Travel Articles


History of the Liberation of Auschwitz: January 27, 1945

By billpetro / January 27, 2023 /

HISTORY OF THE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ: JANUARY 27, 1945 January 27, 1945, was the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, one of the most notorious camps of World War II, by the Soviet Red Army. This date is now known by the United Nations and the European Union as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In America, Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on April 8. In Israel, it’s called Yom HaShoah, or “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” and begins at sundown on April 27. The Hebrew word Shoah, or “catastrophe,” is often used for Holocaust. Almost 200,000 Holocaust survivors are still alive. The USC Shoah…

Read More

History of Oktoberfest: Why is it in September?

By billpetro / September 17, 2022 /

HISTORY OF OKTOBERFEST Why is the famous German beer festival held in September if it’s called Oktoberfest? Officially, the beer festival starts on the third Saturday in September and through early October for 16 to 18 days. And it’s back this year; Oktoberfest 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Let’s look back at Oktoberfest’s origin.

Read More

Italy Tour: Pisa in a Day

By billpetro / August 6, 2022 /

ITALY TOUR: PISA IN A DAY Can you visit Pisa on an Italy Tour in a single day? Yes, a day trip will do it quite easily. Cruise ships regularly dock at the nearby Port of Livorno.   Pisa is a Tuscan city passed through by the Arno River, which also passes through Florence further south. Historically it was a maritime republic before the days of the unification of Italy in the late 1800s. The city boasts twenty churches, over half a dozen museums, and several palaces.

Read More

Italy Tour: Naples in a Day? Pizza!

By billpetro / August 5, 2022 /

ITALY TOUR: NAPLES IN A DAY Can you visit Naples on an Italy Tour in a single day? Yes, but you are required by law to eat pizza while there.   I went to Naples by mistake (see my funny story here), but while there, I had some pizza; it was invented there. Very popular there is the Pizza Margherita, named after Queen Margherita of Savoy (France) during her visit to Naples. According to a popular tradition, Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, came to Naples in 1889, some twenty-eight years after the unification of Italy, and met Chef Raffaele Esposito…

Read More

Italy Tour: Venice in a Day

By billpetro / August 4, 2022 /

ITALY TOUR: VENICE IN A DAY Can you visit the major sites of Venice on an Italy Tour in a single day? It is quite doable; “Venezia” is a smallish island.

Read More

Italy Tour: Florence in a Day

By billpetro / August 3, 2022 /

ITALY TOUR: FLORENCE IN A DAY (OR TWO) Can you visit the major Florence sites on an Italy Tour in a single day? If you’re fast or have a bit more than a day. Think of Florence as “Renaissance with a capital R.” Thanks in part to the patronage of the Medici family, the city is fairly littered with some of the most fabulous Renaissance art in the world. It’s a very walkable city, but don’t drive there. Really. You’ll thank me for it. Please read my article on Driving in Italy.  

Read More

Italy Tour: Rome in a Day

By billpetro / August 2, 2022 /

ITALY TOUR: ROME IN A DAY (OR TWO) A friend of mine is going on an Italy cruise and asked me to suggest some places for the cities where he has a day or two. I was going to put together a spreadsheet, but I didn’t have enough time, so I wrote this Italy Tour travel guide instead. There is a famous Italian saying: A lifetime is not enough to see Rome (“Non basta una vita”) While “the eternal city,” imperium sine fine (“empire without end” — Virgil’s Aeneid) is that deep historically, there is still a lot you can…

Read More
Reek Sunday

History of Reek Sunday: The Legend of St Patrick Driving the Snakes from Ireland

By billpetro / July 29, 2022 /

HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY: The Legend of St Patrick Driving the Snakes from Ireland Several years ago, at this time of the Summer, on one of my teaching trips to Ireland, I found myself on the west coast, where they have a saying, “Ahh… west o’ here, the next parish over is Boston.“ This Sunday, the last one in July every year, marks Reek Sunday or Garland Sunday in Ireland. During this event, 25,000 to 40,000 people will walk the 3-hour round trip up the Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland. It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick…

Read More
History of Holocaust Remembrance Day

History of Holocaust Remembrance Day

By billpetro / April 8, 2022 /

History of Holocaust Remembrance Day Today, April 8, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a part of Holocaust Days of Remembrance, established by the U.S. Congress as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. The U.S. Army remembers the six million Jewish and millions of other victims of the Holocaust and honors the survivors’ resilience. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom HaShoah. The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I have visited and written about three of the most renowned…

Read More
Ides of March

History of the Ides of March: Who should Beware?

By billpetro / March 15, 2022 /

HISTORY OF THE IDES OF MARCH According to the ancient Roman calendar, the ides fell on the 13th of the month except for March, May, July, and October, when it fell on the 15th of the month. Something epochal occurred in 44 B.C.   Et tu, Brute? On March 15, 44 B.C., the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated after a seer had warned him that harm would befall him before the end of the Ides of March. Contrary to popular belief, including William Shakespeare‘s play, Caesar was not assassinated in the Capitol, meaning the Curia Hostilia or “Senate House”…

Read More
Munich Starkbierfest

History of Starkbier Festival

By billpetro / March 4, 2022 /

HISTORY OF STARKBIER FESTIVAL Starkbierfest runs from March to April, with some biergartens as early as March 3. The heart of this festival is in Munich, Germany, specifically at Paulaner am Nockherberg Brewery, where it all began and lasts about two weeks. It is unlike its more well-known sibling Oktoberfest in a few ways.   Little Known Outside of Germany and Munich in particular, it’s not widely known, except to German ex-pats or beer lovers. Or historians who have visited Munich in the Spring.   Narrowly Observed There are perhaps half a dozen locations in Munich that celebrate it.   Misunderstood Starkbierfest…

Read More
Reek Sunday

History of Reek Sunday, part 3: Location

By billpetro / July 26, 2019 /

HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY, Part 3: LOCATION In our previous article on Reek Sunday, we discussed the Pilgrimage to County Mayo, Ireland for Cruach Phadraig — as it is known in Irish — that is also called “The Reek.” It stands at 764 meters or 2510 feet elevation. It is located about 5 miles from the lovely town of Westport, an Irish Tidy Town. St. Patrick’s “Confessions,” tells of his slavery in the wood of Fochluth. Evidence relating to the history of St. Patrick suggests that this location was actually on the west shore of Ireland in this area. Reek…

Read More