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What Chernobyl looks like today: the Chernobyl disaster in photos

What Chernobyl looks like today: the Chernobyl disaster in photos

What does apocalypse look like? To see what Chernobyl looks like today, I visited the Chernobyl disaster zone in early 2020, nearly 34 years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine exploded. The disaster forced tens of thousands to leave their homes, many more to perish from radiation exposure, and countless others to suffer from disease.

Nazi Mauthausen concentration camp was notorious

Nazi Mauthausen concentration camp was notorious

The Mauthausen Memorial in Austria offers a sobering look at Nazi terror during World War II. The former Mauthausen concentration camp, located not far from the Danube River, was one of the Nazis most notorious camps. It is estimated that of the 190,000 prisoners held at Mauthausen during the seven years the camp operated, at least 90,000 died. 

Discover the secret Ostannya Barykada restaurant in Kyiv

Discover the secret Ostannya Barykada restaurant in Kyiv

Ostannya Barykada restaurant, also known as the Last Barricade restaurant, is a hidden secret worth discovering in Kyiv. It is not just a restaurant with historic décor and astounding, creative, all-Ukrainian food and drink. Think of Ostannya Barykada as a gastronomic space in a museum that gives a huge bear hug to the essence of Ukraine.

What to do in Bergen: The ultimate Bergen city guide

What to do in Bergen: The ultimate Bergen city guide

Our What to do in Bergen city guide will help you make the most of your upcoming visit. It is so very easy to fall in love with Bergen. Visit Bryggen a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Theta Museum, the Bergen Maritime Museum, Bergenhus Festning, and ride the Fløibanen funicular for starters.

Hiking and relaxing in Theth Albania

Hiking and relaxing in Theth Albania

Albania, more known for beaches than mountains, is a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. We loved our hiking vacation in the mountains of Theth Albania. With Albania poised to join the European Union a hiking in Albania holiday should be on your list now.

Things to do in Oslo: a pocket Oslo city guide

Things to do in Oslo: a pocket Oslo city guide

Our Oslo city guide will help you make the most of your visit. Central Oslo is compact, cozy, walkable and enjoyable, especially with our Ultimate City Guide to Oslo. You’ll see Norway’s Resistance Museum, Akershus Fortress, The Viking Ship Museum, the Royal Palace, Vigeland Park and so much more.

Enchanting Botanical Nights at the Berlin Botanical Gardens

Enchanting Botanical Nights at the Berlin Botanical Gardens

Botanical Nights in the Botanical Garden Berlin make visiting a botanical garden something full of mystery, magic, intrigue, musicians, lightshows and fun. Plants, trees, greenhouses and ponds come alive during Berlin’s Botanical Nights. The cover photo for this story was awarded a Gold Medal by the North American Travel Journalists Association for travel photography.

Great carnival parades in Europe: Think small (Updated February 2019)

Great carnival parades in Europe: Think small (Updated February 2019)

Known in the United States as Mardi Gras (actually French for “Fat Tuesday), the traditions of excessive celebrations and outrageous carnival parades prior to the pre-Easter fasting during Lent date back many centuries in Europe. But you don’t have to head to the crowd-filled streets of big towns like Germany’s Cologne or Dusseldorf, France’s Nice, or Switzerland’s Basel to experience some great carnival parades in Europe. And you don’t even have to indulge in excess!

Meet the Spoon Family – Leipzig, Germany

Meet the Spoon Family – Leipzig, Germany

Meet the Spoon Family — This classic neon sign was installed in 1973 at the former East German company headquarters of VEB Feinkost Leipzig, a food manufacturer of canned soups, vegetables and other items. After the Berlin Wall came down the sign fell into disrepair. It was declared a cultural monument in 1993.

Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen Berlin a house of terror

Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen Berlin a house of terror

The Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen is a memorial in Berlin to 44 years of terror and political persecution at the hands of the GDR. This prison was in a restricted military area in Soviet occupied East Berlin and was never marked on any East German map of East Berlin. The former prison of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) is preserved as a memorial and is unlike any other memorial in Germany. It is a must-see destination.

Know what it’s like to go bike touring in Europe

Know what it’s like to go bike touring in Europe

While no bike tour company is exactly alike — and no two tours will likely ever be identical, there is common ground when bike touring in Europe. Follow along with us as we give you an idea through photographs and quick tips what a day in the life bike touring in Europe is like.

A Croatian lady and her figs

A Croatian lady and her figs

The fruit grown in Croatia and the farmlands reminded me of my childhood. When I happened across this woman dressed in traditional garb sitting quietly at the side of the road beside her tray of drying figs, I had to stop.

A traveler’s guide to European coffee culture

A traveler’s guide to European coffee culture

We have experienced coffee culture around Europe. And we’ve sampled the many various ways of serving the caffinated elixer, from nearly syrupy dark tablespoons of caffeine in doll-sized cups to huge bowls of espresso and frothy milk. It’s what you do as a traveler – enjoy a cup of local coffee as the locals enjoy it.

Louvre Museum: Historic meets modern in Paris

Louvre Museum: Historic meets modern in Paris

Depending on who’s talking, the Louvre Museum in Paris is the second-most-visited site in the French city. And the world’s most-visited museum, with nearly 10 million people touring the grand halls in 2016 (although that number slides up and down a bit from different sources). This, for example, is where the Mona Lisa resides.

5 great Berlin street food markets

5 great Berlin street food markets

As the burgeoning and bustling capital of Germany, Berlin offers an addicting restaurant scene with any international or trendy cuisine you may desire. But in keeping with its gritty, artistic ways, Berlin has a superior street food market scene. We show you 5 great Berlin street food markets you won’t want to miss.

Kirkenes Travel Tips: An Arctic frontier at road’s end

Kirkenes Travel Tips: An Arctic frontier at road’s end

Kirkenes is quite literally an Arctic frontier at road’s end, located as far northeast as possible in Norway, close to the Varangerfjord. It is both the endpoint for the northbound Hurtigruten ferry and the northern terminus of the E6, the main road that runs north-south between Kirkenes and Oslo.

Photographing red flowers on barren trees in Kirkenes

Photographing red flowers on barren trees in Kirkenes

On a few hour break from our Hurtigruten ship, the Midnatsol before it would depart the dock to head back south along the Norwegian coast toward Oslo, we took a little walk through Kirkenes. We came across red blossoms on a tree, beautiful in the snow. Learn how Therese took the photo and how the beauty of Kirkenes inspired her.

The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow near Berlin, Germany, is an engineering marvel

The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow near Berlin, Germany, is an engineering marvel

The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow was completed in 1934 and is part of the Haavel-Oder waterway connecting the Elbe and Oder river basins. The waterway begins in Berlin at the Spandau lock and opens into the West Oder at the border area between Poland and Germany. Watching ships being raised and lowered in this ship elevator is amazing. A true engineering marvel.

Kirkenes – Arctic light becomes artist’s delight

Kirkenes – Arctic light becomes artist’s delight

Kirkenes is located in the farthest (and iciest and darkest) reaches of northeastern Norway, a stone’s throw from the Russian border. It is approximately 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle off the Barents Sea. The small town serves as the northernmost port for the Hurtigruten coastal ferry and the northern terminus of the E6, the main road that runs north-south between Kirkenes and Oslo.

Picturesque Mousehole Harbor a favorite of artists

Picturesque Mousehole Harbor a favorite of artists

Mousehole has retained much of its charm with narrow streets, art galleries, quaint shops and half-timber cottages. The harbor wall and two breakwaters are there to shield the Mousehole village from winter gales and pounding waves as well as to create a peaceful shelter for visitors to sit and stroll.

Colorful Buildings Along Trondheim’s Nidelva River

Colorful Buildings Along Trondheim’s Nidelva River

Trondheim is a colorful city, and while it is the third largest city in Norway, it feels much more intimate than its size might imply. The Nidelva river runs through the city, beside the Nidaros Cathedral and past an historical area called Bakklandet situated on its banks north of the Old Town Bridge.

Wagging Bambi tails at Jardin des Plantes in Paris

Wagging Bambi tails at Jardin des Plantes in Paris

Paris is a city that is filled with parks – more than 400 — from postage stamp size ones on street corners to sprawling green spaces, like the Jardin des Plantes with its 28 hectares (69 acres) that were first planted in 1626. The most beautiful thing about this plant-filled wonderland for visitors? It’s free.

Haunting history on Berlin Underground tours

Haunting history on Berlin Underground tours

Underground city tours always seemed to be a tourist come-on to me, but then I discovered Berlin Underground tours. Not a for-profit business, not a tour that drops you off in a gift shop, not a tour that starts in a bar and highlights raucous partying, this is the real deal in Berlin’s Underground.

Everyone Loves a Parade! Musikfest Bregenzerwald

Everyone Loves a Parade! Musikfest Bregenzerwald

Everyone loves a parade! This parade took place in July 2016 in Egg, Austria, and is part of a festival known as Musikfest Bregenzerwald. This festival takes place in a different village every year in Bregenzerwald and is organized by the village hosting the event. Each village in Bregenzerwald has its own musicians group and each marches in the parade.

Quick Prenzlauer Berg travel guide to a Berlin hotspot

Quick Prenzlauer Berg travel guide to a Berlin hotspot

One of our favorite areas in Berlin is the artsy cool Prenzlauer Berg. Our Prenzlauer Berg travel guide will point you to the top things to do in this Berlin hot spot. Kollwitzplatz and Kastanienallee are particularly beautiful Prenzlauer Berg streets. Farmers markets, street festivals and more are regular occurrences.

Kanisfluh Sunrise in Bregenzerwald Austria

Kanisfluh Sunrise in Bregenzerwald Austria

On July 11, 2016, HITravelTales was part of the jury for the Scandinavian Outdoor Awards (ScandinavianOutdoorGroup.com) and was fortunate enough to be able to experience a spectacular sunrise from the summit of Kanisfluh in Bregenzerwald, Austria. Enjoy our hike with headlamps as the sun begins to crest the horizon and then the beauty of the area as the sun’s rays bring to life the color of this amazing place.

Artist’s war memorial at Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz

Artist’s war memorial at Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz

The memorial on the Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz (Bethlehem Church Square) is actually the work of Spanish artist Juan Garaizabel to commemorate the Bohemian Bethlehem Church. This small church was built for Bohemian evangelical refugees in about 1735 and was a center of the community. It was destroyed by bombing in 1943.

International Donaufest Fireworks In Ulm 2016

International Donaufest Fireworks In Ulm 2016

The International Donaufest (Danube) Festival has been held since 1998 and occurs every other year. Ulm city center and the banks of the Danube river are turned into a sort of international festival to celebrate the coming together of regions and countries along the Danube that rely on the river — Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The festival last 10 days and includes a massive fireworks display. HI Travel Tales was there this year to witness the fireworks extravaganza from the banks of the Danube.

Busy bee in Hamburg’s Planten un Blomen garden

Busy bee in Hamburg’s Planten un Blomen garden

A visit to the Planten un Blomen Garden on your Hamburg tour is a must, whether you are a flower and garden lover, adore open spaces, enjoy dancing water fountains, or just want a nice place for a stroll or picnic. Now, not many non-Germans head there – obvious in the fact that the official Hamburg tourism website doesn’t have the garden’s page translated into English!

Food and drink on Hurtigruten cruises in Norway

Food and drink on Hurtigruten cruises in Norway

You’ve booked your dream Hurtigruten cruise up the coast of Norway. Time to get ready for the onboard experience. Of course, a key part of this experience is food and drink on the Hurtigruten cruises in Norway. We learned by doing, and we hope you can also learn about Hurtigruten food choices and Hurtigruten drink options from our personal experiences.

Eight reasons to visit Trondheim

Eight reasons to visit Trondheim

How many reasons do you need to visit Trondheim, Norway? Trondheim is one of Norway’s oldest cities and also boasts a vibrant cultural life. Despite its size, its historic city center still feels intimate. Visit Bakklandet, Old Town Bridge, Nidaros Cathedral and walk the Nidelva River.

Berlin Bank of the Future by Deutsche Bank

Berlin Bank of the Future by Deutsche Bank

A concierge? A gift and trinket store? A bar and coffeehouse? Waiters and fine décor? This is a bank? Yes, this is Germany’s “Deutsche Bank” — the so-called “Bank of the Future” in central Berlin, the company’s one-and-only concept bank where it tests ideas for the world.

Visit Roros, Norway: UNESCO World Heritage town

Visit Roros, Norway: UNESCO World Heritage town

Roros is somewhat off-the-beaten-path of many tourists visiting Norway. Roros, a former mining town, earned a UNESCO World Heritage site designation for its rare collection of timber homes and buildings. Check out Tynset Church, Slegghaugan, and Smelthytta museum.

Fasnacht Parade Geislingen

Fasnacht Parade Geislingen

Fasnacht Parade in Geislingen, Germany — Carnival associations spend the entire year continuing the traditions, working on costumes, and planning parades and events. You can only take part if you have lived there for a minimum number of years, and costumes and masks must conform to historical precedents. Some of the costumes are quite old and handed down generation to generation to continue the carnival celebrations and their history. There, we were street side at the carnival parade in a small town called Geislingen, where many clubs have their own traditions, including the “Feuerhexen” (fire witches).

Tiny German town answers letters to Santa for over 50 years

Tiny German town answers letters to Santa for over 50 years

It takes dedication to answer children’s letters to Santa Claus, whether he’s known as St. Nick, Father Christmas or Kris Kringle. But a few namesake towns around the world do just that – letters by the many thousands every year, year after year. There is one special town that answers letters to Santa Claus: Nikolausdorf (Nicholas village) in Lower Saxony in Northern Germany. With a population that barely brushes 1,000, it has its work cut out for it to answer nearly 8,000 letters each year.

Choosing Hurtigruten cabins: differences, details

Choosing Hurtigruten cabins: differences, details

Prepping and planning for your Hurtigruten voyage can be a challenge, especially when it comes to picking the best cabin class for you among the many Hurtigruten cabins since there are 14-plus different types and shapes, although not all are available on all ships. Still, weighing out your ROI (Return on Investment!) is key. Do not just pick the cheapest Hurtigruten cabin OR the most expensive OR leave it to the Hurtigruten staff to necessarily steer you straight.

Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens: a Franconian forest secret

Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens: a Franconian forest secret

“Off to the cellar” is what you’ll hear from Forchheim locals when they disappear into the forest on trails (“auf die Keller”). What that means in local slang is that they are headed to a beehive of popular beer gardens — the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens — nestled deep in the Upper Bavarian forest dubbed Franconian Switzerland.

Touring Loire Valley by bike peaceful and fun

Touring Loire Valley by bike peaceful and fun

If there is “slow food,” then consider trying out “slow touring.” Touring Loire Valley by bike allows you to stop, ponder, photograph and enjoy while not missing a bit. Forget whizzing past to get to the next castle or winery. You’ll still get there. It’ll just be a bit slower and a whole lot more fun.

Loire Valley wine tasting experience is memorable

Loire Valley wine tasting experience is memorable

Covering several hundred square miles with hundreds of wineries, Loire Valley wine tasting opportunities are numerous. This French region may be one of the world’s most well-known wine-producing areas – but HOLY COW how do you get to experience it all on a short visit? The wine trail (“La route des vignobles”) is nearly 500 miles! The Loire Valley tourist and wine experts have figured that out for you, so take a breath and get ready to take a sip (or two, or three…).

Sophie Scholl Memorial: tribute to White Rose student resistance

Sophie Scholl Memorial: tribute to White Rose student resistance

The Sophie Scholl memorial in Munich looks like loose pieces of paper scattered on the ground in front of the University of Munich building. In actuality, the Sophie Scholl papers are attached permanently to the ground in front of the main entrance on the “Geschwister Scholl Platz.” A fitting tribute to the White Rose Movement.

Postcard Zurich: City air smells like chocolate!

Postcard Zurich: City air smells like chocolate!

We all know Switzerland is known for its chocolate … amazing, rich, yummy, decadent chocolate. In this “Postcard Zurich” the female half of HI Travel Tales remembers when she got off the train in a small suburb of Zurich and, as she walked to her hotel, she thought to herself, “This place smells like chocolate.”

Theta Museum in Bergen: tiny room with a huge story

Theta Museum in Bergen: tiny room with a huge story

It was a secret room then and, for many, it remains a secret museum and hidden room today. It is the itty-bitty Theta Museum, a minute 170-square-foot (16 square meters) low-ceiling room hidden away on an upper floor of the Bryggen wharf area in Bergen. The museum was the headquarters of the Theta Group, an important part of the Norwegian Resistance during WWII. Fascinating in its story, the room was reconstructed exactly how it looked when it operated with a few young men and one woman from 1940-1942 as their secret headquarters.

Norway in a Nutshell DIY and save money

Norway in a Nutshell DIY and save money

Plan a Norway in a Nutshell DIY tour easily – and save hundreds of kroner. We’ll give you the traveling tips you need to experience the Flåm Railway and the Norwegian fjord landscape via a Norway in a Nutshell tour, but on a budget.

Postcard Paris: Jardin du Luxembourg escape

Postcard Paris: Jardin du Luxembourg escape

Paris is a marvelous, invigorating city with many corners to explore but sometimes you have to make like a Parisian and go to the park to escape it all. The Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement near the Sorbonne and only about a mile from St. Michel and the Seine River is just right for that.

Berlin Wall 25th anniversary commemorates fall and freedom

Berlin Wall 25th anniversary commemorates fall and freedom

It’s been 25 years since the Berlin Wall came tumbling down … suddenly, surprisingly, peacefully. Memories of the wall’s horrors seem like yesterday to those of us old enough to remember it and to have personally seen the wall and its “death zone.” The Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary remembrance reminds us to never forget.

Lost Gardens of Heligan a real find in Cornwall

Lost Gardens of Heligan a real find in Cornwall

The Lost Gardens of Heligan is mysterious and magical. The Cornwall estate disappeared beneath thorns before the outbreak of WW1 but was rediscovered in 1990 to become Europe’s largest garden restoration project. The 200 acre paradise attracts wildlife, garden lovers, and anyone who just loves a good mystery.

Hurtigruten cruise excursions – Insider tips and advice

Hurtigruten cruise excursions – Insider tips and advice

Once you get your Hurtigruten cruise along the coast of Norway booked, it’s time to start thinking about what Hurtigruten cruise excursions you may want to add on – or if you can do some on your own. Like a regular cruise line, the Hurtigruten cruise ferries do have shore and city excursions that cover everything from city walking tours and bus trips to museums to a dinner at a Viking museum or dog sledding.

Cornwall: View from garden lawn of St Michael’s Mount

Cornwall: View from garden lawn of St Michael’s Mount

It is easy to lose yourself for a few days when visiting Penzance and surrounding areas along the eastern coastline of Cornwall, England. A few of our favorite places to visit in Cornwall include Mevagissey and Pentewan (including the Lost Gardens of Heligan), down to Penzance, St Michaels Mount (where the above image was quickly painted into my journal), and Mousehole.

A must-visit: France’s Villandry castle gardens

A must-visit: France’s Villandry castle gardens

The Loire Valley, about an hour south of Paris, is known for its wines – mostly a softer, lighter rosé or white but also some vibrant reds – as well as for its castles. You could spend weeks visiting all the wineries and castles – or longer. But be sure to stop in to see the Villandry castle gardens.

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