Discovering the Venice Carnival

The city of Venice is an extravaganza of sight and sound. From the Bridge of Sighs that spans one of the many canals to the decadent architecture that hangs across the city’s skyline, it is a place where history truly comes alive for the visitor. Echoes of past lives can be found everywhere you go, and this is no more so true than at the Venice Carnival in the ten days before Lent.

The Carnival has a tradition that stretches back to Roman times in Europe, and is more traditionally associated with the final feast before fasting at Lent. In Venice, the carnival took on a new meaning at the height of Venetian oppulence in the 17th and 18th centuries. Then Venice was a world power. Living was done to excess, and so the carnival was begun on December 26th, the non-stop partying, flirting and gambling lasting through until Mardi Gras.

Carnival dress was important. Masks and costumes we worn to hide identities and to protect the reputations of those participating in the more illicit activities. By the end of the 18th century the high life in Venice was over. The carnival fell by the wayside as Venice came under the rule of Napolean.

Today a reincarnation of the Venice Carnival occurs every year in the week leading up to Lent. Events include numerous masked balls, theatrical performances, concerts and pageants in a more tempered style of the Venetian glory days. The 2006 Venice Carnival takes place from the 17th-28th February.

Health and Medical Tourism in Bulgaria

In 2004, the number of incoming tourists who visited the Bulgarian spa centres increased by approximately 20 percent, compared to 2003. The well developed network of private cosmetic surgery and dental clinics offer services at prices several times lower than the lowest in the European Union, and this fact has attracted the attention of the large insurance companies that cover their clients’ medical expenses. They are more willing than before to pay for trips to the east, where treatment is many times cheaper.

Plastic surgery not covered by medical insurance also attracts clients with prices that are up to five times lower. The good value of medical treatment is topped up with high-quality service: foreign patients in Bulgaria have a wide choice of doctors and clinics because in the mid-1990s many of the best physicians in the country, disappointed with their low state salaries, set up private surgeries and clinics.

Mineral water treatment

Mineral water treatment is particularly popular among foreign tourists, because Bulgaria
boasts more than a thousand mineral springs scattered throughout the country. The water content in many of them is similar to those in world-renowned spas like Baden-Baden and Vichy.

Some present-day Bulgarian spas were built on the sites of ancient Roman thermae or Turkish baths. The best-known balneology and mud bath therapy centres are Pavel Banya, Hisar, Velingrad, Narechen, Vurshets, Kyustendil and Momin Prohod, near Kostenets. They specialise in the treatment of different ailments, depending on their water content.

Hisar, located among the impressive ruins of an ancient Roman fortress in the plain between the Balkan Mountains and Plovdiv, is recommended for renal and gastrointestinal illnesses. Sapareva Banya sprang up around the hottest water spring in Bulgaria. Narechen specialises in neural disorders, Pavel Banya in orthopaedic illnesses and traumas, and Sandanski in pulmonary diseases. Two large seaside resorts, Albena and Pomorie, offer mud bath treatment.

Most of these centres also offer special rehabilitation and toning programmes. The prices vary, depending on the treatment. For example, a 10-day anti-stress programme, including aromatherapy, massage, and Iye-phoresis, costs less than 100 Euros; a flve-day treatment of rheumatic pain is from 70 to 110 Euros. Accommodation is between 20 and 70 Euros a day, full board.

Slimming centres

Other popular destinations are the slimming centres. The most popular clinic for non-medicinal treatment of obesity is located in the Black Sea resort of Sts. Constantine and Helena. There, a mild form of medical starvation is practised under constant medical supervision, in combination with a daily allowance of one kilogramme of raw fruit, and healthy eating habits.

The stay in the sanatorium can vary from 10 to 20 days, and the package is between 500 and 2,000 Euros, depending on the length of the treatment. It includes accommodation in a four-star hotel, daily doctor’s rounds, personal consultation with the centre’s head physician, the development of an individual dieting and nutrition schedule for each patient upon leaving, and medical examinations.

Plastic surgery

Plastic surgery also attracts health tourists with its prices and services. The plastic and cosmetic surgery clinics which opened in the mid-1990s turned out to be too many, and the severe competition forced their owners to invest in modern equipment, good specialists, and a range of amenities for in-house patients. Besides, they had to keep their prices low.

Whereas in Germany a woman will pay from 6,000 to 10,000 Euros for a bosom boost, the most expensive clinics in Bulgaria perform the operation for 2,500 to 3,000 Euros. The ratio between other services is similar.

Face-lifting under full anaesthesia is hardly over 1,200 Euros, complete lips correction is not higher than 450 Euros, and liposuction costs 300 Euros.

Dental services

Another popular goal of health tourism in Bulgaria is dental services. The private dental surgeries in the bigger towns are numerous, and the prices, calculated in accordance with the Bulgarian standard of living, are incredibiy low, compared to prices in western Europe. Some surgeries have dual pricing for Bulgarians and foreigners; so, check in advance.

The prices in Sofia, Burgas, Varna and Plovdiv are relatively the same: from 10 to 15 Euros for an initial examination, from 15 to 20 Euros for cleaning of caries and a photo polymer filling, and from 20 to 30 Euros for the treatment of pulpitis.

What does the law in Bulgaria say?

Bulgarian legislation grants foreign citizens the right to treatment in all medical establishments in the country. In case of emergency, foreigners can get help in the nearest clinic.

The head of the respective medical establishment has to inform the patient’s insurer immediately about the necessary treatment, except in emergencies.

Short-term foreign visitors to Bulgaria who do not insure themselves according to internal regulations have to pay for their medical treatment in accordance with the price list of the respective medical institution.

Travel Massachusetts – Must See Nature, Historical Sites, and Favorite Local Events

Everyone knows about Cape Cod and Boston as great travel destinations. But, there are lesser traveled gems like Cape Ann and Western Mass. Below, I have suggested some of my favorite holiday trips. Explore Massachusetts and keep coming back for more!

Gloucester / Rockport – Gloucester and Rockport are the gems of Cape
Ann. Both towns offer art communities, real fishing communities, great beaches,
whale watches, and more. Gloucester has recently become famous as the real life
and hollywood home of the Perfect Storm. If you are looking for history (these towns
were founded shortly after the Pilgrims landed), great seafood, art, beaches (try
Good Harbor Beach or Wingaersheek Beach), festivals such as St. Peter’s Fiesta, the
Folklife Festival, or the Fish Festival…. visit Cape Ann and be amazed!

Salem – Travel to Salem and learn a little bit about America’s sad and
scary past. Due to the hysterics of two young girls, the town of Salem (which at that
time was actually located in what is now Danvers) began the Salem witch trials in
1692. Sadly, at that time, persecution of witches was not uncommon, but these
trials are among the most famous. 24 people eventually died as a direct result of the
Salem witch trials. Today, you can visit several museums dedicated to this piece of
history. Among them are, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum,
and the Witch Dungeon Museum. Salem is now a popular destination for present day
witches.

National Seashore – Travel to see the dunes at Cape Cod’s National
Seashore, and you will see a federally protected sea shore. There are over 40,000
acres of dunes sprawling across 40 miles running the length of Cape Cod. To truly
enjoy the views, the salt air, and the crashing waves…. rent a bicycle and ride along
an old Indian trail. The ride will also give you a glimpse of old new England wealth
and summer spirit as you pass by historic mansions and towns.

Martha’s Vineyard – Martha’s Vineyard as long been a popular holiday
destination for travelers around the world and across the continent. Charm is
overflowing on this island. Take a ferry from Wood’s Hole and explore the cranberry
bogs, sand dunes, and New England architecture of Martha’s Vineyard. For an
alternate trip, check out Nantucket.

Pop Goes the Fourth – Nowhere in the United States is the Fourth of July
as big a holiday as in Boston. Every year the Boston Symphony Pops Orchestra plays
outdoors, synchronized with the fireworks display along the Esplanade. Travel to
Boston for the 4th of July and you will not be disappointed.

The Freedom Trail – No Boston holiday is complete without a trip down
the Freedom Trail. A red line known as the Freedom trail circles around the city of
Boston, leading you to some of the most important historical sites pertaining to the
United States’ Independence. Highlights of the walk include, Old Ironsides, Boston
Common, the Paul Revere house, and the Old State House. You can pick up the
Freedom Trail at any point and walk a part or walk the whole thing. Travel the
Freedom trail and realize why Boston is a great city for history and walking.

Foliage Tour – Mohawk Trail, otherwise known as Rte. 2, is by far the
most popular foliage tour in Massachusetts. Fall is an unbelievably beautiful time in
New England, and Massachusetts is certainly no exception. No matter where you
travel during the fall foliage season, you are sure to seem some amazing colors.
Apple picking goes hand in hand with leaf peeping, so feel free to get off the beaten
trail and wander around some of the more rural areas. If you have time, join in a
hayride and drink some great hot apple cider!

Mount Greylock / Appalachian Trail – Mount Greylock has long been the
inspiration for American writers. Today the protected lands cover 12,000 acres
including the highest point in Massachusetts. Features include the Bascom Lodge,
over 70 hiking trails, and amazing views. If you are interested in hiking a portion of
the Appalachian trail, there is access through this park.

You can explore the nature and history of Massachusetts for years and never see at
all. The beach will continue to call you, the foliage with amaze you year after year,
and the museums and history will keep you thinking and learning. Enjoy the state
and realize why the locals never need to leave!