Kickstarter campaigns seem to be all the rage lately — but it’s more rare to see the finished product of whatever campaign passes through the news. Luke Shepard, an American student studying abroad at the American University of Paris, took three months to visit 36 cities in 21 countries. After shooting thousands of photographs, he strung them together in post-production to produce Nightvision. Make sure to view this in full-screen HD so you can really take it in.
Daredevil tourists no longer need to head to Pamplona, Spain to be chased by bulls. A company called The Great Bull Run is bringing a stampede of Spanish-inspired bull runs to ten cities across the United States. About 5,000 people have already signed up to take part in the first festival, which will take place later this month just outside of Richmond, Virginia.
These bull runs, however, are nothing like the original Running of the Bulls. The bulls won’t be running through streets to a stadium: instead, they’ll chase people sprinting down a quarter-mile track. Those who don’t want to risk being marred by bulls can watch their matador wannabe friends from the stands, or take part in the capitalization of another tradition. The company is also hosting a tomato fight inspired by La Tomatina (which actually takes place in Valencia, Spain). For a fee, participants can join a massive food fight and not have to worry about cleaning up afterward.
“This is the real deal, modeled after the famous San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, but without all the time and money required for a trip to Europe,” boasts the creators of the event on their website. But really, there is nothing real or authentic about this.
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.
What are your favorite “comeback cities”?
Should a town have the right to display looted antiquities stolen by one of its residents? According to an intriguing piece by Suzanne Daley in The New York Times this morning, the mayor of tiny Aranda de Moncayo, Spain, population 200, thinks they should. A 60-year-old village resident named Ricardo Granada unearthed some 4,000 antiquities using primitive implements, like a metal detector and a backhoe, from a 2,000 years old settlement called Aratikos near his home.
Granada was arrested in March after Spanish authorities were tipped off about two bronze helmets he tried to sell at an auction in Germany. The mayor of the village told The Times that she wanted to see a full archeological excavation of the site, followed by the construction of a small museum, which she believes would draw tourists to the village. It isn’t clear from the story whether the museum would display only newly unearthed antiquities or also the ones already plundered by Granada, but the story raises the murky ethical question of what type of artifacts museums should be allowed to exhibit.Scores of world-famous museums, including the British Museum, New York Museum of Metropolitan Art and Malibu’s J. Paul Getty Villa, have been ensnared in controversies surrounding the provenance of some of their antiquities. According to an estimate by the Archaeological Institute of America, published in a story on the Verge earlier this year, some 85-90 percent of “classical and certain other types of artifacts on the market do not have a documented provenance.”
But is there any difference between items plundered by an invading army or colonial power versus antiquities nabbed by a guy out wandering around after dark with a metal detector? It may not seem very fair for a village to profit from the fact that one of its residents was a thief, but I would visit this museum if it opened. I like to see treasures where they were actually unearthed rather than in a big city museum, far away from their origin. Would you have any ethical qualms about patronizing a museum exhibiting looted antiquities? What do you think Spanish authorities should do with the treasures Granada unearthed?
Beyond beer and the European Parliament I wasn’t sure what Brussels had to offer. Oh wait, waffles, there had to be waffles.
Brussels often gets a bad rap. Maybe it’s because one of the iconic tourist symbols is a statue of a peeing boy, or maybe it’s because in having the headquarters of several major IGOs, it has a very business feel, but either way, if you choose to skip Brussels you’re missing out.
It may not have the quaint charm of Amsterdam or the romanticism of Paris, but spend a weekend in Brussels and there is plenty to do, even for those traveling on a budget.
Only have 48 hours? Make sure these five budget-friendly activities get added to your to-do list.
1. A visit to Cantillon Brewery
As soon as you step into Cantillon, you know you’re in a brewery. Located off the beaten path near the South Train Station, it has been open since 1900, and barely anything has changed since then. The musty smell of yeast hangs in the air and the tasting room has barrels in the place of tables. If you’re into craft and specialty beer, this is the place for you. You can taste a variety of their lambic beers and it will cost you much less than a night out on the town. Buy a few bottles to take with you on your way out.
2. Eat fries at Maison Antoine
Whether it’s midday or late night, you can’t leave Brussels without stopping by the frituur Maison Antoine for a cornet of Belgian fries. Pick your sauces of choice and eat your fries on the go, or take your cornet to one of the nearby bars on Place Jourdan, which have no problem allowing you to sit down and enjoy your fries with a beer.
3. Explore the city’s comic murals
There are over 30 different comic murals around Brussels. Print off a map of all of them and start exploring; it’s an excellent way to check out the city and get a taste for the country’s comic tradition.
4. Get a rooftop view
There are a couple of places in Brussels where you can get pretty stunning views over the city. Start with the glass elevator at Place Poelaert. In the summer, the Beursschouwburg opens up its rooftop terrace for both movie nights and a picnic space everyday at lunchtime and if you’re a fan of urban gardening, you’ll want to check out the rooftop garden at the Royal Library. You can also hit up the Museum of Musical Instruments‘ rooftop restaurant for an afternoon coffee or beer.
5. Visit Parc de Bruxelles
Created in the late 18th century, Parc de Bruxelles has a classic European park feel to it and it’s right next to the Royal Palace. It’s perfect for a picnic or an afternoon stroll. If you’re visiting in July, with all of the official festivities, it’s a good place to be for Belgium’s National Day on July 21.