Spot Cool Stuff has a love of vintage travel guidebooks, the older the better. In one our finds, a guidebook to Afghanistan written in the late 1800s, the authors described the Buddha statues around of the town of Bamiyan as an over-crowded tourist trap. Contrast that with the whole of the last three decades, during which absolutely nowhere in Afghanistan could remotely qualify as an “over-crowded tourist trap.” That, sadly, includes the Bamiyan Buddha statues—they were mostly destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
The point being: Things change. A place that’s uninviting now might become completely pleasant in the future. A great travel destination now could not be so much later.
Conjure an image of what’s it is like to go on a cruise. Are you picturing buffet dinners? On-deck spinning classes? Retirees playing shuffleboard? Many cruises really are like that. But if you’re looking for a different sort of cruise scene consider traveling by cargo ship.
Cargo ship travel is the un-cruise. There’s nothing fabricated about it. Every day thousands of freighters ply the high seas. Some of them have extra state rooms and accept passengers to tag along for the ride. This is as “real” as travel gets.
Of course, cargo ship cruising is not for everyone. Cargo ships don’t have swimming pools, evening entertainment, rock climbing walls or organized mixers on Lido decks. Go on a cargo ship cruise and there might be as many as four or five other paying passengers like yourself. Or, you may be the only one. And while cargo ships often have comfortable sleeping quarters they’re unlikely to be luxurious.
To book passage on a cargo ship you can go directly through some shipping lines. But we recommend working through a travel agent that can vouch for the quality of the food and accommodations and can make sure your itinerary includes sufficient shore leave time. One of the best agents for cargo ship cruises is Intrepid Travel. Here’s a look at their five cool cargo cruise ship itineraries:
Here’s a restaurant theme you didn’t see coming: darkness.
The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.
Today you can stumble into dozens restaurants around the world where that question made famous in an American commercial in the 80s — Where’s the beef? — takes on a whole new meaning. Most dark restaurants employ blind waiters, offer a single set menu, and ban anything that could give off light (like cigarettes, cell phones and cameras) from the dinning area. All of them also have normally lit bathrooms though you’ll need to ask your waiter for help in finding it.
Here’s our illuminating look at some of the world’s dark restaurants: