Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Florida Keys & Key West

The life in the keys of Florida is different in any other place with the rest of the world. The keys have their own system of the rules, which require elimination of hard realities, the concerns, the residences and any thing of the cold life distance. Here, you can be slackened and hardly be. The keys of Florida are a chain of islands which separate Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, therefore the water is principal attraction here. A coral-red vein confines the chain kilometer-coward of the island 193, by forming the sanctuary national marine of the keys of Florida and by creating the incredible occasions for the snorkelers and the plungers of equipment of deep-sea diving. One amble in the middle of the Christ submerged of the deep statue coast outside in the park of state of the coral-red vein Juan Pennekamp in the dominant Length, and between tropical Tortugas Sea and fish in the dry national park of Tortugas, a scenic walk of the boat of Key West. The hundreds of fish species swim in water of the keys, therefore fishing is a popular sport here. Some of retunes coveted of water backcountry include the bonefish, the sheep head, which are madders and the shook. For more adventure, fishing at sea major charges crossed coast outside for the mahi-mahi, the tuna, which is simple and the marlin. The letters of fishing abound through the keys. For the families, to see dolphins it is one of the larger emotions. In much of places in the keys, the visitors can cherish, be embraced, swim and including painting with these creatures untamable. The programs of the meeting of the dolphin are available in the research centre of the dolphin in marathon, the theatre of the sea in Islamorada and in handle of the dolphin, the dolphin more and the care of the dolphin of the island in dominant length. Out of ground, the keys are also full with fauna. The hammock of the point of the crane in marathon and national refuge dominating of the stags in large key of the pine has easy, scenic tracks of senders. In Estes last, the visitors can see the tiny stags white-attaches for which it is named, especially over the hours of paddle and of the afternoon. The refuge and all the keys are also at house with a large variety of room and the migratory birds, including pelican’s chestnut, nice of the mangrove, eagle’s bald people, grazes and several birds coastal. Biking is another great manner of seeing the flora and fauna buildings. That is the manner as much the islanders obtain around in Key West. A bikeway paved which starts in the end of the south of the marathon is parallel to the bridge of the slept-Mille and carries to the key of the dove, a historical village of the way of iron-building. Many tourist centers and bicycles of the rent of the business to explore the ways and the easy, plane traces of the keys of Florida. The keys very offer historical buildings and museums to the galleries of art, single stores and at the restaurants where to mollusks and shellfish they go directly from the ocean to silver plate. Key West one of the first cities of Florida, is the center of the historical keys and the cultural scene. In and around old city, the visitors they can travel a museum of art, a museum of the pirate, the house of Ernest Hemingway and a greenhouse of the butterfly. Interpretative arts are wide of night theatre of the street in the theatre of Mallory to more conventional theatres. Galleries and the stores of art of the old city offer the entire fine jeweler to the sandals, the cigars, the barks and the memories. In top and under the road 1, which functions with the length of the keys, the purchasers will find local art; will shell art, of the stores of that zambullida and shops of the center-style. A variety of restaurants abound around the island and along the line of coast. The specialties include the Fritos emparedados of what is simple, broad beans black and Cuban rice, fritters of the shell, hogfish roasted to the papilla, pie of dominant lime and the daisies. The night life is quiet and occasional but celebrates entertainment. There is to make so much in the keys of Florida which you will not want to sleep. But when you must, the options for comfort include the charming old pensions of the bed-and-breakfast of the town of Key West, tourist centers of luxury of the abundance-service, motels charmers, fishing places and family-have classified of the houses of beach of rent. No matter that you choose, the keys of Florida will create to him the sensation in the country in paradise.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

British Islands

Isle of Anglesey

Anglesey’s 125 miles of coastline, with its sandy beaches and tiny fishing villages, quiet coves and rocky headlands, is officially designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Anglesey’s “Lakelands” such as Llyn Alaw and Llyn Maelog, offer good sports for the freshwater angler, and there’s riding at Trefor for all the family’s enjoyment. Attractions include the 200 acre nature reserve on Holy Island; Beaumaris Castle and the fascinating Museum of Childhood and Tegfryn Art Gallery, both at Menai Bridge; Beaumaris Gaol; the Visitor Centre at Llanfairpwll, and Plas Newydd, the imposing 18th century stately home now in the care of the National trust. Souvenir hunters will be eager to visit the many little craft workshops that flourish in the quieter inland areas of Anglesey.

The Channel Islands

Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm are sheltered by the French mainland, but are within easy reach of English shores. This gives the Channel Islands a unique atmosphere; a combination of both countries.
Jersey, largest of the group – roughly nine miles by five miles, has an area of some 45 square miles. There are some 500 miles of good motoring roads and the distance right around the island is just 46 miles. Car hire (very reasonably priced) is easily arranged. St. Helier, the lively and attractive capital provides much entertainment, good shops and a colorful, indoor market.
Guernsey, second largest of the Channel Islands, has an unspools, uncommercialised aspect which lures holidaymakers bent on simple pleasures and leisure in idyllic surroundings. Guernsey’s south-east coast is one of supreme grandeur providing breathtaking views from winding cliff paths. To the west is a long expanse of beaches with rocky headlands forming bays with fascinating names of French origin like Cobo, Chouet, L’Eree, L’Ancresse and Vazon. St. Peter Port, the capital, is built on a hillside and has narrow, cobbled streets which slope steeply to the harbor.
Alderney – an area of just three and a half by one and a half miles, but packed with interest, beauty and an exciting history of smuggling. The rugged coastline is a mass of wild flowers, and inland there are large areas of unspool moorland. There are a golf course and opportunities for sailing, fishing and even surfing.
Sark and Herm – where you can get away from the noise of traffic, for both islands forbid vehicles. Sark has cliffs, bays and two picturesque harbors and the colorful “Anemone cave”. Herm, a short launch trip from Guernsey, has sandy beaches, woods and cliffs with numerous varieties of wild flowers and birds.

Isle of Man

Out in the Irish Sea, 75 miles from the British mainland, the Isle of Man has a little of everything for holiday enjoyment, contained within its 227 square miles. From 100 miles of coastline, which varies from spectacular cliffs to tiny coves and miles of sandy beaches, the island rises steeply through lovely glens into rolling green mountains. On Snaefell summit from where on a clear day it is possible to see four other kingdoms – England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Douglas, the capital, is the destination of steamers from various parts of Britain. Home of the House of Keys, the island’s Parliament, Douglas has a two-mile sandy sea front and unusual horse-drawn trams. The island has many historic castles and ruins and much connected with folklore.
There are six fine golf courses, bowling-greens, boating lakes, sailing, sea, lake and river fishing, skin-diving, pony-trekking, water-skiing and so much more. This “Isle of Sport” has festivals of football, rugby, hockey, athletics and shooting, as well as international hockey, race walking, offshore yacht racing, and International Air Rally. But the island’s most famous sport is motorcycle racing. Every year in June, the International Tourist Trophy Races are held. There is also an international cycling week, and the Rothmans International Rally. Ronaldsway airport served by 18 airports in Britain and two in Ireland.

Isles of Scilly

More than 100 islands form the Isles of Scilly, situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 28 miles south-west of Land’s End, Cornwall – the English mainland’s westernmost point. Only five of these islands are inhabited and St. Mary’s, the largest, is no more than three miles long. The other inhabited “off-islands”, as they are always called, are Tresco, St. Martin’s, St. Agnes and Bryher. Seals, dolphins and puffins are the only inhabitants of some of the other islands. You can take a boat from St. Mary’s to all the inhabited islands and, when weather permits, to see the Bishop Rock Lighthouse. The Isles enjoy a usually drier and sunnier climate than other parts of South West, and winters are mild.
Penzance (on the mainland) is a good holiday centre, with its picturesque fishing villages and its sub-tropical gardens, plus its unequalled position in a shelter corner of Mount’s Bay. Penzance is the main port of departure for the Isles of Scilly - you can take 20 minute flight by helicopter or a more leisurely cruise out in the Scillonian to the islands. Those visiting for the day from Penzance will have the opportunity to go by launch to the island of Tresco and visit the unique sub-tropical Abbey Gardens. Brymon Airways fl from Exeter, Newquay and Plymouth to Scilly.

Isle of Wight

A year-round holiday resort- the Isle of Wight with its remarkable variety of scenery, spectacular chins, a multicolored sand cliff, and clear beaches – is but a short hop from the south coast of England. It is a great place for sailing – the round the island yacht race (June), starts and finishes at Cowes; and Cowes Week itself, the most fashionable event in the yachting calendar, is held the first week in August. There are over four dozen places of interest to visit and many miles of delightful walks.

Western Isles

These are made up of two large groups of Scottish Islands, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. The Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull, Iona, Staffa, Coll, Tiree, Colonsey, Oronsay, Eigg, Muck, Rhum, Canna, Islay and Jura. Skye is the largest of the group – a glorious wilderness of rock and heather, mountains, lochs and trout streams. Portree is the island’s capital. Head for the Cuillins for some of the finest rock climbing in Europe. Mull, the second largest island has wild mountainous scenery, sea lochs and sandy bays. Tobermory is the main town. See the beautiful gardens of Calgary House in the north-west, while in the south-west, separated by a narrow channel, is Iona. You can take a boat from Mull to the island of Staffa, which is famous for its caves including Fingal’s Cave, which inspired Mendelssohn in the “Hebrides” overture.
Between them, the twin islands of Islay and Jura offer beaches, bays and rugged mountains. Jura has many caves, deer, large peaks known as the Paps of Jura – and a whisky distillery.
Lewis and Harris, Benbecula, Barra, North and South Uist – these are the islands of the Outer Hebrides. Together, Lewis and Harris form a single island – remote and unspool with wild moors and splendid beaches of silver-white. Here you will hear Gaelic spoken more often than English; and stirring Gaelic songs sung at lively ceilidhs (pronounced Kay-leys). Sternway is the largest town in the Outer Hebrides and is a major fishing port. Harris is famous for its hand-woven tweeds. The Uists are ideal for bird watching and Barra for sea angling.

Orkney

Orkney, about 70 islands in all, lie some seven miles off the north coast of the Scottish mainland. Kirkwall is the capital with a busy harbor and narrow, twisting streets. Orkney was once a Norse earldom and many relics of the Vikings survive. Near Finstown is Maes Howe (Stone Age tomb dating back to 2000 BC). Stromness, Orkney’s major seaport is one of the most picturesque and attractive locations in Britain.

Shetlands

Beyond Orkney are the Shetland Islands, the northernmost outpost of the British Isles. About 100 in all, of which only 16 are inhabited. Lerwick is the main town. On the southern tip of the Shetland mainland, at Sumburg, ancient contrasts with modern as this is the site of the Shetlands airport, and nearby are Bronze and Iron Age remains, the ruins of a Viking Village and a 16th century house.

Isle of Arran

Arran is a sheltered island set in the Clyde estuary, protected from the full force of the Atlantic by the peninsula of Kintyre. Its shores are washed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and with its all year round mild climate, enjoy rich and colorful vegetation. To the north and east are spectacular mountain ridges and to the south and west are green pasturelands, bordered by sandy beaches and towering cliffs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bulgaria – mountains and ski resorts

Eight Bulgarian mountains tower over 2000 m above sea level, each of them with its own character and particular beauty. The highest, the Rila and Pirin Mountains, are situated in the southwest and the Balkan Range divides the country into two, almost equal parts. The Rhodopes Mountains are the largest ones and the Vitosha Mountains lie just south of Sofia. More than one-third of Bulgaria is mountainous.

Rila Mountains

Rila Mountains are the highest in southeast Europe with Mount Mussala (2925 m) the highest. It has a rugged, alpine beauty, with rocky ridges, bristling peaks, plunging precipices, numerous wildflowers, and more than 180 sparkling lakes and streams. The Rila Mountain range is declared a national park. The second biggest ski resort in Bulgaria is Borovets on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountains.

Pirin Mountains

Pirin Mountains take its name from Perun, the Slavic God of thunder. The highest peak, Mount Vihren, tops 2914 m. These mountains are the wildest and most rugged of the Bulgarian ranges, with the northern part having a truly alpine relief with jagged peaks, sharp crests, numerous glacially sculpted circuses, and over 170 glacial lakes. The Pirin Mountains are also declared a national park. The biggest Bulgarian ski resort is situating above the town of Bansko.

The Balkan Range

The Balkan Range is the longest chain on the peninsula, stretching for over 600 km. it is the natural border between southern and northern Bulgaria and plays a role as a climatic border. Situated where the Continental and Mediterranean climates meet, the mountain is an unequalled territory for biogenesis incubator of biodiversity in Europe. The Balkan offers spectacular natural sites, such as the Iskar River canyon and the Belogradchik Rocks. The central part of the Balkan is declared a national park with nine reserves.

Rhodopes Mountains

Rhodopes Mountains are relatively low but possess their own distinctive beauty, and are an ideal place for hiking and biking holidays. The Rhodopes Mountains are called the “Green Heart” of Europe for their large areas with pine trees. Unique natural sites in Rhodopes include: Trigrad and Buynovo as high as 40 meters, the rocky “mushrooms” of Beli Plast, and the Zimzelen Rocks. Rhodopes lies on the border with Greece, and the culture and climate have obvious Mediterranean influence. Two ski resorts are situated here – the third biggest at Pamporovo and a small one at Chepelare.

Vitosha Mountains

Vitosha Mountains rise up just beyond the outskirts of Sofia. Inhabitants flock to its slopes on weekends for hiking excursions. The Vitosha Plateau and moraine “Rock Rivers” are a typical and impressive landscape. Vitosha Mountains are declared a nature park with two reserves. The ski runs on Vitosha begin at Aleko Centre.



Ski resorts

The Bulgarian mountains are sure to have snow from the end of December until mid-April. The ski resorts are situated in southern Bulgaria. They are modern and attract much attention. The four biggest ski resorts are Bansko, Borovets, Pamporovo and Vitosha.

Borovets is the oldest and second largest ski resort in Bulgaria and is situated on the northern slopes f the Rila Mountains, at the foot of Mount Musala (2925 m). Borovets is a modern ski resort with luxury hotels, restaurants, discos, shops and a good choice of ski runs and lifts. Eight snow guns for artificial snow are installed and secure good snow coverage. Nightlife and night skiing are equally great

Bansko has a population of 12.000. This historic town is located at 925 m above sea level at the foot of Pirin Mountains. Bulgaria’s biggest ski resort is situated above the town. The skiing conditions in Bansko are the best in Bulgaria. The mountain has 44 snow guns working to cover 80 percent of the skiing surface. It is a snowboarder’s paradise with a newly established snowboard park. Night skiing is available on well-lit ski runs.
Bansko provides a unique combination of great skiing and of cozy Bulgarian Revival Period atmosphere. The local taverns charm locals and visitors with style, traditional music, local cuisine, and a good selection of wines.

Pamporovo nests in the heart of the Rhodopes Mountains. The skiing area is on the slopes of Mount Snezhanka. Strong influence from the Mediterranean forms the resort’s mild climate and heavy snowfalls in the winter. The resort has six snow guns for artificial snow. Dog sledge driving and night skiing will be available by winter, 2005.

Vitosha Mountain hosts the fourth biggest Bulgarian ski resort. It is on the eastern slopes of the highest Mount Cherni Vrah at 2290m. The resort is only a 45 min drive from Sofia. A gondola lift from Sofia brings skiers up to over 1800m. The skiing season starts in late December and lasts until April.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bulgaria – spa and wellness

The natural thermal water springs in Bulgaria are some of the most sterling and unique resources of the country and welcome the prosperity of tourism; they are the “golden key” to boosting the development of the hospitality industry that keep tourism flourishing. Over 800 hydro mineral springs clustered in over 240 water formations, rich in hot and cold mineral water with temperature varying in a wide range from 37 C up to 101 C, gush forth and spout out of the bowels of the Earth from a depth of over 2000 meters. In the uniqueness, variety and abundance of hydrothermal, bioclimatic, mud treatment, sea cure, and other health resources, Bulgaria ranks among the first in Europe. Specialists are unanimous that all kinds of known mineral waters around the world find their counterpart in that country. Deposits of high quality peat and healing mud have been found at many places in the country.
The mineral water with the highest temperature measured on the Balkan Peninsula springs out as a geyser in the area of Sapareva Banya. The Mihalkovo natural soda-water is the third most famous of its kind in the world. The healing spring waters with curative effect in the spa resort of Merichleri, similar in quality to the mineral water springs in the famous resort areas of Karlovi Vari and Vichy, were awarded a gold medal at the International exhibition which took place in London in 1907. The up-to date mud center in the sea town of Pomorie is the largest on the Balkan Peninsula and is an incredible contribution to the development of domestic balneology (hot spring spas and therapy).
Bulgaria’s health spas and hot mineral springs have been noted for their restorative and recreative effects since the ancient Thracian, Greek and Roman times. Ancient civilizations settled in these mineral spring areas a long time ago. When establishing their dwellings on the Balkan Peninsula in the 5th century BC, the Thracians, preferred to settle in these wholesome and favorable unique lands with natural spring waters, following the old traditions and making a cult of the natural sparkling curative thermal waters. There are extremely good bio-climatic resources which, combined with the existing ancient traditions in thermal water use, provide a base of balneology development in the country of Bulgaria. In Thracian times, flourishing settlements sprang up around the hot mineral springs. Later, under the influence of the Greek mythology, nymphaeums were built where the Thracians practiced religious and health rituals ending by tossing coins in the mineral water areas “for health”.
The cultural and economic boom of these dwellings actually started after the Roman conquered the Thracians in the year 46. In addition to conducting health and religious rituals, for the next five-six centuries the nymphaeums welcomed other activities such as hospitalization. The “Asclepions” – baths with additional functions and curative health centers for hospitalization of the sick, were built and the largest of their kind was established in the ancient Ulpia Pautalia (present Kyustendil) spreading over a territory of 3600 sq.m and ranking second among the Asclepions in ancient Hellenic Epidavar. Today enormous wealth of natural factors, combined with the country’s modern hotels and spa facilities, provide excellent diseases of our times and truly make Bulgaria a country of health.
Evidences that the mineral springs and Roman baths were used in the time of the first and second Bulgarian Kingdom have been found during excavations near the villages of Merichleri, the baths in Stara Zagora area, the village of Varshets, the baths of Sapareva Banya and Haskovo baths.

The new history of the balneotherapy in Bulgaria starts in the 20th century. The clinical and experimental balneology is developed. A lot of practical information for the chemical and physical contents of the thermal waters, directions for use, the therapeutic indications and contra-indications is gathered. The balneology resorts are approved and the network for treatment and prophylaxis is created in the country. In the 80s of the 20th century Bulgaria is already one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of balneology tourist properties base. The Bulgarian entrepreneurs and hoteliers focus on balneology again in the beginning of the 21st century. The usage of the mineral waters varies from medical to recreational, from relaxing to strengthening the body. In line with the leading trends and tendencies, Bulgaria gets increasingly focused on the spa and wellness tourist services. A lot of tourist properties were established and continue to develop as well as hotels and recreational properties, where water treatment and procedures, recreating the internal harmony and physical strength of the body are applied and practiced. They are normally part of the existing balneology centers, but also they are often part of existing hotels and resorts. Spa and wellness services are forming unique possibilities for medical and recreational tourism in conjunction with classical balneology, magnificent climate, varied nature, centuries old culture and history. The experience gained in balneological procedures, as well as the well-educated and prepared medical personnel specializing in climatotherapy, physiotherapy, kinesitherapy and rehabilitation are not to be cast away.
A second use of mineral waters is for drinking. The focus on the bottling of the mineral waters is also a result of the leading health trends, which show a reduction of available drinking water and the rising danger of pollution in water collection basins. The third significant usage of the thermal waters in Bulgaria is the productions of derivates (lye, salt), which are used as basic components in different cosmetics and bio products.

Main regions

The mineral springs in Bulgaria are located in three main regions – South Bulgaria, including Rila, Rhodopes and Pirin mountains, Sredna Gora and Balkan Mountain Range. The second main region is formed in North Bulgaria – in the surroundings of Montana, Vidin and Pleven. The third main region is the northern part of the Black Sea Coast. Not to leave out the surroundings of Sofia itself: an area rich in hydrothermal springs, numbering more than forty.

Sofia

In the Sofia residential districts of Gorna Banya and Knyazhevo there are thermal springs of some of the most non-mineralized waters in Bulgaria. They are used mainly for bottling and as drinking water and for the production of non-alcoholic beverages. The mineral water in the residential district of Ovcha Kupel is recommended for treatment of diseases of the locomotive, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive and secretory systems, diseases of the lungs, etc. the mineral water in the residential district of Pancharevo has similar qualities. The first (and still in operation) spa medical center in Bulgaria was built in 1907 in the town of Bankya – one of the country’s best known and most frequented spa resorts. The climatic conditions are favorable for year-round spa treatment. The thermal spring of this town is slightly mineralized and is recommended for treating disturbances of the nervous system, cardiovascular system, as well as for preventing of diseases of the respiratory system, the locomotive, digestive and urinary systems.

Kostenets

This resort was popular in the past and is situated in the Maritsa valley, close to the main Sofia – Plovdiv road. Its water is slightly mineralized and hypothermal. It is recommended for disorders of the digestive and endocrine systems, the locomotive, cardiovascular system, as well as for respiratory problems. Momin Prohod is one of the residential districts of Kostenets. The water there is slightly mineralized but the radon value is one of the highest in Bulgaria after Narechen baths. The resort is focused on the balneology treatment of the nervous system but it is also famous for its possibilities to rehabilitate poliomyelitis. The treatment of respiratory problems and skin diseases is also popular.

Kyustendil

There are significant differences in the composition of the mineral waters in these areas. Overall the thermal waters in the Southern region have slight total mineralization and are among the hottest in Europe. They often contain fluorine (average concentration rate is 6-7mg/l) and sulphurated hydrogen (up to 10-15 mg/l). Situated at the foot hills of the Osogovska Mountain, Kyustendil (ancient Pautalia) is one of Bulgaria’s best known climatic and spa resorts. The village emerged due to this natural treasure and its Thracian name “Puteos” means bath. On a coin found dating back to the age of Emperor Karakal, a forest-covered hill can be seen which arises over the town, with a big temple on the top, a bath temple at its feet and three smaller temples nestling in its slopes. This is a part of the famous Aesclepion sanctuary dedicated to the God of medicine and healing waters – Aesculapius. The later names of the town are also connected with the thermal waters. During the 5th – 7th century the town was often mentioned under the name of Kolasia – identical with the small Asian town of Kolasia where the cult to the local warm mineral springs was held.
The water is the main natural treasure of Kyustendil now-a-days. All springs are slightly mineralized, hypo thermal, with a strong base reaction and high capacity. They are recommended for treatment of problems of the locomotive system, the nervous system, disturbances in the reproductive system, respiratory problems, sterility in women, treatment of gynecological malfunctions, endocrine, chronic, metabolic and respiratory diseases. Excellent results have been achieved with thousands of patients suffering arthritis.

Sapareva Banya

The hottest mineral springs out with the power of a geyser in Sapareva Banya. The town is located 12 km east from Doupnitsa and 28 km west from the city of Samokov. Sapareva Banya is a mountain resort and one of the biggest balneology centers in Bulgaria. Ancient relics from the Thracian settlement of Dzhermanezha founded in the 1st and 2nd century BC has been discovered here. The Thracians founded the village of Dzhermanezha and the Romans turned it into a fortress with a balneology complex for the care of war veterans. They named it Germania which is kept in the name of the German river. The climate here is mild and the proximity of the cool Rila Mountain turns Sapareva Banya into a healthy resort.
The thermal waters of Sapareva Bania are slightly mineralized and among the waters with the highest fluorine content. They are recommended for the locomotive and the nervous system, as well as for the treatment of gynecological malfunctions and skin diseases.

Blagoevgrad

Blagoevgrad is the heir of the Thracian village Scaptopara which emerged around a warm mineral spring. Historical and archaeological findings include remains of Roman walls and bricks. The thermal waters have always attracted people here. The waters are slightly mineralized, hypothermal, alkali. They are recommended for the locomotive, nervous system as well as for the treatment of gastro enteric diseases, some kidney and urological diseases and conditions of the digestive system.

Sandanski

The Thracians founded Medius – a settlement between the foothills of 3 mountains – Pirin, Ograzhden and Slavyanka. This ancient city also existed in the 5th – 6th centuries, as is evidenced by the discovery of Byzantine church devoted to the two healer saints St Kozma and St Damyan. When the Slavs settled in these lands they gave to the city the name of this church – St Healer.
Sandanski is famous not only as a balneology centre but also for its unique climate. Apart from its natural beauties and lush vegetation the resort also features a multitude of mineral springs. The Pirin Mountain protects the city from cold winds and the Struma river valley brings mild Mediterranean currents. The climate is warm, dry, and almost fogless. Qualified experts have recognized Sandanski as the best place for the prophylaxis and treatment of rheumatism. Resort conditions are particularly conductive to the treatment of bronchial asthma. The waters are clear, colorless, and odorless, with a pleasant taste, slightly mineralized, hypothermal, slightly alkali. It is recommended for respiratory diseases as well as for the locomotive system, the peripheral nervous system, gynecological, skin, and urological, gastro enteric, endocrine and metabolic diseases. This remarkable combination of balmy, health-giving weather and curative mineral water makes Sandanski the perfect place for modern climatic-therapy, spa treatment, rehabilitation, primary and secondary prophylaxis and recreation.

Dobrinishte, Banya, Ognyanovo, Rupite

Dobrinishte is a balneological resort located in the Western slopes of the Rhodopes Mountains. There are 17 mineral springs in the village with the temperature of 30 C to 43 C. There are several curative centers and an open air pool with mineral water.
The village of Banya is situated 6 km from Bansko and 5 km from Razlog. There are more than 25 mineral springs with temperatures varying in the range of 28 C to 58 C. There is also a balneological health center.
The famous Ognyanovski mineral baths are situated in close proximity to the village of Ognyanovo (12 km north east from the town of Gotse Delchev). The mineral springs were used even in the antique Roman age (Nikopolis ad Nestum); some balneology facilities from that time have been preserved. The climate is trans-continental, melded by the Mediterranean influence.
The water has the temperature of 43 C and the flow capacity of 70l/sec, slightly mineralized, slightly fluoride. It is suitable for the treatment and rehabilitation of the locomotive system, the peripheral nervous system, and some gynecological and urological diseases.
The area of Rupite is situated 17 km south from the resort of Sandanski. The climate is transitional continental, with clearly defined Mediterranean influence. The water has the temperature of 76 C and the capacity of 35l/sec, slightly mineralized, fluoride, and contains valuable bio-plankton from micro algae with proven healing quality.

Hissar

The ancient Bulgarian town and world-famous spa resort of Hissar is situated in the centre of Bulgaria, at the foot of Sredna Gora Mountain, 40 km north of the city of Plovdiv and 160 km east of Sofia, close to the Valley of Roses. Archaeological research shows that there was an ancient dwelling near the mineral water springs in the area of Hissar as early as 5000 years BC. Thracian people and Romans settled in these lands. Emperor Diocletian visited the village of Hissar and named it after himself – Diocletianopol. Palaces and marble baths were built and the village of Hissar became a very attractive resort area for the Roman patricians.
The temperatures are very attractive – mild winter, early spring season, mild summer, a real eye-catching autumn. The area is not urban and there are no production plants and factories nearby. Very interesting are the unique bead belts one can find in Hissar. It takes about three months to make a one-meter long belt.
Today Hissar is a modern spa resort that offers all facilities needed for balneotherapy. There are 22 mineral springs in Hissar – 16 natural and 6 deeply drilled, with temperatures ranging from 37 C to 52 C. The mineral water is light, clear, colorless, and tasty. It is slightly mineralized, hypo and hyper-thermal, with a predominance of hydro carbonic, sodium, sulphate and fluorine ions, as well as substantial amounts of radioactive gas. Hissar mineral water can be used both as drinking water and for the prevention and treatment of gastro-intestinal tract diseases, nephrolithiasis and nephrite-urological diseases, cholelithiasis, locomotive system diseases, gynecological diseases, kidney, liver and gall bladder diseases, endocrine-metabolically diseases, early atherosclerosis and processes of premature senility, dental diseases and prevention of dental caries, chronic heavy metal poisoning malfunctions with heavy metals and pharmaceutical substances.

Strelcha, Banya and Velingrad

The town of Strelcha in Sredna Gora Mountain also offers facilities in the balneological centre. The water is slightly mineralized, hypothermal, alkali, with high flow capacity. It is recommended for the treatment of locomotive, peripheral nervous, reproduction, endocrine, gastro enteritis and kidney urological problems.
The balneological resort Banya is only 8.5 km away from the glorious town of Panagyurishte and 45 km away from the city of Pazardzhik. Today it is a modern spa resort that offers all facilities for balneotherapy. The mineral water is light, clear, colorless, and tasty. It is slightly mineralized, hypo and hyper-thermal, with a predominance of hydro carbonic, sodium, sulphate and fluorine ions, as well as substantial amounts of radioactive gas. The curative mineral waters in this spa resort are good for treatment of skeleton – muscular system disorders, disease of the peripheral nerve system, inflammations of the degenerative diseases of the joints, gynecological disorders, abdominal disorders, kidney and urology. Suitable for treatment of injuries of the locomotive system. The temperature of the mineral spring is approximately 42 C, slightly mineralized and mildly alkaline.
The remarkable combination of balmy, weather and curative mineral spa waters makes the town of Velingrad one of the most attractive parts of the picturesque Rhodopes Mountains in Southern Bulgaria. Velingrad is a well-known spa and climatic resort in South Bulgaria. Surrounded by age-old pine tree woods, the town favors abundant sunshine. The resort’s mineral water well up from 70 springs with a total flow of over 10 000l/sec. There are 70 sources of mineral water with curative and preventive properties. Mineral waters are hypothermal with temperatures ranging from 31 C to 71 C, slightly mineralized, fluorine, and sulphate-carbonate-sodium. Successfully treated here are almost all diseases and disorders off the human body systems. The treatment of non-specific diseases of the respiratory tract is particularly successful. Considerable experience has been accumulated in the efficient treatment of diseases of the locomotive system, nervous diseases and gynecological disorders. Together with the numerous mineral waters Velingrad takes pride in another natural phenomenon as well – the Kleptutsa spring. This is the biggest Karst spring in Bulgaria with a flow rate of 900l/sec.

Narechen, Devin and Beden

The Narechen mineral bath is another famous balneology resort situated in the Rhodopes Mountain set amid magnificent pine forest 45 kilometers south-west of the city of Plovdiv. The Narechen baths consist of 14 spring mineral waters. The hypothermic waters contain radon, sulphates and hydro carbonates of sodium and calcium, silicon and small amounts of fluorine, and have a weak alkaline reaction. They are clear, colorless and palatable. The radon content ranges from moderate to high. It is suitable for the treatment of functional disturbances of the nervous system, cardio vascular diseases, and metabolic problems. Its positive influence on the gastroenterological system, gallous, respiration organs and kidneys is proven.
The town of Devin is a well-known balneology resort and is famous since ancient times with the healing qualities and the rich variety of mineral springs. They are combined with healthy mountain climate, pure forest air and modern hotel and wellness base which turn the town into an ideal place for balneology and spa tourism.
The water is slightly mineralized with high alkalis. It is recommended for treatment and prophylaxis of degenerative joint diseases of the locomotive system, treatment of the nervous system functional diseases, disorders of cardiovascular and reproduction systems as well as for kidney and urological, lever, gallous and endocrine diseases.
The Beden baths are situated 12 km east of Devin and 23 km west of the famous mountain resort Pamporovo. The climate is transitional continental, with Mediterranean influence.
The mineral waters are hot (76 C), with substantial capacity – 12l/sec, slight mineralization and slight acid. They are used for treatment of digestive system, endocrine, locomotive, neurological, gynecological and epidermal diseases, and disturbances of the locomotive system of a degenerative or inflammatory origin.

Banite and Haskovo

The village of Banite is situated in the heart of the magnificent Rhodopes Mountains, in the eastern part of Smolyan district, in the Valley of Malka Arda River. The village of Banite is a spa resort. A warm mineral spring has been found in the center of the village. The healing water is slightly mineralized, hypothermal with neutral pH factors. It is suitable for the treatment and rehabilitation of the locomotive system, treatment of gynecological and urological malfunction diseases, cardiovascular and epidermal skin problems, digestive and urinary systems, root canals disorders of teeth, prophylaxis.
The health resort of Haskovo mineral baths is situated 60 km south east of the city of Plovdiv and 18 km to the west of Haskovo. The history has played an important role and brought its influence to the relics from ancient settlements – there are lots of Roman bath facilities in the area of the mineral spring natural water resorts, fortress walls, folk-style goods, coins not only from the Roman cultural heritage but dating back to old Thracian epochs and ages, which confirms once again the curative use of these mineral spring waters.
There are 15 natural and drilled sources of slightly mineralized water and mildly alkaline which temperature varies in the range of 54 C to 56 C. The water is both drinkable and therapeutic. The total water capacity is 36l/sec. There is a water pipe facility leading to the city of Haskovo, where the natural mineral water is used in the specially designed balneal treatment center and hospital. They are recommended for all year round treatment of the locomotive, nervous system as well as for gastro entomology diseases, some kidney and urological diseases and conditions of the digestive system: gastritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers in remission, colitis, glomerulonephritis, cystopyelitis, chronically vascular diseases and initial diabetes.

Merichleri, Pavel Banya and Stara Zagora

The popularity of the world famous town of Merichleri situated 16 km North West of the city of Dimitrovgrad and 17 km away from Chirpan is due to the curative power of the mineral water, rivaling the springs in popular resort areas like Karlove Vari and the French mineral water Vichy. The curative properties of the spring waters in the resort area were awarded the gold medal of the International Exhibition in London which took place in 1907.
Mineral waters are hypothermal with temperatures ranging from 25 C to 45 C, slightly mineralized. Successfully treated here are almost all diseases and disorders: considerable experience has been accumulated in the efficient treatment of diseases of the locomotive system, nervous system diseases and gynecological disorders. The combined climatic and balneology treatment is recommended for patients having chronics respiratory system and urological problems, osteoporosis and complete body prophylaxis.
Pavel Banya is also in the top chart of the Bulgarian balneology resorts. Pavel Banya is situated 18 km south east of Kalofer, 25 km to the west of Kazanlak and 9.5 km from the artificial pond Koprinka. It offers its guests a recreation and rehabilitation complex with underwater gymnastic pool, balneal sanatoriums and hotels. The waters of the seven mineral springs are slightly mineralized, alkali, with high temperature and capacity.
In the vicinity of the town of Stara Zagora are the Stara Zagora Mineral Baths – a spa resort famous for ages. They are widely visited because of their closeness to the town and the curative effect in the treatment of diseases of the digestive, urinary and endocrine systems, considerable experience in treatment of the locomotive system, nervous diseases and gynecological disorders and other conditions for healing of heavy metals / chronic lead based intoxications.

Sliven and Banya Korten

The mineral springs in the Mineral Baths of Sliven have proved their effectiveness in the treatment and prophylaxis of stomach, liver diseases, as well as locomotive, cardio vascular diseases, gastro enteritis and peripheral nervous system, intoxications, flour prophylaxis in osteoporosis and tooth cavities.
Banya Korten (Novozagorski Bani) – its slightly mineralized water can be used both as drinking water and for prevention of gastro-intestinal tract diseases, locomotive system diseases, early gall bladder diseases, gynecological diseases, endocrine-metabolically diseases, early atherosclerosis and processes of premature senility, dental diseases and respiratory problems.

Varshets and Ovcha Mogila

There are plenty of natural mineral springs in the northern part of Bulgaria which are unique in their water characteristics and differ from the natural mineral springs in the southern parts of the country. The waters of the springs in the northern regions of Bulgaria – Vidin and Montana are highly mineralized with high level of NaCl, iodine and brome salts and hydro sulphide. The mineral spring waters in Pleven region are less mineralized.
The most unique balneology center in the region of Western Balkan Mountain Range is Varshets. One of the oldest and most popular resorts in Northern Bulgaria, it is famous for its curative mineral springs, mild mountain climate, beautiful scenery and a large well-kept park. It is an ancient Bulgarian village. The temperature of water from the “Hot spring” is 36.4 C; the other cold mineral water spring has a temperature of 32.6 C.
The mineral water of Varshets is suitable for external use, as well as for inhalations, irrigations and drinking. It is applied for treatment of functional diseases of the central nervous system, cardiovascular diseases; various diseases of the cardiac muscle and valves; chronic cardiac insufficiency; post-infraction conditions; endocrine and metabolic diseases. Good results have also been achieved in the treatment of some diseases of the peripheral nervous system, the locomotive system and some gastrointestinal diseases and retina disorders.
Ovcha Mogila is a newly formed resort area in comparison to Varshets and because of its thermal spring waters, the resort gains popularity. The mineral water is recommended for the treatment of rheumatism, bones and muscle disorders, problems of the nervous system, gastro and liver problems, metabolism problems, malfunctions of the glade bladder and chronic intoxications. Such health disorders are also treated in the spring areas of Voneshta Voda, Shipkovo and Chiflik village.

Black Sea Coast Spa Centers

Plenty of thermal water springs, curative firth mud, lake brine, lye, favorable sea climate and attractive landscape – you can find all these on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Recently most of the Bulgarian resort areas rely on the main tourist and natural attractions. When gaining their popularity and attracting people, they consider also the “golden unique” opportunities which the balneology, spa and wellness factors can offer. There is a whole variety of facilities like baths, kinesitherapy, mineral pools with healing water resources, electro and light treatment, electrophoresis as well as many others. These services as well as world-class health programs are offered in Grand Hotel Varna, the International Home of Scientists “F.J. Curie”, Sunny Day Complex, and Dobrudzda Hotel in Albena resort complex.
Mineral waters along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast have different physical and chemical characteristics, but they are generally with low mineralization, containing calcium, magnesium and hydrogen sulphide (St. St. Konstantin and Elena, Golden Sands, Albena, town of Kavarna, etc). Particularly valuable are the salty highly mineralized waters containing iodine and bromide in the Kamchiya region (good for the treatment of arthrosclerosis, diseases of the bones and joints, the nervous system) and in Tyulenovo.

Albena

Thermal waters in the resort area of Albena and Balchik are slightly mineralized, hypo thermal and alkali with a whole range of medical and healing indicators for treatment of different diseases and human body system disorders. The mineral water of the Balchishka Tuzla is with similar components. The curative mud taken from both firth lakes eases bone and muscular disorders treatment and the treatment of disturbances of the locomotive system – arthritic and rheumatic complaints, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, posttraumatic states, gout diseases of the muscles and tendons, etc. there is a mud health center offering mud healing procedures and applications of the so called “Egypt method”. There is a specially designed children sanatorium center which takes professional care of kids less than 14 years age through kinesitherapy and healing massage procedures, hydro thermal pool area facilities as well as many others.

Varna

The gem of the Bulgarian Black Sea with a convenient and well conserved water area is the largest sea climatic and balneology center in Bulgaria where mud treatment, sun, sea and sand procedures are gaining popularity and attracting tourists. The city’s peculiar sea charm is sublime and moving with its 12 thermal springs with slight mineralization and high level of temperature difference, high water flow capacity and the abundance of firth mud in the Varna Lake.
Beyond the high season its balneotherapy facilities can help you unwind and enjoy the many sights and sounds in peace.
The mineral waters are extremely good for treatment of cardio vascular diseases, nervous system problems and disorders, upper respiratory tract and lung diseases, fatness; however good for various treatment procedures, rehabilitation, primary and secondary prophylaxis and recreation. Similar health disorders are also influenced by the good chemical composition, the value of hydrogen sulphide and hydro dioxide at the spa balneology center “St. Konstantin”. The thermal water in Golden sands and Riviera areas is suitable for systematic treatment of digestive system diseases, urinary and endocrine systems.

Bourgas

Bourgas thermal baths, located 15 km away from the 4th largest city in Bulgaria, are among the most ancient balneology spa resorts described in the memorials of Philip Makedonski, dating back to the 4th century BC. The thermal water is slightly mineralized, hypo thermal with a high value of pH and high water capacity. It is excellent for the treatment of ailments of the locomotive system, the central and peripheral nervous system, the digestive tract and gynecological diseases, endocrine gland problems and kidney and urology disorders. The healing water resources in combination with the mild and specific favorable climate conditions are the perfect opportunity for all-year round prophylaxis, treatment and active vacation and recreation.
The mineral water in the area of Nessebar and Sunny Beach contains similar chemical components but with higher temperature.

Pomorie

The resort Pomorie, one of Bulgaria’s best known mud treatment and seaside resorts possesses a unique nature which makes it an attractive place for year-round recreation and treatment of various diseases. Founded during the 6th – 5th century BC near salty lake called by the ancient Thracians “sacred” because of its curative abilities. It is situated on a peninsula 22 km north of the city of Bourgas. It is proved that according to its qualities Pomorie curative mud, extracted from the salty lake, is among the best in the world. The first mud-cure established was built here in 1927 and the national mud cure center was established in 1983 – the biggest in terms of area and facilities on the Balkan Peninsula. Pomorie is famous with its curative mud, the favorable sea climate, the sea and beach. The mud eases bone and muscular disorders. In the modern sanatorium different diseases are cured all year round. Main indications for year-round treatment: disturbances of the locomotive system – arthritic and rheumatic complaints, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic states, gout diseases of the muscles and tendons, etc.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thasos – the greenest island of Aegean Sea

According to mythology, the first person to inhabit the island was Thasos, a young man, who happened upon the island during his quest to find Europe, the daughter of Aginoros. Zeus was so deeply in love with her that he kidnapped her to enjoy her company for ever. Thasos, according to Herodotus, was unable to find her, but was seduced by the beauty of the island, settled there together with his company, and thus the island was ever since named after him.
Recent excavations, tools and fragments of ceramic, prove that Thasos was originally inhabited in the first instance, during the Paleolithic period, 2 to 3 million years ago. Later, it was the Phoenicians that settled on the island in 15th century BC. They were traders. They were attracted by rich gold mines, which many people have searched for since, but also by the abundant lumber, which still exists today, and enables the local boat builders to continue their trade.
Nowadays, Thasos is a unique tourist resort, with modern hotels, numerous private rooms, studios, apartments and private villas to let, camping sites beautifully located within pine trees with their own private access to the sea shore, a complete and well maintained road network and regular access to the mainland, just across the strait, both via a regular and all year round Ferry boat and Flying Dolphin service.
The friendly and hospitable people of Thasos have many ancient Greek traditions and deep religious beliefs and they preserve the folkways and mores and traditional forms of culture through their respect and love of arts and music. Not least amongst the traditions that they have preserved is that of the love of foreigners and strangers. Their hospitality will both amaze and overwhelm all visitors.
The annual summer festival, one of the most highly regarded festivals in Greece, presents high quality performances all around the island. Amongst the main attractions are the plays – by both ancient and modern writers – that are held in the Ancient Theatre. This, due to its location, high up of the town, has an unparalleled view over the beautiful harbor, the blue sea and the surrounding town, and the foothills of the mountains. In addition, there are also gigs and concerts by well known Greek or foreign artist in breathtaking locations such as the archaeological sites of the ancient Agora and the sanctuary of Dioskouri in Limenas, the site Metallia in Limenaria and many, many others – all equally beautiful and equally renowned – all around the island.
There are also, regular, art, photographic and other cultural exhibitions held in Kalogeriko (the beautiful and traditionally renovated cultural centre of Limenas, located by the ancient harbor). Tarsanas (in Potamia), Palataki (in Limenaria) and ancient sites and buildings also host their own festivals and festivities.
Throughout the year many traditional, cultural and folklore events, such as the Thasian Wedding in August, events with the unique reenactment of Dionysian customs, which are held in many of the villages around the island during the Greek Carnival in February, and which are still such an integral part of the ordinary lives of Thasian people, are organized by the folklore unions on the island which are so successful in preserving traditions that otherwise might be lost.
The island offers every type of beach that one could wish for shallow waters with sandy beaches abutted by pine trees, not easily accessible by road, tiny gulfs and rocky promontories, spotlessly clean pebble beaches, wide expanses of sand and well maintained public beaches, with numerous beds and umbrellas to satisfy every need. The choice is there for peaceful family vacations, exciting water sports, beach games or just simply relaxing in the peace and quiet of the beautiful surroundings.
The hills and mountains and the network of the hiking trails, within pine forests, offer the perfect opportunity for hiking and climbing amongst some of the most beautiful and most natural scenery in northern Greece. There is the possibility to undertake mountain bike riding, cycling along the coast road, motto cross or quad bike driving, while the sea is always close for swimming, sailing, diving, cruises, or fishing in traditional fishing boats. There are a total of 11 harbors and fishing shelters around the island. This combined with the countless beautiful gulfs and emerald waters (the twin natural harbors in Aliki, the deep sandy bays of Golden Beach, and Tripiti and the bay of Kefalas) are ideal destinations for those who wished to visit this island by boat.
Another unexpected attraction of the island is the large number of old churches and monasteries that are always of interest for those who want to research the past and the present of religion. The monastery of Archangels, located on the south-east of the island, built precariously on the steep rocky side of the mountain, gives a feeling that it is hanging right into the sea, the Church of the Virgin Mary in the mountain village of Panagia, the monastery of St Panteleimon close to the beautiful village of Kazaviti, Panagouda, close to the village of the same name, Maries, Agios Athanasius in Kastro built back in medieval times and Agios Dimitrios in Theologos are just few of the examples of the religious monuments on Thasos that are bound to inspire awe and humility in many visitors.
In short, an island of superb natural beauty, friendly and hospitable people with their lives very firmly based in the traditions of Greek village life, modern facilities, plentiful accommodation to suit every pocket and every need, sophisticated shops, bars and restaurants, easy and frequent access and all this relatively unknown to mass tourism.
Thasos is known to those who have already discovered its beauty, as the jewel of the Aegean, the emerald island. It is the most northerly island in the Aegean Sea, located just 12 nautical miles from the ports of Kavalla and Nea Peramos and 6 nautical miles from Keramoti and the Nestos River delta.
It is mountainous and densely wooded. The lower slopes of the mountain, covered by pine forests and olive groves seem to tumble into the sea, around the perimeter of the 100 km of the beautiful coastline of the island, with its numerous beaches, inlets and estuaries. It has wide sweeping big sandy expanses of beach, smaller sandy bays, tiny coves with rocks and pebbles, beaches which just constitute the fine white powdery marble sand which is like talcum powder, and even rocky outcrops, were one can be as secluded or with friends as one wishes. The climate is a mild Mediterranean climate, with cool summers and shorter mild winters.
In the administrative and commercial capital, both known as Thasos and Limenas, which is located in the most northerly point of the island, as well as in Limenaria, the second town of this island, located in the south, tourist and locals can find all the public services and facilities that they might require, (health centers, police and coast guard stations, post office and telecommunications, petrol stations, tourist information offices …). In fact, everything that you might not immediately think of but which are essential to ensure that the infrastructure is in place, to enable you to have an enjoyable and stress free visit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lewis & Clark

Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their Corps of Discovery entered what is now Washington State on October 10, 1805, following a grueling trek over the Bitterroot Mountains. Battling cold, hunger and fatigue, the expedition made the arduous crossing, coming into the state on the Snake River at what is now Clarkston. From there they moved quickly down the Snake, into the Columbia, near the city of Pasco, making as much as 4o miles a day. Swift waters and enthusiasm carried them a gracious welcome: On October 14th, Clark successfully hunted some ducks and recorded that for the first time in three weeks he had enjoyed a good dinner.
The party passed numerous Indian villages – often on trails the natives had used as trade routes for 9.000 years – and found the inhabitants to be hospitable, in large part because of the presence and interpretive skills of Sacagawea. Her enormous contribution to the expedition has not been exaggerated.
As the Corps of Discovery’s boats moved down the Columbia, Indians traded with the party, hired on to help with portages, and provided food. The vastness of the Columbia and the fact that it teemed with a rather complex tapestry of human life amazed the explorers. Approached by the first of the coastal Indians in a flotilla of four different sizes canoes. Clark was so impressed with one of the boats that he made a sketch of it. On the bow was the image of a bear. The stern bore the likeness of a man. All this did little to compensate for what the group considered disagreeable weather. The chilly, relentlessly wet winter of the Pacific Northwest had set in, exaggerated by the stiff winds of the Columbia Gorge, and the explorers were ill equipped, physically and mentally, to deal with it.
November 7, 1805 started off with a heavy fog, which lifted slowly. The party set off and by afternoon the sky was clear. It was an auspicious day. The party sited the Pacific and a great cheer rose up. William Clark penned the famous line in his field notes, “Ocean (sic) in view. O! The joy.” And it was here, around the mount of the Columbia River that the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805 – 1806.
Washington state is sprinkled with sites where any imaginative traveler can reach back and touch these events of nearly two centuries past. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Fort Canby State Park near Ilwaco, walks the visitor through the journey from St Louis to the Pacific. The gift shop brims with interesting books about the expedition. And up in the center you’ll get an excellent view of the entire mouth of the Columbia. It was up river a bit, near Chinook, where an astounding moment in American history took place. Trying to decide where the expedition should search for a suitable site to camp, Lewis and Clark held a vote. All members of the party voted, including York, a black slave, and Sacagawea, a woman and an Indian. It was a first on three counts. The city of Vancouver offers an opportunity to actually stroll through one of the earliest ramifications of the Lewis and Clark legacy. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site became the Hudson’s Bay Company’s outpost in 1825. By 1849, the fort was a United States Army Post. Some of the stately buildings on the grounds date back to the mid 19th century. Walk along Officer’s Row for a glimpse of how quickly and elegantly America settled into its newly acquired territory.
Heading on east, the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center at Stevenson presents an overview of the geology and natural history that created the Columbia Gorge, allowing the Corps of Discovery to make its swift passage to the Pacific once they entered Washington.
In the Tri-Cities, the 22 mile Sacagawea Trail loops around the Columbia River, touching all three towns – Richland, Pasco and Kennewick. And from here it’s a short trip to Sacagawea State Park and its Interpretive Center.
By late April 1806, the expedition was well on its way back east and was traveling overland near what is now Walla Walla. They were met by Yellept, often referred to as a chief, but actually a headman of the Walla Walla Band, relatives of the Nez Perce. The party stayed with these friendly and generous Indians for three days. A life-size diorama at the Fort Walla Walla Museum depicts this event and early in June, each year, Lewis and Clark Days celebrate these times and events with a festival that includes costumed re-enactment.
In all, the pieces of the Lewis and Clark Expedition add up to a treasure trove of experiences in the state of Washington. Ours is a nation that grew quickly and exuberantly. We embraced and assimilated a mix of cultures in a way that no other collection of people ever has. And we are an enormous country, stretching across a continent, from sea to shining sea. It is rare to find a place where we can actually follow in the wake of history or walk in its footsteps. But in Washington, the ripples are still in the water and the impressions in the earth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gyula spa

My friends have been trying to persuade me for many years to spend my holidays in Gyula. I have already visited many parts of the world, I have seen wonderful lands and architectural monuments, I have come to know several peoples and their customs, and I have tasted in turn the dishes and beverages of as many nations. And yet I have always been amazed to hear the enthusiasm and devotion of my acquaintances returning from Gyula when speaking about this town, and to see how refreshed and invigorated they are to start once again concentrating upon their work and everyday tasks. In our conversations they kept coming back over and over again to recalling the days spent in Gyula. I must admit that I had doubts… they spoke about a friendly and sunny small town full of flowers, where parks and groves line up one next to the other, the houses, streets and squares are embellished with flowers, where hospitable and kind people live. They mentioned plenty of scenic spots, museums, exhibitions, a medieval castle, the sights of the past and present.
They praised and acknowledged the miraculous effect of the thermal water rushing up here, the beauty and singularity of the Castle Baths. They kept referring to this medicinal water as to something with a magical power, which promises recreation and reinvigoration for the tired, and convalescence and recovery for the sick.
Naturally, food and drink, too, came up as a subject. The goulash, referred to as a national dish, the stew, and of course also a series of various dishes – a part of which is already prepared by returning guests even at home following recipes obtained in Gyula – were all mentioned and talked over. And I started gathering information…
I was surprised to learn how numerous and diverse the offered accommodation possibilities are. In addition to accommodation in campsites, private homes, students’ hostels or in motels, seven hotels are available, satisfying the demand of guests with higher or with more modest requirements alike. Restaurants, confectioneries ad catering units, one alongside the other, await guests, and everybody can be sure to find pleasure here: those preferring dietary or heavy food, those fond of sweets, just like the supporters of cold beer or fiery wines; and as many visitors tell me, also the flavors of international cuisine are present. Anyone can choose dishes accustomed to at home, but menus are enriched for example by Indonesian, Greek or Chinese courses as well.
I had doubts when I heard the accounts of those returning home about the medicinal water of Gyula, and about its curative effect. Being a thorough-going, prudent person, I was first interested in the composition of the water and its components. Here is the result of the laboratory investigations: it is a scientifically supported fact – a which is proved by life and reality in the shape of people leaving the baths recovered, without their pains, and patients on the way to recovery thanks to the treatments – that the thermal water rushing up here shortens the rehabilitation period after accidents, makes it easier for patients to endure it, enhances the efficiency of complementary treatments, and thereby speeds up and makes smoother the return to the life before the trauma.
The same water brings about stoppage of the status deterioration, as well as recovery, for patients with locomotors disorders. The effect is further enhanced by the curative treatments of the Castle Baths, the specialist’s consultations available in the hospitals operating in the town, as well as by the wonderful environment of the Baths itself.
The blessed effect of the thermal well alleviates the problems of patients suffering from stomach complaints of nervous or acidic origin, and also assists those struggling with gynecological problems of inflammatory origin. It is very important that in addition to healing the body, the atmosphere, sights and programs of the town provide recreation for the soul and the nervous system; too, thereby further increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
The Baths, of course, offer much more than that: covered pool operating both in the summer and in the winter, sauna, pools for children, swimming pool with smoothed water surface, suitable for hosting competitions, beach football ground, simple and winding water-chute to the delight of the young, up-to-date sparkling bath, established recently, and to finish this incomplete enumeration, the unique park. Yes, a wonderful dream world where grassy areas, groves, woods, as well as modern and ancient buildings constitute an organic unit, which enchants both the little ones and the grown-ups, the young and older generations, and where services and facilities are available even for a whole day’s leisure program. Besides that, the town offers plenty of further sights – as I have been told for years. Museums and exhibitions help visitors getting familiar with the Hungarian history, the past and the present, the life, customs, art and culture of this nation. In addition to the composer Ferenc Erkel, the painter Gyorgy Kohan, and the works of art of contemporary artists, visitors may also gain insight into the peasant way of life of bygone days and the everyday life of simple country people centuries ago. There are guests who come to this town for the peace and quiet, and there are tourists who come for the lively programs – my acquaintances told me, and knowing my doubts, also added – yes, indeed, this is a place where both groups can find what they have come for. Calm and charming streets, radiating a somewhat Mediterranean atmosphere in the summer, which in venues not disturbing those wishing to have a rest are regularly filled with pleasure-seekers, since Gyula is also the town of festivals. Each year folk art and folk dance programs, fire brigade band and majorette festivals are held, just like the Border Castle Evenings and different balls. The Castle Theatre of Gyula is a refreshing dash of color of the cultural scene, inviting spectators every summer since 1964 with splendid dramas, tragedies, comedies, farces, operas and operettas. From the “lighter” genres we have to mention musicals, rock operas, jazz and Dixieland festivals, musical plays, as well as folk music and folk dance performances. Nature-lovers can also find the moments’ tiny wonders: roe-deer taking care of fawns, still life of undisturbed forest clearings adorned with birds, gamboling leverets, herd of deer headed by a stately fallow buck: all this is existing reality here. Silky greensward ornamented with tiny colorful flowers, flitting brilliant butterflies, and almost untouched forests expect those who are ready to take some efforts and make a tour of the environs of the town and the neighboring countryside, on foot or on bicycle – I can already recite almost by heart what I have so often heard said. It is said that there are people who are fond of not only admiring the wildlife, but who also carry in themselves the ancient passion, the desire to take prey. Such visitors will not be left without experiences either, since this fertile area of the Great Plain keeps in store delights for them, too. Fallow deer, roe-deer, wild boars and foxes represent bigger game, but also the hare or pheasant hunts can be a lifetime experience. There are numerous opportunities to catch fish here – my angler friends have been boasting for years showing me their photos: huge catfishes of a weight that may come close to a quintal, sly old carps, fiery grass carps, silver carps of 40-50 kg, wild and merciless old pikes, breams and many other species of fish live in the depths of the waters here. I think that exploring the mysterious secrets of wild waters, stalking fish in the White Koros or the Black Koros rivers, and probing into the depths of the water of mining ponds may give the same thrill as our ancestors could experience thousands of years ago. Even those who do not go and search for fish but rather prefer luring them to where they are, can choose from many ponds where fish have been introduced in great quantity. I have seen amazing photos about the Hungarian pasta, about beautiful steeds of galloping studs, flocks of sheep, about the mirage…
You can see and become acquainted with all this; what is more, you can make a tour of the pasta on horseback or on a horse-carriage. Experienced instructors show the masterstrokes for beginners and for those just getting familiar with horseback riding, while children can take a liking to this sport by trotting on ponies. Pleasure driving on horse-carriages, highwaymen and equestrian shows, wine-tasting and sampling ancient Hungarian dishes all guarantee excellent entertainment. Those who would like to get acquainted with a somewhat broader region of Hungary could not find a better starting base for “stalking” several towns. Szeged with its Open-air Theatre, Opusztaszer with the Feszty cyclorama, Veszto-Magor with its Historic Memorial Place, Bekescsaba with its Sausage Festival, Szabadkigyos with the Wenckheim Castle offer sights that are worth visiting starting from the accommodation in Gyula. All this is very nice and attractive, I said to those trying to persuade me, but this Gyula is very far away. Everything is relative, they replied, starting from most European countries it is nearer than Greece, and yet how many visitors go there as well. What is more, it can be reached in many ways: by car, train, bus, or up to Budapest with the flights of various airlines, then from there by rented car or bus; or even the airport, situated at a distance of 6-7 km from the boundary of the town, receives air-planes after previous arrangement. Medicinal water, baths, accommodation possibilities satisfying any demand, restaurants, places of amusement, festivals, programs, theatre performances, the magic of nature, fish and game, museums, sights, in short: everything. Everything that is needed for relaxation. This is what Gyula offers. Surely the question arises in everyone whether my friends succeeded in persuading me, whether they managed to convince me to travel to Gyula. Well, here comes the point. I am writing these lines here in Gyula, and I can say in good faith that everything is just as it was described to me. The town enchants me; I have a great time here. I can recommend it with all my heart to everybody. Next year you, too, must come here and see for yourself that this is the reality, that this wonder does exist.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Slovenia

From wherever you arrive, Slovenia is only an arm’s length away. It is only 230 kilometers to the Slovene border from Vienna, 240 kilometers from Budapest, and 460 kilometers from Milan. Even from Prague, you can reach Slovenia by car in eight hours. One of the youngest European countries, it is well linked to the world by road, by rail, by air and by sea.
Where is it? Slovenia lies between mountainous Austria and Italy, the plains of Hungary, and the warm Adriatic Sea. Its diverse landscape always astonished first-time visitors. Waiting for you are the snow-covered mountains of the Alps and Triglav National Park with countless glacial valleys, gorges, waterfalls and crystal clear waters. Waiting for you is the Mediterranean coast, the unspoiled karsts world with plateaus, fields, valleys, and disappearing lakes and rivers. There are more than one hundred subterranean caves, ranging from the world-renowned Postojna and Skocjan caves with their picturesque stalactites, stalagmites, and translucent curtains to less accessible caves you can explore in the company of experienced local guides. Waiting for you are renowned health resorts and health spas developed around numerous thermal and mineral springs, ancient villages and medieval towns, castles of the past and modern casinos.
Less than a two-hour drive separates visitors from adoring rugged mountain peaks to enjoying the sunny Adriatic. From Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, you can be in the heart of Slovene Alps in one hour, and to reach the lovely Pannonia plain takes no more than a three hour drive. The primeval forests in the south are only an hour away. In few other countries will you find such diverse landscapes and natural habitats with numerous and indigenous animal and plant species.
In Slovenia you can ski in the morning and sunbathe on the coast in the afternoon. You can have breakfast with the shepherds in the Alpine meadow and after dinner visit a wine cellar at the edge of the Pannonia plain. You can travel through time in museums, castles, churches, and galleries all day and amuse yourself at one of Europe’s best casinos in the evening. Today you can be impressed by the attractions of a farm holiday and tomorrow you can enjoy top cultural events.
Families, businessmen and those who enjoy active holidays will have plenty of things to do in Slovenia. Walkers can enjoy the silence of the mountains, sports climbers, skiers, bikers, canoeists, boatmen, fishermen, hunters, golfers, horseback riders and other can enjoy their favorite sports in variety of landscapes.
Many Slovene dishes spring from the three great cultures – the Pannonia, Alpine, and Mediterranean. The oldest Slovene foods are dishes made from flour and grouts. The best known are the breads made for holiday occasions which today appear in the form of braided loaves or wreathes, the struklji which Slovenes prepare in 70 different ways stuffed with sweet filings, meat, or vegetables, and zganjci. A real Slovene specialty is potica, a dessert for holiday occasions also prepared with the widest variety of filings. A major event in the countryside is the slaughtering of a pig from which many various products are made: grouts and white klobasa, blood sausage, roasts, stuffed tripe, smoked sausage, salami, ham, bacon, and, of course, the highest quality and most prize karsts prsut. Recipes for the preparation of poultry, especially goose, duck, and capon, have been preserved for many centuries. And it is obvious than in a country beside the sea there is a large choice of the fish and seafood, which we find most often on Primorska menus. In every good restaurant you will find some of these dishes on the menu.
This country is a true winegrowing country. Winegrowing was established in that part of the world by the Celts, winegrowing flourished under the Romans, monastery cellar men were responsible for the spread of winegrowing in the Middle Ages and the 19th century winegrowers studied their work. Today there are three wine regions in Slovenia: the Primorska, Posavje and Podravje Regions, and there are 14 districts with recognizable characteristics.
The history and identity of the Slovene people is closely linked to the Slovene language spoken by only two million people, and to the lively cultural life. Slovenes still regard genuine personal contact as a high value. Their hospitality and this immensely rich corner of the world, they will share with visitors. The soul of Slovenia is its people are reflected in the architecture of its cities, towns, and villages and in the many cultural events that always enchant first-time visitors and returning ones.

The sunny Alps

The mighty but easily accessible Julian Alps, the tourist area in this attractive geographical area are linked by the offer of four developed tourist towns: Bled, Kranjska Gora, Bohinj and Bovec with the Soca Valley. Most of the area is within the Triglav National Park which measure 85 hectares and is one of the largest natural parks in Europe. The park lies in the vicinity of high stony mountains including Mount Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia – and deep river gorges, highland karst potholes and friendly highlands. It protects many endemic animal and plant species (living in the park, among unique plant species there are chamois, mountain sheep, wild roosters, grouse, eagles and marmots) and the tradition of the hard life of alpine dairymen and mountaineers. The renowned Bled with its lake and the island with a church from the 17th century (and the bell of wishes) is situated at the edge of the park, and above it stands a medieval castle. Bled is considered a real tourist paradise with its thermal springs and other natural attractions, numerous recreational possibilities, its conference hall, casino and golf course. The best rowers of the world measure their strength in competition at Bled.
Bohinj is the starting point for numerous mountain hikes, Lake Bohinj and Bohinjska Bistrica are a paradise for lovers of water sports (kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hydro speeding, swimming) and fishermen. In its surroundings thee are ski slopes and trails for cross-country skiers and also facilities for mountain biking, paragliding, sport climbers, horseback riders, and tennis and mini golf players. Bohinj (and its surrounding areas) inspire visitors with a rich ethnologic heritage with many cultural and sacral attractions as well. In Bohinjska Bistrica a new water park is being built.
A famous tourist destination Kranjska Gora attracts visitors with outdoor sports (hiking, mountaineering, cycling, horsemanship, paragliding, and fishing) in the summer, and in winter with excellent slopes for winter sports and other joys of the winter such as the dog sled, night sledging from Vrsic, roaming across the landscape by snowmobile. In Kranjska Gora there are the World Cup competitions in Alpine skiing. Visitors can enjoy its casino and wellness programs, and younger visitors can enjoy the original land of the Slovene hero Kekec. In the nearby Planica, in the shelter of two thousand meter high mountains, the best ski jumpers in the world compete every year. In the Soca Valley, the valley of the emerald river, attract those who search peace as well as lovers of adrenaline. Here there are opportunities for numerous water sports from kayaking to canoeing and rafting. You can also go paragliding, hang-gliding or cycling and experience the valley which is also loved by fishermen. The largest number of accommodation and guest-houses can be found in Bovec, Kobarid, and Tolmin. From the valley you can reach the highest Slovene ski centre Kanin which is only an hour’s drive from the coast, and where it is possible to ski until summer. Along the Idrijca River you can come to Cerkno and Idrija. This is the home of famous lace-making tradition, Idrija’s mercury mine and the Gewerkenegg Castle. That area also has reminders of many terrible battles of the First World War. They are presented in the award winning Kobarid museum. In the upper part of the valley is picturesque Trenta with the information office of the Triglav National Park, a museum and the famous alpine botanical garden Julijana.

The green Mediterranean

The Slovene coast which measures 46.6 kilometers is covered with abundant vegetation. Here is a natural reserve with a rich supply of marl and sandstone and the unique Strunjan cliff which ascends 80 meters above the sea and is the highest flinch wall on the Adriatic coast. Here are the Secovlje salt works, first mentioned in 13th century. Due to their extremely abundant natural and historical heritage they were named a regional park and are a rich sanctuary of plant and animal worlds. They play a very important role in the world of ornithology, because they offer ideal conditions for birds due to the warm climate and abundance of food in the salt works and they provide a natural habitat for about 80 bird species which nest there.
Here the town of Piran, Izola and Koper attract visitors with their medieval image. Koper with its historical core represents one of the most picturesque parts of the northern part of the Istrian Peninsula. Water sports are very important; there are many regattas in the Bay of Koper and the town has built a small marina. It also organizes the Summer Festival of Primorska. The town’s surroundings and the countryside are exceptionally attractive: the steep rock walls by Crni Kal and Osp provide an ideal place for lovers of free climbing and the countryside “boasts” specific culinary and wine offers.
Izola is a coastal town with a rich fishing tradition. Most of the tourism is concentrated on the eastern side, at the bay Simonov, where there is a seaside resort with swimming facilities, hotels and restaurants. On the western edge of the town is the marina of Izola.
The old seaport of Piran lies at the end of the Piran peninsula; it was surrounded by walls in the Middle Ages (200 meters of the city walls are still preserved). The whole town is protected as a cultural and historical monument and it has preserved its medieval layout with narrow streets and compact houses, which rise in steps from coastal lowland into the hills and give the whole area a typical Mediterranean look. Today it is an administrative and supply center and also an important coastal tourist resort with hotels, restaurants and holiday houses, the Maritime Museum and an aquarium, cultural institutions and events.
Portoroz, a tourist town which boasts the longest tourist tradition in Slovenia and offers comfortable hotels and modern swimming pools, restaurants and events. It is popular conference center – various conference and meeting facilities can accommodate up to 1500 visitors. Portoroz has a casino, a sport airport and marina. It is a town visited by tourist from all over Europe and other countries as well. It is an internationally known holiday center and climatic health seaside resort.
In the Savrinska Hills in the hinterland of Portoroz lies a number of old Istria settlements and not far from the coast there is the picturesque village Hrastovlje with its Church of the Holy Trinity which is adorned by late gothic narrative frescoes. Due to these Hrastovlje is considered as a real treasure of medieval frescoes arts in Slovenia.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kauai

Kauai has a rural, country feel and a laid-back lifestyle all its own. Ask the friendly people of Kauai. They will tell you this is how it should be, and this is how it will remain. After all, Kauai is Hawaii’s oldest island, geologically speaking, and as the firstborn, it has the legacy of paradise to uphold.
Untouched by major development, Kauai is nicknamed The Garden Island. A voyage around Kauai is a sensory feast of green tropical forests, cascading waterfalls, golden sand beaches and the time of your life. Come and make some memories on beautiful Kauai. Welcome. You’re coming to Kauai, Hawaii’s Island of Discovery.

North Kauai

The dramatic beauty of the valleys and mountains of the north shore of Kauai are first glimpsed from the Hanalei Valley Lookout. Below, green fields of taro grow in beds of water that reflect the sky. Rare birds splash among the liquid clouds. Brooding mountains rise in primordial splendor, streaming with waterfalls. The valleys are so deep; they show up as purple and indigo shadows. A slow river winds through it all, like grace in the soul. The only way to get there is politely, across a one-lane bridge. Everyone likes it this way.
The little town of Hanalei is seamless and so are her sisters, Wainiha and Ha’ena. They are woven so delicately into the landscape that the greenery seems to bloom with their colorful shops, galleries and restaurants. This land has produced food for more than a thousand years since the first Polynesians arrived here. It is settled and fruitful. Guava Kai Plantation has put the island on the map as the “guava capital of the world”, and it dispenses the chilled pink drink to all who wander through its orchards. The picturesque flooded fields of taro are ancient and fertile, and they produce most of the state’s taro for pounding into poi, the Hawaiian staff of life.
Beside the meandering two-lane Kuhio Highway, Wai’oli Hui’ia Church, matching the deep green of the surrounding landscape, still rings with Hawaiian hymns on Sunday mornings, feeding the congregation with more than food. Behind it, the Wai’oli Mission House – with its broad lanai, lava chimney and period furniture – is a peek into the missionary past that has influenced the Hawai’i of today.
The beaches of northern Kauai are breathtaking. Beware – you will fall in love them. At lovely Lumaha’i, in foamy waterfalls created by surf breaking on lava rocks, Mitzi Gaynor, star of Hollywood’s memorable musical, South Pacific, washed that man right out of her hair. Perfect snorkeling can be enjoyed at ‘Anini Beach, where the water is four feet deep on one side of Hawaii’s longest reef and cascades off hundreds of feet on the other. Hanalei Bay lies in the embrace of mountains. In the morning, the water can be like glass, mirroring the mountains so perfectly that the world around it is reduced to silent awe. Ke’e Beach, where the road ends, appeared in the television miniseries, The Thorn Birds, starring Richard Chamberlain, and in Disney’s Castaway Cowboy, headlining James Garner and Vera Miles. Its reef is a lacy network of coral canyons beneath the spectacular cliffs of Na Pali Coast. Nearby is ancient sea caves formed more than 4.000 years ago when the sea was higher. One is the Dry Cave, a cool yawn in the lava; the other is the Wet Cave with a pool of blue water.
The 11 mile Kalalau Trail begins here and winds its way along green ramparts, with waterfalls cascading beside the path and roaring surf pounding the shore below. A secret: most of the spectacular scenery can be seen in the first mile. An ancient hula temple is still lovingly tended, and it was here, according to legend, that the fire goddess, Pele, drawn by the sound of the sound of the drums, fell in love with Lohi’au, a handsome chief of Kauai, inspiring one of Hawaii’s epic love stories.
Presiding over all this natural magnificence, Princeville Resort is a green enclave of planned luxury with hotels and vacation condominiums arrayed along the line of the setting sun. There are championship golf courses, fine restaurants, and a shopping village. The resort is named for Prince Albert, the son of King Kamehameha IV and his wife, Queen Emma. A festival is held here in his memory every May, marked by concerts of Hawaiian and classical music, and a children’s hula recital.
The small neighboring town of Kilauea has a sophisticated mix of shops that are wonderful diversions on the way to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge at the top of the promontory. Distinguished by its historic lighthouse, the sanctuary affords up-close views of the only diverse colony of nestling seabirds on the main Hawaiian Islands. Residents include red footed boobies, the Laysan albatross, shearwaters and the great frigate bird with its 8 foot wingspan. Hawaiian Monk Seals sometimes haul themselves out of the sea to laze on Moku’ae’ae islet at the foot of the lava cliffs.
The wilderness and reckless beauty of North Kauai are always close at hand, even from the lanai of very civilized accommodations. No effort is needed to discover enchantment. The seduction is total.

East Kauai

Kauai’s Eastside, from the county seat of Lihue to Kappa’s is the center of activity on the island. All roads lead to end from, so here you’ll find a large concentration of shopping, dining and places to stay. Farm fairs, orchid shows, holiday extravaganzas and music celebrations happen from time to time at Vidinha Stadium located in downtown Lihue.
One of the most unique places to shop and dine is a big early 1900s Tudor-style plantation estate. At Kilohana, boutiques fill every nook, and a restaurant spills from dining room to lanai, yet the house maintains the grace of bygone days. To see a fine example of a plantation home without the commercial trimmings, reserve a tour of quiet Grove Farm Homestead, sequestered behind broad green lawns and sheltered by giant trees. The house, once the centerpiece of a thriving sugar plantation, has walls and a staircase of handsome native Koa wood, and is beautiful furnished.
More treasures of the past are preserved at Kauai Museum, interestingly ensconced behind a Greco-Roman fa├žade. Here, the story of the island is displayed in everything from lustrous feather leis to vintage photographs. It’s a good place to become acquainted with calabashes and kings, Kauai’s legends and people.
The most persistent legends of this island revolve around the Menehume, the leprechaun-like little people, blamed for every mischief and credited with wonders of construction. It’s no tall tale that a mysterious group of people did pre-date the arrival of the ancestors of the Hawaiians who, in speaking of them, say they sailed away on a floating island. Before they left, it is said the Menehune built the Alekoko Fishpond, a massive aquaculture facility, is one moonlit night. The wall of the pond is 900 feet long. Alekoko, popularly called Menehune Fishpond after its creators, is just up the hill from mountain framed Nawiliwili Harbor, where stately cruise ships call at the mouth of the Hule’ia Stream, which served as the location for a portion of the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Sharing in the splendor of the setting is Kalapaki Beach. A nice sandy bottom and gentle waves make Kalapaki the best swimming beach on this part of the island. Kauai Lagoons Resort stretches out behind the beach in a rolling plain of golf courses, waterways, condominiums and a spectacular hotel with the largest swimming pool in the state.
More guest accommodations, in a broad range of prices, are strung in lei along the Coconut Coast, where royalty once ruled. Remnants of their reign and their faith can be seen in the many temple ruins. Lava-walled temple once lined the broad Waialua River and their prayers were carried from one altar to the other on giant sharkskin temple drums.
Today, ukulele music sings from the decks of the tour boats playing the river, taking people to the Fern Grotto where, in a sentimental ceremony, they can renew their wedding vows in a natural cathedral fringed in ferns – or they can take the occasion to make those promises in the first place, while serenaded by the stirring “Hawaiian Wedding Song”.
Two beautiful waterfalls feed the Waialua River – Opaeka’a, which tumbles out of the jungle in a symphony of rushing water, and the twin cascades of Waialua Falls. They can be seen by driving along the river and are most beautiful in early morning when sunlight ignites them molten silver. A 30 acre botanical garden, Smith’s Tropical Paradise, blooms amid the lush landscape beside the river. The garden is beautifully maintained by the Smith family, whose roots on Kauai are centuries old. Their evening luau and Pacific revue are staged beside a lagoon that mirrors the dances and the torches, doubling the magic. The show honors many of Hawaii’s cultures and includes everything from the hip-swiveling Tahitian tamure to the exuberant firecrackers of the Chinese lion dance.
You’ll find Lydgate Beach Park just south of the Waialua River. The waters are calm enough for babies and toddlers, clear enough for great snorkeling and are watched over by Hawaii’s renowned professional lifeguards.
The town of Kappa’s has managed to successfully blend local style general stores and restaurants with gentrified boutiques and dinning rooms. With a little luck, a shopper can spot in the eclectic retail mix the kind of Hawaiian collectible kitsch that has become popular and valuable – the hula girl salt shakers, vintage aloha shirts, lava lamps and vibrant floral fabrics. It’s all fun – and beautiful beaches are only yards away. Plunk down a towel at Kappa’s Beach Park or Waipouli, and soak up some sun. Only minutes away from the busy streets, the breezy of East Kauai bursts upon the senses in long stretches of sand, ocean and swaying palms.

South Kauai

The drive into South Kauai takes you under a mile long canopy of eucalyptus trees whose branches form a leafy ceiling, cutting through the majestic Ha’upu Mountain Range. Between you and the world famous beaches of Po’ipu and South Kauai is a great plain crisscrossed with red dirt roads originally built to move sugar cane to the Koloa Sugar Mill. You may as well have landed on another island. Here the colors form a different palette and the sun lights everything so brightly at times that you’ll need a pair of sunglasses handy.
Drenched in sunshine just about all year round, Po’ipu is a nearly perfect resort area. It has accommodations ranging from ultra luxe hotels to spacious condominiums and cozy bed-and-breakfast. There are gourmet restaurants, interesting shops and championship golf links. Po’ipu Beach is a smile of sand where the sunsets are a sacrament, holding the world in a chalice of color while the sea and sky melt into gold’s, pinks and sometimes a flash of emerald. Dr. Beach just ranked Po’ipu Beach one in the U.S. Po’ipu is actually many beaches. The sheltered coves of Po’ipu, with their gentle surf, are the perfect spots to learn to surf or snorkel, and the swimming is idyllic. Adjacent Nukumoi Point has a reef well-populated with angel fish, striped damsels, Moorish idols, black tangs and school of canary-colored butterfly fish. Po’ipu Beach Park is preferred by families who gather for picnics on weekends. It is a sharp contrast to Shipwreck Beach, separated from the rest of Po’ipu by a rocky coastline etched with nature trails. A dawn walk along the cliffs is exhilarating, and a very popular 2 mile hiking excursion. The beach itself is glorious although swimming here is recommended only for the most experienced. Many people like to bicycle beyond Shipwreck to isolated Maha’ulepu Beach, one of the loveliest strands of sand in the state and completely unspoiled. The beaches of Po’ipu draw sun-lovers of all species, including endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals who scoot up the resort sands and stretch out to rest after a strenuous night of hunting.
Prince Johan Kuhio Kalaniana’ole, a delegate to the United States Congress and a tireless worker for the rights of native Hawaiians, was born along the Po’ipu coast at Kukui’ula in 1871. The foundation of the royal home and its fishpond are incorporated into Prince Kuhio Park. His birthday is a state holiday, celebrated on Kauai with island-wide cultural events, including canoe races.
Further up the coast, lava tube forces spumes of salty surf as high as 50 feet in the air. Called Spouting Horn, this natural wonder is a photographer’s dream, especially at sunset when it becomes incandescent with the colors of the rainbow. Everyone stops here at least once.
Nature also has painted the gardens of Kauai with vivid hues. The United States Congress chartered the National Tropical Botanical Gardens at Lawa’i in 1964. This magnificent 186 acre preserve claims the world’s largest collection of rare and endangered plants. The Herbarium contains 26.000 specimens of tropical flora. Adjoining Lawa’i are another hundred acres comprising the oceanfront Allerton Garden. It was originally planted in the 1870s by Queen Emma who found solace here after the loss of her husband and only child. The garden is an enchantment of sculpture, pools, fountains and flowers set amid pathways beside a stream and along the sea.
The rustic charm of southern Kauai is evident in its country towns, many of them old sugar towns with cane tassels waving right up to the edges. Plan a visit to two such towns, Kalaheo and Lawa’i.
Koloa isn’t much bigger, but it stands out because of its place in history. Koloa Landing was once the main port of entry for the island. It was a favorite haven of the Yankee Pacific Whaling Fleet, and later, interisland steamers called. The remains of the island’s first sugar mill are here. There is great nostalgia for those simple days, so people pull out all the stops for the annual Koloa Plantation Days celebration every July. There’s a town fair, parade, music, sports and storytelling.
In the 1980s, Koloa was completely restored and repainted. Today, the little town beside the big banyan tree is a busy center of restaurants and shops and serves the Southside community of residents and visitors alike with a host of services including banking, cleaners, post office and medical facilities.

West Kauai

Venerable towns and many imposing natural attractions play major roles in West Kauai’s appeal. Begin your Westside adventure in Hanapepe, a nice old town that wears its age proudly. Boasting several fine arts galleries and restaurants, Hanapepe is a friendly stroll through the Kauai of yesterday.
Inland you must visit Waimea Canyon – the largest canyon in the Pacific. This is truly a dramatic sight to behold. As far as the eye can see, crags, buttes and gorges march into the distance under an earthen banner of roses, lavenders, celadon’s and sienna’s. More than 3.000 feet down, a river runs through it, patiently carving the rugged canyon wider and deeper. It is here especially that you get a sense of how long the special island of Kauai has existed on earth.
Explore Waimea Canyon on hiking trails or by four-wheel-drive guided tour. It can also be appreciated from several lookouts along Waimea Canyon Drive. This road continues into the mountains, and ends in the cool forests of Koke’e State Park, where rare birds, the only ones of their kind on Earth, sing in the ‘ohi’a and sandalwood trees alongside the 45 miles of hiking trails.
At the end of the road, a 4.000 foot overlooks peers into Kalalau, one of the famed Na Pali Valleys, where the fabled coast rises from the sea in green ramparts and castle-like turrets. The light changes constantly so that from moment to moment, each glimpse is different.
At Koke’e Museum, there are excellent exhibits on the unique flora of the area, along with maps of hiking trails and nature walks. Rangers offer suggestions as to which trail will most suit a person’s interests and abilities. Koke’e State Park stages the Banana Poka Festival every May, offering hikes, crafts and family activities.
Waimea Canyon Drive starts at sea level in the sleepy town of Waimea, which marks a turning point in Island history. In 1778, the British explorer, Captain James Cook, and his ships, Resolution and Discovery, sailed into Waimea Bay. For the Hawaiians, who had lived for centuries in isolation, it was the equivalent of a spaceship landing today. A statue of Cook stands in Waimea, facing the sea. This sunny, sleepy town gives no outward clue to its historic importance. Nearby, at the mouth of the Waimea River, are the ruins of Fort Elizabeth, named for a Russian czarina. It’s all that remains of old Russia’s once held interest in Hawaii. The country’s imperial flag still flutters over the broken fortress walls.
While you are in the neighborhood, plan to stop in and visit the Kauai Technology & Visitors Center in Waimea. There you can get a sense of Kauaui history from the early Polynesian voyagers to the present day through their multimedia presentation.
Beyond Waimea, Kauai stretches out along a shore that’s almost always sunny. The forbidden island of Ni’ihau can be seen from Kekaha. At sunset, it is silhouetted darkly on the horizon. It appears to be floating.
At Barking Sands Beach, the dunes rise to 60 feet. People claim the fine white granules “bark” when anyone slides down them. One Hawaiian legend asserts that the name comes from a fisherman lost at sea, whose dog sat on the dunes forlornly waiting and barkling for him.
When you reach the end, you are where the southern extremity of Na Pali Coast rises in a tall green palisade. It is said than in the old days lovers came to this spot for its secluded beauty. But those days can just as easily be now. Polihale sears the soul with its unbounded freedom. It is a fitting place for a day of exploring to end. You’re on Kauai Hawaii’s Island of Discovery.