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While hoards of visitors to Europe's midsection see the legendary Alps via the predictable tracks of a train, or the confined perch of a tour bus, the best way to experience Austria's wonder is to step off the beaten path, and find the way up to a picturesque and authentic land -- Saint Gilgen, only forty kilometers east of Salzburg, tucked in between glassy azure lakes and spikes of snow
When you're in St. Gilgen, here are some things to try:
1) Take the Gondola from the town center onto the mountain above. The ride to the top of the Zwölferhorn summit, 1521 meters, takes about 15 minutes.
2) Eat a hearty Austrian meal at Franzl's Hütte, steps from the gondola depot -- or venture a little farther to one of the many huts along the meandering mountaintop trails. The views, the local food and drink, and the friendly atmosphere are worth the trip to the top alone.
Founded in the 9th century, the Prague Castle is one of the oldest castles in the region. During its long history, the Castle housed Bohemian Kings, Holy Roman Emperors, and Presidents of Czech Republic. Today, the Prague Castle is said to be the biggest ancient castle, and gleams as the jewel glistening above the Vltava River as the centerpiece of Prague.
What to do: Plan to spend a day to tour the soaring Cathedral, extensive gardens, and regal palaces within the Prague Castle.
"Those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and see Dubrovnik."
– George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize winning writer and playwright
A bright star perched along the Croatian coast of the sparkling Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik looks more like the inspiration for the Disney set for Pirates of the Caribbean than any other real place on earth. Constructed as a series of fortresses to protect against centuries of invasions from pirates and other nations, Dubrovnik is guarded by massive stone walls and hefty cannons butting up against the sea-a sight like no other and a city worth visiting.
The Old Town
Looking out over Dubrovnik's Old Town, the traveler sees a charming jumble of red-tiled roofs and stunning towers rimmed by two kilometers of thick white walls. The walls have been necessary-though the city of Dubrovnik began in the 7th century as a major cultural and commercial influence, countless enemies have attacked Dubrovnik for its white flag bearing its simple ideal: Libertas (Liberty). For centuries, Dubrovnik's city and republic fought and thrived despite opposition. Because of Dubrovnik's significant contribution to world history, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Even since then, Dubrovnik's legacy was severely threatened when more than two thousand shells hit the city in the 1990's Yugoslav war. Mortar marks can still be seen today, walking through the city. Despite the scars of war, Dubrovnik's architecture reflects its rich history of varied influences-Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, German, and Slavic.
Formed of a coastline jagged with dark rocks and dotted with sand and pebble beaches, the area around Dubrovnik makes a memorable place for a dip in the green Adriatic Sea. On a rough day, waves crash along the walls of Dubrovnik's Old Town, but on a calm day, the shimmering Adriatic beckons travelers out into its natural beauty.
Here, find three ways to enhance the Italian culinary adventure and traveler's delight, in the unforgettable Maremma region, nestled into the southern coastline of renowned Tuscany.
In Italy, it is impossible to miss the food and drink. Even the least-interested traveler can find a meal to please. But for the food-lover, Tuscany's southwestern Maremma region borders the Mediterranean Sea and offers wine and olives with an additional alluring treat: fresh seafood.
What to do: Seek out a local olive oil producer (in Canino) and wine producer (Montepulciano and Chianti among others), and venture along the Mediterranean coast, where the blue Sea washes up to greet the Tuscan hills. Stop at one of the coastal restaurants to enjoy the unspoiled coast and its culinary treasures.
What to try: the excellent local Maremma wine, Morellino di Scansano, a local seafood and pasta specialty, spaghetti allo scoglio, accompanied by the local sheep cheese called pecorino.
Since its beginnings in the 9th century, Prague has survived architecturally for more than 800 years unscathed by the ravages of war. Early-on holding the status of Center to the Holy Roman Empire, and serving for centuries as a European cultural and business hub, Prague has much to offer visitors today.
Thriving in a laid-back atmosphere, Prague straddles the Vltava River in modern day Czech Republic, shrouded in alluring mystique and shining with rich history. What follows is a rundown of five "must-see places" in Prague, and the authentic experiences to go with them.
1.) Old Town Square: The open cobblestone square began as an 11th century marketplace for merchants from all over Europe. A place of King's processionals and elaborate palaces, public executions and widespread rallies, every nook and cobblestone in this Great Square has a story to tell. The great Astronomical Clock built in 1410 tells more about the stars than the time of day, and chimes somewhat humorously on the hour with a performance of figurine characters. At Christmas and Easter and other special times of the year, market stalls dot the Square with merchants selling traditional crafts and foods like Trdlo (warm cinnamon pastries) and roast pork pulled from an open-air spit, and drinks like the famously Czech beer and mulled wine.
What to do: Venture up the Old Town Hall belfry for a fantastic rooftop view over Prague's Old Town.