Escapades: Gardens

Escapades: Gardens

Visiting gardens around the world is a great way to gain insight into the different cultures and aesthetics of the local people. Gardens vary greatly from region to region, featuring both native plant life and exotic flora, displaying the flowers most valued by the people in the area. These gardens are among the world’s most beautiful, renowned for their plants and designs. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Cape Town, South Africa Some consider Kirstenbosch the most beautiful garden in Africa, and with its combination of gorgeous flowers and a backdrop of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, it is easy to see why. The garden is a perfect reflection of Cape Town’s natural flora since it doubles as a part of a nature reserve. Set aside by the government in the early twentieth century, Kirstenbosch seamlessly fits with the surrounding mountains’ natural plant life. It is a great look into the natural world of South Africa. www.sanbi.org Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Richmond, Virginia, United States Once the hunting ground of Native Americans, this picturesque region of Virginia was turned into a botanical garden by Major Lewis Ginter in the twentieth century and is now considered to be one of the best gardens in North America. It features beautiful flowers year-round thanks to the mild climate of the southern United States. The site’s 50 acres include a domed conservatory and many themed gardens, including an interactive children’s garden, a rose garden, and a cherry tree walk. With its wide variety of flowers, it is sure to appeal to any garden lover. www.lewisginter.org Gardens of Versailles Versailles, France Dating from the seventeenth century, the...
Hoodoo You Do?

Hoodoo You Do?

In the area of Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, there is a cluster of national parks. Among these lies Bryce Canyon National Park, which is actually many natural amphitheaters rather than a canyon; it is known for its beautiful scenery, red sandstone, and hoodoos—rock columns created by erosion. A geological wonder, more than 1.5 million people visit Bryce Canyon each year to hike, camp, and just look at the views. So how do you navigate this natural masterpiece amidst so many other visitors? Luckily, the National Park Service has an informative and succinct website that can answer many questions as you plan your stay. I wanted to plan a camping trip, so I tailored my searches to camping grounds and hiking; however, there are many options available if you want to stay in a hotel at the park or in a city nearby. My itinerary spans from a Friday afternoon to a Sunday morning. On a Friday, my group will arrive at Bryce Canyon, getting in by paying a $30 vehicle permit fee. Also available is a $35 annual pass to Bryce Canyon, which covers the vehicle permit fee and is valid for one year, unlike the vehicle permit, which is only valid for one week. There are two campgrounds: North Campground and Sunset Campground. Each costs $20 per night. North Campground, where we will be staying, is year-round, and has paved roads, toilets, and drinking water available for campers. Saturday will be devoted to hiking. The best viewpoint for Bryce Amphitheater (the main amphitheater in the park) comes from the Rim Trail, an 11-mile roundtrip hike. Despite its...
Ancient Sounds: The National Instruments of Europe

Ancient Sounds: The National Instruments of Europe

Music varies widely among different communities and groups. As widely varied as music is, so too are the instruments that are used to pluck out a melody. Instruments carry special significance in their countries or communities. They can be symbolic or spiritual, or they can simply be a reminder of a people’s origin. Like many other places in the world, Europe’s culture is pervaded with these instruments. Instruments help shape the culture of each country and its people. The Nyckelharpa The nyckelharpa (pronounced nick-el- harp-a) has a warm, resonant sound that is reminiscent of a robust violin. Originally created in Sweden, its name meaning “key harp”, the nyckelharpa has been played for over 600 years. Although its form has evolved over the ages, today’s nykelharpa has three melody strings, one drone string, and twelve resonance strings for a total of sixteen strings. The instrument also has thirty-seven keys that slide under the strings; the player presses these keys down to change the pitch of the instrument. Similar to other stringed instruments, the nyckelharpa is played with a short bow. The instrument nearly disappeared in the early 1900s, but today there are over 10,000 nyckelharpa players in Sweden alone. This can largely be credited to the work of a man named Eric Sahlström, a player of the instrument who revived and revitalized folk music in Sweden. The Kantele The kantele (pronounced CAHN-tel- a) has an ethereal, mysterious sound that evokes Ancient Sounds The National Instruments of Europe 65 feeling of nostalgia for a simpler time. The instrument is played in the lap of its musicians, and its strings, either plucked...
The Mountain That Eats Men

The Mountain That Eats Men

Nestled in the mountain Cerro Rico in the Bolivian Andes is the small town of Potosí. Once the location of the largest silver mine in the world, Potosí is now only a shadow of the great city that once flourished above tree line. Located at 13,420 feet (nearly twice the elevation of Machu Picchu), this city has relied on silver for hundreds of years, because no trees, fruits, vegetables, or even bugs can survive at this height. One thing that has survived among the miners, however, is devil worship. Alexis Hullinger, a photography student at Brigham Young University, shares her experiences at Potosí and her plans to save the dying city. She first encountered the town while on an 18-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bolivia, and she returned in May of 2017 to document the town through photography. Hullinger spent the first six months of her mission in Potosí, which she says is very different from the rest of Bolivia, in part because of the mining culture that is so prevalent there. In fact, a sign at the entrance to the mine reads, Sin mineros, no hay Potosí, or, “Without miners, there is no Potosí.” The History of Potosí The legend of Cerro Rico began hundreds of years ago when a man lost his llamas on the mountain. The story goes that by the time he found them, it was too late to go home, so he decided to stay on the mountain for the night. When he built a campfire, however, the ground underneath it melted and he realized that the...
469 Miles: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

469 Miles: Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Many of the hiking trails in the Parkway feature beautiful views, such as in this photo of Crabtree Falls (Ken Lane).   There’s a reason the Blue Ridge Parkway is America’s most visited National Park Service site. The 469-mile road does more than connect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It is both a fascinating display of the nation’s history and a gorgeous landscape to explore. It is renowned for its beauty and for its peaceful natural atmosphere—even though it is a popular vacation spot, the park is large enough that it feels secluded and peaceful. One of the reasons the Blue Ridge Parkway attracts so many visitors is its universal appeal; it really does have something for everyone. Because of the variety of options for experiencing the parkway—you can camp or stay in a rustic hotel; hike, bike, or just stay in the car; and visit the entire parkway or just a small stretch—it is a perfect vacation for people of all ages and activity levels. It is one continuous road with no offshoots, other than exits to leave the park. Along the sides of the road are mile markers, which correspond with guidebooks to help visitors identify where the trails, overlooks, and campsites are. History The parkway was originally conceived in 1933 by US senator Henry Byrd. Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw the potential of Byrd’s idea, and the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of the parkway two years later in North Carolina. Most of the parkway was completed in 1966; however, it took an additional 21 years for...
After the Storm

After the Storm

St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma. (Climate Centre)   Natural disasters can be crippling for tourism-dependent economies, but healing is possible. After bathing in their swimming pool, which was full of debris, Ben and Elizabeth Zenger handed their car keys to a stranger and took one last picture in front of their battered home. Hurricane Irma had shattered the paradise of St. Maarten, where the couple and their daughter, Maggie, were living for medical school. The Zengers were miraculously protected during the storm, but they lost all of their belongings and were forced to relocate. Ben and the other medical students will continue their schooling elsewhere and will not return to St. Maarten. St. Maarten is a 16-square-mile Dutch territory on an island in the Caribbean. St. Maarten’s official tourism website (www.vacationstmaarten.com) describes the destination as a “magical place,” a place “where European sophistication and raw island passion have fallen in love.” Sadly, the Category 5 hurricane left this magical place ruined and, in some areas, almost uninhabitable. When the Zengers left their island home, they did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to friends. They and other United States citizens—including Elizabeth’s sister and brother-in-law, who were visiting when Hurricane Irma hit—were flown off the island as quickly as possible following the storm. The St. Maarten international airport was damaged in the hurricane, so military transport planes took these citizens back to the United States. As the Zengers left, Elizabeth posted a plea on Instagram for everyone to pray for the people of St. Maarten and continue to show them love as they try to recover from this tragedy....