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Exploring the Trumps’ roots on a European trek

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The following is a collection of observations from the west coast of Scotland and a little-traveled swath of Mitteleuropa, a German term for Central Europe. It’s an area that includes modern Germany but also Austria and what’s sometimes called “Germania Slavica,” the eastern edge of the German medieval settlement in parts of the modern Czech Republic and Slovenia. Besides the Trump clan, this slice of Europe is the birthplace of Freud, Grimm’s fairy tales, the Nazi movement, schnitzel, Pilsner beer and some of Europe’s great writers and musicians including Kafka, Dvorak and Mozart.

The Outer Hebrides

Before hitting the European continent, I made a pit stop at the Isle of Lewis, one of the northernmost islands in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. It lies so far out in the North Atlantic that it’s closer to Iceland than to London. A bonny place, in the local argot, it’s also the birthplace of Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod. She left for the United States in 1929 on a steamer carrying hundreds of her fellow Scottish islanders who, during one of the great waves of emigration, were in search of work and prosperity.

After driving by Mary Anne MacLeod’s childhood home, a two-bedroom rectangle with a pitched slate roof and two chimneys set against a tidal marsh (and still inhabited by her relatives, who have stopped talking to the media), I grabbed a burger in the bar of one of the few open establishments, the Caladh Inn.

The island prides itself on its strict adherence to the Sabbath, even the ferry was forbidden from landing on Sundays until 2009, when only limited service began. So the next morning, I went to church.

The grey stone Stornoway High Church is where Trump’s mother and all nine of her siblings were baptized early in the last century.

Today, cruise ships disgorge hundreds of tourists on summer day trips to pick up Harris tweed made at the source, eat fish and chips at the Stornoway chip shop, explore Lews Castle and visit the Callanish standing stones, dozens of mysterious giant rocks dragged to a field overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, placed there by Neolithic people 1,300 years before the rocks at Stonehenge.

Kallstadt, Germany

To get to the winemaking town of Kallstadt, Germany, the birthplace of Frederick and Elizabeth Christ Trump, the president’s paternal grandparents, I made a rendezvous in Paris with my husband, Erik, and we hopped a high-speed train to Mannheim, a mid-size urban hub that is home to a U.S. army base and a rapidly growing population of immigrants from the Middle East. There we caught up with the filmmaker and native Kallstadter Simone Wendel, whose documentary “Kings of Kallstadt” is a wry look at her town’s simultaneously bemused and bewildered response to the fact that two famous American families, Heinz and Trump, hail from her tiny town.

Kallstadt lies in a corner of the Rhine Valley, at a point where the wind blows up from the south, and the soil is unusually dense with clay, which holds the heat of the sun in the earth, forming a kind of micro climate — perfect for growing the riesling grape that is distilled into the Pfalzer wine.

Almost every home has a large white plastic tank with a spigot parked in the courtyard or driveway, filled with the local red.

The area has been a magnet for German tourism since the early 1900s, when industrialization gave working people a bit more leisure time. The wandervogels, literally hiking birds, made it a hiking destination and, generations later, Germans still come to mountain bike, hike and mushroom-hunt in the boar-infested woods of the nearby Palatinate forest.

It was cold and rainy, so rather than hiking I spent another Sunday morning in church at Kallstadt, hoping to find parishioners who recalled any stories about the long-gone Trump ancestors and to see records related to the family.

The church once solicited money from Kallstadt’s rich American descendant: Trump sent $5,000. (The check came attached to a letter embossed with a giant gold T, which the church has added to its reliquary.) Trump’s money went to restoring the warped and cracked 16th-century door, a restoration that your correspondent can attest was successful — halfway through the German service, I nipped out to make a phone call, but the massive wooden door was so secure it was impossible to open and I found myself trapped inside the vestibule for another 20 minutes of German hymns.

After spending a rainy afternoon looking for people who knew the Trumps, and checking out the grandparents’ homes — a pair of simple two-story structures — we were finally ready for the local specialty: saumagen. Kallstadt is so famous for this delicacy, pig stomach, in which pork meat and vegetables and herbs like marjoram are made into a kind of extra large sausage, that a recent German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was known to have regularly sent for it to be delivered to Berlin.

We headed over to the Winzerstuben Weick and ordered plates of it. It was good and filling, but as we tucked into our pig stomach we noticed that we were the only ones eating it. Our fellow diners were all waiting on a man in a white coat and chef’s hat to wheel over whole roast goose, lit sparklers attached to each leg, and swiftly carve it onto plates with a slice of the apple that had been in its stomach.

As dozens of families around us gorged on spangled roast goose we wondered what obscure European holiday we were witnessing. The answer would have to wait until the next leg of our journey.

Prague and Zlin, Czech Republic

Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, is the birthplace of Trump’s first wife, Ivana (mother to Ivanka, Donald, Jr. and Eric Trump). To get there from Kallstadt, we took a couple of trains and then hopped a Czech Air prop plane from Frankfurt to Prague, landing in a light snow. Around midnight, we drove a rental car into the city as snow flakes drifted on myriad spires in the yellow street lights. A fairy-tale town, I thought.

An early morning jog over the Charles Bridge revealed that it is a kind of outdoor museum of Baroque bronze sculpture from the 18th century.

That morning, a pink light from the rising sun illuminated the river and distant spires as statues of some three dozen obscure saints and notables gazed down at the bridge. Ivo, Ludmilla, Adalbert, Cyril and Methodius, John of Nepomuk, Sigismund and Wenceslas and others are each arranged in tableaux commemorating events and stories that require a history doctoral thesis to fully comprehend. Wenceslas was the only name I remotely recognized, bringing to mind the first simple piano tune I ever learned to play: “Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen / When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”

After a pit stop for an interview with a historian at the Institute of Contemporary History at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic near the U.S. Embassy (a building where a plaque proclaims Kafka lived at the same address — how Kafka-esque!) we did a rapid hit of the city’s tourist high points, up and down narrow, hilly, cobbled streets, looking at marionettes, the Museum of Alchemy and crystals on sale in the stores … and finally off to lunch at a restaurant called Lokal Dlouhaaa in the old town.

Here again, the roast goose topped the day’s menu. We ordered and tucked into a deliciously crisp slab with a side of red cabbage. The waiter helpfully explained that goose is eaten for Martinmas, a holiday officially celebrating the fourth-century St. Martin of Tours, but also known as Old Halloween, a reference to the pagan autumnal tradition of bonfires across Europe. In Prague, they say, “Martin rides in on a white horse” — because around Martin’s feast day, the first snow always falls. And indeed, as we had seen, it had.

We left Prague and its crystals, Dvorak and alchemy, much too soon, and motored out onto the D1, a major auto artery aiming south. Departing Prague for Zlin, the birthplace and hometown of Ivana Trump, the president’s first wife and mother of his oldest three children, is like travelling from an enchanted land of elves and fairies, and back to dull mortal Middle-earth. The earth goes flat and monochromatic, and, especially in November, dry corn shocks and leafless birch trees dominate the view, reminiscent of the American Midwest where I grew up.

At Zlin, we checked into the Hotel Moskva, a mid-20th-century brick pile of a Soviet relic, all function and no form, with elevators that open onto identical, mint-green hallways dotted with brown numbered doors that could be a set for “Stranger Things” or “The X Files.”

Zlin is a city of no-nonsense, working people, a factory city, famous not as the hometown of Ivana Trump, but of an early-20th-century cobbler, Tomas Bata, who turned his family’s cobbler shop into a global megacorporation, with factory assembly lines copied from Henry Ford. The Bata brand is still sold worldwide.

Ljubljana and Sevnica, Slovenia

Our final destination on the Trump immigrants tour was Melania Trump’s birthplace in Slovenia. To get there, we drove hundreds of miles through Old Bohemia, Moravia and Austria, passing shrivelled vineyards in icy rain, green fields in fog, and church spires on foggy hilltops.

We reached Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, after a morning drive southward, passing a Heidi-scape of Alpine horizon, blue skies, puffy clouds. Ljubljana is one of the most charming cities I’ve ever seen. It looks and feels like a miniature, bikeable replica of an Italian city. The central piazza is built around the Sava River, crossed by a charming footbridge, with white railings. A pink church with white columns and the words Ave Gratia Plena (Hail, full of grace) anchors one end; on the other are numberless Vespas and bicycles parked beside outdoor bars and bistros. At sunset and dawn, the Alps glow in a distant semicircle around the city.

It’s difficult to imagine why anyone would want to leave such a lovely place, but Slovenia’s famous former resident did leave when she was 19 and, since moving to the United States, has returned only once. But Slovenians have not forgotten her. Since Donald Trump started his presidential campaign, tourism has reportedly risen by 30 per cent.

The next morning, we drove a curving narrow road along the Sava River and through pine forests and past corn and pumpkin fields to the first lady’s birthplace, Sevnica.

Sevnica, it turns out, was, like Zlin, also once a shoe factory town. Today, all that’s left of the shoe industry is a rowboat-sized wooden shoe sculpture hovering like a spectre above the roundabout entrance to town.

As for commemorations to Melania, the Julija pastry shop in Sevnica invented and sells the Melania torte, a confection of almond and white chocolate. Melania’s Slovenian lawyer has snuffed out efforts to put “Melania” on other products though. Sevnicans have got around this by naming a few products “First Lady,” and so one can pick up local First Lady red wine and soaps at the tiny tourist centre.

Not much to see on Sevnica’s single main street, Trg Svobode, besides the smokestacks of a few factories by the Sava River. Melania’s father, Viktor Knavs, now a U.S. citizen living primarily in New York, still owns and sometimes stays at his house on a street a few blocks off the main street. The unassuming ranch-style house has attracted journalists with cameras, but when Viktor is in town, the locals warned us that he has been known to chase off the curious with some vehemence, so we noted the American flag on the mailbox from a safe distance and left.

We hightailed it to Vienna and a plane home, stopping for a last meal in Middle Europe at the Austrian capital’s most famous schnitzel house, the raucous Figlmuller, where the line was out the door, waiting for a plate of the house specialty, a slab of breaded and fried pork that extended beyond the edges of the plate.

That night, overdosed on meat and beer, steeped in the fairy-tale scenery, I dreamed strange dreams of lonely church spires in the fog, cobbled streets and cobblers and Good King Wenceslas, looking out on the newly fallen deep snow a millennium ago.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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