Iceland Beyond

Meeting Places, Going Places

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Iceland is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most popular vacation spots. This land of the North has many gems within its borders. Reykjavik is a trendy spot, and many tourists also indulge on the country’s famous “ring road”. And while there’s plenty to do with both of those, Iceland’s interior is not always as heavily explored.

So why not stop by Þingvellir National Park. Known as Thingvellir in English, this place is a little outside of Reykjavik, but far enough away to still look like an alien planet. Part of the reason for that is due to its unusual location; it sits right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly diverging.

For the history buffs out there, Þingvellir is home to the site of the first Icelandic Parliament over 1,000 years ago. But even if none of that interests you, the terrain is enough of a reason to go. One of the best ways to get there is through the Golden Circle Tour, which will also take you to a number of other places only found in Iceland.

More about Þingvellir

Northern Italy, Part I: Trento

Plenty of History Here

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Who doesn’t love Italy? Sadly, the attention Northern Italy gets is lopsided compared to the more familiar spots like Venice, Rome, and Tuscany. My first and only time to my ancestral homeland placed me in a spot closer to Switzerland than Italy…at least culturally.

This part of Italia is not what you think. Its deep German roots are found everywhere from the architecture to the language and even the beer! There’s a lot to see in this vast country, but Trento sticks out.

Catholic readers will appreciate Trento’s place in the Church’s history as the meeting place for the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Care to see a 13th century castle with brilliant artwork? Castello del Buonconsiglio may be for you (see map point at top).

More about Trento

Here in the West

America’s Rural Roots

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The National Western Stock Show, or the “Stock Show”, as it’s commonly known, is a well-established event that takes place in Denver annually. For one week each January, visitors can see the “other” Colorado, the one that exists outside of Denver, Boulder, and the touristy ski towns.

The Stock Show highlights Colorado’s–and America’s–rural side, complete with rodeos, livestock showings, and a forum to buy “western” stuff. Authentic cowboy boots, anyone? Ranchers from throughout the United States and Canada bring their prized livestock to Denver every year to be judged.

For anyone who’s not from the West, like this East Coaster, going to the Stock Show within an hour of getting off the plane from New York was a real culture shock. But it’s a treat to see if you can go.

Official website

Spain’s Old World

¡Vamos a Toledo!

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This post is geared more toward UW’s readers who don’t live in Europe, since Toledo, Spain is well known among people living inside the EU. We didn’t even know Toledo existed until we went there. Glad we did.

An hour train ride southwest of Madrid is a city that’s just as authentic as it is old. It has the face of the Old World with a hint of an even older city found in the Middle East, given Toledo’s Arab traits that have existed throughout the centuries. The scenery is something to be admired as well once you’ve explored this fascinating place.

More information about Toledo

Monumental Challenge

It All Started 200 Years Ago

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Looking out of place in Edinburgh, the National Monument of Scotland was meant to honor the fallen soldiers of the then-recent Napoleonic Wars. It was all good intentions when construction began on this ancient Greek Parthenon replica in 1822, but sadly, the project was never finished. Funds dried up and it was put on hold.

And it’s still on hold.

Despite the tragic nicknames it has accumulated over the last two centuries, it’s an interesting attraction that overlooks the Scottish capital.

More information