Travel Club


Previous Meeting Archive


January, 2005:

Eastern Europe: On and Off the Beaten Track
by Bea and Earl Epperson

This talk will feature some of the small historic towns and beautiful countryside in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia and Hungary. Dotted through this landscape are castles, ancient churches, mountains and hiking trails.
• In the Czech Republic, the program will highlight the little town of Cesky Krumlov, a National Heritage site, as well as the lovely village of Stramberk nestled in the foothills of the Tatra mountains near Slovakia. Slovenia is a small country, and the sights explored there include Lake Bled and the Julian Alps, picturesque Piran, the 13th century walled town on the Adriatic Sea, and Lipica, home of the Lipizzaner Stud farm since the 1500s. These animals are considered the finest riding horses in the world.
• The small village of Szigliget on Lake Balaton will be featured in the Hungary portion of the program. Situated on the hillside amidst the 13th century Szigliget Castle, terraces of grapes, and thatched roof houses, the village is also home to an imposing wine cellar. No trip to Hungary would be complete without visiting the town of Eger, made famous in the 16th century when the men and women of the town defended the Eger Castle successfully against the Turk invaders who outnumbered them. It is considered Hungary's "Alamo."
• Finally, on a climb in Slovakia's High Tatra mountains, the beauty and splendor of that country will be apparent and tease the arm-chair traveler with the urge to visit this part of Eastern Europe while the prices are low and the tourists are few.

February, 2005:

The New South Africa
by Ben Gentile, Judy Alleruzzo and Derek Stables

Ten years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is a nation with a vivid past and a hopeful future. Beautiful mountain and coastal scenery, vibrant cultures, great game parks, warm temperatures, amazing flora and fauna and a mature wine industry all combine to make South Africa a great travel destination. The talk will recap a five-week trip that took place in the Fall of 2003. Join our speakers as they review their overland travels.
• At the edge of the Kalahari Desert, only a sunset cruise on the Orange River can deter the heat.
• In Cape Town, visits to Table Mountain, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and Camp's Bay make for a busy few days.
• The Cape Peninsula is filled with quaint towns, a penguin colony and the famous Cape of Good Hope.
• The Winelands soothe the soul with appetizing food, delicious wines and spectacular vistas.
• The resort towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are good bases from which to explore the Garden Route.
• In Durban, our speakers met up with some family to explore this richly multicultural city.
• Up the coast, two natural areas filled with great animal-watching beckon. The Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park feature wallowing hippos, stalking crocodiles and the goliath heron. Meanwhile, in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, up-close views of white rhinos, impalas, zebras, elephants, giraffes, African buffalo, blue wildebeest, kudu, nyala, warthog and baboon make for an unforgettable day.
• Climb high into the Northern Drakensberg Mountains to the top of Sentinel Peak to catch a foggy glimpse of Tugela Falls, the world's second-highest waterfall.


March, 2005:

Norway: Fabulous Fjords, Falls, and Ferries
by Dick and Jane Groff

Join us on a 3,000 mile, 3 week journey through breathtaking fjord country and then to the Lofoten Islands, far above the Arctic Circle. Abundant long tunnels, soaring bridges and efficient car ferries link even the most remote mountain and fishing villages. It's no surprise that a recent National Geographic Traveler poll of experts on "stewardship" rated the fjords of Norway as the number one tourist location on the planet, in terms of environmental conditions, cultural integrity, aesthetics, and tourism management.The fjords feature massive waterfalls, stunning reflections and lighting effects, narrow canyons, bucolic villages, farmsteads perched on unlikely ledges, and distant mountain vistas.

The Lofoten Islands preserve a 250 year old fishing culture that earns them the title "The Soul of Norway." Exceptional landscapes also abound here, with the midnight sun lighting jagged mountain peaks, which rise directly from the sea, and colorful fishing villages on stilts, clinging to the shore.

Dick and Jane (yes!) Groff are avid travellers, especially to Europe, and Dick is also a keen amateur photographer.


April, 2005:

Reaching for Heaven: Cathedrals and Churches of Europe
by Wilbur Bluhm

Using 3 projectors, Wilbur Bluhm will illustrate more than 75 of the cathedrals and churches that he has visited on his 5 trips to Europe, including most of the countries of Western Europe, as well as Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova. While many of these architectural treasures are well known to travelers, others are small and/or remote, but equally fascinating.

Wilbur is an enthusiastic traveler and photographer; several of his photographs are included in two books that are about to appear in print.



May, 2005:

Off the Beaten Track in Mongolia
by Jim Nafziger

Bouncing around Mongolia, the world's most sparsely populated country, gives new meaning to the phrase "off the beaten track" – if you can even find one. Only three percent of Mongolia's roads are paved. From the alpine environment of mountain-ringed Hovsgol Lake on the Siberian border to the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert on the Chinese border, the grasslands seem to go on forever.

We'll begin our expedition in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia's capital and only major city. There we'll have good seats for Naadam, the country's biggest annual festival, featuring archery, wrestling (nine hours worth for the photographer), horse racing, and anklebone shooting with a mini-crossbow. Sounds unusual? Wait until you see the two intertwined acrobats who present the strangest profiles among the hospitable, colorful and immensely resourceful people we'll meet along the way. This is the Mongol nation, squarely on the beaten track from nomadic to urban culture, and from communism's second oldest state to a modern market economy.

As we travel from one ger (yurt) camp to another, we'll also stop off at the site of Kharakorum, Genghis Khan's capital; the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag, renowned for its dinosaur eggs and bones; and the "three beauty" mountains and icy gorge of Gurvansaikhan National Park. We'll keep our eyes open for Bactrian camels, yak-cows (they interbreed), the southernmost reindeer, lots of sheep and goats, and a touring vehicle that was sometimes four-wheeled and sometimes three-wheeled, depending on the availability of spare tires.


September, 2005:

China and Tibet 1991: A Moment in Changing Times
by Mike van Ronzelen

Kathie and Mike Van Ronzelen visited China and Tibet in 1991, a time when independent travel in China was relatively uncommon. This was also a time of nascent change in China, post-Tiananmen Square and pre-MacDonalds. Then as today, China provides a wonderful mixture of history, politics, and economic experimentation, sustained by the timeless character of the Chinese people.

This talk will illustrate the diverse locations of Beijing, Xian, Guilin and the Li River, Shanghai, and Tibet; the last provided a fascinating view of smoldering political conflict and cultural contrast. More recent travellers to China will be invited to compare their experiences in the discussion after the talk.

Mike is an enthusiastic amateur photographer, as well as an experienced independent traveler, who averages 2-3 international trips annually. His previous presentations to the Mid-Valley Travel Club have included, "Two Tastes of Bali", "Bolivian Adventure: ¡Viva la revoluçion!", and "Australia - 'Sydney or the Bush'."

October, 2005:

An "UNTOUR" to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest
by Jim Heltzel

Jim and Judy Heltzel spent three weeks in May and June, 2003 visiting Prague, Budapest and Vienna. The Heltzels' visit was a "city trip" and focused on the art, music and history of each capital. Jim will describe their experiences, including the spring music festival in Prague, a performance by the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest and participating in a church service in Vienna at which a Haydn Mass was performed.

Their trip was organized by Untours, which offered a pleasant blend of the freedom of independent travel and the convenience of having someone else make basic arrangements. Untours, based in Media, PA., arranged for transatlantic air transport, picked them up and delivered them to their apartment in each city, oriented them to the apartment, left a telephone number to call if they needed help, presented a two hour orientation to each city, plus a map and a one week mass transit pass. It also made available to them a one-half day city tour and a special evening event in each city. However, the Heltzels made all of their other arrangements for sightseeing and for meals independently.

Beginning in 1957, both as students and as a married couple, Jim and Judy have visited about 40 countries, mostly as independent travelers. They are Salem residents.

November, 2005:

Botswana and the Victoria Falls
by Bob & Janet Bain

Southern Africa! The Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta, and the Victoria Falls: special sights at special sites! How people and animals adapt to geography and geology, from desert to waterways to the world's largest waterfall. Eyeball to eyeball with baboon, giraffe, hippo, elephant, and Bushmen!

Derek Stables will add a few images of the Victoria Falls at different seasons, together with an extravaganza of elephants in Botswana's Chobe Park.


December, 2005:

Northwest India: Empire of the Spirit
by Gene Fletcher

Gene and Kathy Fletcher are avid travelers, averaging 2 or more international trips per year. Gene will illustrate the history, culture, and exquisite monuments of this exotic, but accessible country, based on their four trips to the Northwestern states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Kashmir, as well as the nearby cities of Delhi and Agra. Their travels included two unique train journeys, "The Palace on Wheels" and "The Royal Orient."

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Mid-Valley Travel Club