Photo Of The Day: Coca Cola Everywhere

Like the golden arches, the green-backed mermaid and the swooping “Just Do It” check, the red and white Coca Cola logo is that ubiquitous symbol of American capitalism that’s near impossible to escape abroad. Flickr user Kurt Schmidt captured today’s Photo of the Day on the Cvjetni Trg in Zagreb, Croatia, achieving the vintage effect with the help of Instagram. He must have read our recent editorial about whether the mobile editing application is bastardizing travel photography, because he apologized for using the filter: “just liked it!” he wrote in the description. But in this photo of such a classic icon, it works.

Have you encountered symbols from home in the places you least expected? Upload your travel shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Grand Canyon National Park to ban plastic water bottles

Plastic water bottles are about to become an endangered species at Grand Canyon National Park. The Park Service has announced that the sale of bottled water in vending machines, shops, and hotels inside the park will be banned early next year, in an effort to cut waste and protect the environment there. But first, park officials must complete an extensive survey of the availability of other water sources and the impact the ban could have on the safety and health of visitors.

The Grand Canyon was first set to implement the ban last year, but Jon Jarvis, the Director of the National Park Service, put a halt to that plan. At the time, Jarvis said that the NPS was working on creating a policy for potential adoption by the entire park system, but his announcement led some to speculate that the Coca Cola Company was exercising its considerable influence. The soft drink maker is a major contributor to the parks, but also sells a lot of bottled water as well.

Undaunted by the change in direction, officials at the Grand Canyon continued to move ahead with their own plans. By strategically placing water bottle refill stations throughout the park, and actively encouraging visitors to bring their own reusable bottles, they hoped to cut back on the use of disposable bottles within the Canyon. As a result of these efforts, park officials feel that they are prepared for the ban to go in effect, although they admit that comprehensive studies have not been done yet to determine the impact of the changes.

The Park Services announcement opens the door for other parks to ban plastic bottles as well, although they will have to undergo a rigorous self-assessment before they do so. Some of the things that will need to be considered include the safety of visitors, ease of access to water, and existing contracts with onsite vendors for selling bottled water.

While it may still be a few years off, we’re looking at the potential for a ban of plastic bottles in all of the national parks down the line. In the long run, that is a very good thing for the environments in those parks, but in the short term, a lot of work will need to be done to prep the parks and educate visitors about bringing their own bottles.

Inca Kola: Peru’s tasty soda

One fun aspect of travel is discovering cool local brands. When I visited Peru back in 1998 I first learned of Inca Kola, a neon-yellow soda produced there. I was curious so I ordered some at a cafe. The waiter was surprised and delighted that I chose his nation’s drink over Coca-Cola and told me proudly that it was the only local soda that had a bigger market share in its home country than Coke.

He brought me my Inca Kola and I took a sip. It was wonderful, an ultrasweet bubblegum flavor that my girlfriend couldn’t stand but I immediately fell in love with. I brought two liters back with me on the plane and served it to all my friends.

Peruvians are pretty proud of this soda, and that’s reflected by its advertising, with lines like La bebida del Perú (“The drink of Peru”) and ¡Es nuestra! (“It’s ours”). Sadly, the Coca-Cola corporation got its global tentacles wrapped around Inca Kola in 1999 and it’s no longer a completely independent company. Several Peruvian-owned rival brands have since taken up the banner.

I haven’t seen Inca Kola much outside of Peru. Some Latino shops in the U.S. stock it under the name Golden Kola, but it can be hard to find. Today I discovered it here in Santander, Spain, under its own name. The local long-distance phone bank, where people use Skype for a small fee rather than racking up huge phone bills to South America, had it for sale. Strangely, the shop is owned by Pakistanis. Santander is pretty cosmopolitan for such a small city!

After I bought some I went next door to a Chinese-owned convenience store, generally called Chinos here because most convenience stores are owned by the Chinese. As I picked up some beer the owner asked me how much I paid for my Inca Kola. Turns out he sells it for five centimos less. Live and learn.

In many ways the world is getting smaller, and that can be a good thing.

Vote for America’s favorite park!

Earlier this week, the National Parks Foundation, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, launched the second annual “America Is Your Park” campaign, during which American’s are encouraged to vote for their favorite local, state, or national park. The campaign will run through September 6th, with the park receiving the most votes winning a $100,00 grant to help restore and enhance recreation areas for visitors.

There are four different ways to cast your vote for your favorite park, most centered around the website Visitors to the site can sign on and cast a vote directly for the park of their choice, or alternatively they can upload a photo of themselves in that park. Beginning August 10th, they’ll also have the opportunity to upload video as well. Photos and videos also count as votes. Alternatively, starting July 11, you’ll be able to vote by checking into a park by using Facebook Places on your mobile phone too.

Last year, more than 1.6 million votes were cast, earning Bear Head Lake State Park in Minnesota the distinction of being “America’s Favorite Park.” A similar number of votes are expected this year with the top three parks all earning a slice of the money to help with enhancement projects. First place gets the $100,000 mentioned above, while second place earns $50,000 and third gets $25,000.

This is your chance America. Vote for your favorite park and you just might have the chance to make it even better.

America’s favorite park: Bear Head Lake State Park, MN

Over the past few months Coca-Cola has been encouraging Americans to vote for their favorite park through the “America is Your Park” campaign. With more than 5.7 million votes cast, the competition for the title of the country’s top park was decidedly fierce, and with a $100,000 grant up for grabs, there was a lot of interest in the outcome. When the competition was over, and the votes were tabulated, the winner was Bear Head Lake State Park in Minnesota.

Yep, that’s right, America’s favorite park isn’t Yellowstone or Yosemite, but a little known state park that falls along the Boundary Waters near Ely, Minnesota. Bear Head Lake received more than 1.6 million votes, easily outpacing the rest of the competition, and earning the $100,000 prize. The Minnesota DNR says they intend to use those funds to build a new trail center for hikers and paddlers to enjoy before heading out on their adventures.

While Bear Head Lake may not be as famous as some other parks in the U.S., it does offer some great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The park has 17 miles of hiking trails for summer use, and 9 miles of cross country skiing and snowshoeing trails for the winter. Paddlers can spend hours exploring the scenic shorelines by kayak or canoe, while wolves, moose, and black bear wander the beautiful Northwoods forests.

For more than 40 years Coca-Cola has been a major supporter of America’s National Parks. In fact, they donated more than $500,000 to the National Parks Foundation this summer alone and $4 million over the past four years. The company has also helped to build and maintain more than 260 miles of trail while giving away annual passes and other prizes to entice more visitors to visit the parks. You can find out more about these efforts, as well as America’s Favorite Park, at