Thursday, November 11, 2010

Belgrade – beauty in brick and stone

A pedant chronicler has noted that during its tumultuous history Belgrade had been destroyed exactly forty six times. The city had been reduced to ruins by the passing armies of the foe and friend alike, and further ravaged by the passage of time.
Of its destruction, everything is known. It is history. And precisely because of this history, composed of wars, large and small, it has almost been forgotten that Belgrade had been built at least as many times as it has been torn down. Sometimes, it rose again from the ashes, and sometimes it was only dolled-up, with make-up covering its scars which go along with every important historic personality of such stature and standing.
An aesthetics-minded hair splitter may note that the city is, in fact, a huge mish-mash of styles and architectural epochs, wherein a normal person can hardly sort anything out. But Belgrade finds beauty precisely in this diversity. To them, the Baroque perfection and monumentality of a Vienna and a Budapest are somewhat monotonous, the gleam of Paris a mere indiscretion, while Manhattan makes them immediately thinks of elevators…
At the beginning of the 20th century Belgrade started slowly changing from an oriental town – “the last caravan-saray” of the once powerful Ottoman Empire – into a European city. Anticipating future trends, Serbian Prince Milos Obrenovic embarked on the first city zoning mission. The Prince Milos Street, the main Belgrade thoroughfare, does not, therefore, bear his name only by accident: the Prince had really laid out this busy street himself, and it was partly built during his lifetime.
The features of oriental architecture entirely disappeared in the second half of the 19th century, especially after the Turks departure from Serbia. At the time, Belgrade became a Mecca for builders and architects from Italy, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Each of them left his mark on the capital’s architecture. The most important works of the period have by now almost entirely disappeared from various tour books, but the Serb school of architecture – whose traces survive into the present – its origins then.
This school – of native Serb genius coupled with foreign experience and expertise – involves a beauty tailored to fit the city’s size (and the investor’s wallets, of course), achieving a splendor still to be recognized in the granite facades of the Kneza Mihajla street, the city’s most beautiful pedestrian mall. Some may object by saying that this beauty is merely cosmetics, and that solely the fronts of the ornate buildings have been preserved. But even the awareness that the beauty of happier days may and must be preserved is a sign of spiritual health.
It is a beauty not perceived by many. Much like any other international center, Belgrade is also divided into three horizons, or levels. As of recently, it has begun to grow downwards: fabulous business and shopping malls and train stations have been appearing underground. The street level is made pretty by the cordial smiles and the beauty of the city’s female inhabitants, by the glow of shops windows, and by the greenish patina coating the old monuments. The third horizon consists of the facades and the pigeons. Nowadays, however, in the hustle and bustle of our age, there are not too many Belgrade inhabitants – or even visitors – who can spare a glance and have the patience to enjoy the rich mixture of this everlasting city’s styles. Hence this testimony recorded by the camera.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Novi Sad, Serbia

Historians include this city among the younger ones as it was founded 300 years ago, or more precisely in 1694, although the first archaeological sites relive the traces of settlements back to 3000 years BC. The first inhabitants were 12 soldiers with their service on Petrovaradin Fortress and 20 bakers, butchers and other craftsmen, engaged to meet the needs of the garnison there. Perhaps the history book of Once Sad is not to thick compared to other European cities, but since 1694 the actual bridgehead was built opposite to Petrovaradin Fortress, and around it, on the Danube riverbank where the Petrovaradiniense or Rascianica civitas trans Danubium situate, the suburb of Petrovaradin or Raska town across the Danube – the book is written with the constant struggle and striving for the better, useful nice and peaceful life to the advantage of all citizens, at first those were Serbs, Germans, Yews, Greeks, Hungarians and Cinzars… When you say Novi Sad you think of the crossroads of all highways, the centre of the largest river cin this part of Europe – Danube, protected and enriched with beauties of Fruska Gora – Wholly Pannonia – the foundation of the Orthodox religious spirit in the North, the city in which you can see the time from far away buy with no haste, the city of wide boulevards and winding streets – the network with which you can feel each of its quarts, the city of candelabras, special windows, wine and wine cellars, jazz, al sort of clubs, the irresistible Vojvodina cuisine, the city of galleries, off theatres and cinemas, memento collections, monuments, bust and large gates, University and traditional education centre with 13 faculties and colleges, sports treasury with over 200 organizations on land and water, the city of artists and numerous ateliers, the city of congresses and expos..

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jewellery as part of Serbian national costume

Jewellery is a universal part of human culture; its individuality – social, ethnic and personal – lies only in how its universalness responds to the traditional aesthetic rules and values typical of a particular group, nation or individual.
In view of this, the jewellery loosely defined as Serbian denotes ornaments that were worn (though not necessarily made) in the lands inhabited by the Serbian people. The jewellery was there for adornment, as well as an obligatory part of the traditional dress. The national costume has undergone a series of transformations over the centuries, to go out of use completely in the mid XX century. Fate has decreed that both national costumes to live in museum collections, as carefully guarded valuables, cultural wealth whose historical and financial value cannot be estimated by conventional standards.
Serbian national jewellery was extremely diverse; it differed endlessly in form and shape, in the parts of dress and body which it adorned, in the material it was made from, and it the techniques employed in its manufacture. Some of the ornaments were made at home, from relatively simple materials. However, jewellery properly so-called was made in specialized shops by artisans and craftsmen known as smiths. Smiths made jewellery mostly from silver alloys, often with a thin gold coating. Pieces of coloured glass or more expensive materials, such semi-precious stones, pearls and coral, were often inlaid for effect.
The techniques used were many and complex: forging, cutting, casting, embossing, lacing, enameling, engraving, enchasing, and many others. The most beautiful jewellery, however, was made in the filigree technique. By twisting thin silver wire, with an almost obligatory addition of ornamental studs, the artisans achieved outstanding decorative effects and wonderfully imaginative forms. This technique was used to make necklaces, bracelets, sashes, rings, hairpins, brooches, ear-rings, belt buckles – in fact, all kinds of jewellery worn by girls and young women, as well as men, though in a far lesser measure. Filigree workshops were to be found in all major centers in Serbia, though the highest quality filigree jewellery, unsurpassed to this day, was certainly made by the masters of Prizren. The filigree tradition in Prizren dates from the distant past. In the 19th century, this town had numerous specialized workshops for the manufacture of filigree jewelerry. However, new times and a gradual abandoning of the traditional way of dress has weakened the interest in old jewellery, affecting the supply and quality of the products and finally leading to the dying out of the craft.
Jewellery was worn on formal occasions: feast days visits to the church and, mostly, weddings. It was the custom to bedeck the bride with a large quantity of different jewellery, not only for adornment, but also as protection against evil believed to threaten the bride on her wedding day, jewellery being considered to have magical properties. Greatest attention was devoted to decorating the woman’s head: on the forehead was worn a complicated headdress held in place at the back of the head by hairpins, and the ears were hung with massive earrings. Across the chest were worn strings of chains enchased with coins, at the waist, a webbing belt with silver plates, and rings on the fingers and bracelets on the wrists.
Men’s jewellery, although much less luxurious in terms of variety, was no less beautiful than the women’s. The best known men’s adornments were massive, richly enchased filigree watch-chains worn by well-to-do town tradesmen visibly displayed across the chest; above all hung chains made of row upon row of gilded silver plates, adorned with rosettes, huge metal studs and braids – unique jewellery in kind and look, whose origin is the subject of many ancient legends.
The aesthetic and artistic value of traditional Serbian folk jewellery lies in the endless wealth of form and design. Although there are typical repetitions, each individual artifact is still unique in itself, with its own distinctive stamp bestowed by a detail which makes it an original and inimitable work of art. Some of these pieces of jewellery could take their place alongside the choicest products of the goldsmith industry in the world and be an asset in any elite jewellery collection in Europe and the world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Southern Maine Coast

Grab a towel and sunscreen, we’re headed for the beach. Unlike the rest of the coast, where rocks, ledge and cliff define the landscape, along the Southern Maine Coast, from York through Old Orchard, miles of wide sand beaches are the rule. Build a sand castle, go surfing, play beach volleyball, swim or simply walk for miles.
Equally magical and plentiful are the region’s nature preserves. The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm comprises 1.600 acres. The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is divided among 10 sites. Bird watchers flock to the East Point Sanctuary, a Maine Audubon preserve in Biddeford. For a quiet retreat, try Saco Heath, a 500 acre preserve operated by the Nature Conservancy where trails lead through woods and fields.
Off the beach, antiquities and architecture buffs can tour the Sayward-Wheeler House, in York Harbor, and the Georgian-style Hamilton House and the Federal-style home of writer Sarah Orne Jewett, in South Berwick. Legend has it that the ornately decorated Wedding Cake House, in Kennebunk, was built by a sea captain for his bride as a substitute for a wedding cake when he was called to sea. The Brick House Museum leads architectural walking tours through Kennebunk’s historic district.
Immerse yourself in Colonial history in the Old York Village Historic District. For a taste of 19th century village life, spend a day at Willowbrook at Newfield. Military history buffs should begin in Kittery at the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum. Nearby Fort McClary is an 1846 hexagonal blockhouse. Delve into the region’s maritime history at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum and the Kittery Historical and Naval Musem.
The arts are well represented here, too. The Ogunquit Museum of American Art shows works by Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent and others; don’t miss the sculpture garden. Catch a play at the Hackmatack Playhouse, in Berwick, or the Ogunquit Playhouse, a classic summer stock theater that regularly attracts well-known actors. The beautifully restored Biddeford City Theatre is listed on the National Historic Register.
Maine’s southern coast has plenty to entertain kids. There’s the Wild Kingdom zoo and amusement park in York. Amusements parks in Saco and Old Orchard Beach deliver big thrills with roller-coasters, carousels, waterslides and other riders. A gentler ride is available at the Seashore Trolley Museum, in Kennebunkport, where you can view more than 200 streetcars and take a four-mile ride on one.
Shoppers take note: Kittery has more than 125 outlet stores; antiques stores are plentiful in Wells; and boutiques, galleries and specialty stores crowd Perkins Cove, in Ogunquit, and Dock Square, in Kennebunkport.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Maine – Mid Coast

Craggy fingers of spruce-clad land reach out for the sea. The fragrance of beach roses permeates the air. Traditional fishing villages survive in the shadows of more cosmopolitan towns. Choose among fine restaurants and lobster-in-the rough; large resorts and cozy inns; galleries and boutiques; antiques and flea markets; nationally renowned museums and historic meeting houses. Add in a wealth of offshore islands, a handful of beautiful sand beaches, an abundance of lighthouses and historic forts, and scores of postcard-perfect towns. Top it off with a rich cultural scene including frequent festivals, concerts and live theater. The blend makes Mid Coast Maine shine.
A trip through the Mid Coast will dip you into Maine’s maritime history, from past to present, from five-masted schooners to Aegis cruisers. It all began at the Popham Colony at the mouth of the Kennebec River. Popham’s settlers abandoned the colony in 1608, after building the first English ship constructed in the Northeast. Listen for the ghostly footsteps of marching soldiers as you clamber through the ruins of Forts Popham, Edgecomb, William Henry, Pownall and Knox. Maine’s shipbuilding and seafaring heritage is documented at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, and at Searsport’s Penobscot Marine Museum. Learn about Maine’s own Civil War hero at the Joshua Chamberlain Civil War Museum in Brunswick. Stop by the Shore Village Museum in Rockland to view the world’s largest collection of lighthouse memorabilia.
Artists have long flocked to this region, inspired by the natural beauty of soaring headlands, rugged shores, cozy harbors and sleepy villages. You can view their works at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland and Rockport’s Center for Contemporary Maine Art. Take home a treasure from a Belfast gallery, a Wiscasset antiques shop or an area arts and crafts show.
Mid Coast Maine is a great to get physical, too. Hike to the summit of Mt Battie for a birds-eye view of Camden. Explore the coast by sea kayak. Take a swim in the clear waters of Damariscotta or Megunticook Lakes. Explore the peninsulas of island by bicycle. Most of Maine’s historic windjammers are based in this region, and you can take a cruise on one of a few hours or a full week. Ferries from several ports carry passengers to the islands; excursion boats from Boothbay Harbor and other ports take visitors out to see seals, puffins and whales. You can even go out on a working fishing boat. End your day with a lobster dinner, either a traditional one at a dockside shack or an inspired rendition created by one of the region’s nationally recognized chefs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Maine Lakes & Mountains

Few places offer so many ways to enjoy the seasons as does Maine’s Lakes & Mountains Region. Mother Nature displays her artistic side in fall, painting the countryside with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows, using the deep greens of Maine’s towering evergreens as a counterpoint. Autumn’s pleasures are many: Country fairs, antiques and artisans’ shops, apple orchards, covered bridges. Have lunch at a general store, take a brisk hike or a leisurely paddle, and then wile away the evening by the fire at a country inn or a lakeside cabin.
When snow blankets the region, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice skating become the outdoor pursuits of choice. At Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley, alpine skiers and snowboarders enjoy the only above tree line skiing in the East. Sunday River, in Bethel, sprawls across seven peaks. In Rangeley, Saddleback Mountain shares its ridgeline with the Appalachian Trail, providing a remote wilderness experience. Hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails lace the region. Cross-country skiers and snow-shores have their own back-country trails as well as modern centers with maintained trails.
When spring arrives, so do the fishermen. The crystal-clear lake waters are home to legendary brook trout and landlocked salmon. Then there are those lazy days of summer, perfect for sailing, canoeing, hiking and bicycling. Nine-mile-long Rangeley Lake is the centerpiece for 112 smaller lakes and ponds that feed into it, including beautiful Flagstaff Lake, the state’s fourth largest. Sebago, Maine’s second-largest lake, with waters so pure that it provides drinking water for the city of Portland, is popular with water sports enthusiasts and justly famous among anglers for its landlocked salmon. Long Lake is prized for its majestic White Mountain views. Rivers and stream delight paddlers as well as fisherman. The swollen Carrabassett challenges kayakers and canoeists in the spring while the peaceful Saco is a summer family favorite.
Outdoor recreation may be the region’s calling card, but there’s much more to do and discover here. Visit the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community and Museum in New Gloucester, the only Shaker village still functioning as a religious community. Immerse yourself in 19th century rural life at the Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. Learn about America’s first international diva at the historic Deertrees Theatre and Cultural Center in Harrison or view the works of Marsden Hartley, Lewiston’s most famous artist, at the Bates College Museum of Art.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Katahdin, Moosehead, Penquis

Woodlands and water have been luring visitors to inland Maine for more than a century. The seemingly endless forests were viewed by timber barons as a source of seemingly endless wealth. They felled the trees to build cities in New England first, and later for lumber-starved Europe, floating the logs downriver to ports such as Bangor. These entrepreneurs were followed by wealthy summer visitors who came to hunt, fish and relax. To serve their needs, industrious Mainers created sporting camps, usually comprised of a main lodge and cabins set on a remote lake. On larger, more accessible lakes, such as Moosehead, resort hotels were built. These in turn attracted more city folk, lured by the promise of clean, cool air and water. And then there were the early naturalists, men such as Henry David Thoreau, who came to see the raw beauty f nature and document it.
Today’s visitors come for many of the same reasons: to escape the heat, stresses and crowds of the city; to rediscover the beauty of nature by hiking, walking and canoeing; and to fish and hunt. The rivers dammed by power companies now provide reliable whitewater for rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The roads built for timber harvesting allow travelers access to remote ponds and stream for fishing and to hiking and camping areas. And many sporting camps have redefined themselves to cater to families. Today, just as a century ago, water, woods and mountains are the big attractions.
Greenville is the gateway to Moosehead Lake. Cruise the lake on the S/S Katahdin, a restored steam vessel and floating museum. Hike to the summit of Mount Kineo for awesome views over the lake. Moose Mania, held every spring, is the best time to see a moose. Local outfitters offer moose safaris by plane, pontoon boat, canoe and even dogsled.
Recreational opportunities abound in this region, from hiking Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak, to whitewater rafting the Penobscot River. Hike, snowshoe or ski into Gulf Hagas, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East”. Nearby sites such as the Hermitage, an old-growth stand of white pine, and Katahdin Iron Works, the ruins of an 1843 blast furnace and kiln, also invite exploration. Go fly fishing or snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or mountain biking. Visit Baxter State Park, a gift to the people of Maine from Governor Percival Baxter. The Appalachian Trail ends (or starts, depending on your point of view) at Katahdin’s mile-high summit.
Be sure to allow time to visit the historic sites, such as the Maine Forest and Logging Museum, in Bradley, the 1876 Robyville Bridge, the only completely shingled covered bridge in the state, in Corinth, and the remote Ambejejus Boom House. Museums, shopping, fine dining and much more can be found in Bangor, the region’s largest city.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Maine Greater Portland & Casco Bay

Built on a promontory with water on three sides, Portland is Maine’s largest city, but it embraces visitors with a friendly, small-town atmosphere. It’s big enough to support a vibrant cultural scene, small enough to easily navigate. The city is reputed to have the greatest number of restaurants, per capita, second only to San Francisco.
The enchanting Old Port links Portland’s downtown business district with its waterfront. This part of the city pulses with activity. Old-fashioned streetlights and brick sidewalks set the mood, boutiques and restaurants line the streets, fishing and excursion boats crowd the docks.
The Portland Museum of Art anchors the uptown Arts District. The museum houses a strong collection of European and American masterpieces with a focus on Maine art, including works by Winslow Homer, who maintained a studio at Prouts Neck, in Scarborough. The Children’s Museum of Maine, next door, is a must for kids. Nearby are the Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland Stage Company, the Center for Cultural Exchange and the State Theatre. Merrill Auditorium, in Portland City Hall, is the home of the Portland Symphony Orchestra. The Portland Opera Repertory Theatre and PCA Great Performances also stage programs here.
History and architecture buffs should consider a walking tour of the city. The Victoria Mansion is considered to be among the finest examples of Victorian villa architecture in the world. The Abyssinian Meeting House, built in 1828, was an important center of the black liberation struggle. Historic houses include the boyhood home of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the Neal Dow Memorial, home of the father of prohibition, and the 1755 Tate House, a fine example of the Georgian style.
Perhaps the best place to take in the view is the Portland Observatory. Built by Lemuel Moody in 1807, it reflects his seafaring ways: 122 tons of ballast hold it in place. A small museum highlights Moody’s contributions to Portland, and the 102-step climb to the orb deck is rewarded by 360-degree views over the city, the surrounding countryside and Casco Bay.
To the east is Cape Elizabeth, where Portland Head Light has been warning of treacherous ledges since 1791. South Portland is a major retail center. In Falmouth, you can wander the 2.5 miles of easy trails through the Gilsland Farm Sanctuary and Environmental Center. For more exercise, climb 383-foot tall Bradbury Mountain, in Pownal. Freeport is home of the always-open outdoor retailer L.L. Bean and more than 170 outlets, as well as the intriguing Desert of Maine. And in Yarmouth, home of the annual clam festival, don’t miss the DeLorme Map Store’s Eartha, the world’s largest rotating and revolving globe.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Maine, Down East & Acadia

Fresh-water lakes, whitewater rivers, the highest tides in the country, quiet coves and crashing surf define Down East & Acadia, a region prized by artists and historians, adventure seekers and nature lovers. Here you’ll find Acadia, the first National Park in the East; Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast; St Croix Island, the landing site of the French in the New World; and Machiasport, where the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War occurred.
The region’s landscape ranges from raw and spectacular to quiet and subdued, encompassing craggy granite cliffs and desolate blueberry barrens. Rugged fingers of land tipped with granite fingernails reach out to the sea, inviting exploration. Poke around classic villages and working harbors, browse shops and galleries, explore nature preserves and wildlife refuges. The scenery alone has earned coveted National Scenic Byway status for two routes. The 43 mile Acadia Byway winds along Route 3 from Trenton to Bar Harbor, then follows a section of the National Park’s Loop Road through Mount Desert. The 29 mile Schoodic Scenic Byway circles through Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor and a remote section of Acadia National Park.
Visit the internationally known Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, on Deer Isle. Take in a performance at the art deco-style Criterion Theatre, in Bar Harbor, or Grand Auditorium, in Ellsworth, or the recently reopened Stonington Opera House. Join a local celebration: the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival, in Machias, the Eastport Salmon Festival, Native American festivals in Bar Harbor and Pleasant Point, an arts festival on the Shoodic Peninsula and the annual Blue Hill Fair.
Historic sites abound. Learn of the role local patriots played in the Revolution at the Burnham Tavern, in Machias, and about Maine’s Native Americans at the new Abbe Museum, in downtown Bar Harbor. Marvel at the talents of Jonathan Fisher, Blue Hill’s first pastor, at the Parson Fisher House. Take a walking tour through Castine, where signs detail the town’s early history, or Cherryfield, which has a 75 acre National Register Historic District comprising 52 architecturally significant buildings. Detour off Route 1 to admire the Ruggles House, in Columbia Falls, an architectural gem.
Outdoor adventures are plentiful. Take a whale-watching or puffin-sighting cruise. Canoe the St Croix River. Go bird watching at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. Try fly-fishing in Grand Lake Stream. Or simply take it all in from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, on Mt Desert, the highest point on the Atlantic Coast in North America, or from the Coastal Trail at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, in Lubec, the first town in the lower 48 warmed by the sun’s rays each morning.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Maine – Kennebec & Moose River Valleys

For centuries, the Kennebec River has been a major thoroughfare for goods, people and ideas moving between Canada and the coast. History buffs will savor the struggles, wars, deceptions and invasions that highlight this route, mirroring the relationships between the French, English and Native Americans who traversed it. Adventure seekers will thrill to the whitewater rafting, calm-water canoeing, snowmobiling and hiking possibilities, while nature lovers will appreciate the lakes, streams and forests.
This region has broad appeal for outdoor enthusiasts. The Kennebec and Dead Rivers are two of the finest whitewaters rivers in the East, providing rafting, kayaking and canoeing thrills from May into October. The Appalachian Trail passes through this region before it enters the 100-mile Wilderness for the final push to its terminus at Katahdin. The Belgrade Lakes attract summer rusticators to clusters of lakefront cottages and camps to relax, play golf, boat and fish. When snow blankets the countryside, snowmobiles and snowshoes replace canoes and hiking boots. The border town of Jackman sits at a fork in the Northeast Snowmobile Trail that connects with an international trail system 1.100 miles long, linking Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.
For a better perspective on the state’s history, visit the Maine State Museum, in Augusta. In the same complex are the State House, designed by renowned architect Charles Bulfinch and built in 1829, and the Blaine House, historic home of Maine’s governors. Just across the bridge is Fort Western, built in 1754 and used as a staging point for Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated journey to capture Quebec in 1775. Also on the east of the Kennebec is the Pine Tree State Arboretum, where you can wander among more than 600 trees and shrubs. On the west side of the river is Hallowell; the downtown is a National Historic District filled with antiques shops, boutiques and historic homes, perfect for an afternoon of browsing.
The campus of Colby College, in Waterville, includes the Colby Museum of Art, which specializes in American art. In Skowhegan, take in a summer production at the Lakewood Theater, bone up on 20th century politics at the Margaret Chase Smith Library Center and admire the Skowhegan Indian. Don’t miss the Skowhegan State Fair, the oldest continuously operated state fair in the country. Nearby Hinckley boasts the L.C. Bates Museum, with an eclectic collection of treasures ranging from rare bird specimens to Native American artifacts. Another offbeat treat is the South Solon Meetinghouse. The exterior promises nothing more than a traditional, 19th century meetinghouse, but artists from the Skowhegan Scholl of Painting and Sculpture have covered every available interior space with colorful frescoes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maine – Aroostook County

Expansive, remote and sparsely populated, Aroostook County is an undiscovered gem, rich in heritage and a treasure for outdoor sports-minded folks. The County, as it’s called, is larger in area than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined and is bounded by Maine’s North Woods and two Canadian provinces. It’s a region that encourages you to slow down and enjoy the good life.
In winter, deep snow blankets the hills and fields, providing unparalleled snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. Snowmobilers come from far and wide for the International Snowmobile Festival, held annually in Madawaska. Dogsledders come in March for the Can-Am Sled Dog Races in Fort Kent, a qualifier for the grueling Iditarod.
When the snow melts, the 100 mile long Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the free-flowing St John River beckon paddlers. The Meduxnekeag River is a must for whitewater aficionados during spring runoff. Hiking is abundant at state parks and preserves such a Deboullie Mountain. Hikers share the St John Valley Heritage Trail and the Bangor-Aroostook Valley Trails with mountain bikers. The Fish River Chain of Lakes is favored by salmon and trout fishermen. And for an afternoon of walking and learning, visit the Arthur E. Howell Wildlife Conservation Center and Spruce Acres Refuge, a haven for injured or orphaned wildlife.
Summer is the time to celebrate the region’s heritage and rural life. At New Sweden’s Sommarfest, the descendants of Swedish settlers welcome the Solstice as their ancestors did. Madawaska’s Acadian Festival, in June, focuses on the reunion of a local Acadian family, often attracting thousands of far-flung descendants. Fort Fairfield hosts the Potato Blossom Festival, named for the lovely white flowers that blanket the fields with promise of the fall harvest. The Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle, held in August, has been celebrating agriculture and lumbering in The County since 1854.
In Houlton, walk through the Market Square Historic Business District, with 28 architecturally significant buildings dating from 1885 to 1910. In Island Falls, visit the Webb Museum of Vintage Fashion, a Victorian house chockfull of antique clothing and accessories. The region’s logging heritage is chronicled at the Lumberman’s Museum, in Patten. The Fort Kent Blockhouse, built in 1839, is a remnant of the bloodless Aroostook War, a border dispute between the US and Canada that lasted for years. While in Presque Isle, stop by the University of Maine and Canadian Artists. For a taste of farm life with an emphasis on old-time ways, tour the Knott-II-Bragg Farm, in Wade.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Golf on Hawai’i

When you pack your clubs for vacation, isn’t it nice to know that the golf courses you’ll play will provide a setting and an experience worthy of the effort? In the Islands of Aloha, there’s no question about it.
For a million years clouds poured rain upon jagged volcanic peaks. The rains in turn fed uncounted waterfalls, pounding rock into fertile soil, forming emerald plains that gave birth to some of the finest golf courses on earth. Each is unique and their settings are as memorable as the play. It’s simply a golfer’s paradise.
Among Hawaiian 80 plus courses are some of the most gorgeous holes to swing for. Picture yourself on the first tee box. The low morning sun gives shape to the heavenly green fairway before you. Take a deep breath and pinch yourself. Not even an errant tee shot can break this spell. With the Pacific Ocean over your shoulder, try not to be distracted by a breaching humpback whale. You’ll need all your concentration to make that fast breaking putt.
Golfing is always in season with Hawaiian beautiful year-round weather. Hawaiian courses extend throughout the six major islands, and their terrain is just as varied. From cool tropical valleys to awesome ocean-side lava cliffs, the views are spectacular.
Where better to begin the PGA tour than in Hawai’i. Here the golf gods smile on some of the most beautiful courses in the world. The pros’ season begins with two tournaments in January, the Mercedes Championship on Maui, followed by the Sony Open on Oahu. Win any of golf’s four majors and you’ll be invited to play the last tournament of the year, the PGA Grand Slam on Kauai. The Turtle Bay Championship is played in the beginning of October on Oahu’s gorgeous North Shore. Not to be denied paradise, the PGA Senior Tour kicks off its year with the MasterCard Championship on Hawaiian Big Island, followed by the Senior Skins Game on Maui. Hawaiian Big Island is also home to the LPGA Takefuji Classic.
Prepare to be spoiled. In Hawai’i, a camera should be a required piece of golfing equipment.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Golf in Nevada

Nevada and golf are synonymous. In fact, with more than 100 courses throughout the state, Nevada is truly a golfer’s paradise. From championship courses such as the 36-hole Las Vegas Paiute Resort to casual, recreational links like the nine-hole Brookside Golf Course in Reno, Nevada has endless recreational options for golfers.
In Southern Nevada, there are more than 50 courses within two hours of Las Vegas including three dozen in the immediate area. The courses range from publicly owned and operated links to private clubs that are limited to members and guests.
Among the newer courses in Southern Nevada: the Rhodes Ranch Country Club and the Royal Links Golf Club.
The venerable Desert Inn Golf Club, established in 1952, is one of the hosts of the annual PGA Las Vegas Invitational in October, along with two private courses, the Tournament Players Club at Summerlin and the Las Vegas Country Club.
Several other Southern Nevada communities have also established themselves as golf Mecca’s including: Boulder City, located 23 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Henderson /Green Valley, 13 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Laughlin, 95 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Mesquite, 79 miles northeast of Las Vegas; Primm, 43 miles southwest of Las Vegas; and Pahrump, which is 62 miles west of Las Vegas.
The Reno-Lake Tahoe region offers more than 50 golf courses within an hour of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport including the Wolf Run Golf Club, the Golf Club at Genoa Lakes, the Resort at Squaw Creek, and the Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch. In the Reno area, courses include not only the state’s oldest links – the Washoe County Golf Course, which was established in 1934 – but several of the most recent courses such as Arrow Creek, Red Hawk, and Monteux, all of which opened in the past few years. The latter is a private course that is also home of the Reno/Tahoe Open, a new stop on the PGA tour.
The Carson City area, south of Reno, offers what it calls the “Divine Nine”. These nine courses encompass about 70.000 yards of green and roughs and include the Dayton Valley Country Club, Empire Ranch, and the new Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch.
At Lake Tahoe, golfers try not to be distracted by the lake’s natural beauty while attempting to sink a long putt. Lake Tahoe offers a dozen championship courses including Edgewood Tahoe on the south shore of the lake. Edgewood is the site of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in July and is rated one of Golf Digest’s top 25 public US golf courses.
In the more rural parts of Nevada, golfers will find plenty of wide-open spaces into which they can slice or hook. Courses range from Hawthorne’s Walker Lake Country Club, one of the state’s most picturesque nine-hole courses with its mature, towering elms, to the Mason Valley Country Club in Yerington, which recently expanded to 18 holes.
A couple of the state’s most unusual golf courses are Burning Sands at Empire, a nine-hole public course in the center of town, where green fees are a $10 donation, and the Sandy Bottoms Golf Course in Gabbs, the state’s only all-clay, free course. Playing Sandy Bottoms is kind of like playing at entire round in sand traps.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Colorado wines

Discover the romance of wine tasting in Colorado. The winemaking industry here has grown to 34 wineries in spectacular locations across the state. Along with their distinctive style and friendly tasting rooms, each one is framed by the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
Over a century has passed since wineries in Colorado were uprooted in Prohibition and today, winemakers are rebuilding a Colorado tradition. Vineyards across the state feature the classic European wine grape varieties. Now, with surprising success, the art of winemaking is thriving.
The abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights and low humidity provide the perfect conditions for growing wine grapes with the complex character and chemistry required to craft award-winning wines.
Colorado hosts nearly three dozen wineries located throughout the state, from the areas of the Front Range near Denver, to spectacular central mountain destinations. The federal government has designated two regions in western Colorado as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): the Grand Valley, between Grand Junction and Palisade; and the West Elks, surrounding Paonia and Hotchkiss. The vast majority of Colorado’s wine grapes come from these two areas.
Most of the wineries are small, family-owned estates that have earned a well-deserved reputation for creating a wide variety of premium wines. From deep Merlots and expensive Chardonnays, to elegant Rieslings and Cabernets, Colorado wines consistently win top national and international awards. And the fruit wines are unprecedented in the category. Charming tasting rooms and genuine Rocky Mountain atmosphere make touring Colorado wineries a wonderful way to see the state. The wines of Colorado add a delicious dimension of culture to one of America’s most colorful and adventurous leisure destinations.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nis Fortress, Serbia

In both Serbian and international political plans, the liberation of Nis in the First Serbian Uprising (1804–1813) was a major event in the restoration of the Serbian state. The decisive battle between the Serbs and the Turks took place on 31st May 1809, in the vicinity of Nis, near the village of Kamenica, on a hill known as Cegar, where the Serbian positions were most exposed. Unable to halt the Turkish attack, the Serbian military leader Stevan Sindjelic fired a number of shots into the powder magazine and caused an explosion which killed numerous soldiers on both sides. Unofficial data claim that between 3000 and 7000 Serbs and over 6000 Turks were killed on Cegar. Serbian losses were tremendous, so Cegar today has a special position in the history of the struggle for liberation and independence. Today’s tower-shaped monument was erected in 1927 – it symbolizes a military fortification and is protected by the state as part of the cultural heritage.
Nis Fortress was built in the period 1719-1723 on the right bank of the Nisava River, over the remains of ancient and medieval fortifications, after such decree was issued by the Sultan on 19th February 1719, and the project made by the main architects Mehmed and Mustafa Aga. Like other artillery fortifications, the fortress has a polygonal foundation and four major gates (labeled the gates of Istanbul, Belgrade, Jagodina and Vidin) and eight bastion terraces. With its ramparts totaling 2100m in length, 3m wide and 8m high, covering the area of 22 hectares, the Fortress was the strongest Turkish fortification in borderline areas of the empire. Today’s remnants of the rampart and the gates, along with still unexplored internal parts coming from the previous periods, represent a major cultural monument. For this reason, in 1948, Nis Fortress was protected by the law, and in 1979 it was proclaimed highly valued part of cultural heritage.
Just by the road to Constantinople, today in the city itself, there lies the Skull Tower – a unique monument from Serbian liberation wars. In his desire to intimidate Christians and prevent any further rebellious attempts, Hursid Pasha, then the Turkish commander in Nis, and later the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, issued an order for this tower to be built. The skulls of 952 Serbian fighters from the battle of Cegar, of 31st May 1809, were built in. there are no written Turkish sources on the construction of the tower and the number of skulls. The Europe and the world got to know more about it from the words of travel book writers passing through Nis in 19th century.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Molokai – Hawaiian by Nature

While the rest of Hawai’i grew up, the island of Molokai grew roots. Roads are few and generally empty. The island clings to tradition. Its small population prefers to live by raising crops, catching fish and adhering to the old ways. Molokai isn’t merely a lovely island; it’s the only island for those who want to experience something besides commercial luaus, fancy shops, big resorts and the company of tourists. Instead, discover serenity, empty beaches and untamed outdoor beauty. In short, you’ll experience a place where you can look inward as much as outward. You will also find the Hawaiian culture, which is woven into the fabric of everyday life. Though Molokai isn’t sophisticated when it comes to tourism, it offers a wide range of places to stay and things to do.
For a small island – 40 miles long and 10 miles wide – Molokai possesses awesome natural wonders. Bring enough film for such ancient sites as the enormous temple platform called ‘Ili’ili’opae Heiau and the 58 rock wall fishponds that line the island’s South Shore. The South Shore is sheltered by the largest reef system in the United States.
Molokai also contains areas of unspoiled wilderness. Kamakou Preserve is a mountain forest that’s home to endangered native plants and rare birds.
Along the North Shore, the world’s tallest sea cliffs plunge over 3.000 feet to the crashing surf below.
Western Molokai boasts some of the largest and least visited beaches in the state. The Sheraton Molokai Lodge and Beach Village on the West End is the nearest Molokai gets to a resort area. Get back to nature on the island of Molokai.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lanai – Hawaiian Most Exclusive Island

If your idea of an island getaway includes ultra luxury and secluded privacy, the Island of Lanai awaits you. Less than 3.000 people live on this small island. Life revolves around its one charming town, Lanai City, and two deluxe properties, the upcountry Lodge at Koele and the ocean side Manele Bay Hotel. Both consistently win top resort honors. Two stellar golf courses, a spa, fine dining choices, and plenty of outdoor activities and water sports guarantee there’ll be plenty to do until it’s time for high tea in the music room.
Although it remains off the beaten path, Lanai offers an unparalleled range of activities in a setting that takes full advantage of the island’s natural beauty. Enjoy the charm of lawn bowling or some competitive croquet. Reserve a court at the Menele’s tennis center or set out on an equestrian excursion from the stables near the Lodge. Try your hand at sporting clays at one of the country’s best facilities, which also has a 12 station archery range.
Head for a swim at beautiful Hulopo’e Beach, or depart Manele Harbor for a snorkel excursion to the pristine waters off Lanai’s cliff-lined West Coast. Take a stroll through Lanai City and browse the shops that surround the forested town square. Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and set off on an adventure that can take you to the lunar landscapes of “Garden of the Gods”, the beachcombing pleasures of Swipwreck Beach or the misty, rain forest heights of Lana’ihale. Experience Lanai, it’s not quickly forgotten.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Maui – the Magic Isle

Many places claim the power to create memories that will last a lifetime, but few fulfill the promise like the Island of Maui. If its relaxation you’re after, we’ve got it, with near-perfect weather, great places to stay, uncrowned beaches and a setting that inspires awe and a sense of wonder. If you are looking for adventure and new experiences, we’ve got that too. Discover Maui, where whale-filled seas meet heavenly beaches. A place where the sun warms tropical trade winds that will blow your troubles away. Snorkel in crystal-clear waters or play golf on world-class courses of green, velvet perfection. Aloha and welcome t Maui, the Magic Isle.
The ancient Hawaiian chants tell the story of the demigod Maui who harnessed the sun from atop 10.000 foot Haleakala to slow its progress across the heavens. He made the perfect day on his namesake island last just a bit longer.
From that same perch today you can look out over this splendid island to survey its terrain. Along the beach-lined South Coast lie the resorts of Ma’alaea, Kihei, Wailea and Makena, each fronting gentle waters perfect for swimming.
To the east, turn your attention to the forested mountains and countless waterfalls that surround Hana. The road to Hana is a series of hairpin turns and single-lane bridges where you’ll discover breathtaking panoramas around every corner.
On the slopes below Haleakala are the grassy ranchlands and flower farms of upcountry Maui. Sublime views and cooler temperatures prevail here. Upcountry is a state of mind, characterized by large family-owned ranches and Hawaiian cowboys who share the beautiful area with the many artists who’ve settled here in a landscape of endless inspiration.
Looking over the central plains, you spy Maui’s other volcanic mountain, Kahalawai. In its morning shadow you’ll find historic Lahaina and the famous resorts of Ka’anapali, Kahana, Napili and Kapalua. Lahaina was once the royal capital of Hawai’i and later a rowdy whaling port. Today, Front Street retains its old world charm while offering a collection of shops, art galleries, entertainment and restaurants just steps from the waterfront.
Maui’s central valley is anchored by county seat Wailuku at the doorstep of ‘Iao Valley and bustling Kahului. Find local-style eateries in Wailuku along with a collection of antiques shops. Kahului is the commercial center of the island and home to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center and Maui’s largest mall, the Kaahumanu Shopping Center.
It’s hard to imagine a place more relaxing than Maui. But if, as some say, the key to relaxation is activity, few places compare to Maui. On the ground, in the air, on the water, in the water or under the water. Maui is arguably the world’s greatest playground.
Hike trails equal to none, go for a horseback ride, kayak, and snorkel or dive in the pristine waters. Not done playing? Surf made-in –Hawai’i waves or windsurf the tropical trade winds. And always, the beach. Forty-two miles of uncrowned and sublime beaches to be exact. Add tennis, golf, helicopter tours, history, art, nature, shopping, dining, touring and countless cultural attractions and you’ll want to extend your stay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kauai – Hawai’i Island of Discovery

Kauai has a lush, rural feel and a laid-back lifestyle all its own. After all, Kauai is Hawai’i oldest island and, as first-born, has a legacy of paradise to uphold. And what a paradise! A trip around Kauai is a feast of green, tropical forests, cascading waterfalls, golden sand beaches and the time of your life. Your circumnavigation will be interrupted by one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Na Pali Coast. Don’t be daunted. Take to boat or helicopter to witness its 14 miles of vertical seamounts falling into a necklace of white surf spray. Your heart will skip a beat. Kauai does that to you over and over again.
Nothing prepares you for some of its natural wonders such as the Na Pali Coast, Wailua Falls, Waimea Canyon and the 17 mile Polihale Beach. The landscapes of Kauai have served as locations for more than 50 movies over the years. Ask the friendly people of Kauai and they’ll tell you it’s because there’s no place more beautiful on earth.
Kauai has been around millions of years longer than its sister islands. Time and the elements have created Hawai’i only navigable rivers, carved a deep canyon, tended an amazing feast of flora and set out seemingly endless beaches.
A tour of Kauai might start in the county seat of Lihue, which also gives its name to the airport nearby. Also close is Kalapaki Beach, which offers the best swimming on this part of the island. Driving north along a stretch known as Coconut Coast, you come to the towns of Wailua, Kapa’a and Anahola. This area was settled first and fairly bustles with action. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, accommodations, activities and attractions including many of Kauai’s legendary waterfalls and the Wailua River.
Further up the road, you arrive at the North Shore and the towns of Kilauea, Princeville, Hanalei and Ha’ena. Here, find the world-famous Princeville Resort with its equally famous golf courses and a collection of beaches second to none. At Ha’ena State Park, the road ends at the majestic Na Pali Coast. To explore the other side of the island, turn around and retrace your route. You’re sure to discover any number of interesting things you missed on the ride up.
The drive into South Kauai takes you under a mile long, shady canopy of eucalyptus trees. You emerge into a brightness that will have you reaching for your sunglasses. Welcome to the sunny South Shore. Explore the plantation town of Koloa and the resort area of Po’ipu, with its gentle beaches and popular golf courses.
The West Side of Kauai is further up the road, physically and metaphorically. The towns get smaller, the population thins out and nature imposes in the likes of 3.500 foot deep Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park’s 45 miles of hiking trails. A horseback ride into the rusty, cooper canyon will reveal why Mark Twain nicknamed it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. At the end of the road is the Kalalau Valley Lookout where you will be rewarded by one of the most scenic views on the island.
Kauai’s natural beauty is the setting for any vacation activity. There are lots to do, whether you’re the active type or your taste runs to the quiet and contemplative. Kauai’s 154 holes of great golf will keep you joyfully occupied.
If you’re planning a wedding or coming on your honeymoon, you’ll find the perfect marriage of fantasy and reality in one of the most romantic spots you can imagine. For families, there are lots of activities to share like hiking, horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking, bicycling and picnicking on the beach.
And remember, Hawaii delightful melting pot of cultures serves up a variety of dining menu items that will add to your fun of discovery on Kauai.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oahu – the Heart of Hawai’i

Come and experience the diversity of an island paradise where cosmopolitan conveniences are surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Envelope yourself in the aloha spirit, a way of life in the islands that will leave you longing to return to Oahu, the island where aloha begins. Follow the aloha to world-famous Waikiki Beach, one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world – with good reason! A short drive out of town in any direction will bring you face to face with uncrowned beaches, natural wonders and beautiful scenery that will have you wondering if you’re on the same island. Escape to Oahu, the island with surprises around every corner.
Search the world, there’s no place like Oahu, an island of endless variety. Just miles outside the vibrant, modern city of Honolulu lie tropical green valley’s little changed in thousands years. Waikiki is one of the most popular beaches anywhere, but again, a few miles down the road you can explore any number of beaches and find few footprints besides your own. Oahu offers the finest in five-star dining and delicious local favorites served from roadside wagons. And a rainbow is a glorious sight whether hanging over a city skyline or a secluded waterfall.
Honolulu is the capital of Hawai’i. There’s a lot of colorful history attending Honolulu’s past and it can be seen everywhere from the incredible collection of artifacts at the Bishop Museum to the ‘Iolani Palace, home to the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani. A walk through Chinatown provides the flavor of the street life and architecture of the turn of the last century when the Aloha Tower was the tallest building for 2.500 miles.
The best way to appreciate all Oahu has to offer is to get in a car and venture beyond the city limits. Heading east, it’s just a couple of miles to Hawai’i Kai and sheltered Maunalua Bay, a great place for all sorts of water sports. Drive on past Koko Head to Hanauma Bay where thousands of reef fish seem to have no other purpose than to entertain snorkelers.
Makapu’u Point marks the beginning of Oahu’s windward side. Makapu’u Beach is a favorite with experienced boogie boarders. And you can see the island of Molokai in the distance. Next stop is Waimanalo, a quiet, rural town where Oahu really begins to slow down. Join the pace with a long leisurely walk on Waimanalo Beach.
Continue on to Kailua. Two beaches here are worthy of note. Lanikai Beach is popular for swimming, windsurfing and kayaking and two-mile Kailua Beach is a favorite for strolling along its aquamarine waters. If you’ve used up the whole day exploring this far you can head back across the Ko’olau Mountains on the Pali Highway. After you crest the hill, exit at the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout for a bird’s eye view of the windward side.
Driving on up the windward side will take you deeper into rural, forested Oahu. Take it slow; otherwise you’ll miss the charms of the small towns that dot the coast like Kakalu’u, Waikane, Kahana, and Punalu’u. Each has a beach and a general store to explore. La’ie is a little bigger and boasts the first Mormon Temple built outside of the mainland United States. It’s also the home of the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Around the next corner, pass Kahuku Point and you’ve arrived at Oahu’s popular North Shore with its famous surfing beaches. The ride back to Honolulu takes you through sugar and pineapple fields between the Ko’olau and Wai’anae mountain ranges to Pearl Harbor.
Head east again to complete the circle or turn west to explore Oahu’s Leeward Coast and the beaches of Nanakuli and Makaha. Past Kaneana Cave you can hike to Ka’ena Point where the view of the Pacific Ocean is unlimited.
With few stops, it’s possible to finish this tour in a long day. But you’ll want to plan several days to experience all the attractions and activities along the way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hawaiian Big Island – Aloha Spoken Here

The spirit and energy of creation surrounds you everywhere on Hawaiian Big Island. Polynesian legend claims the goddess Pele gave volcanic birth to the Islands of Aloha. The Big Island of Hawai’i is her latest and greatest creation. One island. Still warm from its fiery birth. Larger twice than its sisters combined and growing every day as its active volcano, Kilauea, sends new land to a steamy meeting with the ocean 4.000 feet below. Countless waterfalls feeding rain forests of botanical wonder add a fantasy flavor to the landscape. Massive black lava fields hint at the islands’ relative youth. And multitudes of uncrowned beaches let you catch your breath under the watchful eye of a snow-capped mountain. It’s thrilling.
The best way to glimpse Hawaiian Big Island is in small pieces. Each area has its own character, and often a distinct climate. Let’s go for a drive and see what the island has to offer.
Well begin in the island’s capital city of Hilo. Hilo has one stately foot rooted in its plantation past and the other in the present. The rains here have the courtesy to wait mostly for evening and are responsible for the rich greenery that colors everything. Check out the Suisan Fish Auction early each morning down by the bay or the Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays or Saturdays.
The Hamakua Coast starts north of Hilo. Vertical cliffs adorned with wispy waterfalls are broken by a series of deep valleys. At the end of the Hamakua Coast Highway is Waipi’o, the only valley accessible by road, if not by car. Hike in. The beauty is worth every step.
From Waipi’o, drive upland to the cool, country town of Waimea. You’ll find Parker Ranch, the largest single-owner-ship cattle ranch in the country. As you might expect, there’s a cowboy feel to the town complete with a 4th of July Rodeo.
Approach Mauna Kea from Waimea or Hilo via the Saddle Road. At 13.796 feet, you’ll be on top of the world and probably very cold unless you brought warm clothing. Mauna Kea means “white mountain” for the snow that paints the summit with its array of power-full observatories.
Down the hill from Waimea is the North Kohala Coast, the Big Island’s sumptuous playground. This shore, always sunny, boasts numerous white sand beaches perfect for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. Lush, green golf courses carved from black lava present a beautiful, unearthly contrast.
Down the coast is the lively harbor town of Kailua-Kona with its labyrinth of shops, restaurants, hotels and condominiums. Leave from here on deep-sea fishing charters or stroll along the shore and watch the action. In October, Kailua-Kona welcomes world-class athletes here for the Ironman Triathlon.
Drive south from Kailua-Kona and you’ll be in coffee country where small plantations produce the world’s best coffee beans. Many growers host visitor centers and offer samples of the delicious brew. Stop in at the Kona Historical Society in Kealakekua to learn more about the region’s history. Kealakekua Bay was the site of Captain Cook’s death in 1779. Today, the bay is a marine preserve and one of the best snorkeling sites on this part of the island. One of the Big Island’s most sacred sites is preserved at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, where you can walk among the heiau that served as a place of refuge for Hawaiians.
Continuing south to the Kau district is Ka Lae, or South Point. This is likely the spot where the voyaging Polynesians first landed in Hawai’i about 1.500 years ago. Indeed, it’s the southernmost point in the United States. Gaze out at the Pacific’s vastness from here. It is not hard to imagine the feelings of the first Hawaiians who sighted these shores after months at sea in a canoe.
Bordering Kau, at Kilauea Volcano, is the Puna district. The lava flow has claimed a town or two and covered some beaches, but life goes on for the orchid and flower growers in this chiefly green and forested part of the Big Island. In Puna, you can soak in a volcano-heated thermal pool. Find them at Ahalanui Beach Park and Isaac Hale Beach Park located near the colorful town of Pahoa.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Indian Territory, Nevada

Between 10.000 and 12.000 years ago, various hunter-gatherer cultures flourished in Nevada. Prehistoric Lake Lahontan, an ancient inland sea that covered much of Northern Nevada and Utah, provided abundant fish, and the land was home to mammoth, bison and other game. While these prehistoric peoples left behind few clues about their lives, they did carve the mysterious “petroglyphs”, or rock writings that are found throughout Nevada and the Western United States. No one is certain of the meaning of these stone etchings, which depict a variety of shapes and designs as well as human stick figures, big horn sheep, and lizards. Some of the state’s best are found along US Highway 50 at Grimes Point, east of Fallon; Hickison Summit, east of Austin; and Valley of Fire State Park, northeast of Las Vegas.
As Nevada gradually grew drier and large game animals became extinct, the native Great Basin people adapted to the environmental changes. Massive Lake Lahontan receded into two smaller lakes, Pyramid and Walker, and their shores became the home of the Northern Paiute people. Meanwhile in Southern Nevada, the Southern Paiutes clustered near the springs of the Las Vegas Valley and the tributaries of the Colorado River. Other tribes, including the Western Shoshone and the Washo, found homes in Nevada’s many mountain ranges, which provided water, small game, and pine nuts.
In contemporary Nevada, many of the descendents of the state’s original settlers continue to occupy portions of their ancestral lands. For example, Pyramid Lake, located north of Reno, is located within the boundaries of a Northern Paiute Indian reservation. Reflecting the magnificent natural beauty of the region, Pyramid Lake Rd has been designated a National Scenic Byway, the only federal scenic byway located entirely within the boundaries of an Indian reservation. Pyramid Lake is a special place. It offers some of the best fishing in the state and the Pyramid Lake Visitor Center is home to a fascinating museum devoted to the lake’s natural history and the culture of the native people.
To the south, parts of Walker Lake and the community of Schurz are located within the Walker Lake Indian Reservation. Walker Lake also boasts trophy fishing, dramatic high desert landscapes, and plenty of wide-open space for exploring. Interestingly, while the present native tribes have been in Nevada for many thousands of years, they were preceded by a culture that has become known as the “Anasazi” or ancient ones. These prehistoric people constructed large and elaborate adobe villages along the Muddy and Virgin Rivers, which feed into the Colorado River. Today, the best place to learn more about the Anasazi is the Lost City Museum in Overton, which is northeast of Las Vegas. It houses Anasazi artifacts that have been found in the area as well as reconstructions of the adobe buildings and pit houses used by these ancient Nevadans.
Additionally, the Nevada State Museum in Carson City has an extensive display of native Nevadan artifacts, as well as dioramas showing daily life before the arrival of the white settlers. The Stewart Indian Cultural Center, south of Carlson City, was a federal boarding school for Indians until 1980. Today, it houses exhibits on the history of the school.
These days, Nevada’s tribes are involved in a variety of business enterprises ranging from native craft shops to smoke shops. The Las Vegas Paiute Resort, owned and operated by the Southern Paiutes, includes two championship golf courses located 20 miles northwest of Las Vegas, in the shadow of the 11.918 foot Charleston Peak.
A powwow is a gathering of Native peoples. Traditionally, it has been highlighted by dancing, which often takes the form of “fancy” dancing or traditional dancing (each refers to the dress and dance style). Tribes add their own variations to the dancing, based on their heritage and traditions. In Nevada, visitors are encouraged to attend powwows to learn about tribal culture and traditions, enjoy the dancing, purchase crafts, or sample native foods.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Las Vegas, part two

An attraction of another sort can be found near the quiet, shaded community of Boulder City, located southeast of Las Vegas. Boulder City is the gateway to Hoover Dam, a 726-foot-high concrete structure that creates Lake Mead. The dam, considered one of the seven manmade wonders of the world, offers tours of its electricity-producing system, which was completed in 1935. Tours begin at the Visitors Center which offers fabulous views of the dam from the observation level.
Lake Mead is the largest manmade lake in the Western Hemisphere. Both it and Lake Mohave to the south are part of the Lake Mead National Recreational Area, which is operated by the National Park Service. The recreational area offers five developed beaches and marinas, campgrounds, and other services. Boat and Jet Ski rentals are available at several points on the lake, and sightseeing boats, including the Desert Princess sternwheeler, also ply its waters. On the northeast side of Lake Mead, about 55 miles from Las Vegas, a State Scenic Byway leads travelers through the Valley of Fire State Park. Valley of Fire earned its name because of its bright red sandstone mountains and valleys. In places, the wind has sculpted the sandstone into hauntingly beautiful shapes that seem to mutate with the changing light of day. The park also has several fine examples of prehistoric Indian petro glyphs.
The nearby Lost City Museum at Overton is a storehouse of artifacts from the Anasazi or “Ancient Ones”, a prehistoric tribe that lived in the area thousands of years ago. The exhibits include a full-size replica of the type of adobe dwelling inhabited by those ancient people.
Mesquite, located north-east of Las Vegas on the Virgin River, is a rapidly developing resort town with golf and spa packages, horseback riding, trap shooting and all the indoor activities for which Nevada is famous. Mesquite is conveniently located for side trips to nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks.
Approaching the Nevada state line from Southern California, drivers are greeted by the bright lights of Primm and Jean. Once lonely highway outposts, the towns are now major resort areas with golf, a designer outlet mall and unique hotel-casinos that boast several amusement rides, including The Desperado, one of the tallest roller coasters in the world.
In the extreme southern tip of Nevada on the Colorado River is the community of Laughlin. In 1966, Laughlin consisted of a small motel and restaurant that catered to local fishermen. While the fishing remains great, Laughlin has been transformed into a lively resort town of world-class hotels offering big-name entertainment and first-class accommodations. Right on the river, visitors can water-ski, swim, boat or relax on the many beaches. A popular attraction is the water taxis, taking passengers from Arizona to Nevada and back.
Halfway between Laughlin and Las Vegas is the former mining town of Searchlight. Visitors will find a fine, small museum as well as picturesque mining head-frames on the hills around the town.
From the neon lights and fabulous hotel resorts of the Las Vegas Strip to the peaceful hiking trails of Mount Charleston and Valley of Fire, the Las Vegas Territory offers an endless supply of fun and excitement.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Las Vegas, part one

There’s no place on earth like Las Vegas. The city thrives on superlatives – biggest, brightest, longest, and tallest – so it’s no surprise that the “Entertainment Capital of the World” is home to 18 of the 20 largest hotels in the country. Visitors will find an unlimited variety of entertainment, sightseeing, special events, shopping and dining, among many other activities. Las Vegas boasts more neon and light than any other city, and themed megaresorts that conjure nearly any fantasy imaginable. On the famed Las Vegas Strip, visitors can view a spirited pirate ship battle, an exploding volcano, or a spectacular laser light water show. They can visit resorts that capture the essence of ancient Egypt, an Arthurian kingdom, Rome, Venice, New York, Monte Carlo, Paris, and a host of various tropical paradises.
They can enjoy the excitement of 24-hour gaming, gourmet restaurants operated by the world’s most famous chefs, and star-studded entertainment. And if that’s not enough, downtown Las Vegas is enclosed by a massive canopy of lights that covers five blocks. Called the Freemont Street Experience, the canopy comes alive every evening with senses-pounding light and sound shows that add to the excitement of a place often known as Glitter Gulch.
For those venturing outside of the casinos, Las Vegas offers shoppers an amazing array of options including mega-malls, unique boutiques, upscale stores, and sprawling outlet malls filled with shops selling designer name goods, fine clothing, jewelry, and other items. Perhaps less well-known is that Las Vegas is a veritable jackpot of history and art. Visitors will find a number of quality art museums featuring changing exhibits of national and regional contemporary artists as well as permanent collections. The city’s historic museums range from archaeological and anthropological exhibits of the original Native Americans to the memorabilia of the legendary entertainer Liberace.
For the adventurous, there are amusement parks and theme rides that offer thrill for the kid in everyone. Recreation enthusiasts will find a multitude of activities to choose from including golf, boating, hiking, bicycling, rock climbing, car racing, and even snow skiing.
Long before the glass pyramids and manmade volcanoes, nature created her own landmarks in Southern Nevada. The Las Vegas Territory is a region with startlingly diverse mountain and desert landscapes that can produce as much admiration as the biggest and brightest neon sign.
For instance, just 20 miles west of downtown Las Vegas is the magnificent Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Wildlife, including bighorn sheep and wild burros, abounds in this region. Whether you hike, bike or rock climb internationally known rock faces, this geologic wonderland is worth the visit. Nearby is Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes. Now a shady retreat, visitors can enjoy outdoor concerts and performances in the summertime.
About a half hour north of Las Vegas is Mount Charleston. At nearly 12.000 feet, Mount Charleston has been described as “a garden island in a sea of desert”. In the summer, it is the place in Southern Nevada where visitors can stay cool without air conditioning. In the winter, it’s the only place in Southern Nevada for skiing and other snow sports. There are campgrounds, picnic areas and hiking trails.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nevada

Nevada owes its birth to the Civil War, but its diapers arrived by railroad. The cross-continent span completed in 1869 was quickly augmented by a plethora of short lines that catered to the needs of the infant state. Nevada’s railroad heritage is alive today in three remnants of those lines – tourist trains that carry their passengers back to a time when the engines of commerce were powered by steam and diesel.
In Ely, the Nevada Northern Railway thunders astride its original tracks. Riders are propelled along two routes, each of which loops around the city and then out into the countryside, where the remnants of White Pine County’s copper-mining heritage occasionally poke from the sagebrush.
In Virginia City, the storied Virginia and Truckee-more familiarly known as the V&T – offers its riders a half-hour trip between Virginia City and Gold Hill. If area railroads buffs have their way, this very short line will grow considerably longer, spanning 17 miles to connect with a depot in Carson City, as it once did.
At the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, visitors can enjoy a heady dose of Silver State railroad history as they tour one of its collection of lovingly tended locomotives – including the 1875-vintage Inyo, one of the oldest operating steam engines in North America – and beautifully restored freight cars and passenger coaches. Most of the rolling stock is from the V&T, and some of it has graced both big and small screens, called into service by Hollywood filmmakers looking for the right touch of Iron Horse authenticity.
The museum has a regular schedule of steam-ups that offer an opportunity to take a jaunt around the grounds on the rolling stock. The museum also is in the process of crafting its own passenger line in Boulder City, which would follow a 12 mile round trip through Railroad Pass to the Henderson area, where riders could observe impressive views of the Las Vegas Valley from their coaches.
There is nothing like a ride aboard an authentic steam – or diesel –powered train. A vintage train charmingly clickety-clacks along the rails, the to-and-fro sway adding the occasional touch of surfing to a stroll down the aisle of the passenger cars. Under power, it rocks and rolls like an odd hybrid of winding snake and bucking bronco, its passengers left to adapt to its antique rhythms as best they can.
On excursions such as the Nevada Northern’s Wine Train, the ride approximates the experience of a more genteel age. Wine Train passengers relax and converse over gleaming white tablecloths, sipping chardonnay or merlot as the sunset sky paints itself across the horizon. Memorable, too, is watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the Ely train.
Built in 1905, the Nevada Northern served the area’s copper empire. It also carried children from McGill and Ruth to school in Ely, transported shoppers from outlying areas, and functioned as a commuter route for the miners. An impressive stone depot and extensive railyard – both of which survive – were constructed, and the railway was a going concern until the 1980s, when Kennecott Copper left Ely and presented the intact railroad to the city.
Passion and plans are equally ambitious for the Virginia and Truckee. Built to connect the mines of Virginia City with Carson City and Reno, the V&T ran from 1870 to 1950 as one of the grandest exemplars of time and place in Nevada history. Engines like the Empire, Inyo, Reno, and Genoa rumbled and whistled through the Comstock, brightly festooned with gold leaf and shiny brass.
The railroad’s present 2.8 mile route between Virginia City attracts as many as 70.000 riders annually. The railroad has been in operation since 1976, when rail fan Robert Gray acquired a section of the V&T’s long-dormant line connecting the two towns and began running tourist trains.

Friday, April 9, 2010

North Carolina

An early explorer once observed that “plenty and a warm sun” seemed to occasionally divert the people of North Carolina from their work. Today, they put their work ethic up against anybody else’s in the world. But they do have to admit that, even for people who’ve lived there all their lives, the stunning natural beauty of North Carolina can be pretty distracting. After all, miles of nationally protected seashore stretch unendingly along their coast, fertile farmland dotted by lakes and rivers decorates their undulating Heartland, and trees as old as America herself stand as silent sentinels in their High Country.
Time stands still along that picturesque Coast. Some of people still ply their fisherman’s trade here as they have for hundreds of years. Historic lighthouses still illuminate the way for weary travelers. Wild ponies still frolic along pristine shores once roamed by pirates like Edward Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard.
You can hear the history in that place names – Avon, Buxton, Corolla, Moyock, Salvo and Topsail. And, in the speech of the natives, you’ll hear a unique dialect that some say holds remnants of Elizabethan English with a smattering of Scots-Irish and African influence. It is a language set to the cadence of seaside life.
From Bath to Ocracoke and Beaufort to Wilmington, you are so close to history that you can taste it. The explorer Giovanni de Verrazano, who discovered grapes in the Cape Fear River Valley in 1524, through that they would yield an excellent wine. Today, visit one of many wineries and relish historic flavors.
Coastal waters teem with life. In turn, coastal restaurants teem with good food – Cape Hatteras clam chowder, Atlantic blue crab, littleneck clams and hush puppies. Many festivals – like the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City – give you a true taste of the Coast.
If history gets old, there are plenty of activities for the here and now. Beaches regularly show up on lists of the best in the world. Peer between your toes at the sun-gold sand if you seek quiet contemplation. Or, for a little more excitement, you can sea kayak, windsurf and even hang glide. From a place where time stands still, let’s move to a region where we keep time musically: the Heartland. Home of the Piedmont blues, it’s also home to jazzmen John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, country music’s Randy Travis, and pop troubadour James Taylor.
There’s a musical quality in the language here influenced by Moravian, African-American and Scots-Irish culture, as well as by the gently rolling hills. You can hear it in the works of writers and journalists like O. Henry, Charles Kuralt and Edward R. Murrow, who hail from this region.
Historic sites such as Bethabara and Old Salem reflect the Moravian culture. Pembroke and the Town Creek Indian Mound site speak volumes about the centuries of Native American civilization in the Heartland.
Towns like Aberdeen and Fayetteville are linked to Scots-Irish past, as is Pinehurst, the American home of the Scottish game of golf. The percussive sound of dimpled white orbs being smacked with woods and irons permeates the air across the Heartland.
The staccato rhythm of axes once rang through these forests, as trees were felled for still-flourishing furniture industry. These stands of Heartland timber now host nature’s chorus of birds. The throaty rumble of stock car racing, born of mountain moonshining, today fills major Heartland speedways in such places as Concord and Rockingham, not to mention the many smaller tracks around the region.
But it’s the music of commerce that sings loudest here. Charlotte, the state’s largest city and one of the nation’s top financial centers, thrums with the sounds of banking and finance. You’ll find here – and in cities like Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh – that commerce fuels cultural and entertainment offerings. While museums, the opera, the arts, symphonies and dance companies thrive in the Heartland, Mountains are for pioneers. The Cherokee nation had been in these hills for years before Hernando de Soto explored the area in 1540. Moravian Bishop August Spangenburg investigated the region in the 1750s, and Daniel Boone lived here from 1760 to 1769.
Today, the highest peaks east of the Mississippi still issue pioneers a challenge: Climb us; explore hidden, misty coves; look for whitewater adventure; find yourself. A great place to start your journey of discovery is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This black ribbon of road runs 252 miles balanced precariously atop Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. Natural scenic wonders abound – the spring wildflowers, the fall migration of monarch butterflies and the awesome views from Mount Mitchell. And, not too far off the parkway is America’s oldest river, incongruously called the New River.
You can get a real taste of pioneer life at places like the Brinegar Cabin. Or just listen to mountain music to learn of the joys and the heartbreak experienced by early settlers. The music lives on today in the flat picking of the legendary Doc Watson and can be heard at events like MerleFest.
The land of Cherokee is at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Step back in time at Oconaluftee Indian Village, where Cherokee artisans demonstrate their centuries old crafts. Take advantage of their special knowledge of these hills on hunting or fishing expeditions with a Cherokee guide.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Golf in West Virginia

To create a mountain course, an architect must summon all of his imagination and physical resources and still, in the end, accept the fact that he is a minor collaborator with Nature. Every mountain course carries the unique signature of the mountain as well as the man.
For more than 120 years, notable architects have been testing their mettle in West Virginia’s hills. Their works vary widely in character and setting – from the garden-like perfection of a world-class resort to a former coal mine site; from the natural simplicity of resort state parks to the urban fringes of cities and towns; from rocky ridges to sheltered river valleys.
Whenever and wherever you play in the Mountain State, the course is likely to be cooler and less humid than most in the Mid-Atlantic Region. And the mountains are always eager to put on a show, dressing their rock outcroppings in greens and multi-colored flowers in summer, then upsetting the paint pots come fall.
One of the most dramatic mountain courses in the East lies in the Potomac Highlands.
Christened Hawthorne Valley when designer Gary Player cut the ribbon in 1993, The Raven course at Snowshoe Mountain is now the flagship of Intrawest Corporation’s resort golf courses. Player made exuberant use of the terrain, stacking huge stones to create spectacular Cliffside greens and tees perched high above tipsy fairways. Ravines, woods and rock walls lace the route, and an errant ball is often a lost ball.
Also in the Potomac Highlands, in a high-mountain bowl near Davis, is Canaan Valley Resort State Park. The resort’s Geoffrey Cornish – designed course is wide, flat and spare of contrived hazards, but it has many subtleties and seven holes where water threatens.
To the south of Snowshoe in the New River / Greenbrier Valley are three beautiful valley courses at The Greenbrier, which the readers of Conde Nast Traveler recently voted the top golf resort in the world. Designed by Charles Blair MacDonald, the 90-year-old Old White Course is like the resort itself – friendly, open, and a classic – with wide fairways and sweeping vistas. The Greenbrier course, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus for the 1979 international Ryder Cup, also hosted the 1994 Solheim Cup. Timeless and tough, the route is deviously bunkered with quick, shallow greens. In 1999, the rerouted and upgraded Lakeside Course became the Meadow Course. This also made room for the Sam Snead Academy, a superbly staffed facility combining the John Jacobs’ teaching approach with the homespun wisdom of the late, great Snead, the resort’s golf pro emeritus, until his death in 2002.
Few resorts can claim a more dramatic setting than Pipestem Resort State Park, also in the New River / Greenbrier Valley Region near Hinton. The resort sits on the edge of a plateau above the rugged Bluestone River Gorge. Pipestem’s Geoffrey Cornish layout takes advantage of the resort’s panoramas and lush forest.
Southwest of Pipestem is Twin Falls Resort State Park, and its short (5.987 yards) but captivating course. A Cornish creation redesigned in 1982 by Cobb, the layout follows a mountain stream, incorporating water on 15 holes.
A coal company reclamation project in southern Mingo County near Wharncliffe has transformed an old mining site into the Twisted Gun Golf Course. Situated on a lofty plateau and clothed in bent grass, the course has a Scottish feel to it and is a worthy addition to golf in the area.
The Mountain Lakes region got its first major golf course in 2002, an Arnold Palmer creation at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, near the childhood home of the Civil War Legend. Tight, hilly and well-treed, the 7.149-yard Stonewall Jackson course meanders around and over sections of the 2.650-acre lake.
Stonewall Jackson is Palmer’s second project in the state. In the Northern Panhandle, his three-year-old course at Oglebay Resort State Park has been the perfect complement to the venerable Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout and the 5.670-yard Crispin Course. Oglebay is a golfer’s panacea, also offering a par three course and a lighted driving range.
Mountaineer Country is home to two ridge-running layouts at Morgantown’s Lakeview Resort and Conference Center. The narrow fairways of the Lakeview Course skirt the cliffs above Cheat Lake, providing several great overlooks and a dramatic 474-foot vertical drop from the tee on the seventh hole. The Brian Ault – designed Mountain view is a pleasant roller coaster following a narrow, wooded route.
The Eastern Panhandle, with its easy access from the Baltimore / Washington area, has several diverse and notable links. Chief among them is the Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout at Cacapon Resort State Park, a 6.000-acre sliver of land between two mountain ranges just south of Berkeley Springs. The 28-year-old, heavily bunkered classic winds through the foothills of the Cacapon Mountain ridge. To the east is The Wood Resort, a mountain hideaway with two worthy courses. Mountain View occupies a plateau with constant vistas of Third Hill Mountain, while Stoney Lick rises and falls with the vagaries of a ravine-cut landscape. Cross Creek is Shepherdstown, Locust Hill in Charles Town and Stonebridge in Martinsburg are local links with strong appeal.
On a final note, history of organized golf clubs in the United States had its roots in West Virginia at the 1884 Oakhurst Links near The Greenbrier. On this restored nine-hole gem, golfers can still tee up a gutta percha ball on a dollop of sand, and strike it with ancient wooden clubs across a sheep-mown fairway. But if you prefer the modern game, there are nearly 50 venues where you can tee it up in the Mountain State.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Egypt – Luxor

Luxor is 670 km from Cairo, it is the world’s greatest outdoor museum, riched in awe-inspiring monuments of ancient civilization. It was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, it was called “Waset” which means “mace” to express the extreme authority of this city, then the name was changed to Thebes and Homer described it as “City of the Hundred Gates”. Its recent name, Al-Oqsor, which means “The City of Palaces” named by Arabs when they dazzled with its palaces and temples which are still survived by the virtue of its granite and sandstone buildings.
The River Nile divided El-Oqsor into two banks. On the East Bank, the City of Living, Luxor and Karnak Temples greet the sunrise. The sunset on the West Bank throws shadows through the City of the Dead: the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut’s Temple, etc.
Today, you can walk through history; to see one third of the world monuments. Ride on a horse-drawn carriage, sail in a felucca, take a sunset cruise or see the city from a hot-air balloon.
Luxor Temple is located in the downtown beside the comiche. It was constructed for the worship of god Amon Ra whose marriage anniversary to his wife (Mut) was celebrated once a year. The construction of the temple dates back to Amenhotep III and Ramses II, the entrance of the temple is a huge pylon constructed by Ramses II. It includes two huge statues representing the king seated. Two obelisks precede the temple, one of them still exists and the other is erected at Concorde Square in Paris. This temple is also famous for its huge columns which end with the shape of papyrus plant, its fa├žade is decorated with inscriptions tell the story of Qadesh battle between Ramses II and Hetties.
Karnak Temples is a complex of temples, it is 3 km from Luxor Temple, known to the ancient Egyptians as “Iput-Isut”, the most imposing of places, Karnak Temples are built on a massive scale. The temple complex covers a hundred acres; its history spans throughout thirteen centuries.
The temples start with the Avenue of Rams which representing god Amon: (symbol of fertility and growth). Beneath the rams’ heads, small statues of Ramses II were carved. This complex consistes of three temples, the biggest part of it dedicated to god “Amon”, the smallest part was for god “khunsu”, Thebes god, but the southern part was for goddess “Mut”.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Egypt – Red Sea coast

Egypt’s Red Sea coast runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Sudanese border for 1080 km. It is one of the God magnificent endowment and its name dates back to the red mountain chains which extended on its sides. Monks seeking seclusion founded early Christian monasteries here, sharing the wilderness with Bedouin tribes. Today, the crags and valleys of the Eastern Desert remain relatively unexplored, home to herds of ibex and gazelle. But the Red Sea itself, dotted with coral reefs, fringed by ancient ports, abounding in underwater life, has a rich maritime history which stretches back through centuries.
The thermal winds that once speed clippers to the east still bring thousands of migrating birds to the shores of the Red Sea, making it a paradise for bird-watchers. Today, the ancient ports are well-known for some of the best diving and fishing resorts in the world. Sunbathers relax on white sand beaches, or find shade in the mangrove lagoons that line the coast, while snorkelers explore the underwater wonders of the Red Sea remains: a living tapestry of vibrant corals and exotic fish, waiting for you to discover its secrets.
Hurghada is 395 km south of Suez, about 500 km from Cairo and is noted for its magnificent summer and winter climate. The clarity of its water made it a centre of tourist attraction especially for divers and practicing water sports because of the worldwide fame of its coral reefs and the rare marine life it enjoys. Visitors can watch the exquisite underwater marine life through well-equipped glass bottom submarines with the most modern international technology. Hurghada has a large number of hotels and tourist resorts of different categories, as well as equipped diving centers offering facilities for aquatic sports, in addition to restaurants and bazaars. There is also the Aquarium which houses the most wonderful marine species especially the mermaid.
Safaga is 65 km south of Hurghada. It is a marine port connected by a regular cruise shuttle service line with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Safaga city is considered one of the most important therapeutic tourist centers as special medical researchers have proved the potential of attracting international tourism to Safaga. The resort is reputable for its unpolluted atmosphere, black sand-dunes and mineral springs which have acquired specific characteristics for the remedy of rheumatoid and psoriasis.
Marsa Alam is situated 270 km south of Hurghada. It is suitable place for fishing and diving. Due to its proximity to Luxor, it is considered a big tourist centre which gives the tourist a chance to visit the important archaeological sites and enjoy with the fascinating Red Sea and its beautiful beaches.
The international airport of Marsa Alam had been inaugurated with the BOT system which receives charter flights and also the International Anchorage of Ras Ghareb which located about 5 km to the north of Marsa Alam, and is well equipped to receive local and international yachts up to 1000 yachts of different size ranging to 60 m long and 4 m deep.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Plovdiv Bulgaria

Ancient history
Plovdiv is one of the most ancient towns not only in Bulgaria, but also in Europe. It was a contemporary of Troy and far exceeded the system of chronology in Rome, Athens and Constantinople. Its system of chronology started as far back as 6 000 BC with the formation of some Neolithic settlements that existed until the Bronze era. From the year 2 000 BC on, the settlement of Nebet hillock was surrounded by a stone wall and some 1 000 years later was established the most ancient town in the region – Evmolpiya. It stretched over 82 acres and encompassed the present Three-Hillock and the archaeological traits of the constructions from that time can still be seen today. The later history of the town was connected with the Roman Emperor Phillip II – 341 BC and the Thracian king Sevt III. From the 1st century BC the town was included in the Roman Province of Thracia. It than became known as Pulpudeva, Philipopolis, Trimontzium. More than a century later, it turned into a metropolis with the right to cut coins. The preserved ruins of the Stadium for 30 000 people, theatre, Forum, temples, stronghold wall, two aqueducts of 23 kilometers in length are all symbols of its flourishing history.

Middle ages
After the subsequent destructions by Huns and Goths, from the north towards Thracian came the Slavs and the Bulgarian armies of Khan Krum reached in the year 812. Plovdiv was under Bulgarian rule at the time of prince Malamir. In the year of 970 Prince Vladimir of Kiev destroyed the town. In the XI-XII centuries Plovdiv was under Byzantine rule. In the year of 1189, the armies of the Third Crusade leaded by Fridrich I Barbarossa remained for six months. The fourth Crusade settled the so-called “Plovdiv Dukedom” in the year of 1204. Only a year after the victory of the Bulgarian king Kaloyan the town fell prey to the Byzantines and then to the Latin’s. This struggle continued from 1206 until 1344. A few decades later the armies of the Ottoman sultans entered.

Revival
The 18th and 19th centuries turned Plovdiv into a centre of the Bulgarian National Revival. Until this day, when one starts climbing the Three-Hillock area on the side of the Djumaya mosque one needs to make only a few steps on the cobbled streets, before he/she gets into the Bulgarian National Revival atmosphere of Ancient Plovdiv. Up to the famous Hissar Gate, one can see many houses and churches, all unique in their own names – the house of Hindliyan, Balabanov, Kuyumdjiev, and in the latter is located the Ethnographic museum and in its yard is held the International Festival of Chamber Music. One can also be captured by the enormous beauty of the ancient church “St Constantine and Elena” and the Cathedral temple “St Mother of God”. It is now clear to see why Ancient Plovdiv was honored with the UNESCO gold medal for contributions in the cultural monuments preservation.

Ancient theatre
It was found by chance, only a few decades ago, while executing strengthening work upon the southern stronghold wall. The Antique Theatre unfolded for the audience an impressive construction of the Roman times. The amphitheatre consists of two or three rings of 14 rows, each with the capacity to host close to 7 000 spectators. A curious fact is that the names of the town headquarters have been carved onto the benches of each sector. The stage is on two levels with rich architecture and decoration. After all the exhausting restoration work and conservation it has been turned today into the Antique Theatre of Plovdiv, a cultural focus for a great number of Bulgarian and foreign festivals, concerts and spectacles. Its most common everyday function is as a place for relaxation for tired tourists who can sit on the benches and enjoy the magnificent panoramic view.

Under the Hillocks
From the Three-Hillock area one has the opportunity to see that Plovdiv has three other big hills around it – Bunardjik, Sahat Hill and Djendem Hill. In the past there was also a smaller hill, called Markovo Hill. Beside the hills is the large river “Maritza”. A walk alongside its bridges will bring you into the newest part of the city, or in front of the gates of the Plovdiv Fair. Plovdiv can show you many more sites of interest – the Archaeological museum with invaluable antique collections of the Museum of the Unification, dated back to 1885 when the Kingdom of Bulgaria joined Eastern Roumelia, the rich Arts gallery, the exposition of “Zlatyo Boyadjiev”, the church “St Marina”, the Catholic church “St Ludwig” from 1863. Passing through the tranquility of the Town Garden formed by Swiss gardeners in the beginning of the last century you will find yourselves in the bustling and most favorite place for the citizens of Plovdiv – the pedestrian Main street.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New York City on bike

Bicycles is one of the best ways to explore new cities and places. It is pretty comfortable and yet relatively fast. Nowadays NYC is considered to be bicycle friendly city and each year more and more people prefer bicycle to explore this amazing city. Central Park, Hudson River bicycle path, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge cannot be walked, but on bike one can explore them in one day. Just choose sunny day and make sure you bring your camera with you! For those who prefer guided tours we encourage to take on of NYC bike tours. Joining international groups is a lot of fun! Central Park bike tours , Brooklyn Bridge tours are probably the most famous. For those who prefer make their own plan you can choose of NYC bike rentals companies. Weekends are probably the best time to ride NYC. There is not so much traffic and if the weather is good it will be really unforgettable experi ence. If you looking for some thing new try Central Park Pedicab Tours . It's remarkable way to explore Central Park. Whatever way you choose don't miss New York City, it is truly phenomenal place which is worth visiting!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wines of Cyprus

With a history of wine making going back to at least 2000 BC, it is hardly surprising that the Cypriots know more than a thing or two about viticulture. In the past, Cyprus’ wine was considered to be so delectable that the Pharoahs of Egypt consumed it, King Solomon praised it in his poems and its fine quality did not go unnoticed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. In fact, great wines such as Madeira, Masala and Hungarian Tokey are said to have originated from transplanted Cyprus wines. Today in Cyprus, grapes still play a major part in agriculture. With the reliable climate of long, hot summers to ripen the grapes, it is not surprising that vines thrive. But up until thirty years ago all the wine was made from just two grape types, Mavro, a black grape for red wine, and Xynisteri for white wine. Since the 1950’s the Government has introduced a range of new grapes to Cyprus and the customer can now choose between a large range of wines from light sparkling whites to full bodied red wines. The vast majority of grapes grown in Cyprus are processed by four large ultra modern wineries in Limassol – Keo, Etko, Loel and Sodap. Experts in oenology monitor the progress of the grapes from the first pressing up to the ageing of the bottled wines in isothermic cellars. But there are some breakaway groups of wine producers who are practicing wine making on a smaller scale, and many villages now produce and market their own wines as do some of the monasteries. The most ancient wine of Cyprus is undoubtedly the wine now as Commandaria, which, in the distant past, was consumed in great quantities at the springtime festivals of Aphrodite. The world’s oldest named wine, Commandaria derived its name from the Grand, Commandarie a huge estate at Kolossi belonging to the Knights Hospitallers of the 12th -14th centuries. Richard the Lionheart enjoyed the wine so much that he called it “The Wine of Kings and the King of Wines”. Commandaria is a sweet dessert wine, and is made in a designated region in the foothill mountain villages of the southern Troodos range. The grapes are picked late and dried in the sun to enchance their sugar content and give the wine that mature, almost burnt flavor. Peculiar to Cyprus, Commandaria is certainly worth a taste, but then so are so many of the Cyprus wines, and at very reasonable prices, so I suggest you try a range. Stin iya sou, skol, health to you… the wine industry in Cyprus is definitely looking rosy.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Get Europe Travel and Tourism Information at the Europe Traveler Site

This is a new site that seems to have potential to become a useful resource for tourists who visit Europe. It covers all kinds of spots and places in Europe that may be of interest for travelers. The site seems to be updated regularly with new content, so the resources will probably keep growing.If someone is interested in Europe as a travel destination but needs specific information, such as England travel tips, information on Spanish travel attractions, or information on flights and hotels, this may be a good place to check out: Europe Traveler - Tourism Information on European Travel Destinations.