Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for February, 2008

More to Svalbard Than Seeds

By Linda Tancs

The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard gained national attention recently when it opened its seed vault to visitors.  The vault, housed deep within an Arctic mountain in the capital city of Longyearbyen, was designed to safeguard seeds for the world’s crops to sustain life in the event of an apocalyptic event.  But Svalbard, which means “cold edge,” and its capital city should be remembered as more than just a “Noah’s Ark” of sorts for farming.  As with other Arctic destinations, you’ll find your fair share of reindeer, polar bears, blue ice and, between April and August, midnight sun.  Also, jazz and blues enthusiasts will find festivals at the end of January and October, respectively.  And around mid-March you can celebrate the end of Arctic darkness during SunFest.  Just like the rest of Norway, though, prices here are outrageously expensive.  Tent-based camping remains one of the most popular and cost-efficient ways to enjoy this northernmost inhabited tip of the world.

Germany’s Natural Wonder Endangered in the North Sea

By Linda Tancs

In the middle of the North Sea, about 70 km from the mouth of Germany’s Elbe River, lies the tiny municipality of Helgoland.  The smallness of the island is dramatized by the largeness of its landmark, a 47-meter high, red sedimentary rock birthed by Mother Nature affectionately called Lange Anna (Tall Anna).  If the experts are right, Tall Anna will be getting a lot shorter.  Claiming ongoing erosion of the 25,000 ton monolith by storm waters, experts fear that without the undertaking of protective measures likely to cost millions of euros, Nature will reclaim what it once built.  And that won’t be good for tourism, considering that only about 400,000 tourists visited this destination last year.  Without such a photogenic landmark to draw visitors, that number is likely to plummet further.  So Nature, heal thyself.

Travel May Affect Insurance

By Linda Tancs

One aspect of travel that most tourists probably don’t consider is the affect it will have on their life insurance.  Yes, that’s right.  Life insurance.  Some states, like New York, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Colorado, Washington and Illinois, prohibit life insurance companies from adjusting premiums based on customers’ past or future travel plans.  New Jersey is likely to follow suit.  As for the rest, presumably that means you better watch your wallet if big brother deems your trek through the Himalayas to be a high-risk activity.

First Flight Flies on Green Fuel

By Linda Tancs

Acting on its environmental manifesto, Virgin Atlantic’s maiden voyage using alternative fuel took place over the weekend.  Powered by a fuel derived from coconut oil, a plane set off from Heathrow to Amsterdam.  Some have deemed the initiative a stunt, perhaps because some reports place airline emissions at 1.6% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.  Whatever the case, the effort fulfills part of Branson’s $3 billion climate pledge–a worthy goal, indeed. 

Little Liechtenstein

By Linda Tancs

Liechtenstein, a haven for both athlete and aesthete, is a tiny principality nestled along the borders of Switzerland and Austria.  Explore the charms of this unassuming little land at

New Rule in Effect for Lithium Batteries

By Linda Tancs

Travelers should note the modified rule on lithium ion batteries (commonly found in consumer electronics) for carry-on and checked baggage.  The new rule provides that lithium ion batteries installed in equipment may be brought on board, together with two additional loose batteries that are kept in their original packaging or stored in plastic bags.  In checked baggage, any such batteries must be installed in equipment.  In the past, the rule placed no particular parameters on the carrying of lithium ion batteries beyond a certain wattage per battery and except to permit two additional loose, oversized batteries (extended life batteries).  The new rule is intended to prevent fires or short circuiting by addressing methods for the safe carry of these batteries.

A Real Lover’s Lane

By Linda Tancs

In this Valentine’s Day edition of Travelrific®, it is only fitting to highlight one of Europe’s great romantic destinations–no, not Paris.  The subject is Cinque Terre (five villages), nestled along Italy’s Mediterranean province of La Spezia.  The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  Along the way between Riomaggiore and Manarola lies Via dell’ Amore (lover’s lane), a hiking trail resplendent with ocean views that demands your full attention.  Just don’t expect to lounge around these sometimes steep trails with your grappa and focaccia.  Save that for later.

York Celebrates Viking Heritage

By Linda Tancs

York, UK may be most recognized for its medieval Shambles, but its Viking history is just as compelling.  Now through 17 February visitors can celebrate all things Viking at the festival at Jorvik Viking Centre.  The Centre is built on the very location in York where archeological digs unearthed the ancient city of Jorvik, dating to AD 975.  The festival celebrates Viking arts and crafts, storytelling and historical Anglo-Scandinavian events.  Visit for more information.

Venetian Charms are Everywhere

By Linda Tancs

Venice, Italy, must be one of the most evocative places on earth.  Just think of every country, state or city that lays claim to its own Venetian-style heritage. Dubai is dubbed the Venice of the Middle East. Giethoorn is the Venice of the Netherlands. Bruges, Stockholm and Amsterdam vie for the title Venice of the North.  Bangkok boasts the title Venice of Asia. Amidst the charms of every Venetian wannabee, however, there’s one thing missing from the equation: the toil and sweat of dedicated public works employees who clean out the billowy thoroughfares of the real McCoy day in and day out to keep it the aqueous paradise that so many seek to adopt as their own.

Desert Dreams in Winter

By Linda Tancs

Ah, winter.  In the midst of Arctic 50-mph winds, I’m trying hard to embrace its virtues.  Or at least think of warmer, drier climes.  How about the Alvord Desert in Oregon?  Cracked and dry in summer, like winter hands–or lips.  So at least it has something in common with the here and now although you’d freeze your tail off there, too, at the moment–except for the hot springs.  Lying in the shadows of Steens Mountain, it only gets six inches of precipitation per year.  Reminds me of Dickens’ “Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit”: “Look round and round upon this bare bleak plain, and see even here, upon a winter’s day, how beautiful the shadows are!”

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