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World First UNESCO Trail Connects 13 Sites in Scotland 13 diverse sites with natural and cultural significance, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities now form a dedicated digital trail. read more
Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein Opens in the Birthplace of Famous Fictional Monster
Over 200 years ago, a trail-blazing female author penned the novel that brought one of the first tales of the horror genre to life.
This year, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein opened to commemorate the life of the novelist and her legendary, terrorizing creature.

In 1816, at just 19 years old, Mary Shelley wrote much of her novel Frankenstein in the chic, English spa-city of Bath.

Frankenstein the novel was groundbreaking on two levels: it had a rare, woman author, and it was one of the earliest examples of published horror stories. Shelley’s novel helped spawn a popular culture trend that resulted in a literary, theatrical, and nowadays, film and television landscape full of vampires, monsters, the living dead, medical and science experiments gone awry with terrifying and supernatural results.

Mary Shelley’s monster has been immortalized countless times over in frightening or campy, early and recent films, in pop culture references like cartoons and music videos, and is of course a perennially classic Hallowe’en costume.
Now Frankenstein’s monster has a permanent home of its own in the town where it was born.

Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath celebrates the author as well as her notorious fictional creature. Her monstrous literary creation has 'lived' in various artistic forms non-stop since its inception in Shelley’s novel, but this is the world’s first attraction dedicated to the trail-blazing Regency-era author.

Interactive exhibits tell the full story behind the genesis of ‘Frankenstein’. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein celebrates the legacy of the author’s work across four atmospheric floors, uncovering:

Mary Shelley’s Unusual and Complex Life - Visitors retrace the tragic and unconventional life events and radical scientific thinking that flourished in Shelley’s active and ahead-of-its-time mind;

The Monster of Shelley’s Imagination - You’ll confront head on the formidable 8-foot breathing creature in a world-first recreation exactly as the author imagined in her novel;

Frankenstein in Popular Culture - Revisit all things Frankenstein and his “monster” in the Popular Culture rooms bursting with vintage memorabilia, props, posters, and even bizarre collector items;

Enter the Darkness - Venture down into a dank foreboding basement, in a dark and disorientating walkthrough experience revealing the unhallowed practices of a deranged scientist.

Multi-sensory Classic Horror


Brace yourself for a thrill. Ominous music and unsettling soundscapes, eery temperature shifts, bespoke scents and unsettling aromas, lighting and special effects, electric shocks, projections, and props deliver a scarily immersive, unnervingly thrilling and visceral experience.

It’s not all scary, though. In the Popular Culture rooms, notes of cinemas, popular culture and childhood nostalgia are conjured with gourmand notes of popcorn, vanilla, caramel, chocolate with an undertone of plastic and even playdoh!

You Can’t Escape Frankenstein’s Monster - or Can You?


The bravest of 'Franken-fans’ can test their mettle in Victor’s Lair Escape Room, where you have just one hour to unravel the ramblings of his deranged mind and, more critically, your way out.

You begin locked in Victor’s miserable attic quarters, strewn with insane equations, strange artefacts and miscellaneous body parts. Trying in vain to unlock the mysteries of life itself, he needs just a few more ‘vital’ components to fulfil his maniacal quest. If you and your group can unravel the ramblings of a madman and discover the equation through 14 challenges, you’ll reveal the mystery of Frankenstein’s undead life, but more critically, your way out to freedom.

Between the literary history, the tale of a trail-blazing woman author, a creature who has embedded itself into our cultural fabric, immersive and entertaining exhibits and challenging activities, as well as tongue-in-cheek approach that even has body parts in jars intermixed with items for sale in the gift shop, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein has become a gothic must-do experience in the elegantly Regency-era city of Bath.

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy of Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein, Bath, UK



This New Museum in Oslo is a Real 'Scream'
Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' is one of the most famously eery pieces of art in history, and it continues to disturb admirers today.

Now, MUNCH, a new museum and landmark architectural masterpiece on Oslo’s waterfront, has opened, with the world’s largest collection of works by the famed Norwegian artist. That includes several versions of Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.

More than 26,000 works bequeathed by the artist to the City of Oslo are housed in the massive museum with unparalleled views of the Oslo Fjord. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist.

11 exhibition halls feature not only versions of Munch’s most famous, disturbing work, but also over half of Munch’s known works, from paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944, to monumental mural paintings like The Sun (1909), which stretches nearly 8 meters.

While Munch is best-known for The Scream, he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognized today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.

The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to Oslo such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 of the artist’s personal belongings.

Image: Munchmuseet

Alongside personal items and displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the highlights of Edvard Munch’s work and influence, visitors will get to enjoy a wide-ranging program of cultural events and experiences for art lovers of all ages, including concerts of all types of historic and ultra-modern music, literature readings, performance and art workshops.

That includes those interested in modern architecture and the transformation of the Oslo city skyline.

Image: Munchmuseet

Right on the edge of the Fjord and in the heart of Oslo’s city life on the water, MUNCH was designed and created in homage to Edvard Munch’s connection to the Norwegian landscape and his habit of painting outdoors in all seasons.

The top floor opens up into an observation area, offering some of Oslo’s most spectacular views. The perforated, translucent aluminium façade reflects the changing colours and conditions of the Oslo skies. Visitors can also enjoy dining in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.

A can’t-miss destination on your next trip to the Norwegian capital.

#StartYourTrip!

All images courtesy MUNCH






New Museum in Denmark Celebrates the Fantastical World of Hans Christian Andersen
Many of us have spent hours of our own childhoods or alongside our favorite kids immersed in stories like the Snow Queen, the Emperor’s New Clothes, the Princess and the Pea, the Nightingale, and the Little Mermaid, either in timeless storybooks or Disney movie incarnations.

Now, the author who created these immortal works is being reinterpreted and remembered in a new museum in his birthplace of Odense in Denmark. The new attraction is one of Denmark’s largest and most ambitious museums.
 
Hans Christian Andersen was born in 1805, and lived until 1875. Denmark is home to a number of reminders of his enormous contributions to our collective culture, including a statue of Andersen himself and another of his famous Little Mermaid overlooking the sea in Copenhagen.

In the summer of 2021, a new museum opens in Odense, called H.C. Andersen’s House, and the exhibition leads to the author’s childhood home to showcase Andersen’s life’s journey. 

His fantastical fairytales serve as the foundation of a brand new type of museum, whose designers say will not just communicate about Andersen, but as Andersen.

The vision for H.C. Andersen's House is to create a complete artistic experience in which architecture, sound, light and a stream of images constantly invite new encounters between each visitor and Andersen’s fairytales. 


“Hans Christian Andersen’s artistic universe is fantastic, because it reverses how you imagine this world you thought you knew,” explains Creative Director of the new museum, Henrik Lübker.
 
“In the new museum, we use Andersen’s own artistic strategies as the starting point for how the garden, the house and the exhibition have all been shaped, as well as for the many artistic contributions that will also be part of the museum.”
 

The museum is a vision of a fantastical world that might have been dreamed up by the teller of fairytales himself. The famous Japanese architect who designed the museum was inspired by Andersen’s story ‘The Tinderbox,’ in which a tree reveals an underground world and a secret, new universe.


In a nearly 1.5 acre site, a children’s house and underground museum, entwined with a surrounding magical garden, don’t just retell favorite fairytales, they let you walk in the footsteps of the author, and pique visitors with the familiarity and nostalgia of childhood memories, and inspire us to re-read the works of Hans Christian Andersen all over again with fresh and playful eyes.
 
Fun fact about Hans Christian Andersen: he had a travel imagination, too. Andersen travelled throughout Europe, as far as Morocco in the mid-19th century, and the travel quote, “To travel is to live” was written by Andersen in 1855.

#StartYourTrip!


All images via Visit Denmark




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Celebrate the Māori Lunar New Year and the Southern Dark Skies in New Zealand
New Zealand is in celebration mode in July with the arrival of Matariki.

It's a constellation of stars that rises in New Zealand skies, shining their brightest in the first week of the month.

Known to astronomers as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, Matariki is believed to have formed more than 100 million years ago, and this pre-historic cluster of stars plays a pivotal role in modern and ancient Māori mythology.

The rising of Matariki marks the Māori Lunar New Year, a significant time in the New Zealand cultural calendar.

The Matariki celebration focuses on three principles:
  • Remembrance: Honoring those lost since the last rising of Matariki;
  • Celebrating the present: Gathering together and giving thanks for today's blessings; and
  • Looking to the future: Anticipating the promise of a new year.
 
In addition to the Māori Lunar New Year, this astronomical event inspires festivals across the country, and like the commemorations of the indigenous people, it's seen as a time to celebrate new life, to remember those who’ve passed and to plan for the future. A time to spend with whānau (extended family) and friends – to enjoy kai (food), kōrero (story) and waiata (song).

(Aurora Australis 'Southern Lights', courtesy Dunedin, NZ)
 
In 2022, the reappearance of the constellation will be recognised as an official public holiday on June 24th, providing the opportunity for visitors to plan holidays in the middle of the year, and reconnect with friends and family in New Zealand.

The magic of astronomy each summer has more than history and cultural significance. It also gives star gazers an occasion to turn their gazes to the heavens above New Zealand. Here are some of the most incredible places in the country to catch a glimpse of the Matariki constellation.

(Dark Sky Reserve - Twizel courtesy Jack Austin)

Dark Sky Sanctuary at Aotea (Great Barrier Island), Hauraki Gulf

 
Aotea (meaning 'white cloud' in Māori), also known as Great Barrier, is New Zealand’s sixth-largest island and completely off the grid, with no electricity supply. The island is one of only five Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, and was named the first ever Island Sanctuary in June 2017.
 
 
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Luxury Cabins at Owhaoko, Taupō

 
There’s no roads, no people, no internet and no cell phone coverage at Owhaoko, making it the perfect place for a digital detox in a luxury cabin with views so spectacular one of the bedrooms is made of glass. The luxury cabin’s Māori name is Te Whare Ruruhau (a place of shelter, refuge and protection) has two double bedrooms – one with glass walls and ceiling – and guests can enjoy everything from a bubble bath under the stars with champagne to gourmet meals cooked using traditional Māori methods.
 
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(Night Skies over Red Tarns, Aoraki courtesy Lee Cook)

The Darkest Skies in the world: Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region

 
Much of New Zealand has no 'light pollution' and is home to some of the most accessible observatories in the world. In 2012, 4,300 square kilometers of New Zealand’s South Island was recognized as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. That formalized restrictions on light pollution that had been in place since the 1980s.


This was the first reserve to be awarded gold status, meaning nearly non-existent light pollution. It is one of the clearest, darkest and most spectacular places in New Zealand to view the night skies, and keen stargazers are able to see amazing constellations that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross, the Magellanic Clouds and the Milky Way.
 
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(Aurora Australis ('Southern Lights') Southland, NZ courtesy VideocopterNZ)

Dark Sky Sanctuary: Rakiura (Stewart Island), Southland

 
Stewart Island’s population is only around 400 people, making little impact on the darkness that surrounds the island. Plus, its far-south vantage point means you’ll see celestial features not visible from any other spot in the country. Local policies formalize the community's commitment to environmental protection and help to preserve the pristine skies. 
 

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy NewZealand.com and specific copyright holders where indicated.






Now You Can Discover Your European Family Heritage While Sailing on a River Cruise
It’s news that marries two of the fastest-growing styles of travel: river cruising and family heritage travel.

AmaWaterways has partnered with Ancestry, the company that specializes in genomics and connecting people to their family history.

The river cruise line has done family-heritage themed cruises before, but now, you’ll be able to uncover specific details about your own family. That’s because guests are given pre-cruise private ancestry consultation and family history research, while onboard, presentations and curated excursions hosted by an expert genealogist connect your present with your past.

AmaWaterways says the pandemic highlighted how we cherish our family connections and travel – and trips like these offer us the privilege to travel to find our roots. They were inspired to help guests bring “treasured family stories to life.”

Obviously, not everyone will find their roots on a European river cruise. The series begins on the Rhine river, from Amsterdam through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland, so people with ancestors who came from one – or more! – of those countries, and who have wanted to walk in the footsteps of family members who came before them, will find it an appealing opportunity to have an expert-hosted trip to the land your family once called 'home'.


Imagine a deep dive into your family story, with the help of experts – and while you are sailing the historic Rhine river, the magic of travel is enhanced by the knowledge that your forebears likely passed along the river too. The rivers were the first transportation and communication routes, before road travel developed, so sailing on the river makes an ancestry trip feel even more authentic.

The marriage of ancestry and river cruise begins before you actually sail. You’re matched with an expert from Ancestry’s professional research division, and on a call at home, you can discuss what you already know about your family history and what you’re hoping to discover.

The experts take that information away and start researching your family background – and filter away what is true and what’s just family legend! As well as identify places of interest you may visit or pass by while sailing along the Rhine.

On board, an expert genealogist offers presentations to provide insight into what life was like for guests’ ancestors and highlight the types of records that are available for them to learn more. As guests sail along the Rhine, enjoying every delight of a river cruise, since you’re passing through different regions where your ancestors lived, it triggers your historic imagination and heightens the river cruise experience even more.

The genealogist will also explain the history behind those areas, providing a deeper understanding of the past and a glimpse of guests’ ancestors’ everyday lives.

Guests also enjoy a private onboard consultation with the expert genealogist to review their own family tree, coming full circle from their initial consultation at home before their trip and connecting the dots with what was discovered during your journey. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy an Ancestry-specific group excursion with their expert genealogist. In certain cases, travelers can delve even deeper with an optional add-on of an Ancestral Home Visit accompanied by an expert genealogist.
 
Heritage travel on the rivers of Europe promises to be a whole new way to enjoy European river cruising, with another dimension of meaning to the historic towns and countryside, even the waterways themselves.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you plan a trip with the deep meaning of returning to your roots – and the great pleasure of returning to travel.
 

#StartYourTrip!

 
Images courtesy AmaWaterways




Discover 'Japan's Machu Picchu'
 In Japan, it’s called the ‘Castle in the Sky’, but international travelers who’ve discovered historic Takeda Castle have compared it to another mountain-top historic ruin half a world away in South America.

Peru’s Machu Picchu has made most intrepid travelers’ bucket lists of adventures. But Japan’s Takeda Castle (pronounced: ‘tah-kay-dah’) - that's about the same age as Peru's Machu Picchu - remains an other-worldly experience unknown to most overseas travelers. That's especially surprising considering it’s in the district next door to the ancient capital city of Kyoto, which is a must-do stop for nearly every visitor to Japan.

It’s worth the detour to the mountains of Hyogo Prefecture. Visitors make pre-dawn ascents to viewpoints on the mountain opposite just to gaze over upon the wonder of Takeda Castle at sunrise, appearing to float on top of what the Japanese call ‘unkai’ or ‘a sea of clouds’ - triggered by early morning fog.