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Speaking of Travel

Vizcaya

View of the Barge and Vizcaya main house from the Teahouse.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL  Vickie Kelber Vizcaya, the former villa and estate of John Deering in the Coconut Grove section of Miami, had been on my list of places to visit in Florida for more than 10 years. I kept putting it off, and then Hurricane Wilma struck, bringing $3 million damage to the gardens, art work and some of the interior. By 2010, the destroyed cafe and shop had reopened, and the gardens and artwork were coming back to life. This past season, I thought the time had finally arrived for my visit. John Deering was the son of the ... Read More »

Vibrant Ljubljana

A ride along the river in Ljubljana is a peaceful diversion.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber I have two words for people who say the capital cities of Europe are old and stagnant: visit Ljubljana (lyoo-BLYAH-nah). The capital of Slovenia and located approximately in the center of this small country, it is young and vibrant. With a population of about 280,000, the 60,000 students in this city help invigorate it. It is a captivating city in which to spend some time. Major rebuilding after an earthquake in 1895 has made this city an architectural delight with a mixture of some original and restored Baroque and Vienna Secession (art nouveau), along with ... Read More »

Slovenia

An early morning walk in Lake Bled is like walking into a fairy tale. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Located at the northern end of the Adriatic, Slovenia has only 26 miles of coastline. While the Venetian/Mediterranean architecture of the coastal resorts is lovely, the real draw in Slovenia is the natural beauty found in its interior and the charm of the capital city, Ljubljana. Bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia, and slightly smaller than New Jersey, Slovenia boasts that it is the only country with “love” in its name. Unfortunately, people often confuse Slovenia with Slovakia, a country formed after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia or Slavonia, a region in eastern Croatia. Part ... Read More »

Travel Through Books

Donna Leon’s series about Guido Brunetti takes place in Venice.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net I enjoy reading books that evoke the culture and neighborhoods of places that we have visited. Italy is a popular setting for authors who write mystery series as well as other novels. I’ve written before about my favorite, the Commissario Guido Brunetti books set in Venice by Donna Leon. Her portraits of Venice are so real, the last time we were there and passed by Brunetti’s headquarters, the questura, I had to restrain myself from stopping in to ask to meet him! We did have a coffee at one of his favorite bars, a ... Read More »

Plitvice Lakes

Sometimes the pools of water are emerald in color.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net AUNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, Plitvice Lakes in central Croatia near the Bosnia Herzogovenia border is the crown jewel of the eight national parks in this country. The most visited site in Croatia, it is about a three hour drive from Split, two from Zagreb. There are public buses as well as organized excursions from these two cities to the park. When touring Croatia, a visit to the Lakes is a pleasant break from cities, churches, and ruins. We had heard that Plitvice Lakes was beautiful, but were initially somewhat blasé about our visit. ... Read More »

Surprising Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net After reading about Zagreb in various guidebooks, I wasn’t expecting much, especially after spending a week in charming Dubrovnik. What a surprise! Zagreb is a great city! It is a city where the “new” town which is not all that new but very modern is more “happening” than the classic old town. Its cafe culture is unlike any we have ever seen and its indoor/outdoor market one of the largest. An important commercial center in Croatia, Zagreb is also very much a university city. It is a place where Franklin Roosevelt Square is not ... Read More »

Along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

One of the many Green Herons.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has identified 515 locations throughout Florida as part of The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT). The 2,000 miles of “trails” feature excellent bird and wildlife viewing. Highway signs identify each site, and there are guide booklets and a smartphone app available, as well as a very helpful website: floridabirdingtrail.com. At this website, the guide booklets can be downloaded and paper copies ordered. Divided into four geographical areas, each section of the GFBWT has two or three “gateways” with staffed visitor centers that provide information and ... Read More »

The Croatian Istrian Peninsula

Along the Lungomare in Opatija.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net The Croatian portion of the Istrian Peninsula is located in northwest Croatia, along the Adriatic’s Gulf of Kvarnar. Historically, this area was ruled first by the Romans, followed by the Venetians and then the Austrians. For a while in the 1920s, the Italians regained control. Although Istria became part of Yugoslavia in the 1940s, many towns still have two official names — one Croatian, the other Italian. A small part of the peninsula also lies in Slovenia and Italy. While visiting Istria, the town of Opatija was our home base. I could easily write of ... Read More »

Historic Split

Narodni trg, the People’s Square, in Split is a popular place to stop for refreshment. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Along the beautiful Dalmatian coast between Dubrovnik and the Istrian Peninsula is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Split, a major ferry and cruise ship port. The drive north from Dubrovnik passes through the fertile Neretva Valley known for high quality citrus fruit. Fruit and honey stands line the road. The drive also traverses that small portion of Bosnia that is that country’s only outlet to the sea. A local guide told us that for at least five years there has been talk of building a bridge to connect Dubrovnik directly with the rest of ... Read More »

Wilma and Harold’s Lightweight Adventure

Rooftop view of Reykjavik from the Hallgrimskirkja church. PHOTOS BY WILMA SANDERS

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Unless cruising, which is not our preferred method of travel, grappling with luggage can take some of the pleasure out of a journey. For domestic destinations, we usually use just two carry-ons and a back pack. We literally do carry on our luggage and deal with TSA restrictions by buying any large sizes of liquids or gels, such as toothpaste, when we arrive. For month-long treks to Europe, we bring one larger size suitcase, one carry-on size, which we check, and a backpack. The backpack contains our electronics, items we may want on the ... Read More »

The Black Mountains and Bay of Kotor

A sampling of the local products at the market outside the walls of Kotor.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net In the Middle Ages, the area now known as Montenegro was referred to as Crna Gora; the country’s official name today is Republika Crna Gora, which translates as “Black Mountain.” The name Montenegro, also meaning black mountain, is Venetian in origin. Unlike the interior and its neighboring countries, the coastal region of Montenegro was never under the control of the Ottomans; Venice ruled the coast from the 1400s until almost 1900. South of Croatia along the Adriatic Sea, Montenegro also borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania. Although Montenegrins participated in the Balkan Wars with ... Read More »

From the Rubble of War

The Ottoman Old Town in Mostar. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Visiting the charming, somewhat tranquil city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is difficult to fathom that less than 20 years ago it lay in rubble, torn apart by war and barbarism. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one country with two geographical zones, three regions, three ethnic groups/religions, three languages, three presidents and two alphabets. The three ethnic groups are Bosniak (Muslim), Serb (Orthodox) and Croat (Catholic). The Ottomans introduced Islam to this area in the 15th century, and their cultural influence is still widely evident. It later was controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ... Read More »

The Southern Dalmatian Coast

Cavtat provides a quiet alternative to Dubrovnik. Submitted Photos

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Croatia’s mainland coastline is 1,100 miles of drama and beauty. Offshore, there are 1,200 islands in the Adriatic. The beauty is almost indescribable: deep turquoise water dotted with both rocky and green islands, large bays, isolated coves, rugged ridges and bluffs, dark forests, fertile fields and orchards. Dalmatia encompasses a long part of the Croatian coastline. The term Dalmatia comes from an ancient Illyrian tribe, and the area is so named historically and geographically. Dubrovnik is considered part of the Dalmatian Coast, and there are some easy day trips that can be made from ... Read More »

Florida for the Holidays

St. Augustine has a variety of holiday events scheduled at the holidays.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Since moving to Florida 15 years ago, we find ourselves increasingly spending the holidays in the Sunshine State. It’s not that we don’t like traveling at the holidays; we do. It’s the weather. We spent one Christmas in the Rockies. It snowed every day, and for three days, it was so bad that we couldn’t leave the condo. New York City is my favorite place at the holidays. Three years ago, we had a great trip there. We had a wonderful time seeing all the lights and decorations, checking out the displays in the ... Read More »

Shopping Locally for Travel Gifts

Keep in Touch in Shops of Marco carries a variety of travel accessories. photoS BY VICKIE KELBER

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net It’s no secret that I like to shop. My husband refers to a day filled with shopping as a “Vickie Day”. He never accompanies me on a “Vickie Day”. Although I do my share of internet shopping for difficult to find items, I prefer local “brick and mortar” shops and particularly appreciate that we have a number of goods and services available right here on Marco Island; that was one factor in choosing Marco as our home. For this year’s column on gifts for the traveler, I decided to explore some of what the Island ... Read More »

Dubrovnik

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SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net A trivia question: Who was among the first, in 1776, to recognize the independence of the United States and the first to establish trade with it? It was the nation state of the Republic of Ragusa, renamed Dubrovnik in 1918. Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a dramatically beautiful walled city that sits right on the Adriatic. Believed to have been founded in the seventh century, Dubrovnik has been under the influence at various times of the Byzantines, Venetians, Hungarians, and the Austrians. An independent city state from 1358 to 1808 and once one ... Read More »

What ever happened to Yugoslavia?

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SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Those of us of a certain age remember a country known as Yugoslavia and the violence that accompanied its disintegration. Just what was Yugoslavia and what is it like now? The more I read and listen to people talk about the history of this area, the more complex it seems. Yugoslavia was composed of six republics and two autonomous regions, five nationalities, four official languages, three official religions, two official alphabets, and a mixture of many ethnic groups. No wonder its dissolution was so complicated. Part of the Balkan Peninsula, the earliest inhabitants of this ... Read More »

The Pink Plane

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SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net I first heard of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) a few years ago. A friend’s mother died of the disease and he wanted to find an “in lieu of flowers” cause whose administrative costs were low. As the only breast cancer organization to receive an A+ rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy (Charity Watch), BCRF was the one he chose. Recently, I was made aware of Delta Air Lines’ annual participation in Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its strong support of BCRF. I spoke with corporate representative Paul Skrbec and most of the ... Read More »

Apps Galore

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SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net In past columns about apps useful for travel, I’ve mentioned some that assist in negotiating one’s way on the road, in airports, and using public transportation, as well as those that provide destination information, translations, personalized postcards and utilities for which there are varied and useful options. For this review, I’ll broach some different topics. I often call packing the worst part of travel, but there are some apps to help. Travel List is an all in one app that assists in planning an itinerary and creating a packing list. User reviews like its simple ... Read More »

Travel Websites 2013

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SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber vickieonmarco@comcast.net Time flies. It is hard to believe that it has been well over a year since my last “annual” review of travel websites. I remember when gathering information about a destination required pouring over guide books in bookstores to find just the right one and writing to local, state, and national tourist bureaus for literature. Now, it seems there is an infinite amount of information about anywhere you might want to travel as well as easy access to user reviews and assistance on sites such as Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic. For this column, I ... Read More »