After many years of international travel, I’ve learned that duty free isn’t necessarily a deal. Unless you’re a smoker or live in a country where alcohol is heavily taxed (like Turkey), you won’t find much value among the jumbo-sized Toblerone bars or rows of designer perfumes. But I still enjoy the ritual of browsing through the shop, trying some free samples, and maybe taking home a tasty piece of whatever country I’ve just visited. Some airports really step up their sales technique, like a flash mob in Beirut, or this pair of Flamenco dancers in Madrid, Spain spotted by Flickr user TaylorMcConnell. Not sure what they are selling, but I hope it’s a good bottle of Rioja.
What destination are you dreaming of for 2012? The staff at Frommer’s have just unveiled their list of top travel destinations for the coming year. Included in the list is a little something for everyone: large metropolises, secluded beach towns, colorful riverside villas, and more.
But Frommer’s didn’t just rely on their expert editors and author’s for this years list–they also polled readers to find out where they wanted to visit in 2012. Click through the gallery below to see Frommer’s (and their reader’s) picks–including one surprising midwestern city that is the only spot in the United States to make the cut.
Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera
Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Far Europe and Beyond, a Gadling series in partnership with bmi (British Midland International) launches today.
Europe’s eastern borders cannot be defined simply. The western, northern, and southern perimeters are easy: The Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Mediterranean provide those boundaries, respectively. It’s the eastern border that is more difficult to pinpoint. There are two basic definitions of the eastern border of Europe: the Bosphorus, which divides Istanbul; and the Ural Mountains. The problem here is that there is a gap of around 1200 miles between the point where the Ural River hits the Caspian Sea and Istanbul.
The former definition leaves most of Turkey outside of Europe and makes it difficult to draw a continental border from the Bosphorus northward. If one assumes the latter definition, then a piece of western Kazakhstan is in Europe, but the continent’s Eastern flank fails to have a fixed boundary once the Ural river empties into the Caspian Sea. Does Europe’s border then get drawn along Russia’s southern edge or does it include the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, along the Iranian border? Increasingly, this is the working definition of Europe, with inclusion of the Caucasian trio; it is the definition, more or less, that the BBC and the Economist endorse.However we define Europe’s eastern borders, there are a number of national capitals that are clearly in the farthest reaches of Europe or just beyond them, all of which are included on bmi’s route map: Tbilisi, Georgia; Yerevan, Armenia; Baku, Azerbaijan; Beirut, Lebanon; Almaty, Kazakhstan (not the capital, admittedly, but the country’s most important city); and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. These capital cities are naturally very interesting to veteran travelers for whom Europe is old hat, but they’re also fascinating places for less seasoned travelers. For the most part, they’re off the beaten path, teeming with local culture and opportunities for many different types of tourism.
This week and next, I’ll write a series of posts on the first two cities on the above list: Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia; and Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. I’ll look at some of these cities’ most captivating characteristics, some culinary highlights, interesting quirks, and the best easy day trips beyond city limits.
[Image: Flickr | sara~]
Flash mobs are nothing new, Lisbon even staged a dance at the airport in 2009, but this flash mob at Beirut Airport is the first I’ve seen with Arab Dabke dance. Dabke is a form of line dance which is traditionally performed at weddings and social occasions, and the group here combined it with some hip hop steps. Passengers and airport staff joined in the fun for this video made for Beirut‘s Duty Free (which, incidentally, has amazingly low prices and Lebanese wine is delicious).
Seen any flash mobs on your travels? Would you stop and watch a “spontaneous” dance at an airport?
Are you always searching for a roller coaster that will make your hair stand on end? Well, if you really want to scare yourself, skip the traditional amusement park rides and catch a flight out to Beirut. There’s a “theme park” in town that will open your eyes wide and keep you looking over your shoulder.
Identified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, Hezbollah’s new endeavor isn’t doing a thing to change that perception. Called “Landmark for the Resistance,” the theme park celebrates the group’s military efforts against Israel. Enter the park, and you can wander among implements of mayhem and destruction, from tanks to machine guns … and you can even get some photo ops of the kids with their fingers on the trigger!
Designed and built by Hezbollah, Landmark for the Resistance cost a mere $4 million, a pittance compared to what it would cost to get an attraction up here in the United States. So far, the park’s been a success, one of the few in a country that has had trouble attracting tourists because of … well … Hezbollah.
Buoyed by the strong response, especially the smiling children, I suspect, Hezbollah has already committed to expansion plans. Look for a cable car wandering around the guns ‘n’ ammo soon – and a hotel and a restaurant.