Subscribe RSS

Archive for February, 2010

The 1952 Winter Olympics Feb 28

Finally we get away from the war. And go to Norway—Oslo, to be exact. It was the biggest winter games to date, with 30 countries and almost 700 athletes. Guess who won the most medals. Yup, the hosts. Those Norveegians are pretty good at winter sports.

Oslo is a pretty good vacation spot, too. Winter sports, of course, but they actually have summer up there. In fact, there’s even a list of the ten best places to scuba in Norway. I don’t think they wear bikinis, though.  Norway is famous for its coastline—huge bays called Fjords, ideal for camping and hiking adventures.

The Vikings have been around a loooong time, and this part of their history has produced some museums the likes of which you can find nowhere else. The world’s two best-preserved Viking ships, for instance. You can even ride in and operate several authentic reconstructions.

Built in the 9th century.

If you’re of an artistic bent, check out Norwegian Rosemaling, any of several traditional styles of painting plates and other wooden furniture.

"Typical" pattern

Many people in the USA have Norwegian roots. How about you?

Winter Olympics 6 Feb 26

Let’s move on to events that happened. The year is 1948, and the wonderful vacation spot is …  St. Moritz, Switzerland! Um, haven’t we been there before? Yes, the second winter games were there. Switzerland was able to host the games in 1948 because the war left the country relatively undamaged. You can scroll down a couple posts to see what a fine vacation spot St. Moritz is, so I’ll risk another non-event and tell you about the location that would have hosted the 1944 winter games.

It’s Corina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Ah, Italy, the land of pasta and wine. And history. 400 years ago an Italian guy discovered four moons circling Jupiter. He named them after his boss (The Medician moons) as a PR gesture, but the world would not have it, and we call the four largest moons of Jupiter the Galilean moons.  You can see them with a pair of decent binoculars today, and even one of those cheap telescopes (don’t buy one) will do the job. But I digress.

Skiing is  the name of the game in this valley nestled in the Italian Alps. They say it’s an intermediate to advanced skiers’ paradise, a bit too challenging for beginners. The beginners spend all their time in the hot tubs at the resorts, which are world-class. Snowboarding is popular, too. Eighteen lifts at this place, and the cable rides alone are spectacular. If you’re curious, here’s a map.

Enough choices for you?

You can even get a helicopter to take you to the top. Not cheap. But (ahem) maybe a bargain through Serenity. I haven’t checked. So where do you like to ski? Tell us. Maybe I’ll write about it.

Old Winter Olympics 5 Feb 24

You could call this post “The games that weren’t.”  The fifth winter games were supposed to be hosted by Japan, and the year was supposed to be 1940.  That might have been a spectacular event had WWII not intervened. The Japanese generally do a spectacular job of about everything they set their hand to. By now Japan has been reincarnated not only as a friend, but as a, well, spectacular vacation destination.

The Japanese are renowned for both their hospitality and for their scenery. Their culture is different enough from ours (American influence notwithstanding) that you watch almost everything with fascination and go almost anywhere and see something interesting. Choose from more than 3900 islands. A zillion places to stay. Several earthquake zones, and one Mount Fuji. Full name is Fujiyama (not mount Fujiyama—yama means mount). Or if you want to sound like you have some familiarity with things Japanese, call it Fuji-san. Mr. Fuji.

You have seen pictures of pagodas and other Japanese architecture, views of bustling Tokyo, and serene panoramas of the Japanese countryside. Here’s a nice picture you probably haven’t seen:

This is not Fuji-san

I think it’s a park. I can see some guy wanting it to be a golf course. Maybe some day it’ll be a bobsled run.

Category: Adventure  | Tags: , ,  | One Comment
Winter Olympics 4 Feb 21

Win place show, then where do you go? How about Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, one of the most famous summer vacation and skiing areas in the world. It’s been famous for a long time. I’m pretty sure Grog, the cro-magnon, went there for a summer break from mammoth hunting (don’t correct me–it’s a joke, it’s a joke!). I know for sure that the Romans visited the place, and it’s been popular with both the rich and famous and ordinary folks ever since. Perhaps that’s a little exaggerated, (the vacation part—they had to deal with the Plague and a long period of economic hard times). Today, at least, the valley is a reasonably nice place to visit. There—an understatement. Here’s a picture:

Looks like a wide green valley with mountains is a requirement for winter Olympics.

If you’re into creepy medieval buildings,  Garmisch has its share. A torture castle, a church that used to be a center of pagan worship. They had a large festering swamp and wild animals, too.

The 1936 Olympics, the fourth, was, shall we say, slightly politicized, though not as much at the summer Olympics that year in Berlin. Norway took the most medals, and Sonja Henie, now 23 or so,  took her third consecutive gold in women’s figure skating. I know you’re all dying to see what she looked like. Here’s a photo:

Sonja Henie

Japan was scheduled for the next Olympics, but it didn’t happen.

Don’t let your next vacation not happen. Go on one, then send us a postcard or email. Or a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Winter Olympics 3 Feb 19

If you think remembering the second-place winner is hard, try third.  If you google “third winter olympics” you won’t even find it. (You get a bunch of links to third-place winners). The official name is “III Winter Games” and it was held in Lake Placid, NY, a fine modern vacation spot if there ever was one, Olympics or not. The area was discovered by the rich and famous clear back in the late 1800′s, and a lot of places sprang up to cater to their tastes.

Interesting tidbit (one of many): The family of the guy who invented the Dewey Decimal System was instrumental in developing the area as a target for winter sports and the eventual arrival of the Winter Olympics there. So if you’re an academic, you will find interesting things to see.

History buff? Especially Civil War? John Brown’s farm (and body) are there. Now it’s the John Brown State Historic Site. There’s a Cold-War-era missile silo around there somewhere, too. Good luck finding it. You’ll see a lot of nice scenery while you look. I couldn’t find a picture of the missile silo, but here’s a shot of John Brown’s farm.

The abolitionist's farmhouse

Back to the olympics–Lake Placid is one of only three places to host the Winter Olympics twice. The bobsled run was a WPA project. And the 1932 games is the only winter games in which the US took more medals than any other country.

Historic sites, gorgeous scenery, winter sports—what’s your excuse for visiting the northeast corner of New York? Send us a comment.