it wrap it all up with a noir seaweed bow and there you have it. It’s irresistibly salty and fatty, the two prerequisites for any popular snack food.

Dole Pineapple Whip

Dole Plantation Oahu Hawaii

Yeah it’s touristy, but when driving back from the North Shore of Oahu with all that garlic shrimp flavor rolling around your taste buds it’s hard to resist the siren call of the Dole Plantation signs for its favorite treat, Dole Whip. It’s basically a cone of soft-serve “ice cream” with pineapple sherbet but hits the spot on a hot day.

Interested in booking your own food tour? Check out these Oahu Food Tours with Viator!

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!
Exploring the local food culture on Oahu, Hawaii; from bakeries in Honolulu to shrimp trucks on the north shore

We stayed at the VIVE Hotel at Waikiki in Honolulu.

Here’s our story on foods on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here.

The Royal Yacht Britannia, the private yacht of the British royal family, is open to visitors just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland.  No longer in active service, HMY (Her Majesty’s Yacht) Britannia served the royal family for almost 45 years.

The 400-foot yacht was launched in 1953 shortly after Elizabeth II became queen. It was taken out of active service in 1997, due to cost cutbacks in the British government. Today the ship is anchored permanently in Leith, Scotland, about five miles from central Edinburgh. Visitors can tour the ship at their own pace; each admission ticket includes an audio headset that provides self-guided information.

Royal Yacht Britannia at sea

Royal Yacht Britannia during her days at sea.  At 5,500 tons (4% the size of  the Queen Mary 2) the yacht resembles a miniature cruise ship.

The tour is comprehensive. A set route guides visitors over several decks encompassing virtually all aspects of the ship. The dedicated staterooms of both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are each on display. Additional staterooms in the family quarters were used by whoever happened to be on board at the time, including honeymooners Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Royal yacht Britannia Queens bedroom

Queen Elizabeth’s elegant and spacious stateroom aboard Royal Yacht Britannia.

Despite the small number of passengers, Britannia served as the Queen’s official residence while she was aboard, and was often the site of state dinners and receptions wherever the ship was in port. The State Dining Room, which can seat 96, is set as it would be for such a dinner. Although permanently docked, the ship still hosts official royal functions; the pre-wedding reception for Zara Phillips (daughter of Princess Anne) and her fiancee was held on Britannia in 2011.

dining room her majesty's yacht britannia

The State Dining Room on the Royal Yacht Britannia can seat almost 100 for official state dinners.

Those who are more interested in the Britannia’s mechanical side will enjoy visiting the bridge, crew’s quarters and engine rooms.  All are kept in top working order; the crisp white paint and polished brass epitomize the term “ship shape.”

Royal Yacht Britannia-polished brass

From the topmost deck down to the engine room, all the brass on Royal Yacht Britannia is kept well-polished.

After your unofficial “inspection” of Britannia, indulge in a little royal treatment by having lunch or tea onboard. The aft lounge on Royal Deck has been converted into a tearoom, where visitors can enjoy a light meal. With large windows overlooking the gleaming teak decks, relax over tea and a scone, and enjoy the luxury of living the life of royalty . . . even if only for a day.

Royal Yacht Britannia-Afternoon Tea

Visiting Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia

Address:  The Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Drive, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6JJ

Website:  For further information visit The Royal Yacht Britannia.

Time to Allow:  About one hour to tour, additional hour for lunch or tea.

Who should go:  Those interested in the Royal Family, lovers of ships and nautical history.

Is it worth it?  At £12 for adults/£ 7.50 for kids (approx. $19/12 US) it’s not cheap, and there may not be enough to keep little ones engaged. But it is a one-of-a-kind vessel, and a true piece of 20th-century British history. And it’s fun to pretend you’re the Queen’s guest for tea, even if you do have to pay for the meal!

And the nautically-minded can stop by the Officer’s Club for a photo op!

Royal Yacht Britannia-officer's club

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Feel like royalty--for a day--by visiting Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, the ship where Princess Diana spent her honeymoon.

To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

When we arrived in Romania much of what we knew about the country was its role as an elusive nation behind the Iron Curtain during our childhood. What we found surprised us. A vibrant nation with a beautiful countryside that is rapidly putting the past behind it. Another surprise, the 3rd fastest Internet in the world and by far the fastest we have seen in our travels to over 70 countries. But as usual we start with food and having a sweet tooth, we soon found ourselves tasting Romanian pastries on a daily basis.

Romanian papanasi

Papanași (papanosh) are little tater tot sized donuts (or bigger at some places) topped with sour cream and cherry jam. It’s the first donut treat I’ve met (and I’ve met many) that you eat with a spoon.

Romanian pastries

Carpathian Mountain Cream Cake with sour cherry jam at the Fronius Residence, a 16th-century inn located in the walled medieval village of Sighisoara.

PastryinRomania (1)Caciula lui Guguta is a pile of rolled up pancakes stuffed with wild cherries and topped with vanilla whipped cream and grated chocolate. Despite the fact that Larissa ordered something else she ended up eating half of my dessert. We found this version at La Placinte, a mini-chain of restaurants with several locations in Bucharest and a few other Romanian towns.

Bucharest pastry layer cake

According to the menu this is “Honey sponge cake impregnated with creamy nuts and sour cream.”  Something may have been lost in translation but I did feel stuffed and like I had eaten for two afterwards.

romanian pastry rulada swiss roll

I think these are actually Swiss Rolls (the Yodels of my youth) but they sound more exotic as “rulada.” How can vanilla cake twirled around chocolate icing then rolled in nuts be bad?

*** Hungry now? Check Amazon for Romanian cookbooks ***

And now for something completely different . . .

I haven’t yet mentioned what an incredible travel value Romania is. Here’s an example. The delicious meal below of spicy goulash, Romanian potatoes and sauteed carrots in the posh Restaurant Transilvania in Brasov was $4.50. Most of the pastries above were about $3.

Romanian goulash

 

Brasov4Cardinals

The breakfast above was included with our $58 per night room (including tax) at the high-end 4 Cardinal’s Hotel in Brasov. We found Romania to be a great place for food and to stretch a European travel budget. In future posts we’ll talk about surprising Bucharest and the medieval villages we visited on our road trip through the Transylvania section of Romania.

Please let us know if you have any questions about travel to Romania.

*** Hungry now? Check Amazon for Romanian cookbooks ***
We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Memphis, Tennessee is justly known for its dry-rubbed barbecue ribs. But that’s all right, after driving 500 miles to get to the birthplace of rock-and-roll I was there to see Elvis stuff so I thought, “What would Elvis eat?” Among other things, Elvis loved his banana pudding but he also had a sandwich named after him.

“The Elvis” is a griddle-fried concoction of peanut butter and sliced banana on white bread. Sometimes he would surrender to temptation and add bacon to it. In his mind it sure beat a hot dog, or a hound dog too for that matter.

If you ask me, the best place to try an “Elvis” is at Rockabilly’s Diner right across Elvis Presley Boulevard from Graceland. Despite the crowds I was first in line when I placed my order. I asked if they could add just a little bit of bacon but alas, the “Elvis” at Graceland is served baconless.

The sandwich was pretty good, the warmed peanut butter melting into the creamy banana. It even got my taste buds all shook up. Any day now I imagine a chain of Elvis-themed restaurants will open up and start serving it.

Suspicious minds might have noticed that there are 12 Elvis song titles in this post. Can you spot them? It’s now or never.

Elvis Presley rocky statue

Here are the top Elvis items on Amazon.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.