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Austria

Santorini's harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Santorini’s harbor is part of an ancient volcanic caldera that wiped out Minoan civilization. Photo from Visit Greece.

Here’s Part 2 of our two-part series on Ten Top European Natural Wonders, starring five more incredibly scenic spots on land, on water, and up in the sky:

The Greek Island of Santorini 

If you bypass the often-crowded Aegean island of Santorini — also known as Thira or, in ancient times, Thera — due to its popularity as a sun-soaked tourist destination, you’ll also be missing one of the most memorable and expansive seascape panoramas in all of Europe.

Few views can compete with those from a terrace perched high atop the cliffs overlooking Santorini’s deep, seven-by- four-mile circle-shaped lagoon, formed from a mostly underwater caldera left by a titanic volcanic explosion some 36 centuries ago. One of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in history, it wiped out the island’s… Continue reading

Austria's Lake Country near Salzburg.  Photo from VBT.

Austria’s Lake Country near Salzburg. Photo from VBT.

The much-beloved film The Sound of Music, which was released in 1965 and won the Oscar for Best Picture that year, did most of its location shooting in and around the city of Salzburg, Austria.

It’s hard to imagine many baby boomers who don’t know the (somewhat fictionalized) story of how the musically inclined von Trapps — composed of would-be-nun-turned-nanny Maria (Julie Andrews), Baron von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), and a parcel of cute kids who could belt out catchy tunes like “Do-Re-Mi” — became a family and fled the Nazis in Austria for safe haven elsewhere.

After hiking over the mountains (in the movie, at least), they eventually made their way to the United States and became known as the Trapp Family Singers.

The gorgeous Austrian scenery, the infectious music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Julie Andrews twirling on a mountaintop in the… Continue reading

The village of Durnstein lies on the Danube in Austria's beautiful Wachau Valley. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

The village of Durnstein lies on the Danube in Austria’s beautiful Wachau Valley. Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews

In my last post, Fifteen Things I Didn’t Know About Vienna, Austria, I confessed that there was a lot I didn’t know about Vienna, despite having visited there a number of times in the past.

But those visits had been quite a few years ago, and I had forgotten what a beautiful city Vienna is.

Vienna, in fact, has ranked number one of all the world’s cities  for the past three years in the Mercer Quality of Living rankings for expatriates, based on 39 factors such as infrastructure, amenities, health care, etc. I could definitely see living here, though I’d have to brush up on my German, which consists of three words: bier, danke and Auf Wiedersehen. (Well, I guess that’s four.) And, oh yes, wein. And wurst… Continue reading

Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace was too small for Empress Maria Theresa. Photo by Clark Norton.

Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace was too small for Empress Maria Theresa. Photo by Clark Norton.

I’d been to Vienna several times before my recent visit there with Insight Vacations — a company that runs high-class tours of Central Europe and many other destinations throughout the world — but I learned a number of things I didn’t know about the city, largely thanks to our excellent guides and our tour director, Neira Milkovic .

* Vienna sports the world’s oldest zoo, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, which dates from 1752 and is located within the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace.

* The gardens at Schönbrunn Palace are as big as the country of Monaco. The palace was the summer hunting “cottage” of the Habsburgs, who ruled Austria and much of Europe for hundreds of years; despite its nearly 1,500 rooms and 3,000 servants to tend them, Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled from 1640-80,… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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