EuroTribe

your guide to Europe off the beaten path

Author: Ana

Living In a Cave – Europe’s Unusual Homes You Can Still Visit

If you thought that the era of living in caves is in the past, you’re in for a surprise. The truth is that, nowadays, many people choose caves as their…

If you thought that the era of living in caves is in the past, you’re in for a surprise. The truth is that, nowadays, many people choose caves as their living space and customize them according to their needs.

When you ask the inhabitants what drew them to this way of living, you will usually get similar responses. They will tell you this is the perfect way to connect with nature, but still be a part of the civilized world. Also, when you think about it, there’s something special about actually living in the Earth, instead of on top of it.

Even if you wouldn’t consider becoming a cave dweller yourself, you’re probably curious about this lifestyle choice. You might want to see the interior design and the layout of these unique houses.

We’ve prepared a list of certain cave homes in Europe that you can actually visit and experience in person!

Living In a Cave – Europe’s Unusual Homes

Matera, Italy

living in a cave

This 9,000-year-old city is a truly remarkable spot. The UNESCO World Heritage site was once swallowed by poverty and disease, but it managed to rise from the ashes. Today, it is a growingly popular tourist destination and is even set to be the European Capital of Culture in 2019!

From afar, the town almost looks haunting. But when you get closer, you’ll be able to see the spectacular caves transformed into private homes, hotels, restaurants or even art museums.

What once was known as the “shame of Italy” is a stunning location that attracts movie directors alongside the curious visitors.

If you’ve ever seen Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew or The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson, this is where they were filmed!

living in a cave

Almost everyone agrees that the best way to get to know Matera is to simply allow yourself to get lost in it. Wander through its little alleys and discover all the hidden gems it has to offer. If you’ll feel more comfortable with a guide, you can sign up for one of the walking or cycling tours.

To really get in touch with the town’s cave culture, pay a visit to some of its churches. Our recommendations are the Chiesa di Madonna delle Virtù and Chiesa di San Nicola dei Greci churches. Also, don’t miss the Cripta del Peccato Originale (Crypt of Original Sin), often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of cave churches.

If you’d like to enjoy the well-known spirit of southern Italy with a twist, Matera is the place to be. The charming town leaves no one indifferent!

Guadix, Spain

living in a cave

Even though this might look like many other Spanish towns at first, wait until you visit the Barrio de las Cuevas neighborhood. Today, with around 2,000 inhabited caves, this is the largest cave complex in Europe.

The people who live in these caves are very friendly and will often let you into their homes. They understand that the visitors are curious and sometimes they’ll invite you in even if you didn’t ask. It’s fascinating to see how they actually live and function on a daily basis.

Don’t be surprised if some of the homes look quite luxurious compared to their outside appearance. It’s not uncommon for them to have marble floors, microwaves or a stable internet connection. The people have turned the caves into modern, 21st-century houses, although it might not seem like it at first.

You can choose to stay in a “normal” hotel inside the city, or you can rent a cave and experience the interesting lifestyle firsthand. Whatever you choose, you’ll definitely feel like a local, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

Loire Valley, France

The picturesque countryside is the epicenter of the troglodyte lifestyle in France, with around 45,000 cave homes in total. What’s interesting is how it all even came to be.

The local stone, known as tufa, was used to build the chateaus and churches across the Loire Valley in the 11th century. So, the people decided to use the full potential of the circumstances. They would sell the stone and create homes in what remained after the mining.

Many caves were completely abandoned by the 20th century but then revamped in the recent years. Other than serving as private homes, caves are now being turned into hotels, wineries and even underground mushroom farms.

One of the most visited cave homes of the region is the Chez Hélène-Amboise Troglodyte. Believe it or not, the cave near the town of Amboise was bought by a young couple for only 1€!

After a long process of renovating, the house is now completely modernized, but it still has a rustic vibe. You can rent a room and the couple, who also lives there, will make sure your experience is unforgettable.

The entire Loire Valley is lined with B&B’s and cave homes available for rent. The traditional French charm may even persuade you to stay here for good!

Santorini, Greece

living in a cave

One of the most prestigious summer destinations is the Greek island of Santorini. Its white, blue-domed houses and churches are recognizable everywhere around the world. However, it is less known that Santorini offers an abundance of cave houses, known as yposkafa or iposkafa.

Even though they aren’t considered to be naturally-made caves, they are carved into cliffs, which makes them essentially the same. Just like in the Loire Valley, they were built by poorer residents.

The yposkafa all have similar characteristics: narrow façades, great depth, and no side windows. What makes them less claustrophobic is the fact that the walls are usually white, which visually enlarges the space.

Something you’ll notice as soon as you step in is that the temperature inside the house is always pleasant, even if it’s hot outside. So, sleeping in an yposkafa on a scorching summer day is an unmissable experience.

Today, most of these houses are available for rent, since Santorini’s main income comes from tourism. You will mainly find them in Oia, Vothonas, Karterados, and Pyrgos.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, treat yourself by renting out an yposkafa with a jacuzzi and enjoy!

 

 

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5 Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens In Europe

If you’re someone with a dynamic imagination and a curious mind, planning a vacation can be tricky. The concrete streets and important landmarks of big cities have a lot of…

If you’re someone with a dynamic imagination and a curious mind, planning a vacation can be tricky.

The concrete streets and important landmarks of big cities have a lot of unique charm as well as nature.

Finding a perfect combination of everything you want to experience can be challenging, to say the least.

We have a suggestion.

Spend the day enveloped in the wilderness, and have a drink in your favorite cafe a few hours later.

Sounds weird?

Well, this seemingly impossible combination is yours if you choose to visit some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe. 

Here’s a couple of the absolute best ones! 

Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in Europe

Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Germany

This one is, without a doubt, absolutely unmissable.

The complex covers an area of 43 hectares and it consists of 16 greenhouses.

With around 22,000 plant species, you will be able to explore the entire world in a single (although enormous) garden.

Believe it or not, it evolved from just a kitchen garden, used for growing vegetables and herbs.

Today, it’s almost impossible to see everything it has to offer in a day. It’s also very significant for scientific purposes, since it’s part of the Free University of Berlin.

Make sure you check out the giant water lilies and insectivorous plants, as well as the Fragrance and Touch Garden. It was built so that visually disabled people could enjoy the diversity of plants. Therefore, the plants are grown in large groups on raised beds.

Many outdoor installations make it possible for visitors to sit down, relax and soak in the nature.

If you want to wind down and enjoy yourself, this oasis in the middle of the lively capital is perfect for you!

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England

most beautiful botanical gardens in europe

This extensive property is home to one of the largest gardens in the whole world.

It includes around 30,000 plant species and over 30 buildings.

Make sure you sign up for a guided tour, so that you could make the best of your time there.

Some of the attractions are also architecturally impressive.

The examples are the Palm House, the Great Pagoda, but also the Hive and the Treetop Walkway.

The Hive is something you’ve certainly never seen before.

It’s a unique, multi-sensory simulation of what it would feel like to live as a bee. So, every sound you hear is triggered by bee activity in an actual beehive in the complex. Impressive, right?

The Walkway, on the other hand, allows you to walk through the branches of Kew’s forest. It’s 18m above the ground and it lets you into a part of the forest that would usually be off limits to you. A change of perspective will definitely be interesting!

The botanical garden’s collection of plants and documents even brought it to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. As if you needed another reason to visit.

If you plan on going any time soon, keep in mind that it’s only 30 minutes away from the center of London!

Orto Botanico di Padova, Padua, Italy

To see how the world of botanical gardens even got started, visit Padua.

It is home to the oldest surviving university botanical garden, functioning since 1545.

This garden aided the development of botanical sciences in general, as well as medicine and pharmaceuticals.

It was the inspiration and example for all the botanical gardens in the world.

What’s interesting is that the layout you see today is pretty much the same as it was in the 16th century.

The main building is circle-shaped, which represents the world, and it’s surrounded by a ring of water.

Some of the interesting collections are its poisonous and carnivorous plants, as well as the rare plants first introduced to Italy by the Garden itself!

It may not be the richest in species, but they are all carefully selected.

However, one of the most impressive things about it is its document collection.

The library contains more than 50,000 manuscripts that are of immense value for the botanical world. That, among other historical and scientific significance, puts it on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as well.

If you’re a bit of a history geek and if you happen to be in Padua, you have to stop by the first ever botanical garden!

Copenhagen Botanical Garden, Denmark

most beautiful botanical gardens in europe

Considering the fact that Northern Europe is very expensive in general, this is a perfect way to spend quality time without splurging.

The entrance to the Copenhagen Botanical Garden is free!

It’s famous for its 27 spectacular glasshouses from the 1800s, which contain around 13,000 species in total.

The most impressive one is the glass and cast-iron Palm House.

Make sure you climb up the spiral stairs to get a nice view from the top!

This is the perfect place for a peaceful day in the nature.

You can visit the herbarium, the museum or perhaps buy some plants or seeds in one of the shops. Also, the whole of the Garden is accessible to wheelchair users!

Botanical Garden of Brussels

The Brussels Botanical Garden is a botanical garden with a spin.

It’s more of an urban park than it is a classical greenhouse complex.

Until 1939, it was actually only dedicated to botanical studies, like the majority of botanical gardens. Now, its main building, Le Botanique, has stolen the spotlight, but for different reasons.

Le Botanique is a cultural complex and a music venue which hosts more than 280 concerts each year.

This previous orangery has become one of the most visited cultural centers in all of Belgium.

Le Botanique is famous for its annual Les Nuits Botanique (‘Botanique nights’) festival, held during the spring, which attracts a lot of performers and visitors.

You can still enjoy the 6 hectare property and the stunning glasshouses, but if you’re interested in seeing more variety and wildlife, visit Meise. That’s where the National Botanical Garden of Belgium is located, with its 16,000 plant species.

Even the great writer Victor Hugo spoke about the Botanique.

He said: “Brussels possesses two unique wonders of the world, its Grand-Place and the panorama of the Jardin Botanique”.

Why wouldn’t you come and see for yourself? Check our top travel resources, that will help you plan your next trip. 

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Best Travel Podcasts You Need To Listen To In 2018

The ideal way to take advantage of your downtime is listening to podcasts. You can get inspired and educated on things you care about easily, even with your eyes closed….

The ideal way to take advantage of your downtime is listening to podcasts.

You can get inspired and educated on things you care about easily, even with your eyes closed.

Your daily commute or working out can be improved with the right words coming through your headphones.

What makes a great podcast is a good storyteller and interesting, unique content.

If you’re curious about the best travel podcasts you need to listen to in 2018, here’s a list of our top picks! 

Best Travel Podcasts You Need To Listen To In 2018

Amateur Traveler

Since 2005, Chris Christensen’s podcast has been one of the most popular and useful podcasts for travelers worldwide.

Just like his website says, the show helps people decide where they should go next.

Each episode thoroughly examines a certain destination and offers tips on how to make the best out of a place you’re visiting.

Usually, there’s a guest who’s either a local or someone who has recently travelled to the area that’s discussed in the episode.

Expect everything from advice on what to visit and what to skip to things you must have in your bag.

If you’re looking for an information-packed but also compelling podcast, Amateur Traveler has it covered!

Extra Pack of Peanuts

Hosted by Travis and Heather, Extra Pack of Peanuts is perfect for those who are in love with travelling, but have a limited budget.

Or, actually, for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune for an incredible experience.

The hosts are fun and passionate about showing the listeners that a life of travelling is very much possible, as long as you follow certain tips.

Learn everything about frequent flyer miles, inexpensive accomodation and car rentals.

The guests they bring on are inspiring and just as enthusiastic about sharing their honest advice on visiting specific locations.

For an instant mood boost along with helpful content, listen to Travis and Heather!

Indie Travel Podcast

This podcast is run by a couple from New Zealand who decided that the conventional lifestyle is not their cup of tea.

Instead, they have been travelling constantly for more than 10 years and documenting their journey.

Craig and Linda have visited every continent and lived in a couple of countries for long periods of time.

So, not only can they speak from a visitor’s point of view, but also from resident’s.

They offer knowledge you can only get firsthand and, therefore, they will help you avoid some common mistakes.

Sometimes they even bring in experts to offer more information and a new perspective on certain topics.

Expect everything from money-saving tips and destination highlights to relationship advice!

The Travelers

Instead of the travels being the center of the show, this podcast focuses mainly on the traveler.

The host Nathaniel Boyle is great at exploring the spiritual side of travelling and the way it affects your state of mind.

Something that makes this podcast unique is the fact that the topic of travel is intertwined with many others such as creativity and careers.

Also, the host is not afraid to talk about the struggles of consistently being on the road.

Everyone knows how exhausting and stressful it can get at times, even when you’re trying your best to enjoy it.

To paint the picture, Nathaniel always brings guests that tell interesting personal stories full of tips for future travellers.

The interviewees are often travel bloggers, photographers, entrepreneurs and writers.

If you want to listen to a podcast that will always keep you at the edge of your seat theme-wise, this is the one.

However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get your regular travel recommendations and suggestions here as well!

Travel Tales

Since this podcast is hosted by a comedian, you will definitely enjoy it.

Mike Siegel is known for bringing interesting guests who always have hilarious stories up their sleeve.

They’re all, of course, travel-related and usually depict their experiences and highlights of their journeys.

Mike also has stories of his own, as he’s familiar with various cultures and local customs.

He’s an experienced world traveler who wants to help his listeners avoid the mistakes he’s made, and also inspire them to do some exploring of their own.

He has so much to offer, but even enjoying his humor will be enough!

Women On The Road

This one will be especially appealing to girls and women everywhere.

Laura Hughes and her guests will make you feel empowered and eager to get out of your comfort zone.

She lives her life on the road, in a camper van, and she’ll teach you everything you need to know about that lifestyle.

Laura has an honest, refreshing approach to the challenges everyone who lives on the road goes through.

Even better, if you’re thinking of changing your life permanently or just taking a road trip, her advice will be of great value.

Learn how to handle homesickness, get tips on travelling with your S.O. or just how to handle the cold weather.

More importantly, get to know some truly impeccable women!

Don’t forget to check more awesome resources on travel by clicking here.

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How To Explore The Fjords Of Norway On A Budget

If you have a travel wishlist, the fjords of Norway are most likely on it. This Scandinavian country is one of the most beautiful, but also, one of the most…

If you have a travel wishlist, the fjords of Norway are most likely on it. This Scandinavian country is one of the most beautiful, but also, one of the most expensive places to visit in Europe.

However, believe it or not, there is a way to see and experience the fjords of Norway without going bankrupt. The tips below will help you save some money and fully enjoy the trip at the same time!

How To Explore The Fjords Of Norway On A Budget

Transport

how to explore the fjords of norway on a budget - transportation

The first step is actually getting there and getting around. There are many different ways to cut the prices of your transportation. Let’s talk about air travel first.

If you plan on traveling through the rest of Norway as well, not only the fjords, consider buying the Explore Norway Ticket.

This gives you the opportunity to fly as much as you want inside Norway for a period of 2 weeks. You can use the Ticket in July and August, which happens to be a great time to see the fjords. For more information on prices and dates, visit the Widerøe official website.

Also, try to choose local airlines such as Norwegian, for a much cheaper ticket price. You can also look up for cheap flights on Momondo.

Train travel is very popular among tourists. Not only because it’s not as expensive, but also because many routes take you through the most picturesque parts of Norway, fjord areas included. Make sure you plan ahead, so you can score some extra discounts.

For example, every month, at off-peak times, you can buy Minipris (“mini-price”) tickets. They will take you from Oslo to any Norwegian city for 30-40 euros. Therefore, you can go to Bergen, which is rightfully called the “gateway to the fjords”, without spending a fortune.

Food

Wherever you choose to travel, food is always a large expense. When it comes to Norway, it can even consume the biggest part of your budget if you’re not careful with where you spend your money.

It’s extremely expensive to eat in Norwegian restaurants, so if you’re trying to save up, avoid them completely. Our recommendation is buying groceries in local supermarkets and cooking your own food since this will make a huge difference. Some of the low price stores are REMA 1000, Kiwi and Rimi.

The good news is that tap water is good to drink all around Norway, so buying bottled water won’t be a problem. However, if you buy anything in a plastic bottle, remember you can return the bottle and get some money back! Little by little, you’ll end up saving some much-needed cash.

See The Fjords From Your Feet

how to explore the fjords of norway on a budget - hiking

If you’re an active person, the fjord regions are a perfect opportunity for a hiking holiday! Instead of spending hundreds and even thousands of euros on boat tours, choose this much cheaper approach.

Wherever you turn, you’ll see photo-worthy views and you’ll be able to admire the fjords from a different standpoint. Even if you’re not the fittest or if you’re traveling with children, you can enjoy some of the more gentle trails.

Find your perfect hiking trail here.

We recommend Mount Skåla, Norway’s highest mountain with its foot in the fjord, for more experienced hikers. Even though it’s very difficult, it would be a shame to miss it. You’ll know why when you see the stunning fjord and glacier landscapes everywhere around you. A fun fact is that the tower built here was once a sanatorium, which shows how therapeutic these views can be.

Other than that, consider visiting Nærøyfjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the narrowest fjord in the world) or Trolltunga, which you might recognize from photos you’ve seen online.

Accommodation

Depending on what you’re into, there are a couple different options when it comes to accommodation. The biggest advice is same as everywhere else – avoid large hotels and try to book in advance.

If you like or don’t mind camping, Norway is perfect for it. There’s something called “freedom to roam” or “allemannsretten”, which means you can put up a tent anywhere in the countryside or mountains, as long as you keep at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house.

This means that as long as you have a tent and necessary camping gear, you won’t have to look for campsites, you can sleep anywhere in nature for free!

Also, there are over 500 lodges and cabins along the trails all over the country. They are the property of the Norwegian Trekking Association. If you’re a member of the Association, you’ll get a discount, but you can use them even if you’re not.

You can choose between self-service cabins, no-service cabins, and staffed lodges. You’ll have everything you need in all of them (firewood, gas, duvets, pillows), but there are certain differences such as the possibility of serving meals in staffed lodges. You can find the necessary information about the cabins on their website. Booking.com is another good place to take a look at accommodation options.

Couchsurfing is another option. You might meet some friendly locals who will give you even more tips on how to spend less and see more. And who’s more trustworthy than a local?

Don’t forget to check these 9 quintessential Norway experiences as well!

Enjoy!

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5 Best Experiences in Oulanka National Park

Oulanka National Park is one of Finland’s many treasures. Ever since 1956, it has been a perfect destination for those who enjoy the nature and all the activities that bring…

Oulanka National Park is one of Finland’s many treasures. Ever since 1956, it has been a perfect destination for those who enjoy the nature and all the activities that bring us closer to it.

Whether you choose to visit Oulanka national park in the winter or in the summer, there’s plenty of things to do either way. Therefore, here are our top 5 picks and suggestions!

Hike the Bear’s Trail

oulanka national park

Oulanka National Park is most famous for its amazing hiking trails. There’s a wide variety of them, starting from 0,3 km up to 82 km for the more adventurous visitors. Hiking is the best way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and, if you’re lucky, you might spot some animals along the way!

The most famous one is also Finland’s most popular hiking trail – Karhunkierros Trail. It’s also known as the Bear’s Trail or Bear’s Ring.

Physically, it’s very demanding, but, on the other hand, also very rewarding. Depending on your stamina and allowed time, it might take you up to 6 days to finish it. The circuit can be walked in whole or in parts since it’s split into 4 sections.

The trail has two main starting points: Hautajärvi and Ristikallio. Hautajärvi can be easily reached from the town of Kuusamo. The trail is well marked (watch out for the orange paint markings on trees!) and the wildlife is abundant, to say the least.

Keep in mind that, despite being called the Bear’s Ring, the trail is not circular, so you may want to plan your transportation for the way back in advance.

When it comes to accommodation, you have a choice of spending the night in one of the cabins that are free of charge for visitors or you can bring your tent. If you pick the cabin, keep in mind that there are no reservations, which means that who gets there first gets the cabin! Booking also has some properties in Kuusamo listed on their site.

However, if you don’t have a lot of time, you can explore the Pieni Karhunkierros Trail, which is one of the most iconic trails in Finland.

The Small Bear Round, how it’s commonly called, is 12 km long. This circle route can be finished in a day, but the views are still spectacular. Other than that, there are other options suitable for every type of hiker.

Explore by canoe

oulanka national park

A great way to get to know Oulanka National Park from a different perspective is from the water. Actually, the Oulanka river is ideal for canoeing and other activities on the water. It’s suitable for beginners and even children, so if you’re looking for a relaxing trip through the untouched nature of the region, you must try this.

You will probably see all kinds of wildlife, such as reindeer, eagles, or, less likely, the bears. Also, if you’re into fishing, there are areas where you can do that as well. You can get the fishing permit and all necessary information in the Oulanka Visitor Centre.

However, our recommendation is making your canoeing-trip a two-day experience at least. For a complete stress-free getaway, consider spending the night and waking up to another day of paddling.

Some of the most stunning things to see from the canoe are the Oulanka Canyon, Myllykoski and the Jyrävä falls in the Kitka River, the hanging bridges etc. Some tours offer a ride all the way to the Russian border.

Also, part of the Karhunkierros Trail can be travelled by canoe. 

Try Rafting

For an adrenaline-filled ride, you should consider rafting. Unlike canoeing, this activity is set in Oulanka’s rapids, from class I to class IV wild ones. The best time to get involved in this activity is at the beginning of summer.

The Wild Route is one of the most difficult ones.

Biodiversity

oulanka national park

Even though this isn’t an activity or a place you must visit, it’s definitely part of an overall unforgettable experience. Oulanka Park is special since it’s the most valuable conservation area in all of Finland. Dozens of plant and animal species you see here are those you won’t be able to see anywhere else in the world.

Notable among the wildlife are the 7,000 insect species (for example, wood ants, which build nests that are around three feet tall), eagles, bears, wolves, wolverines and many others.

You can pick berries and mushrooms freely, walk through the pine forests, observe the eagles and the semi-domesticated reindeer, and smell the orchids along the way. Yes, you can experience all of this in one place. 🙂

Northern Lights

Finally, the Oulanka National Park is great for witnessing one of nature’s greatest phenomena: the northern lights. You have a great chance of seeing them very early or late in the season. Ideally, you should visit in October and November or in March or April. Combined with the stunning nature everywhere around, this is a perfect location for Aurora Borealis hunting.

 

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