Category Archives: Cultural Curiosities

5 Strange Foods Around the World

Here at Backroads we like to find adventure in the great outdoors--cycling through rural countryside or hiking over mountain passes with the wind whipping through our hair. All of this is wonderful, but sometimes our most memorable adventures can be found right on a plate in front of us. Bugs, intestines, rodents. In many parts of the world, these are delicacies in the same league as lobster or caviar. So how "weird" does it get? Who better to ask than our fearless, world traveling, eat-anything-that's-not-poisonous Backroads Trip Leaders!

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Glaciers – Where to See Them Before They’re Gone

Glaciers, massive conglomerations of ice, snow and rock, are among the world's greatest wonders. But they're also slowly disappearing. These natural phenomena, which have come and gone throughout Earth's long geological history, appear to be in the process of documenting another chapter in our planet's story. But while most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, certain destinations still provide an abundance waiting to be appreciated. What many don't realize is that many of Earth's most beautiful places, while devoid of glaciers today, were actually sculpted and created by these fascinating features and are home to unforgettable scenery.

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What Are UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

If you've done much traveling, you've likely encountered a UNESCO World Heritage site. The term may spark immediate interest but what exactly does it mean? While UNESCO is best known for identifying its famous World Heritage sites, it's an incredibly nuanced intercontinental coalition with enormous goals.

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Rhine River Cruise Biking: Europe’s Easygoing Bike Paths

As I pedaled along the riverside bike path on a clear and sunny day, I couldn’t let go of the feeling that something about this riding just felt different. I was leading our Rhine River Cruise biking trip last summer and the thought kept dancing in the corner of my mind, ever-present as the smile that wouldn’t leave my face. Finally, it dawned on me.

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Women of Tuscany’s L’Eroica Vintage Bike Race

It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.

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Loire Valley Châteaux

In French, 'castles' translates to 'châteaux' and throughout the country there are many châteaux that embody the extravagance of French nobility from centuries past. The epicenter of this 16th to 18th-century lifestyle was the Loire Valley, located two hours southwest of Paris and the perfect setting for royal summer escapades.

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The Meaning of Aloha

Set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the world's most remote island chain, Hawaii is a melting pot of different cultures from around the world. With its rich cultural heritage and diversity, you may hear myriad languages being spoken here. Learning some key phrases in Hawaiian (or Hawaiian pidgin) is a fun way to prepare for your trip to this island paradise!

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History of the Bicycle – The Evolution of Biking

Happy 200th birthday to the bicycle! While today we rely on bikes for exercise, commuting and touring the wine country, the bicycle originated in difficult times. It all began in 1815 after a large volcano erupted in Indonesia. So much debris was ejected into the atmosphere that global temperatures cooled and crops around the world were ruined. This also meant starvation for animals, and in a pre-automobile era, left the problem of how to transport people without horses.

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On a Winter’s Day in Copenhagen

It's the second winter that I'm spending in Copenhagen, the city that also happens to be the destination of Backroads' Stockholm to Copenhagen cycling voyage. Up here in the North, the winter days are short, sunrise is late and counting the hours to sunset does not require all fingers of both hands. Sometimes it seems as if the cold is not only freezing the lakes and ponds in the countless parks and city gardens, but it is also freezing time. The hands of the watch slow their pace, as if they want to save energy for the long awaited summer, when suddenly music festivals, foodie fairs and street galleries pop up at every corner as if they were tulips and Copenhagen was not a city, but a large, fertile field. While summer is the perfect time to explore Copenhagen's art and food scene, the slow winter is well-suited to chat up the locals and engage in some philosophizing, especially when a few sun rays manage to break through the cloudy sky.

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Rabelos and Wine on Portugal’s Douro River

When I first visited Porto on a backpacking trip nearly 20 years ago, my primary interest was to explore the charming neighborhood bars of the Ribeira quarter, enjoy some fado music and savor Porto's namesake wine. Over the years, my returns to this captivating city have matured and each visit has allowed me to uncover another surprising layer of this World Heritage city situated on both the Atlantic and the Douro River. While I originally regarded the Douro as just an ordinary river, I've since come to appreciate its significance for the soul of Porto and as a transport conduit for an entire region. Instrumental in moving goods and people up and down the river were the rabelo boats, a type of cargo boat unique to this river.

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