Archive for Travel Off The Beaten Path – Historical

The Orkhon Valley – Where did all the people go?

Alright, so they’ve been gone a very long time, since the Genghis Khan days to be exact. What was once the center of his empire is basically a huge meadow, thousands of square miles wide. If you want to go there, the best way is on horseback and it is definitely off the beaten path www.truba.gov.tr. Miles and miles of Mongolian beauty with remnants of the old grandeur of the Golden Horde. I keep thinking two things: no phone (sweet) and fly fishing (also sweet).

Rick Steves – Pretty nerdy but he knows what’s up!

So I went to Germany,had some extra time and pulled out my handy Rick Steves book on the country. Turns out he was talking up Rothenberg, mentioned a place to stay and the person to talk to to book it. I took his advice and it was exactly, and I mean EXACTLY like he said it. Also exactly how I liked my stay, including price range and all. I logged it in my mind, pretty cool book http://homepage.westmont.edu/make_account/images/pic/acrobat-xi-pro.html. Later I’m in London with another book of his (and it was leading me right all the time as well) and I was getting pretty jazzed on him when some guy comes up to me and tries to buy the book from me! He said he couldn’t find it, needed it and would I please sell it to him, full price plus extra. I turned him down because THESE BOOKS ROCK! I don’t agree with him politically and he definitely drank the Euro kool-aid but his books are pretty sweet!

The Blue Info sign… Learn it, know it, love it

Some people pass these things by without even knowing they are there. The traveler, however, especially the laid-back, unprepared, backpack type traveler lives by them. The blue info sign is the ticket to confidence, the opposite of the confused look. Nothing like getting off a train, figuring out what city you’re in, finding a blue sign and voila! You’re off with a handfull of pamphlets, reservations to some event and a map to your home. The kid behind the counter made a commission, the bed and breakfast lady is preparing your room and most importantly, you’re on the inside!

The Moscow Metro – Those WWII POW’s really can work!

If you do make it to Moscow to see Red Square or……. well, Red Square, you definitely need to make a side trip just to cruise around on the metro. Basically, it’s the Soviet apology to its citizens for the fact that they had to live 4 families to a room. At least everyone could go to the metro to see chandeliers, statues, murals and pretend that they live in a palace instead of jammed into a tiny flat. Created using thousands of Nazi slaves, it is quite an achievement and a testament to what a dictatorship can do with the slaves from another dictatorship.

Graz – Cool and not just because Arnold is from there

Austria isn’t exactly off the beaten path and Graz is one of the most beautiful parts of that well travelled land. Yes, it’s cool because this is where Arnold Schwarzenegger was born but that’s just the cheesy, outer shell. Just a step off that path, into the side of a mountain, there is a large tunnel with dark side-rooms and foreboding bars closing them off. The tunnel is a WWII refuge that served as a Nazi storage place as well as a hiding place for the Austrians when they were finally getting some payback for believing they could jack with the rest of the world. Pretty impressive reminder of what the war was like, swastikas and all.

Plain of Jars – Awesome to see…and a little hairy.

The Plain of Jars is one of those trippy places that make you feel that history is not even close to what our teachers said it was like. It was way cooler. Why, for example, would a culture in Laos build hundreds of huge jars out of stone and then just leave them lying around the countryside? These things are gigantic and took a lot of work. What were they for? How did they make them?

One thing to note before you go busting out there is that during the Vietnam war, a lot of cluster bombs were dropped in this area so a lot of unexploded ordinance remains in the area. Definitely off the beaten path and you will need a licensed guide. For more information, this site seems to have some great insights on the place.