Archive for December, 2011

Ski Europe | 5 Winter Wonderland Destinations

By 1800FlyEurope in Destination Highlights | on December 28th, 2011

Have you considered hitting the slopes in Europe? If you are accustomed to skiing/riding in North America, you may be in for a few surprises on European pistes (trails), but the differences aren’t too extreme. The point of taking a trip like this is to embrace new experiences.

First, if you are looking to beat the crowds, mornings and noon are the ideal times to get out on the slopes. Whereas most places in the U.S. have lines forming at the lifts shortly after the resort opens, in Europe you will find that the trails are virtually deserted during these periods. After a day on the slopes, people tend to gather with friends and family into the late evening, and lunch is traditionally a part of the day where one relaxes and takes their time to sit down to a good meal. Also, where off-trail skiing/riding is typically prohibited in North America, you will see that it is permitted at many European locations. It is vital to note that off-piste routes are not patrolled by resorts, and you proceed down these trails at your own risk. You absolutely must be aware of the potential for avalanches, your level of endurance, and the weather conditions before embarking on this type of chancy adventure.

Zermatt, Switzerland: The Swiss Alps

Think Swiss chalets and panoramas that will take your breath away. All this will be grabbing at your heartstrings before you have even purchased your life ticket. Do know that the charming town of Zermatt is a combustion-engine free zone, and it is strictly enforced so that air pollution is kept to a minimum. You wouldn’t want smog obscuring those incredible views of the Swiss Alps! The most popular form of transportation used here is the cog railway train, but there are electro-buses and sometimes horse-drawn carriages available for shuttle services. It is possible to start off skiing/riding atop a mountain in Switzerland and, via linking trails, end the run in Cervinia, Italy. The longest route of connected pistes to explore at this picturesque destination is 22 km.

Kitzbühel, Austria: Kitzbühel Alps

The brightly colored peach, green and yellow buildings in the town center warmly stand out amongst the white blanket of snow covering it during the winter. Time almost seems to stand still along the cobblestone streets of quaint Kitzbühel. People here do not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. In fact, should you decide to rush around town impatiently during your stay, you will surely make a spectacle of yourself. When you ski/ride here, just go with the flow, relax, sit back and drink in the beauty of the surrounding terrain. There is a primary lift located in Kitzbühel that will connect you to pistes leading to the towns of Aurach, Jochberg and Kirchberg. To ensure you will have enough time to fully enjoy Kitzbühel’s slopes, on Thursday and Friday skiing/riding hours are extended into the evening.

Chamonix, France: Mont Blanc

This lovely winter haven is nestled in a valley at the base of Mont Blanc (White Mountain), and Chamonix boasts a number of impressive statistics. The first Winter Olympics were held here in 1924, and Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain in the Western European Alps. There is a tunnel that cuts under the mountain to connect Chamonix, France with Courmayeur, Italy. You have 6 main resorts to choose from in Chamonix Valley, and there is a free bus system that will drop you off at anyone of these locations.

Val Gardena, Italy: Val Gardena Valley

Situated in the Dolomites Mountain Range in northern Italy, the Val Gardena Valley is home to the towns of Urtijëi, Sëlva and Santa Cristina. You may purchase a special Dolomiti Superski pass that gives you access to just over 1200 km of prime ski/snowboard trails spanning out over 12 zones. There is absolutely something for everyone here, and you have the choice of slopes ranging from beginning all the way through to expert levels. It is highly recommended for intermediate and above skiers/snowboarders to take the Sella Ronda Tour. This route is a 40 km roundtrip and takes about 6 hrs on average to complete. You want to be sure to set off first thing in the morning; otherwise you could miss the last lift of the day in returning from your excursion. The tour will take you through 4 valleys of interconnected trails and will surely be something you’ll remember for years to come.

Bovec, Slovenia: Kanin-Sella Nevea Ski Resort

When you visit the tiny town of Bovec, Slovenia, you not only have the option of purchasing entrance to two separate ski/snowboard areas, you receive a pass that allows you access to pistes in two countries. The resort has a state of the art, massive cable car that spans Kanin Mountain from Bovec to Sella Nevea, Italy. The trail that runs between the towns is accommodating to skiers/snowboarders of all levels. Here, the climate allows for winter fun to run until the onset of May.

What are you looking for in a skiing/snowboarding getaway? How about the opportunity to encounter kilometer after kilometer of snow packed trails, magnificent vistas, enchanting European villages, and new experiences? Limitless adventures await you when you plan a trip to Europe’s plentiful, stunning mountain ranges. Whether you are booking flights to Italy or flights to Austria, get the best rates at 1800FlyEurope.com.

 

Figgy Pudding, Ablaze | World Cuisine

By 1800FlyEurope in World Cuisine Wednesdays | on December 22nd, 2011

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer! You have probably heard and caroled this line of We Wish You a Merry Christmas many times, but do you know what figgy pudding is? Honestly, I was not really sure myself.

Figgy pudding (or it is often referred to as plum pudding or Christmas pudding) is a traditional British dessert that is served after a large dinner Christmas Day. Recipes date back to the 17th century, and many families in England make the pudding following the same directions that generations of ancestors before them have used.

Inside Scoop

  • It is customary to make the pudding on the 25th Sunday after Trinity (this is generally in November).
  • The pudding is best when it has been allowed to age¬†(4 to 5 weeks is common practice in England) so that the flavors meld together.
  • 13 ingredients were originally used when preparing this dish, and these were intended to be representative of Christ and the 12 apostles.
  • Each family would take turns mixing the ingredients, stirring it from east to west. It is said this was done to pay respect to the Magi‚Äôs journey.
  • Although many people do not partake in the following¬†tradition today, a coin (historically it was a silver sixpence) would be hidden somewhere in the pudding. It is believed that the person who found the coin would be brought wealth during the New Year.
  • The blazing brandy that is poured over top is supposed to be symbolic of Christ‚Äôs passion.
  • It is common to place a holly sprig on pudding as a final garnishment, and this exemplifies Christ‚Äôs Crown of Thorns.

Yield: 8 servings

You will need

  • Pudding Basin (1.5 L Capacity)
  • Parchment paper
  • Aluminum foil
  • String
  • Large pan (must have enough depth so that ¬Ω the pudding basin can be submerged in water)
  • Sprig of holly

Ingredients

Step 1

  • ¬Ω cup raisins
  • ¬æ cup sultanas
  • ¬æ cup figs, chopped
  • ¬º cup candied citrus peel, chopped
  • ¬Ω cup glace cherries (candied cherries)
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 orange (for juice & zest)

Step 2

  • tablespoons butter, unsalted, softened and beaten
  • ¬æ cup muscovado sugar (very dark brown sugar)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup self rising flour
  • ¬æ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 cup almonds, ground

Step 3

  • ¬Ω cup brandy

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients from Step 1 together in the pudding basin, cover it, and let it sit overnight.
  2. Combine the additional ingredients from Step 2 with the fruit mixture.
  3. Grease the sides of the pudding basin, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease a piece of aluminum foil and crimp it along the basin edge. Tie the string around the top of the bowl (secure it over the foil) so that the steam won’t escape while it’s cooking.
  4. Place the basin in a large pan on the stovetop burner, and carefully pour boiling water into the pan until it rises halfway up the bowl. This will need to simmer for 4 hours. Be sure to add more water to the pan occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat and allow it to cool. Replace the aluminum cover with a fresh sheet of greased foil, and store the pudding in a cool, dark place until Christmas Day.
  6. Reheat the pudding in the same manner that it was originally cooked. It only needs to simmer in the water for 1 ¬Ω hours this time. Remove from heat, slide a knife around the basin edges, and flip the pudding onto a plate.
  7. Warm the additional brandy and pour it into a metal ladle. Be sure the pudding plate is placed where you intend to serve your guests; it is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Then light the brandy in the ladle and pour the flaming liquid over the pudding. Once the fire has gone out, place the sprig of holly on top, and you may now dish up this holiday delight.

There are many variations of this recipe where different ingredients and cooking methods are used. If you have friends or family who live in the United Kingdom, why not pay them a visit this holiday season? They will surely have their own version of this pudding. Book your flights to London soon, as the holidays are almost here.

 

 

 

5 Obscure German Holiday Traditions

By 1800FlyEurope in Destination Highlights, These Five Things | on December 16th, 2011

Germany is renowned around the world for their charming Christmas Markets and Glühwein (hot mulled wine), but there are some unique German holiday traditions that you may not have heard of. The festivities are centered on spending quality time with family and friends, and a bit of good humor is mixed in with some these customs. I hope you enjoy reading about the 5 following unexpected German holiday practices as much as I had fun in researching them.

Bundesurlaubsgesetz The Federal Holiday with Pay Act

In Germany, it is customary to receive a minimum of 20 paid work days, including benefits, annually. On top of this, a holiday bonus is also given to workers. The 20 paid days off is only the minimum amount of time employees are usually granted, and it is common for many companies to offer their employees 30 days of paid holiday time yearly. Before the season of winter celebration begins, most Germans have the good fortune of being able to look forward to a nice break from work, and they can make plans on where they wish to spend the holidays and ring in the New Year with family and friends.

The German Christmas Pickle: Myth or Fact?

There are stories that have been passed around via internet on this supposed German tradition. If you have some time to spare, put German Christmas Pickle into a web search engine to see if you can figure this one out for yourself. One version of this legend is that each year a real pickle is hidden somewhere in the branches of the Christmas tree, and the first child to spot the gherkin on Christmas Day is rewarded with an extra gift. Modern day versions of this tale tell a similar story, but a glass pickle ornament has taken the place of the edible version. Interestingly, if you ask a German about this holiday custom, most will respond saying that they have never heard of this oddity. Here’s a link to an ornament shop in Lauscha, Germany, and as you can see they sell glass pickles to hang on your tree.

Bleigießen Lead Pouring

Bleigießen, lead pouring, has existed since pre-Roman times, and today the ritual is done on Silvester (New Year’s Eve). A lead pouring kit may be purchased that will include little lead figurines, a spoon, and a candle. The lead is melted over the candle flame, and then it is poured into a bowl of cold water. The metal shape that is created from this process is supposed to tell you the future of the New Year. For example if the lead comes out in the form of a heart, you will experience love in the year.

Dinner for One or Der 90. Geburtstag The 90th Birthday

A cult classic film that Germans traditionally watch either New Year’s Eve Silvester or New Year’s Day is a British sketch that made its debut on German TV in 1963. It is an 18 minute black and white comedy in English. Curiously, it was never aired in Great Britain, but it was a huge hit in Germany. Originally a 1920’s play written by Lauri Wylie, it is a performance starring a woman, Ms. Sophie, on the celebration of her 90th birthday, and she surrounded by her friends sitting at the dining room table. The funny twist to the plot is that Ms. Sophie has outlived all of her friends, and her dinner invites are imaginary companions. To this day Germans are able to recite the lines of this film, in English, by heart.

Feuerzangenbowle Fire-Tongs Punch

This German festive punch is a holiday tradition that originates from a 1943 movie Die Feuerzangenbowle, and both the beverage and film became wildly famous after its initial showing. The drink is a mix between mulled wine and caramelized rum soaked sugar, but it is the preparation of the Feuerzangenbowle that has evolved into the popular modern spectacle it is today. A rum drenched, loaf-size sugar log is set ablaze in a special metal contraption which has been made just for the occasion. It looks similar to a fondue set up, but the mulled wine sits in a warmed pot while flaming rum is ladled over the sugar loaf. The sweet log like creation sits on a grate above the pot. Slowly, the caramelized rum sugar fusion melts into the mulled wine below. The spirit is served while it is still warm.

This year when you and your family take part in some of the many diverse holiday celebrations that we have in the United States, it may be fun to consider that whatever we may be doing during this time could seem completely foreign to someone else from another country. Should you decide to try some of these German traditions that have been listed above, do proceed with caution if you handle lead or if you are setting anything on fire. Experience some of these German customs in person, and book flights to Munich for you and your family this year. Happy Holidays!

Language on the Go | Resources & Translation Tools

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things, Travel Tips | on December 14th, 2011

Do you plan on traveling to a foreign country where English is not the native spoken language? Have you given any thought as to whether or not you should learn a few phrases before you leave? Perhaps you would like to bring some type of translation resource or device with you on your travels? Do not let the idea of trying to communicate with someone in another language intimidate you. A little effort goes a long way, and it shows the people of the country you are visiting that you respect their culture enough to have taken the time to learn how to say a few basic phrases, such as yes, no, how are you? and thank you. Read on to discover some excellent pre-travel language study choices and several handy, pocketsize tools to aid in translation.

Before you leave…

Beginner’s Level Language Courses

Keep it simple if the main goal of attending a class is to learn some language basics before your trip. Unless you are presently in school and need to fulfill specific course credits towards a degree, you do not need to enroll in a college/university foreign language class. Enroll in a local community course. They are more affordable, night sessions are available, generally they average about six weeks in length and your classmates will most likely have similar aspirations as you. Most likely the class will not be graded, and this is another plus, as you do not want this to feel like a chore. The class is solely for your own benefit, and you will learn a few key terms before your travels.

Free Online Foreign Language Tutorials

For starters, the price is right! A website called livemocha offers free basic language course material for 38 languages. It allows you to choose the level of language learning intensity you desire. When you register, the site will ask you whether you are looking for long-term study assistance or do you need a quick overview? Pick the urgent selection if you are traveling out of the country in a week. It also allows you to choose whether you prefer to learn through conversation or through a more textbook like approach. As you complete the lessons and assignments, you earn Mochapoints, and these can add up to earn you cyber medals, such as Bronze, Silver and Gold. The points are a good way to measure the amount of time and work you have given to learning a new language.

While you are Abroad…

Pocket Dictionaries

For about $5 to $10 you can purchase a pocketsize foreign language dictionary from your local bookstore. These are great if you are only visiting one country, as each little book gives you phrases and words in the specific language you need. You will be able to look words up alphabetically in English for their translation or vice versa to find the English meaning of a word. There is absolutely no technology involved; simply flip through the pages in search of a translation.

Talking Electronic Pocket Translator

The Nyrius LT12 has consistently received high consumer reviews, and the $40 (approximate) price tag is a bargain considering what this tiny handheld device can do. It will translate 12 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Swedish. There are 8,400 common travel phrases that can be accessed through its user friendly menu. Not only does the Nyrius LT12 display a written translation on its screen for you to read, but it also reads the term or phrase aloud so that you know how to pronounce the word(s).

Translation Apps

I have saved one of the most ingenious translator tools on the market for last. It is called Jibbigo, and it is a speech translator app which you can download into your Android, iPhone, iPod or iPad. Unlike using other similar apps that need to connect to a server in order to operate, Jibbigo does not use any data, and therefore you will not have to worry about international roaming charges racking up while you are away. Most European language downloads cost $4.99 each. You simply speak into the phone, and it responds back to you with the translation. There is also a display on your screen that shows you exactly what has been translated, so that you can be assured accuracy. It is almost like having your own personal interpreter at your side, as you can use Jibbigo to exchange conversation back and forth between yourself and another person.

As you can see, there are an abundance of foreign language gadgets and resources available, and they are all very reasonably priced. Whether you learn best in a formal classroom setting or you prefer to use the latest advanced technology as your language guide, one of these options should fit your needs nicely. Keep these ideas in mind when you are booking flights to Barcelona, Paris, or any other exciting destination. Go ahead and impress your business partners, family and/or friends with your language skills on your next trip. Remember that in the event something gets lost in translation, a smile is universally understood.

 

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