Archive for the ‘heritage travel’ Category

Follow in the Footsteps of Hudson River School Painters along Scenic Hiking Trails in New York’s Catskill Mountains

May 11, 2013

This summer, take an artistic hiking trip through the Catskill Mountains and discover the scenic vistas that inspired America’s first distinctive artistic style, the Hudson River School of Art.

From the front steps of the founding father’s home in Catskill, now the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, the Hudson River School of Art Trail winds along the pristine river valleys and mountain peaks that captivated Cole and his contemporaries. At each of the first eight sites along the Hudson Valley section of the Art Trail, a special metal plaque with a rubbing medallion has been installed, allowing visitors to do a pencil rubbing as a keepsake. The Art Trail includes sites in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, with the final site due for installation in Yellowstone National Park later this year.

Hudson River School painters captivated the world in the early-to-mid-1800s with their fierce desire to preserve America’s wild places and raise awareness through art of the fragile balance between nature and civilization. Cole and his contemporaries captured the wild, breathtaking beauty of America’s untouched forests, mountains and rivers, laying the foundation for what would become our National Parks.

Awaken to Adventure along the Hudson River School Art Trail and see Kaaterskill Falls, the highest cascading waterfall in New York State, gaze across the Hudson River Valley from the lofty perch that was once the Catskill Mountain House, and stop at North-South Lake and Sunset Rock. There are 15 Art Trail sites in the Hudson River Valley, and many of the hiking trails offer easy-to-moderate conditions, though some require skill and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Special markers are located at key sites so visitors know which artist stopped to paint at that site.

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is open Wednesday to Sunday each week, from May through October. Guided tours of Cole’s house and studio are offered for a fee, though visitors are welcome to tour the grounds, visitor center and gift shop free of charge. For more information about the Art Trail and visiting the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County’s cultural and artistic heritage sites, visit

About Greene County:

Greene County is located in the Great Northern Catskill Mountains and the verdant Hudson River Valley.  The region is home to five of the 10 highest Catskill Peaks and the Catskill State Park and is known as the nation’s first wilderness. Greene County is renowned as the home of Thomas Cole’s Hudson River School and the inspiration for Washington Irving’s literary legend, Rip Van Winkle, and was named in honor of American Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene. This 705,500 acre wilderness offers abundant year-round outdoor recreation and unique cultural events.  Learn more about Catskills packages and events at

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

Twitter: @TravelFeatures

‘Southern Italy Through Jewish Eyes’ Tour to be Led by Italy’s First Female Rabbi in October

May 3, 2013

Rabbi Barbara Aiello, a first-generation Italian-American who became Italy’s first female rabbi and the founder of the first active synagogue in Calabria in over 500 years, is organizing a Jewish Heritage Tour focusing on Italy’s deep south.

The tour, ‘Southern Italy Through Jewish Eyes,’ is scheduled for October. Participants can choose either Part I — Calabria (Oct. 1-6), or Part II — Sicily (Oct. 5-10), or the full tour of both regions – 9 nights – Oct. 1 – 10.

One true ‘first’ promised on this tour: a Ferramonti Symposium where survivors of that WW II Italian concentration camp will share their emotional stories of conditions and events of the period under Mussolini’s rule. Participants will learn first-hand the incredible story of how nearly 4,000 Jewish inmates were saved by Italian soldiers and villagers.

A second ‘first’ will be the tour of the renovated and expanded synagogue, Ner Tamid del Sud, the first active synagogue in Calabria since Inquisition times, renovated by locals including Rabbi Barbara’s family.

Rabbi Barbara, as she likes to be known, describes herself as ‘a rabbi in two worlds.’ She divides her time between her congregation and a senior adult community in Sarasota, Florida, and officiating at Jewish life cycle events in Calabria. She has also worked in Milan and travels across Italy as a spokesperson for modern, pluralistic Judaism. She has officiated at more than 50 Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for families from the US, Great Britain, Australia and Asia at Calabria’s newly restored synagogue. Rabbi Barbara’s father grew up in Calabria, her mother’s family hails from Sicily and the former Yugoslavia. She traces her roots to when her ancestors were expelled from Sicily during the 16th century Inquisition.

Asked who might want to take part in this historic tour, Rabbi Barbara says, “Jewish participants will learn about lost and isolated Jewish communities, which can strengthen Jewish identity. It’s eye-opening to learn about the tenacity and perseverance of southern Italian Jews who, even though forced into Christian conversion, kept their traditions alive by practicing in secret for centuries.”

Others who will be attracted to the trip are Italian-Americans, many of whom have ancestors who emigrated from Sicily and Calabria, regions that once boasted a 50% Jewish population.

“Few Italian-Americans know that even though Mussolini aligned with Hitler, Italian soldiers and villagers risked their lives to save Jewish neighbors,” The rabbi adds. “The Ferramonti story is a source of pride for Italians who are often embarrassed by the Italian government’s participation as a WW II Axis ally. We need to tell that story, that despite the political climate of the time, local Italians thumbed their noses at the government and refused to allow Jews to be sent to their death. Ours will be the first international group to tour the camp.”

The journey focuses on some of the oldest places of Jewish presence in Italy and the rebirth of modern Jewish life in Calabria – the’ toe’ of the Italian ’boot,’

While the Jewish community of Italy dates back at least to Roman times over 2,100 years ago, their fate changed based on the whims of emperors, popes, kings and dictators.

Highlights of the trip include:
Part 1 (Oct. 1-6)
• Walking tour of ‘Il Timpone’ – medieval Jewish Quarter in Nicastro; Tiriolo villages
• Symposium at Mussolini’s Ferramonti Concentration Camp with optional ‘March to Survival,’ museum tour, meeting with camp survivors
• Visit to Synagogue of Serrastretta; Traditional Calabrese Jewish dishes
• Excursion to Reggio Calabria and Bova Marina archaeological sites; view Jewish artifacts and statues from the ancient Greek period; Reggio’s Old Jewish Quarter

Part 2 (Oct. 6-10)
• Siracusa and Ortigia; walking tour of Jewish Quarter, 6th century mikveh, Greco-Roman Archaeological Zone; harbor cruise
• Mt. Etna by cable car; winery visit; Catania Jewish Quarter; Taormina and amphitheatre tour

Rabbi Aiello says, “Whatever your background, here’s a rare opportunity to see parts of Italy that few tourists visit, and to meet local residents and guest scholars who will share little-known stories and secrets of southern Italy. It truly is a chance of a lifetime – ancient venues that makes for wonderful memories.”

Guest scholars will include Professor Enrico Tromba, first archaeologist for the Bova Marina excavation project, and Professor Vincenzo Villella, historian who wrote the account of the Jews of Calabria. The trip is recommended for people who can keep up with a busy schedule and a good deal of walking. It is open to anyone of college age and older.

The tour is being coordinated by Ellen Paderson of Smiles and Miles Travel, who has worked with the rabbi on many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in Italy and Laurie Weiss Howell of AmalfiLife tours who has organized several southern Italian tours with Rabbi Barbara. For more information, costs and or reservations, contact: Ellen Paderson, Travel Consultant, at / 508-238-4088 or Laurie Weiss Howell, 347-240-1244 /

Rabbi Aiello’s ‘The Radio Rabbi’ can be heard on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. on WLSS 930 AM in Sarasota. Click on Rabbi Barbara’s website, to listen to a podcast of the radio program and to find out more about the tour.

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

Twitter: @TravelFeatures


Contest Encourages Visitors to Follow in the Footsteps of Hudson River School Painters in the Catskill Mountains

May 1, 2013

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site and the Olana State Historic Site has launched the Hudson River School Art Trail contest featuring an artistic hiking trail that follows in the footsteps of America’s premier landscape painters, and ends with the chance to win a weekend getaway to the Catskill Mountains.

The Hudson River School Art Trail features over 20 locations spanning the Hudson River Valley Region and New England. At each of the first eight sites along the Hudson Valley section of the Art Trail, a special metal plaque with a rubbing medallion has been installed, allowing visitors to do a pencil rubbing as a keepsake.

The contest encourages visitors to complete all eight rubbings in either their own notebook or in the official Art Trail Passport, which is available for purchase at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Olana State Historic Site.  Upon completion, participants simply present the completed series of rubbings to representatives at the Visitor Center for either the Thomas Cole or Olana Historic Sites by November 3, 2013 to receive an official certificate of completion. The first 20 people to complete all eight rubbings and present them at one of the two visitor centers will receive a free copy of the newly released second edition of the Hudson River School Guidebook. Participants who complete the eight rubbings will also be entered in a special grand prize drawing for a chance to win a weekend getaway to the Catskills.

Each metal plaque features a QR code that can be scanned by smartphones for more information and a rubbing medallion with a drawing of the view in raised relief so that participants can easily capture the scene by placing a piece of paper over the design and rubbing it with pencil, crayon or charcoal. For more information about the Art Trail locations, directions, itinerary suggestions and more, visit See for complete contest information.

The Hudson River School Art Trail Contest is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Hudson River Art Trail:

The Hudson River Art Trail project maps the sites where America’s premier landscape painters stopped to capture the wild, untamed landscape of the young country’s vast wilderness. The views from these sites appear in famous landscape paintings, and the mobile website at enables people to compare the painted and actual views.

There are 18 sites in the Hudson Valley, two in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts with sites planned as far away as Wyoming.

The Art Trail begins at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in the village of Catskill, which is fitting because Cole is credited as the father of the Hudson River School. Cole’s former home is now the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, located just two miles from Olana State Historic Site, the former home of Cole’s friend and fellow painter Frederic Church.

Olana is the second stop on the trail, and one of the partners in administering the 2013 art trail contest along with the Greene County Tourism Department and the Columbia County Tourism Department. For more information about the Hudson River Art School Trail, visit

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

Twitter: @TravelFeatures


Washboard Music Festival is One-of-a-Kind Celebration of Appalachian Culture

April 23, 2013

A one-of-a-kind celebration of America’s Appalachian culture and heritage takes place during the 14th annual Washboard Music Festival, June 14-15, 2013, in southeast Ohio’s spectacular Hocking Hills. The festival starts Thursday with a special kickoff concert and auction from 6 -10 p.m., and runs Friday and Saturday from 12 – 11 p.m. Held in downtown Logan, Ohio, this extraordinary FREE festival features ongoing live music, parades, rides, a beer garden and a wide variety of festival-style foods. A complete list of bands and events is available at

More than a dozen washboard and related bands will offer an incredible lineup of live entertainment this year, starting with the kickoff concert featuring the wildly popular Arnett Howard and the Creole Funk Band. Other talented performers from around North America will perform. Local artists will also display and sell a wide variety of folk and fine art, crafts and washboard-inspired instruments. The popular “Washer Women” will be on hand to demonstrate how washboards are used for laundry.

Families will enjoy Children’s Fair, a kid-friendly area featuring amusement rides, face painting, petting zoo and a train that circles the festival. Saturday festivities include a parade at 5 p.m. and a morning lineup of antique tractors and hit & miss engines. Another major highlight of the festival is the free tours of the 115-year old Columbus Washboard Company, the only washboard factory in the United States still producing washboards on a daily basis. Here, visitors will see the World’s Largest Washboard. Free tours of the factory are offered year ’round.

Located 40 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio, Hocking Hills offers experiences that make every day feel like Saturday, with plenty of  free activities. The region boasts a wide variety of affordable lodging, from camping, cabins and cottages to hotels and inns. In addition to hiking trails, parks and forests, the Hocking Hills is the zipline capital of the Midwest, with 50 ziplines being offered via three distinct guide services. Gift and antique shops, canoeing, horseback riding, golf, spas add to the allure of the Hocking Hills. Complete traveler information is available or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

Twitter: @TravelFeatures


Catholic Pilgrimage Company Offers Five Departures of New Portugal Tour in 2013

March 13, 2013
Jeronimos Monastery in Belem is visited on Regina Tours new tour, Catholic and Cultural Portugal © 2013 Karen Rubin/

Jeronimos Monastery in Belem is visited on Regina Tours new tour, Catholic and Cultural Portugal © 2013 Karen Rubin/

Catholic pilgrimage provider Regina Tours/ 1-800-CATHOLIC announced five 2013 departure dates for its new tour, Catholic and Cultural Portugal. Regina Tours offers travelers a seven night exploration of Portugal, including stays in Fatima, Lisbon and Oporto.

Along the journey, travelers will visit the fishing center of Setúbal; the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Évora, notable for its Cathedral and Sacred Art Museum; and the historical city of Tomar, home of the 12th Century Castle and Convent of the Order of Christ. Throughout the week, tour-goers will visit Portugal’s most sacred sites and learn about the country’s spiritual life and Catholic history, while simultaneously discovering Portugal’s architectural, artistic, musical and culinary treasures.

During their two night stay in Fatima, pilgrimage-goers can join the Rosary Candlelight Procession in the evening and day trip to the hamlet of Aljustrel to see the homes of the three Fatima children. The tour continues with a visit to Valinhos, where the apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in August of 1917, to the three Fatima children. A visit to the Parish Church, where the Fatima children were baptized is included.

The following day, travelers can enjoy visits to Coimbra, where Mass will be held at the Carmelite Convent where sister Lucia once lived, and the Monastery of St. Clare, the resting place of the patron saint of Portugal, Queen Santa Isabel. The tour continues to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Oporto, where travelers can taste the city’s famous port wines and see the extraordinary wood carvings in the St. Francis Church. Stops along the journey back to Lisbon include the canal city of Aveiro; the town of Batalha, home of a 14th Century monastery; the charming fishing village of Nazaré; the city of Alcobaça’s 12th century monastery; and the beautiful walled town of Óbidos. During the final day in Lisbon, tour-goers will visit the historical area of Belém, home of Jeronimos Monastery and the birthplace of delectable Portuguese pastries, pastel de natas. A visit to Sintra and Cascais, two romantic villages on the outskirts of Lisbon is the final visit before the tour group will enjoy a special farewell dinner in one of Lisbon’s famous fado restaurants, where they can enjoy some of the region’s renowned seafood dishes while listening to extraordinary vocalists sing fado, Portugal’s soulful musical tradition.

Catholic and Cultural Portugal is priced between $2698 to $3198 per person, depending on the season. Price includes round trip airfare from New York City area, five nights’ first class accommodations with breakfast and dinner daily. For more information on Catholic and Cultural Portugal, visit

Founded in 1985, Regina Tours is dedicated to building Catholic community and fellowship through pilgrimage travel. For more information about Regina Tours, visit or call 1-800-CATHOLIC.

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

Twitter: @TravelFeatures

Jekyll Island to host Georgia Literary Festival, Nov.9-10

November 6, 2012

The grand, historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel © 2012 Karen Rubin/

Two of the most highly acclaimed writers in the nation will be among the guest speakers at the Georgia Literary Festival, being held November 9-10 on Jekyll Island, Georgia, the Jekyll Island Authority announced.

Natasha Tretheway, who was named U.S. Poet Laureate this year, as well as Georgia Poet Laureate Judson Mitcham, will be included in the line-up of talented writers slated for the 2012 Georgia Literary Festival. Also speaking at the two-day festival will be accomplished Southern cuisine chef Hugh Acheson, a six-time James Beard-nominee and author of “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen,” as well as authors Janisse Ray, Mary Kay Andrews, Steve Berry and more than 30 authors with roots linking to Georgia and the South.

“This is an amazing event filled with extremely talented writers. It is certainly an honor to have not only the U.S. Poet Laureate, but also the state Poet Laureate alongside this line-up of such accomplished, gifted authors, come to Jekyll Island,” said Jones Hooks, Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority. “We are simply delighted to be a part of this marvelous event. This is the premier literary event in Georgia every year. On Jekyll Island, we could not be more thrilled to host the event this year.”

During the two-day festival, slated for Nov. 9 and 10, dozens of celebrated authors will speak at the oceanfront Jekyll Island Convention Center, discussing a variety of topics, including workshops and lectures on their own work and inspirations. There will be a full day of free author programs at the Convention Center Saturday with additional special events Friday and Saturday at the nearby Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

Sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book with funding from the Georgia Humanities Council and local sponsors, the 14th annual festival will be co-hosted by the College of Coastal Georgia, the Jekyll Island Authority and the Golden Isles Chamber and Visitors Bureau, among others.

Representatives of area organizations including the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, have been planning the event since 2011.

The 2012 Georgia Literary Festival will be held November 9 and 10 at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, with select events hosted at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Admission to most festival events is free. In conjunction with the festival, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is offering a guest package, which includes two nights of accommodations, a wine dinner Saturday featuring a menu by Chef Hugh Acheson, tickets to the “Tea with Ms. Daisy” event Friday, as well as breakfast both mornings.

For more information on Jekyll Island Club Hotel packages and for a complete Festival schedule, visit For more information about the Festival and featured authors, visit

About A Few Of The Authors:

Natasha Tretheway­— The Keynote Speaker for the festival, Tretheway was recently named U.S Poet Laureate and is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2007 for her collection “Native guard,” she is an English professor at Emory University. A native of Mississippi, she has written both poetry and nonfiction including “Beyond Katrina:” A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.” She is a winner of the Lillian Smith Award and is represented on the Georgia Center for the Book list of “25 Books All Georgians Should Read.”

Judson Mitcham — Recently named the Georgia Poet Laureate, Mitcham is the award-winning author of both poetry and fiction whose books include the novels “The Sweet Everlasting” and “Sabbath Creek.” He is a two-time winner of the Georgia Author of the Year and the Townsend Prize. His books of poetry include “Somewhere in Ecclesiastes.” He currently teaches at Mercer University in Macon.

Hugh Acheson — A regular judge on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” cooking series, Acheson is the renowned chef and author of “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen.” A six-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast and recently named Best Chef by Food and Wine magazine, Acheson is the chef/owner of the award-winning 5 & 10 restaurant in Athens and Empire State South in Atlanta.

Steve Berry — The author of a dozen historical thrillers, Berry has become one of America’s top selling authors. A native of Atlanta who lived on the Georgia coast for many years, he was a successful trial attorney whose first book “The Amber Room” was a bestseller in 2003. His more recent novels include “The Balkan Escape,” “The Templar Legacy” and “The Jefferson Key.”

Pamela Bauer Mueller A prize-winning author of books for children and adults, Bauer Mueller lives on Jekyll Island and is known through the Golden Isles as one of the region’s top writers. She has written and published eight books of fiction and won three Georgia Author of the Year awards. Among her books for young readers are three with settings on the Georgia coast: “Neptune’s Honor,” “An Angry Drum Echoed” and “Splendid Isolation.”

June McCash — McCash is the author of six nonfiction books and most recently a debut novel, “Almost to Eden” set on Jekyll Island. Three of her books have focused on the history of Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club: “Jekyll Island’s Early Years,” “The Jekyll Island Club” and “The Jekyll Island Cottage Colony.” She makes her home in Tennessee.


Jekyll Island, from Gilded Age playground to Georgia’s public park and slideshow

 Jekyll Island Club Hotel enchants with timeless charm and slideshow


Travcoa introduces new ‘Ancient Mysteries’ journey combining Easter Island and Machu Picchu with $1000 savings if booked before Oct. 31.

July 17, 2012

Travcoa, a world leader in luxury travel, announces the introduction of a new “Ancient Mysteries & Sacred Sites: Easter Island & Machu Picchu” Independent Journey, which explores two fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The itinerary features Easter Island’s newest luxury resort, the Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa as well as three luxury Orient Express hotels in Peru. In celebration of this intriguing 12-day journey, Travcoa is offering savings of $1000 per person for travel before October 31, 2012.

“Together, Easter Island and Machu Picchu encompass the mystery, power and natural splendor of two sophisticated, ancient societies,” stated Jerre Fuqua, President of Travcoa. “Our local expert guides, flexible travel dates, and luxury accommodations provide guests an extraordinary travel experience to these remote destinations for a truly unique encounter with the past.”

Travcoa’s guests will spend three days accompanied by a resident archeologist unraveling the mysteries behind the massive moai stone sculptures that are found throughout remote Easter Island. Highlights include up-close encounters with the massive moai statues; Aju Tongariki, the largest of the ahu stone platforms; Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater which served as a quarry for the island’s stone sculptures; and Rano Kau, an extinct volcano that houses a freshwater lake.

Next they will spend eight days exploring Peru including Lima, the capital city, the mountainous city of Cusco, the Urubamba Valley, also known as the ‘Sacred Valley of the Incas,’ and finally, the famed citadel of Machu Picchu. Here guests will enjoy a privately-guided tour of the ruins and a tranquil evening at the exclusive Sanctuary Lodge, the only accommodation at the site. After day visitors have departed, the guests will have the privilege of enjoying the sunset and sunrise at Machu Picchu without the crowds.

From North America, the journey departs every Saturday, connects in Lima, Peru and arrives at Easter Island early Sunday morning. Land is priced from $6,995 USD per person based on double occupancy, and special airfares are available. Exclusive to Travcoa guests: travel before October 31, 2012 and save $1,000 per person.

For more information on the Ancient Mysteries & Sacred Sites: Easter Island & Machu Picchu Independent Journey, travelers can join Travcoa’s upcoming webinar about South America taking place on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 11:00 AM PT. To register, visit

For additional details or to request a brochure, call a travel agent or a Travcoa Journey Consultant at 1-800-992-2003, email or visit

Travcoa has been leading luxury adventures and in-depth explorations of the world’s most interesting destinations since 1954. The company offers three types of travel experiences around the globe: small-group Escorted Journeys with comprehensive itineraries guided by professional Travel Directors; pre-designed and priced Independent Journeys for travelers who prefer private travel on a date of their choice; and Tailor-Made Journeys crafted to individual traveler specifications.

For more travel features, visit:

‘Like’ us on

AmaWaterways Celebrates Jewish Heritage on the Danube with 2012 Themed Cruises

April 25, 2012

Vienna's Judenplatz, the historic Jewish Quarter from the middle ages, where there is the Jewish Museum, and the Holocaust Memorial. AMAWaterways has introduced a 2012 series of Danube River cruises oriented around Jewish Heritage © 2012 Karen Rubin/

From visiting the oldest synagogue in the world to touring Europe’s charming cities, AmaWaterways celebrates Jewish history with two of its most popular cruises: The Legendary Danube Jewish Heritage and Blue Danube Discovery Jewish Heritage. The themed cruises will journey across four countries on the Danube River on the AmaDolce, AmaLegro and AmaWaterways’ newest ship, the AmaCerto.

“This itinerary provides a glimpse into the rich history of the Jewish community in Europe,” said Kristin Karst, AmaWaterways’ executive vice president and co-owner. “AmaWaterways is thrilled to offer our guests this unique opportunity to explore Jewish ancestry while enjoying a relaxing and luxurious experience onboard our ships.”

AmaWaterways’ Jewish Heritage itineraries highlight the beautiful sights and sounds of the Danube River with visits to Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and extensions in Prague and Budapest. The itineraries include shore excursions to well-known World War II sites, historic Jewish synagogues and sightseeing tours in some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. AmaWaterways’ 2012 Jewish Heritage cruise itineraries are as follows:

The Legendary Danube Jewish Heritage– The 11-night itinerary starts with two nights in Prague, Czech Republic with a tour of Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto which is now the second largest Jewish museum in the world. Passengers will next enjoy a stop in Karlovy Vary, famous for its Bohemian Spas. Passengers travel to Nuremberg, Germany to embark on the Danube River onboard AmaWaterways’ newest ship: AmaCerto. In Nuremberg, passengers visit Zeppelin Field and view Hitler’s Party Rally grounds and Justice Palace where the war crimes tribunal sat in 1946. Passengers then cross the Continental Divide on their way to Regensburg to explore Germany’s best preserved medieval cities. The itinerary includes excursions to the oldest Jewish Ghetto in Germany; the Regensburg Synagogue; Jewish Cemetery “Judenau” and Oscar Shindler’s House.

Passengers also visit Austria’s beautiful cities such as Passau, Linz, Melk and Vienna. The itinerary includes excursions to Salzburg, the setting for “The Sound of Music,” and a Benedictine Abbey tour in Melk. In Vienna, travelers enjoy excursions to the Jewish Museum, Judenplatz; Sigmund Freud’s House; Jewish Cemetery and the Jewish Quarter in Vienna’s 2nd District. Also available is a Vienna city tour and an optional Mozart and Strauss concert.

Ending in Budapest, Hungary, passengers explore old Buda and modern Pest which includes sightseeing stops at the Sankt Stephen Park where travelers visit the statues of Raoul Wellenberg and Gabor Sztehlo, both credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II. Other excursions include visits to the Jewish District, 1956 Hungarian Revolution Tour, and a visit to the Parliament building still bearing bullet holes from the Soviet intervention. Travelers will also visit the “House of Terror,” a feared location of the Hungarian secret police. North American travelers can book this special itinerary now with a U.S. departure date of July 22, 2012.

Blue Danube Discovery Jewish Heritage – The 13-night itinerary starts with two nights in the beautiful and historical city of Budapest. Passengers explore Sankt Stephan Park and the Jewish District for a walking tour featuring stops at the Dohany St. Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Tree of Life. Passengers also visit the distinctive Fisherman’s Bastion, the Royal Palace, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the famous Heroes’ Square before embarking onboard the AmaDolce or AmaLegro.

Cruising along the Danube River, passengers stop in Bratislava, Slovakia to visit the tomb of Chatam Sofer, Bratislava’s most famous Rabbi. Passengers can take a walking tour of Bratislava to visit landmarks such as the Old Town Hall, Mirbach Palace and the Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral. Other shore excursions include the Bratislava Communist Tour to discover bizarre architecture of the “Slovensky Rozhlas” (Slovak Radio;) a visit to Liberty Square; visit to the memorial and cemetery for fallen soldiers of the Russian Army that helped liberate the city during World War II.

Traveling form Slovakia to Austria, passengers stop in Vienna, the country’s capital. Excursions include visits to the Jewish Museum, Judenplatz, Sigmund Freud’s House, the Jewish Cemetery and Jewish Quarter in Vienna’s second district. Additional stops in the itinerary include Melk, Linz and Salzburg, the setting for the “Sound of Music;” Regensburg, home to Oscar Schindler’s House; Nuremberg, where passengers visit Zeppelin Field to view Hitler’s Party Rally grounds and Justice Palace where the war crimes tribunal sat in 1946. The itinerary ends with two nights in Prague, Czech Republic with a tour of Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto. North American travelers can book this special itinerary now with U.S. departure dates of August 2, October 14 and October 25, 2012.

AmaWaterways’ AmaCerto, AmaDolce and AmaLegro ships carry a maximum of 148-164 passengers that incorporates the most advanced river cruise ship design including Twin or French Balconies in the majority of its spacious staterooms and suites, which range up to 350 sq. feet. Passengers will enjoy gourmet dining with free-flowing local wine at the multiple fine dining venues available onboard. The ships also feature a sun deck; fitness center and spa; complimentary Internet and Infotainment system in all staterooms plus ship wide Wi-Fi. For passengers wanting to explore the serene paths along the rivers, the ships offer a fleet of bicycles onboard (capacity controlled).

Other themed cruises available: Romantic Danube Wine Themed, The Legendary Danube Wine Themed, The Enchanting Rhine Wine Themed, Provence and Spain Wine Themed, Christmas Time Cruise and Christmas on the Rhine.

For more information on AmaWaterways, visit To book, contact a local travel agent or visit, like on Facebook and follow on Twitter.

See also: Jewish Heritage Preserved in Vienna, Austria and slideshow

For more travel features, visit:

Crystal Cruises Expands Jewish Heritage Tours in Europe 2012

April 14, 2012

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony travelers have the opportunity to intimately experience Jewish culture and history in European cities including Rome, with its expanded series of Jewish Heritage Tours © 2012 Karen Rubin/

Crystal Cruises is offering almost 30% more Crystal Adventures exploring Europe’s extensive Jewish heritage in 2012. A predecessor to the ultra-luxe line’s new Christian heritage tours, the popular program gives Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony travelers the opportunity to intimately experience Jewish culture and history. The boutique outings visit neighborhoods, museums, monuments, synagogues, and more somber sites in/near Palamós, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, Rome, Odessa, St. Petersburg, and Israel.

Highlights include:

  • · Haifa: A kibbutz, the ancient holy city of Safed, Golan Heights, and a second-century Jewish burial ground.
  • · Girona: El Call, one of Europe’s best-preserved Jewish Quarters, by Segway or foot.
  • · Dublin: The homes of Dublin’s Jewish Lord Mayors and ex-Israeli President Herzog, the first dedicated day school, and Jewish cemetery.
  • · Stockholm: The Jewish Museum and three local synagogues, from Stockholm’s first (1790) to one whose interior is originally from another synagogue in Hamburg.
  • · Berlin: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the Grosse Hamburger Strasse deportation area, Otto Weidt’s broom-making factory, and the 205,000-square-foot Holocaust Memorial (two different excursions).
  • · Athens: Athens’ Jewish Museum, containing 8,000+ domestic and religious artifacts from 2,300 years of Greek Judaism.
  • · Odessa: Kosher refreshments, Ukraine’s only Jewish history museum, Shomrei Shabbos synagogue, and Beit Grand Jewish Cultural Center.
  • · Hamburg: Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, home of 100,000+ WWII prisoners.
  • · Ashdod: Jerusalem’s Western Wall, Old City, and Holocaust artifact-filled Yad Vashem memorial.

“Due to their enormous popularity, we’re continuing to develop niche excursions that connect travelers to their special interests,” says Vice President, Land and Port Operations John Stoll. “Our Jewish guests welcome the opportunity to experience their heritage around the world. However, even non-practitioners of the faith relish gaining first-hand insight into different cultures, and Jewish culture is particularly fascinating for its long and storied impact upon so many areas of the world.”

Half-day and full-day adventures start at $75 per person, with two-person Private Options also available in Rome, Haifa, Berlin, and Odessa. Crystal Serenity’s October visit to Israel further offers trips to Galilee, Tel Aviv, and other Jewish-related areas, by coach or helicopter.

Thirty-five, 7- to 14-day all-inclusive, luxury European cruises offer limited-time Book Now, Cruise-Only fares if booked by April 30. Optional air add-ons are available, with additional savings for groups of six or more, combining cruises, and Crystal Society member-sponsored, new-to-Crystal guests. Kosher options and Jewish services are also available on select Crystal cruises.

Crystal’s passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences are cornerstones of its Crystal Adventures program, earning the line top ratings for two decades.

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit

For more travel features, visit:

Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville to Open The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country Exhibit

February 22, 2012

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will tell the story of the stars, sidemen and songwriters who created and popularized a new kind of country music in mid-20th century America in The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, a more than 5,000-square-foot exhibition on view March 23, 2012 through December 31, 2013 © 2012 Karen Rubin/

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will tell the story of the stars, sidemen and songwriters who created and popularized a new kind of country music in mid-20th century America in The Bakersfield Sound:  Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, a more than 5,000-square-foot exhibition opening on Friday, March 23, 2012, and closing on December 31, 2013.

Narrated by Dwight Yoakam, the exhibit will explore the roots, heyday and impact of the Bakersfield Sound, the loud, stripped-down and radio-ready music most closely identified with the careers of Country Music Hall of Fame members Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.  Co-curated by the institution’s Curatorial Director Mick Buck, Photo Collection Manager Tim Davis and Museum Editor Michael Gray, the Bakersfield Sound exhibit includes more than 100 artifacts and a generous overlay of audiovisual treasure.

“We are incredibly excited to explore the Bakersfield Sound story,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “It’s an epic tale, born in the Great Depression, set two thousand miles from country music’s epicenter, and populated by a remarkably talented and tight-knit community of musicians who came together to invigorate and reinvent country music as they knew it.  These colorful artists infused their work with an aural intensity and independent spirit, in the process creating a sound that reverberates through country music to this day.

“We are grateful to all of the artists, musicians and families who shared their knowledge, memories and artifacts with us,” Young continued.  “An exhibit of this scope and magnitude would not have been possible without their cooperation.  We would also like to thank Dwight Yoakam for his participation: Dwight is an iconoclast whose rich musical catalog embodies the Bakersfield Sound tradition; he’s also a historian and fan who reveres the bedrock of this genre. I can’t think of anyone better than Dwight to guide our visitors on the Bakersfield journey.”

Grand opening weekend will be highlighted by a Saturday, March 24 panel discussion featuring Dallas Frazier, Don Maddox, Rose Lee Maphis, Buddy Mize, Country Music Hall of Fame member Jean Shepard and Red Simpson. Later that afternoon, all of the panelists will participate in a concert, headlined by Simpson, backed by West Coast bandleader and guitarist Deke Dickerson and other noted musicians from Tennessee and California. Other opening weekend programs include a Bakersfield Sound book talk, a film screening and an instrument demonstration (see complete details below).

The exhibit will also be accompanied by a richly detailed, lavishly illustrated, 96-page companion book, titled The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country.  Published by the Museum’s Country Music Foundation Press and exclusively distributed by the Hal Leonard Corporation, the volume will include essays by California-based music journalists/historians Scott B. Bomar, Randy Poe and Robert Price.  Also included are dozens of archival photographs and beautiful color images of many of the artifacts included in the exhibit.  The book will be available in the Museum Store and at

Bakersfield Sound is supported by the Academy of Country Music, Ford Motor Company Fund and SunTrust.  Additional support was provided by Buck Owens Production Company.  Promotional support is being provided by media partners Great American Country Television Network and Cumulus Media.


The Bakersfield Sound story begins during the Great Depression, when Bakersfield’s cotton farms and oil fields attracted a mass migration of Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.  Born in Texas in 1929, Buck Owens moved with his sharecropping parents to Arizona before heading to Bakersfield in 1951.  Merle Haggard’s family, driven to the area from their east-Oklahoma farm, lived in an old converted railroad boxcar when Haggard was born, in a Bakersfield hospital, on April 6, 1937.

The exhibit will explore Bakersfield’s club scene where, in the 1940s and 1950s, the city’s plethora of dance halls and honky-tonks provided respite for wall-to-wall, rambunctious workers eager for the boogiefied honky-tonk of the Maddox Brothers & Rose or the eclectic swing sound of Bob Wills.   Also on the bandstands were enormously influential musicians Wynn Stewart and Tommy Collins, whose classic honky-tonk songs Owens and Haggard would later record, and for whom they worked as sidemen before launching solo careers.

The exhibit also spotlights Bill Woods, widely regarded as “The Father of the Bakersfield Sound,” and other musical architects, including “Cousin” Herb Henson, Ferlin Husky, Billy Mize, Fuzzy Owen, Bonnie Owens, Jelly Sanders, Jean Shepard, Red Simpson and Lewis Talley.

One of Bakersfield Sound’s recurring themes is the connections between all of the artists making music during this fertile period.  This is epitomized by the careers of Bakersfield’s greatest stars, Owens and Haggard.  As they came to prominence in the 1960s, their careers and personal lives were interwined not only with each other but with virtually all of the other major figures of the Bakersfield scene.   These two superstars remained faithful to the classic honky-tonk style and, at the same time, gave country music a harder edge in keeping with the drinking, loud talking, fist-fighting and romancing that characterized Bakersfield’s nightclub culture.   Owens and his top-notch band, the Buckaroos, first popularized Bakersfield’s amped-up hybrid of honky-tonk, rockabilly and western swing with  1960s chart-toppers like “Act Naturally,” “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” “Together Again” and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” and Haggard and his equally stellar band, the Strangers, soon followed with the unforgettable gems “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried,” “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”   These Bohemian originals scored nearly 60 #l hits between them and created a body of work that continues to influence artists today.

The exhibit will also focus on the Bakersfield music businesses that evolved in the 1960s, including publishing houses, recording studios, booking and management agencies, radio stations and performance venues, and particularly on Buck Owens Enterprises, the music empire owned and operated by the savvy Owens.  It will also explore the enduring impact of the Bakersfield Sound on subsequent generations of musicians, singers and songwriters, from country-rock pioneers the Flying Burrito Brothers to Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley, and many others.

Among other narrative elements, visitors will learn about the importance of Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson, who recorded numerous Bakersfield classics, including many of Owens’ and Haggard’s hits, and who has been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame; and the role of the Buckaroos and the Strangers in developing the Bakersfield Sound, with emphasis on key sidemen such as steel guitar innovator Ralph Mooney, Telecaster ace Roy Nichols and lead guitarist and harmony vocalist Don Rich. The Bakersfield-based Mosrite company, who manufactured instruments and issued recordings, also will be highlighted.

The Bakersfield Sound story will include hundreds of archival photos, audio and video clips, and a Fort Knox of rare, historic and visually stunning artifacts including:

·         Stage costumes worn by the Maddox Brothers & Rose, featuring floral motifs, elaborate embroidery and fringe, created by famed Hollywood designer Nathan Turk; Wynn Stewart’s understated Nudie suit with decorative straps and buckles; several Turk-designed suits worn by Buck Owens; a Nudie suit with motifs from the San Joaquin Valley, worn by Bobby Adamson of the Farmer Boys; and more.

·         A plethora of important instruments, including Telecasters belonging to Buck Owens and Don Rich; Speedy West’s Bigsby 1948 steel guitar (its whereabouts a mystery for decades); Ralph Mooney’s Fender double-neck pedal steel guitar; and Merle Travis’s electric guitar – one of the first solid-body electric guitars, designed by Travis and built by Paul Bigsby.

·         Legal documents including the marriage license of Buck and Bonnie Owens; and the “Full Pardon for Crimes of Merle Haggard,” signed March 1, 1972, by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan.

Weaving the expansive story together via video screens throughout the gallery is Yoakam, who created a one-of-a-kind oral history – with special guests Merle Haggard and Chris Hillman – especially for this exhibit; the interview was taped at Hollywood’s Capitol Records Tower, where many Bakersfield Sound hits were made.

Throughout its 21-month run, The Bakersfield Sound:  Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country will be accompanied by related public programs including live performances, films, panel discussions and more.  The schedule will be regularly updated at

With the purchase of a museum membership ($40/individual membership and $100/friends and family membership), visitors can attend most public programs free of charge for one year, including programming related to Bakersfield Sound.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.

See also:

Nashville: Where the Heart & Soul of Country Music Beats Strong
Nashville Richly Deserves its Moniker, ‘Music City, U.S.A.’

85 Years Young and Still the Heart & Soul of Country Music

For more travel features, visit: