A Great Escape to the Norwegian Fjords

Rachel Maria Taylor and Jody Daunton journeyed to Norway for the latest issue of their outdoor lifestyle magazine Another Escape.

This is the view from the Skagfla farm, which rests on a small mountain shelf 250 meters above the waters below. Across the fjord you can see the spectacular Seven Sisters Waterfalls. The boat gliding through the water is a ferry that can hold up to 50 cars, which puts in perspective the great expanse of the fjord.

Deep fjords, tall mountains, and thick forests were just the beginning of what they discovered — Norwegians have a close relationship with their natural surroundings (the concept is known as friluftsliv), truly embracing nature and enjoying the outdoors as a way of life.

Water rushes down the mountains and over the cliffs into the fjords.

You can see outtakes from the adventure here, along with an excerpt from the published story. Look out for Another Escape Issue Five this fall.

A scenic ride from Hellesylt to the village of Geiranger.

NORWAY – Bordering Sweden, Finland, and Russia, with a ragged flank that disappears into the pitted bed of the Norwegian sea,

Mountain refuge hut at the top of Romsdalseggen. A much-appreciated respite when hiking in wind, rain, and snow on the Romsdalseggen Ridge.

Norway is a slender spool of craggy peaks, vaulting waterfalls, mirrored lakes and fjords, and woolly forests.

Co-founder Rachel Taylor stands on a precipice overlooking the village of Geiranger and the fjord.

To the west, the landscape is carved out by glaciers, with the abrupt slopes of the Scandinavian mountains towards the North Sea.

Many buildings in Norway traditionally have turfed roofs. Sheep and goats are often put on the rooftops to eat down the grass, which is exactly what this cheeky chappy is doing.

Numerous corridors of valley connect this raw, imposing topography to the spruce-carpeted hills of the east.

In the remarkable Vellesæterdalen valley, the Velleseter Cabin rests on an exposed hilltop at an altitude of 418 meters.

And while the north is characterized by fjords, mountains, vast snowfields and some of Europe’s largest glaciers, the south is a gradation of urban living, agricultural lowlands, fells, and docile coastal living.

DNT padlock and key. The DNT has an elaborate networks of trails and cabins across the whole of Norway that are open access for all to use. The keys are available from local tourist and DNT offices.

At every point of the compass, Norway’s landscape is arresting; a lush, undulating conduit forfriluftsliv that craves no less than pure abandonment to its mysteries.

A selection of cold meats including muskox and reindeer, which are native to the region; locally caught smoked salmon; klippfisk, a Norwegian dried and salted cod; locally made jams from the abundance of local berries; and the quintessential sweet brown cheese that tastes almost like fudge.

Literally (and inadequately) translated as ‘free air life,’ the phrase is, at its most fundamental, a deep appreciation for and interaction with nature.

The view from Kaldhuseter cabin, looking out across the lake towards the Tafjordfjella Mountains.

This entry is excerpted with permission from Another Escape, where the article originally appeared. Read more about the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv in Another Escape Volume Five.

A traditional little cabin tucked away in misty mountainside.
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Top 10 Trekking Walks in Europe

From an easy hike across French wine country to a tough trek around the Mont Blanc massif, here are 10 European walks for all abilities

Camino Francés, Spain

The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, is a series of pilgrimages beginning at various points across Europe but all ending in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Most popular is the Camino Francés, which begins in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France. To walk the whole 780km takes around a month, but for a shorter trip, tackle the final 111km, from Sarria to Santiago.

Level/time Moderate – you’re covering up to 25km a day, but the route’s well serviced. Allow seven days.

Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Santiago de Compostela from Stansted from around £80 return, then take a bus or taxi (from around €90) to Sarria. See the route at tinyurl.com/camfrances.

Alsace Wine Trail, France

Civilised cultural wandering amid the woody charm of the Rue du Vin is the perfect opportunity to mix wine and walking. Bergheim, Turckheim, pretty Riquewihr and Kaysersberg are easily linked on day-long walks of up to 17km.

Level/time Mostly easy walking; ask in a local tourist office for footpath pointers. Allow four to five days.

Getting there EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Luton to Paris from £67 return, then take a train to Turckheim (from £64 return, raileurope.co.uk), or drive via Eurotunnel (£110 return, eurotunnel.com). For hikes in northern Alsace, seetinyurl.com/northalsace.

Lake district, Austria

Hallstatt is a perfect hub for exploring the Austrian lake district. From here you can travel between steepled villages on easy footpaths, indulging in the odd lake crossing.

Level/time Typically easy, pleasant walking through Julie Andrews terrain. Allow from three days to a week.

Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Stansted to Salzburg from around £75 return, then take a bus to Hallstatt for around €30 (huttleceskykrumlov.com). See walking trails from Halstatt at tinyurl.com/halstatthike.

Kastelli Kissamos, Crete

Base yourself in Kastelli Kissamos in the far north-west of Crete and you have access to a variety of routes, taking in necropolises, deserted coastal paths and olive groves. Don’t miss the beautiful Sirikari Gorge.

Level/time Walks to suit any level, though beware of summer heat. Between five days and a week is ideal.

Getting there Several budget airlines fly to nearby Chania from about £100 return. Check out The High Mountains of Crete (£14, Cicerone, tinyurl.com/highcrete) for walking routes.

Durmitor national park, Montenegro

Parts of Montenegro’s coast buzz with wealth, but the interior is all crumbling mountains and dark, Balkan wilderness, refreshingly undeveloped. Durmitor national park’s trails can be accessed from the well-serviced hub of Zabljak, on the edge of the park.

Level/time All levels. Allow five days: two to travel, three to walk.

Getting there Monarch (monarch.co.uk) has returns from Gatwick to Dubrovnik from £105, then hire a car for the short hop over the border.

Tuscany, Italy

The historic hilltop villages of San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Strove and Monteriggioni are close enough to be linked with pleasant one-day walks.

Level/time Easy walking through open countryside and villages. Can be hot in summer. Allow a long weekend.

Getting there Budget airlines fly to Pisa from about £1oo return. Find good-value accommodation at thriftytuscany.com. Get hold of a copy of Walking in Tuscany by Gillian Price (£15, Cicerone, tinyurl.com/tuscanyprice) before you go.

Tour du Mont Blanc France

Aiguilles Rouges near Chamonix
The Aiguilles Rouges Chamonix, France. Photograph: Alamy

For the best view of the Mont Blanc massif, get yourself on to this elevated path above Chamonix. Do one-day or shorter sections of the route between Les Houches and Argentière, or tackle the Tour du Mont Blanc, a strenuous 250km trail that takes in the most naturally dramatic slices of Switzerland, France and Italy.

Level/time Moderate fitness for the shorter walks; the tour is tougher. Allow a long weekend for the smaller trails; 10 six-hour days for the tour.

Getting there Budget airlines fly to Geneva from £68 return, minibus to Chamonix from £41 return. Hiking maps from chamonix.com; more details ontourdumontblanc.tripod.com.

Kerry, Ireland

Kerry’s hills are eerie and wet, but atmospheric. The range called MacGillycuddy’s Reeks is the finest example of Irish mountainscape, and makes a superb centrepiece for a long weekend. Ideally based in a small cottage. By the sea. Near a pub.

Level/time Moderate – most of the hills have straightforward ways up, but a full traverse of the Reeks ridge requires good mountain walking skills. Allow four days – two either side for travel, and one each for exploring the Reeks and the nearby Dingle peninsula.

Getting there Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from Gatwick to Cork from £52 return. For walking routes and places to stay see discoverireland.ie.

Jotunheimen national park Norway

Norway can rival the Rockies for a fraction of the time and cash, particularly if you pack a tent. Jotunheimen national park is a sub-Arctic wilderness with trails up and around glaciated peaks such as Norway’s highest, Galdhøppigen.

Level/time Robust fitness an asset. Allow three days to a week.

Getting there Norwegian (norwegian.com) flies from Gatwick to Oslo or Bergen from £90. Grab a trail map at Juvasshytta Visitor Centre (juvasshytta.no).

Via Ferrata, Lake Garda, Italy

First world war soldiers engineered this system of iron ladders and cables. The staggering heights and angles achievable with relatively little skill attract more adventurous walkers. You need a helmet and harness to make your way across screech-inducing drops.

Level/Time Routes are graded but this is definitely adventurous. Allow five days. You’ll also need to get Via Ferrata instruction. Check out Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites, Vols 1 and 2 (£15.95, Cicerone, tinyurl/viaferratas).

Getting there EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Gatwick to Verona from £62 return. For buses to Riva del Garda see bus company website (atv.verona.it).

Rogers stirk harbour plans skyscrapers for abu dhabi’s maryah plaza

rogers stirk harbour + partners has been chosen to complete their first project in the middle east, a mixed-use development in abu dhabi’s al maryah island district.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

in addition to residential apartments, four water-adjacent towers will also contain a 5-star hotel and a host of retail outlets.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

the masterplan also includes landscaped parks, art galleries and a range of community centers seeking to create a diverse public realm that maximizes connectivity across the site.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

The biggest 5 organized crime groups in the world

Cyber crime is grabbing the headlines these days, but the largest criminal gangs are still making most of their money from drugs, sex, and extortion.

It’s tough to go even a few months without seeing the effects of organized crime on the economy and everyday life. The most salient example these days is the rash of thefts of credit card data from big-name retail chains like Home Depot and Target.

While these threats are headline-grabbing and particularly frightening because e-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon and businesses and consumers aren’t totally sure how to protect themselves from hackers, it’s still a drop in the bucket in terms of overall organized crime earnings.

A 2013 survey from Javelin Strategy and Researchestimates that the annual total loss to Americans due to identity theft was roughly $20 billion. But much of those costs comes from efforts to prevent identity theft or recover from its effects, rather than what thieves earn from their crimes.

Compare that to estimates of pure revenue from other forms of organized crime like the drug trade and human trafficking: the Organization of American States estimates that the revenue for cocaine sales in the U.S. has reached $34 billion annually.

When you add the market for other illicit drugs and revenue generators like human trafficking and extortion, it becomes clear that organized crime is still making most of its money from its legacy businesses, despite the fact that criminals are always looking for new ways to make a buck.

So, who are the biggest organized crime gangs around the world and how do they make their money? Organized crime revenues are very difficult to estimate, as criminals often spend a significant amount of time trying to hide what they make.

Also, “organized crime” is a loosely defined concept. Anything from a vast drug smuggling ring to a handful of car thieves can be classified as organized crime groups, and the cohesiveness of organized crime organizations around the world varies widely.

Some groups, like Japan’s Yakuza, are highly organized and hierarchical, allowing economists and crime fighters in Japan to attribute much higher revenue totals to Yakuza groups than others around the world. Here are the top five criminal gangs, ranked by revenue estimates:

745

1. Yamaguchi Gumi—Revenue: $80 billion

The largest known gang in the world is called the Yamaguchi Gumi, one of several groups collectively referred to in Japan as “Yakuza,” a term that is roughly equivalent to the American use of “mafia.”

The Yamaguchi Gumi make more money from drug trafficking than any other source, according to Hiromitsu Suganuma, Japan’s former national police chief. The next two leading sources of revenue are gambling and extortion, followed closely by “dispute resolution.”

The Yakuza date back hundreds of years, and according to Dennis McCarthy, author of An Economic History of Organized Crime, Yakuza groups are among the most centralized in the world. While other East Asian gangs like Chinese Triads, which are a loose conglomeration of criminals bonded together mostly by familial relations,

Yakuza are bound together by “elaborate hierarchies,” and members, once initiated, must subvert all other allegiances in favor of the Yakuza. Even with the Japanese government cracking down on Yakuza in recent years, this centralized structure has made it easy to attribute a massive amount of revenue to this single gang.

2. Solntsevskaya Bratva—Revenue: $8.5 billion

Russian mafia groups sit on the other side of the organizational spectrum from Yakuza. Their structure, according to Frederico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford and an expert on international organized crime, is highly decentralized.

The group is composed of 10 separate quasi-autonomous “brigades” that operate more or less independently of each other. The group does pool its resources, however, and the money is overseen by a 12-person council that “meets regularly in different parts of the world, often disguising their meetings as festive occasions,” Varesi says.

It’s estimated that the group claims upwards of 9,000 members, and that it’s bread and butter is the drug trade and human trafficking. Russian organized crime in general is heavily involved in the heroin trade that originates in Afghanistan: it’s estimated that Russia consumes about 12% of the world’s heroin, while it contains just 0.5% of the world’s population.

3. Camorra—Revenue: $4.9 billion

While the Italian-American mafia has been severely weakened in recent decades by law enforcement, the Italian mafia in the old country is still running strong.

Despite years of efforts from citizens, journalists, and government officials, the local governments in Italy remain linked to and protective of various mafia groups, to the point where a 2013 study from the Università Cattolica and the Joint research Centre on Transnational Crime estimated that mafia activities generate revenue of $33 billion dollars, mostly divided among Italy’s four major mafia gangs.

Camorra is the most successful of these groups, raking in an estimated $4.9 billion per year on everything from “sexual exploitation, firearms trafficking, drugs, counterfeiting, gambling … usury and extortion,” according to the report. And Camorra has been at it a long time.

Based in Naples, the group’s history dates back to the 19th century, when it was formed initially as a prison gang. As members were released, the group flourished during the bloody political struggles in Italy during the 1800s by offering protection services and as a force for political organization among Italy’s poor.

4. ‘Ndrangheta—Revenue: $4.5 billion

Based in the Calabria region of Italy, the ‘Ndarangheta is the country’s second largest mafia group by revenue. While it is involved in many of the same illicit activities as Camorra,

‘Ndrangheta has made its name for itself by building international ties with South American cocaine dealers, and it controls much of the transatlantic drug market that feeds Europe.

It has also been expanding its operations in the U.S. and has helped prop up the Gambino and Bonnano crime families in New York. In February, Italian and American police forces arrested dozens of ‘Ndrangheta and Gambino family members and charged them with crimes related to the transatlantic drug trade.

5. Sinaloa Cartel—Revenue $3 billion

Sianola is Mexico’s largest drug cartel, one of several gangs that has been terrorizing the Mexican population as it serves as the middleman between South American producers of illegal drugs and an unquenchable American market.

The White House Office of Drug Control Policy estimates that Americans spend $100 billion on illegal drugs each year, and the RAND Corporation says that about $6.5 billion of that reaches Mexican cartels.With an estimated 60% market share, Sinola cartel is raking in approximately $3 billion per year.

Despite the fact that Sinaloa’s leader was arrestedFebruary, the cartel seems to have avoided the sort of bloody—and costly—succession battle that has plagued some groups when a leader is taken out of commission.

Travel Cheap And Travel Young: 10 Countries You Can Visit On A College Budget

With the travel season upon us, it’s time to begin exploring again and creating memories that last.

Like everyone else, I’m pretty much broke and can’t afford to go on a luxury trip across Europe, but just because the university takes all my cash doesn’t mean I can’t still travel.

Here is a list of 10 countries that rank on the low-end for cost right now:

Bolivia

Home to many activities and sites, this cheap country will have you living like a king for less than you would think. You can get a nice place to stay, food, transportation and even alcohol for less than 20 USD per day.


Thailand

Thailand has been trying to revamp its tourism as of late and many tourism companies have been offering excellent deals. I’m a huge advocate of hostels, but if that isn’t your thing, you can get a private room with a bathroom for less than 30 USD per night.

If you are open to bunks, you can easily get by for an entire day on that price.


Greece

With the state of the economic condition in Greece, prices are low and the tourism will help bring in some more much-needed money. The country is mind-numbingly beautiful and features amazing coasts and architecture.

This is one of the best locations in all of Europe for cheap travel.


Spain

Spain is having similar issues to Greece and could use the extra money from tourism.

The country has a lot to offer, as well, with awesome food, a rich history displayed through museums and architecture and great scenic sites like the Picos de Europa mountain ranges.


Costa Rica

At a few hundred dollars, Costa Rica has one of the cheapest airfare costs when traveling from the United States, and the prices within the country aren’t bad, either.

The Costa Rican Colón has fallen lower than the USD recently, making it an even better deal. Besides, it’s an absolutely beautiful country.


Vietnam

You can travel in Vietnam for less than 20 USD per day and may even struggle to spend that much. The country’s dollar, known as the Dong, is at a ratio of 1 USD to 21,190 Dongs.

Even with the rise in tourism in recent years, the country still remains very cheap and that isn’t going to change away anytime soon.


Romania

Eastern Europe is very cheap right now. You can get a hostel for less than 10 USD per night and will only have to spend a few dollars per meal, including beer.

The prices in Romania have risen as of late, but you can still find great deals and even better street food. I’ll actually be backpacking in Romania next summer on a college budget!


Sri Lanka

The small country in the northern Indian Ocean is home to botanical gardens, temples and tea, making Sri Lanka a steal.

This is the most expensive country on the list, but you still only have to budget 60 USD per day and you will easily be able to afford all the basics that you need while traveling.


Nepal

A tropical country with great food and a rich history, Nepal is paradise for backpackers. It’s the perfect escape from the craziness of your day-to-day lifestyle, as you relax in the countryside.

You shouldn’t expect to pay more than 20 or 25 USD a day.


Argentina

If you want to relax or party, you can find both here. Buenos Aires is well known for its vibrant nightlife or you can visit Iguazu Falls for a relaxing hike.

You can stay in hostels, bus around and eat for not much money at all.

What countries have you been to that you found to be really cheap?

Berlin Is Losing Its Cool

The German capital, famous for its edgy urbanity and quality of life, looks tired.

When a magazine proclaims on its cover that a city is the world’s “coolest”, it is often a sign that it has peaked.

Newsweek did it to London in 1996, just as the city was becoming unaffordable for many cool people.

Now it is Berlin’s turn. In October Stern, a German magazine, declared the city the coolest, giving special attention to its many great clubs for partying.

The party scene is thriving, drawing tourists from Tel Aviv to Stockholm who fly in for long insomniac weekends. The most famous venue, Berghain, notorious for its arbitrary bouncers, is a world hub for techno music.

But true cognoscenti are nostalgic for the rougher, anarchic days just after the Berlin Wall fell, when clubs popped up in abandoned spaces along the former no-man’s-land, always several steps ahead of tedious fire regulations. A new book, “Berlin Wonderland”, documents the “wild years between 1990-96” with black-and-white photographs.

Some Berliners’ nostalgia goes further back. The hottest museum exhibition is about West Berlin as a freedom-loving, libertine and yet parochial island surrounded by East Germany. These days, by contrast, locals are annoyed by throngs of expats and westerners gentrifying formerly edgy neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg.

Berlin is still fascinating. Nowhere are the scars of history — holocaust, war, destruction, division — so visible. And rents and prices remain low. A Facebook post by an Israeli expat in Berlin, called Olim le Berlin (“ascend to Berlin”), has launched a small exodus of Israelis who come for affordable fun and find Germany’s dark past more intriguing than repulsive.

berlin skylineSean Pavone / ShutterstockThe Berlin skyline.

Yet rents have been rising for years, and locals and creative types complain about being priced out (even as they oppose any attempts to build new housing).

Worse, much of the city has been made unusable or ungainly because of construction. The most notorious project of all is Berlin’s new airport, originally due to open in 2011 but repeatedly delayed (to 2017 on the latest estimate). It is now the butt of jokes.

Even more telling is a huge building-site in the city centre, where the former castle of the Prussian kings (damaged in the war, razed by the communists) is being rebuilt to house a cultural forum. After years of controversy, most Berliners have decided that it is boring, retrograde and a missed opportunity. And there may be too little money left to make three of the façades look like the old castle, so the edifice could end up disappointing even its fans.

For Berliners with children, schools are the biggest problem. The centre-left Social Democrats who run Berlin’s government have fiddled about with no fewer than 23 school reforms, most of them ideologically tinged to level down rather than foster excellence. Berlin comes last in the school rankings among Germany’s 16 states.

Now the government is harassing the international (ie, English-taught) schools with new regulations, which will anger many expats and cosmopolitan locals.

It is symbolically fitting that Klaus Wowereit, the gay and flamboyant Berliner who famously described his city as “poor but sexy”, has just retired after 13 years as mayor, to be replaced by a relatively grey protégé, Michael Müller.

After decades of being subsidized by Germany’s richer states, Berlin now balances its budget. It is like an adolescent who has grown up and wants to prove he’s responsible. Hence its bid to host the Olympics in either 2024 or 2028. Within Germany and even Europe it is still hard to find a more exciting city. And yet, as the new nostalgia suggests, Berlin’s best days may already be behind it.

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