Sleeping in rickety old beds, eating bland food that you’re forced to cook yourself and being bossed around by hotel staff hardly sounds like a fun travel experience, but tourists in Germany are paying $150 a night for exactly that.
It’s all a part of a unique experience that gives travelers the chance to experience life as it was for soldiers in East Germany. Visitors are taken to a forest 200 miles outside of Berlin where they spend the night in the Bunker Museum, which as the name implies, is a former military bunker. The bunker was built more than 40 years ago for use by the German secret police, and was designed to become a military command center if the local area was ever attacked.Today, tourists can experience life in the bunker, which includes donning the soldier’s uniforms before peeling potatoes and cooking sausages for dinner. But don’t expect a good night’s sleep here-the bunk beds are small and uncomfortable with thin mattresses and, naturally, you’re expected to make the bed yourself.
Those who run the hotel say the experience has proven extremely popular among travelers, and quite a few of those who visit are actually former East German residents themselves.
Now that food trucks are a staple in pretty much every metropolis, people have to get really creative to think about how to serve food in an edgy manner. But from fries in a vending machine to sparkling water in a public fountain, there are plenty of places around the world that will make sure that you have an unforgettable eating experience.
1. Coin-operated Belgian Fries
If you want a cornet of classic Belgian fries, look no further than a vending machine. A coin-operated machine in Brussels has been specifically developed to produce fries made with beef fat. And yes they do come with an option of ketchup or mayonnaise.
2. Ice cream from a monster truck
You’ve seen food trucks, but have you ever seen a monster food truck? Czech carmaker Skoda turned a 5.5 ton van into an ice cream truck, deeming it the “world’s largest ice cream truck.” It has five-foot tall tires after all. You’ll find it touring around the UK.3. Vending machine champagne
In Berlin you can get your bubbles from a vending machine. The gourmet food vending machine at delicatessen Floris Feinkost not only has pint-sized bottles of champagne available for sale, but also Dutch stroopwaffels and flavored salts. That’s what you call one stop shopping.
4. Sparkling water from a fountain
It would seem that only in Paris would you be able to get sparkling water from a fountain (which you can do at three different parks in the city) but earlier this year even Australia tried one out, with the city of Perth using a sparkling water fountain on a three-month trial.
5. Carry-out bacon bar
A restaurant isn’t such an odd or intriguing thing, but a carry-out bacon bar is. In Chicago you now know exactly where to order your bacon when you’re having that random craving thanks to Burke’s Bacon Bar which offers up mini sandwiches stuffed with bacon. As chef Rick Gresh said, “Bacon could be the one legal drug, because once you taste it you’re hooked.”
6. The in-car rice maker
Want food on the go? For those looking for a little more homecooked of a meal while they’re traveling, you might want the new Japanese in-car rice cooker. That’s right, you can now prep your sushi rice while you drive. Could be useful when you’re running late on dish prep for a dinner party.
Recently, the former automotive boomtown of Detroit made history by filing for bankruptcy, making it an easy butt of jokes on Twitter and in the news. However, Motown has also been making strides to become America’s great comeback city, with artists and entrepreneurs lured by cheap rents, and innovative projects happening all over town (disclosure: I’m a big fan of the city, and so is the New York Times‘ Frank Bruni). Detroit has more than a few great things going for it, including architecture, museums and sports, and tourist dollars could go a long way in helping the city recover. Can it become a tourist destination again?
Some of the top tourist destinations in the world were once no-go zones for travelers, suffering from financial crises, war, natural disasters and rampant crime. Here are a few of our favorite comeback cities:Berlin: One of the world’s most resilient cities, Berlin has been through war, occupation and one gigantic divide, and come back to thrive. In the decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, East Berlin in particular has become a hipster mecca, due to some of the lowest prices in western Europe for nightlife and a vibrant art and design scene. While not everyone welcomes the gentrification, the German capital is continuing to gain millions of foreign tourists each year.
Buenos Aires: A mix of hyperinflation, government corruption and mounting debt led to riots and an economic crisis in Argentina in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The country has stabilized and the peso value has risen, but it’s affordability has made it increasingly attractive to travelers in the last ten years, making it the No. 1 tourism destination in South America. Buenos Aires is opening more boutique hotels each year, ensuring a place every year on lists such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List of new hotels.
New Orleans: A longtime favorite for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, along with events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, New Orleans was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism is the biggest source of employment in the city and a major factor to its economy, and the disaster made visitor numbers plummet. Louisiana’s recovery has been slow but steady, and major infrastructure improvements brought on by this year’s “Super Gras” have helped the Big Easy come back.
New York City: Visitors to the Big Apple have topped 50 million, spending billions of dollars in the city annually. While New York has never suffered from lack of tourists, the 1980s crack epidemic and surge in crime gave it an image of being a violent, dirty and dangerous city and visitor numbers dipped. Like Detroit, it also faced possible bankruptcy in 1975 and President Ford was infamously (mis)quoted to tell NYC to “drop dead.” The terrorist attacks in 2001 caused another slowdown in visitors, but it’s now one of the safest, most visited cities in the world.
Tokyo: While Tokyo was not as devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as other parts of Japan, it definitely felt the hurt with a sharp decline in tourism, major damage to national infrastructure, and radiation concerns. Foreign visitors are now exceeding the pre-disaster levels, though seismologists worry that an even bigger earthquake is due to hit Tokyo.
An honorable mention must go to the countries in the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and the cities of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the popularity of the Dalmatian coast as a beach destination, or the battle-scarred Serbian capital as a nightlife hotspot? They aren’t quite seeing the same tourism numbers as the destinations above, but they should be on your travel radar. Istanbul and Beirut are also favorites for their many comebacks and reinventions, though the effects from current events are already being seen in the local tourism industries.
High Manhattan hotel prices ruining your summer travel plans? If you’d like to try urban camping — sleeping under the skyscrapers of New York City — you can try your luck for a spot at one of the city’s summer Family Camping sessions. The Urban Park Rangers lead programs in more than a dozen city parks in all five boroughs, including Manhattan’s Central Park (August 24) and Prospect Park (September 21) in Brooklyn. The campouts are all free, starting with an early evening hike, cookout with food provided (don’t expect anything fancy, but you might be surprised with s’mores) and even a tent — you need only bring sleeping bags. The catch? There’s a lot of competition to join, with only 30 tents available for each night. Each event is open to online registration for 24 hours, with the “winners” chosen by lottery and notified about two weeks in advance. Find all the details and get lucky here.
Where else can you pitch a tent without leaving the city? Here are a few other urban areas with camping options.Austin:Emma Long Park offers campsites for $10-25 per night, depending on utilities, in addition to the $5-10 park entrance fee charged to all visitors. Set beside Lake Austin, the Texas city park is less than a half-hour from downtown. Check out the our adventure guide to Austin for more ideas.
Berlin: An innovative use of “fallow” urban space, the Tentstation project is unfortunately not open this season, but you’ll find other options in and around Berlin to pitch a tent or park an RV, even with a group. In typical German efficiency, some are within a few minutes’ walk to public transportation.
Honolulu: The Hawaiian capital has over a dozen campsites, many on the beach with fishing and surfing opportunities and views to rival expensive Waikiki resorts. Camping permits are issued for 3 or 5 days, and cost $32 and $52, respectively. Interesting note: several of the campsites warn that “houseless encounters are likely,” so look out for beach bums.
Japan: One of the most notoriously pricey countries also has a strong tradition of urban camping. While not officially sanctioned, it’s tolerated and generally quite safe in public parks. It might be hard to actually pitch a tent in downtown Tokyo, but you’ll find many guides online to finding a place to sleep al fresco.
Would you want to camp in a city? Have you done any urban camping?
Why spend your summer vacation on subways and buses when you could be out exploring places on two wheels?
Thanks to an explosion in bike-share systems and a general appreciation for bike culture, making cycling a central part of your travels is becoming easier and easier. You don’t have to throw down, pack your bicycle and head off on a full cycle tour to get the pleasure of seeing a place on two wheels; there are plenty of cities around the world that are bike-friendly and perfect for anyone who enjoys the thrills of riding in a new place.
Here are the ten best places to explore by bike.1. Amsterdam
There’s no denying that if you’re a bike lover, Amsterdam should be at the top of your list. Here people are practically born on bicycles, and if you want to experience the city like a real local, there’s no better way. Start off in the Jordaan district, rent a bike at the friendly Bike City and get ready to master the dance that is cycling in the Netherlands.
3. Portland, Oregon
Beer, baristas and bikes; it’s the Portland trifecta. You can get all three at Velocult, the city’s hub for bike related events and general fun. If you’re downtown you should be sure to hit up the Courrier Coffee Bar, opened by one of the city’s favorite pedal-delivered craft roasting companies. Add Trailhead to the list as well, another bike-powered artisan roaster. And when you’ve had enough pedal-powered caffeine for the day, take your bike, roll over to the bike-centric bar Apex and drink one of their 50 beers on tap.
Ok, so Paris might not be the first place that comes to mind on the list of bike-friendly places – you do have to do a lot of scooter and pedestrian dodging – but thanks to the successful Velib bike-share system, cycling is a big part of Parisian culture. The key in Paris is to identify that bike paths; you’ll find separated lanes around the city that make two-wheeled Paris a true delight.
5. San Francisco
Don’t let the hills scare you off. Through the late spring and early fall you can take advantage of Sunday Streets, a collection of events that closes off streets to cars in different neighborhoods around the city, and in Golden Gate Park there are car-free Sundays and Saturdays. For a longer adventure, make your way to Marin County.
Berlin is in the top 10 of bike blog Copenhagenize’s bicycle-friendly cities and with good reason. Around 13% of the population ride their bike on a daily basis, and in some neighborhoods it’s as high as 25%. There’s the 1st Bicycle Gallery which is all about showcasing gorgeous bicycles . There’s an online route planner you can use to facilitate your ride, and if you want a different look at one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, cycle the Berlin Wall Trail, tracing the former wall.
Beach and bikes; it’s no surprise that Barcelona is popular with budget-savvy travelers looking for a little warm weather and outdoor strolls. There are over 100 stations for the city’s Bicing program, and a variety of rental and tour options. Top that ride off with some tapas and you have the perfect day.
Montreal is the place to be if you’re a cycle lover. There are trails, separated lanes and designated biking streets, easily navigable on PedalMontreal. The city is also the gateway to Quebec’s Route Verte, boasting over 5,000 kilometers of bikeways all over the region along with bike-friendly accomodations. You may need a few weeks.
Bogotá’s CicloRuta s one of the most extensive in the world. Given that a very small percentage of the local population has access to cars, bicycles make economic sense. If your destination is too far to ride to, the network of bike lanes connects well with the local transportation system, complete with bike parking at several designated stops. As the city’s ex mayor Enrique Peñalosa said, “I think the future of the world has to do with bicycles.”