The Travel Professor
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

Columbus Day honors the explorer Christopher Columbus, who first landed in the New World on October 12, 1492. While Columbus's nationality has never been positively identified, many believe he was of Italian descent, and throughout the nineteenth century, Italian-Americans held celebrations in cities across the United States to honor his memory. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 Columbus Day. President Richard Nixon later declared Columbus Day a national holiday to be observed the second Monday of each October.

It is still debated as to whether he first landed on one of the islands of the present day Bahamas or the island of Hispaniola shared by the nations of Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Regardless of the exact location Columbus is still credited as the first European to discover the “New World”. I’m sure that Viking explorer Leif Erickson would debate Columbus and you on this topic.

There are ancient Norse myths and stories that talk about a rich fertile land west of Greenland. It is described as a rich fertile place with an abundance of grape vines.
One such story recalls on his voyage to Greenland how he sailed off-course and arrived in a place he called 'Vinland', because of the abundant grapes growing there, and the general fertility of the land. In another - the Groenlendinga saga - he heard of a land in the west from an Icelandic trader, and went to find it. Reportedly in 1003-1004 AD he landed in modern day Canada.

Although precise identity of Vinland remains uncertain various locations on the North American coast have been identified as possible site. In 1963 archaeologists found ruins of a Viking-type settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, in northern Newfoundland, which correspond to Leif's description of Vinland.

The truth may never been known but this makes for a great story and even a Hollywood movie. Better yet you make the call.

Happy travels!