Flower Pictures in Tuscany

It’s springtime in Tuscany, early May. Arriving at Pisa airport the air smells different, dryer, lighter, brighter with the alluring waft of some flower scent, even amid the concrete hustle and bustle common to airports everywhere. I’m travelling light, or as light as you can get when your camera bag is your hand luggage and you couldn’t quite leave the tripod behind. Not when the mission is a whistle-stop orchid extravaganza, to try and photograph as many different sorts of orchid as we can find, in under a week.Heading off in a hire car, we leave Pisa behind and take to the hills, a winding, twisting, and convoluted back road towards Siena. The air is fresher and the hint of flowers strengthens until we are overwhelmed by the honeyed scent of broom, pouring in through the car windows. Every which way you look there is a picture postcard scene, comprising the essential props of a Tuscan photo – cypress trees, warm brick farmhouse and stone church, with gently curving green hills behind. Is it possible to take a bad photograph in Tuscany? Well yes it is. If I give in to temptation and snap every tempting vista, I’m going to find the bright midday light turns everything to dull monochrome, flattens the colours and wastes all my film before I’ve even started on the orchids. I’ll have to note the best views and try to come back in early morning or evening light, when it all magically turns golden and lucid.We know where we are heading – south of Siena some friends have been walking through veritable meadows filled with orchids. The challenge will be to find those places by car, along the strada bianca (dirt roads) that crisscross the countryside. The other challenge is reaching our destination, when every few yards we spot a flower spike on the roadside and have to screech to a halt to identify it. Fresh from England any orchid at all is a rarity, but after an hour we are already blasé and we no longer stop for ‘just another spotted orchid’.The next day we are up bright and early at our first spot on the lower slopes of Monte Amiata. There is an open clearing surrounded by stunted oak trees and bingo – a lavish sprinkling of bee orchids, my favourites, with their furry lip that looks just like a bumble bee. Now the advantage of early morning light and sparkling dewdrops is offset by the fact that I’ll have to lie down in the damp grass to get a good angle. Remember to bring a waterproof next time. I should use a tripod, but first I’m looking through the camera to choose the finest specimens and best setting. Some I need to trim the grass around, either with nail scissors or by gentle flattening down. A wide aperture will take care of the background but I don’t want any blurring of grass waving in the foreground. Sort out tripod, get light reading and bracket, bracket, bracket.These are pre-digital days, I’m using tranny and colour saturation has to be spot on, so to be safe I’ll do five half-stop brackets. I can’t reshoot from back home once I’ve processed it all and seen the results. This also means I have to be selective, I’ll only get six shots to a roll of film, so just the best flowers and best angles.Moving across the clearing, as the light strengthens, I find a fly orchid, this time impersonating a bluebottle fly, not as pretty as the bee orchid but striking, then setting up for that shot I nearly tread on a fragrant orchid, delicate pink flowers. I have to be quick now before the light gets too harsh and contrasty. Three in the bag and it’s off to a bar to get a second breakfast of cappuccino and brioche. The film is safe in a cool box – hot cars at midday don’t do much for it! The middle of the day is for scouting the evening’s shoot, then lunch and a siesta. The light won’t be good again until about 5 o’clock, but we have to be in the right place by then to make the most of it. So it’s driving the back roads again between Buonconvento and Casciano di Murlo.Over the next few days we cross off our list the green-winged orchis, pyramidal orchid, lady orchid, the monkey orchid with its long tail, a man orchid – not so easy to spot with its greeny-yellow colouring, but now we’ve got our eye in the orchid shape leaps at us from all sides. A lot of these orchids are also supposed to be common in Britain but I’ve never seen any of them there, here in Italy they’re everywhere – must be something to do with farming methods, pesticides and all the rest. Here there are a lot of small-scale farmers, subsistence farming is dying out but huge commercial agricultural companies haven’t taken over. There are also a lot of woodland and unfarmable hilly slopes. Orchids on the roadsides though, that’s just showing off!At the end of the week it’s back to Pisa, hand in the hire car, just slightly dented from overly-steep off-road experiences, and try to persuade the security people to hand search the film bag rather than X-ray it, which could fog the film. They promise that their machine is so modern and foolproof that you can put film through safely but I’m not taking any chances and eventually they agree. So only one more hurdle to go, the lab back home, processing and seeing what I’ve got – that heart stopping moment before opening the envelope, the huge sigh of relief when you see images on the film, then examining each one carefully and remembering the scent of the Italian countryside in springtime.Copyright 2005 Kit Heathcock

Orange County California

Orange County is a county located in Southern California, U.S.A. With a current estimated population of three million, it has the second most people for any county in the state of California, and has the fifth most people for any county in all of the Unites States. Known for its wealth and political conservatism, the county, in actual reality is neither as consistently wealthy or as politically conservative as the stereotypical image it has gained suggests. Famous for tourism, Orange County is home to Disneyland as well as miles upon miles of sandy beaches. Orange County is located right at the center of Southern California’s Tech Coast.Despite its massive population, Orange County has a total area of 2,455 km² which makes it the smallest county in all of Southern California. Four Hundred and Eleven of those square kilometers are also made up of water. The county is bordered on the north by Los Angeles County, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by Riverside County, on the northeast by San Bernardino County, and on the south by San Diego County. The most northern part of the county sits on the coastal plains of the Los Angeles Basin. The southern half sits on the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.The majority of the population of Orange County reside in one of two shallow coastal valleys that are in the basin. These two shallow coastal basins are: the Santa Ana Valley and the Saddleback Valley.The cities in Orange County are connected by a network of freeways. Residents of Orange County typically call these freeways by their route number rather than their formal name. One of the most important Orange County roadways is the Santa Ana Freeway, or Interstate 5, which runs north-south bisecting the length of the county. It is so important as it connects with another key north-south road, the San Diego Freeway. Orange County is often divided into “North County” and “South County” by the residents. This idea is opposed to an East-West ision characterized by coastal and inland cities. There is no actual geographical division of North and South County.

World Travel

There are many places in the world to visit. One of the most exciting places for world travel is New York City. World travel is not World travel until you have visited New York City.People who have traveled the world have reason to love New York City. This amazing city shows up time and time again on lists of most popular world travel destinations.New York City has something to offer everyone. Start with the sights. You could spend weeks seeing all the interesting buildings, museums and monuments. There are wonderful sight-seeing packages that make seeing the sights easy to do.There are many parts of the city to explore. You will see diverse cultures and find interesting and unique shops. Most areas of the city are easily reached with public transportation.The shopping in New York City is quite extraordinary. You can gaze at some of the most expensive jewelry and clothing in the world and you can also find reasonably priced items in many of the shops and boutiques. If you enjoy food, you will love New York City. There are stores that offer every kind of food imaginable. Look for spices, coffee, tea, meats, cheeses and chocolate. Many of the stores will ship your items home.You will also find unbelievable dining possibilities. Any kind of food you wish to eat can be found in New York City. From the hotdog carts on the sidewalks to the first class restaurants, dining in New York City is a treat.Last but not least are the musical and dramatic experiences. Excellent Broadway and off-Broadway productions abound. You can always find a wonderful musical venue in New York City.World travel is not complete until you visit New York City.I am the source.

Hawaii Arts Season

Hula, danced beachside while tiki torches are lit by an athletic Hawaiian boy and a tenor sings Lovely Hula Hands at sunset. Galleries filled with carved tiki figures and predictable watercolor paintings of reef fish or plumeria blossoms. Think this is all you can expect from the arts in Hawaii? If so, you have a real treat in store. What Honolulu and the other islands have to offer is a thriving, exciting, and diverse arts community. There is something for everyone and many things that are totally unexpected.The inaugural “Hawaii Arts Season” has been set for February 27 to May 2, 2004. But, in reality the “arts season” in the islands is year round. The 2004 “Season,” supported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and promoted by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, is a tenweek period packed with a diverse selection of art and cultural events. The goal is to etch Hawaii Opera Theatre, the Honolulu Symphony, world-class art museums, multi-ethnic cultural festivals, Broadway-quality productions, internationally acclaimed film festivals, and the many hidden gems firmly into the minds of lovers of the arts. Sun, sand, surf in Hawaii are the best. Add the arts and you have a truly cosmopolitan destination.Performing ArtsAs Diamond Head Theatre heads into its 90th year of continuous operation (Swing!), Army Community Theater (Kiss Me Kate) has another great season, and Manoa Valley Theater (Copacabana) also continues sold out shows, it is a sure bet that you can catch great musicals, comedies and drama on one Honolulu stage or another, any weekend. The lure of warmth and sunshine brings many Broadway performers and directors to do shows in the islands. Other theater companies, like Honolulu Theater For Youth, The Actors Group at the Yellow Brick Studio and TShirt Theatre, produce high quality, innovative, original and traditional shows. In addition to the regular theater locations, productions are frequently offered in art galleries and museums, college stages, churches, schools and even outdoor street venues. A do not-miss is The Arts at Marks Garage, right in the heart of Honolulu China Town, where performance art and fine art are a regular combination. The 40-page TGIF section of the Friday newspaper has complete listings for all shows, including numerous free public performances. Each neighbor island has one or more theater companies.The “official” Arts Season opens, February 27, with the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s “Merry Widow.” In March the Honolulu Symphonys Masters Series hosts master flutist Sir James Galway. In April, at the Polynesian Cultural Center Amphitheater, audiences will be enthralled by the Whakataetae Maori Song and Dance Competition. On May First, “Lei Day” in the islands, the Waikiki Shell blossoms with the annual lei making competition and the 25th-plus year performance of the Brothers Cazimero classic Hawaiian music concert.Every Sunday, at 2 p.m. Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse offers a showcase of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian entertainers in a free concert. Another great spot for entertaiment are the Sunday concerts at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand at the base of Diamond Head in Waikiki. The hundred-plus year old Royal Hawaiian Band plays and hula groups dance, often ollowed by a variety of multiethnic cultural performances.With exceptional performance venues like the Waikiki Shell, the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall, the historic Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu, and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center available, the entire state hosts productions by some of the worlds best performing arts companies and performers. Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, the African world music legend Baaba Maal, the Colorado String Quartet, Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, and the CHI Chinese Circus are on the calendar for spring of 2004.

Dunnottar Castle in Pictures – Stronghold of the Scottish Crown Jewels

Dunnottar Castle has the most impressive location of any castle in Scotland. Surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs , the castle was virtually impregnable. It is 2 miles south of Stonehaven and about 15 miles from Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland. The tower house was built at the end of the 14th century by Sir William Keith. Great Marischal of Scotland. Other buildings were added later on by the fifth Earl Marischal, including a retainers’ barracks, a chapel, priest’s house. stables and a graveyard. William Wallace captured the castle during the Wars of Independence. English troops occupied a stockade on the rock in 1297, but it was captured by William Wallace, who burned the church and the English garrison inside. Later on. at the start of the 14th century. English soldiers recaptured the rock which was burned in 1336. David II then gave the rock to William, Earl of Sutherland, so he could build a castle.Dunnottar came into the possession of Sir William Keith-Marischal at the end of the 14th century. He soon began construction of a fortalice. the keep and other early structures that still exist. William was excommunicated by the Bishop of St. Andrews for building a castle on “sacred soil”, and later reinstated for a price. Over the years Dunnottar became a major Scottish stronghold. King James IV was lavishly entertained there in 1504. Queen Mary visited after the battle of Corrichie in 1562, and again in 1564. James VI stayed at the castle on several occasions, and held a Privy Council there. King Charles II stayed at Dunnottar several times, during wars with England, and deposited the regalia of Scotland for safe keeping. John Keith, youngest son of the Earl, became responsible for these items as Cromwell’s English neared the rock. They were smuggled out of the castle hidden in the skirts of a female visitor to the castrle ans hiden under the bed of a local minister. In May of 1652, Dunnottar, under siege, remained the last of Scotland’s strongholds still flying the flag. John Keith was generouslyy rewarded by King Charles.Dunnottar was also notorious from its use as a state prison. In 1685 it housed 167 men and women kept in a dark cellar. located under the Earl’s bedrooms, was later called the “Whig’s Vault”. A memorial to the dead (later erected in the courtyard) is. Other prisoners included a James Keith who escaped (in 1629). Accused Jacobites from Aberdeen of the late 1600’s, such as George Liddel, professor of Mathematics from Marischal College, were brought to Dunnottar’s dungeons. It all ended after the Stewart failure in 1716. The York Buildings Company bought the castle and stripped it. and sold its roofs, floors and everything of value inside it. The 9th Earl Marischal regained possession of the castle. he never visited it or made any attempt to rebuild it.In 1766 Alexander Keith bought it but did nothing with the buildings. In 1925 some restoration was arranged by Lady Cowdray. The castle is is a ruin. albeit a spectacular one.

10 Wonders of the World

We are all curious about the Wonders of the World

except my friend, Roger Fundab, who isn’t interested in anything but hunting and fishing.I’ve tried to get Roger interested by sending him to: [http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/other.html] where all of the wonders are listed as I’ve shown below.At: [http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/other.html] you can click on any of these wonders and learn what there is to know about them. I’ll leave that process up to you.Roger said he had no interest in Wonders, yet I learned that he

actually has his own list tacked to the wall above his bunk at the Drake Lake Advanced Hunters Club. I’ve added it to the end of the Official Wonder Lists.Forgotten Wonders: Abu Simbel Temple in EgyptAngkor Wat in CambodiaThe Aztec Temple in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), MexicoThe Banaue Rice Terraces in the PhilippinesBorobudur Temple in IndonesiaThe Colosseum in Rome, ItalyThe Great Wall of ChinaThe Inca city of Machu Picchu, PeruThe Leaning Tower of Pisa, ItalyThe Mayan Temples of Tikal in Northern GuatemalaThe Moai Statues in Rapa Nui (Easter Island), ChileMont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, FranceThe Throne Hall of Persepolis in IranThe Parthenon in Athens, GreecePetra, the rock-carved city in JordanThe Shwedagon Pagoda in MyanmarStonehenge in EnglandTaj Mahal in Agra, IndiaThe Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque, MexicoModern WondersThe Channel TunnelThe Clock Tower (Big Ben) in London, EnglandThe CN Tower in Toronto, CanadaEiffel Tower in Paris, FranceThe Empire State Building in New York City, USAThe Gateway Arch in St. Louis, USAThe Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USAThe High Dam in Aswan, EgyptHoover Dam in Arizona/Nevada, USAItaipú Dam in Brazil/ParaguayMount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, USAThe Panama CanalThe Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaThe Statue of Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilThe Statue of Liberty in New York City, USAThe Suez Canal in EgyptThe Sydney Opera House in AustraliaNatural WondersAngel Falls in VenezuelaThe Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, CanadaThe Grand Canyon in Arizona, USAThe Great Barrier Reef in AustraliaIguaçú Falls in Brazil/ArgentinaKrakatoa Island in IndonesiaMount Everest in NepalMount Fuji in JapanMount Kilimanjaro in TanzaniaNiagara Falls in Ontario (Canada) and New York State (USA)Paricutin Volcano in MexicoVictoria Falls in Zambia/ZimbabweRoger Fundab’s ListThe Blue Skies of MontanaThe Great LakesMarilyn MonroeThe Flowers in Sage Brush Canyon in the TetonsJoe MontanaJohn F. KennedyCabelasWall Drug Store in South DakotaThe Corn Palace in NebraskaThe Drake Lake Advanced Hunters ClubCopyright©John T. Jones, Ph.D. 2005

Hookah Bars: The Next Big Thing?

You’ve probably seen a hookah. Most children who grew up in the United States have almost certainly seen a hookah. But, like most people, you’ve likely forgotten what one looks like and what they’re used for. Think back. Recall the tale of a girl named Alice who seemingly stranded in a strange, imaginative world. In Lewis Carroll’s story, Alice in Wonderland, Alice stumbles upon an arrogant and inquisitive caterpillar. Perched atop a giant mushroom, and smoking what appears to be a strange musical instrument, the caterpillar asks Alice a quite memorable question– “Who are YOU?” The musical instrument is not really a musical instrument at all. It is, in fact, a hookah and this hookah-smoking caterpillar is how most children get their first glimpse of this curiously strange smoking device.When Lewis Carroll wrote the story of Alice in 1865, hookahs had been in existence and in use for several centuries. Though never really popular in European countries, the hookah was and is still very popular in Eastern cultures like Egypt and India. So, how is it that this mysterious thing called hookah has never seen its day in Europe or, in more recent times, the United States? Perhaps the time is upon us!In the past, cigars have been the ‘gourmet smoke’ for those wishing to break out of the conventional, cigarette-smoking mold. Crafted from higher-grade tobaccos and hand-rolled in exotic lands, cigars have become a true contender to the additive-infused cigarettes of modern day. Cigars have become so popular, in fact, that they have cropped up an entire industry that is based around their existence. Cigar and specialty tobacco shops are evidence of the profit to be made from selling tobacco in a different form factor than that of the cigarette. In addition to cigar shops, cigar bars have proven that smoking-tailored establishments can be both socially-acceptable and huge profit centers for their owners. It is society’s acceptance of the cigar bar that makes hookah bars and hookah cafes a possibility!There is no doubt that the tobacco industry has seen better days and, from the aftermath of the Big Tobacco lawsuits, it’s a wonder that these companies are still around. Did you know that there are over 600 legally-allowed additives that tobacco companies can add to their cigarettes? That’s an amazing cocktail of chemicals that cigarette smokers are putting into their bodies every time they choose to light up! In comparison, today’s hookah tobacco, commonly referred to as shisha (pronounced: shee-shuh), is comprised only of a handful of natural ingredients. These ingredients are typically tobacco, all-natural glycerin or honey, sugar and natural flavorings. That’s 596 additives short of what could be in a normal, run-of-the-pack cigarette! It’s facts like these that bring most people to believe that hookah smoking is a less-harmful alternative to smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, no major study has been performed to evaluate the health effects of smoking hookah. So, we’ll have to wait for a definitive answer to that question.When the Turkish invented the hookah centuries ago, they did so with one goal in mind. Up to that time, tobacco had been smoked in pipes that are reminiscent of American Indian peace pipes. When smoking from these pipes, the smoke was at a temperature very close to the burning tobacco itself. Someone came up with the idea of filtering the smoke through water to cool the smoke to an enjoyable temperature. The simplicity of the hookah made it an instant hit and has been a major reason why hookahs are still prevalent in so many Eastern cultures. Though not originally planned when the hookah was invented, the water that the smoke passes through actually acts as a natural filter that helps filter tar and other impurities created when tobacco is smoked. Many years after the hookah was invented, someone would accidentally drop their tobacco into some molasses, thus paving the way for modern hookah shisha. It was the addition of molasses, now substituted by all-natural glycerin, which slowed the rate at which the tobacco burned and actually made it possible to heat the tobacco rather than burning it. Heating tobacco results in greater flavor potential and lowers the amount of nicotine that is released while smoking.The hookahs of today, while being modernized and updated, have remained true to their creator’s initial goal. Traditionally made of glass and brass, hookahs are now being produced of materials such as acrylic, crystal and steel. Also, the once hand-crafted art has transformed into a full-blown industry that is selling record numbers of hookahs. Hookah shisha has come of age, as well. Production of hookah shisha is at an all-time high and major manufacturers are creating more and more flavors to be consumed by customers worldwide. Flavors include everything from fruity apples and oranges to regional favorites like bubble gum and vanilla. In all, there are more than 50 different flavors to choose from and more are being added all the time. The precise mixture of ingredients has also yielded a tobacco with flavor that lasts longer. In fact, one person can smoke can smoke a bowl of tobacco for nearly an hour without having to change the tobacco.A small number of entrepreneurs have recognized the potential of the hookah and have begun to open bars and cafes that are specifically-tailored toward the rental and sales of hookahs. In just a short period of time, they’ve proven that there is some serious money to be made in the hookah service industry for those willing to venture into seemingly unchartered territories. Most surprising is the low initial investment required to open a hookah establishment. For most locations, as little as 10 to 15 hookahs per 1,000 square feet of customer seating area is sufficient and will virtually guarantee that there are enough hookahs to go around. When purchased in larger lots, the cost of each hookah can run anywhere from $20 to $80 dollars and some wholesalers will even provide the hookahs for free if the bar or cafe agrees to purchase their hookah tobacco from the company. Rental fees for hookahs run anywhere from $10 in a hookah cafe to $25 in hookah bars! Of course, the rental plan is entirely up to the business owner and usually includes a single bowl of hookah shisha to smoke. Lower-priced refills of hookah tobacco encourage customers to stick around and socialize in the intimate environment. Most customers do not smoke by themselves, opting instead for groups of 3 to 4 people. This will reduce the longevity of each bowl of tobacco and increase the number of refills purchased by each group.Before you can begin renting hookahs, you must first check with local, state and federal governments to ensure that you will not be breaking any laws or regulations. For most areas, a tobacco sales tax permit or license is all that is required to begin renting hookahs. Of course, this is supplemental to the typical state sales tax permit or license. You will also need to check local zoning requirements and determine the best location for your bar or cafe. There are a number of wholesalers available to get your cafe or bar up and running in the shortest amount of time possible. It is recommended that you opt for customer service and support over pennies saved, as it is often difficult to find companies that are in-tune with the American way of doing business.In addition to hookahs, you will need to choose between a bar or cafe concept. Cafes are generally easier to open and require a minimal amount of additional capital. The largest expenditure will be the espresso machine and this will run anywhere from $2,000 to $14,000 depending upon the brand, model and, if used, the age of the machine. If you plan the cafe route, it is recommended that you pick up a copy of “Start and Run a Coffee Bar” (Matzen & Harrison, Self Counsel Press 2002). Although not hookah-oriented, it’s filled with the ins-and-outs of running a cafe and what is required to operate all of the various cafe machines. If you want to open a hookah bar that serves alcoholic beverages, it is definitely recommended that you open near a college or university campus. This will give you a steady flow of new, fresh bodies that will save your bar from going stale with the locals. The hookah bar concept, when coupled with college towns, has proven to be the most successful and profitable hookah business ventures. There are, of course, caveats to opening a bar of any type. You will have to cut through significantly more ‘red tape’ but the payoff should definitely be worth the time and effort. Hookah bars are one of the fastest growing concepts for college towns and offer a fresh, new environment for 20-somethings to hang out.As you can see, hookahs have edged their way into the European and American lifestyle. The cigar bars of yesteryear have paved the way for a unique opportunity for the entrepreneurs of today. Hookah cafes and hookah bars stand to make millions by providing the public with something that they’ve been looking for and haven’t been able to find in the countless other cafes and bars. Hookahs bring back the social, intimate gatherings of friends that have long been lost to the hustle and bustle of modern life. Oh, and who knows? Your hookah bar or cafe could be the next big thing!

Central Spain

Situated in the centre of the country, Madrid is the capital. It is a city of over 3 million people and a crossroads for rail, road and air travel. Its altitude of 660 meters gives rise to a classic temperature profile of cold winters and hot summers, making spring and autumn the best times to visit. Those who can get away from Madrid during August make for the cooler north or south to the Med.Despite the climate the capital city has its own individual personality. It holds the Paruqe del Retiro, a world famous area of paths and avenues, a royal palace and grand public squares. Its museums are brimming with Spain’s historic treasures. Madrid is a city that has the best in shopping facilities. The latest designer clothes are sold in classy upmarket stores. There are food markets throughout the city and the centuries-old Rastro, open every Sunday, is one of the world’s greatest flea markets.The central plateau is covered in dry plains and massive rolling fields. Given the attractions of the Costas and the Islands it is not an area where many Europeans call home. It is a place to work. Long straight roads and huge fields with wheat, sunflowers and grape overwhelm the region. It is deserted and of real beauty, suitable for those endangered in agriculture or for those who want to get off the beaten track, going back to the roots in old rural Spain.

Croatia’s World Heritage Sites

Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian(Inscribed 1979)Split literally grew out of the palace that the Roman Emperor Diocletian (245-312), a native of the nearby city of Salona, built as what may have been history’s first retirement home. Much of the original structure still remains – both in the form of the original walls and the various buildings constructed out of stone pilfered from it in Split’s Old Town, which the walls encompass. Interestingly, although Diocletian was notorious for his persecution of Christians, the complex includes world’s oldest Cathedral, dedicated to St. Dominius. Its bell-tower offers wonderful views both over the Old Town and the Adriatic, which once came up to the walls of the palace.Old City of Dubrovnik(Inscribed 1979, Inscription Extended in 1994)Not only is Dubrovnik one of the world’s most attractive cities – both in its appearance and its location, it’s probably Europe’s best-preserved historic city. It’s entirely pedestrianized and a local ordinance prohibiting signs anywhere but on lanterns outside of shops means that strolling through it on a quiet night you could be forgiven for believing you’d literally been transported back in time. The two kilometers of city walls that enclose it repulsed invaders during the city’s four centuries as an independent republic and again when it came under attack during the early 1990s – today they offer a pleasant means for coming to appreciate this city, the beauty of whose buildings is only matched by that of its location.Plitvice Lakes National Park(Inscribed 1979, Inscription Extended in 2000)Most visitors to Croatia head for the coast, but if you’re traveling by bus from Zagreb to Split (or even if you’re not) be sure to break up your journey at this system of sixteen interlinked lakes and the park that surrounds them. You can tour the lakes by boat or walk alongside them (which takes anything from five hours to a full day, depending on your level of fitness). The park itself is home to a diverse collection of alpine flora and fauna and is open year-round.Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč(Inscribed 1997)Protected by UNESCO on the basis of its status as the most complete surviving episcopal complex of its type, the sixth century Euphrasian Basilica boasts some of the Europe’s finest mosaics, matched only by their counterparts in Ravenna, which were executed by many of the same artisans. As well as their degree of artistry and preservation, these masterworks are highly enjoyable for their small touches – including the presence of an eavesdropping servant in the mosaic on the right side of the altar and the portrait of the eponymous Bishop Euphrasius himself, believed to be one of the earliest depictions of a living figure in sacred art.Historic City of Trogir(Inscribed 1997)Poised delicately between mainland Dalmatia and the much larger island of ÄŒiovo, Trogir is either a natural or artificial island, depending on who you ask. What’s not in dispute is that it’s one of Europe’s most tastefully planned towns, adhering to a grid-plan first drawn up by the ancient Greeks and substantially unchanged since then. It’s not just Trogir’s streets that have been preserved, the buildings lining them have in many cases been left undisturbed for centuries, although quite of few of them contain some of Dalmatia’s finest seafood restaurants. In addition to its inherent charms, Trogir also offers visitors in a hurry mainland Croatian’s closet counterpart to the wonderfully laid-back island towns of the Dalmatian islands.The Cathedral of St James in Sibenik(Inscribed 2000)It’s appropriate that this Cathedral (built between 1431-1535) should be selected to represent “the considerable exchanges in the field of monumental arts between Northern Italy, Dalmatia and Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries” since Croatia as a whole has for so long served as a crossroads of cultures. The building itself illustrates the fusion between the Renaissance and Gothic styles under a series of architects, but it’s most famous for its remarkable frieze featuring 71 sculptured faces of men, women, and children. Legend has it that the extent to which these depictions flatter the local notables they’re intended to represent depends entirely on whether these individuals contributed to the building’s construction!

Travel Spain: Girona and the Dali Triangle

Girona and the “Dali Triangle” are destinations known to the lucky few who travel Spain. This area in Catalonia is one of the undiscovered gems of Spain. Girona is about 100 km from Barcelona, but no one who chooses to travel Spain should miss this lovely area. Easily accessible by train, bus or even automobile from Barcelona, this destination recalls some of spain’s most interesting history and one of its greatest artistic minds.Girona is an beautiful, quaint town with an long history. The town was inhabited by Romans, Jews and Moors at different times in Spain’s history, and traces of each group can be seen in this lovely city. The local dialect is Catalan, not Spanish, but the language of the lovely sights will speak to all visitors.The Old Quarter is the center of the town’s historic district, filled with medieval arches and dark, winding passageways that recall a different era. Filled with churches, lovely old houses and cobblestone drives, this picturesque section of town has homes dating from the middle ages and several lovely cathedrals.The old Jewish neighborhood, called El Call is particularly interesting to explore. An old roman tower and the Jewish History Museum are of interest to many, as is the town’s art museum featuring over 1000 years of artworks.A promenade similar to the one in Barcelona, “La Rambla” will bring to mind a simpler time. This lovely street with overhanging trees, shops, little cafes and great restaurants has changed a little since medieval times, but it’s charm hasn’t lessened.Nearby, visitors can explore “Dali’s Triangle,” a region just north of Girona and continuing to several destinations important in the life of this controversial artist. In Figueres, visitors can tour the third most visited museum, the Dali designed Museum-Theater. Fancifully designed by the artist himself, this building features large white eggs on the roof, a bright red color and loaves of bread made of glazed ceramics on the outside walls. Inside, visitors can view several of Dali’s most famous works, including “Rainy Taxi.” Dali is buried on site.In the fishing village of Port Lligat visitors can view Dali’s home. In this isolated hamlet, Dali built several homes together for himself and his wife, Gala. Some of the original décor is intact, including one of his famous “lip sofas.” Of course, the nearby Club Med was not built in Dali’s time, but it could make for an enjoyable stopover.After visiting the home and Museum that Dali built, visitors touring the Dali triangle will want to stop by the castle in Pubol. Dali purchased the 11th century structure in the 1960’s for his wife, although she banned him from the residence for almost a decade in the 1970’s. The golden throne that he installed for Gala is still there, and several unusual statues including elephants and other animals are in the gardens. A stuffed hourse guards the door, and several stuffed swans are installed inside.If you are planning a visit to Spain, travel to Girona and the Dali Triangle for some truly beautiful and inspirational sights. This little-known area of Spain offers its tourists some of the most unique and controversial experiences that the region has to offer.