Sunday Special – Xalapa, Mexico


We are nearing the end of the alphabet and are up to the letter “X”. Today we will go to the “birthplace” of the ever-popular jalapeño pepper: Xalapa(pronounced ha la pa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Yep, that spicy pepper has been cultivated  in this highland state capital since the Aztecs. Used widely in its cuisine this mighty pepper has left its impact on the city (and the world). Though there is more to see and learn about than just the jalapeño.

The state of Veracruz is rather hot and humid though due to the higher elevation of Xalapa it has escaped the searing heat, offering cooler temperatures. It is located below the now extinct Cofre de Perote volcano, approximately 101 km / 63 miles northwest of town of Veracruz. Being in such a location gives it its milder temperature and at times brings about abrupt weather changes. Although a sprawling city with no seeming logic to its layout  and notable traffic congestion it is still considered by many to be a very attractive city. Culture thrives here with many forms of music, art, theatre, and history. Street art and performing musicians thrive alongside anthropological museums and classical symphonies throughout the city. Fine dining and trendy bars are in abundance. As a university city the has a pulse all its own. This Mexican city does seem to be a great place to get lost in. Wander on!

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Xalapa Cathedral or Catedral Metropolitana de la Immaculada Concepción de Xalapa – Photo credit: SoundtrckkCatedral Metropolitana de XalapaCC BY-SA 3.0

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Cofre de Perote volcano seen from Juarez Park in Xalapa– Photo credit: nAShE, Cofre de Perote desde XalapaCC BY 2.0

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Fried Jalapeno peppers – Photo credit: KoffermejiaChiles xalapeños capeadosCC BY-SA 4.0

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Sunday Special – Troödos Region, Cyprus


 

I like islands. In fact, my “happy place” is an island (that would be Ireland). I’d like to visit many an island in this world simply because it is an island. One of those is the Mediterranean isle of Cyprus. Today we will take a look at its  Troödos Mountain Region which has some interesting things to offer.  

This mountainous area of Cyprus is located almost smack in the middle of the island with the mountains covering most of the western portion. The tallest peak is known as Mount Olympus (not to be confused with the one in Greece) or Chionistra,  locally.  It is home to several ski slopes and resorts that operate January through to April. During the summer months take advantage of the numerous hiking trails and nature walks. Keep an eye out for some of the waterfalls such as Millomeris Falls and Caledonia Falls.  Although there are resorts and hotels in the villages in this area you can get closer to nature by camping in the designated areas in Troödos National Forest Park.  The plant life in the area is impressive, including a number of endemic Cypriot varieties.  Let’s not forget about the animals as well. Several protected species of birds may be spotted so bring your camera. 

For history enthusiasts and the reason I chose to research the Troödos region today is for the UNESCO World Heritage Troödos Region Painted Churches. I am fascinated by religious buildings despite not being religious myself. Perhaps due to the combination of art and architecture, two things that I appreciate. And that budding photographer in me likes to photograph them.  Ten Byzantine monasteries and churches make up this world heritage site. The artwork within the buildings are specific to Cyprus and unique to this particular region of the island. 

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Kykkos Monastery (a painted church), Cyprus – Photo credit: Gerhard HauboldKykkos 01 CCC BY-SA 3.0

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Troödos  Mountains, Cyprus – Photo credit: Tech broTroodos MountainsCC BY-SA 3.0

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Millomeris Waterfall, Troödos Mountains in Cyprus – Photo credit: DickelbersMillomeri waterval in troodosgebergteCC BY-SA 3.0

 

Sunday Special – Naoshima Island, Japan


Art aficionados, you may want to add this place to your list. Set in the Seti Inland Sea, the small Naoshima Island of approximately 3,000 residents is filled with museums and outdoor modern art installations. A change of pace from Japan’s city life, a small journey via train and boat to this unique island may be an ideal getaway. 

Once a place of dying industry, it’s revitalization came about mainly because of the Benesse Corporation working to set up museums and buildings, many by architect Tadao Ando. Today there are numerous art collections and museums that make it a great place to wander about outside and indoors. Some of the collections are:

  • Art House Project – Abandoned houses found on the eastern portion of the island that have been converted into art or venues housing art
  • Benesse House – A main museum on the island, this not only has art housed within its walls but outside as well
  • Chichu Art Museum – An underground museum with natural light flowing in from above, it was designed to use the light from nature to showcase its art. Paintings by Walter De Maria, Claude Monet, and James Turrell are housed here
  • I♥YU Sento (Bath House) – Unwind with a leisurely soak amidst artwork created by Shinro Ohtake

  • Individual art projects around the island such as a collection of mini Buddhas, the large welcoming Yellow Pumpkin and the Red Pumpkin (both by Yayoi Kasuma), and the Three Vertical Square Diagonal (by George Ricky).

This art island strikes me as a place to explore and wander at a slow pace, taking in modern interpretations of art. Not a bad way to spend a day or two.

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Red Pumpkin by Yayoi Kasuma – Naoshima Island, Japan – Photo credit: KimonBerlin, Red Pumpkin – Yayoi Kusama (8953340449), CC BY-SA 2.0

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One of the Art House Projects, Naoshima Island – Photo is Public Domain

 

My Top 5 Man-Made Sights


Last month I posted about My Top 5 Cities to Wander. This month my Top 5 is about man-made places or things. These places or works of art hold a special place in my memories, my heart, and bring a smile to my lips.

  1. Michelangelo’s Slave and Bound Slave, Louvre Museum (Paris) – I have never been more captivated by art than these two unfinished statues. They are complete by being incomplete. I do not know how Michelangelo did it but there is feeling, emotion in those statues. I have seen them three times and still my heart stops each time. 
  2. Eiffel Tower, Paris – Anyone who knows me, knows I love this building. It was among the first iconic buildings I had seen when I first visited Europe and has been imprinted on my heart ever since.  I have been to the top twice, once on my birthday where I drank sweet sweet champagne with my sister and friends.  If I had never seen Michelangelo’s Slaves this building would be number one.
  3. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur – The circular and geometric designs of its spires and the walkway them give them a unique look.  I learned of them shortly after they were built I had wanted to view them for myself ever since.  They did not disappoint. I think they are most beautiful lit up at night against the backdrop of the dark sky and city lights
  4. Taj Mahal, India – I had wanted to see the Taj Mahal since I was a child. For a short span of years I thought I may never see and tried to downplay its importance, that it could not be that spectacular.  Silliness really. Yet I did make it to Agra. A hot, humid and crowded experience that was all shed to the side when I finally saw the splendour of this magnificent building. It stands majestically and rightly so.
  5. Pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar – There are so many things I could put for number five. Yet the pagodas throughout Bagan are the first I think of. The entire area astounds me with the sheer amount of pagodas to be found. I loved wandering through the back roads on my scooter and viewing the beauty and importance of these buildings  to the people. 

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

 

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Michelangelo’s talent is breathtaking

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Gustave Eiffel’s treasure to Paris.

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Those brightly shining Petronas Twin Towers.

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The Taj Mahal, a labour of love.

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One of the numerous pagodas in Bagan