Bounty, By The Bay,
GABE LEVENSON TRAVEL WRITER
Seniors snoozing in the sun? Tampa Bay is no Retirement City, as I had once thought.
The area embracing Tampa itself and St. Petersburg across the bay turned out to be one of my more rewarding U.S. travel destinations.
Tampa was the port of disembarkation at the close of a two-week Caribbean cruise aboard the Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam. More than a thousand miles from home, in a part of America to which we would probably never return, my wife and I decided to see what little there was to be seen, So we stayed for two days but should have stayed much longer, so much was there to see and do.
Here, briefly, are the highlights of our visit, in no particular order of importance, except for the first destination. For us it was the No. 1 attraction of the entire area.
Florida Holocaust Museum. This extraordinary museum not only portrays the horrors of the Holocaust, as other similar museums do, it personalizes each of the 12 panels of the core exhibit.
One wall of the museum, titled “History, Heritage and Hope,” is covered with photos of Holocaust survivors who live in the Tampa Bay area. of the houses and streets in which they once lived, the places they. worked or studied. Viewers choose an individual they would like to know more about, then hear the taped voice of that person recounting his or her Holocaust experience. _
We were guided on a two hour tour of the museum’s three floors by Herbert Obererlabher, a 21 year old Austfan,~one of a corps of 100 young interns who serve as guides or archivists at Holocaust institutions throughout the world. It’s the choice they are allowed to make as an alternative to.Austria’s compulsory military service: The program, calledGedenkdienst (“Remembrance. Service”), is largely financed by the Austrian government:
Obererlabher told us in fluent, idiomatic English, “Our late chancellor, Franz Vianitzky, said it first: `Austria is part of the collective responsibility for the Holocaust.’ Each of us is here to remember and to fight for `never again!’ “
In its two years, the museum has received mole than 100,000 visitors.
“At least 85 percent are non Jews,” reports spokeswoman Diane Tindell, “and our outreach program to schools, churches, synagogues and other organizations in the area has already reached almost a half million more.” The museum’s education program has proven so successful, she adds, that officials from Yad Vashem have journeyed to St. Petersburg “to learn how we do it.”
The museum proclaims itself the fourth largest Holocaust museum in the United States, but size is of little conscience.
Its contents and accompanying educational programs make it a must see for snowbirds and other visitors or sojourners anywhere in Florida.
The Florida Holocaust Museum, 55 Fifth St. S.; phone (727) 820 0100;
fax, (727) 821 8435; Web site, www.flholocaustmuseum.org
The entrance to the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, which in two years has received more than 100,000 visitors.