These Five Things Archive

5 Fun New Year’s Eve Traditions in Europe

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on January 2nd, 2013

2013

As the second hand rounds the clock and closes in on the final moments of 2012, the festive spirit in the air intensifies in anticipation of the stroke of midnight. From huge outdoor crowd gatherings to more intimate get-togethers at a friend or family member’s home, most of the world will soon be cheering on the approaching New Year. You may not be familiar with the following five fantastic New Year’s Eve rituals across Europe, as tradition varies from country to country and even from community to community.

 

fireballs

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Fireball Swinging in Northeastern Scotland

While you have likely heard of Hogmanay, (which is what Scotland calls their New Year’s celebration) the fireball swinging event that takes place in Stonehaven may surprise you. As the Old Town House bell strikes twelve, people stand back and watch as a procession of locals light their homemade torches and then march up and down High Street. Attached to several feet of wire or chain, the flames are swung out and around, creating a crowd pleasing fiery spectacle for all. When the group nears the harbor, any fireballs still aglow are tossed into the water.

A male is jumping in fright

Jumping into the New Year in Denmark

In the moment that the year’s last second ticks by, many Danes will leap from a chair. Similar to the superstition as to why a bride is carried over a threshold, the belief is that jumping during this precise time safeguards you from being stuck and dwelling on the previous year’s affairs.

grapes

Consuming Twelve Grapes at Midnight in Spain

This tradition began, possibly as early as 1895, when the vineyards in Spain’s Alicante region tried to up their harvest sales. The gimmick worked, and it is now common practice for Spaniards to eat a grape for each chime of the clock as it approaches midnight. By carrying out this ritual, the hope is that it will bring luck and prosperity in the New Year.

 

dive

photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Diving into the North Sea in the Netherlands

In 1965 seven people decided to dash into the frigid North Sea as a tribute to the start of bathing season. After a toasty warm sauna session, a favorite northern European winter pastime is to cool off by taking a dip outside in icy cold water. Today, the New Year’s Eve dive takes place at 89 locations scattered throughout the Netherlands, and 36,000 people participated in 2012’s event.

bonfire

Christmas Tree Burning in Belgium

Burning Christmas trees is an ancient tradition in Belgium. At one time, it was considered bad luck to have greenery of any kind in the home after the holidays. These days, not only is it a New Year’s Eve ritual but it is also an alternative way to dispose of a Christmas tree.

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? Good memories, food, entertainment and company can’t be beat! This year, make a New Year’s resolution to travel someplace you have never visited before and book flights to Denmark, Spain, Belgium or anywhere else in the world that sparks your interests.

 

5 Stellar Stargazing Destinations in Europe

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on July 11th, 2012

If you happen to be an urbanite like me, you know that catching a glimpse of the starry sky is rare. Even without clouds and smog, the metropolitan glow outshines nature’s glittering extravaganza. Only once the city’s halo has faded in your rearview mirror and the night’s canopy begins to quiet the white noise, do the stars come out to play. The following five European destinations possess unrivalled backdrops for stargazers.

photo courtesy of Turismo La Palma

Canary Islands | La Palma

The “Land of Eternal Spring,” otherwise known as the Canary Islands, is a paradise within itself. Breathtaking volcanic mountains jut up from the Atlantic just west of Morocco and form the Spanish nationality archipelago. La Palma Island is home of the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (one of Europe‚Äôs most prestigious astronomical observatories), but you don’t have to be an astrophysicist to enjoy a spectacular view of the galaxy. Llano del Jable and Llano de La Venta provide astonishing lookout points for constellation admirers of any level.

photo courtesy of Galloway Forest Park

Scotland | Galloway Forest Park

Galloway Forest Park was the first Dark Sky Park created in the UK. The nature reserve’s goal is to conserve energy, leave a minimal impact on the environment, and educate the public about light pollution. By day, bike or stroll along the wooded trails and by night, appreciate the cosmic vista. The 300 square mile preserve boasts a Sky Quality Meter (SQM) scale reading of 21 to 23.6, of a possible 24; this places visitors of this southwestern Scotland haven in almost complete darkness.

Italy | Tuscany

Walk in the footsteps of Galileo Galilei, and appreciate “La Dulce Vida” (The Good Life) at the same time. Begin in Florence atop Arcetri Hill where Galileo recorded his astronomy observations through a refracting telescope; today the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory rests upon this bluff. About a half hour trip north of the city center is Villa Demidoff Park, which hosts stargazing and cosmic themed events. Remember to bring a flashlight along, so that you can scope out the perfect grassy spot to lie down and stare up into the Tuscan sky.

Sweden | Kiruna

Set amongst the relatively unspoiled, Swedish Lapland territory and 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is the old mining town of Kiruna. From the end of May to mid-July, this region of the world experiences days filled with 24 hour sunlight; then, the months of December and January bring with them a period of perpetual darkness. Don’t assume Kiruna goes into hibernation mode, though. The winter season is the prime time to try to witness the captivating glow of the northern lights. Your chances of seeing the radiant waves of colorful light here are high, and the local tourism companies cater to sightseers with a number of enticing excursions. From snowshoeing to dog sledding or taking a sleigh ride to boarding a tour bus, there are guided trek options sure to please most anyone. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, spend a night at the ICEHOTEL while in this neck of the woods.

England | Stonehenge

What better setting is there to admire constellations than in the company of one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Access to Stonehenge is generally restricted to looking at the prehistoric monument from a roped-off distance, but there are a few exceptions to this constraint. During summer and winter solstices, people are permitted to get a much closer encounter with the massive circle of bluestones. It is also possible to arrange an evening visit to the World Heritage Site outside of the general admittance hours, but this needs to be requested in advance.

Whether you are an astrophysicist or someone who simply marvels at the beauty of a starlit sky, the stargazing destinations above are the perfect addition to anyone’s trip itinerary. For the best rates on flights to Europe, book your airfare to one of the above stellar locations with 1800FlyEurope.com.

ice bar from an ice hotel

 

 

5 Secrets to Happiness

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on June 19th, 2012

What We can Learn from Denmark,

the World’s Happiest Country

Scandinavian countries frequently rank as the happiest in the world, and according to a report from the United Nations earlier this year, Denmark placed highest on this list. The United States wasn’t among the top ten. There appears to be a strong correlation between a nation’s wealth and the level of contentedness people possess, and this makes sense based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the basic essentials to survival such as food, water and shelter have to be met before one’s vitality begins to factor into the picture). However, the study shows that economic prosperity is not the absolute answer to creating satisfaction in life. The Danes have a different approach to the pursuit of happiness, as is described in the five following examples.

Hygge

The closest pronunciation of the word hygge is who-gah, and its meaning doesn’t have a direct translation in the English language. Combine elements like warmth, coziness, and good company, and then we begin to get glimpse into the essence of hygge. The next time you feel like life is missing that spark, get together with a group of your closest friends and family, make sure good food and drinks are present, turn the lights off, and gather around a glowing campfire (lighting candles is another great way to set the ambiance).

Jante Law

Not so much a law as a moral code of ethics, the Danes focus on a set of standards that keep a runaway ego grounded. They believe in humbleness and equality. No one person is better than anyone else. Nothing feels worse than being looked down upon and being ridiculed. Think about it, what does feeding this fire accomplish? Do you really think that you can justify seeing yourself as better than someone else by insulting them? The next time you find yourself judging someone for their actions and beliefs, try putting yourself in their shoes. A little bit of compassion goes a long way.

Humor

I’m not suggesting that you mimic another culture’s take on humor, as what is funny to one society (even person to person) may not make sense in another culture or may even be viewed as offensive. The Danes enjoy joking with each other and sharing a good laugh. The simple act of letting go and recognizing the humor in life is an excellent relief for stress. When it seems like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders, invite a friend over to watch a comedy flick or reminisce about some silly, good times you’ve had together.

Attitude Towards Money

The spending habits of the Danish citizens appear to be quite different than those in the U.S. Quality of a purchase is much more significant than buying the latest, flashiest trend on the market. They remove the brag factor from their transactions. If you are on the fence as to whether or not you want to buy the new version of your three month old smart phone or whether you should hit the beach with your loved ones for a weekend getaway, just keep in mind that the electronic gadget will be out of style in a few months when the new and improved model makes its debut.

Work-Life Balance

Denmark actually has a law that requires employers to pay their employees five weeks paid holiday per year, which certainly sounds ideal to me. If we look at the principles underlying this right, you may see that we all could benefit from attempting to balance our professional lives with our personal. So perhaps you don’t have today off, but it’s beautiful outside. During lunch, make it a point to get away from your work space and take a walk (even a ten minute stroll can make a difference in your day).

There is so much to be learned from observing customs and traditions that differ from our own. Open your mind and your heart to new experiences, and perhaps you will discover the key to your own happiness. Book your flights to Europe and let the adventure begin.

 

 

 

 

5 Weird and Wonderful Beaches in Europe

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on June 13th, 2012

There is nothing quite like hitting the beach on a sweltering hot summer day. Upon first sight of water you don’t even think twice about running full speed and plunging into a refreshing escape from the heat. The following European destinations not only provide the much desired splash factor that we’ll all be seeking soon but also come with awe-inspiring terrain that just may make you slow down to take in the incredible views before diving in.

photo courtesy of chausinho

Playa de Gulpiyuri, Spain

Nestled in a field near the village of Naves is a tiny saltwater pool called Gulpiyuri Beach. What makes this little swimming locale so unique is that the water level rises and falls with the Atlantic’s tide. The basin was created by a sink hole, and it is fed via caves that run from the coast, which is close-by.

Giant’s Causeway, Ireland

The seemingly chiseled layout of the basalt encased shoreline in Northern Ireland has been drawing people to the Giant’s Causeway for centuries. Formed about 50 million years ago from volcanic blasts, the mystical pillars have been the origin of many Irish folkloric tales. It is said that the hexagonal rock formations were part of a giant’s bridge that linked Northern Ireland to Scotland.

Pamukkale, Turkey

No, these aren‚Äôt melting ice shelves, they are ridges of bright white travertine and are filled with thermal waters that have left terraces of calcium carbonate deposits throughout the centuries. Pamukkale is located in western Turkey’s Menderes River Valley and is a World Heritage Site. People have been visiting these hot spring fed baths for thousands of years.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

About 5 km outside of Grindavik, Iceland you can take a soothing dip in the steamy Blue Lagoon. Geothermal waters flow into the picturesque basin from 2000 meters underground, and the minerals are said to have healing qualities. Relax and take in a spa treatment available pool side.

Algarve Coast Portugal

Golden sand beaches are tucked in between rugged cliffs and allow sun lovers a more intimate place to unwind on simmering summer days. There are several caves scattered along the oceanfront, giving visitors an exotic and striking backdrop for their Algarve Coast retreat from the heat.

If you are considering taking a vacation abroad this summer, it is best to begin booking flights to Europe as soon as possible. You will want to lock in lower priced airfare before everyone else because this will be peak season for many travelers.

 

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