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5 Dreamy Old Towns in Europe

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In multifaceted Europe you can find many buzzing modern metropolises that are in constant change and keep reinventing themselves. At their core, however, you can encounter the architectural and artistic remains of times long gone, which often make those old towns tourist hot spots. Here are some cities that invite you to wallow in nostalgia and romantic feelings while at the same time satiating your hunger for culture.

 

1. Stockholm (Sweden):

The old city center of the Swedish capital, Stockholm, directly translated from “Gamla Stan”, connects the northern district of Normalm with the southern one of Södermalm. In the 13th century the old town of Stockholm was the actual urban part, surrounded by rural areas. Nowadays, Gamla Stan offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities thanks to its medieval relicts. The Grand Square is packed with tourists taking pictures of the typical earth-colored architecture. In addition, the two churches of Tyska Kyrkan and Storkyrkan, as well as the royal palace, are just around the corner. Besides these typical sights, little alleyways with their tiny original cafés, restaurants or craftworks stores whisper tales of long gone Scandinavian times.

 
Gamla Stan, Stockholm.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm. Photo: flickr, 2benny

 

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2014 FIFA World Cup – Brazil

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The upcoming FIFA World Cup hosted by Brazil is just around the corner. From June 12th to July 13th all sports fans will be looking at Brazil to watch the most important football event worldwide. Held every four years since 1930, the World Cup was cancelled only twice in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II and its aftermath. The formers champions of the World Cup are Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002), Italy (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006), Germany (1954, 1974 and 1990), Uruguay (1930 and 1950), Argentina (1978 and 1982), England (1966), France (1998) and Spain (2010).

Since 1998 (hosted by France) the tournament features 32 national teams. The first stage is the group stage when the 32 teams are divided in 6 groups of 4 teams each. At this point each team will play against the other 3 teams in the same group. The top two teams of each group advance to the next stage. The knockout stage starts in the eighth finals with 16 teams in eight single-elimination matches in which the winner advance to the quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals, the third place match (between the defeated teams of the semi-finals) and the final.

 
Copacabana, Río de Janeiro. Photo: flickr, Christian Haugen.

Copacabana, Río de Janeiro. Photo: flickr, Christian Haugen.

 

The opening match (Brazil vs. Croatia) will take place at São Paulo on June 12th. The twelve host cities along with São Paulo are Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador with 4 group stage matches in each.

Besides the tournament, football fans will have the opportunity to experience such a variety of attractions in the host cities and their surroundings. Curitiba, for instance, is a well-developed city with some nice attractions like the Botanical Garden, the Wire Opera House and Oscar Niemeyer Museum among others. However, for those going to the Paraná State, a top not to miss attraction is Iguaçu Falls in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, one of the most impressive natural beauties on earth. The trendy Praia da Pipa is a 2 hours’ drive away from Natal. Read More »

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Top 10 Safari Destinations in the World

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Guest article by Tanmay Sharma.

 

Catching a glimpse of the wildlife in their natural habitat is the ultimate thrill that any wildlife lover would love to experience. In the wild, animals roam about uninhibited and go about their business without a care in the world. The abundant resources available in and the protective cushion provided by the wild mean that these animals continue to thrive in these regions. Taking a safari in the wild and having a close encounter with these awesome animals is not an everyday event, and so when you get an opportunity you would want to make the most of it. The unspoiled beauty of the wild is another reason why people are so attracted to the wild. But then, not all safaris are the same and not all wildlife has the same element of thrill. So, we have prepared a list of the best safaris in the world from which you can have your pick.

Costa Rica

One of the premier destinations for a jungle safari, the lush green jungles of Costa Rica is home to a number of popular and endangered animals. Costa Rica is one of the top 20 countries with the most diverse plant and animal species in the world; it has over 500,000 species of wildlife contributing for almost 4% of all species in the world. A wildlife safari to Costa Rica would present you the opportunity to see exotic birds, insects and butterflies. Popular animals include monkeys, languid sloths, crocodiles, countless lizards and poison-dart frogs. The Giant Anteater is an endangered species found here, and it may well be your last opportunity to see it in real!

 
Costa Rica Wildlife. Photo: flickr, Darren Johnson

Costa Rica Wildlife. Photo: flickr, Darren Johnson

 

Kenya

Kenya has to be the best place for safari as it has a wide variety of flora and fauna; from the famous Cape Buffalo to wildebeest to African Elephant to Giraffe, you name the most popular animals and you will find them here. In fact, the famous “Big five” can be spotted here. The abundant wildlife in Kenya is not just restricted to its parks, pens and reserves, of which there are many, but you can even go off the beaten track and try out less famous destinations that may spring a surprise. Birdwatching is another activity that you can indulge in during your safari holidays in Kenya. Read More »

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10 Stunning Natural Phenomena That Will Leave You Amazed

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There is a variety of cultural and historical sights or events that make us pack our bags and travel to a certain destination. The most incredible events are staged by nature itself, though, the biggest artist on the stage of planet earth. These amazing natural phenomena are definitely worth a little detour!

1. Aurora Borealis — colorful lights in the sky

We already recommended the picturesque northern lights in our article about interesting places to visit in 2014. Whenever solar storms shoot huge amounts of charged particles in the direction of our planet, the sky above northern parts of the Earth glows with beautiful colors. The year 2014 is especially convenient for a trip to the north of Iceland, Alaska or Scandinavia — due to high energy concentration the phenomenon will occur with unusual frequency in December 2014!

 
Aurora Borealis. Foto: flickr, Moyan Brenn.

Aurora Borealis. Photo: flickr, Moyan Brenn.

 

2. Bioluminescent Bays — stressed out plankton

Tiny blue plankton living in certain bays in Puerto Rico (e.g. Crab Island), the Maldives (Baa Atoll) or California perform an astounding and surreal natural event. Their blue glow could almost be mistaken as reflection of the night sky, it is the result of the bioluminescent quality of this special kind of phytoplankton, though. Whenever these micro-animals are stressed out (for instance when being stirred by waves or stepped on by human feet), they emit a light blue glow. For us, the resulting view is entirely hypnotic and not stressful at all. Read More »

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Introducing New tripwolf Maps: Sharper, Smoother, Wider!

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Hello, dear current and future tripwolves!

My name is Matej. I am an Android developer here at tripwolf, and it is a pleasure to introduce to you a major update of our Android app (which will soon be available for iOS, too).

I am especially happy that I personally had the chance to work on a major overhaul of one very important feature in our app and bring it much closer to its full potential.

The feature I’m talking about is our map.

 

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A good map with offline support is without a doubt one of the most important tools in any would-be traveler’s virtual backpack. Anyone who has ever found themselves lost in an unfamiliar city will surely agree, especially late at night or in the early morning hours, with only the town drunk around to ask for directions. We all know that always ends well.

Out with the old, in with the new, goes the saying, and what better way to introduce you to our new map than by comparing it to the old one.

So what have we improved? The answer is, A LOT:

 

1. Vector maps – virtually limitless detail

The old map rendering technology we used was entirely based on images, which means that the map was divided into a grid, and each square was filled with an actual image tile representing that geographical area at the current zoom level. This could mean hundreds of small images, multiplied further by the number of zoom levels, because every level has its own set of tiles to show you more or less detail depending on how far away from the surface you are. That’s why loading the map becomes sluggish, as does panning and zooming.

Our new maps are vector-based, which means that most of the information, such as streets, buildings, bodies of water, and so on, is not in the form of images but shapes, defined mathematically and drawn in real time. This makes loading much faster, because we don’t load actual images, just the information that tells the shapes on the map how they should be drawn. This is why you will be able to zoom seamlessly in and out without losing sight of the map, and also pan and move around the map smoothly, even on slower phones.

 

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The new maps feel much more responsive. You don’t have to take my word for it — try it out for yourself.

 

2. Optimized for high resolution screens

One major weakness of the old system we used was that the texts, including street names, were barely readable on devices with high-resolution screens unless you zoomed in extremely close. The reason for this was the fixed resolution of the images, which was relatively small by today’s standards. This looked acceptable on lower to medium-resolution screens but pretty bad on high-res ones.

Our new map features crystal clear, perfectly readable street names, regardless of the screen resolution or the zoom level. This is thanks to the fact that the size at which elements of the map are rendered is actually based on the pixel density (number of pixels per inch) of the screen you have, so it will scale optimally to show you exactly what you want to see, whether your device screen’s resolution is 480p (Samsung Galaxy S2) or 1080p (Google Nexus 5). This clarity extends to every other element of the map, not only the street names. Zoom in as close as you want, and every element of the map will be just as clear as it was before.

 

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Screenshots of the old and new maps at the same zoom level and on the same device

 

3. Powerful offline maps

With the old system, we were always constrained by the file size of the maps, and this was especially painful for country maps, which typically cover a large area, so more often than not we had to sacrifice how far in you were able to zoom to keep the size reasonable. As I mentioned earlier, one of the major advantages of a vector-based map is that we can now have more information within the same file size or sometimes even a smaller file size. That doesn’t mean that the map downloads will aways be smaller and faster, because we are making sure that you get the best possible offline map experience available and that once you download one of our maps, you never have to look back. You will be able to zoom in as close as you want and see the smallest details, even on the largest country maps, without any roaming costs, just as if you were online. Another notable improvement is the fact that you can choose, within our country and region guides, to download only individual areas of a country or region map, such as specific cities or subregions.

 

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Available maps for the Germany guide

 

One last neat feature I want to mention here, which can be useful when looking at the map and trying to reach some point of interest while walking through a city, is the fact that you can now make the map follow your location and point of view. Press the “Locate me” button in the top right corner of the map once, wait for it to center on your location, then press it again and the map will start following your point of view, indicated by a transparent blue cone. As you walk, the map will be centered at your current location and will rotate as you turn, so it always shows what is right ahead of you.

I hope you have found this short overview of the new map technology in this version of the tripwolf Android app useful and that you are as excited about it as we are! Of course, this is just the start and the new maps will be available for iOS soon as well.

As always, give the new version a try, leave a comment here, a rating or a review on our Play Store page, or just send us a feedback e-mail and let us know what you think.

And remember, every bit of your feedback helps us make the app better!

Until next time,

Cheers!

Matej

ANFIN

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Start the perfect summer with tripwolf Unlimited!

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The summer is coming, and we tripwolves feel it already: slowly we awaken from our winter slumber and feel the initial excitement at the thought of the many wonderful trips and experiences that the summer will bring.

In the past year, more than 5,000 of our users have opted for the tripwolf Unlimited package. This shows us quite clearly that our users are curious and wish to learn a great deal about the destinations they visit. For those who are not yet aware of the package, we would like to call your attention to something:

 

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Through May 25 — that is, for 9 more days — you can purchase the tripwolf Unlimited package for about $21 cheaper at a price of $33.99, before we raise the price to $54.99. Once you do that you will be well prepared for your summer trips and can read more than 500 guidebooks as the need arises.

The tripwolf Unlimited package is currently available in the tripwolf app for iPhone, iPad, and Android and includes all guides that currently exist and that will come out in the future. Guides that have already been loaded can be updated anytime, free of charge. Since hard drive space is precious, the guides may be erased as often as you like and then downloaded again.

As always, you can use the same package on multiple devices. Simply log on to any device with the same App Store / Play Store, select the package and confirm the purchase. The App Store / Play Store will recognize your purchase and activate unlimited access to the guide.

As always, you can leave feedback here or you can send a message to mobile@tripwolf.com.

We always look forward to nice reviews in the App Store / Play Store too, of course!

Have fun on your summer travels!

The tripwolf Team

 

Here you can download the tripwolf app:

 

APPLFINANFIN

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5 Great Road Trip Routes

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You just left the city miles behind, now pristine landscapes are passing by your windows. The fellow passenger is sitting next to you with a map spread on her lap. In the faint light of the car cockpit and with squinted eyes, she is trying to find the correct motorway exit.

There is as many facets of travel styles as there are of travelers. Each way of traveling has its upsides and downsides — and there is hardly one that makes you feel as free and spontaneous as the classical road trip. It does not really matter if you rent a car (mostly affordable these days) or drive your own vehicle to the destination. Traveling with a VW van (or anything similar) is especially stylish, as it can be transformed into a minimalistic camping van if necessary.

 
Foto: flickr, Zach Dischner

Photo: flickr, Zach Dischner

 

It is advisable to have an approximate itinerary, but not absolutely necessary. If you like a place a lot, why not just stay there a little longer? And if you’d like to leave earlier than expected you could definitely squeeze in that nice little town that just didn’t fit into your travel itinerary initially.

We have collected a few suggestions for great road trip routes for you, convincing either through beautiful landscapes or diverse, interesting stopovers — or both. Of course, the possibilities are infinite. Help us complete the list by telling us about the road trips you are planning to take or have already taken! Read More »

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Rome and the Sweet Life

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Take us with you to the Italian capital and get all the suggestions in tripwolf’s Rome travel guide for your journey – through Monday, it is available at 60% off!

 

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All roads lead to Rome – that motto should apply at least once in the life of every traveler! The Eternal City offers, in addition to colossal world history and culinary delights, all kinds of architectural and cultural highlights that sooner or later attract a great many travelers to the Italian capital.

 
Foto: flickr, Josemanuelerre

Photo: flickr, Josemanuelerre

 

Rome in May

The best time to open up Rome is right now. While the high temperatures of the summer can make a stroll through the city a little stressful, in May one can explore the city pleasantly at reasonable temperatures. For example, at about 20 degrees C (68 F), you can comfortably enjoy the wide selection of culinary attractions the city has to offer in sidewalk cafes and on restaurant terraces, all without breaking a sweat. Read More »

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Packing for Multiple People

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Someday, my kids will be able to pack for our travels themselves. Until that day, however, I’m responsible for making sure that my girls have enough clothing. (My husband contributes, of course, but I care more about matchy-matchy clothing aesthetics than he does.) On two memorable occasions I have forgotten pants for our youngest and pajamas for our oldest. Since then I decided to get really organized. Here’s a breakdown of how I pack for our family of four.

1. Lists, a smartphone, and more lists

Getting ready means first sitting down with a weather report and our itinerary. How many days? How active will we be? What specialty items do we need? Then I open up Google Keep on my laptop. Google Keep is a note-taking app; you can use the free-form template and the checklist template. I use the checklist feature to build several packing lists: one for the girls’ clothes, one for me, one for electronics, one for dry toiletries and medical items, one for liquid items (as those have to be packed separately), and one for snacks. I like having a small stockpile of familiar, high-protein dry snacks for the airplane or if we’re going to be in a car or coach for a long time.

 
Being organized is everything. Photo: flickr, opoponax

Being organized is everything. Photo: flickr, opoponax

 

The great thing about doing Google Keep lists on my laptop is that it automatically syncs to the Google Keep app on my phone. I have my phone with me in the staging area and can add items on the fly, which is important if I’m still laundering some of the clothes or need to buy anything for the upcoming trip.

Wait, what’s a staging area? On to step two.

2. Staging your stuff matters

Our three backpacks get laid out in a row. There’s my 40L bag, dimensions approved for even the stingiest budget airline; Kid 1′s 18L pack, complete with waist and sternum clips; and Kid 2′s 12L, which is purple just like Dora the Explorer’s bag. If it doesn’t fit in these three bags–or if the bag, when packed, is too heavy for our children to carry–we cull until it does. In front of those bags go the packing cubes. We each have our own color cube. Clothing is folded in stacks in front of the packing cube until everything is accumulated. Toiletries go to the side. Everything is in neat rows. The packing cubes and toiletry kits are not zipped to go until every item on the checklist that’s supposed to be put inside have been acquired. They get put in the backpacks, and then the backpacks aren’t zipped to go until they’re fully packed–usually not until the last moment.

The important thing is that everything is laid out neatly so you can see what needs to go where. And don’t worry, we don’t make the two-year-old carry her own clothes–too heavy! Her bag, which she usually carries proudly, is our lightweight diaper bag.

3. Make separate piles for the airplane

Off to the side of the staging area, I make piles for the airplane. Those piles are the outfits we’ll be wearing on the plane (lots of light, stretchy layers to accommodate temperature variations), extra outfits (kids are messy, ok?), diapering supplies for the little one who isn’t quite toilet trained but who is well on her way, our snacks, and some airplane entertainment items. We plan to put those things in bags that will go under the seat because there’s nothing worse than realizing you need someone’s fresh outfit ASAP and it’s a few rows away in the overhead storage. The diaper bag is fairly lightweight and easy for our two year old to carry for half an hour while we get through the airport.

Nothing guarantees a smooth trip with kids. The flight is usually physically taxing for everyone, and the change in routine can ripple out into your child’s behavior in ways you can’t anticipate. But organization, efficiency, and prior planning make for calm, happy adults, and that attitude will ripple out to the children’s behavior as well.

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100 times new – New content for the tripwolf travel guides

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tripwolf has updated the contents of more than 100 travel guides — and you can download one of them for free today in the tripwolf app!

 

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When traveling, you have plenty of stuff to carry. Those hiking boots aren’t exactly a lightweight, and so often you underestimate the volume of travel reading you want to bring along. Not only backpackers know the liberating feeling of relief that comes over one after storing the luggage.

The modest weight of smartphones and tablets represent a huge advantage for the current generation of “flash packers” who have these crafty devices on every trip with them. Compared to a 1000-page tome, guides in the app format can also be updated anytime, without paper consumption (we love trees).

We have just brought some 100 tripwolf app guides up to date and filled them with the latest content, including the guides for Barcelona, Berlin, France, Amsterdam, London, and Brazil. So you already have the updated opening times of the Paris sights with you in your bag, and you also know what you can do between the matches of the World Cup.

For previously purchased guides, naturally, the guide can be updated at no additional cost.

So in your already heavy travel bag, you now have a little more space for precious memories — or a spare sweater, you never know.

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