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Exploring New Jerusalem

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New and old are relative concepts in Jerusalem.  Wherever you go, in this historic city, the ‘old’ and the ‘new;’ the modern and ancient live in close proximity.  As a visitor it is sometimes difficult to sort out which is which.  There is so much history and religion embedded in every stone, wall and street that it can be a little overwhelming.

Though the Old City of Jerusalem is only 0.9 square kilometres in size, it attracts all the tourist attention.  There is another side to this town though, which is pleasantly at odds with the universal perception.  It has a good mix of ethnic and cultural attractions.  The food is just as varied while the nightlife is a big draw for the young Israelis and foreigners.

The generally accepted ‘new’ Jerusalem includes the neighbourhoods that came up during the last decades of the 1800s.  Some of these localities are Even Yisrael, the German Colony, Yemin Moshe, Me’a She’arim, Makhane Yisra’el, Nakhla’ot, Nakhalat Shiv’a, Ein Karem (an artists’ colony), Komemi’ut, Rekhavia, the Bukharian Quarter and the Ethiopian Quarter.  They are only a very short drive from downtown Jerusalem and you can cover several of them

They were built in and around ancient villages and kept the winding streets, stone houses and look and feel of the original surroundings.  Here in narrow alleys bordered by cypress groves you can sip cappuccinos at charming cafés or have brunch next to art and antique studios.  The shops of jewellers, potters and a whole lot of other artisans featuring different world traditions are interspersed with restaurants dishing out exotic and enticing Middle Eastern fare.

Oh yes!  The food in these parts is simply amazing and worth doing a tour just to get your fill and find the source of the tempting aromas that waft out as you passes by.

Escaping the ever present reminders of the world’s three great religions is almost impossible but a hike through the picturesque hills around Ein Sataf in the Jerusalem Forest and Abu Ghosh nearly accomplishes it.  Nearly but not completely because you just might find yourself amongst tourists clicking photos of each other around a spring that is reputed to be where Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist are supposed to have met.

Outside Old Jerusalem there are several sites related to the New Testament and Jesus.  The Mount of Olives is the site of the oldest – still in use – Jewish cemetery from the time of the Canaanites.  Apart from being the place where Jesus was arrested it offers a fantastic view of Old Jerusalem and its holy sites.  Then there is the chapel on the legendary site where Jesus is said to have ascended into heaven, the Pater Noster Church, Dominus Flevit, Garden of Gethsemane and Mary’s Tomb.

If you are into museums then New Jerusalem has a whole host – around 60 of them.  They offer Islamic Art, biblical archaeological discoveries, recreations of life from the time of Jesus and exhibitions dedicated to the holocaust and the fascinating Dead Sea Scrolls.

To name some of the museums:  The Israel Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Bloomfield Science Museum, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Rockefeller Museum, the Bible Lands Museum, the Islamic Art Museum, the Old Yishuv Court Museum, the Armenian Museum and the Museum of Italian Jewish Art.  monastery of the crossOther attractive places are the Monastery of the Cross, the Supreme Court, Ammunition Hill, the Knesset, and the Makhane Yehuda Market.

New Jerusalem’s night life is also well and kicking in the German Colony, the Ben Yehuda Pedestrian Mall, Nakhalat Shiv’a, Shlomtsiyon HaMalka Street, and the Russian Compound.

If you know where to go or know someone who knows and is willing to take you then you enter a wonderfully different world (beyond the religious) that offers character, history and fulfilment far from the spiritual.

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Halloween – A New Orleans Speciality

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As the days grow shorter, the nights longer and the season of mist rolls in, it is time for the ghosts, ghouls and other scary creatures to begin their annual visits through the streets of the living.  It is the time of superstitions; keeping vigil for passing spirits and performing rituals that ward off the ‘ha’ants.’  In other words it is Halloween!

Shortened from “All Hallows’ Eve,” Halloween is one of the western world’s oldest festivals.  Derived from an ancient pagan Celtic festival it was surreptitiously incorporated into the Christian Calendar.  It marks a series of special religious ceremonies to prepare the people for a feast to honour the saints – Hallowmas.

Halloween made its way to North America after the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-49 drove more than two million Irish to the New World.  They brought with them Halloween and the fun and games that go along with it.  Children would play "knock-a-dolly," a prank in which they would knock on the doors of their neighbours, but run away before the door is opened.  A traditional delicacy barmbrack, a type of fruitcake, would be made and eaten.

halloween post2 (400 x 267)

In the US some of the traditions underwent changes and “knock-a-dolly” morphed into “trick-or-treating” for candy.  During the 1930s the practice of dressing up as witches, scarecrows, mummies and vampires was the norm. In the 1950s decorating front yards and houses with lights and carved pumpkin lanterns became common. Get-togethers with family and friends turned into raucous parties.

Commercialisation has played a large part in many of these changes.  There is a whole industry devoted to making costumes and creating Halloween themes for children’s parties.  Halloween is now a roughly 7 billion dollar industry making it the second largest festival in the US of A.  Local department stores and businesses host parties with games for the whole family and throw in treats for kids as part of their effort to boost sales.

While Halloween is a big event all across the US (second only to Christmas when it comes to holidays), it seems to me that the city of New Orleans has imbued it with a spirit of its own.  Perhaps it has something to do with the well-earned reputation for being the most haunted city in the country.

Whatever the reasons, Halloween in New Orleans is now the second biggest party of the year after Mardi Gras. The city has turned Halloween into a weekend long festival of street parades and costume extravaganzas.  If you are in New Orleans for Halloween don’t be surprised if you bump into ghastly creatures like vampires, witches or comic superheroes of all ages, sizes and genders wandering around the streets – day and night.

There are plenty of voodoo and costume shops around so you can pick up the accessories that you need to get into your creepiest mood.  To really get into the spirit of Halloween in New Orleans you might want to start by taking one of several organised haunted tours.

These ghostly walking tours take you to spooky cemeteries and haunted houses in the Garden District and places where ghosts have been sighted and other supernatural activity reported.  They take you through the French Quarter, which boasts of being the most haunted part of the city.  In the heart of the Quarter on Royal Street is the La Laurie House, reputeduly the most haunted house in the area. This is where the monstrous Madame LaLaurie tortured and killed her slaves before fleeing to Paris. 

halloween post (400 x 267)

New Orleans even has an Official Halloween Parade in the French Quarter, which is renowned for wild times, innovative themes and fantastic floats and costumes. This year promises to be even more visually stunning and unrestrained making New Orleans THE destination for Halloween shenanigans.

Halloween night in 2013 falls on October 31, a Thursday, so all the action will take place the preceding weekend.

See all tours in New Orleans.

 

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Exploring Malta’s Megalithic Temples

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Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world.  It is just 316 square kilometers but it is also one of the most densely populated.  Even though it is so small the country has a disproportionate number of precious historical monuments.  It is the seat of one of the most ancient among Mediterranean cultures.

Malta’s strategically important location in the Mediterranean Sea has given it a vital place in history.  At various times it has been occupied by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and the British – all of whom have left behind architectural reminders of their presence.

Despite its long, very packed and eventful history many of Malta’s monuments have somehow managed to survive.  This is especially true of the eleven pre-historic monuments of which seven are listed as UNESCO Heritage Sites.  These remarkably well preserved structures are scattered all over the island.

Malta Megalithic TempleThe megalithic temples on Malta are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world.  They were built in three separate time periods from about 4100-3600 BC.  Unlike other similar structures around Europe these temples were not simply built and left alone.  What happened was rather evolutionary.  Each temple was refined and improved through successive building periods.  Sometime after 2500 BC the temple building stopped.

Archaeologists have divided Malta’s megalithic temple building into five periods.  However it is the latter three that produced the structures that still stand today.

The Ġgantija phase (3600–3200 BC) is the oldest of the three.  This phase takes its name from Ġgantija in Gozo.   Here you will see the figure 8 shape, the trefoil and five-apsed plans that were the blue print for later temple constructions and phases.

The Saflieni phase (3300–3000 BC) improved, developed and introduced several refinements to the Ġgantija style.

The Tarxien phase: (3150–2500 BC) is the last megalithic building phase on Malta.  It produced the most notable and finest structures.  This phase is so named because of the three lovely temples found at modern day Tarxien.  You could easily miss them because they stand in a back street of a modern built-up area with no immediately discernable entrance to mark its presence.

The Maltese temples are scattered all around the island and their construction took place over a period of two thousand years.  They have individual characteristics but all have similar important architectural layouts.

You enter through an oval forecourt, which is bordered on one side by the temple itself.  The temples generally face south.  The doorway to the temple is made up of large upright stone slabs with a massive stone lintel laid on top.  Stone slabs create a passageway leading to a central court.  There are slight variations to the layouts of course.

The temples are all unroofed.  The outer walls are generally made of hard coral limestone while a softer version is used inside, which permits sculpting and carving.  The decorations usually show animals but there are also a rich variety of patterns.

The major UNESCO Sites are:
Ta’ Ħaġrat
Ta’ Skorba
Ħaġar Qim
L-Imnajdra
Tarxien

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Touring Bathurst Island, Australia

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Bathurst IslandBathurst Island lies in Australia’s far north.  Bathurst is one of nine that make up the Tiwi Islands, which lie about 80 kilometres north of Darwin. There are two ways to get to the island either by a light aircraft or the thrice weekly ferry from Darwin.  Both transportation modes are wonderfully scenic.

You have to remember that tourism is restricted and so are visitors.  You need to get a permit to visit and even then you have to go on a pre-arranged tour with an Aboriginal guide.  You can apply for your permit online or from the office of the Tiwi Land Council on Bathurst Island.  It is far more convenient to let the tour operators organise your visit and permit.

You can do a one or two day tour of the island.  The facilities and amenities on the island are rather basic and there are no hotels or places to stay except for a couple of remote fishing lodges.  While there are food and general stores, the locals still follow the traditional fishing and hunting customs to meet their food needs.  It is an important part of their community lives. Tour operators however, do provide meals and camp-style accommodation for overnight stays.

Once on the island, the experiences are absolutely terrific. The pleasures of Bathurst Island can be placed in two distinct categorises.  One is the natural and scenic side and the other is the people.

The Aboriginal population call themselves the Tiwi, which translates to people, so saying Tiwi people is a redundancy.  One of the treats in visiting Bathurst Island is the arts and crafts of the Tiwi.  The main community is Wurrumiyanga, previously called Nguiu.

You get a first hand and close-up feel for the art and everyday life of the Tiwi.  You can watch and marvel at the artists while they work.  Their batik and silk clothes, woven bangles, vividly painted conch shells, wood carvings and pottery are splendid.  Wood carvings generally have birds that are sacred and meaningful to the Tiwi.   Some really good carvings are on display at the Mission Heritage Gallery and the Tiwi Designs Art Centre.

The Tiwi culture is rather unique.  Back in 1911, Father Gsell, a Catholic priest convinced the government to give him land on the island to build a mission.  Fortunately he did not carry out too many conversions and what has evolved is a very unusual mix of Tiwi Aboriginal traditions and customs and Christian doctrines, signs symbols and texts.

An outstanding representation of this cultural mash-up is the lovely wooden church built sometime during the 1930s.  Another is the beautifully decorated and colourful burial poles, called pukamanis that dot the countryside.  They mark burial sites and some of them are more than 10 feet tall.

The scenic part of your tour takes you along beautiful coastlines, sandy beaches, through rainforests, waterfalls and inviting rock pools where you can take a dip if you are so minded.  Some of the plants and animals are totally unique to Bathurst Island.  One of the most enduring sights is the cycad trees.  They look like a cross between ferns and palm trees, with a single thick trunk and a crown of large green feather-like leaves.  In fact the name Wurrumiyanga means “the place where cycads grow.”

I found out Bathurst is a privately owned island.  In 1978 ownership was formally handed back to the Tiwi people.  Today the island is run by the Tiwi Land Council and they have done a good job of it.

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Oktoberfest 2013

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The halls will be alive to the clink of glasses and sound of polka music!  Oktoberfest has rolled around again.  A time for binge beer drinking, when, those fateful words, "O'zapft is!" – "It's tapped!" uttered by the Mayor of Munich heralds the start to the festivities.

Despite the global economic gloom millions of people from around the world have decided to pour into Munich (and other parts of Bavaria, Germany) to take part in the world’s biggest beer guzzling party.

Oktoberfest-2013What began as a horse-race in 1810, with a bit of beer on the side, has turned into an annual bash lasting for as long as 16 or 17 days and become a Bavarian cultural thing.  It has also become the inspiration for similar events in cities across the world.

You would be justified in being puzzled about the fact that Oktoberfest begins in September.  It has a very practical reason.  October can be rather cold in Germany with the possibility of snowfall.  September is much nicer but the last weekend of the festival always ends on the first Sunday of October.

Just in case, you cannot figure out where the party is happening – head for Munich’s city centre.  The festival is held in a large open field called Theresienwiese (meaning Therese’s meadow) occupied by several brightly coloured tents.  The oldest, largest and central one is known as the Schottenhamel Tent where the traditional opening ceremony, which is the tapping of the Oktoberfest beer barrel, takes place.  Another important tent is the Hippodrom.

The Oktoberfest is not just about downing beers, there is plenty of traditional food to be had.  Here is a list of the dishes you can get your teeth into:  Hendl (chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezeln (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).

Besides the food (and beer) there are plenty of parades including the really impressive and colourful Costume and Riflemen’s Parade and the Gay Parade.  There are also thrilling rides, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, plenty of music and yodelling!

While all this is going on you have to watch out for those youngsters who overestimate their capacity for the festival beer.  The locals have a name for these types bierleiche – beer corpse! The beer served during Oktoberfest is at least 1 to 2 percent stronger than the usual fare.

Have a great time at the Oktoberfest in Munich!


Events Schedule

Saturday :    21.09.13    11 a.m.      A parade through Munich.
Saturday :    21.09.13    12 p.m.      Tapping of the first Oktoberfest-beer-barrel by the Munich mayor in the Schottenhamel Tent.
Sunday :    22.09.13    10 a.m.        Traditional costume parade through Munich.
Monday :    23.09.13    12.00 p.m.   Oktoberfest tour for 1200 preschool children, invited by the City of Munich. Special lunch for senior citizens in the big tents.
Tuesday :    24.09.13    12 p.m.-6 p.m.    Family day: all rides and performances cost less.
Thursday :    26.09.13    10 a.m.    Traditional religious Oktoberfest mass in the Hippodrom tent.
Sunday :    29.09.13    11 a.m.    Traditional concert of the Oktoberfest brass-bands around the Bavaria monument.
Tuesday :    01.10.13    12 p.m.-6 p.m.    Family day: all rides and performances cost less.
Thursday :    03.10.13    12 p.m.       Senior showman meeting in the Hippodrom tent.
Sunday :    06.10.13    12 p.m.    Traditional gun-salute on the steps of the Bavaria monument.


Serving Hours in the Beer Tents:
Weekdays: 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Weekends and Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Daily Beer Tent Closing Time: 11:30 p.m.

Exception: "Käfer Wiesn-Schänke" and the "Wine Tent" stay open until 1:00 a.m.

 

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Holidaying in Turkey – Antalya

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Duden waterfall in Antalya

Antalya, the city and the surrounding area, is one of those places that seem tailor-made for sightseers and holiday makers. It has to have everything. The area is backed by the Beydaglari? and Taurus Mountains that come right down to the sea creating numerous idyllic and picturesque coves and bays. Oh yes, there are plenty of lovely sandy beaches.  The best known are Konyaalt? and Lara Beaches.

The picture is further coloured by the fact that Antalya is located on the Eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. That means it has a lovely warm climate all year round. The city mirrors its mixed and rich history. There are plenty of reminders of that past including Lycian, Pamphylian, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman architecture and cultures.

The modern too is well represented in Antalya. It has a modern and busy airport, reportedly handling more than 10 million visitors a year. The port and marinas are always filled with yachts, boats of all descriptions and cruise liners. There are plenty of luxury hotels – several belonging to international chains – hotels, bars, clubs, chic restaurants and shopping avenues. No wonder the area is referred to as the Turkish Riviera.

For those looking to get a glimpse of Antalya’s history there is plenty on offer. Antalya has been restored to retain much of its historical character. The work won it the Golden Apple Tourism Prize.

These following are some of the prominent sights and monuments of Antalya:

  • The Atatürk Monument at Cumhuriyet Meydan? (Republic Square).
  • Kaleiçi: The old centre of the city with its narrow cobbled streets of historic Ottoman era houses.
  • Hadrian’s Gate (also known as Triple Gate) was built by the Romans in the 2nd century.
  • The City Walls and Hidirlik Tower also date back to ancient times.
  • Iskele Mosque: A 19th-century Mosque near the Marina.
  • Karatay Medrese: A Medrese (Islamic theological seminary) built in 1250 by Emir Celaleddin Karatay.
  • Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret) Mosque: Once a Roman temple which was   converted into a Byzantine Panaglia church and then the present mosque.  
  • Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque: An 18th-century mosque built in honour of Tekeli Mehmet Pasa.
  • Yat Limani: The harbour goes back to Roman times.
  • Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret) Mosque: Built by the Seljuks and decorated with dark blue and turquoise tiles, this minaret eventually became the symbol of the city.

Antalya is not all history, architecture, beaches and beauty spots. It has a vibrant cultural life. The main square, Cumhuriyet, is often used to host open air exhibitions and artistic and cultural performances.

To name a few of the events:

  • Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival: Turkey's largest national film festival, last week of September.
  • International Eurasia Film Festival: International film festival held annually
  • Mediterranean International Music Festival: October, 6 days
  • Antalya International Folk Music and Dance Festival Competition: Last week of August
  • Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival: June and July
  • Flower Festival May

The mixture of modern and ancient and the sheer variety create a tapestry and character that endures itself to all who come to this wonderful part of Turkey.

 

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La Tomatina, Buñol – A Sanctioned Tomato War

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Buñol is a small, quiet town about 38kms from the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Valencia.  It has a population of about 9,000 souls.  Every year on the last Wednesday in August it goes crazy with an influx of mainly British, French, German and Spanish tourists who come to indulge in a tomato fight of epic proportions.  This year the tomato-fest is on the 28th of August.

The tomato fight started in 1945 when a group of young men were not allowed to participate in the local festivities, which involved costumed figures of gigantes y cabezudos, or “Giants and Big-Heads.”  They staged an impromptu tomato fight in the Plaza del Pueblo.  This was instantaneously popular; repeated the next year and has been carried on till today becoming a traditional, free-for-all, fun sport with an international flavour and participation.

In 1980 it became an official event with the local authorities organising the spectacle. In 2012, about 40 tonnes of tomatoes were trucked in from the Extremadura region as ammunition for the festivities.  La Tomatina has even acquired religious sanction.  The tomato throwing is now done to honour San Luis Bertrán and the Mother of God of the Defenceless (Mare de Deu dels Desemparats- another attribute of the Virgin Mary), patrons of the city of Buñol.

La Tomatino begins at 10am, with a greasy, two-storey pole climb.  The pole is coated with soap and a ham tied to the top.  Whoever reaches the ham gets to keep it!  As the climbers attempt to slither up to the prize, the crowd sings and dances, all the while being showered with water.  Once the ham prize has been acquired, the tomato fight begins, signalled by a loud shot.

That is the ideal situation but most times it takes too long to get to the ham, sometimes not at all.  So the fun part – throwing the tomatoes – begins regardless.  There are no teams and each man has to fight his own tomato battle.  The pandemonium lasts for an hour when another loud shot is fired to signal the cessation of the tomato war.

By this time the whole town square is a gory, pulpy scarlet and so are the participants, of course.  Fire trucks shower the players and the streets to remove the tomato paste.  A side effect of the festivities is that the cobblestones in the square and surrounding streets become spotlessly clean because of the tomatoes’ acidity!

You would think that indulging in the messy pleasure of throwing tomatoes would be a simple affair.  Well think again.  There are rules, instructions rather.  They are:

  • The tomatoes have to be squashed before throwing to avoid injuries.
  • No other objects except tomatoes are allowed.
  • Participants have to give way to the trucks.
  • The festival doesn't allow ripping off T-shirts.  (This one is seldom adhered to.   The players will often tear each others’ shirts off – man or woman.)
  • After the second shot signalling the end of the tomato battle, no tomatoes should be thrown.

Here are couple of tips when going into this purée making battle.  One is – wear goggles to protect your eyes or take a cloth to keep them clean.  The other is – for heaven’s sake; don’t take your camera in to the square.

Last year some 50,000 people showed up for the festival.  That was a tad too many for the limited confines of the square.  So this year (2013) the town authorities have limited the number of entrants to 20,000 people and are issuing entry tickets to the square.  The town residents get 5,000, while outsiders get 15,000.

The tickets are not free, of course!  They will cost €10 each.  Tickets can only be bought online from the town’s official website.  The ticket will take the form of a wristband.

I wonder if a few rebellious souls will stage a parallel red war to protest the regulations and limitations placed on them.  Will 1945 repeat itself?

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The Little Mermaid Celebrates a Hundred Years!

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She has been sitting on that rock for the last hundred years, staring longingly towards the shore.  According to the touching fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, the little bronze mermaid, with the far-seeing eyes, swims up to the rock from the bottom of the sea every morning and evening hoping to see her beloved prince.

While she waits, perched on her rocky pedestal, over a million people a year come by to photograph her.  Her popularity has made her one of those icons that define or identify a city.  The Little Mermaid is now regarded as the embodiment of Copenhagen.  So much so the city has been celebrating her birthday for a number of years.

The Little mermaid’s birthday is celebrated on 23 August.  For it was on that day, in 1913, sculptor Edvard Eriksen’s creation was unveiled.  He was commissioned by brewer Carl Jacobsen who was entranced by the fairy tale character and the ballerina Ellen Price.  Ms. Price had danced the character in a performance, at the Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen, in 1909.

Since then the little (she is only four feet, one inch tall) lady has been decapitated, had her arm sawed off, paint poured on her and a burqa tied on her face.  She was even blown off her pedestal with explosives on the night of 10th September 2003.  Each time, though, she has been rescued, repaired and restored.

One of the annual events to mark her birthday has real life ‘mermaids’ jumping into the water and forming the number of her years of existence.  It has been done for so long now that it has become a tradition.  This year the mermaids will swim around the rock on which she sits to form the number 100.

Besides the swimming mermaids the city of Copenhagen has planned a series of activities for 23rd August 2013.  The celebrations include story-telling, about mermaids, by the Blue Planet Aquarium staff; a mermaid concert; birthday songs by the Tivoli Gardens’ Boys Choir; a scene from the Russian musical The Little Mermaid and a dance performance by Selene Munoz of Hans Christian Andersen’ fairy tale.  The finale will be a fireworks display.

All the while Den lille havfrue (Danish for The Little Mermaid) will be sitting on her rock at Langelinje Pier.  Keeping her lonely vigil and braving the the winds, vandals and tourists.

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Bodrum – From Greek Outpost to Opulent Hotspot

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Bodrum is a port city on the south-western Aegean Sea Coast of Turkey.  Its location is beautiful and so is the weather.  Unlike many, once picturesque, fishing villages that were ‘discovered’ by holiday makers and mutated into a hotel/motel and garishly lit tourist-targeted towns, Bodrum has retained its original character.

The local authorities have played a big part in Bodrum retaining its charm.  Building regulations and town planning control the height of buildings and preserve the traditional whitewashed houses with their distinctive blue-trim. The surrounding green-clad hills, numerous coves, bays, marinas and winding backstreets make this once unknown seaside town a very attractive place to spend a few days.

However, Bodrum has changed.  It is now the favoured retreat of the wealthy and powerful.  It has a number of high-end boutiques, salons, and elegant restaurants that cater to them.  There are also petite cafes, dressed with bright flowers, several excellent museums, shopping areas and other attractions that draw the package tourists too.

Despite the million or so tourists who pack its streets, beaches and hotels every summer, Bodrum has managed to keep its essential nature.  The Ottoman era mosques, ancient relics and the Crusader era castle have helped retain that lost-era flavour.

While the town has essentially become a ‘getaway’; a place to relax there are several historical attractions for the sightseer.

Before he died King Mausolus (376-353 BC) planned and started to build his own tomb.  It was designed by Pythius and Satyros.  When he died, his wife (who was also his sister) Artemisia completed it.  It was a massive and impressive temple-like structure.

It consisted of tonnes of white marble crowned by stepped pyramids and decorated with carvings and statues.  The tomb was among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It survived for 1700 years till earthquakes brought it down.  Today, only its foundations and few bits of statuary can be seen.  It is from this man and his tomb that we get the word “mausoleum.”

The Crusader Knights Hospitallers showed up in 1402 and began to build a castle in 1406.  They used the marble and stones from Mausoleum’s ruins for their construction.  They finished it in 1437 but kept adding fortifications, a cistern and a moat.  It is still a very impressive and well-preserved structure.  They named it The Castle of St Peter and the town around it Petronium.  Over time the name was turkicised to 'Bodrum.'

Within Bodrum Castle is the French Tower containing the tomb and remains of Queen Ada (died sometime between 360 and 325 BC).  Along with her body were buried a gold crown, necklace, bracelets, rings and an exquisite wreath of gold myrtle leaves – all incredibly valuable.

Bodrum Castle is also home to one of most important museums of the world.Bodrum castle  The Museum of Underwater Archaeology houses items collected from underwater missions.  The exhibits are creatively displayed and include maps, drawings and murals.

Another relic from ancient times is the Myndos Gate – now restored.  It the only remaining portion of what was once a 7km wall built by King Mausolus.  In 334 BC many of Alexander the Great’s soldiers perished at the wall and the moat around it.

Fate and forethought has been kind to Bodrum and saved it from becoming like other Turkish fishing villages that have become touristic nightmares.

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Sightseeing In Old Jerusalem

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One of the great things about sightseeing in Old Jerusalem is that nearly all the sights and shrines are close to each other.  Cheek by jowl you could say.  The other thing is that despite the millions of people who visit every year, you don’t get that squashed, crowded, hemmed in feeling.  Oh yes.  The streets are narrow too.

King David laid the foundation stones of Jerusalem City in 1004 BCE (Before Common Era) making it one of the world’s oldest cities. It has been built and rebuilt since.  The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Arabs, Europeans and a whole host of others came and went destroying and building in turn.  Jerusalem has been destroyed twice and captured and recaptured 44 times.

JerusalemThe Old City is demarcated by the walls that Suleiman the Magnificent built in 1538.  They make it convenient for the visitor when navigating through the maze of streets.  Since 1981 the Old City is a World Heritage Site and is also on the World Heritage in Danger list.

Old Jerusalem is literally divided into four quarters – Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.  The Old City of Jerusalem is only 0.9 square kilometres in size!  What is amazing though is that so much of the world’s human history, culture, religion and conflicts have their roots in this tiny area.

The Jewish Quarter includes the Wailing Wall (or The Western Wall and the Kotel), which was a part of the Temple of Solomon.  Also here you will find the Burnt House.  This residential remnant from 2000 years ago was destroyed by the Romans.

Then there is a remarkable street – The Cardo – built by the Romans in the 6th century. Several columns, arches, shops and sections of floor still remain.  This area was the Roman Aelia Capitolina and the business district then.  You can almost expect to see people from that age going about their business with mule-drawn carts and legionnaires passing by.

The Christian Quarter has numerous churches, chapels and road side memorials dedicated to or recalling the deeds and life of Christ.  You can attend a service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was buried after being crucified.  You can retrace his final journey along the Via Dolorosa and recall the Stations of the Cross.  The route starts at what was the courthouse but is now Lions’ Gate – or St. Stephen’s Gate – and winds through the Arab souk and Moslem Quarter before ending at the hill of Calvary or Golgotha.

A non-religious attraction of the Christian section is the thriving and very colourful Bazaar.  It is a great place to pick up souvenirs and religious and ornamental items.  Bargaining is an accepted and expected part of shopping here.  Another lovely feature is the numerous little food stalls – the appetising aromas will ensure you taste something before moving on.

The largest and most populous is the Moslem Quarter.  Take the Cardo through the Arab souk and into the Moslem Quarter.  There are several churches and mosques here.  More importantly it is the location of two of Islam’s holiest sites.  One is the Dome of the Rock.  Another is Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine.  Both sit on the Temple Mount.

The last and tiniest is the Armenian Quarter.  Most of the Armenians live around the St. James Cathedral.  Through two thousand years of Jerusalem’s turbulent history they have retained their ethnic, cultural and religious identity.

Taken in totality the Temple Mount has huge meaning and importance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam making it the most contentious and disputed piece of land.

A tour of the Old City of Jerusalem should take you a little over half a day.  Incredible, how so much history can be packed into a matter of hours!  You will go away very touched and thoughtful.

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