Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for March, 2016

In the Heart of Horse Country

By Linda Tancs

In the heart of horse and bourbon country in Lexington, Kentucky, is Gratz Park. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and a historic district, it’s named after early Lexington businessman Benjamin Gratz. Other luminaries who once graced this area north of Main Street include Mary Todd Lincoln, Horace Holley and horseman John Gaines. Colorful houses from the 1800s join stately dwellings like the Hunt-Morgan House, built for millionaire businessman John Wesley Hunt. His great-grandson Thomas Hunt Morgan was the first Kentuckian to win a Nobel Prize for medicine. The home is also the site of the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum, a great resource for Civil War researchers and enthusiasts.

A Goliath in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

In New Jersey, a Sussex County zoo held the Guinness World Record from 1967 to 1991 for the world’s largest bear in captivity. That was Goliath, a Kodiak weighing 2,000 pounds and standing 12 feet tall. He still greets visitors to Space Farms—stuffed, of course. But nowadays it’s the live action that keeps visitors coming back. Boasting more than 500 wild animals (including more than 100 species), the countryside zoo in Beemerville hosts bobcats, tigers,  lions, buffalo, hyena, wild ponies, timber wolves, foxes, bears, deer, leopards, monkeys, jaguars, coyotes, llamas, yaks, snakes and hundreds more. Internationally famous for their bear and lion cub breeding programs, Space Farms has the largest private collection of North American animals in their natural surroundings in the United States.

Europe’s Oldest Ghetto

By Linda Tancs

Five hundred years ago today the rulers of Italy’s Venetian Republic created a ghetto for Jews in the city. Europe’s oldest ghetto, its occupants were subject to harsh laws governing their freedom to leave the community and to practice a profession. Emancipation followed over two centuries later when Napoleon conquered Venice. Still relatively intact, the area has five synagogues and a museum.

Light City USA

By Linda Tancs

The light (no pun intended) shines on Baltimore, Maryland, today through April 3 as the city hosts the first large-scale, international light festival in the United States. Light City is a premiere event, a festival of light, music and innovation. During the day a series of conferences will explore social, medical and ecological innovation; lights, performances and live music will enliven the Inner Harbor at night. Featured art includes glacier-like installations, floating lights, interactive sculptures and 1,001 LUX, a large scale video project that uses light forms such as fireworks, car lights, flashlights, candles, torches, cigarettes, the sun, the moon, the stars and lightning with self-produced sound material.

An Open Door in Wisconsin

By Linda Tancs

Resembling the jagged blade of a knife, Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay. Its sandy reefs and shoals present a hazard for mariners, especially around the treacherous strait between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island. The number of shipwrecks in this area accounts for its moniker, Death’s Door. It should come as no surprise, then, that lighthouses adorn the area. Some are accessible during the summer months. But three (at Plum, Pilot and Chambers islands) can be reached only during Door County Maritime Museum’s annual Lighthouse Festival in June. Those opportunities include a highly anticipated cruise through the middle of Death Door’s Passage to a tour of the ruins of an 1848 lighthouse, a visit to an 1868 lighthouse and a hike to the 1837 Pottawatomie Light (Wisconsin’s oldest). Tickets for these three tours go on sale the first week of April and sell out quickly.

Meatballs and Fries

By Linda Tancs

An important political center in medieval Europe, Liège is a historic Belgian city on the Meuse River. It abounds with puppets, feasts and legends—as well as an ample supply of meatballs and fries (boulets à la liégeoise). The most traditional dish from the region, it comprises meatballs prepared with pork and beef along with fries and a sweet sauce (a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions and a local gin). Spend Sunday like a native and have a platter after visiting La Batte, a Sunday institution (the largest and oldest market in Belgium) stretching over a mile with colorful stalls offering fruit, cheeses, clothes, flowers and local products.

A Devil of a Place

By Linda Tancs

Tasmania, an isolated island state off Australia’s south coast, is widely known as the home of the Tasmanian Devil. Reputation aside, this shy creature is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial since the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger in 1936. But there’s so much more to this island nation than its protected inhabitant. Consider Hobart, Tasmania’s historic waterfront capital. It comes alive each Saturday at Salamanca Market, an outdoor market set between plane trees and sandstone facades of historic warehouses that draws hordes of tourists and locals. More sandstone is on display at Battery Point, the city’s oldest suburb, accessible via the 175-year-old Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca. In addition to beautiful sandstone mansions, you’ll see colonial cottages and delight in impressive river views.

New Jersey’s Wild Spring

By Linda Tancs

Part of the Delaware River floodplain, Bulls Island Recreation Area in Stockton, New Jersey, is a wild place each spring. Specifically, it’s a hotspot for migration. Watch out for 32 species of warbler, along with vireos, swallows, flycatchers and gulls. Another thing blooming this time of year is the ostrich fern. Its unfurled frond appears now as fiddlehead. Although protected in this area, cooked fiddleheads are a wild spring delicacy.

Into Thin Air in Austria

By Linda Tancs

The best way to climb the majestic Nordkette mountain range (the heart of Innsbruck, Austria) is to step onboard the Nordkettenbahnen (cable car). The futuristic Hungerburgbahn hybrid funicular railway travels through a tunnel, then over an imposing bridge across the Inn River, and finally traverses an incline of 46 percent to reach the Hungerburg, over 2,800 feet above sea level. If the panoramas from the spacious gondolas don’t meet your requirements, then continue on to the final stage of the Nordkettenbahnen, the Hafelekarbahn. It takes you from Seegrube to Hafelekar, a 7,400-foot-high summit that promises 350 days of cloud-free views a year.

The Pilgrims’ Pride

By Linda Tancs

South of Amsterdam and a short distance from The Hague, Leiden is home to the Netherlands’ oldest university and the birthplace of Rembrandt. An often overlooked part of its history, however, is its role as host to the Pilgrims (of Mayflower fame). Indeed, it is in Leiden where a group of English Calvinists settled after fleeing persecution in their homeland, thereafter setting sail for Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their story is told at the American Pilgrim Museum in the city center.

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