My brother and sister-in-law had taken the next day off and we were planning an excursion further afield: our destination was a mountain peak called Mangart in Slovenia, located about a three-hour drive from my home town. The beauty of Central Europe is its diversity of landscapes and its small distances, and in just a few hours of driving through the Austrian province of Carinthia we arrived in Val Canale, an area where Austria, Italy and Slovenia meet. Incidentally this is also the only area where the Germanic, Romance and Slavic language families come together right next to one another. We passed by the picturesque Predil Lake and continued our climb into the high mountains and crossed the Italian border into Slovenia.But as it can be with the best laid plans of mice and men, our hiking trip to the Mangart Mountain was not to be: our car overheated and there was no way we were going to make it any further. We had to stop, let the car cool down and turn around to go back down the mountain. Fortunately, our disappointment did not last long since we came up with an alternate plan: we took the cable car up to Monte Lussari whose summit area features a tiny mountain village with a small pilgrimage church. An absolutely stunning 360 degree mountain vista opens up from the top of this mountain and we enjoyed a hearty lunch on the balcony of a rustic restaurant, taking in the phenomenal Alpine panorama.On our way home we stopped in the town of Tarvisio, a border town that has benefited for a long time from the traffic between Austria, Slovenia and Italy. We stopped at the market, my brother picked up a few Italian delicatessen and we enjoyed our stroll through town. After our return in the late afternoon I embarked on a little local excursion and drove to the Teichalm Sommeralm area close to my home town.This region is now marketed as the Almenland, which literally means Alpine meadow country. The Tourism Region Sommeralm -Teichalm represents the largest contiguous high-altitude alpine meadow area in Europe. It features a lake, many hiking trails, ski lifts and phenomenal views into the surrounding countryside. In addition, the area is used as grazing pastures for hundreds of Alpine oxen, animals whose tender and tasty meat is prized highly by chefs and restaurant owners throughout the entire area.Poor weather returned on Friday, so I spent a quiet day making visits to acquaintances and doing errands. The highlight of the day was a classical concert organized by the local Weiz Lions Club: a charity concert and fundraiser that featured musicians and an orchestra from AIMS, the American Institute of Musical Studies, a Graz-based organization that offers intense summer vocal, piano and music programs to international students, most of whom come from the United States.We listened to pieces by Mozart, Strauss and Verdi and were thoroughly impressed by the young sopranos, tenors and musicians who put on an outstanding performance. The event even raised 15,000 Euros for the local charity. I interviewed several of the young music students after the concert and they were thoroughly enjoying their international exchange program and sure to return home with memories of a lifetime.Finally, the sun had returned and my second last day in Austria was going to be gorgeous. My second photo safari through my home town resulted in several encounters with acquaintances whom I had not seen for more than 20 years. Old memories were stirred up even more when I connected with my school friends Klaudia and Doris. During our walk up to the local Weizberg we also had a celebrity connection: Arnold Schwarzeneggers mother, father and brother are buried in the Weiz cemetery. His parents lived in this town for many years, and his father was a local police officer.Of course we reminisced about our high school adventures and after a scrumptious garden lunch we went to go hiking on the nearby Schckel mountain. The Schckel is the largest mountain in the region around Weiz and provides a phenomenal 360 degree panorama over the entire region. Southerly views extend into the Slovenian and Hungarian plains, and northerly vistas feature the high Alpine peaks of Northern Styria. To the east and to the west the scenic Styrian hill country opens up. The three of us climbed up the steepest portion of the mountain, securely equipped with our Nordic walking poles. Several restaurants offer refreshments and hearty Austrian food at the summit area, and high-speed excitement is provided by the summer tobogganing track that runs down the mountain, a nice adrenaline kick I just had to experience.After our hike back down we stopped off at Doris house, a beautiful property in the countryside, that features a brand new pond and large garden. Doris even equipped us with delicious freshly picked peaches from her fathers orchards. Klaudia and I headed back to Weiz and an hour later we met up again for a backyard barbeque at my brothers place. Klaudias entire family, her sister Andrea with daughters Nina and Katja as well as the two grandparents joined us for a delicious dinner that showcased my brothers culinary skills in a multi-course feast.My last full day in Austria had arrived and Ewald and Anneliese had planned a special outing: an excursion to one of Austrias most famous fortresses the Riegersburg. In existence for more than 850 years and located in the border region of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, this impressive fortification has withstood many attacks from the east and was never conquered. It has often been referred to as the strongest fortification of Christianity, having successfully defended repeated attacks by Turks and Magyars.With its numerous fortified gates, its unique location on an extinct volcanic cone, its extensive defensive walls, wooden drawbridges and moats, the Riegersburg is an authentic medieval fortress that has seen architectural additions from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. An exhibition in the fortress explains the historic era of the 16th and 17th century and sheds light on feudalism as well as two fascinating female characters who inhabited this fortress more than four centuries ago: Baroness von Galler and the flower witch Katharina Paldauf.Our East Styrian tour continued through volcano country with a drive to Schloss Kapfenstein, another medieval fortress that has been expanded into a castle and today holds an upscale restaurant and hotel. This castle is also located on the extinct cone of a former volcano. We enjoyed a tasty lunch in the outdoor patio of the castle, against the gorgeous backdrop of the distant Carinthian and Slovenian Mountains.My last evening in Austria was capped off with a visit to our friends Luis and Isabella, and all five of us enjoyed the late evening sun in their beautiful backyard. Luis even took me on a little motor scooter adventure around town. Back at Ewalds place we spent a few more hours reminiscing until I had to pack my bags for my departure to the airport in Vienna Monday morning.These nine days have been one of the most wonderful travel experiences in my life. They were greatly enhanced by my connections with family and friends, but in addition, my eyes were truly opened to travel opportunities in my birth region of Austria.Styria, with its medieval cities, imposing churches, monasteries and fortresses offers a great variety of destinations to history and architecture lovers. Music, visual and performing arts are ever present, even in small communities. Outdoor lovers will find a whole smorgasbord of activities, from hiking to mountain biking, skiing, horseback riding, mountaineering, hang-gliding, river rafting and many other varied pastimes.The diverse landscapes featuring fertile plains, rolling hills full of orchards and vineyards, high Alpine peaks and meadows, pristine rivers and scenic lakes enchant at every corner. And food, wine and beer lovers will definitely enjoy the diverse culinary offerings. In addition, Styria offers affordable prices and great value to international travelers. I realized my birth region is right up there at the top of any destinations I have visited in the last few years.This trip truly opened my eyes to the astounding beauty and variety of the area where I was born, and even though Styria might not be as well known as other regions of Austria, my nine days back home were far too short and I already have a whole list of things to do and see next time I am over in the old country.
Wouldnt it be great to show up at your hotel absolutely sure that youve book the type of place you really wanted. Weve all been there. We have looked up hotels online and hope to book one based on pictures and descriptions that will make a nice stopping place at the end of a busy day touring. Then, after a long day of travel we show up just to find that the place is much older and run down than the pictures implied. And what happened to the year-round indoor pool? Under construction? It can be extremely frustrating to plan a vacation and have the most basic of arrangements turn out wrong. Where you stay can greatly impact the quality of the entire trip. After all, at the end of the day, everyone wants to retire to a clean and comfortable place that will serve as their home away from home.Types of Florence AccommodationsIn Florence and the surrounding Tuscany region you will find four main types of accommodations. There is the Florence farmhouse, which are actually located in the countryside outside of Florence in areas such as Siena and Chianti.The farmhouse has the charm of old days and the luxury of a quaint bed and breakfast atmosphere. Often the morning meal and some dinners are included in the reservations. Farmhouses are family-friendly and the surrounding grounds have plenty of room for the kids to run around. Some will even accommodate small dogs.Many farmhouse reservations will include tours of the countryside. These may include wine tasting and visits to the sea.A villa can be found both inside the city limits and in the countryside. Usually villas are old castles or mansions that have been turned into homes away from home for extended visits. These can be quite luxurious and run the gamut of pricing. A villa, depending on where it is located, usually has a swimming pool. There is space and luxury enough to entertain business associates or newly made friends on your vacation. Some are suited to children, but it may be a good idea to check if young children would be welcome. It can be more stressful than relaxing if you are constantly worrying about what a young child might get into in a luxury villa.An apartment may be the best type of accommodation for extended visits to the Tuscany region. Trips that are weeks or months long can be tiring if you are living out of a suitcase and eating every meal out. With an apartment in the city you will be close to work and play, can accommodate a family spending a long vacation, and be close to all the action. You will have the facilities to cook meals, picking up the freshest produce at the central market, and often there will be places to do laundry close by if not in the apartment building.Hotels are best for those who like to be pampered on their trip to Italy. You can sample some of the best Florence, Italy recipes through room service or a leisurely stroll to a downtown restaurant along the river Arno. Many hotels are kid-friendly especially if only for a few nights.Remember, your accommodations can be viewed as either a quick place to stop for the night or a part of the whole Florence experience. You decide what will give you the vacation of your dreams.
Timeshare resorts offer some of the nations best vacationing. If youve never checked out timeshares or are not familiar with them, heres a basic primer. A timeshare is a resort where the property is owned by a group of people who wish to use the property for vacationing, and split the costs of ownership and maintenance, usually hiring a professional staff to maintain the property. Owners are usually allowed a certain number of days of usage per year at no additional cost, or at a very modest price. As an example, a popular timeshare in Branson, Missouri with an extensive campground charges the members one dollar a day for the space used, which includes electricity and sewer hookups and use of community bath houses and recreation facilities. This timeshare includes shuffleboard, a game room, tennis courts, disc golf, walking and nature trails, bike paths, bicycle rentals, an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor swimming pool, and two fishing ponds for the youngsters. They also acquire for their owner members discount tickets to many area restaurants, music shows, and even the IMAX theatre located close by. Members at this resort are allowed to stay 21 days straight and then must leave for seven days before returning. This prevents people from actually making the timeshare their primary residence and keeping it as a vacation destination.Many timeshares have joint usage agreements with other timeshares around the country, and even around the world. The Missouri timeshare owners can, for instance make use of timeshares in Hawaii or the US Virgin Islands if space is available. The same is true for members of other timeshares who can come and use the Missouri facility. Many timeshares are sold with the stipulation being that the owner has one week of use per year at the timeshare. Others have more flexible arrangements. Many also allow owners to give their week of use to friends or family members, as long as yearly maintenance fees are paid.Why would someone want to purchase and use a timeshare? A timeshare owner is an actual owner of the property, and everyone prefers to own rather than rent. Also a timeshare offers a guaranteed vacation location every year. Additionally the flexibility of being able to make an exchange offers variety. Add to that the variety of timeshares available, and it is easy to see why timeshares are popular.The concept of the timeshare was introduced in the 1960s by the owner of a ski resort in France. His proposal was that owning a set amount of time per year was preferable to renting the resort. The concept caught on, not only in France but world wide, with timeshares enjoying increasing popularity in the U.S. One owner of the Missouri timeshare we discussed above is retired now. He owns memberships in two different timeshares, one in Missouri and the other in Florida, and divides his vacation time between the two locations, living permanently in a 24 foot travel trailer, complete with a satellite dish, television, stereo, a rack on the trailer for his bicycles, and all the fishing tackle he can carry. He is in fact so sold on the whole timeshare concept that he is considering buying a third membership in a Canadian timeshare company in order to spend time every year at Lake of the Woods, fishing for lake trout and muskee. He also plans to pass on his time share memberships to his children so that the family legacy can continue long after he is good, one of the benefits of timeshare ownership that he enjoys. No matter what part of the country you live in, there are timeshare resorts available. Before making a purchase most timeshares will offer free tours and a free or reduced rate on a weekend stay to get a feel for the timeshare. This is a great way to make a determination on whether or not a timeshare is for you. While using your trial period, talk to a few of the timeshare owners and see how happy they are with their memberships. That will help you with your decision on membership. Whatever you decide, timeshares are great family vacation assets, so check them out carefully.
Its one of the most exciting that time of the year, where your family has to make that ultimate decision and decide on a couple places to vacation. Many families become tired of traveling to the same vacation spots year after year. Before choosing a vacation location there are at least three in the world that a family must visit.If you havent been to Canadaits about time you pack some suitcases and be on your way. There are several places for the kids to enjoy themselves at the strips where there are arcades and much more.If youre looking for a night out with your spouse youll be surprised at how many small romantic restaurants you find offering a variety of food. Even in the summertime Canada is never too, hot or too cold so theres perfect weather. Canada has a little something for everyone. There is one spot that men and women alike will enjoy is Edmonton, Canadas largest mall, its the largest shopping and entertainment centre. There are over 800 stores, 110 eating outlets and restaurant.Surprisingly, there are still American adults who have never stepped foot onto the Miami Florida soil. This is perfect for someone who loves the warmth of the sun...in Florida, there is plenty of it. There are also plenty of beautiful beaches like Sunny Isle Beach- Complete with a mixture of entertainment, relaxation, places where you can surf, swim and fish this is the place everyone in the family will enjoy. Haulover Beach - This beach is definitely a family fun place. There are concessions, nice places for families to picnic.As always theres surfing, sunbathing, swimming and theres a part of the beach thats clothing optional. Bal Harbour- BAL Harbour Beach is a place made for both the women and men. Theres shopping areas, spas and golf courses for the gentlemen. Miami just doesnt offer some hot beaches to enjoy but lets not forget Universal Studios is right nearby for the kids.The Universal Islands of Adventure offers entertainment for every age. The Islands of Adventures has nightclubs and celebrity chef restaurants for adults traveling with children. There are block buster movies and much more. Islands of Adventures are one of the perfect places to go with the whole family.Disneys Animal Kingdom- Animal Kingdom is a Kodak moment for the family where youre able to see the different kinds of animals, enjoy scary fun roller coaster rides and play interactive games.Florida offers such more than words can describe, if your curiosity has been peaked just a little go and satisfy it by visiting Florida.. An action packed city with lots and lots of fun things to do you can have such a great time there you never want to leave.Every day New York hosts several Broadway plays ranging from old school classic to modern day. You can even take the whole family with you and then afterwards enjoy dinner at the several classy restaurants around. For ladies who love to shop New York has plenty of discount stores that offer name brand clothes, pocketbook and jewelry for bargain prices. Theres strips, fireworks everything you can possibly imagine. If you are adventurous family looking to explore earths realms start off with these three amazing places.
On the night of April 14, 1912, the Titanic, a brand-new and supposedly unsinkable ship, was on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. The ship, the largest and most luxurious ocean liner of the day, was carrying about 2200 passengers and crew when the ship collided about 11:30 pm with an iceberg. The Titanic carried enough lifeboats for just about half the number of people which surprisingly was in compliance with legislation in force at that time. Many of the lifeboats were lowered into the ice-cold Atlantic only half full, and at about 2 am in the morning of April 15, 1912, the unfathomable happened: the ships stern rose up and the worlds first unsinkable ocean liner went down into the cold depths of the North Atlantic. Of a total of 2,223 people, only 706 survived while 1517 perished. Some of the famous victims included John Jacob Astor IV and most of the ships crew, including the entire orchestra who had played tunes on deck until the ships sinking. First class passengers had a much higher rate of survival than second and especially third class passengers. Some of the exits from the lower decks for the third class passengers were even locked, preventing many of those passengers from accessing the lifeboats.In the aftermath of the disaster, at about 4:10 am, the RMS Carpathia picked up the first lifeboat and continued to rescue survivors. The survivors were eventually taken to New York City while a total of 328 bodies were eventually recovered. Many of those were taken to Halifax where they were meticulously registered with all descriptive features and personal possessions stored in a canvas bag. Halifax therefore became a key location in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster. 121 of these victims were buried at the Fairview Cemetery while 29 other victims were buried at the Roman Catholic Mount Olivet Cemetery and the Jewish Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Our final stop on this city tour was the Fairview Cemetery which is the largest burial ground of Titanic victims in the world. Allen took us to a corner of the cemetery where there were three lines of white gravestones, all arranged in lines of different curvatures that symbolic reflect the shape of an ocean liner on the top deck, the waterline and under water. Allen explained that the gravestones were erected by the White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic. The gravestones are very small and simple, and Allen added if people wanted a larger gravestone they would have had to pay extra for a larger version. He pointed out the grave of the Unknown Child, the youngest victim recovered who remained unidentified. The headstone reads Erected to the memory of an unknown child whose remains were recovered after the disaster of the Titanic April 15th 1912. Allen recounted various speculations that surfaced over the years of who this unknown child might have been. In 2002 finally it was determined through DNA evidence that the unknown child was actually Eino Viljami Panula of Finland whose mother and four brothers had also died in this disaster. Allen also mentioned that the wreckage of the Titanic was discovered in 1985 by an American-French expedition. The wreck had broken into two pieces on the ocean floor, with the stern section lying about 600 m from the bow section and facing in the opposite direction. What was really significant was that when scientists compared the geographical orientation of one of the wrecks with the orientation of the graves at the Fairview Cemetery, they were positioned with almost the same geographical orientation. Hearing this sent shivers up my spine, when I realized that the wreck of the worlds most famous shipping disaster could coincide so accurately with the positioning of the cemetery holding its greatest number of victims. Things like these are almost too much of a coincidence.On our way back from the cemetery, Allen enlightened us about another Halifax disaster: the 1917 Halifax Explosion the largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in human history which occurred on December 6, 1917. During the First World War many ships used Halifax as a strategic port for their ocean voyages to Europe to partake in the War. On this fateful day many ships were lined up in the Bedford Basin to leave the harbour to start the voyage while other ships were entering the harbour from the other direction.The Mont-Blanc, a French freighter arrived at the Halifax harbour, waiting to be let into the port. Fatefully, it was carrying thousands of tons of explosives including benzol, nitrocellulose and TNT. A Norwegian ship, the Imo, was trying to depart through the right harbour channel, but another ship was blocking its way, so the Imo veered to the left, directly into the path of the Mont Blanc. Both ships refused to yield, leading to a collision at about 8:45 am that ignited the benzene that was stored on deck of the Mont Blanc. With the fire out of control and knowing their cargo, the ships crew immediately abandoned the ship while hundreds of people were drawn to the harbour to watch the fire. At about 9:04 am the Mont Blanc finally exploded, instantly vapourizing the ship in a fireball that rose over one mile into the air. The force of the explosion triggered a tsunami that reached up to 18 meters above the high water mark. The explosion could be heard as far away as Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, about 175 kilometers away. Not a pane of glass was left intact in the city and 6,000 people became homeless. The pressure wave from the blast could be felt as far away as Cape Breton Island, about 205 km east of Halifax. A large portion of Richmond, Halifax and Dartmouth were leveled to the ground, and the death toll reached 1900 people. Thousands more were injured, many seriously, and countless people were blinded due to the glass shrapnel that was propelled through the air. Allen also mentioned the story of a local hero: Vince Coleman, a dispatcher for the Intercolonial Railway. Minutes before the explosion he telegraphed two trains that were bound for Halifax, and told them to stop at a safe distance from this area. Vince himself was killed in the blast, but were it not for him, several hundreds more could have died in the explosion.The reaction in the aftermath was swift. Communities from all over North America pitched in and sent aid, especially tents, blankets and supplies to Halifax. Boston, in particular, was extremely generous and sent an entire train of supplies and medical personnel to help the victims of this enormous explosion. As a result, every year at Christmas, Nova Scotia donates a large Christmas tree to the City of Boston to thank and remember Bostons help in this major time of need.My trolley tour provided by the Company with the Kilts had come to an end. But as we arrived right in front of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, I decided to make a quick stop in this museum since among many other things, it features two major exhibits: one about the Titanic Disaster and another one about the Halifax Explosion. I decided to educate myself more about these two significant historic events. The exhibit about the Halifax Explosion features historical photographs, newspaper clippings and explanations about this enormous disaster. The Titanic Exhibit upstairs actually features dozens of photographs and 20 authentic artifacts from the Titanic, first and foremost the only known intact Titanic deck chair in the world. This chair had actually been given to the minister who had performed so many of the burials at sea and was donated by one of his grandchildren to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Another exhibit features the Shoes of Titanics Unknown Child which feature the pencil inscription: SS Titanic victim boots worn by only baby drowned. One poignant display illustrates that fact that passenger class made a huge difference in the survival rate of passengers. For example less than 4% of first class female passengers perished, while around 12% of second class female passengers died and more than 54% of third class female passenger did not survive. I did not have time to explore the rest of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which features a whole host of additional interesting exhibits such as the Days of Sail, Shipwreck Treasures and Age of Steam Gallery, to mention just a few. Now it was time for a quick lunch and then my next stop at Pier 21, Canadas immigration museum and a National Historic Site, and the entry point form more than a million New Canadians between 1928 and 1971.