Present day Ukraine is located on some of the most sought after and fought over territory in the world, its fertile lands making it perfect for surviving and thriving and its location making it a coveted and strategic point bridging continents. The country has been invaded at different periods by the Mongols from the east, the Ottomans and Tatars from the south, the Russians and Lithuanians from the north and the Poles and Austria-Hungarians from the west. Whole or parts of Ukrainian territory have also passed through the hands of Moldavians, Romanians, Germans, Bessarabians and the Soviets. Today’s invaders are more of the touristy type, with visitors coming to see – among other things – the wide variety of different fortresses and castles left behind by history itself. From the Genoese Fortress in Sudak, Crimea to the Palanok Castle in Mukacheve near where Ukraine meets Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, these fortresses and castles are as diverse as the nations that created – and conquered – them.
The bats just may be the first clue that Austin is not your typical Texas town. With more than a million Mexican free tailed bats in residence, the city is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Every spring, they migrate north from Mexico to Austin, where they give birth and stay through the summer and into early fall. Their favorite hangout is under the Congress Avenue Bridge in the city’s downtown sector. Around sunset, the bats emerge like a black cloud from the bridge’s crevices, blanketing the sky and creating one of the most spectacular and unusual tourist attractions in Texas. It’s a truly unique event that even lifelong residents continue to regard as special no matter how many times they’ve witnessed it.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is one of the many things that make the two Koreas – North and South – famous. Riddled with land mines, the 4km-wide DMZ cuts across the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel and runs 250km from coast to coast. Despite being one of the most militarized borders in the world, the DMZ is a major tourist attraction for visitors to South Korea and while you can’t go into it, you can most certainly go under it! Tours to the DMZ include visits to tunnels that the North Koreans dug a number of times over the decades since the Korean War unofficially ended in an attempt to get to Seoul.
The word ‘bugaboo’ actually means a hoax in Old English. Legend has it that when folks came up these mountains looking for gold, they found only fool’s gold so they called the area the Bugaboos and the name stuck. Running closely parallel with the Canadian Rockies, this little-known, vast wilderness is home to sprawling glaciers, hidden meadows carpeted with wildflowers, sparkling cobalt lakes, dense forests and jagged crags. Older than the Rockies by a couple of hundred million years but equal to them in height and majestic quality, the Columbia ranges attract few visitors compared to their better known cousins. Their relative inaccessibility makes them difficult to get to, especially up into the most resplendent altitudes. Only the hearty and determined are able to make the arduous trek. With the help of a helicopter, however, anyone can experience them.
When I first heard about mud volcanoes, I struggled to imagine what they could look like and how and why they exist. It was easy enough to search out information on the Internet, but even after checking it out that way I honestly didn’t know what to think. In the end, I simply had to make the trip to Qobustan to find out more and - more imoprtantly - see them for myself. Located about an hour south of Azerbaijan's bustling, modern capital of Baku, Qobustan is mostly famous for being a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to its place in world history as once-home to an ancient civilization, as evidenced by 3,000-year-old petroglyphs. The region is also home to almost half of all of the world’s mud volcanoes.
After living for a year in Thailand, I’ve come to love the culture and country in ways I’d never expected. This place really does have so much to offer and after being asked several times over what kinds of things I’d recommend visitors do here, I thought I’d make up my own ‘Top Things to Do’ list. I came here to teach – which was an incredible experience in so many ways – but when placed in the north of the country I was skeptical. What? No beach? However, what I soon realized was that Thailand is way more than just sun, sea and sand, and some of the best experiences to be had are far away from the surf. Some of these are only possible if you are here at certain times of the year, but you should definitely try as many as you can. Enjoy!
The world that exists below the surface in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico’s Guadalupe Mountains is a subterranean marvel, full of formations that dazzle the eyes and flirt with the imagination. The most commonly heard response from visitors upon first sight of these incredible creations is a resounding “wow!” With mouths agape, they stand transfixed by the unexpected magnificence that greets them. Everyone reacts the same way, even those who have been to the caves more than once. It’s simply impossible not to be awed by this geological wonder.
The Big D is a city on the move. First time visitors immediately pick up on the energy that radiates from this grand Texas metropolis, the state's third largest city, and that energy certianly takes them places. With a host of new parks, museums, hotels, architecturally-significant bridges and awe-inspiring sports facilities, Dallas has transformed itself and emerged as a destination-worthy location. It’s rich in sights and experiences, offering something for everyone, young and old. There is no question that Dallas knows how to delight in a big-time Texas way, and any trip here - short or long - will leave visitors all the better for the experience.
On November 22, 1963, history changed in a split second. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, while his motorcade passed through the city’s central business sector as part of a two-day Texas tour in preparation for the 1964 presidential campaign. I don’t remember much of this event, as I was a young child at the time, but I do recall my mother audibly weeping as she sat in front of the television watching the news unfold. She was shocked and horrified upon learning that the President she and so many others adored had been murdered, and like the rest of the nation, she tensely waited to hear who was responsible for such a tragedy. For many days, life in my family’s house was chaotic, with the television on 24/7 and my parents in a constant state of agitation and grief. There was a sense of despair and hopelessness. Even as a child I realized that the world around me grew heavier and darker during this period. In ensuing years, my understanding of the event and how it affected our nation grew in both substance and clarity, and I marked it as the moment when America lost its innocence.
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