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Plumbing the Depths in Curaçao

By Linda Tancs

Would you like to dive without the gear? If so, then head to Curaçao for your choice of submarine tours. Curasub is the island’s certified mini-submarine for tourists. It descends four times a day from Bapor Kibra to nearly 1,000 feet. Fish, coral and old shipwrecks on the way down are perfectly visible in the crystal clear waters, where passengers have a clear view with visibility of over 60 feet. Reservations are required.

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The City of Squares

By Linda Tancs

An old pop song exhorted that it’s hip to be square. They’d undoubtedly agree in Mannheim, Germany. Known as the “City of Squares,” Mannheim has exactly 144 of them. Lined up between the palace and the Neckar River, they stretch between the water tower (a beloved landmark) and Kurt Schumacher Bridge. Amidst these squares Mozart gave piano lessons to children, but the squares’ greater renown is perhaps the largest Baroque palace in Europe after Versailles. Designed to highlight the important role of the Palatine Prince Electors in the Holy Roman Empire, its grand interior includes a ceremonial staircase and knights’ hall. Guided tours in English are available by prior arrangement; audio tours are offered in English, French and German. The palace is located on Bismarckstrasse, just ten minutes away from Mannheim’s central station.

Lithuania’s Unique Cultural Heritage

By Linda Tancs

The craft and symbolism of cross-making is part of Lithuania’s heritage, recognized by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than at the Hill of Crosses, Kryžių Kalnas. Located around eight miles from the northern city of Šiauliai, this sacred pilgrimage site boasts a stunning display of about 100,000 crosses of every shape, size and substance. Its origin is unclear, but many believe that the first crosses were placed at the mound following a peasant uprising against the Russians in 1831. The site is easily accessible via a train from Vilnius to Šiauliai, where a local bus will take you to the Domantai stop nearest the hill.

A Museum Goes to the Dogs

By Linda Tancs

It’s been an ambassador for Bavaria, a hunter’s indispensable partner and a friend to nobility. We’re talking about the dachshund (“badger dog” in German), a popular dog breed worldwide. And now the first museum devoted to the breed awaits your visit in Passau, Germany. Dackelmuseum sports the 4,500-strong collection of two enthusiasts, showcasing the beloved pet’s role in history and culture. Not surprisingly, dogs are welcome visitors.

The Church of Bones

By Linda Tancs

It’s certainly not unusual for a church to have an accompanying graveyard. What is unusual is an unearthing of tens of thousands of bones—bleached, carved and arranged into decorations in the form of a chandelier, a pyramid, crosses and a coat of arms. That’s what you’ll find in an ossuary in Sedlec near Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic. It contains the remains of over 40,000 skeletons, a popular resting place owing to the sprinkling of dirt from Golgotha in the Holy Land and a subsequent expansion resulting from victims of the plagues. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, it’s about an hour away from Prague.

High Drama in Perth Amboy

By Linda Tancs

Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is a jewel in the crown of America’s colonial history. Completed in 1764, it is the only remaining official royal governor’s mansion still standing in the original 13 colonies. It became the home of William Franklin (Ben Franklin’s son) when he was appointed Royal Governor of New Jersey by King George III. Drama ensued at the mansion when Ben unsuccessfully attempted to win his son over to the Loyalists during the Revolution. William’s loyalty to the Crown was ill-fated. He lost possession of the mansion and was imprisoned in Connecticut until freed in a prisoner exchange in 1778. Nearly lost to history after decades of ruin and decay, the restored house is open for tours every Wednesday and Sunday.

Capitals of Culture in 2019

By Linda Tancs

Happy New Year! And you know what that means—another set of European Capitals of Culture! This year’s honorees are Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria). Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a history dating back to 4,000 B.C. During Roman times, it was a thriving industrial center and remains so today. Its annual International Fair is an epicenter for international business, conducted on fairgrounds representing one of the largest exhibition venues in southeastern Europe. Matera is a city on a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy. It includes the Sassi area, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Many of the caves are now hotels, bars, restaurants and homes. Take the train from Bari to Matera and explore the area on foot.

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