Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for May, 2018

Russia’s Underwater Showplace

By Linda Tancs

In the shadow of the Ural Mountains in Russia’s Perm region you’ll find Orda Cave, the largest gypsum underwater cave in the world. The clarity of its waters afforded by the gypsum makes it a diver’s paradise, but, due to its maze-like quality and freezing temperatures, the inexperienced flippered spelunker need not apply. Ongoing discovery makes its total length a moving target, but 15,000 feet is a fair estimate.

City of a Hundred Spires

By Linda Tancs

Prague is known as the City of a Hundred Spires, its UNESCO-designated landscape in the Czech Republic dotted with spired churches. Its historic heart is in Old Town, bursting with Baroque buildings, Gothic churches and an astronomical clock. Drawing wonder for over 600 years, the clock adorns the southern wall of Old Town City Hall and gives an hourly performance featuring 12 apostles passing by the window above the astronomical dial and the movement of symbolic sculptures.

 

Dynastic Splendor in Spain

By Linda Tancs

In Granada, Spain, a Moorish structure known worldwide is Alhambra. Alhambra means “red” in Arabic, defining the color of the outer bricks comprising this symbol of Granada that served as a palace and a fortress for its Muslim occupants. Resting atop a hilly terrace, the views from there are commanding, and there are plenty of sights within the complex that are worth visiting. Don’t miss the Court of the Lions and its 124 thin, white marble columns or the vaulted ceiling of the Hall of Ambassadors in Nasrid Palace, the one area of Alhambra requiring a timed ticket entry. After your visit to the palace grounds, spend some time relaxing in the Generalife (often translated as “Garden of the Architect”), one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens in the world.

Tokyo’s Oldest Temple

By Linda Tancs

Asakusa Kannon temple complex, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan, is one of the city’s most colorful and popular temples. Kannon is the goddess of mercy, and legend has it that two fishermen fished her statue from the waters and returned it from whence it came, only to have it come back to them again and again. The shrine was thereafter built in her honor. You’ll enter through two gates to the five-storied pagoda and main building of the complex. In between these two gates is a large souvenir arcade where you can purchase items such as traditional Japanese fans or sample a local cake filled with red bean paste. Be sure to look upwards at the ceilings in the temple buildings for some beautiful murals.

Little Big Town in Wales

By Linda Tancs

Hay-on-Wye is a Welsh market town nestled along the English border. It’s little in size (you can walk it in around 20 minutes) but big on books—really big, considering there are more than 30 bookstores, many specializing in out of print or hard to locate titles. No wonder, then, why it’s called the Town of Books. Today marks the start of one of the signature events of the year, Hay Festival. Running through June 3, the extravaganza comprises over 600 events featuring writers, artists, academics, thinkers and performers selected by the program committee. Special festival bus service linking Hay with trains and coaches at Hereford’s train and bus stations and Worcester Crowngate Bus Station runs for the duration of the event.

Seeing Green on the Big Island

By Linda Tancs

Hawaii has more naturally colored beaches than anywhere else, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that verdant landscaping is not limited to lush tropical forestry. Indeed, just head to Papakolea (popularly known as Green Sand Beach) for a matcha-like heap of sandy shore formed thousands of years ago from an eruption resulting in volcanic olivine silicate crystals. Not too far from South Point (the southernmost point in the United States) on Hawaii’s Big Island, the beach is accessible via a vigorous two-and-a-half-mile hike.

A Heavenly Estate in the Forest of Dean

By Linda Tancs

Best known for its gardens and Roman temple complex, Lydney Park is a 17th-century country estate surrounding Lydney House, located at Lydney in the Forest of Dean district in Gloucestershire, England. You might call it a heavenly place, given that its ownership descends from William Bathurst, a composer of church hymns. Open only from April to June (and some select days thereafter), the spring gardens are abloom with flowering cherries, magnolias, scented spring flowering shrubs, azaleas and rhododendrons, to name a few. Excavation on the estate in 1805 also exposed evidence of settlements dating back to 100 B.C., a Norman castle and extensive ruins of a Roman camp including a temple.

The Jordan Trail

By Linda Tancs

The Jordan Trail is a continuous route crossing the entire country of Jordan, offering over 403 miles of trails through diverse terrains and landscapes. From Um Qais in the north to the Red Sea in the south, it flows alongside the Great Rift Valley, overlooking rugged wadis and cliffs, breathtaking scenery and archaeological monuments. If the route sounds intimidating, then take advantage of the groups and companies leading hikes. Nevertheless, a complete through-hike is physically demanding; take that into account when planning your journey.

Frozen in Norway

By Linda Tancs

If you’re a fan of Disney’s Frozen, then you might know that the fictional locale Arendelle got its name from Norway’s southern city, Arendal. The picturesque archipelago even has its own Elsa look-alike. That’s not the only thing that will please the kids. There’s also the opportunity to practice endless science experiments at the Science Centre along the pier. Arendal (as well as Grimstad and Tvedestrand) even hosts Southern Norway’s first national park, Raet, which contains visible traces of the ice age around 12,000 years ago.

Austin’s Ivory Tower

By Linda Tancs

One of the oldest art museums in Texas, the Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin is a crème-colored limestone castle set in a field amidst a palette of native flowering plants. The idyllic setting is but a prelude to the interior’s magnificent collection of the works of sculptress Elisabet Ney, a German immigrant who produced sculptures of legendary Texans like Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Ney also retrieved and assembled portraits of European notables, including King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Otto von Bismarck, Arthur Schopenhauer, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Jacob Grimm. The plaster replicas of her works abide at the castle while their marble companions are located in sites all over Texas and at the Smithsonian and the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. The museum’s collection of art and personal effects also boasts over 50 of the 100 statues, busts and medallions executed by Ney. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum offers a range of educational programs, exhibits, special events, workshops and lectures throughout the year.

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