Traveler Blog

The Entrance to Hell Is an Austrian Ice Cave

Head beneath Austria to the site that was once considered the world's earthly portal for the devil.
Mörk Glacier
The Eisriesenwelt is a 24-mile wonder. (©Eisriesenwelt GmbH, Salzburg)

The opening to Austria's Eisriesenwelt ​was thought to be the entrance to Hell over a century ago but is instead the beginning of a journey into one of nature's true wonders.

The world's largest ice cave is more than 24 miles in total length and is a jewel in the Tennengebirge, a mountain range known internationally for its wealth of caves. A guided tour plunges you into the depths of the cave where visitors can see that magnesium reveals the cave and its magnificent structures were created over millions of years and continue forming to this day.

Interior of an ice cave

Nearby Werfen, with its tourist-friendly castle—a 16th-century fortress—is the ideal starting point for the ascent to the Eisriesenwelt, 24 miles from Salzburg. Every year from May through October, adventurers can begin a hike up to Eisriesenwelt (3.5 hour hike from Werfen) or take a combination of vehicle, cable car and hike to reach it. After traveling 1,625 feet up in a cable car there are still 216 feet to climb to the cave's entrance.

Before or after the hike, fuel up and get an amazing view of the Salzach Valley below at the terrace seating that Dr. Oedl-Haus's restaurant is famous for. 

Mountain path

Charlotte's Arts Are Having a Moment

That’s not the reason you should pay attention.
New York City-based artist Robert Lazzarini's 2016 piece "Orange Sunshine" exhibited at SOCO Gallery in Charlotte
New York City-based artist Robert Lazzarini's 2016 piece "Orange Sunshine" exhibited at SOCO Gallery in Charlotte (Courtesy the artist and SOCO Gallery)

I’ve always disliked the saying, “If you have to say it, it isn’t true.” That’s probably because I write about the arts for a living.

In my decade-long career doing this in various cities, I’ve had countless conversations about why the arts are important. A few reflexive answers: Cultural experiences bring money to a city—more than $200 million annually here in Charlote. Arts education is vital to a child’s emotional development and academic success. Students with four years of art classes average 100 more points on their SATs, a government study says. The arts also lower rates of crime and poverty. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that a high concentration of the arts means lower poverty rates and improves child welfare.

I’d add a fourth, more immediate, defense: Charlotte arts are having a moment.

Today, shows of every kind are packed. The leaders of the scene, mostly women now, are thinking of new ways to fund these endeavors and break through bureaucracy to get artists paid.

The Amys—Herman and Bagwell—along with Graham Carew, continue to create residencies in transitioning, temporary spaces in the Goodyear Arts Project.

Charlotte artist Renee Cloud's "Unintelligible," created during her residency at Goodyear Arts in 2016

Artist April Marten leads the monthly meet-up Charlotte Art Chat at C3 Lab, an emerging arts venue and coworking space for creative.

Over in Myers Park, Chandra Johnson’s SOCO Gallery creates a new buyers’ market, armed with work from artists making waves in the international scene.

And don’t forget about the hybrid spaces. Donna Scott Productions puts on all-female productions at Charlotte Art League, a place usually reserved for visual art. And in the back room of the sneaker shop Social Status in Plaza Midwood, hip-hop-themed art shows are packed, in-the-know affairs.

It’s not only the moment the city has had, but today’s moment is the result of a group of artists working hard to keep pace with the developing and growing city—a city that has had no problem burying its culture with “progress” and leaving those art moments from the past as rubble. It’s time for all of us to pay attention.

The problem with the argument that this is a big moment in the city’s arts history is that just saying that doesn’t make the arts sound appealing. Maybe the reason we keep having conversations about why the arts are important is that we spend too much time offering facts in the place of something less convenient: The worth of the arts is immeasurable.

It’s not enough to just be told about it. An example of this came in September 2016: During the protests that followed the shooting of Keith Scott, Goodyear Arts resident Renee Cloud told me she wasn’t surprised by the unrest in her hometown, but it was time to do something. “I have to use my platform within the city,” she told me then. “It’s not a giant one, but I have to use it to elevate the awareness of what’s going on.”

Cloud took the vitriol and hatred spewed on social and constructed a piece of art around it called “Unintelligible.” Letter by letter, she created printed, typographical pieces using the words she’d seen in the online cacophony, and then she filled the windows of the College Street space with them. The sentences and slurs became garbled in the artwork, reflecting the overwhelming nature of the conversations we have online in moments of crisis.

There’s no metric to the conversations created from Cloud’s artwork. But these are the types of interactions that transform individuals in ways Facebook posts fall short.

Cloud’s work was a temporary, on-site installation piece, but every day, somebody creates something new in the city. There are hardships. The arts, like most other sectors in the city, are hampered by economic immobility and lack of opportunity for non-white artists.

It hasn’t been easy for someone like Quentin Talley to run the city’s only African-American theater company for the past decade.

All of the women who lead arts projects here have stories of being ignored because of their gender, even in a supposedly forward-thinking field.

A mural on the side of Sabor Latin Street Grill by Charlotte artist Nico Amortegui

Burgeoning artists are served by community shows at Gallery Twenty-Two and Ciel Gallery in South End.

At the big institutions such as Blumenthal and the Fillmore, live music and theater shows are attracting record numbers. The artistic middle class, though, has few options. The banner of “the arts” encompasses many nuanced, mostly disparate fields. From a financial and staffing standpoint, these creations don’t have much crossover. Theater takes an army of passionate, underpaid people with specialized skills. Visual artists can sell work on any wall in town, but often don’t have a place outfitted for the initial, messy pursuit of creation. Folk bands don’t get grant money. What threads all of these endeavors together is that, when done right, each results in a bold, singular expression of humanity.

All of us want something cool to be happening in the city in which we live. If a city is a body, with all of its essential organs, the arts are the conscious. They’re that unexplainable, pivotal part of the human experience. There’s a reason why 300-year-old symphonies still make listeners weep. There’s a reason why a new mural in your neighborhood makes you smile. But like anything truly good, art dissipates if we don’t talk back, if we don’t engage with it, and if we don’t pay for it. If we don’t interact with it, art will leave, and we’ll become the boring city that so many outsiders maintain we are.

These days, when someone asks why the arts are important, I’ve come up with a new approach. Instead of offering facts, I say, “Let me show you.”

This article was originally published in Charlotte magazine's March 2017 issue.

Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal Introduces New Airport Tech

Facial recognition—that means less human interactions—and other tech advances are coming to Changi Airport.
Women sitting in front of airport storefronts
Retail stores in Terminal 4 acknowledge the country's heritage in the form of old Peranakan houses. (©Changi Airport Group)

Already one of the most lauded airports in the world, Singapore's Changi Airport, voted the world's best airport five years running, is far from resting on its laurels with the planned opening of a new terminal in 2017. 

Airport arrival Hall

Passengers traveling through the airport's new and smaller Terminal 4, beginning Oct. 31, will experience innovative technology using Fast and Seamless Travel—FAST—a facial recognition technology that will limit the amount of waiting in lines and human interactions with airline clerks.

Aesthetics in Terminal 4 are similar to what travelers are familiar with in Terminals 1-3, where gardens—cactus, orchid and butterfly—among other amenities, provide a relaxing getaway. Terminal 4's interior design is based on an orchid petal, natural light streams through skylights and glass walls and along the boarding corridor, 160 trees separate the boarding area from the common area at departure gates. 

The showstopper of Terminal 4 is the Central Galleria, which highlights the terminal's boutique design and allows views from the check-in hall all the way up to boarding gates in some locations. 

Artwork in an airport

Zeitz: Cape Town's Newest Art Museum Is a Waterfront Grain Silo

The Zeitz Museum is Africa's largest contemporary art museum.
Zeitz Museum Cape Town South Africa
An historic grain silo transformed into Cape Town's Zeitz Museum. (©Iwan Baan)

Cape Town is officially a contemporary art hotspot. 

The Zeitz Museum, opening Sept. 22, is home to the largest collection of contemporary art in Africa; it focuses solely on 21st-century works by African artists and general admission is free through Sept. 25 to celebrate the opening.

Zeitz Museum Cape Town South Africa

It brilliantly combines the old with the new: the 102,000-square-foot facility stands on the site of a historic grain silo on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the most popular attraction in Africa. Zeitz is home to more than 100 galleries spread out over nine floors; the galleries and cathedral-like atrium were carved from the silo's 42 tubes with 65,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Zeitz Museum Cape Town, South Africa

Temporary installations stand alongside the museum's permanent exhibitions. Among the temporary exhibitions are "Harvest" (through January 15, 2018), created for the Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, in which large paintings and sculptures question society's dependence on the land; "Luanda: Encyclopedic City," (through January 13, 2018) that has 23 stacks of 5,000 mass-produced images from photographer Edson Chagas; and "Regarding the Ease of Others"  (through March 31, 2018), a look at how African society emerged after colonial rule. 

The sixth-floor restaurant affords 270-degree views of the city and a rooftop sculpture garden gives additional sensory delights. The museum also houses a bookshop, reading rooms and a costume institute. 

Gallery: Zeitz Museum Exhibits

All images Courtesy Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

Prosecco Milkshakes Are Coming to NYC

Shake Shack announced a limited run of shakes honoring the return of 'Will & Grace.'
Shake Shack milkshakes
This isn't a drill; the "Karen & Jack" shake has prosecco as one of the main ingridents, topped with sprinkles and sparkle. (Courtesy Shake Shack)

We thought we were staunch "Will & Grace" fans, but Shake Shack takes the cake... or the shake, in this case. 

The NYC-based, casual restaurant is launching "Will & Grace"-themed shakes to celebrate the return of the TV show, airing Sept. 28.

The "Will & Grace" shake is cinnamon-marshmallow frozen custard fudge, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar. The "Karen & Jack" is the darling of the show; strawberry frozen custard is mixed with prosecco then finished off with rainbow sprinkles and "raspberry dust."

The shakes are on the menu from Sept. 18 to Oct. 1 at the Upper West Side Shake Shack along with Shake Shack's Hollywood and West Hollywood locations in Los Angeles. $2 from every shake purchase will be donated to GLAAD, an LGBT media advocacy group.

This Museum Looks Like a ...

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is dedicated to the art of carpet weaving.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
(©saiko3p/Shutterstock)

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum rolled out its best carpets starting in 2017.

The country's national symbol is the carpet, and the carpet-shaped museum celebrates the folk art heritage. The rugs are typically made from natural pieces like lamb or sheep's wool and dyed with natural dyes.

The building was designed by Franz Janz and inside the curved walls display collections of carpets and carpet products like bags, valises and pillowcases. The space is home to demonstrations of local carpet weaving techniques and carpets aren't the only thing on display. Browse galleries of ceramics, metal works, national garments and artifacts that date back to the Bronze Age.

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum

Interior of Azerbaijan Carpet Museum