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IT—Inside Traveler
By Jessie Johnston and Emily King

February 1, 2007:

Not Another Croatian Blog Entry

Last fall, chief researcher Marilyn Terrell spent a week in Croatia, and then couldn't stop blogging about it. The tide of Croatia-themed entries did eventually ebb, but one remaining bit of trivia has been lapping at IT's shores, and we felt it was time to let this last Balkan wave break over you, our Croatia-thirsty readers.

Croatia hasn't joined the EU yet, so it still has its own money, called the kuna. Kuna is also the Croatian name for the marten, a furry weasel-like mammal related to the mink. The website Croatia-in-English has the story (complete with a photo of a coin from about 1250) of how this currency came to be named after a weasel:

"In ancient times the kuna pelt was an export item from many regions of what is today Croatia. Around A.D. 1000, the towns of Cres and Beli (on the island of Cres) had to pay an annual tribute in kuna pelts to the Venetian authorities. This was the first known instance of the kuna pelt being used directly as payment."

Between the 13th and 16th centuries, a coin called the banovac was minted with a picture of a marten on it. During Croatia's brief independence between 1939 and 1945, they created a currency inspired by that earlier coin, this time actually called the kuna. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Croatia had to choose a new currency to replace the Yugoslav dinar, and they went back to the kuna.

In Zagreb you can see the
image of a running kuna on the roof of St. Mark's church. The roof tiles are laid out to represent the coat of arms of the 19th-century kingdom encompassing Croatia (checkerboard), Dalmatia (three little lions wearing crowns), and Slavonia (the kuna).

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Are We There Yet? Family Travel Tips from the Blogosphere

IT's recently taken a liking to Parent Hacks—the "collaborative weblog of practical parenting tips"—so we asked founder and editor Asha Dornfest to send IT her favorite family travel tactics. She writes: 

"We at Parent Hacks believe that travel is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Even if they are 'too young to appreciate it,' every kid beyond infancy will take away something from the experience—not necessarily full-formed memories, but a general awareness that the world is a vast and wondrous place. We also recognize the challenges inherent in traveling with little ones, so we've collected a number of real-world tips to smooth the road (or flight) ahead.

"1. Do your research. There are plenty of good websites that can help you prepare for the trip, both logistically and mentally. A few to try:, Parentography, and TripConnect.

"2. Simplify packing. If you're taking a road trip, consider packing the bulkier items (snow gear, toys, beach towels) in plastic laundry baskets rather than suitcases. Use carabiners to attach loose items to your backpack or diaper bag. Bring only enough diapers and wipes to get you through the first few days, and plan to restock.

"3. But don't underpack. That said, bring along the stuff that will help your kids settle into unfamiliar surroundings: a favorite stuffed animal, a frequently requested bedtime story, or a night-light. A small emergency kit with pediatric medicines and first aid supplies will help you rest easy, too.

"4. Arrange passports well ahead of time. If you're even dreaming of international travel, take care of everyone's passports now. Did you know you can convert one of your own digital photos into a passport photo?

"5. Keep the kids entertained in transit. Keeping kids happy, comfortable and well fed while in transit requires some planning: You want them to be relatively quiet and content, but you don't want them to spend the entire trip glued to the portable DVD player. Some ideas: Pack activity bags full of small, inexpensive toys and art supplies, to be opened in transit; draw faces on airplane sick bags and stage an in-flight puppet show; bring along a few books on tape and some kid-safe headphones. If you're handy with the digital audio equipment, you can even create a special 'vacation soundtrack.' In lieu of trying to make them keep a travel journal, have the kids write postcards to themselves.

"6. Baby-proof the hotel room. Put masking tape over stray electrical outlets, wrap a disposable diaper around the tub faucet to protect little noggins, and rearrange the furniture to block off hazardous areas. And bring your baby monitor along—it'll buy you some alone time in the hallway.

"7. Have your kids wear ID at all times. You can buy Velcro bracelets or in-the-shoe stickers, or you can do what one Parent Hacks reader suggests: Write your cell phone number on your kid's belly with permanent marker.

"8. Take advantage of museum memberships. Many museums have reciprocal membership agreements, so if you're a local museum member, see if it can get you a discount, or even free admission, to museums in the town you're visiting. Not a member? Try your auto club card, student or teacher ID, or public television or radio membership card.

"9. Give yourself a break. Temporarily loosen the restrictions on DVD-watching, Gameboy-playing, and junk-food eating if it will help you get through a particularly rough day (and there will be rough days), or if you simply need a moment of rest. The memories of your travel experience are too precious to be tainted with arguments over candy bars or an extra showing of Toy Story 2."

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From January 30, 2007:

Wired Woman Wanderlust: Top Travel Blogs

In this edition of Wired Wanderlust, assistant website editor Mary Beth LaRue introduces us to three fabulous female-penned travel blogs.

Tired of seven-day workweeks, BlackBerry handhelds, and impending burnout, three twenty-something New Yorkers who call themselves The Lost Girls left their media jobs in the winter of 2005 to travel the world. Their 35,000-mile (56,000-kilometer) journey around the globe begins in South America and crawls eastward through Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia—photographing and writing at every stop on the way. Our pick of their posts: a stop in Huacachina, a desert oasis town on Peru's southern coast, for sand dune surfing. 

NYU graduate and freelance writer Megan Lyles and her photographer boyfriend Michael Simon documented their just-ended one-year bus trip from New York City to the tip of South America on complementary, Bloggie-nominated blogs. Follow the duo as they delay their journey southward to help with Hurricane Katrina, try eating Peruvian guinea pig, and hit a reef in their sailboat heading from Panama to Columbia. According to Megan, the total time spent in transit—including all modes of transportation, delays, and time spent on the unmoving sailboat—was 680.75 hours. That's a lot of travel to blog.

Gadling contributor Dia Draper is about to spend a Semester at Sea and will be recording it all in her own blog, Funchilde: Around the World in 100 Days. Though the blog is in the pretrip planning stage, she'll soon be stopping in Rio, Salvador (where she'll be marching in three Carnival parades), Cape Town, Chennai, Penang, and Honolulu. Judging by her blog thus far, and the fact that she's part of the Gadling clan, we're betting this will be a great read.

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What We Hear from Hiroshima

English teacher and Japanese resident, Jessie Szalay, spends her holiday breaks touring Japan, then—lucky for us—sends IT her dispatches. Her latest destination? Hiroshima and its outlying towns

"Hiroshima has become one of Japan's leading tourist destinations, as people from around the world flock to the Peace Memorial Park to remember the more than 140,000 people who were killed by the atomic bomb in 1945. A visit to the park and museum is a life-altering experience—something everyone should see, something everyone does see. Escape the crowds and head for the nearby sites that were luring travelers long before the bomb was dropped. 

"Miyajima Island is a mere twenty-minute train ride and ten-minute ferry journey from Hiroshima. One of the most beautiful and important islands in Japanese mythology, Miyajima is covered in virgin forest—a place where tame deer roam the streets and wild monkeys roam the mountains. The view from Itsukushima Shrine (the island's famous attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage site) is considered one of the Nihon Sankei, the three most scenic views in Japan. It overlooks a massive orange torii gate in the middle of Miyajima Bay, which, when the tide is in, appears to be floating in the water. The shrine itself is impressive. It is made of wooden platforms over the water; if you're lucky, you might catch a Noh dance performance on a central platform.

"Itsukushima is by far Miyajima's most famous shrine, but Daisho-in Temple is well worth a visit too (both are free). A hodgepodge of different architectural styles, colors, and Buddhist icons make it one of the most interesting temples in Japan. Revel in positive energy at the sutra staircase (climbing it will bring you good luck) and a cave filled with glowing golden Buddhas. Time and weather permitting, the two-hour trek up Mt. Misen, Miyajima's highest mountain, is gorgeous and the view of the island-dotted sea is spectacular. Alternately, take the ropeway gondola for 1,800 yen round-trip and save your legs from the climb. After nightfall, most tourists leave the island and only the locals remain on its dark, shrouded shore. You can stay overnight in a ryokan (Japanese-style inn) and experience the romantic silence and traditional kaiseki cooking. Hiroshima oysters are sure to be on the menu. 

"The old samurai town of Iwakuni lies another 20 minutes beyond Miyajima, and, though it offers slightly less by way of sightseeing, it is a peaceful, clean, and friendly town. Its most famous sight is the Kintai-Kyo, or Brocade Sash Bridge, which is composed of five massive wooden arches, and was built in 1673 without using a single nail. The original was destroyed in 1950 by a typhoon, but the reconstruction is faithful. It costs 300 yen to cross the bridge, or wait until nightfall and cross for free. Across the bridge you'll find Kikko-Koen, an attractive park featuring modern fountains spraying water high into the air, a traditional Japanese iris garden, and several samurai houses. The Iwakuni Castle is rather anticlimactic, but do pay a visit to the Whitesnake House where you'll see lots of Iwakuni albino snakes—which, according to myth, are said to bring good luck."

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Emily King, Traveler's assistant to the editor, hopes Punxsatawney Phil doesn't see his shadow this week; she is ready for cherry blossoms. Researcher Jessie Johnston, on the other hand, hopes the little guy does catch a glimpse, so there will still be pink on the trees when she gets to Japan in April.

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