Highlights from an Insider
Hungary's capital city has long been acclaimed as one of Europe's most beautiful, with its parliament building frequently highlighted on advertisements for Danube river cruises.
Come and travel through one of the Roman Empire's northern provinces and experience the spas, bridges, markets and historical areas of "Buda", Obuda, and "Pest", three cities which merged in 1873 to form the popular tourist destination we know today.
Did you know that the father of modern California winemaking was Hungarian? That Budapest has a statue of our detective Columbo with his basset hound? That the Hungarians claim Strudel as their own "rétes"?
We'll look at geography, history, cuisine, landmarks, culture, and a few outings to popular nearby destinations. Let me pique your curiosity and entice you to come along on my tour of Budapest, a city where I spent almost six wonderful years exploring, trying to master the language and sampling delicious Hungarian specialties (accompanied, preferably, by traditional violin music).
Photo: Hungarian Parliament building on the Danube
The Republic of Korea (or South Korea as we know it) calls itself "The Land of the Morning Calm". What do we really know of this ancient culture besides the Winter Olympics and political saber-rattling?
A Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, Korea remained virtually unknown to the outside world and certainly to the United States until 1945 when the peninsula was split at the 38th parallel. Americans were not keen to support South Korea when the Korean war started on June 25, 1950 , but defend Korea we did and Korea blossomed, overcoming 36 years of a cruel colonization and three years of war. Whereas the GDP in 1960 was less than $100 per capita, making Korea one of the world's poorest countries, by 1996 it had joined the OECD and in 2010, it became one of the world's top ten trading nations.
Aside from economic strength, Korea is a beautiful peninsula surrounded by mighty oceans and blessed with beautiful mountain ranges frequently housing peaceful Buddhist temples. And then there is the capital, Seoul: 25 million inhabitants, a city that never sleeps, "the miracle on the Han" (river). I spent four years on an American army post in Seoul and had the incredible opportunity to pass between two different worlds and cultures brought together by fate.
Photo: Traditional Korean temple in a picturesque, tranquil setting
How can such a small country lay claim to having the oldest city in Europe? To supplying the world's perfume industry with 85% of its rose oil, one of the most important ingredients? To honoring two monks, Cyril and Methodius, who invented the Cyrillic alphabet ? Bulgaria might not top the list of European travel destinations, but it merits a visit at any time of year.
Mountain ranges cover more than one third of the country, roughly the size of Tennessee, and each of these ranges offers a unique landscape and variety of peaks, ideal for hiking and skiing, while the "Golden Sands" on the Black Sea have lured sunbathers and sailors for generations. Festivals and customs such as the Martenitsi on March 1st, the Rose Festival in Kazanluk, or the National Folklore Festival in the Rhodope Mountains are colorful and lively, and the cuisine is delicious from the ubiquitous shopska salad to a variety of soups and stews, not to mention the famous yogurt, succulent lamb and fresh, soft white "feta" cheese. I share my love of this Balkan country along with a few outings to surrounding points of interest.
Photo: Rila Monastery
With 82 million inhabitants, Germany is the most populous state in the European Union and after the United States, the most popular immigrant destination in the world.
Fact: Almost 20% of Americans claim German heritage.
Fact: Berlin has been Germany’s capital city twice.
Fact: Berlin has been called edgy, poor (financially), rich (culturally), sexy, liberal, exciting, movie-making destination, historical, international, and never-ending. Whether high or low-end budget, there is something awaiting every visitor to Berlin, and if you can’t find your interest here, you won’t find it anywhere. I had the good fortune to spend ten years in this fascinating capital and focus on history as well as favorite highlights of a city which has joined the major European capitals as a "must see".
Photo: Reichstag government building wrapped by Bulgarian artist Christo in 1995
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a country at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. Located on the East bank of the Jordan river, travelers can explore ancient monuments, nature reserves and seaside resorts in safe surroundings and a well-developed tourism network.
My family explored the capital city of Amman, latticed with Roman ruins, and then spent several nights in the desert valley of Wadi Rum where "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Martian" were filmed. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a Bedouin tent camp? We then moved on to Petra: an ancient Nabatean rose-colored city carved into the side of mountains, a mystery lost to the world for several hundred years, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, and one of the world's top archeological sites.
Come along on a trip which included a side trip to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and more.
Photo: Petra, the Lost City
I returned from Europe to Michigan in 2016 and started giving presentations about the places where I have lived. I currently give five different lively power point talks ranging from 60 to 90 minutes. My talks are given without notes and all include historical and geographical information.
I was two years old when my father was assigned to Ford of Germany in Cologne. We spent eight years there and I have been traveling ever since. In 1989, I married my husband, a foreign service officer, and moved to Toronto, Canada; Sofia, Bulgaria; Budapest, Hungary; Berlin, Germany and Seoul, South Korea.
My goal is to make my audience feel as though they are traveling with me and experiencing the various destinations firsthand. My second wish would be that my talks enable my audience to travel, learn, see, and enjoy what I have been able to experience. I have been incredibly fortunate and I would like to share this.