Best Blogs of the Week
I read a lot of travel blogs every week. Every day, even. Since I’m constantly coming across good reads, I’ve decided to highlight some of the best and most interesting posts, photos, videos and general blogging gems from all over the web that I’ve discovered in the past week.
Though I try to read a diverse sampling of things, there’s no way that I can possibly get to it all. So, if you have an interesting post that you’d like me to check out and consider for next week, please let me know in the comments! Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with it. At the very least, I’ll leave you my two cents in a comment.
What I'm Reading
Anil from FoXnoMad and Earl from Wandering Earl traveled together through Northern Iraq recently. Since it's an area of the world you read very little about from the tourist perspective, I found their coverage extremely interesting. Here are a collection of their posts:
Anil gives a general overview of what it's like to travel through the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region of Iraq in this post. From the lack of infrastructure to the eggshell security, there's a lot that you'd expect from Iraq. But there are some things I didn't expect — like the love for America the locals have, and the lack of funny looks foreigners get. Definitely worth a read, and a look at the photos and short video.
In this post, Earl addresses the question I was curious about: Is it safe to travel in Iraq? Earl, too, only traveled through Kurdistan, but he highlights the dangers and non-dangers of the region, and describes what he and Anil encounted while traveling (including a love for George Bush, and 91 heavily-guarded checkpoints). He says he never felt scared or like he was in danger, but acknowledges that Iraq IS still a war zone. You can also check out Earl's post on The Thrill of Traveling to Iraq for more.
On Chris' recent trip to Poland, he made sure to include a visit to the famous concentration camp of Auschwitz. What resulted is a very somber, moving piece about visiting the camp today, standing in the gas chambers, and wondering how human beings could have done this to one another. While it might seem a bit macabre that tourists visit sites like these, I personally think it's important to remember the unspeakable things that have happened in history, in hopes that they will never be repeated.
From Chris' somber post, we jump to this celebratory one of Wes' from India. As the title would suggest, a lot of weddings are happening right now in India. Apparently, December is a lucky month in which to get married. And Indian weddings are much different that Western ones. They last for about a week, and include parades, music, colorful saris and more. Wes gets a behind-the-scenes look at an Indian wedding when a friendly cook in Pushkar offers to show Wes photos from his brother's wedding.
Suzy loves Italy. You could even call her an expert on Italy. She's spent a lot of time in the boot-shaped country, and could possibly be content just traveling in and around Italy for the rest of her life. But, as a travel writer and blogger, she also feels pressured to travel to areas outside her expertise. She worries that people will get bored reading about the same area all the time, when so many others out there are traveling all over the world. It's an interesting conundrum to find yourself in.
Steph is currently traveling around Australia in a camper van, getting rained on a lot and seeing a ton of the soggy country. In this post, she talks about Australia's nostalgia for its British heritage, right down to the large collection of standing stones in Glen Innes. Interesting stuff!
What in the World?
A suicide bomber attempted to cause some serious damage in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday, but botched the attempt and only managed to kill himself and wound two others. First, he set off a car bomb in the middle of the seasonal shopping frenzy in Stockholm. The blast that killed the bomber came moments later, a few blocks away. But investigators say the bombs didn't go off right, therefore not causing all the damage intended. Regardless, though, the blasts have shaken up Sweden, which hasn't seen a terror attack in over 30 years. This was the first suicide bombing in the history of the country.
Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors. That's right, folks, get up close and personal with the reactor that caused one of the world's worst nuclear disasters! Sounds like a great field trip, right? Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded in 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people had to be relocated because of contamination, and related health problems still persist. But those in support of the project hope that allowing visitors could help raise money and teach an important lesson about nuclear safety.
Would you visit Chernobyl if you were in the area?
Last week, students in Britain launched angry protests over parliament's proposed plan to raise university tuition prices. Some 15,000 demonstrators raged through London, breaking windows, causing commotion, and even attacking a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. 43 protesters were injured during the riots, as were 35 police officers who tried to quell them. More protests are anticipated this week, as lawmakers in the House of Lords will debate the tuition hikes. If passed, universities in Britain would be allowed to raise tuition fees to up to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) per year, which is three times higher than the current limit.
While I understand these students' anger, I have to remind myself that I went to a university in America that cost over $30,000 per year. $14,000 doesn't seem so bad to me!
A South Korean fishing boat mysteriously sank in frigid Antarctic waters some 1,400 miles south of New Zealand on Monday. The boat had 42 people onboard. 20 survived and were rescued by nearby fishing boats, while 5 dead bodies have been recovered. New Zealand called off their search for the remaining 17 fishermen, saying that with sea temperatures near freezing and because the boat sank before the crewmen could put on survival suits, most would have been dead within 10 minutes. Three South Korean vessels continued searching Monday night, but with no success.
The weather gods have not been kind this past weekend:
- In the U.S., a gigantic snow storm has snarled traffic in the air and on the ground in the Midwest. Flights in and out of Chicago were canceled. The roof of Minneapolis‘ football stadium collapsed. Hundreds of vehicles were trapped on highways in Indiana. And everywhere from Iowa to Ohio is dealing with slick roads, snow drifts, and bone-chillingly cold temperatures. At least 15 deaths so far have been attributed to the storm.
- In the northwestern U.S., flooding has become a threat in Washington state and Oregon as relentless rain pounds the region. Swelling rivers threatened towns over the weekend as cities like Portland and Seattle remained soggy.
- In the Middle East, heavy rains and strong winds over the weekend forced Israel, Egypt and Syria to close ports following massive waves. Lebanon had to close roads due to flooding and snow in some mountain towns. The storm, bringing with it unusually cold temperatures, ended weeks of warm and dry weather that contributed to dozens of forest fires in Lebanon and Israel.
Just for Fun
Apparently, Bulgarians don't like George Michael, or his 1980s duo Wham. Or, at least, they don't like Wham's Christmas tune, “Last Christmas.” Bulgarians have named that song the “most annoying Christmas song ever.” Mariah Carey's “All I Want For Christmas” came in second in the online poll.
What would YOU dub the most annoying Christmas song ever? Do the Bulgarians have it right?