Sunday Special – Åland Islands, Finland


Want to practice you Swedish while in Finland? Then head to the autonomous Finnish archipelago of Åland, just off it’s southwestern coast, in the Baltic Sea. This region of Finland is completely neutral, demilitarized, and is strictly Swedish speaking and has been since 1921. It is comprised of 6,700 named islands and 20,000 that they haven’t named (that would be a big project). I’ve heard you can even rent an island if you so wish.

The capital of Mariehamn is a wonderful starting point and is best explored by foot. It seems a quaint city with plenty to explore and cafes to rest your wandering feet.  Island-hopping is a popular way to see a number of these islands. Take a ferry and go off to see the Franciscan monastery on Kökar or explore the historical paintings on the church in Kumlinge.  Looking to stay active? Then cycling, hiking, fishing, and spending time on the water in a canoe or kayak are available. And don’t forget to try some of the local craft beer produced by Stallhagen with many varieties. They have even recreated the world’s oldest known beer when a crate of the beer was salvaged from a shipwreck at least 170 years old. Now that is a brewery that I can admire.

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Stallhagen’s historic beer – looks tasty! – Photo credit: Jonnie NordStallhagen Historic BeerCC BY-SA 4.0

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View of ship in Mariehamn, capital city of the Aland Islands, Finland – Photo credit: DigrAX Mariehamn viewCC BY-SA 4.0

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Kokar Island, one of the numerous Aland Islands in Finland – Photo credit: MuymuymyuKokarCC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

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Sunday Special – Kandersteg, Switzerland


While watching an episode of “One Strange Rock” on National Geographic Channel I observed a giant wall of ice and someone scaling it. The name of this behemoth frozen waterfall is Breitwangflue or Crack Baby” (hmmm) and its located in Switzerland. Now I am not one for ice climbing or any kind of climbing for that matter (unless its into bed so I can sleep), however, I was intrigued by what was around this area of Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland. Of course this land-locked European country is famous for its natural beauty of pristine lakes, rolling hills and impressive mountains so I imagine it is quite a beautiful locale especially if waterfalls freeze so stunningly as Crack Baby does.

It would seem that I was correct and the area has much to offer in the way of natural beauty.  It is a getaway to an Alpine town that locals and in-the-know tourists have on their radar.  If you enjoy outdoor adventures then visiting this easily accessible town is a must. Here are some of the activities and sights to take in Kandersteg and area.

  • Oeschinen Lake: This glacially-fed lake can be hiked to from town or ride up in the Oeschinen Gondola to take in amazing vistas from its 1578 m / 5177 ft elevation. Fishing is also popular on the lake.
  • Rodelbahn Alpine Slide: In the summer months whip down this 750 m / 2460 ft alpine slide for an exhilarating ride.
  • Ricola Herb Garden: Ricola has six herb gardens and one of them is located in Kandersteg.  You can visit and see the herbs that are used in their lozenges.
  • Landgasthof Reudihus: This historic Swiss-style hotel was built as a private home in 1753. It’s a fine example of Bernese craftsmanship and has been carefully maintained. 
  • Outdoor Activities– This area is ripe for enjoying the outdoors. Hiking, fishing, boating, ice-climbing/mountaineering, paragliding, swimming, Nordic walking – take your pick!

This location certainly sounds like a haven for nature lovers!

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Stunning Lake Oeschinen near Kandersteg – Photo credit: TonnyBLakeOeschinenCC BY-SA 3.0

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Town of Kandersteg – Photo credit: Earth explorerKandersteg, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Mosel Wine Region, Germany


I’ve still got wine on my mind so today we’re going to head to a wine region of Germany that is known for its high quality Riesling varietal of wines: Mosel. This region is located in the west of Germany near the borders of Luxembourg and France, in the valley of the Mosel (Moselle) River and its tributaries of the Suur and Ruwer rivers. The steepness of the hills in this valley make mechanical grape collection near impossible so it must all be done by hand. Although the the hand-picking is seven times slower than with a machine its gentle effect on the grapes is passed through to the wine. This results in Rieslings that are world renown. Wineries are plentiful with the hardest part being how to decide on which ones to go to.

Not only is the Mosel Valley home to numerous wineries it is a beautiful region with some Roman history (it is believed it was the ancient Romans who first introduced wine-making to the area). Make your way through hiking trails that provide lookouts with incredible views and then head to storybook towns and villages lined with cobblestone streets. Relax your way through this region that takes life at much slower pace so you can unwind and relish the experience. A few of my girlfriends and I are tossing about the idea of doing a girl’s wine trip at some point. Perhaps Mosel will be on that list of choices.

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The State Wine Growing Domain in Trier, Germany – Photo is Public Domain

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Cochem, Germany in the Mosel Valley – Photo credit: Kai PilgerCochem and ReichsburgCC BY-SA 4.0

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Mosel Valley, Germany – Photo credit: Michal OsmendaVineyards in Beilstein, MoselCC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Special – Zambezi River, Africa


We have reached the end of the alphabet and with that we are looking at Africa’s great Zambezi River (also spelled Zambesi) where it flows through six countries, feeds the amazing Victoria Falls, and finally empties into the Indian Ocean. Africa’s fourth largest river runs east through Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and on through Mozambique to the ocean for 2, 574 km / 1,599 miles. 

This amazing river (often referred to as the River of Life) has been a vital source of life for centuries to the peoples and wildlife around it. Though in recent times it has been dammed to harness hydroelectric power in two major areas: the Kariba Dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe and Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. Although these dams bring hydro power to these countries there are side-effects to the river and its wildlife as well. 

The Zambezi River is divided into three sections: Upper, Middle, and Lower Zambezi and then ultimately forming the river’s delta. The incredible Victoria Falls marks the border of the Upper and Middle Zambezi and is a border for Zambia and Zimbabwe. Spanning total width of over 1,700 m / 5,600 feet and dropping 108 m / 354 feet it produces the world’s largest sheet of falling water. The mist produced floats above giving it a cloud-like appearance. 

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Victoria Falls seen from Zimbabwe – Photo is Public Domain

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The Zambezi River is known as the “River of Life” and supports wildlife like this hippo. Photo credit: Bernard GagnonHippopotamus in the ZambeziCC BY-SA 4.0

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Sunset on the Zambezi River, Zambia. Photo credit: Joachim HuberZambezi River, Zambia (2546105466)CC BY-SA 2.0