travel world WINTER 2018
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
Christmas in Midtown Light Spectacular at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO
The Magazine Written by North American Travel Journalists Association Members
TravelWorld International Magazine
Note from the Publisher
is the only magazine that showcases the member talents of the North American Travel Journalists Association
Group Publisher: NATJA Publications Publisher: Helen Hernandez
Dear readers: As we approach the holiday season, it is a time for reflection and time to give thanks This last year has brought us many challenges, worldwide. We must never forget the wonder and excitement that travel brings to our lives, as well as a better understanding of people and their cultures. The members of the North American Travel Journalists Association are pleased to provide you with compelling, fun stories, along with photography that brings destinations to life. In this issue we profile North Carolina, Florence, Chile’s Atacama Desert, Georgia’s Cumberland Island, the Russian Arctic, New Mexico’s Kokopelli Cave, and train travel in Europe. In addition, we have a special piece on Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri to help put us in the holiday spirit! Happy Holidays to all and happy reading! Kind regards,
Helen Hernandez Publisher
Editor in Chief: Bennett W. Root, Jr. Editor/Creative Director: Joy Bushmeyer VP Operations: Yanira Leon
Contributing Writers & Photographers: Martha Hoy Bohner Jacqueline Harmon Butler Ann Fisher
Don Mankin Noelle Salmi Deborah Stone Tom Talleur Kathleen Walls
Editorial /Advertising Offices: TravelWorld International Magazine 3579 E. Foothill Blvd., #744 Pasadena, CA 91107 Phone: (626) 376.9754 Fax: (626) 628-1854 www.travelworldmagazine.com
Volume 2018.01 Winter 2017. Copyright ©2018 by NATJA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in TravelWorld International Magazine in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NATJA Publications, Inc., nor do products or services advertised. NATJA Publications and TravelWorld International Magazine reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Travel World International Magazine or NATJA Publications. TravelWorld International Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted, and is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NATJA Publications, Inc. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.
travel world WINTER 2018
F E A T U R E S
& S T O R I E S
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
6 Chile's Atacama Desert Story & Photos by Noelle Salmi
14 Branson, Missouri's Christmas Spectacular
Story & Photos by Martha Hoy Bohner
20 Whales, Walruses, & Polar Bears in Russia
Story & Photos by Don Mankin
26 The Anasazi Never Had It So Good!
Kokopelli's Cave, New Mexico Story & Photos by Deborah Stone
We’ve been stirring up history and culture for over 375 years.
Rich history, astounding architecture, unspoiled beaches, celebrated restaurants and world-class events – they’re just a part of what makes Newport the shining gem in the coastal crown of New England. Come discover the City-by-the-Sea people have been talking 4about for centuries.
DiscoverNewport.org Media Contact: Andrea McHugh AMcHugh@DiscoverNewport.org
travel world WINTER 2018
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
F E A T U R E S
& S T O R I E S
32 Haw River Infuses History, Renews Souls
Story & Photos by Tom Talleur
37 Riding the Rails in Europe
Story & Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
51 Cumberland Island, Georgia
Strange Deaths of Developers
Story & Photos by Kathleen Walls
44 A Story of Two Davids
Story & Photos by Ann Fisher
Atacama Desert AN ARID, ALIEN WORLD Story & Photos by Noelle Salmi
A fumarole soars upward, dwarfing the onlookers at the El Tatio Geysers
n the darkness of a waning night, our cramped van wound its way up an Andean roadway in a desolate corner of northern Chile. Against the black sky, the profusion of stars stretched all the way to the horizon, cocooning us in a sparkling dome.
As we neared the over 14,000-foot-high El Tatio, the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere, a crisp white early light emerged to reveal the outlines of volcanic peaks. Our driver and guide, Mauricio Gonzalez, rolled down his window and stretched out a hand. “I think it's going to be the coldest Tatio of the year. It must be -18, -15 degrees [Celsius] up there," he said, adding, “Congratulations.” Gonzalez was only partly joking. The Tatio Geysers are best visited when temperatures are lowest; hence our pre-dawn arrival. When the hot, pressurized groundwater hits the frigid air, it condenses to produce towering pillars of white, thick vapor. It was July, the heart of the southern hemisphere winter, and the ultracold air would make for a jaw-dropping show. The day before, my husband Mika, three children, and I had flown from Chile’s capital Santiago to Calama, an austere copper mining town in Atacama, one of the driest regions on earth. From there, we'd driven our rented cherry-red off-road vehicle 60 miles across a barren landscape to San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis at the foot of an Andean range. Although San Pedro had grown markedly since I’d first visited twenty years earlier, when it had just one good eatery, it hadn’t lost its bohemian charm. After leaving our bags at our hotel, where we stayed in a thatchedroof bungalow, we drove to the Mirador de Kari lookout point to savor a spectacular desert sunset and returned to town for dinner at one of the half-dozen restaurants that now enliven San Pedro’s unpaved main street. At El Tatio, it was not yet sunrise when Gonzalez parked the van. Although the desert basin can go years without seeing rain, storms batter the Andes a few times a year, said Gonzalez. The accumulated precipitation seeps underground, where it’s heated by the hot magma that lies close to the surface in this volcanic region. The pressurized water escapes at El Tatio.
"‘Tata-iu’ means ‘the grandfather who cries,’ in the native Kunza language,” said Gonzalez. "This is how the indigenous people understood this place." Steam surged upwards from over 80 fumaroles, openings in the earth's crust, glowing white against the deep azure sky. Walking slowly to avoid getting even more lightheaded in the oxygen-poor expanse, I passed dense columns of vapor, bubbling pools, and geysers spouting hot liquid. It looked like a sci-fi version of a distant planet. Fingers aching from the biting cold, I continued to snap photos... until I looked over at our nine-year-old son. Gripped with nausea and a headache, symptoms of altitude sickness, Aksel had lost all interest in the alien scenery. The geysers wane as the sun comes up and Andean gulls fly overhead
A geyser blows vapor skyward in the frigid early morning hours at El Tatio geyser field
he spray cans of oxygen we'd bought at the pharmacy the day before had no effect. I wondered if Aksel was old enough for a sweet coca confection. Indigenous Andean people have long chewed coca to deal with excess altitude, and bags of whole leaves, as well as packaged caramels made with crushed coca, were available all over San Pedro. But was cocaine’s raw ingredient really okay for a nine-year-old? I needn’t have worried about the dilemma. Aksel took one taste of the brownish-green candy and spat it out. “This candy tastes like hay,” opined Aksel's 15-year-old sister Natasha, sucking contentedly. The sun soon crested the eastern ridge, and the warming air thinned the swirling vapors. As Andean gulls flew overhead, our van left El Tatio, stopping frequently on the 50-mile journey back to San Pedro to accommodate Aksel’s nausea. Mauricio parked strategically, so we could gaze at red-toed Andean geese and gentle vicuñas, wild members of the camelid family that includes the domesticated llama and alpaca. Mauricio returned us to our hotel at San Pedro's more bearable 7900-foot altitude, and Aksel and Natasha rushed inside to sleep off the 4:00am wake-up. Annika, then 17, and I shed our warm layers, borrowed mountain bikes from the hotel, and rode the rutted dirt road to San Pedro's central square, stopping to order rich, avocadofilled sandwiches from a local kiosk.
San Pedro's Catholic church, a bright white adobe structure erected in 1744, still overlooks the central plaza, which on this Saturday afternoon bustled with local families. Seated on a bench under a leafy tamarugo tree, Annika and I ate our sandwiches too quickly, fending off hungry stray dogs. At the far end of the plaza, we entered a long, narrow market hall jammed with vendors offering hand woven ponchos and pungent medicinal herbs made from local flora. Annika settled on a few knitted alpaca wool caps for friends back home.
An Andean flamingo soars, with Andean volcanic peaks in the background
Crusted salt and minerals cover over a thousands square miles in the Salar de Atacama
Flamingos feed on brine shrimp, tiny creatures that can survive years of drought in a dormant state
An Andean flamingo, one of three flamingo species that live in Atacama, standing in the waters of Laguna Chaxa
ater, with Aksel and Natasha refreshed from their naps, we loaded our red pickup with water bottles for the hour-long drive south to the Salar de Atacama, one of the world’s largest salt flats. San Pedro’s stocky algorrobo trees and yellow-leaved chañar trees quickly ended and we continued across a dusty plain flanked to our east by majestic volcanoes. In shades of taupe and old rose, topped with patches of white snow, the conical forms were often interrupted by a volcano whose peak had long since blown off. “Whoa,” said Natasha, as the ground crunched underneath her feet. We'd parked our pickup and were walking on crusted salt. We'd reached the lowest point in the desert basin, where Andean groundwater has accumulated and evaporated over millennia to produce a 1,200-square-mile salt flat dotted by a few bodies of water. As we approached one of them, Laguna Chaxa, I saw the same wonder in my kids’ eyes that I’d experienced so many years ago upon seeing, in the middle of the arid emptiness, dozens of pale pink flamingos. Laguna Chaxa is part of the Flamingo National Forest, a protected area where three flamingo species, Andean, Chilean, and James, thrive. The day we visited, Andean flamingos waded gracefully in the shallow lake, their distinctive hooked white and black beaks probing the water for tiny brine shrimp that flourish in the saline environment. Alongside them were native caitís, petite white birds with black wings and thin, elongated beaks that bent upwards towards the cloudless blue sky.
A flamingo glides over the still waters of Laguna Chaxa
We took in the tranquil scene as the afternoon seemed to grow ever hotter, the dryness parching our lips and sapping the moisture from our skin. We eventually left for our air-conditioned jeep and, then, our hotel, venturing out again after evening brought a drop in temperature. We ate grilled meats, with pisco sours for me and Mika, near a fire that roared under an open roof in the middle of a bustling dining room. Smatterings of Brazilian Portuguese, French, and German from nearby tables wafted over, along with the fire’s smoke. Early the next morning, we boarded a bus for ALMA, the most powerful telescope on earth. “Soul” in Spanish, ALMA stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, as it’s actually composed of 66 ultra-precise antennas working in unison on the 16,000-foot-high Chajnantor plateau.
he ALMA bus didn’t take us to Chajnantor itself, access to which is limited to trained personnel for mere hours at a time, given the risks of oxygen deprivation. Instead, after 45 minutes ascending the rust-brown Andean foothills, we arrived at ALMA's Operations Support Facility, a collection of white, rectangular buildings nearly 2000 feet above the desert basin, decorated only with a line of flags from the over twenty countries that support ALMA.
Sunset over Valle de La Luna, as seen from Mirador de Kari
“The worst enemy of astronomy is water. It causes [optical] aberration…. The more humidity, the more aberration, the worse the observation,” explained ALMA's educational outreach officer Danilo Vidal. “Atacama is the driest desert in the world, so it’s the center of astronomy.” Chajnantor’s extreme remoteness and altitude, which reduces humidity, also made it an ideal location from which to survey the heavens, said Vidal. We toured the facility, entering a room where scientists were analyzing just a tiny fraction of the celestial data collected. That data was correlated by ALMA's 134 million processors, processing 17 quadrillion operations per second and allowing the 66 radio dishes to function as one telescope. ALMA’s correlator, “is as powerful as the most powerful supercomputer in the world,” said Vidal.
A vicuña grazes in the Andean plane between the Tatio geysers and San Pedro de Atacama
“I loved the big trucks,” said Aksel of our ALMA visit. We’d donned hardhats to check out two massive yellow trucks built to move the multimillion-dollar, 100-ton dishes. Named Otto and Lora, the 20-foot tall leviathans move at a top speed of 7.4 mph when transporting the antennas. Indeed, this day’s activities seemed tailor made for Aksel. In the afternoon, we went to the Valle de la Luna, or Valley of the Moon, to climb inside, between, and over jagged orange and white slopes made of eerie mineral and salt formations. Aksel zipped his way through a winding cavern that the rest of us had to 10 duck to squeeze through.
An Andean goose seen on our journey back to the San Pedro from the Tatio Geysersi
The road back from the Tatio Geysers to San Pedro de Atacama
rom there, we hurried to Valle de la Muerte, Valley of Death, an ominous name that stuck in my head as we drove our off-road vehicle through a bumpy, narrow lane between high canyon walls that twisted left and right, leading from one blind curve to another. We gasped at each turn; it was like finding yet another wall in front of you as you navigate a labyrinth. “This looks like Fury Road,” said Annika, referring to the post-apocalyptic world envisioned in the Mad Max films. The difference, I thought, is that in Fury Road an ambush was usually awaiting you at the next turn. What awaited us, once we finally emerged into the larger canyon, was one of the tallest walls of sand I'd ever seen. The site of people high up on the dune, aiming to ride it on snowboards, broke the sense of desolation. Eager to reclaim the solitude, we drove deeper into the canyon, the sand slope to our right and a rocky canyon wall to our left, until the sandboarders were out of sight. We parked, stepped out, and gazed at the soaring hill of sand.
Looking down at our rented off-road vehicle from up high on a dune in Valle de la Muerte
Walking and jumping our way back down the dune in Valle de la Muerte
We started climbing. Our feet sunk and fine granules seeped into our shoes, through our socks, and between our toes as we trudged upwards. Wiry and limber, Aksel worked his way almost effortlessly upward. The rest of us moved more carefully, cautious – needlessly so, it turned out – not to slip down the steep grade, until we could go no higher. From our perch high up in the Valle de la Muerte, we looked out at the Atacama Desert and the Licancabur Volcano beyond. The lowering sun turned the volcano a deeper shade of purple. My only regret, surveying the scene, was that we were leaving the next day. I hoped it wouldn’t take another twenty years to return. Shoes heavy with sand, we turned to make our way back down and discovered, surprisingly, that we couldn’t really slide. Despite the steep grade, the sand held us in place. We took bigger and bigger steps, and then began to jump, landing solidly on the majestic dune. Because we were on a sharp incline, we soared with every leap. It felt like, perhaps, walking on the moon. And so we jumped and jumped in this otherworldly landscape, laughing the whole way down. 11
Latam and Sky Airlines offer inexpensive round-trip fares from Santiago, Chile, to El Lao Airport in Calama, Chile. From there, you can take the TransLicanCabur bus or another shuttle service, or rent a car to take you the 60 miles to San Pedro de Atacama. If you plan on doing only guided tours from Atacama, you can manage without a car. For more flexibility during your stay, you can rent an off-road vehicle at El Lao Airport through such international rental agencies as Avis and Hertz.
WHERE TO STAY
San Pedro de Atacama offers several accommodations options, from small inns in the heart of town to more expansive hotels, with pools and spa services, on the outskirts of San Pedro. We stayed at Cumbres San Pedro de Atacama, a short bike ride into the town center; we appreciated having a two-guestroom bungalow for our family of five. (www. cumbressanpedro.com)
Make sure to catch at least one sunset from Mirador del Cadi in the Valle de la Luna. While you can drive to places like the Laguna Chaxa on your own, some destinations are best visited with local experts. The pre-dawn drive to El Tatio geysers, located 14,000 feet above sea level, is risky to do solo, as the roads lack signage and the only lights would be from the moon (if it’s out) and your headlights. You can organize the geyser tour through your hotel or through any one of the independent tour operators who operate in San Pedro. We visited El Tatio with Mauricio Gonzalez of QueLindoChile (www.quelindochile.com). We appreciated the small size of our group, and Gonzalez’s in-depth knowledge of local flora and fauna. Tours to ALMA are only available on weekend mornings and should be booked well in advance. More information is at almaobservatory.org/en/about-alma/alma-public-visit.
Vicuñas, whose fur is highly prized for its warmth and softness, are a protected species in Chile
has lived and worked on five continents. She has authored Frommer’s guidebooks and writes for numerous print and online travel outlets. Her writing has appeared in USA Today, Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), WestJet Magazine, Indagare Magazine, and other publications. When she isn’t writing, Noelle can be found skiing, surfing, hiking, and adventure seeking.
Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales
Lopez Island • Orcas Island • San Juan Island / Friday Harbor
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Silver Dollar Cityâ€™s
Shines Brighter Than Ever! November 4 - December 30 Branson, Missouri's Christmas Lights Spectacular
uring the holiday season, guests come to Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-style theme park in Branson, Missouri, for the park’s An Old Time Christmas festival, one of the country’s most recognized events for spectacular lighting and entertainment. This year’s festival is bigger and brighter than ever with the new Christmas In Midtown Light Spectacular, which presents a towering new experience with new light displays soaring 9 stories high, adding 1.5 million more lights and bringing the park’s total to 6.5 million lights. The festival also features an evening light parade, two Broadwaystyle original musical productions, a 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree with a sound and light show and holiday dining.
The largest single lighting expansion in the past 2 decades of the festival, Christmas In Midtown takes holiday lighting to a new level, filling over an acre -- 70,000 square feet -- with 145 miles of LED lights. Huge light tunnels and wreath portals lead into the area, which includes flying angels, running reindeer, moving trains, a tree 90 feet high, musical trees with moving lights, dozens of stars and snowflakes, and a giant turning globe, all created at Silver Dollar City. The light experience begins on the Square with the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree, a massive tree with over 350,000 colorful LED lights. Beginning at dusk each evening, the tree blazes to the movements of Christmas
songs, with up to 100 light changes per second, while lights around the Square flash along. A parade of lights, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade, winds through the streets of the City twice each evening. As Grand Marshal, Rudolph leads the evening parade of nine musical, lighted floats, illuminated with 200,000 LED lights. The parade is accompanied by 45 colorful costumed characters, including Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, 14-foot moose characters, 12foot tall elves, 10-foot candy canes, penguins, elves and marching wooden soldiers.
he festival also features two original musical productions, A Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life. A Dickens’ Christmas Carol is an adaptation of the famous Dickens classic, with revolving sets, flying spirits, pyrotechnic special effects and a cast of 15, accompanied by a live band. It’s a Wonderful Life presents a musical interpretation of the classic film, with unique special effects and a cast of 14 singers/actors. In addition to the light displays, Christmas productions, rides and holiday dining, Silver Dollar City is home to a colony of 100 craftsmen, who create one-of-kind handmade items on display for holiday shoppers -- blown glass ornaments and bowls, oversized pottery mugs in rich colors, intricate chip-carved wood boxes, hand-dipped candles and even handhammered Damascus steel knives. Craftsmanship has been a feature of the park since it opened in 1960, when authentic native craftsmen were recruited to demonstrate the American heritage crafts that were part of the Ozarks history and culture. The crafts demonstrations, like ongoing shows of skill and technique, often with interaction from watching guests, add to the allure of gift selection. A unique angel comes with a story when the guest talks with the artist, picks the color and watches the glass blower make it.
he crafts program at Silver Dollar City includes artists from Master level to apprentice, with crafts including furniture making, leather crafting, glass blowing, pottery, cut-glass etching, blacksmithing, knife-making and candy making. The longstanding commitment to craftsmanship led to Silver Dollar City being proclaimed by the U.S. Congress as the “Home of American Craftsmanship.” Since its debut more than two decades ago, Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas has become one of the country’s most recognized events for spectacular lighting and entertainment, and has been profiled as one of the top holiday and has been profiled as one of the top holiday celebrations by USA Today, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel and Good Morning America. Silver Dollar City's "An Old Time Christmas" is open November 4th – December 31st, plus January 1st. Information: 800-831-4FUN(386) or www.silverdollarcity.com
IT HAS THE POWER TO RECONNECT A FAMILY, REKINDLE A ROMANCE, REJUVENATE A SOUL.
We’re not sure exactly what it is around here, but something magical happens when you just add water to your vacation. From the natural healing powers of our mineral hot springs to the beauty of Hanging Lake. From the fun of the world’s largest hot springs pool, to the recreational paradise supplied by our two rivers. Dads act younger. Moms laugh more. Brothers actually don’t mind sisters as much. Couples rediscover each other. And somewhere along the way, everyone remembers the feeling of unabashed joy. That’s the power of our water. Plan your Glenwood Springs getaway at VisitGlenwood.com.
First polar bear sighting on Wrangel Island
(the author thought he heard him say â€œyumâ€? before changing his mind and heading for the water)
Whales, Walruses, and Polar Bears In The Russian Far East Story and Photos by Don Mankin Mom and her cub on Herald Island (shot from Zodiac)
he polar bear sauntered down the beach toward us. My heart pounded as he squinted in our direction, no doubt weighing the nutritional value of the 20 or so tasty morsels wrapped in fleece, down and Gore Tex just 40 yards away. I hurriedly took several photos, then looked around and figured I could probably outrun the short, round woman standing next to me. Fortunately for her, and possibly for me, he decided we were more scary than tasty, and made a beeline for the water.
in the Russian Arctic on Heritage Expeditions’ Across the Top of the World adventure cruise.
From the Zodiacs (the inflatable boats that ferry passengers from ship to shore and on sight-seeing excursions away from the ship), we saw bears up close on the beach and farther away on the tundra and distant ridges. From our ship, the Professor Khromov, we saw even more on ice floes near the islands. (I love the Russian tradition of naming ships after professors. In an academic career of over 35 years the only thing named after me was a sandwich in We weren’t in any real danger as long the local deli where I usually ate as we followed our guide’s advice, lunch.) “Stay together and don’t run.” I don’t remember her suggesting that we My favorite polar bear sighting was knock someone over in panic, but I the mom and her two cubs exploring kept that option open just in case. an ice floe just off our port bow as we approached Wrangel Island. Unlike our jumpy friend on the beach she seemed unfazed by our presence and sidled up to the edge of the floe This was only one of many polar as the Professor slipped slowly by. bear sightings in our 4+ days on and Maybe her agent had negotiated a around Wrangel and Herald Islands hefty appearance fee with Heritage Expeditions.
The bears were only the third act in
an impressive wildlife production that started with the grey and humpback whales on Day 2, walruses on Day 3, and more walruses and our first polar bears on ice floes as we approached Wrangel Island on Day 4. The bear on the beach on Day 5 seemed to open up the ursine floodgates, which reached its peak on and near Herald Island on Day 7 (about 30 by most estimates). And the birds! I’m not a birder -- picking out and naming specific breeds and species is not my thing, though I admit a special affection for the Puffin, tufted or not. But you don’t have to be a birder to appreciate the bird cliffs we cruised by almost every day in the Zodiacs. The cliffs are like avian high-rise apartment houses occupied by all kinds of birds, apparently living together in relative harmony, aside from occasional bickering and outbursts of air rage. At one point I just leaned back in the Zodiac and watched the birds dart, dive and soar above me, surrounded by the sound of cackles and screeches.
Mom and two cubs on ice floe off Wrangel Island (shot from the deck of the “Professor”)
Bird watching from a Zodiac off Wrangel Island
Walrus eyeing the author on an island off the northern far east coast of Russia
Panoramic view of Wrangel island
VISTAS, HISTORY, AND CULTURE
he magnificent scenery and unique culture were almost as compelling as the wildlife. We hiked on the tundra in the long shadows of the endless dusk; visited remote, windswept Kolyuchin Island, the site of a once important but now abandoned Russian polar research station; and strolled through Whalebone Alley, an evocative site of whale skulls, pelvises, and jawbones with some undetermined archeological significance (or maybe the ancient Inuits were just having a bit of fun fooling around with the pretensions of future scholars). We also visited a summer encampment of an indigenous, Chukchi family, as well as the very nontraditional town of Laurentiya. At first the town looked like a gloomy relic from the Soviet era, with tall smoke stacks, large apartment blocks, and a statue of Lenin prominently displayed in the town square. Then I noticed the gaily-painted sides of the newer buildings, the colorfully painted, repurposed old tires in a playground, and the smiling faces of the kids waving to us from the schoolyard as we walked by.
An exuberant performance by a Chukchi troupe in the remote Russian settlement of Laurentiya The last sunset
(shot from the deck of the â€œProfessorâ€?)
These visits provided a glimpse into history -- on the one hand, a look back centuries at the other side of the land bridge that enabled the indigenous peoples of the region to migrate to North America; on the other, a peek at more recent history with its mirror image of the cold war from the Russian side of the conflict Then there were the sunsets. I have seen my share of spectacular sunsets, but the sunset we witnessed from the ship on our last evening may have been the most spectacular of all, accompanied as it was by a double rainbow spanning the bow from port to starboard.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CRUISE
his expedition cruise was more "expedition" than "cruise." In other words, lots of whales, walruses and polar bears, but not much in the way of luxury. Accommodations were basic and there were no spas, lavish midnight buffets, gambling, and swimming pools. Instead of elaborate Las Vegas style shows, there were lectures by naturalists and staff on topics relevant to the region -- whales, history, ice, and perhaps most important of all, safety in polar bear country. When I wasn't listening to a
lecture, I was napping or reading in my cabin or socializing with other passengers in the library/ bar. Entertaining, yes, but also informative since the other passengers were well-educated, mature and international -Aussies, Kiwis, Brits, Germans, Swiss, Russians, as well as a number of Americans. The ship is small, carrying a maximum of 60 passengers, so I was able to interact with everyone who spoke English in the almost two weeks we were on the ship. The one thing that this trip did have in common with the best luxury cruises were the meals. I was expecting basic and filling; what we got were creative menus and gourmet taste and presentation.
The “Professor” framed by whale pelvises in Whalebone Alley
THE “MAGNETIC” PULL OF THE FAR NORTH
eople ask me, especially my cold-phobic wife, “what is the attraction of the far north,” a region that has tugged at me since I was small boy dreaming of distant explorations. First, there is the light – a sunset that glows but never ends and a sun that never dips below the horizon. Then there are the vistas over rolling tundra and water to distant islands with few signs of civilization. Perhaps most important of all is the idea of it – the margins of the world where the known, familiar and uncomfortable drops off into the region ominously designated on old maps as “here lie dragons.” There is something about the arctic, raw and primitive, that evokes the beginning of time. To sum up, the cruise is informal and basic, the focus is on the natural and cultural environment, and the mission of the operator is conservation and environmental advocacy. If that's what you're looking for, I can't think of a better place to be than on the beaches of Wrangel Island or on the decks of the Professor, especially as it glides past polar bears and walruses on the ice floes below. For more info on award-winning travel writer Don Mankin, aka “The Adventure Geezer,” go to his website and blog at www.adventuretransformations.com
Double rainbow at sunset on the last evening on the “Professor”
That’s the author under all of those layers, out for a balmy walk on Wrangel Island
Welcome to Kokopelli’s Cave Hotel
Kokopelli is a fertility deity, typically depicted as a humpbacked flute player, who has long been venerated by some Native American cultures
Kokopelli's Cave, New Mexico
’ve stayed in a number of interesting places over the years, including an ice hotel, a treehouse, a yurt and even an Earthship. But, I think the most unique accommodations to date has to be a cave.
You’re probably thinking, as I did initially, that such subterranean quarters would be dark, damp and claustrophobic. Kokopelli’s Cave, however, isn’t anything like you’d imagine. It’s akin to a five star B&B, complete with all the amenities you’d find in a luxury inn. This unusual lodging option is a northern New Mexico gem and though it may be hidden from public view, it’s actually an international
The Anasazi never had it so good! Story & Photos by Deborah Stone
phenomenon, booked solid months in advance. The place has received rave reviews in numerous magazines and newspapers, and has been featured on television shows such as “CBS Morning Show” and the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” It is currently ranked third in the world for “unusual accommodations” by National Geographic.
reminiscent of those of the Anasazi, but he discovered that logistically, there were challenges.
“I came to the conclusion that it would be unrealistic for my clients, especially those who were older, to be expected to navigate their way down to the cave to see me,” explains Black. At this point, he had already spent $20,000 to blast the rock in The story begins in 1980 when Bruce a 65-million year old sandstone formation above Farmington and had Black, a retired Rear Admiral and professional geologist, had the idea to lowered a Bobcat down to excavate. build his office in a cave. He owned A decade went by without Black land in Farmington, New Mexico, doing anything more and then his where he had been living and working son Buzz returned home from his as an explorative geologist for the stint in the Armed Services. “He Shell Oil Company. He was inspired encouraged me to finish the place by American Indian architecture and then he actually lived in it for a and wanted to create a hideaway year,” adds Black.
ventually, a newspaper got a hold of the story and the calls started to come in fast and furious from people all over the country who wanted to come stay in the cave. Black, realizing its potential, decided to open the place as a B&B and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kokopelli is a fertility deity, typically depicted as a humpbacked flute player, who has long been venerated by some Native American cultures
The first guests started arriving in June of 1997 and they haven’t stopped since, with word-of-mouth generating momentum and popularity. They come from all corners of the U.S. and from around the globe, as far away as Australia. Those who make the trip do so for various reasons. “We have people who are on vacation, traveling through the Southwest,” says Black. “Then there are those who are celebrating special occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays. We’ve even had a few wedding proposals happening right here.” The place is built into the vertical cliffs overlooking the beautiful La Plata River Valley some 270 feet below. From the cave and the cliff tops, you have a panoramic view across the Four Corners flatlands with iconic Shiprock peak (a sacred site for the Navajos) rising in the distance, nearly 35 miles to the west, along with Arizona’s Carrizo Mountains and Colorado’s Ute Mountains. The area is considered a hub for visiting major Native American sites including Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Aztec Ruins National Monument and the Four Corners Monument.
The landscape sets the stage for your stay at the cave hotel
The cave itself is seventy feet below the surface and the entrance is located in the cliff face. Getting to this man-made wonder is part of the adventure. First, you check in at the manager’s house in Farmington. There, Gayle Davis warmly greets you, hands you a walkie talkie for communication purposes and asks you to follow her in your car. As you traverse the dirt road leading to the cave, she points out some landmarks to remember so you don’t get lost coming out of the area. There’s also a map provided, but it’s best to pay close attention to the visual markers mentioned.
Wilma Flintstone would have liked this kitchen!
Replica of a Native American kiva with a wood burning oven or “horno”
Spacious master bedroom
Kokopelli’s Cave is open March through November, with a two-night minimum stay. For more information: www.kokoscave.com
Cozy up in the well-lit living room
The cave boasts 1750 square feet of living space
Living room amenities including TV
eight-foot ceilings. There’s a spacious master bedroom with a deck, accessed by a sliding glass door; a well-appointed kitchen, which leads to a dining area adjoining a replica of a Native American kiva with a wood-burning “horno” or fireplace; and a bathroom that boasts a waterfall shower and flagstone Jacuzzi tub. The living room has plush carpeting, a queen-sized hide-a-bed sofa, full-sized futon and two recliners, along with a TV /DVD and VCR player complete with an ample selection of movies. There’s also a sliding glass door at the entrance, leading to another porch. Here you can barbeque using the available grill, while enjoying a fiery sunset. With the exception of the bedroom and bathroom, all the rooms are situated around a central sandstone pillar, which separates the cave into its component spaces.
Opt to enjoy a meal on the patio overlooking the cliffs
Kopelli’s Cave owner and creator Bruce Black
nce you arrive at the parking area atop the cliff, you’ll need to take your things from the car and ready yourself for the next part of the journey. Wheelie bags have no place here – backpacks are strongly recommended – as you’ll be climbing down a set of hand-hewn carved stairs, in mountain goat fashion. The steps form switchbacks and thankfully, there are handrails for assistance. Along the way, the cliff walls detail ancient fluvial channel streams that have been preserved in the stone. You can also see coal deposits and samples of petrified wood that have been captured in these stream beds. According to Black, you actually pass through five prehistoric periods before arriving at the door to the cave. Your first step into the cave will certainly be the most memorable. It’s one of those jaw-dropping moments when you realize just how amazing this hideaway is and you gasp in astonishment. It’s huge! 1750 square feet of living space to be exact, with
Of particular note is the kitchen. It’s one that Wilma Flintstone would have lusted after, as it contains a stove/ oven, microwave and fridge. And it’s completely stocked with an assortment of breakfast and lunch items. No meals are served at Kokopelli’s, but there’s plenty of food available, and you are encouraged to bring your own fixings for dinner. Or if you want to dine out, you’re free to drive back into town where a number of restaurants are located. Most people prefer to eat in, as they aren’t interested in navigating the winding, bumpy roads in the dark with the chance they might get lost. As the cave is truly a destination in itself, you’ll want to spend time just savoring all of its unique elements. It’s a cozy, comfy abode, with a consistent temperature of 68 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. In the summer, it’s nice and cool thanks to the insulating stone, and plenty warm in the cooler months. There’s light coming through the glass doors and floor lamps to illuminate the space. Bruce’s wife and daughter are responsible for the lovely décor, which features handsomely crafted southwestern style furniture and touches of Pueblo pottery, Navajo rugs and sand paintings. Previous guests have added to the ambiance by inscribing small rocks with family names and expressions, which are then piled into baskets or set along the walls. For Black, the B&B has been a labor of love. He takes pleasure from the feedback he receives, which is always incredibly positive. “The vibes about this place are wonderful,” he comments. “Everyone loves it, which is so gratifying to me.” The numerous three-ring binders full of comments are testament to the special feelings the cave elicits in its guests. They note its posh “cave comforts,” fascinating geological features, inspiring views, the diverse array of critters who make their home in the area, and most of all, the peace and quiet that comes from being 29 nestled inside this distinctive dwelling.
HAW RIVER Infuses History, Renews Souls
Story & Photos by Haw River, North Carolina 30
hen you set out to kayak the historic Haw River on an excursion set up for you by someone else, itâ€™s hard to suppress speculative thoughts about your blind date and wonder how it will all turn out. This was on our minds as we drove past an entering Alamance County road sign earlier this year on our way to the Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company at Saxapahaw, North Carolina. A leisurely drive along Swepsonville-Saxapahaw Road parallels the Haw and suggests a hint of our forthcoming adventure. A tough bridge built for hard times stands over massive, craggy, dark gray rocks, chiseled into the river bottom by the waters bonding the town of Saxapahaw to the earth and the history of this area. On arrival, we could see adventurers struggling to sandwich their watercraft among the rocks around the Saxapahaw bridge. But we never foresaw when we left here, our memories would bear an indelible imprint of this place as Aramanche, a place where Native Americans saw water flow through blue clay.
Haw River Canoe and Kayak Company
Our group on the Haw
UNPLUG TO RECONNECT
“Oh, it’s a calm t wo-hour paddle,” interjects Matt, our guide for the day. Joe’s river A fluid calm permeates naturalist-guides, a team the room when Joe Jacob attired equally in blue, project talks, a placidity like the his on-the-water, weathered flat water nature invokes look, and an indomitable above a nearby dam, as he answers our pre-adventure questions at enthusiasm for tackling his Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company. A running waters. And like Joe, they exude an unsurprising marine biologist by education, Joe spent oneness with nature. 20 years with the Nature Conservancy kayaking around the lower 48 states But if you ask Joe what he and Alaska while focusing on marine wants people to get out of ecology. this experience, he blurts out, Hooking people up with the rapid running "I want them to unplug and reconnect.” waters is what Joe has been doing for years. As our group of eight, mostly baby His response is enough to make boomer-types from all over the United one wonder, "Is that what States, gathers to embark on Joe’s For The Adventurer excursion, one of us asks, humans have been doing here over the years?" “How adventurous is it?”
Matt with Kayaks
GEOGRAPHY DISPLAYS A VIOLENT HISTORY When you cast your eyes out over the Haw, you see tranquil and rapid running waters, deep cuts into riverbanks and tree lines, and evidence of the dominating torrential waters that have run for millennia along this 110-mile river down to the Cape Fear basin near the Atlantic coast. Matt leads our group up the river beyond a nearby dam to a fleet of kayaks cinched to a tie station. “You can see the water is pretty calm today,” he says. “We’re at 42,000 cubic feet per second right now, but the flow was 242,000 CFS just a few days ago during the heavy rains.” One look around and it’s easy to grasp what he’s talking about. The current river level is a good 10 feet below where we stand. And the high watermark is more than 10 feet above us. During our safety briefing, Matt tells us to stay away from the nearby dam waterfalls and watch out for fallen trees laying just below the surface of the river. Combining the t wo in the river can be deadly. Waterfalls below a dam can spell disaster because gravity can create a vortex pulling boaters under for their last ride. Fallen trees can trigger their ejection into rapid waters. The good news for us is we won’t face the hard running waters on our trip. After our briefing, we’re off. Placid, thick, olive green water caresses our paddles — it’s impossible to see the river bottom. This makes sense. Lakes create the green algae. Along the Haw, dams create the lakes. Is this how we unplug and reconnect? Is this what happened here with those who came before us?
STEP INTO A RIVER AND BACK INTO HISTORY
Haw River Guide - Matt
att paddles his standup paddleboard alongside our group filling us in on geographic and historic details about the Haw. Eagles, hawks, and seabirds fly by us as we course along the river. It seems significance around here stems from the history that oozes from the land and the water. Matt tells us how the lives of generations of Indians and later, European colonists, are bound up in this river. Dr. William Vincent, historian for Alamance County affirms this and tells us, “It was the presence of the river here that drew the early settlers into the local community.” Long before Europeans set foot in America, Indians traversed The Great Trading Path from Chester County, PA, along the Shenandoah Mountains roughly to where I-81 and route 220 meet near squabbles over land and food sources. Danville, Virginia, today. From there, settlers found their way into North Amid conflict and colonization, a Carolina along the Haw. silent, deadly enemy chipped away at the Native Americans. They had Adventurous white traders exchanged no immunity to European diseases — European goods for pelts with Indians smallpox, chickenpox, influenza, and along the path and tributaries across the measles. By the late 1700s, their the Appalachians during the late 1600s populations were wiped out in the and early 1700s. But this practical Piedmont-Blue Ridge region. arrangement bet ween the traders and the Indians didn’t last long. While the Haw was central to the lives of Native Americans and Overcrowding in port cities like settlers, it appears cultural accord Philadelphia during the 1700s, impelled was elusive because of these various settlers to pull up stakes and follow threats. the path to the fertile bottomlands cleared by the Sissipahaw and other DID THE SETTLERS FIND Eastern Siouan peoples living along the COLLEGIAL HARMONY Haw. Colonial settlements squeezed out ALONG THE HAW? American Indians, who found themselves in conflicting alliances with the British, Dr. Vincent tells us colonists moved French, colonists, and one another in
along The Great Trading Path settling in communities as separate ethnic — German, Irish, English — and distinct religious groups — Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans. “Harmony is a more modern concept than what would be prevalent during that time frame,” stated Dr. Vincent. “[The] Scotch Irish Presbyterians built towns on the eastern side of river. Germans did so on the western side, and the English and Irish Quakers occupied the southern part of the Haw of what is Alamance County today. There was not a lot of mixture and exchange.” It seems our jaunt with Matt would be unheard of over the past three centuries.
FROM DAMS TO MODERNITY
e have generations of dam builders to thank for our recreational use of the Haw today. Matt tells us we’re on a level-1 run, guide-speak for the placid lake portion of our trip. Land clearing back in 1700s and 1800s led to topsoil runoff into the river, depleting the rich bottomland critical to farming. Enterprising settlers turned to the river for hydropower by building dams. The dams led to lakes along the Haw. In fact, by 1850, there were so many dams along Haw there were no free-flowing sections in the river.
Dr. Vincent says, “The river determined the placement of the early mills and that affected the demography. Gristmills later became saw or textile mills because they needed water power from the river.” Towns like Saxapahaw sprung up along the river because of the mills. Dams are great for eagles and osprey looking for their next catch. And humans seeking flood control solutions and hydroelectric power love them as a natural source of renewable energy. But Matt tells us there’s a downside to dams: still waters represent a loss for paddlers who enjoy moving waters and rapids. And dams have a negative effect on water quality and aquatic life. They stifle temperature differentiation and cut off fish spawning. Shad and sturgeon were a primary food source for the area until dams prevented their migration for spawning.
THE RETURN OF THE WHITEWATER’S When hydroelectric power began around the 1880s, it seemed dams would dominate the destiny of the river forever. And then the agent of their death was born: railroads.
Author Tom Talleur & Dr. William VIncent
Mills don’t move. Businesses brought raw materials, such as textiles, to the mills for processing. The advent of the railroads turned the logistics of the mill business model upside down. The river was no longer a lifeline for industry.
Coal became accessible as humans became less dependent on local goods. Hydropower died out along the river by the 1950s, with a few exceptions, leading to a breakdown of existing mills. The result is a free-flowing river, now offering up to level-III white water rapids in some places. These are the spots where Joe wants you to unplug and reconnect.
A LOOK BACK AT OUR TIME ON THE HAW At the end of our jaunt, it became clear our journey along the Haw was more mental than physical. We didn’t forge rapid waters forcing us to focus on our survival. Ours was a journey back in time. It’s clear we couldn’t unplug and reconnect during the colonial and industrial eras. A sampling of our group reveals some of the reasons. There’s Arlene and Joel, both Jewish and in their eighties, and from what we can tell, they’ve been adventurers in the great outdoors for decades. They couldn’t have paddled the Haw back in the colonial era because of their age and religious affiliation. Then there’s Patti, Mary and Grace. Patti and Mary are single baby boomer females. And Grace is a married mom with young children. Their presence on the river by themselves would have been forbidden throughout much of US history. Then there’s Karla and I, also boomers, and unlikely to have lived long enough back in the day to be on the river.
WHY GO? eyond the historic differences, there are plenty of reasons to go out on the Haw today.
If you’re a black American or just interested in American history, you’ll visit to have fun and to bask vicariously in the river that was once part of the Underground Railroad. Along this river, Quakers would shepherd slaves from houseto-house, across the Ohio River, and into the free territories in the west. If you’re a history buff with an archaeological bent, you’ll visit the Haw to find that blue-gray clay the Siouan Indians used as body paint. It was found in Saxapahaw, and the Indians called this clay Aramanche, meaning, a place where water flows through blue clay in
Eastern Siouan. Dr. Vincent believes the name Alamance County stems from this word, although some he says, speculate about different origins of the word. If you’re interested in seismology and history, you’ll be curious about the natural fault line running from this area down to Charleston, S.C., that triggered the Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886. You can see this line on the surface under a little bridge in the nearby village of Glencoe, N.C., along Highway 62. If you enjoy riding the rapids as an outdoor explorer, you’ll need to visit with Joe Jacob and his team to embark on a Class-III white water adventure. The fault line that runs from Glencoe down toward the Cape Fear river basin features sharp drop-offs triggering the rapid waters adrenaline junkies crave.
CAN YOU UNPLUG AND RECONNECT? It seems Joe is on to something when he tells us to unplug and reconnect. A 2017 study by Project: Time Off, declares the American vacation is a casualty of our work culture. Fifty-five percent of American’s left vacation time on the table at their employers during 2016. This equals $658 million unused vacation days; $223 billion lost in total spending; $1.6 million in total jobs lost; and, $65 billion in lost income. But you can unplug and reconnect on the Haw River for just a few hours on a weekend, an afternoon, or a short vacation whenever you wish. Joe was right. But did we fulfill his wish for us? We found history, tranquility, and communion with others we could not have found on this river 300-years ago. And we found it in the triangle of the Piedmont, near Burlington, N.C., a t wohour drive from the Blue Ridge parkway. This was a worthwhile blind date.
Haw River Haw River boaters
WHEN TO GO You can visit the Haw and Alamance County anytime. But check the weather before you go. Snow and ice may be a challenge during the winter. WHAT TO DO Paddling trips with the Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company at Saxapahaw, North Carolina include paddle dinners, Owl Prowls, and white water excursions. You can find details about their offerings on their website. The Haw River Trail is a 70-mile long multi-use trail following the path of the river. Twelve local North Carolina governments run the Haw River Trail Partnership. Minutes away from the canoe and kayak company, you’ll find the five-star Saxapahaw General Store — a place offering up tasty local beers and foodstuffs. The Haw River Farmhouse Ales brewery is only a few feet away. These are great places to stop after a hardy day on the water. About a 20-minute drive away in Burlington, North Carolina, you’ll find the Alamance County Historical Museum, at 4777 N.C. Highway 62 South, Burlington, NC 27215, beside the E.M. Holt Elementary School. HOW TO GET THERE Driving Interstate highways and secondary roads crisscross North Carolina. From I-95, drive west toward the Raleigh-Durham area and take I-40 or I-85 toward Burlington. Look for signs for Saxapahaw. I-85 runs southerly out of Richmond, Virginia through Durham and westerly to intersect with I-77 at Charlotte. Look for signs for Burlington/Saxapahaw in either direction. Air Raleigh-Durham is the nearest international airport. LINKS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER Alamance County Historical Museum: http://www.alamancemuseum.org/ Alamance County Visitors Bureau: http://www.visitalamance.com Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company: http:// http://hawrivercanoe.com
https://www.thehaw.org/ Project: Time Off: http://www.projecttimeoff.com/research/state-american-vacation-2016 Haw River Farmhouse Ales: http://hawriverales.com Saxapahaw General Store: http://saxgenstore.com Haw River Trail:
Haw River Farmhouse Ale
Riding the Rails in Europe By Jacqueline Harmon Butler Intercity train at the Gotthard railway. Shutterstock photo.
n my first trip to Europe many years ago, my sister Patty and I traveled around Ireland, England, Scotland, France and Switzerland via our Eurail Passes. I found standing in front of the big departure boards in the train stations thrilling. Something captivated me about those clicking sounds, and then new trains to magical places would appear with track and departure time. Knowing that I could board any one of those trains was a huge temptation. I still love that clicking sound. To me it sounds like adventure.
have loved trains since I was a child. They have always represented romance, mystery and excitement to me, and I sought out songs, movies and books that featured rail travel. Somehow the magic of romantic reunions and sad departures have always gotten to me, such as the last scene from the movie Summertime, when a tearful Katherine Hepburn was on board a train leaving Venice and Rossano Brazzi was running along the quay waving a beautiful white gardenia after her. Then there is the scene in Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart is supposed to meet Ingrid Bergman at the Gare de Lyon. They were fleeing the Nazis, bound for Morocco. A colleague gives him a note in which Ingrid says that due to unforeseen circumstances, she cannot meet him after all. A very dejected Humphrey boards the train without her. In another film classic, Some Like It Hot, a bouncy Marilyn Monroe joins the other members of an all-girl band for a slumber party on the sleeper train. This entourage includes Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis masquerading as women. And of course, we can't forget Agatha Christie’s fabulous Murder on the Orient Express. My list goes on and on... Over the years, before the highspeed trains, I found it convenient to take sleeper trains between cities: Paris to Marseille, Nice to Venice, Vienna back to Paris (via a train called the Rosen Cavalier). I loved waking up at border crossings, listening to the sounds of the guards talking, now in French and then in Italian or German. It is no surprise that for my latest excursion
I found the idea of riding the rails between France, Switzerland and Austria enticing, and I planned to try out Rail Europe’s newest two-country rail passes, France-Switzerland and Switzerland-Austria. My itinerary, which I planned in advance, took me from Dijon, France, to Montreux, then from Lucerne, Switzerland, to Salzburg and Vienna, Austria. My first train of the trip was a shiny TGV that zoomed from the Gare de Lyon in Paris down to Dijon in just 1 1/2 hours. In Dijon I took the Owl’s Walking Tour around the old city. I was amused by a small owl icon sculpted into the corner of a building near Notre Dame; its image almost completely rubbed smooth by the many hands that had touched it. Legend has it that the owl is a good luck charm for those who rub it with their left hand, the hand close to the heart, and make a wish. Following the instructions, I gave the little owl a rub and made my wish. The trip from Dijon to Montreux, Switzerland, with a change of trains in Lausanne, took just over five hours. The tracks wound through green pastures dotted with herds of honeycolored cows and meadows covered with wild flowers, then maneuvered through the snow-covered Alpine pass. Montreux is home of the fabulous international jazz festival and is situated right on Lake Geneva. A promenade follows the lakeside connecting a string of small towns and it’s ideal for walking or biking. Bike rental shops are readily available near the train station. This region is sometimes referred to as the Swiss Riviera and the scenery is dazzling. The distance between the towns is short, usually around a mile or so and the entire trail from Vevey-Montreux to Lutry is only 20 miles.
The train arrived in Lucerne right in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. It was brutal, but I hunkered down and tramped across the bridge from the station to the sumptuous Schweizerhof Hotel, which is one of the best in the city. As I approached the elegant reception area I looked more like a drowned rat instead of a sophisticated international traveler. The staff was understanding and gracious as I stood dripping helplessly at the front desk. Lucerne and the surrounding area are perfect for walking. It’s also possible to do more adventurous trips, like taking the cogwheel train to the top of nearby Mt. Pilatus. I chose to follow in the footsteps of the legendary local hero, William Tell and visited his birthplace in Brunnen, and a small museum filled with memorabilia of old bows and arrows. Next, I boarded a line that travels through the Alps separating Switzerland and Austria. The best part of train travel is looking out the window at the passing scenery. Instead of flying high overhead, one can actually see the individual trees and sometimes spot wild animals in the woods. The train chugged up and over mountain passes, giving me ample opportunity to enjoy the fact that I was safe and warm inside the luxurious coach and not tramping through the snowy landscape just outside the windows. I ate lunch onboard, entertained by a waiter who flirted and flittered around making sure my food was just right and that I had everything I wanted. He served the dessert with a flourish and I devoured the luscious, lighter-than-air lemon and whipped cream cake.
Salzburg has always been one of my favorite cities. I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because it seems like a fairytale place, with folks wearing those traditional Tracht outfits. I’ve often imagined living there, wearing a complete dirndl costume and carrying a large basket as I went about my shopping; this fantasy probably explains why a few Austrian garments have found their way into my suitcases over the years, including two Tyrolean hats decorated with huge feathers. On this trip I enjoyed a special Mozart dinner concert at St. Peter’s Restaurant located in an old abbey. The next city on my journey, Vienna, was to be the final rail connection. The scenery had changed completely from the craggy, snow-covered Alps to a countryside in full bloom with wild flowers and green with grain. I had chosen my hotel carefully and once again it was located right on the pedestrian-only streets in the old part of town. I hurried out
for an afternoon walk and headed immediately for the Hotel Sacher for tea and—you guessed it—a slice of heavenly Sacher Torte. As the rich, dense chocolate slid down my throat I smiled and breathed a deep sigh. Ah, Vienna, city of my dreams. That night I dined at Do & Co Albertina, the new hotter than hot local favorite. My dinner included an incredibly tasty sautéed goose liver followed by a deliciously crunchy Wiener Schnitzel. This is one of my favorite dishes and I savored every bite. The next morning, I toured the old city on foot, and while at the Hofburg Palace, I caught a few minutes of a Lipizzaner horse practice session. I love those magnificent white horses and thrilled to the sight of their high-step dancing. Later on I found a little café down an alleyway in the pedestrian section of the city, simply named Solé. I dined on huge pale white asparagus with a tangy lemon/ cream sauce, accented with thin slices of Prosciutto. I felt like I was in heaven. Surely white asparagus must be the food of the goddesses. he last city on my journey was Paris. Sacher Torte
es, I saved the very best for last. I arrived late in the day and hurriedly showered and changed, then ran down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The Hotel du Louvre is located right smack dab in the middle of the Louvre Museum complex and my room looked out onto the courtyard of the Comédie Française. It had been a long trip and I was a bit tired as I sat sipping a tall cool glass of champagne out on the terrace of the restaurant. The food was exquisite, and I indulged myself with a starter of marrowbones. I know many of you are saying “yuck!” right now, but this is a dish I love and seldom ever get the chance to eat. The marrow was divinely slippery and smooth. Much later, I strolled down to the Seine River. The Eiffel Tower was doing her nightly on-the-hour twinkling light show, and the air was perfumed with flowering chestnut trees. Tears came to my eyes as I looked around. “Ah Paris, how could any city be more beautiful than you?” Somewhere in the distance I thought I heard the whistle of a train and wondered if it was the Orient Express hurrying through the night towards morning and Venice. I could almost hear the clicking of the departures board announcing its alluring exodus.
Strange Deaths of Developers
Story & photos by Kathleen Walls Cumberland has one of the most uncrowded beaches in the country
any men came to violent ends on Cumberland Island, Georgiaâ€™s largest barrier island. No, Iâ€™m not talking about the usual explorers killed by Indians or soldiers killed by enemies. These deaths all had an element of strangeness surrounding them. All of the deaths also revolved
around the choice of keeping the island pristine or building on it. Cumberland has been inhabited over 4,000 years but man has trod lightly. You can currently only visit via the National Parks Service ferry or private boats.
Huge oaks sprawl near the ground providing a haven for birds, squirrels and weary hikers. An armadillo rustles through the underbrush, poking his snoot in soft sand searching for an easy meal. In the evenings, raccoons amble out of the woods to the shore to snack on crabs and shellfish. Ancient oaks form an arch over the trail to the beach
sland grass is grazed neatly as if mowed, the result of feral horses and wild deer. Nestled into the oak branches, resurrection ferns spring to life after every rain. Occasionally, a pair of eyes belonging to a resident alligator breaks the surface of one of the small ponds that dot the island. Saw palmetto intertwines with vines and grasses forming an almost impenetrable barrier to the dunes beyond. When reached, the white sand is marked by deer and horse hoof prints rather than human. At night, sea turtles take part in an ageless rhythm coming ashore to lay their eggs in the same sands from which they were hatched.
A wild horse grazed near the castle ruins
Island horses are a relic of many cultures— Spanish explorers, English settlers, antebellum planters, industrial age millionaires. The most impressive manmade structure on the island is the ruins of Dungeness, former home of Thomas Carnegie. The horses now graze on its oncemanicured lawns. Today 90% of this nature lovers’ paradise belongs to the park service. The Island has always been a prize for those with an eye to development ever since James Oglethorpe first built a hunting lodge on the island in 1736. So far they have not destroyed the island’s pristine character. The “Professor” framed by whale pelvises in Whalebone Alley
Wild horses abound on Cumberland; all types and sizes
athanael Greene was one of the next to try to build there. He was in the planning stage of building his home on Cumberland Island on top of a Native American shell mound when he died on June 19 1786 at age 43 of sunstroke. The house was to be named Dungeness. His widow later completed the huge, four-story tabby mansion. She had married her children’s tutor, Phineas Miller. Miller died a few years after moving to Cumberland Island and may be buried in the local cemetery, but there is no tombstone recording this. Catherine Greene Miller’s tombstone refers to her as the “Widow of General Nathanael Green.” Dungeness burned to the ground in 1866.
The ruins of Dungeness Castle stand as one man’s heritage on the island
Next of the strange deaths involved General William George Mackay Davis, a Confederate general and cousin of Jefferson Davis. He was planning on building a resort on Cumberland Island. His son, Bernard, moved there to help. While out hunting one day, Bernard accidentally shot and killed his five-year-old son. Bernard committed suicide a few months later. Devastated, General Davis sold the property to Thomas Carnegie. Carnegie chose to build his mansion on the same site as the ruins of the original Dungeness, but died at the age of 43 in 1886. His wife Lucy continued to live in the rebuilt Dungeness until her death. Later, this Dungeness also burned to the ground in 1959. The arson was believed to be committed by a poacher in revenge for being shot in the leg by one of the family’s employees. Its ruins are a beautiful backdrop to the feral horses often seen grazing on the lawns.
Many relics of an earlier time remain on Cumberland
In the early 1970s, Florida surveyor Louis McKee, a former Candler employee, got into the speculator game and bought one of the largest parcels, 30 acres of upland and 96 acres of marsh. McKee became a big player in buying and selling parcels of the subdivided portions of Cumberland Island.
arol Warfton, who had come to the island with her then boyfriend to work for Sam Candler in 1973. Her boyfriend eventually left but Carol stayed. She loved the island and determined to remain no matter what. She dropped her former husband’s name and used only her maiden name, Ruckdeschel and became romantically involved with McKee. McKee soon named Ruckdeschel co-owner of much of his property and made her his heir. By late 1979, McKee quitclaimed his interest in some other island property that he had purchased six years earlier that they held in joint ownership with Ruckdeschel and her parents. In March 1980, Ruckdeschel sold the property for $45,000 plus a retained lifetime right. On April 17, 1980, Ruckdeschel was in her home with a visiting hiker, Peter DiLorenzo. According to Ruckdeschel’s statement, collaborated by DiLorenzo, McKee began to pound on her home's door and demand entry. Ruckdeschel stated she feared for her life, and when McKee tried to break down the door, she shot him in the chest, ironically, with an illegal sawed off shotgun McKee had given her for protection. When the rangers responded to her phone call, McKee was dead. The Camden County Sheriff and park rangers took Ruckdeschel’s and DiLorenzo’s statements at the sheriff ’s office in Woodbine. Robert Coram of the Atlantic Weekly later reported that McKee had physically abused Ruckdeschel weeks prior to the shooting. The next day, a coroner’s jury cleared her without charges.
Ruins of the old Recreational Building
Oddly enough, she was still McKee’s heir and able to inherit his property in spite of the shooting. It seems the self-defense verdict left this door open. Carol Ruckdeschel still lives on the island and is very involved with protecting it from outside influences. The island is once more suffering from developers attempting to make a buck at the expense of the environment. On Dec. 7, 2016, Camden County Planning and Development Commission granted approval for an 88-acre tract on Cumberland Island to be divided into a 10-lot subdivision. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Ruins of the old Recreational Building
A Tale of Story & Photos In the Davids of Donatello and Michelangelo lie the stories of the public and the private Florence. This was true in the 16th century, and it is still true more than 500 years later. At nearly 17 feet tall, the David is more than the height of three men — truly, a colossus. David resides in the long viewing hall of the Galleria dell'Accademia, a space designed to show him at his best. Supplicants enter to see him, god-like, at the far end. He stands above the throngs, aloof, and people approach quietly, awestruck. Stern and focused, David is a man in the full glory of all that it means to be a man. His task is ahead. Goliath waits, menacing. David is calm, assured.
David Mania Michelangelo’s David is the indisputable "Rockstar of the Renaissance." Every year, more than 1 million people enter the Accademia to see him, to pay homage. How much direct revenue does this celebrity generate? In 2010, when Florence and the national Italian government were fighting over ownership of the statue, CBS News reported that the David generated an annual ticket revenue of over 10 million dollars — and that doesn’t touch the money spent on hotel stays, meals at restaurants, and tacky plastic David figurines.
A full-size replica of the David next to the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio).
If you had any doubt that Michelangelo’s David has rockstar status, you have only to observe the fans who go visit him, and the David products for sale EVERYWHERE. From the scholarly, to the kitschy, to the tasteless, there is something for everyone to get their David on!
Two Davids by Ann Fisher
The Boy Hero Not far from the Accademia, Donatello’s David lives in the National Museum of the Bargello. Built in 1255, the Bargello has functioned as the palace of the mayor, the head of police, and a prison, before being turned into a museum in the mid-19th century. Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (c. 1385 - 1466), known as Donatello, was the son of a wool stretcher. His father, Niccolo, was a member of the wool guild in Florence. By the time of his death in 1466, Donatello was accepted as the undisputed patron saint of Florentine sculpture. While there are no detailed records of Donatello’s early life, we do know that he travelled to Rome with Brunelleschi in 1402 - 1403, where the two sketched Roman sculpture and buildings, and Brunelleschi took measurements of the Pantheon, later critical to his design of the dome for the cathedral of Florence. Donatello also worked in Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bottega on the north doors of Baptistery in Florence. I remember the first time I saw Donatello’s bronze David on a slide in an undergraduate art history course. My reaction was — really?! That’s not David! I couldn’t accept him; he was too pretty — very difficult to square with my view so dominated by Michelangelo’s work. At first glance, Donatello’s figure seemed weak to me, and effeminate by comparison. Now, more than thirty years later, I perceive things differently. Donatello portrays a youth, the child on the edge of manhood — the improbable victor of a grossly mismatched fight.
Bronze statue of David by Donatello, ca. 1430 – 1440
art of sculpture from the elderly Bertoldo di Giovanni, an artist who in his youth had been a student of Donatello’s. Lorenzo treated Michelangelo as a family member for the two years (1490-1492) he was with the Medici. Michelangelo was encouraged to participate in the Neoplatonic Florentine Academy, a Medici sponsored discussion group of the most advanced scholars and thinkers in the city. This two year period under Lorenzo’s guidance and patronage would influence Michelangelo for the rest of his life.
When I see Donatello’s David today, I see my own child, my daughter, in her adolescent years, and cringe to think of a nearchild tasked with killing a hulking soldier. This David stands, his foot resting lightly on the severed head, the deed done. He is calm. There is an inward turning in the feeling of this sculpture, the boy caught in a private moment of contemplation. Cosimo de Medici built the Medici palace between 1445 and the mid-1450’s. Current scholarship suggests that Donatello created both the bronze David and his Judith and Holofernes as part of a joint Medici commission to decorate the new palazzo. It is documented that Judith and Holofernes stood in the Medici Palace garden, while the David stood in the adjoining courtyard (where you see the Christmas tree in the photograph) for nearly thirty years — until the Medici were expelled from Florence in 1495. This David was the first freestanding bronze nude created since antiquity, and Donatello’s work marks a massive leap forward in thought and achievement for the early Renaissance. The two bronze statues are human in size, comfortably in scale with the private, if grand, home for which they were created. The family’s bedrooms were arranged around this courtyard, looking down on Donatello’s David, and the space would also have been accessible to all visitors of the Medici.
The Giant Courtyard of the Medici palace in Florence. Donatello's David stood in the center of this courtyard for 35 years.
The Signoria (ruling body of the city) adopted Donatello’s earlier marble David as a symbol of the Florentine Republic. The Medici display of Donatello’s bronze David in their family home creates a conscious connection between themselves and the symbol of the state. The inscription once attached to the David reads, “The victor is whoever defends the fatherland. God crushes the wrath of an enormous foe. Behold! A boy overcame a great tyrant. Conquer, o citizens!” Michelangelo was intimately connected to Donatello’s bronze David as well, since he also lived with the statue during his formative years. Lorenzo di Medici brought the teenage Michelangelo to live in the Medici home to learn the
In 1501, after five years in Rome, and fresh from his resounding success with the Pieta, Michelangelo returned to Florence. He was twenty-six. He had won the prize — the commission to carve the Giant, which was a massive block of marble over 18 feet tall and weighing several tons. The block had lain for more than 35 years in the yard next to the Duomo. In 1464, the Wool Guild had commissioned a colossal David from Agostino di Duccio to adorn the cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. Duccio traveled to Carrara to select the stone. Quarrying and transporting this massive block of marble was a feat in itself, as it weighed something in the neighborhood of 25,000 pounds. Nothing this size had been quarried since ancient times. Transporting the Giant from Carrara to Florence, a journey of 80 miles, took two years. When it finally arrived, leaders of the Wool Guild, the cathedral, and the government went to view their investment and were not pleased. It
was a poor piece of marble; Duccio had chosen poorly in Carrara. The block was badly flawed, and to add insult to injury, Duccio had roughed out his concept to help lighten the slab, making the piece awkwardly narrow. It was difficult to see how anyone could carve a human from what remained. Duccio lost the commission, and the block lay abandoned next to the Duomo, known to all of Florence as “the Giant.” In 1501, as Michelangelo prepared to begin work, all of Florence gathered to see the tremendous block hauled into an upright position. To protect his privacy, Michelangelo constructed a shed that completely hid his workspace from the public.
The Davids of Donatello and Michelangelo two of the most beautiful sculptures in Florence
Michelangelo’s Giant continues to take They are as different as two my breath away, regardless of how many works of art on the same subject could be: in scale, interpretation, times I see him. I pay court to this masterpiece each time I visit Florence. material, and time period — And I then visit the Donatello’s bronze. early Renaissance versus high It is a different kind of visit, more a trip When the David was completed, and Renaissance. And even more so to see a friend, this sweet and beautiful — the two Davids embody the the city leaders removed the shed boy — who lives quietly in the Bargello. profound differences between a to show the citizens of Florence, it was love at first sight. The statue was private commission designed for a originally destined to sit up high on home — for the Medici and their ‘Either the spirit of Donato worked in the cathedral, but it was immediately select group of friends and business Buonarroti, or that of Buonarroti first associates, and a public work — apparent to everyone that the communal in every way possible. acted in Donato.’ — Giorgio Vasari, city would have to select a more in Lives of the Artists, in reference appropriate site. to the talent of both Donatello and I do not advocate for one David Michelangelo Buonarroti. The Signoria formed a commission over the other; I love each dearly. of citizens and artists, one of whom was Leonardo di Vinci, to decide The “Professor” framed where this masterpiece should be by whale pelvises in Whalebone Alley displayed. After much discussion, the group chose to place the David just outside of the door of the Palazzo della Signoria, home of the city government, and there it remained until 1873 when it was moved into the Galleria della Academia. A full-size copy stands in its place in the piazza. And so it is that these two Davids continue to speak volumes to us of an extraordinary time in history — the explosion of ideas and talent that defined the Italian Renaissance.
Cards of Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s David, from the fine paper company Papiro, available all over Florence. Tourist in the Academia photographing the David. David apron.
Bronze statue of David by Donatello, ca. 1430 – 1440.
Books on Michelangelo in numerous languages.
Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales
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