Interesting indoor spaces around the world

I love the outdoors, to the extent that I tend to bypass or overlook exceptional indoor spaces when I’m traveling or recounting a great trip. Fortunately, Lonely Planet author/former Gadling contributor Leif Pettersen’s recent list on LP’s website has reminded me that—as many a grandmother has said—beauty is on the inside.

Pettersen says only in recent years has he developed a special appreciation for the indoors. He had ample time to contemplate his new interest “during two sadistically cold weeks last winter when I voluntarily confined myself to the Minneapolis Skyway System as a livability experiment for an article I was working on.”

He’s since started a list of “singular, practical” indoor spaces (traveloguebookdealforthewin!) of note, including (obviously) Minneapolis’ Skyway System (“The largest contiguous skyway system in the world, connecting what may be the largest contiguous indoor space anywhere.”); Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar; Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure; NYC’s Grand Central Terminal (aka Grand Central Station); St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and the Queen Mary 2. Here’s to keeping warm indoors this winter.

[Photo credit: Flickr user davedehetre]

New Florence App hits app store (and it’s free!)

Update! The app is now also available for Android devices.

Our old friend and partner-in-crime Leif Pettersen has been busy since his departure from Gadling in 2007. The wayward Lonely Planet author, travel guru and generally affable guy has been bombasting around the planet on various projects, but one in particular recently got our attention at Gadling Labs.

Turns out, Pettersen just finished putting the final touches on a new digital travel guide to Florence, the product of which is currently available in the app store for all iPhone, iPad and iVanity hardware. And best of all, it’s free for the next day. All that you have to do is scoot over to the site, click download and get your hands on the full product. In Leif’s words, “your review can be the payment.”

Here at Gadling Labs we’re itching to try out the app, but with our Android phones on a Linux operating system (in a Faraday-cage newsroom no less) it’s really difficult to jump into the river of mainstream app culture. Regretfully, our 8″ thick binder of printed AAA maps, hand written notes and excerpts from Herodotus will have to continue working as our guidebooks.

For those heading or planning to head to Florence with an iPhone, however, give Leif’s Florence guide a spin. For the cost, we’re sure it’s worth at least checking out.

[Flickr image via Arianna M]

Thirteen places in the world to creep you out

Kelly’s post on haunted hotels reminded me of when I was a kid. There was an abandoned house on my grandparents’ street that was too hard to ignore. One Halloween my cousins and I dared each other to run across the front porch and knock on the front door after dark. Imagine my surprise when, instead of my fist meeting the glass of the door’s window as I expected, my fist kept going. There wasn’t any glass. Yep, I screamed and ran like hell. For years, each time I visited my grandparents and passed the house, even after a family moved in and fixed it up, I remembered the delicious feeling of being spooked.

That house was small potatoes compared to the list of 13 of the world’s most creepy places that Ralph Martin at has cooked up. I could almost feel that tickle of a breath on the back of my neck when I read about them. Just look at the photo of Bhangharh, India, a town where people haven’t lived since 1640 because, possibly, a bunch of people who lived there were massacred, and the rest fled never to return. Notice those monkeys? See how they are just sitting there watching the tourists who come by day and leave by night? Images of Hitchcock’s horror flick, “The Birds,” come to mind.

Here are more of the 13.

Then there’s Philadelphia’s Mütter museum, similar to Bangkok’s Museum of Forensic Medicine. There is a vast collection of gross out oddities such as removed tumors and models that show various maladies like just what gangrene does to a person. I’ve smelled it and it’s not pleasant–I can imagine the looks of it. *shudder* Willy wrote a detailed post on the museum with links to photos back in March. And for more forensic medicine gross outs, here’s another post from Willy on Thailand’s Siriraj Museum–there are 10 museums that make up this one to make sure you really lose your appetite.

In Mexico City’s Sonora Witch Craft Market, a happy Buddha sits in the midst of dressed up skeletons. Here you can get your fortune told and advice on how to turn your luck around. Before you leave you can pick up the ingredients for all your potion needs.

Easter Island off Chile’s coast is where huge heads carved from volcanic rock reside. You can wander among them and wonder how exactly they got where they are located and what happened to the people who made them centuries ago. No one really knows. Creatures from outer space, perhaps, came to help out with their UFOs? That’s one theory.

If you’re interested in traveling the path of a voodoo queen who put a curse on a place, head to the Manachc Swamp in Louisiana. Every once in awhile a dead body turns up here. There are torchlight night tours if the boat tour by day doesn’t give you enough chills.

Leif has also written about the Bran Castle in Romania. Bram Stoker modeled the castle in Dracula after this one. Look for the engraving of Vlad Dracula having dinner while surrounded by people he has impaled on stakes. Yum.

Gaad! was my impression when I saw the photo of the Catacombs in Paris. Walls of skulls and bones are hard to forget. Going here will make you feel like you’ve stepped into an Ann Rice novel. She’s used it as a setting for some of her stories.

To see the rest of the list, head to the article at Here you’ll find the specifics about how to contact each place and lovely tidbits about what makes these spots unique. And, if you want 13 MORE places for Halloween, check out these. These aren’t the naturally creepy places, however, but ones created by humans to be perfect for Halloween frights and chills.

Halloween boos at zoos

Here’s another mega round-up of Halloweeny things to do–some of them mentioned in other posts. But when I saw our beloved Leif Pettersen’s name as the writer for Minneapolis: Zoo Boo at the Como Zoo & Conservatory, I wanted to give this list a shout out. [Check out Leif’s very witty, I can’t say it enough, WITTY Gadling series, My Bloody Romania]

Leif’s zoo mention can be multiplied to take in about any major zoo in the U.S. and reminded me to put our zoo membership to good use. I’ll head to the Columbus Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo, probably this weekend. This photo by Fly on Flickr is from Boo at the Zoo at the Atlanta Zoo in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here are 10 other zoos with boos–some start this weekend. There are lots more since boo rhymes with zoo. What could be more perfect than that?

  1. Boo at the Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada
  2. Boo at the Zoo Denver Zoo, Denver Colorado
  3. Night of the Living Zoo and Boo at the Zoo. Hogle Zoo, Salt Lake City, Utah
  4. Haunt at the Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  5. Boo at the Zoo and Dia de los Muertes, San Franciso Zoo, San Francisco, California
  6. Boo at the Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  7. Boo at the Zoo, Ft. Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Boo at the Zoo, Cleveland Metro Parks Zoo, Cleveland, Ohio
  9. Boo at the Zoo, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Lincoln, Nebraska
  10. Boo at the Zoo, Little Rock Zoo, Little Rock, Arkansas

Zoos have found pushing holidays are real money makers. The events hook me in–otherwise going to the Columbus Zoo on a regular day is just a matter of looking at the world’s largest snake in captivity –again –and deciding if, for variety, we should make our way around the zoo from left to right this time instead of the other way around.

A Comprehensive, Research-free List of Hostel Etiquette

Leif Pettersen is a freelance writer, currently finishing up researching Tuscany for some guidebook series that he refers to only as “rhyming with ‘Homely Janet’.” If you’re interested, he’s provided numerous useful tips about Tuscany on his blog. Most notably, he found out (the hard way) that Italian men don’t get much respect when they wear shorts.

Recently, Leif wrote what he claims is a comprehensive, research-free list of hostel etiquette. If you’ve ever slept in a hostel, you know that it can be cheap, rewarding, and a fun way to meet people. It can also be a real cramper as countless foreign knobs (Leif’s word, not mine) commit various infractions against other hostelers — and the world at large. To Leif’s 27 tips — which should be mandatory reading before being allowed to drop your load in any hostel anywhere — I must add these:

  1. Do not ever, EVER sit on my bed. I paid $6 for it tonight, and it’s MINE — every last square inch of it.
  2. Along the same lines, if you are sleeping on the top bunk, do not use my mattress as a launching pad. I don’t want your foot stepping on my leg as you try to get your big butt up on the second level.
  3. It is impolite to throw open the window without asking the other people in the room — particularly the poor slob whose bed is right under said window.
  4. Despite what Mum told you, it is not necessary to completely unpack and then completely repack your bag’s contents each and every day. If, however, your meds have worn off, and you feel you absolutely MUST do this, please go outside or into some large, open space. Do not use the floor of our small, small dorm room.
  5. Just like at home, if you use the last of the TP, do not do anything at all before going and finding replacement TP. It is not cool for me to wander into the bathroom, only to have to wander back out, because you have used yards and yards of quilted cotton to blow your gooey, allergy-ridden nose. (Also, after you blow that dripping shnoz of yours, please be sure to get the snotty tissue in the waste basket.)

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, go check out the rest of Leif’s tips. It’s funny stuff — and 100% spot on.