Spain - Canary Islands - Tenerife - Puerto de la Cruz

by Kimp 7. July 2018 00:26

Welcome !!!

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History

Once a small fishing village, the Spanish built a port here in the 1600’s to foster the trade of wine and sugar. That brought in many entrepreneurs, and a fortress had to be built, to protect the trade businesses from pirates.

Today  

35,000 locals call Port de la Cruz home, and the tourists probably outnumber the locals most of the year.  The sugar is all gone and the tourists happily consume the wine.

It brings enough revenue into Spain, that, in political matters, it is left alone to do as it feels is best.

Food

The fish here, is, some of the healthiest and finest, that I have ever sampled. As fresh as it gets and plenty of variety. I felt like I was in healthy food heaven.

Beaches

Several large black sand beaches and I managed to find the beach, away from the big tourist area, that few tourists visit. Always awesome to find the hidden place, where the locals hang out.

Lago Martiánez

A massive water complex bordering the ocean, with 4 large swimming pools, several smaller pools, and a massive manmade saltwater lake. Complimented with several restaurants and a casino, all for a decent price.

Surfs Up

A sweet surfing school and several pro shops. Pick any review source you like, and it Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, will probably review as 5 out of 5 in the surfing learning and fun category.  Great water temperature to start things off right, for the paddle out. Turn around, and you might miss the sweet wave, cause the view of Mt. Tiede towering over a sweet looking small village, fills up the senses and overwhelms. Hanging ten and riding on cloud nine, just about describes it to a tee.

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Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time !!!

Craig

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Travel

Spain - Canary Islands - Tenerife - Santa Cruz

by Kimp 23. June 2018 23:30

Welcome !!!

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Today

Tenerife’s motto is “Do anything you feel like, any day of the year.”

About 10 Million people visit Tenerife each year, to do just that. 

Yearly average highs, range between 70-80F (20-27C) and the average lows are only about 10F (4C) less than the highs. With weather like that, just about anything grows very, very well. The food is always fresh and the fruit is always flavorful in Tenerife.

Tenerife is all about the outdoors. It boasts beach’s, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, whale watching, forests, hiking, mountains, astronomy, and you will never be wishing for more sun. All at affordable Spanish prices.

Home to some of the last pristine Laurel forest in the world and the highest mountain in Spain, which yields an abundance of microclimates resulting in many different habitats. 1,400 higher plant species, 140 of which are endemic to Tenerife. 400 Species of fish and 56 species of birds.

 

History

Some people believe that the lost Continent of Atlantis is in this area of the World. I could certainly believe that, as it is very nice.

 

Homer described the islands as the place righteous people spend their afterlife. Yea, I could certainly believe that as well.

 

Somehow Ptolemy estimated where the Islands should be, and he ended up being fairly accurate. But everyone was afraid to try to go there, for fear of falling off the edge of earth.

 

The Canary Islands were inhabited by natives, later called Guanches, but they were not seafaring, leaving scholars to believe that they were put there by someone else, who wanted to exile a population for some reason. Really no need to go anywhere else. Food was plentiful and living conditions were good.

 

Around the 1300's the Spanish started to colonize the Canary Islands and eventually conquered all of them. After America was discovered, Tenerife became a stopping point for the American Treasure Fleet. On the way back to Spain, they would stop there to take on supplies for the remainder of the trip to Spain.

 

In the late 1700's, the famed British Admiral, Horatio Nelson, decided to attack the port of Sana Cruz de Tenerife, thereby claiming it for Britain, and capturing the American Trade Fleet. He lost that battle, suffered an arm wound, that resulted in amputation to save his life. A constant reminder of the lose, for the rest of his life.


Culture

Tenerife has its own culture in my opinion. They seem to embrace their unique heritage, even with the huge numbers of tourists that are there. It didn't feel like Spain to me.


Food

Probably the best overall food experience ever. Eating fruit and vegetables what have been raised in paradise, is off the charts flavorful.

 

They appear to tend to very simple dishes, that allow the natural flavors room to work on their own. The fruit drinks come in about every variety that there is. I had a different type of fruit drink, every time I got one, and loved every one of them just as much as the other. There can be not favorites in Tenerife, cause the next one will have you second guessing yourself.

 

I ate one supper at a 5-star restaurant. Very expensive, but it was at least 6 courses and I was there for over 2 hours, thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. Small portions, but the flavor is so awesome, I just took extremely small bits and let the flavor savor my senses. The waitress was as great as the meal. She explained everything I was about it eat, with a massive smile and excitement that warmed by heart, and sole, before I even tasted the food. I ate quail for the first time that I can remember, and that was my favorite.

 

The local wine is grow from vineyards on another Canary Island. Those vines grow in the volcanic soil and take in all of the minerals, giving it, its own unique taste. I happily finished off a whole bottle, with the meal I described above.

 

An older British couple who was dining next to me, was also digging the experience I was exuding. The male came over to talk to me for a few minutes. He said, "You are a long way from home. What brings you here?" I jokingly said, "I've already been everywhere else.". He went on to tell me that his father was from the States. His father had fought in WWII, and was stationed in the UK afterwards, were he met and married his mother and stayed in the United Kingdom the rest of his life. What a great story.


That story reminded me of Lewis Kimpel, one of my ancestors back in the late 1800's. Lew lived a full life. When he was a teenager, he was illegally hopping a train, by running next to it, and jumping on the ladder attached to a baggage car. He slipped and fell, and both is legs were cut off at the knee. Later in life, he was a Pony Express rider, and was clubbed over the head by a robber, as he rode through a covered bridge. In those days, the pony express rides often carried bank money and other valuables between locations, in addition to the postage. Unable to ride a horse anymore, he learned guitar, started a band, and became a popular musician in the Western part of Pennsylvania. He was playing a gig in West Virginia one weekend. Meet a waitress there on Friday, they were married on Saturday, the next day, and returned to Western Pennsylvania on Sunday. His wife died of some illness, while still fairly young, and he married May Maude Baker, who would become my father’s grandmother. That is a true story, or at least the one that I remember.

Astronomy
Tenerife is one of the best places in the world for Astronomy, at its world class, sate of the art, mountain top Observatory. Close to the Tropic of Cancer, clear skies and ultra clean pure air make the perfect conditions for star gazing. The observatory offers a large variety of astronomical outings. It is a designated Starlight Tourist Destination.

Penginarium

The Penguinarium is a sort of aquarium dedicated to cute penguins. The largest facility of its kind, duplicates the conditions of Antarctica to allow the observance of penguins in their native habitat. It even snows inside, not where the people are, but where the pengiuns are.


Penguins are awesome. They mate for life in the wild, or at least try to mate for life. After their young are born, they separate, and don't get back together until they mating season. But only about 1/2 can find their mate, so it becomes a free for all, while the single males try to impress a new female mate. Penguins make a nest of mostly rocks, but the nest is a bit inland, and the rocks are way down by the shore. The female is very particular about the rocks, that are going to be the nest for her young. So the male will run down the shore, look for a rock that he thinks she will like, and cart it back, hoping that it will meet her approval. If it does, he will run back down and try to find another similar rock. But every once in a while, one of the males will break from the tradition. "Hell, why run all of the way down to the shore, when I can just steal a rock from someone else's nest, while they are away, looking for materials.". He will steal a rock and try to make a move on hard working Joe's prospective mate, while Joe is at the shore frantically looking for a great rock. If she doesn't like that rock, just steal a few more before Joe gets back, and slowly move in. The odds are in the favor of the penguins who presents the most rocks.


Performance Arts

The Auditorio de Tenerife was completed in 2003. It is a world class architectural structure with great acoustics and is often referred to as the Sydney Opera House of the Atlantic. In addition to the large symphony and opera section, there is also a small chamber music area. The lobby is open every day and the cafe and exterior is a great place to take a break. Beautiful inside and out. Below, on the rocks used to create a water break that prevent erosion of the base, are paintings of several prominent musicians from all eras.

Canary Island culture seems to be big on classical music. Lots of small towns have their own community symphonic orchestra.

I played in a community symphonic orchestra in Melrose Massachusetts for a year or so. They were short a Trombone player, and the dean of the brass department at the college I attended in Boston, asked me if I would fill that seat. I was a jazz performance major, but he knew I had classical roots. They really liked me, and that resulted in a whole string of other classical gigs in Boston. If I ever write up my Boston blog, I'll say more there. I'll just say that Community orchestras are one of those large groups full of all kinds of interesting characters.

From the little that I saw, I would say that Tenerife has some very high-quality community orchestras, and some not so high-quality community orchestras, but I am certain that they are all full of great people in their own right.

Botanical GardensThe old city landfill (garbage dump), an artificial hill sharing the coastline, near the Auditorio, was converted into a Botanical garden, that features palm trees from every part of the world as its main feature. There are also some tropical plants in an interior space called the octagon (for the shapes of the walls around it). The octagon protects the delicate tropical plants from the sea breeze, and somewhat cooler nighttime temperatures, and it has a higher humidity from waterfalls and small water features inside of it.

Thank you for comming along.

I will see you next time.

Craig

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Travel

Greece - Olympia

by Kimp 9. April 2018 06:22

Welcome !!!

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Greek Gods

In my opinion, as long as intelligent humans have wandered the Earth, many have believed in some power that is greater than the whole lot of humans. One day a lightning bolt strikes a tree, starts a fire and burns their hunting grounds to a crisp. I must have done something that upset a higher power, and now they are retaliating. One day an Earthquake levels our stone abode to the ground, along with the trees around it. Same feeling. Crop yields for several years are great, then a drought wipes us out, same feeling. Lunar or solar eclipse, comet passing by, meteorite strike, and something is sending us a sign.

So we ask a Greek Elder, why the earth shook so violently. “Oh, it had to be greedy Theo that caused it. He plowed up 260 Hectares (1 square mile, 2.6 square km) of multi colored peacock anemone (a beautiful Greek wildflower), just to plant barley, so he could make and sell more beer. He upset the Goddess Gaea (goddess of the earth), so she brought the wrath down on everybody. Damn it, I told him not to mess with mother nature.”.

Greek families and Gods seem to fit the epitome of dysfunction. People lying to and tricking Gods. Gods committing all kinds of atrocities against each other and mankind. Entertaining characters when looking in from the outside. It seems that their ancient immortal beliefs may have been modeled after that their own family dynamics.

Ancient Greeks believed there were separate Gods that had very separate and distinct powers. Twelve in all. And that they all lived on Mount Olympus (the highest mountain in Greece). Olympus has multiple peaks each home to one of the Gods, with the summit being the place they would congregate to discuss political issues. Olympus shares a shoreline with the Aegean Sea where Poseidon (the Sea God), had a second home, deep in the sea. The only other God to have a second home away from Olympus was Hades, the God of the underworld (everything under the earth). I’ll bet that was the party house where they would all hang out for a good time. The other gods traveled for business on occasion, but Olympus was their only home.

Many of the Olympian Gods were part of the same clan having received their powers, after defeating the Titans. Titans were the gods who were worshiped by the people who were pagans, before the pagans who worshiped the Olympian Gods. The prior array of gods, whom held uncontested rule of the universe. Cronos was the leader of the Titan’s after gaining that title by castrating his father Uranus with a sickle. Cronos in turn, sired several of the Olympian God’s, and they defeated him to rise to power. Zeus (God of Sky and thunder), was the big dog on the bottom of the totem pole (the bottom of totem poles is what most people look at, so the chief carver does his work there). Zeus was considered the king of the gods, and Hera was the queen. Hera  represented the family as a whole. Zeus and Hera were siblings, but Zeus married and sired children with Hera. Zeus also a had a bit of a wandering eye, partaking in several extra marital affairs. One of which, produced his son Apollo. Apollo was the straight “A” student who became the god of knowledge, art, and the sciences.

In those days, climbing Mt Olympus would not even be considered. By today’s standard’s, it is a bit difficult. For one it’s all rock, and loose rock at that. Someone above is bound to knock a rock loose that could come your way. It rates at Class III on the YDS free climb system. Class III means that the climer will definitely need both feet and hands, should carry a rope just in case it might be needed, and while a fall might be survivable, it most likely will not be survivable. Class III also means it is about a full day to climb, so one is probably staying overnight on the mountain, and the decent is likely harder than the climb. Actually, it should probably be a class XII, meaning that you should get permission from all 12 gods before trespassing.

Some of the names of the twelve gods have changed over the years, probably due to misinterpretations from the listener. Kind of like when the CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) song, “Don’t go around tonight, Well, it’s bound to take your life. I see a bad moon a rising.”, gets repeated by someone just listing, then heartily signing later, “Don’t go around tonight, Well, it’s bound to take your life. I see a bathroom on the right.”, With me yelling, “Hell-llll Yeah!!! Sing it Marvin. That sounds just like CCR.”.

Olympia History

Recorded history does not state why Olympia was selected as a religious site, for worship of the Olympian Gods. But there have been many earthquakes there over the years (some destroying parts of the religious site), so that would be my guess. Build a nice place to worship the gods and they should be happy about that, and stop shaking the earth. Especially when the priest is slaughtering a prized lamb in honor of them, and offering them the best cut of meat (the best cut of meat was given to the gods, but the rest was ravished by the congregation).

The cow was/is a sacred animal in many religions, because they were very valuable to ancient and current humans, so they must have been put here to be honored and cherished. Cows are docile, only need field grass and water to live, their dung burns well, they are great haulers, great plow animals, and their milk is vital nourishment to the young. Cows must have been created to be the perfect supplement to humans. Greeks must not have gotten that memo, cause they had no problem slaughtering cows for sacrifice. One of the highlights of the Olympic festival was on the third day, then the priests slaughtered hundreds of cows and free cooked cow flesh was given to everyone. Cow’s taste great, so they must have been created for our consumption.

Artifacts were found in Olympia, signifying at it had been a religious site, that pre-dated the building of the stone temples there. There may have been wooden or earlier temples that were removed for the newer temples. The creation of the Olympic games occurred in 776 B.C., the middle of the 400 years between it becoming a religious site and the erection of the first temples that survived to date, which was about 100 years after the first Olympic festival was organized. They know it was 776, because someone had kept a list of all of the Olympian winner’s. Much later, some brilliant ancient mathematician, counted the number of winners on that list, multiplied by 4, then subtracted that from the current year and came up with 776 B.C. as the first one. 

In my mind, the creation of the games might have gone something like this. Chiefs from Tribe X, Tribe Y, and Tribe Z were all attending the Olympic religious pilgrimage event. Just after the massive cow flesh eating feast, the king of Tribe X introduces his best runner to the kings of Tribe Y and Z, and says, “This is Achille’s, our best runner. He can outrun a tiger!”. Chief Y says, “Then he can’t outrun my man Cleo. Cleo can outrun the gazelle that is being chased by the tiger!”. Chief Z chimes in with, “Yea, well, I’ll bet neither of them can outrun my man Dionte. He can outrun anything and anybody, anywhere and anytime !!!” The Chief magistrate listening in, says, “For a small fee, I know just how we can settle this dispute.”.

The first recorded race, was a single foot race that was won by a cook, named Koroibos.

One belief, is that chariot races were created in memory of a great Greek mythical figure named Pelops, king of Greece’s Pisa, which also controlled Olympia for a time. Pelops was a kind of dark figure that some Greek cults worshiped. The myth is that his father wanted to see if the Gods could tell the difference between Animal flesh and Human flesh, so he sacrificed his young son, put the flesh into a stew, and feed it to the Olympian Gods. But the first God to taste it, figured it out. This actually upset the other Olympian Gods, who reassembled the son, replacing the missing piece of his body with Ivory. Poseidon (God of the Sea), feeling bad about it, took him to Olympus and taught him to drive a divine chariot.

In manhood Pelops fell in love with Hippodamia, whose father was Oenomaus. But a prophet had told Oenomaus, that he would be killed by his future son-in-law. Eighteen dudes had already courted Hippodamia, but in order to gain her father’s acceptance for marriage, they had to beat him in a chariot race, with death being the penalty for losing that race.  Oenomaus had a palace with the heads of the eighteen dudes who had failed to win, affixed to the tops of its columns. And there was only one column, without a head on it. Seeing that last column, Pelops visited Poseidon to ask for help. Poseidon created two wild and winged horses to pull the divine chariot. On the way to the epic chariot race, Pelops driver dies. Pelops is distraught, and makes a temple out of earth, sacrifices the driver, and mixes the ashes with the temple mound (this becomes significant in their religion, as the alter of the temple of Pelops, is made of successive layers of earth, mixed with the ashes of the sacrifices that occurred there. And it just keeps growing over time, with the priests cutting steps in it, to get to the top of the alter.). The epic mother of all chariot races, between Pelops and Oenomaus ensues, with lots of drama during the race. Pelops squeaks out the win. Pelops, then takes on the role of organizing chariot races, for the god’s pleasure, as thanksgiving for-ever after. These chariot races became part of the festivities .

It was once thought that the ancient athletes were amateurs who had other professions in life. Most scholars these days seem to think they have evidence that they were professionals. Makes sense to me. A king is going to do whatever is necessary to help one of his athlete’s, win the competition over the other’s kings athlete’s. A king’s athletes are representing his kingdom as a whole, so of course he has a vested interest in his team winning.

Olympia Site in General

Over the course of 1500 years, the site was controlled by several different kingdom’s who had taken control of that area, but they all continued to host the Olympic Festival and Games on this site.

As time moved on, more and more activities were added to the site, requiring the addition of new buildings. The religious area was separated from the non-religious areas by a partial wall and structures that acted as a wall or at least significantly obstructed the view into and out of the religious area.

There were 4 major building periods:

The first period (started around 600 B.C.) was mostly for religious purposes and one building was used as a meeting place for political councils. A temple dedicated to the Goddess Hera (goddess of family) was built. Each city state that participated in the religious ceremonies had a separate small treasury structure that they built to house their religious artifacts, dedicated to their own heritage (similar to the relics related to Medieval Catholic Saints). In 560 B.C., the land was leveled, and a simple track was created . Over the next 60 years, several new events were added to the games.

The second (started in 500 B.C.) when slopping sides were created for spectators to better see the track. A workshop, for the top sculptor of the day (Pheidas), was created.  Pheidas created all of the massive Greek God Temple statues in all of Greece. Here, he created the elaborate statue of Zeus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). The grand Temple for Zeus (king of the gods), a small temple dedicated to the mother of Gods, who at that time, was probably Demeter (the goddess of earth fertility). A temple dedicated to Peolps was constructed. Pelops had a huge cult following, and he was the figure that was celebrated at night when the libations came out. A very popular night time festivity. The Emperor Philip (father of Hadrian) had won a battle, that united Greece, and he commissioned a memorial dedicated to his family, on the Olympia site. Stoa’s were built in the religious area for general religious meetings to take place. A temple dedicated to house the bones of a local hero was erected. These were in many Greek towns and were places where cult’s hung out to worship the local hero figure. The river Kladeos (named after the river God) was diverted to prevent flooding in Olympia (this engineering feature failed over time, as all of Olympia was covered in 12 feet (4m) of sediment, due to flooding, before it was located in 1875 by the German Archeological Society. Other additions were lodging for the important visitors, more government buildings related to the Olympic games (a kind of Olympic Committee), and a general meeting place for non-religious meetings to take place.

The third (started in 300 B.C.)

The Gymnasium, Greek baths, and Wresting structures were built. The Priests quarters were expanded, and a vaulted ceiling (tunnel), was built over the entrance was to the stadium.

The fourth (started in 50 A.D.)

An Emperor’s villa was built for Nero’s visit in 67A.D, Roman baths and more temporary quarters were constructed.

Sacred Truce

The city states in Greece were often at war with each other. When the date of the Olympic Games was determined, messengers would be sent to each City State, declaring a truce for the purpose of competing in and spectating the games.

Despite this truce, city states still sent soldiers to the games to protect their best military assets, just in case. In 324 B.C. the city state where Olympia was located, attacked the games during the last Pentathlon event, in which two opponents were very close in score. Soldier Archers at the games, climbed onto the roofs of the monuments, to defend the games. Supposedly with fans cheering them on.

In 420 B.C. Sparta was banned from participating in and spectating the games, for having violated a peace treaty.

Summer of 480 B.C. The Persian Army attacked Greece. Greek City States allied together to mount a defense, but could not find enough males to build the defensive force. Most of the able-bodied men had refused conscription, on account of they were going to the Olympics. Once the games were over, they returned, and their grand Army was formulated.

Nero’s visit in 67 A.D.

Nero was one of the most colorful Roman Emperor’s. Hated by politician’s and the upper class, but loved by the middle and lower classes. Nero loved theater, so he raised taxes to build theater’s. Nero often acted and played music in public, which the ruling class, saw as activities unbecoming of someone in the ruling class. The economy tanked, their monetary system deflated, and Nero raised taxes to create many public service projects, keeping the common people employed. After the great Roman fire, Nero funded Rome’s recovery and assisted the homeless as best he could.

Nero also liked to spend money on himself like a lavish villa in Olympia, and to perform crazy acts. In 66 A.D. Nero performed a wedding ceremony, in which he was both officiating the wedding, and he was the bride. The groom was a young man. Probably would have been seen as OK had he took the role of groom instead, but a bride in those days would have been a sign of weakness on his part.

Nero bribed the Olympic Committee to move the 66 A.D. Olympics to 67 A.D. so that he could attend, he decreed that they add theater and music completions so that he could compete, and they allowed him to enter the 4 horse chariot race event, with a chariot that was pulled by 12 horses. Nero fell off the chariot during the race, yet was awarded the winner on account of, he would have won, had he stayed on. After Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D., his name was removed as winner of that event.

Olympic Traditions continuing since ancient times

Olympiad – Zeus decreed that the games should only be held every 4 years, and so they were, forever after.

Eternal Flame – The goddess Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, family, and the state. An eternal flame brunt in Hestia’s temple or structure, that was monitored by priests to ensure that it never went out. Often times this was the priests quarters, probably to make it easier to monitor. When a new Greek colony was established, one of the first items to be built, was a hearth, where the eternal flame was kept, and that flame was initially transferred from the Hestia hearth in the nearest colony to the new colony. If that flame went out (by whatever means), a ritual ceremony had to be performed, before it could be relit. This was one of the most important items in ancient times, as fire was needed for heat, to cook and prepare meals, and later for making tools and weapons.

Ancient Olympic Games

The participation in, and the spectating of, the games, was open to any free Greek male, regardless of class status. Unmarried females were allowed to spectate but not participate. The only married female spectator was the statue of the goddess Demeter. Probably because Demeter was the god of sacred law (amongst other duties). A reminder to the athletes that they had better not be cheating, because Demeter is watching. Yet there was a female on the winner list of an ancient Olympic event. The chariot race event win, was awarded to the owner and not the driver. Kyniska, daughter of a Spartan king owned a chariot that won in two different Olympiads. There were running contests for women, but those were side events that were not part of the ancient games.

The winner of the first recorded race was Koroibos, who was a cook by profession. For the first 13 Olympiads, the only competition was a single foot race of 195m(640 ft or 1/8 mile) over a sand track. In those days 195m was called 1 stadia.

By 500 B.C. the games lasted for 5 full days and consisted of running, jumping, throwing, boxing, wrestling, pankration (mixed martial arts) and equestrian events.

The winner received a red woolen ribbon that they often tied around their head, and a palm branch for the big parade on the last day. There was a big closing ceremony, where a wreath, made from olive branches (cut from the tree of Zeus, which was at the end of the Stadium) was put on their head. The crowning ceremony was considered sacred and serious, which is probably why the ribbon and palms were given out in advance, to celebrate before the closing ceremony.  Second place and below got nothing.

Ancient Athletic Equipment

There wasn’t any equipment, and therefore no perceived[A1]  advantage from it. All athletic activities were performed in the nude. It was felt, that this was a tribute to the gods, and encouraged aesthetic appreciation of the male body. The word gymnasium stems from the Greek word gymnos, which translates to naked.

In ancient Greece, it was common practice to undress when exercising, but physical training was only allowed for males who were at least 18 years old. Exercise was termed as education for both the body and the mind. Greek gymnasiums also offered scholarly instruction in philosophy, mathematics, and other ancient education, which is where the exercise of the mind came from. Ancient Greek scholars often hung out and debated at the Gym.

Rules

Running – Both as an individual event and as part of the pentathlon event. Race length; 1 stadia, 2 stadia, and one long distance race (from 7 to 21 laps depending on the year). For races longer than 1 stadia, the participants ran around a pole that was placed at each end. Race in Arms was a 2 stadia race where the participants wore a helmet, shin plates, and carried a shield, but otherwise were naked. That reminds me of being at sea in the Navy. A combat ship’s munitions storage area was always guarded by Marines. Every once in a while, a spurious intrusion alarm would go off, in the ship’s munitions storage area, at like 2 A.M (0200). Marines sleeping, would be summoned to respond to that intruder alert. I always had to chuckle to myself, when I saw a Marine double timing from the berthing (sleeping) area to the munitions storage area, carrying an M-16, wearing a helmet and combat boots, but only in his underwear (no time to waste dressing). A skinny dude in white briefs, just doesn’t look very fierce, even if he is carrying an M-16.

Chariot Race – 4 horses, a wooden chariot with 2 wheels and 12 laps around a track which is 4 stadia (1/2 mile or 790m) long, with a stone and/or wood barrier separating its length into 2 halves. Owner gets all the credit and the award for the win. There was a rule about not deliberately running into another chariot, but it happened all of the time and there were no penalties for it. Deaths were common in Chariot races. Since everyone tried to get the lead, and the inside position, the start was staggered so the horses on the outside were started first. Actually, the most outside chariot started first, and when it caught up to the next, the next innermost started, etc. The starting mechanism was created by the architect Cleoitas and consisted of a dolphin weight that was dropped, and the rope attached to it, caused the lanes starting ropes to be dropped in succession, as the dolphin fell. The lap counters were individual dolphin statues, that would be turned over, signifying that a lap had been completed. No red light, a wrecked chariot is just like part of the track, that can be driven over. The driver was required to wear a full length sleeved gown (probably to hide the blood when killed), and the feet were strapped into the bottom of the chariot. That had to be a wicked ride.

Discus throw - Only part of the pentathlon event – No running start, and all participants used the same disc.

Long Jump - Only part of the pentathlon event – A large stone (about the size of a bowling ball) must be held in two hands at all times. It can be extended during the jump, but must be held onto. Standing long jump only. 5 jumps in rapid succession. Allowed to have a flute player present to help the participant keep their rhythm and balance during the event.

Javelin Throw – Only part of the pentathlon event - Allowed to have a short leather strap to give the javelin additional rotation when letting go. The rotation helps keep it upright during flight and these ancient javelins were probably not very well balanced.

Wrestling – An individual event and part of the pentathlon event - Smother the body with olive oil and a dusting of fine sand (this was to make it easier to garb hold). No punching, No gouging the eyes or face with fingernails, no tripping and no biting. In Kato Pale wrestling (ground wrestling in mud), the wrestlers will wrestle until one opponent raises a single finger to acknowledge acceptance of defeat. In Orthia Pale wrestling (standing wrestling), the first wrestler to be thrown to the ground three times, loses. Only two wrestling classes, men and boys. The boys class was 18 to 20 years old, and the mens was over 20 years old.

Boxing - Boxers bound leather thongs across their knuckles. These were modified over time, and at one time included metal straps over the knuckles. The match ends when one opponent concedes defeat.

Pankration (mixed martial arts) – Similar to wrestling but all that is disallowed is biting and gouging of the eyes. Matches ends when one opponent raises a single finger to acknowledge acceptance of defeat.

Penalties

Breaking a rule, was taking care of at the time of the infraction, by an official beating the individual whom created the infraction.

Collusion or Bribery to cheat, was taken care of by fining the individual(s) involved. The fines went towards the creation of bronze statues of Zeus, which carried the inscription of the individuals involved and the phrase “Victory is to be achieved by speed of feet and strength of body, not with money.”. These statues were called Zane’s and were erected on the walkway to the stadium. Sixteen where created and erected over the course of the entire Ancient Olympics.

Olympia Today

In 393 AD, the Christian emperor Theodosius I, forbade the celebration of pagan cults, which included the Games. Olympia was covered by up to 24 ft (8 m) of sediment, from a Tsunami that occurred in the Mediterranean around 600 A.D.

It was lost until 1776 when Englishman Richard Chandler, in search of antiquity items re-discovered it.

In 1874, the Greek state signed an agreement with Germany for an archaeological exploration of the Olympia site. The German Archeological Society started excavation and have been working on it ever since. The modern signs around the site are in three languages (Greek, English, and German).

In 1888 the first Archaeological Museum of Olympia was erected to hold the items that were found during the excavation.

In 1936 the tradition of the Olympic Torch relay was created. It always originates at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, by lighting the first torch with a curved metal cauldron that focuses the sunlight at a point where the torch is lite by the natural light (not sure what they do if there is a cloud or rain delay). The torch relay then progresses on a journey to the location of the modern day Olympic games (Because of all of the protests, now that relay only occurs in Greece and the hosting countries, but traditionally it traversed through many countries on its way). After the Officials give a 60 minute long speech at the ancient stadium, there is a torch lighting ceremony in front of the temple of Hera, that consists of several women dressed in white Greek, full length gowns, and men dressed in white tank tops and white skirts that end at the knee (I am not making this up). They then summon Apollo (God of the Sun),by beating drums, knocking rocks together, and playing flutes, while fair maidens prance around the grounds.  When they finally have Apollo’s attention, a high priest requests his assistance in lighting the first torch. That torch is then placed inside of a metal cauldron that intensifies the suns rays, and lights it. Immediately a backup device is lite from the torch, this is used to relight the torch if it goes out during the relay, so the flame can always be traced back to Apollo, even if it goes out along the way. Same if the stadium flame goes out. The torch makes its way to the ancient stadium, where the dudes in white skirts are prancing around. A young boy appears holding up a palm branch.  The first runner appears, his torch is lit from the fair maiden’s torch, and he is handed the palm branch. A white dove is released, and then the runner takes off on his journey, with 30 photographers who run with him for about the length of the track, then fall over in exhaustion.

A statue dedicated to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern day Olympics, was erected on the ancient grounds after his death in 1937.

There was a forest fire here, in 2007, that nearly damaged this site. The God Apollo, probably blew it out, as it approached.

Photo blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Switzerland - Lausanne

by Kimp 31. January 2018 17:51

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History

The Roman's built a military camp on the Lake Geneva shore, near current day Lausanne. When the Roman Empire fell, Lausanne was move to top of a nearby hill, because that was easier to defend.

For a time, French Protestant Preachers would seek refuge here, before returning to another part of France to work quietly on the reformation. If they were exposed, they would return to Lausanne to hide-out for a while.

At the start of the Napoleonic Wars, officials decided it was in the cities best interest, to become part of the Swiss Federation.

Modern day

Today Lausanne is surrounded by picturesque vineyards.

It is the smallest city in the world to have a metro urban rail transport system. Once you have walked from the Lake Geneva shore line, up the steep hill to Lausanne, you will know why the metro system has no problem meeting their yearly operating expenses.

During World War I, the International Olympics Committee moved its headquarters from Paris to Lausanne, and it has been here ever since. On the same grounds, is a very nice Olympic Museum, filled with art work, equipment, memorabilia, and a behind the scenes look at an Olympian’s life in the Olympic village.

Today there are 55 international sports organizations with offices in Lausanne, and it is home to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

When Sport's entered the political arena, an arbitration court was needed to resolve dependencies between the athlete's and those upholding the rules. Arbitration is the process whereby both parties, agree to have a discrepancy, resolved by an independent and impartial arbitrator. Most recently many of the arbitrations seem to revolve around the issue of doping. In my opinion, it is very sad that international sports have evolved into yet another political quagmire of differing opinions. What happened to the sporting mentality in sport?

My History

The 1992 Summer Olympics was hosted in Barcelona. Paralympic Archer, Antonio Rebollo Liñán shoots a lighted arrow from the ground, through the pitch-black darkness, 60 ft (20 m) above, in what looks like a strong wind, to ignite the Olympic Cauldron, during the opening ceremony, and likewise, igniting a frenzy of interest in the Olympics. Not only did he light it, it was nearly a perfect shot.

The total distance from where Antonio shot the arrow, to the torch was about 230 ft. It is said, that feat is not a difficult shot, for a skilled archer. The difficult part, is doing it, in front of a stadium full of spectator's and million's a TV viewer's. Some 200 archers underwent psychological evaluations, and Antonio was the one that they felt was best suited to not let that bother him. Four were picked, and Antonio was chosen as the first alternate. Best suited, but because he was from Madrid, and Barcelona prides itself on being Catalonian, they really wanted a Catalonian archer to light the cauldron. Two hours before the event, the pressure didn't get to Antonio, but it did get to the organizers. They decided the best choice was to give the honors to Antonio instead. The attendant who handed the bow and arrow to Antonio was visibly shaken, but Antonio was solid as a rock. The drama is intensified by how methodically and concentrated he aims, draws back slowly, pauses slightly, then let's it fly, with great confidence and demeanor. two seconds later, whoosh, the cauldron is ablaze, the crowds bustout in cheers, and the organizers can finally breath again.

The organizers had a way to light it manually, had he missed. But he said, "No, I brought a second arrow. If the first misses, I guarantee the second will not.". There was no need for that second arrow and in 700 practice attempts over the course of several months before hand, he only missed twice. For months, once a week, he would fly from Madrid to Barcelona, to practice.

The pedestrian view of the high diving platform overlook's the city skyline below. A photographer's best dream. The motto that year was "Friends for Life". It just doesn't get any better than that, in both vision and feeling.

Bob Martin snapped a shot of Tracy Miles performing a straight back dive, off of that high dive. I think I saw it in Life magazine in 1992.

When I was in my early 30's, a next-door neighbor had a very nice in-ground pool. He was much older than I, his wife had died, and he had three daughters who would visit him from time to time, but nobody ever used his pool. He said that he maintained the pool, like his wife liked it to be maintained, when he told me I could use it anytime I wanted. I got the feeling that he liked my character, trusted I would not abuse his offer, and that it would make him feel better, if someone got some use from it. "Sure, that would be great. You sure are kind."

Not wanting to intrude on his privacy, I only used it when he wasn't home. Once I was at his pool, and a 10-year-old or so, female gymnast, aspiring to be an Olympian, came over and tried to teach me how to perform a straight back dive, off the side of the deep end of his pool. No board, just right off of the cement rim that was about at the same level as the top of the pool. I can remember her saying, "Craig, it's eeeeassssy!!! All you do is, bend your knees as much as you can, spring up as fast as you can, arch your back as much as you can, and It will naturally pull your feet way above your head. You will enter the water perfectly vertical and head first.". I think she sensed the skepticism, in the look that I gave here. Upon which, she proceeded to demonstrate a perfect looking straight back dive from pool-side. Perfect vertical entry with hardly any splash.Then while wading in the water, she urged me to give it a go. "Craig, come-on!!! it's eeeeassssy!!!".  She sure exuded a lot of confidence in me, and it started rubbing off on me. "Geeee, I don't know? Welllll?!?. That didn't look that difficult. OK, I'll give it a try.".

That was the last thing I said, before I nearly broke my back. One of the those classic, "What the hell was I thinking?", moments. Let's slow down and put it in perspective. That's the voice of someone who can perform an unassisted standing backflip off of a 4 inch (2cm) wide balance beam. And stick the landing, back on the beam, exactly where she launched from! I'm a dude who has never performed a gymnastics movement in his life. There is nothing at all that is natural about that movement. It takes a tremendous amount of spring to generate the needed hang time, a tremendous amount of back strength to generate the rotational movement, and a tremendous amount of inner core strength to pull your straight legs all of the way over your head. I was lacking in everything but guts. The only think perfect about my dive was the perfect tidal wave that it created. To my credit, I did somehow manage to get all of my body in the water. No-one was there to watch, but if they were, they surely would have been busting out laughing at me. "Here, hold my beer, and watch this !!!"

Hurt back and hurt ego. I said to her, "Thanks for the free lesson, but you are probably better suited to teaching real athletes.". To top that lesson off, as I was exiting the pool right after that miserable dive, via the pool-side ladder, I busted through the top rung, and my momentum carried me all of the way through the middle and bottom ladder rungs as well. Just another normal day, of nothing going my way. Embarrassed as well, I immediately removed the ladder, took it to a local pool shop, and had them replace the thick plastic rungs with stainless steel rungs. To this day, I always step on the side of ladder rungs nearest the rails, never in the middle.

Bob snapped a photo, just as Tracy reached the apex of her dive. Her front was facing the sky, with her back arched in a semicircle, directly over the famed Sagrada Familia (a famous Barcelona architectural landmark, created by Gaudi), as if she were a superhuman, shielding it from an Alien invasion. The quality of that photo was not great in my opinion, but it showcased the artistic supremacy of Bob, and made me a fan is his for life. If you have ever seen a high dive in person, the amount of time a diver is at the Apex, is probably around 1/1000th of a second. In fact, it happens so fast at real speed, most people don't even see it. He had to have both, the artistic vision to position himself in the perfect place to take that shot, and impeccable timing to pull it off.

Bob is from England, has photo journalized the last 15 Summer and Winter Olympics, and every top international athletic event in-between. He has been published in Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Life, and the New York Times. Bob holds the coveted National Press Photographers Association - Photo Journalist of the Year award (I think twice), and currently is a piad consultant, by the International Olympics Committee, to consult on photographic issues. I have never aspired to be a great, nor even a professional quality photographer, but I could not pass up the chance to spend a few hours listening to him talk about what he views as his greatest achievements. The equipment, the setup, the research, the day's events, the chance encounter's, what he had for breakfast. He remembers every shot, like it was yesterday.

I asked him if there was anything he missed about the photography of days long past? He said that he still misses the old school black and white film photograph's, because those are the only photos that still eclipse modern day electronics. (I agree, there isn't much better than an Ansel Adams Print. The color just gets in the way of the view.)

Do you post edit your photo's? In Commercial photography, any type of post editing is both allowed and expected, but sports photography has to be virtually as taken. The only accepted technique, is adjusting the contrast a bit. Sport's has to be true to life, to be acceptable.

Are there any great shot’s left? Sounded like he enjoys Paralympic events and athletes, and see’s that as the next level of great photography.

That experience was a special day for me.

Bob's Site

Photo Blog (click to view)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig


Tags:

Sports | Travel

Germany - Nuremburg - Christmas Market

by Kimp 6. January 2018 22:10

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Welcome!!!

Christmas Market History and Tradition

Nuremburg's Christmas Market has been around since at least 1628. The oldest known documentation, is a inscription on a wooden box currently in Nurnenberg's National Museum, that was sent to the market.

It is called a traditional Christmas Market, because about 30 of 180 stalls date back to the 1800's, and they have kept the same theme. The planners also invite vendors from their 20 or so sister cities, to set up stalls at Rauthausplatz (Town Hall Square), to peddle their own traditional items. That Matryoshka doll's from Russia are pretty awesome (some have a face that looks like Madonna, and some like Betty Boop).

Zwetschgenmännle - Wireframe figures, with Prunes skewered on them, a wood head, and dressed up, are a tradition that started here in the 1800's as well. It is said to have originated from a poor man who wanted to give his children something for Christmas, but he only had some wire, and prunes from the prune tree in his yard. Today these are figurines that whimsically mimic figure's in everyday life. And they are usually sold by a dude wearing a cool looking Barviarian Farmers hat.

Lebkuchen (Gingerbread) was invented in this region in the 1400's. In the old days, it was more like cake, and was sold in commemorative tin's (easier to export and looked more exotic). It can still be purchased in tins, or as the more familiar extra large decorated cookies.

The label "Original Nuremberger Rostbratwurst (grilled sausage)" dates back to the 1500's and must be made in Nurmenberg. That label pertains to both its size and to the spices that are in it. Marjoram being the predominate flavor. In medieval times only a few butchers were allowed to make it, and they had to that take it to the "Council deputation of the butchers" for inspection before they sold it. Any sausage that didn't meet the specifications, went in the river. Today, the City Council dictate's the specifications, which include, size, meat quality, spices and meat preparation. Only medium coarse pork, no other sausage meat, and a maximium of 35% fat.

Several artisan's still make toy's by hand, and sell them here. Nothing is quite as awesome as a homemade toy, at least to many adults who only want them as decoration trinkets.

Nuremburg History

Nuremburg was on a busy trade route for goods that traversed the Holly Roman Empire. It was chosen as the place where the Imperial Diet (assembly/congress) of the Holy Roman Empire would meet to discuss issues (may have been, due to it's sort of central location within the Holly Roman Empire). As such, one of the most formidable castles and fortresses was built there.

The Holy Roman Empire did not have an established capital, the capital moved as the Holly Roman Emperor moved from castle to castle, or when a new one was coronated by the Pope. However, many Holly Romans Emperor's choose to live here, so it became the defacto capital of the Holly Roman Empire and thrived for about 800 years.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Nazi is the English word for the NSDA Party (National Socialist German Worker's Party). The swastika was an ancient religious icon that represents the rays from the sun, and to them was a symbol of success and good luck. The Nazi party turned it 45 degrees, tainted it, and now many people in Western civilizations, see it as a symbol of great evil.

The Nazi party Headquarters was in Munic, but when Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he declared Nuremberg the "City of the Reichsparteitage (Reich Party Congresses)". Drawing a parallel between the Nazi movement and Nuremberg's prominence during the Holly Roman Empire's Imperial Congress meeting place. This played well into Nazi propaganda (Make Germany the center of European political control again). 

The parts of the original architectural plan, that were was somewhat completed are:

Congress Hall (partially completed) - a U shaped building with a roof over the interior and seating for 50,000 people in the courtyard.

Zepplin Field - The large party assembly grounds, often seen in films of the time. A grand stand on one side where party leaders would give speeches, a large parade grounds in the center, and bleachers around the perimeter.

Great Road - 2 km (1.2 mi) road connecting everything, to be used as a parade road.

Deutsches Stadion (German Stadium) (only dug the foundation)  - was to be a 400,000 seat U-shaped stadium, The foundation has since filled with water and is now called Silver Lake.

The money to complete it, was diverted into funding for WW II. As soon as the war started, construction stopped. The current structures are protected as great works of architecture, of that era.

WWII
During WW-II Nuremburg was the headquarters of Wehrkresis XIII (military district 13), and the site of several vital military production facilities. Manufacturing engines for many of the military machines.

It was heavily fortified, its citizens were heavily armed, and they offered a lot of resistance.

In January of 1945, 90 percent of the old town was destroyed in about one hour of bombing. In April of 1945, 4 days of intense street-by-street and house-by-house fighting took place, as the residents were determined not to give up.
 
Nuremberg was chosen as the place to hold the WWII war crimes trials, known as the Nuremberg Trial's. It was chosen, since it was so prominent to the Nazi Party congress and the Palace of Justice there, incorporated a large prison as part of it. 24 people were tried in Nuremberg and 12 of them were sentenced to death by hanging. The American military asked for a volunteer to be the executioner, and Master Sergent John Clarence Woods raised his hand, stating that he had past experience in that field. It is suspected that he lied, since some 100's of the hanging's he performed after volunteering, were botched.

There were to be, more military tribunals in Berlin, after Nuremberg's completed, but the cold war interferred with that plan. Interest in the last war had changed to the passively fighting the current war.

Today

90 percent of the old fortress walls are still in tack. Heavily damaged (as was all of Nuremberg) during the air raid's of 1944-45, they have been rebuilt and patched. They still have much of their splendor and are very scenic.

Nuremberg castle was almost completely demolished, and it took about 30 years to rebuilt it.

Much of the old town was restored to its pre-war appearance.

Nuremberg is a prominent industrial manufacturing location. Amongst the largest are Siemen's, one of the top manufacturers of Medical equipment, and Man, manufacturing of Heavy Trucks and large Marine engines.

Nuremberg is also home to many German Market research companies and is the location of many hi-tech fair's.

Photo Blog (click to view)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig

Tags:

Tradition | Travel

Italy - Venice

by Kimp 9. April 2017 01:00

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Welcome !!!

History

The main island in the Veneta Lagoon is called Venice. It was formed by an ancient river, that formed a river delta (dumped its sediment) in the lagoon. At one time, Venice would have been connected to the main land, but parts of the delta washed out, leaving it an island. Venice's Grand Canal, isn't a canal at all, it is the remains of the ancient river that flowed through it.

In 400 A.D., when the Western Roman Empire was starting to fall, the people of Northern Italy sought refuge from the barbarian's, on the Islands in the Veneta lagoon.

Over the next 50 years, they tried to go back to the mainland, but when "Attila the Hun" was on his way to take Rome, he was destroying everything in Northern Italy. Atilla failed to take Rome and left, but by that time, Venetian's had built up enough infrastructure to make Venice a nice place to live, so they stayed and other's joined them.

The Veneta Lagoon is full of a large variety of fish and lots of salt, so that became their first Industry (still thriving today).

Being avid sailors, they built a very large merchant sailing fleet, at a time when most Army's were land based, and could not easily get to them. To protect their merchant fleet from pirates and small navies, they trained all of their merchant sailors in combat.

Each time they built a large merchant vessel, they would also build a combat ship. The combat ship would sit in port during peaceful times, and during times of attack or war, half of their merchant fleet would be keep in port, and the combat ships would be manned with those merchant sailors. A formula that worked for over 800 years.

That lucrative trade business brought immense wealth to Venice that can now be enjoyed by all.

Today

In my opinion, Venice falls in the category of to much tourism for its size. The romantic feel left many years ago, and it sure isn't headed back there any time soon. If I were the Mayor of Venice, the first thing I would do is limit the number of Gondola's. The once quaint canal's, are busting at the seams. The next thing I would do is limit the number of cruise ship's that dock there. Just keep raising the fee, until the number dwindles to something that is reasonable. Venice is great in the morning and evening, when the big ship's aren't there.

Many of the building's along the Grand Canal appear to be abandoned and very run down. It's an ugly image that just keeps staying ugly. It's can't be modernized, or Venice would lose its ancient charm, but left untouched, it just keeps getting uglier.

The best part is just walking around and getting lost. That's really easy to do. There are lots of beautiful and quiet outdoor restaurant's tucked away in a corner, that only local's know about.

Walking around can get a bit tiring, because all of the foot bridges crossing the canals are arch shaped, with several steps on each side to allow the boat's to go under and the people to go over them. Riding in a boat, be it a Gondola or a private taxi is nice, but bring lots of money, they are both very, very expensive. The public transportation boats are inexpensive, but not that great of an experience. Their just isn't any middle ground experience that I could find.

Some of the canals have been filled in, to make nice pedestrian super highways. I'm indifferent about that. Convenient, but like closest space, they always fill to capacity no matter how big nor small. Nothing is really gained.

The Best Time I Had

One night, I ate in an upscale restaurant. About two waiters per table, plus a manager of a group of waiter's, and the mafia looking enforcer dude, who walks around and asks you if everything is alright. The patron's all looked like they were dressed for the Opera.

Italy has the worlds best service. Italian's take great pride in giving excellent service. So what they want is for a person to tell them exactly what they want, then they will go and do exactly that.

The first thing they do when you sit down, is to bring out an aperitif drink. An alcohol beverage that cleanse the taste buds and helps bring out the aroma in the meal. I think it was a generous portion of Brut Champagne. Usually that is not by choice, it is complimentary and customary, and sets the tone for a great dining experience.

Usually an upscale restaurant does not stock 1/2 bottles of wine, I was a little tired and did not feel like a whole bottle of wine, but at the same time I felt like I kind of needed a whole bottle of wine. It turns out that they did stock one wine, in 1/2 bottles, but when he described it to me, it didn't sound that great. So I asked the waiter what his favorite wine was. This freaked him out. He didn't know what to do. I'm supposed to tell him what I want, so he can just do that, not ask his opinion. "Sir, this 1/2 bottle is a very good wine, I assure you.". "I didn't ask if it was very good, I asked what is your favorite?".

After several minutes of me asking, and him not telling me what his favorite was, if finally said, "Dude, just bring me whichever wine is your favorite.". The table next to mine was two Russian women, dressed to the nines, thoroughly enjoying the show I was putting on. They were laughing so hard, tears were starting to show.

The waiter comes back with 5 glasses of wine. Not 5 tastings of wine, but 5 full glasses. He say's, "Here, you choose!!!" I take a sip of each and pick one (of course it was a wine that only came in a full bottle). ut I can't just leave these full glasses on the table. I stayed long enough to finish those 5 glass and the whole bottle.

I am about to leave, and the waiter brings me a complimentary after dinner liquor, designed to get rid of any after tastes. I sure didn't need that, but I drank that just to be polite. He did get an awesome tip, both for putting up with me, and for solving a very difficult service problem.

On my way out, I don't ever remember being that drunk. I had to be extra careful, not to run into someone's table.

It was really hard walking back to the hotel. It was raining and slippery. Many of these canals, don't have any guard rails, so one miss-step or slip and I would be swimming. All of those foot bridges, with the stairs up and down were a recurring struggle. Then I got hopelessly lost, and people were too scared to talk to a big drunk man. Luckily, a very brave, very petite, local women took pity on me, and helped me out. If it wasn't for her, I might have ended up sleeping outside in the cold rain.

Keeping Score

Overall I give Venice a B-, but that waiter definitely gets an A+.

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Thank you for reading,

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Sicily - Monreale

by Kimp 16. March 2017 03:54

Welcome !!!

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History

After the Western Roman Empire, headquartered in Rome, fell in 500 A.D. Sicily became under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire, headquartered in Byzantium (Modern day Constantinople), which continued to flourish for about another 1000 years. Around 825 A.D. a new Byzantine governor of Sicily was appointed to Sicily. The new governor wanted to strengthen the Sicilian Navy and he trusted it's command to a Sicilian Admiral named Euphemius. Euphemius was a very wealthy Sicilian land owner, and he was well liked by the Sicilian Population.

Apparently Euphemius had an obsession with a young nun, and word got around that he had abducted her and forced her to marry him. Michael II, the emperor of Byzantine, ordered him to be arrested and put on trail, and if found guilty, his nose was to be cut off. Euphemius, then requested assistance from the Muslim leader Ziyadat Allah I of Ifriqiya (Modern day Tunisia). At that time, Ziyadat Allah I was upset at a local Judge, named Asad ibn al-Furat, whom often critized Ziyadat, for his luxurious and ungodly lifestyle. So Ziyadat appointed Asad, to lead the expidition over Sicily (an Army of 10,000 foot soldiers). Asad on his way to siege Syracuse, was stopped by the government of Syracus, who wanted to offer a payment to not siege Syracuse. While negotiations were taking place, the Army's advance was put on hold. In the meantime Euphemius, who would have lost out in that deal, convinced the Syracuse government not to pay them anything. A plague broke out in the Muslim camp and Asad died of plague. A new Muslim leader was appointed and the siege was started, but by that time a massive Byzantine fleet had showed up. The Army tried to retreat back to Tunisia, but the Byzantine fleet had them cut off, so they burned their ship's and marched in-land towards a city in the center if Sicily, named Castrugiuvanni (now Enna). The council of Castrugiuvanni asked to open negotiations with the Muslim's. Euphemius and this escort'showed up to negotiate on behalf of the Muslim Army. During those talks, Euphemius and his escorts were all killed. The Muslim Army sieges Castrugiuvanni and waits. In the meantime, a great Byzantine Gerneal named Theodotus and his Army was sent to Sicily. They attacked the force besieging Castrugiuvanni and were initially defeated, before mounting a counter-attack that was successful in driving the Muslim Army away.

Eventually the Muslim Army moved to the North West and was able to take the Sicilian Coastal City of Palermo where they home based, and over the course of the next 40 years, expanded their effort to take all of Sicily.

When the Muslim Army gained control of Palermo and overtook the government there, they moved the Arch Bishop of Palermo to a small nondescript chapel in Monreale.

250 years later, the Norman Knights conquered Southern Sicily, then set their sights on Sicily, and over the course of another 40 years,  managed to overtake all of Sicily. The Norman government decided not to change the Byzantine nor Muslim influences that were already in place. They incorporated positions in their government that were represented by both cultures and tried to create an integrated society that included and incorporated all three mindsets.

100 years later, King William II took the throne at the age of 11. The crown was under the guardianship of his mother until he came of age.
The adult King William II liked to party and didn't care much for the military. Instead of fighting, he stayed at home and mastered in diplomacy. The Kings palace was in Palermo, but the valley near Monreale was their favorite hunting grounds.

Cathedral Santa Maria la Nuova

As soon as his mother's guardianship was over (1172), King William II built the Cathedral at Monreale, as a testament of the splendor of his Kingdom of Italy..

The architecture includes characteristic signs of Norman, Byzantine, Muslim architecture. William hired the best Sicilian Byzantine artists to create 120 Mosaic panels inside of the cathedral, each depicting a story from the bible. Four years after the cathedral construction started, 100 Benedictine monks were relocated here and a Benedictine Monastery was added.  The cloister of the monastery is very large and consists of 106 column capitals each sculpted with a picture narrative, depicting a notable story from the bible.

Roman Cathedrals often have a cross shape in the floor plan, with the high alter positioned near the intersection of the cross and a dome high above it. Byzantine Cathedrals are kind of a hybrid between a Roman Cathedral and a mosque, without the cross floor plan and with the high alter positioned inside a nitch at one end, which is topped by a semicircular dome.

The cathedral and monastery were nearly completed in only 17 years, when construction came to a halt.

In the mid 1500's the elaborate mosaic marble floors were installed, along with marble on the lower walls. .

In 1596, the Chapel of saint Castrense, dedicated to the patron saint of Sicily, was added. By that time architectural tastes had changed and it was built in a Renaissance style that was popular at that time. A funny story, it was commissioned by Arch Bishop Ludvico, who wanted to be buried there. But he died on a visit to Rome, and was buried in Rome (Whoop's).  Below the Marble alter there, are the relics of St. Castrense, which were given to King William II.

In 1686, the Chapel of the Crucifix was added. As with the previous chapel, it was created in the popular style of that time (Baroque). It's conceptual design was articulated by Monk Giovanni di Monreale, but it built by famous Jesuit Angelo Italia, who was a very famous Sicilian Architect. This is the finest master masonry work, that I have ever seen. Words can't describe and pictures can't really capture it. This inlaid Sicilian marble work is masterpiece quality. It's simply awe inspiring. centerpiece is a crucifix, that was a gift from William II to the church, in the late 1100's when the cathedral was built.

I did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Benedict, but from the pictures I have seen of it, it looks Baroque as well and was probably built around the same time as the Chapel of the Crucifix. It has a theater like appearance and is very vibrant and colorful.

I also did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Placido (Saint Placidus was a disciple of Saint Benedict), which now houses museum quality religious art. Since he was one of Saint Benedict's students, I believe this was built much later, but from pictures it resembles the later Baroque period. The pictures I have seen of the Art there, look great, I wish I had gone to see it.  

In 1811, a fire destroyed the original carved ceiling, the organs and the high alter and severely damage several of the mosaics. They were all restored/reconstructed trying to reproduce the original. The new alter was built in Rome.

Monreale

The town of Monreale, is very warm and relaxing in appearance. The valley that the church overlook's is full of Orange, Olive, and Almond trees. A beautiful sight all by itself.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

See you next time !!!

Craig

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Germany - Esslingen - Christmas Market

by Kimp 21. December 2016 22:21

Welcome !!!

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Christmas Market History

Christmas decorations and markets started in Germany during the times of the Holy Roman Empire. The first mention of a Christmas market was in 1310 in Munich, Germany. 

They commonly go by two names; Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) or Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market). 

They consist of open air stalls for vendors selling local items in the town square, and feature festival food, Gluehwine (hot spiced wine), local traditional song and dance, elaborate Christmas decorations, and sometimes a live nativity. 

They are usually kicked off by an opening ceremony that centers around an angel like woman figure(which  probably represents the angel Gabriel, who told the virgin Mary that she would bring Jesus into the world), and lasts for the entire advent season (4 weeks, starting at the end of November) and go up until at least the day before Christmas Eve. Some are also open on Christmas. A few carry the festival for a week after Christmas, but usually that isn't considered part of the Christmas Market, it's just some additional activities that people who were busy for all of advent, can kick back and partake in.

Esslingen Christmas Market

With lots of competition, some Christmas Markets have created a unique brand to set their experience apart from the others. Esslingen is one of those. It is a Renaissance/Medieval market, with several artisan's, hand crafted items, and a more artistic experience.  It's my personal favorite.

Off Market 

Strasbourg France is experimenting with a new concept called the Off-Noel Market or Off-Market for short. They still have their traditional Christmas Market, but in Place Grimmeissen. It is kind of an alternative adult minded market, where you can enjoy live music, adult story telling, DIY Workshops, tasting session, afterwork drinks, conferences and topical discussions. Kind of a place to unwind that is a little more intellectual and a little less Christmasy.

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Thank you for Reading,

Craig

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Germany - Tubingen - Chocolate Festival

by Kimp 15. December 2016 13:25

Welcome !!!

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Sorry for the lack of and low quality of the photos. There were just too many people and not enough light to make any of them work very well. Too difficult to get any head-on photos and even the distant photos seem crowded. I found it best just to holster the camera and savor the experience without it.

Every year Tubingen is host to the world's most prestigious Chocolate Festival. ChocolArt, which will see master chocolatiers from five continents, competing for the title of the best cocoa-based products. More than 200 thousand visitors of ChocolArt judge the artworks prepared during the festival. About a hundred chocolatiers from Africa, South and North America, Europe, Asia meet here to put on live performances and showcase of their talents.

One of the products I tried was chocolate beer. A novelty item that will probably not be sampled by me again. Other than that, everything got an A+ on my rating system.

Tubingen History

In 1261, Pope Alexander IV, created an Augustinian Monastery here. A Latin school was founded in 1370. In those days all papal and medical books were written in Latin. The Canon of Medicine was written in 1000 in Persia and remained a medical authority for eight centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic world, and was used as a standard medical textbook through the 18th century in Europe.

This lead to the founding of St George's Collegiate Church in 1470. A collegiate church is a church were the pastoral body is made up of a group of people, as opposed to just one person, usually overseen by a Provost (person in charge of education). In 1477 a University was founded here, which quickly became the most prestigious Theological University in the Holy Roman Empire.

Martin Luther started the most prominent push towards Protestantism in 1517. St. George's Collegiate Church was one of the first churches to convert to Protestantism and in 1535 the Augustinian Monastery was converted into a seminary which served to prepare the first protestant pastor's for duty. These early reformation leaders were very highly educated people.

in 1620 the Protestant Union signed a treaty with the Catholic Counter-Reformation leaders to no longer militarily support protestants in Bohemia, in exchange for peace in the rest of the Protestant Union. However, this also lead to the dissolution of the Protestant union in 1621 since the Protestant Union's leader was the King of Bohemia and he had to seek asylum in the Netherlands. In 1622 the Catholic League occupied Tubingen which was on the Southern Boarder of the old Protestant Union. That lasted until 1638 when Swedish troops conquered Tubingen and returned it to protestantism. 

Tubingen Today

Boasts both the youngest population average and the highest standard of living in Germany. University is the dominant industry here.  With a student population of 22,000, one in three residents is a university student. The high standard of living comes from the building of a people friendly infrastructure, which includes well designed and integrated bike paths, incorporation with nature, good public transportation, and cafes and pubs filled with intellectual and stimulating conversation.

On the side of relaxation and romance, are the punt (Stocherkahn) boats in the Neckar river that circle the forested island that divides the Neckar, near the old town. A punt boat, is a small flat bottom raft, with a square front, what is powered and steered by a punter (a person with a long pole, who jambs it in the mud and pushes it in the desired direction).

The university is one of the leading medical and chemical research universities in Europe (with several Nobel prize winning Laureates), as well as one of the leading theology universities. They are the creators and maintainers of the German Language, like it or hate it, and are almost always recognized as the leader in German Studies (German History, Language, and Culture).

Thank you for reading.

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I'll see you next time.

Craig

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France - Capbreton

by Kimp 10. December 2016 11:31

Welcome !!!

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Short old dude walking slowly down the boardwalk, wearing a beret, stopping occasionally to take a bite out of a fresh baguette that he just bought at the bakery. Check! Overweight old dude wading in ankle deep water wearing nothing but a speedo. Check! Women who are saving money by only buying bikini bottoms, occasionally ask me to take a picture of them and their friends, using their camera. Check! Yep, I must in France. One of these days, I am going to swap their camera for mine (Gee I know that dude took several pictures of us. He was even posing us! I wonder where those pictures are?).

The reason we see so many men in speedo's in France, is because French public pools do not allow any other attire to be worn in their pools. So that is all they buy, and all are comfortable wearing the same thing in the Ocean. It has to do with personal hygiene. The French do not allow anything to be worn in a pool that could have been worn as general attire before or outside of the pool area. Nobody would wear a speedo outside of the pool area, so it fits the bill. They do not want any dirt or contaminates to be washed off in the water, so if they let someone in the pool who was wearing fashionable swim shorts, they run that risk.

My History

I have never been a surfer myself, but my best friend from the Navy, Paul, moved to Oceanside California after he got out of the Navy and took up surfing as a hobby. Oceanside is a perfect location, about mid-way between San Diego and Los Angles. Every day has a high of about 80 degrees and a low of about 60 degrees. Some cheap type of heating is needed for some of the cooler nights, but no air conditioning is needed, because there is always a cool breeze blowing in from the ocean.

The Pacific Coast is much cooler than the Atlantic coast. The water on North America's West coast flows down from the Arctic, and the water on North America's East coast flows up from the tropics. Surfing in Southern California, often requires some type of wet suit to stay warm.

Paul always seemed to maintain a fairly simple and high quality of life on a tight budget. His surf mainstay was the popular San Onofre beach location, that draws 400,000 surfers per year, but he often traveled to the bluff's in Baja and the big waves in Oahu and Kauai. He was big in pre-computerized social media, maintaining a free surf paper that he published, about what was going on and where, what he had done, and where he was headed next. Surf comics and all. My favorite part of my post Navy time with Paul, was the hammock on his covered side patio in Oceanside, that was perfect for napping in the middle of the day. Then there were the Eddie Money concerts on the beach there, and a bachelor party on the bluffs in Baja that Paul and I were invited to, that were special in their own way too. 

Surf Slang

Boardshorts - a special type of shorts that surfers wear. They usually only have one pocket (a single back pocket with a flap), are straight legged, are worn mildly tight and have some type of built in belt or pull tie.

Hodad - A person who doesn't really surf, but pretends to, and hangs around great surfing places.

Kook - Person who wants to be a surfer, but has been trying for a long time and still has limited skill.

Grom - a surfer under the age of 16.

Front side - Surfing with your front facing the wave.

Back side - Surfing with your back facing the wave.

Natural foot - When the right foot is farthest back on the board.

Cross step - Crossing one foot over the other to move up on the board.

Gas chamber - being inside of the tunnel on a breaking wave.

Switch back - Surfing a figure 8 on the front of the wave.

Reentry - Hitting the top lip of the wave with the board vertical, then reentering the wave on the drop.

Aerial - What makes the crowd go Ohhh - Ahhh. Riding up the wave until airborne, then turning and landing right on the break.

Stall - Riding very far back on the board and putting a hand in the wave to slow down and stay in the pocket.

Floater - Riding on the very top of the wave, then eventually turning down.

Wave Breaks

There are several different conditions that cause a wave to break. Most common are underwater obstructions, such as coral or the peak of a large underwater rock. Consistent Beach Breaks are fairly rare, that is when the water over the shallow water in a beach. It takes a lot of water power to cause a beach break.

Hossegor

Every October, Hurricane's stir up the Atlantic Ocean in about the same location, about 100 miles off the coast of France. The water transfer's that energy all of the way to Hossegor.

Hossegor beach is considered the worlds best Beach Break, with waves of up to 20 feet. These vary from day to day. 10 feet is considered good at Hossegor. Not sure, but I think they still compete if the waves are 6-8 feet high. Every morning an official observes the wave action to determine if they are going to compete that day and exactly where the surf lane will be. The surf lane is marked by large black and white floating cubes anchored to the bottom so they don't move. Hossegor is a beautiful location, and some professional surfer's choose this as their permanent home.

This WSL event held here every year and is prefixed with the sponsors names. Quicksilver Pro 2015 was the one that I was at.

World Surf League Rules

To get the most out of watching it is handy to know a little bit about the competition. WSL is one of the surf leagues, they have their own rules and for the most part are fairly simple.

There several tours each with a qualifying series to get into the tour:

1. Championship Tour (CT) - A tour consisting of all wave types. 

2. Big Wave Tour (BWT) - A tour where the waves are a minimum of 30 feet high (typically greater than 50 feet).

3. Longboard Tour (LT) - Longboards are more stable and easier to maneuver, but are also slower to maneuver and slower to pick up speed. Therefore, they are on a separate tour schedule. More grace, but less excitement in my opinion.

Contestants - consist of the top 36 male surfers and top 18 female surfers of the current year.

Tour - A tour is made up of several events (usually 10 or 11) that are spread out throughout the surf year (March - December). Mens events are in different location's then the Womens events are (They have separate schedules). Not every location on a given tour is surfed every year, some locations are changed from year to year, but are always announced before the surf year starts.

Event - Each event is split up in to many rounds and can last several weeks in length.

Ranking - Each event awards a number of points based on the surfers position in that event (10,000 for 1st, 8,000 for second, etc). Those event points are added together to create an overall tour ranking for each surfer.

Round/Heat - Each round consist of grouping of surfers (2-4), called heats, that all surf at the same time. The winner of a heat advances one or two rounds ahead, and the losers battle it out in each round until eliminated. In the later rounds, it is single elimination, with only the winner advancing, until one surfer is left.

Scoring - The max score for a single wave is 10. There are 5 judges, the highest and lowest scorers are thrown out and the middle three are averaged together. The score from the top two waves of a heat are the only ones kept, and they are added together for a maximum heat score of 20.

Interference - On any given wave, only one surfer in the water has priority. If they stand up on a wave, the others must abort and get out of their way. The priority position changes when the priority person stands up on a wave. The penalty for interference of priority, is that surfer only gets to count one wave in that heat, which most certainly will result in a lose for that heat.

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Thank you for reading,

I'll see you next time.

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