Slight North was started to chronicle my travels around the world. Slight North is a resource for anyone who wants to quit the nine-to-five and see the world. Travels as a digital nomad through South America and beyond.
The Dayton Pizza Wars are behind us, four iconic restaurants remain.
But, which Dayton style pizza place is the best in the city?
We conducted a very-unscientific-but-thoroughly-delicious blind taste test between Marion’s, Cassano’s, Ron’s, and Joe’s to find out!
Picking up a pizza from Ron’s in Miamisburg for our Dayton style pizza showdown
What is Dayton Style Pizza?
Pizza must have two essential characteristics to earn the right to bear our city’s name. First, Dayton style pizza always has a thin, flat crust and second, it’s cut into small square slices instead of the typical pie shape.
Most Daytonians can attest that the tiny size of the slices makes eating “just one more” impossible to stop until an empty box is all that remains.
The biggest Dayton style pizza chain is Donatos, and it isn’t from Dayton at all. The company was founded by an OSU student in Columbus 10 years after Vic Cassano started doin’ his thing down here in the Gem City. Donatos has now expanded into more than 10 states so people sometimes mistakenly refer to pizzas with thin crust and a square cut as simply Ohio-style pizza.
But just like the slogan on NC license plates, they’re dead wrong.
For Dayton expats living out of state, Donatos will do in a pinch, but when in town it’s never the first choice. That honor is usually reserved for the big three – Cassano’s, Marion’s, and Ron’s – who earned that right when they battled it out in the great Dayton Pizza Wars.
Joe’s Pizzeria on Airway Rd.
The Dayton Pizza Wars
Long before the Dayton Peace Accords, there were the Dayton Pizza Wars.
It all started in 1953.
Vic Cassano opened his first pizza shop in Kettering and was wildly successful. He began franchising soon after, and two familiar names entered the doughy fray: Ron Holp and Marion Glass.
Ron bought a Cassano’s franchise and operated it for a few years until he decided he wanted to go off on his own. He asked his wife to create a dough recipe as similar to Cassano’s as possible and then opened the first Ron’s Pizza in 1964 to serve it – while he still operated his Cassano’s franchise!
Obviously, this wasn’t gonna fly.
Vic sued Ron because he believed Ron had stolen the Cassano’s recipe and they battled it out in court in what the Dayton Daily News dubbed the “Dayton Pizza Wars.” Ron won the lawsuit and Ron’s Pizza is still operating today in Miamisburg.
Marion Glass soon followed in Ron’s footsteps, selling his Cassano’s franchise and opening the first Marion’s Pizza in 1965 using the same dough recipe that Ron’s wife created.
So, Cassano’s is clearly the OG but Ron’s and Marion’s have grown into their own beloved institutions as well. But where does Joe’s – our fourth contender in the blind taste test – come into all of this?
Joe’s opened its doors in the 1950s (making it older than Marion’s and Ron’s but younger than Cassano’s) and has always coexisted peacefully with the other big three, which is why the shop still remains somewhat of a hidden gem in Dayton. In fact, I had never even heard of Joe’s until my dad insisted we include it in the mix, but now I’m so glad we did.
And now that you’ve got a bit of history, let the taste test commence!
Conducting the first round of our blind taste test with 4 out of the 5 participants
Blind Taste Teste
I won’t lie, there were some minor snafus in the making of this taste test.
Because Marion’s and Joe’s don’t deliver we decided to even the playing field and dispatch four teams to pick up the four pizzas. We called ahead to set a 5:30 pm pick up time for each, to ensure that each pizza was the same age when we dug into it.
Then, I got home with Ron’s (a 25-minute drive from Beavercreek) and found my mom had completely disregarded the plan and put the other three waiting pizzas into the oven to keep warm.
Ron’s was a bit colder than the rest and the other three weren’t 100% fresh when we chowed down but dammit we tried our best. Still, I had one participant do their blind taste test with all cold pizza to make sure Ron’s got a fair chance, and his rankings matched the rest.
With all this in mind, here are the results of our blind Dayton style pizza taste test between Ron’s, Marion’s Cassano’s and Joe’s.
Let’s start with the essential info you need to know about our taste test.
The Participants: Various siblings and spouses (5)
The Restaurants: Marion’s, Ron’s, Joe’s, Cassano’s (4)
The Pizza Style: Half pepperoni half cheese. Four participants chose to taste test the pepperoni while one opted for the cheese. None of her rankings were significantly different than the meat eaters.
After eating a piece of all four pizzas, I asked each participant to rank them from one to four, with one being the best and four being the worst. Then, I added up the rankings from all five participants. The pizza place with the lowest score wins while the place with the highest score will come in last.
Ron’s got two third-place ratings and three fourth-place ratings, for a total score of 18
Marion’s got one first-place ranking, three third-place rankings, and one fourth-place ranking for a total score of 14
Cassano’s got one fourth-place ranking, three second-place ratings, and one first-place rating for a total score of 11
Joe’s got three first-place rankings and two second-place rankings for a total score of 7
Joe’s Pizza – the winner of our Dayton style blind taste test!
And the Best Dayton Style Pizza Is…
Participants agreed that Joe’s had both the best sauce and the best pepperoni, which cooked into tiny cup shapes to store extra grease and flavor. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our rankings of best to worst pizzas also matched up with the greasiest to least greasy pizza boxes.) Joe’s also had the thickest crust.
Cassano’s coming in second was another surprise because I always thought I preferred Marion’s. Turns out, when I eat them side by side, Marion’s just can’t compete with Cassano’s salty crust and the participants in the blind taste test agree with me. Marion’s is still a solid option when eating out with a group though because there’s just something about sitting next to a fake window with a mug of root beer that Cassano’s can’t provide.
Finally, we have Ron’s. The pepperoni wasn’t crispy (and was almost a bit ham-like) and the cheese and crust were both just a bit bland. Standing alone, I’m sure Ron’s pizza is fine, but next to these other three powerhouses it just couldn’t compete.
So, the definitive answer is finally here: Joe’s serves up the best Dayton style pizza in the city.
Next time you get a craving for Dayton style pizza (or want to introduce visiting family and friends to this Gem City original) make sure you order up Joe’s for the best experience!
Lake Natron is located in the wetlands of Northern Tanzania and besides being home to tons of tiny red photosynthesizing cyanobacteria (say that five times fast) it also houses flocks of lesser flamingos that take advantage of the lake’s inhospitality to their predators to safely breed on the islands that dot the red salty waters.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park
2. The Bright Orange Ring Around the Grand Prismatic Spring
The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous colorful bodies of water because it’s the third largest hot spring in the world.
The colors of Grand Prismatic Spring come from organisms called thermophiles that thrive in high temperatures and live around the border of the 121 foot deep hot spring.
The center is a deep blue because the deadly 189 degrees Fahrenheit temperature is so hot that nothing can survive, but as the water spreads to the outer layers it cools and the bacteria that live in each separate temperature come in almost every color of the rainbow – including a deep, bright, orange.
If that’s not enough for you orange-lovers out there, you can also stop by Ramla Bay, the orange sand beach in Malta, as well.
The Kliluk Lake in British Columbia looks like any other lake most of the time. But in the summer when the water begins to evaporate, the tell-tale spots become visible for a few weeks out of the year.
The unique yellow color comes from salt and minerals (are you beginning to sense a trend?) and is easiest to see in late July. You can’t visit the lake without permission from the Okanagan First Nations people but you can still park on the nearby road and enjoy the view from afar.
Most of the year the valley has shaded trails, park benches, and towering trees to hike underneath. But in the summer, the snow on the surrounding mountains melts and a small pond turns into the large Green Lake, submerging everything in its path underwater.
Swimmers and divers used to be able to float among the grass, tree trunks, benches, and bridge in their eerie underwater homes, but the park has since eliminated this option to help protect this unique natural place from our human impact.
Laguna 69 in Huascaran National Park
5. The Stunningly Blue Waters of Laguna 69
Explorers found so many lakes (almost 300!) in Huascaran National Park in Northern Peru that they reverted to numbering all of them rather than spending the time to come up with names.
Laguna 69 has become one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the country due to the way the stunningly blue-turquoise water shimmers under the sunlight.
The lake is filled by the melting snow and ice from a nearby mountain and can be reached on a one-day high-altitude trek to its dizzying location more than 15,000 feet above sea level.
The thermally heated water from the underground hot springs on São Miguel Island is full of unoxidized iron and acid. When it’s used to brew green tea, it reacts with the antioxidants in the leaves and turns the drink a deep shade of purple instead.
Even better? The special qualities of the volcanic water prevent the (now-purple) green tea from becoming bitter no matter how long you allow the leaves to soak.
Pink water in Lake Retba
7. The Rosy Pink Shores of Lake Retba in Senegal
Lake Hillier in Australia is known for its famous pink hues, but did you know there’s a larger rose-colored body of water in Senegal?
The lake covers about one square mile, but it’s the color, not the size, that draws attention. Just like Lake Hillier, Lake Retba is pink due to the algae that thrive in the salty waters. The algae are most abundant during the dry season, so the color is extra vivid during the winter months from November to June.
Salar de Uyuni salt flats
8. The Heavenly White Salt Flats in Bolivia
The Salar de Uyuni salt flats span more than 4,000 square miles, making them bigger than entire countries like Lebanon, Cyprus, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
During the rainy season from February and April, a thin layer of water turns the world’s largest salt flats into the world’s largest mirror, perfectly reflecting the overhead sky.
What makes this white wonderland so alien to the rest of the world? The almost-12,000 ft. high plateau was once a large salt lake that was unable to drain because of the mountains around it. The water evaporated over the millennia, and now 10 billion tons of salt is all that’s left behind.
9. The Poisonous Black Quarry in England
What do you do when a quarry is poisonous to swim in, but such a beautiful tempting blue color that tourists keep jumping in any way?
Council members in charge of the Blue Lagoon of Buxton decided to dye the toxic body of water black to more accurately depict the old cars, dead animals, and pH level of 12.3 that lies inside!
The dye fades every year, but this article (and Youtube videos around the web) report that the quarry is dyed black again most years in the council’s ongoing attempt to prevent visitors from jumping in for a dip in the summertime.
Ice art on Lake Baikal
10. The Transparent Ice on Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal in Russia’s remote region of Siberia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, containing one-fifth of the earth’s unfrozen surface water. It was inscribed as a UNESCO site in 1996 and the lake’s origins date back more than 25 million years.
In the winter it freezes so deep that cars can drive on it and Lake Baikal draws visitors who marvel at the natural bubbles and cracks that form in the transparent ice sheets, a site so beautiful that famous Russian author Chekhov called Lake Baikal ‘the pearl of Siberia.’
I received free lessons in exchange for this Baselang review but all opinions are my own.
Like most Americans, I took the least amount of Spanish classes in high school as possible.
In my head, I was never going to use Spanish, so why would I spend more time and effort learning it than I need to? Flash forward 11 years and I was completely lost as our Colombian taxi driver talked to use for 40 minutes straight on the way to our apartment from the airport.
After stumbling through the conversation in broken Spanish, I decided I was going to do my best to learn the language.
However, almost a year in South America passed and I still wasn’t at the level I wanted to be.
Now that I’m going back to Mexico for 5+ months, I decided I wanted to make Spanish lessons a regular part of my schedule.
After some research, I came across several companies offering Spanish classes online.
Most companies offer Spanish classes by the hour, but Baselang was the only one I came across that offered something new. I tried out the $1 week-long trial (click here to get your own) and wrote this Baselang review to share all the insider info you need to know about the program.
The Baselang Offer – Unlimited Online Spanish Classes
Unlike other companies, Baselang offers Spanish courses on a subscription basis.
Click into the time of day you want to schedule your class
Choose your instructor
Add them on Zoom
Complete your 30-minute lesson
You can also sort instructors by those available for an hour if you want to take a longer course, or sort by specific instructors once you figure out which ones you work well with.
If you can’t read this, it’s time to sign up for online Spanish classes.
What I Like About Baselang
Let’s start my Baselang review with the good. Baselang does a lot of things well, and their model is one that nobody else is following right now.
Some of my favorite things about Baselang are:
1. Access To Instructors
While the classes don’t run for 24 hours a day, the time spread is strong.
It’s convenient to be able to decide how much (and when) you take your classes. You don’t have to work on a set schedule each week.
If you want to take a class during your lunch, you can do that. If you want to take multiple classes one day and none the next, you can do that too.
There’s almost always someone available, even just a few minutes before the time slot.
2. 30-Minute Lessons
While a 30-minute lesson might sound short, it’s just the right length to fit into a busy schedule.
I tried a different company that does 45-minute lessons, and it was difficult to make myself do it just because it seemed like a big time commitment.
With a 30-minute lesson, I can fit one in every day at lunchtime.
3. Customer Service
Based on my limited interaction with the company, their customer service seems pretty good.
They offer a one-week trial for $1 to see whether you like the service, and they’re giving me a free month of service for writing this Baselang review.
4. Consistent Lessons Even When Traveling
I travel frequently (a different city ever four or five weeks), which makes it difficult to get consistent Spanish lessons in person.
We have to arrive, find a good school, and find a good instructor all in one month before we leave again – it’s just not realistic.
With Baselang, I can have consistent Spanish lessons no matter how much I’m traveling since it’s all done via Zoom.
Learning Spanish can help you travel like a local in countries around the world.
What I Don’t Like About Baselang
I always aim to keep it real, and this Baselang review is no different. While there are a lot of great things about unlimited online Spanish courses, there are definitely some things the company can work on to improve their service.’
Here are a few.
1. Quality Of Instructors
There’s a wide range in terms of quality in the instructors.
Some are new teachers without a lot of confidence, while others are experienced teachers with graduate degrees in their field.
You’ll likely have to try several lessons before you come across instructors that you work well with, and you’ll often have to direct the lesson yourself if you want to work on something specific.
$149 per month isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either.
On several other websites, you can find quality Spanish instructors for around $10/hour. That means you need to do 30 Baselang lessons per month to get your lessons for $10/hour.
My guess is that most people don’t get 30 lessons in per month, so you would have to calculate out your work to figure out exactly how much you’re paying per hour.
3. Lack Of Continuity
While you can search by specific instructor, you aren’t guaranteed to get those instructors at the time that you want.
What that means is you end up with a lot of different instructors, and none of them know where you’re at in your learning journey or what you covered in your previous lesson.
It would be nice if they had a running file on your that the next instructor could read and then build upon in your lesson.
4. Quality Of Audio
While it appears they provide the instructors with a microphone, I’ve had some lessons where I could barely understand the instructors due to the poor quality of audio.
I’m not sure whether it was the internet connection or microphone, but it made it pretty much impossible to hear.
However, I completed most sessions without any problems.
Are Baselang Unlimited Online Spanish Lessons Worth It?
I’ll update this Baselang review after I use the service for another month, but I would say that Baselang is worth a try if you want to practice your Spanish conversation skills on a regular basis.
If you aren’t committed, you aren’t going to get your money’s worth.
If you’re willing to put in at least one lesson per day for the entire month, I think $149 is a fair price.
If the price goes above $149/month, I’d have to reconsider.
Should you visit Africa or the Middle East? Egypt or Jordan? Decisions, decisions!
Both countries are astounding in their historical significance. The cradle of civilization is in an area deemed by many as unsafe for travel. But are those fears true?
If you had only one choice to visit a country, how would you decide?
Is your apprehension going to keep you from experiencing these fantastic countries?
Tourist Attractions and Historical Sites
When you start planning a trip to Egypt, you may consider adding any (or all) of these sites to your itinerary:
The Great Pyramids of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza
Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
Nile River Cruises
The Valley of the Kings
Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
The Avenue of the Sphynxes
Colossi of Memnon
The Library of Alexandria
Temples like Philae, Kom Ombo, Luxor, Karnak, and Horus at Edfu
Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Do you see a theme of temples? There are so many temples in Egypt so only the sites I saw are listed. In Jordan there are also plenty of sites to discover, like:
Ancient Mosaic Map at Madaba (St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church)
The Dead Sea
Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas – Baptismal site of Jesus)
Roman Theatre in Amman
The King Abdullah Mosque
Amman Archeological Museum
Jordan Museum and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Numerous Desert Castles
Although Jordan is stuffed to the brim with gorgeous archeological sites, Egypt boasts the Pyramids of Giza, the only remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing.
Plus, the Valley of the Kings is mind-blowing. Walking down into the tombs built millenniums ago will give you goosebumps. And to imagine people carving and painting the walls as they did with only fire as light is astounding.
Egypt vs. Jordan Tourist Attractions Winner: Egypt
Petra Treasury in Jordan
Egypt is an incredibly affordable destination.
The value of the Egyptian Pound (EGP or LE) is low (1 USD = 16.76 EGP). Entrance into museums and tourist attractions is reasonable. The cost to see the Giza Pyramids was 120 EGP. Which means $7.16 USD. Pretty cheap for one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World! Water and food were also inexpensive.
Jordan is an incredibly expensive destination.
The Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is high (1 USD = 0.71 JOD). The numbers may not seem bad but I’m Canadian so my exchange was 1 CAD = 0.53 JOD. Meaning everything cost me double.
Plus, the food was the same price point as Canada so a normal lunch costing $17 CAD would also cost $17 JOD. We purchased some snacks at the grocery store and it came to $80 CAD!
A one-day ticket to Petra is 50 JOD, translating to $70.42 USD. Factors on your home currency have an impact in terms of affordability.
Egypt vs. Jordan Affordability Winner: Egypt
Meal in Egypt
The Canadian government states to “Exercise a high degree of caution” while traveling to both Jordan and Egypt. We felt safe in both countries. Of course, it is wise to avoid some areas of the countries so educate yourself before you go.
Often visiting countries where there is a safety concern improves the security measures for travelers. In Egypt, there was security at every site we entered. We had to state what country we came from. The only time I felt insecure was at the Giza train station. It was dirty and the people were not friendly.
Our guides and drivers kept telling us, “Tell your friends to come to Egypt. It is safe!” However, they advised us not to go on the streets alone. I missed walking the streets. Freedom of self-exploration was lacking. Streets were also dirty, giving a feeling of foreboding.
You are free to walk on the streets and no one bothers you. There did not seem to be such a high-security presence at sites. Metal detectors were common when entering a building, as well. The streets in Jordan were clean.
Egypt vs. Jordan Safety Winner: Jordan
Traffic in Amman
Ease of Tourism
When we arrived in Egypt, our guide begged us not to go on the streets without a guide.
We would be swarmed by people trying to sell us stuff. It was not hard to convince us as our hotel was a 4-star but the surrounding area outside the hotel walls was not appealing. Garbage everywhere. There was nowhere to go, even if we wanted to.
Visas are required at entry in the airport. Make sure you have new bills or they will not accept your cash. By new, I mean nothing older than the 2000 USD series.
Security at the airport was insane. We had to go through three checkpoints before boarding the airplane. Leaving Egypt was far more difficult than getting in. I’m all for airport security but Cairo’s airport was not a good experience.
The streets of Amman in Jordan were free and refreshing.
Jordan is a peaceful little brother to the other countries in the Middle East. You are free to walk the streets without being swarmed. Compared to Egypt, it is quite liberal.
The airport was convenient, although lines to get your visa were long. Security was good but also a long process.
Egypt vs. Jordan Ease of Tourism Winner: Jordan
Meal in Jordan
If you love hummus, you will love the food in both countries. It is outstanding in freshness, variety, and flavor. In Egypt, many meals were seafood and chicken with rice and seasonal vegetables. Lentil soup was also common.
In Jordan, we had pit barbeque in the Wadi Rum and it was delicious. So juicy and tender. The vegetables in Jordan were wonderful and garden-fresh. We had numerous salads and fresh bread to choose from. Meals often had lentil soup, falafel, moutabel, and tabbouleh.
Egypt vs. Jordan Food Winner: Jordan
Parking in Amman
Infrastructure and Transportation
Please, unless you were born there, do not drive in either of these countries.
Egypt has virtually no rules to the road.
Where there are supposed to be three lanes of traffic, there are six rows of cars weaving in and out of traffic. Cars are beaten up. Most of them shouldn’t be on the road.
For example, one person was holding his door shut while cruising down the highway. The trains are dreadful, dirty, smelly and cramped. Trains are not numbered so thankfully, our driver stayed with us until the train arrived so he could tell us which one to board in Giza. Of course, there are no English announcements either.
Jordan’s streets are busy, too, but not to the extent of Egypt.
There is more rhyme and reason to their traffic flow. Our driver from the airport to the hotel told us he got a license to drive in Egypt and when he got to Cairo, he couldn’t drive there. And he was from the Middle East!
We were in accidents while driving in both countries.
In Egypt, we got into a mishap while driving to the airport. We were hit from the side when we were weaving in and out of traffic. Our driver got out, looked at his front fender, mumbled something, got back in the car and kept on driving. The tire rubbed on the car with each turn but we got to our destination!
Our bus was rear-ended in traffic in downtown Amman. It was a new bus, too. And of course, everyone just kept on driving as if nothing happened.
Egypt vs. Jordan Infrastructure and Transportation Winner: Jordan
They are both hot.
Tip: go in either spring or fall.
I was in both countries during the summer and it was at least 40 degrees Celsius each day. If you do go in the summer, hit the tourist spots in the morning, beat the crowds and beat the heat.
Egypt vs. Tourism Weather Winner: Tie
Ancient tombs at Petra
Overall Winner in Egypt vs. Jordan…
Both countries are fabulous but I have to say Jordan is the winner in this showdown.
The deciding factor for me was the overall cleanliness of Jordan. Egypt’s litter and the lack of freedom to explore alone were a strike against it.
There is more freedom to explore in Jordan and be yourself.
Charlotte is a Canadian travel blogger with a passion for small towns, food, drink, history, and photography of the world. Follow along with her adventures on her blog at A Wandering Web!
Some countries are almost synonymous with the beers they produce: German Oktoberfest, Czech Pilsners, Belgian Tripels, and American pale ales are all frequent finds on beer lists in bars around the world.
But, what happens when a country wants to join this exclusive club but has no beer identity to call their own? They create a brand new one from scratch.
Meet Pravda, the brewery that’s made it their mission to define Ukrainian-style beer and share it with the world.
Pravda Beer Theater (and original brewery) in Lviv, Ukraine
The massive three-story restaurant, bar, and brewery sits on prime real estate in the central Rynok Square in Lviv, Ukraine, with soaring glass walls that are impossible to miss among the colorful tenement houses that surround it.
I’m a few minutes early to my meeting with Julie – a twenty-something brewer at Pravda – and accidentally interrupt her conversation with the production manager. They chat for a few more minutes in Ukrainian while she finishes her salad, and then she turns her attention to me.
The bar isn’t crowded on a Wednesday afternoon, but we head through the staff kitchen and down to the closed cellar floor so we can talk somewhere a bit quieter. Julie begins by telling me about her history at the company, where her quick rise from bartender to lab manager mirrors Pravda’s own story in Lviv.
In less than five years, the company has established itself as one of the biggest and most popular breweries in Ukraine. Pravda produces more than one million liters of beer per year, has won 14 awards in international competitions, and claims seven of the top ten spots on RateBeers list of the best beers in Ukraine.
But, the brewery’s true mission is to create a craft beer that’s synonymous with the country itself. “We have a strategy,” Julie says, “to find Ukrainian style.”
Inside the Pravda Beer Theater
What does that mean, exactly?
Pravda dreams of a future where their Ukrainian blonde ale is just as ubiquitous as Belgian Tripels or American pale ales. “Ukraine doesn’t have a beer history for itself, so we need to build it. And it’s the best time for it because craft brewing is so inventing, trendy, and everything, so we can find our way through this.”
After a lot of experimenting, Zenyk – a blonde ale made with Ukrainian-only ingredients – was born. But, why a blonde ale? Julie explains that the Ukrainian hops aren’t bitter enough for an IPA and the Ukrainian malts aren’t outstanding enough for a malty beer, so a simple, blonde ale was the best way to showcase the Ukrainian ingredients.
A few days later I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Yuri Zastavny, Pravda’s founder, and he told me that the Zenyk beer is one of his favorites for precisely this reason: because they were able to take average ingredients and create something great. After trying it myself, I have to agree. Zenyk is light but still packs a flavorful punch with a surprising – but enjoyable – hint of bitterness at the end.
Never content to sit still, the Pravda team is already pushing forward, brewing a Ukrainian Tripel (with Ukrainian ingredients but Belgian yeast), and a Ukrainian sour with Ukrainian malts and spices.
Zenyk, Pravda’s Ukrainian Blonde Ale made with Ukrainian-only ingredients
The brewery’s drive to create this Ukrainian-style beer is more than just a matter of national pride, though – it’s also become a necessity to succeed in the international market. When Pravda began exporting abroad, restaurants, bars, and shops all asked the same question: what do you have that’s different from the rest?
Sure, their Belgian Tripel and American red ale were great, but why would the export managers buy them from a Ukrainian brewery when they can get them direct from Belgium or the US instead?
Now, offering a unique Ukrainian blonde ale is Pravda’s way of standing out.
Curious, I asked what other Ukrainian flavors inspire their beers. “All of our brew team is having their own sources of inspiration,” Julie tells me. “Like, once you go to the village you see how grandma smokes the plums and you think this aroma and this taste will really work with dark beer, and that’s an inspiration.” 100 Years of UNR, Pravda’s patriotic beer released annually on the anniversary of the Ukrainian National Republic, is flavored with these plums.
Rose jam biscuits and pies are also popular in Ukraine, but the rose aroma is difficult to capture in a beer. Pravda is never one to back down from a challenge though, and a rose beer is currently in the works.
They’re also experimenting with a horseradish beer and we both joke about brewing one with dill, which seems to be used as liberally as salt in some restaurants in the country. (A few days later Julie told me the other brewers love the idea of creating a dill beer, instantly launching my very unsuccessful campaign to have it named after me.)
Pravda’s new brewing facilities at FEST Republic, home of the Craft Beer and Vinyl Music Festival
While Pravda tackles the challenges of exporting Ukrainian beer to the world, they also face challenges in their own country. “Our biggest problem we see is the price, first of all,” Julie explains. “Because people used to have cheap beer, and they don’t care about the quality.”
Educating their country about craft beer is a focus point for Pravda and they do it in many different ways. When Pravda first opened, employees used to walk around offering free craft beer to tourists to entice them to listen to a quick lecture on the topic: “what it is, why it’s different, why it’s more expensive than ordinary beer, and why you should love it. We had eight hours of lectures every day just to tell people what the hell is going on here.”
And, this education extends beyond just the beer drinkers.
Pravda’s biannual Craft Beer and Vinyl Music Festival often includes education day with lectures for the other brewers – usually more than 60 – that attend. The brewery is also working with a Ukrainian malt house to improve the quality of their malt so all of the craft brewers in the country can use it, rather than importing from abroad.
“This is our mission,” Yuri said at his lecture at the Craft Beer and Vinyl Music Festival last year, “If you know something, share it with others.”
Pravda knows that the time has come to redefine Ukrainian-style beer. Now, they’re ready to share it with the world.
Did you know that an unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce almost 50,000 kittens in only ten years? This number might sound shocking, but if you’ve ever been to Istanbul it probably doesn’t surprise you. More than 300,000 stray cats and dogs call the city home.
“Turkey is famous worldwide for its imagery of colorful cats lounging around a lively city, but there is a much darker side to it,” explains Lauren, a volunteer at the Tails of Istanbul organization. “The municipalities shuffle strays from overcrowded neighborhoods to abandoned areas or nearby forests where they run wild, breed rapidly, and often don’t survive the winter.”
Many of the animals in Istanbul get by with make-shift shelters and scattered food from the Good Samaritans who live and work around them, but it’s not enough. They need to be spayed and neutered to prevent the population from growing, and they need loving homes.
Now, tourists can support this endeavor and help the strays in Istanbul in a meaningful way with the Tails of Istanbul (TOI) organization.
Puppy waiting patiently for his forever home at the Yedikule animal shelter in Istanbul. The shelter is open for volunteers from 10:30 to 3 pm daily.
What Is Tails of Istanbul?
The non-profit was founded in 2016 by Therése, a Swedish traveler who originally came to Istanbul to help refugees. But when she found 150 abandoned cats in the courtyard of the shelter she was working at, she also found a new calling: to raise money for their veterinary care and awareness for their adoption.
TOI quickly grew beyond the courtyard and now encompasses all of the strays in Istanbul. The organization has found homes for 130 animals and has helped more than 200 in the city by providing spaying, neutering, vet care, and food for the animals and continuous support for the kind-hearted locals who care for them.
Become a Flight Volunteer in Istanbul
Donating to the organization is an easy way to help the strays in Istanbul, but TOI also has another unique need: flight volunteers.
Through the organization’s online networking efforts their animals often get adopted out to families in Europe, Canada, and the US. But, the animals can’t fly to their new homes alone and TOI can’t afford to buy the round-trip tickets necessary to accompany them to every destination.
If you’re coming to Istanbul on vacation, you can provide the much-needed service by bringing a dog or cat to the families waiting patiently for them in your home country. “All costs are covered, the effort is minimal, and it’s a great way to make a lasting impact on an animal in Turkey,” Lauren says. All you need to do is show up for your flight, and TOI will take care of the rest.
Another volunteer, Jennifer, recently worked with the organization to escort a cat from Istanbul to Chicago and says she was inspired to get involved because “there are so many dogs and cats in Istanbul who need homes and seeing them all over the city can be heartbreaking.”
Once she was connected with the cat, Lotus, all Jennifer had to do was call her airline to make a reservation for him and then show up at the airport on the day of the flight. Lotus’ foster mom dropped him off, completed the necessary paperwork, and paid his flight fees before handing Lotus off to Jennifer. She took him through customs and then handed him off to the airline for the rest of the flight.
“On the US end, it’s even more simple,” Jennifer explains. “I picked up Lotus, got my luggage, and then met up with his new owners in the arrival hall. US customs does not require paperwork for cats coming into the country so no additional screening through customs is required.”
Lotus was a sick kitten on the streets of Istanbul when tourists Lindsey and Josh found him shivering in the cold winter air. They took him to the vet, connected with TOI for his recovery, and, because of Jennifer, were able to make Lotus a permanent part of their family in Chicago.
Jennifer delivering Lotus to his new family in the Chicago airport
Organization Success Stories
Beyond securing forever homes for the cats and dogs in their care, TOI also strives to provide veterinary support both before and after the animals’ adoptions.
One Istanbul local, who opted to stay anonymous, adopted two puppies named Machboos and Dakoos from the organization. When Dakoos got sick, she said “I thought I was going to lose her and I felt pretty helpless. I reached out to the people from Tails of Istanbul and they immediately sent me the location of a vet.”
TOI covered all of the costs of the antibiotics, surgery, and recovery for Dakoos and her owner couldn’t be more grateful. “They are my bundles of joy. What used to be a somewhat dull life is now jam-packed with colorful life, laughter, and overall happiness.”
How to Help Strays in Istanbul With TOI
I truly believe that no city loves their strays more than Istanbul, but it’s not enough. Tails of Istanbul is stepping up where the government and population can’t and the organization needs your support.
“The ways in which someone can help are endless,” Lauren says. “We ask people in Istanbul to never walk past an animal in need.”
Are you heading to Turkey soon? Connect with TOI to help strays in Istanbul and then plan the rest of your trip with the Turkey Series for more insider tips on what to do, see, eat, and discover while you’re there!
Dan and I are digital nomads, so we stay in countries much longer than the average traveler. In 2019, we spent three months in Ukraine split evenly between the western city of Lviv and the capital city of Kiev.
Although the cost of living in Ukraine is fairly cheap, there was a pretty big price disparity between the two cities because Kiev was significantly more expensive than Lviv. But whichever city you visit, this breakdown of our cost of living in Ukraine will help you create the perfect budget for your trip!
Rent Prices in Ukraine
We always rent on Airbnb both for the protection it provides us and because it usually has the biggest selection of furnished apartments.
Rent was our biggest expense in both cities and is higher than you may expect in Ukraine compared to the prices for other goods in the country. This is because the market for rentals is fairly small at the moment so competition is limited and prices go up.
In Lviv, we rented a clean and spacious one-bedroom apartment in the city center. We stayed for 36 days and paid $838 including all Airbnb fees, cleaning fees, internet, and utilities. That came out to about $23.25 per night.
In Kiev our one-bedroom apartment was in the Pechersk neighborhood, 20-minutes walking from a central area with shops, restaurants, and nightlife. We paid $990 for 43 days, so our total again came out to $23 per night including all fees and utilities. You can find cheaper options in both cities by opting for studio apartments or less desirable locations.
For short-term stays, staying in hostels with shared dorm rooms will also save you some major cash. The Botanic Globus Hostel and the Friends Forever Hostel are both in the Pechersk neighborhood and have dorm beds for as low as $5 to $8 per night!
Our apartment was a block away from this central Rynok Square in Lviv
Public transport is incredibly cheap in Ukraine. In Lviv the tram lines cost 20 cents per ride and in Kiev the bus and metro was 30 cents per ride. We usually used Uber because a 10-minute trip would only cost about $2.
The train ride between Lviv and Kiev cost $12 for second-class tickets on the six-hour trip. The country has most of the budget airlines like RyanAir and WizzAir so you can find cheap domestic and international flights as well. (I found flights on Skyscanner for our trip from Kiev to Manchester and back for only $56 each.)
Like rent, groceries are a bit higher than you might expect based on the other prices I’m throwing out in this article.
Both Kiev and Lviv have a supermarket chain called Silpo which is one of the best I’ve encountered outside of the US. (I’d rank it worse than Kroger, similar to Spar, and better than Carrefour if those comparisons tell you anything.)
Because Silpo was so big and well stocked there was usually a range of prices for most items we needed. Your purchases and expenses will obviously vary based on taste but Dan and I (who work from home and eat in most meals) usually spent about $75 to $100 per week on groceries in both cities.
Of course, we also ate out and sampled the Ukrainian cuisine as well.
In Lviv, a cheap to-go meal like a cup of soup or slice of pizza was $1 to $2. A mid-range sit-down meal with a main and a drink was between $4 and $8 per person and an expensive meal in an upscale restaurant with an appetizer and glass of wine only cost about $10 to $12 per person.
Kiev is more expensive, and though you can still find cheap options a mid-range restaurant will be about $6 to $10 per person and an upscale restaurant closer to $15 or $20.
Our entertainment expenses reflected the cost of living in Ukraine pretty accurately and were generally low.
Our gym in Lviv cost $24 per month and in Kiev we paid $15 per month. In Lviv we also found a super cheap coworking space for $75 per month in the city center but it was weird (I think a homeless guy was actually living in it at some point) and most other coworking spaces were much more expensive.
There were plenty of free churches, museums, and parks to visit on the weekends, and museums that did have entrance fees were almost never more than $2 per person.
During our three-month trip, I found that the cost of living in Ukraine was low.
Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly weekend away or a long-term base abroad, this country is a spectacular choice. We were able to stretch our money pretty far while still enjoying some of our favorite things like good food and craft beer.
I preferred Lviv to Kiev overall (and these are my seven reasons why) and found Lviv to be significantly cheaper than Kiev as well. But whichever city you choose, you’re bound to have an awesome time.
Backpacking the many European countries is how many travelers catch the travel bug to begin with.
From Paris to London, Europe is full of exciting and drastically different cities, scattered throughout the continent. Spain is a big destination, but its small neighbor to the south, Portugal, can often be overlooked.
I backpacked both Spain and Portugal in January of 2019 and fell in love with both countries. However, if the two were compared against each other, who would come out on top?
I’m personally not huge on cramming every single tourist attraction during a trip. I prefer to wander a city to get to know it before ticking off tourist attraction boxes. I do love to discover different sights in countries. Both Spain and Portugal have plenty to offer tourists who love sightseeing!
Spain is much larger than Portugal, with more big cities offering different tourist attractions. In sheer numbers, Spain definitely has Portugal beat. Destinations in Spain include:
I will have to award Spain for the number of tourist attractions over Portugal.
With Madrid’s golden trio of art museums and Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain is chock full of tourist sights. Not to mention, Real Alcázar in Seville and Girona were both used as shooting destinations for Game of Thrones!
Spain vs Portugal Tourist Destinations Winner: Spain
Colorful castles in Sintra, Portugal
I visited Spain and Portugal in mid-January, so I did not do any beach or water-related activities. However, I can definitely comment on what I saw advertised, and the feeling of the coastlines in each country.
Spain is more known for its islands, such as Ibiza and Tenerife. The islands are full of tourism and resorts and are best for beachgoers looking for a relaxing vacation. The beaches on these islands, as well as in Barcelona, get remarkably crowded during the season.
The majority of Portugal is along the coastline, so beautiful beaches can be found everywhere. The beaches range from relaxing resorts like in Spain to empty beaches covered in massive rock formations and sand caves. Cliff jumping, hiking, and surfing are all very common activities in Portugal. The Atlantic Ocean definitely gets better waves on the Portuguese coastline!
Depending on what you look for in a beach, you may disagree with my decision. However, I get bored lying on the beach doing nothing, and large crowds irritate me on the beach.
Therefore, I award Portugal with the better beach scene!
Spain vs Portugal Beaches Winner: Portugal
The beautiful but crowded beaches of Barcelona
The nightlife in both Spain and Portugal are outstanding.
In Spain, Barcelona is known as a huge party city in Europe. My favorite bar there: Espit Chupitos! This bar has hundreds of different house shots that will definitely entertain you. Rooftop bars are popular in Madrid, and late-night tapas bars will have you eating and drinking your heart out in Seville.
In Portugal, most of the big-city feel nightlife will be in Lisbon. Lisbon has some pretty incredible bars and clubs, but nowhere near to the number found in Barcelona and Madrid.
Spain definitely has a larger variety of nightlife!
Spain vs Portugal Nightlife Winner: Spain
Streetcar on the winding roads of Lisbon
Safety and Friendliness
Both countries are incredibly safe. I never felt unsafe in either country, even at night and by myself.
While there is very little serious crime in Spain, pickpocketing is HUGE. Barcelona is actually the worst city in the world for pickpocketing crimes, and police can do little about it unless you catch the culprit. I was constantly checking my bag and pockets, especially after a little kid tried to steal my phone on a metro in Madrid!
The people in Spain, especially northern and mid-Spain, were fairly cold and unwelcoming to tourists as a whole. Language barriers are definitely something to think about as well.
In Portugal, I never had any problems. The people, in general, were much more friendly and open than in Spain. No one attempted to pickpocket me, and I was constantly striking up a conversation with locals. Every local I met speaks (nearly) perfect English as well!
Portugal definitely feels safer and friendlier than Spain!
Spain vs Portugal Safety and Friendliness Winner: Portugal
Spanish churros and hot chocolate
Food and Drink
The food in Spain and Portugal are fairly similar. Seafood is popular in both countries, and both countries have their signature drinks!
Madrid, Spain is where you will find the BEST drinking chocolate in the world. Thick, hot chocolate and churros are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Tapas restaurants are scattered around the country, with delicious plates of fish, cheese, bread, and meat. Whole smoked pigs can be seen in meat shops around the country.
My favorite coffee in the world is also in Spain: café bombón. It is made with espresso and sweetened condensed milk. I had one every day!
Portugal is a major lover of seafood. Lisbon’s tinned seafood culture is huge, and you can find some incredible, gourmet seafood in little tins around the city. Steamed octopus, fish soup, and mussels are also on nearly every menu.
Porto, Portugal is where Port wine is made. The city is full of wineries and restaurants that will let you try dozens of different kinds of wine! Lisbon’s signature liquor is delicious too: sour cherry liquor! The liquor is served in dark chocolate shot glasses and eaten whole. Delicious!
For dessert, Portugal’s Leite de Crème is incredible. These small custard tarts are sold all over for only a euro or two. Eat one with a latte, and you’ll be in heaven!
I definitely enjoyed the food and drink in Portugal more than Spain, overall.
Spain vs Portugal Food and Drink Winner: Portugal
Tibidabo Church with a view in Barcelona
Overall Winner of Spain vs Portugal
I overall enjoyed my time in Portugal more than Spain. Although both countries are incredible, Portugal had an overall more laid-back vibe and fun atmosphere than Spain.
However, I highly encourage travelers to backpack both countries, as it is so easy to jump from one to the other!
Kiev isn’t all Soviet apartment blocks and gray skylines like you may be imagining. In fact, there are plenty of beautiful Instagram spots in the city that are just begging to be photographed and splashed across your profile for the world to see. This guide to the 11 best Instagram spots around Kiev will lead you to the prettiest and most iconic tourist sites in the city!
1. Independence Square
Independence Square is one of the most popular sites in Kiev. Climb up the stairs behind the monument to get an aerial shot and then have fun wandering around snapping photos of the buildings, glass domes, and street performers as well.
2. St. Sophia’s Cathedral – Bell Tower
St. Sophia’s Cathedral is 1,000 years old and an iconic piece of Kiev’s history. The church is hard to capture from the ground so pay 60 uah / 2.25 usd to climb the bell tower for the perfect overhead shot of the green and gold spires.
3. St. Andrew’s Descent
St. Andrew’s Church splashin’ out in super bright colors is enough to draw every photographer to this Instagram spot in Kiev but the whole walk down the hill offers plenty of photo ops as well, from the souvenier stalls, to the historic buildings, to the cobblestone street and everything in between.
4. Podil Ferris Wheel
It’s like you’re at Coachella, but not at all. I dig this colorful, old-school view of Kiev though, especially with St. Andrew’s Church peeking out behind the Ferris wheel from its perch on the hill.
5. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – Bell Tower
Another church, another bell tower, another gorgeous shot of Kiev for your Instagram. This bell tower costs 60 uah / 2.25 usd to climb up but the entrance to the church is free.
6. Motherland Monument
Did you know the Motherland Monument is taller than the Statue of Liberty? I recommend wandering around the massive park for a while to try out different shots, and definitely don’t miss the very-Soviet Bowl of Eternal Flames statue while you’re there.
7. Pechersk Lavra
No photos are allowed in the famous caves so you won’t be able to capture the mummies, but this sprawling monastery system has tons of other beautiful places to snap a pic in any season, especially when the flowers are blooming in the spring!
8. Landscape Alley
Landscape Alley is definitely one of the most unique Instagram spots around Kiev. This is a must if you want to get cute pics of your kids, but it’s fun for whimsical shots of adults as well.
9. Vozdvyzhenka Neighborhood
The Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood is a ghost town because the upscale apartments were too expensive and never sold. They’re still kept up in super bright colors though, so they make a great backdrop for Instagram photos. This ‘Make Money Not Art’ sign is probably my fav place in the neighborhood for that kinda-ironic-but-not-really Instagram shot that perfectly represents the spirit of Kiev.
Timelapse of Kiev - YouTube
10. The Busy Streets of Kiev
I just like this timelapse and wanted a place to put it on my blog. But for those into urban/city photography, the busy streets and fashionable people of Kiev will make great subjects for your Instagram account.
11. St. Andrew’s Observation Platform
The St. Andrew’s observation platform (you’ll see the metal stairs on your left side as you walk down St. Andrew’s Descent) is a little oasis of green in a busy city. Even better, it has 360-degree views of the Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood, St. Andrew’s Church, and more just begging to be photographed and thrown up on the ‘gram.
Where to stay in Kiev to Capture These Shots
If you have only a short time in Kiev, the two best places to stay are the Podil neighborhood or the Pechersk neighborhood.
I lived in the Pechersk neighborhood for six weeks and recommend the artsy and hip Theater Boutique Apart Hotel (where my friends stayed when they visited) or the Aloft Hotel Kiev, a major international chain where you’re basically going to get the same room and service anywhere in the world. These two hotels (or anywhere near them) will have a good location in walking distance to almost everywhere on this list of top Instagram spots in Kiev.