7 Christmas traditions from around the world

TakeMeAway is available to download for Android and iOS.

I love eating. There I said it. I’m not ashamed to admit that Christmas is the perfect excuse to indulge in all those festive treats. And turkey. With lots of gravy. Delicious!

However the British spread is just one possibility for Christmas. Different cultures around Europe do things rather differently and we decided to explore this idea. Here’s our top 7 eating traditions that will get your juices flowing over the holidays! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could even take a last minute weekend break to these awesome places for that authentic taste. Our 7th pick may not be European, but it does illustrate the diversity point rather well. Besides we found it rather bizarre!

Before we dive in, a quick shoutout to our app - TakeMeAway. TakeMeAway inspires your next weekend break, all within your budget. All the destinations (well apart from number 7….) are available in-app. It's available to download for both iOS and Android.

1. Smörgåsbords, Stockholm

Picturesque Stockholm is beautiful all year round

Smörgåsbords are quite the Scandinavian tradition. Christmas allows the Swedes to ramp up their Smörgåsbord game with a special table called julbord (Christmas buffet). First thing to note is the meal is normally eaten on Christmas Eve and it’s a big meal - it’s about maximising the number of items on the table as possible. Therefore you’ll need all your family and friends to help you devour the meal!

Seafood is just one part of this Swedish feast

The food itself comprises of pickled herring, cured and smoked seafood and fish, cold meats - especially the julskinka (Christmas ham), maybe some reindeer, pate and terrine. And that is only the ‘cold’ course! The hot stuff includes meatballs, ribs, sausages and spiced cabbage. Finally desserts, with the pick of the bunch being the risgrynsgröt (rice porridge). Your Christmas Day hangover cure is also taken care of with the leftovers….

Flights from London to Stockholm are available from £60 return in December.

2. Pepernoten/kruidnoten, Amsterdam

Addictive goodness!

Yours truly has spent many years living in the Netherlands and so fond memories very much exist with the country. The Dutch do most of their gift giving on the 5th December to celebrate Sinterklaas (pub quiz fact - Santa Claus is actually derived from the Dutch….) and there are a few confectionary items that are eaten around the time.

Giving chocolate letters to friends and family is another popular sweet treat

One of these items is pepernoten (or kruidnoten, depending on how pedantic you are….). These small rounded biscuits of absolute joy are insanely addictive and I’ve spent afternoons and evening devouring these spiced delights. The biscuits date back to the 1600-1700s but recent innovations include covering them in chocolate and as well as an entire concept around pimping up pepernoten - making them even more addictive. What’s made it worse is that supermarkets are beginning to sell them as early as end September, so factor in putting on a few extra pounds….

I know it’s after 5th Dec, but don’t worry you can still get your pepernoten fix throughout December. Flights from London are available from £80 return.

3. Marzipan, Madrid

Anyone else a fan of these almond sweets?

Sticking with the sweet theme, we go to Spain where Marzipan is another popular Christmas sweet. I love almonds and this sugary treat is made from ground almonds and formed into various shapes. The best best marzipan is arguably made in Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a small historic town which has been influenced by many cultures and is only an hour away from Madrid. Having visited Toledo myself, it’s quite a picturesque place.

Flights to Madrid can be had from £100 return from London.

4. Reibekuchen, Bonn

The perfect accompaniment while browsing Christmas markets!

These literally translate into English as potato fritters/cakes. Our last blog post covered Christmas markets (links) and these are a staple at the German markets in particular. Potato cakes are so tasty because of their versatility. You can do them as a savoury dish served up with sour cream or cottage cheese; or as is traditionally done on the markets, with applesauce and rye bread. Moorish it maybe, but a great warm comfort food for a cold December when shopping for gifts.

Reibekuchen is more traditional to Rhineland in West Germany, so we think Bonn is a great break this month. You can fly there via Cologne from £130 return.

5. Natale feast, Rome

All feasts have to begin somewhere.....

It probably doesn’t come as a great surprise that the Italian way of eating at Christmas is an absolute epic. Let’s first start with Christmas Eve dinner - a lighter meal with no meat but a lot of seafood. The Italian-Americans turbo charge this idea with the ‘Feast of Seven Fishes’ with even more seafood and fish.

Having slept off and digested the night before, we get to the Natale feast proper for Christmas Day. Prepare to eat for hours. And hours. It’s a hard life really eating antipasto, pastas and tons of meat. The key must haves include pasta (of course), which are prepared differently depending on the region. Pasta is normally baked in central and southern Italy and filled in the north such as the ‘Tortellini in Brodo’ stuffed with Bolognese. The latter in particular is a favourite of Team TakeMeAway with a meaty filling with lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a velvety broth for the little goodnesses to sit in. It remind me, I need to find an Italian family to adopt me….

Bologna where the Tortellini in Brodo are popular has an airport which can be a bit expensive. We suggest flying to Florence (flights from £120 return) and taking the short train ride up.

6. The Christmas Carp, Bratislava

Did you know this cute Japanese carp isn't actually that tasty compared to its 'regular' cousin?

One thing I’ve noticed is fish being more popular than I realised at Christmas time. Slovakia is a great example though the tradition there is slightly eclectic. Let’s start with a week before Christmas. Tubs with cold water start popping up all over the country filled with carp. The carp is a bottom feeder, so there is a rationale behind putting them in the cold water - it helps to flush the fish’s digestive system.

A couple of days before Christmas, you select a live carp, take it home and put it in your bathtub until Christmas Eve, when you gut the fish and prepare it for Christmas Lunch. The whole family normally gets involved, kids may go as far as naming their carp! Nowadays most buy their carp dead from the fishmonger (boo!). To prepare, the fish is sliced, breaded and fried served with a cabbage soup and a potato salad. The Slovaks had me sold at deep fried fish!

If you fancy seeing the quirky tubs, you can get to Bratislava from £105 return from London

7. KFC ‘Christmas Chicken’, Tokyo

Fried chicken or turkey? Tough life choices....

This is not a joke. You read that right. KFC for your Christmas lunch! This may seem bizarre but it is the product of genius marketing from Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the early 70s KFC discovered that expats were going to their fast food chains on Christmas as they were unable to source a turkey in Tokyo. Not being a Christian country, Japan never really got into the Christmas spirit. Seizing on this opportunity, KFC launched the ‘Christmas Chicken’ marketing campaign in 1974.

It has become so popular in modern Japan, that families across all parts of society see KFC as a Christmas must. One has to place their orders weeks before the 25th December to ensure they have a spot saved in their local KFC. Getting into the Christmas spirit can truly span different cultures!

Sadly there are no cheap flights to Tokyo, with the cheapest starting from £515 return. If deep frying that turkey goes horribly wrong (if someone does try this, please let me know how it goes), you probably could pop into your local KFC to rescue the day. Preorders not required!

I hope you enjoyed this article! Our mission is to give you inspiration for you next weekend break. And please let us know your Christmas tradition on Facebook and Instagram. We hope you enjoy eating your way through December. Merry Christmas!

TakeMeAway is available to download for Android and iOS.


Europe's top 10 Christmas markets

TakeMeAway is available to download for Android and iOS.

The run up to Christmas should get everyone brimming with excitement. It is a chance to brighten up those gloomy winter nights as the end of the year approaches. One could easily argue that it’s never too early to get the party started - though admittedly playing your festive favourites from September may be a bit much for some! However we are in November now and with Christmas lights being turned on up and down the country, we can officially get into the festive spirit!

So what are the options for getting into the festive mood? One could begin ticking off shopping lists before the chaos and mad panic begins a week before the holidays. Another option is to go see some fireworks (anyone else notice they don’t seem to stop after the 5th November?). However the firm favourite has to be enjoying Christmas markets.

If you are not familiar with Christmas markets, you are in for a treat! A German tradition dating back to the 14th or 15th Century, it was the centre of a city, a chance to visit a ‘Nativity Scene’ as well as eating seasonal treats and keeping warm by sipping mulled wine.

As you have probably deduced, we’re big fans at TakeMeAway and love the atmosphere around Christmas markets. Over the years the concept has spread further than the Germanic speaking countries and now various countries have put their own cultural spin on the experience. Visiting a market is also a great way to discover a new city and is a perfect weekend break.

We’re going to cover 10 of the best markets in Europe; most are beginning on the 26-28th November and run all the way up to Christmas. So now is the perfect time to set your budget, swipe through TakeMeAway and see which of the following cities you could be in throughout the festive season (a shameless plug for our app which can be downloaded for Android and iOS).

Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg

Our list begins with one of the most traditional markets, the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. The old town is taken over in a thematic gold colour and must do’s include eating the famous gingerbread biscuits as well as a great place to find those stocking filler gift from all around the world.

Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom, Cologne

Cologne’s biggest and glitziest market is set under the famous Cathedral. Along with a massive tree and various handmade gifts, the local food is exceptional and of course do not forget filling up on gluhwein!

Vienna

Vienna was one of our top autumn destinations and it is no surprise that it features again. Street markets take over the city covering all the main squares. The smell of baking and mulled wine keeps your senses alive as you explore and search for trinkets. The market  backdrops on City Hall Square (featured in our picture) is a beautiful introduction to what Vienna offers.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck is the newest addition to the TakeMeAway app. Set against the backdrop of the Alps, it is a rather pretty sight, especially in Christmas market season. From the old town to the market square, wine and hot punch keep you going as you search for gifts. Our tip - visit Maria-Theresien-Straße, illuminated by modern light including the large mountain crystal towers over the boulevard  You must also take a Funicular up into the Alps and gaze over this gorgeous city!

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Tivoli was this author’s first encounter with a non German Christmas market and in many ways the Danish have managed to outdo the traditionalists. Set in a theme park (with over 20 rides no less), come say hello to Santa and wander through some stunningly decorated gardens. The market is open from now all the way to Christmas so you have maximum flexibility to visit.

Trondheim

Taking place between the 7-19 December, one of our favourite winter breaks also plays hosts to a very traditional market. What makes it even more interesting is the 100+ shows ranging from concerts to theatre performances. And if the weather is cooperating, hire a sleigh and enjoy the snow…..

Bruges

Picture perfect all year round, Bruges’ town square contains a huge ice skating rink in the middle. When in Belgium we do like to eat - with plenty of stalls making fresh waffles and indulgent hot chocolate to stave off the cold. Yum!

Natal e na Fil market, Lisbon

Our list takes us to slightly warmer climates beginning with Lisbon. Not necessarily the biggest market on our list, Lisbon compensates with enthusiasm and bringing a southern flair to proceedings. Note the dates for the market which are between 5-9 Dec.

Mercados Navideño, Sevilla

Sevilla has four Christmas markets. Four! So running out of things to do on a weekend break is highly unlikely. We recommend starting at the Metropol Parasol and walking through to Alameda de Hércules, one of the hip districts in Sevilla. Oh don’t forget to visit the Gran Mercado de Navidad Nervión too, which is one of the best shopping areas in the city.

Fiera di Natale, Bologna

Italy has also embraced the Christmas markets spirit and we’ve selected Bologna out of the many options the country has to offer. Set next to the San Pietro Cathedral the market is teeming with gift ideas and handicrafts. Bologna itself should be explored on foot as you wander the medieval centre. It is also a university city with a young vibrant scene, so the cafe and bar scene is quite excellent.

Hopefully this list has given you some inspiration to make a Christmas market the focal point for your next weekend break. And if you fancy exploring a market outside of Germany, we’ve got that covered too!

TakeMeAway has a destination for you whatever your budget. Download our app, choose your weekend and how much you want to spend and swipe to find a weekend break this winter.

Download TakeMeAway for Android and iOS.

 


Lets go to Basel!

To kick off Autumn we shared out top destinations to getaway to. If you want to read the full list, have a look here - Autumn is in the air! So download TakeMeAway (download for iOS and Android) set your budget and get swiping!

Today we're discovering Basel - Switzerland’s third biggest city. Built between and on top of two hills with springs filling 314 fountains across the city, Basel ensures your thirst is quenched anytime with fresh mountain water. The city of art, culture, music and life will offer you more delight than you could discover in just a weekend, but here are our top tips for this autumn.

Getting started

To get to know Basel, we recommend reading Dannielle’s blog While I’m Young (https://www.whileimyoung.com/basel-switzerland-things-to-do/) - it is a fantastic starting point to get acquainted with the city! You can follow her adventures on her excellent Instagram too - https://www.instagram.com/danniellelily/?hl=en

Exploring the rolling hills

Autumn is the season to see the beauty of nature, and there’s hardly a better country in Europe to see foliage than Switzerland. Explore the 'Basler' countryside easily just a quick ride out of the city!

Take the Tram 10 towards Rodersdorf and get off at Leyman station to see the glories of the trees changing colours this autumn.

Souvenirs worth buying

Want to take some inspiration of your trip back home? Check out Interior Butik (https://www.instagram.com/interior_butik/), a cute little shop that will take your Scandanavian spirit away. Hidden all the way at the top of the Old Town on Nadelberg, this cute little shop is the the ultimate spot to find all the wonderful Nordic things you dream of bringing into your home.

I got the jailhouse blues

Finally, end your trip to Basel in the secret Styx Bar (https://www.instagram.com/styx_bar/?hl=enwhere you can sip away some lovely cocktails while listening to the Blues being played by Swiss musicians.  We reckon this gives you the final touch to an unforgettable weekend!

Basel is one of TakeMeAway's featured cities - set your budget, swipe and select your weekend package. Available for iOS and Android


Our biggest update is here - introducing in app travel dates!

TakeMeAway is all about weekend getaways, so for our latest update we’ve expanded on the idea of what a weekend is - you can now choose Thursday, Friday or Saturday as the day you leave on your trip, and Sunday, Monday or Tuesday for when you come back. You still set the budget, but if you want a quick getaway or a more leisurely weekend (and a bit) away, we’ve got you covered!

We’ve also added the option of choosing a trip 3 weekends ahead, so pick this weekend, next weekend or the weekend after; This opens up many more possibilities for cheap flights and last-minute deals. 

We’re not done yet though. We’ve added some more polish to the UI and the iOS app is now closer aligned to the Android app; there is added support for Push Notifications in the future for both apps too. We’ve also had another look at the setting of your home airport, making it more accurate and giving you a wider selection of nearby airports to choose from.

Palermo - one of the new exciting places to discover in app

This is our biggest update since release and we hope you discover your next getaway with us! Don't forget to share your adventures with us on Instagram. You can follow us here - https://www.instagram.com/takemeaway.io/  

TakeMeAway is available now on the Apple App store and Google Play.

Download for iOS!

Download for Android!

About TakeMeAway

Planning a weekend getaway can be frustrating. It’s especially annoying going through the whole booking process only to find out the price is much higher than expected. So you either book the more expensive trip or have to rethink your entire plan.

TakeMeAway gives you inspiration for your next getaway. And the best part? It’s all within your budget.

 

 

 

 


Spring destinations this April

Spring is in the air, the days are getting longer and everyone is happier. Goodbye Winter! Cities across Europe are celebrating the turn of the season in many different ways ranging from festivals to flower shows. So why not spend a weekend away exploring how different cultures embrace spring?

We share with you a few highlights:

Amsterdam

We have to begin with the spiritual home of TakeMeAway, Amsterdam! It was here where we founded our startup and it’s also the place for Spring (in our very biased opinion!). So what makes the city ideal to spend a weekend in April? Let’s start with flowers, especially tulips! Visit the Keukenhof and breathe in the sights and smells of wonderfully crafted landscaped gardens. The Keukenhof is only open while the flowers are in bloom so make sure you catch them while they last.

If flowers are not your thing then take a boat trip down the famous city canals, a great alternative! Oh and one more thing, don’t miss Kings Day taking place on Friday 27th, the standout street party!

Copenhagen

The sakura trees and its flower the ‘cherry blossom’ are well revered in Japan. However you do not need to fly to the other side of the world to experience the event. A quick hop to Copenhagen for the weekend will make you think why you didn’t do it sooner!

The city comes out of hibernation and bursts into life as people fill out the city’s hot spots. Events include flea markets, street parties and gardens. Check out the top events here. Our tip - the Sakura trees in Langelinie Park.

Vienna

Classical music and Vienna may be a familiar association, but dive a bit deeper and you’ll find a rich, contemporary music scene. Take the ‘Blues Spring Festival’, running throughout April - the longest running blues festival in the world! Find out more here - http://www.viennabluesspring.org/

Bergen

Are you more of an outdoors person? Bergen is ideal for those wanting to mix nature and culture! ‘The Gateway to the Fjords’, April is a perfect time to book a cruise, go sightseeing or hike up one of the 7 mountains nearby; one thing is for sure you will not have a boring weekend!

We’ve only just scratched the surface of what Europe offers this April. Swipe through top destinations in our app and be inspired for your perfect weekend getaway! Where do you want to be this weekend?

TakeMeAway is available now for android - download today: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.takemeaway.takemeaway

Coming soon to iOS.


Frequently Asked Questions

We thank everyone who has downloaded TakeMeAway so far! We're excited by how you're using the app and also grateful for the feedback so far. There have been a few comments about providing an FAQ and we finally got around to doing one, we actually made two!

In the latest Android release (28th March 2018), you will find a FAQ which tackles any issues you may have with the app as well as a new and simple tutorial. On our site we've also provided a more general FAQ about us as a company and our app. You can also read it below. As always please email any questions and feedback to hello@TakeMeAway.io

Who are you people?

Our co-founders, Junaid and Tom, are travellers just like you! We found the user experience of existing travel apps wasn’t exactly what we were looking for – so we built TakeMeAway. Some random statistics about the team: we speak 11 languages between us, and combined we’ve lived and worked in more than 10 countries, and travelled to more than 60.

What is TakeMeAway?

TakeMeAway helps you to be in great locations for the weekend, all within you budget. We have two aims:

  • To make travel what it should be - an inspirational and exciting experience.
  • To let you control your budget.

What does a weekend mean?

In the Takemeway App, a “weekend” is defined as flying out on Friday and returning on Sunday. Our app lets you browse through destinations that fit your budget for ‘this weekend’ and ‘next weekend’.

Where do you get your offers from?

We partner with Skyscanner and Booking.com. Our deals are put together with TakeMeAway technology; that means we try and get you the best value for money deals.

Is it safe to book with you?

All booking is handled by our partners Skyscanner and Booking.com, so you can be confident your weekend away will be in good hands.

Where are you based?

Our headquarters is based in London, but like our app we have a European flavour with people based in The Netherlands and Switzerland.

Why have the prices gone up?

Unfortunately travel prices are dynamic, especially flights. We do our best to get the most up to date information, but at times we get it wrong. Let us know if an offer is off the mark by emailing hello@TakeMeAway.io

You emailed me the details and prices have gone up!

As mentioned above, travel prices are dynamic and can change between when we find the prices and when you book. To ensure prices are as low as possible, try and book as soon as you can.

How does searching work?

We search for flights from your nearest airport to our list of pre-determined destinations. You can select your closest airport in the Profile section, or select another airport nearby.

There is nothing within my budget!

Unfortunately some weekends are pricier than others! Why not increase your budget and treat yourself to that perfect weekend away :) You can also change the setting for your nearest airport; larger airports have a greater range of flight options that we can search for.

What markets do you operate in?

Our app is currently only available for download in certain countries within Europe, and we only search for deals within Europe. The following countries are supported:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

Not all airports in these countries are currently supported however. If your airport doesn’t show up, email us (hello@TakeMeAway.io) and tell us to add it!


Available now on Android!

After 6 months of hard work and a few ups and downs, TakeMeAway is now available to download on all Android devices! You can download the app from here - Download the TakeMeAway app.

I would like to thank the team (Tom, Rob and Dina) for their fantastic work in getting the whole TakeMeAway concept to a point where we can share it with the world. Thanks is also due to our Beta Testers and friends who have been there to lend a hand and listen to our frustrations and questions over the past months.

This is (hopefully) just the beginning and we have a lot of work ahead of us to get the word out and improve on our product.

Lastly, we most certainly haven't forgotten about Apple users. We just need a week or so to get things fully polished! We'll also continue to discuss and keep you up to date with all the happenings via our blog.

Onwards and upwards!

Junaid

 

 


Travelling on a budget

What is important to you when you plan and book a holiday? There are many factors involved and of course everyone is different; but we were surprised to notice that the flight itself did not rank highly. Why? Because flying doesn’t excite us (ed - maybe different if you are fortunate enough to afford business class....).

Booking a flight ticket is boring and the effort required to get us to a destination is a nuisance. We want to get to where we want to be with minimum of fuss. Ideally as cheap as possible too (the holy grail!).

The flight ticket is the result after you’ve decided on a destination. When choosing, travellers either have a preconceived idea or they compare a few destinations before making a decision. Either way, the customer then goes to try and book a flight using a flight engine or via their favourite airline. But something frustrating happens at this point. They find the price of the ticket is more expensive than anticipated for their dates of travel. This is more likely with shorter trips where bookings are normally made less than a month in advance*. Annoyingly the user either has to exceed their budget (which leaves a bitter feeling) or repeat the cycle and find a new destination (which wastes time).

 

Fixing the user journey

Unfortunately it’s pretty difficult to always put you in the destination you want to be in at the time that is most convenient for you. Sorry! But can we tackle the problem from another angle? Let’s first go back to my original question - ‘what is important….’. The 3 biggest factors we observe are - the destination, the hotel and the total cost of the trip.

We could begin by showing you random (but awesome) hotels. Travellers don’t mind spending more on a place to stay if it ticks all the boxes - but without the context of knowing if you like the destination it feels a bit empty.  So we definitely need to agree on a destination before showing you great hotels.

What if we start with the trip cost? For shorter holidays (say less than a week) the amount we spend is much more sensitive than say our yearly 3-week holiday where we might splash out that little bit more to get the comforts we deserve for working hard all year. So beginning here is not be a bad idea, especially for shorter trips. But are we open to destinations that do not feature on our radar? Do we feel up to exploring new places? Europe’s diversity and history opens up some amazing cities to be in if we are.

Looking at the major travel sites, we see so many attempts to get travellers to spend more. The reasons might seem obvious, but it is nevertheless disappointing and in our mind frustrating for the customer. It also costs the user so much time in iterating searches to eventually find something they like and fitting their preferences; another undesirable result.

Can this user journey be changed to truly be budget driven? We believe so and hope that once we launch our users help us along the journey to accomplish this ideal.

Download the app today on Android with the following link - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.takemeaway.takemeaway

*TripBarometer 2016 by TripAdvisor