3. I’d call it a melting pot if it wasn’t so cold
If your favourite thing about travelling is the chance to meet people from all walks of life, then you’re in the right place.
Whether sipping a mulled wine in front of a log fire is more your thing — or belting down a tune at karaoke with a Canadian at one of the town’s many laneway bars — you’re sure to strike up conversation with someone from a faraway place.
No one is actually FROM Queenstown. Barely anyone, anyway. Even many of the tour guides didn’t grow up in the place, instead moving here from Britain or Japan to pursue their passion for outdoor activities.
Case in point: here’s a passage from a ‘Two Minutes With a Tourist’ Q&A from a local newspaper.
Q: In general, what do you think of Kiwis?
A: This is really bad but I don’t know that many because I’ve been living with other tourists. The ones that I’ve met have been grand, though.
4. The daredevil sports — especially the ones you’ve never heard of
Queenstown is famous for its bungy. It’s where the sport started in 1988.
Inspired by ‘land-diving’ in Vanuatu, where locals free fall off cliffs with vines tied to their legs, a couple of Kiwi skiing mates started jumping off the Kararau Bridge after years studying what cord could safely sustain a human.
If you’re looking to feel ALIVE, do it. It’s safe: the practice is tightly regulated and monitored by authorities.
Two hours after breakfast I changed into my Union-blue private’s get-up in my car, and hit the streets. Re-enactors were everywhere: popping into souvenir stores, huddling curbside, jay-walking. I peeked into a McDonald’s and saw people with fake rifles ordering Big Macs. When I made it to the high school parking lot, my rendezvous for the parade, a half-mile of troops in blue and gray were already lining up.
Shocked that I had found the tiny 29th group, Ted pointed my place in line, next to a 40-something who resembled Jeff Daniels (star of the film «Gettysburg»). He told me he’s a doctor in «real life» and has to double during re-enactments as a lieutenant and «medical relief»: «These guys think if they have a canteen they don’t need to worry about exposure.» Behind me, and quite immersed in the moment, a barefaced «corporal» in his late 60s broke character to share his dreams of living in Gettysburg some day: «Not going to happen though. Houses are 40 percent more expensive than in Ohio.»
After half an hour we began our march along central Baltimore Street, lined with century-old buildings and perhaps as many onlookers as paraders. I had no gun. My job was simply to keep in step and stare straight ahead,but I couldn’t help turning to look when we passed a «Robert E. Lee» in the crowd.
The march wound past McDonald’s and ended on the battlefield, where we lined up at the Angle, a low-lying stone barrier where, in recent years, a handful of Union and Confederate re-enactors have met to shake hands, a gesture that began with real veterans in the 1930s. I stood to the side and watched two dozen 21st-century bearded men shake hands and murmur pleasantries for a couple of minutes.
I’m drawn to Alamo stories of underdogs who lose. Now that my parade duties were fulfilled, I drifted from the pack to survey the main reason I had come: the wide field looming below. The spot where I stood, had been the goal of Confederate soldiers on the wild Pickett’s Charge. The damning defeat would push the South into a retreat that essentially lasted 21 months, untilLee’s surrender at Appomattox.
I wanted to walk Pickett’s Charge.
The Anichkov Bridge in Saint Petersburg, Russia is an architectural highlight of the city, and draws visitors to drink in the surrounding views and marvel at its ornate ironwork. However, it’s the pair horse tamer statues placed on either end that really leaves an impression. The sculptures are so detailed and lifelike that they appear to be bronze casts. Flickr user jrodmanjr manages to capture the dynamic nature of the sculptures in this powerful black and white image.
If you have a great travel photo you’d like to share, submit it the Gadling Flickr pool. We choose our favorites to feature as the Photo of the Day.
As a rule of thumb, it’s not a good idea to travel with anything you can’t afford to lose. The latest example of that comes from Miami Beach, where last month a bold thief got off with $20,000 in goods from a hotel room. Amazingly, he didn’t even have to force entry. A housekeeper let him wander right in after he flashed a hotel key card and told her it was his mother’s room.
The man ransacked the room and found $1,800 in cash and $10,000 in jewelry. He stowed the loot and some other items — including an iPad and credit cards — in a suitcase. Then he waltzed away with the bounty.
This is a good reminder that hotel rooms can easily be compromised. While this perp found a way to casually stroll in and out, thieves can easily pick door locks — even the ones with plastic key cards that used to seem so innovative. And hotel safes aren’t as secure as one might hope. When you’re in the lobby or out and about, be sure to keep your hotel room number to yourself so would-be thieves can’t target you. In fact, whenever possible, the best thing to do is to just leave your valuables at home. It’s just never a good idea to attract too much attention.
If you travel extensively, you should have a few essentials: a carry-on bag that fits into the overhead bin, a valid passport, all the required inoculations, a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and perhaps most important of all, a sense of humor. The ability to laugh at one’s predicament comes in handy when you’re confronted with the absurd situations every globetrotting adventurer faces sooner or later: lost luggage that keeps arriving at whatever destination you’ve just left, unpalatable menu items, bizarre local customs, and the occasional encounter with a fanatically officious, deeply suspicious border guard in a country where you don’t speak the language.
But rest assured that it could be even worse — or at least more amusing. Travelers long have regaled their friends with tales of road weirdness. Travel stories have provided comic fodder for writers from Homer to Mark Twain. For your vicarious enjoyment, we’ve collected a few of those hilarious travel tales.