Sunday Special – Meteora Monasteries, Greece


On the mainland of Greece in the Plain of Thessaly are unique rock pillars that rise up from the ground. Composed of a blend of conglomerate and sandstone they were formed millions of years ago by the earth’s movements and eventual wear resulting in astonishing vertical pillars reaching for the heavens. This area is known as Meteora which means “suspended in the air”. Perhaps that is what the builders of the Eastern Orthodox monasteries were aiming for, to be closer to the heavens along with a place of quiet and isolation. The monks that originally dwelt here were master rock climbers, scaling the daunting cliff sides to make their way to the buildings they erected. Over time they used pulley and ladder systems to make their way up the pillars and to the the neighbouring monasteries. When the Turks invaded (or danger was imminent) the ladders and ropes were reigned in and helped to ensure the survival of those residing in the 24 complexes of the time. Today only six remain and are still in use. In 1988 they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today visitors are welcome to explore the monasteries and neighbouring town of Kalambaka. Along with the area’s history it also draws people in with its natural beauty and hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing options. 

Stefanos_Monastery,_Meteora_-_panoramio

Meteora, Greece – Photo credit: LucT, Stefanos Monastery, Meteora – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

Meteora_monastery_2

Meteora Monasteries, Greece – Photo credit: Thanos KoliogiorgosMeteora monastery 2CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Advertisements

Sunday Special – Puente Nuevo Bridge, Ronda, Spain


One of the things I like about Instagram is that you see so many interesting places in the world by simply exploring. Because I like and post travel photos that is what pops up frequently in my feed and under “explore”. That is how I found out about this amazing looking bridge in the Andalusia region of Spain.

Not far from the city of Malaga lies the town of Ronda to the west. A small town of 35,000 residents it boasts history from the neolithic area,  the Romans, the Berbers, and is even the location for a portion of Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. This historic location is where this incredible bridge was built. The Puente Nuevo Bridge was constructed over 34 years beginning in 1759 CE. It is the newest and highest of three bridges in Ronda that stretch over a 120 m gorge running through the town. The Puente Nuevo Bridge, along with the Puente Romano and Puente Viejo bridge, connect the town and are points of interest in and of themselves. 

The_Puente_Nuevo_in_Ronda_(7077354065)

The incredible Puente Nueva Bridge connecting the city of Ronda, Spain – photo credit: Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium, The Puente Nuevo in Ronda (7077354065)CC BY 2.0

Puente_Nuevo_de_Ronda

Puente Nueva Bridge in Ronda, Spain – photo credit: Bert from Netherlands, Puente Nuevo de RondaCC BY 2.0

 

 

Sunday Special – Oxford, UK


One of the regrets I had when I was on my big trip was that I never made it Oxford, England. I spent a week in the London area and it is only 92 km / 57 miles away with frequent train service. I easily could have spent a day there (or more). Well, another reason to go back to the UK, one of my favourite countries to visit. 

Dating back to the time of the Saxons (around the 8th century, CE) Oxford grew as an important military center. Over the centuries it was not a dull place – invasions, religious growth, epidemics, martyrs, civil war, industrial growth, and of course the founding the well-known educational institution of Oxford University and it’s 38 colleges within the city centre.

Today Oxford seems to shine as city with old-world charm with its array of beautiful architecture. Noteworthy buildings include Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, University Church, and much more. Other areas of interest include Hertford Bridge (a.k.a. Bridge of Sighs), the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, and the oldest covered market in England: Oxford Covered Market.  Add museums, cafes, theatre, bars, and nightlife it seems it will certainly keep you busy. Oh and don’t forget that Oxford was the location for various scenes from the Harry Potter movies. 

Christ_Church_Hall

The Great Hall at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, England. This hall was replicated in a studio for use in the Harry Potter films. – Photo credit: VictorperramonChrist Church HallCC BY-SA 3.0

Hertford_Bridge

Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England – Photo credit: Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States, Hertford BridgeCC BY 2.0

1_oxford_aerial_panorama_2016

Aerial panorama of Oxford, England – Photo credit: Chensiyuan1 oxford aerial panorama 2016CC BY-SA 4.0

Day Trippin’ – Macau


During my trip to Hong Kong I made a one day sojourn to Macau which is located about 64 km / 40 miles east of Hong Kong on the Pearl River Delta. A bridge is currently being built that will link the two cities by road. Though presently the most direct route is via ferry. There are two ferry terminals:

  1. China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui area of Kowloon
  2. Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong Island

The second is the one I opted for. I was originally going to go via China Ferry Terminal as I was staying in TST, however, according to Google Maps there was not way to get there via foot or transit. Hmmm. I opted to take the MTR to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal which was very easy to get to.  Later I learned you can get  to the terminal in TST  via foot through Harbour City Mall. Go figure.

Once I arrived at the ferry terminal it was easy to go and buy my (economy class) ticket. The next departure was with Turbo Jet so that is who I went with. The whole process was easy and smooth. I had remembered to bring my passport so I was good to go! The high speed ferry is only for foot passengers (they assign seats) and it motored on at quite a clip. At times it was a bit rocky but I managed. 50 minutes later I was in Macao Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (the official name). From the ferry terminal I stopped at an ATM to get some Macau patacas then caught the public bus to the historic centre.

DSC_0396

St Dominic’s Church, Macau

Since Macau was a former Portuguese colony for centuries (until 1999) there is a number of colonial style buildings in area that have been maintained very well. It adds a European feel to that area of the city. Macau is also popular as a resort and gambling destination. Numerous casinos can be found that, with their sheer size and excess, gives Las Vegas hotels a run for its money. This also means that there are tourists galore! Especially as the day progressed. In fact there were too many people for my liking. Macau is the most densely populated area in the world (650,000+ residents in a 30.5 sq km / 11.8 sq mile area) and then add tourists – well it makes for a crowded place! This that left me not admiring Macau as much as I thought I would.  All the sights were jammed with people. I did find a few less crowed streets and a nice park for a short reprieve. In the end I left rather early (5:30pm ferry) as I was getting annoyed with the massive hustle and bustle. I did enjoy seeing Macau’s architecture, both colonial and modern (and the egg tarts) though the masses took its toll on my wanderings. I think Macau and I need a do-over. Include an overnight stay and wander in the mornings and evenings and then relax at a restaurant or cafe during the day. Yeah, Macau, let’s have a do-over one day.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

IMG_0903

The Ruins of St Paul / Ruinas Sao Paulo (before the crowds got really heavy)

Processed with VSCO with g2 preset

The Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino