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Austria ~ A Bone Chapel in Peaceful Hallstatt

October 31, 2009 by · Comments Off on Austria ~ A Bone Chapel in Peaceful Hallstatt 

cloudy Hallstatt. 6x4pg

Serene Hallstatt, Austria

In one of the most jaw-drop, gorgeous scenic landscapes anywhere in the world, you will find one of the most bizarre mortuaries.

The tiny town of Hallstatt (population 1,000) lies precariously perched on the side of a mountain. Little A-frame houses cling to the hillside as if magically suspended or stuck on with Velcro. Main Street rests at the base, along the shores of a shimmering blueberry colored lake resembling a fjord. A stone church with a tall pointed steeple seems  to teeter on the edge.

Skulls 6x4

Skulls in the Bone Chapel

Walk along Main Street which runs up and down like a staircase throughout the village (cars are not permitted during the day). Climb up to the Roman Catholic Church with a 16th-century gold altarpiece and cemetery with an eerie bone chapel. Compared to the Capuchin Cemetery in Rome (see my previous blog), the Hallstatt bone chapel is more a one room schoolhouse. Called a Beinhaus or charnel house, it crams in 1,200 skulls painted with floral designs and in some cases the name, date and cause of death.

You see, shortage of space in the graveyard limited the number of burial plots, so bodies were removed after decomposing for ten years to make room for the new. The practice makes sense when you see the territorial constraints. The bone chapel becomes a sacred place holding the history of the close-knit residents.
Most tourists come to Hallstatt to see the beauty of the setting and visit the salt mines. A nearby funicular whisks guests up to observation point with a storybook view. Then, they hike up a path to the mine entrance and don pajama-like jumpsuits. Group tours enter a tunnel and then progress deeper underground via fast wooden slides. This makes a fun adventure and eventually, you exit by straddling a small train.

Salt Mines

Down into the Salt Mines

Hallstatt rightfully calls itself Austria’s oldest town with evidence dating back to 400 BC. The name derives from the Celtic word “hall” meaning salt. Salt mines near the village have always provided the livelihood for the region, noted as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Another fascinating attraction in the area is the Dachstein ice cave. To get to the cave, ride the gondola, then hike about twenty minutes to reach the tour entrance. Wildflowers abound, often creeping out of rocky ledges on the walkway. The alpine scene rates as truly spectacular and certainly worth the effort. Be forewarned: even in summer the temperature in the caves is cool enough to require a jacket.

Absolutely don’t miss the Reinanke trout fresh from the lake. The local fish is served on a slab and tastes luscious and buttery. In fact I’ll make a bold statement– Reinanke is the best fish I have ever eaten. I devoured it both nights we stayed in the Salzkammergut region.

Town Square Hallstatt 6x4

Hallstatt Town Square

After touring Vienna, the rustic outdoorsy charm of the area invigorated the soul and stimulated the senses. My family loved visiting Hallstatt in June. Can’t quite imagine stopping by the little hamlet in winter. Well, after all, I do live in Florida. But, if you know me, and given the chance, I’d go–wrapped in the warmest parka I could find.

Enter a Photo Contest to Win a Trip to St Lucia

October 15, 2009 by · Comments Off on Enter a Photo Contest to Win a Trip to St Lucia 

Gazebo on the Beach at Coconut Bay Resort

Gazebo on the Beach at Coconut Bay Resort

I traveled to St Lucia about a year ago and believe me, this island offers more than you can imagine- read my article St. Lucia: Small Island, Big Adventure or about my zipline adventure at Zip Therapy.

All you have to do to win a family vacation at Coconut Bay Resort is send a photo to Caribbean Travel and Life magazine. To entice you I’ve included a few of my own photos taken during my wonderful stay at Coconut Bay.

Palm by the beach

Palm on the beach at Coconut Bay Resort, St Lucia

Just follow all the links below.

Win a 5-day/4-night all-inclusive stay at St. Lucia‘s Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa!

Think you have a winning Caribbean vacation photo? Send it to us and you just might find yourself on another Caribbean getaway courtesy of St. Lucia‘s Coconut Bay Beach Resort. The family-friendly resort is putting a 4-night stay on the line–including all of your meals, snacks, drinks and even resort taxes + gratuities for one lucky family of four–and all you have to do is share your favorite Caribbean snapshot!

It’s easy to enter in two simple steps: Just become a fan of Caribbean Travel + Life’s Facebook page–where you’ll enjoy daily Caribbean updates like travel news, hotel and airfare deals, contest announcements and more–then submit your favorite Caribbean travel photo to

Official Rules


Step 1: Click the link below to become a fan of our Facebook page…

Caribbean Travel + Life’s Facebook Page

Step 2: Email us your favorite Caribbean vacation photo at!

** Bonus: Become a fan of Coconut Bay Beach Resort’s Facebook page too–Then if you win, you’ll also get the VIP treatment with round trip airport transfers, a bottle of champagne and a fruit platter in your room!

The entry period for this contest is October 12th through November 8th, 2009, and winners will be announced by November 20th, 2009.

Official Rules

Your stay includes: four nights of all-inclusive accommodations at Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa in St. Lucia for two adults and up to two children (in same room); all meals, snacks and drinks at the resort; fully supervised children’s center; use of the resort’s water park attraction and other amenities; and all hotel taxes and gratuities.

** If you’re a fan of Coconut Bay Beach Resort’s Facebook page, your stay will also include round trip airport transfers from Hewanorra International Airport; a welcome bottle of champagne; and a VIP fruit platter on arrival.

Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, located in St. Lucia’s exotic southern coast, is a 254-room, all-inclusive casual Caribbean resort that caters to couples and families alike. Mirrored after the island’s most famous landmarks, the twin Piton Mountains, Coconut Bay has its own set of twins, Harmony and Splash. “Harmony” is a tranquil adult-only oasis offering the perfect setting for a romantic escape with a palm-fringed pool, braided hammocks, intimate cabana beds and the oceanfront Kai Mer Spa, while “Splash” offers families a tropical playground featuring CocoLand Kidz Klub, a paintball facility, a watersports complex offering kitesurfing and the island’s largest water park.

View of the famous Gros Piton on St Lucia

View of the famous Gros Piton on St Lucia

Official Rules

Kayaking in St Lucia

Kayaking in St Lucia

View while hiking in St Lucia

View while hiking in St Lucia

Recalling a visit to the Strange Capuchin Cemetery in Rome

October 14, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

cemetery_of_capuchinsWith Halloween approaching, I thought I’d blog about a few of the eeriest places I’ve visited over the years. Without a doubt, the Capuchin Cemetery in Rome, Italy, takes the dubious honor.

You’ll find the cemetery, actually a crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Immaculate Conception), on the Via Veneto near Palazzo Barbareni. The ghastly chamber reeks with decay and is divided into five tiny chapels linked via a dim passageway. The place is so weird, even Dan Browne skipped a mention in his book, Angels and Demons.

Within lies the final resting place for over 4,000 Capuchin friars who died between 1528 and 1870. Some were first buried elsewhere and then transferred here. The soil in the crypt was brought from Jerusalem. A few dozen skeletons remain intact, draped in hooded Franciscan habits. Large numbers of bones adorn the walls in complex decorative patterns; some resemble bas-reliefs, others hang from the ceiling as working light fixtures. One chapel overflows with countless leg bones and skulls.


The first room, known as the Crypt of the Resurrection, features a picture of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, framed by parts of a human skeleton. Visitors are encouraged to interpret the displays of funereal art as the Christian belief in resurrection and everlasting life.

A plaque in one of the chapels reads, in three languages, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”

I honestly can’t describe the macabre, grotesque effect, albeit with a certain artistic merit. The unearthed skeletal array makes this sacred shrine more a ghoulish tourist attraction. One needs only a few minutes to see the place, if at all.

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