Spring celebrations around Europe

Every year around 20-21st of March the day becomes equal to the night – both last exactly 12 hours. This is the time when officially the spring begins. There are many traditions around the world to welcome the arrival of spring and celebrate the new life. We looked into most of our destinations to see what the spring celebrations looks like in the different countries.

LATVIA

True to its pagan roots, Latvia celebrates spring in the time of the solstice (21st or 22nd of March). Celebrations are normally held around the country where Latvians welcome spring with pagan songs and traditions to embrace the arrival of spring and the sun.

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LITHUANIA

In Lithuania they have similar celebrations as in Latvia as they both share strong pagan roots and Baltic symbolism. However, in Lithuania sun is celebrated in the form of light, so this year children made sculptures with candles that were lit up after the sunset.

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ESTONIA

The name of the celebration in Estonian is munapyhad, which literally means egg fest, but it also goes under the name suvisted. The name of the latter comes the word suvi, which means summer and denotes the termination of winter and beginning of the time of light.

DSCN9199SLOVENIA

In Slovenia thing are a bit different. On the forenight of St. Gregory people make little boat that carry candles down the river. This symbolises that days are getting longer and we no longer need artificial lightning. The following day the traditional day of the lovers is celebrated, because it folk tradition this is the day when the birds are ‘getting married’.

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Best place to experience traditional culture in spring is Hollókő. This hillside village still celebrates springtime fertility rituals with folk costumes, dances, music and…. boys chasing girls with buckets of water. Any for fertility!

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GERMANY

Germands don’t really agree that spring starts in March, so they celebrate the arrival of spring in the end of April with the famous Walpurgisnacht when the witches party with gods. On this day they light bonfires and in the countryside it is still popular to prank your fellow villagers.

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SERBIA

There are several small celebrations throughout the spring months in Serbia, but the really big one is Đurđevdan (George’s Day). Normally it is celebrated with food, songs, dancing and lots of greenery. It is also a very important holiday of the Southern Roma, who call this day ederlezi.

SPAIN

Falles (Fallas) is a fire celebration in Valencia. This holiday comes with processions throughout five nights. On the final night falles (big sculptures) are burnt in bonfires. Surely a true spectacle for the visitors!

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POLAND

In Poland spring is traditionally welcomed by drowning of Marzanna, a figure that represents winter and death. They drown her on the Death Sunday (4th Sunday after Lent). Once she’s under water you need to turn back on her to truly complete the farewell to winter.

CZECH REPUBLIC AND SLOVAKIA

Similar tradition is upheld in both Czech Republic and Slovakia. Their creature is called Morena, which is the old Slavic goddess of death, winter and underworld.

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There you have it. Spring is obviously the perfect time to visit any of the above mentioned destinations! You will get to see the peculiar and exciting festivities, the sun will be shining ever more brightly and you can still catch the low seasons prices!
Let the spring begin!

 

The Death of Traditional Sightseeing

Traditional sightseeing is dying. Because let’s face it, why would you want to spend your money and time on passively following around a tedious guide, or just sitting on your behind in an open-tour bus and watch the main sightseeing points from a far?

Traveling is about experiencing, no matter if you do it for leisure or business purposes. And the only way to truly experience something is through interaction.

That is why interactive sightseeing, combined with gaming and team building makes for a fresh and great solution.

Picture this:

You and your team are handed a tablet with an interactive map of the city. The main goal is to answer correctly on as many questions as possible within the given time. Each question is marked on the map but only appears once you are at the exact spot, meaning you will get the perfect sightseeing walk of the city while finding the questions.

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The question could be of different kinds:

  • Place specific, for example: “Who does the statue on the right portray?” where you will get to learn more about the city and its history.
  • Interactive, as in “What is the name of this place in the local language?” where you will have to interact with the locals
  • Company specific, developed together with your company. It could be on the topics from an earlier workshop, a video message from the boss or questions about products etc.

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TEAM BUILDING ASPECTS

Apart from being a fresh and exciting way to explore an destination it is also the perfect team building activity, as it is built up around the following learning points:

  • Defining effective processes to solve the problems
  • Discovering the power of a common team language
  • Responding quickly and efficiently to change in order to win the overall challenge
  • Increasing effective communication
  • Improving team effectiveness

RESULTS

  • Highlight focus and commitment
  • Empower individuals
  • Set team standards

We provide the City Code Game in all of our destinations.

The Power of Games

Gamification is a word that has been on everyone’s lips the last few years and yet we have probably just seen the beginning of it. Experts even claim that gamification is the biggest thing since Social media!

 

SO WHAT IS GAMIFICATION?

It is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. The technique is built around the fact that it engages human’s natural desire for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism and closure.

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STAGGERING NUMBERS

It is estimates that the overall market for gamification tools, services, and applications will reach  $5.5 billion by 2018 (M2 Research) and that 70% of the world’s 2000 biggest companies will have deployed at least one gamified application by the end of this year.

Gamification can be applied to almost any area, at the work place to increase employee productivity, in marketing and customer retention, improving engagement on website and for schools and education purposes just to mention a few. Basically gamification helps to make fun tasks even more fun and turn boring tasks into entertaining and engaging ones.

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At Travel Out There we have adopted gamification to create interactive sightseeing and fun team building activities. You can read more about our City Code Game in our previous post. Another example of a gamified- team building activity is our City Snakes and ladders. 

CITY SNAKES AND LADDERS

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Do you remember the board game Snakes and ladders? Now imagine that the game-board is the city centre, game fields are virtual locations around you and game pieces are real people.  The game is all about getting from start to finish with as few steps as possible.

Game fields have the ladders and snakes attached to them. Instead of throwing the dice players answer a question at every field they stop at. Right answer moves the team forward and wrong backward.

If the team knows all the answers they can actually plan their way to finish by just answering right and wrong as needed.  That is, if they know all the answers. You only see the question when it is time and place to answer them.

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TEAM BUILDING ASPECTS

Not only with the interaction and game elements of this activity help to engage all your employees, the team building outcomes of this game are also plenty.

KEY LEARNING POINTS

  • Plan your route
  • Implement your plan
  • Review when something goes wrong
  • Define effective processes to solve the problems
  • Discover the power of a common team language
  • Respond quickly and efficiently to change in order to win the overall challenge
  • Increase effective communication
  • Improve team effectiveness

 

RESULTS

  • Highlight focus and commitment
  • Empower individuals
  • Set team standards

Our team building activities can also be customized to fit your wishes, so if you have any favorite board game that you would like to try out like this, let us know and we will do our best to make it happen!

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The hidden treasure of Central Europe

When you think of your next travel destination, you probably won’t have Bratislava in your top 10. What a mistake! This little European capital is developing with a speed of light and its reputation certainly has to catch up with it!

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Bratislava is very conveniently located on the river Danube, which just happens to be one of the biggest and most famous rivers in Europe! It is also only 60km away from Vienna and not very far from Hungary either.

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The old town is wonderfully preserved and boasts with many baroque buildings. Bratislava just wouldn’t be a Central European capital without a castle on the hill. Therefore the Bratislava castle is a real must-see. Among other important castles you must visit there is also Devin, which basically consists of ancient ruins overseeing Danube river.

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You really shouldn’t be surprised by Bratislava’s booming culinary scene! There is a lot to see and taste in the capital, starting with a traditional Slovak dinner in the Old Theater.

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Dinners in Bratislava are best spent in the TV tower restaurant from where you get an exquisite view on the city. For a more gourmet experience, try Kogo, a modern and elegant restaurant with a lovely summer terrace.

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For holding a conference or other types of events in Bratislava, you can choose from many incredible venues, starting with Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum right on the Danube river! For a luxurious experience try Red Stone Castle – nothing like a corporate event in a real castle, right? Finally, Incheba Fair Hall will perfectly suit larger types of events, while still retaining sophistication and good quality service.

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Be sure you won’t be bored in this little town! A perfect way to do some sightseeing is by boarding a Bratislava – Vienna river cruise and see the city from the Danube. Treat yourself to a Small Carpathian Wine Tour to taste the best of Slovakian wines and spend the day in the nature. A small town Modra in the Little Carpathian mountains is also worth visiting, mostly for its famous blue and white porcelain.

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Now, who ever said there is nothing to do in Bratislava? A hop to this hidden treasure of Europe will certainly make you think otherwise!

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Prime Event Venue – Royal Compound in Belgrade

It is about time to get rid of all the stereotypes surrounding the Balkans! Belgrade is an historic city on the banks of river Danube and the capital of Serbia! This ‘White City’ (Beograd literally) offers much more than meets the eye! While Belgrade is globally known as the party Mecca, this is not its only quality. So don’t be surprised to find one of the prime event venues right here in the heart of the Balkans.

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Royal Compound in Belgrade is a true eye-candy and definitely a luxurious venue for any type of event. The Royal Palace was the home of King Alexander I and built by the architects Zivojin Nikolic and Nikolay Krassnoff of the Royal Academy. The palace is beautiful example of the Serbian-Byzantine style.

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The Royal Palace is surrounded with pergolas, park terraces, swimming pools, pavilions and platforms. There are magnificent views from the palace towards the ridge of Dedinje Hill, Koshutnjak Forest, Topchider and Avala Mountain.

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There are several rooms on offer, each decorated in a particular style. The Formal Entrance Hall is paved with stone and decorated with copies of medieval frescoes from the Monasteries of Dechani and Sopochani. The Blue Drawing Room is decorated in the Baroque style; the Golden Drawing Room (Palma Vecchio) and Dining Room are in the Renaissance style with impressive wood carved ceilings and bronze chandeliers.

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Should you want to impress your clients or co-workers with stunning surroundings and truly make your incentive in Belgrade one of a kind, probably you want to go for the Royal Compound. Enjoy the luxurious decor and breath-taking outdoors of the Palace.

Find more information here.

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Convention Bureaus versus Travel Out There!

Convention Bureaus

Convention Bureaus are often very ‘straight laced’ – for a dynamic and innovative perspective of a destination perhaps seeking the advice of a local partner might be more effective?

Convention Bureaus Background Info

What are they?
They are commonly established to promote a city, region or country in order to increase the number or visitors – predominantly targeting business travellers.

Why do they exist?
They are often directly responsible for marketing the destination brand through travel and tourism “product awareness” to visitors.

Who works there?
Convention Bureaus are often funded by the state in combination with private stake holder investments.

Where do they work?
Convention bureaus represent the majority of MICE destinations across the world.

When did they start?
50 years ago, Switzerland founded the world’s first national convention bureau.

Questions you have to ask yourself when thinking of asking a Convention Bureau for assistance?

1) Am I dealing with a commercial or state run institution?

2) Will they offer me impartial advice and recommendations – often they have to recommend and strike targets set by their associated stake holders?

3) How much will ‘internal politics’ within the destination influence the information that I will receive?

4) How creative and innovative can a Convention Bureau be when having to work to tight guidelines and stipulations set from the powers above. Often Convention Bureaus have a very hierarchal structure and key decisions have to be made from the top.

5) Will they provide me with the ‘personal touch’ that my client requires?

6) Will they maintain a continuous presence throughout my experience?

7) Will they care so much about all the little things that count?

8) Are they more interested in the qualitative as well as the quantitate results.

9) Do they care so much about my enquiry? Convention Bureaus are often not financially incentivized to go that extra mile to satisfy the client. Agencies that rely solely on recommendation need to try harder to stand out from the competition.

10) Will the Convention Bureau provide me the full experience of the destination or just offer a specific service? Are they too much about the ‘talking’ and not enough about the ‘walking’?

Travel Out There believe that “Transparency is the new currency of trust”!

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK – TOP 10 UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONS IN BUDAPEST

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1.) ICE BAR

Ice bar in Budapest is a fantasy-like bar where you get to sip on your favourite drink surrounded by ice sculptures and walls. The bar serves ice-cold cocktails (pun intended) and they all come in ice glasses!

The inside temperature of the bar is between -1°C and -7°C. The bar provides warm ponchos and gloves to keep you warm.
The ticket includes one cocktail. Have a further look here.

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2.) CAVES UNDER BUDAPEST

Budapest surprisingly hosts the largest cave system in Hungary. They are situated in the 2nd district Rózsadomb (Rose Hill) in the Buda side. They were supposed to be merged by the Turk for military purposes and later served for storing wine.

The “main” one is called Szemlö-hegyi-barlang (“Freckle hill cave”). Address: Pusztaszeri út 35.
A second one is called Pál-völgyi-barlang (“Paul valley cave”). Steep access. Szépvölgyi út 162.
And then there is the Matyas cave. For experienced climbers.

Out of 10 kilometers of caves that stretch beneath Castle Hill 1,5km are open to the general public. There is an entrance fee for the caves with a chance of joining a guided tour.

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3.) SZIMPLA KERT FARMERS MARKET

Szimpla Kert is all-in-one. It is one of the city’s most famous ruin pubs (see below) that turns into a lovely Farmer’s Market every Sunday. It quickly became a local favourite.

Scout for some fresh, farm-grown produce or taste bites of homemade food. Courtyard serves as a perfect venue to dive into the wonders of Hungarian cuisine and local food. Country-style pastries, fresh goat cheese, homemade syrups, honey, sausages, salamis, seasonal fruits and vegetables are all part of the offering.

The farmer’s market is open every Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. They also offer kid’s programs and live music, which makes this a pleasant destination for the entire family.

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4.) VARKERT BAZAR

Várkert Bazár is a historic monument on the Danube waterfront in the centre of Budapest; it was built between 1875 and 1888 and contains a grand staircase linking the Royal Palace to the waterfront. The aim of the project was to restore Varkert’s old glamour and to create a multi-purpose center with offices, cultural and leisure facilities and a nice variety of exclusive, high-end shops.

While the concept of Varkert’s Bazar is to offer exclusive retail facilities on the banks fo Danube, it’s prime activity is a stroll through the old Royal Park. Another leisurly activity for the entire family with views on the biggest Hungarian river.

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5.) RUIN PUBS

Ruin Pubs (‘rom kocsma’ in Hungarian, literally: pub in a ruin) are located in formerly abandoned buildings in the city and are very popular hot spots. Most are open year-round, some are temporary outdoor pubs, open from May to September and some are located in the cellars of old houses.

Live music with the best Hungarian bands, charming retro décor, unique atmosphere and late opening hours make these places perfect for party. This are the places where contemporary artists and designer gather to create a new wave of entertainment in Budapest.

Ours most recommended Ruin Pubs are Corvintető, Fogasház and Szimpla Kert.

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6.) CHANDELIER SHOP

Rarely you get to have a look into a city’s local crafts. While in Budapest use the chance to hop into the Grünberger chandelier shop for some truly amazing sights of the incredibly crafty decor.

Just off Andrássy Boulevard near Budapest’s Operetta Theatre on Nagymező utca quietly stands one of the city’s undiscovered treasures. This business is over a 100 years old and currently run by the last great chandelier maker in Budapest, Mr Tamás Grünberger. His award-winning cases of light hang in some of the most famous buildings in the city.

Here you can find out more about this incredible artist. Unfortunately the site is only in Hungarian.

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7.) NOE CUKRASZDA

Noé Cukrászda is one of those small local treasures that only the most attentive know of. This is a small Hungarian-Jewish pastry shop run by Ráhel. The cafe might be small, but there is lovely terrace outside for catching some sun in the summer.

Don’t leave this place without trying the famous flódni, a special Hungarian-Jewish cake including apple, walnut and poppy seed layers. Another delicacy is pogácsa (a Hungarian scone, salty appetizer), especially if eaten along with fresh, fragrant coffee.

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8.) BOOK CAFE – LOTZ TEREM

It is practically impossible to run out of the quality, quirky bars and cafes in Budapest. As their cafe culture is strong, why not dedicate you trip to simply enjoying a good cup of coffee in one of their top bars.

Book Cafe is a truly elegant coffee house, where you can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee or tea along with live music. It is located on the second floor of a former department store, so be sure not to miss out on it while near the Opera.

Neo-Renaissance interior will take you on a journey through time, while their cakes and pastries will satisfy those rumbiling bellies. Most recommended for the inspiring atmosphere and for book lovers who can enjoy the adjacent bookstore.

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9.) MEDIEVAL JEWISH SYNAGOGUE IN BUDA

On one of the main streets of the Castle District in Buda, in a small apartment building, a Medieval synagogue was discovered during excavation works in 1964. This is a Sephardic synagogue from 1364, from the period when Jews were allowed to live in the Castle District and established a community in New Zsido Street (now called Táncsics Street).

Today this is a museum, called “The Medieval Synagogue” (Kozépkori Zsidó Imaház). The main attraction here are Biblical inscriptions in Hebrew letters, with the symbols of the Star of David and a bow pointing to heaven.

Here you can read more about the museum and Jewish culture in Budapest.

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10.) BUDAPEST SIKLO (FUNICULAR)

Funiculars are one of those city classics that make you feel like a child again while offering good views on the city. Budapest Siklo is 95 meters long and it has 48% raise.

Its lower station is on Ádám Clark square, its upper station is between in Sándor-palota (Alexander palace) and Buda Castle. Perfect way to reach one of the most important sights in Budapest – the Buda Castle!

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Anti-Cafes

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Imagine a place where you can sit down on a comfortable sofa. Connect to the WiFi. Use it, surf the internet upon your desire. Where you get unlimited coffee. Snacks. Tea. Bear with me – you can even bring your own food to this place. And cook it. Sounds like home? Or even better?

Here is the new concept of a cafe – a social cafe. Perhaps unsurprisingly the origins of this cafe are in Russia, where Ivan Mitin came up with the idea of a place for social gatherings of a different kind. The concept proved to be so popular, Mitin opened several cafes in Russia, before going West and trying his luck in London with Zieferblat. It didn’t take long for him to get dedicated followers and promoters of anti-cafes – another one opened in Paris and more are sure to come.

And what exactly does it mean, anti-cafe? It means a place where you don’t pay for what you consume, but for the time you spend there. Something like the ‘time is money’ philosophy. In London’s Zieferblat you pay 5c per minute, which adds up to 3€ per hour. All this includes the above-mentioned coffee or tea, snacks and internet. Sounds interesting? Give it a go!

You won’t only be spending your free afternoons or lunchbreaks in an anti-cafe. This place is meant to become lively at night by hosting poetry evenings, exhibitions, conferences, birthday parties… you name it! They have a projector you can use freely and a variety of board games to entertain yourselves with. AntiCafe in Paris even invites you to form you first start-up at their place!

Therefore if you happen to be in Moscow, London or Paris, be sure to check out this new social phenomenon. Or look for one popping up in your neighbourhood. Because their time is coming.

Read more:

Anti Cafe Paris

About Anti Cafes

London Ziferblat

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