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Napoleonic History in Moravia

By Linda Tancs

Bounded by Bohemia on the west and northwest, by Silesia on the northeast, by Slovakia on the east and by Lower Austria on the south, Moravia is a historic region in the Czech Republic. In this land of chateaux and unique folklore you’ll find significant developments in European history, like the Battle of Austerlitz. Also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, it was a decisive engagement in the War of the Third Coalition, which was fought between the forces of Napoleonic France on one side and an alliance between the Holy Roman Empire, Russia and Austria on the other.  It represents arguably the greatest victory achieved by Napoleon, who defeated the much larger Russian and Austrian armies in December 1805 near the village of Austerlitz in modern-day Slavkov. An annual reenactment takes place between Dec. 2 and Dec. 4, featuring military camps, concerts and costumed tours of Slavkov Château by Napoleon himself.

A Treasure Chest of Science

By Linda Tancs

Located 1,000 miles south of Hawai’i, Palmyra Atoll is one of the most spectacular marine wilderness areas on Earth. Declared a national marine monument, its pristine and unoccupied environs are jointly managed by The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. As a center for scientific study, research there helps inform island conservation efforts around the world. Imagine a place where sharks still dominate the reef ecosystem, a place where over a million nesting seabirds and the rare coconut crab find refuge. Although it has never been settled, its history is nonetheless interesting. Named after an American shipwreck, it was claimed by the sovereign Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1862 and came under United States jurisdiction following the annexation of Hawai’i in 1898 (Hawai’i later entered statehood in 1959). Nonetheless, it was privately owned and even used by the U.S. Navy as an air refueling station during World War II. The Nature Conservancy acquired Palmyra from the Fullard-Leo family for $30 million in 2000. Because the atoll is specifically excluded from the State of Hawai’i, it was the only privately owned territory in the United States. These days its inclusion as part of a new national Pacific marine monument increases the amount of protected ocean wilderness surrounding Palmyra from half a million acres to 13 million acres, including nearby Kingman Reef.

Tasteful Art in Hungary

By Linda Tancs

In Ajka, Hungary, art never looked so tasteful. That’s where Hungarian artist and pastry chef Judit Czinkné Poór summons her inner Rembrandt and creates intricately designed and bedazzling cookies, often highlighted with doily designs and richly hued flowers embodying traditional folk art. Her business, Mézesmanna, arose from a love of pastry arts that takes her on worldwide expeditions teaching the tricks of her trade to motivated bakers. These treats are too good to eat, and they shouldn’t be. Although edible, Hungarian tradition is to dole them out as keepsakes for special occasions, giving a whole new spin to the notion of a sweet reminder.

A Nut in New Mexico

By Linda Tancs

Travelers along U.S. 54 between Alamogordo and Tularosa in New Mexico have an oddity to tickle their fancy. That’s where you’ll find the world’s largest pistachio. Appropriately enough, the giant-sized attraction is located at PistachioLand, a family farm featuring every take on the nut imaginable, like habanero lemon, BBQ, bacon ranch and garlic. The motorized tour of their orchards will show you how pistachios (and grapes in the vineyard) grow in their desert climate. The pistachio is one of the oldest edible nuts on the planet and is very nutritious. They’ll have some grafts for sale at the farm next February.

Art, History and Anthropology

By Linda Tancs

The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House in Ukiah, California, is an art, history and anthropology museum focusing on the life and works of artist Grace Carpenter Hudson and her ethnologist husband, Dr. John W. Hudson. The result is a treasure trove of cultural and educational resources on Western American art, California Indian cultures and the history of California’s North Coast region. Their legacy is further highlighted by their Craftsman-style home, the Sun House. In addition to their personal touches, the home sports such classic Craftsman elements as a sloping gabled roof with overhang, the sleeping porch, the use of natural redwood and stone, board-and-batten walls, burlap and monks cloth wall coverings and exposed timbers.

The Stone Chariot

By Linda Tancs

It isn’t the only stone chariot in India, but Kallina Ratha in Hampi is an architectural jewel fit for a king. In fact, it was built in the 16th century during the reign of King Krishnadevaraya, reputedly one of the greatest kings of the Vijayanagara dynasty in southern India. Located inside the Vittala Temple complex, the stone shrine is dedicated to Garuda, a half-man and half-eagle mythical being associated with Lord Vishnu. Locals believe that the world will end when the chariot moves. Let’s hope it stays put for a while.

Britain’s Oldest Manufacturer

By Linda Tancs

London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry is listed in Guinness World Records as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company. How old, however, is a matter of debate. Once thought to be established in 1570 (during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign), additional research has revealed an unbroken line of founders in Aldgate and Whitechapel back to the year 1420 (in the reign of Henry V). Regardless of its age, the world’s best known foundry on Whitechapel Road is responsible for some very big chimes. The largest bell ever cast there (in 1858) is none other than Big Ben, weighing in at 13 1/2 tons. Another famous bell hailing from the foundry is the original Liberty Bell, commissioned by order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1751 for the Statehouse in Philadelphia. Other exports followed worldwide. The foundry is open for guided tours on select Saturdays year round. Reservations are often made up to one year in advance.

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