Coastal Breeze News » Speaking of Travel http://www.coastalbreezenews.com Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:03:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 The Croatian Istrian Peninsula http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/the-croatian-istrian-peninsula/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/04/09/the-croatian-istrian-peninsula/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:55:01 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37818 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

This restored 19th century villa in Opatija which speaks to its Old World elegance actually houses a shopping center.

This restored 19th century villa in Opatija which speaks to its Old World elegance actually houses a shopping center.

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 the beauty of Opatija; the dramatic coastline; except for a few ugly 1970s hotels at the end of town, the elegance of the Old World Austro Hungarian resort; the charm of the fishing villages around it; the bucolic villages in the hills above where one can find a restaurant that serves venison and wild boar (I had the grilled veggie platter); as well as wineries and olive farms. But, after Dubrovnik and Split, the real draw for us was that it is not a port for cruise ships.

Opatija saw its first luxury villa built in 1844; it now houses the Museum of Croatian Tourism. The town soon became a favored destination for the Austrian nobility. Franz Joseph met with Kaiser Wilhelm here in 1894; that same year Chekhov came here for health reasons. Isadora Duncan visited in the early 1900s, and later said that the movements of the palm trees in Optija were the inspiration for her hand and arm gestures while dancing. During the Communist time, Croatians were entitled to subsidized vacations by the sea, and most of the resort areas were “syndicated” for this purpose. According to our local guide, Italy persuaded Tito to keep Opatija out of the “syndicate,” and so it remained a refuge for dignitaries and wealthy travelers.

Along the Lungomare in Opatija. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Along the Lungomare in Opatija. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Opatija — meaning “abbey,” so named for the 14th century Benedictine Abbey that has now morphed into St. Jacob’s church — has much to enjoy. Walk along the Croatian Walk of Fame whose marble stars honor famous Croatians and look for Nikola Tesla’s. Copenhagen has its Little Mermaid statue; in Opatija, a girl with seagull in the harbor welcomes. Catch an outdoor concert in the lush Park Angiolina or a performance in the open-air theater, or just enjoy one of Opatija’s fine restaurants or pleasant bar/cafes. Our favorite one was Tantra, right on the small sandy beach behind Park Angiolina with a full view across the water and back to the town.

Part of the allure of Opatija is the almost eight-mile-long seaside promenade known as the Lungomare. Strolling along, one sees parks, villas, small beaches, gardens, even a small bamboo forest. For added convenience, clean, modern public restrooms are available along the pathway. About an hour walk on the Lungomare to the North is the once fortified town of Lovran so named for its many laurel trees. Its clusters of medieval houses are built into what remains of the town walls and the 14th century Church of St. George in the small old town has a cycle of frescos dating to the church’s origin. A shorter walk to the South leads to Volosko, a small fishing town noted for its seafood restaurants; one can frequently see the nets used by the fishermen drying in the sun.

The amphitheater is Pula is just one of its historic sites.

The amphitheater is Pula is just one of its historic sites.

One morning we walked to Volosko, headed past the restaurants and cafes along the waterfront that cater to tourists and chose instead a decidedly local outdoor cafe at the end of the promenade; we were the only non-residents there. While we enjoyed some cappuccino, it was quite evident how small a town Volosko is. The postman passed by on his scooter. He noticed someone for whom he had a special package, stopped, and hand-delivered it to him. Another man called out to ask if there was any mail for him. The postman checked, shook his head no, and continued on with his deliveries.

Rovinj on the other side of the peninsula is well worth a visit. Its attraction is its atmosphere: Venetian-style architecture; narrow, steep alleys; picturesque harbor, ringed with cafes; panoramic views from the height of St. Euphemia’s church. Places such as this always attract artists, and Rovinj is no exception. It had one of the best selections of small galleries and artisan shops that I saw in all of Croatia. A bustling market featuring local fish, produce, truffles and some crafts rounded out the shopping experience.

Not far from Rovinj, near the end of the this triangular-shaped Istrian Peninsula, is Pula, home of an active shipbuilding industry and site of numerous Roman artifacts. Most people come to Pula to see the well-preserved amphitheater, but there are other sites worth noting as well. There is evidence that habitation of Pula dates back 1 million years. Popular legend is that Pula was where the Argonauts, who had stolen the Golden Fleece, settled after their leader Jason was killed. Begun in 27BC, the Pula Arena seated more than 20,000 and was part of the circuit of the gladiators. Today, it seats no more than 8,000 for the many performers who have appeared there, including Luciano Pavorotti and Andrea Bocelli. There are other classical and medieval sites of note, including the Temple of Augustus and two Roman gates, as well as a fine Archeological Museum; the tourist information office on the main square (Forum) provides a very good map. If you go to Pula and it is not too hot, try to visit the amphitheater in the afternoon, as most of the tour groups tend to go in the morning. Don’t forget to explore the underground as well as the viticulture and olive oil exhibit there with its many ancient amphoras.

Local specialties - truffles, lavender, and olive oil at the market in Rovinj.

Local specialties – truffles, lavender, and olive oil at the market in Rovinj.

The largest of Croatia’s 1,000 islands is Krk located in the Kvarner Gulf and easily accessible. Krk Town’s well preserved old town still sports some of the original wall, three Venetian gates, mosaics from Roman baths, and requisite churches and cathedral. Although the northern part of the island is fairly bare due to the bura winds, the southern part is lush. The inland vineyards are known for their white wine, Vrbnicka Zlahtina, and the town of Vrbnik on the East coast of the island offers wine tasting. A peaceful, small island just off Krk, Ko‰ljun, is accessible by boat, and is inhabited by Franciscan monks who maintain a museum at their monastery.

 

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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Historic Split http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/07/historic-split/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/03/07/historic-split/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 13:26:59 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=37669 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Lion at the entrance to Cathedral of St. Doimus, formerly Diocletian’s mausoleum.

Lion at the entrance to Cathedral of St. Doimus, formerly Diocletian’s mausoleum.

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 Croatia. At election time, the Croatian politicians promise it, but never deliver after elected. The Croatian people remain optimistic, though.

The highway that offers stunning views of the Adriatic on one side and the mountains on the other was built after the Balkan Wars and has cut five hours off of the trip to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. Near the end of the journey to Split, there is a bridge that is sometimes closed due to the gusty bura (bora) winds. When that occurs, more commonly in the winter, an alternate route must be followed. Winds are an important part of life in this part of the country. Many of the lush islands here look barren on one side from the bura; the sea mist it kicks up kills the vegetation. There also are other types of winds, and until the 1980s, one could use the warm, moist jugo (known as Sirocco in other areas) wind as an excuse to seek a more lenient sentence in a court trial!

In the fourth century, in anticipation of his retirement, the Roman Emperor Diocletian decreed that a palace be built in Split. He was from Dalmatia which in his day was part of the Roman Empire. He retired there in 305 AD. After his death, the palace was used for offices and for a while abandoned. When the Avars and Slavs invaded the area in the seventh century, locals took refuge in the palace, establishing homes and businesses. The city grew and the presence of the Venetians in the 1400s saw them add their architectural influence.

Mesetrovi?’s sculpture of Gregory of Nin viewed through the Golden Gate.

Mesetrovi?’s sculpture of Gregory of Nin viewed through the Golden Gate.

Today, Split maintains a remarkable old town, a good part of it incorporating portions of the palace. We’ve seen many ruins, but never any so extensively interwoven with the modern world. Touring the old town, one sees parts of ancient gates, walls, courtyards integrated into apartments and businesses. Proceeding through the Bronze Gate leads to the underground passage that once served as the cellars of the palace. Today, electric lights of the souvenir stalls ensconced here emit an eery yellow glow on the walls. Exit the passageway to the former courtyard or Peristyle with its Roman temple ruins, cathedral, and original Egyptian sphinx placed there by Diocletian. Diocletian was known for his persecution of Christians. Perhaps it was “just deserts” that turned his Mausoleum into the Cathedral of St. Dominus in the seventh century.

There are so many parts to the complex that was once the palace that a guided tour is recommended. Before leaving the old town, take some time to stroll the narrow alleyways, explore the medieval and neo Renaissance squares, visit one of the museums or art galleries, especially the one devoted to noted Croatian sculptor Ivan Mesetrovi?, and take time to enjoy refreshments at one of the cafes. If you don’t have time for the Mesetrovi? gallery, at least see his two famous works in Split, the statue of St. John the Baptist in the Temple of Jupiter and the Gregory of Nin sculpture just outside the Golden Gate. Rubbing Gregory’s toe is supposed to bring good luck; it is worn and shiny from all the tourists who stop to do this.

The seafront promenade know as the Riva faces the palace’s southern walls and is a lively place to also enjoy refreshment or just rest on one of their inviting white benches; from there you can watch all the activity. Besides being a busy port, Split is home to an active shipbuilding industry. The evenings, after cruise ships and day tours have departed, offer a less chaotic time to really enjoy a stroll on the Riva.

Adjacent to the old town (on the right as you look at it from the sea) is a large market (pazar) with a variety of produce, flowers, clothes you probably wouldn’t want to buy, leather goods and various miscellany. The fish market is in another location, within the city off of Marmontova Ulica (Street). This marble lined street runs from the sea to the Croatian National Theater and is home to a variety of fine shops.

View of Split from the Riva, seafront promenade.

View of Split from the Riva, seafront promenade.

Especially during high tourist season, it can be difficult booking rooms in Split. Consider nearby Solin. It doesn’t have many rooms, but it is away from the hustle and bustle of Split, offers peaceful parks built around the Jadro River, local cafes and affords the opportunity to visit the ruins of Salona, the purported birthplace of Diocletian. Alternatively, Salona can be reached by car or public bus, but don’t expect the ruins to be too impressive.

Although most people just spend a few hours in Split as a cruise or tour stop, if spending more time, consider a short day trip to the pedestrian only town of Trogir. Located on a nearby island (although the access to it is very short), it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to an impressive cathedral. It is also accessible by local bus. Another option is a ferry to the town of Supetar on the island of Brac (“BRATCH” ). Known more for its sand and gravel beaches that are surrounded by dark, pine forests, there are the requisite churches, one with adjacent fifth century mosaics, interesting graveyards with works by noted Croatian sculptors and, of course, restaurants, bars, and cafes.

The island of Hvar, about a two hour ferry ride away from Split is becoming a “hot” destination all its own. Best known because it has become the haunt of a number of celebrities, it is more of a vacation destination than a tourist attraction. There are some landmarks to visit in Hvar Town with its beautiful town square and the island is also known for fragrant fields of lavender.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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Wilma and Harold’s Lightweight Adventure http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/wilma-and-harolds-lightweight-adventure/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/21/wilma-and-harolds-lightweight-adventure/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 20:01:57 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36764 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Wilma and Harold with their backpacks in Ravello, along the Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Wilma and Harold with their backpacks in Ravello, along the Amalfi Coast, Italy.

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 plane, medications and some “emergency” get-us-through-the-night items in the event that our luggage is delayed.

Friends of ours, Wilma and Harold Sanders, however, have the art of light packing down to a science. For a six-week trip to Europe last fall, they brought only two carry-ons and two backpacks. That is very good considering they spent one week in chilly Iceland, two weeks in hike-enticing Switzerland, two weeks along the temperate Amalfi coast and a week in chic Paris. They did check their carry-ons, thus avoiding the TSA liquid restrictions and because the collapsible walking sticks they used are not allowed in the cabin.

When they planned their trip, they knew they would have to travel light as they would be hauling suitcases on and off trains, and there is always concern about back injuries. Their luggage was two-wheeled and soft sided. Harold used a Travel Pro, while Wilma had a Rick Steves’ bag with no metal in the lid which made it quite lightweight. Their bags were expandable, and they did expand them for the trip home. They used luggage straps to help identify their bags and as precaution should the zippers break in transit. Their backpacks, which went on the plane with them, contained all their valuables, as well as comfort items for the long plane ride. They did bring along an additional small, foldable bag should they buy anything they might want to bring home.

Wilma and Harold have discovered the pleasure and convenience of staying in apartments in Europe. In prior columns, I’ve written about the joy of short-term apartment rentals; it is our preferred mode of accommodation. When booking their apartments, laundry facilities were important for these lightweight travelers. While they couldn’t always find apartments with dryers, all of them had washing machines — some better than others. We’ve stayed in the same apartment they were in Switzerland, and I can attest to the modern, electronic washer and dryer available to them there. The machines had a profusion of programming buttons and options; I’m still not sure I figured it out totally, but our clothes came out clean and dried quickly.

They felt that with laundry facilities two pairs of pants and four tops along with what they wore on the plane were sufficient.nThey prefer Travelsmith-type clothing or synthetic knits that can roll up to minimal size. One of Wilma’s soft, packable outfits was a little dressier, made even more so with some jewelry. Bringing layers was key in dealing with the various climates they encountered on their trip. The layers included nylon shells and cardigan sweaters. The button front facilitated adapting to cooler or warmer temperatures. Wilma’s shoes were a pair of sandals and black sneakers. Wilma felt that their luggage contained more “gadgets” and “junk” to make their lives more comfortable than clothing.

Gadgets included an iPad, iPad Mini, two iPhones, an extension cord and a blue tooth keyboard. The keyboard was useful as Wilma blogged daily. Internet/WIFI is another criteria for them when booking an apartment. Wilma used her iPad Mini for taking photographs, but on her next trip, might bring her Canon Elph which, of course, is small.

There was nothing that they wished they had brought with them, although they did go out and buy an extra plug adaptor for all those gadgets. Next time, though, they may bring those special coffee filters for individual cups of coffee rather than always using the coffee maker in their apartments. Wilma did buy a lightweight top in Amalfi (The clothes are so beautiful there. How could she resist?), and felt she could have used one more layer when they were in Iceland. They tried to limit gifts they bought to lightweight articles such as scarves. They also purchased bar soap and tissues for each apartment in which they stayed.

Plastic bags were essential for organizing as well as extra ones for storing things in their apartments. All liquids were placed in plastic bags. A gallon-size zip lock bag was used for small amounts of emergency “what ifs,” such as first aid kit, cold remedies and other medications for possible illnesses to which they are susceptible rather than trying to find suitable substitutes in European pharmacies. Another gallon-size bag stored personal items. A quart-size zip lock bag was used to organize all items needed for morning rituals and another one for the evening.

Although it is advisable to keep medications in their original containers, Wilma and Harold did not. Rather, they put all their daily meds in a plastic bag, identifying the pills with a slip of paper, and brought one pill box which Wilma filled weekly. I must admit that I also tend to not keep my medication/vitamins in original containers, but rather pack them in very small (2” x 2”) individual zip lock bags, one for each day. It bears repeating that this is not advisable. We are planning a trip to Istanbul later this year; all my pills will be in original containers. Legitimate or not, visions of the 1970s film, “Midnight Express,” still haunt me.

Wilma does not use packing cubes or space bags; space bags being something that are essential for my packing and maximizing capacity. She has discovered something else, though, that I also find to be most helpful when traveling. She brings along an over-the-door shoe bag with transparent pockets to store toiletry items once they get to their apartments. I’ve been using mesh over-the door shoe bags for years whether we stay in a hotel or apartment. They keep toiletries quickly at hand while reducing clutter on what is often limited bathroom shelf space.

To help organize themselves, they maintain a packing list which is updated before and after each trip. I do the same thing, except I keep a couple of different lists, depending on the climate of and activities offered at our destination(s).

Wilma and Harold are already planning their next extended European adventure; Wilma claims they will be packing even less clothing!

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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The Black Mountains and Bay of Kotor http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/08/the-black-mountains-and-bay-of-kotor/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/02/08/the-black-mountains-and-bay-of-kotor/#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 01:13:58 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36418 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Walking the ramparts of Budva. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Walking the ramparts of Budva. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

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 Serbia against Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s, they escaped the widespread destruction experienced in some of the other former Yugoslav countries. There was some bombing by NATO forces, but they were primarily military targets. For a while after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Montenegro joined first a federation and then a loose union with Serbia until a vote for independence in 2006.

Historically, Montenegro, a country slightly smaller than Connecticut, had used the Deutsch Mark as its currency. When Germany changed to the Euro, so did Montenegro although it was not a part of the European Union. It has been a candidate to join since 2010. Although officially Montenegro uses both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabet, the Latin predominates particularly along the coast.

Just south of Dubrovnik, the coast of Montenegro is an easy day trip from that city and popular tourist destination. The line of tour buses at the border can be long; if going on your own, try to cross as early in the day as possible to avoid delay.

When Tito ruled, he had a villa in each republic of Yugoslavia. His in Montenegro is just over the border from Croatia and is now a luxury resort. Signs advertising future luxury development attest to the attempt to upgrade that area from its now somewhat rundown aura.

The entrance to the medieval city of Kotor.

The entrance to the medieval city of Kotor.

The Bay of Kotor is a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site. Although it is often referred to as Europe’s southern most fjord, it is actually a ria, or submerged river valley. It has a Mediterranean climate, but the day we visited, it was raining. Despite the fog and gloom, the beauty of the area with dark mountains coming down to the sea, jagged coastline, fishing villages and occasional sandy beach or mountain top fortress was evident. I couldn’t help imagining how alluring the reflection of the black mountains must be on a clear day.

The small sister islands of St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks jutting up out of the Adriatric are a popular tourist stop. Boats from the town of Perast transport passengers to Our Lady of the Rocks to visit the 17th century church and museum. St. George Island is home to a 12th century Benedictine monastery. Our Lady of the Rocks is actually an artificial island, built up with rocks and sunken ships full of rocks. Legend is that this process was begun by seamen centuries ago after finding an icon of the Madonna.

Whether just driving around the bay or going on to visit the historic fortified towns of Kotor and Budva, a short ride on the Lepetanij-Kamenari ferry cuts out almost 20 miles of driving.

Kotor is an ancient port built abutting a cliff. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, its Old Town — Stari Grad — is encased in walls with fortifications that were built by the Venetians towering above. Entering through the main gate, one is met with the sight of a town square of medieval splendor. There is a Maritime Museum, cathedral, orthodox churches, squares and other buildings of note, but the real pleasure is just wandering about the jumble of streets and alleys. The Old Town is small; you won’t get lost. The restaurants and cafes are inviting. On the gloomy, rainy day when we visited, we looked forward to taking a break for a coffee or cappuccino in a cozy cafe, but the electricity in the Old Town was out. We had to settle on a Coke and a tonic instead. It wasn’t a particularly stormy day, and we learned that power outages were not unusual here.

The walled city of Kotor.

The walled city of Kotor.

Just outside of the walls is a small market with wonderful fresh produce, fish and meat. We sampled some olives, candied almonds and dried figs, but walked away without purchasing any of the wonderful pr‰ut, or prosciutto, on display.

One can climb the fortifications, ascending more than 700 feet first to The Church of Our Lady of Health and then on to St. Johns Fortress. The church was so named due to a belief in its healing powers — not because one has to be healthy to make the trek! The views from there are supposed to be magnificent, but, alas, the rain (not to mention my husband’s glare at my suggestion to do so) prevented us from making the climb.

Equally attractive but perhaps slightly less charming is the coastal town of Budva. The Old Town, on a site which is indeed one of the oldest outposts of civilization on the Adriatic, is also of Venetian origin. Two earthquakes, the most recent in 1979, have necessitated much restoration. There are churches and a Citadel to be seen, as well as many small shops. One can walk the ramparts around the town enjoying views into the city and out to the Adriatic.

Our Lady of the Rocks in the Bay of Kotor.

Our Lady of the Rocks in the Bay of Kotor.

About half an hour south of Kotor, Budva is the gateway to what is known as the Budva Riviera (Budvanska rivijera) due to what are called sandy beaches but which I would describe as pebbly resorts and active nightlife. Adjacent to the Old Town is Budva marina with its many boats and yachts and perhaps testimony to the claim that this area is home to the most millionaires per capita in Europe. It also is claimed to be the smallest town in which The Rolling Stones have held a concert….and a Madonna concert a year later. Stretching out from the marina is the beach and main promenade, site of most of the nightlife.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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From the Rubble of War http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/29/from-the-rubble-of-war/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/29/from-the-rubble-of-war/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:53:28 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=36014 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Some of the many souvenirs and trinkets that can be purchased at the bazaar in the Old Town of Mostar.

Some of the many souvenirs and trinkets that can be purchased at the bazaar in the Old Town of Mostar.

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 then part of Yugoslavia. As Yugoslavia dissolved, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1991-1992; a bloody war ensued until 1995. Under Slobodan Milo‰eviç, the Serbs wanted to control this area. Francis Tudman wanted some of this area for the Croats. The war brought destruction, and the atrocities were many. More than 100,000 were killed, as many as 50,000 raped and almost 2 million displaced.

As a result of the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended the war, three regions were identified: one primarily populated by Bosniaks and Croats, one for Serbs and one where all three ethnic groups live together. Typically, people who are Catholic may refer to themselves as Croats living in Bosnia, and those who are Orthodox may say they are Serbs living in Bosnia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina borders Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia. The country has a small outlet to the Adriatic that dissects Croatia; when travelers traverse the coast of Croatia, they actually pass through part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a transit border only; passports are usually not checked. This outlet dates to the Ottoman rule, and was established to help protect Dubrovnik from the Venetians.

The interior of a mosque in Mostar.

The interior of a mosque in Mostar.

Mostar, in the Herzegovina region, is about three hours from Dubrovnik and thus a popular day trip. The Old Town remains a model of classic Ottoman architecture, but throughout the town, the scars of war are evident. Burned out structures remain in ruins next to rebuilt businesses and apartments; many buildings are still pitted from bullets. As one approaches Mostar, the rows and rows of headstones of the cemeteries solemnly mark the tragedy of the war. Many of the stones are engraved with 1993 as the date of death.

The Stari Most, or Old Bridge, was built by the Ottomans in the 1500s, by order of Suleiman the Magnificent. Its beauty was legendary. It was destroyed in 1995 by Bosnian Croats, as was much of the Old Town. With worldwide support, the Old Town has been restored and the bridge reconstructed to its pre-war elegance. Ottoman materials and techniques were used in the reconstruction, and it opened in 2004. In 2005, it and the surrounding Old Town were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Locals frequently dive off the Old Bridge into the very cold Neretva River below. When we visited, we saw only one person foolhardy enough to try.

Bombed out buildings from the Bosnia War remain part of the architecture in busy downtown Mostar.

Bombed out buildings from the Bosnia War remain part of the architecture in busy downtown Mostar.

Prior to the Bosnian War, the three ethnic/religious groups lived together in peace. Now, with peace once again in Mostar, the Bosniaks tend to live on one side of the river and Croats on the other, although this distinction is beginning to fade a bit. Minarets and church steeples dot the landscape.

The Islamic call to prayer permeates the air in the Old Town five times a day. Two of the mosques that may be visited are Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, adjacent to Old Town, and Karadjoz-Bey Mosque just outside of it. Both had to be rebuilt after the war, and their minarets may be accessed. A third, the Hadzi-Kurt Mosque, is also in the Old Town, and is the most touristed.

The main street of the Old Town known as Coppersmiths Street (KujundÏiluk) is home to the bazaar where one can buy all sorts of tourist souvenirs — from t-shirts to Turkish coffee sets to Turkish Delight candy. There are some artists’ galleries mixed in as well as restaurants and good views of the Old Bridge.

Outside of the Old Town, a well preserved Turkish house, Bi‰ãeviç, is open for visitation. Built in 1635, its design provides a good view of Ottoman life. Surrounded by high walls for the privacy of the women, there is a beautiful courtyard with the requisite fountain and kitchen separate from the house. The home has separate rooms for men and women, and includes a main gathering or conversation room with beautiful carpets and a table set for coffee, a woman’s work room and birthing room. Shoes must be removed before entering. The Turkish Muslibegoviç House, which dates from the 1800s, can also be visited, and rooms rented as it operates as a small hotel.

The Stari Most, or Old Bridge, and the Old Town have been restored after being destroyed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

The Stari Most, or Old Bridge, and the Old Town have been restored after being destroyed during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Museums include the Old Bridge Museum with exhibitions about the bridge and a panoramic view of it and the Museum of Herzegovina with a wonderful film tracing the history of Mostar through the rebuilding of the bridge.

A common practice in Mostar is to post the obituaries of residents along with their photos. We saw a number of them plastered to poles and walls. A staggering reminder of the fragility of life, most of them were for people in their 70s or 80s. As we walked along the main Bulevar (boulevard) — the front line during the war — and other modern commercial streets still bearing the ruins of war and visited the New Muslim Cemetery — a park turned into a cemetery during the war — I couldn’t help but think of all those lives, young and old, lost in the first half of the 1990s.

On the way to Mostar, the village of Pocitelj (built into the mountainside along the River Neretva) is an ancient walled town that makes a picturesque and worthwhile stop. Even those who don’t take the time to visit can enjoy the view passing by as its mosque and minaret stand out along its skyline while a citadel towers above. Its Ottoman and Medieval architecture, including stone houses and walls, has made it home to an active art colony. Looking at the town, it is sobering to know that it was bombed heavily during the war and most of its residents had to flee. “Revitalization” began in 2000.

The capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Sarajevo. Unfortunately, time limits prevented us from visiting there, so it remains on our “to do” list. The country has its own currency, but particularly in the well-touristed Mostar, Euros or Croatian kunas are usually accepted.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

 


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The Southern Dalmatian Coast http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/01/the-southern-dalmatian-coast/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2014/01/01/the-southern-dalmatian-coast/#comments Wed, 01 Jan 2014 19:14:40 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=35448 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Cavtat’s harbor.

Cavtat’s harbor.

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 this city.

Cavtat in the Konavle Valley, a rich agricultural area that was heavily damaged during the Yugoslav War in the 1990s, lies at the southern end of Dalmatia. On the way to Cavtat, one passes through the Îupa Dubrovaãka suburb of Dubrovnik, whose beaches were once reserved for the Yugoslav army and dignitaries. The hotels there are still standing, but remain deserted. After a three-week barrage during the war, they are just black holes waiting to be replaced. Only recently has one, the Hotel Orlando, been razed with plans for a new four-star resort.

Originally called Epidaurum, Cavtat is an appealing town with a waterfront promenade, the Riva. There are some notable churches, art galleries, a mausoleum built by famed Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštroviç, a monastery, restaurants and cafes. But, mostly, Cavtat is a peaceful alternative to Dubrovnik, with a shady, circular walking path that follows the water and has views back to that larger city. It can be reached by boat, bus or car, and is about half an hour from Dubrovnik.

An interesting side trip on the way to Cavtat is to one of the three water mills that have been restored. Mills dating to the 1400’s were once a thriving industry here due to the power of the Ljuta River. With industrialization, they were all closed by the 1940’s. Today, three have been fully restored and are operational. The one we visited had been operated by the present owner’s grandfather.

The walled Old Town of Korcula.

The walled Old Town of Korcula.

The vineyards of the Konavle are known for their cabernets and merlots. Some of them offer tastings, and organized wine tasting tours booked out of Dubrovnik are popular.

The Elaphite (deer) Islands are a popular day trip from Dubrovnik. There are daily ferries to one or all three of the inhabited Elaphites: Koloãep, Lopud and Šipan. Lopud is the most popular; ·ipan the largest.

Jutting out into the Adriadic, the Pelješac Peninsula is home to Korãula Island. The island’s centerpiece is Korãula Town, whose medieval architecture and pedestrian old town make for a pleasant day trip. The Greeks named the island “Black Corfu” due to its thick cypress and pine forests; it is claimed that Marco Polo was born here. One enters the old town by ascending a classic staircase and passing through a fourteenth century gate. There is an interesting museum, cathedral with accompanying treasury, an icon gallery and some lovely jewelry shops. On Thursday evenings (and Mondays during the summer), there is a performance of the traditional Moreška sword dance in an open air theater. This dance, which tells the story of a battle between forces for the fate of a princess, is unique to Korãula, having been performed here since the 15th century.

Staircase leading up to the medieval Old Town on Korcula.

Staircase leading up to the medieval Old Town on Korcula.

Korãula can be reached by ferry, bus or car. The drive there passes through the towns of Ston and Mali Ston, known for their more than three miles of 14th century walls. Built to protect the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) from the Venetians and Ottomans, it is claimed that these walls are the second longest in the world after the Great Wall of China, but this can be disputed. The Ston area is also known for its salt, mussel and oyster harvesting. Most of the mussel and oyster farming was destroyed during the war; only about 30 percent of it has been recovered. The trip to Korãula also passes through vineyards, some of which can be visited for wine tasting and purchasing.

One of the many hidden coves along the Dalmatian coast.

One of the many hidden coves along the Dalmatian coast.

Dalmatian cuisine reflects the various ethnicities that have ruled this area. Seafood is fresh and plentiful; it is said that mussels from Ston are among the best in the world. Octopus is popular; I grew quite fond of grilled hobotniãe. Meat is also popular, especially barbecued kebobs. There is a sort of sausage called çevapãiçi, grilled minced meat that my husband raved about, and he thought that the homemade Croatian prosciutto, pršut, that we had at a local farmhouse was better than any he had tasted in Italy or any of the Serrano ham he had in Spain. A speciality is peka, meat prepared under a metal dome on an open fire. Vegetables are readily available, and while salads tended to be unexciting, the grilled vegetables were wonderful. Chicken and surprisingly turkey, are on many menus. As a requisite for joining the EU, all Mediterranean countries are required to produce a certain amount of olive oil, and Croatia’s figures heavily in its food preparation.

Venetian influence is seen in the popularity of risottos and pastas. Pizza and pasta restaurants are ubiquitous. Hungarian influence is seen in goulashes and other dishes featuring paprika. Desserts are usually made from local ingredients, including dried figs, almonds, raisins, eggs and honey.

Dalmatian wines are regional and excellent. The best cheese to go with that wine is Paški sir made of sheep’s milk on the island of Pag. A real treat is homemade grapa (loza) or herbal brandy (travarica). I don’t usually bother bringing home bottles of wine or liqueurs, but on this trip, I did pack a bottle of the most wonderful lemon brandy I have ever tasted (even better than the lemoncello in Amalfi), homemade at the same farmhouse where my husband had the pršut.

Introduced by the Austro-Hungarians, beer is also popular and good, although most of it comes from northern Croatia rather than Dalmatia. Incidentally, the Dalmatian dog is named for this area but there is no evidence that it originated here. We only saw one Dalmatian dog while we were in the area, and no, he wasn’t at a firehouse.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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Florida for the Holidays http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/12/23/florida-for-the-holidays/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/12/23/florida-for-the-holidays/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 15:44:41 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=35591 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Mount Dora, a charming Victorian town, loves to celebrate the holidays. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Mount Dora, a charming Victorian town, loves to celebrate the holidays. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

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 store windows, catching some Broadway plays. It didn’t snow. That’s because it was too cold — too bone chillingly cold — to snow. At the end of the trip, my husband suggested we make this trek an annual holiday tradition. I just gave him that look that he usually reserves for me when I make some outlandish suggestion. Our best holiday trip weather-wise was to San Diego. It was chilly but tolerable. New Orleans was also bearable, although we did have to deal with flooding in the French Quarter during a heavy downpour.

Florida has some special places to visit and activities to do during the holidays. We are all familiar with our own Marco Island Christmas Island Style with its tree lighting ceremony, street parade, boat parade and other activities.

Naples offers the Third Street Festival of Lights, Fifth Avenue tree lighting and Christmas Walk, Bayfront tree lighting, boat and street parades, menorah lighting and tree lighting at Village on Venetian Bay, and snowfest at Golden Gate Community Park. I aways love the twinkling lights that decorate Fifth Avenue in Naples; when we don’t make it to New York City for the holidays, strolling along Fifth Avenue Naples is a satisfying substitute for me. If you haven’t yet visited historic Palm Cottage, the oldest house in Naples, do so in December when the holiday decorations really spruce it up. It is located at 137 12th Avenue South.

Ft. Meyers has a boat parade and Festival of Trees at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. The Edison and Ford Estates sponsors “holiday nights” with homes and gardens decorated for the season, and there are special activities at the Imaginarium. The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium hosts Holiday Arbor Lights, which includes festively lit trails and a seasonal laser and music show.

Last year, I wrote about the special displays and events at the various Disney World parks and properties during the holidays. Sea World also celebrates the holidays with seasonal shows including a “live” nativity featuring animals and life-sized puppets, festive lighting, more than 100 decorated trees in the musically enhanced “sea” of trees, a multi-sensory Polar Express Experience, special holiday dinners, an ice skating show and fireworks. Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town features holiday shows, displays, food, music and “snow” fall.

Historic Palm Cottage is particularly festive during the holiday season.

Historic Palm Cottage is particularly festive during the holiday season.

Near Disney, Celebration has nightly events, including snow falls hourly starting at 6PM. The main street is decked out, an “ice” rink set up and there are community performers and a festive light show. Horse and carriage rides are available. Of course, what else would you expect in a town that was founded by Disney?

In nearby Kissimmee, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center hosts “Ice!”, an indoor ice display. Using 2 million pounds of ice, 40 artisans carve a winter wonderland including a life-size Nativity, Santa and his reindeer, a castle and slides. Each year, new characters are added; last year there were 11 vignettes, including “Shrek the Halls” and scenes from the film “Madagascar”. If you decide to check out “Ice!”, remember it will be 9 degrees inside. You must wear closed toe shoes, and no shorts are permitted. You might want to bring along some gloves. If you purchase tickets online, which is recommended, there is a slight discount for Florida residents.

About 30 miles north of Orlando in Florida’s Lake Country, Mount Dora is a charming Victorian town that loves to celebrate the holidays. Known for both its unique and antique shops, decorations and activities abound. “Light up Mount Dora” features 2 million twinkling lights, and the 40-foot Christmas tree lighting with thousands of lights is accompanied by entertainment. Steam train rides with Santa are available as are boat tours accompanied by hot apple cider and cookies. There is a Christmas walk, Christmas parade, boat parade, tour of decorated homes and a special evening with snow sledding!

St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565, welcomes the holidays with “Nights of Lights” during which the historic district sparkles with almost 3 million lights. In 2012, National Geographic named it one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world. There is also a tour of decorated homes, a “British Night Watch” illumination parade and a “Holiday Regatta of Lights” boat parade.

While the Harbor Walk in Key West offers traditional decorations, many homeowners prefer their unique style of welcoming the holidays.

While the Harbor Walk in Key West offers traditional decorations, many homeowners prefer their unique style of welcoming the holidays.

Would you believe there is a “Fort Christmas” in Florida? Yes, it is located in Christmas, FL, 20 miles east of Orlando off of Highway 50. Restored homes, a school house and a sugarcane mill demonstrate “pioneer” life from the 1870s through 1930s. The fort was built in 1837 during the Second Seminole Indian War, and now houses an exhibit on the Seminole Wars. Fort Christmas hosts an annual “Cracker Christmas” celebration, which features demonstrations of pioneer crafts and activities, a large craft fair, and post office booth where you can get your holiday cards stamped with a Christmas, FL, postmark.

Any discussion of the holidays in Florida would be lacking without a mention of the Keys, which has its own unique style of celebrating. Key West offers funky local decorations, a tropical infused performance of “The Nutcracker”, a lighted Harbor Walk, holiday parade down Duval St., tour of historic inns and boat parade. Key Largo has its Upside Down Christmas tree, while in Marathon, the Garden Club hosts a more traditional exhibit of trees with decorations from around the world.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

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Shopping Locally for Travel Gifts http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/12/04/shopping-locally-for-travel-gifts/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/12/04/shopping-locally-for-travel-gifts/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 19:05:54 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=34986 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Pack a garment steamer to freshen up clothes while traveling.

Pack a garment steamer to freshen up clothes while traveling.

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 has to offer and found many items that would make nice gifts for family, friends, or one’s self!

I love gadgets so I started at Ace Hardware on East Elkcam Circle. Through the years, I have always found the staff at my local Ace friendly and helpful in directing me to exactly what I need. A very knowledgable salesman guided me on my gift shopping quest. The first useful gadgets we found were items to help deal with the differences in electricity and outlets encountered when traveling. They have a range of choices from single plug adaptors to full converter sets with different types of adaptors for every location in the world, as well as a stand alone transformer.

I never travel without a small flashlight and Ace has a variety of lightweight LED ones. They come in a variety of styles and colors and some are “superlights” with extra bright beams. Next to some of the flashlight options in the store is a lighted magnifying glass that would certainly come in handy when traveling.

A friend recently emailed me in a panic while traveling in Europe. A ballpoint pen had leaked all over her backpack and onto some clothing; she asked for suggestions to remove the stains. Too bad she hadn’t packed the spray stain remover that is available at Ace. A heavy duty cleaning product, it comes in a 2 oz. bottle so it can even be carried onto the plane. I think I’m going to buy some not only for traveling, but also to keep in the car. Look for it near the checkout.

Worldwide converter/adaptor kit available at Ace Hardware, Elkcam Circle.

Worldwide converter/adaptor kit available at Ace Hardware, Elkcam Circle.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone anywhere where there wasn’t some rain at some time. Even a trip to the Canary Islands in dry season saw “record breaking” (isn’t it always?) torrential rain. Ace offers full vinyl rain suits and ponchos that are lightweight but substantial. They are the kind you can use more than once, not the flimsy plastic ones that tear almost immediately after removing from the packaging.

I also found travel size tubes of sunscreen and mini Cutters bug spray that you could easily pop into a purse or back pack. Even better might be the Off clip on mosquito protectors and refills. Take along the compact size of After Bite instant relief for bug bites and you are all set for the outdoors or canals of Venice!

Ace offers a variety of travel size first aid kits and even ear buds that you can take along that are much better than those the airlines provide. Consider a gift of two way radios to communicate when traveling. I know lots of families who use them when going to Disney World or out West skiing and other people who use them abroad so they don’t have to contend with the high roaming charges involved with cell phones.

My final find at Ace was a Travel Smart garment steamer to use for freshening up clothes while traveling. The box also claims it can be used to kill dust mites and bed bugs!

I saw an ad in the Coastal Breeze for Keep In Touch which mentioned that they carry travel accessories. Keep In Touch is that cute store in the Shops of Marco that has a small post office in the back. What great treasures I found there for gift shopping. They carry a variety of Travelon products that help make travel easier.

There is a medication travel organizer in which you can organize all your pills within a smart travel case that can be slipped into purse or carryon. A jewelry roll has different sized mesh pockets to help keep jewelry organized and prevents items getting caught up in one another. The fact that it then rolls up for packing makes it compact and easy to place in the corner or side of a suitcase. A substantial zippered ladies wallet would be perfect for foreign currency which is often larger than US bills.

I have written before about RFID technology. Passports and many credit cards now come with radio frequency chips. RFID wallets and protective sleeves guard against “electronic pickpocketing”, someone using an electronic device to steal the information from these chips. Keep in Touch carries a variety of these products. There are small cash/card sleeves that easily slip into a larger wallet or security pouch, passport cases, and a money clip/wallet. No matter what style wallet one prefers, they carry it. There is an RFID billfold, trifold, and front pocket style.

My favorite RFID item, though, was the “Boarding Pouch”. If you or someone to whom you want to give a gift doesn’t have one, run and buy it. It is a pouch that fits over the neck and in which you can keep your passport or other ID, tickets, boarding passes, money, credit cards. This helps keep you “hands free” in the airport and speed your journey as you don’t have to reach into your pocket or pocket book to find all these items; they are readily available. The Boarding Pouch I found at Keep in Touch has a couple of different pockets for organization.

There also was a clear view waterproof pouch for keeping a smart phone or small camera dry in wet conditions. A foam insert allows the pouch to float on the surface should it ever be accidentally dropped into water. Another find was a “toiletry notebook”, a zippered mesh pocket with removable waterproof bags to keep cosmetic items neat and dry.

Beyond a Bags are multipurpose; all of them unzip from a pocket book or tote into something else.

Beyond a Bags are multipurpose; all of them unzip from a pocket book or tote into something else.

Keep in Touch also carries an extensive line of Beyond a Bag products, expandable pocket books and bags that can serve a variety of purposes. Lightweight and easy to clean, they come in various styles and colors. All of them have zippers that when opened convert the bag into something else. One pocket book which can be used as a shoulder or cross body bag can convert into a fanny pack or duffel bag. Another one unzips into a back pack; unzip it more and it is a pet carrier for use with pets up to 10” in height and 25 pounds.

Buy one of the many colorful luggage tags available at Keep in Touch and you’ll be sure to identify your bag as it goes around the carousel in baggage claim. Notebooks, journals, and playing cards are other options for gifts and the store stocks a variety of jigsaw puzzles, something you might want to consider for someone making a trip to someplace where they might be stuck inside by foul weather.

Even if you don’t travel beyond Marco Island, Keep in Touch has something for you. Surrounded by water here on Marco, the Life Hammer is an item we all should have in our cars. It is a small tool that can be used in an emergency as a seat belt cutter and to break a car window should the unthinkable happen and your car ends up in water. A great gift for anyone.

In just two stops in local stores, I found a plethora of wonderful items for travel…..more than enough to fill a wish list, Speaking of Travel column, and my suitcase!

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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Dubrovnik http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/11/19/dubrovnik/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/11/19/dubrovnik/#comments Wed, 20 Nov 2013 02:14:31 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=34686 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Bird’s eye view of the walled old town of Dubrovnik.

Bird’s eye view of the walled old town of Dubrovnik.

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 of the busiest ports in Europe for commerce, it is now a popular one for cruise ships.

In the turmoil accompanying the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was attacked by Serbian and Montenegrin forces of the Yugoslav army. Under siege from October 1991 to May 1992, more than half of its buildings were damaged. A city that prided itself on its religious tolerance, many people say the attack was for territory, not religion. The people of Dubrovnik never expected the war; they thought issues would be solved politically, and they certainly never expected that their historic city would be attacked. Civilians evacuated, many taking up residence on nearby islands or resort hotels surrounding the city.

The “hole in the wall” Buza bar, clinging to the rocks between the wall and the Adriatic is a popular place to watch the sunset. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

The “hole in the wall” Buza bar, clinging to the rocks between the wall and the Adriatic is a popular place to watch the sunset. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Today, Dubrovnik is restored to its past grandeur and is a great place to visit. Vestiges of the war are still evident in the different colored terra cotta roof tiles of the city; the ones that had to be replaced a brighter orange than the originals. An artist who lives on Od Puça, a narrow street with wonderful shops, recounts the seize through photos displayed outside his now rebuilt gallery. Some of the resort hotels outside the city still lie in ruins. A museum atop Mt. Srd chronicles those long months of battle.

One of the treats to be found in Dubrovnik is walking the walls. The entire perimeter of the old city can be traversed. Although there is a portion that is free to walk, ticket purchase and entrance are just inside the main Pile Gate. If it is not too hot, try walking the walls noontime. The cruise ship groups throng the walls in the morning, returning to their ships for lunch. There are some tour groups that tackle the walls in the afternoon, but not as many as in the morning. During “season”, the walls are open until 7PM. Allow an hour and a half depending on how much you stop to admire the view or take photos. Do remember to take water; there is no shade.

Among the other sites in Dubrovnik are a maritime museum, the oldest Sephardic synagogue in Europe and its museum, Dominican and Franciscan Monastery Museums, a Serbian Orthodox Church and Icon Museum, the Cathedral and its treasury, Sponza Palace and Bell Tower, St. Blaise’s Church which celebrates this patron saint of Dubrovnik (although his relics are in the Cathedral), and the Rector’s Palace which houses the Cultural Historical Museum.

For a bird’s eye view, take a quick cable car ride up Mount Srd. Here you can pause for a drink or piece of triple fudge chocolate cake while soaking in the view. The Napoleonic fortress adjacent to the cable car and restaurant houses the exhibit, “Dubrovnik during the Homeland War”. Do go up to the rooftop of the fortress for an unparalleled view.

A “must do” in Dubrovnik is a stop at one of the two Buza (“hole in the wall”) bars built right into the side of the city walls. You literally walk through a hole (door) in the wall of the city to emerge on the steep cliff above the water where two very casual bars have been opened with seating that clings to the sides of the cliff. We spent a wonderful evening here, sipping wine and watching the changing colors of the sunset.

Another way to get a good view and appreciation of the city as it rises up out of the sea is a one hour “panoramic” boat trip. Although advertised as a tour, there is no narration. But, it is relaxing and scenic. Tourists are returning to Croatia in increasing numbers each year. Recently admitted to the EU, tourism will continue to grow and improve. My guess is within a few years, those boat tours will increase in price, offer narration, and serve food and beverage!

The main street of Dubrovnik has been fully restored following a seven month siege during the “Homeland War” 1991-2 (see inset).

The main street of Dubrovnik has been fully restored following a seven month siege during the “Homeland War” 1991-2 (see inset).

A stroll through the pedestrian only old town, stari grad, exploring shops, cafes, and restaurants is another pleasure to be enjoyed. The main street is Stradun (also known as Placa), but it is more charming to wander into the streets and alleys off of it. Due to the rebuilding of the city after a 1667 earthquake, the uniform architecture to be found along Stradun, including doors and shutters, is striking. The names of shops are displayed on the lanterns above their doors rather than on more conspicuous signs.

A quick side trip can be made to the “cursed” Lokrum Island reputedly the location of Richard the Lionhearted’s shipwreck. Quite visible from the old town, it once was the site of a beautiful Benedictine monastery. When the French bought it and deposed the monks, a curse was supposedly placed on the island. Subsequent owners met ill fates including Maximillan von Hapsburg who was called to Mexico where he was killed and his wife Charlotte who went insane. Rudolf, the heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I lived there for a while; he later committed suicide along with his fiancee. Three bankers bought it; they went bankrupt and committed suicide. The day after the next owner signed the purchase papers, he drowned. Locals are superstitious and won’t spend the night there. But, it makes for a pleasant day visit with rocky beaches, small salt lake, shady pathways among tall pines, and botanical gardens built by Maximilian.

Hotels in the old city or within walking distance of it are limited. More popular are rooms or apartments (sobe) in private homes. Many people, us included, stay outside the city at the resorts Babin Kuk or Lapad. Both areas have their own restaurants, some shops, and are a quick, easy bus ride to the old town. Babin Kuk, the less populated, is home to Copacabana Beach, the longest one in Dubrovnik. That said, it is not very long, but does offer a restaurant/cafe. We spent another evening there watching the sun set while sipping a drink in the shadow of an elegant cable bridge and listening to the horns of the cruise ships as they departed for yet another port.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

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What ever happened to Yugoslavia? http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/11/08/what-ever-happened-to-yugoslavia/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/11/08/what-ever-happened-to-yugoslavia/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 16:36:52 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=34542 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Bullet ridden relic of the 1990s wars in Bosnia. PHOTOS by VICKIE KELBER

Bullet ridden relic of the 1990s wars in Bosnia. PHOTOS by VICKIE KELBER

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 area included the Illyrians, followed by Greeks and Romans; vestiges of those cultures remain. Then came the Slavs and the Byzantines. When the Roman Empire was split in the fourth century AD, this area was divided into Roman Catholic in the West and Byzantine Orthodox in the East. With the invasion of the Ottomans, there was a further division into Islam in the South. At various times in history, parts of this area have been ruled by the Venetians, Ottomans, Hungarians and Hapsburgs and their influences are still seen in architecture, culture, and food. Geographic divisions were general and ethnic groups overlapped. For a time, Napoleon controlled part of this area.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian Serb who was part of a group who wanted the southern Slav provinces to be independent precipitated World War I which led to the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

After World War I, the south Slavs, primarily the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Slovenes joined together in what would become Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia means land of the South Slavs. Generally, the Croats and Slovenes were Catholic, the Serbs Orthodox, and the Bosniaks Muslim. A note of clarification: the terms Bosniak, Croat, and Serb refer to ethnic groups; Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are terms used for all citizens of those countries.

The union of the different ethnicities was never smooth and many of the Croats in particular saw all their money flowing to Belgrade and thus supported the Fascists hoping it would lead to their independence from Serbia. After the Axis Powers invaded in 1941, the Independent State of Croatia was established as a puppet government ruled by what was known as the Ustaše and ethnic cleansing of Serbs, as well as Jews and Roma followed.

As World War II concluded, the Communist Partisan Army led by Josip Broz, known by the nickname “Tito”, forced out the Nazis. Tito became prime minister and later President for Life of what was then known as Yugoslavia. It is said by many that he was the only man who could hold together these various ethnic groups. His parents were a Slovene and a Croat, his wife a Serb, and he lived in Belgrade. Tito and most of his government had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church after their indictment of the Archbishop of Zagreb for collaborating with the Ustaše.

A member of the Communist Party, it does seem that it was Tito’s strong personality that held Yugoslavia together for 40 years. Tito practiced his own form of Communism/Socialism, different from that of Stalin’s Soviet Union. He maintained neutrality during the Cold War and tried to work with both the East and the West. Travel was open both in and out of Yugoslavia and there was somewhat of a market economy.

The six republics of Yugoslavia, which each had their own government and president, were Croatia and Slovenia which were primarily Catholic, Serbia primarily Orthodox, Bosnia-Herzegovina primarily Muslim but with Croat and Serb populations, Montenegro primarily made up of Montenegrins and Serbs, and Macedonia with a large population of Albanians. There were also two autonomous provinces, Kosovo with a high population of Albanians, and Vojvodina with its Hungarians. To prevent any ethnic group from becoming too strong in one area, Tito required all units of the National Army to be made up of equal representation of all ethnic groups.

Tito died in 1980. By the late 80s, ethnic tensions were on the rise in Kosovo. Slobodan Miloševi? became president of Serbia and annexed Kosovo; he went on to the presidency of Yugoslavia in 1997. Ethnic violence increased in Croatia and in 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence. The Yugoslav National Army attacked Slovenia, but that war lasted only ten days. In 1990, Serbs in Croatia had started rebelling and in 1991 the first shots of the Croatian Conflict rang out. The Yugoslav Army, by this time composed mostly of Serbs, attacked as Croats were forced to evacuate. By 1995, the tide had turned, and hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled Croatia. In 1993, there was fighting between the Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croats; a peace treaty was signed in 1994.

In 1992, Bosnia declared independence and the Siege of Sarajevo between Bosniak and Serb forces began. Primarily ethnic cleansing first against the Bosniaks and Croats by the Serbs and then by the Croats against the Serbs, the Bosnian War lasted until 1995 and included such atrocities as the slaying of 8,000 mostly males in Srebrenica, Bosnia and “rape camps”; tens of thousands of girls and women were raped. The Dayton Peace Accords ended the conflict, dividing Bosnia-Herzegovina among the different ethnic groups.

In 1998, Kosovo was the scene of fighting between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians. Miloševi? sent in his army again for ethnic cleansing; NATO intervened and the Serbs left in 1999.

One of the many ruins in Bosnia left after the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s.

One of the many ruins in Bosnia left after the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s.

In 1992, Macedonia’s declaration of independence was peaceful; Montenegro declared independence 2006. Slovenia has been a member of the European Union since 2007, Croatia joined in July of this year. In recognition of its different ethnic groups, Bosnia and Herzogovenia is one country with a unique form of government recognizing its three ethnic groups and is a candidate for NATO and eventually perhaps the European Union. The Republic of Serbia founded in 2006 is also a candidate for the EU. Kosovo remains the one area with questionable status. It declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia does not recognize that independence, although the two have recently exchanged liaisons. The United States recognizes Kosovo’s independence, but there are many countries that do not.

Atrocities during all of these conflicts were many. More than 100,000 were killed and millions lost homes. Miloševi? was put on trial in The Hague in 2002, but he died in 2006 before a verdict was declared. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is still conducting business, with hopes that all trials and appeals will be completed by 2015.

Driving through the most affected countries, the ruins of war are still in evidence. It took more than 10 years to clean popular areas of land mines; some remote areas still struggle with cleanup. Some major roads have only recently been repaired.

Looking back, the people of the former Yugoslavia have mixed views about Tito. Although he used strong arm measures, especially in the early years of his presidency, there is a certain Tito nostalgia expressed by many. A forty year old woman wistfully recalled to us her childhood under Tito when both her parents had good jobs and families got a subsidized two week vacation on the coast every year. She now works as a tour guide but is also in law school. She is taking her time finishing her degree because there are no jobs.

The lack of jobs is a recurrent theme today. We had a guide at the Roman amphitheater in Pula who is a licensed veterinarian but serves as a guide because there is “no work” for vets in Croatia. She considered going to Australia where the job market for her profession is good, but her family is in Croatia and she does not want to leave her country.

On the left is a restored home/gallery of an artist in Dubrovnik; on the right is a photo of a poster showing the site under seize in 1991. The artist has memorialized his building with posters admonishing “Lest we forget.”

On the left is a restored home/gallery of an artist in Dubrovnik; on the right is a photo of a poster showing the site under seize in 1991. The artist has memorialized his building with posters admonishing “Lest we forget.”

A man in his thirties told us of his childhood during the 90‘s wars; he, his mother, and siblings had to leave their home and hide out on a nearby island. Now he works hard on the family farm and also has a job at a sports complex in Dubrovnik. When asked about marriage, he replied that he does not have enough money to support a family.

A woman living just outside Plitvice National Park told how her ancestral home was destroyed in the war. Its shell remains behind the new house she and her family have been building for seven years; the new one is still not complete. She tries to help by renting out rooms but has no money to advertise so the rooms often are empty.

The mixed views that citizens have of their conflicted history is exemplified by the naming of a bridge in Dubrovnik. An aesthetically beautiful cable bridge completed in 2002, its official name is the Franjo Tudman bridge, named for the first president of Croatia, controversial because of possible war crimes committed by him. Some people objected to the bridge’s name, a dispute ensued and presently on one side of the bridge there is a sign acknowledging the official name; on the other side the sign translates as “Dubrovnik Bridge”.

We recently visited four of the former Yugoslav countries. Despite their conflicted history, the countries are beautiful, the people welcoming. English is widely spoken and the cities and towns are safe. I will be writing more about these countries in upcoming columns.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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The Pink Plane http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/10/28/the-pink-plane/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/10/28/the-pink-plane/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:43:47 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=34314 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Special pink uniforms worn by Delta flight attendants to promote breast cancer awareness.

Special pink uniforms worn by Delta flight attendants to promote breast cancer awareness.

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 information in this week’s column comes from Paul and a press release issued by Delta.

On Monday, September 30, 2013, Delta’s ninth annual “Breast Cancer One” employee survivor charter flight, the “Pink Plane”, launched, kicking off the airlines October fundraising campaign for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. A Boeing 767-400, the flight went from Atlanta to Detroit with more than 140 employee cancer survivors from locations around the world. During the rest of the year, the Pink Plane is in service helping to spread BCRF’s message worldwide. The present Pink Plane which was dedicated last year to the memory of Evelyn Lauder, the founder of BCRF, has flown approximately 1900 trips around the world.

Delta’s pink plane featuring BCRF’s trademarked pink ribbon logo is used to promote awareness of this  organization. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DELTA AIR LINES

Delta’s pink plane featuring BCRF’s trademarked pink ribbon logo is used to promote awareness of this organization. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DELTA AIR LINES

In addition to the Pink Plane, Delta’s administrative building in Atlanta will be illuminated in pink lighting throughout October in support of BCRF. Delta employees will wear pink uniforms and sell pink products on board and in Delta Sky Clubs, including pink lemonade and pink headsets. All proceeds go to BCRF.

Since 2005, Delta’s employees, customers, friends and families have raised $6.7 million for the foundation with more than $1.75 million last year. Delta’s contributions have funded 18 different research projects over the years in the pursuit of eradicating breast cancer.

BCRF was founded in 1993 by Ms. Lauder, the senior corporate vice president of Estèe Lauder and a breast cancer survivor, as an independent not-for-profit organization committed to funding scientific research to achieve prevention and a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime. This year, BCRF will award grants of $45 million to more than 200 international scientists at top universities and medical centers. At its inception, just $159,000 was given to eight researchers. Along with its A+ rating by Charity Watch, it has 4 stars from Charity Navigator. Ms. Lauder co created the iconic pink ribbon that has come to symbolize the fight against breast cancer.

This year, Delta Air Lines was named by Fortune Magazine as the most admired airline worldwide. The effort on behalf of breast cancer research and cure is personal for Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta Air Lines; his mother died from the disease.

 


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Apps Galore http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/10/09/apps-galore/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/10/09/apps-galore/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 12:53:28 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33938 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

On your travels, find a nice quiet spot with free wifi where you can use one of the many apps available to stay in contact with family and friends or post to a blog.

On your travels, find a nice quiet spot with free wifi where you can use one of the many apps available to stay in contact with family and friends or post to a blog.

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 interface, making it easy to use. There are preset lists organized by category. With TravelList, you can also create reminders for last minute packing or along the way, such as reminding you to reinstall your camera battery after charging it. Dated plans sync with your smartphone calendar. The Packing Pro app has also gotten good ratings. It allows multiple lists for multiple people on the trip as well as offering sample lists by categories and checklists for all of those things you need to do to prepare your home prior to your departure.

Once you have planned your trip and developed your packing list, how can you organize and share your travel plans? I’ve written about TripIt, a website and app that I really like and use for all my trips. Another option, although originally designed for the business traveler but can be used by all, is WorldMate. Similar to TripIt, it helps organize flight, hotel, car rental, train tickets, and other information and share your itinerary via social networks or email. It provides maps, directions, weather forecasts, a global currency converter and tipping guide, and can assist with bookings.

Journaling while traveling is popular. Trip Journal provides digital documentation of your adventures. Its kind of scrap booking on the go. It is GPS enabled which helps in tracking your journey as well as geo tagging photos. It integrates with social networks and sites such as YouTube and Flickr. If all this digital technology is too much and you want something more traditional looking, try Moleskine Journal app which recreates the look of a classic bound journal. But, it is digital and therefore includes such features as an artist toolset including watercolor brush, Moleskine pencil, built in camera for instant photography, and sharing through email and some social networks.

Want to start a simple travel blog? Try an app such as Off Exploring for posting text and photos as well as video to a web address when connected to the internet. Travelog is another blogging app with a simple interface offering many of the same features as Off Exploring. Blogsy allows simple drag and drop to add photos and videos to your blog; users like its easy interface. Unlike the first two apps which have their own site to post to, Blogsy offers support for WordPress, Blogger, Tumbler, and other blog sites and can also be used to create a richly formatted email to friends and family.

Want to know where all the best photo opportunities are in a destination? Consult Picfari which offers pinpointed maps to show the exact location of premier photo shooting opportunities. Sample pictures from photo sharing sites are shown, along with tips for getting a good shot. Where is the best place to stand to get the best shot of a specific landmark? In front of it or a nearby plaza or elevated spot?

A28-CBN_9-20-13-4Use Picfari in pre planning your itinerary. You can upload and share your own pictures or photo tip. This app depends on crowdsourcing, so it will only grow in usefulness.

On a recent trip, I was amazed how many people use their smart phones instead of a “real” camera. Trevi helps organize those photos and videos on a phone into a timeline that can be grouped by day, map location, or album and then shared via social media or postcards.

I’ve written before about Dropbox and how helpful I find it to store such things as copies of my passport, tickets, and camera manual. It also offers photo storage and sharing. Use its app to upload your photos to a folder in your Dropbox account which can then be shared with others. With automatic upload, your contacts can even be notified of photos taken in real time. Apple device users have Photostream, a great way to quickly share photos with others.

What about staying in contact with family and friends? In past columns, I’ve given tips about using your smartphone outside of the US, but there are apps that let you send free texts or make free calls over WIFI or 3G. The trick is that the person you want to contact must have the app installed as well. Viber is one of those free text and call apps. Others include Tango, KaKao Talk, and Talkatone. Apps that provide free texting only include imo, WeChat, and textPlus. For calls, investigate forfone or GlobalTalk. Apple device users have FaceTime with which they can make video calls to other Apple users. Apps are constantly updated and changed, so read all the features carefully before using any of these. Be certain whether you are using WIFI or cellular data.

Skype is the granddaddy of free and inexpensive internet calling, but they have also released something called a Skype Wi-Fi app. Using Skype Access on a per minute basis, you can access more than one million WIFI hotspots. You must have Skype credit in your account ahead of time to use this service. I’ve not yet used this app, but am looking forward to trying it out.

Finally, I want to mention Evernote, a digital organizer. Although I’ve had it installed for years, I’ve not really used it as Dropbox seems to meet all my needs. However, I have an acquaintance who relies on it quite a bit for travel. You can type notes, take and organize pictures (including pictures of things like receipts), record voice notes. It’s a place to save, organize, and find everything related to a trip. I keep telling myself I will take the time to use and appreciate this app/program, and sometime I just might!

 

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

 


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Travel Websites 2013 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/27/travel-websites-2013/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/27/travel-websites-2013/#comments Fri, 27 Sep 2013 14:28:51 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33810 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

Want to know more about the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona? Worldsiteguides.com has a written, video, and audio guide with detailed information about this structure. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Want to know more about the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona? Worldsiteguides.com has a written, video, and audio guide with detailed information about this structure. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

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 am going to focus on online guides and armchair travel.

At traditional guidebook sites such as Lonely Planet and Rick Steves, in addition to free information, you can purchase and download select chapters of their guidebooks. On recent trips, I found it very convenient to just download those chapters relevant to the cities I would visit. I was able to read them on my computer and then transfer them to my iPad mini to take along on my travels… that saved a lot of space and weight in my luggage!

Rick Steves also offers free downloads of his radio podcasts as well as some guided tours. To listen to them via computer, you need to download through iTunes. Transfer to any mp3 player including a smart phone or iPad and take them along. Listening to the radio shows helps give a good feel for a destination as well as picking up information about some don’t miss experiences. I found that listening to his audio tour of the Uffizi in Florence was helpful prior to visiting that wonderful gallery.

One site that I recently discovered and used a lot on our last trip was inyourpocket.com which features what they call “essential” city guides. Highlighting 75 European cities, they are chock full of information about not only major cities, but also many lesser known such as Lisburn in Ireland or Budva in Montenegro. They are written by locals and reviewed frequently for accuracy. Each guide has a description of an area, arrival information and cultural notes, as well as extensive lists of events, hotels, restaurants, cafes, sights, shopping, nightlife, transportation, street food, markets and side trips. The website also has some user comments.

I can’t say enough good things about this site. You can spend hours researching a destination, searching for information or, as I did, download a PDF version of the guides. I saved them on my iPad mini and found it helpful to review the guide each evening before exploring a different locale. We used them for some restaurants and found the recommendations to be quite accurate.

Although many of us are years removed from staying in hostels, hostelworld.com website features some very useful information. There are videos of different destinations, a great number of podcasts, local information about cities including what not to miss, upcoming events and suggested day trips. Their guides can also be downloaded and saved as PDFs.

Tripomatic.com features cities world wide with reviews of various activities. Select those activities or sights in which you are interested and Tripomatic will plan an itinerary for you. They also have one to four day template itineraries for some cities with all the “must see” attractions. If you are a fan, there are even suggested “Game of Thrones” itineraries.

Unlike.net online city guides emphasize activities, hotels, restaurants, and attractions off the beaten path. It takes some searching on the site, but you can find unique off the tourist route suggestions.

Stayboots.com is an unusual site. With just a limited number of cities at this point, most in the United States as well as an accompanying app for smart phones and digital pads, you can purchase guided tours of specific sections of a city. The two to three hour interactive walking tours are kind of a scavenger hunt. By presenting different challenges such as asking you to find things, take a silly photo, answer a trivia question, you learn about the area. In San Diego, for example, there are tours of Balboa Park, Old Town, or the Gaslamp Quarter. Seattle features tours of Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, Capital Hill, and the Seattle Art Museum.

Another recent discovery with a wealth of information is worldsiteguides.com which has written, video, and audio guides to more than 100 historical sites worldwide. The audio guides can be downloaded as mp3s. There is also an interactive world atlas to help identify those sites for which there are guides.

For a 360? view, slideshow, and information about Ravello and other places along the Amalfi Coast, try the website, 360amailfi.net.

For a 360? view, slideshow, and information about Ravello and other places
along the Amalfi Coast, try the website, 360amailfi.net.

For nature enthusiasts, naturevalleytrailview.com has Google Street View type of information for hiking trails in some of our national parks. Right now, they are limited to only four parks, but hope to expand in the future. Besides offering topographical maps, and very specific information about hiking trails, each park has a 360? view of the trails which leads me to the topic of armchair travel sites.

Italy is full of wonderful panoramic locales and 360tuscany.net and 360amalfi.net can bring many of them onto your computer screen. Each 360? view or slideshow has accompanying information for a variety of places throughout Tuscany, Amalfi coast, Sardinia, and Rome. Look for the links to all the locations at the bottom of the page. I could watch these sites for hours, reliving wonderful travels to Italy.

Mapcrunch.com highlights some of the most picturesque locations from Google Street Views. Enter browsing criteria (continent, country) or select a tour with a new location every few seconds or gallery with Views of the Day. What you will see is not necessarily the top tourist attractions, but rather what it looks like traveling along a road in a particular location. A recent View of the Day was in Budapest across the Chain Bridge and I was able to see the apartment in which we once stayed. My husband enjoyed the elephants along the road in Botswana.

A great substitute for playing Solitaire or just to pass the time is safestyle-windows.co.uk/secret-door. Click on the lion’s head door knocker and be transported to random places. Click wherever you see a circle, square, or arrow to move around the location. Want to go somewhere else? Click on the lion’s head on the left hand side. The site doesn’t always give a location and you can’t request a specific location. But, it’s a great time waster!

Airpano.com offers high resolution of 3D aerial panoramas of locations such as the Great Barrier Reef, along with descriptors of what you are seeing. Google Maps offers photo tours. Type in a location such as the Colosseum in Rome, click on the photo in the left column, and you will be presented with a slideshow from that location.

Museums all over the world offer virtual tours. Try the Smithsonian’s website, or those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, or the British Museum. At coudal.com/moom, there is a “museum” of online museums.

Happy Traveling!

 

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

[email_link]

 


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Prelude to Sochi http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/13/prelude-to-sochi/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/09/13/prelude-to-sochi/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 15:29:22 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33609 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

B2-CBN_9-6-13-11

Olympic gold medal winner Billy DeMong won his first National title in 2001. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

No matter who takes home medals in women’s ski jumping at Olympics XXII in Sochi, Russia, for a group of American woman, it will be a victory.

Since the first winter Olympics in 1924, men’s ski jumping has been included but women’s has not; it has been the only Olympic event that did not allow women even though women have been involved in ski jumping since the 1890s.

The addition of women’s ski jumping to the Olympic roster represents the culmination of a long, hard fight for a determined group of women from Park City, Utah. The first petition for inclusion was made to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in1998 for the Nagano games; it was rejected. In 2006, a proposal for the Vancouver Olympics was also rejected by the IOC, but the International Ski Federation (FIS) did agree to allow women jumpers to compete at the 2009 Nordic World Ski Championships.

Fifteen female ski jumpers from the United States, Canada, Norway, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia banded together in 2009 to bring suit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee based on the argument that excluding women violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although the judge ruled that their exclusion was discrimination, the decision went against the women because the IOC is not a Canadian body and therefore not bound by the Charter. In April, 2011, however, the IOC agreed to include women’s ski jumping for the 2014 Olympics.

Fittingly, Lindsey Van of Park City who spearheaded the fight for inclusion won that first World Championship in 2009; Sarah Hendrikson of Park City won it in 2013. Ironically, when Van, who has now been jumping for more than 20 years, was rejected for the Vancouver Olympics, she held the world record for anyone, male or female, on the normal hill that would be used for those games.

Last month, I attended the US National Championships (long hill) at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) in Park City. Wait! Last month was August. Ski jumping in August? It drops to the 50s overnight in Park City, but that’s not cold enough for snow!

During the winter, the US team spends a lot of time competing in Europe, so the Nationals typically are held in summer. Ski jumping involves skiing down an “inrun” ramp on long, wide skis to a take off ramp and jumping, trying to land as far as possible down the bottom “slope” or outrun; skiers are scored on distance and style. In the summer, the take off ramp is often made of porcelain and the outrun of a plastic material similar to artificial turf which is kept wet. Skiers claim they use the same technique in summer as in winter. The jumps tend to be longer in the winter, though, as the summer updrafts can impede performance.

This was the sixth consecutive year that the Championships were held at UOP. The site of Nordic ski jumping, bobsled, skeleton, and luge events during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, it boasts the fastest sliding track and highest elevated jumps in the world and is still used as a training venue for athletes. In addition to watching young Olympic hopefuls train year round, visitors can takes rides on the bobsled and skeleton and during the summer, additional activities such as zip line and freestyle aerial shows are available. There is also a museum featuring the history of skiing and highlights of the 2002 Olympics; a recent addition is an exhibit devoted to women’s ski jumping.

Results of the women’s race at this year’s Nationals were Park City’s Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome in third and second place, with Sarah Hendrikson finishing first. This was her second National title; she missed the competition last year due to knee surgery. Jerome is a ten time National champion.

Sarah is a favorite to place in the Sochi Olympics. If she does take gold (or silver for that matter), it will be the first time for any US athlete, male or female, from the US in ski jumping. The first and last bronze medal was won in 1924. Her closest competitor is Sara Takanashi from Japan. My hopes are with Sarah with an h as it would be fitting that someone who fought so hard to be included takes the gold.

In the Olympics, there are two ski jump events; normal hill and long or large hill. Normal hill is 295 feet long, and only individual medals will be awarded. Long hill is 393 feet long and there will be both individual and team medals. The IOC approved the inclusion of women’s ski jumping only on the normal hill. Let’s hope this changes in future games.

The men also competed in the Nationals, with Nick Fairall of Andover, NH taking first; second and third went to fellow New Hampshire athletes Nick Alexander and Chris Lamb. Also participating in this event were four time National Champions Peter Frenette of Saranac Lake, NY and Anders Johnson of Park City.

Canadian ski teams were invited to participate in this event, but could not compete for the US title. A Canadian to watch at Sochi is Calgary’s Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes who set a new record at this competition.

National and World Champion Sarah Hendrikson being interviewed after winning this year’s title at the Nationals.

National and World Champion Sarah Hendrikson being interviewed after winning this year’s title at the Nationals.

Almost 4 years ago, I had the privilege of watching the American Nordic Olympic Ski Team train in Park City for the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver and wrote about it in one of my columns. One of the athletes highlighted was the very personable Billy Demong preparing for his fourth Olympics. Billy went on to be the first American in 86 years to win the gold in Nordic skiing. He won it for Nordic Combined which is a mixture of ski jumping and cross country. He also was selected by his Olympic teammates to hold the US flag in the closing ceremonies, a great honor coming from one’s peers.

Although Billy, who won the first Nationals in 2001, did not earn a place on the podium this year, all attention by press and spectators was on him, a testament to the respect he has earned as an athlete and genuinely good human being.

In December, Olympic trials will be held in Park City with the team of five men and four women to be announced in January. American women have won two of the three World Ski Jumping Championships held since they were allowed to compete. They will be a force with which to be reckoned. “Pioneers” has been a word used in referring to these women and they truly are. Rarely do we have an opportunity to see such determined individuals not only reach their goal but also actively participate and excel in it.

 

UPDATE: I wrote this column right after attending the Nationals. Subsequent to this event, Sarah Hendrikson jumped 148 meters on a long hill training in Oberstdorf, Germany. The men’s Olympic record on a large hill is 144 meters. Unfortunately, during training, she suffered ligament damage to her right knee. On her trip home from Germany to Park City, Sarah tweeted out to her followers “Everything happens for a reason. There is not one thing in this world that will stop me from the dreams that I have dreamt”. Sarah had surgery on her right knee Aug. 30; a full recovery is anticipated, although no timelines have been predicted. Here’s wishing Sarah a speedy recovery.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.


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Top questions II http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/30/top-questions-ii/ http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/2013/07/30/top-questions-ii/#comments Tue, 30 Jul 2013 14:12:45 +0000 http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/?p=33016 SPEAKING OF TRAVEL
Vickie Kelber
vickieonmarco@comcast.net

In discussing top travel questions, the issue of insurance is second to money concerns which were addressed in my last column. Should I buy travel insurance and if so what kind? There are many things to think about as insurance can add 3-15% (or more) to the cost of your trip.

In considering trip cancellation policies, ask yourself how much you are willing to risk if you have to cancel. If you are OK with risking loss of all your prepaid fees, then just think about medical insurance. What if part of a trip has to be cancelled due to weather? Make sure your policy covers “travel delay” and check to see if anything is excluded. Some policies don’t cover volcanic ash because it is considered an “ongoing” problem. Also make sure the insurer will cover your airline/tour/cruise for bankruptcy; sometimes they have a list of risky travel companies they will not cover should they go out of business. Travel insurance not only covers the cost of trip cancellation or delay but the insurance company can also assist you in rebooking or finding accommodations.

Some countries, such as Russia, require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the date of your trip. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Some countries, such as Russia, require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the date of your trip. PHOTOS BY VICKIE KELBER

Make sure the policy covers preexisting conditions; many will if you purchase within a limited time frame after booking. “Cancel for any reason” policies are offered, but they often do not pay 100% reimbursement and some won’t cover if you cancel because of “civil disorder or unrest” where you are going.

Medical insurance is important as Medicare and some major insurance companies won’t cover treatment outside of the US and some that do won’t pay for out of network hospitals or Medevac. Check with your company before investigating more insurance. When purchasing travel medical insurance make sure it is primary. That means that they will pay providers directly. With secondary insurance, your company or you must pay first and then their coverage kicks in; this requires time delay and much more paperwork and annoyance. Look for high limits of coverage and make sure Medevac is included. You can buy plans that just cover medical evacuation.

Be skeptical of the insurance offered by tour/cruise companies and investigate it carefully. Often it will just cover trip cancellation (not delay), doesn’t cover 100%, may offer vouchers for future travel rather than cash reimbursement, and provides secondary medical coverage.

Broker websites that offer comparisons of private insurer policies include insuremytrip.com, tripinsurancestore.com, squaremouth.com, and quotewritght.com

If you do invest in insurance, make sure you pack a written copy of your coverage as well as their 24 hour contact number.

There are a few issues about passports that are important. Some countries require that your passport be valid for the next 6 months before they will permit entry. If you need to renew, allow sufficient time for the process prior to your trip Routine renewal can take up to 6 weeks; expedited up to 3 weeks. If you have an old passport that meets certain conditions such as not more than 15 years old, you can renew by mail. If you don’t meet the criteria or are applying for a first time passport, you must do so in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility such as the one at the Collier County Clerk of Circuit Court, 3301 East Tamiami Trail in Naples. The closest facility for an expedited passport is in Miami. Consult the government’s website http://travel.state.gov/passport for up to date information.

If you will be traveling among a few countries, make sure that you have a sufficient number of blank pages in your passport, one for each country. This may not be a problem but it could be if you meet up with an official who is a “stickler”. Make sure you keep a color copy of your passport in a safe location while traveling and scan a copy and store it in DropBox or some other online “cloud” service. When traveling, unless I am about to pass through a border, I keep my passport in my security pouch or safely tucked in my apartment and just carry a color copy in my purse. That has served me well whenever I have had to show my Passport such as on a train accompanying my rail pass, when using a computer at an internet cafe, or when purchasing a local Sim card for my iPad. It’s also a good idea to travel with extra passport photos; we once needed them to purchase a transportation pass in Budapest.

Concerned about losing your luggage? Technology can provide some assistance. There are services such as i-trak, ReboundTAG, and SuprSmartTag that track luggage via RFID (radio frequency identification microchips) or tracemeluggagetracker via bar code. A brand new offer is TrakDot from GlobaTrac. With Trakdot, you place a device in your luggage and it will send you a text when it arrives at a destination. It uses cellular networks that allow you to track the location via smartphone or Trakdot website.

Delta offers a smartphone app through which you can track your bags via the bag receipt number. Want some low tech assistance? Make sure you place a copy of your itinerary and contact numbers in your suitcase in a prominent place; I pin mine to the inside flap of my bag.

Speaking of technology, I’ve written some columns about using it while traveling but haven’t said much about how to use it safely especially when accessing public WIFI networks which we seem to be doing more and more of with smartphones and tablets. Public networks such as those at airports, hotels, restaurants and coffee shops leave you vulnerable to hacking and siphoning of your passwords. A way to protect your connection is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which creates a secure network within that public one.

There are numerous VPN providers and you can download their apps for your laptop/phone/tablet. Some are free but contain ads and may not be the best as there may be some privacy (not security) issues, such as targeting ads based on your usage. Setting them up on an iPhone or iPad involves going to the Settings>General>VPN. The fees are usually monthly and do not require an annual limit; usually there is a limit on the amount of data based on the fee. Some VPNs offer free trials. Connection to a VPN will show up in a status bar. With some VPNs, you must hook up each time you use the device. A VPN is an inexpensive way to protect your privacy.

About The Author

Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.

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