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Archive for short reads

A Pristine Paradise in Micronesia

By Linda Tancs

Located in the western Pacific Ocean, Palau is a pristine paradise, and the locals intend to keep it that way by implementing the Palau Pledge. It’s the world’s first conservation pledge that is stamped in passports; visitors sign a declaration to protect the local environment and culture for the next generation. That environment includes native forests and mangroves that are the most species-diverse in Micronesia with 1,400 species of plants and an estimated 194 endemic plant species, including 23 endemic species of orchids. You’ll also find phenomena like the Rock Islands (collections of largely uninhabited, mushroom-shaped islets housing one of the world’s greatest concentrations of coral and marine life) and Jellyfish Lake, where two types of resident jellyfish have completely lost their sting because they have not had to fight off predators.

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Gingerbread Town

By Linda Tancs

Your experience with gingerbread might be of the gastronomical kind, but in Norway there’s a full-blown miniature city made of the seasonal fare. Think of it as an edible Legoland. Dubbed the world’s biggest gingerbread city, Gingerbread Town in Bergen has been constructed every year since 1991 by thousands of volunteers. The city contains everything from tiny homes to local landmarks, trains, cars, boats and international signature buildings. It’s open throughout the month and, not surprisingly, you can buy cookies there.

Legendary Lights in Ohio

By Linda Tancs

What do 4 million Christmas lights look like? Like a blanket of color. Just head on over to historic Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio, and see for yourself. One of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence, the original mill at the site was built in 1802 by Owen Davis, a Revolutionary War soldier and frontiersman miller. During the Christmas season, the mill, along with the gorge, riverbanks, trees and bridge, sparkle and glow, together with a synchronized lights and music show that features the old covered bridge. Go during the week to avoid the weekend crowds.

A Geological Enigma in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

One of the oldest mines in the United States, Sterling Hill was first worked before the 1730s, a source of local employment for residents of Ogdensburg, New Jersey. It is one of the most famous mines in the world and a geological enigma, with 350 different mineral species found there (a world record for such a small area) and more than two dozen of those found nowhere else on Earth. Closed in 1986, it was the last operating mine in the state and produced 11 million tons of zinc ore. It’s also famous for the abundance of mineral species documented as fluorescent, highly coveted by collectors. Named to both the state and national registers of historic places, guided tours last about two hours and include one hour in the underground zinc mine, 30 minutes in the large exhibit hall and about 10 minutes in the museum of fluorescence. Mineral collecting is also available amidst 200 tons of high-grade zinc ore, much of which contains fluorescent mineral.

Sponge Capital of the World

By Linda Tancs

Known for its Greek culture, Tarpon Springs is a city along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Just 45 minutes north of St. Petersburg, the locale is named for the fish found in abundance in nearby waters. Greek eateries line the waterfront, a legacy of the sponge divers who settled there in the early 1900s. Walk along Dodecanese Boulevard to see docked sponge boats and shops selling sea sponges, a tribute to the city’s status as sponge capital of the world. A bit quieter is the historic downtown district, where art galleries, antique stores and specialty shops are housed in buildings dating from the late 1800s.

The Great North Road

By Linda Tancs

You might think of the U.K.’s Great North Road as the nation’s version of iconic Route 66 in the United States—only with a lot more history attached. It was the only way of traveling the 409 miles between London and Edinburgh for centuries until it was subsumed into the A1 (the longest numbered road in Britain) and other motorways of today. In prehistoric times it comprised part of the network of Roman roads: Ermine Street led from London to York, and Dere Street from York to Edinburgh. The ancient route is lined today with rusting mile markers; its cultural significance is marked by literary giants like Charles Dickens, a frequent traveler who gave it a nod in The Pickwick Papers. There’s even an old street sign inside the rock at Gibraltar where a vehicle tunnel was dug.

A Shrunken Head in Memphis

By Linda Tancs

One of the most enduring landmarks in Memphis, Tennessee, the Pink Palace Museum hosts an eclectic mix of artifacts bearing historical, educational and technological significance. For instance, you’ll find a life-size replica of the first Piggly Wiggly store, the forerunner to today’s self-service grocery store. That was the brainchild of grocery clerk Clarence Saunders, who later conceived of the palatial estate now hosting the museum. But perhaps the most memorable exhibit for visitors is the shrunken head sitting in the middle of the rotunda. Once owned by local businessman Abe Scharff, it was later donated to the museum and is believed to be a relic from his visits to South American tribal regions in modern-day Ecuador and Peru where head shrinking was a common practice. No one is quite sure whether the item is real, but you can read up on the process that headhunters used to get a shrunken head while you’re deciding for yourself.

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