Rambling Through Romania (Transylvania)
Donna and Richard will illustrate their four visits to Transylvania, traveling in both spring and fall, and note the many changes they observed from 2001 to 2007. Their visits included the attractive city of Cibiu, one of the two European Cultural Capitals of 2007, and various UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Historic Centre of Sighisoara; the Wooden Churches of Maramures; and some of the Transylvanian Saxon villages with fortified churches. One of these villages, Viscri, even enjoys the patronage of Britain's Prince Charles! They will illustrate gorgeous pastoral scenes and the charm and friendliness of individual villagers. While life in the villages resembles rural America of 100 years ago, the cities bustle with many of the trappings of 21st century western world.
Rome: Five Visits to the Truly Eternal City
Bill and Kay met up for a couple of days in Rome in Spring 2001, went back during their honeymoon in the Fall of 2002, and have been going back ever since with trips in '03, '04, and '06. With so much to see and do in Italy (and Europe in general), why do they keep going back to Rome?
Namibian Nomads: Deserts, Safaris and Tranquility
In the Nama language, Namib means great open or deserted place. Namibia therefore is the land of great open or deserted places. The Namib is also the name of the oldest desert in the world in western Namibia and southwestern Angola. ..
we stared down uneasily into a confusion of wild grey crags, rocky summits, black shadows and a labyrinth of gorges. Beyond them dazzling stretches of chalk spread out again, and still further away was the blue shimmer of jagged mountains, whilst on the horizon we could see the red sand of the dunes. It was an impressive and intimidating sight, a landscape inconceivable under a more temperate sky and in milder latitudes. We were astonished that anything at all could grow in this hot, dry wilderness of rock and stone.1 Such is how Henno Martin described it when he and Hermann Korn, two German geologists, disappeared into the Namib desert for two and a half years to avoid internment during World War II.
Moscow, St. Petersburg, and an Idyllic River Cruise Between
Derek described their three-week combination of group and independent travel, including challenges of the latter, to Russia in 2006. They began with four partially jet-lagged days in Moscow, including Red Square, the Kremlin, and other traditional sights, many illustrated from very different perspectives along the Moscow River. There followed a six-night cruise along the Volga-Baltic Waterway to St. Petersburg, with enchanting vistas of the changing Russian scenery and stops at villages, small towns, and islands that would be difficult to visit independently. The Grand Finale was ten glorious days during "White Nights" in St . Petersburg, one of the most beautiful, large, but thoroughly walkable cities in Europe, with breathtakingly opulent palaces; stunning churches and monuments; and magnificent museums, including the incomparable Hermitage.
Southern Mexico: Yucatán and Chiapas, ¡Olé!
This presentation is a compilation of 2 trips to Yucatán and a trip-and-a-half to Chiapas.
Yucatán can refer either to the state of Yucatán or to the entire peninsula in southern Mexico in which the state is located. Our travels were to the state. Our first destination was Merida, the capital of Yucatán. It is a clean, noisy, colonial city, now quite large. Most accommodations and points of interest are within walking distance of the zocalo, the central plaza. Every night there are free outdoor performances of regional music and dance. Merida's restaurants offer regional dishes and beverages. So do street-corner vendors and stalls in the public market. Everywhere you see beautiful regional dress; the women in their embroidered huipils and the men in their short-sleeved pleated shirts.
From Merida it is easy to get to major Yucatán archeologic sites by bus. Chich'en Itzá is the largest. A short tax-ride away is Balankache, an underground site used for hundreds of years, that was discovered only recently.
Uxmal is another archeologic site accessible from Merida.
There are several interesting colonial towns east of Merida. In one, pedicabs are used instead of taxis. In another, Izamal, horses and carriages are the first choice. Vallalodid has a beautiful cenote (sinkhole) which you can walk down into and even swim in. Many of these towns have beautiful colonial churches which are being used today.
West of Merida, on the coast, is Celestún, famous for its ecologic site. There you see flocks of flamingoes in their habitat.
Our primary destinations in Chiapas were San Cristóbal de las Casas, the old colonial capital, and the ruins at Palanque. San Cristóbal is in the highlands, and at over 6,000 feet, is very cold in winter, and cold even in March. The city has lots of topography, and is a great place for long walks. There is a huge central open-air market. Along the major tourist routes, there are vendors of regional clothing. The people wear a huge variety of regional dress styles, each of which is associated with an individual village.
Chiapa de Corzo, near the current capital of Tuxtla, is in the lowlands on the Grijalva River. There you can go on boat trips, or relax in one of the outdoor cafes along the banks of the river. A multi-generational family has a wonderful tour of their factory, where they make marimbas, the official musical instrument of the state of Chiapas. You can see how the instrument is made, learn about its history, and finish by hearing family members performing in a marimba orchestra.
Not knowing of our eventual trip to Chiapas, we traveled to Palenque as a (very long) side trip from Merida. The site is in the jungle, and is a long way from anywhere. It is a huge site, so one should plan on 2-3 days. There are some wonderful places to stay in the jungle adjacent to the archeologic zone.
Rio de Janeiro: Corcovado, Copacabana, Cariocas & Contradictions
Known as "Cidade Maravilhosa", the "Marvellous City," Rio is famous for its most spectacular natural setting, its Carnival celebrations, the pulse of samba, and miles and miles of some of the world's finest beaches. How can it be, at the same time, one of the most violent cities in the world, with whole sections of the city controlled not by civil authorities, but by gangs and drug lords?
This is a city of vast contradictions, of vast wealth adjacent to squalid poverty, with fun-loving people of unexpected warmth and friendliness, but thieves and scam artists on every corner, of stunning artistic and natural beauties, a vibrant street economy, a rich Portuguese colonial heritage, and a diverse and surprisingly harmonious racial and cultural mix.
Come and explore these contradictions with Dick and Jane Groff and gain insights into what makes Rio work. Climb Corcovado Mountain to Cristo Redentor, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Discover fabled Guanabara Bay, ride the twin cable cars to Sugarloaf Mountain, see one of the world's largest parade venues (the Sambadrome) and travel one of its longest bridges. Explore stunning colonial churches, a characteristic tropical produce market in Copacabana, and the world's largest urban tropical rainforest. Then top it all off with a vibrant evening of Samba, a warm-up for the world's most extravagant Carnival. Rio has it all.
Slovenia by Way of the Danube Trail
Slovenia is a small country, often overlooked by travelers. Remarkably diverse for its size, Slovenia provides a quick side trip from Venice, Munich or Vienna. The capital, Ljubljana, is one of the most pleasant cities of Europe. Other highlights of Slovenia include splendid alpine scenery, WWI historical sites, and unique architecture.
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