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Archive for October, 2018

The House of Houdini

By Linda Tancs

Hungarian-born Harry Houdini is arguably the greatest magician and escape artist of all time. Born as Erik Weisz in Budapest, the House of Houdini there boasts one of the largest collections of the magician’s artifacts. The display includes handcuffs, straitjackets, movie posters and a replica of the cell he escaped from in his final show. The museum, which includes a theater for magic acts, is located at the foot of Buda Castle.

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An Encounter With an Ark

By Linda Tancs

Noah’s ark is the storied vessel discussed in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, built by Noah to save his family and a menagerie from a world-engulfing flood. While scientists debate the existence of the real McCoy at Mount Ararat in Turkey, you can witness your own real-life model of the life-saving ship at the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Kentucky. The museum features a full-size ark, built according to the dimensions given in the Bible, spanning 510 feet in length, 85 feet in width and 51 feet in height. Built from standing dead timber by skilled Amish craftsmen, the ark contains three decks of exhibits, including life-like animal sculptures. The site also includes exotic live animals from around the world in Ararat Ridge Zoo.

Taming the Wild West

By Linda Tancs

Charles E. Conrad played an impressive role in taming the Wild West. Together with his brother William, Charles established a shipping and freighting empire in Fort Benton, Montana Territory, that eventually became the most important transportation center in Montana with routes extending north into Canada and as far west as Walla Walla, Washington Territory. When the advent of the railroad hindered their progress, Charles founded the city of Kalispell, Montana, a tiny frontier town that proved hospitable for the construction of a dream home. The palatial Conrad residence is a 13,000 square foot, shingle-style home with a Norman period interior boasting 26 rooms and eight sandstone fireplaces. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Conrad Mansion Museum preserves and exhibits the Conrad family estate through docent-led public tours, educational programs and community events.

Holland’s Highest Tower

By Linda Tancs

The Dutch city of Utrecht was built around the Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in Holland at 367 feet. Undoubtedly an iconic symbol for this centuries-old university town, the tower has survived violent storms, occupations by foreign powers and fires. Its 14 bells are still rung by hand in the “ringing attic.” No doubt you’ll hear them along the city’s beautiful canals with wharf cellars housing cafés and terraces by the water.

A Christmas Treat Down Under

By Linda Tancs

Christmas doesn’t normally conjure thoughts of tropical equatorial climates unless, of course, you’re visiting Christmas Island. Just a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, the Australian territory northwest of Perth is largely a national park. It’s perhaps best known for its native wildlife, particularly the imposing bright red crab. At the beginning of the wet season (usually between October and November), most adult red crabs suddenly begin a spectacular migration by the millions from the forest to the coast to breed and release eggs into the sea, a process that can last up to 18 days. Movement peaks during cooler hours, early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Talk about a red carpet!

Medieval Splendor in France

By Linda Tancs

Château d’Angers, a medieval fortress in Angers, France, is a massive fortification in schist and limestone. Punctuated by 17 towers, it extends over 1,600 feet, surrounded by gardens large enough to complement its size. The gardens include the usual box trees and yews, as well as a vineyard, vegetable garden, rose garden, hydrangea garden at the royal dwelling, the hanging garden with medicinal and tincture plants and a number of species depicted on the Apocalypse Tapestry. A magnificent work of art, the tapestry is based on the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. Like every other part of the castle, its scope is grand, measuring 338 feet in length and nearly 15 feet in width. Once the property of René of Anjou (of the ducal line who occupied the fortress in the 14th and 15th centuries), the tapestry is situated in a specially-lit room to preserve it.

Ireland’s Medieval Mile

By Linda Tancs

The colorful hues and commercial comforts along High Street in Kilkenny belie the city’s storied past as the medieval capital of Ireland. You’ll learn all about that on the Medieval Mile, a discovery trail running through the heart of the city linking St. Canice’s Cathedral (the second longest in the country) and a stunning Anglo-Norman castle. South of Dublin, Kilkenny is named after St. Canice (Cill Chainnigh – Canice’s Church), who founded a sixth century monastic settlement. The Round Tower beside the cathedral offers fantastic views over the city. At the center of it all is the new Medieval Mile Museum, located in a converted 13th century church featuring medieval sculpture and Renaissance-era tombs.

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