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Thinking about a winter trip to Europe? Any seasoned traveler will tell you to start planning now! The sweet spot for booking winter flights and hotels hit at the end of August. With August approaching, now is the time to begin planning. Why risk the potential of inflated prices due to lack of preparedness? Even as Relaxed Explorers, we aren’t that relaxed!

While your wheels are churning on where to go this winter, the Relaxed Explorer team is here to lighten your load with a few significant winter packing tips. The tips may appear small, but they are mighty! Here are four tricks that can make winter travel in Europe vastly more enjoyable:

1. Google Maps

It is likely that there will be snow surrounding the streets in most European countries during the winter months. For those travelling with a walker, wheelchair, or need assistance, slippery cobblestone can pose a dangerous dilemma. Avoid disaster streets altogether! Prepare to know which streets to take, and which streets to dodge. Using Google Maps’ satellite view provides a detailed, close-up look at the streets you will be wandering down. If the streets appear difficult to navigate, search for a well-travelled, broad road nearby. Do not try to take the road less-travelled!

2. Think Snow

Even though you’ll avoid snow-filled backstreets, every traveler is bound to face a small pile of snow here and there. By the end of the day, cuffs of pants will suffer some sogginess. Packing a plastic bag protects dry clothes from the wet gloves, jeans, and jackets thrown back into the bag in the case they do not have the chance to air dry.

3. A Final Layer -

Layers, layers, layers! And, one more layer. There is one final layer that can aid in comfort and warmth: an oversized, long coat. Piling an oversized coat on top of all the layers keeps clothes dryer and can serve as a makeshift blanket when travelling between locations. Roll up the coat for a pillow! Pass the extra coat to a less-prepared and colder friend! Regardless, an extra, oversized coat will come in handy.

4. Chapstick & Lotion

This is an obvious winter necessity that slips through the cracks when travelling. Do not forget chapstick and a small bottle of lotion! There is nothing more distracting than cracked, dry skin, and there is no room to be distracted when standing before sloping mountains, a medieval tower, or a glistening frozen canal!

Now that the bags are all packed, where are you going this winter?!

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Between Christmas in July and Weihnachtsmarkts, it is hard to distinguish which tradition is more popular. Each centers around Christmas, but with entirely different customs. The only way to decide which is more popular is through thoroughly delving into each holiday tradition.

Christmas in July began as a celebration for countries that experience winter in July. A significant aspect of Christmas is the brisk winter air, drifting snowflakes, and huddling around a fireplace. Without the cold winter weather, Christmas doesn’t feel like… well, Christmas! It is a celebration providing a great excuse to throw a party in July while engaging in those classic wintry festivities.

Weihnachtsmarkts, also known as Christkindlmarkts, align more traditionally with Christmas celebrations. During the month of December, the actual Christmas season, Weihnactsmarkts take place throughout Germany and Austria. Farmers, tradesmen, and artisans gather between centrally located churches to sell their crafts. Figurines, delicately carved toys, ornaments, and music boxes line cobblestone streets on display.

The open-air Christmas markets once honored Catholic Saint Nikolaus, but the Reformation of the Church in the 16th century reshaped the vision of the festivities. Naming the markets Christkindlmarkts redirected the focus from Saint Nikolaus to “Christchild” Jesus as the gift-giver during the holiday. The renaming of the markets originated in Nuremburg, spreading to Protestant portions of Bavaria, and eventually, to all Saint Nikolaus markets.

It is safe to say that the deep roots of Weihnachtsmarkts are more representative of traditional culture and is overall the more popular. But, since we can’t visit a German Weihnachtsmarkt, we will be celebrating Christmas in July at The Relaxed Explorer! During the month of July, keep an eye out for a little extra Christmas cheer this summer… maybe a giveaway, too!

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While the castle’s name has its own special twist in pronunciation, the real twist lies with the mysterious ghosts who haunt the castle. Of course, no one can say whether the seven ghosts who haunt Culzean Castle are real… you’ll have to decide for yourself on your next visit.

Located of the Ayrshire cliffs of Scotland, Culzean Castle peers out on the Firth of Clyde, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. Between the water and the castle, there are multiple caves hidden in the cliffs. Before wandering the caves below, exploring the magnificent castle aboveground is a must.

The foundation of Culzean Castle, a large “L” shape, was built in the 1500s. Although the Clan Kennedy owned the property collectively, David Kennedy rebuilt the castle during his residency in 1777 as the 10th Earl of Cassillis. Kennedy commissioned Robert Adam to design additions to the castle. His additions, ultimately comprising the majority of the castle, were completed in 1792. Prior to the modifications, the castle stood as an under-stated defensive structure. Culzean Castle now radiates wealth, taste, and power, all of which the Earl sought to portray to the public.

Unlike the frill of Culzean Castle, ghosts haunting the castle remain out of the public eye. While ghost encounters do not happen often, consistent eye-witness reports throughout the years raise eyebrows. The castle was even featured on the British television show, Most Haunted!

In 1945, the Clan Kennedy family donated the castle to the National Trust for Scotland. Presented as a gift to General Eisenhower, the top floor was donated as an homage to Eisenhower’s role in WWII.

Exploring Culzean Castle merits a day-trip to South Ayrshire. On the castle tour, a guide takes you through 10 rooms, the kitchen, and the servant’s quarters. For an extended visit, guests can stay in the Eisenhower Apartment overnight.

Tickets are discounted for seniors, and much of the castle is accessible. Elevators are located throughout the castle, and accessible restrooms are provided as well. Manual wheelchairs and motorized scooters can be booked in advance, but if you’re travelling with The Relaxed Explorer, do not worry! We will book any necessary wheelchairs or scooters to meet your needs.

Culzean Castle: the definition of class, elegance, and panache. Book our Scottish Experience tour to visit the castle… or let the ghosts be your guide.

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