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Exploring the Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands

To paraphrase the poet, ‘if there is a heaven, this is it, this is it, this is it!

When you approach the Solomon Islands by air or even by ship all your senses are stunned by the sheer beauty of these gems sprinkled across 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) of the Southwest Pacific Ocean. They comprise of about 992 green isles that total up to 28,400 square kilometres.

One usually gets there by air. The airport in the capital city, Honiara is on the island of Guadalcanal. Thereafter to get around to the other islands you have to do it by boat, which can be quite exhilarating and an adventure itself.

The Solomons are home to just over half a million people. You are not going to see too many of them though as they are scattered all over the place with many of them quite isolated from other folks. They speak 74 local languages (according to Ethnologue, Languages of the World).  Don’t bother trying to count.

The beaches are simply superb and seem to be a product of your dreams. The surf is pretty good all year. Silvery soft sands fringed by green trees that contrast with the blue of the sea are enough to get you thinking about never going back home.

The beach-based activities are a-plenty – swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing, island-cruising and of course surfing. The great part about indulging in these activities is that there is hardly anybody around to cramp your style.

Another great option (my favourite) is to lie in a hammock on the beach and watch the sunsets. But then this is what you want right? None of that hectic, got-to-do-something-all-the-time stuff. These isles are meant to be enjoyed with the ‘lazy quotient’ in plenty.  

Away from the beaches the islands have lush green valleys and forested mountains that provide breathtaking views of the seas around and the tiny, picturesque villages. If you like trekking and sweating it out (the Solomon Islands are extremely humid all year round) then you should go bushwalking. There are movie perfect waterfalls, caves, sheer ridges with single tracks to enchant you en route.

The islands are home to several volcanoes. Most of them are dormant with two Tinakula and Kavachi sort-of active. Everyone will tell you that Tinakula is due for a blow. They are worth taking the walk to look at.

While accommodation and facilities can be terrifically erratic – flush toilets are a premium – you could enjoy the pleasures of a ‘village stay’ to experience the ancient lifestyle of the Solomon Island tribes.

Some Local Insights

The boat services are erratic and can involve waiting. There are not too many hotels, resorts or guest houses. The infrastructure is pretty much non-existent. The Solomon Islands suffer from accessibility difficulties. Many of them are uninhabited too.

Many of the beaches are privately owned and you need permission from owners or families to lie around or surf at them. The Solomon Islands are still largely owned by the various tribes who are governed by a whole set of local customs and traditions. It can be rather tiresome too as you very often need permissions from local chiefs, police and even the visitors bureau.

Things are improving all the time and are no reason not to visit the Solomon Islands. Who said that paradise had to be perfect?  At any rate the experiences and magic of the place will wipe away any memories of inconveniences. Your heart will see to that.
 

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Touring Brussels’ Chocolate District

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Brussels Chocolate

Strolling through Brussels’ city centre on the chocolate trail has got to be one of the sweetest (pun fully intended) experiences of your life. Be prepared to have your sweet tooth totally saturated. Locally chocolate is often referred to as “Le Chocolat, L'Or Noir Des Bruxellois” or Chocolate, the Black Gold of the People of Brussels. The chocolate guided tour is a rather unique way to see and experience this self-proclaimed ‘chocolate capital of the world.

It is not all about titillating your mouth and filling up on the sinfully good stuff. If you take the four hour Brussels Walking and Chocolate Workshop Tour you will see and learn about the chocolate making process, the history of chocolate and even get to make some yourself under the guidance of a "Master Chocolatier". The tours generally take you to some of the premier chocolate shops in Brussels. A part of the tour experience is the free tasting of chocolate samples.

This is also pretty good tour because you see a whole lot of Brussels’ historical landmarks too including some very pretty art noveau houses. The old historic city centre of Brussels is livened up by the iconic and famous statute of Manneken Pis (Little Man Pee).

The statute, made from bronze, is part of a fountain depicting a naked little boy peeing into the basin. It was sculpted by Hiëronymus (Jerome) Duquesnoy and installed in 1618 or 1619. It is amazing how many folks from all over the world come to this see chubby little fellow and photograph his non-stop urinating. There will be lots of giggles! Oh yes replicas of the 2 foot tall boy can be found cast in chocolates and lollipops.

Just around the corner from little Mannekin is the Grand Place or Brussels’ central square. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is enclosed by the Town Hall, The Breadhouse (King’s House) and a number of Guildhalls. Begun around the late 11th century with buildings being added at intervals, it was rebuilt after being destroyed by artillery fire in the 1700s. The Square, today, is a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV styles. How it attained its current attraction despite the architectural mish-mash is a wonder.

Getting back to the chocolates… two stops are a must. One is a visit to Brussels’ oldest chocolate shop the Neuhaus. Started by Jean Neuhaus in 1857, they are the inventors of the praline or chocolate bonbon. The company is now a manufacturer of luxury chocolates, biscuits and ice-cream and the shop is bound to make your mouth water. If you make purchases here be ready to have your wallet emptied or credit card dented.

The other stop is the delightful Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. They give you a history lesson on the origins of chocolate, the production process, chocolate sculptures and chocolate clothes. There are praline-making demonstrations several times a day so check for timings. The museum also contains and displays porcelain cans and cups relating to chocolate. The place is literally filled with the strong aroma of hot chocolate.

Tip
Most of the guides on these tours are supposed to be multilingual but you need to be clear when booking, which language you want or else you could find yourself in amongst a group that speak another tongue. The guide will obviously focus predominantly on them and you could be left out.
 

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Macau Travel Guide

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Macau

Macau’s skyline is spectacular! The myriad glittering commercial skyscrapers and glittering residential towers are like a futuristic sci-fi movie setting. At night the place turns into a modern fairy-tale land. However, little Macau is not all lights, steel and glass. There are lovely twisty cobbled-stone streets, old churches, colonial-style villas, temples and great eating places and cuisine. The first European community in China, Macau has a couple of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Some highlights of Macau’s sightseeing attractions are:

Historic Centre of Macau:  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 because of a “meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West.” The Centre is an attractive and unique mixture of Chinese and Portuguese cultures that includes monuments, streets, churches and temples.

One of the most outstanding examples is the ruins of St. Paul’s Church. These remnants are a collection of 16th century buildings that made up St. Pauls College and Cathedral. The detail on stone carvings and sculptures are remarkable for their beauty and intricacy. Other excellent specimens include the churches of St. Augustine, St. Lawrence and St. Joseph.

The statue of Kum Iam, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy is a bronze statue, 66 feet (20 m) tall. Then there is the elegant A-Ma temple built in 1488 to honour Matsu, the Goddess of sailors and fishermen. Another lovely section is the charming cobblestone streets and quaint buildings shops leading in and out of Senado Square.

Macau Tower Convention & Entertainment Centre: Standing at 1,109 feet (338 metres) the Tower was modelled on Auckland, New Zealand’s Sky Tower. It has an observation deck, restaurant, theatres and shopping malls.  One can also do a Bungee jump from the Tower. It is also the world’s second highest commercial skyjump.

Casinos: Probably the biggest attraction, Macau’s casinos draw in the visitors from mainland China in their droves. Gambling is the largest revenue earner for this special administrative region (50% of the economy).The region has 33 casinos, which operate under government franchise. The three largest and most well known are The Venetian Macau, Casino Lisboa and the MGM Macau.

Grand Prix Circuit: You could stroll through some sections of the twisting and winding road route that makes up the famous and historic Macau Grand Prix. Known as the Guia Circuit, it is the site of one of the world’s oldest events on the racing calendar.

Eating: You cannot visit Macau without sampling some its cuisine. The region has evolved some unique dishes and locally specialised preparations that are a treat. The eating options range from the wide selection of street side eateries and take-away to the more formal restaurants. Whatever the choice, the food is really finger-licking delicious.

Macau is a small enclave but it has a world of experiences and sensations to offer to the visitor.
 

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Things to see at the Alhambra

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Gardens of The Alhambra
The Alhambra is a beautiful collection of buildings and gardens. Its location is one of rare natural beauty that commands a view of the city and plains of Granada. It remains the most perfect example of Moorish art.
 
The Palace is made up of numerous beautiful courtyards, fountains and buildings that served as living quarters for monarchs. The shady tree-lined walks, abundant streams and fountains are blended with extraordinary architecture and embellishments.

Broadly speaking, the Alhambra is composed of three parts:  The Royal Palace, The Gardens of Generalife and the fortress of Alcazaba.

The Royal Palace, the most famous building of the complex, consists of the Mexuar – enclosing the striking Golden Room – where the sultans conducted every day business.  The Serallo, which served as a reception area and its very attractive Patio of Myrtles and its view of the Comares Tower, and the intriguing Lions' Court. The Hall of the Ambassadors is the largest and finest room in the palace, where King Fernando discussed Columbus’ attempt to find the sea route to India. The Palacios Nazaries is the high point of the palace. It has ensured that the entire edifice is one of the finest Islamic architectural compositions in Europe.

The inspiration for The Gardens of Generalife is supposed to be the Koranic description of Paradise. Running water and plenty of shaded areas together with all sorts of plants reminded the rulers of Granada of their past in the hot deserts of Africa. A 700 year old cypress tree shades The Patio of the Cypresses. The Walk of the Cascades consists of a superb piece of hydraulic engineering that has water flowing along a shaded staircase. The ticketed areas are basically the 'garden palace', but huge sections of the garden are free and don't require tickets. The gardens are absolutely gorgeous with all kind of herbs, roses and myriad scented plants and flowers growing. Water is a key theme.

The fortress of Alcazaba (the Citadel) is the oldest part of the Alhambra and consists of the impressive Torre de la Vela (watchtower).

The massive, if out of harmony, Carlos V Palace (Palacio de Carlos V) was built by destroying an original wing of the Alhambra. The building is of the Renaissance style and was built after the Reconquista (reconquest) by the Christians.

Overall this tour is a treat for gardeners: the designs are fantastic; the symmetrical Arab features have been copied around the world.

Tickets:  Are strictly limited, so booking in advance is highly recommended.

Night Visits:  Entry from 20:00 to 21:30 from November to February, 22:00 to 23:30 at all other times. Price: 12€
 

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Sightseeing in Amritsar

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Golden Temple
From a historical, architectural and religious perspective, there is plenty to see and admire in Amritsar. Two themes dominate this city’s cultural and historical landscape – war and the Sikh religion. Amritsar has a glorious history but it is of violence and spirituality. In this city, they do not seem at odds.

A vast majority of the monuments in the city are dedicated to religious events and incidents.  Many a religious shrine is a memorial to heroes and martyrs of various conflicts with the Afghans, Mughals and the British. The city is inextricably linked with Sikh religious and political history.

On another level it is also a hub of tourism in Punjab. Its commercial activities include light engineering, producing superb carpets and handicrafts. It is also a fabric manufacturing and farm producing centre.

The highlights of Amritsar’s sightseeing attractions include among others:

Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
Inevitably this is the first and most visited site in Amritsar. The sheer beauty of the structure, its silvery holy water tank and marble walkways is worth every minute spent. The building is three storeys high with the first floor white marble. The upper two are gold plated and topped off with a dome shaped like an inverted lotus.

Akal Takht
Right next door to the Golden Temple is the Akal Takht, which is the temporal seat of the Sikh governing body. The Sikh Holy Book or the Adi Granth is housed on the ground floor and taken out in procession every morning to the Harmandir Sahib and returned at night.

Jubbi Trees
There are three ancient jujube (ber) trees within the precincts of the Golden Temple. Older than the temple there are stories attached to each of them and have individual names – Lachi Ber, Ber Baba Buddha Ji and Dukh Bhanjani Ber.

Wagah Border
Not strictly in Amritsar city, the Attari-Wagah Border post is 28 kilometres away. It is the border between India and Pakistan.There is a daily routine colourful flag-hoisting and lowering ceremony.  A barely suppressed aggressive and dramatic changing of the guard by army personnel of both countries adds plenty of interest to the proceedings.  

Jalianwala Bagh
An enclosed park, accessible only by a narrow lane, it is the site of the mass killing of Indians by General Dyer in 1919.  It contains the memorial and Martyrs’ Gallery, which is open every day from 9am to 5pm. The bullet-ridden walls stand as testimony of that gruesome day.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum
A little distance from Amritsar’s main railway station are the Ram Bagh Gardens. They enclose the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Palace, which has been turned into a museum. There is a rather interesting bathing tank installed by a French General.

Durgiana Temple
Modelled on the nearby Golden Temple this massive 16th century Hindu temple is dedicated to the goddess Durga. The goddess Lakshmi and god Narayan are also worshipped. The temple sits in the middle of a lake.

The Old City
Amritsar’s Old city area is a revelation and a treat!  Its narrow streets date back to the 17th century with nothing having changed very much. It is divided into ‘katras’ or independently run units. Trades and crafts practised for centuries are still handed down from generation to generation. Entire streets with rows of shops are given to specialised trading and selling just one particular product. Some of the items are gold jewellery, steel and brass utensils, papads, Indian jams, pickles, dried mango slices, dry fruits and glass bangles.

There are more things and places to see in Amritsar. Take a walk around and discover your own particular gems.
 

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Cristo Redento Statue in Rio de Janeiro

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Cristo Redento

With wide eyes looking out from a serene art-deco concrete and soapstone face, Cristo Redento stares out across the vast urban sprawl that is Rio de Janeiro.  The statue faces Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay while keeping an eye on the golden sands of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

The 30 metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer stands at the top of Corcovado Mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro.  Its arms spread out, symbolically embracing the whole world; the statue is the 5th largest, of Jesus, in the world.

Otherwise known as Christ the Redeemer, this icon of a city and symbol of a country is considered one of the new wonders of the world.  The panorama that the location affords is breathtaking for the two million people who make the trip up to the statue every year.

The idea of building a religious monument was first suggested, in the 1850s, to Princess Isabel of Spain by a Catholic priest, Father Pedro Maria Boss. It did not get very far. The statue idea came up again in the early twentieth century with several designs being put forth. The open-armed statue representing universal peace was chosen. The French-Polish sculptor Paul Londowski began sculpting it in 1922. It was completed in 1931 at the (then) cost of US $250,000 (equivalent to $3,200,000 in 2013).

In 2006, a chapel was built under the towering statue and its pedestal. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Brazil – Nossa Senhora Aparecida or "Our Lady of the Apparition".

The statue has been the target of nature and humans. In 2008 lightning struck it during an electrical storm. The head, fingers and eyebrows suffered damage. To repair it soapstone from the quarry where the original material was sourced was used. New lightning rods were installed.

Two years later Paulo Souza dos Santos, a house painter, took his trade a bit too far. He spray-painted graffiti on the statue’s head and right arm. He was arrested and convicted for his delinquent artistic ‘crime against the nation.’  Besides these two incidents, maintenance work needs to be regularly done because of the strong eroding winds to which the statue is subjected.

The statue has featured in several films including Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious and numerous video games. It was controversially blown up in the disaster movie 2012. It also has songs dedicated to it.

Views of the statue and from it are spectacular and almost otherworldly – especially on cloudy nights. The face of the city is one of the most amazing structures and landmarks of the world.
 

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Nicaragua Tourism

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Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a wonderfully diverse country. Whether it is the flora, food, culture, women’s clothing, languages or people you will get an exciting smorgasbord bursting with colour.

Nicaragua is located on the Central American isthmus – that piece of land that joins the two Americas. The countrNicaragua is a wonderfully diverse country. Whether it is the flora, food, culture, women’s clothing, languages or people you will get an exciting smorgasbord bursting with colour.

y is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It has two large lakes – Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. The climate is tropical.

Nicaragua is subject to frequent volcanic activity, which occasionally causes damage but also provides it with some of the most fertile soil in the region. It is that fertility that has given the country a luxuriant biological and botanical variety making it a designated biodiversity hotspot.

The people and culture are just as diverse. The Spanish ruled here from the 16th century till 1821 when Nicaragua gained its independence. Their influence is still strong, most notably in the central and western regions of the country. It can be seen in the costumes of the indigenous Mestizo women, the music and religion. The indigenous tribes have merged into the Spanish culture.

The aromas, colours and language of Nicaragua carry a strong British accent too. The Caribbean facing region was once a British Protectorate and English is dominant. The province has much in common with Jamaica. The native peoples in this area have managed to retain their identities and languages, which are Miskito, Sumo and an English patois.  

Till the early 20th century, agriculture was Nicaragua’s main economic activity – growing coffee, tobacco and cotton – with a major portion exported. Beef and rum (Flor de Ca?a) are also big export items. However, tourism has made a huge surge in cash earning value for the country. It has now become the second largest industry with rather stunning growth rates.

It is easy to understand why tourism has blossomed in Nicaragua. There are many beautiful beaches. There are plenty of trekking, ecotourism and adventure tourism opportunities in the lush lowlands or the verdant forests of the central mountain region. Many towns (especially León and Granada) have beautiful Spanish colonial-style buildings and superb architecture.

Food in Nicaragua is a very interesting and pleasurable mix and definitely one of the country’s highlights. The traditional cuisine is fruit, beans and corn-dominated but varies from coast to coast and in-between. Seafood on the Caribbean side of the country is a staple with coconut used in the cooking. Nicaragua grows many indigenous fruit such as jocote, mango, papaya, tamarindo, pipian, banana, avocado, yucca, and herbs such as cilantro, oregano and achiote.

Some of the more famous dishes (corn-based) are nacatamal and indio viejo. Sweets and desserts too are made from corn. The drinks, again made from corn, are pinolillo and chichi.  The national dish, gallo pinto, however is made from white rice and red beans.

From a tourism perspective, Nicaragua has plenty to offer but the infrastructure lags far behind the needs of this growing industry. There are many resorts and a good selection of hotels of varying standards.

It is roads, support facilities and services, public transportation, and emergency services that is very often missing or non-existent. Getting around can be quite a chore and sometimes unsafe and unreliable. Regulation of many aspects of Nicaragua’s tourism is minimal.

Baseball introduced to the country in the 19th century is the most popular sport played in Nicaragua.
 

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Delhi’s Spice Market

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Delhi Spice Market

Delhi’s spice market lies in Khari Baoli road in the old city. It is the quintessentially touristy picture of a bustling, crowded, colourful Eastern bazaar. I think it’s probably the original model for all bazaars of the world! Called Khari Baoli, the name has nothing to do with spice.  The place got its name from khari or khara (salty) and baoli (step well). There used to be a salty, brackish water well in the area. It was used for bathing only.

You need to have dancer’s feet and the alertness and agility of a cat when you go down to Delhi’s centuries old spice market. It is crowded and busy; a narrow street made narrower with sweating men pulling or pushing long, narrow barrows filled with sacks of produce.  You better watch your toes or you will have them trod and your elbows bruised.

The place is amazing, as sweaty labourers lift and carry sacks of stuff up dark, narrow stairs on to carts, long barrows and other transport vehicles. In a way, Delhi’s Spice Market – Khari Baoli – is a sensual place that strikes the nose and eyes. It is a place of kaleidoscopic colours and thousands of unrecognisable, exotic, exciting smells.

Khari Baoli is Asia’s largest spice market. It came up around 1650 when the Fatehpuri Masjid was built by one of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s wives. The marvellous thing is that not much has changed in the centuries since. It is still manpower intensive. The trading methods are the same. The suppliers, traders, sellers and buyers have been in the trade for generations.

There is plenty of history here but of the hard-nosed kind. Transactions in this seemingly old-world, low-tech market run into the millions of rupees (or dollars). Even today, businessmen and traders come here from as far away as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Everyone is looking for a good deal and the best bargains and get them. Technically it is a wholesale market but one can still buy small quantities for the home.

Occupying the western end of historic Chandni Chowk and the Red Fort, Khari Baoli is filled with the colours and aromas of myriad spices, chillies, lentils, chutneys, pickles, nuts, lotus seeds, dried mango slices, dried mushroom and teas. Items that, for centuries, have been transported to other parts of Asia and Europe by camel, horse and heaven knows what other transportation means. Just to add a bit of more spice to the locality, Delhi’s red light district (G.B. Road) operates at one end of the market.
 

Photo Credit: *_*

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Fascinating Facts about the Colosseum (Rome)

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The Colosseum
Iconic!  Magnificent!  The Symbol of Rome!  The Greatest Roman Architectural Work!

These and many more adjectives and praises have been poured upon the glorious ruins of stone and cement that sit in the heart of modern Rome. It is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Any and every movie that features the city has to have a shot of the Colosseum in it!

Here are some interesting facts about the Colosseum that you may or may not know.

•    It stands just east of the Roman Forum

•    It was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people

•    It was built on the site of Nero’s Golden Palace. An enormous complex that Nero had built for himself after a great fire ripped through Rome in A.D. 64

•    Nero also built a statue of himself – the Colossus. This gigantic statue gave the building its current name.

•    It took only about 8 years to build; a relatively quick time period for such a grand project

•    Officially opened in A.D. 80 by Vespasian's son Titus

•    Was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre

•    The opening ceremony went on for 100 days with games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights

•    During the course of the inauguration some 9,000 wild animals were killed.

•    What stands today is only a third of the original structure

•    It measures about 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters) and is a freestanding stone and concrete structure.  It stands more than 48 meters (159 ft) in height

•    The great amphitheatre covers 6 acres

•    It was clad in marble

•    There were 160 larger-than-life statues in the arches on the upper floors

•    The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world

•    Unlike previous and other amphitheatres it was not dug into hillsides for support

•    It has four stories – above ground – with 80 arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns

•    The columns on each storey are different in style.  The lowest were the simple Doric columns. Above them were columns of the Ionic form and topped by the intricate and beautiful Corinthian style

•    The Arch of Constantine was built in A.D. 315 near the main entrance

•    At its peak usage the Colosseum could seat more than 50,000 people – must have been quite a squeeze!

•    The upper story contained seating for lower classes and women

•    The lowest story was preserved for prominent citizens.

•    Below ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena

•    The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). It had a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.

•    The Colosseum was covered with a giant sail known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun and rain. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes.

•    The events featured gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights

•    There were over 20 different types of Gladiators

•    There were also larger and dramatic mock naval engagements for which the arena was flooded with water

•    Most of the combatants were men (though there were some female gladiators). Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war

•    From its early history, the Colosseum has suffered damage from natural causes such as lightning and earthquakes

•    It has been plundered for its materials that was used in numerous buildings including St Peter’s Cathedral, Cathedral of St John Lateran, the Pallazo Venezia and fortifications along the River Tiber

•    About 2/3 of the original Colosseum has gone.  Its original marble facing, the statues decorating the arches and the lavish decoration of the interior have either disappeared of adorn other buildings in and around Rome

•    Restoration started in the latter part of the 19th century and still continues today

•    Before the overgrowth of vegetation was cleared away in 1871 over 400 species of plants grew on the ruins

•    Was in regular use for over 400 years

•    42 Roman Emperors witnessed the events at the Colosseum

•    An estimated 700,000 have people died in the various sports at the arena

•    There isn’t much evidence to support the claims that early Christian martyrs met their fate in the Colosseum
 

Photo Credit: jimmyharris

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Skiing in Rossland

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Skiing in Rossland; Credit - Alarobric

Deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies sits the little big town of Rossland. Located in the Monashee Mountains, it was a former gold mining town. Rossland is just about 5 miles (8 kms) from the US and south-eastern British Columbia border. It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Spokane.

What is outstanding about this little nook in the mountains of West Kootenay is that it is a fabulous destination for all snow related sporting activities. The region is blessed with an annual snowfall of about 300 inches (750 cms). It is light, dry and powdery.  

The Rossland area offers nearly every grade of slope and trail for enthusiasts (professional and amateur) of hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, downhill skiing, snowboarding and cat-skiing. The diverse, challenging and magnificent terrain is magnet for many other sports fans too including mountain bikers. Of course the main activity is skiing.

The Rossland Ski area comprises of two main summits – Red Mountain and Granite Mountain. The base is 3,888 feet (1,185 metres) above sea level. It has a terrific vertical drop of 2,919 foot (884 metres). There are also superb glade tree skiing and wide-open groomed runs, terrain parks – all of which are easy to access.

Red and Granite Mountains are serviced by four chairlifts and a T-Bar. This affords nearly 4.5 square miles (6.8 square kilometres) of skiable area. Then there are vast skiable areas not serviced by chairlifts. Overall the Rossland Ski Area has more than 10 square miles (17 square kilometres) and 88 runs of for winter sport activities.

A third summit, Grey Mountain, is being expanded and developed. It should be ready for the 2013 season. That means there will be an additional 900 odd acres of ski slopes; a Sno-Cat shuttle and a quad chairlift.

Rossland is the oldest skiing area in North America. Skiing in Rossland has a history that is closely tied up with the Norwegians who came here during the gold rush of the 1890s.  Olaus Jeldness, a mining engineer, who came to Rossland in 1896, was responsible for starting and popularising the sport.

The first recorded skiing competitions in Canada were held here. These were held as part of the Winter Carnival, held from as early as 1896 until 1918. The Carnival still takes place every year.

The Rossland and Red Mountain region has been voted as “Best Powder,” “Best Steeps” and among “Top 5 Free Ride Spots.”  To cater to all the skiing enthusiasts and just plain holiday makers there are modern and fine ski schools, equipment rentals, free shuttle services, ski inns, cafes, spas and pubs.
 

Photo Credit: Alarobric

 

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