Courtesy of Tropical Islands
Courtesy of Tropical Islands

Paradise Contained: Visit This German Tropical Resort Inside an Old Soviet Airplane Hangar

Courtesy of Tropical Islands
Courtesy of Tropical Islands

A military airbase makes for an unlikely tropical getaway, but a military airbase that has been in both Nazi and Soviet hands, and which is located in the notoriously chilly climate of Northern Europe? That sounds positively absurd as a family leisure destination. But some 30 miles south of Berlin, built inside the world’s largest freestanding hangar, that’s exactly what you’ll find.

Tropical Islands Brandenburg stands on land with a storied, dark history that is at odds with its cheery, kitsch, modern-day self. The Luftwaffe (i.e. the German air force) originally built the Brand-Briesen Airfield in 1939 as a pilot school. Boasting some workshops, barracks, and an unpaved runway [PDF], it made for a threadbare operation. When the Soviet Red Army commandeered the base in 1945, they aggressively expanded its use and capacity to include housing for a fighter-bomber regiment, paved and lengthened runways, hardened aircraft shelters, and added a nuclear alert shelter.

At the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union (and later Russia) worked with the authorities of the newly reunified Germany to relinquish its 1800 square miles of military bases in East Germany. The German government promptly sold Brand-Briesen Airfield to a private company that sought to manufacture blimps. The blimp business, however, was not a lucrative one, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002. But, as you can imagine, building blimps requires a lot of space, and before the business went under, they completed an expansion of the hangar that made it so large it could fit the entirety of the Statue of Liberty, upright.

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s hard to imagine too many people lining up to buy a defunct blimp hangar, but that’s just what a Malaysian company decided to do. In a mere nine months, the hangar was transformed into a faux tropical paradise, containing countless pools for swimming and diving, a shopping street, restaurants, bars, a water-slide tower, a stage for evening entertainment, a miniature golf course, accommodation options ranging from tents to hotel rooms, a multi-sauna complex, a gym, an astounding number of deck chairs, and not one but two hot air balloon ride options.

As you walk around the vast complex that comprises Tropical Islands, you’re as likely to see pink flamingos and peacocks congregating as you are to hear rain forest sounds piped in through camouflaged speakers. Unsurprisingly, it’s all a little surreal and can take some getting used to—particularly during winter when guests must first peel off layers of clothing in the bright orange locker area and change into attire more fitting for the balmy, unfluctuating 77°F that Tropical Islands is kept at. That's right—this tropical paradise, like the Caribbean, is open year-round.

Eeva Moore

But once in beachwear, and perhaps buoyed by a Mai Tai, Tropical Islands starts to make some sense. Dipping in and out of swimming pools, careening down water slides, and napping under the palm trees stands in such stark contrast to the world outside that it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself.

I’d read that weekend nights at Tropical Islands can get rather festive, so my husband and I played it safe and chose a Wednesday for our overnight stay. Our tent, nestled below the water-slide area, ran $150 and included admission for two days and a breakfast buffet. Where our planning fell short was on towel packing. We had packed towels for drying ourselves, but you learn quickly that you need about three towels each: one for drying off, one for sitting in the sauna, and the third, crucially, for draping over a deck chair. If you do not acquire a deck chair by around 10 a.m., odds are you won’t get your hands on one until dinnertime, as once draped by a fellow beachgoer, the deck chair becomes completely off-limits, even if the towel's owner is nowhere to be seen.

Eeva Moore

All in all, Tropical Islands makes for a Truman Show-esque affair. A mural of bright blue skies was ripped at one of its cloth seams. Those hot air balloons? Turns out the “free-floating” one is attached by two large ropes to the belt of a young man who walks it across the hangar, at times using his entire body strength to swing the basket low, over the swimming pool, giving his passengers a closer look at the people splashing below.

While there are plenty of spa options across Europe, and in the UK there are even a series of Subtropical Swimming Paradise villages, they were built for their end purposes. It’s hard to imagine any capturing the unique sense of history, imagination, and campiness of Tropical Islands Brandenburg.

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Are You Eco-Conscious? You Could Win a Trip to the Dominican Republic
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iStock

Do you love lounging on the beach but also want to take action to save the planet? You'll be able to do both if you're chosen to serve as a "sustainability advisor" for a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic, Lonely Planet reports.

The worldwide contest is sponsored by Eden Roc at Cap Cana in Punta Cana. The winner and one friend will receive a five-night stay at the Relais & Châteaux hotel, where they'll partake in specially curated activities like a food-sourcing trip with the hotel's chef. (One caveat, though: Airfare isn't included.)

You don't need a degree in conservation to enter, but you will need an Instagram account. Give the resort's Instagram page (@edenroccapcana) a follow and post a photo of you carrying out an eco-friendly activity on your own page. Be sure to tag the resort and use the official hashtag, #EcoEdenRoc.

The only requirement is that the winner meet with hotel staff at the end of his or her trip to suggest some steps that the hotel can take to reduce its environmental impact. The hotel has already banned plastic straws and reduced its usage of plastic bottles, and the sole mode of transport used on site is the electric golf cart.

Beyond the resort, though, the Dominican Republic struggles with deforestation and soil erosion, and the nation scored poorly on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index for the agricultural category.

Entries to the contest will be accepted until August 31, and you can read the full terms and conditions here.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?
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iStock

For millions of people, summer means an opportunity to hop on a plane and experience new and exciting sights, cultures, and food. It also means getting packed into a giant commercial aircraft and then wondering if you can make it to your next layover without submitting to the anxiety of using the onboard bathroom.

Roughly the size of an apartment pantry, these narrow facilities barely accommodate your outstretched knees; turbulence can make expelling waste a harrowing nightmare. Once you’ve successfully managed to complete the task and flush, what happens next?

Unlike our home toilets, planes can’t rely on water tanks to create passive suction to draw waste from the bowl. In addition to the expense of hauling hundreds of gallons of water, it’s impractical to leave standing water in an environment that shakes its contents like a snow globe. Originally, planes used an electronic pump system that moved waste along with a deodorizing liquid called Anotec. That method worked, but carrying the Anotec was undesirable for the same reasons as storing water: It raised fuel costs and added weight to the aircraft that could have been allocated for passengers. (Not surprisingly, airlines prefer to transport paying customers over blobs of poop.)

Beginning in the 1980s, planes used a pneumatic vacuum to suck liquids and solids down and away from the fixture. Once you hit the flush button, a valve at the bottom of the toilet opens, allowing the vacuum to siphon the contents out. (A nonstick coating similar to Teflon reduces the odds of any residue.) It travels to a storage tank near the back of the plane at high speeds, ready for ground crews to drain it once the airplane lands. The tank is then flushed out using a disinfectant.

If you’re also curious about timing your bathroom visit to avoid people waiting in line while you void, flight attendants say the best time to go is right after the captain turns off the seat belt sign and before drink service begins.

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