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Contributor Safi Thind won the VisitEngland Travel Article of the Year award for his piece in Escapism on walking from the west to the east coast of England. You can read it here: escmag.co/coast-to-coast
his might be news to you, but right now we're about three quarters of the way through what the United Nations has designated the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Sounds a hell of lot sexier than plain old '2017', doesn't it? Doesn't it? This is one of the challenges faced by sustainable or responsible travel – the whole subject is dripping with language that can be impenetrable, isolating or just plain dull. That’s heartbreaking when you consider the core message – that the decisions we make as travellers have the potential to both benefit and damage destinations and the communities that live there – is so damned important. As the UN itself says about its big year, this is an “opportunity to explore and highlight tourism’s potential to help transform our world into a place of prosperity and wellbeing for all.” What kind of tourist can’t get onboard with that? The good news is, there are plenty of companies, individuals and organisations facing up to the challenges of travelling sustainably – and we’ve highlighted a few of them on page 40. These are complex, nuanced issues – ranging from how to keep money in the communities impacted by tourism to combatting the effects of climate change – but in confronting them, and thinking more about your impact as a traveller, you’ll be helping to ensure future generations can benefit from travel as much as you do. e @escapismmag escapismmagazine
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DEPARTURES We bring you top travel tips, from new Iceland itineraries to a round up of our favourite adventurous escapes 12. Photography 16. Just Landed 23. Instaguide: Berlin 24. Adventure Travel 28. Short Stay 30. Q&A: Jeremy Jones 32. In Focus: Newcastle
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EXPERIENCES Sustainable holiday ideas, from ecofriendly city breaks to a luxurious lodge and research hub in Ecuador's rainforest. Plus: more great trips 40. Sustainable travel Amazing escapes for the ethically minded 50. Alladale, Scotland Reintroducing bears and wolves to the wild 57. Florence, Italy Street art and historic cocktails in Florence 64. Northern Lights, Finland Photographing the elusive aurora borealis 70. Vienna, Austria Coffee culture in the Austrian capital
EXCURSIONS Looking good takes some serious hard work. Luckily, we've put the effort in for you. Plus: The Intrepid Series 81. Checklist 87. The Intrepid Series: the Silk Road
COMPETITIONS Holidays are great, but let's face it: they're even better when you don't have to pay for them. Head to our website – escmag.co/comps – for your chance to win city breaks, beach escapes, intrepid adventures and more.
Discover the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer Rocky Mountaineer, Western Canada’s luxury train journey is the perfect way to see the breathtaking Rockies.
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Includes: Calgary-Banff-Lake LouiseVancouver Flights to/from Canada 2 days onboard Rocky Mountaineer in SilverLeaf Service 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches 6 nights hotel accommodaton, including 3 nights in Vancouver
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Receive up to £250 per person in bonus offers T: 0161 888 5632 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org Or contact your local independent agent Book by 15 Sep 17. Price is per person based on 2 people sharing, travelling on selected dates from London and includes bonus offers. Subject to availability and restrictions apply. Offer based on £250 per person for extra hotel nights, transfers, excursions & meal plans on Journey Through The Clouds Explorer tour & £160 per person on First Passage To The West Highlights tour.
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ON THE RADAR: This shortlisted shot from this year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year depicts the ever-raging battle between awesome auroras and light pollution over Beijing, China. Turn the page for more photos, or head to p30, where we interviewed legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones about sustainable travel and climate change.
12 PHOTOGRAPHY 16 JUST LANDED 21 ON LOCATION 23 INSTAGUIDE: BERLIN 24 ADVENTUROUS EXCURSIONS 28 SHORT STAY 30 JEREMY JONES 32 NEWCASTLE, UK
Photograph Photograph by Haitong by ### Yu
FRAMED IN THE PICTURE
Photograph by Nicholas Roemmelt
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GLACIAL RECONSTRUCTION: This month, weâ€™ve selected our favourite shots from the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards 2017, a competition run by The Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Here, The Big Dipper perfectly aligns with the window of a cave in Engadin, Switzerland.
Photograph by ###
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SWEDE DREAMS: Motorcyclist Ruslan Merzlyakov caught this pic while en route home in Sweden, capturing this otherwordly blue hue that’s created by noctilucent clouds. Like what you see? You’ll be able to catch the winning photos in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Centre from 16 September – or if you miss it, in an official book that’ll be out on 2 November. rmg.co.uk
Photograph by Photograph Ruslan Merzlyakov by ###
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AGAINST THE GRAIN
WHAT’S NEW IN TRAVEL SEA CHANGE What if you could help the environment just by eating something tasty? St Lucia’s Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet resorts have created a sixcourse menu that makes use of the lionfish being culled to prevent their destruction of the coral reefs. Estimates suggest that lionfish can eat up to 80% of an area’s baby reef fish in the space of just five weeks. Greedy buggers, eh? Thankfully, lionfish themselves actually taste pretty damn good – especially when paired with New World wines and served as part of a candlelit dinner on the beach. We’re sold. Dinner from £135 per person. ansechastanet.com; jademountain.com
*Jodhpur is the Blue City no?
NEUTRAL GROUND If you’re big on the great outdoors, you’ll probably already know of Páramo for its high performance, moisture-managing clothing. But what you might not know is that the brand has just decided to offset
all of the carbon emissions it’s ever been responsible for in its 25-year history. This means even more sustainable gear for you to hit the trail in, as well as a continuation of the rainforest and wildlife rehabilitation Páramo’s been involved with for the last ten years. Impressive. paramo-clothing.com
Photograph by Jonathan David Piercy
We’re really passionate about recycling at escapism HQ – and one of the things we love best is when disused buildings are turned into something amazing. That’s why we’re applauding starchitect Thomas Heatherwick and his studio, who have redesigned Cape Town’s historic grain silo to become the Zeitz Museum of Comtemporary Art Africa, which opens this month. It joins the uber-luxury, breathtakingly beautiful Silo Hotel that launched earlier this year, and forms part of a massive development of the city’s V&A Waterfront. zeitzmocaa.museum
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SECOND TO NONE Too edgy for Reykjavik? Head up north to Akureyri, where you’ll find the same cool cafés, top-notch restaurants, underground art scene and nightlife – but, with a population of just 18,000, far fewer crowds. This alone makes Iceland’s second city a must-visit, but getting there has always proved tricky – until now. Tour operator Super Break is launching new arctic experiences with exclusive flights direct from the UK to the northern Icelandic city. Go on a lava walk, visit a volcano, or, er, try a beer spa. From £699 per person for three nights and including flights. superbreak.com
KENDAL CALLING If you’re hankering to surround yourself with the glamour and the glory of Cannes Film Festival, you’re in luck – we’ve got something similar right here on our shores. Kind of. It’s the Kendal Mountain Festival – considered to be the Oscars of outdoors filmmaking – and it involves
screenings of more than 100 films about everything from snow sports to cycling, with 12 highly coveted awards up for grabs. And if just watching the sport isn’t enough, you can take part in the Adidas Terrex 10k Trail Run or grab a bite to eat in the Himalayan-themed ‘basecamp village’, where you’ll find food, drink and live music. 16-19 November, tickets from £20. mountainfest.co.uk
Photograph by Kevin Moran
Forget stomach-lurching rollercoasters, there’s a new kind of amusement park in town – although it’s equally about getting your stomach going. FICO Eataly World, located in Bologna, northeast Italy, will be the world’s first food theme park, showcasing every aspect of Italian food, from making it to eating it. It’s co-owned by wunderchef Mario Batali who’s helped curate the lineup – so you know it’s going to be good. There’ll be everything from breeding programmes to organic markets, as well as 40 restaurants and cafés, making it the perfect appetiser before exploring a region celebrated for its culinary prowess. Launching in October. eatalyworld.it
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ON THE FLY Eco-friendly grooming products for your next trip
LIFEVENTURE DRY WASH GEL, £3.99, 100ML
Use this hand santiser to scrub up on the go. It’s biodegradable and pHbalanced, so it won’t irritate you – or flora and fauna nearby. lifeventure.com
The tranquil banks of Lake Ontario have been witness to some sinister goings-on, as Stephen King’s It creeps into town #10 TORONTO, CANADA
Photograph by (Lake Ontario) Bill Brooks/Alamy; (It) Atlaspix/Alamy;
If you’re heading to Toronto, Lake Ontario, or any other Canadian tourist destination this autumn, keep an eye out for eerily floating red balloons and silent, menacing people in clown suits. No, we’re not warning you because that strange (albeit very short-lived) killer clown craze that hit the streets of London last October has reached Canadian climes.
CLOWNING AROUND: [top] Toronto and Lake Ontario are standing in for Maine in the remake of It; [above] the film’s ‘hilarious’ villain, Pennywise
We’re warning you because the modern, Stranger Things actor-starring, heavy-onthe-eerie-CGI reboot of Stephen King opus It was filmed a stone’s throw from The Six, in three suburban towns along the northern banks of Lake Ontario. “But I thought It was set in Maine?!” we hear you splutter indignantly through the coffee you’re spurting back into your ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ souvenir mug. The answer? It is – but the principal filming locations could be anywhere that’s spooky, old-style American suburban and near enough to potentially tumultous water. Enter Oshawa, Port Hope and Pickering – all of which you could visit if your holiday penchant involves sewer tours, missing people and rain-soaked American gothic architecture. Or you could just eat at Drake’s restaurant, Fring’s. Yeah, we’d probably do that. e It is in UK cinemas MISSED YOUR COPY? VISIT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM from 8 September.
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HOT SHOTS YOUR INSTAGUIDE TO BERLIN
From food to street art, get yourself off the beaten track in one of Europe’s coolest cities with the help of these Berlin Instagrammers
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Photographer Anni has a keen eye for capturing Berlin’s unusual landmarks.
Founder Per started the Berlin Food Stories website and Instagram out of a love for his hometown’s culinary scene. The result is an independent guide that covers everywhere from Michelin-starred restaurants to under-the-radar joints like Goldies, where you’ll find the chips shown here – they’re topped with miso mayo, pickled radishes and furikake, a Japanese sprinkle made with dried fish.
Per hunts down Berlin’s best dishes – Malafemmena’s pizza is a favourite.
STREET ART @lindaberlin
Linda found this eye-popping mural in the city’s northern Wedding district.
STREET ART @anni.berlin
Anni’s colourful pictures refute the prevailing idea that Berlin is a grey city.
Berlin has a strong street art subculture, as snapped by photographer Linda.
WINGING IT ADVENTURE SPORTS
REBEL WITH A CAUSEWAY Bored of the beach? Looking to do something more demanding than unfold a sun lounger? Time you booked yourself an adventure, pronto. Tom Powell rounds up some of the very best. Ready, steadyâ€¦ go, go, GO 24
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laid waste to your annual leave sitch, make sure you use Bournemouth as a base for getting stuck in on your next weekend away. Far more than just a classic seaside resort, you’ll have access to quality sea kayaking and some surf along the coast, as well as bushcraft, cycle trails and way more in the nearby New Forest. For more information visit bournemouth.co.uk; book activities at newforestactivities.co.uk
The European ones
ON THE EDGE: [this image] See the Giant’s Causeway on a cycling tour of Ireland; [right] go wild in Cornwall
The UK ones
Photograph (Giant’s Causeway) by Marco Bottigelli
Cycle the coast of Northern Ireland Setting off from Antrim, this tour from cycle break specialist Iron Donkey will have you hit the roads all along the country’s Causeway Coast. Along the way, you’ll stave off the leg burn with a nip of whisky at Bushmills distillery (after a quick pause at the Giant’s Causeway, natch), explore miles of rugged country and coast, and see some of the sights from Game of Thrones. Plus, you’ll end the trip in Belfast on a Saturday night, which could (read: more than likely) get a bit messy. Iron Donkey offers sevennight cycle tours from £1,395. irondonkey.com. British Airways offers return flights to Belfast from £87. ba.com
Re-wild yourself in Cornwall Let’s face it, real life is boring, and sometimes it pays to get away from it all. At this Walden-style adventure camp, set in a secluded location on a creek on Cornwall’s rugged Roseland peninsula, you can bushcraft, open-fire cook, forage, fish and wild swim, all under the expert advice of epic woodsman Thom Hunt – who built the centre (treehouse and all) with his own hands while living out in the wild himself. The 7th Rise offers two-night wild experiences from £275. 7thrise.co.uk Do it all in Bournemouth If you’re the sort of adventurer who can’t get too far from London because the summer’s
Raft your way around Montenegro If last year’s new flight routes, which opened up some of the more secluded stretches of Montenegrin coast, haven’t got you curious about hopping across the border from Croatia and exploring, the wild rapids and beautiful sights along the Tara River in Durmitor National Park probably will. On a three-night trip with Much Better Adventures, you’ll raft 90km of This breathtaking the Unesco-listed national park wilderness, sleeping is Montenegro’s in eco-lodges and largest protected area, and home to flying across a canyon an array of wildlife on a zipline as you including brown go. Much Better bears, grey wolves Adventures offers and golden eagles. three-night weekend tours from £310. muchbetteradventures.com; British Airways offers return flights to Dubrovnik from £119. ba.com Run off some steam in the French Alps When pounding city pavements gets duller than dull, it’s time for a change of scene. Lace up your trail-running shoes and head out with Run the Wild on its two-night Introduction to the Alps tour and you’ll spend the weekend tracking the trails of the Chamonix Valley at the foot of Mont Blanc with expert, endurance-increasing guides, and views that aren’t bad for a bit
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If you want to see the best of Iceland, you’re best off doing it on horseback of inspo when the lactic acid sets in. Run the Wild offers two-night guided breaks from £530. runthewild.co.uk; British Airways flies to Geneva (for Chamonix) from £86. ba.com
Get in the saddle in Iceland Highland moors, epic waterfalls, and world-famous hot springs – if you want to see the best of southern Iceland without sore feet from hiking, or driving a car for miles and miles, then you’re probably best off doing it on horseback. With farmhouse accommodation and ancient natural beauty surrounding you, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time (apart from the fact you’ll be wearing GORE-TEX to keep the wind and rain off). In the Saddle offers four-night tours from £1,267. inthesaddle.com; British Airways offers flights to Reykjavik Keflavik from £87 return. ba.com
The long-haul ones
Dive into the Seychelles Enough is enough. People have thought of the gorgeous, palm-fringed isles of the Seychelles as a destination for luxe beach breaks and honeymoons for far too long now. We’ll have you know that if you scratch beneath the surface of the turquoise Indian
HORSE POWER: [this image] Explore the wilder side of Iceland on horseback; [below] a Seychelles stingray
Hit the trail in Kyrgyzstan If your idea of a two-week retreat from the office involves a 4,000-mile schlep made worthwhile by trekking, hiking and horse riding through remote hills, mountains and verdant Central Asian steppe, Kalpak Travel’s tour of Kyrgyzstan is for you. Absorbing the country’s blend of pre-Soviet history, beautiful wilderness and killer views, you’ll
head home with super-toned legs and awesome holiday snaps. Kalpak Travel offers 14-day tours from £1,600. kalpak-travel.com; Aeroflot offers return flights from £364 with an overnight layover in Moscow. aeroflot.com
Catch some surf in Lombok, Indonesia Just because summer’s coming to a close (and what a summer it wasn’t), it doesn’t mean you have to wave goodbye to that surfboard. If you’re in need of some R&R and fancy catching a few while you’re away, join Soul & Surf at its pop-up on the Indonesian island of Lombok, where the only thing to worry about is the paddle from your beach accommodation to the waves. Soul & Surf offers two seven-night surf and yoga packages from £1,200. soulandsurf.com; Garuda Indonesia offers flights to Lombok from £749. garuda-indoneisa.com e
Photograph (stingray) by Ullstein Bild/Getty
Ocean, there’s a whole world of sea life to discover. Hopping aboard a schooner with Dive Worldwide, you can explore it all, scuba diving the waters around some of the nation’s most remote islands, and seeing marine life from coral to moray eels. Rookie diver? Take a course with PADI before booking your tour. padi.com; Dive Worldwide offers ten-day dive tours from £2,750pp including flights. diveworldwide.com
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SHORT STAY THE PLOUGH AT KELMSCOTT
RAISING THE BAR Combining country pub and rural retreat within two hours from London, The Plough is the perfect place to head for a weekend escape from the city without having to travel too far, says Tom Powell What’s the score?
What to expect
Perched on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, a two-hour drive west of London, this charming old-school boozer with rooms is probably as close as you can get to London while still being able to say you're in the Cotswolds. A charming paintedstone exterior meets raw yet cosy interiors, and a beautiful beer garden that gives the pub a great buzz in summer. What’s more, Kelmscott is one of the only villages in the West Country with a museum actually worth visiting (more on which later).
It’s classic country chic with a touch of British vampishness. Downstairs, you'll find crackling fire grates, beaten-up rustic chairs, a framed Union Jack on the wall and an old pommel horse that’s now used for seating. The rooms, meanwhile, are spacious yet still cosy, with beamed ceilings, herringbone blankets, and luxurious walk-in showers in some of the bathrooms.
What to eat Food here is all-English with a hearty and creative spin. Lunch on anything from a pint of prawns or scotch egg (kept temptingly at the bar) to a full-blown pub grub feast.
This is probably as close as you can get to London while technically still being in the Cotswolds
THE PLOUGH ADDRESS KELMSCOTT, LECHLADE, OXFORDSHIRE, GL7 3HG
PRICE FROM £90 A NIGHT GETTING THERE TWO-HOUR DRIVE
INFO CALL 01367 253543 OR VISIT THEPLOUGHINNKELMSCOTT.COM
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CLOSE CALL Don’t waste your precious weekend travelling – book one of these pubs within a two-hour drive of London
THE BULL, DITCHLING, EAST SUSSEX
FIELD DAY: [clockwise from left] The Plough is bursting with Cotswolds charm; the inn’s stylish restaurant; contemporary bedrooms still feel cosy
Dinner takes things up a notch with a seasonally rotating menu that features dishes like slow-roast lamb on swede mash and pearl barley in winter, and summer salads like smoked local trout with blood orange.
What to do while you’re there Kelmscott played a huge role in the English Arts & Crafts movement, namely as home to the darling of wallpaper print, William Morris. You can visit Kelmscott Manor, once his home, on Wednesdays and Saturdays between April and October. Inside the simple but towering (and we’re talking Cotswold village Buscot is popular towering) facade, thanks to the fact it's you’ll find a treasure just so good looking trove of furniture – many of the village dating back to the houses are owned by the National Trust, 17th century. and its riverside You’ve also got location makes for access to the Thames bucolic views. path, which is well worth a walk, heading down the riverside to the nearby village of Buscot. Alternatively, you can rent a boat and spend an afternoon navigating the calm waterways. The nearest town is Lechlade, which is slightly more rugged than your average Cotswold settlement, but that doesn’t make it any poorer for antiques shopping, or brunching at bakehouse café Lynwood & Co (so long as you’re not still full from The Plough’s killer breakfast). e
This historic village boozer is the starting point for tons of trails in the South Downs National Park, which is great if you like to get out and about. If you don’t, the booze is as local as it gets: the pub brews its own beer. From £100. thebullditchling.com
THE SUN INN, DEDHAM, ESSEX As if panelled four-poster beds, roaring open fires and al fresco lunches weren’t already enough, this cute-as-they-come village pub is also a great base for exploring the River Stour by boat (fuelled by a picnic from the pub, obviously). From £90. sawdays.co.uk
THE BARROW HOUSE, EGERTON, KENT Egerton’s just an hour-anda-half drive from London, yet it’s an idyllic country village – and The Barrow House is its idyllic country pub, complete with plush, inviting, newly revamped guestrooms and a solid menu that focuses on local fare. From £90. thebarrowhouse.co.uk
SEE MORE SHORT STAYS AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
INTERVIEW JEREMY JONES
HIGHER STAKES Having spent every winter in the mountains for the past 30 years, snowboarder Jeremy Jones is face-to-face with the effects of climate change. He tells Tom Powell why it’s time to act
hen you’re a ten-time Big Mountain Rider of the Year, who’s explored some of the world’s most remote mountains – including a 21,000ft first descent in the Himalayas – you wouldn’t necessarily list spending every winter for more than 30 years in the mountains as
your greatest achievement. But such is life for Jeremy Jones, O’Neill rider and founder of Protect Our Winters – an environmental organisation he set up in 2007 after years of seeing snow conditions deteriorate. Today, with the US government ignoring climate change to an alarming degree, he says it’s time to stop waiting and start acting.
It all started one January about 15 years ago when it started to rain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming At first, people were saying, “Wow, this has never happened before,” but quickly it started to seem more like a trend. A couple of years later when I was competing in Europe, we visited the iconic Vallée Blanche in Chamonix, France. There, you ride down the glacier and then hike back up to a chairlift at the bottom. Each time I went back, that hike became a little bit longer, until I was saying, “Whoa, we’re walking The most famous a lot further than we off-piste ski run in were three years ago”. the world, the Vallée The reason for that Blanche is an 18km descent through is simple: the glacier stunning alpine is receding. It’s going scenery – and it’s one way – and that retreated massively in the past 20 years. way is the wrong way.
I first came to climate change selfishly because I love the winter The final straw, the thing that made me set up Protect Our Winters, was seeing a resort in British Columbia close because the snow levels were too high. I thought: if these people can lose their resort – their livelihood – in just 30 years, then what am I going to see in the next 20 or 30 years? But I soon realised the least of our worries will be if it no longer snows. If that happens, it has a much more far-reaching effect beyond just the skiier, snowboarder or the resort.
The biggest hurdle for us is that, in the US, more than half of our elected officials think climate change is a hoax It’s devastating. The first thing we need to do is to all get on board and say “this is a problem”; to realise that ignoring climate change is a dead-end street; to start making our voices heard in smaller, non-presidential
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TAKE A HIKE: Jones swaps snowmobiles for a splitboard and hiking boots to lower his footprint
votes, and to then start transitioning to a clean-energy society. Small steps like adopting a diet that includes less red meat and using less energy matter, too, but without getting world leaders on board, everyone deciding not to use plastic water bottles isn’t going to get us where we need to get.
People in winter sports are like the canaries in a coal mine
Photograph by Jeff Curley
They’re the people who are in the mountains all the time. There aren’t many mountain guides in Chamonix – people who’ve spent their whole lives in the mountains – who’d say they’ve not seen extreme changes to winter in their lifetimes. But it’s more than that: you need money to go out in the mountains, and a lot people in power love to ski and snowboard. Those are the people who need to act on climate change, as they have the power to make a real difference.
There aren’t many mountain guides, people who’ve been out there all their lives, who’d say extreme change isn’t happening
Every time you buy a product, it’s a vote with your money It’s important to understand what a brand stands for, or where the product comes from, and decide if that purchase is a vote you want to make. Lots of brands are doing great things, but you can’t do it all at once. My new collection with O’Neill has brought in recycled materials: we were able to do that because it’s a smaller part of the line, but in doing so, we’re bringing that into broader aspects of the business.
Reducing your footprint is vital There’s no golden process, but there’s always room to improve. What’s also important is that we all get out there and experience the mountains and nature. Without doing that, we’re not going to find the inspiration to want to protect it. e For more information visit protectourwinters.org; shop the Jeremy Jones collection at oneill.com
FIND MORE UK ESCAPES AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
UK FOCUS NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE
CAPTURE THE ’CASTLE We’ve hunted down two Newcastle locals to give us the lowdown on what to eat, drink and do in the Toon, from boutique cinemas to soft-shell tacos 32
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Barrio Comida serves the best tacos known to man, woman or child – all with great views of the quayside the effort to find, The Earl has an easterninspired menu that incoporates flavours from across the globe. earlofpittstreet.co.uk
Kaltur From authentic small plates to sharing boards and sumptuous mains, this new tapas bar has it all, and the staff are super knowledgeable and friendly. kalturfood.co.uk A 25-minute drive from the city, the coastal town of Tynemouth is located, er, at the mouth of the Tyne, with dramatic views and award-winning beaches.
ABOUT TYNE: The quayside of Newcastle and Gateshead is bursting with excellent restaurants, hipster bars, nightlife and other cultural attractions
Eat & Drink
Dave Stone, director, Wylam Brewery Wylam is a 30-barrel micro brewery that sits beside the lake in Newcastle’s Palace of Arts. Director Dave Stone shares a few of the food spots and watering holes that you need to visit (when you’re not in Wylam’s lakeside tap room, of course): Free Trade Inn With enviable views right across the Tyne, a cracking beer list and an always-warm welcome, ‘The Trade’ is the perfect place to while away an hour. @TheFreeTradeInn
The Bridge Tavern Nestled directly under the Tyne Bridge, the Tavern serves excellent local fare. With its own micro brewery on site, it serves beers that are exclusively available within its walls. thebridgetavern.com Dabbawal Everybody loves a curry, right? At Dabbawal, they serve the finest Indian street food – I’d recommend starting with the spectacular Bombay Bomb. dabbawal.com The Earl of Pitt Street Slightly off the beaten track but 100% worth
Box Social Tucked in a railway arch just behind Central station, Box Social serves the brewery’s own micro brews along with an impressive, ever-changing range from leading UK independent breweries. boxsocial.pub Pink Lane Coffee This independent roastery and coffee shop has all the beans you need to see you through the day. You can top up with some lush sandwiches as well. pinklanecoffee.co.uk Riley’s Fish Shack OK, technically it’s in Tynemouth, but you can’t mention food here without doffing your cap to Riley’s Fish Shack. There will be queues, so join the line, be patient and prepare to be dazzled. rileysfishshack.com Barrio Comida No reservations, paper plates, and the best tacos known to man, woman or child – all with views of Newcastle’s landmark quayside. barriocomida.com
D E PA R T U R E S
The Tyneside Cinema is beautifully quirky, with an ambitious but appealing programme The Cook House Blink and you’ll miss it – the Cook House resides in a shipping container in the Ouseburn Valley and sources the majority of its produce from the valley itself. It’s super fresh and innovative, but don’t forget to BYOB if you want a drink.
Abigal Pogson, managing director, Sage Gateshead The pioneering home of music and discovery in the North East, Sage Gateshead – which you’ll find on the waterfront south of the Millenium Bridge – is a must for any culture lover. The venue’s managing director, Abigail Pogson, talks you through everything else: Baltic Not only is Baltic our neighbour, it’s also one of the finest contemporary art institutions in the UK. It always strikes me there’s a satisfying symmetry in the way art and music sit alongside one another in such a beautifully positioned vista. balticmill.com
Tyneside Cinema I love the way in which Tyneside Cinema has brought back the sense of magic of going to the movies. It’s beautifully quirky with an ambitious but appealing programme, and each visit provokes a new thought or idea. tynesidecinema.co.uk
The Town Wall Opposite Newcastle Central station, ‘The Wall’ has an ever-changing array of brilliant beers and serves seasonal British comfort food with a local twist. A perfect pre- or post-train pit stop. thetownwall.com
The Jolly Fisherman Craster village was one of the first coastal spots we discovered when we moved North a few years ago, and The Jolly Fisherman has quickly become a fixed point at the end of any coastal walk. Its arrival on the
HANG OUT: (clockwise from here) Wylam’s tap room at the Palace of Arts; Barrio Comida’s tacos
The Gibside estate was originally built by coal baron George Bowes to impress his guests. Now under the watchful eye of the National Trust, it’s a great spot for long walks.
Newcastle quayside is a great addition to the dining options. jollyonthequay.co.uk
Gibside I love seeing the seasons change in the Walled Garden at Gibside, and I’ve spent many a happy day roaming around the site come rain or shine. It has quickly become one of our favourite places for exploring, playing, cycling and walking – often followed by pizza and a pint... nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside
The Cycle Hub Coffee, cake and cycling are three of my favourite things, so this place makes me very happy. Not only does it offer bikes for hire, it also has a workshop for service and repair. thecyclehub.org
Stay For an enviable blend of country and city, as well as top-rung food and chic rooms on the edge of Newcastle, try Jesmond Dene House – a mansion that balances stateliness with city-savvy bedrooms, and sits a pleasant distance from the stags and hens you might find in the centre come Saturday night. For a central bolthole, stay at either the Malmaison or Hotel du Vin – both of which will provide you with pleasant boutique comfort, plenty of space for loafing, and a central location that allows for an easy trip back if you’re up there just for a slice Newcastle’s infamous nightlife or an early bird’s jaunt around town in the morning. e Virgin Trains offers journeys to Newcastle from £36 return. virgintrains.co.uk
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Essential Qatar Get yourself a fix of unparalleled luxury and unique culture with a 48hour stopover in Qatar’s capital, Doha
oth sensationally luxurious and packed with culture, a trip to Qatar warrants far more than just a 48-hour stopover. But with the country’s prime position on flight routes to Australasia, the Indian Ocean and the Far East, there’s no reason not to drop by for a quick fix of the high life. As soon as you get off the plane, you’ll find yourself in a place that balances Middle Eastern culture, laid-back comfort and famous hospitality in equal measure. From the vibrant Souq Waqif to the many super-luxurious hotels and spas you’ll find throughout the city, Doha is the ideal destination for anyone who wants to explore the
culture of somewhere unique and new, while still holding onto the much-needed comfort and luxury of a great stopover destination. Qatar is a place where you could just as easily lose two days soaking up sun by the hotel pool as exploring its galleries, souqs and desert wilderness. But one thing’s for sure: with just 48 hours in Doha, it’s worth rising early. Your first stop should be the Museum of Islamic Art – the country’s prime cultural destination, and a real insight into the history of not just Qatar, but Iran, Turkey and India, too. Running across five floors, and taking in everything from armour to ornaments, rugs to rare artefacts in permanent and
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CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: The Sharq Village Resort & Spa is the perfect place to relax and recharge; a day out at Souq Waqif; Museum of Islamic Art; dhows overlooking the Corniche from Doha harbour
temporary exhibitions that span 14 centuries of history, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive collection of Islamic artefacts anywhere in the world. But it doesn’t stop there: foodies will also delight in the museum’s top-floor restaurant, IDAM, a project by iconic French chef Alain Ducasse, where haute Mediterranean-style cuisine takes an Arabic twist with spectacular views of the Doha skyline. Great food, it turns out, is something of a theme in Doha, and you could quite easily spend a full 48 hours eating your way around the capital, such are its dining options. With that in mind, one particular mustvisit is Souq Waqif, where you’ll find many
high-class, authentic restaurants in which you can indulge in the flavours of the Middle East before exploring one of the city’s most lively spots – especially in the evening. Brushed-up yet bustling, Souq Waqif is home to hundreds of traditional shops selling everything from rugs and lamps to spices and falcons. Alternatively, you could head out onto the shimmering Arabian Gulf in a traditional dhow boat, soaking up spectacular city views and eating dinner out on the water while learning a thing or two about the age-old Qatari traditions of pearl diving and fishing, getting a real insight into the country’s cultural history. Of course, you could forgo all of that – although we wouldn’t recommend it – because the other essential side of Doha is its hospitality. With plenty of world-leading hotels and spas like The Sharq Village – an opulent waterfront property by Ritz Carlton that effortlesly blends traditional Middle Eastern style and sumptuous modern luxury – you could quite easily pass a two-day stopover without ever lifting a finger. What’s more, with incredible lodgings like The W Doha, The Hilton and The Shangri-La Doha at every turn throughout the capital, you’ll be more than set if you just fancy kicking your feet up, indulging in a five-star treatment in the spa and recharging the batteries for wherever your travels take you next. And when you wake up feeling the rest and recuperation only good weather and a top spa can give you, you’ll be ready for whatever the journey throws at you. A forty-eight-hour stopover isn’t long – but when you choose to stay in Qatar, those two days could just be the difference between a good holiday and a once-in-a-lifetime one. ◆ For more information go to visitqatar.qa
Share an adventure this summer
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ICE, ICE BABY: In a world as fragile as the one we live in today, every little action counts. For industry insight from travel experts the world over – plus sustainable holiday inspiration – read the guide on p.40.
40 SUSTAINABLE BREAKS 50 ALLADALE, SCOTLAND 57 FLORENCE, ITALY 64 FINLAND 70 VIENNA, AUSTRIA
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BETTER BREAKS From eco hotels to 'voluntourism', Lydia Winter rounds up trips that help make a difference. Plus, industry experts on how they're approaching sustainable travel
side from the obvious benefits of a holiday, there's another, more profound reason why we love travel: we believe it's the best way of learning about our planet, from its incredible landscapes to its people and cultures – and that's the first step to understanding why we should protect it. With that in mind, we've rounded up a few of our favourite holiday ideas that prioritise sustainability and responsibility, from getting hands-on monitoring wildlife in a South African game reserve to kicking back and relaxing, knowing your money is going towards helping a good cause. But this time we've done things a little bit differently: we've also spoken to key figures in the industry to find out what sustainability means to them, and what the future of better travel might look like. So read on, and get inspired...
Sustainable city breaks 1 Hotel Central Park
SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: Recycling
is anything but boring at this swish new hotel that sits cheek-by-jowl with Central Park, New York, where the design team have used their skills to make everything from clothes hangers to room keys out of reclaimed materials. Feeling peckish? There’s a lobby farm stand where you can grab just-picked seasonal fruit and veg from regional farms. WHAT ELSE: The bathrooms have built-in timers that’ll gently remind you that saving a few minutes of shower time can make a big difference, while the rooms were designed to maximise natural light and therefore reduce electricity usage. HOW: Nightly rates start at £330 per person per night, based on two sharing. 1hotels.com; Norwegian flies from London Gatwick to New York from £259 return. norwegian.com
The Zetter Hotel, London SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: Given The Zetter’s
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edgy, contemporary aesthetic, you might be surprised to learn that being eco-friendly is at the core of what it does. The hotel was built with sustainability in mind from top to bottom – quite literally, as it sits above its own 1,500ft borehole that provides water for flushing the loos and cooling the fridges and bedrooms, as well as using energy-saving technology and eco-friendly materials. WHAT ELSE: Even the luxurious toiletries were chosen for their environmentally friendly packaging and formulas. Oh, and they'll make you smell pretty dang good, too. HOW: Rooms from £200 per night. thezetter.com
Sustainability for... an airline group
Chris Goater, corporate communications, IATA The International Air Transport Association represents, leads and serves the airline industry. Its 275 member airlines account for 83% of the world's total air traffic. What does sustainability mean to airlines?
Aside from our desire to see a sustainable planet, it literally means our license to grow. In order to get permission to build the new infrastructure and the new air routes required to service the overwhelming increase in demand, we have to show that we are a sustainable business. That’s the most difficult thing as an industry: if you’re trying to encourage carbon-neutral growth but that growth is so fast it's almost impossible to predict, how do you go about achieving that goal? Ultimately, we don’t want to deny people the opportunity to fly. We won’t be able help people explore, trade and visit family and friends if politicians say we’re unsustainable and then whack a huge tax on travel that will raise flight prices. What initiatives do airlines have in place to become more sustainable?
Our members have two key targets that we’re working towards: the first is our goal for carbon-neutral growth by 2020, which will largely come from carbon offsetting. The second is to cut CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005. We’re retrofitting old aircraft to make them more efficient, and building new models that cut fuel-burn by 20-30% in comparison to their predecessors; we’re championing the use of biofuel that’s made out of things like algae or plants grown on waste ground; and we’re working to open up more airspace. What’s the future of sustainable air travel?
Everyone’s talking about hydrogen- and solar-powered planes. Look at the progress we made in the 50 years between the planes of the First World War and the modern jet plane. NASA and others have already experimented with much larger electric planes, so NASA has been we’re optimistic developing piloted that technological X-planes that will solutions will be be powered by only batteries, making found beyond 2050 them more efficient, to develop more eliminating carbon efficient, clean emissions and reducing noise. aircraft. iata.org
Sustainable short-haul getaways Lefay, Italy
SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: Lake
Como’s Lefay has a strict sustainability manifesto that ranges from minimising waste to social responsibility, and is run by the first Italian hospitality company to sign an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment for projects aiming to neutralise CO2 emissions. WHAT ELSE: Italy is synonymous with seriously good grub and the LeFay resort doesn't buck that trend, serving up sunny Mediterranean produce like local extra virgin olive oil and the citrus fruit that grows around the lake. HOW: Nightly rates start from around £260, including breakfast. lefayresorts.com; easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Verona from £56 return. easyjet.com
Whitepod, Switzerland SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: Get
your Heidi on at this alpine escape, where you’ll sleep in hillside geodesic domes. Be warned: transport onsite is limited to reduce emissions, so you’ll be doing lots of walking.
SEE MORE AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
Sustainability for... a tour operator Michael Edwards, MD, Intrepid Travel
Intrepid Travel offers sustainable and authentic small-group tours and holidays in more than 100 countries around the world. What are you doing to be more sustainable?
We’ve been carbon offsetting our trips for the last seven years, making us one of the largest carbon-neutral travel companies in the world, and we always focus on supporting local Carbon offsetting businesses. We set involves compenup The Intrepid sating for carbon Foundation, emissions by reducing carbon matching travellers’ dioxide elsewhere, donations dollar enabling companies for dollar and, over to reduce their carbon footprints. the past 14 years, the foundation has donated AU$5million to global initiatives. And we’re not afraid to take a stand; in 2010 we funded research by World Animal Protection into animal entertainment, which led to our decision to end elephant riding on all our trips – more than 100 other travel companies followed our example. What’s the future for sustainable travel?
TRUE BLUE: [clockwise from here] Lefay's incredible views; a meal at Lefay; the dining room; a geodesic dome at Whitepod
Photograph by Michelangelo Princiotta (Lefay food); Micha Riechsteiner (Whitepod)
WHAT ELSE: Go dog-karting or dog-scooting; play tennis; hike through 25km of trails… or rent an electric mountain bike to get up those hills. That’s what we’d do. HOW: Nightly rates start at around £230, based on two sharing. whitepod.com; easyJet flies from London Gatwick to Geneva from £52 return. easyjet.com
People want to have a unique and authentic experience. This means doing local things with local people, whether it’s cooking with village women in Macedonia, learning to weave in Peru or chanting with monks in Varanasi. This kind of traveller also wants their trip to benefit the local economy and have as little social and environmental impact as possible. In the future, more and more travellers will recognise ‘greenwashing’ when they see it and vote with their wallets. intrepidtravel.com
Landgut Stober, Germany SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: You
know you’re onto a good ’un when your mattress is stuffed with caoutchouc (aka natural rubber), seaweed, and coconut. Don’t be put off: Landgut Stober’s mattresses are among the comfiest you’ll find – not to mention being 90% organic. Elsewhere, the hotel uses a rainwater collection system, on-site solar panels, and a highly efficient heating system that runs on wood. WHAT ELSE: Occupying a revamped manor house on a former estate 20km from Berlin, the hotel sits by a picturesque lake. HOW: Nightly rates start from around £116. landgut-stober.de; BA flies from London Heathrow to Berlin from £88 return. ba.com
Sustainability for... a game reserve Les Carlise, group conservation manager, andBeyond
AndBeyond is a group of South African luxury lodges and camps that has received multiple awards for its commitment to sustainability. What are the biggest challenges when it comes to running an ethical game reserve?
Each reserve will face different problems in its local area, but one widespread issue at the moment is the shift in emphasis from state parks to more provincial and private sector populations that simply don’t have the protection resources that have been applied to National Parks. This means the wildlife that resides in these local communities, where the majority of the population lives below the breadline, will continue to be exploited.
ROCKY ROAD: [clockwise from here] The Lake District's Unesco-accredited scenery; a suite at andBeyond; a hot tub with a view
Sustainability for... a tourist board Have things improved in recent years?
Improvement has been slow, but park managers are increasingly realising that having a supportive local community can act as a first line of defence against the increasing levels of poaching. That’s why we believe that the only real, long-term solution to the problem is to work in partnership with local communities. This forms the basis of our ‘3Cs’ conservation model – care of the land, care of the people and care of the wildlife – that's at the heart of everything we do. Do you think tourism is helping or hindering conservation?
What challenges do you face?
In July, the Lake District was awarded Unesco World Heritage Site status for its inspiring landscapes and we recognise that this will be a draw – especially for international visitors. In 2016, more than 45 million people came to Cumbria, contributing more than £2.72 billion to the local economy and supporting around 63,000 jobs. Our The Lake District is main challenge is home to incredible working to maintain scenery that attracts visitors from all over this income while the world. Its new impacting minimally Unesco status means on the beautiful land it's recognised as place of physical and that serves as such an cultural significance. attraction. What sustainability measures do you have?
In recent years, we’ve worked with local authorities and transport providers to deliver sustainable tourism schemes, encouraging visitors to use public transport or cleaner cars to reduce emissions and traffic on the roads around some of Cumbria’s most popular areas. And it’s working: Cumbria’s annual visitor survey showed an impressive shift in the use of transport to get around. In 2015, 58% of visitors said the car (or other private vehicle) was their main mode of transport, down significantly from 73% in 2012, and 77% in 2009, while walking has increased from 15% to 31%. visitcumbria.com
Photograph by Charlie Dailey (Les Carlisle); John Finney Photography/Getty (Cumbria);
If it is planned and controlled, then it can be the foundation of sustainable conservation. At andBeyond we are heavily reliant on our ‘3Cs’ model, and without the income we get from tourism, it wouldn’t be possible to extend and sustain our green frontiers. However, when tourism happens without these things in mind, it can certainly have hugely negative impacts for both the wildlife and the local community. andbeyond.com
Jim Walker, MD, Cumbria Tourism. One of the UK's most-visited counties, Cumbria weclomed 45 million visitors last year.
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Sustainability for... a resort group
Responsible Travel’s Thailand trip SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: You’ll visit the sustainable, ethical Elephant Nature Park, where you’ll spend the day with rescued elephants in their natural habit, and even join the gentle giants for bath time. WHAT ELSE: Responsible Travel is a tour operator dedicated to being, er, responsible, working with local people and treating them with respect and fairness, reducing its CO2 impact, and supporting local community programs and development. HOW: Nine-day tours of northern Thailand start from £895. Thai Airways flies from London Heathrow to Bangkok from £575 return. responsibletravel.com; thaiairways.com
Karl Thompson, MD, Unique Vacations UK Unique Vacations UK is the market representative of Sandals and Beaches, with hotels and resorts located all over the world . What are the challenges of running a sustainable, responsible hotel business?
It can be difficult, especially when you’re looking after a company that has resorts in different countries around the world, to maintain a consistent environmental responsibility programme when the countries involved have differing laws and customs – and consistency is key to things like accreditation. At Sandals, we take great care to ensure that all of our resorts are looking after their guests, but also looking after the environment. Hoteliers also need to ensure that their senior staff understand the importance of running a responsible, sustainable business and make it a priority, even if that means sourcing new suppliers or changing how they have done things in the past.
LEO Africa, South Africa SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: You’ll
What sustainability measures do you employ?
DRINKING IT ALL IN: [from top] Locals working in the fields in Thailand; an elephant heads to a watering hole in South Africa
We monitor the levels and usage of energy, water and waste at all the properties and regularly analyse the results to see how we can improve further – and our efforts have seen nine of our resorts achieve platinum status within the EarthCheck benchmarking and certification programme, which covers everything from recycling to conservation and ecological responsiveness. Elsewhere, we have The Sandals Foundation, which has donated more than $28m to a variety of different projects in our local Caribbean communities, including turtle hatching and conservation, coral reef restoration, managing population of lionfish in the Caribbean sea, holding regular beach cleanups and Reading Road Trips where our guests can go into nearby schools to help educate local children. What's the future of sustainable resorts?
Guests themselves wanting to get involved with local projects. We have a high number of repeat visitors at our resorts and people often get attached to the places that they visit and ultimately want to give something back. A lot of people still want to have a luxurious, relaxing holiday but they also want to give back to the local community. sandals.co.uk; beachesresorts.co.uk
Photograph by Gianni Bianchini (locals); Julie Lomax (Karl Thompson); Picasa (South Africa)
help park wardens and ecologists in the Marakele National Park to monitor wildlife and take on vital tasks like Chiang Mai's road repair. Elephant Nature WHAT ELSE: It's not all Park is a rescue and rehabilitation centre work – there'll be that provides a forays to the Sun City natural environment adventure park for the animals. You and camping trips out can visit or sign up as a volunteer. in the bush. HOW: From about £735 for a two-week-long stay, including food, accommodation and transfers from Johannesburg Tambo Airport. leoafrica.org; South African Airways flies from London to Johannesburg from £620 return. flysaa.com
Set in an exclusive location, between the renowned resorts of Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, and surrounded by the lush greenery of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, the Ria Park Hotels are ideal for beach lovers and holidaymakers looking for tranquillity and nature related activities. Along with golden sandy beaches and challenging golf courses, there are numerous nature trails running through pine forests and the Ria Formosa estuary, perfect for cycling, walking and many other activities such as bird watching, kayaking, stand-up paddling or horse riding. Close to the hotels also stand out fantastic bars and restaurants, ranging from casual beach shacks to the most elaborate Michelin starred spots. With high standards and a genuine welcoming service, the Ria Park Hotels are one of the most authentic ways you can experience a peaceful Algarve by the sea.
Extravagant ethical escapes Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: Fancy
discovering a new species of tree frog in Ecuador’s cloudforest? Now you can, sort of, at Mashpi Lodge, which is both a luxury resort and a hub for scientific research and conservation. There you can help the resident biologists with their investigations before relaxing upstairs on the open-air terrace, drinking in the view of the treetops – and excellent Argentinian wines. WHAT ELSE: Although you’ll be surrounded by lush, verdant vegetation, the lodge is actually located within the Metropolitan district of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Yep, really – so it’s easy to get to and you’ll be within reach of all the major sights. Winner. HOW: Nightly rates start at $681USD per person, including meals, guides and transfers from Quito airport. mashpilodge.com; Iberia fly from London to Quito via Madrid from £735 return. iberia.com
Soneva Fushi, Maldives SUSTAINABILITY CREDENTIALS: The
Sustainability for... a music festival
Cerys Matthews, co-founder, The Good Life Experience festival The Good Life Experience is a Flintshirebased festival focusing on music, food, books, craft and the great outdoors. What are the challenges of running a sustainable festival?
There’s a balance to be made: we want to be green and plasticfree, but we also want to be sure all our guests have an unforgettable weekend. For example, plastic bottles are handy and light, so we have to ensure we have easy, reusable, cost-friendly alternatives like enamel mugs. Things like this impact our overall festival budget, but, for us as a festival, the bigger picture and ultimate cost to the planet will always take priority. What sustainability measures does The Good Life Experience have in place?
Being green is at the heart of everything The Good Life Experience does, from the people on the lineup, to recycling and solar-powered lighting in the campsite. This year we’re upping our game and taking big steps towards going plastic-free. Our own food outlets will not use plastic and we’re encouraging other vendors to do the same. We will have enamel water beakers available to buy or borrow with a deposit for the weekend. We’ll also be using compostable pint glasses in our bars. As a festival we’re not perfect, but we’re making a huge effort to achieve our sustainability goals. thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk e
Photograph by Simon Shoulders (Good Life Experience); Ryan Murray Photo (whale shark)
Maldives hasn’t always had the best rep, but more and more of its stunning hotels are finally starting to sit up and take notice. Enter Soneva Fushi, Located in the located within the central-western part Baa Atoll Unesco of the Maldives, the Biosphere Reserve. Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve is home to The luxurious hotel one of the largest group is committed and most significant to reinvesting in its groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. surroundings, helping to build local schools, science labs and playgrounds. WHAT ELSE: Amble through dense tropical foliage to Soneva Fushi’s observatory, where you can spend hours stargazing through the state-of-the-art telescope. HOW: Nightly rates at Soneva Fushi start at about £805, based on two sharing a Crusoe Villa. soneva.com; British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Malé International Airport from £750 return. ba.com
PEOPLE POWER: (clockwise from here) the Good Life Experience in Flintshire; Soneva Fushi is investing in education on the atoll
REWILD THINGS There are some things you expect to see in the Highlands. And some you donâ€™t. Safi Thind meets the man intending to reintroduce wolves and bears into the Scottish wilds
aving been bitten by several canines as a child, my first thought when I hear the word ‘wolf’ is to run. But up in the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in northern Scotland, they are aiming to reintroduce these critters as part of a project to return the land to its natural state of wilderness. Sure, these are the Highlands, a wild and rugged place – but wolves? And for that matter, bears? In charge of the project is Paul Lister, Laird of Alladale, who bought the estate in 2003 and almost immediately started to draw together his grand rewilding plan. He has been called many names – McSerengeti, Wolfman, Mr Jurassic Park amongst them – but Lister remains resolute in his views and, a decade on, it appears that he might actually be getting somewhere. I’m early when I get to Inverness airport so I decide to wander into the city. It gives me a chance to sample this ancient and historic home of the Highlanders. Driving in I see a sign for Culloden Moor, site of the last ever battle fought on British soil in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie – armed with his band of Highlanders – sought to beat down the Hanoverian army and reinstate his Stuart line onto the throne. It is a romantic example of the character of this area and I start to dream of a place full of wild men in kilts battling to the death. This image is only confirmed by a redbrick castle sitting proudly atop a hill in Inverness, its turrets imperiously positioned against attack. Unfortunately, when I get in closer, I realise that not everyone looks like Christopher Lambert in the movie Highander here. In fact, nobody looks like Christopher Lambert. Inverness is a pretty
Photograph by Max Milligan
Photograph by ###
SURE, THE HIGHLANDS ARE WILD AND RUGGED – BUT WOLVES? AND BEARS?
place with its indoor market and lovely cathedral. But there’s no sign of a martial past. The ‘castle’ was actually built in the 19th century on the remains of a proper castle, but has only ever been used as a sheriff’s courthouse If you develop a taste and county hall. I do for the brewery’s see an elderly lady wares, head back into battling a seagull at a central Inverness to the Black Isle Bar & bus stop. And there Rooms, where you are plenty of the can drink all the beer discarded carcasses and then nod off upstairs. Amazing. of McDonald’s Happy Meals strewn across the ground. But the modern city is much more cooling to the senses. It is on the drive north out of Inverness that the countryside starts to get really wild. Lush, pine-covered hills appear on the horizon. Glassy lochs glint under steep, mossy Munros. The soil itself is black. Indeed, this patch of land is called the Black Isle peninsula for the dark, nutrient-rich colour of the earth and it is striking. But it’s also famous for other things. I am not being rude when I say that Scotland and booze go hand-in-hand. And the first stop on the trip, therefore, is the Black Isle Brewery. The brewery was started by one man looking into a well but has grown into one of the foremost organic beer producers this side of the border. They have 12 different varieties – from the palate-tinglingly crisp blonde to the steam-in-ear producing 10% oatmeal stout, fermented in barrels of Glenmorangie. And the entire operation is manned by just four staff and an association of woofers. Somewhat tired and emotional after this stop-off, I climb back into the four-
THE PLAN IS TO INTRODUCE TWO WOLF PACKS INTO A FENCED-OFF SEGMENT
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE: It’s hard to imagine the estate’s rolling munros populated by bears and wolves, but the plans are serious
Photograph by ###
Deer, meanwhile, are present in abundance. There are 1,000-plus on the estate, rambling over the land and gnawing away at the vegetation. They really are plentiful. Unfortunately a little too plentiful, because excess of deer means destruction of vegetation. Not only have they had to build fences to keep the deer away from trees, they also have to have an annual cull in the autumn when the whiff of buckshot and blasted ruminant spreads through the valley.
Photograph by Max Milligan
wheeler and close my eyes for the rest of the hour-long journey to the estate. The approach to Alladale is quite sudden, and I wake to find myself being loomed over by a gothic Victorian lodge which sits on a hill in the middle of 23,000 acres of land stretching further than the eye can see. There are seven bedrooms inside, as well as a large dining room, a billiards room and various stuffed bears and portraits beaming down at you. All in all it could be the setting for a Miss Marple murder mystery. But there is nature here too. From my window I see a herd of grazing deer, their mossy antlers poking out as they get ready for rutting season in August. There’s the call of various birds and owls outside. Here the sky stays light until after 11pm and then the stars and moon come out and give you this solitary feeling like you’re actually in – yes, inside – nature. They have planted 900,000 trees here in the last ten years, all local varieties including Scots pine, rowan, willow and juniper. Most of these will take a lifetime to grow, but to see the small sprouts that have emerged so far gives you both hope and excitement. The next challenge they have is wildlife. Current Alladale wildlife includes red squirrels, pine martens, golden eagles, buzzards, owls, pheasants and Scottish wildcats. The project has also seen elk, wild boar and bison pass through, though only temporarily as As few as 100 each one presents Scottish wildcats are problems – boars, thought to exist in for one, become too the wild. The biggest risk to the species is reliant on humans cross-breeding with to feed them while feral domestic cats, bison are just too diluting the true wildcat genes. vicious to control.
While it sounds like Bambi versus Elmer Fudd, without the cull the population would expand far too quickly leading to a shortage of food and eventual deer-icide. Of course, things might be easier if there was a natural apex predator to manage the deer – and this is where wolves and bears should come in. So what chance the centrefold animals? The fact it took six years to get the red squirrel into Alladale is a pretty morose indicator. Unfortunately, plans to rewild the land with the apex predators have been stunted by councillors with less vision than Mr Magoo. There is, it seems, a real spirit-crushing preoccupation with health and safety in this country. But Lister is determined to try. “It is clear that attitudes have changed a lot over the last ten or so years,” he says. “When we started restoring Alladale it was not a widely done thing, now many more landowners in Scotland are looking for alternative ways to add value to their land.” Over the next 12 months Alladale will be engaging in stakeholder meetings to officially discuss its wider vision for The European Nature Trust in Scotland. The plan – eventually – is to have a fenced-off segment of 50,000 acres and introduce two wolf packs into the area. The project would turn Alladale into an eco-tourism
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MEET THE LOCALS: [above] There are over 1,000 deer at Alladale; [left] the estate covers 23,000 of land, with a Victorian lodge at its heart
destination and create employment and a more natural balance to the ecology. There are arguments against, obviously. Farmers are wary for their cattle and ramblers are concerned that they would be denied access to grounds by fenced-off sections or they might be ripped a new one by a wolf. So things remain uncertain right now – yet the planners are working harder than ever at it. But back to the trip. Our chef while we’re here is Tom, whose cooking uses the fruits of the land: delicate venison, salmon, kippers and locally grown vegetables, all washed down with plenty of
local drink. After a hearty evening meal and a little whisky, I settle cosily to bed, albeit with a vague recollection of setting fire to the billiards room. Happily, when I wake the next morning, I realise it was just a dream and I’m soon bounding through orange and purple heather, examining saplings which look so young and have so much further to grow. It’s during this jaunt that I have a magical moment, when I see, soaring through the sky, a pair of golden eagles. It’s a glorious spot and makes me happy for the future of this place. On the way back to Inverness we go via the coast where we stop at Golspie Mill, an old flour mill that’s been operating the same way since 1863 and is now run by Michael, a salt-of-the-earth Kiwi, who initially shocks me when he appears in the doorway covered head-to-toe in white powder. We also visit Dornoch where Madonna got married and take the tasting menu at the 500-year old Dornoch Castle whisky bar. This, I have to say, is something else. There is gin with cold soup to wash your palate. Gin with salmon to rewash your palate. Whisky with venison. Sherry with sticky toffee pudding. Whisky with… something else. An hour later I think a small
Scottish nuclear bomb has exploded in my mouth. Once more tired and emotional, I climb into the car and sleep the rest of the hour to Inverness airport. Whether you want to leave your devices behind, whether you have a hankering for wilderness and wildlife, whether you want to sample a deer shoot or drink fine whisky in fresh Highland air – this is a place far from the claws of the urban world. Sure, the conservation project maybe fanciful. Who knows where the world will be by the time the trees have grown and the wolves roam. But what is life without fancy? e
GETTING THERE EasyJet fly from London to Inverness from £60 one-way. The Alladale Estate organises transfers from Inverness airport. See alladale.com
Photograph by Max Milligan
IT’S LIKE A SMALL NUCLEAR BOMB HAS EXPLODED IN MY MOUTH
Although you can spot a few golden eagles in Northwest England, most of the UK’s 440 breeding pairs inhabit the wilds of Scotland. You can see them all year round.
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GO WITH THE FLO’
Explore way beyond the obvious tourist sites with our guide to Florence’s must-sees Words by Tom Powell
Photograph by Laura Photograph Battiato/Getty by ###
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See street art
Easy Living Urban Beach
Forget Michelangelo, da Vinci, Titian and the rest for a minute, because if you want to get to grips with the bustling modern heart of the city, you’re going to have to look a little more carefully. Florence isn’t exactly full of graf tags (let’s face it, when a city is built on pristine 14th-century buildings, it’s not gonna hang around) but if you keep your eyes on the road signs as you go about your day, you’ll notice pieces by local legend Clet Abraham, whose quirky sign hacks have spread all across Europe. Fancy a souvenir? Hit up his studio in San Niccolo.
While it’s the renaissance art-packed Uffizi and Accademia that pull in the biggest load of punters in Florence, sometimes it pays to do something a little different – enter La Specola. Almost as old as the city’s two big hitters, and with a lot less pomp, the museum is home to one of the world’s biggest collections of anatomical waxworks – which basically means a superinformative, antique and slightly creepy look at the inner workings of the human body. Needless to say, it’s not a place for the squeamish (or to linger in a museum café).
The perfect tonic to a boiling-hot clamber up to Florence’s prime viewing platform and Insta spot the Piazzale Michelangelo, the city’s urban beach takes up residence in the shadow of the San Niccolo tower throughout the summer months on the less tourist-laden southeast side of the city. Have a drink on the terrace, grab a lounger or shuffle to the DJs down on the beach, or take an afternoon yoga lesson on the sand under the Tuscan sun. It might not quite be a slice of the Italian seaside, but it’s still bliss. easylivingfirenze.it
Photograph by Shahid Photograph Khan/Alamy by ###
GETTING THERE British Airways flies from London Gatwick to Florence from around £140 return. britishairways.com
ESSENTIALS Photograph by antoniopistillo.com
STAY Casa Howard
Less a hotel and more like staying in an eccentric mate’s Florentine palazzo, this 12-room guesthouse between the Duomo and Santa Maria Novella station is eclectic, original and quirky. Each of the rooms takes on a different theme and runs with it. From ramshackle rooms with exhibition posters to deep red, old-time-Italian style lodgings, each room has a distinctive character – and access to an honesty fridge full of bubbly, wine and soft drinks for those remove-thesandals-it’s-been-a-long-afternoon moments.
When the city gets too hot, the rule in Tuscany is head for the hills, and this lavishly appointed 15th-century villa perched discretely among the greenery out to the north of Florence is the perfect place to escape to. Expect a two-tiered outdoor pool (pictured) that’ll let you admire the city’s skyline from a glorious and much less frantic remove, as well as gorgeous, cavernous rustic-meets-luxe rooms with 19th-century frescoes and hotel art that’s actually worth something. Not bad.
The cosiest of a group of four luxury properties that straddle the River Arno near the Ponte Vecchio, Hotel Lungarno was given a new lick of paint (and then some) and reopened earlier this year. Prime location river views come as standard, and so do fine-dining options which range from the hotel’s Michelin-starred, 900-winesin-the-cellar restaurant to private dining experiences on a riverside terrace. Our only worry is that they might not serve spag bol, though – we’re sorry about that.
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Explore the beauty of historical Pragueâ€Ś. Settled in the centre of Prague this Baroque boutique hotel offers more than just luxury accommodation. Enjoy the night in some of the biggest suites in the city. First class room facilities include Nespresso coffee in their living areas and fragrance products Floris London - British Family Perfumers which are included in the bathroom toiletries. The real hotel jewel is its private baroque garden. During summer seasons, food lowers can come to hotel remarkable BBQs and those who admire traditions are always welcome to Afternoon Tea. Brand new Spa Centre & Fitness Club with modern designed wellness area include spacious Jacuzzi, saunas, massage rooms and Fitness studio with the newest machines are at the disposal of hotel guests. Le Grill Restaurant offering award-winning cuisine create with seasonal and local farm products. This is a cuisine of the Chef Ondrej Korab which is recommended by Michelin Guide. Whenever in Prague, donâ€™t miss visiting the only LHW hotel in the Czech Republic & experience the exceptional.
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EAT & DRINK
All’Antico Vinaio Boldly dubbed one of Italy’s finest places for street food, All’Antico Vinaio is your ideal lunching spot if you love cured meat and ciabattas the size of your head, and don’t mind sitting on the pavement while you eat. You’ll find the postage stamp-sized deli on Via Dei Neri (look for the people chomping giant sarnies), which isn’t far from the Uffizi, which means it’s the perfect fuel for tackling that round-the-block queue. Thinly sliced fennel sausage and creamed artichoke never tasted so, well, arty. Via dei Neri, 74/R; allanticovinaio.com
Il Santo Bevitore In the less-trodden streets to the west of the Ponte Vecchio, this serene, high-end restaurant is everything you love about Italian cooking, but with some interesting
modern twists. Expect cured meats on regionally organised platters, fresh pasta with less classic Italian ingredients like cuttlefish or pig’s cheek. And then there are the mains… raw scampi with burrata and wasabi; scallops with white polenta and lemon chutney; and wild boar with white asparagus and plums. It’ll do, we guess. Via di Santo Spirito, 64/66; ilsantobevitore.com
Caffè Giacosa Way back in 1919, Count Camillo Negroni decided he fancied adding a gin kick to his americano cocktail in this high-class café near the Duomo, and just like that, the negroni was born. Nowadays, it’s still as brushed up, with marble counters, an upmarket clientele and (strangely) a Roberto Cavalli boutique in part of the building. But that doesn’t make it any less
worthy of a visit for cocktail aficionados, fans of Italian nobles or those who like a punchy tipple in the middle of the afternoon. Via della Spada, 10r; caffegiacosa.it
Enoteca Palazzo Pitti About five minutes from the Ponte Vecchio opposite the Palazzo Pitti, this small wine shop and restaurant boasts floorto-ceiling shelves of small production, high-end booze and (importantly) a super informative team of waiters who’ll help you navigate the terroirs of Italy, and discover all the flavours you favour. With tons of classic (and pleasantly curveball) Italian wines by the glass or bottle, it’s great for a lunchtime pick-me-up, or sipping your way around the country with a paired dish for each glass. Piazza de’ Pitti, 16; pittigolaecantina.com e
Photograph by ###
LIGHTS, CAMERAâ€Ś ACTION? On a trip to Finland to photograph the Northern Lights, Joe Minihane finds the aurora to be elusive, but discovers plenty more to catch the eye
Photograph by Markku Inkila
Photograph by ###
here are four rules you must follow to get good pictures of the Northern Lights,” says Markku, his face lit red by the glow of the dashboard. “One: wear warm clothes. Two: know your camera. Three: no light pollution. Four: carry some good luck with you.” We’re hurtling along dirt roads near the tiny village of Nellim (population 170), where Markku runs the Wilderness Lodge, specialising in Northern Lights ‘hunting’ trips. I’ve followed his first three rules to the letter. I’m wrapped up in a down jacket, woolly hat pulled tight over my head. I’ve learned how to set up my ageing SLR properly for night time shooting, courtesy of a crash course from The third-largest Markku himself. And lake in Finland, the only light for Inari has more than miles is coming from 3,000 islands, one of which – the aptly the dash. named ‘Graveyard Unfortunately, Island’ – was I seem to have allegedly an ancient left my good luck sacrifice site. somewhere south of the Arctic Circle. It’s night three of my four-night trip to Nellim and the closest I’ve got to seeing aurora borealis are Markku’s own professional shots, taken in and around the village and across nearby Lake Inari. His pictures are spectacular and have helped turn my hope of seeing this natural phenomenon into utter desperation. “You need a lot of patience when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, especially on cloudy days,” says Markku, as we pull up and walk down a jetty over the pancake-flat lake. At first the dark is unrelenting, an inky blackness against
THE GREEN LIGHT: [from top] Nellim is known for its impressive aurora displays; [bottom] the best time to catch them is September
which I can’t make out my own hand. Slowly though, my eyes begin to adjust. There’s a faint green glow on the horizon, I’m certain of it. Markku nods. We wait. And wait. And wait. After about an hour, my fingertips frozen and poised over my camera shutter, we decide to call it a night. “September is when you usually get crazy Northern Lights,” he says with a tinge of disappointment as we get back to the lodge. “But you have to be positive.” I fall asleep dreaming of a sky streaked with swirling solar storms. Despite coming up short in the aurora stakes, Nellim remains a place of otherworldly beauty. While most
Photographs by Markku Inkila
HERE, THE REST OF THE WORLD FEELS AS DISTANT AS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
visitors head here in the colder months to ride on husky sleds over frozen lakes in temperatures that drop below -30ºC, autumn is a spectacular time to visit. The golden leaves of silver birches and the orange carpet of mosses and lichens on the forest floor certainly lend this corner of northern Finland an autumnal beauty that only New England and northern Japan can match. Throw in huge views across the vast expanse of Lake Inari and the fact that the nearest city, Ivalo, has a population of just 4,000 and you’re looking at the perfect place for a post-summer escape. In fact, seeing the aurora almost feels like a bonus when the landscape is this good and the rest of the world feels as distant as the solar storms that cause the Northern Lights to flare up in these high reaches of the Arctic. The next morning, my Northern Lights disappointment fading, I head out to explore with Lammu, one of Wilderness Lodge’s in-house guides. It’s still grey and a fine mist has turned to drizzle as we drive north, away from Nellim and towards the Russian border, just nine kilometres away. Lammu drives slowly over dirt roads, pulling up occasionally to see if he can spot reindeer in the thick pines. No luck. Instead, we stop on the roadside, and hike deep into the woods. “This was gold mining country,” says Lammu, “There was so much you could pick up nuggets of it in the Ivalo river.” It happened during the 1870s, he says, when Finland was still part of the Russian Empire. Today there are no prospectors here seeking their fortune and the only treasure
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SEE THE LIGHT: The ever-elusive Northern Lights throw their ghostly green glow over Nellim, a tiny town in northern Finland
SLOWLY, A HUGE WHITE REINDEER EMERGES FROM THE PINES, ITS ANTLERS RESPLENDENT
flank at first, but then it emerges: a huge white reindeer, its antlers resplendent. He strolls on nonchalantly before trotting out in front of us. Behind him follows a harem of hinds and then another enormous male, his breath visible, his huffing audible. I pull out my camera to reel off some shots but only get their backsides as they run off at speed. That night, once again, the Northern Lights fail to make an appearance. Markku takes me to his favourite lakeside spot and we cook reindeer sausages over an open fire, chasing them down with local vodka. He laments our failure, apologising for the cloudy weather which has blighted my trip, but my disappointment has faded. Nellim might be known for putting on a stunning aurora show, but when it comes to autumn landscapes, spectacular wildlife and frontier history, it’s no slouch either. e Joe Minihane travelled with The Aurora Zone on the four-night Nellim Autumn Lights Over Lake Inari trip, which starts from £1,325pp and includes flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, guided activities.
Photograph by Markku Inkila
Nellim and the surrounding area deals in is the Northern Lights. Still, as we emerge into a clearing onto the banks of the river, it’s easy to imagine life here in the 19th century. A riverside channel used to sift the dirt of the riverbed for gold has been restored and a shelter has been built with a fire pit to try and recreate the gold rush vibe. It’s all pleasingly rustic. Lammu and I drop our bags and I wander up the river while he cuts firewood. I practice my newfound photography skills on the burnished landscape. The results might not be as spectacular as Markku’s aurora shots, but pride swells as I look at my camera and realise that I’ve managed to capture something of the autumnal landscape. We head back to the car, my feet bouncing over deep moss, the tang of autumn rot and the sweet smell of pines sticking in my nose. A few minutes into the journey, Lammu slams on the brakes, winds down the windows and hushes me to silence. “Over there,” he says, pointing past my face. I only catch a glimpse of its bright
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FULL OF BEANS Vienna’s café culture dates back hundreds of years, but now a new wave of coffee house is bringing the city’s tradition firmly up to date, says Dominic Bliss
Photograph by Konstantin Reyer
y coffee arrives on a silver platter courtesy of a waiter with a jaunty-angled bow tie and a surly attitude. Alongside it is a glass of water and two glistening cakes. Around me the hubbub and cutlery of a hundred tourists, all buzzing with caffeine, echoes through the marble columns and right up to the vaulted roof of Café Central. Outside the front door there’s a 20-strong queue waiting to get a table. Formerly Vienna’s stock exchange, Café Central is one of Austria’s oldest, most famous and most traditional coffee houses. According to the MD, Kay Fröhlich, it now buys almost four tonnes of coffee a year, and serves more than 380,000 cups, the lion’s share to It’s not all about tourists. Sullen coffee in Vienna – waiters (it’s all part cake is a key part of the act) in dickie of the city’s café culture. The most bows have been famous is the chocserving coffee much olatey ‘sachertorte’, like this for the last which originated in the 18th century. century and a half. Former customers include Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin who, in between their mélanges (that’s a Viennese coffee similar to a cappuccino), plotted overthrowing the Russian tsar here. Witness the power of caffeine. Now on my third double espresso (or brauner grosser) of the day, I’m feeling the power of the bean myself. Earlier in the morning I’d been in the north of the city, near the university district, at another café called Coffee Pirates. But that had been an altogether different experience – part of what’s known as Vienna’s third wave of coffee houses, and diametrically opposed to traditional coffee houses in pretty much every imaginable way. Where Café Central has uniformed waiters, laminated menus, Thonet No.14 bistro chairs and button-operated coffee machines, Coffee Pirates has hipster baristas, a chalkboard menu that changes daily, its own roaster, and – obviously – a Dutch coffee machine that “had to be ordered six months before it was delivered and cost more than a family car”. 80% of Café Central clientele are international tourists, while at Coffee Pirates it’s almost exclusively students from the University of Vienna campuses across the road. All the staff wear hats, but cool hats with a certain individuality. In an obvious inversion of Vienna’s traditional coffee house, a dozen or so Thonet chairs have been nailed upside down to the ceiling.
The owners of Coffee Pirates are Werner Savernik and Evelyn Priesch. “Yes, the traditional coffee houses are really nice,” says Evelyn, careful not to disrespect her old-school rivals in the centre of town. “They have great furniture and lamps and newspapers. But, to be honest, the coffee is not very good. They focus on everything but the coffee. It’s mainly a tourist thing. Locals don’t go there.” Her establishment, with its rustic interior, sacks of coffee piled high, little roastery in the back and student-y clientele, very much puts the bean first. Evelyn claims to know every farm in the coffee belt that supplies her with raw material. “We’ve just got back from visiting one farm in Ethiopia,” she says. “For us, coffee is a hobby as well as a job. We’re not doing this just for the money.” She and Walter are surfers. When they go on holiday they head for tropical countries where they can ride the waves at the beach and sample coffee in the nearby mountains. Kenya is a particular favourite for this unlikely saltwater-caffeine combo. As Evelyn shows me the basics of her roasting machine, and while I sip on a filter blend of Panamanian, Honduran and Ethiopian beans, she admits that her café does in fact share a few old-school qualities with the traditional coffee houses found in the centre of town. Regular customers while away hours in here, reading, writing, and meeting new acquaintances. Two published books she knows about have been drafted here. And several romances have flourished. One couple who first met across Evelyn’s coffee cups have since produced a baby. Throughout the entire café there pervades a sense of what the Viennese call gemütlichkeit. There’s no direct translation for this German word. It describes a state of
FOR US, COFFEE IS A HOBBY AS WELL AS A JOB 71
KNOW YOUR VIENNESE COFFEES Visitors to Vienna find themselves faced with long and confusing coffee menus. Here’s some guidance through the minefield that is the Wien bean. and cream. ◆◆ BRAUNER KLEINER: single
espresso. ◆◆ BRAUNER GROSSER: double
espresso. ◆◆ EINSPÄNNER: double espresso in a
glass topped with whipped cream. ◆◆ KAFFEE VERKEHRT: more milk than
coffee, similar to a latte macchiato. ◆◆ KAPUZINER: cappuccino. ◆◆ MARIA THERESIA: double espresso
with orange liqueur, topped with a bit of whipped cream. ◆◆ MELANGE: a classic Viennese coffee with lots of steamed milk and milk foam on top, similar to a cappuccino. ◆◆ MOKKA: a slowly extracted espresso. ◆◆ OBERMAYER: an espresso with chilled cream decanted via the back of a spoon. ◆◆ PHARISAER: coffee, rum and cream. ◆◆ TURKISCHER: ground coffee and sugar are boiled with water and served in a copper pot. ◆◆ UBERSTURZTER NEUMANN: whipped cream and double espresso. ◆◆ VERLANGERTER: an espresso with hot water added and milk or cream on the side. ◆◆ WIENER EISKAFFEE: chilled coffee, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
comprising 900 traditional coffee houses, 800 café restaurants, 680 espresso bars and 120 café-confectionaries. Quite what category the next café on my tour comes under is anyone’s guess. Called Supersense, it’s honestly the most unusual coffee house I’ve ever visited. At the back of the building, past the actual café area, things start to get very surreal indeed. There’s a 200-year-old printing press, a studio camera from the 1930s, a record lathe from the 1950s, and an old Voice-O-Graph recording studio the size of a telephone box – all restored to working order. Supersense is a paean to all things
THERE ARE 2,500 PLACES SERVING COFFEE IN VIENNA
Photograph by (Kaffemik) Konstantin Reyer; (Café Central) Yadid Levy/Alamy; (Supersense) Gebhard Sengmüller
◆◆ ADVOCAAT: coffee with egg liqueur
cosiness, warmth, friendliness, belonging, peace of mind, even social acceptance. “To achieve gemütlichkeit, you drink a long coffee, you spend time in the café, you slow things down, relax and appreciate life,” Evelyn explains. “You might read the newspaper, talk to someone or daydream.” Viennese coffee and its accompanying gemutlichkeit dates all the way back to the late 17th century and owes its development to an Armenian merchant called Johannes Diodato who first imported coffee to the city from Turkey. (There’s also a legend about a chap called Kulczycki who appropriated sacks of coffee left behind by retreating Turks after the Battle of Vienna in 1683, but scholars later proved this isn’t true.) Over the next three centuries the city’s coffee houses flourished. Frequented by writers, musicians, artists and intellectuals, they grew into the established institutions they are today. “In Vienna, the pleasures of coffee have become the hallmark of an advanced civilisation,” write Werner Meisinger and Rudolf Novak in their book Café Central: Viennese Culinary Culture Then and Now. Local writer Hans Weigel goes even further: “It’s as if it has become part of the people’s soul.” According to Vienna City Administration, there are now around 2,500 businesses across Vienna serving coffee,
analogue. Dotted around the shop are examples of cultural artefacts from a pre-digital age: Polaroid film, hand-printed greetings and Visiting Neubau is business cards, a must on a trip to limited-run vinyl Vienna – the city’s records, obsolete seventh district, it’s near the centre music formats, of town, has a cool antique stereos, TV vibe, and is also sets and musical where you’ll find the museum quarter. instruments. The owner is Florian Kaps, an evangelist for all things analogue. In a world dominated by digital technology, he sees himself as a kind of mechanical conservationist saving defunct analogue machines from extinction. He has already revived the production of Polaroid cameras and film, and he’s now got his eye on the world’s few remaining typewriter factories. “I’m fighting my arse off,” he says. “If there weren’t crazy people like me rescuing these technologies, they’d be gone forever. So I’m connecting these endangered technologies to the younger generation.” And where does the café come in? Well, Florian uses his artisanal coffee to
3 Sights 30 Days My Choice
invigorate his customers’ sense of taste before they then exercise their other senses through the analogue technology. “Eating and drinking are the easiest ways to access the human senses,” he says, adding that the building he occupies used to be a traditional coffee house. “Without our café, people would look at Supersense and ask: ‘What is this? A church? A museum?’ They wouldn’t understand the rest of it.” Easier to comprehend is the final café on my tour of Vienna. Kaffemik is a tiny six-seat establishment over in the trendy Neubau district. The boss is Simon Huber, who sources his beans from roasteries all over Europe. Despite the size of his café, he serves 35,000 flat whites a year. By now, the levels of caffeine in my bloodstream are distressingly high. My hands are shaking, I’ve got a pain behind the eyes and I’m talking 19 to the dozen. “Don’t worry. I drink six to eight shots of coffee a day,” Simon says, as if that’s the most normal thing in the world. “But it’s under control. The only problem is, if I don’t have a coffee at night, when I wake up the next morning I have caffeine withdrawal.”
GET THE BUZZ: [above] Supersense is one of Vienna’s new wave of coffee houses; [left] Café Central keeps things more traditional
And to think that I’d been worrying about my caffeine addiction… e Dominic Bliss was a guest of the Austrian and Vienna tourist boards. austria.info; vienna.info. He stayed at The Guesthouse Vienna. theguesthouse.at
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Winter Unleashed From top-of-the-line skiing to traditional hospitality and local colour, make the most out of winter with a trip to Austria
WITH BEAUTIFUL SNOW, WARM HOSPITALITY AND UNIQUE ALPINE CULTURE, AUSTRIA MAKES FOR THE IDEAL WINTER BREAK
Whether you’re an off-piste adventurer or an absolute beginner, the Zillertal valley in Tirol makes for the perfect place to dive into Austria’s incredible snow, thanks to a shedload of new infrastructure that’ll get you on the slopes faster than you can say “après ski”. Easily reached from Innsbruck, Salzburg and Munich, the Zillertal is a wide, sunny valley in west Austria that boasts a huge variety of ski areas. Just one Zillertal Superski lift pass will give you access to a total of 515km of pistes, plus superb freeriding terrain and freestyle parks. And while the architecture here, with its quaint wooden beams, is traditional Tirolean, the high-tech infrastructure on both the ground and the mountain is anything but.
Photographs by Mirja Geh (skiier); bause.at (lift); Thomas Straub (drinks)
inter holidays can be tricky: you need to find the right balance of adventure and downtime to suit everyone, not to mention options for days when the weather isn’t quite up to scratch. And that’s what makes Austria the perfect winter break: beautiful snow; a sophisticated skiing infrastructure that receives considerable investment each year; famously warm and generous hospitality; and there’s an abundance of local tradition to discover, too – not to mention the fact that resorts here tend to be cheaper than their French and Swiss counterparts. But with so much on offer, where do you start? We round up four of Austria’s most exciting regions for your next winter break.
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If you’re feeling ambitious, this is the place to test your mettle: complete six out of the 13 sections in the Arena Champions Challenge and you’ll be awarded the Arena Champions photo album to take home with you. Elsewhere, there’s the new ten-seater cable car that whizzes you up to the top of the Spieljoch mountain, straight to Zillertal’s longest snow-covered run and a ski park that’s just calling out to action junkies. But, with a 5.5km-long natural toboggan run and a winter hiking trail, there’s something here for everyone. And if you thought all gondolas were created equal, think again – Zillertal’s new, state-of-theart ten-seater mono-cable car the Finkenberg 1 is comfortable, fast and even boasts Wi-Fi, so you can instantly share those Insta-worthy snaps of the incredible views with friends and family. For adventure that suits the whole family, head to Action Mount Penken, where you can try to conquer the Harikiri run, Austria’s steepest slope adventure; shred the Penken Park, one of Zillertal’s seven snow parks; or measure your speed and time on three different courses. Little ones will love Pepi’s Kinderland, where they can have fun with Pepi the giant teddy bear and practise their skiing under professional supervision, while parents relax with the culinary delights of the Granatalm ski hut. Nearby, there’s Leisure Mount Ahorn, with a winter hiking trail and viewing platforms that’ll give you best views of the valley. And if you’re wondering how you’ll fit that all in, fear not: the Hintertux glacier is open for skiing 365 days a year, while in March, you can hit the slopes of the Zillertal Arena from 6.55am.
Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn
CLOCKWISE FROM MAIN: Taking advantage of Austria’s pristine slopes; cosy chalets; enjoying the local delicacies; Austria’s state-of-the-art infrastructure
Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn describes itself as the coolest ski area in the Alps, and with 270km of slopes, 70 lifts, more than 60 mountain huts, numerous snowparks, floodlit pistes and toboggan runs, it’s not hard to see why. Take advantage of the Nordic sports centre, where you’ll be able to cross-country ski across 150km of wellmaintained trails, or get back to nature in the region’s freeriding areas, where it’ll just be you and the pristine deep snow. The annual Mountain Attack ski touring marathon will bring together 500 skiers for a challenge that’ll see them take on six mountain peaks, spread over 40km and 3,000m of altitude. But there’s more to the region than skiing: a comprehensive winter activity programme means there’s never a dull moment, from a natural ice skating rink at the Ritzensee to sleigh rides cuddled up under cosy blankets and winter archery in Saalbach Hinterglemm and Saalfelden
Leogang. There’s even the White Pearl Mountain Days festival in April, which combines cool music and international cuisine with great pistes and incredible weather. And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there’s the Three Days of Jazz jestival in Saalfelden in January. What’s more, if all that action makes you build up an appetite, you can sate your hunger with some of Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn’s incredible regional delicacies, including the Pinzgauer Blad’l – similar in appearance to a Cornish pasty, it’s made with rye and wheat flour, fried and served with traditional fillings like sauerkraut, potato salad kohlrabi or potato gratin. You’re bound to find this tasty morsel at one of the 60-plus mountain huts along Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn’s slopes, along with other classics like ribs or noodles, so there are plenty
Zell am See-Kaprun
For a truly all-round destination, look no further than Zell am See-Kaprun, a region that’s made up of two quaint towns on the edge of the beautiful Upper Tauern National Park, just 85km southwest of Salzburg. With perfect conditions for winter-sports and miles of well-groomed pistes, it’s a place
AWE-INSPIRING VIEWS COME AS STANDARD FROM THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE IN CARINTHIA AND ZELL AM SEE-KAPRUN
that’s bursting with opportunities for active adventures and family fun. On piste, there are 66 slopes spanning 138km of downhill action, from low-gradient family areas and easy blue-runs to ultra-black runs like Trass Slope, which will test even the most experienced skiiers with gradients of up to 70%. And if you fancy taking things off piste, you can learn how at one of the resorts’ cross-country ski schools, before you hit miles of backcountry that are packed with some of Austria’s best deep powder. If you prefer tricking out on ramps and riding moguls to bombing down the pistes, meanwhile, there are five incredible snow parks, which offer adrenaline junkies the chance to get a high-octane piece of the action – and experienced riders can even test their skills on Austria’s biggest superpipe.
Photographs by Franz GERDL (food); Linda Leitner (concert); Gletscherbahnen Kaprun (main)
of opportunities to refuel. And if you like more than just eating food, some of the huts provide a fascinating insight into farming techniques and might just show you traditional Alpine cheesemaking craftsmanship. With such a raft of activities on offer, it’s not surprising that Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn draws hordes of winter adventurers and wins awards for its innovation – the only problem is deciding what to do first.
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CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: Austria offers delicious off-piste action; fun on the slopes in the Carinthia region; amazing views in Zell am See-Kaprun
But a visit to Zell am See-Kaprun is about way more than fun in the snow: authentic Austrian culture is reflected in the region’s many events, which range from markets and traditional music concerts to WOW Glacier Love festival, which sees a whole raft of DJs and athletes take to the side of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier for freestyle competitions, pumping tunes and huge after-parties. While the region’s snow-life centres around an astonishing blend of glaciers and mountains, the crowning feature of Zell am See is the crystal-clear alpine lake Lake Zell – a serene expression of Austria’s immense natural beauty and the perfect backdrop for any adventure. It’s best viewed from the Top of Salzburg, an observation deck more than 3,00m above sea level that hangs off the edge of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. With more than 200 of the most spectacular and highest peaks of Austria to stand and stare at, you won’t find better ski inspiration in the whole of Austria.
There aren’t many places in the world that feel as full of life as the southern Austrian region of Carinthia during winter. And you certainly don’t need to throw yourself down a mountainside at breakneck speed to get a taste of that rush. As soon as you arrive, you can expect aweinspiring mountain views, idyllic lakes and a milder-than-normal climate, which makes this southernmost region the perfect destination for a relaxing week in the snow. But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of the white stuff to get out and explore. Here, there’s plenty of skiing – both alpine and off-piste – to be enjoyed by everyone from absolute beginners
to seasoned pros. When it comes to a holidaydefining moment, nothing beats a sunrise ski session. Heading out as early as 6.30am, you’ll be able to make some of the first tracks on the snow with a few likeminded early-birds on the Goldeck and Turrach mountains. Alternatively, a day-trip skiing cross-country through crisp, untouched deep snow is one of the best ways to explore extraordinary scenery like the Weissensee, the largest frozen area of natural ice in the whole of Europe. Then, after a long day out in the country, you’ll want to kick off your boots and relax. You’re in luck, because Carinthia is famous for its natural spas. And if you fancy combining a swim with epic views of the great outdoors, plenty of waterside hotels by Millstatätter See, Wörthersee and Turracher See give you the chance to take a dip in heated lake-pools, experiencing the staggering natural beauty of Carinthia without exposing yourself to the brisk winter elements. In a region so beautiful and varied, it can be hard to pick a single place to call home for your whole getaway, but here it’s easy: the picturesque spa town of Bad Kleinkirchheim is a World Cup resort with an incredible snow scene, a natural toboggan run and all the off-piste relaxation you could ever want. And Hotel Trattlerhof – a bolthole which oozes quintessential rustic charm – is its crowning jewel. And with new flights from London Gatwick to Klagenfurt, seeing that stunning snow just got a whole lot easier. So what are you waiting for? ◆ For the latest news, follow Visit Austria at facebook.
com/visitaustria, or at @Austria_UK on Twitter,
using the hashtag #feelAustria. For more information head to austria.info/uk/ski
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NO PLACE LIKE DOME: Packed to the rafters with jewels, spice and beautiful domed architecture, the lesser-visited nations along the age-old Silk Road in Central Asia are more than worth a visit. So hop on a rail tour from Tashkent to Samarkand – both Uzbekistan – with us, and get your head around a mind-blowing blend of ancient and modern. [p.88]
81 THE CHECKLIST 87 THE INTREPID SERIES: THE SILK ROAD 98 REAR VIEW
Photograph by 4Corners Images
THE CHECKLIST ❶ RECYCLED DUFFLE ❷ WOMEN’S GEAR ❸ MEN’S GEAR
REBORN TO BE WILD PhotographPhotograph by David Harrison by ###
FILSON FRD SMALL DUFFLE, £525: This issue we’re showcasing gear with a sustainable ethos, just like this duffle. When one of Filson’s famously tough bags dies, it goes upstairs. Not to bag heaven, but to the Seattle-based Filson Restoration Department, where it’s recycled to create a unique new bag – guaranteed for life. Buy it at Filson’s Carnaby store. filson.com/uk
MANDUKA, EKO YOGA MAT, (VARIOUS) £70: Ever slipped and faceplanted doing downward-facing dog? Invest in this biodegradable cushioned yoga mat and save your pride – and our planet. manduka.com
SUNDRIED, CYCLE SOCKS, (BLUE/RED) £15: You can tell a lot about a person from their... socks. And this brightly coloured, terry-cushioned and ethically made pair is telling us that you’re a winner. Maybe. sundried.com
VEJA, HOLIDAY LT TRAINERS, (MAROON) £100: A total of 15 plastic bottles goes into the mesh on these trainers, creating a breathable, waterproof fabric. Other materials include recycled cotton and wild rubber. veja-store.com
SUNDRIED, BREITHORN SPORTS BRA, (BLACK) £45: From its carbon footprint and charity work to the material it uses, everything this US brand does keeps ethics in mind. And the gear looks pretty damn cool, too. sundried.com
ADIDAS BY STELLA MCCARTNEY, RUN SPRINTWEB TIGHTS, (GRAPHIC BLUE) £89.95: McCartney’s chic Adidas range echoes the designer’s sustainable principles, prioritising recycled materials. adidas.co.uk
STARSEEDS,FLAT WHITE LEGGINGS, (PURPLE) £62: These leggings are made out of – wait for it – reused coffee grounds. And it turns out that makes them odourcontrolling, sweat-wicking and generally brilliant. starseeds.eu
Manduka’s eKO yoga mat are made with non-Amazon-harvested natural tree rubber, making them both non-slip and as sustainable as possible. They’re zero-waste, to boot.
PhotographPhotograph by David Harrison by ###
This mesh overlay looks swish, but it’s also cooling, making it ideal for all-day activewear. Oh, and it’s ethically produced in Portugal with eco-friendly fabric. Win win.
JUMPER FOR JOY Photograph by ###
STARSEEDS AYATTI SWEATER, £100: This isn’t any old purple jumper. It’s made from organic cotton, which Starseeds painstakingly sources from around the world to use in stylish clothes it produces ethically in Europe. It’s a lengthy process, but the result is the softest, kindest jumper you’ll find. starseeds.eu
FASHION, CONSCIOUS RNLI + FINISTERRE CROMER JACKET, £275: If you’re creating a jacket to fend off the cold and wet, who better to partner with than the RNLI? Finisterre’s latest collection is inspired by lifeboat crews and the RNLI archives, including the Cromer jacket – with a recycled outer and insulation, plus a fluourocarbon-free DWR finish. 10% of sales will go to the charity. finisterre.com
PhotographPhotograph by David Harrison by ###
The LifeStraw’s two-stage filtration system removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, plus 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites like giardia & cryptosporidium.
SALEWA, PEDROC DELTA T-SHIRT, (GREEN) £50: This technical tee uses Polartec’s new Delta fabric for maximum temperature and moisture control, plus it’s finished with Polygiene for odour control. In short, you’ll need to wash it less. salewa.com
PALA, IDIR SUNGLASSES, (TORTOISESHELL) £45: These shades don’t just look good, they do good, too. Proceeds from every pair go towards eye care projects in Africa, and the cases are woven from waste plastics. palasunglasses.com
LIFESTRAW, GO 2-STAGE FILTRATION, £45.95: Don’t stock up on endless bottles of water on your travels – use a LifeStraw instead, which allows you to drink up to 1,000 litres of contaminated water completely safely. lifestraw.com
LOWA, WENDELSTEIN BOOT, £225: The leather used in the upper and lining of Lowa’s Wendelstein hikers is from Germany’s Heinen tannery, which has a highly resource- and chemical-light approach. lowa.co.uk
O’NEILL X JONES, VOYAGER 3L JACKET, (BLUE/GREEN) £429.99: Snowboarding icon Jeremy Jones is a leading campaigner against climate change. This jacket, from his collaboration with O’Neill, uses recycled fabrics. oneill.com
PATAGONIA, SYNCHILLA SNAP-T, (LAUGHING WATERS) £120: Patagonia’s Snap-T fleece looks retro but is all modern. The fleece is made in Fair Trade factories, mostly using recycled fabrics, and dyed with a low-impact process. patagonia.com
Photograph by ###
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THE SERIE S IN ASSOCIATION WITH
his month, the Intrepid Series has taken an unexpected turn, which makes sense, as itâ€™s the part of escapism where you should always expect the unexpected. Anyway, instead of testing his mind, body and sandals on the toughest trails in some of the most remote parts of the planet, Rob Crossan takes a relatively pleasant train ride along the Silk Road in Central Asia, discovering the staggering beauty of cities from Tashkent to Samarkand. What did he find? Well, you might just have to read on to find out... e
Photograph by ###
SHOW ON THE ROAD
A quarter of a century on from independence, the Central Asian â€˜Stans continue to be shrouded in obscurity. Rob Crossan lets the train take the strain on the path of the ancient Silk Road
Photograph by 4Corners Images
MORE TRAVEL INSPIRATION AT ESCAPISMMAGAZINE.COM
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adventures for hen you hear that one man
I’M ON THE TRAIL OF QUITE POSSIBLY Book now: intrepidtravel.com/solo THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR BAD-ASS OF ALL TIME is responsible for the death solo travellers of 17 million people it’s
probably natural to want to make absolutely sure that he’s dead. “You can’t go in there”, says the burly Uzbek guard, his gossamer eyebrows scrunching together in contempt. Lacking even the most faltering of Russian I take a risk. Preferring a modest fistful of tattered so’m banknotes I raise an eyebrow in what I hope is interpreted as a masculine invitation to minor corruption rather than a sexual come-on. I’m out of luck. Snorting with impressive derision he walks away tutting. The heavy door to the crypt remains locked and the trail goes cold. The Central Asian sun ratchets up another notch as I seek sanctuary under a mulberry tree. It’s lunchtime in Samarkand, Uzbekistan and I’m on the trail of quite possibly the ultimate warrior bad-ass of all time. Amir Timur, or Tamerlane as he was often known, was a man who makes Idi Amin look like a Dutch social worker. He makes Ceausescu look like a Unicef volunteer. He makes Genghis Khan look like a lily-livered fop. Timur made pyramids out of the skulls of those he decapitated. His 14th-century empire stretched from India to Istanbul. Even by the standards of the Soviet Union, which swallowed up Uzbekistan
wholesale in the 1920s, Timur’s excesses were considered to be a little too brutal. Airbrushed out of history in favour of the hammer and sickle, the monstrous emir took his time, but eventually – and almost inevitably – returned to prominence as a de facto national hero. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan, along with the four other ‘Stan nations of Central Asia, all declared their independence and set about dismantling the statues of Lenin and Marx that stood inert over parks and squares that now rumbled to the sound of pop music rather than parades. It also meant that the piecemeal renovations of the madrasas (religious
Photograph by ###
GO SOLO, TRAVEL TOGETHER. Photograph by (Timur) Tim Graham/Getty; (Samarkand) Michal Knitl/Alamy
EYES ON THE PRIZE [above] A mural depicting fearsome conqueror Amir Timur; [below] the beautifully tiled buildings in the city of Samarkand
schools), mosques, caravan stops, markets, bazaars and minarets scattered along the course of the Silk Road route came to an end. The peak of this trade artery between Asia and the West was reached between the eighth and 14th centuries. Yet the romantic legacy of the route – where silks, jewels, furs, carpets and horses were shunted between distances as far apart as Peking and Paris – remained for long after. Come the 1990s however, funds from
The word ‘timur’ means ‘iron’ in Chaghatay, the language Timur spoke, and it’s an apt name for the determined leader, who at times ruled with an iron fist.
Moscow were no longer available to restore the architectural behemoths that marked the journey. The future hadn’t seemed this uncertain since the fractured, dissolute rule of Timur’s sons and grandsons following the death of the bearded tyrant. A quarter of a century on from the post-USSR creation of the five independent ‘Stan nations and the obscurity still remains almost total. Uzbekistan, shaped like a snapping dog and buried in the middle of the vast land mass is, apart from Liechtenstein, the only double land-locked country on earth. This means that, from here, you’d have to travel across two nations to get within hearing distance of any sea or ocean. It goes some way to explaining why there’s not much in the way of piscine pleasures for sale at the immense Chorsu market in central Tashkent, the sprawling Uzbek capital that retains its epic communist dimensions of wide boulevards and concrete hotels, but has also added a splash of designer outlets and upscale burger bars. Borscht and bling coalesce here and they both thrive in equal measure. The Silk Road Express, the supremely comfy private train I’m travelling on, makes a four-times-yearly journey through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Taking 14 days, the train lurches to a stop at Tashkent one grey morning where, after a walk through the wide boulevards and
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milk carton-shaped apartment blocks, I look up at the immense dome which houses the meat market section of Chorsu. Like something straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie set, this immense piece of Soviet space-age design is ringed by concentric circles of vendors selling everything from khasyp – sheep’s intestine stuffed with lungs and rice – to horse sausage and bulging Due to Uzbekistan’s pies made with lamb climate of extreme meat and lard from highs and lows, the the sheep’s rump. market is covered by a large dome, A man attempts to which is the most sell me a live chicken effective way of for eight euros. protecting it from the elements. His persistence
TRADING DOMES ARE NOW POPULATED BY BORED-LOOKING LOCALS SELLING FRIDGE MAGNETS
is admirable and he certainly has more fighting spirit than the chicken, which looks a particularly depressed specimen. Yet I felt that the true mercantile greatness of the Silk Road lay beyond this most offal-y outré of markets. Uzbekistan was once the heart of this ancient trading route. Caravan cities are still scattered along the dusty southern borders of the nation where – in centuries past – honey, amber and fur travelled east and jewellery, jade and, obviously, silk travelled west, strapped onto camels whose endless plodding helped to create one of the world’s most efficient early versions of Amazon Prime. In Bukhara, however, my penultimate
PERFECT SYMMETRY: [clockwise from here] Geometric tilework adorns the mausoleum of Tamerlane in Samarkand; traders at Chorsu market; the Shahidlar Memorial in Tashkent
stop before Samarkand, I observed that the huge ‘tak’ trading domes where merchants would sell wares ranging from saffron and silk to sugar were now populated by bored-looking locals with trestle tables full of bottled water, fridge magnets and very cheap plates. The goods on offer in such a grandiose environment looked horribly unworthy – like replacing all the paintings in the Louvre with postcards of Justin Bieber. A group of backgammon-playing men sipping tea under a mulberry tree caught my attention. Their Uzbek was completely impenetrable to me but I caught one word being used over and over again in an increasingly hyperbolic fashion: ‘Karimov’. Central Asian states still love a ‘big man’ leader. Turkmenistan endured a decade under Niyazov, a man who named the months of the year after members of his family and banned It’s worth setting beards, ballet and aside a few days to bears from his nation. explore Tashkent – Uzbekistan didn’t it’s a unique place that’s part newly quite manage this built capital, part level of insanity, yet sleepy Uzbek town, under the rule of and part traditional Soviet city. Islam Karimov – who died in 2016 – the nation developed a basket case reputation for corruption and for intimidation towards dissidents; the BBC is banned and there are more than 30 journalists who are currently in jails around the country for crimes including ‘insulting the dignity of citizens’. Current president Shavkat Mirziyoyev doesn’t seem to go in for portraits of his face emblazoned on walls around Tashkent. This is a city that, in its immaculate lawns and boho cafés, has exactly the kind of
THE GOODS BEING TRADED ALONG THE SILK ROAD THESE DAYS MAY NO LONGER INSPIRE, BUT THE TEMPLES, MINARETS AND MOSQUES REMAIN
Photographs by (main) MehmetO/Alamy; (Chorsu) Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy; (Tashkent) Anna Serrano/SIME
metropolitan panache that you would expect from a city that was once the fourth biggest in the ex-Soviet Union. Yet sheep’s lungs and fridge magnets can only satisfy for so long. The goods being traded along the Silk Road these days may not excite but the temples, minarets and mosques remain. And nowhere do they dazzle more than Samarkand. Registan Square, in the centre of the city, was the kind of fantastical, almost mythical place that inspired the likes of Keats and Goethe to wax lyrical. Deep blue and green tiles on the domes, complex geometric patterns and quotations from the Koran, swirls and splashes of tiles whirling around the high central arches to create friezes that still exude brilliant explosions of iridescent colour. From a distance it appears that the buildings operatically echo each other, all covered with the most intricate of tattoos. It is deeply, wholly beautiful and the ultimate expression of Timur’s legacy, built to honour the fearsome ruler who once stated: “If you have doubts in our might and power – look at our monuments”. Minarets, shaped like giant pepper grinders, gently lean at slight angles to the sides of the three central madrasas on the square due to past earthquakes. Walking into the inner courtyard I find acres of carved gypsum on the walls of throne rooms that ripple like sheets, nibbled and chiselled with a precise mania.
The sun beats down on the almostempty courtyard. Tourism here is still very much in its infancy, not helped by the brief spring and autumn seasons in which the temperatures are tolerable to outsiders. Come June and July it can hit a thermometershattering 50 degrees in Samarkand. Finally, here I found totems of value. One bearded gentleman presided over
stone floors of the courtyard. “It’s good to have something to protect yourself though. This nation may well be modern now. But there’s definitely a little bit of Timur in all of us still…” e To book the Silk Road Express luxury train’s 14-day trip through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, go to trains-and-cruises.com. Prices from £2,447. Turkish Airlines flies from Heathrow to Almaty, Kazakhstan and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan via Istanbul. See turkishairlines.com
SMOOTH AS SILK: [top] Weaving silk into rugs at a market in Uzbekistan; [above] traditional silk dying
Photographs by (weaving) Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Alamy; (dying) Ana Flaker/Alamy
THE GEOMETRIC PATTERNS OF SILK RUGS SEEM TO ALMOST SHIMMER IN HUES OF INDIGO AND CRIMSON
innumerable sacks of saffron, basil, mint and cinnamon. Women with Hogarthian faces stood inert over immense rugs and carpets made from sheep’s wool, camel wool or silk. Uzbek silk is still considered to be the finest in the world and the geometric patterns of the silk rugs seem Ancient, traditional to almost shimmer techniques are in hues of crimson, still used to weave indigo and yellow. silk carpets in Uzbekistan, and the One man, with intricate patterns a bulbous nose and and vibrant colours a small round cup make them a unique souvenir. of scalding tea in his hand, invites me to take a look at his collection of knives. The wide, glinting, carbon steel blades are ground from one side, and kept in a straight leather sheath, the handles made from bone, wood and gemstones. It seemed the perfect manifestation of the Silk Road’s legacy; an item that’s simultaneously desirable, useful, practical and extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. “Most people have them but we usually use them to cut vegetables,” he tells me as the sunshine gleams off the blades and seems to bounce onto the ancient, polished
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SILK R OA D S
T H E S I L K R OA D BY WILD FRONTIERS WILDFRONTIERSTRAVEL.COM 020 8741 7390
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IT’S IN THE BAG
With more than 120 years of experience outfitting lovers of the great outdoors, Filson sure knows how to design a sturdy bag, and you could win one for yourself
t all began in 1897, when railroad conductor-turned-loggers’ outfitter C.C. Filson decided the thousands of fortune hunters heading north from Seattle in search of gold in Alaska needed rugged equipment to help them deal with the harsh conditions that awaited them out in the wild. Every item was crafted from the finest, most hard-wearing and long-lasting materials available back then, and they still are today – the brand’s garments, luggage and accessories continuing to provide unfailing support for anglers, hunters, woodsmen and lovers of the great outdoors just as C.C. Filson would have wanted. But you don’t have to head out deep into the wilderness to get a slice of the Filson life: the brand’s most popular product in the UK, the super-tough original briefcase, is equally at home in the frigid, unpredictable conditions of London’s streets as it is the
forests of the Pacific Northwest. Built from industrial-strength, 22-oz. rugged twill cotton and saddle-grade bridle leather, the original briefcase is a bag that’s made for everything life throws at you. And that’s why it comes with a lifetime guarantee, so that wherever you go, you’ll always be able to carry everything you need with you – just like those intrepid explorers and pioneers did 120 years ago. ◆ For more information, and to shop the full range, head to the Filson store at 9 Newburgh Street, W1F 7RL, follow @Filson1897 and use the #FilsonLife hashtag on Instagram, or visit the new UK website at filson.com/uk
HOW TO WIN Fancy getting your hands on a piece of timeless American style – a bag that’s designed to stand the test of time? Look no further than Filson’s original briefcase. Manufactured with care using heavy-duty fabrics and hardware, it’s quality assured and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Usually worth £315, we’ve got a Filson original briefcase to give to one lucky reader, so to be in with a chance of winning, follow the instructions below. To enter, and for full terms and conditions, visit escmag.co/filson
HAIL GEYSER Although this geyser looks like it could be found on the face of Mars, it’s actually tucked away on a piece of private land in the middle of northwestern Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Originally a man-made well that was drilled in the early 1900s, the plan backfired when it started spurting out scalding water 60 years later, leaving mineral deposits that turned the rock a Martian-like red. All attempts to cap the lively hot spring have failed, so it’s redhot proof that nature always wins. e
Photograph by Inge Johnsson/Alamy Stock Photo
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