Life and Style wRap: Haute couture hiking, luxury baths
MANILA, Philippines - Here are Life & Style stories from the week of August 11 to 17.
Traditional outfits back in style in Austria
This picture-postcard, conservative country, which holds elections next month, is seeing a boom in all things traditional and rural, be they "dirndl" dresses, mountain melodies or eccentric medieval customs.
And the phenomenon is driven mostly by younger people, particularly urbanites, putting their own fun twist on what not so long ago was seen as hopelessly fuddy-duddy.
Hemlines on dirndls, for example, are rising, well above the knee in some cases, while even shorter are the lederhosen for women, as seen at the growing number of traditional festivals, such as Vienna's 3-year-old "Wiener Wiesn."
"It's easier to dance in a shorter dirndl," explains Bernadette, one of a trio of dirndl-wearing 16-year-olds dispensing schnaps to festivalgoers in southern Villach at a euro ($1.30) a tipple. "It's very fashionable."
Booze-fueled parties and club nights where the dress code is "trachten" (traditional) are now "in," something which "a few years ago would have been the most embarrassing thing in the world," according to the monthly magazine "Format."
They have also caught on outside Austria and southern Germany, where dirndls are in vogue too, with starlets from Paris Hilton to Katy Perry donning one to appear on German or Austrian TV or to be seen at the Oktoberfest in Munich.
Budget retailers have sprung up to meet the surge in demand, selling dirndls and lederhosen made in eastern Europe and Asia for less than 100 euros.
This is a fraction of what a "real" one costs, much to the disgust of purists. They are even on sale in discount supermarket Hofer, the Austrian subsidiary of Aldi.
Copper-bottomed bathtime for Bloomberg
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has splashed out on a hand-made copper bath from a historic French foundry.
Skilled craftsmen in Normandy spent 250 hours making the luxury tub to the billionaire-businessman's exact specification, according to Etienne Dulin, the owner of the 200-year-old Atelier du Cuivre (Copper Workshop) in the town of Villedieu-les-Poeles.
"He requested a nickel finish to give a slightly glossier effect," Dulin told AFP, describing how the bathtub had been shaped entirely by hand from two 2mm-thick sheets of copper.
Dulin would not be drawn on the cost of the tub but the manhours involved mean Bloomberg is likely to have had to part with at least 10,000 euros ($13,300) to be able to enjoy the advantages of copper-bottomed bathing.
"The advantage of copper is that it takes the temperature of the water almost immediately, which means the heat of the bath is lost less quickly," Dulin explained.
"Apart from that, it is very good for the skin and it kills bacteria."
The entrepreneur added: "These days, those who have money are looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the crowd and we are virtually alone in the world in being able to deliver this kind of quality."
Bloomberg was due to take delivery of his new bath this month. The mayor, whose 12-year stint at the helm of the United States' biggest city comes to an end in November, is currently renovating his 5-story Manhattan townhouse at a reported cost of $1.7 million.
Singapore firm launches in-flight Muslim prayer app
A Singapore-based company has launched an iPhone app alerting Muslims when to pray and which direction they should face even when they're 35,000 feet in the air.
Travelers input the flight details and are provided with prayer times during their journey, as well as the direction of the Muslim holy city of Mecca.
Crescentrating, a firm that gives "halal" or Islam-compliant ratings to hotels and other travel-related establishments, plans to make the free app, called Crescent Trips, available to Android smartphones within months, chief executive Fazal Bahardeen said.
The app also includes audio clips of prayers. Muslims pray 5 times daily at certain hours.
"The Muslim traveler is probably the largest untapped market in the travel industry today," Crescentrating chief operating officer Dany Bolduc said.
"It really isn't catered to as well as it should be given the immense size and potential of this market."
Spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011, according to a study released last year by Crescentrating and DinarStandard, a US-based firm that tracks the lifestyle market in the Islamic world.
Haute-couture hiking in South Korea
If you want to go hiking in South Korea, you have to spend a substantial amount of money on stand-out designer gear if you want to blend in.
While jeans and a T-shirt will draw attention, mainly in the form of thinly-disguised pity, a $650 North Face jacket with the latest ultra-light, three-ply Gore-Tex technology will barely merit a second glance.
Hiking is close to a national pastime in South Korea, and millions throng the country's many mountain parks and trails every weekend.
Their ages, stamina, and motivation may vary, but one thing that binds the vast majority together is a near-obsession with having the latest brand-name outdoors clothing and equipment.
Although Seoul's highest peak, Mount Bukhansan, is a modest 836 meters (2,744 feet) above sea level, the hordes of hikers who swarm its slopes on a daily basis look dressed for a lengthy assault on the North Face of the Eiger.
"It's not cheap, but everyone dresses this way and I don't want to look out of place," said Chung Da-Hee, a middle-aged housewife decked out in branded gear, right down to a pair of bright-colored fingerless gloves.
"Anyway, it's good quality and comfortable," Chung said.
South Korea experienced an initial surge in the popularity of outdoor activities in the late 1980s, as living standards improved and people were inspired by the country's hosting of the 1988 summer Olympic Games.
According to Jung Juno, who heads the grandly-named World Walking Headquarters based in Seoul, a second boom was triggered by an unlikely source: the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
The crisis hit South Korea very hard and resulted in mass layoffs, especially of middle-aged men who suddenly found themselves at a loose end.
"They had nowhere to go in the daytime," Jung told AFP. "At that time, the slogan was for South Koreans to 'remain healthy for comeback,' so a lot of them went walking in the hills and mountains."
The national and local governments have encouraged the trend, opening up trails and creating new hiking courses all over a country that boasts spectacular mountain and coastal scenery.
Study links heavy teen drinking to dementia
Heavy drinking and drug use in teenage years may boost your chances of developing dementia before the age of 65, Swedish researchers said Tuesday.
Alcohol abuse emerged as the strongest of 9 risk factors that could be traced as far back as adolescence, according to a study of 488,484 Swedish men conscripted for military service between September 1969 and December 1979 at an average age of 18.
In the 37 years following their conscription, 487 of the men were diagnosed with young-onset dementia (YOD) at a median age of 54 years.
68 percent of the YOD cases identified could be attributed to one or more of the 9 factors.
"One case of alcohol poisoning increased the risk by about 5-fold," geriatrics professor Peter Nordstroem of Sweden's Umeaa University told Swedish Radio of the study he led, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Other risk factors the team identified included a stroke, drug use, depression, having a father with dementia, a short stature, and hypertension.
Young-onset dementia is rare: about 4 percent of all cases according to the Alzheimer's Association.
In some instances it is caused by a gene mutation, though the exact causes of dementia are not known.
Researchers are finding ways to diagnose and treat dementia in the early stages, even before the onset of symptoms. - with reports by Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com