Eat Kurdish Cuisine, Nashville
Though nearly everyone knows Nashville is Country Music World, it might come as news that the city is also home to the largest community of 15,000 Kurdish refugees in the U.S., who initially settled here with the aid of a 1970’s refugee program. Hence, Nashville’s excellent and burgeoning Middle Eastern food scene. The catch-all phrase “Middle Eastern” doesn’t do justice to the sophisticated assembly of foods from various countries all umbrellaed under the one term.
Take for instance, the opportunity to shop at a few markets that also sell takeout food. Neroz Market and Azadi Market and Bakery serve everything from wood-fired flatbreads to shawarma sandwiches, similar to gyro. House of Kabob is a popular spot that serves, you guessed it, kabob, as well as a traditional Persian menu for the city’s large Persian community. Vegetarians need not feel left out as there are options galore like hummus platters, lentil dishes, sophisticated rice dishes and vegetable options with a hundred and one ways to prepare eggplant, and always a variety of house-baked breads and sweet-tooth staples like baklava, halvah or Turkish delight. For lunch, try the Turkish-Kurdish Edessa Restaurant which features a lunch buffet, children’s meals, and catering options. Don’t miss sampling Gozleme, an Anatolian flatbread that skips the eggs (for vegans) and is similar to the Greek dish tiropita, but made from a thinly rolled dough and stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Dust off your rolling pin and give it a try.
– Helen Mitsios
Feria De Sevilla, Spain
You approach a tall, illuminated gateway. As you pass through its arches, people dressed in flamenco garb (ever so fabulous) can be spotted in every corner. Oodles of colorful lights in paper lanterns massage your retinas while guitar strums whisper to you. No, you didn’t slip into Wonderland. You’re in Sevilla for their Feria de Abril.
This annual fair is a celebration of life for Sevillanos and starts two weeks after Easter. The first one was greenlit by Queen Isabella II (then about 16) in the 1840s to be a three-day cattle market. That girl knew how to party! Today, over one thousand different booths, called casetas, offer anything from food and music to business opportunities or political party outreach. The iconic design of the caseta is a feature itself. It was created by figurative painter Gustavo Bacarisas in 1919 (around the time the festival was cemented as a cultural landmark).
The Feria de Abril — literally “April Fair” — lasts for one week. Festivities include horseback riding and watching bullfights. Try a signature Seville dish of stewed bull’s tail! Dangerously savory, tapas opportunities are tremendous and plentiful. And with proximity to the ocean, there are plenty of options for seafood throughout the event.
On the first night, before everything is ceremoniously lit, the caseta proprietors eat a traditional dinner together, “el pescaito,” of fried fish and other delectables, such as fresh calamari, boquerones (fresh white anchovies) and whatever is the catch of the day! “There are people in Sevilla who live for the ‘noche del alumbrao’ (night of the lighting) as if it were New Year’s Eve,” claims the Seville Tourism Consortium, who go on to describe the seven days as “a new year full of illusions and emotions that develop brilliantly during the week. As if a whole life were concentrated into one single week.”
During Spain’s financial crisis after 2008, Feria de Abril was notably not impacted. However, with the pandemic, 2020’s fair was postponed to September and eventually cancelled for the first time. Creative and optimistic, many maintained the spirit in April by taking to their balconies or windows to recreate casetas. Citizens hope it will happen in 2021, for the love of it and for the over 4 million tourists who bring upwards of €800 million in for the city.
Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam
Seeming to exist as a front for an eccentric golden-themed Bond villain, the Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, is a shimmering, glistening, testament to luxury. Upon visiting, the first impression would be the blinding shimmer of this opulently golden hotel, glistening in the sun as though El Dorado itself had manifested in Vietnam. But this is not merely some gold plated tiles covering the building. Upon entering “King Midas: the experience” as I call it, to absolutely no international recognition, guests can notice distinct changes in their, ahem, bowel movements, as they in fact will pass gold. This is because every meal, every steak, every prepared dish, is wrapped in shimmering gold foil. (And your toilet is gold too.)
From having golden pools to overlook the city to golden showers — literally, we’re not being provocative. For once. — this can only be described as the most over the top, uniquely extravagant hotel experience in the world. The Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake Hotel, besides having one of the all-time great names for a property, should certainly make the top of the list of anyone who thinks that money is poisonous and they should spend as much of it as they can as fast as possible.
– Jay McClure
Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia
Clocking in at over 5,300 feet deep with 12,248 square miles of surface area, Lake Baikal is the deepest, largest and oldest freshwater lake on Earth. Which is, let’s face it, some trifecta. Visitors who are willing to make the trek to remote Siberia are rewarded with hundreds of miles of pristine lakefront views and forests. Lake Baikal is also dappled with 27 islands, most of which can be accessed via helicopter, boat, or, in the winter, car. Summer visitors can take a dip in the frigid water, hike the surrounding mountains, book helicopter tours, enjoy boat rides and try to spot the local Baikal seals. While rarer winter visitors must brave freezing temperatures and harsh winds, these adventurous travelers are offered stunning views and countless activities, including dog sledding, ice skating, bathing in hot springs, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing.
Full roads with traffic signals are carved into the ice, allowing cars to transverse the massive lake during winter months. Russian officials test the ice and fill in cracks before vehicles are allowed to cross, so passengers can rest assured that they won’t fall through. However, visitors should be cautious and alert: straying too far from the main visitor areas could lead to encounters with bears and wolves. Nothing Russian officials can do about that.
– Anna Phillips
The World’s Most Unique Post Office, Galapagos Islands
Officially known as the Floreana Island Postal Barrel, in the Galapagos archipelago, it’s presumably the world’s smallest post office, too, and possibly one of the oldest, and easily the most chill. Originally erected by British sailors on the shore of the island in the 18th century, for people to leave letters and cards that outbound sailors would bring back to Britain and deliver, it is literally a barrel on a pole, with an angled wooden cover to keep the contents dry, and looks like an oversized bird feeder as you approach it. Nowadays it’s global and full of mail left by people from all over the world, in the hope that someone will sift through the barrel and say, “I live near there!” and bring it home with them. Mail can sit there for years, and when our contributing writer Shannon Stowell was there he found one card that said, determinedly, DO NOT DELIVER! (for a friend to come and pick it up on their next trip through Galapagos), and which entreated the friend to dive and capture a baby sea lion, a fat one.
El Diablo, Las Palmas, Spain
Seemingly stepping into a landscape that could only have come out of the unfinished version of Jodorowsky’s 1970’s science fiction film Dune, amid vistas of burnt rocks and mountains, this restaurant truly seems to have stepped into a distant world. And along with all this breathtaking scenery, the restaurant El Diablo on the island of Lanzorote, Spain, has a rather alien way of cooking their food as well… namely from the heat of lava bubbling away under the volcano this restaurant was built upon. Last erupting in 1824, for whatever strange enough reason, this volcano was not only deemed safe enough to build upon but also to cook and eat from!
And this is not a volcano deep below the earth with food being cooked by steam or gasses coming up through cracks in the ground. Rather the volcano is so close to the surface that they had to lay down nine separate layers of basalt rock just to insulate the building from the heat below, while all the cooking is done on a grill a mere six feet away from bubbling hot lava. They specialize, unsurprisingly, in barbecue. And of course it is only fitting to eat your lava cooked meal overlooking this otherworldly land, surrounded by the Montañas del Fuego mountain range, or fire mountains.