Thursday, May 24, 2018

Youth and beauty capture the spirit of the ancient university town of Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle peers down at its lovely bridge over the
Nekar River  (wikipedia)

HEIDELBERG, GERMANYHeidelberg, Germany is among the best destinations to visit for travelers seeking youthful, exuberance surrounded by scenery and shrouded in history.

Thanks to the nearly 650-year old Heidelberg University, Germany's oldest institution of higher learning and one of the world's oldest surviving universities, Heidelberg has had a long-standing reputation as one of the most prestigious universities in Europe.  
City of churches
(Zum Ritter Hotel)
Founded by Pope Urban VI in 1386, Heidelberg is a scientific hub in Germany with several famous research facilities, including four Max Planck Institutes.

Combined with its elevated natural setting where the ancient castle overlooks the Neckar River and the Old Stone Bridge, it is difficult to deny the charismatic appeal of Heidelberg.
Philoweg (Philosopher's Walk) is a popular place to stroll and
meditate  (Heidelberg Marketing)
Heidelberg is a favorite tourist destination thanks to its romantic cityscape, historic castle, the Philosopher's Walk (Philosophenweg in German), its baroque architecture and its panoramic views of the Neckar River Valley.

Across the river, on the northern side of the Neckar, is the famed Philospher's Way where tradition has it that Heidelberg's philosophers and university professors stroll and discuss important issues of the day. Marked by forested views of the old town, the river and its castle, this tranquil setting is an ideal place for scholars to lose themselves in thought.
Old Town Bridge view from
the castle (wikipedia)

The Philosopher's Walk is especially appealing in the fall when it is caressed in earth tones of gold, yellow, amber and rust as the season dissolves into winter.

Running the length of the Old Town for approximately a mile is the Hauptstrasse, or Main Street, which is dominated by the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Among the most important architectural Renaissance landmarks north of the Alps, the castle has been partially rebuilt since being demolished in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Initially constructed in the early 13th century, it was later expanded into two castles, but the upper castle was destroyed by lightning in 1537.
Heidelberg Castles dominates the hillside and is always a traveler's favorite (wikipedia)
Among the most popular attractions at the castle is an enormous wine barrel, known as the Heidelberg Tun, a massive wine cask for which the city has long been famous.
Mischievous Perkeo is keeper
of the world's largest wine
barrel (wikipedia)

The eternal keeper of the Tun is the unofficial mascot of Heidelberg named Perkeo. The dwarf became famous as a wine drinker of epic proportions. Once a court jester, Perkeo has been linked with a multitude of festivals, songs and cultural institutions as well as hotels and restaurants since the first half of the 18th century.

Heidelberg has been famous for its gargantuan barrels since 1591. Fass, the current Tun, is the fourth in the history of the city, this one dating to 1751.

Mark Twain even wrote about Perkeo's cask in 1880 in "A Tramp Abroad":

"Everybody has heard of the great Heidelberg Tun, and most people have seen it, no doubt. It is a wine-cask as big as a cottage, and some traditions say it holds eighteen thousand bottles, and other traditions say it holds eighteen hundred million barrels. I think it likely that one of these statements is a mistake, and the other is a lie. However, the mere matter of capacity is a thing of no sort of consequence, since the cask is empty, and indeed has always been empty, history says. An empty cask the size of a cathedral could excite but little emotion in me."
Karl Theodor Bridge (Old Town Bridge) spans the Nekar
Today, the Karl Theodor Bridge, better known among locals as the Old Town Bridge, is the ninth to span the Neckar River. As one of the most famous and important landmarks in Heidelberg, the first bridge was constructed of wood before later being rebuilt out of stone around the year 200.

When the Roman stone bridge collapsed, Heidelberg did without a pedestrian crossing for nearly a thousand years until 1254 when the new bridge, built on the site of the modern day structure, was directly aligned with the local market.

The current bridge has been standing on the site for approximately 250 years, although the south gate closest to the city, traces its history back to the Middle Ages.
Zum Ritter St. Georg has been welcoming guests since 1592
(Hotel Ritter Heidelberg

Just opposite the Town Hall sits the magnificent Zum Ritter St. Georg which has attracted visitors since 1592. Except for Heidelberg Castle, the Zum Ritter is the most photographed site in the city.

As one of the few buildings to survive the War of Succession, the Zum Ritter is today an elegant yet rustic hotel located in the heart of the city.
Interior of the Zum Ritter
(Hotel Ritter Heidelberg)

No historic university town would be without structures that have been converted into contemporary facilities. Heidelberg's Marstall, otherwise known as "Stables" in English, is just such a place. The 16th century building serves today as a cafeteria for the university.

As we said at the beginning, Heidelberg is a medieval city with a 21st century atmosphere nd that's part of the magic. Filled with pubs, cafes, museums and captivating restaurants.

You see, Heidelberg is just good old fashioned fun.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Travel to the last frontier on Earth with Chimu Adventures

In Antarctica, the thing to do is to go with the floe
(Chad Carey --
East Antarctica — Avid travelers are forever seeking that "ultimate" destination to complete their wanderlust resume. Now Chimu Adventures is offering an itinerary that takes visitors to the most remote destination on the planet with an expedition that embraces a world of weather, wildlife, scenery and history on an expedition to rarely visited Commonwealth Bay.

As the only cruise in 2018 departing for this region from Australia, the journey sets its course from Hobart on December 10 aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy concluding 28 days later in Invercargill, New Zealand.

Chimu's ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy is your Antarctica home
(Chad Corey -- 
Combined with a capacity for less than 50 passengers and the singular sailing, it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that only a few travelers, regardless of how experienced, will be able to claim for their bucket list.

During the course of the journey guests will witness a variety of species of penguins, no less than 13 breeds of mammals, brave temperatures over 20-below zero and cross the Antarctic Circle more than six times.

Penguins put on a show
(Chad Corey --
Chimu Adventures is an Australian tour operator that has been offering flexible guaranteed itineraries to Latin America as well as cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic since 2004. The company caters to clients of all ages with memberships in several distinguished tour operating organizations.

To provide a sense of just how remote East Antarctica is, Commonwealth Bay is located about 1,700 miles south of Hobart and requires 11 days of sailing on the Southern Ocean through a region known as the "Roaring Forties."

From 1911 to 1913, Sir Douglas Mawson and his team built what is known as Mawson'sHuts during a challenging Australasian Antarctic expedition. Historically the Mawson Huts are among the Australia's most significant accomplishments, surviving for more than a century under  the most extreme Antarctic weather conditions imaginable.

Penguin convention at Sandy Bay
(Chad Corey --
As a comparison, more people have climbed Mount Everest than have stepped inside the Mawson Huts. During the past six years, less than 300 tourists have traveled to Commonwealth Bay.

Access to the huts is limited due to the need for specific conditions to be met that allow exploration. Chimu founder Chad Carey emphasizes however, that it does not detract from the experience if travelers do not reach them.
It's a whale of a tour

 Carey strongly states, "You never know until you get there what the forces in Antarctica are going to dish up and this is what makes the travel style so exciting."

Setting foot in the huts isn't guaranteed but the December 2018 expedition hopes to maximize its chances by extending the itinerary to 28 days with extra time in Commonwealth Bay.

Past attempts to visit the huts have been hampered by a massive iceberg which has blocked the entrance to Commonwealth Bay for quite some time. Measuring 87 miles in length by 31 miles in width, recent access to the huts  has been impossible for visitors.

Last year, Chimu's expedition came within four-tenths of a nautical mile of the huts, however they did sight the Memorial Cross and some of the buildings.
It's not all ice and snow, flowers adorn Campbell Island
(Chad Corey --

In 1912, the last members of Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the area were discovered by a search party led by Edward L. Atkinson. The Atkinson party was able to take pictures and locate specimens of the group, but due to heavy accumulations of snow and ice, they were unable to locate the camp site.

In 2001, glaciologist Charles Bentley estimated that Scott's team was buried under 75 feet of ice that was located about 30 miles from the original site. After some quick calculations, Bentley determined the bodies would reach the Ross Sea in approximately 275 years and then be carried away inside an iceberg.

Memorial Cross on Observation Hill  (wikipedia)

The Memorial Cross, a nine-foot wooden structure inscribed with the names of Scott's party and the final line from "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson ("To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."), was erected in 1913 on the summit of Observation Hill. The cross overlooks the Ross ice shelf where the Scott expedition perished.

Depending upon conditions, Chimu's 2018 itinerary will  explore Macquarie Island which is home to millions of penguins including King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and endemic Royal species; the French Antarctic Research Base of Dumont D'urville and its nearby Emperor penguin colony; New Zealand's Sub Antarctic territory of Campbell Island; the Auckland Islands with its Shy Albatross and sea lion varieties; and the abundant nesting seabirds of The Snares before disembarking in Invercargill, New Zealand.

Penguin parade at Commonwealth Bay
(Chad Corey --

Carey continues, "The past few years that Chimu has sailed to these remote areas and the sights we have witnessed have always been such an adventure, regardless of the conditions."

For more information contact Frances Armitage at Chimu Adventures.

Chimu Adventures' cruise to Commonwealth Bay is like exploring the last frontier on the planet. Proof positive that men really do enjoy taking charge of the "remote."

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hvittrask: Home of Finland's architectural genius

Hvittrask was the studio/residence of three great Finnish
architects  (

Kirkkonummi, Finland — Not only is Hvittrask in Finland difficult to pronounce,  but it also takes a little effort to reach it. Once there however, the visit is worth the adventure with the added benefit of getting some exercise by walking through the Finnish countryside.

Hvittrask was once the home of the pioneering Finnish architects and partners Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren and Eeliel Saarinen with Saarinen being the best known of the three.
Eeliel Saarinen

Situated approximately 18 miles outside of Helsinki, the Hvittrask complex was constructed in the Finnish version of art nouveau architecture later christened as "Finnish National Romantism." Incorporating the British Gothic Revival, Finnish wooden architecture and Jugendstil, a German art nouveau style meaning "Youth Style" that was Saarinen's early  form of architecture, Finnish National Romanticism culminated in his 1904 design of the Helsinki Central railway station.

The project was not constructed until 1910 through 1914, however.

Helsinki's central railway station was designed by Eeliel Saarinen

Taking some of its inspiration from medieval castles, the studio/residence at Hvittrask capitalized upon the necessary elements for architectural creativity, not the least of which was an understanding of light and the role it plays in design.

Eeliel Saarinen's first major achievement for his firm put him on the architectural map with the construction of the Finnish pavilion at the World Fair in Paris in 1900.

Finns are known for their
craftsmanship (

Finland is a country filled with creative genius in virtually every artistic discipline. Whether the six months of bitter cold and darkness contribute to the inspirational magic that emanates from the tiny Scandinavian country is debatable, but travelers are often surprised at the superb quality of Finnish architecture, arts and crafts, performance art, music and contemporary design.

If nothing else, Hvittrask is the quintessential example of the creative talents of the Finnish people.
Gateway Arch in St. Louis was designed by Eero Saarinen, Eliel's
son (
Eeliel Saarinen was the father of Eero Saarinen who is perhaps most famous to Americans for designing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

From 1896 to 1905, Eeliel worked as a partner in the architectural firm of  Gesellius, Lindgren and Saarinen. It was during this time the three designers decided to build a home just outside Helsinki where they could concentrate on their work in a creative atmosphere conducive exclusively to the requirements of their craft.
Three architects lived at Hvittrask in the early 1900s
Construction on Hvittrask began in 1902, and though the three men and their families did not occupy the site for very long, it provided a haven for their work that has long since been turned into a fascinating museum.

Nestled on a hillside overlooking Lake Vittrask, the home has stunning views of the surrounding forests and lake that offer access to the deeply passionate love of nature so typical of the Finnish character. Hvittrask translates to mean "white lake" in English, and it is within this setting the three men derived much of their inspiration for a brief period in their lives.
Ainola, home of Jean Sibelius

Much like Ainola, the forested home of Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius, Hvittrask provided the same seclusion and peaceful surroundings that are so conducive to the creative process.

Unlike Ainola however, Hvittrask does require a bit of effort to reach unless visitors are able to access it by car. Otherwise, to get there, a visitor must take a train to Luoma and then walk about a half-mile through the countryside to the site. Be forewarned, Luoma will not remind you of Grand Central Station, so be alert not to miss it.

As one would expect at a place occupied by three architects, everything at Hvittrask is designed to enhance the needs of their art. Pay particular attention to the detail of the furnishings in the living areas as well as the studio itself, the windows are huge and slanted to maximize the ambient light. Art nouveau lovers will be especially enthralled by the detailing of the property combined with its clever use of space.
The Lutheran Cathedral in Helsinki is impressive when visitors
arrive from the sea  (wikipedia)

Beginning each May, Hvittrask is open to visitors only during the summer and months of early fall, but it is a site where weather patterns and seasons create a variety of  moody atmospheres through its shadows and silhouettes thanks to its changeable light and colors.

Lest you think Hvittrask was once the home of three stuffy architects and their wives, consider that the intimate proximity of trio of families led to some interesting marital arrangements including two of the partners actually exchanging wives.
Aalto Vases are a favorite Finnish
design  (wikimedia)

That is to say, not wife swapping, but wife changing which most certainly must have led to unique family gatherings during the holidays.

Today the property also features a small cafe and gift shop set amid the tranquility of Finnish woodlands and lakes.

Entrance to Eeliel Saarinen's central rail station in downtown
Helsinki  (

Travelers with a spirit  of adventure who enjoy a brief stroll in the countryside will find their ultimate destination at Hvittrask to be a view into the past by men who gazed into the future.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Greenville, SC welcomes spring with Artisphere

Artisphere is Greenville, SC's annual tribute to spring

GREENVILLE, SC — For three days each May, Greenville, SC blossoms with its annual tribute to spring known as "Artisphere."

Artisphere is an event that allows art patrons an opportunity to meet exhibiting artists up-close-and personal and to purchase original works of art in a lively festive atmosphere that celebrates the hibernation of Old Man Winter.

Crafty ladies
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
More than 600 volunteers turn the city of Greenville into a "state-of-the-arts" happening featuring over 250 artists from around the world who represent 17 different mediums.

Now in its 14th year, Greenville's Artisphere features 135 national artists who exhibit along the pop up "Artist's Row" on Main Street as well as live music and art performances throughout the weekend. Rounding out the festivities are hands-on educational events and artistic demonstrations.
Crowds flock to Greenville each spring for music, food, art and, most of all just plain fun  (Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
Not to be overlooked are the culinary delights, which are an art form all their own. This is no food-truck frenzy but rather a chance to sample a taste of the New South with offerings from some of Greenville's most popular dining emporiums; Bacon Brother's Public House, Larkin's on the River, Barley's, The Trappe Door, Cantina 76 and more.

Among the delectable favorites that can be consumed in the "Culinary Arts Cafe" are Sriracha Mac & Cheese, Pimento Cheese short rib sliders, Mussels Mariniere, Ceviche, Pulled Pork, craft pizza and tacos to mention a few.

Just to ensure that festival patrons get the absolute best food possible, there's a "Best in Show" competition among the restaurants that guarantees a year's worth of bragging rights to the winner.
Spring in Greenville is pure fun
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)

Add in the wine and craft beer tasting tent to compliment the culinary treats and it's hardly "a tough act to swallow."

From May 11-13 visitors enjoy no less than 20 musical acts, theatrical and dance performances, chalk artists and even glass blowing demonstrations.

In addition, there is a special area just for children known as "Kidsphere" with a Draw It Yourself art lab, a local "Artists of the Upstate" exhibition and, of course, Artist's Row.
Artisphere is an opportunity to meet artists face-to-face
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
Greenville's Artisphere typically precedes Charleston's Spoleto Festival, the largest and oldest performing arts jubilee in South Carolina. Envisioned by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who wanted to establish an American sister to his successful music festival in Milan, Italy, Spoleto began in 1977 amid financial and political turmoil.

Unlike Spoleto, Artisphere encompasses many more varied artistic disciplines in a shorter period time, giving it greater accessiblity than her artistic counterpart.

Better yet, and best of all, Artisphere is FREE!
Falls Park on the Reedy River is a great example of
Greenville's renaissance  (Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)

Greenville, the sixth largest city in South Carolina, is situated on land that was once a Cherokee hunting ground that was closed to colonists for most of the 1700's.

Around 1770, Richard Pearis, an Indian trader from Virginia who was living with a Cherokee chief's daughter, received a gift of roughly 100,000 acres of hunting lands from the tribe.

Within six years, the American Revolution erupted with fierce fighting between the Tories and Patriots in the back country of which Greenville is a part. Pearis fought valiantly with the Tories and their Cherokee allies and, in the process, his plantation was burned to the ground while he was briefly in prison in Charleston.

Thy rod and they staff they
comfort me
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
By 1786, the state legislature formed Greenville County. Originally spelled "Greeneville" because it was named after Gen. Nathanael Greene, a hero of the American southern campaign, the new state of South Carolina claimed the Cherokee territory and began to distribute it to the Patriots who had fought during the war.

In recent years, Greenville has undergone a renaissance, morphing from an oversized southern town to a vibrant, enthusiastic, youthful mid-sized city. As home to Furman University and a Class A Boston Red Sox minor league franchise complete with its own version of Fenway Park, the face of Greenville, SC has changed dramatically during the past half century.
Greenville jumps into spring with surround-sound music
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
Centrally located within easy access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Atlanta, Charlotte and Asheville, NC, Greenville is a perfect spot to discover a captivating contemporary city with an eye toward the future, a place to enjoy the art, music, crafts, food and fun of Artisphere and a great base for day trips to surrounding areas.

By the way, if you happen to miss Artisphere, or don't get enough fun in the spring, Fall for Greenville celebrates the color season as well with similar enthusiasm.
Greenville throws itself into the arts scene every spring
(Courtesy: VisitGreenvilleSC)
Thanks to the spirit of its people and the delightful atmosphere of Artisphere, Greenville's arts festival is a glorious way to experience the balmy breezes amid sun drenched rites of spring.