fwt food wine travel
explore! savor! live!
europe & beyond
Tirana • Cologne • Salzburg Izmir • Vitoria-Gasteiz • Athens Umbria • Costa Brava • Savigno Burgundy • Valencia • Naoussa Müstair Valley • South India
europe & beyond
contents 10 Time Travel in Switzerland’s Müstair Valley 16 What’s Cooking in Burgundy 22 India with Intention Engaging to Embrace Ancient New Notions
depts Contributors 4 First class reporting from around the world.
From the Editor 5 Welcome to Issue Two
28 From Zeus’ Daughter to Jesus’ Mother, Gear 6 Ephesus Has Always Known How to Draw a Crowd The Road Warrior’s Secret to Staying Connected Abroad 34 A WeVisitExplore to the Greek Aegean Sea Three Enchanting Islands Bon Appétit 7 Salami and Strawberries in Hilly Nemi, Italy 40 NEW Hotel Hip Luxury in Ancient Athens Wines & Spirits 8 Wines, Wiener Schnitzel and the Viennese Heurigen 46 Discovering Naoussa A Trip to the Land of the Xinomavro Grape My Home Town 9 52 An Insightful Tour of Umbria and Tuscany St. Augustine, Florida 58 Jaume Marin Last Shot 100 The Guy Behind Costa Brava’s Tourism Success 64 A The Visit to Savigno City of Truffles Parc Guell, designed by Antoni Gaudí.
68 (shhhh) Vitoria-Gasteiz! My Contender for Europe’s Top Secret Destination 74 Paella Wars Valencia Wins! 80 Salzburg, Austria Half a Century Later Secrets from “The Sound of Music” Revealed
86 Roaming about Salzburg A Walking Tour of “The Sound of Music” Sites 92 Albania The Welcome Mat is Out 96 Cologne’s Cathedral You Really Can’t Miss It
On the Cover Val Müstair, photo by Tom Fakler
More information and links for indivudual authors at the end of each article.
Barbara Ramsay Orr
Amy Trotter Houston
Irene S. Levine
Anita Breland is an avid traveler who delights in sharing her discoveries of culinary traditions and experiences around the world.
Christine Salins is one of Australia’s most highly regarded food, wine and travel writers.
Christine Tibbetts is a veteran journalist with 40+ years in news, editorial, marketing and travel writing, bridging classical journalism with social media.
Since the late 90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine internationally.
Susanna Starr is a well-traveled and published travel writer, photographer, author, entrepreneur, speaker and artist.
An award-winning journalist and photographer, he started travel writing as an escape from the drudgery of being an aerospace engineer.
“My writing epitomizes ‘write what I know’ and I share my experiences and joy with my topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way.”
Maurie O’Connor loves jazz, oysters, books, films and craft beer in no particular order.
Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler. Read her stories at TravelPast50.com.
Irene is an award-winning journalist and blogger who produces MoreTimeToTravel.com for the over-50 traveler.
Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child.
An amateur artist, a former art teacher, and a bit of a museum addict, so many of the stories she writes have a cultural angle. And then there’s food.
Linda Fasteson views travel as a way to to better understand the people, places and events of our world.
Amy is a travel writer and editor who loves to take armchair travelers along for the ride.
Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience.
Sarah Johnson is a Minnesota-based freelance writer who covers history, sports, food and travel for a variety of publications.
Trisha Miller is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Travel Writers Exchange, for travel writers, bloggers, and journalists.
M’Liss is a native San Diegan and has been exploring old restaurants from her youth which thankfully are still in existence.
Melanie Votaw is a freelance writer based in New York who has visited more than 40 countries on six continents.
Debi Lander’s articles and blogs highlight her adventures as an international freelance travel writer and photographer.
From the Editor
elcome to Issue Two of the quarterly FWT Magazine. It gives us great pleasure to bring you another issue, this one themed “Europe & Beyond.” In this issue you will visit Cologne; Salzburg – where we find out about the filming of The Sound of Music; are welcomed in Albania; enjoy the culinary delights of Italy, Spain and France; see Vienna, of course. We interview the Marketing Director of Costa Brava, Girona, Tourism and find out what makes Catalunya such a draw for tourists. Then we follow the route of Alexander the Great from Greek Macedonia (and check out the wine while we’re there) to Athens, through the islands of the Aegean Sea across to Turkey, then – still with Alexander – down into India. And, in our Gear Column we will share the road warrior’s secret for staying connected abroad. I hope you enjoy this issue and send us letters! Cheers from the snow-covered landscape of Northern New Mexico USA, John Lamkin, Executive Editor Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battuta We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls. – Anais Nin
fwt food wine travel
FWT Magazine: food wine travel Publisher
Executive Editor • John Lamkin Associate Editor • Rebecca Rhoades Assistant Editor • Christine Salins Contributing Editor • Susanna Starr Contributing Editor • Melanie Votaw Contributing Editor & Technical Adviser • Trisha Miller Editorial Assistant • M’Liss Hinshaw Creative Director • Dan Kuehn Dan Frank Digital Design Advertising Director • Alexa Hokanson Publications Adviser • Allen Cox Webmaster • Timothy Lack CharlotteCountyWebsites.com Social Media Team • Rochael Teynor • Mary Lansing • Debra Schroeder • Michelle Winner FWT Magazine is published in English, however our audience is global as are our contributing writers. Each contributor writes using the form of English with which they are most familiar, thus you may see international variations on spelling, grammar, and phrasing. We hope this eliminates any confusion. Thank you. -- the Editors FWT Magazine: food wine travel is published by IFWTWA Publishing of International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association ifwtwa.org
Editor and Tania Akritidou, Marketing Manager, Halkidiki Tourism Org.Greece - Trip Planning
IFWTWA: firstname.lastname@example.org FWT Magazine: editor@FWTMagazine.com Advertising: ads@FWTMagazine.com Submission Guidelines If you have a product you would like us to try email editor@FWTmagazine.com
to manage directly from the device itself, my favorite feature is the smartphone app that lets you manage the router and easily add more data to your plan if you need it right from your smartphone. At roughly the same size as an iPhone (albeit a bit thicker), it takes up very little space in your bag, and although the built-in power bank gives it a little heft, it’s just a hair over 7 ounces so it won’t weigh you down. Just like my American Express card, my GlocalMe is something I never leave home without!
The Road Warrior’s Secret to Staying Connected Abroad
nyone who travels frequently outside of their home country knows how expensive — not to mention challenging — it can be to stay connected while abroad. Free and reliable high-speed WiFi is not as ubiquitous as we’d like, roaming rates can be quite high, and buying SIM cards for multiple devices is both costly and cost-inefficient, lacking the ability to share data plans. Enter GlocalMe, exit connection worries. I’ve eliminated the stress of figuring out how to get online with my laptop, tablet, and smartphone (at the same time) and do it without breaking the bank. The GlocalMe Mobile Hotspot uses cloud-based SIM technology without the SIM card, and it works in 108 countries (and counting). Securely connect up to 5 devices at a time on its private, encrypted network, and choose from either pay-as-you-go or the more affordable pre-paid plans (if you use a lot of data, the latter is a great option, if you use very little, you’ll spend less with the former). Although I reviewed the GlocalMe G1s, the company will soon be releasing its G2 model (shown in the photo), with a larger screen and faster (4G) wifi speed. As if being a convenient, secure, compact travel WiFi router were not enough, the folks at GlocalMe added in a power bank that lets you charge your mobile phone or tablet at the same time……allowing you to leave one less power adapter/ charger at home (sweet!), and although it’s simple enough
Trisha Miller Trisha Miller is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Travel Writers Exchange (www.travel-writers-exchange.com), a resource for travel writers, bloggers and journalists. Active in the travel industry and travel writing community since 1990, Trisha writes about travel (generally with a tech twist), and also teaches and mentors other travel writers. Her mission is to help other writers develop their online presence and to find new opportunities in today’s new media landscape. Trisha also serves the IFWTWA as a member of the Board of Directors and acts as a Technology Adviser to the Board. For a full author biography and profile, visit: http://ifwtwa.org/author/trisha
Ready for a taste of pepperoni
Bon Appétit Salami and Strawberries in Hilly Nemi, Italy
n ancient Roman times, the wealthy escaped the politics and heat of Rome to relax in the village of Nemi, where sparkling water continues to pour freely from Lake Nemi into the community fountain. Perhaps they visited in the very places where men now sIt, talking and sipping espresso, while children gobble ice cream. An appealing shop to the right of the village entrance enticed me with its arched doorway framed with bundled string-tied salami, hanging pepperonis and whole prosciutto hams. Inside I found a small path across the worn marbled floor, leading me through the vast selection of cured meats to a woman behind the counter who was freely giving away samples. I recognized two items known in US markets: long, thin pepperoni, reminding me of Slim Jims, and odd-sized chunks of soppressa salami. All were salt cured, air dried and not sealed in a plastic bag from a big-name manufacturer. I anticipate these will taste more authentic than the ones at home, and am not disappointed. Another customer asks for pepperoni and the woman grabs the meat, shaped like a rope, judiciously cuts some off and coils up the rest in a basket. She must be buying this for an antipasto platter, I presume, imagining that she’d serve it with a block of Parmesan cheese. Nemi is known for its sweet and tiny strawberries grown along the banks of the lake, and at the top of the hill there are many shops that sell the famous custard tarts exquisitely topped with these miniature strawberries. I ducked into a shop with a beautiful display case of tarts and quickly ate the small strawberry dessert with thick custard base and scalloped pie shell, more egg-rich than sweet. Though the workers spoke no English, I asked if the tarts were made in the shop by pretending to mix ingredients in a bowl — they answered by smiling and pointing to their kitchen in confirmation. Near the top of the meandering hillside road, local women at a table talked and gently laughed outside of La Casa del Pane pastry shop. I peeked inside to peruse the goodies and one of the white-haired women immediately came into the shop to welcome me. Wearing a white starched uniform dress and smiling easily, she said her name was Luigina and she introduced me to her adult son who had jet black wavy hair and spoke some English. Luigina has worked in the same shop for 31 years and her late husband was a third generation in the shop and began working there as a child. She told me each shop has the same tart shells but the cus-
tard recipe was a little different. It could be the eggs or cream or maybe the cooking method that distinguished M’LISS HINSHAW one custard from the other. Luigina was proud of her bakery and said her ovens are very old and use chestnut wood to fuel the fire. She went on to tell me how the strawberries represent the national colors of Italy — the first color is white while young and growing, then green, and the last color is red as it ripens into a luscious fruit. The colors of white, green and red are prominently displayed on Italy’s flags and emblems. I thanked her for speaking with me. Then, as a warm gesture, she carefully put many different cookies in a bag for me to take. The village of Nemi, with 2,000 residents and a delightful setting, attracts many shoppers to come and indulge in the tasteful things in life.
If you go Stay at the highly rated and family run Olive Tree Hill B&B in Zagarolo where owners Ivano and Tehri will cook for you and make sure you see all the important sights. www.Olivetreehill.com
M’Liss Hinshaw Travel and food are my passion and writing about both has made my travel experiences that much more exciting. I was bitten by the travel bug when I was 13 years old and took my first flight from San Diego to Los Angeles and decided right then, I’d keep on traveling. I’ve explored and written about regional foods and peoples in many countries, including the USA and my home town of San Diego. Interviewing and writing about notable chefs and little unknown eateries has become my niche wherever I go. Meanwhile, I must swim and practice pilates because of all the delicious foods. Memberships include San Diego Travel Massive, International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, IFWTWA’s Emerging Writer Program and assisting the membership committee. A career highlight was appearing as a food blogger in Lifetime’s TV show Supermarket Superstar, Publications are: International Travel News, San Diego Reader, Examiner.com, AmateurTraveler.com, San Diego Union, JustLuxe.com, HonestCooking.com, Realtraveladventures.com and LuxeBeat.com. Travel is a highlight with my life to open my eyes and experience the world in different ways. My hope with my articles and website is that it gives people a vision to travel outside of routines and expectations and enrich lives in a satisfying way.
Wines & Spirits Wines, Wiener Schnitzel and the Viennese Heurigen
We sat outdoors at long communal tables under a canopy of grapevines, sipping Viennese wine and sampling traditional Austrian dishes – just as thousands of Viennese inhabitants had done before us for hundreds of years. We were at the “heurigen” or wine tavern of Mayer am Pfarrplatz winery within the city limits of Vienna, but it felt like we were in the countryside. Mayer am Pfarrplatz’s first wines were produced in 1683, and the Pfarrplatz building once housed Ludwig van Beethoven while he worked on his Symphony No. 9. Their courtyard heurigen is a place where you will see local families and tourists alike out for a meal, while a live accordionist serenades them from the corner. With all of the other famed traditions in Vienna from the waltz to the Hapsburg architecture to Lipizzaner horses, it’s easy to give Viennese wines short shrift, but they deserve plenty of your attention. Vienna is the only world capital that produces significant quantities of wine within the city limits – about 700 hectares and 700 growers. Most of what you will drink in Vienna are light, acidic white wines. Riesling is popular, along with Sauvignon Blanc and Weissburgunder. I especially enjoyed the Gelber Muskateller. In summer, during our visit, the light whites were refreshing in the heat and the perfect complement to the salty wiener
Vienna Woods to several wineries throughout the city. You will pass the Beethoven House and Beethoven Museum along the way as well. The Express leaves Nussdorf station on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from April to October. If you’d rather get your exercise while experiencing the vineyards, you can travel to Vienna in late September, when they hold their Vienna Wine Hiking Day weekend. It’s an opportunity to see some private gardens that are usually closed to visitors and sample some culinary treats at the heurigens that were made especially for the event. However you choose to experience the wines of Vienna, it’s a “must do” when in this majestic city. While you can sample the wines in the centrally located restaurants and wine bars, there’s nothing like venturing out to the greener part of the city and experiencing a heurigen like the locals.
Melanie Votaw Melanie Votaw is a freelance writer based in New York who has visited more than 40 countries on 6 continents. Her travel stories and photos have appeared in such publications as Woman’s Day, Travel Savvy, Just Luxe, Business Insider, Executive Travel, Dream of Italy, Luxury Web, Farewell Travels, Travel Mindset, and South China Morning Post. She is also the author of 16 books.
© AUSTRIAN NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE / ÖSTERREICH WERBUNG
View of Vienna from the vineyards of the Nussberg
schnitzel and sauerkraut. Even though whites make up about 85% of the wines in Vienna, an increasing number of today’s winegrowers in the region are producing reds like Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. For centuries, the specialty wine blend of Vienna was Wiener Gemischter Satz. Now, wineries are starting to make it again. A law requires that a wine can only be called “Wiener Gemischte Satz” if it includes at least three different grape varieties that have been planted, harvested, and pressed together. Some of the winegrowers are using as many as 20 varieties. To make it easy for tourists, there’s the “Vienna Heurigen Express,” a hop on/hop off vehicle that takes you through the
My Home Town
hail from America’s oldest city: St. Augustine, Florida. The town recently celebrated the 450th anniversary of its founding by Spaniard Pedro Menendez. The most famous town landmark is “the fort,” Castillo de San Marcos, a US National Park Monument. Construction using coquina (shell-stone) rock began in 1672, and the structure stands as the oldest masonry fort in North America. Georgia’s British General, James Oglethorpe pounded it by cannon fire for 27 days in 1740, but the fort never fell. Today, the daily cannon firings are by costumed interpreters. When I first moved here, those canon firings made me jump. Now, they’re part of the city’s charm, along with the scenic bi-plane I hear flying overhead and the horse-drawn carriage rides that slow traffic. You can easily stroll the historic district including 36 buildings of Spanish and British colonial origin. My favorites are The Colonial Quarter, a mini-Williamsburg focusing on the city’s early Spanish and British settlements, the beautiful Basilica, the 1600’s Gonzalez-Alvarez House, the oldest Spanish dwelling, and Pena-Peck House and gift shop. Pirate Robert Searle sacked the town in 1668. Learn all about Searle at the Pirate and Treasure Museum containing Smithsonian quality artifacts (a real Jolly Roger flag and the only known authentic pirate treasure chest) and some newer treasures like Capt Jack Sparrow’s sword. Afterward, board the Black Raven Pirate Ship for a swashbuckling cruise on the river. Foodies love the fact that no chain restaurants are allowed downtown. Dine on Spanish tapas or French patisseries, Mexican favorites and pizza by the slice on touristy St. George Street. Take a Culinary Tasting Tour, one of the best ways to see the old town, and sample some of the extraordinary fare. A stop in the St. Augustine Distillery is another must. Free tours take visitors through the distillery known for hand-crafting gin, vodka and whiskey from local ingredients and Florida grown sugar cane. Tastings follow: try the Florida Mule, a house specialty at the Ice Plant, the attached restaurant. I love all the festivals, costumed reenactments (Founders Day Celebration, British Colonial Night Watches) and the annual Nights of Lights Illumination from Thanksgiving until the end of January. Some three to four million white lights outline the buildings, bridges and trees. Hop on the Holly, Jolly Trolley and don a pair of 3-D glasses–the lights turn into snowflakes. Quirky and fun!
Don’t miss Henry Flagler’s first grand hotel, the former Ponce de Leon Hotel. Today, this turret and tower Spanish Renaissance jewel is a centerpiece for Flagler College. Touring begins at the fountain in the courtyard, then the grand lobby with its magnificent 80-foot domed ceiling supported by eight hand-carved oak caryatids, the dining room with its 79 Tiffany stained-glass windows and prized clock personally installed by Thomas Edison. Ready for some sand and sun? St. Augustine Beach lies just across the iconic Bridge of Lions. Whatever you do, have a blast!
If You Go To avoid crowds, visit after Labor Day through early November or February-March.
The former Hotel Ponce de Leon, now Flagler College
Debi Lander Travel excites Debi Lander: big cities, small towns; US and international. Debi’s articles and blogs highlight her adventures as a freelance travel writer and photographer. Whether she’s traveling by air, by land or sea, Debi gathers inspiration from the local people she meets, their culture, history, architecture and cuisine She digs into background research, delights in local lore, and devours ethnic food and drink. She’s written for Islands, Visa Black Card, AOL Travel, Business Jet Traveler and Automotive Traveler, among others. For a full author biography and profile please visit: http://ifwtwa.org/author/deborah-lander
in Switzerland’s Müstair Valley by Anita Breland
Photos by Tom Fakler (except as noted)
Val Müstair in Switzerland’s canton Graubünden
The Convent of Saint John in Müstair has welcomed travelers for more than 1,200 years.
pilgrims with another sort of nourishment. My husband and I came to the valley to tour the convent, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and discovered a year-round nature destination, its pice lower the car windows as we turesque villages set in lush meadows. descend from the Ofen Pass Our base was the Ritterhaus Chasa de into Switzerland’s far eastern Capol in Santa Maria, a living museum precincts and revel in the cool breeze with a long-standing connection to the wafting westward from Italy’s South Tyrol. convent. The first olfactory hit is one of Arolla The valley is characterized by an pine, sometimes called “the incense of inviting terrain, traditional “villagescapes” the Alps.” Soon, though, the aroma of and a mild climate. As long ago as the newly-mown hay gently wins out as we Middle Ages, routes across the valley curve down from the pass into farmland, and neighboring passes were used to and follow the Rom River from the village transport grain, wine and iron. Today, of Tschierv through the valley to Santa the valley is a favorite with cyclists, Maria. This is how we will remember bikers and drivers of antique and classic mid-summer in Graubünden. cars. The principal roadway curves One tunnel through the Alps too far to through villages with houses sporting be on most travelers’ itineraries, the “Val sgrafitto, the surface layers of plaster Müstair” in canton Graubünden offers incised to reveal a ground of contrasting miles of hiking trails and plentiful fresh color. food to replenish the body. The BeneRolling hills and steep mountaindictine Convent of Saint John provides sides offer myriad well-marked trails
for walkers and hikers at all levels, and there is cross-country skiing in winter. The Umbrail is the highest paved road in Switzerland at more than 2,500 meters above sea level. It connects Santa Maria in Val Müstair with Bormio in Italy, and it’s a popular starting point for bike and hiking tours. Val Müstair, together with the adjoining Swiss National Park, is the first UNESCO biosphere reserve in the high Alpine region.
Prioress Dominica of the Convent of Saint John in Müstair
Sgrafitto adornment on a house in Valchava, Val Müstair
The Swiss National Park
the Convent of Saint John, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983. It was The Swiss National Park is the largfounded as a monastery around 775 est nature reserve and only national park A.D., probably on the orders of Charin Switzerland. An alpine wonderland, its lemagne. Monks abandoned the site in natural landscape is located at altitudes the 12th century, and it was re-occupied of 1,400 to 3,200 meters above sea by cloistered Benedictine nuns. Their level and nourishes a wealth of alpine devotion, reflection and assistance for fauna and flora. Founded in 1914, it was travelers has continued down the centhe first national park in the Alps and turies to the present day, despite their Central Europe. It closes in winter, so dwindling numbers. Convent Prioress nothing is allowed to disturb the natural Dominica is determined that her charges order of the seasons here, providing a contribute – and are invigorated by – a stretch of ungroomed landscape that is heightened level of interaction with the rare for Europe. outside world. The Benedictine nuns of Müstair operate a gift shop, and their guesthouse welcomes outsiders for retreats and professionally guided weeks The region’s cultural high point is of fasting, meditation and yoga.
The Convent of Saint John at Müstair
The convent has Switzerland’s greatest series of figurative murals, painted around 800 A.D., as well as stunning Romanesque frescoes and stuccoes. The ensemble is considered one of the most coherent architectural works of the Carolingian period and High Middle Ages and includes the most extensive cycle of known paintings for the first half of the 9th century.
The “Knight’s House”
The Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol in Santa Maria was the residence of the Venetian Polo family, who were secular administrators of the Convent of Saint John centuries ago. Now a hotel, its wide-planked floors creak with history.
region called the Bündner Herrschaft, and these well-regarded wines, both reds and whites, can be found on menus in Val Müstair. To go really local, though, it’s worth a meal at Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol. Polenta is prepared in the traditional way in an ancient copper pot, and it’s possible to try wines made in-house and aged in the hotel’s ancient cellar. After dinner, especially in winter, Arven liqueur, another Graubünden specialty, is worth a try. This potent drink is made from cones hand-harvested from stone pine trees, and it delivers on its promise: the taste and smell of a pine forest!
Cyclists head for Val Müstair in the warmer months.
Grisons barley soup, a Graubünden specialty, is especially good after a day of hiking in the fresh air of Val Müstair.
Originally a hospice with a refectory and private chapel in 1199, the house is a living museum of Graubünden traditions. It’s worth a stop to see the Carolingian cellar vault, rooms paneled with Arolla pine, and the 500-year-old former hospice kitchen.
Graubünden Food and Drink
Graubünden kitchens feature hearty farm cooking. Two must-try specialties are Grisons barley soup and capuns, spiced meat dumplings wrapped in leaves of Swiss chard and served in their cooking broth. Müstair Valley rye bread, a dark brown loaf with a soft floury crust, is the standard accompaniment. The Muglin Mall, a water-powered mill dating from the 17th-century, is the oldest still-functioning mill of its type in Switzerland and may have produced the barley you enjoyed in your soup! The best-known wines of Graubünden come from a small grape-growing
Grapes for Lagrein Dunkel are grown just across the border in South Tyrol, and aged and bottled by Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol in Santa Maria. The label carries the water motif found on many buildings in Graubünden.
The Convent Museum Müstair, located in the fortified Planta Tower of the Convent of Saint John, offers visitors 1200 years of convent, architectural and art history. The Muglin Mall in Santa Maria is a functioning 17th-century mill, a museum of farm implements and the millworks, and a community center. The Müstair Valley museum, Chasa Jaura in Valchava, occupies a traditional house and offers contemporary revolving exhibitions. The Museum 14/18 is a museum (in Santa Maria) and military hiking trail (on the Italian border at Stelvio) dedicated to World War I and one of the highest-fought battles of that conflict.
Anita Breland Sleeping and Shopping
A range of accommodation awaits travelers in Val Müstair. Two atmospheric options include the Hotel Münsterhof in Müstair and Ritterhaus Chasa de Capol in Santa Maria, both members of the Swiss Historic Hotels network. Val Müstair is a waypoint along Visit the Graubünden Tourism Switzerland’s UNESCO World Heritage website to plan a visit to the Convent Trail Tour. It is also an extension to the of Saint John, from booking tickets and “Grand Tour of Switzerland,” a scenic tours, to overnight stays in the guesttraverse of Switzerland’s most iconic house. landscapes. The valley is reached from For a hand-crafted memento of your the rest of Switzerland via the Ofen visit to Val Müstair, shop at the Tessanda Pass. You can travel to Val Müstair with hand-weaving workshop in Santa Maria the extensive Swiss public transport for tablecloths and other gift items. system. If you travel by car, you can also The gift shop at the Convent of Saint enjoy exhilarating drives over the passes John in Müstair sells sacred music reencircling the valley. corded in the chapel, along with books, and a range of handmade gift items, from jams, soaps, and herbal preparations to paper goods.
If you go
Anita Breland is an avid traveler who delights in sharing her discoveries of culinary traditions and experiences around the world. A passionate foodie based in Europe, she is on a never-ending quest for good food and the people who make it. With her husband and fellow blogger, photographer Tom Fakler, Anita chases tasty plates and cultural experiences and serves up the long-running blog, Anita’s Feast. She has contributed guest posts and articles to several anthologies, including Lonely Planet’s A Moveable Feast. She has worked with numerous tourist boards and destinations in Europe and Asia. Anita is a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), Geneva Writers Group and Thin Raft Writers (Basel, Switzerland).
What’s Cooking in Burgundy by Christine Salins Photos by Maurie O’Connor
The stream that runs past La Ferme de la Lochère.
Time for some relaxation by the pool at La Ferme de la Lochère.
es and I’m looking forward to tonight’s farewell celebration with friends, new and old. A long-time friend from Australia who lives in nearby Dijon is a highly skilled knifemaker and creator of cast iron pans, and our host has kindly invited e’re supposed to be making him to join us for dinner. Our new friends a sunflower-shaped pastry – four Canadian women celebrating but mine is looking rather a significant birthday and an English sad. I’ve got far too many petals, they’re woman and her granddaughter – have facing the wrong way, and despite loads been a joy to cook with, laugh with and of encouragement and remedial action converse with over the past week. from our ever-patient host, my pastry Not even the drizzling rain, and ceris never going to look like a Van Gogh tainly not my sad-looking sunflower, can masterpiece. dampen my spirits as our energetic host It’s the second to last day of our stay and her assistant whip up yet another at La Ferme de la Lochère and, sunflowdivine feast, all while making sure our er disappointment aside, I’m as happy sunflowers are painted with egg wash as a kid let loose with a paintbrush. and popped in the oven. We’ve spent a week at the luxury gîte in Katherine Frelon is pretty much Burgundy where Katherine Frelon offers a self-taught cook but she turns out her bespoke food and wine experienc-
wondrous dishes and has been doing so for a long time. She arrived in France in 1990 at the age of 22 with no money, no French and no friends. Within a few years, she had bought her first property in the Loire Valley and met and married her French husband, Yannick, who she describes as “master builder, technical director and head gardener”. “Gardening is not my thing” he is said to have pronounced in his mid-20s. If it wasn’t then it certainly is now, as the raised beds that fan out around the willow tree in the garden between their home and the gîte flourish with juicy tomatoes, heirloom vegetables and herbs. The couple bought La Ferme de la Lochère in 2004 and, in between raising their children Charlie and Mathilda, magically transformed the solid stone barn into luxury accommodation with five very large ensuite bedrooms, a spa-
The pace is gentle at La Ferme de la Lochère.
cious open-plan sitting/dining room, and Katherine’s dream kitchen. The barn’s enormous wooden beams were preserved, and magnificent oak doors were added, along with an imposing stone staircase decorated with huge lanterns from Morocco. Katherine was responsible for the décor, selecting the furniture and making the curtains, achieving the style of a grand country house that is both elegant and homely. The house is one of a cluster of stone properties ranging from quaint little houses to expansive barns and farmsteads in Marigny-le Cahouët, a village of about 300 people, about an hour’s drive north-west of Dijon. The village is surrounded by lush, rolling meadows dotted with fat, contented cows, and in the dappled late-afternoon light on the day of our arrival, it’s as pretty as a picture. As the Burgundy Canal wends its way through the region, people are out and about on boats, having picnics or pulling up a chair and fishing. Our upstairs suite has a super-com-
fortable king-size bed with bathrobes and slippers provided. The bathroom is stocked with luxurious L’Occitane products and the French doors open to a tranquil view over a stream with farmland beyond. There’s a lovely surprise of a welcome gift of locally produced sweets, honey and other treats. Yannick greets us on the first day, and every afternoon thereafter, with a flute of Kir Royale, the popular Burgundian aperitif of crème de cassis topped with Cremant, the region’s sparkling wine. Katherine, meanwhile, is busy in the kitchen preparing the weekly stockpot and simultaneously preparing our first night’s feast of pumpkin soup with olive oil biscotte, followed by Chicken Gaston Gérard, a typical Burgundian dish made with white wine, crème fraîche, mustard and grated cheese. Much of the week is spent rolling from one fabulous meal to the next and by the end of it I feel like an extra Katherine whipping up a feast.
in the 1973 film La Grande Bouffe, in which Marcello Mastroianni and his companions retire to a country villa to gorge themselves to death. We show a little more restraint than the film’s cast, although the bundle of menus, beautifully tied with ribbon, presented to us at the end of the week is a reminder of just how well we have eaten. Salmon with beurre blanc, pork ragù, boeuf Bourguignon, duck confit, not to mention the delicious desserts and a fabulous array of cheeses … this is five-star dining, home-style. Meals are taken in the courtyard when it’s sunny or at the beautifully set, 14-seat oak dining table that Katherine commissioned especially for the house. There’s a gentle rhythm to the days as Katherine demonstrates dishes, encourages her guests to be hands-on in the kitchen, and shares her wisdom. She honed her kitchen skills while working as a cook on barge tours, but there
were other influences as well: “Yannick’s mother was a great cook. They were poor; they grew everything and she used it all.” In between cooking, eating, relaxing by the pool and strolling around the village, we pay visits to small local producers including a woman farming snails and another making goat’s cheese. A whole day is spent at the workshop of an organic baker, Alexandre and his wife Karine, who show us how to make sourdough bread in their traditional wood oven. Some of these artisans feature in Katherine’s book, Shop.Cook.Eat, which she published in 2014. She also arranges for wine consultant Brendan Moore to take us on a personally guided tour of the Burgundy wine region. An Englishman who has lived in France for 25 years, he is able to organize visits to vineyards that tourists would not normally have access to. He takes particular pleasure in introducing us to some of the village wines that he believes represent the best value. “Between seven and 12 euros, you get the greatest wines in France,” he says. “The entry level wines are far more interesting (than the more expensive wines). If you can make a great wine
Every meal is a feast.
from the simplest vineyard, that’s far more indicative of the skill of the winemaker.” Nevertheless, we have our sights set on some of the big names, and as we meander along the Route des Grands Crus, which runs through many of Burgundy’s great appellations, we eye
Enjoying a picnic during an excursion to the Burgundy wine region.
off names like Romanée-Conti, Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet. We stop to see the Hospice de Beaune, built in the 15th century as a hospice for the poor and now a jewel in the crown of Beaune. Its terracotta tiles glazed in green, yellow, red and black, arranged in a striking geometric pattern, gave rise to a trend for similarly colourful roofs throughout the region. One morning, Katherine takes us to the market in Dijon, a steel and glass-covered hall designed by Gustav Eiffel, more famously known for designing the Eiffel Tower. Armed with a list of ingredients to buy for dinner, we marvel over the cheeses, the charcuterie and local delicacies such as pain d’epices, a kind of gingerbread. When our baskets are full, there’s just enough time for a drink at a café in the square overlooking the magnificent Ducal Palace, and a wander through some of the winding streets with their centuries-old half-timbered houses and shops, including the iconic Maille mustard shop. For guests doing the cooking program, it isn’t necessary to have a car as the program is fully hosted and guests can be collected from the train station in
Katherine takes her guests to visit a snail farm in the region.
nearby Montbard, just one hour by train from Paris. We have our own wheels, however, and that enables us to slip in a few excursions to nearby points of interest such as Fontenay Abbey; Epoisses, home of the famous cheese; and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, one of France’s most beautiful villages and the location for the La Ferme de la Lochère movie, Chocolat. 6 Rue De La Lochere Burgundy is the perfect region in 21150 Marigny-le-Cahouet which to unwind as the bucolic landFrance scape invites you to take your time, +33 6 7286 5609 savour and enjoy. Just as our sunflowers www.lafermedelalochere.com are coming out of the oven, the drizzle Host Katherine Frelon offers a variety gives way to sunshine and we sit down of bespoke gourmet vacations, or the to a long leisurely lunch in the courtyard. house can be rented and you can do No-one wants to deal with the mundane your own thing. chore of packing for tomorrow’s departure. One of the Canadian gals, Noreen, speaks for us all when she says, “The only thing that would make this more perfect would be to have someone pack my bags.”
If you go
Christine Salins Christine Salins is one of Australia’s most highly regarded food, wine and travel writers. She spent more than 20 years as a newspaper journalist, including nine years as Food & Wine Editor for The Canberra Times, the major daily in Australia’s capital city. She has freelanced for print media since 2003, and together with Maurie O’Connor manages www.foodwinetravel.com.au, bringing all their great loves together in their award-winning website.
India with Intention
Engaging to Embrace Ancient New Notions Story and photos by Christine Tibbetts
Vast views distinguish the Windermere Estate in Kerala, India.
Temples both majestic and modest in South India.
ake your heart to India, not just your sightseeing eyes. Expect your ears to inform you of wondrous new notions. Listening in India is fantastic: incantations and instruments in the places of worship, and in your inner ear once you learn that demons speak rudely, humans politely, and the gods in poetry. Intentionally listen to people steeped in stories far grander than the tales of my youth. Leave behind your notion of how people and places ought to function. In India — try to experience and accept. It’s all holy. “Show me anything in India which isn’t sacred,” epic storyteller Sanjay challenged on my first morning of a twoweek exploration of South India. Coast-to-coast was my physical route in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, from the Bay of Bengal to the Indian Ocean and on to the Arabian Sea. Crossing the Western Ghat Mountains was my breathtaking ride on steep, narrow switchbacks. My emotional route seemed to be crossing from this world to the next, or a previous one. Monuments, temples, altars on sidewalks, sculpture, festivals, candles, carvings in rock all abound at every turn, each holding faith-journey promises for somebody. In India, people expect to find enlightenment a little bit along, all day long. It helps to have that frame of reference when you go. It’s impossible for me to recall the grand epics I heard everywhere, but I figured out early on that everyone venerates the many gods and goddesses, expecting inspiration and life lessons. I had to accept local truth like that to really experience India. Otherwise the cows on the sidewalk, fingers-not-forks to eat lunch, walking barefoot in the temples, elephants giving blessings, and the constant hustle and bustle might have been off-putting. “If the silence is not in you, you will not find it,” Sanjay taught.
If you grow up in India, you learn how to have it inside. I saw plenty of people in focused prayer or meditation, sitting or standing, solo or with family, in the midst of huge throngs in every temple I visited. As a visitor I felt distracted — I kept looking every which way, following sound and light, color and motion, while the local folks remained focused. Worship in South India is not Sunday 11:00 a.m. American-style. It’s all the time, any time. Visit a temple, see worship, participate. Always. Places of worship here have many spaces—hallways, big rooms, little rooms, sections within rooms. Always in India there are many options for worship.
However, don’t count on entering every temple’s inner sanctum. Some are Hindu only. Here’s what I learned about that: a sacred vibration occurs through those with the faith, and those without might break the energy. Colors are as remarkable as the energy and the silence. Sometimes temples and their art are bold primary colors and sometimes pastels. For certain, every inch contains a carving, a symbol, the potential for deep meaning to the beholder. This isn’t about worshiping a carving or epic tale but rather about believing opportunity exists for inspiration and enlightenment. When I grasped that this opportunity for inspiration meant me too, I Lighting candles in the temple is a position of honor in India.
Anticipate exquisite foods and presentations in South India.
west,” Hennessy said. “Philosophy, science and religion share a life here while we separate them in the west. Merging as one is India’s way.” Hennessy lives in South Africa and brings memories of vast reading to discussions along the way. He’s a bonus to the reason I chose Magical Journey to explore India as fully as possible — which is Carol Cumes. I stayed in Cumes’ guesthouse in Peru’s Sacred Valley previously where I observed her remarkable gift for meeting, accepting and admiring people as she finds them. No need to improve, transform or enlighten others according to her worldview as many try to do. Certainly hers is a spiritual gift to connect with people in their places. Cumes’ journeys are practiStandard garb for men is the dhoti, cal too, like finding a guide with impecworn long or short. cable pronunciation, easy and entertaining to listen to. No straining to catch the words on a tour and missing many, as can happen in India. City hotels in Chennai and Kochi offered fine what-I-expected five-star transformed from sightseeing to simply quality, but The Windermere Estate in being, from watching to engaging. Kerala and The Bangala in Chennai India taught me to be present in the moment rather than envisioning my next delivered local community too, allowing me to get closer to people in the places event. That’s the way to do India to make it they live. “The decoction is best when we vastly different from other trips. serve you,” Dr. Simon John says of his Temples, monuments and World Heritage sites in India are well described coffee at Windermere Estate. “No pots in the room on purpose.” in guidebooks. Weaving them together The very congenial Simon, as he is on a journey to make sense of their connections to past and present India is known, calls his plantation a retreat, not a hotel. Choose from garden rooms, a different story. “India adapts,” says Mark Hennessy cottages or villas. Simon fell in love with the 60 tea and of Magical Journey, the trip designer I selected. “Modernity is not new here; it’s cardamom growing acres 25 years ago. “Good things have to be shared,” just happening side by side with ancient he says, so he added guest houses, a wisdom. “Cultural, technical, industrial, agrari- dining room, library and thatched roof an revolutions are all happening together tea hut. Ginger, masala and cardamom teas in India, not one after the other as in the
are poured every afternoon from a samovar into glass tumblers. Walks with a naturalist through the spice fields shows off the shade-loving cardamom, and the tea and coffee. Banyan trees, along with red cedar, ironwood, rosewood and cinchona fill the grounds too, easy to walk through and spectacular with a huge view from Simon’s high rock promontory. “Stay 10 days and the dinners will all be different,” Simon notes. Breakfast was abundant too, fresh and local. A trek to the top of the mountain gives views on both sides of this plateau and a national park, tea museum, paper-making business and interesting downtown offer plenty of diversion. “Everybody from the U.S. should slow down,” Simon says, so maybe just stay put at Windermere Estate. “The staff are aware of you; nowhere do you have to sign in. Just receive.” Meeting Mrs. Meenakshi Meyyappan at her boutique hotel in Chettinad is an altogether different kind of community. Hers is a merchant family, dealing in teak from Burma for more than a century. Business transactions took place on the verandas of the very gracious homes lining the once prosperous street. Brimming with century-old charm, a feel of India an era ago, is The Bangala. Furnishings of that teak fill each of the large rooms, air-conditioned with full bath. Charming shutters, plenty of light and Chettiar family photos. Men in crisp white shirts and dhotis, the South Indian long skirt that hikes up into a short one with a clever flip of the wrist and one tuck in the waist, choreograph the serving of the meals. Guests sit on both sides of a long table, covered but outdoors. The men appear all of a sudden, at least five of them, serving simultaneously in perfect rhythm. Celery soup, sailfish from the
Indian Ocean, rice with carrots and lemon custard were among the many wonders I enjoyed on my first of two nights there. Mrs. Meyyappan and her staff teach cooking classes; I learned how to do almond halwa (need ghee and saffron), tomato rice, potato masala, chicken pepper fry and prawn masala. “The Bangala Table – Flavors and
Recipes from Chettinad” contains 150 recipes with stunning photos. Christine Tibbetts is a high-energy This is India’s spice country and we veteran journalist known for writing used plenty of ginger, turmeric, cardaengaging, compelling tales mom, aniseed, cumin seed and corianabout people in places, der. enabling travelers to better Will my life’s lessons be as vast when experience the rich dynamI visit India’s Northern neighborhoods? ics of a destination. I know I’ll start with my heart and open She serves as Destinations editor of attitude. TravelingMom.com, writes travel features on assignment for southern regional print magazines and for the web zine American Roads. A member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association, she earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri in 1970.
Any hike or drive in South India reveals a place of meditation.
From Zeus’ Daughter to Jesus’ Mother, Ephesus Has Always Known How to Draw a Crowd Story and photos by Elizabeth Willoughby
The Agora marketplace
nd the Oracle of Delphi said, “the fish will jump, the boar will flee and there Androklos, son of the Athenian King Kadros, you will establish a city having a bright future.” Then, one day, Androklos was frying a fish in a pan, the oil sputtered, the fish jumped from the pan, flames followed, a bush was ignited, and the boar behind the bush ran away. Naturally, Androklos chased it down on horseback, killed it and, prophecy fulfilled, established there the Ionian city of Ephesus. Mythology aside, Ephesus is one of the most famous cities of antiquity.
Although the area, in Turkey’s Izmir province, dates back to the Neolithic Age (6000 BCE), its heyday was during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Destroyed over time in turn by earthquakes and warring cultures, the ruins that exist today are from the location that was ruled around 300 BCE by Lysimakhos, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. With a population of over 200,000, it was the largest port city of the Roman Province of Asia. By the Middle Ages, however, silt from the River Cayster had filled the port, diminishing its importance as an international trade center. The city was also famous for its Temple of Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology, the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister of Apollo). One of the
ancient Seven Wonders of the World, once it was discovered in modern times, the temple was only partially excavated before covering it over again for conservation reasons. It’s one of the oldest of the Greek temples with surrounding colonnades. Another claim of importance, Ephesus is one of the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, when Jesus instructs John to write a letter to seven cities describing visions he has seen. Nearby is also the House of the Virgin Mary, a place of pilgrimage with its own special energy. This is where Apostle John, entrusted by Jesus to care for his mother, brought Mary after Jesus’ death. The colorful ruins of the Church
of St. John are also close by. But with all that fame and glory, the real reason to visit Ephesus is the visual feast of history. There are several amazing sites left to see as you walk along the city’s two main corridors: The Terraced Houses, built around 20 CE (Roman Imperial period) on the northern slope of Mount Bülbül demonstrate separate residential units graduating up to 27.5 meters above Curetes Street. Homes feature storied courtyards around which are living and work areas, reception rooms, luxurious upper-floor banquet rooms, toilets, bathtubs, kitchens, water supply, drainage wells and canal system, mosaics, wall paintings and marble furnishings on walls and floors.
Temple of Artemis, covered over for protection
The reconstructed façade of the Library of Celsus, from the beginning of the 2nd century CE, was originally funded by Celsus, Governor of Asia Minor. Built by his son, Celsus had planned for the library to hold a treasure trove of scrolls, starting with a meager 12,000. First built into the slopes of Mount Pion in the 3rd-1st century BCE, then rebuilt twice more in the 1st century CE, the Grand Theatre was one of the greatest theatres of Anatolia, which could hold 25,000 people. Here is where theatre performances and assemblies were held, and later gladiatorial contests. The acoustics are fantastic. Stand on the stage and sing your heart out.
Also worth a peek:
Stoa Basileios the Royal Colonnade, built in 11 CE. Imagine entering the city through here in days of yore. Odeion (Concert Hall), built around the 2nd century CE, is where members of the city council (wealthy people and priests), gathered to discuss the future of the city and listen to musical concerts for 1,500 people. Picture in your mind the red marble columns behind the upper seating and a fixed roof of wood and fired clay tiles to protect the audience from sun and rain. The public lavatory is impressive in its clever technology (channels of fast running water to whisk away waste and odor) and attention to detail (marble seats, washing channels, mosaics and
waterworks). The adjacent brothel layout is also, naturally, a curiosity. Right next to the Library of Celsus, the Gates of Mazaeus and Mitridates were constructed in 3 BCE to honor Emperor Augustus and his wife, Livia. They were constructed by two of his slaves, whom he had freed and sent to Ephesus to watch over the Roman Empire properties. Now a field of columns, blocks and pedestals, walk through the Gates of Mazaeus and Mitridates to the Agora, which was a two story marketplace where merchants sold and traded goods, guilds met and political associations networked.
Library of Celsus Terraced Houses of Ephesus
Elizabeth Willoughby Since the late 90s Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine, maintaining home bases in North America, South America and Europe. Hopscotching across the globe to gather stories and photos, she is the author of “Tales from the Road,” the adventure travel page at worldguide. eu, she designs the ultimate wine and cuisine road trips for writeshots.com, and for a time she wrote two regular columns for Brazil’s only bilingual newspaper, Sunday News, on South American travel and culture clash.
A Visit to the Greek Aegean Sea We Explore Three Enchanting Islands Story and photos by Susanna Starr
Fishermenâ€™s homes, Milos
Fresh caught octopus, Ios
streets, especially those invariably perched on the highest hills, where we can still visit the ancient towns or choras. All of the Greek Islands have beautiful and varied beaches, some set up so avenâ€™t we all heard about the that you can have a delightful lunch by beauty of the Greek Islands, the seaside and combine it with a swim the deep blues of the Aegean reflecting the blue of the sky? There are in the warm, calm waters of the individumore islands than we can ever hope to al bays or lie out in a lounge chair under visit, so choosing a few means a little bit an umbrella. Other beaches are waiting of research. There is a lot of information for you to discover them and are easily visited by arranging for a boat to take about the larger, well known islands you there, equipped with a picnic lunch like Crete, Mykonos or Santorini, but investigating some of the others can be and a bottle of wine. Greek wine has become more rewarding. sophisticated in recent years, going If you decide to visit some of the smaller, lesser known ones, as we did, I beyond the customary table wines think youâ€™ll be in for a delightful surprise. that have been part of the culture for thousands of years. There are now The first thing thatâ€™s noticeable is their immediate feeling of intimacy. These are a number of wineries that have been island communities with small, charming established over the past decades that have developed fine wines to fit the villages. Many of them look like picture postcards with their stark white, almost experienced palate using modern, upto-date equipment. Many of these are cubist architecture and their winding
third generation enterprises with each generation contributing to the growth and perfection of their products. The soil, so rich in potassium from a volcanic soil base, produces grapes in an already ideal climate with lots of sunshine and moisture from the sea. Our trip was focused on the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean. From the main dock of Piraeus outside of Athens, you can catch a ferry to almost any of the islands. Our first destination was the island of Paros, traditional in flavor while, at the same time, it is completely immersed in the 21st century. Of the many places to visit, including wineries, restaurants and organic food stores as well as beaches and wonderful shops of every kind from bakeries to boutiques, a visit to the chora is a must. The choras were originally built to protect the local populace from the marauding pirates, moving the village from the harbor side to the highest hill. Here, the houses were deliberately built
close together both for protection and to foil the invaders by creating a labyrinth of twisting alleys, all of which have been converted to walking streets. Wonderful shops and restaurants line the streets and there is always a village square. Bougainvillea spills profusely over the walls or in planters in front of shops and houses, providing the intense color that is so very beautiful against the white houses with their predominantly blue accents in doors and windows or balconies. It seems that every corner is a photo shoot! With the abundance of tavernas and coffee houses, an afternoon’s stroll can turn into a whole day’s activity. Dinner can be enjoyed at any one of a number of small, upscale restaurants on the harbor which looks like a fairy land in the evening with boats launched at the quay and laughter and talk spilling out from all the tables set up in the square. It generally takes several hours to enjoy the incredibly fresh seafood prepared in any number of ways, fresh Greek salad, an assortment of appetizers and scrumptious desserts. The use of sesame and honey in these desserts are not only delicious but, without the use of refined white sugar, can be savored and enjoyed without guilt.
Mosenta – hand-made local products, Ios
Paros figures prominently in the days of antiquity with the still functioning quarry, providing the exceptional marble that was so widely used by the stone carvers of 3,500 – 4,000 years ago. Even today the use of marble is to be found almost everywhere from private homes to small hotels. There is also a small museum close to the main dock that provides some archaeological glimpses as well as a history of the island’s every day life from the time of the pirates. From Paros, it was a short ferry ride to the next island on our list, Ios. Although this island has received a lot of notice because its summer beach scene has become a destination for young people, mostly from all over Europe, it offers much more. It retains a strong feeling of community and offers a great variety of accommodations, including the truly delightful Liostasi Hotel & Spa. Perched on a high bluff overlooking the Aegean, it provides unobtrusive luxury with a hands-on owner overseeing the Preparing sesame sweets, Ios
wonderful food offerings. Here, too, fine wines hold an important place and great attention is placed on having an extensive offering available. Ios, like most of the Greek islands, is blessed with a beautiful quality of air. With so many herbs growing freely without cultivation, and vineyards, small or more developed, providing the rich aroma of freshly growing grapes, the soft, gentle air always seems fresh, clean and bathed in perfume. Little automobile traffic on the island accounts, too, for the clarity. Because of the ideal climate and the caressing quality of the air, you’ll find lots of people, both those native to the island and tourists as well, enjoying sitting outside on their balconies or at a table having their iced cappuccino, walking around visiting or shopping, enjoying the beach or eating at one of the seaside restaurants serving fresh fish. Octopus is popular, prepared in many tantalizing ways, especially grilled or pan fried. Visiting the chora here as the evening
Small cafe, Paros
was turning into night had a special, magical atmosphere. Shops line the alleys, with extensive offerings, ranging from hand-made leather goods to boutique Greek designed clothing to lots of jewelry, both in silver and gold. Although many of the jewelry designs reflect ancient symbols, their designs seem modern and elegant. Our next stop was Milos, the largest of the islands we visited. Here we stayed at the main port at theÂ Portiani, a lovely hotel overlooking the harbor where we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast outdoors on their terrace and had a view both day and night of the picturesque harbor. Although there were many fine restaurants that we drove to, there was also the option to have dinner at one of the restaurants that lined the harbor. Shopping, too, was within walking distance including many wonderful boutiques and jewelry shops as well as inviting bakeries and small, organic shops selling their own locally made products. One of the interesting features of Milos was the small cove that was still being used by the fisherman, as theyâ€™ve done for many years. Here, the fishermen would find safe harbor during storms and moor their boats inside the attached houses on the beach while they had a place to sleep upstairs and a place to cook downstairs. On a boat trip later, we had a view from the water and the picturesque houses painted in assorted bright colors was a photograph waiting to be taken. Speaking of a boat trip, we enjoyed a spectacularly wonderful cruise with the captain and first mate both looking as if they stepped out of a magazine ad, inviting people to visit Greece! They brought along an octopus in their cooler which later became part of the fabulous sauce they served over homemade pasta accompanied, of course, by wonderful Greek wine. We moored for a while just off one of the many charming coves that had no one else there, where we enjoyed a relaxing time in the sun after the delicious lunch and spontaneous dancing.
There were many more visits, including an underground tunnel built during W.W.II, a tour of the mining museum which proved extremely interesting and an evening sunset visit to what could easily pass as a lunar-scape. Between all the delightful places to see and the abundance of fine restaurants and variety of accommodations, be prepared to spend some thoroughly enjoyable time at this special island.
Boat captain, Polychronis, and first mate serve octopus pasta
If you go Visit Greece visitgreece.gr/en Where to stay, dine and see in: Paros Paros Island http://www.parosweb.com/ Moraitis Winery www.moraitiswines.gr Marios restaurant & farm email@example.com Tsitsanis Taverna, Prodromos Apostolis, Parikia Xilofournos Bakery www.xilofournos.gr Ios Ios Island http://www.iosgreece.com/ Liostasi Hotel & Spa www.liostasi.gr Pavezzo Guest House www.iospavezzo.com Elia food & drink Meze Meze www.niotisa.gr Mosenta hand made local products firstname.lastname@example.org Midas Gold & Silver Milos Milos Island http://milos.gr/en/ Portiani Hotel www.hotelportiani.gr Konstantakis Winery Alevromilos email@example.com Flisvos restaurant/taverna firstname.lastname@example.org Home-made sweets, pies & more www.paradosiaka-edesmata.gr Chrysovalandou Catamarans www.sailcatgreece.com Ergina restaurant, Trypiti Armenaki restaurant, Pollonia Sirocco restaurant, Paleochari Faskomilo, Adamas https://www.facebook.com/faskomilo.gr
Susanna Starr Susanna Starr, entrepreneur, photographer, speaker, artist, writer, holds a degree in philosophy from Stony Brook State University of New York, Susanna is the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association‘s Regional Membership Coordinator for Riviera Maya & Oaxaca Mexico. She is a Contributing Editor for FWT Magazine: food wine travel, Contributor to Travel Writers Network, Your Life Is A Trip, Examiner.com and other freelance venues. Susanna has over twenty years experience in the hospitality business as owner of Rancho Encantado, an eco-resort and spa in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. She lives in Northern New Mexico. Susanna is the author of the book: Fifty and Beyond: New Beginnings in Health and Well-Being published by Paloma Blanca Press. Look for her latest book, Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers, available in fine bookstores and online at amazon.com and others.
Hip Luxury in Ancient Athens by John Lamkin
Photos by John Lamkin unless otherwise noted
View from the balcony, NEW Hotel, Athens
or years Athens and the rest of Greece had been on our “bucket list.” Arriving at the Athens airport after our journey from the States it was a pleasant surprise to find Yionnis of Athens Welcome Pickups waiting for us. His English was perfect and on the way into the city he pointed out many of the sites to see, got us up to date on Greek history and on current events, plus giving us a map of the city he had marked up with all the things we should see and do. The NEW Hotel, our destination, was right in the center of the Plaka District, the “happening” part of the city, close to everything we wanted to see.
The hotel is small, 79 rooms, and very modern and hip – an art piece in itself. Two Brazilian brothers were put in charge of the design of this exciting project and their vision was to com-
Street scene, Athens
bine the old and the new. Juxtaposed against the clean lines of glass and mirrored walls of the rooms, was the creative collages using the wood pieces from the previous building. Hotel promo said that work by one of my favorite avant-garde artists, Laurie Anderson, was on display, but when we got there it had already been taken down although, there were other like artists shown in the main public spaces. We had arrived rather late in the afternoon with time to bathe and rest after our travels, before dinner. Dinner was on the rooftop Art Lounge, under the stars, with a spectacular view of the Parthenon lit up like an ancient light show. The food was not only deliciously gourmet, but beautifully presented. Then, back to our cozy room for a well deserved night’s rest. With sound-proofed rooms, all possible noise was blocked and we could enjoy the luxury of a wonderful sleep on blissful bedding. The very modern, stylishly decorated room had one wall that was all window where we
could look out upon an ancient Byzantine chapel below, surrounded by a very modern city. Waking to the glow of the early morning sun filtering through the curtained window-wall was a joy as was standing on the balcony surveying this new-to-me city — ancient and, at the same time, very modern. Breakfast buffet was an abundance of savory treats as well as the wonderful, fresh Greek coffee. There were eggs – whatever style you like — olives, cheeses, fresh fruits, thick and creamy yogurt and an enticing array of breads, rolls and croissants. Always, there is local honey. The Greeks know how to eat! The restaurant itself is a work of art with pillars sculpted of wooden found objects, very tastefully done. And, the wait people are so friendly. What an introduction to Greece and its people. On to exploring the city of Athens. For us, the ancients and their art is a big pull, making the Museum of Cyclades Art our first stop. Housed in an
Marble statue, National Archaeological Museum, Athens
old mansion, the building itself provided the perfect atmosphere for the extensive displays and walking from floor to floor revealed an extensive collection from these Aegean islands. Much of the figures displayed felt almost modern in their rendering, graceful in their simplicity and extremely sophisticated. Sidewalk cafes abound, so a stop for a cold cappuccino is mandatory. I’m beginning to feel Greek already. Life is slower here, even with the hustle and bustle of the city. Coffee is a one-hour affair with talk and companionship as important as the drink. Slow down and be Greek could be a fitting slogan. Later in the day, we visited the National Archaeological Museum which was so rich and interesting that we stayed until the very last minute before closing. Seeing the display of the amazing and lifelike figures that were carved out of the famous marble, much of which was quarried on the island of Paros, as beautiful today as when they were created, was exceptional. Although many were missing parts of limbs or facial features, the fact that they were so intact was a source of amazement and appreciation. Dinner that night was an unexpected discovery. Although we actually had a restaurant chosen as our destination, we couldn’t find it. That’s one of the fun things about travel. When something doesn’t turn out as planned, it can become an opportunity to have a new experience. In finding our way to another of the many neighborhood squares, we approached a street where tables had been set up, with restaurants on both sides serving food outside. Choosing one at random, we were delightfully surprised with the quality of the food. We heard not only Greek, but other languages spoken around us and felt that we were part of a local scene which made us quite happy. The next day’s feature was the Monastiraki Market with its large flea market. It stands on the same spot as the ancient Greek Agora (market), giving it the feeling of connection to the past. Everywhere you look you see signs of their
Nighttime view from our dinner table, Art Lounge, NEW Hotel
glorious old civilization — ruins, walls, pillars. We stopped to admire Hadrian’s Library since the building was so well preserved and the restoration still taking place made it appear very much as it must have been during that Emperor’s time in history. By the early evening, we were ready to go out once again and began by walking through the Plaka district. We had heard about it and somehow felt it
might be a place specifically for tourists but…….it actually is the old part of Athens, located at the bottom of the Acropolis and very accessible to much of the hotel area. Yes, it’s been restored and has an array of quaint and interesting shops and places to eat, cafes and tavernas, but it’s still authentic and well worth a visit. This is where people lived thousands of years ago and still live today. There is also evidence of the
Museum of Cyclades Art, Athens
NEW TASTE Restaurant, NEW Hotel, Athens
John Lamkin Byzantine era as well as ancient Greece and, later, Roman influence. By walking through Plaka and up its winding walking streets, we found ourselves at the approach to the new Acropolis Museum located next to the ancient Parthenon. We looked with awe at foundations that had been recently excavated, showing clearly the layout of some of the buildings that had been part of the ancient Greek Acropolis. This area is still in the state of reconstruction and we found ourselves looking down below the level we were standing on to the remains of buildings from thousands of years ago. Once inside, we saw immediately that we were in a world-class museum. Here, life-sized carvings were stunningly displayed. Some of them were two to three times life sized and one could only look in awe and wonder what amazing talent and dedication and time it must have taken to have created them in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries BCE, at the height of Greek culture. Everywhere there is evidence of how this culture admired the human body and their reverence for creating enduring art. Although each display was inspiring and stirring, the reproduction of the walls of the Parthenon, was the most powerful. On all four sides, were scenes depicting their lives and their mythology.
Only in certain parts of these dimensional murals, were there areas that were bare. They weren’t originally but were taken during the early part of the 19th century by the Earl of Elgin who actually had them removed and shipped back to London to reside in his personal collection before donating it to the archaeology museum in London. If they are ever returned to Greece, they will find their place waiting at the Acropolis Museum. A stay at the New Hotel promises luxurious comfort, an artistic environment, and wonderful food. In addition to all of that, its location makes many places of interest both easy to find and within reach.
If you go • • • • • • •
Greece Athens Athens Welcome Pickups This is the great service we took from the Athens Airport to the hotel NEW Hotel Museum of Cycladic Art National Archaeological Museum The Acropolis Museum
An award-winning journalist and photographer, John started travel writing as an escape from the drudgery of being an aerospace engineer – dropped the engineering, kept the writing. John went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute, then on to found the now famous San Francisco Camerawork. He may be found on horseback riding through the jungle to explore an ancient Maya ruin, or sitting on the balcony of a five-star plus resort, sipping an exotic drink, or interviewing a fashion celeb, or…. John is the Executive Editor of FWT Magazine: food wine travel. He belongs to several professional organizations including the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association where he serves as a Board Member and as the Publications Chair. His recent book about the Zapotec weavers of Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley is reaping critical acclaim. John will go anywhere for a story and believes as Isabelle Eberhardt once said, “A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.” For more information about John Lamkin: http://ifwtwa.org/author/ john-patrick-lamkin or visit his website: http://www.travelwritingandphotography.com/
A Trip to the Land of the Xinomavro Grape Story and photos by Cori Solomon
The city of Naoussa
Herding sheep through Thymiopoulos Vineyards
tremely desirable wine to accompany Mediterranean food. Xinomavro might be described as Pinot Noir meets Nebbiolo. History tells us that the region of Naoussa was plagued with phylloxera in ine tastings are a fabulous the 1930s. In the 1960s and 1970s the way to discover new wines and varietals from around the area was replanted with Xinomavro, a world. In the case of the Greek wines of grape variety chosen for its resistance to Naoussa, visiting this area, meeting the diseases. Naoussa is a PDO, Protected Deswinemakers and their families, sharing a Greek family styled meal and touring the ignation of Origin for Xinomavro. This vineyards and wineries only enhanced the means that the wines produced from quality by offering a different perspective the Xinomavro grape have been grown in a certain way and the vines bear a on the wines. It also provides a better particular yield. Under the guidelines of appreciation of Greece and Xinomavro, the signature grape of this region of the PDO if a label designates the wine as Naoussa Xinomavro, aging is 12 Macedonia. Before highlighting a recent visit, one months. A label with Naoussa Xinomavmust understand the Xinomavro grape ro reserve means it has been aged for and the region. Xinomavro means acid 24 months. If a Naoussa Xinomavro black in Greek. This grape with its black specifies Grande Reserve it has aged at skin produces a very dry wine. The wine least 48 months. When Xinomarvro is blended with has characteristic flavors of figs, olives perhaps Syrah or Merlot, the wine beand dried tomatoes, making it an ex-
comes a PGI, Protected Geographical Indication. Many wineries have created their own fabulous interpretation of Xinomavro using other blends. The Naoussa region lies in a valley along the foothills of the Mount Vermion. Encompassing a total of 15 miles and located 75 miles from the sea, the terroir differs from the northern to southern portions of Naoussa; therefore each individual winery’s wine is characterized by subtle differences. There are roughly 20 wineries in Naoussa. Twelve belong to a group called Wines of Naoussa. This group was established to promote Ximomarvro throughout the world, and especially the United States. Many of the wineries are very established with long standing family ties. Winemaking is definitely a family affair in Naoussa. Many have been growing grapes for several decades. The latest generation is a group of winemakers between the ages of 30 and 40. Winemak-
ing is handed down from father to son except in the case of Chrisohoou where the daughter took over the winemaking practices. Vaeni is not only one of the biggest wineries; it is the largest cooperative in Greece. It was established in 1984 and today has 220 members representing about 50% of the grape growing region of Naoussa. Vaeni is named after the barrel that was used long ago for crushing grapes with bare feet. There is a vast range of wines produced at Vaeni including Dogmatikos, a Blanc de Noir made from white Xinomavro that shows the diversity of this grape. Imeros means unfulfilled love, desire that develops into passion, and is an apropos name for Vaeni Rosé, which combines both the white and red Xinomavro grape with some Syrah. Aged in smoked oak barrels, Damaskinos is Vaeni’s most popular Xinomavro. One impressive winery for both its beauty and its winemaker is Chrisohoou. Located in the center of the Naoussa appellation and closest to the city of Naoussa, this is a family owned winery begun in 1948 and is now in its third generation. It was challenging when Nana Chrisohoou became the enologist in 2004. In Naoussa, winemaking is for men. Having a female at the helm is scarce in this region as well as throughout Greece. Nana confronts her obstacles and using her femininity puts a marvelous touch and elegance into the wines she creates. Nana is recently married and about to have her first child. Her exuberance for her new life comes out in the wine. Known mostly for their Xinomavro, their version is characterized by rich textures, complexity and a marvelous dark color. Nana describes Xinomavro “ like the cousin of Nebbiolo.” Chrisohoou’s has their version of Xinomarvro Blanc de Noir, a crisp, fresh, and bright wine. Domaine Diamantakos is a very small family owned winery in the Mademi area. The area, its orientation to the sun and soil that combines stone with calcium and magnesium offers a
A picnic at Elinos Vineyards in Naoussa, Greece
The vineyards of Naoussa
high Ph level, giving the wine a softer quality. The winery was planted in 1981 and 1984. Starting as growers, their first vintage was in 2000. George Diamantakos is the winemaker. During a visit George’s mother served some wonderful homemade Greek pastries, which added to the ambiance of this wine tasting. George describes the Xinomavro as “the Greek version of Chianti.” Another boutique winery is Karyda. The winery was built in 1994 and the vineyards are 35 years old. Started by Konstantinos Karydas and now run by son Petros, the winery sets out to produce a single vineyard Xinomavro that sees little human intervention. Thymiopoulos is a biodynamic winery. The philosophy of this winery and vineyard is not to stress the vine. This can be difficult when the grapes are grown in rocky mountainous soils. The winery has two labels, Young Vines, where the grapes utilized are from 7 – 10 years old and Uranos with 42 years old vines. Explaining the significance of his label design, winemaker, Apostolos Thymiopoulos says, “the circle stands for oxygen, the line equates to the soil and the wave of the line is the water that is necessary to grow the Xinomavro grape, while the dot represents the
light or sun that is needed to ripen the grape.” All these facets play a role in biodynamic practices. Enjoying a luncheon at the winery watching the various animals and fowl of the winery graze and squawk as they entertained us with their antics highlighted our visit. In addition to their Xinomavro that is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, Thymiopoulos creates an exceptionally fresh Epherphsans Xinomarvro Rosé. Dalamaria is an organically certified winery since 1996. The family has been in some form of the wine business since the 1840s. With vineyards on the eastern foothills of Mount Vermion, today the sixth generation is focusing on innovation by bringing their wines to a new level of winemaking and knowing the marketplace better. This winery is more diverse in the type of wine it creates. The Agnhechoros, an elegant soft wine is a blend of Merlot and Xinomavro. The Paliokalius makes Dalamara’s statement on a 100% Xinomavro. Kir-Yianni is the largest winery in the Naoussa area. Founded by Yiannis Boutaris, the winery represents both Naoussa and Amyndeon, two regions that straddle either side of Mount Vermion. Kir-Yianni is Naoussa equivalent of
Mondavi with its range of wines and the tours it offers. Because of its larger scale, the vineyard blocks are managed and vinified separately thereby creating diversity in the character of the Xinomavro grape. There are 25 clonal selections. Kir-Yianni creates five different versions of Xinomavro including a single vineyard designation. Finally a picnic at the Elinos Vineyards could only be characterized as the highlight of a visit to Naoussa. Traveling along a bumpy gravel dirt back road to the vineyards with the Tzitzikas, a locust type bug chattering their song in the background and you will find yourself in the most rural yet lovely spot of Elinos Vineyards for an enchanting afternoon picnic that includes all foods made from grape leaves. Elinos is a family owned winery run by the exuberant Christos and Nikoletta Tarala, a brother and sister team, who happen to be twins. Christos is the winemaker and Nikoletta is the sales manager. The family purchased the vineyard in 2006. The vineyard is located at the Eastern end of Mount Vermion. The vineyards utilize organic practices and are certified DIO. Elinos’ style represents the energy
and vitality of this younger generation. Christos signifies the new world approach found with many of the current winemakers in the area. These are just a few of the wineries that make Naoussa an outstanding region for growing Xinomavro. The wineries and the beauty of Naoussa, which can be seen in its restaurants, parks, cherry groves and The Multicenter Museum of Aigai — a captivating underground museum displaying the royal tombs while honoring Philip II, Alexander the Great, and his son Alexander IV — make this area a worthwhile addition to your “want to go” list.
Xinomavro from Kir-Yianni
Twins Christos and Nikoletta Tarala of Elinos Vineyards.
Cori Solomon My writing epitomizes “write what I know” and I share my experiences and joy with my topics in a passionate, candid, caring and entertaining way. Like my art where I am looking beyond the eyes to find an animal’s inner soul and spirit, I am looking for the story that is behind the restaurant, chef, winery, winemaker, artist or animal.
An Insightful Tour of Umbria and Tuscany by Maurie Oâ€™Connor Photos by Christine Salins
Roman aqueduct in Perugia.
from the fact that the streets are too narrow, lots of cars would simply ruin the ambience and beauty of these small villages that date back to Etruscan and Roman times. nyone who has ever driven in Our desire to see some of the Italy will know that it requires a smaller towns and villages led us to certain degree of patience, forbook an eight-night Country Roads of titude and skill. Travelling by train is recUmbria and Tuscany tour with Insight ommended. The trains are comfortable, Vacations. The Insight coaches are fitted safe, reliable and economical. There are, with around 40 seats, fewer than most however, some places where trains are tour buses, and with just 27 people just not practical and this includes some on our tour, we travelled in style and of the most beautiful and picturesque comfort with way more leg room than towns in Umbria and Tuscany. In some any aircraft. With mostly Americans and of these towns you can’t even drive a Canadians in the group, we were the car into the historic center unless you token Australians, other than our tour have a local resident’s permit. Apart guide, Ann, a Melbourne girl who had
Baptistry in the Square of Miracles, Pisa.
lived in Italy for 20 years and spoke fluent Italian. Her negotiating skills, charm and cultural and historical knowledge ensured that we were very well informed, that everything went smoothly, and everyone’s needs were considered. It’s no easy feat herding a group of 27 camera-snapping tourists but she did it with humour, goodwill and occasional shouts of andiamo (let’s go!) On each of its tours, Insight offers what it calls Signature Experiences – remarkable experiences that aren’t offered by other companies. For us, that was a visit to the Bramante Staircase in the Vatican on the morning the tour departed from Rome, a privilege open only to Insight and its sister company,
Traflagar. The Bramante Staircase is not actually a staircase but rather a graceful spiral walkway designed by Bramante so that the pope could ride to the top of the tower on a donkey. Considering the views of Rome from the top, it wasn’t hard to see why the pope wanted a better vantage point. The experience was combined with a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, where you’re not allowed to talk even though the artistic splendor renders you speechless anyway. A stop for lunch at Orvieto, enroute to the Umbrian capital of Perugia, introduced us to Tuscan chef Lorenzo Polegri who demonstrated the simple but skilled art of pasta making in his enigmatically named restaurant, Zeppelin. A great personality, a great lunch and great local wine left everyone smiling. Armed with a signed copy of Lorenzo’s cookbook, we explored the winding, cobblestone streets of Orvieto, which like many towns in Umbria and Tuscany is built high on a hill with commanding views and a long history. If you like chocolate (never trust anyone who doesn’t), then you’ll love Perugia, a vibrant university town with layers of history, good cuisine and Italy’s biggest chocolate festival attracting many thousands of people (all of whom you can trust) every October. It might sound extreme but in Perugia I tried some Absinthe chocolate washed down with a chocolate Porter. There are many reasons to go back to Perugia but I’d go back just for that. Based in Perugia for three days, we explored the neighbouring towns of Todi, with its fascinating Roman cistern, and Assisi, home of St Francis and one of Italy’s most beautiful cathedrals. Its well-preserved frescos avoided the bombing in World War Two thanks to a German Catholic commander of the occupying force, Colonel Valentin Müller, who also turned a blind eye to Jews hiding there. In many of the towns Insight visits, it draws on local guides with specialist knowledge – characters with big personalities, like our guide in Perugia
Florence is a sophisticated city, rich in history and centuries-old architecture.
and Assisi, Marco, who was animated and engaging with a wry sense of humour. His friends teased him, he said, because his car was a VW Polo. Umbria is truffle territory and that pungent unique aroma filled many of the glorious food shops specializing in local produce in these small towns. In Spello, it was hard not to go grocery shopping in the wonderful delicatessens but our hunger was satisfied by a five-course meal at restaurant Il Molino, set in what was formerly an olive oil mill and featuring some classic Italian dishes including the local porcini mushrooms. Where else would you start a tour of Tuscany but in Cortona, the setting for Francis Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, and close to where Hannibal defeated the Roman army. There is no real connection between these events but there is much more to Cortona, not to mention some trendy cafés and art galleries. In Tuscany, we were based in a hotel just outside San Gimignano for three days with excursions to Siena, Florence, Pisa and Lucca. While not as big as Florence, Siena has a rivalry with that city going back hundreds of years. According to our guide in Siena – and we think she was only half joking – Florentines definitely cannot be trusted (they obviously don’t eat chocolate). Twice a year, the main square in Siena becomes a race track with thousands of people crammed into the middle while horses race furiously around the perimeter. The square is divided into nine quadrants that signify the districts of the city and are characterized by a different animal. On entering those districts, you can see ceramic tiles on the walls with pictures of the respective animals. Against her parent’s advice, our guide, a caterpillar, entered into an ill-fated marriage with an elephant. People from different districts rarely mix and once an eagle, caterpillar or leopard, it
One of the many beautiful food stores in Siena.
isn’t easy to change your spots. If you have lunch in Siena you simply can’t go past the local specialty, ribollita, a hearty bean soup with crusty bread. Florence is a sophisticated city, rich in history and centuries-old architecture where a thousand pictures of the Ponte Vecchio are just not enough. It’s also home to the Medici Palace and, of course, Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. Insight’s optional excursion provided fast-tracked entry to see the magnificent David, avoiding the typically long queues. Another optional excursion was to the Machiavelli Villa, not far from San Gimignano, where the prince of politics was banished and spent the last days of his life. Now a winery and restaurant, its Italian barbecue, wine and entertainment made for a very special night. Pisa is not far away and although the tower is on everyone’s list as a must see, I had a leaning for the town itself which is not so crowded with tourists. A bonus was the fact that our visit
coincided with the visit of the Italian President and all the pomp and ceremony that accompanied it. It’s also a short trip to Lucca, one of the gems of Tuscany. This is an old walled city with a round, Roman-style central plaza. It is also the birthplace of Puccini and the house where he was born is now a very well set out museum with costumes and original score sheets from his operas. Following a visit to his house you can sit in the sun-drenched square outside the Madame Butterfly Café and enjoy a Campari Spritz while gazing at a statue of the master himself. There could not be a more memorable finale for a visit to Tuscany than the stunningly beautiful town of San Gimignano with its breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside. Be there at sunset when the light paints a scene you’ll never forget. San Gimignano is home to Armando e Marcella Pasticceria, selling fabulous pastries and chocolates, and to Dondoli, which has bragging rights as a world champion gelato maker. One of
The cobblestone streets of Spello.
Dondoli’s most popular flavours is Michelle, a delicious confection of saffron, honey, orange peel and almond biscotti created in honour of Michelle Obama prior to her visit. Venice marked the end of our Insight tour and a return to train travel and sorting out our own schedules and arrangements. Our tour director, Ann, had reminded everyone at the start that Italy could be complicated and difficult but that you just had to accept it and go with the flow. With Insight taking care of all the arrangements, it was certainly easier to sit back and enjoy watching the landscape of these beautiful regions unfold.
If you go
Insight Vacations offers luxury coach tours in Britain & Ireland, USA & Canada, North Africa & Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, India & Asia. www.insightvacations.com
Maurie O’Connor loves jazz, oysters, books, films and craft beer in no particular order and is on a quest to visit as many jazz clubs and oyster festivals as he can while travelling the world in search of new adventures. Along with his partner and fellow IFWTWA member Christine Salins, he is a regular contributor to www. foodwinetravel.com.au Maurie enjoys creating photographic essays that capture the essence of a culture and not just a destination. He thinks pictures should be candid not created and beer should have a head. Maurie lives in Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia, overlooking a beautiful beach where the sun shines every day and the seagulls are really well behaved.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, a must-see on everyone’s list.
The Guy Behind Costa Bravaâ€™s Tourism Success Story and photos by Kristin Henning
A section of Costa Brava, in Lloret de Mar, Girona, Spain
isitors to Europe can’t be blamed for thinking their favorite places are naturally and automatically accessible, warm, and welcoming. But behind every popular destination is the star-maker machinery–the marketing people who are creating the stories that attract the likes of us. Costa Brava, in Spain’s northeast Catalunya region, can boast about its culture, food, and gorgeous, rocky, wild coast. But people in the know will also talk about Jaume Marin, Marketing Director at Costa Brava Girona Tourist Board. He’s the guy responsible for bringing “Game of Thrones” to film in the area. He’s campaigning to bring the 2022 Ryder (golf) Cup to Costa Brava. And twice he’s hosted the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) Europe conference (the first in Girona in 2012, and the second in Lloret del Mar in 2015). In short, Marin has done his work. He’s capitalizing on the region’s cultural and gastronomic laurels by building eco-tourism and creative visitor
Jaume Marin, Marketing Director, Costa Brava and Girona Tourism, Spain
experiences. Meanwhile he continues his energetic participation in tourism and social media circles. All this from a small region that competes on the world tourism stage with entire countries and continents. We grabbed a few minutes to talk with Jaume recently to learn what sparks his enthusiasm.
Olives and seafood from Costa Brava, the culinary center of Spain
Tourism in Girona and Costa Brava
FWT: What is it about Costa Brava that makes it so appealing, and what’s the fastest growing area of tourism? JAUME: Nature is the fastest growing–including all the activities related to nature. Thirty-three percent of our area is protected land. We have seven natural parks. The natural environment is a large segment of tourism, so its benefit goes way beyond the protection itself. Promoting tourism based on these natural areas is a fine balance. Not too long ago, everyone who came here wanted to be lying on the beach. Now they want active [holidays]. For us, that means not just nature, but culture and gastronomy. People combine activities. Here we have the highest concentration of Michelin star restaurants in the Mediterranean, and a lot of celebrity chefs. FWT: Where are your visitors coming from, primarily? JAUME: Most are European, and
more than 70 percent come by road. After visitors from Spain, next are French, German, then from the UK, Benelux, Holland, Italy. But a growing percentage of visitors are American. Many Americans come for cycling and hiking. We are also seeing longer stays. FWT: How do you account for your success in spite of the difficult economy of Spain? JAUME: Of course the crisis has been everywhere, but we are not feeling it so much. We have four percent growth. The good thing is that we attract European and foreign markets. More than 90 percent of our promotional budget has been directed outside Spain, so this helps us. Now the Russians are suffering. So that is one down market, but at the same time the American market is growing, so we keep a balance. FWT: How are you balancing your efforts within the region and still working with the greater Spanish tourism board? JAUME: Catalunya is the leading destination of tourism in Spain, attracting 25 percent of all visitors to Spain. And that is largely visitors to Barcelona. And then there’s Costa Brava. The new train [the high speed Paris-Barcelona route launched a couple years ago] has changed things, and especially opened the area up with the French. On the new train, it’s 37 minutes from Barcelona to Girona. Now it’s like a neighborhood, so easy to visit. We are the premium brand within Spain. Companies are doing well, restaurants are helping, [the artist Salvador] Dali is of interest. Everyone is aligned. We are happy. In tourism offices, the Jardin Santa Clotilde, Lloret de Mar, Costa Brava
thinking used to be like shop attendants: we open the doors and people come in. Now we need to go and look for tourists. We need to compete. We need to invest. [In this region] we invest big in social health, health and safety. We are the only cardio protected region in Europe.
Every 800 meters [along the coast in Lloret] you’ll see defibrillators. This year we saved six persons, three were tourists. We don’t publicize this service, but we have it. And then…we are connected to a well-established, great brand like Barcelona, an outstanding destination in the
has already been presented in medical conferences about the positive effects related to fibromyalgia, with 50 percent reduction of pain. In certain kinds of forests there are positive impacts on asthma, or benefits for palliative care. Our role is partly to protect the forests, so they are not destroyed under private hands, also to see [visitors enjoy] health benefits without so many pills, and to promote tourism, too. We’re always trying to rethink. How can someone relax and enjoy what we have? This is not just a forest. I want things to happen there.
Marketing with New Media
FWT: Your tourism office manages Costa Brava and the city of Girona. You also introduce all of Catalunya to visitors. How do you manage coordinating all of this? JAUME: We are very challenged. We are so small. We are a region and we are competing with countries. But now it’s not a question of size, it’s a matter of how quick we respond to the challenges. I say to my staff, ‘Look, whatever you do, try new things. If you fail, fail quick and fail cheap.’ FWT: You’re an early adopter, of sorts, in steering your marketing efforts toward bloggers. What did you see in this motley crew that started you down this path? JAUME: About four years ago we started to realize that external content has more relevance and reliability than our own content. So we decided most Lloret de Mar has developed from an old fishing village. of our content would be through the main influencers [among travel bloggers]. We started with 16 bloggers; now we’ve brought to our area over a thousand travel bloggers. Some were very good, some were not so good. We world. for swimming. This coastal path of 200 have created good content and a lot FWT: Tell us more about your kilometers is a key product of ours. It’s of coverage of Costa Brava based on initiatives in health and wellness and really spectacular. eco-tourism. Another project we’re working on this using the bloggers. FWT: Do you worry about losing JAUME: We’ve created two new year, in the background, is our forests. products. The first is our coastal pathWe have 24 mature forests in the region, control of your content and brand? JAUME: We think we are doing way. And the other is the protected forests of more than 100 years old. things right…and sometimes (using swimming areas in the sea, marked by These have medical properties, scienbloggers) is a way of quality control. We yellow buoys fifty meters off shore, just tifically proven, for healing. Research
It’s not a party until the giants show up! Costa Brava, Catalunya, Spain
bring people here that we do not know, and we see how it goes. FWT: I guess that means you also have to take some criticism. I bet some of your constituents don’t like that. JAUME: It takes a lot of education for the [travel] sector. Once they see the results they are very happy. So now it is easier. For this TBEX conference, we have 720 companies involved, and we secured 3,200 room nights for the participants. FWT: What about traditional media? Has using bloggers changed your PR and advertising budget? JAUME: We do very, very little
advertising. We have reduced our traditional advertising budget by more than 75 percent. But that is a shift in the budget, not a reduction in the budget. Now our efforts and budget have shifted to new media. This is not for immediate ROI, this is a long term thing. FWT: Congratulations, and thanks again, Jaume. It seems this ability to keep adapting and learning is key to your success. You’d make a good traveler!
Kristin Henning is a writer and constant traveler, visiting over 55 countries since giving up her home in Minneapolis in 2010. She and her husband Tom share their photos and stories on the travel blog, TravelPast50.com. Their travels focus on historic sites, arts and culture, food and wine, as well as the wonders of nature and the idiosyncrasies of roadside attractions. Good days, most days, include fresh air, new maps, and striking up a conversation with a stranger. Prior to hitting the road, Henning was co-publisher of various periodicals in Minneapolis/St. Paul (MN), including City Pages, Minnesota Parent, The Rake magazine, and a guide book, Secrets of the City: Guide to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
A Visit to Savigno the City of Truffles
by Irene S. Levine Photos by Jerome Levine This article was previously published in the Chicago Tribune
sk an Italian where to take only one meal in Italy and, after recommending his mother’s house, he will more than likely send you to Emilia Romagna,” writes Lynn Rossetto Kasper in her classic cookbook, The Splendid Table. Culinary tourists have fallen in love with the bounty of Emilia Romagna, the region in northern Italy that is home to the holy trinity of prosciutto ham from Parma, traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s famous, too, for its Mortadella and varied types of fresh pasta including torellini and tortelloni. Less well known, however, is that the region is a truffle-lover’s paradise, especially in autumn when white truffles are abundant. When we asked an Italian friend about the best place to experience a truffle dinner, we were soon headed to Amerigo 1934, a small trattoria known for its truffle-centric menus in the tiny hill town of Savigno. Located about 40 minutes southwest of Bologna, the town is so small that soon after spotting the road sign welcoming visitors to the “City of Truffles,” a long funeral procession blocked the one narrow street leading in and out of town, forcing us to backtrack and approach from the opposite direction before finding the inconspicuous storefront.. Chef Alberto Bettini’s grandparents, Amerigo and Agnese, opened the humble restaurant in 1934. The chef earned his culinary stripes working in the kitchen beside his grandmother and then his mother. His innovative menus reinterpret regional classics with a modern twist, attracting not only compatriots but also truffle lovers from around the world. On our visit, we met a Dutch couple that had discovered the restaurant on a road
Welcome Sign at the City of Truffles
trip a couple of years before; they were so smitten with their find that they decided to return again and stay overnight. What could be better than one fantastic truffle dinner, we asked? A truffle lunch the next day, they said. Almost all the ingredients on the menu are (and have always been) locally sourced: Eggs come from the hen house out back; vegetables and fruits from the nearby garden; and meat and game from the surrounding fields and forests. The region is known for the Mora Romagnola black pigs, huge white cows and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The sfoglia (pasta dough) is still rolled by hand and the flour for the organic bread comes from a local 18th century gristmill. The balsamic vinegar comes from nearby Modena. Most dishes are simple and flavorful, using only two or three fresh seasonal ingredients.
The trattoria and dispensa
Amerigo 1934 has a rustic, tavern-like feel that seems as if it hasn’t changed much since the ‘30s. Guests enter through a passage from the adjacent dispensa (grocery) that’s lined with floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves display-
Passatelli (pasta formed of strands of parmigiano cheese, egg and breadcrumbs pushed through a sieve) with white truffles
ing jars of neatly stacked specialty food products. The chef has developed a popular line of branded Amerigo 1934 food products—including sauces, truffle preparations and other specialty foods (all made without artificial flavors or chemical additives)—distributed to upscale food emporiums in the U.S. like Williams-Sonoma, Eataly and Dean & DeLuca. The recipes are based on the same ones guests enjoy at the trattoria so it’s a test of will power to exit without taking something home. The dining space is subdivided into a bar area and several small rooms. Tables on the ground floor are covered with red-and-white checkered cloths with white overlays, with antique mahogany furnishings that carry the patina of age. However, once you enter the larger upstairs dining room, you feel as if you’ve mistakenly wandered onto a stage set. Here, Italian painter and film set designer Gino Pellegrini, a friend of the family who designed sets for Hollywood blockbusters like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mary Poppins, Fantastic Voyage and The Birds (before his death in 2014), has created fanciful wall murals depicting the four seasons.
Exterior of the dispensa (grocery)
Bettini is not only a hands-on chef but also a gracious host. Moving from table-to-table, he helps guests understand the three different menus, which can be challenging for diners who aren’t fluent in Italian. When we order with some hesitation, he tells us there are no rules: “Eat whatever you prefer. Eat as much as you want. Order half portions if you like.” There are tasting menus as well as an a la carte menu featuring classic regional primi (first courses) such as tortellini en brodo, tagliatelle al ragu, and tortelli con crema di parmigiano; and secondi (second courses) that include guancia di vitella brasata (veal cheek braised in red wine), coniglio all’aceto balsamico (rabbit in balsamic vinegar) and il baccalà alla Bolognese (salt cod with garlic, parsley and lemon). We ordered from the seasonal truffle menu, which featured aromatic white truffles with polenta, different pastas, pork or egg—shaved and priced at the table. (In 2014, the cost ranged between 2.50-2.90 euros per gram, with 10 grams recommended for a serving but the cost varies based on the abundance of the harvest.). Each dish tasted as exceptional as it looked, complemented by an excellent dark ruby red Negrettino (the local wine recommended by our server).
The locanda and more
Many guests come to Amerigo 1934 for more than a meal. In 2001, the family purchased one of the old stone houses in the village to create a five-room locanda (guesthouse) where visitors can stay overnight. It turns the concept of a B&B on its head: As opposed to featuring bed and breakfast, it allows diners to leisurely relax after a heavy dinner. Guests are invited to enjoy complimentary morning coffee
or cappuccino at one of two bars in the town where they can mingle with locals. Located a short walk from the restaurant, like the dining experience, the painstakingly restored property playfully blends old with new. Each cozy room has its own distinct décor and layout. The former stable on the ground floor has been transformed into a large room with a vaulted ceiling and modern bath. Four other guestrooms were once the barn woodshed, a drawing room, a bedroom and an attic. Art deco lighting and contemporary Italian furnishings and bath fixtures contrast with the vintage photographs hanging on the brick and stone walls. At no extra charge for overnight guests, Chef Bettini arranges complimentary visits to his local suppliers of ham, cheese, wines and vinegars. Guests can also learn to make pasta in the kitchen with Giuliana, his 81-year-old mother or his 84-year old aunt, Marisa. Before dinner, we were able to walk through the forest with two truffle hunters (a father, son-in-law and their dog named Pupa) to learn how they find truffles. We watched them unearth one they’ll sell for several hundred dollars. Chef Alberto Bettini flanked by truffle hunters, Maurizio Lorenzini on the left
Beef tartare with black summer Scorzone truffles, shallots, DOP extra virgin olive oil and sweet salt from Romagna
Irene S. Levine
If you go
with his father-in-law Adriano Bartolini on the right Amerigo 1934 has had a Michelin Amerigo 1934, Via Marconi, 14-16, star since 1998 (one of 27 awarded to Savigno (Bologna), Italy restaurants in the region in 2015) but Emilia Romagna Tourism (official a visit to the informal eatery offers far tourism information site) more than a satisfying meal. Chef BettiBologna Welcome (official tourism ni’s passion for the foods, local producinformation site) ers and traditions of the area where he was born is almost palpable. By reinventing the classic dishes he grew up with, he’s developed a successful model for a “little restaurant that could.”
Chef Alberto Bettini flanked by truffle hunters, Maurizio Lorenzini on the left with his father-in-law Adriano Bartolini on the right
Irene S. Levine is an award-winning travel journalist and blogger who is a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune, PBS NextAvenue.org and other print and online publications. She produces MoreTimeToTravel.com, a source of information and inspiration for the over-50 luxury traveler, with her husband/photographer/travel companion Jerome Levine. Trained as a psychologist, Irene holds as faculty appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine.
My Contender for Europeâ€™s Top Secret Destination is... Story and photos by Janice Nieder
Viura lunch opened with Potatoes Andean style
or most travel writers the pot of gold at the end of a long winding road is discovering a secret getaway spot. Double bonus points if you’ve somehow stumbled across one in Europe, which is why I am somewhat loath to share this hidden gem, rightfully referred to as Queen of the Basque Country. The beautifully preserved, medieval town of Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country, has won many international awards such as the European Green City Award and the Spanish Capital of Gastronomy award, yet somehow still flies under the tourist radar, which only adds to its authenticity.
Vitoria’s Top things to See & Do
Vitoria’s crown jewel is the Gothic Cathedral of Santa María. This is not just another old ho-hum church (Ken Follet The Silken Ciudad de Vitoria is locat- researched scenes for the sequel to Piled in the heart of VG just a short walk to lars of the Earth here.) It’s a fascinating the Old Town. The classic façade opens experience due to a unique “Open for to a contemporary lobby, a charming Construction” project. Closed in 1994 interior garden with seating areas and because of serious “structural problems” recently refurbished guest rooms. Un(aka ready to fall down) some brilliant wind at the Concept Spa, complete with person came up with the idea of offering Turkish bath, sauna, hot tub and a full guided tours of the restoration process. roster of massage and facial treatments. Visitors don hard hats and follow the Bonus points for the bountiful breakfast extremely knowledgeable guides along buffet, sweet service and lively piano scaffolded walkways via serpentine bar. stone staircases, from the crypt to the
bell tower, where you’ll find marvelous 360-degree city views. Insider tip: Visit the website to make a prior booking for the 75 minute tour with an English speaking guide. Our infectiously enthusiastic guide, Chus, kept us highly entertained with secret stories and fascinating architectural tidbits. Don’t miss the high-tech sound and light show that divulges how the portico walls were painted.
Restaurant Ikea Upon entering the 25-year-old Ikea, which means “little hill” (no relation to the Swedish meatball chain) you are instantly transported to an imaginary forest environment filled with unpolished wood, native stone and amusing crab lights dancing along the ceiling created by the well-known designer Javier Mariscal. Chef Iñaki Moya adds his signature twist on traditional Basque cookery, which, combined with an excellent international wine list and attentive service, results in a Michelin caliber dinner. Splurge on the tasting menu to fully appreciate the explosion of flavors and textures that Moya delivers in high style. Pintxo hopping The locals love their pintxo and Old Town’s cobblestone lanes are lined with a plethora of bars displaying a selection of the irresistible bite-sized creations which run the gamut from a humble tortilla to gastronomical mini-bites such as a coddled free-range egg with shaved truffles, which pair perfectly with an aromatic Rioja Alavesa or Txakoli, the indigenous young, fruity white wine. The award-winning pintxo bar, Sagartoki, is always packed, due in part to their extremely hunky chef. Insider Tip: Stop in at the tourist office for a “Pintxo trail” map which will come in handy when practicing the art of ‘txikiteo’, the local version of barhopping. Thursday is ‘pintxo-pote’ when many convivial pubs offer a small glass of wine and a snack for €1. Colorful Murals throughout V.G.
220º alternative space kitchen For a more hands-on approach to pintxo, take a class at 220º, which is centigrade for a cooking temperature. The school is run by a local ex-journalist, who spun-off her love for Basque cookery into giving workshops on practical baking, confectionery, cooking and natural cosmetics. We put on our
cheerful orange and white aprons (to match the walls) and spent a couple of delightful hours baking up a storm as Elena patiently taught us how to make a traditional Basque cake filled with cherry preserves and talo, a unique flat, griddled corn bread, used as wrappers for the spicy piperade and sausage that Elena had previously prepared for our lunch.
Gothic Cathedral of Santa María
Insider tip: Since you’ll probably be stuffed with Basque goodies afterwards, you might want to walk the perimeter of VG, which is a planned green belt consisting of six parks and grassy paths teeming with native trees, flowers, and birds.
The best boutiques are found in Old Town between Dato and General Alava Streets, many owned by local designers. Streets such as Cuchillería, Herrería, Pintorería, and Correría are named after the traditional trades that used to occupy the buildings such as smiths, painters and harness makers. A few trendy shops to get you started are The Soul of the Clothes, Olso, a new home décor shop with some great gift items, and Galeria Iradier 9 for some original works by emerging artists. Insider Tip: The “almond market” named after the Medieval District’s distinctive almond-shaped layout is a monthly market showcasing local artisans.
About an hour’s drive brings you to the Rioja Alavesa area that could rival Napa for its stunning landscape, complete with rolling green hills, lush vineyards and olive groves. The area also provides an eclectic choice of accommodations, creative cuisine, and a full calendar of special food & wine events. There are stunning modern wineries designed by an international “who’s who” of outstanding architects such as Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava. For a sleepover, choose the Hotel Palacio de Samaniego, a restored 18th century Palace or for something a bit more modern, try the hipster boutique Hotel Viura, complete with a wine shop that offers guided tasting, a fitness center, and panoramic rooftop views. We lunched at the trendy Viura restaurant which turned out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip. The uber talented Chef Juan Carlos Ferran-
do customized an imaginative tasting menu paired with regional wines that reminded me a bit of French Laundry in the early days. The meal burst open with an invigorating Watermelon Gazpacho, followed by a multitude of courses. Standouts were a flavorful grilled Hake and sea risotto, marinated sirloin with frozen vinaigrette and a knockout salty/ sweet Guanaja Chocolate dessert. If the food was almost too pretty to eat, at least we paused to acknowledge the fact before eagerly scarfing down every last delectable bite. Our favorite wine tasting/tour stop was at the landmark Baigorri Winery, an impressive, oversized glass box perched on top of the vineyard affording unobstructed views all the way to the river Elro. This 400 meter glass atrium was created by Basque architect Inaki Aspiazu to give visitors a chance to experience a peaceful moment before descending down seven levels to the actual winery which is built 105 feet underground. As a matter of fact the atrium is so Zen that they now hold yoga classes there. The remarkable architecture showcases the special gravity driven production system, which allows the grapes to be fermented completely intact before aging in new French oak barrels. With all these beautiful trappings I was relieved to find out that they also produce excellent, award-winning Tempranillo’s including dynamite Bodegas Baigorri Vino de Garage. Insider Tip: They offer a great deal for 45 euro that includes a tour, tasting and fabulous sounding (they had me at the “home made pate scented with white truffle and sealed the deal with the slowcooked Ibearian pork jowl) four-course, prix-fixe lunch with wine pairing. And now for something way outside the box, head to the Salt Valley of Salinas de Anana, about 30 km from Vitoria Gasteiz, if for nothing else than the chance to bathe your feet in a healing salt pool. However the salt flats offer so much more. Sign on for an interesting guided tour that explains the history of the salt flats which were
VITORIA GASTEIZ TOURISM
VG loves a good festival
formed beginning in the Triassic Period as you learn about the ancient craft of the salt workers. Sal de Añana harvests the highest quality mineral salts, both plain and flavored, prized by the area’s top chefs. Pop in to the attractive gift shop where you can stock up on assorted salts (the Salt Infused with Red Wine will elevate your burgers to Kobe beef level) or a spritz bottle of their innovative Basque Liquid Salt, made from natural fresh water that has been filtered through underground salt deposits that formed when a sea dried up 200 million years ago. Insider Tip: If you would like to explore the Basque country and its people on a deeper, more personal level I highly recommend that you contact Basque guide extraordinaire, David Elexgaray, who is simply one of the best guides I’ve ever experienced. Go to his site at www.basque-ways.com where you’ll find everything from “Ask a Basque” a question to information about his customized tours. For more information visit the helpful tourist site at www.vitoria-gasteiz.org/ turismo
Janice Nieder Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. A culinary trendsetter, Janice might be found sharing a smoked monkey with the local shaman deep in the Amazon jungle, “running with the dogs” while truffle hunting in Marche, Italy or crashing a wedding in Pakistan, where she was wined and dined by over 200 men — and no women. So far she has visited 95 countries in search of the perfect meal, exotic adventures, luxurious spa treatments and fabulous accommodations. For a full author biography and profile please visit: ifwtwa.org/author/ janice-nieder
Paella Wars Valencia Wins!
Story and photos by Barbara Ramsey Orr
A paella should be cooked over an open fire, preferably one made from local grape vines
f you thought Spaniards were passionate about their ham, just ask a Valencian about paella and wait for the fireworks. Paella is considered Spain’s unofficial national dish, but it originated in the province of Valencia, where the residents have strong opinions on what constitutes authentic paella. Many years ago, on my first visit to Spain, I sat on the terrace of a hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the Costa Brava and enjoyed a dish of paella. It arrived steaming in a wide brimmed oval bowl filled with shrimp, clams, fish and octopus, on a bed of fragrant rice. “There” I thought, “I’ve had the real thing, a Spanish paella. That’s it.”
Since then, I’ve had different versions — one with chicken in Madrid, one with vegetables in Barcelona, one with seafood and chorizo and white beans in Palma de Majorca. But it wasn’t until I was presented with an authentic Valencia paella in the countryside near Alicante that I realized the truth- the others were mutations of the original. And the original was a true classic culinary jewel, one passionately defended and steeped in history, redolent with the flavours and history of its place of origin. The revelation came during lunch at Restaurant Elias in Xinorlet, a small town nestled between rocky hills and olive groves in the Alicante region, part of the community of Valencia. The paella served here had been rated number one in Spain – and therefore in the world — by El Pais, the highest daily circulation national newspaper of Spain. This was as authentic
as it could get. The seriousness with which the chef Elías Rodríguez takes his paella is evident immediately – the first thing you see when entering the restaurant is the glass walled kitchen with its open hearth fire.
The chef invited me in to see his preparations and to display the simple and carefully curated ingredients for his paella – salt, pepper, ground cloves, saffron, broth, and rice. On the grill, portions of rabbit were browning. Large flat paella pans stood
ready, and the fire was being stoked with vine and orange tree branches. A bowl of locally foraged snails stood waiting. (Because the snails munch on rosemary that grows wild everywhere here, there is no need to add the herb to the paella as the snails are already ‘infused’.) This is what I learned at Restaurant Elias about paella: Its origins are humble – the dish was originally created by farmers who used a bit of rice and whatever they could find to cook a midday meal over an open fire. The traditional ingredients would be rabbit, local snails, perhaps some beans and rice and water. A paella should be cooked over an open fire, preferably one made from local grape vines, ideally the monastrell grape vines, or orange or olive tree branches. The fire imparts a smoky taste to the dish. Paella, unlike a risotto, should not be stirred but left undisturbed. The rice must be short grain. Rice was introduced to Spain by the Moors, over 1200 years ago and Valencia is the most important rice-producing area in Spain. Bomba rice is the brand of preference for paella, a product of the district of Valencia. The rice is the most important ingredient, indicated by the fact that paella on Spanish menus is labelled ‘arroz’, the Arabic word for rice. Thus, arroz de conejo y caracoles (rice with rabbit and snails) or arroz de pollo ( rice with chicken) The rice should never be overpowered by other ingredients. An authentic paella should have a very thin layer of rice. The Valencians say that the cooked rice should be only as thick as un ditet, or the width of a small finger. This allows for the maximum amount of rice to touch the bottom of the pan, producing the delicious crispy, caramelized edges known as ‘socarrat’, and prized. A good paella should be eaten directly from the pan, with diners beginning at the edges and working toward
the middle. It is a dish to be shared. The paella that I was served at Restaurant Elias was perfect, an authentic melody of local ingredients prepared in the traditional method. It was like eating history – very tasty history. Accompanied by a glass of El Tarima, a full bodied red from the Volver Winery in Alicante, and preceded by grill-toasted bread, homemade aioli and a tomato jam, this was a meal to savour and to remember. And now I can say with authority that I have had the authentic Spanish paella and it was amazing. Not to say that other versions are wrong or bad, but there is a certain sincerity and honesty and attention to the quality of ingredients about the original that is very satisfying. In the paella wars, Valencia wins, and Restaurant Elias leads the charge.
If you go Restaurante Elías Rosales 7, Xinorlet (Alicante) Tel: (+34) 966 979 517
Barbara Ramsay Orr Barbara Ramsay Orr is a multiple recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for Journalism, is a member of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association and sits on the board of the Society of American Travel Writers. She is an amateur artist, a former art teacher, and a bit of a museum addict, so many of the stories she writes have a cultural angle. And then there’s food. As the food writer for her local city magazine for over twenty years, she has a keen appreciation for a good meal. Art and Food? What more is there? For a full author biography and profile please visit: http://ifwtwa.org/author/ barbara-ramsay-orr
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Half a Century Later, Secrets from â€œThe Sound of Musicâ€? Revealed Story and photos by Linda Fasteson
Leopoldskron Palace, in Leopoldskron-Moos, with Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background
Aside from the “Sound of Music” 50th birthday celebration, references to the film are barely noticeable compared to all the city itself has to offer. Salzburg has a deeply rooted history and celebrated culture that is part of everyday life . Salzburg, or “salt castle,” grew prosperous in the Middle Ages from the gold and salt, a “white gold”, mined here for more than 3,000 years. A wooden barrel of salt was once worth as much as a house. Prince-bishops ruled from the time the Pope granted the title in 798 right up to 1803. With their income from trading, taxes and tithes, prince-bishops commissioned the finest of everything, including art, architecture, and music, creating an extraordinary city. They built lavish palaces, like the Salzburg Residenz, that were inspired by the grandeur of the Papal States of Rome. These palaces grew grander with time. Their seat of power, DomQuartier, is now a cluster of four museums that opened to the public May 17, 2014. A visit includes the lavish State Rooms View of the Residenzplatz and horse fountain from the DomQuartier, Salzburg
t is hard to believe that fifty years have passed since “The Sound of Music” premiered. This movie culminated in elements of suspense, showcased the talents of Julie Andrews, and dazzled us with the beauty of Salzburg. It was based on a Rogers and Hammerstein musical, included their music, and continues to capture people’s hearts. Most of us know that the book on which the story is based, “The Story of The Trapp Family,” written by the real Maria von Trapp, depicts a far less
romantic, glamorous and dramatic life than depicted in the film. Salzburg, however, is everything the movie showed it to be — and more. As we followed a map to spot familiar filming sites within the historic part of the city during our recent visit to Salzburg we quickly discovered that this baroque city and UNESCO World Heritage Site is much more than the spectacular storybook scenery and architecture that made it an ideal setting for the movie.
Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress
and the opulent North Oratory of the Salzburg Cathedral. There are art treasures and curiosities of both the cathedral and St. Peter’s, the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world. DomQuartier also has magnificent views of the city and mountains which should not be missed. Its square, Residenzplatz, was built on the site of an old Roman forum and has an elegant baroque fountain with snorting horses. In “The Sound of Music,” Maria sang “I Have Confidence” while passing through this central square to get the bus to the Von Trapp villa. Later in the movie a Nazi flag was draped here. Salzburg’s Altstadt (Old Town), with its churches, gardens, castles, Horse and carriage ride, Salzburg
and palaces, all surrounded by green mountains, is so charming that it seems at times to be its own movie set. Little shops line lanes like Getreidegasse, one of the oldest streets within the Salzburg City Gate. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthplace is at #9. He was baptized in the cathedral. Though other places make the claim, this is, indeed, the City of Mozart. We arrived in the midst of the globally renowned Salzburg Festival, a highly respected cultural extravaganza that originated as a peaceful gathering of international cultures after World War I. Part of the fun was seeing the many people who attended wearing traditional dirndls, lederhosen, or other finely crafted traditional clothing. It was at
the 1936 Salzburg Festival that the actual von Trapp family won a competition. Despite the crowds, we were able to get a reservation where “The Sound of Music’s” children stayed, the Hotel am Mirabellplatz, one of the Historic Hotels of Europe. Built in 1653, it was the palace of Archbishop Paris Lodron. At the time of the filming, hotel guests traditionally left their shoes outside their guest room at night to be polished. The children are still remembered for creating pandemonium by switching all the shoes on the third floor with those on the fourth. Julie Andrews and her young daughter stayed in the luxurious Hotel Sacher Salzburg, renowned for its Sacher Torte. Christopher Plummer was nearby in the
Hotel Bristol. It is across the street from Mozart’s family house on Makartplatz. Physicist Christian Doppler was born next door. Mirabell Gardens, with its Pegasus Fountain and hedge tunnel, was the site of most of the Do-Re-Mi song. We spotted a Gray Line Original Sound of Music Tour coach with Julie Andrews as Maria painted brightly on its side tucked away in a parking lot behind the gardens.
Our tour guide played a “Sound of Music” CD and everyone in the international group seemed to know all the words to every song. Between songs, he talked about the myths and facts surrounding the movie. We stopped across the lake from 18th century rococo Leopoldskron Palace, built for a prince-archbishop and depicted as the von Trapp home in several lake scenes. The ballroom was not large enough for filming so it was reproduced
The glass gazebo shown in the movie was moved from this property, which is now affiliated with Harvard University. It is just inside the gate on the grounds of the popular Hellbrunn Palace, which was built in 1615 with trick fountains for the archbishop’s amusement . Scenes and songs set inside the gazebo — Liesl’s “Sixteen Go-ing on Seventeen” and Maria’s “Something Good” — were actually filmed in a larger gazebo in Hollywood.
in a grand scale in Hollywood. Maria and the children did actually fall from the boat here. The water was frigid and the children had to be bribed with hot chocolate and cake to do a retake. The actress who played Gretel could not swim and has avoided being in water since then.
We were also told that Liesl’s shoes got wet in the rain during that scene. She slid on the floor, broke a glass pane, cut and sprained her ankle, but finished the scene to a standing ovation from the cast. The actress who played Liesl was 21, not 16, and the oldest child in the actual von Trapp family was
Salzburg Festival parade, Salzburg
We reserved a place for the next day to see the movie’s sites beyond the Old Town. Although we would have preferred another day of sunshine, enjoying the music, lush green mountain scenery, and tales of the filming was a great way to spend what turned out to be a rainy day.
St. Micheal’s Basilica, Mondsee
Linda Fasteson a boy, Rupert. The children grew throughout the filming. Liesl wore flat shoes in the beginning and later had to stand on a box to be taller than the older son, who grew 6 inches in 12 weeks. Some of the children lost teeth. Others gained weight from all the chocolate and cake. Christopher Plummer did not like working with children and refused to carry Gretl during their mountain escape. Instead he carried a lightweight dummy on his back. Our guide pointed out the trees lining the road to the front of the von Trapp’s actual house, which is now a hotel. It was here that the “Sound of Music” children climbed these trees dressed in clothing made from the old draperies. Our tour continued to Lake Wolfgang
for a view of Schafburg, the mountain where Julie Andrews sang “The Sound of Music” in the opening scene. The downdraft from the film crew’s helicopter made this scene challenging for all. Then we were off to Mondsee region to see St. Michael’s Basilica, site of the movie wedding. To create the illusion of a longer aisle, a platform was built high in the back of the church, just below the organ. The film crew shot the scene while lying on their stomachs. The ride back to Salzburg reveals even more, like the fabricated ending, an escape through the mountains. That path from Salzburg would have taken them to Germany, not Switzerland. The actual family simply boarded a train.
Linda Fasteson is an award-winning writer who specializes in Baby Boomer travel with emphasis on history and culture, grand and historic hotels, waterways and railways, educational vacations, and food and wine. She views travel as a way to to better understand the people, places and events of our world. In addition to her Sunday newspaper travel feature stories, Baby Boomer Travel and Travel Deal columns, and website, NotableTravels.com, she has been a panelist for major publications and international tourism boards and is a contributor to a variety of magazines, forums, and cruise reviews.
Roaming about Salzburg
A Walking Tour of “The Sound of Music” Sites Story and photos by Amy Trotter Houston
Nonnberg Abbey where Maria leaves for the von Trapp villa.
alzburg, Austria is a magical panorama of weathered spires and domes topping Baroque facades with the stately fortress standing sentry and mountains just beyond. Add in pealing church bells and it’s pure bliss. Travelers come to traverse the quaint narrow lanes, see where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and indulge in apple strudel. Then there are those who come to twirl. They come as though called by a siren to find the places they’ve seen year after year in their favorite movie – The Sound of Music. The storyline of The Sound of Music is timeless. Maria, the would-be nun, is governess to seven children whose father, Georg von Trapp is a retired naval officer and widower. Despite their differences and his affair with Baroness Schraeder, Maria and Georg eventually fall in love, and marry. If you don’t know this story, get thee to a DVD player! Based on real events, it was filmed in 1964 in and around the actual locations. Enjoy this walking tour offering sights you won’t see from a tour bus. Grab a city map at your hotel and let’s get going.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
Start on Mozartsteg, the footbridge over the Salzach River, which the children run across during their trip into town wearing the playclothes Maria has sewn from the drapes in her bedroom. Cross the bridge and walk up Mozartplatz to Residenzplatz.
The famous “Do-Re-Mi” steps with Pegasus Fountain in background at Mirabell Gardens.
Residenzplatz (Residence Square)
This square in the heart of the old city is seen from above with soldiers marching across it and Nazi banners hanging from the Alte Residenz (Old Residence). Earlier in the movie, the real Maria von Trapp in her uncredited cameo can be seen walking past the archway by the cathedral in the background, while Julie Andrews, singing “I Have Confidence,” strolls toward the camera. Shortly thereafter, the fictional Maria splashes water at the horse statue in the Residence Fountain. After flicking your own water, walk to Domplatz in front of the cathedral, which is seen briefly during the Salzburg montage before “Do Re Mi.” Visit the cathedral because it is dazzling and was rebuilt after being bombed during World War II. On past is Kapitalplatz with a nice view up to Hohensalzburg Fortress. You can’t miss this square – there is a sculpture of a man standing atop a large golden ball. This is where Maria boards the bus to the von Trapp villa. Continue across Kapitalplatz to Festungsgasse. This steep cobblestoned lane takes you up and around to Nonnberggasse and the red onion domed abbey.
Stift Nonnberg (Nonnberg Abbey)
Important to both the factual and fictional tales, the real Maria von Trapp was a postulant at the abbey. She and Georg von Trapp were married in the chapel here, though the chapel looks nothing like the one in the movie. The front gate is where the children ring the bell to inquire about Fraulein Maria and are politely turned away. Look for the metal ring set in the wall to the left of the gate, as seen in the movie. Later still, the Nazis show up demanding to be let in. This area in front of the gate is where the von Trapps, driving the caretaker’s car, come hurling past during the climatic escape scene. It’s also where the Nazis scramble to get back in their vehicles only to discover the cars won’t start because the nuns have sinned. The abbey’s courtyard is where Maria departs for the von Trapp villa with guitar and bag, wondering what her day will be like as she exits the gate. Retrace your steps down Festungsgasse and stop at Steigkeller restaurant for a bite to eat and a cold beer before venturing on to the cemetery.
Salzburg, Austria home to The Sound of Music and destination for movie fans.
Felsenreitschule (Rock Riding School) Petersfriedhof (St. Peter’s Cemetery)
This small cemetery of well-tended graves and arcaded crypts enclosed with local iron work was the inspiration for the von Trapp family’s hiding place in the abbey. The family did not hide out in this cemetery, but rather on a soundstage. Visit the catacombs carved into the rock face above and take a breather in the ornate Rococo church of St. Peter’s Monastery. Continue on through the courtyard to Toscaninihof. When Rolf curtly delivers the last telegram to Liesel, the entrance to the monastery courtyard is behind him.
The exterior of the Rock Riding School is seen when Herr Zeller’s car screeches to a halt and when Max and the children exit the theater after their rehearsal before Rolf approaches with the telegram. An outside staircase leads up to a path along the Mönchsberg. Trek up here for great views over the city. When Maria walks out of the abbey singing “I Have Confidence,” she ends up here in the movie. The interior with its 96 arcades carved into the cliff was first used as a stage during the Salzburg Festival in 1926. This stage is where Herr Zeller confronts Max during the rehearsal,
and where the von Trapp family sings together, supposedly, for the very last time. Following a rousing rendition of “Do Re Mi,” Captain von Trapp takes guitar in hand, choking out an emotional version of “Edelweiss,” which Maria, the children, and the audience all help him sing. Nazi guards are posted in the arches. The family’s final number is “So Long, Farewell” before they head for the hills. The stage is also where third place winner Fraulein Schweiger takes her 16 bows. Walk around the Festival Hall to Hofstallgasse and continue on to Herbertvon-Karajan-Platz and Pferdeschwemmen (horse pond). Originally used to
water horses in the court stables this site is seen during the Salzburg montage before “Do Re Mi.” The beautiful architecture and horse frescos are striking against the craggy rock. Continue along Bürgerspitalgasse and look right down Getreidegasse, the popular shopping lane with displays of wrought iron guild signs. At Gstättengasse look for the elevator stuck to the side of the cliff. This is Mönchsbergaufzug (the Mönchsberg Lift). Take it up to the Modern Art Museum for glorious views over Salzburg’s old city. Here are the steps where Maria explains more about “Do Re Mi” to the children, with the city as the backdrop. This is the iconic shot used on postcards found all over the city. After soaking up the views, take the lift down and continue along Griesgasse to the river. Cross over the Makartsteg footbridge where you’ll enjoy more fantastic views of the city and fortress. Stop in Hotel Sacher for a slice of their famous cake and a cup of coffee before hitting the final stretch of our tour. You’re going to need your strength.
Mirabellgarten (Mirabell Gardens)
Some of the best remembered scenes for “Do Re Mi” were filmed in these flower filled gardens. Start at the entrance off Markartplatz where the large stone statues facing one another, fists thrust high in the air are instantly recognizable. The gardens are a backdrop for the 17-century Mirabell Palace. Straight on is the large fountain where Maria and the children zipper across one another while singing. Along the edge of the gardens are the vine tunnels the children race through and farther on is the Pegasus Fountain that they dance around in an aerial shot. Take the stairs opposite the palace to the Zwerglgarten (Dwarf Garden) and find the little statue that the children pat on top of the head. It’s the one with glassHorse Pond shown in the Salzburg montage.
es that looks a bit like Teddy Roosevelt. Walk back to the Pegasus Fountain for the “Do Re Mi” finale, as the famous steps are nearby. Here, the children jump up and down, a physical representation of a musical scale, while Julie Andrews’ voice jumps by half-octaves. Turn around at the top for a beautiful view back over the gardens and up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
If you go Stay at the Hotel Bristol across the street from Mirabell Gardens, where Christopher Plummer played the piano in the bar at night, or book a room at the Hotel Sacher where Julie Andrews bunked, as well as director Robert Wise. Take one of the bus tours to see the places where scenes outside of Salzburg were filmed, including the wedding church in Mondsee, the gazebo, and the villa exteriors. Wear comfortable shoes and give into the urge to spontaneously start twirling.
Amy Trotter Houston Amy is a travel writer and editor who loves to take armchair travelers along for the ride. She enjoys delving into the history and culture of a place, be it across the ocean or around the corner. Living overseas has given her valuable travel experiences. She hopes her writing encourages others to take advantage of the benefits of travel and discover new ways of looking at the world. Amy is also an avid fan of The Sound of Music and enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for the movie.
Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales
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View from Kruja
ntil the 1990s Albania was a closed country. It was nearly impossible for people to visit or for Albanians to leave. Today it welcomes tourists. Arriving at Albania’s only airport, named for Mother Teresa but commonly referred to as Rinas, we found that getting through passport control was smooth, quick, and friendly. While waiting for our luggage we met with our driver and without delay we were taken to our hotel – the Theranda, a new and very nice hotel. We had arranged with OurExplorer. com to have a guide in Tirana, the capital city. At 9:30 the first morning we met our guide, Martin, on the steps of the Opera in Skanderbeg Square. We began our tour of the main part of the city and learned that Skanderbeg, whose statue dominates the main square, was a national hero who was responsible for keeping the Ottoman Empire from expanding into Europe. After a break for lunch, Martin picked us up in a minivan and we went to the pretty town of Kruja, an hour from Tirana. It clings to a mountainside as do many of the other towns in this mountainous country. Our first stop was the Ethnographic Museum located in an old house depicting how people lived 100 years ago, and as some folks still do. It seemed like a rather comfortable life. The working area was on the bottom level where the animals were kept, olives were pressed, and other work was done. The next level had separate social areas for the men and women. The house belonged to one of the more wealthy families as evidenced by the fact that they had their own steam bath. Nearby is a beautiful new museum devoted to Skanderbeg. Signs that said “I Love Obama” and American flags were on display on the buses and elsewhere, likely due to the fact that
many Albanians have relatives in the United States. Surprisingly, on a display of various cities in the world that have erected statues to Skanderbeg, was a picture of the newest one – in Rochester Hills, Michigan, unveiled in 2006. Before heading back to Tirana we wandered through the bazaar which offered a lot of local handicrafts such as felt hats, carpets, and antiques. Tirana is an easy city to like. It is safe and inexpensive, with a lot of trees and grass, and a canal running through the center. One street, Ismail Qemali, near our hotel is closed to traffic and has several very nice restaurants and shady
places for coffee. Having coffee with friends is one of the most popular ways to spend time. The food in Albania is excellent mainly because it is all organic due to the fact that the average farmer cannot afford the imported fertilizers and pesticides. Amazingly – tomatoes taste like tomatoes! They use a lot of lamb in their recipes but the lamb has a very mild taste, not at all like lamb we in America are used to. From Tirana we took a three-hour bus ride to Berat, one of the oldest cities in Albania with layers of white houses ascending the hillsides, inspiring the name “The City of a Thousand Win-
dows.” The valley has been inhabited for over 4000 years, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Sometimes it is hard to decide where to stay. We opted for Castle Park thinking it was near the castle when in reality is it across the river and about a mile away high on the hillside. However, Castle Park has a wonderful forest-like setting and great views of the mountains, and they supply free shuttle service to the center. It turned out that Martin, our guide in Tirana, was also in Berat so he hooked us up with Flatura (which means butterfly), to give us a tour of the castle. The word “castle” does not accurately describe the area as it is actually a medieval city or citadel, first fortified in the 4th century B.C. With its strategic location, it has wonderful, panoramic views of the area. Flatura guided us through the cobbled streets, past houses that are still occupied, to the National Omufi Museum, one of the 42 churches that at one time were within the walls. Only eight remain and only the Museum is open on a regular basis as it houses the works of Onufri, Albania’s greatest icon painter, whose work many visitors come to see. When Berat fell to the Ottomans in 1417 they built two mosques which are some of the oldest in Albania. However only the minaret of the Red Mosque remains. Afterward, we met Martin for lunch at Mangalemi Hotel located in the historic area below the castle. The hotel has recently added beautiful rooms in a restored house adjacent to the main hotel – all done in the local style. Lunch on the rooftop was delicious with a wide offering of local cuisine including stuffed peppers “the way grandma made them,” lamb with yogurt, and spinach casseroles. From Berat we took a two-hour bus to Plepa, a turnabout near Durres, where we caught a cab to the Oaz Hotel. The Oaz is a lovely, small hotel and, since it was mid September, the season was coming to a close and we were just about the only people at the hotel. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, and the pool was lovely which was great
If you go Albania: www.albaniantourism.com, Theranda Hotel, Tirana: www.therandahotel.com Guide service: www.ourexplorer.com Castle Hotel, Berat: www.castle-park.com Mangalemi Hotel, Berat: www.mangalemihotel.com Oaz Hotel: www.hotel-oaz.com
Berat, City of 1,000 Windows
Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. They have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to their life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. They travel seven months a year – a least – nationally and internationally. Let the fun continue! Canal in Tirana
because the beach, while picturesque, did not invite close inspection. Litter is a problem in Albania. Considering how far they have come in a decade I am sure litter is an issue that they will deal with – for now they are busy building roads and improving infrastructure. The country is very safe, despite the presence of hundreds of thousands of bunkers, built in the 1970s in response to a feared invasion from western countries that never materialized. Although unused, they are a reminder of Albania’s past, and stand in stark contract to friendly and helpful people and its future as a tourist destination.
Cologne’s Cathedral You Really Can’t Miss It
by Sarah Johnson
Cologne Cathedral Square
hile I was waiting in the Hauptbahnhof for my train back to Dusseldorf from Cologne, I happened upon a postcard in a newspaper shop with a Google Earth-type photo of the city (Köln in German) in the days following World War II. The town lay in shambles except for the majestic Cologne Cathedral, rising out of the ruins as if saved only by the grace of God. (In fact, it was hit by 14 bombs during World War II, but somehow managed to escape collapse and was repaired in the 1950’s.) This centrally located station, built in 1889 and welcoming approximately 1,300 trains each day, provides a front door to the Kölner Dom, one of the world’s greatest churches.
As I do not speak German, I asked for directions to the cathedral at my hotel in Dusseldorf and was (almost dismissively) told, “If you are arriving by train, you can’t miss it.” My first thought upon exiting the train station and seeing the 13th century Gothic behemoth looming before me was, “Wow, when they said you can’t miss it they really meant you can’t miss it.” Known as Holy Cologne during the Middle Ages for its high number of churches and relics, the city became a pilgrimage of sorts and led Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden in 1248 to commission the building of a new structure worthy of these trips. To accomplish this, a momentous decision was made not to construct the new church in the Romanesque architecture of Germany, but to instead turn to the “modern” Gothic style of French cathedrals. Centuries passed before the Cologne
Cathedral, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996, was complete. When work was halted in 1473, leaving the south tower halfway done with a construction crane still left on top, local citizens said they could hear creaks and groans at night as it moved in the wind. In 1842, citizens formed the Zentral-Dombau-Verein with the aim of completing construction and, when the final stone was laid in 1880 and celebrated by Kaiser Wilhelm I, the cathedral’s total cost came to the equivalent of approximately one billion Euros today. At nearly 160 meters when finished, it was the tallest building in the world for four years, until it was beat out by the Washington Monument. It is still the tallest gothic building in the world and houses the world’s largest free-swinging bell, St. Peter’s Bell, weighing in at 24 tons. As is typical of Gothic churches, the north and south towers point toward
Cologne’s Cathedral or Kolner Dom
the sky as if trying to reach up to heaven and the plot of the church is in the form of a cross. To get an outstanding view of the Rhine River and surrounding city, I walked around the west entrance to climb the tower stairs. After paying my 50 Eurocents to use the restroom (it’s very common in Europe to have to pay a small amount to use a public restroom), I go below ground level past Roman ruins in the cellar and through a tunnel to the ticket window, where I fork over three Euros and begin my ascent. The narrow, spiral stone staircase is dizzying but fascinating – about half the way up you can see the change in stonework, from rock used from Bonn quarries during medieval times to sandstone favored by nineteenth century builders. 533 steps later (I stopped once to catch my breath), I entered the windy viewing platform and encountered a gaggle of British school children while the smell of old stone and metal filled my nostrils. Upon seeing another adult, their chaperone turned to me and asked, “Is there a stretcher to take you back down?” No, there is no elevator here. Back at ground level and feeling satisfied that I got my exercise for the day, I walked through one of the cathedral’s main doors where I was promptly admonished by a middle aged docent saying something in German and pointing to my stocking cap which I assumed meant take off your hat. (No, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I was just cold- it was December after all.) My first stop was a large Christmas nativity scene to the left of the entrance which invited me to “join personally in the moment of God’s incarnation and to think about its significance in my own life.” Along with the stunning stained glass windows (shimmering colors dot the church walls even on the darkest of winter days), as anyone who has visited the grand cathedrals of Europe knows, relics have an important place in preserving church history. In the Chapel of the Cross, an oak crucifix donated by Archbishop Gero around 965, said to be
the oldest remaining monumental crucifix in the Western World, represents a lifeless Christ. The remains of the Three Kings of the Magi are said to have found their final resting place here, located in a gold sarcophagus behind the altar. If you feel the need to see more church treasures and have a few Euros to spare, a visit to the cathedral’s treasury would delight. Re-opened in 2000, the treasury is located in underground vaults originally built in the 13th century. Divided into six exhibition rooms, visitors can see works of art made of gold, silver and ivory as well as relics and textiles dating as far back as the fourth century. As I am there during the Christmas season, I build in time to visit “Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom,” or the Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral, where the smells of roasting chestnuts and Gluhwein (hot spiced red wine) fill the air amid a sea of vendors selling arts and crafts, scented soaps and, of course, holiday trinkets. Standing on the steps of the west side of the cathedral and tightening my scarf to walk back to the train, I hear the church bells toll to designate the top of the hour while a woman behind me turns to her friend and says “Auf Wiedersehen.” Looking out at the snow gently falling on the town of Cologne I think to myself… this is one of those unforgettable travel moments.
Inside the Cathedral
Sarah Johnson has an extensive background in writing and research with positions in communications and development for a Minneapolis based non-profit organization. She is also a freelance writer and has authored many articles relating to food, travel and history for a variety of publications including the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, MinnPost, Edible Twin Cities and Minnesota History. She holds a Master of Business Communications degree from the University of St. Thomas and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Last Shot Jim DeLillo
Parc Guell, overlooking Barcelona, Spain is a colorful collection of architecture designed by Antoni GaudĂ. Mosaic tilework is the hallmark of the construction. Jim DeLillo is a travel and adventure photographer who specializes in creating transporting imagery. Based near NYC, Jim is available for assignments globally.
ÂŠ 2015 JIM DELILLO
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