Thursday, January 26, 2023

Have you visited these lucky European sites?

Whether you’re looking to attract love, money or just positive vibes for the coming year, there are several destinations across the globe known for bringing luck to all who visit — but which lucky European hotspot is the most popular?

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

To find, analyzed review data from TripAdvisor alongside online search data for popular auspicious locations across the globe. This included the number of reviews, number of Instagram hashtags and global average monthly search volumes. These factors were averaged to create a popularity score out of 10, and filtered to reveal the 10 most popular European destinations.

The most popular ‘lucky’ destinations in Europe:


Lucky Hotspot


Global Search Volumes

Trip Advisor Reviews

Instagram Hashtags

Popularity Score (/10)


Trevi Fountain

Rome, Italy






Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, Turkey






Charles Bridge

Prague, Czech Republic






Blarney Castle

Cork, Ireland






Casa di Giulietta

Verona, Italy






Pont des Arts

Paris, France






Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Paris, France






Hill of Tara

Meath, Ireland






The Callanish Stones

Isle of Lewis, Scotland






Temple of Portunus

Rome, Italy





The Trevi Fountain is the most popular location to bring prosperity into your life with a popularity score of 9.7 out of 10. The fountain is one of three Italian locations listed in the top 10. The site ranks highest for TripAdvisor reviews at 103,054 and the second highest for Instagram hashtags with 626,666 posts documenting tourists' trips to the famed fountain.

The level of luck you receive from your visit is dependent on the amount of coins you toss over your left shoulder into the fountain. It is said that one coin will bring you back to Rome, two will bring you back to find love and three will not only bring you back to Rome to find love but will ensure luck in marriage as well.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia comes in at a close second with a popularity score of 9.4/10. The stunning Byzantine Mosque resides in Istanbul, Turkey and is the most searched European site for those looking to attract good fortune with 337,000 search volumes each month. Located inside the Mosque is the ‘Wishing Column’. According to legend, the column secretes a healing liquid and brings luck to those who place their thumb into the hole within the pillar and spin a full circle.

With a popularity score of 9.1 out of 10, Charles Bridge is
Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland
 the third most popular lucky destination in Europe. This auspicious location ranks highest for Instagram hashtags (724,428), the highest not only in Europe but of all global locations analysed. Built in the early 1400’s, the Bridge adds to the beauty of the Czech landscape and is adorned with 30 statues lining the structure. It is said that rubbing the statue of St John of Nepomuk will bring you back to Prague and rubbing the plaque depicting a dog at the foot of a knight will bring you luck.

Ireland’s Blarney Castle (7.2/10) stands in fourth. One of two lucky Irish locations in the top 10, along with the Hill of Tara (3.8/10) in eighth, the castle receives 40,000 online searches globally each month and has accumulated over 102,000 posts according to Instagram hashtags. Blarney Castle’s luck is bestowed by leaning yourself back (through a railing) to kiss the stone, which in turn gives you the ‘gift of the gab’ also known as the ability to speak eloquently.
Juliet's balcony in Verona, Italy

Casa di Giulietta or House of Juliet, receives a popularity score of 7.2/10, joining Blarney Castle in fourth. According to Instagram hashtags, Casa di Giulietta has amassed 81,259 posts and over 12,000 reviews on TripAdvisor. The House of Juliet, attached to the famed Juliet’s balcony, has an open air courtyard where tourists and locals alike declare their love in letters and attach them to the walls in the hopes that Juliet will help them with their happy ending. For further luck you have the chance to rub the bronze statue of Juliet that stands in the courtyard.

Data courtesy of who commissioned the data study.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Plan ahead to visit popular national parks

“Thanks to managed access, visitors to Arches, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks saw more wildlife and wild lands than brake lights and traffic jams the last several years" says Cassidy Jones, Senior Outreach and Engagement Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. 
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

People love national parks, and inspirational sites such as Arches, the Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite have welcomed a steady increase in visitors over the years. At some of these especially popular parks, crowded conditions have led to problems and frustrations, including traffic jams, overflowing parking lots, packed and unsafe trails, and threats to wildlife and plants. Some people have even gotten turned away at entrance gates, creating negative and unpredictable experiences at the very places we turn to for solace, beauty and reflection. 
Visitors to Arches National Park must sign up for a time to enter.

Luckily, some of our most overwhelmed parks are exploring solutions, including reservation and timed-entry systems similar to what many museums, movie theaters and other venues have already put in place to ensure there is space for each guest. With a bit of advanced planning, visitors can have safer, less stressful experiences and see more of what makes these parks special. 
Glacier National Park is one of the most scenic in the U.S.

“Bringing pilot programs back to Arches, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain in 2023 allows park managers, advocates, visitors and community members more opportunities to refine these systems as they plan for permanent visitor use management solutions. 
Spectacular views in Many Glacier section of the park.

“Data shows that the pilot programs are working, as 70% of Glacier Park visitors supported the reservation system during its first year alone,” Jones adds. Visitors realize that anaging excessive crowds helps heavily-visited parks maintain high quality experiences. 
Opportunities abound to see wildlife in their natural habitat in
Glacier NP, Montana

Rocky Mountain National Park
As an example, Rocky Mountain National Park has experienced nearly 50 percent increase in visitation over the last decade. “In response, the Park successfully implemented a trial timed entry reservation system during the last three years to lessen impacts to park landscapes and improve visitor experiences,” says Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. 

The true value of a place isn’t measured in dollars or acres, but in the lives it has touched. And while national parks account for just over 3% of protected lands, they are hubs for much larger landscapes and ecosystems. 

Rocky Mountain NP is called the "accessible wilderness.

Parks thrive when the lands around them are healthy. The air, water and wildlife that move in and out of parks must be safe and protected for parks to flourish. That’s why visitors are asked to support programs that limit the number of people in the park at any given time. Advance reservation systems and timed-entry programs help ensure that everyone has the best experience possible. 
In the fall, aspens glow in Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado

Information courtesy of, Kati Schmidt, Director of Communications. National Parks Conservation Association

Friday, January 13, 2023

Have you heard of Walnut Canyon National Monument?

One of the best things about a road trip is finding interesting places to visit that you weren’t even aware of. It was serendipity that led Larry and me to discover Walnut Canyon National Monument, ten miles southeast of Flagstaff in north Arizona, on our way to Sedona.

Looking down into the canyon

As devoted fans of national parks, we’re always amazed that there are many locations in the park system that we know nothing about. But we’re okay with making an unscheduled stop to check out a new destination. A quick Google search told us that the monument preserves some of the Southwest’s earliest history in cave dwellings of the 12th century Sinagua (meaning “without water”).

Wind-twisted rocks 
As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw a Visitor Center, which includes a park film and museum. Of the two available trails we decided to take the one-mile round trip Island hike down into the canyon. The shorter Rim Trail is paved and accessible, meandering along the top of the rim for seven-tenths mile with beautiful overlooks of the canyon.

The Island Trail drops down 
240 concrete steps into the depths of Walnut Canyon, where it loops around a rocky butte called the Island, which was created by the meanderings of Walnut Creek. The trail passes 25 partially restored, but amazingly well preserved, cliff dwellings constructed roughly 800 years ago.

Rugged, steep canyon walls 
The landscape was very rugged, filled with huge boulders and curved canyon walls. Swirling patterns in the steep walls indicated shifting wind directions through the ages. Despite the harsh environment, we found a distinct beauty in these geological formations.

Curved ledges provided shelter
Dwellings of ancient Puebloan people were evident wherever a cave or overhanging cliff could provide shelter from the elements. While it was easy to imagine life in Walnut Canyon when observing homes of the ancient inhabitants, some with distinct rooms, in and under these rock ledges, it’s hard to imagine modern people like us living in those conditions.
Depiction of what rooms may have been like

We finished the path and exited the canyon after an hour, much better informed about how native people adapted and survived in what was at that time an almost inaccessible environment. It’s worth visiting to gain an appreciation for their hardiness.

Protective ledges gave shelter

Walnut Canyon Monument is open daily from 9:00-4:30 (except early closure at 1:00 on Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1). Cost is $25 per vehicle that is good for 7 days. If you have a park pass (best bargain in the U.S.), there’s no additional charge.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The power of sand on a Danish fishing village

Remains of Skagen's Sand Church

On a little finger of land that juts out as the northernmost tip of Denmark lies the wind-swept town of Skagen. Its natural beauty and unique light have long attracted artists. Called the Land of Light, this once wealthy fishing town now caters to creative folks and visitors with an array of shops, museums and cafes.

The famous Sand Church, built in the 14th century and dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome, at one time could hold 1000 people and was 130 feet high. It was a landmark for fishermen and one of the attractions we wanted to see.

Rising levels of white sand from the region’s beaches eventually buried the structure faster than it could be dug out. At one point the door had to be dug out before every service, which finally led to locals abandoning the church. Today just the main tower remains, still at the mercy of shifting sands and winds as it sits on top of the large migrating sand dune.

Sign for the church--hiking
paths around the area

Sand drift was a continual problem. After about 100 years water levels rose, houses were covered with sand, and people began moving away from the sea and the town. As more sand blew, the elevation of the area got higher, Now the spit is the highest part of Denmark. Around 300 ships go around the spit every day, which was notoriously dangerous in the late 1800s causing many shipwrecks.

While Skagen has been a major port city and shipyard for 105 years, today there is no hospital or police station. Residents rely on a train that comes through town to get to various places. 

Houses near the port are often expensive summer cottages, most famously yellow-washed with red roofs. Around the Sand Church are paths that are popular with hikers and cyclists, so we had plenty of opportunities to wander about this unusual spot.

Yellow homes with red tile roofs are common in Skagen.

Then we drove out to the spit, which grows 30 yards each year, and boarded a Sandworm. This is a small bus pulled by a tractor that can go to the very end of the spit. Vegetation became sparse to nonexistent as we neared the sea, and massive sand dunes cover the area. This a stopping point for migratory birds on their way from Scandinavia to warmer environments.

The Sandworm

At the end of the spit the North Sea and Baltic Sea come together in distinctive tumbling wave patterns. We disembarked the Sandworm to get a closer look at this intriguing point. 

Beverly  waded into the sea.
It’s possible to wade into the icy water and put one foot in each ocean, which I attempted to do. Despite rolling up my pants as much as possible, the strong wave action left me soaked up to my knees. Still, it was a good attempt in an interesting spot I’ll probably not visit again—but I’m glad I did once.

Our final stop was the Skagen Museum, founded to preserve important works painted during the area’s peak prominence as an artists’ colony. Many painters were part of the naturalist movement where paintings reflected real life of the common people. Artists used light and extreme detail to make pictures more realistic and luminous. 

Skagen Museum has works from
famous artists.
Although many of the paintings we viewed were from the early 1900s, they were as clear and detailed as a present-day photograph.

 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier