Top 10 Christian festivals to experience

We are approaching Christmas very fast but unfortunately this beautiful tradition has become more of a celebration of capitalism than actual Christianity. However, there are places and festivals around the world that gets to the inner core of the beautiful religion of Christianity and I thought I would share some of my favorite must experience Christian festivals around the world:

  1. Christmas tree lighting
    Place to be: Bethlehem, Palestine
    Time to be next year: December 24, 2019
    What is a better place to witness the celebration of the birthday of Jesus rather than in his very own birth city? The lightning of the Christmas tree is a huge event where the Christian Palestinians count down in the Arabic language for midnight to light up the tree.
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  2. Semana Santa
    Place to be: Granada, Spain
    Time to be next year: April 14, 2019 (easter week)
    I have witnessed this festival myself. Large parades with people dressed like something coming from the Ku Klux Klan or the inquisition. However, this ceremony is held to repent for the sins you have forsaken the last year and to acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus. Many people would exhaust themselves and walk it every day bare footed. The festival is best celebrated in Granada, but most Spanish and specially Andalucian cities will have it as well.

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    Semana Santa parade in Spain
  3. Crusifixation
    Place to be: San Fernando, Philippines
    Time to be next year: April 19, 2019 (easter)
    On the same track as Semana Santa people come here to recall the passion of the christ and experience a similar hardship. Men and women come here voluntarily to be crucified for real. It’s so admirable how much love and passion they have to actually letting nails go through their palms and hang there for hours.
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  4. Mescal Festival
    Place to be: Adis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Time to be next year: September 27, 2019
    This is a very unique celebration of the supposed finding of the “true cross”. It is said to be given to an emperor of Ethiopia and thus this is a huge celebration there.
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  5. Day of the Dead
    Place to be: Janitzio Island, Mexico
    Time to be next year: November 2, 2019
    This is actually a very interesting festival mixing Christianity with native Indian religion. It is celebrated in most places in Mexico but should be most original on the above mentioned island.
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  6. Santa Claus Village
    Place to be: Rovaniemi, Finland
    Time to be next year: December, 2019
    This is not exactly a festival but every year this park opens for visitors and I can imagine it really will feel like Santa Claus’s toolshop up there in the cold north.
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  7. White smoke
    Place to be: The Vatican City
    Time to be: Unknown
    This even does not need an introduction. We all know how a pope is chosen and watching white smoke from the Sistine Chapel is just historical!
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  8. Race of the Candles
    Place to be: Gubbio, Italy
    Time to be next year: May 15, 2019
    I do not know much about this festival other than celebrating some saints, but it does sound fun!
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  9. Salto del Colacho
    Place to be: Burgos, Spain
    Time to be next year: June 23, 2019
    Another south European festival. It is hard to understand where all those ideas come from but this one is probably about cleansing babies of sins and ensure them protection. Someone will play the devil and jump over new born babies. This might even be a dying tradition due to criticism from the Vatican saying only baptism can cleanse the sins.
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  10. Mardi Gras
    Place to be: Binche, Belgium
    Time to be next year: March 3, 2019
    Before the fasting period for the Christians starts, the Belgian Christians go out celebrating the last day with an enormous feast and a very fun parade in the city of Binche.
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In addition, there are many many other festivals to be mentioned. However, I tried not to include some of those ruined by capitalism already like Saint Patricks day. However, I have not been to all of the above yet, so I am yet to be surprised 🙂

Also remember, no matter what religion you have or none at all these traditions are fascinating to witness. The same goes for any other religion out there, and I might do a similar list for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism very soon. Would it interest you?

Pyramid hunting

As some of you guys probably know I have spent the past 2 weeks travelling in Sudan and Egypt. Two countries that are very famous for their ancient pyramids and pharaos. Egypt of course more than Sudan, but it is surprisingly Sudan that has the most amount of Pyramids in the world.

Of course my trips did not stop with the famous Pyramids of Giza. The countries contain so many interesting pyramids very few have ever heard about. I started hunting.

I had such a great pleasure hunting pyramids that I wanted to know where to hunt next. I was surprised to see that there is no complete list of all pyramids in the world anywhere on the internet. Even Wikipedia does not list them all.

One of the reasons might be that it is hard to distinguish between an actual pyramid and a ancient temple. Another reason is, that many natural rock and mountain formations that looks like pyramids are either included or excluded, and if excluded there might be theories out there saying it is a man made pyramid. Basically there are many conspiracy theories about pyramids everywhere (which I find fascinating)!

Long story short my research gene took over and I started to make a list of my own. I was so surprised to find so many interesting pyramids many of them just recently discovered. I also included modern pyramids.

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Pyramids at Jabal Barkal, Sudan

Basically, my definition of a pyramid is that it vaguely has to resemble the appearance of a pyramid (4 triangular walls leaning on each other). Of course most non Egyptian pyramids do not have an apex and I have accepted this shape as a pyramid as well.

Enjoy the list, it is one of a kind on the internet! Maybe you will be surprised to see your own country have a pyramid!

The list of Pyramid site’s of the world:

Albania

  • Pyramid of Tirana

Belize

  • Altun Ha
  • Caracol
  • Lubaantun
  • Lamanai
  • Nim Li Punit
  • Xunantunich

Bolivia

  • Tiwanaku

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Visoko

Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat

Egypt 

  • Giza
  • Saqqara
  • Dahshur
  • Abu Sir
  • Meidum
  • El-lahun
  • Hawara
  • Deir el-Medina
  • Abydos
  • Zawyet Elaryan
  • Abu Rawash
  • Dara
  • Lisht
  • Mazghuna
  • Abydos
  • Edfu
  • The Seila Pyramid
  • The Zawiyet el-Meiyitin Pyramid
  • The Sinki Pyramid
  • The Naqada Pyramid
  • The Kula Pyramid
  • The Elephantine Pyramid

El Salvador

  • San Andres
  • Tazumal

Eritrea

  • Asmara

France

  • Loyasse Cemetary
  • Louvre

China

  • Pyramids of Xian
  • The great white pyramid (lost)
  • Zangkunchong

Greece

  • Hellenikon
  • Lygourio

Guatemala

  • Tikal
  • Aguateca
  • Mixco Viejo
  • Kaminaljuyu
  • Yaxha
  • El Mirador

Honduras

  • Copan

India

  • Konark
  • Brihadisvara Temple

Indonesia

  • Gunung Padang Pyramid
  • Purbakala Pugung Raharjo
  • Candi Sukuh

Italy

  • Cestius

Iran

  • Tchogha Zanbil
  • Tepe Sialk
  • Iranian Parliament building

Iraq

  • Ziggurat of Ur
  • Dur-Kurigalzu

Japan

  • Nima Sand Museum

Kazakhstan

  • Shet
  • Pyramid of Peace, Astana

Libya

  • Fezzan

Mexico

  • Uxmal
  • Palenque
  • Teotihuacan
  • Chichen Itza
  • Tulum
  • Bonampak
  • Calakmul
  • Comalcalco
  • El Tajin
  • La venta
  • Mayapan
  • Moral Reforma
  • Coba
  • Yaxchilan
  • Monte Alban
  • Tenochtitlan
  • Tenayuca
  • Cholula
  • Tenayuca
  • Santa Cecilia Acatitlan
  • Tula Hidalgo
  • Xochicalco

North Korea

  • Ryugyong Hotel

Peru

  • Huaca de la Luna
  • Huallamarca
  • Tucume
  • Pachacamac

Russia

  • Moscow Pyramid

Spain

  • Guimar

Sudan

  • Jabal Barkal
  • Nuri
  • Bejrawiya
  • El-Kurru

USA

  • Memphis Pyramid
  • Luxor Hotel

Uzbekistan

  • Kashkadarya (Newly found)

Antarctica

  • Pyramid of Antarctica

 

Basically, this list is for myself feeding into places I want to visit in this world. That is why I have only included sites that actually is interesting for me. This includes all man made pyramids and few natural formations which have some kind of claim or conspiracy theory out there attached to it saying it is a man made pyramid.

Green ones are those I have already visited.
Red ones are those so damaged that it is hard to recognize it as a pyramid anymore. If you go to a red one you have to be very interested in archaeology I think!

Do you think I missed any? Let me know in the comments! Thank you 🙂

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Pyramid of Tirana

Guide for travelling to dictatorships

One of the largest reasons for people not to travel is fear. Specially when it comes to countries with bad reputation or with systems that is very different from the one of your own country. I thought I would share my experience travelling to some of those countries and 10 tips about how to prepare and how to behave 🙂

1. Freedom of thought does exist even in dictatorships

First of all, let me just state that there is no definite way of defining a dictatorship and even if you pointed at a country you think is a stereotype dictatorship, there will be millions telling you it is not. But this exact thing is actually the essence of the first thing you have to understand before even researching the country you want to visit.

Just like there are people of all different convictions and political opinions in your country, there is different convictions and political opinions even in the strongest dictatorships. And this is not just another “political correct” statement, this is an actual reality that you will encounter while travelling in dictatorships. You will actually get to meet people with opposite beliefs, but I will get back to that.

2. Do your research!

This is of course a given. But to relax your nerves I will tell you this: Dictatorships are often more safe to visit than democracies because law is strictly enforced, meaning no much space for thieves, rapists, scammers and the like. Some of the most safe countries in the world are what most people would call dictatorships. Just look at the Gulf or even Central Asia.

3. Check comments online

Another important piece of information is knowing the extend of the strictness of the dictatorship. The word dictatorship is thrown around very easily, even in democracies where a large minority just don’t like any of the options in an election. So it ranges from  dictatorships that probably are not a dictatorship at all, to dictatorships where you can be hanged for saying an opinion different from the ruler’s.

So here is a piece of advice you can’t just get from researching the country: Go into different social medias and find a random political topic that people has commented on from that country. Read the comment’s closely and note these questions:

  1. Are there anyone from this country that expresses the opposite opinion of his government or openly talks bad about them? (Make sure they are actually living in that country)
    • If there are many, probably the “dictatorship” is not that strict. So go there and relax but keep your opinions to yourself when meeting officials or total strangers.
    • If people comment but agreeing with the government even on insane matter’s, you will know that the country is very strict, however the population might love their “king”. But you will have to know, that there is always someone of the opposite opinion and if none of them express their opinion openly it is because they are scared for their lives. You can go there, but under no circumstances should you talk against the government while you are there (unless you are a political activist, then I wish you luck from all my heart).
  2. Do people easily fight in the comments?
    • Be aware of the topics they discuss and avoid talking about your own opinions with the wrong persons. Do some research to know in which part of the country or city that those opinions are dominating. Do NOT be afraid of talking to people from both sides. People on the internet are way more aggressive than in real life. When meeting people from the opposite opinion than your own then ask lots of open questions instead of discussing your personal opinion. Maybe you will even learn something new.

4. Passport renewal and visa

Some dictatorships and questionable democracies do not allow you to enter the country if you have been visiting one of the “enemy” countries. If you are going to several countries and you know that the second country do not like the first one, you can sometimes ask for a removable visa. It is basically a normal visa, but instead of gluing it to the passport, they just put a paper clip so you can remove it.

Another idea is to renew your passport before you leave. Be careful that they would not be able to find out where you have been e.g. if you have visited before with the old passport or if you have lots of pictures online from that country. If so, do not lie if you are asked.

5. Take precautions before landing

Some dictatorships will interrogate you upon landing, specially if you come from a country they do not like or if you are known for your political statements on the internet. I would advice you to delete your Twitter app and log off from most of the websites and apps you normally use to express your opinions. Delete sensitive messages. Some dictatorships looks intensively in your phone and make you unlock it for them to read your messages.

They can be very insisting, even if you do not have anything to hide. For example: If you say “I don’t have Facebook”, they will insist they don’t believe you.

If you are going to China or another country who block’s common western websites, then make sure to install a proxy and WeChat before going. A proxy might be illegal in some countries so prepare yourself before going. For China I would recommend installing the proxy beforehand because they are not nosy with your phone at arrival, but keep a low profile. Do not walk around with Google showing on your screen or you can be facing a large fine.

Remember, this is not only for China. WhatsApp and Skype might be blocked in many countries, at least the calling service of it. Here WeChat or Telegram might be handy to use instead, but make sure those at home also have it.

6. Keep it cool at interrogations but do not lose your integrity!

If they want to talk to you at the airport, do not freak out. This happens probably a lot and in the worst case they will just send you back. Do not state any political opinion, just say that you do not care about politics and only interested in seeing culture and nature. But do not compromise your integrity either. Do not admit to an opinion that you do not have – but do not tell them your real opinion if it is against their system. Just keep avoiding the question – either they get tired of you and let you in or they get tired of you and send you back. There is nothing worth losing your integrity over, specially if you only want to do tourism.

My best advice, is keep an open mind, stay out of political discussions and treat them with a sweet behavior.

7. Do not express yourself openly

Keep your opinion to yourself publicly. Watch your mouth for things you say. I have done this mistake before where I just say something without thinking about where I am. Always be conscious about what you are saying and where. Most importantly: Do not question the ruler’s authority, right or opinion.

8. Adapt to the culture  

You are out to experience a new culture, so adapt! It will also keep you safer. Again, do not lose your integrity, but do not do anything that is culturally not accepted or shameful in this country you are visiting.

9. Be careful with photography

Some dictatorships will ban you from photographing government controlled buildings or border crossings. I did the mistake once to have my GoPro video camera up at the border crossing between two dictatorships but I luckily got away with it after assuring them it was not filming. If photography is legal, then still be careful not to pose in a disrespectful way.

10. Meet different people

Remember the whole reason why you travel. It is not to confirm your own ideas about the world but to actually learn about the world. If you only hang out with people of the same political conviction as your own you will have wasted a whole trip convincing only yourself. Instead engage with everyone, do not be afraid and be understanding when someone expresses something differently. If you travel right, you cant avoid meeting people on both sides or even hearing opinions you never heard before. This is the best thing about travelling, so enjoy it with an open mind!

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The Palace of one of the most terrifying dictators in human history

My Iranian Dream Route

As you guys already know, Iran was one of my favorite travel destinations. Why? I have explained it in the Top Visited Destinations page, check it out.

But I have not been everywhere, and I certainly want to go back and visit the rest. The country is wonderfully big. That is why I have planned a route that I will do in Iran at some point. The route of my dreams:

Map_iran_nonames

Lets start from the green dot: Tehran

Tehran

The cheapest place to fly to is Tehran, so the first place will be here. You gotta visit the capital and one of the largest cities of the world. But what is there to see here? Palaces, mosques, bazars, the photogenic Azadi Tower and the real life. A must for me is to walk around the old Rey city within Tehran. It is one of the oldest cities in the region and contains endless historical monuments and tales.
Duration: 4 days at least.

Badab Surt

Travelling east, first stop is Badab Soort which is an incredible natural phenomenon you will not see anywhere else in the world. I think the picture speaks for itself.
Duration: 6 hours for the journey and the stay there in total.

Badab-e_Surt_Samaee

Khalidnabi

Same day I would travel even further east to the very secluded place of Khalidnabi. It is basically a small mosque containing the tomb of a prophet named Khalid. I don’t know much about him, but the quite graveyard and the little prophetic mosque looks stunning on pictures. First time I saw this place I thought I have to come here!
Duration: 4 hours inclusive travel time

khalidnabi

Mashhad

Heading same day further east to Mashhad I would probably arrive at night and try to find a place to sleep. Luckily Mashhad is a city that never sleeps. Being the most holy city in Iran this is a must see for everyone. And it is pretty famous for having one of the most beautiful and largest mosques, the Imam Reza mosque. Here ceremonies are held every day and the city and mosque and museums takes days to absorb. Also interesting cities like Neyshabur, the Kang Village and others are close by. Ideally, I would go to Turkmenistan from there but Turkmenistan is very hard to get into so I will leave it out from this blog post.
Duration: 5 days

WP_20160324_19_51_00_Pro

Yazd

From Mashhad I would continue south to Yazd to enjoy the extremely iconic architecture. The skyline of this city gives purpose to the lives of photographers. Not to mention the beauty of the Amir Chakhmaq Complex.
Duration: 3 days

Yazd

Shiraz

South west is the next stop. Shiraz stands out with its gardens. Here the Eram Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and I definitely wanna see it. But the best reason to come here is to visit Naqsh-e Rustam and Persepolis. Some of the most ancient archaeological finds in the world. This is where Iran really shows it’s rich history.
Duration: 4 days

Naqsh rustam

Susa

Okay, now the trip really starts to get interesting. Travelling north west I will get through some really culturally interesting places like the Ahwaz, but my destination is the city of Susa where the tomb of Prophet Daniel lies in a holy mosque. This is no ordinary mosque, and even sharing a “google” picture hurts my heart. I just wanna see it myself.
Duration: 1 day

Karmenshah

Here is more super ancient history. The site of Taq Bostan displays rock reliefs that I want to study.
Duration: 1 day

Isfahan

Do I need to say more? Of course everyone wants to come here to experience the incredible mosques and architecture.
Duration: 3 days

Kashan

Okay here I have a lot of things to do. The most important one is buying a real handmade Persian rug. Kashan is the best place to do that. If you know anything about Persian rugs you have for sure heard about the Kashan. But there is more: Other than being just as pretty as Isfahan here lies the ancient underground city of Nushabad. This place is just mind blowing to read about. Imagine an ancient time where humans actually lived beneath earth, sheltering themselves from the sunlight. It is a mystery why. These ancient underground cities are being discovered all over the world and no one has yet understood why.
Duration: 4 days

Nushabad

Visadar

Okay, now I would probably wanna go Qom to see the most religious city in Iran or to Tabriz to see the stone houses, but I will probably be exhausted and my time is running up. I will probably go north to Visadar to relax at the waterfalls for a day before heading back to Tehran Airport to get back home.
Duration: 1 day

Complete route:

Iranmapnames2

Total Duration: 27 days

I will never have that long vacation again 😥

So what do you think guys? Are all the places worth it? What wouldn’t you do? And what did I leave out that I definitely should go see? If you are an expert on Iran or lives there let me know your opinion please! 🙂

Seven modern wonders of the world

In my last post I called the CERN facilities in Switzerland “our times Wonder of the world”. It made me think what else out there could be categorized as such and I made a list of 7 wonders of the modern world.

The originals

Do you remember the original Seven Wonders of the World? The ancient ones are all destroyed except the Pyramids of Giza. Later few architects agreed upon naming a new list with structures that still are standing today. This is maybe the more famous one featuring well known landmarks like: Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, Petra and Colosseum amongst others.

Here are the very original 7, and the New 7:

Ancient and new

My modern 7 wonders

In my list I have tried to choose wonders that have the most significant impact on the world we know in 2018. I imagine that nothing will ever beat the Ancient 7 Wonders, because they have simply outperformed anything in their time. In our modern world new technology makes it easier to break records. Therefore, the candidates for this list has been chosen through following criteria:

  1. The level of impact it has had on our self awareness as humans
  2. Shown an outstanding achievement in our ability to create.
  3. Is memorable and iconic.
  4. Is going to be well preserved for centuries.
  5. Has an actual function rather than just made to show off.

I was trying to think what they will remember us for 3000 years away from now. Which landmarks will be visited by tourists 3000 years from now? What has transformed into museums?

Here is the list: The Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Modern

A little bit about every one and the reason

  1. Large Hadron Collider, CERN, Switzerland
    I have mentioned the importance of this facility many times before. Basically it has been the reason for many important discoveries and helped us understand the universe better. If you wanna read a little bit more about it, check my blog post here.
  2. Panama Channel, Panama
    Besides being one of the longest and hardest engineering projects in the history and killing more than 25000 people in the making,  the Panama Channel has even today a huge impact on the history. It is basically the number one reason behind USA’s success and super power status today. The importance of maritime force and trade is way more than you imagine. Destroy the Panama Channel, and you will see the decline of the US power pretty quickly. This is also the main reason why I chose the Panama Channel above the Suez Channel which is longer and just as impressive engineering wise.
  3. ISS, Outer Space
    Need I say more? The International Space Station of course is a wonder. Not only the whole world is collaborating, but it is collaborating to reach out into space. In 3000 years when the Earth is only visited for tourism they will visit this station and say.. here it all started!
  4. The Palm, United Arab Emirates
    The Palm is so iconic that it doesn’t need introduction. The reason why it made it to the list is, that it shows a whole new era of narcissism. We have build islands before, but never in a shape to impress people from the air. In addition, this could be the start of a new era of creating land instead of conquering it.
  5. NEEMO, Aquarius, USA
    This facility is maybe the least known on the list. NEEMO is an underwater laboratory ran by NASA. They basically send their astronauts here to live underwater in 3 weeks to prepare them for the harsh space environment. Again, this place had a huge impact on making us understand our own capabilities as human beings and therefore it made it to the list. As a teen I dreamt about being sent there and finally to space.
  6. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
    Now this one I was a bit in doubt about. It is the tallest building in the world, the skyscraber of skyscrabers. But the record will soon be overthrown by another tower in Saudi Arabia. However, I decided to include it because this really kickstarted the race to the skies. In addition, being located in the desert, this building has a very important function of keeping the whole city of Dubai together. Everything in Dubai is done indoors and the need for huge a building is therefore legit.
  7. Dìxià Chéng, China
    This is another less known facility. Can you imagine that beneath the capital city of Beijing is a nuclear shelter large enough to house the whole population of 6 million people of Beijing? Well this is the name of this shelter. Just the thought of it makes you get goosebumps. Hopefully, no one would ever nuke China and it will stand as a memory of the time when humans were so afraid of killing themselves, that they spent billions on structures like this.

Other structures in scope that did not make it to the list: 

  • Transit siberiean railway, Russia
  • Atacama large milimetee array, Chile
  • Hubble telescope, Outer space
  • Three Gorges Dam, China
  • Cheyenne mountain bunker, USA
  • Tokyo train and metro, Japan
  • Shanghai metro, China
  • Hashima Island, Japan
  • Boeing Everett Factory, USA
  • Ski Dubai, UAE
  • Rungrado May Day stadium, North Korea
  • Suez Channel, Egypt
  • Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, China

Take a look at the candidates. Did I miss any important? Do you think something else deserve to be on the list? Let me know in the comments!

The Travel World Cup 2018

Alongside the Fifa World Cup 2018 I have conducted a little competition of my own that I called the Travel World Cup. Here I paired the same countries competing for the Fifa Trophy with the each other, but instead of playing football I was asking a number of people where they would like to go the most.

The rules were simple:

I show a number of people 3 pictures of each country, and they vote for which one they would like to visit the most.

For the group stage matches, I gave points like the following:

  • If a country won the vote with more than 55%: 3 points
  • If the votes came out between 45% – 55 % for each: 1 points for each
  • If the country lost the vote with less than 45%: 0 points

The number of participants varied from match to match but was in average 122 participants.

The same 32 countries competed within the same 8 groups as in the Fifa World Cup. The knock-out phase was also accordingly – however, with the winners of the Travel World Cup group stage instead.

Expectations

Of course there is no World Cup without trying to guess the outcome beforehand. Just like you have an idea that Brazil is a good football team, you also have an idea about which countries people would rather visit.

But to have more clarity I did a survey to see in which continents I should expect the best travel countries to be. Here I paired up the regions and asked where people would rather go backpacking.

Latin America 48 % | 52 % Europe

Australian continent 65 % | 35 % Central Asia

North Africa & Middle East 68 % | 32 % Sub-Saharan Africa

Basically this told me about which countries I should not expect to win. Here Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa clearly did not do well.

Any of the remaining regions I expected to do well. Specially Europe, that has some of the most “traditional” favorites for people who has not travelled much. For example, who haven’t heard someone say he would love to visit Paris or Rome or Greece?

My experience is that people are often very concerned with safety while traveling and believe most of what the media is telling about a country. And thus I thought the middle eastern and south american countries would finally lose. My top 4 expectations were: France, Switzerland, Australia and Japan.

The voters:

In average 122 people votes for every match. The maximum amount of votes was 179 for the Argentina-Iceland match. The lowest was 28 votes in the Croatia-Nigeria match.

Depends on where the voters come from it might have a big influence on the outcome. The distribution was as follows:

Where people are from

Another influential factor is how well traveled the voters are. Well basically the voters are you guys, and being on a travel blog already means you have some experience and knowledge about countries.

The voters were also very well traveled. In average, you guys have traveled 13 countries.

And the winner is:

Here it comes.. but if you are interested in more statiscs and analysis you can read the paragraphs after:

Winner is: ICELAND

Winners2

2nd place: Australia
3rd place: Japan

Power ranking:

  1. Iceland
  2. Australia
  3. Japan
  4. Brazil
  5. Morocco
  6. Spain
  7. Mexico
  8. Colombia
  9. Argentina
  10. England
  11. Switzerland
  12. Tunisia
  13. Russia
  14. Denmark
  15. Sweden
  16. Egypt
  17. Costa Rica
  18. Panama
  19. Peru
  20. France
  21. South Korea
  22. Germany
  23. Uruguay
  24. Portugal
  25. Poland
  26. Croatia
  27. Iran
  28. Belgium
  29. Nigeria
  30. Saudi Arabia
  31. Senegal
  32. Serbia

All the results:

Group stage:

 

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Brackets:

Brackets

 

Analysis:

The surprises

Let us have a look at the many surprises of this game:

  1. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Iceland win it all! Beating out great travel destinations like Morocco, Denmark, Croatia, Argentina, Japan and Australia. This was a surprise for me, because I do not find Iceland more interesting than so many other places but I guess the northern light has its appeal.
  2. The second big surprise was that France lost big time. It lost all of it’s matches but getting 1 point against Denmark by scoring 48 %.
  3. Colombia is one of the countries you always hear is so dangerous. However, it made it to the quarter finals only beaten by Brazil. This is a huge surprise and made me happy to know that people are not getting afraid of visiting anymore.
  4. Only 2 European countries made it to the quarter finals: Spain and Iceland. I thought Europe was much more popular.
  5. The 4 semi finalists came from each their continent!

Other things I personally found disappointing:

  1. All African countries was eliminated quickly. Morocco made it to the quarter finals, however Egypt lost early to Spain – in my world totally not understandable even though I love Spain!
  2. Iran only received 1 point. Totally underrated Iran!
  3. Serbia being the least attractive travel country of all 32.

Emotions

Well.. it is no secret that I have favorite countries of my own. You can check out my lists of favorite places I have been to and not been to here and here. Therefore, I have been really disappointed with some of the results.

How can Egypt not make it futher than the Round of 16? It should be the number one travel destinations based on quantifying attractions. I mean, the biggest amount of history and archeology – not only related to the Old Egyptians but everything from Whale fossils in the Sahara desert to the amazing Mamluk’s mosques. Also it has borders to 2 different seas and thereby many beautiful beaches. Not to mention the only remaining Wonder of the World – the Pyramids!

Also it is really hard to understand how Iceland can be more popular than culturally unique countries like Japan or enormous countries like Brazil and Australia. Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is beautiful and also has some unique natural sights like the geysers, however most of what you find there can also be found in Norway, Sweden and most interestingly Greenland. The last I would have seen win it all but not Iceland. In anyway – Congratulations to this small but extremely competitive country!

Why did Iceland win?

This got me thinking a little about why Iceland won. There is a statistical logic to it:

Europe was one of the continents voted very popular to backpack in. However, because most of the voters were Europeans they probably have visited most of the “common” European countries already. Iceland, however, is in the outskirts of Europe and is often forgotten and hard to reach. It is still Europe though, so very popular and the only country not visited so it got all the European votes as well.

Of course this is just a statistical explanation, but of course Iceland is a legit interesting place to visit. It’s uniqueness is undeniable and so it deserves to win!

Here are some of the comments for why Iceland was chosen in the final game:

“Iceland intrigues me so much. I’d love to go in the winter and visit the Blue Lagoon and natural hot springs”

“I chose Iceland because it is so much lesser known than Australia”

“Hard decision! But I have already been to Australia so I want to give Iceland a try”

“It just looks like an unbelievable country, those places you only see in TV”

“I want to see the Northern Light!”

How people perceived the question had a big influence

There is a big difference in how the voters perceived the question: “Which country would you rather visit?”

I have seen people from the country asked for to vote for it just to support their own country. Others have always voted on the opposite country than their own because why would you visit a country you live in?

Others have probably perceived the question as “which country is best to travel in?” so they voted for that even if they have already visited and seen it all.

It is hard to avoid these differences in how people vote. Let me know how you perceived it in the comments and if there is anything to do to ensure alignment in the perception for next time!

Next tournament?

Is it gonna be in 4 years? Or should I do it more often with other countries? Maybe some that doesn’t necessarily make it to the FIFA Football World Cup? Should I do this every year?

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it, enjoyed reading it and how often you want me to do this? Maybe never again? 😛

The best European capitals

Europe

Here is the list of my favorite capitals of Europe that I have visited. So remember the list does not included non-capital cities which Europe and also it does not include capitals that I have not visited yet.

1. London

London is my number one city in Europe and worldwide coming in at a 3rd place. I love to get lost in it’s busy hipster streets. This multicultural city has such a high density of hipsters and creative people that you will find gems on every second street you step your foot on.  Seriously, it’s magic is real and one of those cities I could see myself living in.

2. Rome

Rome is just a historical fist hitting you right in between your eyes. There are so many must sees in this city. It even contains a whole country within it – The Vatican. Exploring the history of the romans and the Christianity really makes you feel you are in the middle of something huge. This feeling is everything I look for when traveling.

3. Prague

Prague is the grown-ups Disneyland. With all it’s castles, beautiful bridges, colors and spires it really looks something from a fairytale. It is also a very underrated city that does not get much attention. In addition, because I am a fan of horology I just have to love Prague for having the Astronomical Clock. A must see!

4. Tirana

Maybe the most underrated capital of Europe. Tirana is the capital of Albania and is truly unique not only as a European capital but also different from the rest of the world. Here you can smell the after effects of the cold war and the brutal regime. It has some of the same elements of Berlin, but while you just get sad visiting the trains of the World War II and the cold war in Berlin, in Tirana you just get horrified. But Tirana is much more than just that – it is rich in beauty with it’s colored streets, mosques and churches and the mountainous background.

5. Bern

Bern is the most cozy capital of Europe. It really makes you feel you took a time machine 50 years back. It’s streets are old, it’s cars are old and it’s people are old.. very much in contrast to the rest of Switzerland. And it is beautiful! And there is a bear walking around. It really is one worth a visit – and the best thing of all: Huge discounts on swiss timepieces!

6. Madrid

Madrid faints a bit in relation to the beauty of the many other wonderful Spanish cities (and no I definitely do not mean Barcelona). But Madrid should not be underestimated. It has some of the most beautiful spots in Europe. The presidential palace is one unique sight. It’s food markets are also exceptional. In general it is hard not to have fun in Madrid!

7. Stockholm

Stockholm is probably the most beautiful of the 3 Scandinavian capitals although Copenhagen comes quite close. Stockholm is basically not a city but a bunch of interconnected small islands which makes it look gorgeous. Also it has a vast variety of very interesting museums – Vasa and the Noble Price museum to mention few.

8. Paris

Paris used to be my number one city in Europe as a teen. I have been there 4-5 times and still I love it. But my taste changed and the city changed. It is a dirty and rude city – now it is said. But it’s epic architecture is still beautiful and photogenic and you will enjoy sightseeing there a lot.

9. Sofia

One of the most charming cities I have ever visited. It’s mountainous background is breath taking. It is cheap and has a lot of delicious food. For some reason the Bulgarians don’t know how to cook badly. It is also the only city that has 4 churches for different branches of Christianity, a mosque and a synagoge right besides each other.

10. Brussels

How to make a list of European capitals without including the actual capital of Europe? Brussels is quite interesting and having signs all over the city in 2-3 languages really confirm the feeling of being in the heart of Europe.

What else?

What did not make it to the list? I have visited 10 other capitals of Europe. You can find them in the template-section by clicking here.