As you can guess by the title, I will be closing the TravelTalk podcast. This has been an incredible journey, and I appreciate every one of you who has been through this process with me.
Originally, this podcast started out as a passion project – I have loved listening and recording every one of these stories, and I’m grateful for everyone who has participated in some capacity in this podcast. Your stories, words, and thoughts have brought new perspectives and has taught me to look beyond my figurative surroundings and be open to new ideas. I hope this lesson has extended to our listeners and has encouraged some of you to even branch out and consider new places or locations that you may have otherwise de-prioritized.
Our world is vast and diverse – both figuratively and literally. While primal instinct is to seek the familiar, I hope we are all willing to go beyond our comfort zones and take new risks.
I have been so grateful for this journey and owe many thanks to many people. I’d like to specifically thank Nebula Halseth and Jen Liu – my co-contributors. Without you, this podcast wouldn’t have the legs it has today. I’d also like to thank Evan Kolesar for his tireless work on the sound editing. I’d like to thank my husband, Ole Bjoernstad, who has been patient and supportive as I navigated the next step in my life. And finally, I’d like to thank all of you who tuned in. Seeing all of you across the world tune in and listen to these episodes has been a joy for me to see and I hope you got as much out of these episodes as I did creating them.
Abdulkamal is from Lagos, Nigeria and is here to share his story and recommendations about the city and country! I’m particularly excited to share this episode with you as I lived in Lagos for 2 years as a kid – it’s been a trip down memory lane.
My name is Giovanni Labadessa I’m an Italian living in Los Angeles since 2005. I’m a writer, a passionate foodie. Despite being born in the South of Italy the place I choose to talk about is an area in Italy that made me fall in love again with my country: the Romagna region and a city that I love very much: Santarcangelo di Romagna.
The Romagna region is situated by the Adriatic Sea and can be a great place to stop by in your way from Florence and Venice.
This area has both the mountains and sea offering its visitors breathtaking views, in addition to beauty for both the eyes and spirit, with a mixture of the earthy colors, the aromas and the fresh sea air. Not to mention that the Romagna is a hotbed for music, cinema and art appreciated nationally and internationally.
Traditional of the Romagna region are Passatelli, Piadina, Pasta Fresca like Tagliatelle, Cappelletti, Ravioli, Nidi Di Rondine, Strozzapreti.
My favorite of the many great beautiful towns in this region is Santarcangelo di Romagna which is a beautiful italian post card.
This small medieval village is recognised internationally as a City of Art and an extremely popular destination, thanks to the extravagant art and talents of its more celebrated citizens, the warmth of the Romagnolo welcome, the good food and conviviality but also because of the town’s fairs and festivals, which invariably attract thousands of visitors.
The festival is a major international exhibition of avant-garde theatre, which has welcomed, amongst others, the famous Mutoid Waste Company, an international group of performers and sculptors of recycled materials, which today live in a small quarter of the town by the river renamed Mutonia. This city passion for the arts has attracted several artists from all over the world making this city one of the most innovative cultural hub in Europe. The city is also home to the international film festival Nót Film Fest , several food fairs and literary events.
The old town of Santarcangelo is worth a visit by itself, all walkable with its narrow streets that climb up on top of the hill called “Monte Giove” where you can enjoy both a beautiful view over the city and the poems written on the corners of the houses.
One of the peculiarity of the old Town are the “Grotte Tufacee”, enchanting caves dug out of tufa: these mysterious caves, whose origin is still unknown, form a labyrinth underneath the towns historic center.
Santarcangelo is also home to several celebrated taste makers, amazing restaurant and Osterie.
Besides Santarcangelo the Romagna Region is rich of gorgeous cities like the city of Federico Fellini Rimini, the historic Republic of San Marino, the medieval castes of San Leo, and Ravenna with its Byzantine mosaics.
Where to EAT in SANTARCANGELO
Via Pio Massani 16 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Via Felici 38 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Piazza Ganganelli, 19/20 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Piazza Gramsci 14 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Via Molari 13/15 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Osteria Ristorante La Sangiovesa
Piazza Beato Simone Balacchi, 14 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Trattoria del Passatore
Via Cavour 1 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Where to STAY in SANTARCANGELO
BB Agriturismo Locanda Antiche Macine
Via Provinciale Sogliano, 1540 – SANTARCANGELO
La Foresteria del Convento
Via dei Signori, 2 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Hotel Della Porta
Via Andrea Costa 85 – Santarcangelo di Romagna
Hotel Il Villino
Via C.Ruggeri 48 – Santarcangelo di romagna
Residenza i Platani
Via Contrada dei Fabbri 8 (Centro storico) – Santarcangelo di Romagna
One thing I love about Tokyo is the number of the great restaurants. Sushi, Sukiyaki, Ramen…
Top Restaurant in Tokyo: Yoroniku – The best Japanese BBQ (Yakiniku) in Omotesando area serving the best Japanese beef (Wagyu)!
Although this is BBQ, you don’t need to cock by yourself. Instead, servers will have them cocked perfectly in front of you, and they will propose you the best ways to eat them. Please note that Yoroniku is always very crowded, and you should get the reservation at least 2 weeks before.
I also like walking around Yoyogi and Omotesando area. If you’re tired from walking the busy city, you should go to spacious Meiji Jingu Shrine located right next to the Yoyogi station. This is relatively new shrine built 100 years ago, but you can feel the Japanese traditional Shinto spirits when praying at the main building surrounded by many trees.
Once you have refreshed, you can walk toward Omotesando station, the most fashionable city in Tokyo. You can enjoy shopping in the large shopping mall, Omotesando Hills, as well as tiny local shops in the back allies. This area is also really good for getting some souvenirs for your friends and families.
If you could luckily get the reservation for Yoroniku for your dinner, this is only 10 mins walk from Omotesando station.
I lived in Hungary, specifically the capital city of Budapest, for three years from 2005-2008. Originally drawn to the country, like many of the other foreign men there, in pursuit of the woman I loved, I found myself immersed in the country’s vibrant evolution from reluctant Soviet satellite state to modern Western-facing democracy. Today, with the dark forces of right-wing authoritarianism threatening the progress made since the fall of the Berlin wall, and a flashpoint for the middle eastern refugee crisis, Hungary is once again a fascinating social and political place to study, visit, argue about, and fall in love with.
Geographically located in Central Europe (NOT eastern – look at a map!), the current boundaries of Hungary contain a mostly flat country with one major city, Budapest, and several regional hubs. Most travelers will only see the capital, which is definitely of highest priority, but those with extra days to spare would be well served to check out the rolling hills, beautiful vistas, and colorful vineyards in other areas of the country. It’s worth reading up on the major events of the past century as much has happened that affected the country’s borders, population, culture, and more.
Budapest is a stunning European capital littered with examples of classic gothic architecture, cathedrals, castles, lovely bridges, an island park, public art, and more. Split by the Danube River in two halves, Buda and Pest, the “Paris of the East” is easily covered on foot and metro, or even better, by bicycle. Leafy-green and hilly Buda is the place to explore the castle area with its excellent views overlooking Pest. Take a ride up the riverside bike path and stop in a cafe for lunch, or ride around exploring Margaret Island (Margit Sziget), where you can join an acroyoga class, sip a froccs (wine spritzer) in a garden bar, see live music, or just take a nap on the grass. Pest is the place you’ll spend the bulk of your time, however, with many excellent museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops, markets, bars and much more.
For accommodations, I’d suggest looking for an apartment to rent for a few days instead of a hotel room. Look for a location in the inner part of the Pest side, in the 5th, 6th, or 7th districts. On the Buda side, look for a location close to the river south of the castle, or perhaps choose the Gellert Hotel (which also contains one of the many Turkish-style bathhouses that are a must-visit).
Any guidebook (and there are many) will have the major sights listed, so you can pick and choose what seems interesting, but for me what felt most rewarding was just trying to “fit in” to the rhythms of day-to-day life, albeit in famous places. Don’t just go to the grand market hall to gawk at the vendors – actually do some produce shopping there, and don’t forget to get a snack of langos (savory fried dough, best with cheese and sour cream) upstairs, washed down by a beer. During the summer months, you’ll want to do as much eating and drinking outside as possible – look for garden bars and “ruin pubs”, the most famous of which is called Szimpla. Often there are pop-up ruin pubs and venues that only last one season. Talk to locals or pick up the free English-language program guide Funzine to see where the latest hotspot is.
GO to the bathhouses – at least two of them. The must-do bathhouse is in the city park (Varosliget) and is called Szechenyi; Gellert, Rudas, and Kiraly baths are all wonderful as well, with each having its own unique character. One fun way to do the baths is by going to a party in one – most Saturday nights you can get your groove on in the tubs with great light shows and sometimes fire performers.
You can probably skip the National Museum, the inside of the Synagogue, and the tour of the Parliament building – all of these are just as good from the outside. In fact the only must-go museum is the excellently designed House of Terror Museum (Terrorhaza), which documents the country’s oppressive past (and possible future?) under the Iron Soviet Fist. Speaking of fists, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has a quirky 5-minute diversion: in an antechamber to the main hall, you can pop a coin in a slot and light up a gold-cased mummified fist – “The Holy Right” – said to be that of St. Stephen, one of Hungary’s founding Kings and over 1,000 years old. For other funky off-beat sights, check out Atlas Obscura(whose founders got their start exploring weird sights in this part of Europe!)
If you have a week in the country, strongly consider spending a few days at Lake Balaton, Europe’s largest freshwater lake, which is an easy train or bus ride from the city. Here you can while the day away cycling around the lake, wine-tasting at vineyards, splashing around in the warm shallow water, exploring cute villages, and eating more langos.
Eat: langos, pogacsa, retes, burek, chicken or mushroom “paprikas”, chilled fruit soups, vegetable stews, gulyas, all the cakes and sweets you can handle, all the other things
Drink: Red wines from Eger and Villany, whites from Badacsony, Zwack Unicum (an herbal liquor), and maybe try some palinka (brandy)
Transit: Bike, metro, walk
Guides: TALK TO LOCALS (all young people speak English), Funzine, Where magazines As with all places you’ll go, the more research you do in advance, the better. Enjoy your trip!
Wow! Norway has 30 medals and counting from the 2018 Winter Olympics!
With all this exposure, you may be wondering about this amazing country that churns Olympic athletes. Look no further! You now have an inside scoop into this great country by my husband, Ole.
Ole is Norwegian. While I convinced him to reside in Los Angeles with me, he has spent most of his life in Norway, and he has been returning twice a year to reconnect with immediate family.
We always root for the Norwegian team at the Winter Olympics, there is always a supply of aquavit and brunost in our home (even in LA), and skiing is in our blood.
Ole’s Recommendations of Oslo
Our capital is a really great city and has a lot to offer, like award winning restaurants (like 2* Michelin Guide restaurant Maaemo) and coffee shops (like Ristretto), an ocean-front boardwalk, a castle, the Palace, cool museums and much more. However, plenty of other cities can offer similar things. If you’re visiting Norway, I recommend limiting your stay in Oslo to just one day.
Here’s your must see list:
Vigelandsparken: A sculpture park with some amazing statues. The most famous ones are Monolitten (tall column of a single piece of granite depicting 121 naked people) and Sinnataggen (a little angry kid), but my favorite one is a piece of “abstract art” featuring an adult man fighting off a horde of babies.
Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen: Oceanfront boardwalk with several nice restaurants and bars. One of my favorite places is a burger shop called Døgnvill which translates to Jetlagged and it won’t break the bank either.
Karl Johan’s gate: The main street which stretches from Oslo Central Station to the royal Palace (which is conveniently close to Aker Brygge) features lots of cafes and shops.
The Opera house: You can walk on top of this architectural masterpiece which features great views of Oslo and the new development called Barcode – a series of skyscrapers shaped like bars in a barcode.
This week’s episode comes straight from the wide open grasslands of Mongolia, where Ariunaa takes us on a journey through her homeland. From experiencing the warmth of Mongolian hospitality to exploring the regional cuisine, you’ll be inspired to pack your bags for the land of endless green plains, nomadic herders, and two-humped camels. Please enjoy!
Mongolia is the least populated country in the world. Known for its vast open grasslands and the Gobi desert, the country is home to 3 million people. Nearly half of the country’s population carry on a 3-thousand year old lifestyle as nomadic herders.
The capital city of Ulaanbaatar hustles and bustles, not unlike many other Asian cities in this part of the world. However, the desire to see Ulaanbaatar is hardly the real reason that brings seasoned travelers to Mongolia. The countryside and the nomadic culture are what attract adventure seekers to Mongolia.
Where to Visit
Central Mongolia (aka the Khangai Region) — Endless green plains, rolling hills, pristine forests, wildlife that is unique to only this part of the world, and Karakorum, ruins of the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire.
Northern Mongolia — The world’s second largest freshwater lake named Khuvsgul Lake and the surrounding natural beauty, the Tsaatan people (nomadic reindeer herders)
Southern Mongolia (aka the Gobi Region)– The gobi desert, vast steppes that go as far as your eyes can see, beautiful sand dunes, two-humped Mongolian camels
Western Mongolia — The snow-capped peaks of Altai mountains, Kazakh eagle hunters
Eat & Drink
Khorkhog – authentic Mongolian barbeque, prepared by pressure cooking meat and vegetables inside an airtight container using hot stones
Khuushuur – deep fried dumplings with meat filling
Aaruul – type of dairy product made from dried milk curd
Mongolian vodka – vodka distilled from yogurt
Airag – fermented horse milk
Stay in a ger
Go horseback riding
Go camel riding
Visit a nomadic herder family
Stay in nature
See the Naadam festival
Ethically made clothes, accessories and blankets from natural textiles obtained from nomadic animal husbandry:
Not to disappoint, but despite the title my story is not going to be a catalog of different speed limit requirements for the German Autobahn (wait…what speed limit?). Instead, what I am going to talk about is how you can explore Germany at your own pace and in your own style – in other words how to explore Germany at your own speed limit.
My name is Nadja. It’s not a very Bavarian name, and sometimes hard to pronounce correctly for people in San Francisco (it’s ‘Nadia’, not ‘Nad Jha’), which is where I have been living and working since 2015.
Before I left Germany (Bavari!)*, almost 7 years ago, the radius of my whereabouts rarely left the ≈70km (≈43m) around Munich, which is exactly the distance to my home village called Kochel am See. 70km is also the same distance from the small 4000 inhabitants village to the Austrian border. So we are talking about the very South of Germany where the Alps start, and where finding a good internet connection is patchy.
This is where we start, slowly, at a pace of 10m/h…
Kochel am See is located right at lake Kochelsee (as its name says, as See=lake) and close to lake Walchensee, one of the deepest and largest Alpine lakes in Germany. The area offers plenty of outdoor activities, such as e.g. hiking, mountaineering, windsurfing, biking, fishing, rafting, or ice climbing to only name a few.
There is plenty to do and to see for the non-sports-enthusiasts as well, e.g. paying a visit to the Franz Marc Museum (exhibiting local expressionistic art), feeling like a king by listening to a classic concert at Herrenchiemsee castle on an island in a lake, or just relaxing in thethermal bath overlooking lake Kochelsee.
Local specialities directly from a farm or produced in-house are very typical, and not always as unhealthy as people claim German cuisine to be.
My tip: Find a nice spot close to a lake or on top of a hill and indulge yourself w/ a Brotzeit (=a light meal) and cold beer, watching the sunset over the mountains and lake.
The selection of these several Bavarian locales as examples of slow paced living are of course very subjective, because I am one of those proud Bavarians* myself. Indeed, there are plenty of other relaxing places across Germany worth seeing as well, e.g. the beautiful North Sea Coast, or the idyllic island Sylt.
Increasing speed to 40m/h…
Now let’s take things up a notch and look at Oktoberfest. The first association people often have with Bavaria is the Oktoberfest, drawing millions of people every year to Munich in September (fun fact: The Oktoberfest only extends a few days into October; most of the event is actually in September).
Personally, I think there are better, smaller events on the countryside, like the Tegernseer Waldfest, but these events are highly dependent on the time of year and the specific town you’re visiting. So if you don’t want to go up to the speed of Oktoberfest immediately, but you still crave a bit more traditional action or music, then ask a local for recommendations on smaller events to visit.
On the other hand, if your mind is absolutely set on Oktoberfest, and you plan to go w/ a bigger group of people, make sure you book a table around March/April to ensure you can snag one of the highly coveted beer tents.
Personal impressions from Oktoberfest, incl. the traditional gingerbread hearts you can buy, and my favorite sweet treat Kaiserschmarrn
Even without the thrills of Oktoberfest, Munich definitely offers a faster pace of life, but also provides ample opportunities to take a break, breathe, and just be. The Englischer Garten park in the center of the city offers plenty of space to enjoy the summer sun, sit in a nice beer garden, or even surf on the river Isar (not kidding). The nightlife in Munich is decent, and even offers some good EDM or live music. Take a disco nap and head to the clubs at midnight (there is rarely a crowd before then).
Tip: If you have limited time, but want to see what the city is like, walk up the stairs to Peterskirche; it costs you less than $5 but rewards you with a great view of the whole city.
Changing to the fast lane…
If you are looking for high-speed I would definitely also recommend bigger cities such as Hamburg or the capital Berlin, with its endless supply of entertainment possibilities. Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is world famous for its entertainment value as a harbour city (just be aware in which street you walk in, as it also doubles as Europe’s second most famous red light district), and you can make the day a night (or several days one night) in Berlin.
These cities aren’t purely party cities either; there is a lot of history to learn from (e.g. Checkpoint Charlie), culture to see and listen to (e.g. musicals in Hamburg, the Berlin Philharmonic), and lovely recreational areas to walk around in (e.g. Hamburg’s Alster).
\When to go to Germany – Summer or Winter?
My biased self would say go twice and experience the country during both seasons (ideally all four seasons!). But if you have to choose, and aren’t the biggest winter sports fan, I would say that summer and autumn offer you more opportunities to get in touch with locals and enjoy the broad variety of events and activities – although you may miss out on some damn good Glühwein (aka mulled wine)!
*When asking Bavarians if they are from Germany, you will likely always end up hearing the critical addition of ‘Bavaria’ in their response; deeply proud, self-evidently confident, and almost surprised why you didn’t ask for Bavaria right away.
Where to eat in and around Kochel am See (pescetarian friendly) – Maps
Rwanda is a beautiful country in Africa with a controversial past, but through this history it’s blossomed into an incredible place to visit if you’re looking for either a relaxing or adventure trip that’s off the beaten path.
Please tune in as we explore this country with Steven, a peace corp volunteer who was stationed in Rwanda for two years. You can check out his blog about his adventures here.