Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations {Part 2, Days 11-20}   Leave a comment

Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations

{Part 2, Days 11-20:  Ankara, Cappadocia, Antakya, Gaziantep, Mt. Nemrut, Tarsus & Adana}

March 28 – April 16, 2014


{Part 2}  Since we had never been to Eastern Turkey, Jim & I selected this trip, “Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations”  from Overseas Adventure Travel.  This was our 32nd trip with this company and as usual we were extremely pleased with the itinerary and the learning and discovery experiences.   We have previously been to Turkey but never to Eastern Turkey.  The only repeats on this journey were Istanbul, Uchisar, and Goreme.   We experienced unforgettable historic treasures, relics of ancient civilizations, Biblical history and interaction with the local people.   There were fifteen travelers in our group, and a fine group it was.  We enjoyed our travel friends.  Pictured below is our trip leader, Adnan.   (This map is copied from the Overseas Adventure web site.) 


Save Money:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Overseas Adventure Travel or Grand Circle Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip. 

{Beginning of Part 2:  Turkey, from Cappadocia to Adana, Days 11-20}


Trabzon to Ankara:  After breakfast we took a short flight from Trabzon to Ankara.


Ankara:  This region of central Anatolia in which Ankara is situated is also the heartland of the long-vanished Hittite civilization.  We visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations which was a disappointment because the only section open was the Roman section.  Next we went to the Ataturk Mausoleum & Museum.  He was leader of the Turkish War of Independence and first president of Turkey. 


Cappadocia, Turkey:  Jim & I have been to this area before, but I don’t think I’d ever tire of seeing this region of exceptional natural wonders, which is characterized by fairy chimneys.  The landscape of Cappadocia was created around 30 million years ago.  The volcanic ash eroded into “tuff”.  Over time, the tuff was worn away, creating distinctive formations, including the capped-cone “fairy chimneys.” This area covers about 116 square miles.   


Uchisar Rock Citadel:  The natural rock citadel of Uchisar is the tallest point in Cappadocia.  First photo is taken at a distance while we were out on a hike, the second photo is a close-up of the same area.   


Strolling around the unique town of Uchisar.  They were a lot of fixer-uppers, and a lot that were repaired and in good shape even due to time, erosion and weathering.  It was fascinating!


Some of the nice hotels in the Uchisar.  We looked into one of the rooms, it would be a fun place to stay. 


We visited a home where the family actually lives in the cone shaped rock.  Then we did what you rightfully do in Turkey, we had chai (hot tea). 


We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful sites of Cappadocia.  Love, this place. 


I about decided that right here in Cappadocia, Turkey, we’d found Doofus, our missing dog.  You have to look carefully but he’s also in the second photo, in the due center. 


Kaymakli Underground City:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia but Kaymakli is the widest.  These cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, (1600 BC-1180 BC) and expanded over the centuries.  Early Christians suffered a lot from the Romans, pagans, and Arab invaders, so they refuged in underground cities.  The softness of the tuff made it easy to excavate in order to create dwellings.  This settlement had living quarters, stables, wells, ventilation systems, churches and storage rooms.  There are nearly one hundred tunnels in this underground city.  Archeologists think that this city could have been had a population up to 3,500 people, in addition to their livestock.  This underground city consists of 8 floors below ground, but only 4 of them are open to the public today.  Amazing!


Walking through the tunnels.  Second photo is the church with the altar in the foreground.  The top part of the third photo shows shows a stone door. 


Oh dear, a little entrance and double oh dear……Jim made it through!


Well, now that was an experience, wasn’t it? 


We did an invigorating hike from Uchisar to Goreme.  It took us a couple of hours, some longer than others, but I ask, “what was the hurry?”  Then of course it was time for chai. 


So first thing the next morning we continued on with another splendid hike in the beautiful sunshine through elongated shaped columns that are capped with layers of slightly harder material.


Chai time right?  Nope, it was fresh squeezed orange-juice time.  And a little shopping opportunity. 

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Goreme Open-Air Museum:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This area contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes whose colors are still vivid.  Most of the churches located here belong to the 10th, 11th and 12 centuries.  Pictures weren’t allowed inside.


Way to go Jerry, are you going to ride all the way home?


Looking out the window on our bus ride from Cappadocia to Antakya (Ancient Antioch).


Antakya:  We traveled to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, stayed at a nice hotel in Antakya, and from there visited close by areas of interest. 


Vakifli:  We set out to experience A Day in the Life of two Turkish villages.  First, we visited Vakifli, an Armenian village perched on the slope of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean.  It is known as the last Christian Armenian village in Turkey. 


Along the mountain road.  We discovered a mule under all that grass. 


Kapisuyu:  We visited a local school in this mountain village near Syria.  It is supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. 


We enjoyed a nice home hosted lunch in the same village as the school.  I brought the kids bubbles, and it appeared to be a hit.  The mayor & his staff showed up for lunch with us also.


Now for a demonstration of bread baking.  The bread was very good.  We had it hot and fresh for lunch. 


Ancient Seleucia:  In 301 BC Seleucia was a port for Antioch (now Antakya).  The apostle Peter chose this locale for his first mission to the Gentiles, and his converts in Antioch were the first group to go by the name Christians.  Seleucia was the seaport from which Paul and Barnabas departed for their first missionary journey in 49 AD.  (Acts 13:4).  It was amazing to see remaining structures in this area. 


Titus Tunnel at Seleucia:  This is another Roman engineering marvel.  The Romans decided to divert a river, so slaves cut a channel along and through the rock for nearly a mile.  The project started around 69-79 AD and was continued during Emperor Titus reign in 79-81 AD.


Hatay Archaeological Museum:  We saw the collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics dating from the 1st to 5th centuries AD.  The works in the museum are arranged according to where they were found.  I was amazed at the vibrant colors that remained in mosaics that are over 2,000 years old.  An excellent museum. 



Overland to Gaziantep.

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Gaziantep, Turkey:  Next we headed back to the Eastern Anatolia region.  The site has been occupied since Hittite times.  A crumbling citadel with 36 towers looms over the town.  Just below the citadel is a bazaar that sells anything and everything you can think of. 

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On our way to Mt. Nemrut.  And then a picnic lunch at the base of Mt. Nemrut.


 Mt. Nemrut:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The huge stone heads on the summit of Mount Nemrut were built by King Antiochus I Theos, who ruled the Commagene kingdom between 64 & 38 BC.  To glorify his rule, the king had three enormous terraces cut in to the mountain top.  Colossal statues of himself and the major gods were placed on the terraces, and the summit became a sanctuary where the king was worshipped.  It is believed to be the site of King Antiochus tomb, but to date, it has never been found. 


Well, trust me, this was a goodly hike for the senior set.  It has become apparent to me as I post this blog, just exactly what my favorite things were.…and this is one of them.  The destination of our hike is up the mountain and to the peak seen in the first picture.  It all started out with a nice sidewalk, then towards the end it was slip, sliding rocks, but we all made it with weak smiles & a huff & a puff. 


Now we are nearing the top and no more nice sidewalk.  A few times I thought I might slide with the rocks down to the valley below.  Of course I hugged the inside of the path, and anyone that wanted, was free to pass me on the outside. 


Rounding the last bend in the trail and this is what we saw.  We gazed upon statues that are over 2,000 years old!  And located on top of the mountain were they were originally placed.  The bodies of the colossal statues stand, with their carved heads laying scattered at their feet around the haunting peak of Mount Nemrut. 


On the eastern terrace of the mountaintop were huge statues of King Antiochus, flaked by two lions, two eagles and various gods.  These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them.  The heads of the statues have at some stage been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site. 


We stand amazed among these relics of an ancient civilization. 


To get from the eastern terrace to the western terrace we encountered snow in the path.  So, we could either walk through the knee deep snow or get off the path that was way too close to the edge of the mountain for me.  As I stumbled along this lovely young lady took my hand and we stumbled through the railroad ties and large rocks together and she kept me safe. 


On the western terrace the statues are just here, there and everywhere.


On the western terrace there are several reliefs that are in good condition.  The relief carving of a lion surrounded by stars and a crescent moon is considered to be one of the oldest horoscope representations in the world.  It shows the arrangement of stars and the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars on 7 July 62 BC. This may be an indication of when construction began on this monument.

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Heading down from Mt. Nemrat.  It was a great sidewalk path all the way down. 


We packed up and left Gaziantep and headed in a westerly direction to Adana, which would be the destination for the last two nights of our trip. 


Kastabala, Turkey:  On our drive to Adana we made a brief stop here, just because we wanted to see some more “old” stuff.   The ruins seen at Kastabala historic site today are all from the Roman Period.  The colonnaded street at the entrance was built around 200 AD.  Ruins were as far as the eye could see.  Very little of the site is excavated. 



Karatepe, Turkey:  This place was a late Hittite city dating from the eighth century BC.  It was in a beautiful site in the Taurus Mountains and on the bank of the Ceyhan River. 


Tarsus, Turkey:  We went to visit the antiquities regarding St. Paul, but first we got to enjoy a festival. 


Paul the Apostle was born in Tausus, around the first century AD.  He was an early Christian missionary, and was a writer of much of the New Testament.  This is the ancient stone well and also a foundation that is believed to be the site of St. Paul’s house. 


Adana, Turkey:  We stayed at the Hilton in Adana.  Next to the Hilton on the left was this 4th century Roman bridge.  Next to the Hilton on the right was Turkey’s largest mosque with grand minarets. 


We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant overlooking waterfalls.  Some kind of a festival was going on so our send-off was a spectacular water show complete with fireworks right in front of our hotel. 


So long Turkey.  It was a grand trip!  Kansas here we come. 


Posted May 8, 2014 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations {Part 1, Days 1-10}   6 comments

Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations

{Part 1, Days 1-10:  Istanbul, Van, Ani, Kars, Erzurum & Trabzon}

Mar. 28 – Apr. 16, 2014


Since we had never been to Eastern Turkey, Jim & I selected this trip, “Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations”  from Overseas Adventure Travel.  This was our 32nd trip with this company and as usual we were extremely pleased with the itinerary and the learning and discovery experiences.   We have previously been to Turkey but never to Eastern Turkey.  The only repeats on this journey were Istanbul, Uchisar, and Goreme.   We experienced unforgettable historic treasures, relics of ancient civilizations, Biblical history and interaction with the local people.   There were fifteen travelers in our group, and a fine group it was.  We enjoyed our travel friends.  Pictured below is our trip leader, Adnan.   (This map is copied from the Overseas Adventure web site.) 

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Save Money:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Overseas Adventure Travel or Grand Circle Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip. 

{Beginning of Part 1:  Turkey, from Istanbul to Trabzon, Days 1-10}


Istanbul, Turkey:  Our trip began with a short visit to Turkey’s largest city, which was first founded around 660 BC as Byzantium.  The city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history.  For nearly sixteen centuries following its re-establishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires:  the Roman Empire (330-395), the Byzantine Empire (395-1204 and 1261-1453), the Latin Empire (1204-1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922).  Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the city bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally.  


  Egyptian Obelisk:  It was built around 1500 BC, and stood outside Luxor until Constantine had it brought to Constantinople (Istanbul) around 324 AD.   The obelisk is actually broken and this is only one third of its actual height.  It stands in what was once the Hippodrome.  The Hippodrome was a huge stadium that held up to 100,000 people.


Hagia Sophia:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was a Christian church for almost 1,000 years, then it served as a mosque after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans, who added minarets and fountains.  In 1934 it was designated as a museum.  The marble jar from the 4-3 century BC, was brought from Pergamon in the 1500’s.  The jar was carved from a single block of marble. 


Basilica Cistern:  This vast underground water cistern is a beautiful piece of Byzantine engineering.  It was laid out in 532 AD, mainly to satisfy the growing demands of the Great Palace for water.  The cistern’s roof is heed up by 336 columns, each over 26 ft. high. 


We thought this to be the best baklava we had in TurkeyIt is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey. 


Van, Turkey:  We flew from Istanbul to Van, the one-time capital of the ancient Urartu Empire.  It is located on the eastern edge of Turkey not far from the Iranian border.  The town is set along the southeastern shores of Turkey’s largest lake,  Lake Van.  The town was celebrating an election on the day that we arrived.


Van Herbed Cheese:  It is made out of sheep or cow’s milk and it contains herbs.  It is put in the ground and covered to ripen.  It has been manufactured in this area for more than 200 years. 


Interesting meat shopping.


Next was an interesting lunch.  You just gathered stuff from various dishes and put into your fresh hot baked bread.


I went next door to get the bread.


The delicious breakfast buffet at our hotel in Van.


Lake Van:  A crystal-clear saline lake.  The lake is six times bigger than Utah’s Great Salt Lake.  On a cold, sunny morning we cruised the lake heading to a tiny island to view the Armenian Cathedral.  The snowcapped mountains were beautiful. 


Armenian Church of the Holy Cross:  Built 915-921 and situated on a small island in Lake Van.  The exterior of the medieval church boasts a remarkable series of bas-relief carvings and friezes showing biblical scenes.  The church is now classed as a secular museum in Turkey. 


Cavustepe, Turkey:  This hilltop fortress was used by the Urartian kings during the 8th Century BC.  It was built at the climax of power of the Urartian Empire.  Mehmet Kusman (pictured below), is one of the few people in the world who can speak, read and write Urartian.  Mr. Kusman gave us a tour of the site and also translated inscriptions.   


It had just rained and we slip-slided through mud that seemed it was going to suck us into the ground.  The second photo is the remains of a sacrificial altar. 


The remains of massive sunken storage jars (big round circles on the ground) used to store the harvest from the plains below.  We are looking at grain from the storage jars that is over 2,700 years old. 


Inscriptions that are 2,700 years old and appear as if they were carved yesterday.


The famous Van Cats:  The Van Kedisi, is an unusual breed of cat that has white fur, one green eye and one blue eye, and an affinity for swimming.  They are famous around Lake Van where they dive happily into the lake just for fun.  Their numbers are dwindling and export is strictly forbidden.  We visited the Van Cat sanctuary.


From Van to Kars:  We traveled north through Eastern Anatolia, near the borders of Iran & Armenia.  

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A nice stop along the way was at the Muradiye Waterfalls.   At the waterfalls stop I learned how to properly drink (chai) hot tea the Turkish way.  You hold the very hot, thin glass at the very top with your fingers out…to prevent burning more than your thumbs and index fingers. 


Mt. Ararat:  In the rugged terrain of this area we saw Mt. Ararat in the distance.  The legendary resting place of Noah’s Ark.  It’s Turkey’s highest mountain, rising 16,945 ft.


Some more out the window gazing.


Ishak Pasha Palace:  Perched on a small plateau along stark cliffs, is this fortress like Ottoman-period palace.  Construction was started about 1685 and completed in 1784.  It rises magnificently along the Silk Route close to the Iranian border.  The lavish arrangement of 366 rooms includes a harem with 14 bedrooms, and a small mosque.


Our dear friend Roxanne, back view & front view (looking out the window). 


Looking out the bus window.



April 2.  It’s his birthday, all day.  Happy Birthday to Jim!!


Ani, Turkey:  The ancient city is located on the border from Armenia.  Between 961 & 1045 it was the capital of the medieval Armenian Kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia & eastern Turkey.  Called the “City of 1001 Churches,” Ani stood on various trade routes and its buildings were some of the most technically & artistically advanced structures in the world.  At its height, Ani had a population of 100,000-200,000 people and was the rival of Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus. 


Ani was sacked by the Turks in 1064, and razed by an earthquake in 1319.


The Citadel in the distant center of the picture below is the oldest part of Ani and housed most of its residents until 961.  The Menucehr Mosque is in the next photo. 


The view from the Menucehr Mosque shows the Silk Road of long ago.  In the first photo you can see the ruins of the ancient bridge.  In the second photo you can see how the Silk Road snaked its way up the hill into Ani.  Today this river is the border between Turkey & Armenia. 


This is what remains of the Silk Road as it makes its way up from the river and into Ani.  In the next photo, as you look past the ancient church on the hill (center of the picture) is Armenia. 


Ani Cathedral:  It’s still intact, although the dome on the top has collapsed.  The construction on the church was begun in 989.  It is 100 ft. by 65 ft. and really seemed big inside.  The dome had been supported on four piers of clustered columns, but the 1319 earthquake took it down. 


The Church of St. Gregory:  The church, finished in 1215, is the best-preserved monument at Ani. 


Up until 2004, due to its position in a sensitive border area, the Turkish government required a special permit and prohibited visitors from bringing cameras to this extraordinary ghost city.  Sure glad those restrictions have been lifted and we got to see this splendid ghost town.


Always time for chai, right?


We enjoyed a lovely lunch with a family that lived out in the country near Kars. 


The man of the house was a farmer and Jim enjoyed seeing his tractor.  The delicious bread was baked in this pit.


As we were ready to leave the hotel in Kars I discovered new friends.  The girls were so excited to talk to an American.  However, it appears that I may have been equally pleased.  Then came the sheep. 


Kars to Erzurum:  We drove through some pretty countryside on our way from Kars to Erzurum. 

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There’s obviously always time for tea….especially if you are a Turkish man.


Erzurum:  Set high on a plateau and surrounded by mountains, the town is a winter sports mecca complete with ski trails.  These are pictures of our hotel and area where we stayed the night.  Lovely buffet dinner that evening with live entertainment. 


Erzurum to Trabzon:  Next we journeyed by coach to Trabzon.

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Views out the bus window.


Lunch at the truck stop left much to be desired.  The kids were in a hurry to eat, they could have had mine.  We chose what we wanted out of these pots. 


A rather pretty ride.


Sumela Monastery:  The monastery sits high up on the cliffs of Mt. Mela, in a national park near Trabzon.  It was founded in 386 AD by two Greek monks after discovering a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain.  The monastery has been rebuilt several times and restoration continues.


We first took a scenic ride in a van through the national park.


The Monastery is to the left of my head, perched on the side of the cliff.


We walked the winding forest path up to the monastery.


Inside the Monastery.


The Rock Church of Sumela Monastery.  It was a cave that was converted to a church. 


The inner and outer walls of the Rock Church and the walls of the adjacent chapel are decorated with frescoes.  The main subject of the frescoes are biblical scenes telling the story of Christ and the Virgin Mary. 


Leaving the Monastery. 


Trabzon:  It’s situated along Turkey’s Black Sea Coast.  After a scenic overlook of the city, we visited Aya Sofya Mosque.  It is a former Byzantine-era cathedral built in 1577.  The frescoes depicting scenes from the Old Testament are supposed to be among the finest in Turkey.   


Antiquities anywhere & everywhere.


Continued with Part 2 on next blog:  Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations, Part 2, Days 11-20


Posted May 8, 2014 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Norway: A Voyage of the Northern Lights   14 comments


Norway:  A Voyage of the Northern Lights

Dec. 4 – 18, 2013


Jim & I have wondered what it would be like to be in the northern most town in the world during some of the shortest days of the year.  We have wondered what it would be like north of the Arctic Circle for almost a week in the dead of winter.  We have wondered what it would be like to have less than 2 hours of “twilight” daily.  We have wondered what it would be like to see the Northern Lights.  We have wondered what it would be like to cruise along the 1,560 miles of the Norwegian coastline, then turn around and go back the other way.  However, we hadn’t wondered what it would be like to be in Hurricane force winds of 115 mph while cruising above the Arctic Circle.  Well, we found the answers to all these quandaries on our trip with Vantage Deluxe World Travel aboard the Hurtigruten’s MS Nordkapp.  The trip was exciting and delightful!


 The Grand Norwegian Coastal Voyage, was just that….grand.  Our 15 day trip began with a day and night in Bergen, Norway.  Then we boarded the MS Nordkapp for a complete 11-night north and south voyage, with over 30 ports of call along the 1,560 miles of the Norwegian coastline.  After returning back to Bergen, we spent another night in the lovely town before flying home just in time for Christmas.  Karin was our excellent tour director, and she made sure our trip was perfect.  

Bergen, Norway:  Founded in 1070, Bergen has a unique harbor setting and ancient medieval streets, plus a modern vibrant city.  The Greater Bergen Region had a population of 398,800, making Bergen the second-largest city in Norway.  It is ideally located on the Western coast, surrounded by 7 mountains, in the middle of Fjord Norway, with easy access to the Norwegian fjords.  The waterfront is really the heart of Bergen, with the Fish Market and the picturesque old wooden Bryggen wharf – a UNESCO World Heritage site. 


To me the highlight of Bergen is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen.  Bryggen, (Norwegian for the Wharf), is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings (warehouses) lining the eastern side of the fjord coming into Bergen.  In the early days  when the town developed into an important trading center, the Hanseatic merchants filled these warehouses with goods, particularly fish from northern Norway, and cereal from Europe.  Some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape.  Today, the Bryggen houses tourist, souvenir, and gift shops, in addition to restaurants, pubs and museums.


Our outstandingly located hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel was right in the scenic Bryggen UNESCO historic area.  Coming out from the hotel was the harbor, and turning left was the historic warehouse area. 


Karin suggested we take the Funicular and see the beautiful snow covered city from above.  A great idea!  The starting point of the the Funicular is centrally located, just a short walk from our hotel. The Funicular takes you to the top of mount Floyen, offering a marvelous view of the city. 


To the fish market we did go. 


Next it was time for a nice stroll in the driving snow.


Saw lots of places with Lutefisk on the menu.  Remembering the Lutefisk that my family helped prepare for our churches annual “Lutefisk Supper” at Vilas Lutheran church in Kansas.


Edvard Hagerup Grieg is a famous Norwegian composer and pianist.  We toured the picturesque wooden villa “Troldhaugen”, which was Nina and Edvard Grieg’s home, and built in 1885. The villa is located in the outskirts of Bergen, surrounded by a garden by the Nordasvannet lake. The couple lived there the last 22 summers of Edvard Grieg’s life. Troldhaugen became a museum in May 1928.  (I recognize The Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg.)


The boarded a Hurtigruten Ship, the MS Nordkapp:  (I copied the following info & the ship picture from the Hurtigruten web site.)

Hurtigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Voyage along the scenic coast and fjords of Norway has often been praised as being one of the  most beautiful voyages in the world.  The service was founded 120 years ago as a way of ferrying passengers and supplies between the isolated communities along the rugged coastline.  It is still considered a “working” ship.  With daily departures, the Hurtigruten journey begins in Bergen and travels north across the Arctic Circle and beyond as it meanders through the dramatic splendours of the Norwegian coast. As you weave in and out of narrow inlets, you will sail along some of the world’s most beautiful coastline, nearly always in sight of land, and discover what makes this voyage unique.


  Some ports of call would only be a few minutes, while supplies and passengers were quickly loaded and unloaded.  Other times we were docked long enough to walk around town.  The ship was usually docked on main street of the small towns so it was easy to get out and about.  Sometimes we were at a port of call for a few hours and had plenty of time to look around.  We were very pleased with the ship, crew and meals.  The following are pictures inside the ship.

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Dec. 7, 2013, the first morning aboard the ship, cruising, somewhere between Maley & Torvik.  That is a little house on the little island below.  Talk about a long way from Walmart. 


A quick stop at Maley to unload supplies and off we went. 


Jim is standing in front of our cabin window.  While we were out on our deck we noticed this little farm.  I can’t imagine living so remotely. 


Alesund, Norway:  After it was destroyed by fire in 1904, this pretty little town was rebuilt in the fashionable Art Nouveau style of the era.  Alesund has a population of approximately 40,000.  The town in surrounded by water.  I think it was the prettiest town that we visited. 


Trondheim:  Was founded in 997.  It is Norway’s third largest city with a population of almost 180,000.  A coach tour of the city was provided.  We visited a viewpoint with a great view of the city.  We saw the Nidaros Cathedral which is the religious center of Norway.  The best thing was the Old Town Draw Bridge of Trondheim which was built in 1684.

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Cruising between Trondheim & Rorvik on Dec. 8, 2013:  The time as per my camera on the first photo is 2:09 pm and the sun is setting.  The days are definitely getting shorter.  The second photo is the  Lighthouse Kjeungskuaer which was built in 1880.


Rorvik:  Located approximately 120 miles north of the city of Trondheim.   The 430 acre village has a population (2011) of 2,721. 


Ornes, Norway:  Dec. 9, 2013, 9:35 a.m., a 30 minute stop for loading & unloading supplies.  Ornes is a port of call along the Hurtigruten ferry route between Nesna and Bodø. The 450-acre village has a population (2011) of 1,623.


Crossed the Arctic Circle around 7:20 this morning, Dec. 9, 2013.   This is the little lighted marker that marks the spot.

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Standing on the deck in front of our cabin window and looking at the small farms on the shoreline.   We are now cruising within the Arctic Circle. 


Crossing the Arctic Circle Ceremony:  If you let them pour ice & water down your neck you could have a free shot of liquor.  I wasn’t that thirsty. haha


 The route map with a focus on the Arctic Circle area. 


Boda, Norway:  The town lies just north of the Arctic Circle and has a population of approximately 50,000.  It is the second-largest town in North Norway.   It was completely rebuilt after WWII.  The sun is not visible from the city from early December to early January.  Thus the twilight.  We were in Boda for 2 1/2 hours. 


As per the lighted sign by the Christmas tree it was –4C (28 degrees) and 1:15 p.m.  We saw lots of ladies using sleds (below) just as we would use a skate board.  Pretty nifty way to get around on solid ice. 


Svolvaer, Norway:  This 540-acre town has a population (2011) of 4,185.  We made a one hour stop here.  It was 3:30 in the afternoon when we arrived and completely dark. 


We saw the Northern Lights.  (Definition) An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.   Thank you, to a couple of friends in our group for sharing these pictures.  It was a struggle getting decent photos considering the rocking & rolling of the ship.  The Northern Lights were actually spotted twice by some people and three times by others. 

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The following group of Northern Lights photos were taken in Sweden (on land) the same night that we saw the Aurora from the ship.  The people that took them were later on our ship and shared them with members of our group.  Aren’t they beautiful?

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Finnsnes, Norway:  The municipality is well provided with kindergartens, primary and secondary level schools, and studies on university level   Fishing and agriculture is still very important, and fish farming is of increasing importance for the employment of people.  The population of Finnsnes in 2012 was 4,250.  It was a 30 minute stop at 11:15 in the morning.  It was a twilight, with snow, type of morning. 


  Tromso, Norway:  Tromso describes itself as being the Paris of the North.  It is familiar to filmgoers as the starting point for so many Polar expeditions.  It is northern Norway’s largest city with approximately 73,000 inhabitants (2012).  We did a coach tour of Tromso going to the Tromso Museum for “Embrace the Aurora”, and then visited the Arctic Cathedral.  Our ship docked in the city center about 3 p.m. and were there about 4 hours.

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 Honningsvag, Norway:  Hammerfest claims to be the northernmost city in the world, although the title is disputed by Honningsvåg, Norway.  Even though Honningsvag is located at the northernmost extreme of Europe, it has a subarctic climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream.  The 300 acre town has a population (2012) of 2,436.  A young lady from the local newspaper took Bill, Jim & my picture and was surprised to learn that we were from Tenn. & Ks.   FYI:  We were walking around Honningsvag about noon.  Please note, that it is completely dark.  


King Crab from the area.   Demand is high for the delicacy and it has long been the most lucrative harvest in the Norwegian fishing industry.


Storm Certificate:  “It is hereby announced that the Passenger…Marilyn Farmer (Jim got a certificate also)… was on board the MS “Nordkapp” during a storm, along the coast of Finnmark, with winds up to 115 m.p.h. or 54m/sec on December 11, 2013.”  What a ride at 3 o’clock in the morning.  Can’t say that we’ve even been in a hurricane before, and don’t care to be in one again.  The google map below shows the approximate location of our scary hurricane ride. 

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Kirkenes, Norway:  Kirkenes is located in the extreme northeastern part of Norway.  The 510-acre town has a population (2012) of 3,444.  When the neighboring suburban villages of Hesseng, Sandnes, and Bjørnevatn are all included with Kirkenes, the urban area reaches a total population of almost 8,000 people.  We left Kirkenes by coach and drove to the Russian Border, it was about a 30 minute drive.  We were curious about the 4 back-packers who were hiking across the frozen lake to the border. 


The Russian Border crossing complete with a sled to play with and an outdoor toilet.  We were out and about from around 9:30 a.m. until noon.  It was a clear twilight day, no sun of course in the Arctic Circle area. 

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During the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany, Kirkenes was one of the many bases for the German’s.  Reportedly, Kirkenes is second after Malta on a list of European towns experiencing air-raid alarms and attacks, with more than 1,000 alarms and 320 air attacks.  Then, the town was taken over by the Red Army on Oct. 25, 1944 when the German Wehrmacht was pushed out and fled the area after having destroyed most of the remaining infrastructure.

Bjornevatn, Norway:  This is a memorial to the 2,500 people took shelter in the mines in 1945 for 2 months, until the Russians liberated the area from the Germans. 


Hammerfest, Norway:  Hammerfest, population 9,000, claims to be the northernmost city in the world, although the title is disputed by Honningsvag, Norway.   The validity of the claim depends upon one’s definition of a city; although Hammerfest is further south than Honningsvag it has a population over 5,000, which is required by Norwegian law to achieve town status.  Honningsvag, population about 2,500 is actually the northernmost in Norway. Barrow, Alaska, population 4,000, is further north than both the Norwegian towns, but does not lay claim to the title of northernmost town.

However, I will say as per this Bing Map is appears that Honningsvag, Norway is further north than Hammerfest, Norway, regardless of the population.  But, I have a photo of the “Northern Most Town in the World” sign from Hammerfest. 

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Hammerfest:  Dec. 13, 2013.   We arrived around 10 in the morning, and had about 3 hours to explore the town.  It would snow like crazy for awhile then quit for awhile. 


Built in 1961, Hammerfest Church is the main parish church in Hammerfest.


Tradition in Norway is to decorate with lots of red hearts at Christmas.


Even though it is one of the northern most towns in the world it is largely ice-free because of the offshore Gulf Stream. 


We decided to have a donut.  They seemed pretty dry for as expensive as they were. 


Stokmarknes, Norway:  At lot of people getting on and off the ship in Stokmarknes.  This town, population 3,500, is the birthplace of the Hurtigruten shipping company.  We visited the Hurtigruten Museum to explore its history.  The first Hertigruten voyage departed in 1893.The original MS Finnmarken, dating back to the 1950’s, rests in dry dock here and we toured it as part of the museum.  We were there from about 2 – 3:30 p.m. (completely dark.) 


Svolvaer, Norway:    This 540-acre town has a massive fishing industry and a population (2011) of 4,185.  Jim visited the WWII Museum and I walked around with some others.  I didn’t sit in the lighted ice chair very long!


Dec. 15, 2013, we crossed the Arctic Circle again, this time headed in a southerly direction.  The ceremony was spoonful of cod liver oil, and a shot of wine.  The best part, was we got to keep the neat spoons the oil was in. 


Our happy group of 32 Vantage Travelers, along with our great tour leader, Karin.

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Bergen, Norway:  Back to Bergen again, and this time without snow.  Pizza with friends, and a last look at the pretty town all lighted for Christmas.


A wonderful time, with memories galore!!

Posted January 4, 2014 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Canadian Maritimes in the Fall   11 comments

Canadian Maritimes in the Fall

News Brunswick, Prince Edward Island & Nova Scotia

Oct. 10- 19, 2013


Since we’ve always heard that Nova Scotia, Canada, and the Canadian Maritimes is a beautiful place to see; Jim & I and our friends, Mark & Karen decided to find out for ourselves.  We went in mid-October and couldn’t have picked a better time…..the fall colors were outstanding!   The Canadian Maritimes, is a region of Eastern Canada consisting of three provinces, New Brunswick,  Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. {The map below is copied from: gocanada.about.com}

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We went with Caravan Tours (Caravan.com) and were very pleased with the itinerary, and our tour director, John.  We flew into Halifax, Nova Scotia and spent the first night near the airport.  The next morning we drove by coach to New Brunswick where we saw the Hopewell Cape and the Bay of Fundy.  We drove on to Prince Edward Island and spent the next two nights at a Country Inn and toured that area.  Cheticamp on Prince Edward Island was our next destination with a two night stay.  Then it was on to the Baddeck area for two nights.  We spent our last two nights in Halifax at a great hotel along the boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  

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New Brunswick:  The boundary lines in New Brunswick between Canada and the United States were established in the 1842 Ashburton-Webster Treaty, after the Aroostook War (the bloodless cold-war between the United States and Canada) ended peacefully.  New Brunswick is one of Canada’s three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the Canadian federation that is constitutionally bilingual (English-French).  New Brunswick is a relatively sparsely populated province, with considerable forests forming the main body. The core of the province is virtually uninhabited, with most of the population being on the Eastern, Western, and Southern coastlines.

Nova Scotia to New Brunswick:  On our morning drive from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, we crossed rivers, streams and marshlands that are connected to the Fundy tides. 


Flowerpot Rocks at Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick:  The rocks stand between 40-70 feet tall.  These formations have been caused by tidal erosion.  The Fundy Tides are the highest on earth and rise and fall an astonishing 50 feet, with an average change of 6 to 8 feet per hour.  The Fundy Tides are created twice each day when one-hundred-billion tons of water flow into the Bay of Fundy. 


The following sign is located in front of the stairs that go down to the beach.  It indicates in French & English what time the “high tide” will arrive.  The clock indicates that we were there at 11:37 and “To avoid being trapped by the rising tide YOU MUST return to the stairs by the time shown here….which was 3:15.”


We were there during low tide.  Below is a photo of a picture that shows what this area looks like turning “high tide”.  The next picture features Mark & Karen.  They are standing under the same arch as shown in the “high tide” picture where the first canoe is ready to go under the arch.  As you can see, if it was high tide the water would be over their heads.     


We walked all along the beach and enjoyed the interesting rock formations that have occurred due to the tidal activity. 


The Fundy Tides overpower the rivers flowing into the Bay of Fundy and reverse their direction two times a day.


Confederation Bridge:  We traveled over the 8 mile Confederation Bridge which links New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island.  The bridge is a multi-span beam bridge with a post-tensioned concrete box girder structure.  Most of the curved bridge is about 130 feet above water, with a 197 foot navigation span to permit ship traffic.  The bridge rests on 62 piers, of which the 44 main piers are 820 feet apart.  The bridge is a two-lane highway toll bridge, 36 feet wide with a speed limit of 50 mph.  It takes about 12 minutes to cross the bridge. 


Just after crossing the Confederation Bridge was a cute shopping area.  A bridge segment is on display here.  And… Jim thinks he has found “his” ice cream!

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Prince Edward Island:  It is located east of New Brunswick, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The island’s landscape is a combination of rolling hills, woods, reddish white sand beaches, ocean coves and the famous red soil, which adds to it’s natural beauty.  The smaller, rural communities as well as the towns and villages throughout the province, retain a slower-paced, old-world flavor.

We stayed for two nights near (but not at) the National Seashore at a Country Inn.  The coastline of Prince Edward Island has a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes, and numerous bays and harbors.  This is the coast of Prince Edward Island near Cavendish.


Anne of Green Gables (1908), Prince Edward Island:  We visited the Anne of Green Gables house in Cavendish.  We strolled through Lover’s Lane and other settings from the literary classic.  The author, Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from the land during the late Victorian Era for her classic novel, Ann of Green Gables.  You should read some of the series of Anne of Green Gables, I am.  Very pleasant reading. 


A stroll down “Anne of Green Gables” lover’s lane.


 Let me assure you…there was nothing simple about Karen & I climbing into the carriage for our photo!


North Rustico, Prince Edward Island:  A community by the sea.  It was fun for these Kansas folks to see a fishing village and learn about lobster fishing.  And….that evening we had lobster for supper. 


St. Augustine Catholic Church, Farmers’ Bank of Rustico Museum & Doucet House, Prince Edward Island:  The oldest church on this island was built in 1838.   We also enjoyed seeing one of the old original homes of the area (Doucet House).  The museum in the old sandstone building provided an interesting review of the old local banking history in PEI. 


Potatoes:  Potatoes are Prince Edward Island’s single largest agricultural commodity in terms of farm cash receipts.  PEI potatoes are processed into frozen potato products and chips. They are also supplied to the fresh table market in eastern Canada, the United States, and overseas. Prince Edward Island seed potatoes are shipped across Canada and around the world to other potato producing regions.  We saw lots of potato fields and potato processors. 

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Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island:  It is both the largest city and the provincial capital of Prince Edward Island, it was designated as a city in 1886.


One has to eat lobster in Nova Scotia!


Cape Breton Island: The island is located east-northeast of the mainland of Nova Scotia with its northern and western coasts fronting on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The island accounts for 18.7% of the total area of Nova Scotia.  It is artificially connected to mainland Nova Scotia by the 4,544 ft. long rock-fill Canso Causeway. 

We went by ferry from Prince Edward island back to Nova Scotia.  Then we continued on by coach to Cape Breton Island. 


It was a pretty ride on Cape Breton Island en-route to Cheticamp.

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Cheticamp:  Is a busy fishing village in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, with a thriving Acadian culture.  The community has almost 4,000 residents, a large number of whom are Acadians and speak French natively, as well as English.  Music has always been a very important component of Acadian life in Chéticamp.  Both evenings we were there we enjoyed listening to the lively Acadian music.   

Whale Watch:  Well…while in Cheticamp, we boarded a boat and did a whale watch.  What can I say?  It was cold, it was wet, it was long, and we caught a brief glimpse of a whale….I think.  Oh well, we’ve been on a whale watch in Nova Scotia. 


Elizabeth LaFort Museum of Hooked Rug & Home Life, Cheticamp, Cape Breton Island:  Born in 1914, Elizabeth LeFort learned to hook rugs at a very young age. In her early twenties, she was already hooking landscapes based on photos or illustrations that appealed to her.  She made hundreds of tapestries in a large variety of subjects including pastoral scenes, birds, animals and floral motifs.  She also reproduced photographs, and religious paintings. 

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Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island:  This world-famous scenic highway, runs along parts of the coastal borders on both sides of the park and crosses the highlands.  At the western entrance of the park is the Acadian village of Cheticamp on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and a park information center.  On the eastern side of the park are the beaches at Ingonish on the Atlantic Ocean.  In between are mountains, valleys, forests, waterfalls, rocky coastlines and a tundra-like plateau know as the Cape Breton Highlands.  This map copied from Parks Canada shows the route that we drove on the Cabot Trail, through Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

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We had the privilege of driving the first part of the trail twice.  These are pictures of our trip into the park on the first day in partly sunny lovely weather.  The next morning when we headed out it was foggy, so we had a diversified view of the lovely area.  


Cabot Trail, Cape Breton National Park:  As we began our drive early the next morning it was foggy, but then it lifted and was a beautiful day as the scenery unfolded on our breathtaking journey on the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton National Park.  It is approximately 80 miles from Cheticamp to the Ingonish Beach area. 


Pleasant Bay, located at the northwest part of the trail just before we headed east across the mountains. 


Going generally in a eastward direction across the trail.


Now we are headed in a southerly direction towards Ingonish. 


Keltic Lodge:  After a delightful morning on the Cabot Trail, lunch was included at the Keltic Lodge near Ingonish.

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Driving from Ingonish to Baddeck on Cape Breton Island.


Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Baddeck, Cape Breton Island:     Was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1952.  The exhibit complex houses models, replicas, photo displays, artifacts and films describing the fascinating life and work of Alexander Graham Bell.  He invented a lot more than I realized.  


Bell’s Summer Home:  Alexander Graham Bell, compelled by the beauty of Baddeck, chose this area as his summer home.  Looking across the bay from Bell’s museum, this is a photo we zoomed  of Bell’s mansion.



Baddeck, Cape Breton Island:  Situated in the heart of Cape Breton Island, Baddeck is considered to be the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail.  Stretching along the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes, Baddeck is a charming, quaint little town.  We stayed here for two nights. 


Gisele’s Country Inn:  Our hotel in Baddeck and another nice included meal.  Yes, after the picture taking, Karen did eat it. 


Fortress of Louisbourg:  A National Historic Site of Canada and the location of a one-quarter partial reconstruction of an 18th-century French fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  Its two sieges, especially that of 1758, were turning points in the Anglo-French struggle for what today is Canada.


Driving from Louisbourg to Baddeck we saw another pretty lighthouse and a ferry crossing. 


  Nova Scotia (New Scotland):  We returned to mainland Nova Scotia for the final two nights of our trip.  Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province with nearly one million inhabitants.  It has over 4,600 miles of coastline.  Nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 42 miles from the ocean.  The first settlers were the Micmac Indians, and after that Nova Scotia was settled primarily by the French, English, Scottish and Irish.

Peggy’s Point Lighthouse:  Before arriving in Halifax we stopped at the little fishing village of Peggy’s Cove.  This lighthouse, situated on an extensive granite outcrop, is said to be one of the most-photographed structures in Atlantic Canada and one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world. The original lighthouse was built in 1868, but replaced by this one in 1914.  It is still operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. 


 Peggy’s Cove:  Is primarily a tourist attraction, although its inhabitants still fish for lobster, and the community maintains a rustic undeveloped appearance.


Halifax, Nova Scotia:    It’s the provincial capital and most populous province of the four in Atlantic Canada.  We stayed at the very nice Marriott Habourfront.  It was located on the boardwalk of Halifax. 


Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:  The museum has a collection of over 30,000 artifacts including 70 small craft and a steamship.


  CSS Acadia:  We toured this steamship, which is part of the museum.  It is a 180 foot steam-powered hydrographic survey ship launched in 1913.


 Ship Chandlery:  A ship chandler is a retail dealer who specializes in supplies or equipment for ships.  This restored Ship Chandlery circa 1900 was located in the museum.  I understood that it’s in the original store front which the museum purchased and added to it’s artifacts. 


And I bid you farewell with the setting of the sun over one last lighthouse in Nova Scotia!  It was a indeed fun trip with good friends!


Posted November 5, 2013 by marilynfarmer in Travel

From CO to CA with Karree   Leave a comment

From CO to CA with Karree

Sept. 24 – 28, 2013


Karree decided to do some travel nursing again in California and invited us to ride out with her.  So Jim & I flew into Denver and she picked us up at the airport and it was “westward ho”.   This was a five day adventure so we made good use of our time.  Our destinations included Arches National Park, Moab, UT; Capitol Reef National Park, UT: traveling scenic byway 12 through Utah; Bryce National Park, UT; Zion National Park, UT; Marina del Ray, CA; then moving her into her apartment in Culver City, CA. 

As per the google map below we traveled about 1,200 miles.  It was a fun time with our daughter and we got to see some beautiful country in this grand U.S.A. 

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Arches National Park:  The 73,000 acre park is located in eastern Utah just outside of Moab. With over 2,000 arches it contains the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches.  The National Park is a red, arid desert, punctuated with oddly eroded sandstone forms.


Capitol Reef National Park:  Located in south-central Utah, the park is 100 miles long but fairly narrow.  It is characterized by sandstone formations, cliffs and canyons, and a 100-mile long bulge in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth’s crust that is 65 million years old.  Erosion has carved the rock into marvelous shapes.


Mormons settled the Fremont River Valley in the 1880’s.  The National Park Service has preserved the original the Historic Gifford Farm, which can all be seen on highway 24 that runs through the park.  Petroglyphs can be seen on the sheer cliffs near the school house were carved by people in the Freemont Culture.


Scenic Byway 12, Utah:   We traveled the entire 124 miles of this remarkable  Utah route.  Around every bend in the road was another beautiful landscape of plateaus, canyons and valleys.  I copied this map from http://www.scenicbyway12.com



Bryce National Park:  Bryce is located in southwestern Utah about 50 miles northeast of Zion.  It is not a canyon but a collection of giant natural horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.  Bryce is distinctive due to bizarre shapes, windows, fins and spires called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering.  The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views as you view the splendid scenery from any of the many overlooks.


Zion National Park:  Located in southwestern Utah, Zion has some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States, and it is one of our favorite parks.  Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries.  We entered the park from the East entrance.  The unfolding scenes were breathtaking. 

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Zion Canyon scenic drive through the narrow canyon is open to shuttle buses only.  The park service provides free shuttle service, with included narrative.  It was late in the afternoon so the shadows were outstanding.  We got off the shuttle bus at the at the last stop into the canyon and hiked back into the beautiful area a bit. 

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After our great time spent in National Parks and seeing the beautiful areas of Utah we headed out to the Los Angeles area.  We arrived at Marina del Ray mid-afternoon.  We stayed at a hotel by the ocean that night, then the next day we got Karree moved into her apartment. 



The La Brea Tar Pits:  Is a group of tar pits around which Hancock Park was formed, in urban Los Angeles.  Tar (brea in Spanish) has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years. The asphalt would form a deposit thick enough to trap animals, and the surface would be covered with layers of water, dust, or leaves.  Animals would wander in, become trapped, and eventually die.  Predators would enter to eat the trapped animals and also become stuck.  Dating of preserved wood and bones has given an age of 38,000 years for the oldest known material from the La Brea seeps.

This is a tar pit just outside of the Museum.  You can see and smell the tar.  The second photo shows gas bubbles and tar slowly emerging at La Brea Tar Pits.


The George C. Page Museum is dedicated to researching the tar pits and displaying specimens from the animals that died there. The La Brea Tar Pits are a registered National Natural Landmark.




Jim & I flew home early on Saturday morning.  Since Tuesday morning we had driven a lot, seen remarkable country, and most of all we enjoyed being with our youngest daughter. 


Posted October 29, 2013 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Quebec, Canada   4 comments

Quebec, Canada

Aug. 20 – 23, 2013


What a delightful little trip we had to Quebec, Canada.  We each had a $500 flight voucher because of a flight from hell.  So, after very little contemplation we decided to go see what Quebec looks like.  We have always heard that “The Old City” both upper and lower town is beautiful.  And indeed we found that to be true.   

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Quebec is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and is located along the St. Lawrence River (Seaway).  A high stone wall surrounds the historic Upper Town portion of the Old City.  The Plains of Abraham and the Citadelle are located near the edge of the promontory.  Lower Town is located at shore level.  Most of the historic sites are within the city wall of Haute-Ville (Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (Lower Town). 


Hotel Louisbourg: The first photo is looking down the street towards our hotel, the second photo shows the green shuttered building of “Hotel Louisbourg”. The hotel is in a building from the early 19th century, is recently renovated, and located on Louisbourg Street in the heart of Old Quebec, Upper Town. I booked our hotel on-line using the hotel website. Was very pleased with the quaint little hotel, and it’s in easy walking distance to everything in the historic area.


Anciens Canadiens Restaurant:  It is located in one of the oldest buildings in Quebec having being built in 1675-1676.  We arrived in Quebec in the early afternoon and didn’t waste anytime checking into our hotel and walking down the street to this nice restaurant to take advantage of the lunch special prices.  Our lunch was delightful and included the area specialty of meat pie, pea soup and hot maple pie.  Oh yes, it’s listed in the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” book. 


Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac:   The chateau style hotel, is reportedly one of the most photographed hotel in the world.  It was built for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and opened in 1893 to house railroad passengers and encourage tourism. It’s commanding position is atop Cap Diamant, the rock bluff that once provided military defense. 


The Champlain Monument:  Located next to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel.  Bleachers were set up near it and street acts were happening all afternoon and evening.  We enjoyed watching all the fun things. 


The Governor’s Promenade/Terrasse Dufferin:  Located on the river side of the Chateau Frontenac Hotel is an elevated boardwalk along the cliff that overlooks the Lower Town and the St. Lawrence River.  The area is complete with lots and lots of park benches and you can people watch or look through the wrought-iron fence at the lower town and the river.  Thus ended our first day in Quebec.  


I had purchased Frommer’s “Montreal & Quebec City” travel book and we decided to follow the walking tour as outlined in the book.  On Wednesday we did the Upper Town ( Haute-Ville) and Thursday we did the Lower Town (Basse-Ville & Vieux-Port).  Since it is such an easy walking town we actually completed the tour and saw everything listed.  It was a very enjoyable because we casually strolled along and tried out many park benches and stopped for refreshments along the way. 


Upper Town (Vieux-Quebec: Haute-Ville)

Changing of the Guards, La Citadelle:  The star-shaped fortress keeps watch from a commanding position on a grassy plateau 354 feet above the banks of the St. Lawrence.  It’s the home of the French-speaking Royal 22e Regiment, and is North America’s largest fortified group of buildings still occupied by troops.     The Changing of the Guard ceremony is an elaborate 45 minute choreographed ceremony inspired by the Changing of the Royal Guard in London.  It’s included in the regular admission fee. 

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The Citadelle:  The duke of Wellington had this partially star-shaped fortress built at the south end of the city walls in anticipation of renewed American attacks after the War of 1812.  Dug into the Plains of Abraham high above Cape Diamant, the fort has a low profile that keeps it all but invisible until walkers are actually upon it.  The facility has never actually exchanged fire with an invader. 


Ramparts of Quebec City are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico. The English began fortifying the existing walls, after they took Quebec City from the French in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.


Hotel du Parlement:  The Quebecois Parliament Building is in this Second Empire chateau constructed in 1886.  The water fountain is located in front of the building. 


After a little refreshment it was time to continue on with our Frommer’s walking tour of the Upper Town.  Back to my favorite area (The Promenade).  The Obelisk Monument is by the Promenade and in the park next to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel.  If is dedicated to both generals who died when the French were defeated and the English took over Quebec. 


A couple old buildings in Quebec.  Maison Jacquet (red roof) dates back to 1677 and now houses our favorite little restaurant that we enjoyed the day before.  Maison Maillou (stone building with metal shutters) dates back to 1736 and was built as an elegant luxury home and later served as headquarters of militias and armies. 



Place d’Armes: A pretty plaza across the street from Chateau Frontenac Hotel.  All over the Old Town are lots of park benches, and we tried out several of them.  They fit pretty well. 


Rue du Tresor:  Artists hang their prints and paintings on both sides of the walkway. 



Basilique Notre-Dame:  The basilica’s golden interior is ornate.  Many artworks remain from the time of the French regime.  The basilica dates back to 1647 and has suffered a history of bombardment and reconstruction.


Seminaire de Quebec:  Founded in 1663 By North America’s first bishop, this seminary had grown into Laval University by 1852.


After a nice dinner it was time to go to some more fun street entertainment. 


Lower Town of Basse-Ville & Vieux-Port:   Our third day in Quebec and it’s time to continue on with Frommer’s Walking Tour down to the lower town of the old city. 


We went down the stairs located near the Funicular on the Boardwalk.  Down, down we did go but it was pleasant because the stairs staggered through different areas, so you could enjoy the unfolding scene.


The buildings in lower town were charming and there were beautiful flowers here, there and everywhere.


As we strolled along how could we not enjoy these lovely scenes?


Merrily we stroll along…….


Place-Royale:  This small but picturesque plaza is considered to be the birthplace of French America.  It was the town marketplace, and the center of business and industry. 


Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires:  This church dominates the plaza. It’s Quebec’s oldest stone church, built in 1688.  Its paintings, altar and large model boat suspended from the ceiling were votive offerings brought by early settlers to ensure safe voyages. 


Mural of Streets & Houses:   Depictions of citizens from the earliest colonial days to the present.  It was a fun place to stand among the characters in the mural and have a photo taken. 


We toured the Museum of Civilization, but by reading all the wonderful comments about it, I think we must have missed something.  It was okay.  After that we continued on a long walk along the waterfront. 


 Well, we didn’t walk back up to the Upper Town, we took the Funicular.



An absolutely delightful three days in Quebec, Canada.  Try it sometime, I bet you’d enjoy it!

 Fly, fly away home!


Posted August 31, 2013 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Essence of the Elbe: Hamburg, and Berlin to Prague   8 comments

Essence of the Elbe:  Hamburg, then Berlin to Prague

June 26 – July 11, 2013


Jim & I and our friend Linda went on this delightful trip with Grand Circle Cruise Line.  This was our 31st trip with GCT/OAT.  We began our adventure with a four day pre-trip in Hamburg, Germany.  Next was two days in Berlin, Germany.  Then we boarded the M/S River Allegro and cruised on the Elbe River for seven days from Magdeburg, Germany to Dresden, Germany.  Due to the recent flooding our ship was one of the first back on the river.  Our last two days were spent in Prague, Czech Republic.  Our awesome program director was Kati. (The map is copied from the Grand Circle web site.)   


Save Money:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413. New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Hamburg, Germany:  Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany with a population of 1.8 million.  Situated on the river Elbe, the port of Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe (after the Port of Rotterdam) and tenth largest worldwide.  It is considered one of the most affluent cities in Europe, and it has become a media and industrial center.


Below is our hotel, “The Radisson Blue” and the adjoining botanical gardens.  Looking out our 23rd story window is an overlook of Hamburg.  Our hotel was next to a metro/train station so we purchased a three day transportation ticket and could zip most anyplace on the metro and trains. 


Hamburg lacks a quaint medieval center.  Bombing destroyed about a third of the city in WWII, but a huge fire in 1842 had already leveled Hamberg’s atmospheric old town.  The impressive, 647 room Rathaus (City Hall) was completed in 1897.  The Rathaus overlooks the Rathausmarkt, the plaza used for local festivals. 


Dinner at the BlockBrau Beer Garden overlooking the Hamburg Harbor.  Highly recommend the Elderberry Beer alongside  a delicious German dinner. 


Well, since our hotel was next to a station it seemed only sensible to take advantage of the situation and check out the first of two places I had read about that I thought we’d enjoy seeing.  Lubeck and Luneberg.  So Lubeck was first on the agenda.  After doing a city tour in the morning with GCT, Jim, Linda and I headed out for Lubeck.  It was less than an hour northeast by train. 


Lubeck, Germany:  Lubeck, the former capital and Queen City of the Hanseatic League, was founded in the 12th century and prospered until the 16th century as the major trading center for northern Europe.  The old part of Lubeck, known as the City of Seven Spires, is on an island enclosed by the Trave River and is barely a mile long.  Because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Walking from the train station takes you into the old town through  the 15th-century Holsten Gate (1478), which sits across the Trave and once guarded Lubeck’s western entryway.  The Lubecker Rathaus (Town Hall) was a pretty square for a stroll.  We got to see lots of crow-stepped gabled town houses and we were never far away from water.  It was a nice afternoon outing. 


Luneburg, Germany:  Luneburg is about a 45 minute train ride southeast of Hamburg.  Luneburg dates back more than 1,000 years and is considered one of the prettiest towns in northern Germany. Having survived the Second World War unscathed, it has retained its charming medieval character. ‘White gold’ was extracted at the salt works for over 1,000 years and it was the trade of this precious commodity that put the town on the map. (The ancient lift in the 2nd photo loaded & unloaded salt into boats.)  Luneburg quickly became one of the wealthiest and most important towns in the Hanseatic League.


There’s always time to eat, correct? 


It was fun waiting on the train platform in Luneberg.  The young people were heading to Hamburg to walk in a parade. 


Hamburg Hauptbahnhof:  Main train station in Hamburg.


The last evening of our pre-trip to Hamburg was spent with the group at the Schiffer Borse in a cute ship theme restaurant near the train station in Hamburg. 


Schwerin, Germany:  We bid Hamburg farewell and went by coach towards Berlin.  We stopped for lunch at Schwerin, which is best known for the Schwerin Castle, located on an island in the lake of the same name.  The 973 room castle was completed in 1857.  For centuries it was the home of dukes and grand dukes.


The town center of Schwerin, with a very interesting statue.  It shows people “mooning” Henry the Lion, who was Duke in the mid-12th century.   


Berlin, Germany:  The largest city in Germany Is the capital city and has a population of 3.3 million people.  Since first being documented in the 13th century, Berlin has been the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and the Third Reich.  After WWII the city became divided between East Berlin and West Berlin.  Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of Germany. 


When people think of Berlin, the first thing that usually comes to mind is its most famous landmark – the Brandenburg Gate.  It was commissioned and built from 1788-91.  During the post-war Partition of Germany, the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall.  The area around the gate featured most prominently in the media coverage of the opening of the wall in 1989.  Our U.S. Embassy is located to the left and in the block directly beside the Brandenburg Gate. 



The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe:  It consists of a 4.7-acre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The slabs undulate in a wave-like pattern.  Each is a five-sided monolith, individually unique in shape and size.  According to Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.



The Berlin Wall:  The Berlin Wall was the physical division between West Berlin and East Germany from 1961 to 1989 and the symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall stretched over a hundred miles. It ran through the center of Berlin, and also wrapped around West Berlin, entirely cutting West Berlin off from the rest of East Germany.  The Wall was constructed by the Communist to prevent the East Germans from fleeing to the West for a better life.  The wall literally came up overnight.  Crews began tearing up streets that entered into West Berlin, dug holes to put up concrete posts, and strung barbed wire all across the border between East and West Berlin. Telephone wires between East and West Berlin were also cut.  Whichever side of the border one went to sleep on during the night of August 12, they were stuck on that side for decades.



  Below, the copied picture of the map shows the outline of the Wall in 1949.  This new organization of Germany became official when the three zones occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France combined to form West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany). The zone occupied by the Soviet Union quickly followed by forming East Germany (the German Democratic Republic).   Today, (as indicated in the 2nd photo), the former location of the Berlin Wall is shown throughout the city center with a double row of cobblestones on public streets and sidewalks.


Checkpoint Charlie: The name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.



These are some of the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall.  The last photo shows the barrier which included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, which circumscribed a wide area known as the “death strip”.


Potsdam, Germany:  On 16 July 1945, the “Big Three” leaders met at Cecilienjof Palace in Potsdam, Germany, near Berlin.  In this, (the last of the World War II heads of state conferences), President Truman, Soviet Premier Stalin and British Prime Ministers Churchill and Atlee discussed post-war arrangements in Europe, frequently without agreement. Future moves in the war against Japan were also covered. The meeting concluded early in the morning of 2 August. It ended with an ultimatum: Japan must immediately agree to unconditionally surrender, or face “prompt and utter destruction”.


Wannsee Conference:  On January 20th, 1942, fifteen high-ranking civil servants and SS-officers met in this villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss plans of “The Final Solution” of the Jewish question in Europe. The decision was to deport the Jews of Europe to the East and murder them.  Under the direction of SS General Reinhard Heidrich the “Final Solution” was the code name for the systematic, deliberate, physical annihilation of the European Jews.  (The villa is now a memorial and education site.) 


All Aboard….the M/S/ River Allegro!  This ship belonging to the Grand Circle Cruise Line ship was ranked #2 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2013 Readers’ Poll. 

We boarded the M/S River Allegro on July 2, and as I mentioned before Germany was recovering from the worst flood since 2002.  In fact one of the news reports on June 11 reads: “Flood misery as surging Elbe breaches defenses in Germany. Over the past 10 days, floods on the Elbe and other rivers including the Danube have also affected southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.” With that being said let me tell you….one would have never known there had been flood devastation only 3 weeks previous. The Germans jump in there and make things neat and tidy. Germany is a proud, spotlessly clean and neat country, flood or no flood! 


Our first evening aboard the Allegro, Jim & I enjoyed dinner with our splendid “singing” Captain.  As usual, our favorite location on the ship was on the open top deck where we could watch the world go by as we cruised leisurely down the River Elbe.


We should have boarded the ship in Tangermunde, but due to the docks not yet being repaired in that town we boarded the ship a little further south down the river in Magdeburg.  The next day we went back by coach to visit the lovely town of Tangermunde. 

Tangermunde, Germany:  Dating back to 1009, this town is located along the Elbe River.  We strolled all through the little town viewing the ancient city walls, the stork nests, and the Gothic town hall.  It was fun seeing the old East German car (the Trabant) sticking out of the building, especially after hearing the stories from our program directors involving the Travant during their time in the GDR, as they lived behind the wall in East Germany.  There were also lots of beautiful half-timbered houses admire.  We looked at the remains of a fortified castle built in the 14th century by Charles IV.  It was his second royal residence, after Prague. We also had a nice lunch in a cute, medieval looking restaurant.


Cruising between Magdeburg and Wittenberg.


Wittenberg, Germany:  The 12th century city of Wittenberg, is officially known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the cradle of the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther (1483-1546) lived, preached and began his philosophical dispute with the Catholic Church here.  The Reformation started in Wittenberg in 1517, when he may have nailed his famous 95 page Thesis to the wooden doors of the Castle Church.


Lutherhaus (Luther House):  A former Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg.  This building hosted several important events in Luther’s life, not the least of which is his conversion from fearful monk to confident preacher of “justification by faith alone.”



Market Square of Wittenberg: 


Elster Kindergarten:  A small town along the Elbe completely lost it’s Kindergarten building due to the recent flood.  Grand Circle Foundation gave a donation of $10,000 to the school.  Since Jim & I and another couple had been on the most trips with Grand Circle, we had the honor of presenting the $10,000 check to the mayor of the town.  After the presentation our guests enjoyed a bowl of ice cream. 


Cruising from Elster to Torgau.



Torgau, Germany:  The town is best known as the place which commemorates the meeting of US and Soviet forces during the Second World War.  The meeting of soldiers signified an important action towards the end of WWII, with the allied powers avowing to complete the dissolution of the Third Reich.  We went to the the monument, and a man that was a very young soldier at that time spoke to us about the war.  Kati was the excellent interpreter. 



Hartenfels Palace of Torgau was built in the 15th and 16th centuries in the style of the early German Renaissance.



It’s hard not to be impressed by the Marketplace in Torgau with its Renaissance town hall and ensemble of Renaissance town houses.


Cruising from Torgau to Meissen.  The first picture shows the repairs of a broken dyke from the recent flood.  Saw lots of camping groups along the river. 


How about a friendly “beer tasting” on the boat?  A great assortment of German beer.  Kati & Christian made it lot of fun!


Meissen, Germany:   Famous for the manufacture of porcelain, based on extensive local deposits of china clay and potter’s clay.  Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient.  The first European porcelain was manufactured in Meissen in 1710.  We toured the factory then went upstairs to the museum.  Lastly we journeyed around the sales floor. 


Thought the huge bowl with cherubs, and the indicate fountain were beautiful.  The three lady figure dates back to 1784.  The bowl was listed for sale for 32,500 Euro.  I didn’t buy it! 



Meissen, Germany:  The ship docked by the Albrechsburg Castle. The construction of it began in 1471. It was constructed solely as a residence, not as a military fortress, the first German castle built for such a purpose.  Jim & I are ready to set out on our stroll around the town, and on up to the castle for a tour.  Meissen was founded as a German town by King Henry I in 929.  With a population of only 30,000 it’s the size of town I like the best.  We thoroughly enjoyed the entire afternoon.



Had to post this photo of a picture that I took of the flood.  I understand the water was 29 feet above flood stage.  The beige building in the flood picture is the same building as in the picture we took 3 weeks later.  This photo shows that same beige building next to the street before the castle.  The flooding went way up into town.  Again I say the only way one would have known was to look inside a building and see the entire bottom floor stripped out waiting for repairs.  Again…in a very neat and tidy fashion.  The German way. 



On our way up to Albrechtsberg Castle.  Yes, that is the Mr. in a suit of armour I guess.  And yes, many steps to the top.  The 13th century Gothic Meissen Cathedral is next, followed by a photo of the Castle.  No pictures were allowed inside the Castle.  However, outside we did take a picture overlooking the Elbe and our river cruise ship. 



On our walk up to the Castle and back down they were having a bicycle competition of seeing who could ride down from the castle the fastest without killing themselves.  We only saw one ambulance picking up a broken kid. 



Our touring is over, time to sit down in the old town square of Meissen and enjoy my favorite drink of Germany, “the radler”…..beer and lemonade.  And fare-the-well to the lovely town of Meissen and the Albrechtsberg Castle!


Dresden, Germany:  A flourishing artistic center until the rise of the Nazis, it was almost completely destroyed during WWII.  Dresden has been rebuilt from the ground up.  This is a copy of a post card that I purchased that shows Dresden, 1945; followed by a view from our riverboat, 2013.



The Furstenzug:  This large mural is located on the outer wall of the Dresden Castle. It shows the mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony, originally painted between 1871 and 1876 for Saxon’s ruling family.  In order to make the work weatherproof, it was replaced with approximately 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles between 1904 and 1907. With a length of 335 feet, it is known as the largest porcelain artwork in the world.  Only minimal damage to the tiles resulted from the 1945 bombing of Dresden.



1st photo below is part of the Dresden Castle, and across the street is Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony).  The 2nd photo is the Semperoper (Opera House). 



The Zwinger:  A palace in Dresden, built in Rococo style.  It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court.  The building was mostly destroyed in 1945, but has been rebuilt to its pre-war state.  Today, the Zwinger is a museum complex.



Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady):  When completed in 1743, this was Germany’s tallest Protestant Church.  In 1945 the firebombs came, and it burned for two days before finally collapsing.  After the war, it was left a pile of rubble and turned into a peace monument.  After reunification it was rebuilt, and reopened to the public in 2005.  Other photos are in the immediate area of the Church. 

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Royal Palace Museum:  Within the Royal Palace Museum is the Historic Green Vault.  After the destruction of the WWII, the Green Vault has been completely reconstructed. Today, its treasures are shown in two exhibitions:  The Historic Green Vault is famous for its splendors of the historic treasure chamber as it existed in 1733, while the New Green Vault focuses the attention on each individual object in neutral rooms. (No photos were allowed in the museum).  After the museum is was certainly time for cool refreshments. 


Saxon Switzerland National Park:  The park is characterized by sandstone cliffs, deeply carved valleys, table mountains and gorges – a truly remarkable landscape.  Saxon Switzerland National Park is located about 45 minutes from Dresden, Germany.  Within the park there are some 250 miles of hiking paths and 31 miles of biking paths.  It was a beautiful area. 


Our last outing of “Cruisin’ Down the River.”  Sure was fun on the M/S River Allegro!



Prague, Czech Republic:  The “City of 100 Spires” is indeed a beautiful city.  During the 1,000 years of its existence it has grown from a settlement to the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic.  It spreads on both sides of the winding Vltava River, connected by 16 picturesque bridges.  It is built over a series of hills and its varied architecture spans many centuries. 


Prague Castle:  What is the largest castle in the world?  Prague Castle.  Stroll through the Castle area and admire the  overwhelming beauty of a place which has been the seat of Czech kings, emperors and presidents for a thousand years. 


The city of Prague and whole castle grounds are dominated by the monumental St. Vitus Cathedral.  The gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus was founded in the year 1344, with construction finally being completed in 1929.



The Charles Bridge:  The famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague.  Its construction started in 1357 for King Charles IV, and was finished in the beginning of the 15th century. Situated on the bridge are 30 statues erected between 1683 and 1714.



The Old Town Square of Prague:  This was our third trip to Prague and I never get tired of seeing this beautiful square.  The medieval Astronomical Clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.  Church of Our Lady before Týn, is a dominant feature of the Old Town and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church’s towers are topped by four small spires.


The trdelnik: This pastry is a typical pastry of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is made by wrapping dough around a stick (wooden or metal) and roasting it over an open flame until it is golden brown and fully cooked.


  So….what a fine way to end this wonderful trip through Germany and ending in the Czech Republic.  Happy Travels!

“Life is not measured by the breaths we take,

but by the moments that take our breath away.”


Posted July 29, 2013 by marilynfarmer in Travel


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