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How to Make History Fun for Your Kids in St. Augustine, Florida

How to Make History Fun for Your Kids in St. Augustine, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

There are few places that I love to visit in Florida more than St. Augustine. Not only does the city have an incredibly deep history that spans multiple centuries, but it is also so easy to navigate on foot, it has an amazing food sceneand it's right on the Matanzas Bay for gorgeous pictures of the water.

To visit St. Augustine without doing your best to understand its more than 500 years of history is to do the city a disservice. From the earliest Spanish explorers to those who fought for freedom during the Civil Rights Movement, St. Augustine has been an integral part of American history.

8 Historic Sites in Dublin Every History Buff Should Visit

8 Historic Sites in Dublin Every History Buff Should Visit | CosmosMariners.com

Any trip to Ireland must include some time in Dublin, the country's capital. Dublin is a thriving city, one that is easily walkable yet big enough to keep you busy for several days. There are many ways to approach Dublin, but my favorite is (of course) through the history--and, thankfully, history buffs will find plenty to see and do in Dublin once they've sampled that first pint of Guinness and gotten their first glimpse of the River Liffey.

Here are my favorite historic spots in Dublin, so brush up on your Irish history (this book is hilariously effective--and it's illustrated, so it ticks all of the major must-read boxes), strap on your walking shoes, and dive into this incredible city.

Historic Travelers Who Will Inspire Your Next Trip: 100 to 1500 AD

Historic Travelers Who Will Inspire Your Next Trip: 100 to 1500 AD | CosmosMariners.com

I'm about to tell you something that will rock your world, so get ready:

Travel existed before 1981.

::Gasp::

I know. It's hard to believe that people would be interested in leaving their hometowns prior to Instagram, Facebook, and Polaroid cameras, but it happened. And, given that travel blogs, Lonely Planet, the Travel Channel, and Rick Steves didn't exist a few decades ago, it's a wonder that people found themselves anywhere.

But travel they did despite the lack of infrastructure and amenities to which modern day travelers now have access. In many cases, travelers back in the day just packed their suitcases and sailed off into the horizon, hopefully to be seen again. They didn't have hotel reservations (or even a bed in many cases), a guided tour, or guaranteed meals. They either had to be very, very brave or ridiculously stupid (or maybe a little of both.)

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany

Visiting the Historic Sites of Trier, Germany | CosmosMariners.com

The last stop we made in Germany before crossing the border into Luxembourg was in Trier, a mid-sized town of just over 100,000. Located on the Moselle River, Trier is a typical German town, much like dozens of others you can find in the Moselle wine region. But one thing sets Trier apart: the town claims that it has been continually inhabited since 1300 BC (give or take a few years).

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site

Newgrange: Ireland's Mysterious Neolithic Site | CosmosMariners.com

Castles, bridges, and cathedrals: Europe's got them in spades, and they're all historic. That's one of my favorite things about visiting the other side of the big pond. Here in America, you'll find a historic downtown that might date back to the late 1600s if you're lucky; in Europe, the "new" side of town was probably built around the same time period.

My exploration into Europe's history has taken me to many places: to Roman ruins underneath one of London's political centers, an Iron Age fort on the cliffs of Ireland, and a German city that has impressive remains of a 2nd century aqueduct.

How to Spend 2 Days in Charming Luxembourg

How to Spend 2 Days in Charming Luxembourg | CosmosMariners.com

I will fully admit that my knowledge of world geography stinks. I'm okay with the biggies on each continent, but when you start getting into the smaller countries, I struggle a bit. So, with that in mind, don't make too much fun of me when I share this next tidbit of knowledge: I don't think that I could've found Luxembourg on a map if you'd paid me a million dollars prior to October of 2015.

One wonderful thing about traveling (and travel blogging) is that I am exposed to and read about many, many different countries, so--good news!--my geography is slowly improving every day. And, for an even bigger slice of that good news pie, I'm happy to report that some of these countries that I didn't have a clue about are actually well worth your and my time.

8 Historic Houses to Add to Your Italy Itinerary

8 Historic Houses to Add to Your Italy Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

Although I love learning about history while traveling, not all history-themed attractions are created equal. If you find museums are impersonal or overwhelming, consider visiting a historical home or two on your next visit. Not only are they more personal since you get to learn about the people who lived there, but they also give you a much more approachable way to learn about history since you can see (and sometimes touch) the things that made up life decades or centuries ago.

Dr. Martin Luther King, the Civil Right Movement, and St. Augustine, Florida

Dr. Martin Luther King, the Civil Right Movement, and St. Augustine, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

When I visit a place that has a deep history, I like to close my eyes and think for a moment about all of the people who have stood where I now stand, the things that the surrounding buildings have seen, and the unrelenting march of time that somehow seems to pass these amazing places by.

If you've ever been to St. Augustine, Florida, there are plenty of places to experience such moments. After all, this is a city that has been continuously inhabited since before Jamestown, Virginia. Flags from Spain (twice during the city's history), Britain, and the U.S. have all been hoisted above the town.

12 Cultural Activities to Do in the Algarve, Portugal

12 Cultural Activities to Do in Algarve, Portugal | CosmosMariners.com

Since the Algarve is Portugal's most visited summer vacation spot, you expect to find gorgeous water, sandy beaches, and plenty of warm weather. The Algarve has all of these in spades, but this region of Portugal (which draws its name from the Arabic word for "west") has plenty more to offer visitors when they tire of the sun, sands, and crowds.

For those who love to add adventure into their travels to history buffs, here's what you should do in the Algarve, Portugal (in no particular order):

What to Do in Luxembourg: Vianden Castle

What to Do in Luxembourg: Vianden Castle | CosmosMariners.com
You're sitting in a hotel room, and you're wondering what to do in Luxembourg. If you've got half a day, the answer should be: go to Vianden Castle!
My road to visiting Vianden's amazing castle was a long one. Don't make the same mistake that I did and just put it on your list. You won't be sorry. 

10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Rome

10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Rome | CosmosMariners.com

"Everyone sooner or later comes 'round by Rome," Robert Browning

As one of the most visited cities in the world, Rome has plenty to offer--a deep history, delicious food, literary ties, and stunning architecture. Simply said, Rome is a fascinating place no matter what part you choose to see. With all of the history and architecture, it's no wonder that Rome is high on my list of places to visit in the very near future.

Although Rome is known for the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain, the city has plenty more to explore. These 10 fun facts about Rome might teach you something new about this ancient city--and a few of its most famous sites.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

Even if you don't know the name of it, you've definitely seen pictures of it before. As one of the
world's most recognized castles, Neuschwanstein is a must-see stop on most people's visit to Füssen, Germany.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Neuschwanstein Castle
However, to focus on Neuschwanstein is to learn only half of the story. The smaller, less imposing-- but equally as interesting--Hohenschwangau should be visited as well. Seeing both in a one-two punch will give you a better view of the Ludwig II, the man who links these two properties, and his short, tragic life.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau, as seen from Neuschwanstein
When we visited during our 11-day road trip through Germany and Luxembourg, we decided to visit the castles in chronological order. I find it helpful to see how the history builds on each other, but you could easily do them in reverse if you were more familiar with Ludwig's history.

After getting our tickets for both castles, we tried to make our way to Hohenschwangau. I say tried since we weren't quite successful the first time. Britton spotted a horse and carriage under a sign that said "rides to castle," so (not thinking) we hopped on it...only to find out that the castle in reference was Neuschwanstein, not Hohenschwangau. We walked back down to the village and then climbed the many stairs up to the correct castle to finally start our day of tours.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau
The story that slowly unfolds about Ludwig as you tour the castles is quite a sad one that's filled with lost opportunities, family mysteries, and mental illness.

No Happily Ever After Here

Hohenschwangau is the childhood home of King Ludwig II and Prince Otto, the two children of Maximilian and Marie. Of the two castles, it feels more like a home, and it's easy to imagine the king and queen entertaining in the rooms here.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau
After his father passed away suddenly, Ludwig was crowned king at the age of 18. Unlike his more outgoing little brother, Ludwig was withdrawn and private, and had difficulty with large gatherings and social events.

He never married, and, as he grew older, he became more reclusive. In 1869, Ludwig began construction on Neuschwanstein (one of four major construction projects he had going at this time), a castle that he'd dreamed of building in that spot since he was a boy at Hohenschwangau.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Neuschwanstein peeking through the fog
Ludwig, who was deeply disappointed that he hadn't been born into a monarchy with absolute power, spent his time brooding over his lack of governmental control. He admired France's Louis XIV, who had the type of power for which Ludwig wished. If he couldn't have that kind of ruling power, Ludwig decided that he'd start spending his money and time on making structures that reminded him of the ornate Versailles.

In the portion of Neuschwanstein that was finished, you'll be able to see the intricate details on every inch of every room. Ludwig was close friends with composer Richard Wagner, and you'll see references to Wagner's operas, including Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, and Lohengrin in the expansive murals. Unlike Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein seems isolated, dark, and quiet. It's not hard to imagine the haunted Ludwig wandering the silent rooms by himself in the middle of the night (in his later years, he would often stay up all night and sleep all day, so as to avoid visitors).

At the age of 40, Ludwig was deemed to be mentally unwell and was taken from Neuschwanstein to Berg Castle so he could be watched. Just three days after arriving, Ludwig's body was found floating in the nearby lake next to the body of his supervising doctor.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

The family difficulties extended to Ludwig's little brother as well.

Otto, as the second son, was sent into military service and served during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars. As a direct result of his military service, Otto began to grow depressed and distant; he was ultimately deemed mentally ill and placed under the medical supervision of several doctors and his uncle Luitpold. Although Otto was declared king by the Bavarian cabinet after Ludwig's diagnosis of mental illness (and subsequent death), he wasn't ever able to rule, and his uncle Luitpold served as Prince Regent until Otto died.

So, by 1916, you have two deceased brothers and no direct heirs. Neuschwanstein was never finished and sat vacant for years until it was turned into the touring destination that it is today.

There are all sorts of theories about what exactly happened to Ludwig and Otto, as it's very possible that their mental illnesses were invented, exaggerated, or not treated properly for political gain. Ludwig's death in particular is highly suspicious, as he was a strong swimmer and likely wouldn't have drowned in the shallow water in which he was found.

Knowing all of that, it's strange to me that people look at Neuschwanstein at this fairy tale castle, as Ludwig's life was anything but a fairy tale. Walt Disney, who visited during the 1940s and then used it as inspiration for the castle that appears in Sleeping Beauty, is partially to blame for this, but there are many visitors who don't even consider the history of this area when they're putting Neuschwanstein on their itineraries.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Braving the rain as we trekked to Neuschwanstein
Walking through Hohenschwangau first gives you some sense of the potential both brothers had as children, while a follow up visit to Neuschwanstein shows you the darker chapter of this family's legacy.

Both castles are well worth a visit, and, if you're anywhere near Fussen, I highly recommend a stop. There are guided tours in multiple languages, including English and German, throughout the day.

Practical Things to Know Before You Visit

Know How to Get to the Castles
While the only way up to Hohenschwangau is via your own two feet, you've got some options when it comes to getting to Neuschwanstein. You can walk, but it's quite a long trek, and there's a steady incline the entire 20-30 minute way up. You also have the option of taking a horse and carriage (€6 per person, kids 3 and under free) or a bus (€1.50 per person, kids 3 and under free). The horse and carriage gives you more of an idea of what Ludwig experienced on his way up to the castle, but the horse and carriage stops below the castle. The bus is quicker and stops above the castle.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
After we rode up in this carriage, Britton said, "Danke schön, horses."
Make sure to pay attention to the entrance times on your tickets. 
You can't show up late for your tour, or you won't be able to enter the castle. There's no free time to wander on your own on either tour, so the tours are kept to a very strict schedule. Show up at the right time, or risk missing out completely.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

Pick your parking carefully.
There are several parking lots in the village of Hohenschwangau, but the best one is lot 4. Lot 4 is right at the base of Hohenschwangau Castle, across the street from the bus stop and public restrooms, and just up the street from the ticket center.

Have you visited either of these castles? What do you enjoy more when visiting a place like this: the history or the architecture?
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A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com

I grew up listening to my grandfather talk about his experiences in the Navy during World War II--he was on an aircraft carrier that was the first to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the bombs were dropped.

Perhaps because of his stories, I've always been fascinated with World War II, and even partially focused my master's thesis on wartime London and the Blitz. There are so many stories from both the Pacific and European theatres that I could easily write a travel blog just on places related to World War II.

I've been in St. Simons Island over the last few days to learn a bit more about the history of the island (and for a place that's only the size of Manhattan, there's A LOT!). As part of my adventures, I headed over to the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport to discover how this small barrier island was crucial to the war efforts here in Georgia.

Even before the attack of Pearl Harbor, there were clues that the Axis powers were coming too close for comfort. Along the Georgia coast, people began reporting strange boats, some of which came close enough to shore that guests at the King and Prince Resort could see them from the beach.

In response to this threat, Sea Island resort founder Howard Coffin appealed to the government for a stronger military presence on the island. When little help arrived, the residents of Sea Island and St. Simons decided to take matters into their own hands and petition the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

With her help, the Georgia Civil Air Patrol was created, and the islands had a small but dedicated force to help alert the military of U-boat approaches. The patrol used the four-year-old McKinnon airport as their base.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives

Even though what the Civil War Patrol was doing was important--finding U-boats and protecting U.S. merchant ships coming into the Brunswick harbor--they didn't have much support from the government. The men who were involved in the patrol were called the "Sandwich and Suicide Squad" because of their shoestring budget and dangerous missions.

Their planes (shown below) often had to be left in the elements since there weren't hangers available for the aircraft. The Patrol also had difficulty repairing their planes since the majority of the plane parts and scrap metal was being sent overseas.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives


As America joined the war, the Navy took over McKinnon Airport, though some of the members of the Civil Air Patrol stayed on to help. At this time in history, radar was a brand new tool for the military, and the Navy established a radar school on St. Simons to train people.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Joseph Schlosser, Glynn County Airport Commission archives


After the war ended, the Navy returned McKinnon airport back to the county, who runs it today.

To make this historic learning experience even more incredible, I headed back the next day to ride in a World War II-era Douglas DC-3. This particular plane was built in 1944 (by the female factory workers who were iconized as Rosie the Riveter!), participated in the European theatre and saw some action on D-Day. After the war, the plane found a new home in Canada, where it remained for nearly forty years.

In July 1986, in celebration of the DC-3's 50th anniversary and the World's Fair on Transportation and Communication, the plane began a round-the-world trip that took two months. On the trip, the DC-3 visited five continents (excluding South America and Antarctica) and made 46 stops. Soon afterwards, Lance Toland, the current owner, purchased the plane. Since Toland has owned it, he's refurbished the plane and has used it for personal transportation. For the most part, though, this grand bird stays grounded these days: "I only fly it between fifty and seventy hours a year," he said.

I went up on the plane one beautiful afternoon with Toland and fellow pilot Winn Baker at the controls.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The owner of the plane, Lance Toland (left), and Georgia Aviation Hall of Famer Winn Baker (right)
Baker, a native of St. Simons, has worked in aviation his entire life, and served as a Delta pilot and one of the founders of the Golden Isles Aviation (an FBO, or fixed base operator) that still serves guests at the airport today. Baker's more than 41,000 flight hours made me feel less anxious about climbing into an aircraft that's as old as my grandparents!

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com




We cruised around Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, and Sea Island in the DC-3, and were treated to some spectacular views of the area.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The King and Prince Resort (with the red roofs on the left)


A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The Jekyll Island Club Resort

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
St. Simons Island Lighthouse
Seeing coastal Georgia from this perspective isn't something that I'll forget anytime soon!



While St. Simons Island visitors aren't able to take rides in the DC-3 on a regular basis, there are restored biplane rides available each summer!

It's amazing how much history there is in this area of Georgia, so on your next trip to St. Simons Island, take some time away from the beach to explore that side of the island.

Have you been to St. Simons Island? Do the WWII connections of the island interest you? Have you ever gone up in a historic plane?