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Roll Over, Beethoven

From grandiose buildings to cultural treasures, Vienna is one cool capital
 

By David Jenison

 

The Nazis are on the retreat. With the Allies and Ruskies squeezing them from all sides,

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From grandiose buildings to cultural treasures, Vienna is one cool capital

 

By David Jenison

 

The Nazis are on the retreat. With the Allies and Ruskies squeezing them from all sides, the Third Reich has no choice but to abandon Vienna. Before they leave, however, Nazi commander Sepp Dietrich wants to give Europe the middle finger one last time. He fixates on the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral and gives the order to “fire a hundred shells and leave it in just debris and ashes.” Captain Gerhard Klinkicht gets the order, but he refuses to fire a single shell at this gothic marvel. History shows there’s not a lot a Nazi wouldn’t do, but these Nazis drew the line here. What a testimony to St. Stephen’s sheer magnificence.

Vienna and Budapest were co-capitals of the prominent Austro-Hungarian Empire, and despite their unity, these dual monarchies showed a competitive drive to out build each other. This rivalry resulted in some of Central Europe’s greatest works, but global conflict could easily have destroyed it all. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand led to the First World War, and considering Hitler started and finished his life in Austria, the country took a pounding in the Second World War as well. Remarkably, most of these grand works survived, and Vienna continues to add more.

The UNESCO-crowned city center features masterpieces like St. Stephen’s, the Hofburg Palace and the Parliament building, and both Beethoven and Mozart called Vienna home. In fact, the latter composer’s house was even turned into the Mozarthaus museum. The city boasts the world’s oldest public zoo, Tiergarten Schönbrunn (1752), and one of the world’s oldest Ferris wheels, the 200-foot Riesenrad (1897). The Austrian capital also features a wide variety of museums, including a new Museum Quarter.

For all of its grandiose buildings, though, the city is still home to the Toilet of Modern Art and other quirky oddities. The Hundertwasserhaus, for example, is an entire block of apartments and offices featuring uneven floors, two golden onion spires, strangely shaped pillars, glass-enclosed spiral staircases and a kaleidoscope of colors. There are even trees inside the units with limbs stretching out the windows.

Still, the biggest oddity is the city’s dog poop obsession. For example, a popular tourist map features “Dog Shit Blvd” in red ink over a residential street, a doggy-doody park listing and a “heaven for . . . dog shit spotters” description for Danube Island. Always with the scoop, the Poop Report (poopreport.com) tells how 157,000 signatures hit city hall demanding tougher turd-related penalties, which led one politician to suggest DNA testing the Lassie logs. Activists then called on people to (real quote alert) “count the number of Vienna sausages they see in the space of five minutes” and send the data to the city. Finally, when a man accidentally killed his neighbor over a doggy dropping, the city enacted stricter fines and placed baggie dispensers in public areas.

And when you get thirsty, definitely note that the city’s famous water comes from the Alps, and since Wein is the German word for Vienna, you might frightfully discover you’re drinking a bottle of Weiner Water. Don’t worry, it’s just H2O, but definitely skip the “drinking weiner water” status update on your Facebook page. Your parents are worried enough already.

Destination Unknown

Delightful Dublin

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A day in Dublin, Ireland, means taking in the sights and ending with a full belly, music, song, conversation and laughter—it truly makes this city a pleasure to visit.

Dublin is an ancient-yet-modern city that is delightful any time of year. Dublin is a highly walkable destination filled with a history going back to the Vikings along with gorgeous green spaces, castles, museums, theatres, restaurants and shopping districts.

The city’s main attraction is by far is the Guinness Storehouse. Now housed in a glass atrium-like building that looks like a black Guinness pint, this is the brewery tour of all tours. Hordes of tourists learn all about the beer’s four ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast) as well as the famous founder, Arthur Guinness. The top floor houses the Gravity Bar where the Dublin views are spectacular, especially with a pint of perfectly-poured Guinness in hand.

Other not-to-be missed Dublin attractions include Dublin Castle, Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, National Museum of Ireland, Farmleigh House, Old Jameson Distillery and the National Botanical Gardens.

Beyond the tourist traps, Dublin can be a place for travelers to relax in this spectacular seaside city. Take a stroll after breakfast to a park, garden or along the shore. In the afternoon, hit a museum or other historical places of interest. Late afternoons require tucking into some coffee, tea and baked goods at a local coffee shop or tea room after visiting Dublin’s legal CBD dispensary, Capel Street’s The Hemp Company. Dublin has had quite the foodie Renaissance in the past decade too, so dinner in Dublin can be anything from a prix fixe menu at the latest Michelin-starred restaurant to hip neighborhood bistro fare to traditional Irish dishes at a historic pub.

A day in Dublin taking in the sights and ending with a full belly, music, song, conversation and laughter truly makes this city a pleasure to visit.

Fun-Filled Facts

—The second annual Global Medical Cannabis Summit is returning to Dublin from September 22-24. Held at The Digital Depot Roe Lane, this weekend-long conference focuses on European medical cannabis perspectives and includes speakers such as legislators, scientists, doctors, patients and activists from around the world discussing such subjects as scientific insights, business development and political activism.

—From September 9-24, visitors can experience the Dublin Fringe Festival. Hundreds of “bold, brave, daring” and “cutting-edge” plays, so says Fringe Fest, are held at venues all over the city and is usually where Dubliners magically discover the next big theatrical show.

If You Go

Cannabis is still illegal in Ireland, even though a 2016 medical cannabis bill passed through two stages in the Dáil, but was ultimately squashed recently. Dublin Cannabis Club (DCC)—an online information sharing network of Dublin cannabis enthusiasts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—says most cannabis-seeking visitors have very limited options. There are no physical social clubs in Dublin, and some sources recommend that visitors try checking out 420-friendly bars or chatting with a local for recommendations. The DCC also recommends buying from “independent lads who are smokers” as flower quality is usually premium (a gram costs around 20-25 euros). If caught possessing cannabis, the Irish police (Garda) must legally take possession of your cannabis, and you may get a misdemeanor ticket and a fine.

Time to Go: September

Weather: Low 50s, High 60s

Budget: $$$$$ (3/5 monies)

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Québec City Captivates

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For cannabis enthusiasts who love the look and feel of Europe, but don’t want to go all the way there, cannabis-friendly Québec City, Canada, is absolutely captivating especially during August’s vibrant events and outdoor festivals. Plus, the relaxed attitude towards cannabis in Québec City is as refreshing as this walled fortress town’s stunning views of the Saint Lawrence River.

In summer, Québec City is best known for its outdoor festivals, its bodacious gastronomy and its plentiful recreational activities (such as cycling, sailing, canoeing, hiking, whitewater rafting and even soaking at hot mineral day spas).

Called a Canadian “signature experience,” Québec City’s New France Festival (Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France) is definitely extraordinary. The New France Festival makes visitors feel like they have gone back in time as the city’s cobblestoned Old or Lower Town comes to life as if during the colonial era. Locals (and paid actors) dress in period fashions for a colonial-themed food market, games, music and a daily costume parade.

Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec calls it “six soirées flamboyantes.” That’s roughly translated to six flamingly flamboyant evenings (August 2, 9, 12, 16, 19, 25) of competitive international pyrotechnics. Each night has a different theme (disco, country, classic, hip-hop, Latin), and there’s literally a long list of ways to enjoy summer’s most beautiful “festival” from standing on just the right romantic street corner to sitting at an observatory with a panoramic view.

At the end of the month, from August 31 to September 3, the city revs up again and then relaxes for The Bordeaux Wine Festival (Bordeaux Fête Le Vin à Québec). QC’s Bordeaux Wine Festival attracts wine connoisseurs to participate in tastings of Quebec’s regional delicacies and wines along with attending workshops and other food-and-wine activities.

Ready for some of the best scenery, nature, food, wine, cannabis and club scenes in North America? Quebec City marries the best of the past with the best of today when it comes to cannabis-friendly travel.

Fun-Filled Facts

—Summer’s sunshine and warmth make Québec City’s historic Terrasse Dufferin the perfect place to take a stroll, jog, cycle or do yoga at sunrise.

—Want to experience a little bit of Paris while in Québec City? Head to Café du Monde. This waterfront eatery has been serving Parisian-style bistro fare (think steak frites à la Béarnaise and a brunch dish of poached eggs swimming in hollandaise) to cruise passengers for decades.

—Combine hospitality with history by staying at Auberge Saint-Antoine. This strikingly beautiful boutique hotel was built atop a treasure trove of colonial artifacts and each of its comfortably chic rooms houses at least one ancient relic.

If You Go

In Canada—including the province of Québec —cannabis is only legal for medical cannabis patients who have visited their healthcare doctor and obtained a referral to a “licensed commercial producer.” In Québec, medical cannabis is only available via delivery. As for Americans, Quebecois medical cannabis delivery services confirm they do accept valid “licenses” from medical cannabis states for purchasing flowers, oil and edibles. And while it seems the Québecois are quite cool when it comes to smoking cannabis, be safe and do not light up around the cops, government buildings, designer shops and family parks. If you don’t want to go the delivery route, then consider making some new cannabis-loving friends (who can now legally grow their own) at a hipster club in the trendy Saint-Roch district.

Time to Go: August

Weather: Highs 70s, lows 50s

Budget: $$$$$ (3/5 dollar signs)

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Adventure in The Azores

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For cannabis enthusiasts who cherish the tranquility of raw nature above all else, The Azores can make for a peaceful, inspirational and truly relaxing respite in summer. Located smack in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, The Azores is today a collection of nine islands and six small towns that were uninhabited until 1433 when a hearty group of Portuguese sailors decided to settle near what is now Santa Maria, which is about 850 miles west of Lisbon and 2,500 miles east of New York City.

This remote island archipelago that makes up The Azores is meant for the adventurous traveler, as these mostly active volcanic mountains are packed with breathtakingly beautiful scenery. In one day (and with a rental car), visitors can experience everything from windswept sandy beaches to pristine inland crater-made lakes to wonderful waterfalls spilling into swimmable ponds.

Perhaps that’s because “going to The Azores” is really an escape from ordinary life. These tiny island towns in the middle of the great big blue ocean are not into the Euro party scene like the Spanish, French, Portuguese or even African coasts. This is a place where farming and fishing are king. Although the weather here is mostly mild, there can be days upon days of fog and soaking rain even in the summer months.

This back-to-nature quality is probably what makes Azoreans hearty folk who prefer family-friendly activities such as long hikes, boat rides, slow cooking, even slower eating (at hours-long meals paired with local wines) and just enjoying life naturally. This slowing down effect—plus Portugal’s cannabis decriminalization laws—makes The Azores a super chill place to truly get away from it all while medicating.

Fun-Filled Facts

—The Azores is the only region in Europe where tea is still cultivated, so don’t miss visiting the island’s several “tea estates” dating from the 1800s. Locals welcome visitors to tour their farm and cultivation facilities of famous Azorean organic black, green and orange pekoe teas.

—Because The Azores are located atop the “triple junction” of three tectonic plates (North American, Eurasian and African) and are still actively volcanic, the islands are known for their steaming geothermal geysers and mineral-filled hot spring waters.

If You Go

The Azores is an “autonomous region” of Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs (only if you are carrying less than a 10-day supply) including cannabis to a misdemeanor. So, smoking cannabis anywhere in Portugal and its outlying colonies such as The Azores is quite common and does not alarm locals. The best thing to do on any trip to a European country is to find and vet a cannabis-loving local before you leave. If you did not prepare ahead, then politely ask a 20- or 30-something Azorean where you can find cannabis (they will know what you mean but it is locally known as erva). Just remember to smoke discreetly although European joints (called spliffs) are usually packed with tobacco as well as cannabis flowers. If you want to make certain you have access to THC or CBD on your trip to the middle of The Atlantic, try this travel trick. Buy an inexpensive vaping pen (in case it gets confiscated). Separate the vape and the oil cartridge in your luggage so they are not in the same bag. Also make certain the cartridge is not in a package and has no logo or markings on it.

Time to Go: July

Weather: High 60s, low 70s with some rainfall

Budget: $$$ (three out of five)

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