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New England

January 14, 2006

New England

It is hardly surprising that John Smith gave the coastal region of the north easternmost part of the U.S. the name "New England" at the beginning of the 17th century. Its sometimes rugged, sometimes gentle shoreline, verdant green meadows and colorful ...

It is hardly surprising that John Smith gave the coastal region of the north easternmost part of the U.S. the name "New England" at the beginning of the 17th century. Its sometimes rugged, sometimes gentle shoreline, verdant green meadows and colorful deciduous forests against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains reminded the seafarer of his native England.

To this day, New England has retained many non-American traits: along with their religion, the settlers from the Old World brought European architecture, art and culture to the unexplored territories.

However, American traditions are also rooted in the cities of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island. The latter was the first state to allow freedom of religion, while the city of Boston served as the cradle of America's fight for independence. New England is therefore not only scenically beautiful, but also a region rich in history.

Acadia National Park

Samuel de Champlain discovered "L'île des Monts Déserts", or island of barren mountains, in 1604. Now known as Acadia National Park, it was named after the French colony to which it belonged for a number of years. The fissured main island, Mount Desert Island, is divided by the only fjord on North America's eastern coast.

The little town of Bar Harbor, a point of departure for observing whales, sailing trips and sightseeing tours of the park, lies on the eastern side. The island, with its craggy granite peaks and dense forest, experienced its first tourism upsurge in the late 19th century. When rich and famous New Yorkers and Bostonians discovered this natural paradise, they built country homes for themselves in the small bays along the rugged coast. Then as now, the main tourist attraction of the National Park is the spectacular sunset viewed from the top of 1,523-foot Cadillac Mountain.

Cambridge

University towns may have one or more universities; Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) have their own town. The campuses of the two elite universities sprawl across most of the area of Cambridge. Nearly everything along the north bank of the Charles River is centered on campus life. Rents vary depending on the number of students. Shops and restaurants cater to the needs of the local student population.

Twice a year, at the beginning and end of the summer vacation, the entire transport system in Cambridge collapses with predictable consistency. The streets leading to and from the student dormitories are clogged by trucks and station wagons and resemble an anthill as parents and students laden with luggage thread their way through town. At other times of the year, visitors can wander around the campus and visit one or other of the very interesting museums.

Cape Cod

Most visitors to the moon-shaped peninsula of Cape Cod go there to fish, swim and relax. In so doing, they are following in the footsteps of other illustrious guests, such as Nobel laureate Eugene O'Neill and the Kennedys. Sandy beaches stretch for miles, and the good infrastructure for tourists helps attract thousands of sun worshippers every year.

This is not to say that the smaller resorts don't have tourist attractions of their own. The Mayflower, for instance, which carried the Pilgrim Fathers, first dropped anchor off the coast of Provincetown in 1620. In the early 20th century, a group of artists set up a colony there. Boats leave the harbor to head for the main living attraction of Cape Cod Bay: the Humpback, Fin and Minke Whales that gather in the food-rich waters between Provincetown and Boston during the summer. Cape Cod National Seashore stretches along the western side of the peninsula. In addition to high natural sand dunes and mighty surf breakers, this nature preserve also features an historical site. In 1901, the Italian physicist Marconi became the first person to make wireless contact with Europe from the radio station that now bears his name. For further information, see http://www.capecod.com and http://www.allcapecod.com

Newport

This city on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island has long been a prized holiday destination. The rich families of Boston and New York discovered it in the 19th century as an ideal spot for their splendid summer residences. Some of the historic villas along Ocean Drive or on Bellevue Avenue are partly open to visitors. Some 2,500 craftsmen spent two years constructing The Breakers, the summer residence of the Vanderbilt family.

Only Trinity Church, built in 1726, rises above the sea of low houses along the harbor. The white church stands on Town Green, an apparently historic commons that – as so many others – only came into being in the 20th century. The extensive restoration of the old town was only completed a few years ago. As a result, more than sixty historic buildings once again reflect their former architectural splendor.

Penobscot Bay

The largest bay in the state of Maine provides one of the prettiest panoramas in New England. The picturesque towns along the coast and on the offshore islands are still characterized by sea travel. Communities further along the Penobscot River were once supplied with timber for boat building, and fishing is still the most important industry in Penobscot Bay.

Lobster boats dominate the scenery in smaller fishing towns like Port Clyde and Tenants Harbor. The Transportation Museum in Owls Head further north includes not only boats but also every imaginable form of transportation, from antique cars to biplanes. Lobster is cheapest in Rockland, one of the most important lobster and sardine fishing ports. However, most vacationers head for Camden, which offers a wide variety of recreational activities including from rides on windjammers and other water sports, while the nearby Camden Hills State Park has 25 miles of hiking trails and several unique scenic viewpoints. For further information, see http://www.penbay.org and http://www.penobscotbay.com

Providence

Providence has been trying to shake off its reputation as a second-rate attraction for many years. And that may be why more and more tourists are including the capital of Rhode Island in their itineraries. One of the reasons for doing so is the State House, which has the world's second-largest self-supporting domes and is modeled after the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Thanks to its lovely Art Deco façade, the Fleet Bank mini-skyscraper is a popular photo motif. The nearby arcade - a smaller version of Boston's Quincy Market - sells food, flowers and clothing.

The Mile of History east of Providence, whose buildings have authentic façades going back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, is well worth seeing. The Providence Museum of Art exhibits works by French and American artists. Prospect Terrace on Benefit Street provides a marvelous view of Providence and the campus of Brown University. The Brown industrial dynasty not only gave the university its name; the family's wealth also paid for the construction of most of the buildings on campus.

Salem

The well-preserved, Federal-style little houses of Salem don't seem to fit the bloodthirsty history that unfolded here 300 years ago. The first generation of settlers was made up of strict, God-fearing puritans. In 1692, in a wave of mass hysteria, they executed twenty women for witchcraft. Arthur Miller retold this gruesome spectacle in his socially critical play, The Crucible.

However, Salem has more to offer than the Salem Witch Museum and Witch Dungeon Museum. Daily guided tours of the historic wharfs and restored harbor buildings leave from the Information center on the harbor. The Peabody Essex Museum on East India Square shows curios from around the world, collected and brought home by sea captains over a period of 300 years. The colonial-style House of the Seven Gables served as the setting for the novel of the same name by the famous American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is open to the public, as is the author's birthplace.

White Mountain National Forest

One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of New Hampshire is to drive through its mountains, which are the highest in New England. The colorful blanket of the deciduous forests of the White Mountains is broken only by rushing mountain streams and barren peaks. Those with a passion for mountaineering can choose from a multitude of idyllic hiking trails.

Less athletic souls have an alternative: 6,289-foot Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England, is accessible via toll road and by the Mount Washington Cog Railway. The permafrost at the summit and a fantastic panoramic view across the range with its peaks gives an indication of the excellent skiing this resort promises. The storytelling actors dressed as trappers and Native American Indians at the Heritage New Hampshire in Glen transport visitors back to the 19th century. For further information, see http://www.heritagenh.com . The adjacent Storyland amusement park (http://www.storylandnh.com) offers a variety of theme rides geared to younger visitors, and an exciting whitewater tour.

© Berlitz Publishing/Apa Publications GmbH & Co KG, Singapore Branch, Singapore

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