A Lake Near the Olympics

Somewhere in Canada…

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We love British Columbia. Maybe that’s evident from all the BC-related posts on this site. If you’re looking for something different and want to get away from civilization for a while, Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is the place to go. It’s not in the remote Canadian Arctic, but it’s far enough away to become one with nature for a while. It’s about a two-hour drive north of Vancouver, with a good chunk of that drive being on a gravel road–at least it was that way in 2009.

Be aware that there might not be much in the way of facilities. Maybe an outhouse, but that’s about it.

If you feel isolated and decide you need to connect with people again, Whistler, where all the 2010 Winter Olympics alpine events were held, is only an hour away. It’s an Aspen-like place. Basically, your typical ski village.

More about Callaghan Park

More about Whistler

A Walk Through the Woods

If You’re Up for a Stroll, This Will Work

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Unlike the grueling climb at Grouse Grind, Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a nice, easy stroll through the woods. A quick drive from the city center, this place looks like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie. Nature at its best. Lots of tall trees.

Learn more at the official site

Cruisin’ on Porto’s Douro River

A Place Stuck in Time (that’s a good thing)

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Porto, or Oporto, is Portugal preserved. Simply put, it’s an awesome place. An old city with a Venice-like character to it, but without so many waterways, except for the Douro River.

It’s the Douro River that makes Porto so cool. They’ve made an industry out of river cruises. Down at the main river launch, which is easy enough to find, you can choose from a short, half-hour trip around the immediate area for €10-€20, or you can reserve a luxury cruise that lasts a lot longer, for a lot more money.

A 30-minute boat ride is easy enough to find since there are plenty of private charter boats that will take people cruising around the river while blasting Portuguese pop music on deck. Cheap, fun, unconventional. Enjoy it.

Cold War Memories from Berlin

For History Buffs, a Must See

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Today, Berlin is the thriving capital of a modern nation, but its recent history puts it at the front line of the Cold War, where East met West. Literally.

Relics of Europe’s communist era are scattered throughout the city, from remains of the Berlin Wall to Checkpoint Charlie, perhaps the world’s most famous crossing. These reminders are preserved to help us remember what the world was once like, and how close we came to ending it.

Anyway, on a lighter note, Berlin has great nightlife, friendly people, and great views of the city from its TV tower. If you’re lucky, you can find re-enactors at Checkpoint Charlie dressed up and walking around as Soviet and East German “officials”, selling you related merchandise, like a reproduction East German visa.

More about Checkpoint Charlie

Build a Molecule: How Belgium Welcomed the Nuclear Age

Biggest. Molecule. Ever.

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The Atomium. This one’s right up there with atomic cars, moon bases by 1960, and computers that run the house (at least they got that one right, didn’t they?)

Remember the 1950s, when nuclear power was cool but barely understood? The Atomium was the culmination of the public’s fascination with this relatively new discovery.

Built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, this massive, shiny amalgamation of giant spheres and tubes symbolized a new technical age of the nuclear variety. In its infancy, nuclear power was seen as the answer to the world’s energy problems. It would even take us to the stars, so it seemed only natural to build a monument to it. As controversial as nuclear power is, one can’t deny how telling the Atomium is of a different time.

Sadly, the Atomium doesn’t seem to get much attention outside of Belgium these days. And since Belgium is a popular spot for foreign backpackers and weekend tourists alike, we couldn’t NOT feature it. The views are spectacular, even if you visit on a bitter cold, cloudy winter day like we did. Then again, how many people can say they’ve been inside–and to the top of–a giant molecule?

There’s a restaurant inside, too.

Atomium’s official website (English version)