The first thing that comes to your mind when you think of summer is probably the sea and the sun, but the second one is definitely summer nights, when you hang out with friends, attend a concert or a festival at an open-air venue and simply seize the moment. If you’re travelling around Europe and you like festivals, this blog is a must-read. We have prepared the HAPPY selection of 5 festivals – though many took place in July, the blog will be useful for making the plans for 2018. Nevertheless, the tickets get sold out pretty soon and the dates for 2018 are already set. Plan your next visit to Europe according to our selection of the festivals and feel the European summer night’s fever.
Save the date for 2018: 18 – 21 July
Save the date for 2018: 12 – 15 July
Save the date for 2018: July, details TBA
23 June – 3 September
Save the date for 2017: 2 – 5 August
Lonely Planet makes it clear – Zagreb is a must-visit in 2017!
Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is located in the northwest of the country, close to the border with Slovenia. An astonishing cosmopolitan city abounds with chic cafés and metropolitan restaurants, high-end boutiques and fascinating museums and galleries. Thanks to the compact size of the Old Town, most cultural jewels can be reached on foot. This year, Lonely Planet ranked it No. 1 among the best destinations to visit in Europe in 2017. Here’s their explanation why (and we totaly agree!):
“Travellers to Croatia tend to make a beeline for the Adriatic delights of the country’s extensive coastline, but its flourishing inland capital shouldn’t be overlooked. Zagreb is at once cosmopolitan and edgy, with its heady mix of Brutalist architecture and sun-splashed Austro-Hungarian squares brimming with coffee drinkers.
Urban regeneration is making the city over. Street art, particularly the striking works of local artist Lonac, adorn Zagreb’s outdoor canvasses and new galleries and creative spaces, including a recently reopened WWII bomb shelter under the Upper Town, are opening at an ambitious pace. To top it all off, the city is home to a blossoming food and craft beer scene, and with the opening of Zagreb’s long-awaited airport terminal, along with a host of new flight routes, it’s never been easier or cheaper to reach the Croatian capital.”
Zagreb is the industry hub of the region. For this very reason, the city has been dubbed the new ‘Silicon Valley’. In addition to new technology and telecoms, many of the lar
A year-round destination, perfect for city break!
During the winter months, the ski resort of Sljeme on mountain Medvednica is just a twenty-minute drive away and is a great alternative to the busy Alpine slopes.
What do Emirates have to do with Zagreb?
Emirates have further expanded its European network with the introduction of daily flights from Dubai to Zagreb, starting on June 1 2017. The new destination is served by an Emirates Boeing 777-300 aircraft, the only wide-body service operating to/from Zagreb. Business travellers into Zagreb will appreciate the convenient early afternoon landing into Franjo Tuđman (Pleso) International Airport from Dubai.
Business in Zagreb? Why not!
gest Croatian and Central European companies have their headquarters or regional offices here.
Less than four hours of transit time!
From this flight connection in broader sense benefits the whole southeast Europe region. It will now become more accessible to businesses in the Middle East and beyond. Onward travel to Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, or Sydney, Melbourne, Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka can all be reached with less than four hours’ transit time.
Travelling from Far Eastern destinations? Yes, please!
Croatia has become a popular destination for business and leisure travel from around the world, in particular with tourists from Far Eastern destinations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore and Australia. The favourable flight times offered on Emirates’ new service will make travelling to Zagreb from these markets and many more, a more seamless and enjoyable experience.
IMPORTANT: Scheduled flight times for EK129 (departing Dubai at 08:15 hours and arriving in Zagreb at 12:20 hours local time) and the return flight EK130 (departing Zagreb at 15:35hours and arriving in Dubai at 23:05hours).
Croatia – the place to be in 2017
Among the top six once-dangerous countries is also our neighboring country, Croatia. Set along the Adriatic coast, it boasts stunning hinterland scenery and a number of UNESCO heritage sites. It’s a country of a thousand islands, glittering waters, secluded beaches and secret little hideaways. It’s a country of historical monuments, such as the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, and breathtaking outdoors such as the waterfalls and lakes in Plitvice National Park. It’s a country of tradition and a lively cotemporary cultural scene, including several electronic and alternative music festivals. It’s a country, which well deserves your visit. So, what are you waiting for? June is perfect for making plans for the upcoming autumn season. Why not visit Croatia? Check out our tours that are all guaranteed to go and explore this Mediterranean jewel now.
Museum of Broken Relationships – it’s about you and me, about the ways we love and lose…
Museum of Broken Relationships is a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions. The museum is actually an ever-growing collection of items, each a memento of a relationship past, accompanied by a personal, yet anonymous story of its contributor. Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from grief and loss, the Museum offers the chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creativity – by contributing to its universal collection.
Museum of Broken Relationships is an original creative art project conceived by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in 2006. Since then, it has taken thousands of people on an empathetic journey around the world, challenging our ideas about heritage. Its original permanent location was founded in Zagreb. In 2010 it won the EMYA Kenneth Hudson Award as the most innovative and daring museum project in Europe.
If you’re planning to say “I do” anytime soon, you should read this blog.
Getting married is one of the milestones in our life.
It is the moment when you say “I do” to your (dream) partner and turn the new page of your life. Most women dream about their wedding day from their early days. It’s a fairy-tale coming true a day in life, when everything needs to be picture-perfect.
Where should I get married?
Some prefer to get married close to their homes, some rather travel far away. Some tend to have large wedding feasts, some prefer to invite just a few. The sky is the limit with numerous options of how you can get married, how many guests you can invite and what kind of food you will choose for your guest. But what all the brides and grooms have in common is the wish to get married on a nice location, on the location that has a wow effect and will stay in their hearts forever. As if the perfectly chosen venue of the wedding will ensure them to live happily ever after… But this is yet another story.
Why choose HAPPY TOURS?
As already the name Happy Tours implies, with us it’s all about making you happy. It is thus no wonder that we are constantly searching for new products, new ideas of how to help you make your life a bit HAPPIER. Among numerous products we offer, the most recent is the weddings. On the top locations – why do we say that? Because we have personally tried it.
What are the pros for a destination wedding
Why do people decide for a destination wedding and why has planning a wedding away from home become so attractive? The main reason for unconventional weddings is usually the fact that you’re searching for something more special and that you’re not into traditional weddings. A good reason may also be that your families and friends are from all around the world and you are trying to find a spot that suits everyone. The fact that they need to travel anyway, is a good enough reason that you choose a destination that will also be interesting for them to travel to. You might also want to make the planning easier – we all know that weddings can be a real logistical nightmare. If you choose an agency or a tour operator to take care of the details, you will for sure be given an on-site wedding coordinator that will do all the legwork for you and the result is that your wedding will be much less stressful to plan. Since destination weddings are a bit less conventional, it is also a great opportunity to make your wedding truly special. We have all been to weddings that were much alike, except from the bride and groom being different. And this can also be a trigger for your friends and families – they will for sure spend some of their precious vacation days, but it will make it worth a while since the location will be marvellous. And last but not least – you will have an overview of your costs. Although no one can claim that such weddings cost less money, we guarantee you that you also won’t spend a fortune. It is often also much easier to keep costs in check, already because you tend to have a smaller guest list and really choose only people that are most important in your life and you will also not go that much into details and spend money on unnecessary costs, since already the destination will make such a wow effect that you practically do not need anything else.
Happy Tours has shortlisted the top wedding destinations
If you’re more into seaside locations, Santorini is a good choice for you. The homeland of myths and legends of the Olympic gods is just a perfect place. Just imagine your day among the gentle waves under the bright sun, the white facades and one of the most spectacular views on the earth, the Caldera view. The ceremony and the reception can be organised anywhere on the island, depending on your interests. You can opt for the Caldera View chapel or for one of the hotels located on the cliff, which offer an breath-taking view. A winery is also an option or even an old-style sailing boat. And when is the best time for getting married on Santorini? High season is from the beginning of April to the end of October. The island is marvellous in April, when everything blooms and even the black volcanic rock blaze of different colours. In May, September and October, the weather is comfortable, sun isn’t too strong and you can walk for hours. The hottest weddings take place from mid-June to mid-August and September, when the picking of grapes start. The choice is yours and honestly, Santorini will do good in any time of the year.
Another seaside location is Dubrovnik, the Pearl of Adriatic. One of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea is also a celebrity magnet and a filming location with high-rising cliffs and a stunning ancient city wall overlooking the Adriatic sea. Kings and queens, Hollywood A-liners, world leaders, sports heroes and top of the chart singers have all graced the Stradun. The ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, became an important sea power in the 13th century. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO. Named one of the most romantic cities in the world, Dubrovnik is a place which will make your wedding unique.
Bled Lake, SLOVEnia
Slovenia carries love already in its name… Lake Bled is the most popular spot for getting married, especially among the guests from the UK. Thanks to the incredible natural beauty, it falls into the category of the most delightful alpine resorts, renowned for its mild curative climate and the thermal water. The beauty of the mountains reflects in the clear lake, the sun, fresh air and silence give a pleasant feeling to guests at any time of the year and provide a great vacation. Most couples choose the period between May and September, mainly due to the pleasant temperatures and sunny weather. That said, the winter naturally also has its charms: less crowds, slightly lower rates and, if you’re lucky, a fairy-tale snow-covered landscape. The two top locations are the mighty Castle of Bled that stands on an imposing rock above the lake. This romantic castle, the oldest in Slovenia, features several historical rooms, such as the printing works, wine cellar and forge, which can all be incorporated into your wedding day. After being greeted by the Lord and Lady of the Castle, your wedding guests are taken to the upper castle terrace for the ceremony. A performance of medieval dances ensues while bottles of sparkling wine for the toast are opened with the help of a sword. Your wedding dinner can be held on the terrace or within the stone walls of the castle restaurant, which is run by Slovenia’s premier caterer Jezeršek. Another location is Vila Bled, a former presidential residence, located in a lush park on the shore of Lake Bled. After the civil service, guests may take a boat from the villa’s private pier to the island amidst the lake. Depending on the date of your wedding and the size of the wedding party, you may also hold your wedding dinner on the lakeside terrace.
Lake Garda, Italy
Last but not least, our choice is Italy, the traditional destination for honeymooners from all around the globe. Why not start with a picture-perfect wedding and continue with honeymoon. Our choice is Lake Garda, the place where a fortress towns and villages coexist with cozy sandy beaches merging into a single chain of beauty, whose reflection we still find in the works of Dickens, Wilde, Kafka. We can organize the wedding on several locations, such as the wedding hall of the castle of Malcesine, in the castle of Sirmione or Gardone Riviera Hall. Apart from amazing nature, the location also has a great history, its castles dominate the East side of the Lake such as Castello di Malcesine, Torri del Benaco and Castello di Lonato. They can all host outdoor legal ceremonies overlooking great panoramas. Also the west side villas and ancient mansions could be perfect wedding reception venues. The best time to get married on Lake Garda depends a lot on what you are looking for. The temperature does vary a bit with the north of the lake being windier and slightly colder. But the venue can be prepared in a way that will make you feel comfortable all year round.
An interview with Rožle Verhovc, the always-smiling founder and the owner of Clutch Harley Tours, the first professional Harley Davidson motorcycle touring company in South Eastern Europe. By the way: Rožle is Happy Tours partner and one of the top tour guides of the company. That is why we’re even more curious. What, when, how come, etc. We want to know everything. About the idea that lies behind, the most amazing experiences he has had on the tours so far and much more. Enjoy the reading as much as we enjoyed talking with him.
Hi, Rožle. Why Clutch Harley Tours? What’s the idea behind? Explain a bit more, please.
Clutch Harley Tours is a brand name for motorcycle touring company specialised in motorcycle tours and rentals with Harley Davidson Motorcycles. Until March 2014, there was no motorcycle touring company in South Eastern Europe offering tours with Harleys. If a Harley rider wanted to join fully supported guided motorcycle tour, other companies offered him a BMW or other motorcycles but not a Harley. I wanted to change that and offer to Harley riders what they deserve – Harley Davidson motorcycles for rent and tours. And Clutch Harley Tours became the first professional Harley Davidson motorcycle touring company in South Eastern Europe.
Clutch Harley Tours – the first professional Harley Davidson motorcycle touring company in South Eastern Europe
When did you start the business and how come? In the world of tourism, you’re known as one of the best tour guides in Europe – what made you start your own business?
After 15 years of touring around the world with tourists on different tours, I wanted to start my own business, combination of pleasure and market niche, something that will create my future. I wanted to settle down and spend more time in the home area. In 2008, I started to work as a tour guide on a motorcycle, 5 seasons I was freelancing for other tour companies, before I started my own business in 2012. First I started tours with BMW motorcycles and later added tours on Harleys.
What are your most popular tours? Which are the highlights of your tours?
My most popular tour is 8 day Venice to Dubrovnik Tour. This tour is connecting 2 highlights of the Adriatic area, Venice and Dubrovnik. Both are among the most beautiful cities in the world, often called “the pearls of the Adriatic”. The coastal road between them is one of the most beautiful roads to ride in Europe. The Royal Capitals of Central Europe is a classic tour connecting most beautiful cities of Central Europe – Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Krakow, Bratislava. Very nice and diverse is also Adriatic to Alps Tour, a tour combining a coastal area in Croatia with green countryside of Slovenia and high mountain passes of Dolomites, Italian alpine area.
Where do most of the clients come from? Which is the most important market for you?
Most of my clients come from the USA, Australia and Arabic countries. Arab area is our fastest growing market.
How many people attend the tour? Can you describe a regular day of the tour?
The group is small, maximum 8 motorcycles in a group. We believe that small groups bring more enjoyable rides. A normal riding day on our tours looks something like this:
06:30 – 08:00 Breakfast
08:15 – 08:30 Morning briefing with details how our riding day will look like
09:45 – 10:15 First morning coffee/tea break
10:15 – 12:30 Riding with some sightseeing on the way
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Riding /sightseeing on the way
15:30 – 16:00 Afternoon coffee/tea stop (on some shorter days already arrival to the hotel)
16:00 – 17:00 Riding (usually we arrive to the hotel by 17:00, on some longer days or some slower groups arrival can be postponed for an hour)
17:00 – 19:00 Free for leisure activities
19:00 – Short walk or sometimes taxi to a good local restaurant, usually we do a short informative guided sightseeing tour about the town we are in before we reach the restaurant
19:30 – 21:00 A la carte dinner in best local restaurant
After 21:00 Free time
We believe that small groups bring more enjoyable rides.
What makes Clutch Harley Tours so special? What are the main advantages of your company?
We offer highly professional service based on ATTENTION to DETAILS, KNOWLEDGE & STYLE. We speak the language, we know the locals and we know the way! Besides having maximum 8 motorcycle in the groups, our clients stay in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurants and they can choose a la carte meals. We designed all-inclusive packages where we included all possible experiences and services, including gas.
We speak the language, we know the locals and we know the way!
Which tour would you recommend to your first-time client?
To my first-time client, I would recommend Venice to Dubrovnik Tour, 8 days, 3 countries, 1200 km of great roads combined with the stories from the present and past.
Are there any limitations for participating in the tour?
The only limitation is ability to ride a motorcycle and have a motorcycle driving licence.
Can you describe one of the most remarkable moments you have had while on your tours?
There are many stories, but this one is truly unforgettable. We started a tour from Slovenia and after 210 km ended the first riding day in Plitvice National Park in Croatia, one of the most picturesque places on Earth. It was Sunday, 3PM, all governmental offices closed. Soon after we parked the motorcycles in front of the hotel, one of the riders came to me saying that he lost the motorcycle registration. The following day, there was a ride to Bosnia and Herzegovina planned and it’s impossible to enter the country without registration and a green card. I made a few phone calls, sat on a motorcycle, rode 200 km to my home town back to Slovenia, where the boss of the local administrative governmental office and her employee were waiting for me with the computer turned on, on Sunday 6PM. They issued a new registration for me with Monday’s date on and I returned to Croatia. It was 10 PM when I returned to the hotel, I rode 621 km that day and when I passed the new registration to the rider, he didn’t even say thank you.
Do you have anything else to say to the HAPPY TOURS blog readers? (It can also be life-inspiring).
Make today ridiculously amazing and go all the way!
If this interview made you want to ride a Harley, we feel you. If it made you feel like turning off the computer and join one of the tours, then all we can say is: make sure to have your motorcycle driving license with you. The rest is covered.
Europe has more navigable rivers than any other region in the world.
Europe, the old continent, the cradle of civilisation, the homeland of great inventors, artists and philosophers, the melting pot of different cultures, languages, nations… there are numerous things that come to your mind when you think of the reasons why Europe is worth visiting. When you think of the mode of travel between destinations – which is a must, especially for non-European travellers who want to see as much as possible – one of the best advantages that is not so commonly promoted is that Europe has more navigable rivers than any other region in the world. Combined with the fact that major cities lie on the riverbanks of the major European rivers, river cruises are definitely one of the options to consider when you opt for discovering Europe. And this
is the reason why Happy Tours this year decided to launch a new series of products for you – river cruises on board of the A-Rosa.
A river cruise – an affordable luxurious way of travelling
Although cruising as a mode of travel is mostly linked to the senior travellers, a river cruise is definitely an option to consider no matter your age, if you are discovering Europe for the first time. The greatest advantage is that you can relax on the top deck of the ship and observe diverse European landscape dotted with castles, charming villages and dazzling cities instead of sitting on the bus. You do not need to pack the whole time or check out of the hotel early in the morning to reach your next destination. It gives you a certain personal freedom and a comfort that no traveller would resist. When you decide for a river cruise, you actually opt for a floating hotel that travels from one destination to another. The modern A-Rosa premium ships offer a range of facilities and activities, which are attractive also for families with children, including a great spa offer and fitness equipment on board and cycling tours of the destinations visited during the cruise. What is more, all children below the age of fifteen stay on board of A-Rosa free of charge, if they share a cabin with at least one adult. An affordable luxurious way of travelling, what else
could you wish for?
Experience Europe on board of A-Rosa premium ships
So which are the European rivers that you can cruise on with the modern A-Rosa premium ships? Let us start with the heart and the soul of Europe – the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, which flows along the legendary historical destinations, including Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Linz etc. In the past, numerous cultures and civilizations used the river as the main trade route, its boundaries marked the edge of the Roman Empire, and its bridges have linked nations. The second option for you is the Old Father Rhine. This waterway begins as a stream in the Swiss Alps and continues its journey through six countries on its way to the North Sea. If you opt for Rhône, you will get a chance to discover the South of France and experience the “savoir vivre”. Last but not least, there also the most recent of the A-Rosa routes, the cruise on the romantic Seine, launched in 2017 and starts in the city of love – Paris. Check out the top cruises on board of A-Rosa ships here and discover Europe in style. For more information, contact us and we will help you choose the river cruise, which will best suit your desires.
Key words: river cruising, a rosa, travelling, ship, Europe
Many people are not interested in visiting Dubrovnik low season, but after reading this blog, we are pretty sure you will change your minds…
The low season offers a unique opportunity to discover the cities hidden gems, without the crowds. Furthermore, there is one additional crucial thing, which needs to be mentioned:
Accommodation and activities have lower prices.
Despite the fact that in winter months, you are not able to swim in one of the most beautiful seas in the world – Adriatic sea – you are still able to find some other activities to have great time in this area. But also swimming is discussable: temperatures in January and February are quite low, but in March you can actually already swim in Dubrovnik…
And believe it or not, low season will brings a different shade of life to the many cultural and natural attractions.
Having fun in winter months is very important, so that’s the reason why Dubrovnik’s New Year’s Eve is one of the most popular celebrations in the whole Croatia. More and more people not just from Ex-Yugoslavia, but also from other parts of Europe are coming to party in Stradun, one of the most beautiful streets in the world. Usually performers from Croatia entertain people, but if you don’t know the song or the words, don’t worry, you will enjoy it any way. Although it might be chilly attending open-air celebrations in Dubrovnik, a number of stands have “local liquid medicines”, like mulled wine and different sorts of brandy and liquors.
There are other local festivals in the area, such as St. Blaise Day (Patron Saint of Dubrovnik), celebrated on 3 February officially, but locals celebrate this holiday for 2 days (on 2 and 3 February). This celebration is considered as one of the biggest Roman Catholic celebrations in Croatia. Then, there is Dubrovnik Carnival, a blowout that culminates in a Masked Ball; and the Oyster Festival in March that ushers in the milder weather and the beginning of the new tourist season. Apart from this, Dubrovnik prides itself on a lively artistic and musical tradition. There are enough classical music lovers to support an orchestra, the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra with a full season of concerts and recitals during the winter months.
I know I said no crowds, but you will see crowds of people on these photos!!!! Do not worry, this lasts only 5 or 6 days during whole winter, the rest of the days are very peaceful.
Winter is the perfect time to explore the museums in the city. Learn about the rich history of the Republic. Visit one of the many galleries. Enjoy some traditional Dubrovnik cuisine in one of the many restaurants in the old city. Observe the sunset from the city walls, the view from Fort Lovrijenac and the hidden park located east of the fort itself where Game of Thrones’ infamous Purple Wedding was filmed.
The season of carnivals is about to start
Carnival is knocking on the door! From the smallest German cities to Venice and Cologne, the regime of mockery and foolishness is about to start. If you decide to visit Europe in this special time, you will find a special atmosphere worth experiencing. And believe it or not, it is much more than just wearing a mask. In fact, carnival is a unique manifestation of the European culture that has spread around the world and these days, flavoured with local and exotic specialties, exists in many countries around the globe. So what is the cultural mechanism that makes carnival so special? Where do the origins of the festival lie?
The origins of the carnival…
For one, it is the fact that for the time of the carnival, people wear masks and thus hide their identity and take over different roles. It is the time when the world turns upside down, where the king becomes a peasant, male turn into female, the rich are poor and vice versa. It is the time of mockery, parody and joking.
Goodbye to meat…
The etymology of the word originates from the Latin. Carne meaning meat and vale goodbye which literally means goodbye to meat. Originally, the carnival period marked the goodbye of the rich foods that the Christian festive season offered. After the carnival, the time of fasting that lasted until Easter came. Largely, this was because of the food shortage that struck people in the end of winter, so fasting was a necessity, and it just might be that the carnival offered a different kind of food, food for the soul, much needed before the long days of shortage. Going back even further to the pagan ages, people celebrated the returning daylight and days of plenty that were about to come with the arrival of spring. Before the new birth of spring (around March 20) the old man Winter had to leave and people masked themselves to chase him away. If the rituals were successful, winter was scared and spring came bringing much needed food. This is the story of many masks, their purpose is to be scary and make winter go away. Until today, the wooden masks from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia have carried this common element. Carnival costumes have a long tradition of craftsmanship that can be seen in the cities and towns around Europe.
Carnival turns the world upside down…
Eventually, as time passed, the masking itself brought another element to the pagan origins of carnival. The Middle Ages and later on the Renaissance gave birth to a new mechanism of carnival. As Mikhail Bakhtin (in: Cultural Theory and Popular Culture) puts it: “The world standing on its head” the world upside down. The carnival for Bakhtin is an event in which all rules, inhibitions, restrictions and regulations which determine the course of everyday life are suspended, and especially all forms of hierarchy in the society. The power of masking and role playing allowed the mixing of the strict hierarchical structures of Europe bringing to life a period of chaos under the rule of the Carnival. Up to the present days, in many central European cities Carnival is personified as a prince, leading the procession, which represents the entry to the days of craziness. Of course, one cannot stay like this forever, which is why the Carnival is buried or burned at the end his Carnivalesque reign. Wearing a mask allowed commoners to interact with people that where higher situated. Mocking nobility hiding beneath a descriptive disguise was common and allowed critique without a fear of retribution. Carnival belonged and still belongs to all people, it takes place in public places and allows people to leave of steam while breaking the established social boundaries allowing them to be someone else for a while. We mentioned free interaction of people, but there is much more: eccentric behavior that was otherwise unacceptable and reveled the dark sides of the human soul.
This is where it gets dirty…
The debauchery of carnival was of course a problem for the moral authorities of the Church, but again the morals of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were far from what we would have excepted them to be from today’s point of view. This is a large topic, but let’s say there was plenty of sex going on in the described period, especially during the carnival.
The dark side of the Venetian carnival…
Let’s take a look at Venice. Venice, because it had an atmosphere of a multicultural city from the late Middle Ages and because historical reports are rich from this area. It may be an example that is extreme, but historians imagine that similar practices where common throughout Europe. The moral fabric of the Serenissima was not the strongest, but in time of the carnival the darkest sides of the Venetians came to light. Carnival festivities were often punctuated by lost of virtue, theft, gambling, even murder, but especially sex. Ladies from higher society that normally left the house with servants changed role. Dressed as servants or vice versa, meeting their lovers or having sex with commoners. The Servants would find themselves enjoying the splendours of the Venetian high society with noble man asking for intimacy. Of course, this practice was well known and presented an opportunity for Venetian men to dress up as servants… On some other occasion, men would have hidden beneath a woman’s mask and enter convents where they had their pick of frustrated young ladies segregated to monastical life against their will. And gambling? A mask is perfect to escape creditors. Foreign envoys to Venice have described the landscape of carnival in Venice as extreme or even violent. Jet the foundations of the political and social life where anchored deep and the festival was a highly expected event of the year.
Carnival is a travel…
Carnival in Europe has lost its wild side for most of its parts, but the elements of masks, roleplaying, burlesque and the critique of society have remained. Let’s put it simple. Carnival allows us to be someone, who we normally are not. In this sense, carnival is a travel – a travel to the buried parts of one’s soul and nevertheless a well worth trip to Europe.
Key Words: Carnival, Europe, Venice
If these introductory lines surprised you as much as us, continue reading this blog, which is actually more of an interview. Rio is a young gentleman from South Korea, who decided to cycle back from Europe to his home country. How come he decided to do that? Read the blog and we are sure you will find some ideas for your New Year’s promises…
The good news is that he will be in Slovenia during the winter season and if you want to have a chat with him, you can always stop by at our office.
Hi, Rio, can you briefly introduce yourself?
Hello everyone! I’m Youngha Rio Choi and I am travelling around the world by bicycle. I worked as a sales person in South Korea for 3 years –
I liked my work, but it was pretty demanding. I had to work more than 14 hours per day. So in May, I quit my job and decided to go to Europe to make a new start and make something interesting with my life.
So you decided to cycle around the globe?
No, at first I was just a backpacker. I traveled around UK, Spain, Italy and France. But then, I decided to go back to South Korea by bicycle. I started my epic journey on 10th August in Bordeaux, France.
Which places have you visited so far?
I cycled through Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Salzburg, Mallnitz and Villach.
Who sponsors your trip?
I’m a first Korean to cycle across Eurasia without any sponsors; so Korean media pay some attention to me as well.
What is the best thing when traveling across the continents by bicycle?
The greatest thing is meeting new people. They support me and cheer me up in different ways.
When did you reach Slovenia?
I arrived to the lovely Ljubljana in early November.
OK, we understand why you visited Slovenia – because it’s such an amazing country, right? But what is your connection with HAPPY TOURS? Apart from the fact that really HAPPY people work here?
Jayden, the head of Korean market in Happy Tours offered me help with staying in Slovenia for the winter. You know, the weather is the most important to me. Usually I stay in my tent. And because it was so cold, I woke up more than 5 times a night, now in colder season, so I am really grateful for this help. Honestly, I didn’t expect this much cold in Europe.
How do you keep your body in shape during the winter?
Everyday I cycle to the Happy Tours office in the morning and back in the afternoon. One way is around 5 km.
And I sometimes cycle around Domžale and Ljubljana, not only because of the physical condition, but also because I want to feel local in Slovenia.
Is Slovenia a good cycling destination?
Slovenia is actually an outstanding cycling destination and it would definitely deserve to be put onto the map of the top cycling destinations in the world. It has a beautiful nature and also the cycling infrastructure is good. I have a plan to send a request to Google to ask them if they could build up a function of showing cycling roads around Slovenia. They have the function in Germany and Austria, so I am pretty sure that they can do it also for Slovenia.
What are your plans for the upcoming Christmas holidays?
I will go to Piran by bicycle for Christmas holiday! If anyone wants to join, please… I do not have any companions at the moment.
What do you like about Happy Tours?
I’m so happy to meet all the wonderful Slovenians and especially the people at Happy Tours. I wish that all people around the world would be as happy as the people at Happy Tours!!
Key Words: Cycling, Slovenia, South Korea, Young, Amazing
Aleksandra Jezeršek Matjašič about why you should never ever let fear stop you from travelling. And why Croatia should be your next destination to visit.
noun dan·ger \ˈdān-jər\
: the possibility that you will be hurt or killed
: the possibility that something unpleasant or bad will happen
: a person or thing that is likely to cause injury, pain, harm, or loss
Europe has suddenly become a dangerous place to visit…
No matter which definition seems most suitable to you, one thing is for sure: recent savage attacks, which initiated so many discussions on the dangers of the world we live in, seem to have grievously harmed the tourism industry and successfully started to implement the “perpetrators’ aim in slaughtering innocent people”. Europe has suddenly become a dangerous destination. What else could terrorist wished? The cradle of democracy, the old continent, the place that millions of visitors from other continents came to visit, as it symbolized stability and represented a safe haven and a place where everybody wanted to live, has now become the cradle of fear…
The insanity of the terrorism attacks in Paris
I have to be honest: the news about terrorism attacks in Paris stroke me. I woke up on that November Saturday morning and found out about this, funny enough, on Facebook. Two girls I know from Paris were marked safe – can you imagine, in a few hours after the attacks, Facebook put out the application which enabled the citizens of Paris to let know their friends they are alive… pretty amazing, huh – and as their friend, I got a notification on my Facebook profile, not knowing what actually happened… So I googled it and of course could not get back to sleep. It seemed insane to me. And far too close to Slovenia.
Alfred Adler once said that the chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions. So I always try not to do this. But with Paris attacks on my mind this seemed even more difficult.
In light of the recent events, Simon Calder, Independent’s travel correspondent, published an article entitled “Six once-dangerous countries that are now safe holiday destinations”, where he discusses the vulnerability of tourist destinations to terrorism and as crazy it might seem to you, claims that some of the destinations, which have before been considered dangerous, are now regarded as havens of peace and have thus, according to him, even benefited from the terrors that Western Europe is facing.
Safety is relative
The fact is that also our company has sensed the fear and the danger that has managed to shake the foundations of the European Union. When I came to the office after “the Black Weekend” following November 13, I received an e-mail from my client saying that they are cancelling their trip to Nice and Monte Carlo and replacing it with a visit to the Eastern Europe, as France is not safe anymore and if I could come up with an interesting itinerary for this part of Europe. Although the cancellation of trips to France hasn’t surprised me, as Sašo, our CEO, has already warned us about the possible consequences, something else has caught me by surprise. When I was calculating where was the best to hire the bus, I came across an interesting piece of information: the location where they wanted to start their trip in the Eastern part of Europe was closer to Paris than Nice and Monte Carlo! Which means that the danger was closer than before… But because the destination was in another country, they considered it safer… Funny, huh?
Safety comes first
Independent claims that the risks faced by the average British traveller abroad are lower than they have ever been. But still, because of the recent events, a search for destinations perceived as safe has become even more thorough than ever before… Who would have wanted to test luck and deliberately choose dangerous destinations? Let’s leave out the adventurous souls at this point… I am talking about the people, who prefer to have their travel organized, so about the type of travelers that bring us, the travel agents, money. For such a type of traveler, safety comes first. So you can imagine what these events can do to the top European destinations and consequently to the tourism sector.
The change of traveling trends…
As black as the future of tourism in general might seem at first glance, a closer look reveals that it is far from being alarming. Luckily (at least from the travel agent’s perspective), travel is one of the last things people will be willing to give up. But they will surely search for new destinations. And as surprising it might seem to you, these destinations will include locations that, in recent times, have been battlegrounds in vicious wars, but are now regarded as havens of peace, as terrorists seem not to be interested in them – attacks in such unknown destinations do not reach the same effect as in the leading European countries, which 100% hit the headlines.
Among the top six once-dangerous countries is also our neighboring country, Croatia. Set along the Adriatic coast, it boasts stunning hinterland scenery and a number of UNESCO heritage sites. It’s a country of a thousand islands, glittering waters, secluded beaches and secret little hideaways. It’s a country of historical monuments, such as the Emperor Diocletian’s Palace, and breathtaking outdoors such as the waterfalls and lakes in Plitvice National Park. It’s a country of tradition and a lively cotemporary cultural scene, including a number of electronic and alternative music festivals. It’s a country, which well deserves your visit. So what are you waiting for? December is the perfect timing to make plans for the upcoming season. Why not visit Croatia? Check out our tours that are all guaranteed to go and explore this Mediterranean jewel now.
Dare to travel
And to conclude this blog, remember something: Never stop traveling. Not for the sake of fear – as fear is only temporary. It’s regrets that last.
Key Words: Safety, Travel, Safe Destinations,
Our dearest Tina nicknamed Tina The Quiet – do come to our office and you will see why – is a member of Balkan Department Team and takes care of our Japanese groups (yes, she speaks Japanese). She is a kind of person who you simply have to love. And from the editor’s perspective “hate” a bit, as her style of writing is so good that it gives you no chance to “pig out” (Tina’s words later in the blog) with editing the text. No, with Tina’s blog, you can just simply sit back and relax and almost taste all the delicious dishes described… In this blog entry, she takes a look at different traditional foods eaten for Christmas and the New Year’s Eve all around the globe. Which brings me to my final words in this introduction: do grab a snack (at least) or rather have a proper meal before reading this…
Christmas shopping galore with Aleksandra and outdoor winter wonderland with Rok make this blog really difficult to follow. So when in doubt, always go with something you love. And I love food.
The role of food in the Christmas season
The prospect of having a chance to taste, smell and just simply enjoy delicious food makes up a big part of the fact that I love travel so much. Also I cannot think of another part of the year where abundance of delicious food to be shared with loved ones has such an important role as it does at this time of the year.
Throw in a couple of quirky national customs or rituals and it is a simple recipe for wonderfully fun times!
I was lucky enough to experience some unforgettable Christmas and New Year’s celebrations around the world and really hope there will be many more.
Mince pies, figgy pudding and funny paper hats – it’s how they do it in Devon!
Believe it or not, the very first picture perfect Christmas dinner I had was in Devon, England. It was a perfect turkey roast dinner by the fire place with heaps of mince pies, figgy pudding and all other sorts of delicious sweets and chocolate. Although to this day, I honestly have to say that I still do not know, how the funny paper hats we had to wear came into all of this.
It was in 1988… the year of the suckling pig…
In my family, we did not really celebrate Christmas, so where my parents really pigged out (pun intended) was New Year’s dinner. On New Year’s Eve in 1988, my parents really went all out and roasted a whole suckling pig! I remember it was a particularly cold winter and the little porker was roasted outside in the furnace type thing my father built in the summer. I remember it took forever and still seems a bit excessive to me today. After all, it was just the three of us and I was only 8.
What do pigs and the great future that lies ahead have in common?
In the past, pork was traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve in Slovenia as well as in neighbouring countries like for example Austria. In times when meat was not daily on the menu eating pork was not just a treat, but it represented prosperity and good luck for the coming year. I have just recently learnt that this is also because pigs use their snouts to move forward in the mud, meaning that we should forget the past and follow our noses towards the great future that lies ahead.
Auspicious hallucinations due to hunger? It was one of the hungriest days of my life…
It is actually not a surprise that cute images of pink pigs (little did they know) were also a very popular motive on the New Year’s greeting cards. Which brings me to another wonderful Christmas I spent in Czech Republic. They don’t eat pork on Christmas, but if you are lucky you might just see one by the time of Christmas dinner. Traditionally, in some parts of Czech Republic not much food was eaten during the day before the Christmas dinner. As my friend explained to me, the goal was that you got so hungry that by the dinner time you would have seen a golden pig – a sure sign that good fortune will follow you all year round. Auspicious hallucinations due to hunger? It was one of the hungriest days of my life, but then also followed by one of the most delicious dinners. The star of the dinner was fried carp and potato salad. Oh, and who could forget the most delicious ginger bread cookies. My mouth starts watering, if I just try thinking about it!
Sweet black soy beans, colorful fish cakes, baby turnips cut in a shape of chrysantehemum and herring roe… It’s the way they do it in Japan!
Japan is another country that takes their New Year’s traditions and foods to be eaten around that time very seriously. It is also where I had the possibility to try the most unusual and elaborated food for the New Year’s. Sweet black soy beans, colorful fish cakes, baby turnips cut in a shape of chrysantehemum and herring roe are just a few of the delicacies of Osechi ryori (おせち料理). Each type of food is beautifully prepared and each has its own auspicious meaning. The term Osechi ryori refers to a large variety of delicacies served in colorful tier boxes made before the New Year’s Day and meant to last for seven days without refrigeration. Traditionally, it was considered bad luck to make fire so early in the New Year, as it might upset the god of fire and cause natural disasters. In later years, this non-cooking period has changed to give housewives a rest during the New Year’s holidays since they worked so hard until New Year’s Eve . And as a woman, how could I disagree?
The Christmas period is the best season to travel!
Forget about the so called low season for travel. I believe it is absolutely delicious to travel in this time of the year, no matter where you choose to go. Everybody is also in such good spirits, even the bad weather cannot spoil the atmosphere. For those of us who really cannot get enough of the celebrations, there is also always the Lunar Calendar New Year and a great excuse to extend the celebration period well in to the beginning of February!
Key Words: Winter, Christmas, Food
Rok Bulc is the head of sales of the Happiest tour operator in the world. He has been with the company since its very beginning and together with Sašo Krumpak, the CEO&founder, they have represented the company at fairs and workshops around the world, thus earning the title of the company’s mascots – HAPPY TOURS = Rok + Sašo, that was obvious to all of us, who at that time didn’t work there. Apart from being an essential part of HAPPY TOURS team, Rok is a journalist by profession, a former professional handball player on the top European level and a total sport addict, who tries to keep the spirit in the office high, making it a really HAPPY office.
Just two weeks ago my collegue Aleksandra wrote a great blog Please, Christmas, don’t be late. I couldn’t agree with her more – it’s time for winter, cold and mulled wine! As a matter of fact, exactly after I had packed my backpack for a guys-out weekend in Barcelona and I started to write these lines, somebody up there noticed it that it’s snowing like hell in front of my window. Yeah, bring it on, man, make this country white and covered with snow – let the winter fun begin!
Women vs. Men’s Perspective of the Festive (Winter) Season
Couldn’t care lees for Christmas shopping mania (sorry, Aleksandra!), my thoughts are all with the nature and amazing possibilities for winter outdoor sports that our beautiful Slovenia has to offer.
Editor’s note: these lines were almost deleted because of the author’s openly negative attitude towards the women’s perspective of Christmas and were taken as a highly offensive – especially because of the fact that the blog was written a day before Black Friday, which is like the Holly DAY for shopaholics… However or let’s say that due to the freedom of speech, we leave it in.
The Planica Nordic Centre and the Steepest Zipline in Europe
Next week the most modern nordic centre in Europe will open in Planica and I can tell you, this place will rock! Not only the second biggest ski-jumping hill of the world where lunatics fly over 250 metres on the skis, this will also be the perfect spot for sport preparation camps for athlets of all kinds. Plus a completely new cross-country ski centre has been built – who would have wished for more? Families and active people will appreciate the new recreational areas, while adrenaline addicts won’t miss the chance of experiencing the feeling of the ski flying on the steepest zipline in Europe, located right over the ski hill. Do you dare to read further?
Kranjska Gora or the Slovenian St. Moritz
Just a short walk away is Kranjska Gora, the Slovenian St. Moritz, where you can try your skiing skills on the Ski World Cup slopes in the morning, take a husky dog ride in the afternoon and get another shot of adrenaline at the night sledding with torches lightning your way in the valley. I can’t decide whether I like better all this fun on the snow or delicious mulled wine I drink with my friends in the magical atmosphere of the Alpine village with snow crunching under my boots. Well, I will to both anyway and avoid any dilemma …
Krvavec – the Ski Resort which is the Closest to London
My god, it’s still snowing outside. And I am going to Barcelona; this is all wrong! My dear snow, I promise I will make it all up to you right after landing at the Ljubljana airport, which is just a 10 minute drive away from one of the best ski resorts in Slovenia – Krvavec, making it the closest ski resort for many countries that don’t have their own mountains. Londoners, for example, fly to Ljubljana in 2 hours and in 3 hours they have their full ski equipment rented and are ready to hit the Krvavec slopes – this makes the ski resort almost the closest (if not the closest) to London. I love this place, no wonder I organize a ski opening for my best friends on the first weekend of December exactly there, in the highest lying hotel in the country. Can’t wait for it.
The Fairy-Tale Bled
Ever heard for the Alpine lake with a small island in the middle and a little cute church on it? I bet you have, as it’s the tourist attraction number one in our country. Well, with the new Ski Slovenia skipass you can wake up surrounded with a magical view on the lake in a hotel of the category you choose and then reach any of the best 3 ski resorts this new skipass covers: Krvavec, Kranjska Gora and Vogel in only 30 minutes. The later one is definitely the nicest high-mountain ski resort, placed in the heart of Triglav national park and overlooking the beautiful Bohinj lake and saluting the highest Slovenian mountain Triglav. Can you believe that the prices of such 7-day ski package start at 299 EUR (less than 210 GBP) on? And if I tell that you have the option to visit a real igloo village on the Pokljuka height, where you can spend a night same as Eskimos and shoot some bullets into the targets of the Biathlon World Cup Centre, I am pretty sure you will start packing your suitcases with warm gloves and wool hat, right?
Ljubljana Christmas Market Still Rocks!
See you all in the powder on the mountain, in the icy igloo bar or at the Ljubljana Christmas market (ok, I admit Aleksandra, mulled wine there is definitely worth a visit). December is the Happiest month of the year and it’t still snowing outside. So let the sn(h)ow begin!!!
Sunday, 22 November 2015
Another brilliant blog entry by our CEO, Saso Krumpak. This time, about the current affairs in Paris and the fear that we are all facing. And about the HAPPY girls-out weekend.
Black Friday in Paris – from laughter to terror
Last Friday I went to watch a famous british stand-up comedian Jimmy Carr. And as we were leaving the hall the news of the Paris attachs striked thru. All the fun and laughter from the show was immediately forgotten and shed by the terrible events that unfolded. Throughout the week I was reading news, following the media and observing people on the streets, trying to understand the reasons and predict the consequences of this. London hotels are having massive cancellations at the moment, I can’t even imagine the situation in Paris.
Mass psychosis overinflated by the media
Even amongst the 12 of our colleagues from Happy Tours that were supposed to arrive to London yesterday for a girl-out weekend, a fear stopped most of them (yet still congratulations to Aleksandra, Andreja, Blazka and Senada who didn’t fall into the trap of the mass psychosis overinflated by the media).
On Tuesday England played a football match against France at Wembley and it was a very emotional event when the whole stadium was singing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. It showed how two big rivals that used to fight numerous wars throughout the history, can come together. Later during the week I was delighted to see the protests of many muslim groups around the World against the terror of ISIS, who is as much (or even more so) their enemy as well. To defeat this utmost evil the physical war is not going to be enough, all of us, the Free people of the world will need to explain and reveal the manipulative tactics of their advocates. And Muslim of the World have a particulary important role in this, as the organisation claims to interpret precisely their religion.
I met the Prime Minister of Slovenia
Two days ago I’ve met with the Prime minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar on his visit to UK. He briefly presented the talks he had with David Cameron and the British view of the needs of the reforms the EU should take. Next year UK will vote about their continuing membership in EU and we all believe they will opt to stay in, as this is definitely a better choice for both the UK and the European Union aswell. However there are certain issues that they will need to bridge, too. Such as the immigrant situation for one thing.
Immigrants… an unstoppable issue that Europe needs to face
The flow of immigrants seems to be unstoppable. Germany needs new workorce if it is to sustain its economic growth and researches show that those arriving are better skilled and have higher education that an average German. Yet Germans are a very self-confident national and probably this is the reason why it is the only country that has showed a really great example of welcoming (to me racism and xenophobia are the expressions of the lazy, of those who are not self-assured or not ready to adapt, not willing to educate or who don’t want to work a bit harder and I have no excuse for them).
It is sad, how short one’s memory is…
I wish others would follow the suite and show more compassion and acceptance, too. It is not true that the foreigners are taking our jobs, it is the contrary, because of them our economies become more creative and competitive and hence more jobs are created! This has been the case throughout the history and that is why the most succesful economies in the world have been welcoming to the foreigners. It is very sad how short is one’s memory and how soon those who were fleeing their own countries and were welcomed in a foreign land, seem to forget that. Yet to me they both have a task to do: the West in being more welcoming and more inclusive, and the Immigrants in being more ready to assimilate and adapt.
I am an immigrant myself
Now I’m an immigrant myself. And I will never forget what my daughter told me after only a month or so of leaving in the UK, that she will support English Rugby team as this is her new country and this is where her schoolmates and teachers come from (I cheered for Wales, though as I’m fond of underdogs).
Today I’m taking her to the British Museum to teach her a thing or two about the things of the past. As the history is always repeating itself, first as tragedy, second as a farce.
Christmas, Christmas time is near
time for toys and time for cheer
We’ve been good, but we can’t last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Have you already started counting the days until Christmas? Are you one of those, who can’t wait to see the cities put on their festive outfit?
Can you image being in a place where Christmas spirit can be felt on every step?
Every year, the magic of traditional Christmas Markets casts more and more visitors under its spell. No wonder: the enchanting festive season atmosphere evokes special feelings and everybody seems to be cheerful and happy – it’s the most positive season of the year, no wonder everybody wants to experience at least a piece of it. Hamilton Wright Mabi once said that “the season, which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love is blessed” – an the growing trend of traveling during this season definitely confirms this.
With so many Christmas markets all over Europe, where to go?
Numerous Christmas markets are held in cities, towns and villages throughout Europe and it seems that destinations have entered into competition, whose Christmas market will be better – this means that the offer of destinations worth visiting every year is getting bigger and bigger and the quality of the offer is increasing.
This might seem great, but with so many destinations, the choice where to travel during the festive season, seems difficult. The best solution is to sample at least two Christmas markets, preferably one in a city for some serious shopping and one in a smaller town or village – thanks to its size, these markets seem even a bit more romantic.
Most Christmas markets start in the last week of November and run through to Christmas Eve or a day or two before, although now many are prolonged until the New Year’s Eve. They are usually open every day from 10am to about 8 or 9 pm, but it is still best to check for each market individually.
Consider the cultural variety
The Christmas markets sell a variety of products, which reflect the culture of the region. You can buy all kinds of Christmas merchandise and gifts, especially traditional things such as crib figurines, toys, wood carvings, marionettes, candles and lambskin shoes to place underneath your Christmas three.
The ambience of a typical Christmas market is further enhanced by the aromas of mulled wine, hot chestnuts, grilled sausages and other tasty snacks like gingerbread biscuits known as Lebkuchen or marzipan figures.
Check out our list of Central and Eastern European Christmas Markets
At Happy Tours, we have made a little investigation and checked which markets in the Central part and Eastern part of Europe rank among the best. Here is a short overview, which will help you decide which Christmas market to visit this year. Make sure to read our hints for the perfect Christmas spirit experience.
Vienna: November 14 – December 24
According to the Austrian Tourist Board, Vienna is the place to be, if you want to experience a real traditional Christmas atmosphere. The forerunners of the present-day events date back to the Middle Ages when in 1298 Albrecht I granted Vienna’s citizens the privilege of holding a December Market or “Krippenmarkt”. Since then, the character and prevalence of these markets has changed considerably. Nowadays, there are over 20 official advent markets, selling a vast array of seasonal gifts and mouth-watering treats. The biggest is the one in front of Rathaus (city hall), where more than 150 stalls fill the area.
Hint: Vienna is less than an hour drive from Bratislava, which also holds a Christmas market. Why not combining these two cities? Contact us and we will prepare a perfect itinerary, which will reveal the traditions of celebrating Christmas at these two countries, which are so close, yet so different.
Prague: November 28 – January 6
The most popular Christmas markets in Prague are the one in the Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) and the one in the neighnouring Wenceslas Square. While the one in the Old Town Square boasts a stage-set nativity scene and a huge tree, which make a perfect backdrop for numerous daily performances by folk bands and choirs, while the one in Wenceslas Square is worth visiting for numerous stalls selling carved wooden toys, Bohemian crystal, garnet jewellery and traditional straw and maize decorations. There are also some smaller ones at Republic Square, at Havel’s Market and this year for the first time at Prague Castle, more precisely in the courtyard of St. George’s Basilica, which is worth visiting also for an evening concert, which are traditionally held there during the festive season.
Hint: Prague is less than a two hour drive from Dresden, which has the largest number of Christmas markets in the Eastern part of Germany. Apart from this, Dresden’s Christmas Market traditionally known as Striezelmarkt (30 Nov – 24 Dec) and dating from 1434, is the oldest in Germany. With the backdrop of the River Elbe, Dresden is annually turned into a Winter Wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights: romantic, festive and charming.
Budapest: November 13 – January 6
The traditional Christmas atmosphere of Budapest will best be experienced, if you visit the Christmas markets in Vorosmarty and St. Stephen’s Square. Although the latter is smaller, the combination of both will give you an insight into the traditions of Christmas celebration in Budapest. Do not forget to taste their traditional cake (kurtoskalacs) and toki pompos, a Hungarian-style pizza topped with bacon, onion and cream.
Hint: Also Budapest can be combined with the visit of Bratislava, which is good two hour drive away. You can even combine three different destinations and visit Vienna as well. The sky is the limit, just let us know, how much time you have!
Germany’s Christmas markets
Although Christmas markets can nowadays be found all over Europe, Germany is the place where they originated and thus many claim that this is the place where they still do them best. Based on this, it is difficult to outline, which one to visit and we would therefore suggest to visit at least two or three of them. The traditional Christmas markets date back to the Middle Ages, long before Germany became a nation state, so some of them have ended up just outside its modern borders, in Austria, Switzerland and Alsace. But they all look much alike – a set of wooden huts lit up with fairy lights, selling traditional decorations and warming tasty food and drink. A brief Google survey revealed the top cities for Christmas Market break in Germany, i.e. Christmas Market of Munich at Marienplatz, the one in Dresden, Nuremberg, Berlin, which is home to 60 different Christmas markets, Cologne and last but not least Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is home to the Christmas Museum.
Hint: Contact us for a perfect itinerary, which includes the best cities of Germany to visit during the Christmas season. Plan your visit of Christmas markets wisely and note that the Remembrance Day is celebrated on the fifth Sunday before Christmas, so you can expect many of the markets to be closed as this is a public holiday.
Ljubljana: November 27 – 3 January
Although Ljubljana might seems a pretty unknown Christmas Market destination, numerous articles praising the festive atmosphere will prove you wrong. Jamie Gibbs, a blogger at HostelBookers, claims that Ljubljana ranks among the 5 best Christmas markets in Central and Eastern Europe and that the extravagant Christmas lighting, which adorn every nook and cranny of the Old Town, is the thing that makes it so unique. Another article published on Nationalpost.com describes it as “an explosion of light and life”. We agree with both of them and thus we have included Ljubljana to our list of the cities, which are a must-visit during the festive season.
The heart of the market is in Prešeren Square where you can pick up the usual Christmas trappings from handmade clothes to mulled wine and ginger biscuits. This year, the traditional Christmas lighting turn on will be on 27 November, which will also mark the start of the festive season. Numerous events and concerts will take place and you will be amazed by the lively happening and the cheerful atmosphere filling up the streets and the squares of the Old Town.
Hint: Combine the visit of Ljubljana with the visit of the Christmas market in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, which is less than two-hour drive away. The Christmas market in Zagreb is held in Ban Jelačić Square. Contact us for further details.
Key Words: Winter, Winter Tours, Christmas Markets
Less than two months to Christmas…
Winter might not be the peak travelling season to Europe, but it has its charms. At Happy Tours we have a range of winter products available and we do our best to add new enchanting tours every year.
Christmas spirit is all around you…
December is the month of Christmas markets. Although temperatures in Central and Eastern Europe can be pretty low, festive atmosphere will warm up your hearts. Just imagine, magically decorated streets, colourful wooden stalls, a scent of Gluhwein and sounds of Christmas songs…
Choose from a variety of several shorter and longer tours, such as the tour of German Christmas markets, a combination of Swiss and French Christmas markets and East European Christmas markets.
In January in February is time for our Malta and Southern Italy Tours!
January and February are the coldest months in Europe and thus a perfect opportunity for our new Malta and South Italy combination. Fly in to Malta with EK or TK and continue to Sicily and South of Italy, where you will visit upcoming destinations such as Alberobello and Matera, and fly out from Naples or Rome. These products are perfect for Italy repeaters as, they include destinations, which are not visited on the classical tour – the classical tours usually include only the attractions north of Naples. Winters in southern regions are pleasant, with daily temperatures around 20°C. And the best part is that we have great bargain deals with several hotels in this region for the winter season. Another benefit for guests who are keen on shopping: winter sales start in mid January and go on until end of February!
We have not forgotten about the snow-lovers…
For those who are not afraid of cold, our Fairy-tale Winter Tour, a collection of the most magical places in winter and at the same time the best way to experience the snow-covered Europe, is the perfect choice. Some other highlights are also half-day winter activities, overnight in a ski resort and a dinner in an igloo.
Life is a carnival…
In February, at almost the same time as the Chinese New Year, carnivals all over Europe take place. The most famous ones are in Venice and Nice, but there is also a big carnival in the northern Croatia, in Ptuj in Slovenia and in many other places. So why not decide for a Carnival Tour, which includes the visits to the most famous carnivals?
No winter lasts forever…
In March, temperatures start to rise again and spring comes to the area. For our Malta and South Italy tours, temperatures will already be close to 25°C during daytime so make sure to pack some short-sleeve T-shirts!
The saying goes that “no winter lasts forever” so make it worth a while and turn it into a magical time of adventures with HAPPY TOURS!
Key Words: Winter, Carnival, Italy, Winter Tours
Editor’s note: above Peter’s description of himself: I would add: a multi-tasking person fluent in Hungarian, Turkish, English, German, Croatian and of course Slovenian (sorry, if I missed a language or two, Peter), who helps in the company’s systemization and takes care of the HAPPY TOURS image and brand in the virtual world.
I would like to continue Sašo’s thoughts on the redundancy of travel agents and the driving force that is changing the landscape of tourism and for this matter all other industries.
Data Driven Society
What I call “the Data Driven Society” is a process, a new renaissance if you prefer, that is constructing our presence and will significantly influence our future. Let me give you an example: extensive data collection of air movement, i.e. wind, in the past 10 years made wind turbines 30% more efficient. The technology itself didn’t change, but the locations where we are farming the wind did, as well as the exact position and orientation of the turbine, which made all the difference. Now imagine the medical data that is being collected throw your mobile phones, movement, daily activity, nutrition, to name but few. All this collections will greatly improve diagnostics and perhaps produce cures for diseases, but most importantly they will help provide intelligence for the understanding of diseases and perhaps preventing them before they accrue. You may see this change in society as good or bad. I personally see it as a new renaissance, something that is changing the fabric of society in comparison to a revolution that is only changing its cover. Ironically, the process of data collection and organization started in the Renaissance and has grown significantly since then.
How About Tourism?
It is easier than ever to find out what travellers want. They are leaving behind their impressions as they pass through the landscape and add some more when they return back home. We know a great deal about their behaviour, where do people fly and for long they stay there, what they search for once they are there. This environment is creating direct relations between providers and costumers, which leads to the assumption that travel agents will become the thing of the past. To be perfectly honest, the landscape will change a bit more and allow individual travellers to be even more efficient in booking their arrangements by themselves as they travel or upfront. But ultimately the agency will stay.
The Future Role of the Travel Agency
Definitely a portion of travellers, I assume not a small one, will prefer to book with an agency online or in a shop. One of the mayor benefits of an agency is quality control; an agency takes care of the supplier chain and filters out the good ones from the bad ones. The problem with community driven sites or marketplaces is that they depend mainly on costumer reviews which can be misleading. I’m not saying they are irrelevant but from my experience a place can be rated excellent and does not deliver or it can be rated average and is excellent. We have to agree much of the travel experience is dependent on the weather – as funny as this might seem. A travel agency, on the other hand, similar to a good newspaper, filters, edits and rearranges the chain of suppliers to find the perfect solution for its clients. Please do remember that technology is predicting the demise of the newspaper as well!
The second thing is emergency situations where the agency becomes important. And I’m talking about real emergency situations here: lost passports, medical issues of travellers, extreme weather conditions. At Happy Tours we take great care of such situations. Our staff or contractors help people in hospitals when they need it. We recover passports and help with paper work. We recover forgotten items if we can and help where we can. We are available 24/7 in emergency situation and provide services for people in need. We pay great attention to these services since we believe that this is what makes the difference and this is the reason why people opt for an agency rather than planning their trip by themselves.
Let me give you few examples which happened to us: a blizzard prevented a group to travel to a certain part of a country – what we did was that we rearranged the itinerary in a way that ensured the positive travel experience to the clients, despite force majeure. A guest who was left behind in Montenegro because she lost her passport: we organised her stay, helped with the paper work and organized her flight back. In another scenario, we welcomed a group with snacks and water after they where stuck on an icy road for 12 hours.
To Cut Things Short…
This kind of scenarios make all the difference, they give the guests the security that they wish for when they book a trip – a security they can’t get when they travel or book alone. Another point that I will not dive in at this moment is the importance of personal relations when you decide to travel. People still prefer a person behind the tour, not just a big system of automatized services. We search for somebody who knows how to use all the beautiful technology and data and spices it up with personal experiences and a guarantee that there will be somebody to call in case anything goes wrong. Have you ever noticed the rising number of live chats on the web? Have you ever wondered why they are so popular? But let’s leave something for the next time…
Key words: Agency, Tourism, Future, Travel Technology
WTM in London – less than 10 days to go!
In less then 10 days World Travel Marketplace (WTM), probably the most important travel event of the season, will take place in London and much of our industry will come to discuss what’s happening in tourism. Political crises affects tourism environment significantly
And so, what is happening in tourism? I have been attending ABTA conference in Greece two weeks ago (ABTA stands for Association of British travel agents) and this was a discussion there as well. We live in a challenging environment where international crises arise quite frequently and can affect the tourism environment significantly – just take a look at Tunisia and the damage that terrorist attack did to its tourism this summer or what the instable political situation did to tourism of Egypt, or Greece because of the uncertainty during the summer, Turkey because of the problems in the neighbouring states and more importantly the inner conflict with Kurds – yet despite that, tourism shows particular resilience. There always have been and unfortunately probably always will be crises of one sort or another, but it is our response to them that counts. This was also the message of the conference.
Travel agents – a thing of the past?
Just a couple of weeks ago Ryanair’s boss made a bold statement that travel agents will become redundant and thing of the past. It is true that technology allows things that were previously unimaginable. Now even clients somewhere in the backwaters can book in real-time almost all kinds of transportation and accommodation there is and combine them to all sorts of exciting itineraries without the need of an intermediate – a travel agent. There will always be a certain percentage of those independent travellers who don’t need us – it’s much alike like some who don’t go to a hairdresser because they have someone who does this at home or even they are able to do it by themselves (like my uncle for example). But there is a larger and ever growing population of those who do want to consult an agent to make their bookings, being that they want to join an escorted tour or to make a private, tailor-made arrangement. These are the people for which we exist. And I do not worry that our role will become obsolete. Because in the era where everything is bookable almost immediately it is becoming even more important to understand the clients’ needs and to know the product that would suit them best. So I would say we have a role to play in this, now even more than ever before.
WTM – a place where 1.1 million meetings are conducted in 4 days
But the WTM is first and foremost also a place to meet with old friends, partners, clients and suppliers, to enhance existing and forge new relationships. The organisers claim there will be 1.1 million meetings conducted during the 4-days event of the fair (next year the fair is going to be cut to three-days but with prolonged opening hours), which means maybe we won’t even need to talk faster and cut discussions shorter and still be able to conduct this 1.1 million discussions.
Happy Tours at two stands @WTM: E700 and GV400
And so will we at Happy Tours take the opportunity. This year we will break a certain record: 11 of us are going to be at the fair, where we will have 2 stands: one traditionally with Slovenia (E700), the other now for the first time at ETOA (GV400). And you are all warmly welcome to visit us in one or another. And then we can continue the discussions on the future of our industry and our role in it in person.
Key words: WTM2015, Agency, CEO, Tourism, Future
Dubrovnik Happy Tours office = Iva, Marina and Darko
Happy Tours Dubrovnik Team is actually 3 persons in total: Iva, Marina and myself, Darko. We will not publish any photos of us, simply because we want you feel more anxious to meet us in person. Our motto is: “Your wish is our command”.
Dubrovnik – the UNESCO protected pearl of the Adriatic Sea
We are blessed to live in one of the nicest areas of this part of the world. Let me introduce the city and the area where we live. Dubrovnik or Ragusa or The pearl of the Adriatic Sea, is the city, which has always been very interesting and important. Going back to the 15th and 16th century this was one of the richest areas in the world – trading and salt production brought huge wealth to its citizens. Some people will say that diplomacy was born here as well; negotiating skills were always extremely respected here. Have a good relationship with everyone was always the policy here. Nowadays, when salt does not value that much as gold anymore, we are mostly tourism oriented and we do not regret that.
Game of Thrones, buggy safari, snorkelling and much more…
Located at very south of Croatia, the ancient city of Dubrovnik is worth a visit at any time of year. The UNESCO world heritage site boasting stunning city walls, which have been shown also in the famous Game of Thrones, has many things to offer.
If you are into active holidays, we can organize jeep and buggy safari, horse back riding, biking, hiking, sailing, canoeing, snorkelling, fishing and much more.
If you are more into history, geology, gastronomy, nature or wine routes, Dubrovnik will definitely not disappoint you. Tour the walls, stroll along the magnificent narrow street of the Old Town, visit great museums, take a cable car to the top of the Srđ hill enjoy in the view of 3 different countries from one single spot (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro), take a boat panorama around the old town or visit the closest island of Lokrum where you will be able to see the remains of the old Benedictine monastery or old fort built by Napoleon troops.
A great starting point for tours around the area
Thanks to its location, Dubrovnik is a great starting point for visiting the surrounding area. You can for example explore the beauties of the nearby Pelješac peninsula, known for great wines. The best-known grape is Plavac Mali. We all agree that great wine needs to be combined with great food. Do not worry, you have come to the right place. Taste oysters, mussels, octopus or some of the great Adriatic fish, or you are more meat person, don not worry, as we have very good option for you – meat baked under the iron bell, it is so called “peka” style, which is what will follow after you taste our prosciutto and cheese preserved in olive oil.
Next to Pelješac Peninsula, the island of Korčula is located, famous for the fact that Marco Polo was born here – back then, Korčula was part of the great Venetian Republic.
Daily tours from Dubrovnik are also very nice. If you prefer sailing, let us take you to Elaphiti islands (Koločep, Lopud and Šipan), which were in the past known as summer holiday resorts for wealthy. Mljet island is today a National Park of Croatia, where you can explore the wild nature or simply run away from everyone and enjoy in sound of the wind and the sea. You can also leave Croatia for a day and make a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina or to Montenegro’s cities of Kotor and Budva.
If you are interested in geology, visit the breath-taking Vjetrenica Cave, which less than an hour of driving from Dubrovnik.
Nightlife, weddings and MICE
Let’s talk about the nightlife. In the peak season, numerous events for different tastes take place here. There is Dubrovnik Summer Festival (10 July – 25 August) boasting top concerts, plays and folklore shows in the old town. If you are more into the modern music, we do have many DJ’s visiting Dubrovnik from all around the world.
Either a romantic getaway, a honeymoon or a wedding ceremony, you will definitely enjoy it here in Dubrovnik.
And last but not least, let’s talk business. Dubrovnik is a perfect venue for seminars, conferences, kick-off meetings or incentives. Numerous hotels can accommodate all your wishes and needs.
In Dubrovnik, the sky is the limit. The only thing you have to do is pack your suitcases and come to visit us.
We send you a lot of happy smiles from Dubrovnik.
YOUR DUBROVNIK TEAM: Iva, Marina and Darko
Editor’s comment: Happy Tours Headquarters Office has some photos of Darko and the team. If you want them, bribe us with 15 kg of chocolate. Or, perhaps it really will be easier, if you just visit Dubrovnik instead – with well-established flight connections, this might seem like an easier option.
Key words: Croatia, Dubrovnik, Game of Thrones
ADRIA HAPPY TOURS opens its doors
The saying goes that when a door closes a window opens and this definitely holds true for me. About a year ago, when I was on a career crossroads, after returning from China and Asia, where I lived for years, I had a feeling of not being in the right place… I was determined to turn a new page in my life and open my heart to new challenges … Luckily, Sašo came along and after common brainstorming, we agreed to open ADRIA HAPPY TOURS, to help with the challenges and find new business possibilities on the Balkans and Croatian market….
I feel proud to be part of the HAPPY TOURS team, which consists of a variety of different individuals with various cultural backgrounds and work experiences, but with the same goal: creating the best tours possible and enable our clients to see our natural beauties the way they deserve to be seen. What I admire most with our team is the positive attitude, which is probably the result of Sašo being the way he is. Therefore I a look forward to new and even more exciting business opportunities with such a great team!
Truffle-hunting it is…
Croatia is a country of impressive highlands, dreamy deep-blue seascapes set along the Adriatic coast, stunning hinterland scenery and a number of UNESCO heritage sites. No wonder that this country is among the top destinations in the Balkans. For me, it is my homeland and the country which I am proud of and whose beauties I make living from. Although I was born and raised in Croatia, I hadn’t been aware of its beauties, before I didn’t see them through the eyes of the Asians.
One of the highlights, which is perhaps too often pushed aside, as glittering waters and secluded beaches take all the glory, is truffle hunting in Istria. There are 70 sorts of truffles in the world, of which 34 come from Europe. Although the traditional truffle-producing countries are Italy, France and Spain, Istrian forests boast as many as three sorts of black truffles as well as the big white truffle, which is considered one of the most prized in the world.
Probably you are all familiar with this expensive subterranean fungus, but have you ever experienced truffle hunting? If not, Istria in autumn is the place to visit. The truffle-hunting season starts in October and continues for three months, during which time at least 3000 people and 9000-12,000 dogs wander around the damp Motovun forests. Be among them and experience the authentic truffle hunting with experienced guides. Search for this black gold together with us! If you prefer just to taste truffles, you can always visit one of the numerous restaurants, which have them in the offer, among them are many which are located in the Istria’s hinterland, but be sure that truffles taste even better, if they are found by yourself!
Key words: Truffle, Istra, Croatia
A bunch of Happy People
When I was asked to write a blog for our new webpage and when my dear colleague Kardy said that I can choose whatever topic (connected with tourism, of course), I knew right away that it will be about the best colleagues and the best team I have ever had in my life. So nothing about my theories on responsible tourism and responsible travelling (for now), just about a bunch of Happy People, who happen to be my colleagues and who are part of this amazing story of success.
A unique combination of different kind of personalities, nations, languages and cultures
How would I describe our team? Well, we’re young, crazy, strange, weird, sort of special, but ‘in a good way’, smart, beautiful, scary, capable, supportive, funny… To cut long story short: we are unique combination of different kinds of personalities, nations, languages and cultures … all blended into a perfect Happy Family.
An old saying goes that “fish rots from the head down”…
I will start by mentioning just a few of our team members (basically, the ones I can think of something funny to say). The rest of you, don’t feel like you’ve been left out. If I didn’t mention you, it probably means you’re almost normal!
Our fish head would be Saso Krumpak, a man with a special energy, which on the one hand allows him to work 24/7, and one the other helps him keep this very special relaxed atmosphere at the office that makes our company so special and nevertheless also so successful. He is so in love with what he does that good things simply seem to happen to him. And this is also the energy, with which he managed to bring together so many different characters that now form this Happy Family.
From the perfect white smile of our Brazilian to the Coach Dream Team with “che sera sera” life philosophy…
Our Brazilian, Nando, with a perfect white smile and constant problems with dividing seasons for the quotations, hard-core Bulc doing push-ups and squads in the middle of the office ‘just for fun’, the beautiful Aleksandra making us all jealous and feeling … well, not as beautiful as she is, and then the drama queen Eva, who we simply love. Oh, yes, then there are Biljana and Blazenka, who are best friends, but at the same time so different that it is hilarious. Tina The Quiet, who is probably somewhere looking for her lost telephone for the third time today, then the other Tina, who is proven to be from another planet, our Sun, who sings songs when she’s stressed out, Dejan, who was chosen the best looking guy in the office during our Happy Girls Go To Valencia Trip, and our Bernarda, or the so called Phoebe (if you ever watched sitcom Friends you’ll know what I’m talking about), my favourite and all mighty Kardy, or maybe Janez B. with his (mostly bad) jokes, Grega promoting some strange Chinese fertilizers for our plants (he is biologist by profession), or Bostjan and Damjan, our Coach Dream Team with ‘che sera sera’ life philosophy (this is the song played when their emergency phone rings… how ironical, isn’t it?) and nevertheless our one and only Tjasa from accounting department, who hates all on the last 3 days of every month when she needs to submit financial report…
You can read only this paragraph and you will find out everything you need to know about Senada
As you can see, I could go on and on … hopefully nobody will get offended by my words, it was just to make you smile. But if I’m making fun of you, it would be fare enough to say something about me too, right? But what to say? Maybe just mentioning my nicknames will do: Swami, the Nutrition Nagger, the Ice Queen. Swami because I teach our in-house Yoga Classes, Nutrition Nagger because I don’t let them eat McDonalds, and Ice Queen because they say I’m strict. And they are all soooo not true! 😉 I’m so far from being a true yogi – as I’m writing this I’ve almost eaten half of box of cookies.
So now, when you have met most of us, I can finally answer the question from the headline: Yes, Happy Family really does exist. It is a perfect blend of individuals, who have joined together to provide best possible services and give extra support to our partners in order to have satisfied and happy clients, who travel with us.
Love you, guys!
Key words: Joga, Happy Team, Happy People
I was on the verge of giving up almost every second day…
When I started with this business 15 years ago, I didn’t imagine that bringing tourists to Europe would become my job, my life and my biggest passion. This seemed unimaginable, especially after very challenging beginnings (I guess beginnings tend to be like that), when I was on the verge of giving up almost every second day. Today, when I see 48 amazing colleagues from 12 different countries, speaking 17 world languages and working in our 8 offices all around the globe, I look at my company with great pride.
Greenwich – what a symbolic place to live in…
Neither did I ever think that the work will lead me out of my beautiful homeland Slovenia to London, where I have moved with my family recently. Greenwich, where we now live, and also the place where we have opened Happy Tours office, is to us not only one of the most beautiful villages in Europe so close to downtown London, but also a very special place where the Zero meridian divides the Earth to its Eastern and Western Hemispheres. And our work is surpassing them and bringing the East to meet the West and the other way around. We couldn’t have found a more symbolic place!
Today, we visited Peppa Pig World, the amusement park near Southampton in south England. This was a thank you to our daughter, who is now forced to adapt to the new living situation, and is doing it so well.