No Go Zone – Countries to Avoid

Leave a comment

10 Countries

You Should

Never Visit

Travel is a wonderful thing. It broadens your mind, it allows you to explore new horizons, and it can totally end up with you getting super-killed in the nastiest way possible. Yep, despite all you might hear about the awesome benefits you’ll get from going off the tourist track, the truth is that the tourist track is there for a reason: to stop starry-eyed dopes from getting killed. While it’s definitely possible for a seasoned traveler, war correspondent, or international super spy to visit all the following, we strongly suggest that you stay away.

 (Just some a quick note before we start. All these countries are places that would suck for a regular guy or gal to visit at the time of writing in 2017. They might be totally awesome ten years from now, so please don’t take our choices as a lifelong prohibition from visiting. Understood? Great! Then let’s begin with…)

10. Venezuela

If there was a competition for country most-likely to tip into civil war in the near future, the winner would probably be Venezuela. The Latin American socialist state boasts some of the most-spectacular natural wonders on Earth, more history than you can shake a proverbial stick at… and a president who seems hell-bent on driving his nation into the ground.

Soaring inflation has left essentials like medicine, toilet roll and food all but unaffordable. The average Venezuelan lost 19 pounds due to food shortages last year. There are rolling blackouts, paralyzing strikes, and pitched street battles in the capital, Caracas, between protestors and security forces that have killed nearly 40 in 2017 alone. And did we mention the violence? The murder rate is off the charts. As many as 28,875 people may have been homicide victims in 2015, from a population of 31.1 million. That would put modern Venezuela on a footing with Colombia at the height of its drug-fueled civil war.

The list goes on. The US State Department has a hair-raising account of mass-kidnappings, robbery with assault rifles, grenade attacks, and murderous criminal gangs targeting tourists. Despite all this, though, Venezuela’s crisis may yet be solved. If or when it is, one of the most-beautiful nations on Earth will once again be free for the rest of us to visit.

9. North Korea

Perhaps the most-isolated state, North Korea (DPRK) is also the one most-likely to disappear in a cloud of burning ash and nuclear fallout. Since coming to power after his father’s death, rogue dictator Kim Jong Un has tested 3 nuclear devices aimed at freaking out the international community. It has certainly worked. At time of writing, a war of words with the US seems in danger of spiraling into an actual war. One that could get very, very messy.

But let’s ignore all that for a second. Even if no devastating war comes, visiting the DPRK still isn’t one of the greatest ideas. The Kim regime directly profits from all outside visitors. That profit goes towards keeping a network of concentration camps in operation that the UN has called similar to Nazi Germany. Others have said they’re even worse. Crimes by one member of a family can result in everyone being interred, and for their descendants and their descendants’ descendants being worked to death. Tourism helps keep this decadent world ticking over.

Then there’s the issue of personal safety. The DPRK has a habit of arresting US citizensduring politically convenient times (editor’s note: this was written even before a US citizen was detained just this weekend), even when they haven’t committed any crimes. Given what we know about North Korean prisons, maybe it’s better to stay away altogether.

8. El Salvador

Since it overtook Honduras in 2015, El Salvador has had the highest murder rate in the entire world. The pint-sized Central American nation – roughly the size of Wales – has been a killer’s paradise for years. The murder rate in 2016 was 91 killings per 100,000, higher even than in Venezuela. The capital, San Salvador, recorded 137 homicides per 100,000. This was down from a staggering 190 in 2015. By way of comparison, the global average homicide rate is a mere 6.2. In 2015, you were over 200 times more likely to be murdered in El Salvador than you were in somewhere like Great Britain.

Interestingly, as a foreigner, you’re less likely to be targeted than a native. Most violence occurs between street gangs, and kidnappers tend to focus on snatching wealthy Salvadorians rather than gringo backpackers. Hence why we’ve put it way up here at number 8, above countries with demonstrably lower murder rates.

However, don’t let its ranking lull you into a false sense of security. Notorious street gangs like MS-13 have been known to target random buses and brutally slaughter everyone onboard, simply because the vehicle’s owner refused to pay an extortion fee.

7. Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been a basket case for so long now, it’s almost hard to believe it was once a laidback highlight of the “Hippy Trail” between London and Melbourne. Since then, it has become synonymous with bad times and brutality. Even today, 15 years after the fall of the Taliban, this Texas-sized nation of 32.5 million is still the sort of place where you don’t wanna travel without making prior funeral arrangements.

The causes are as familiar as they are depressing. Radical Islamist insurgents and mad warlords are running rampant over huge swathes of the country. The Taliban are experiencing a resurgence. Petty kidnappers are still addicted to the idea of whisking careless visitors away for ransom. In a show of strength, militants recently managed tostorm an Afghan army hospital, slaughtering nearly 40. There are suicide bombings, homicides, and general nastiness galore. Many governments advise against staying in hotels or visiting restaurants in case you end you evening messily splattered across an area the size of a football pitch.

At times, it can seem like peace will never return to Afghanistan. While we’ve no doubt things will one day settle down, that one day could be very far away indeed. Until it arrives, you’ll just have to content yourself with pictures of this tragically beautiful nation.

6. Iraq

Huge swathes of Iraq are still under the control of ISIS’s monstrous caliphate. Even in areas under Iraqi government control, they’ve got a grim track record of attacking and killing hundreds. And you better believe they target foreigners. According to the UK government, non-Iraqis living or working in Baghdad are considered “high value targets.” That means heightened risk of death, kidnapping, or even worse.

To be perfectly frank, traveling to Iraq at this time is more-or-less equivalent to just lying down in a coffin and shouting at people to bury you now. Even the stable, autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan infrequently suffers car bombings and attacks that would be massive news in almost every other country in the world, but barely raise a flicker of an eyebrow there.

 What’s especially heartbreaking about all this is that Iraq was once a paradise. The fertile marshlands between the ancient Euphrates and Tigris rivers are believed to have even been the location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. To see it now is to see a region that has fallen a long, long way.

5. Central African Republic (CAR)

OK, this is the point where we move away from ‘the countries you probably shouldn’t visit’, and move onto ‘the countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’. These countries all have no consular assistance for visiting Westerners, and most government websites warn against visiting them even if you absolutely have to. The reason? Extreme violence, or the threat of extreme violence accompanied by a breakdown of the social fabric so total it’d make Iraq look like a tourist’s paradise. First on this list of terror? Central African Republic (CAR).

A nation nearly the size of Texas, CAR is home to a mere 4.9 million people, all of whom are desperate to kill one another. The population is divided between Christian and Muslim communities, both of whom take turns seizing power and trying to eliminate the other. In 2013, it was the Muslims’ turn to persecute (read: kill) the Christians. In response, the Christians formed heavily-armed ‘anti-bakala’ militias and now they’re the ones doing the persecuting. The whole situation is as volatile as a washing machine full of homebrewed nitroglycerin, and just as likely to explode at any moment.

On top of all this, CAR is an extremely-poor, nearly undeveloped country, where getting around is next to impossible and most of the country is covered in impenetrable jungle. So, if everything does ignite while you’re there, getting away is gonna be very difficult indeed.

4. South Sudan

Another country that’s helpfully close-enough in size to Texas to allow easy comparisons, South Sudan is also the world’s newest nation. In 2011, the Christian country split from Muslim Sudan, declared independence and set up a capital in Juba. The wave of optimism this generated barely lasted 24 hours. The new government quickly fractured along ethnic and tribal lines and spiraled into a civil war that killed tens of thousands. Although the war is now over, South Sudan’s peace remains so fragile that traveling there is like wrapping your body in bacon, jumping in a piranha tank, and inviting them to chew.

Militias continue to terrify the country, with rival tribes using rape as a weapon to subdue their enemies. There are natural disasters to contend with, too. A miserable famine has gripped the country since the start of the year, and tens of thousands are at risk of starvation. Things are so bad that the UN has called the famine (along with similar famines in Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria) “the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.” Oh, and if you were to visit, there’s no guarantee you’d be able to leave. Last time a political crisis erupted, the borders were effectively sealed and the Juba airport closed, trapping visitors inside an exploding warzone.

3. Libya

Right, so we’ve now gone beyond the ‘countries you should definitely stay away from under any circumstances’ and entered a section of the list we’re gonna call ‘Jesus, you gotta be kidding me!’ Without exception, these three countries are in the grip of wars that have left no region untouched. Libya is merely the first of them. Once a sweltering north African country known for its stunning Roman ruins, Libya deposed its mad dictator in 2011 and tried to make it as a democracy. Instead, everything went to Hell.

There are at least two rival governments currently operating in the country, backed by different superpowers. An uncountable number of militias and rebel groups roam the countryside. ISIS have carved out a niche for themselves, despite heavy airstrikes against their camps. Terror attacks, skirmishes, and deadly fighting are all just facts of daily life. At least 6,000 have died in the continued fighting since 2014, on top of all those who died in the initial 2011 uprising and its aftermath. Westerners have been kidnapped or killed with impunity. Famously, this included US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the first American ambassador killed in the line of duty in 33 years.

Luckily, though, there are signs that things may be changing in Libya for the better. On May 3, 2017, a diplomatic breakthrough was reached between the rival governments. Hopefully, things in this beleaguered nation will soon be returning to something like normalcy.

2. Yemen

To look at pictures of Yemen’s capital of old Sana’a these days is like looking at a lost tale from the Arabian Nights. Yemen has always been poor, but it used to be justifiably recognized as one of the most picturesque, dream-like places on the planet. It was a land of history, of great, jagged mountains, ancient clifftop ruins, rocky deserts and fertile valleys. Today, though, Yemen is a land of violent rebel groups, uncontrollable disorder, and Saudi airstrikes that have left thousands dead and tens of thousands hideously wounded.

A strip of land below Saudi Arabia, roughly the size of metropolitan France, Yemen has been the focus of an intense bombing campaign by its bigger neighbor since late 2015. Rather than de-escalate the civil war and bring the Islamist rebels to justice, it sent the conflict into overdrive. January 2017 saw the 10,000th victim die, and large tracts of Sana’a’s hypnotic old city reduced to dust amid heavy shelling. With no end to the conflict in sight, Yemen will likely remain off everyone’s travel list for some time to come, which may be for the best. To see the wreck this once-wonderful country has become would be enough to make any visitor’s blood boil.

1. Syria

What other country could it possibly be?

Right now, Syria is the most-dangerous place in the world. If you can go, don’t. If you need to go, don’t. If you’re already there, get out as quickly and as safely as you can. That’s the sort of place we’re talking about here. A country where basic humanity has broken down, and demons now run amok in human form, doing things too terrible for us to even write about. If Hell has a physical manifestation, then it’s probably the frontlines of Syria’s awful conflict.

Since 2011, rebels, regime forces, militias, terror groups, and insane jihadists like ISIS have been murdering one another in a humanitarian black hole that has left between 320,000 and 500,000 dead. Torture, chemical weapons, genocide… you name it, if it exists and it is awful, it can currently be found in Syria.

Perhaps the worst part is there doesn’t seem to be any easy way out. So many international actors are meddling in the Syrian conflict that an easy solution seems impossible. Russia is bombing rebel territory. Turkey is bombing Kurdish positions. France, the US and Britain are bombing ISIS, and the US recently bombed a regime airbase too. Iran and Saudi Arabia are meddling. Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are involved. Maybe one day this intractable mess will be solved, but don’t count on it happening any time soon.


No Go Zone

– Countries to Avoid

Hiking Wisconsin – WIF Travel

Leave a comment

 5 Hikes

to Make

In Wisconsin

The truth is, we have a hard time imagining that you’d only ever hike five of Wisconsin’s gorgeous trails. The unparalleled beauty of Wisconsin deserved to be explored on foot, so lace up your hiking boots, and start with these five trails. We have a feeling that once you hike these, you’ll be hooked…and will be game for even more!

The creator of Writing Is Fun-damental is from Oconomowoc… no hiking trails but lakes, lakes and more lakes.

5. Trails at Rib Mountain

Hiking in Wisconsin

– WIF Travel


Beer Garden Heaven USA – WIF Travel

Leave a comment

THE  BEST

BEER GARDENS

IN AMERICA

Radegast
RADEGAST | COLE SALADINO/THRILLIST
barleygarden
BRILLIANCE PHOTOGRAPHY

BARLEYGARDEN

ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA

A fairly recent addition to the ranks of America’s finest beer gardens, having just opened in April 2017, Barleygarden’s made what could have been a fairly stale suburban outdoor shopping plaza/ mixed use development… legitimately cool? Part of that legitimacy comes from owner Kraig Torres, whose Hop City has been making Atlanta beer drinking craftier for years now, and having big-time local chef/butcher Kevin Ouzts in the kitchen turning out charcuterie-centric grilled cheeses doesn’t hurt, either. Throw in a two-tiered open-air patio and the fact that you can take to-go drinks throughout the development and… maybe the suburbs aren’t so bad?

 

bangers austin
BANGERS

BANGER’S

AUSTIN, TEXAS

With over 100 beers on tap and 30+ house-made sausages, the sprawling, perpetually thronged Banger’s isn’t just one of Austin’s best beer gardens. It’s also one of its best beer bars. And one of its best booze-soaking sausage parties. And its best dog-friendly drinkery. And a great brunch spot. And… look, this is is a must-visit spot no matter how you slice it. But you should be slicing it with a couple hundred other thirsty revelers on a patio lit by hanging lights on a cool Austin night. Oh, it’s also one of the best places to hang out on a cool Austin night. Did we mention that this place rules? Or that they have a fantastic brunch. Or firkin tappings? Or…

Radegast
COLE SALADINO/THRILLIST

RADEGAST

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Now pushing a decade of ably providing Williamsburg residents (and guests) with all the liters of beer, beer-absorbing brats, similarly functioning pretzels and time-passing card games they can possibly handle, Radegast remains a favorite of the neighborhood and, more (or less?) importantly,Thrillist editors. There’s live music daily (which may or may not include an accordion player jovially foot-tapping on your table). There’s a retractable roof ensuring that your biergartening plans remain steadfastly weather-proof. There’s a good time to be had, every time.

VBGB Beer Garden
VBGB BEER HALL & GARDEN

VBGB BEER HALL & GARDEN

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Being located adjacent to the NC Music Factory makes VBGB an essential Charlotte stop if you’re headed to a concert. But even if it was located next to a ferret-breeding center (good lord, no!), this sprawling beer garden would be a must-visit. Beers flow from 30+ local-centric taps into 12-, 18-, and 34-ounce glasses, the latter of which could seriously hinder or help your abilities to play giant Jenga, Connect Four, and chess. But if you really want to channel your inner Maverick, there’s also a five-court volleyball sandbox where you’ll be too busy executing wayward spikes to lament the fact that there’s no Goose (Island) around to help you out.

 

sheffields beer garden
WILL BYINGTON PHOTOGRAPHY

SHEFFIELD’S

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Sheffield’s has evolved as an establishment over the years, evolving from a craft-centric dive to… a craft-centric dive with a BBQ-based menu and a bar-within-the-bar dubbed “Beer School” that has its own tap list. But changes aside, the welcoming beer garden has remained its constant spiritual center (yes, even in the punishing winter). The shade-giving cottonwood trees and vine-covered walls make it feel like you’re enjoying a beer in a friend’s backyard… if your friend happened to have the space to stock some 200 varieties of beer, including 40 on tap. No one has friends like that, which is why Chicago has Sheffield’s.

Park & Field
PARK & FIELD

PARK & FIELD

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

When Park & Field in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in winter 2016, it was abundantly clear that the colder months would just be a prelude to the real debut for the vintage-channeling sports bar, thanks to a simultaneously sprawling and cozy 6,000 square foot patio. OK fine, they didn’t necessarily wait entirely to use that outdoor space, thanks to some fire pits and Adirondack chairs, but beer-garden life is inarguably better when the sun is shining and you’re clutching a cold Half Acre and maybe some s’mores (yes, they still use those fire pits in the summer).

MECKLENBURG GARDENS

CINCINNATI, OHIO

Even tougher than Angela Merkel’s shoulder pads, this historic spot has survived for nearly 150 years — and not without a fight. When Prohibition came a-knockin’, Mecklenburg employed the services of a bootlegging boat to keep its customers hydrated. When it entered a ’60s slump, the management turned the place around into a Mobil (now Forbes) four-star restaurant and got the building on the National Register of Historic Places. And when debt closed its doors in 1982, it patiently waited for the current managers to come along and restore the place to its Bavarian glory. A story like that deserves a liter of Spaten. Lucky you, they’re happy to accommodate.

Truck Yard
TRUCK YARD DALLAS

THE TRUCK YARD

DALLAS, TEXAS

The grand beer garden tradition gets a healthy dose of ‘Murican influences at this 15,000 square foot space, styled with the finest trailer-park decor touches like crappy lawn chairs, spare tires, and scrap metal art. Even better? Food trucks slinging tacos and pizza are parked there every day, so you can go ahead and have another Shiner. Or another Community Mosaic IPA. Or another frozen trash can punch — beer gardens don’t have to be ALL about beer, you guys.

BAVARIAN INN

FRANKENMUTH, MICHIGAN

Frankenmuth is one of those weird wormholes of a town where most of the city is emulating a place halfway around the globe. But holy shit do they do it right. This is, in fact, a place sandwiched between Lakes Huron and Michigan where the men don lederhosen and the women squeeze into dirndls while carrying enough liters of beer to make a CrossFit enthusiast buckle at the knees… and that’s before they bring out an all-you-can-eat fried-chicken spread. Excessive? You betcha. But when you’re sitting on the humid patio of the massive property’s Schnitzelbank Bier Garten among hundreds of contented people with bellies full of beer and over-salted chicken, nothing else really matters… especially when the live polka band makes the rounds like a lederhosen-clad mariachi band.

The Rathskeller
THE RATHSKELLER

THE RATHSKELLER

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

“Rathskeller” translates to “basement beer hall,” but you’ll just have to overlook that as you resist the taxidermied charm of the moose heads lining the interior walls. The real attraction here’s the outdoor area, loaded with picnic tables and featuring a band shell for live music and plenty of thirsty Hoosiers. The beers are large, the people drinking them are friendly, and heat lamps stand guard to ensure the drinking continues deep into the night, even when the weather’s not ideal… weather seldom keeps a Midwesterner from a beer.

 

beer park vegas
ANTHONY MAIR

BEER PARK

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

You had to figure beer gardens would manifest themselves a bit differently in Vegas. Case in point: This Bud-sponsored, second-story oasis in Vegas. Because it has 100 beers available, including two dozen taps. But you should get bottles, since the tables have built-in ice troughs to keep them cold. The grounds are outfitted with turf. The open-air bar is surrounded by flat-screens. And there’s pool, cornhole, and giant Jenga. It’s like a high-tech biergarten theme park, and it’s incredible.

 

Estabrook Beer Garden
ESTABROOK BEER GARDEN

ESTABROOK BEER GARDEN

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

If you want to visit a quite literal beer garden, we direct you to Estabrook, a spot located in Estabrook Park along the Milwaukee River that’s so legit, it’s out of the public transit’s reach. (The official site recommends arriving by “foot, bicycle, automobile, kayak, or canoe.”) Estabrook prides itself on being a truly public beer garden, so patrons are encouraged to bring their own picnics or even steins. And if you’re not into providing your own food supply, complete the full-on Wisconsin picture and hit up the Friday fish fry.

 

the pharmacy nashville
MIMOSA ARTS

THE PHARMACY BURGER PARLOR & BEER GARDEN

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Slinging some of Nashville’s best burgers along with a murderers’ row of some of the finest German and Belgian beers available in Nashville, the Pharmacy would be a great bar even before you stumble onto the beer garden. This is a place that takes the “garden” part of that word mighty seriously, with tons of crowded tables shaded by overhanging trees and rows and rows of greenery. And at night, the place takes on an almost ethereal glow under the hanging lights. It’s kind of likeThe Secret Garden, though considering it’s always crowded, we’re guessing that the secret got blown long ago.

 

Bayou Beer Garden
BAYOU BEER GARDEN

BAYOU BEER GARDEN

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Surrounded with palm trees and rocking multiple flat-screens, the sprawling Bayou Beer Garden is like a glorious melding of beachside bar, sports-centric drive-in theater, and raucous New Orleans beer bar all rolled into one. The place rocks 180 global beers to choose from — including 24 rotating taps — that you can pair with everything from amped-up crab-cake bites to Disco Fries loaded with roast beef debris. And if for some reason you wandered into a beer garden with somebody who hates beer, the nearly identical adjoining Bayou Wine Garden helps you split the difference.

 

Prost!
PROST!

PROST!

PORTLAND, OREGON

Portland’s blessed with tons of great beer served at picnic tables. But Prost! has long been the king of local biergartens. It’s not just the fact that the dog-friendly outdoor deck is equipped with its own bar that serves up a wide array of German beers in its proper glassware, though that’s a huge plus. It’s also situated next to a food cart cluster where you’re welcome to go grab a sushi burrito or vegan BBQ if the excellent schnitzel from Prost! doesn’t do the trick. The joint — located on the wildly popular Mississippi drag of Portland hipness — also hosts a glorious Oktoberfest party, and the owners recently bought the entire property and the adjoining cart pod. If you don’t live in Portland, that just sounds like good business. In a neighborhood where beloved businesses are razed daily to make room for condos, it means that the carts — and the biergarten — represent a longtime anchor in a neighborhood whose identity changes with more regularity than this institution’s taps.

 

bohemian beer hall
FLICKR/WALLY GOBETZ

BOHEMIAN HALL & BEER GARDEN

QUEENS, NEW YORK

Established in 1910, this Astoria institution has seen more beer-soaked nights than 35 frat houses combined. The place is owned and managed by a Czech and Slovak community group, and those influences are apparent in dishes like the fried muenster and drafts like Staropramen. Oh, and in the absolutely massive beer garden — the Czechs and Slovaks like beer, in case you haven’t heard.

BIERGARTEN

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

After six years in business, Biergarten has established itself as a big dog in a city that isn’t exactly hurting for great spots to drink beer outside. The extremely limited beer selection (don’t fix what ain’t broken) leans Bavarian, and comes by the liter or half liter. Food’s less traditional, with brats and currywurst holding court next to burgers and pretzel dumplings. And everything here is served up on a massive patio with a lone centerpiece tree holding court over everything from Friday movie nights to raucous happy-hour drinking.

 

Lowry Beer Garden
LOWRY BEER GARDEN

LOWRY BEER GARDEN

DENVER, COLORADO

Sure, this beer garden is situated on the grounds of a former Air Force Base, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sweeping views of an old B-52 bomber (courtesy of the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum next door) from any of the 225 seats outside. Colorado cools off when the sun goes down, but two outdoor fire pits, 16 taps of Colorado’s finest suds – Avery, Odell, and Left Hand among them — and a panoply of “creatively topped” brats and burgers — like the B-52 Bomber with double bacon, mushrooms, onions, and blue cheese — will keep you plenty warm if the beer doesn’t during one of the venue’s many outdoor concerts on a cool summer night.

rhein haus
COURTESY OF RHEIN HAUS

RHEIN HAUS

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Now that lawn darts have been outlawed, bocce ball has become the de facto sport for launching potentially injurious projectiles toward competitors, and it’s the game of choice at this Seattle institution. That mostly goes down at the courts inside this 420-seat beer hall, while the massive outdoor biergarten lets you cool off/calm your pulse after almost being beaned by a wayward ball over German-centric pints in the packed, sunny (well, it’s Seattle, so that’s relative) biergarten. Indoor or out, it’s the perfect collision between German food/drink and Italian sports that you never knew you needed.

 

american fresh beer garden
COURTESY OF AMERICAN FRESH BEER GARDEN

AMERICAN FRESH

SOMERVILLE, MASSACHUSETTS

You don’t necessarily expect to pair a trip to a top-flight beer garden with a trip to Legoland and maybe some sensibly priced khakis from J. Crew, but such is the existence of American Fresh, the cool kid in Somerville’s otherwise somewhat corporate-feeling Assembly Row development. Run by Somerville Brewing Company, it augments plentiful craft drafts with a funky, colorful space flanked by shipping containers supplying merch and sustenance (don’t miss the pretzel). Also, this beer garden’s equipped with a heated tent, and thus impervious to Nor’easters.

 

Dacha
DACHA

DACHA

WASHINGTON, DC

Opened back in 2013 by a couple of Russians with an affinity for German beer (you know, before “Russian” appeared in every fifth news headline), Dacha has become a DC day-drinking must thanks to an airy mural-backed beer garden where you can rest easy knowing you’re in equally good hands if you’re feeling like downing a crisp lager from das boot or helping yourself to something hop heavy. In a similar vein, the menu blends beer garden musts like pretzels that are equal parts large, soft, and delicious with less expected fair like rabbit croquettes and beer-braised goat poutine.


Beer Garden

Heaven USA

– WIF Travel

Post Office Madness – WIF Travel

Leave a comment

Craziest Post Offices

on Earth

(and Beyond)

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane—and dreaded—items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

 10. Peach Springs and Supai, AZ

The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at—just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature—the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission—delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon–and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are rely on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office wassituated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe—including in the US, the UK,South Africa, and Germany—you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective—the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window—from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination—as of 2016, the post office charged about $1.45 USD to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about $0.30 USD.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)

Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides—the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)

Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office—the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).
 The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement—an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiberoptic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office

Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat… literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code—48222—and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:

Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo

Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t helpthat the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica

One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth

The final post office on our list is out of this world—literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts—one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode—901001—and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.


Post Office Madness

– WIF Travel

Man-made Islands – WIF Travel

Leave a comment

Amazing

Man-Made

Islands

The gradual formation of the Earth has given us some impressive islands, which are home to some of humankind’s biggest cities and even countries. While humans can’t make islands as impressive as mother nature, we’ve certainly have made some very cool ones. These are 10 of the most amazing artificial islands from all around the globe.

 10. Notre Dame Island (Canada)

In order to get ready for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, the city of Montreal, Quebec, needed to build a metro system. In order to build one, they needed to dig out 15 million tons of rock, and they came up with an ingenious way to use it – they built Notre Dame Island in the Saint Lawrence River.

Today, the island is home to several tourist attractions, including the Jacques Villeneuve Circuit, which is where the Canadian Grand Prix is held, and it’s also where the Montreal Casino is located.

9. Wilhelmstein (Germany)

Wilhemstein is found on Lake Steinhude, which is the largest lake in northwestern Germany. Its construction was ordered by William, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, and it was built between 1765 and 1767. Fisherman would take rocks over in their boats and then drop them in the water until the island was formed.

The island is 134,548 square feet and was originally designed to be a fortified hideaway for the Count. Today it is a museum and a tourist attraction.

8. Treasure Island (USA)

The artificial island with the best name started off as a sandy shoal off the coast of San Francisco. The city decided the shoal was a hazard for boats, so construction on the island started in 1936, overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 25 million cubic yards were taken from all over the bay to make the island, which is a mile by a mile-and-half. It was completed in 1939, just in time for the Golden Gate International Exposition. After the exposition came to an end in September 1940, the Navy took it over and it became Naval Station Treasure Island. It was closed in September 1997 for civilian use.

Today, the island is best known for its flea market and annual music festival called Treasure Island Music Fest, because if you’re holding a concert at a place like Treasure Island, you don’t really need a clever name.

It also has a restricted area of abandoned houses because the soil is contaminated with radioactive waste. The Navy never explained why there was radioactive waste, but there are two theories. The first is that they repaired ships there that may have been exposed to nuclear radiation during nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific. Another theory is that they purposefully covered a ship in radiation to train servicemen to wash off the radiation.

For decades, the Navy hid the fact that the island was contaminated with radioactive waste and then refused to investigate it when it was made

public. It was only in 2010 that they started to clean up the area.

Last year, after 20 years of planning, it was announced that 8,000 homes, a hotel, and parks are to be built on the island, which will cost $5 billion.

7. Hulhumalé (Maldives)

Found in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is a tropical country and home to a 0.7 square mile man-made island called Hulhumalé. People first moved onto the reclaimed island in 2004, and as of 2016, it is home to 40,000 people.

When developing the island, there was a focus on sustainability and the island was designed to be climate change resilient. It’s also the only smart city in Maldives; there is a smart grid built into the city and it has a state of the art traffic light system.

On the island, you can find hotels and restaurants, but the main attraction is the beautiful beach, which has water that is full of marine life. Water sports, like snorkeling, are available and boat trips are quite popular.

6. THUMS Islands (USA)

The THUMS Islands were constructed in 1965 in Long Beach, California. They’re a set of four artificial islands, and the name is an acronym for the five companies who had it constructed – Texaco, Humble (now Exxon), Union Oil, Mobil, and Shell. From the companies who built it, you’ve probably gathered that there aren’t any homes on the island, and you’d be totally correct. Instead, the islands are oil drilling facilities.

The problem facing the developers when constructing the islands is that oil drilling facilities aren’t exactly the prettiest structures and the area where they planned to build the facility was full of million dollar beach front properties. So to make it less of an eye sore, they hired architect Joseph Linesch, who was known for his work on theme parks like Disneyland. The final product is what The Los Angeles Times calls “…part Disney, part Jetsons, part Swiss Family Robinson.”

 The island is still used for oil drilling and as of 2015, there were about 1,550 active drills.

5. The World (United Arab Emirates)

The United Arab Emirates’ biggest and most populous city, Dubai, has several impressive man-made islands and one of the most interesting projects is the World Islands. Construction started on the islands in 2003, but momentum on the project came to a halt because of the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, the 300 islands that make up the seven continents have started to sink into the Persian Gulf.

In 2014, the project came back to life and construction restarted on the islands. The developers said that it will have lavish hotels and restaurants, along with half-submerged, half-skylit floating homes that are called seahorses. They cost $2.8 million each and 70 percent have already been sold.

4. Amwaj Islands (Bahrain)

Bahrain is a small country in the Persian Gulf and it is home to a group of beautiful artificial islands called the Amwaj Islands.

Construction on the islands started in 2002 and from the beginning it was designed to be a smart city. Cisco and Oracle were given contracts to develop fiber optic networks for all the homes and businesses on the islands.

The islands have different sections and one of the most impressive areas is Al Marsa, also known as the Floating City. The houses are surrounded by deep canals, which allows home owners to park their boats in front of their homes, making it look like a very modern version of Venice, Italy.

Another impressive area of the islands is the Central Lagoon, which is the commercial area of the islands. In the Central Lagoon, there is nearly 600,000 square feet of commercial space including open-air markets and two dozen restaurants.

3. IJburg (Netherlands)

In cities where there are housing shortages, governments and real estate developers have to get a little creative when it comes to building new homes. One city that is having a particularly difficult time with a lack of housing is Amsterdam. One of their solutions is a series of artificial islands called IJurb.

Construction on the islands started in 1996 in IJmeer, which is a lake east of the city. There are three islands: Steigereiland, Haveneiland, and Rieteilanden, and they are connected to each other and the mainland by bridges.

As of 2015, there were 20,000 residents living in IJurb, but once construction is completed, it will provide homes for 45,000 people. Also on the islands are schools, shopping centers, hospitals, restaurants, and beaches.

Within IJurg, there is a neighborhood called the Waterbuurt or the Water District. In that neighborhood, the homes are floating houseboats that are moored to jetties. People who don’t mind spending a little bit more even have a dock outside their home where they can dock their boat.

2. The Pearl-Qatar (Qatar)

Qatar is an oil rich country in the Middle East, and even though it may be physically impossible to play soccer there because of the extreme heat, it’s set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A few tourists coming to enjoy the World Cup will be able to stay on one of the most unique man-made islands in the world, the Pearl-Qatar. Construction on the infrastructure of the island took about 10 years and it was completed in 2014.

It has nearly 20 miles of coastline and on the island there are three five-star hotels, 492,000 square feet of international retail, restaurants, and entertainment. This includes a 64,000 square foot family entertainment center.

As of 2014, there were 12,000 people living on the island, but that number is expected to increase four-fold by 2018.

1. Palm Jumeirah (United Arab Emirates)

On both sides of the World Islands are the two Palm Islands. On the left is Palm Jumeirah and on the right is Palm Jebel Ali. Palm Jebel Ali has yet to be finished and it’s unclear when it will be completed. When the construction is finally done it’s expected to house 250,000 people, and it will have four theme parks. Construction on Palm Jumeirah went a bit smoother and in 2006 people started to move to the island.

When it was completed, it added 320 miles to the coastline. Amazingly, out of the two islands, Palm Jumeirah is the smaller one and it’s only about half the size of the Palm Jebel Ali. It’s home to several hotels, resorts, restaurants, and shopping centers. It also has a monorail to get around.

All three of Dubai’s artifical islands were built by dredging up millions of cubic feet of sand from the seafloor, and then sprayed into the pattern of the islands using GPS. Then, for the Palm Jumeirah, seven million tons of mountain rock were used to form a seven-mile breakwater around the 17-fronded palm tree to protect the island from waves and ocean storms.


Man-made Islands

– WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 180

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 180

…Scott Walker mentioned that his daughter is looking for a way out of “Toilet Paper Politics” in Wisconsin…

Candidate Crippen has already set the wheeloffortune in motion, having Image result for wheel of fortune gifcontacted her Chief of Staff, “Would you call your boss and tell her to meet me in Milwaukee, at the Pfister Hilton, Mason Street Grill tomorrow night at 7P? Tell her that it has to do with the White House.”

“If you didn’t know, the Hilton is a casino… and how do you know anything about where we’re staying in Milwaukee?” Even though she can’t know everything her husband does, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to know.

“I met her father there a month ago, he being some sort of expert on work-fare and it’s funny, but he mentioned that his daughter  is looking for a way out of “Toilet Paper Politics” in that state. I don’t know why I didn’t press him on the subject, but he did mention she goes deer hunting in late November, bragged about teaching her how to be a sportsman.”

Speaking of the devil, his phone ringtone blares Sputnik-bleeps, “Roy Crippen,” Thity Point Buckhe chimes in.

“Charlotte Walker, Roy, my dad told me he met you a while back, congratulations on your nomination. I would have been in Chicago, but I had an appointment with a 30 point buck… that’s an exaggeration AND a song up here.”

“Can you meet us in Milwaukee? I promise to make it worthwhile.”

Wisconsin License Plate Art by DeAnna Roose

“I got the message, I love the Mason Grill. I will see you there.”

The impromptu call ends and so may that nagging 130 {or so} pound Veep-issue headache.

“Now that you have this notion in that one-way brain of yours, I cannot argue with you on the issue of compatible VP choices. But I’m not sure the party faithful will agree.”

“Well it can’t be another Texan and it can’t be another space guy, so why not a rifle-toting, rock’em-sock’em reformer from America’s Dairyland.”


THE RETURN TRIP

America’s Dairyland

Episode 180


page 216

Contents TRT

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

— “Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 129


page 159

 

Contents TRT