Travel Pinch Me Moments

“You have to travel to see new light, find new hope, renew the mind and revitalize the soul.” Lailah Gifty Akita

It was summer in January on a beach in Napier, New Zealand.  The weather was hot and the sun was setting at 930 PM. The moon was out at the same time.  My new friend pinched the fingers of both her hands together and said, “This is a pinch me moment”.  I had heard of pinch me moments when someone wins an Academy Award or accomplishes a dream but I had never heard of it standing on a beach watching a sunset.  She explained that, “You pinch your fingers to save the moment. When I am sitting in my kitchen in England and I look out the window at the dreary weather, I will remember this moment.” 

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 As I watched the moon that night, it made sense that it is also the small moments that resonate in our minds. They are part of the story making events of our lives. Here are some of my travel pinch me moments. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Looking out at the balloons in the air over Cappadocia, Turkey.

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Watching the sun set over the Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

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Rainbow over Iguazu Falls, Missiones, Argentina

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Angor Wat, Cambodia

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Walking on the beach in Varadero, Cuba

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 Sailing on the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam

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Machu Picchu .

Seeing the elephants up close in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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The Tori Gates on Myajima, JapanIMG_1074

The view of the volcano in Santorini, Greece

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Fly safe,

JAZ

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Seven Wonders Of The World

Seven Wonders Of The  Ancient World

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million,”

Walt Streightiff

I’ve seen two of  the Seven Wonders of the World – the Temple of Artemis  at Ephesus and the Colossus of Rhodes. I hope to see them all one day.  Most of these wonders of ancient civilizations are not  there anymore. – except the Pyramid of Giza.

The list of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World that we use today was put together in 200 BC. by a Greek Historian names Antipatros who wanted to commemorate the achievements of the ancient world. He picked them for many reasons . They were chosen  for grandeur and prestige. They were well-known unique constructions  at that time. They stood unequaled in size, design and craftsmanship.  He chose them for the vision and the purpose that inspired them. This was important to the Greeks. Did it serve as a tomb? Was its purpose to bring beauty into the world? Was it a monument to an ancient religion that no longer exists?

Completed around 550 B.C. to honor the Greek goddess of hunting and nature, the Temple of Artemis was built during the Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire. Arson destroyed the temple in 356 B.C. The ancient author and philosopher Pliny described the temple as being 377 feet long and 180 feet wide (about 3 times the size of the Parthenon), with 127 Ionic columns measuring 60 feet high, and made solely of marble. Used as both a marketplace and a place of worship, the temple housed many works of art and sculpture. There is one column from the Temple of Artemis on site and the rest are in the British Museum in London.

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The Colossus of Rhodes was actually an enormous, looming 100-foot tall statue of the Greek god Helios, built on the island of Rhodes, Greece around 280 B.C. The statue was erected to commemorate the island’s patron god Helios.

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The Great Pyramid is the largest of the 3 pyramids built in the ancient city of Giza, now part of greater Cairo, Egypt. The pyramid is believed to have been built around 2560 B.C. as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, and likely took 20 years to build. (Egyptologists argue over man-power numbers, and estimates have ranged from 14,000 to 360,000 men). When built, the pyramid measured nearly 480 feet high, with the sides each measuring about 755 feet long. In addition, each side is oriented with one of the cardinal points (north, south, east and west). Nearly 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing about 2 tons, form the pyramid. The pyramid remained the world’s tallest building for 4 millennia after it was built .

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The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are said to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar II, a ruler of Babylon, around 600 B.C. Though historians often debate the real existence of the gardens, because there’s no physical evidence and Babylonian documents never mention them (Greek scholars first described the gardens), accounts state that the gardens consisted of vaulted terraces raised above one another and supported on pillars – an artificial rising mountain of gardens. The amazement over the gardens stems from what would have been an extraordinarily complicated irrigation system, which brought water from the Euphrates to the gardens in an otherwise arid environment. The gardens are thought to have been destroyed by an earthquake around the first century B.C.

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This enormous statue honoring the God Zeus was built at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece around 450 B.C. Designed by the Greek sculptor Pheidias, the statue of a seated Zeus measured 40 feet tall and was carved from ivory with gold-plated accents.

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Scholars estimate the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt measured between 383 and 450 feet high and was built in the third century B.C. to act as a landmark for Pharos, a small island off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. The lighthouse’s tower was built using light-colored stone.  At its highest point, a mirror was placed to reflect sunlight during the day and at night a fire burned to give off light. Some historians believe that the light given off could be seen for some 35 miles. The lighthouse was damaged by 2 earthquakes in 1303 and 1323, and its remains were destroyed in 1480, when a fort was built on the site.

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The tomb built to hold the remains of the Persian King Mausollos and his wife, Artemisia, was designed by the Greek architects Satyrus and Pythius and constructed around 353 B.C. on a hill overlooking the ancient city of Halicarnassus in Western Turkey. The tomb stood 135 feet high, and its exterior was surrounded by an ornamental frieze. Numerous statues, bas-reliefs and columns decorated the exterior of the ornate and enormous tomb, and eventually the term “mausoleum” became used to describe any large and impressive tomb. Multiple earthquakes ultimately led to the destruction of the tomb in the 14th century.

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Why do we go to these places?  I have been to a lot of ancient ruins in my life.   When I look at a Greek column or a broken one, I see a civilization that gave us philosophy, science, art, economy, logic and democracy.  It isn’t so much what I see but what I feel standing in the depth of history. I look at the ancient stones and wonder  if they knew that what they were doing was so important? Probably not. They were just living their lives, going to the Agora,  starting a war with someone over something that seems very important at the time, falling  in love, fighting with their friends, going to work and taking care of their families and pets. Maybe it just emphasizes the human connection to the past.  There are always stray animals at ruins. I like to think they have the souls of the people who lived there.

As I write this I am trying to organize my photos from all the ruins I have seen in Turkey.  I know where they come from but I didn’t take good notes about what they actually are.  It didn’t matter to me. I just cared that I was there.  I stood where they stood. Maybe I was standing where Aristotle, Homer, Heraclitus or Helen of Troy stood. Did a girl who’s heart was broken, or a man who had miraculously made it back from a bad war stand on these steps?  I always make these stories up in my head when I am standing there trying to listen to why this column or pile of stones is important.    Since we aren’t leaving much  stone,  what will they find from us?

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Memories of Greece

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure and full of knowledge.” — Constantine

Memories of Greece

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Greece is the most special place for me. When I was eighteen, I did the Europe tour with my friends  and Greece was the country I connected with.  I went back any summer that I could afford to after that until I was married. I never carried a camera when I was I young. I thought it made me look like a tourist. I  was there again recently as well.   I’ve never written anything about it. I thought I would start off by listing a jumble of memories old and new and see what happens. Maybe it will jog your memory of your travels.

Athens Landing in Athens first time at three in the morning with nowhere to go , meeting some new friends and sleeping at their apt in Kolonaki,  Acropolis –  when you could still walk around everywhere.,  Olympic Airlines,  baklava ,   private cars with handmade  taxi  signs,  something is always on strike in Athens,  cats,  Thodorakis  concert  at the outdoor amphitheatre on Mt Lycabettus,  getting lost on the way down,   Delphi on the hottest day ever, amazing feta cheese, drachmas, Nine Muses in Glifada,  the Archaological Museum,  trying to get the soldiers  guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier to talk to us or laugh (you have no idea how many years I did this), sleeping every afternoon because everything closes from 12-5,  watching the tourists throw plates in the restaurants in the  Plaka,  lamburgers,   Cat Stevens, bouzouki places ,   more cats,  worry beads, Voulagmeni,  Monastiraki Flea Market,  Parko restaurant ,  best hair dry ever,  Port of Piraeus – no better feeling than taking the hydrofoil (flying dolphin) or ferry to any Greek Island.  Happy.

Santorini – sunset over a volcano, black sand beaches,  red sand beach,   tavernas  on the beach, How many bikinis can I wear in a summer? Walking up and down a mountain every day and night from the house we were staying at in heels,   fresh bread with butter and honey and kafe megalo ,  a few hours later having  fresh-baked  tiropita (fried buttered phylo dough stuffed with cheese and egg) ,   Akrotiri   ( famous Minoan ruins)  , throwing up in front of the tour buses (all my drinking stories end up like this),  dancing all night at the two discos on the island, eating fried sardines  with bones in them for lunch in Megalohori after wine tasting at the vineyards , motorbiking  everywhere,  fishing early in the morning and bringing the fish to a restaurant to cook for us in Oia,   coffee in town watching the tourists come up  to Thira from the cruise boats on the donkeys, tired of eating lamb every day, ( Greek islands had  only Greek food back then. It was pre cell phones.) Amazing.

 Mykonos –  Every  day in Mykonos with Eva and  George,  Nine Muses,  Remezzo,  , Pierros,  more  friends  from Athens ,  staying out all night , Paradise Beach ,  Super Paradise Beach, sitting in the town with our new  drag queen friends and entertaining the cruise boats,  shopping in the cool boutiques, (I needed new clothes by then) ,  tube tops, retsina and ouzo –yasas,  2am (the summer of the curfew), Mykonos Harbor, Beatles  “Don’t say goodnight”, Love.

Paros –  White rocky beaches , peace after the craziness of Mykonos,  fresh fish, Greek salad and tzaziki, planning our future., swimming in the clear blue sea, movie theatre (outside), how tan can I actually get?  Romantic.

Thessaloniki – Riding horses on the beach at George’s beach  house outside of Salonika,   walking on the beach to get anywhere, (town, clubs restaurants), going to market and getting fresh food  every day,  playing house,  Greek music festival  (Opa!), sailing every day, boats are a lot of work,  more new friends,   Greek coffee  or Nescafe,  drinking retsina on the beach,(tastes like turpentine)  ouzo shots, more Greek words, promises.  Spectacular.

Helkidiki  –  Jewish holidays at temple with Mendy’s family,  the women sit upstairs,  the service is in Greek and Hebrew –I am completely lost, picking lemons off a tree and smelling them when I fainted from fasting, , watching a Greek funeral as they marched through the streets to transport the casket from the home to the church and then to the grave site. I see a friend and join  wearing short shorts and wedges. One of the old women ( always in black)  gives me her shawl to wrap around me..  She alternates between crying and pointing out where everyone in the procession lives.  I am strangely moved by this old woman and this whole experience.  My friends are  stunned to see me walk by in a funeral procession. They join.  Surprising.

Spetses – mosquitos –It is the green island, we kill them with perfume, Reading Nikos Kazantzakis on a beach ,  Avgolemono soup for a cold( egg lemon chicken soup),  horse and carriages, boat races,  , Greek and British tourists,   Peaceful both times.

Hydra – First time in Hydra  – no cars only donkeys, rocks instead of beaches, second time in Hydra –  many bars and clubbing, third time in Hydra – I finally have the money to shop –cute stores!.   Very Different.

 Aegina –  We fall asleep and  our bicycle boat  ends up in the open sea . We are rescued  by a yacht. We dont attach the rope well (we are city girls)  and we turn over. My friends lose  all their money. I don’t because  my sportsac bag turns out to  be waterproof and  floats and I hang on. (why do we have all our money on the beach? There are no atms then and we are young and apparently stupid) I  drift close enough to the yacht to get on. My friends end up in a small fishing boat with several octopi. They look really angry at me –  I am drinking water and they don’t have any.  I am in shock. I almost drowned, For the rest of the summer Mendy tells the story in broken Greek and English to someone every day.  ‘We did not know the sea,” she  begins.   second time in Aegina –I don’t go in the water. I know that sea.   Scary.

Samos –  Having  fresh caught Calamari, that had hung on a clothes line, waking up to drunk Germans throwing up every night outside, playing with  Eva’s family on the beach,    ferry to Kusadasi Turkey ,   taken away by the police upon re-entering Samos because they thought I was smuggling drugs ( I was really seasick and nauseous and I needed a coke, I forgot to go through customs first  and walked into the store which was before customs.  –.  Eva spends a long time telling them I am another stupid American and they let me go.  Dumb.

Naxos –  taking a ferry in Greece after not being there for so long, Walking on the most beautiful soft sand beach in Naxos, grilled  fresh caught calamari as much as possible., beautiful villas, beautiful sunsets, old friends.  Wonderful.

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Poros – Walking down to the town, back on a hydrofoil in Piraeus,  No Americans,  Having an amazing Greek salad with Eva on Poros 25 years later and realizing that it never tasted as good in the US,  watching Greek families  on the beach ( It was a Greek vacation area) Greek yogurt,  boat to concert in outdoor theatre.,  dinners with Eva’s family, rocky beaches, clean water,  gold bracelets,  kids running all over, another summer  and I am in Greece. Lesson learned.

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Memories last longer than photographs.

Calo taxiti and fly safe,

JAZ

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My Top Ten Sunrises

“ Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.”

My Top Ten Sunrises

Sunsets are easy.   You are usually awake and can make a  plan.  “Lets  have a drink and watch  the sun set over the Ocean, the River,  the Volcano, the Old City,  the Rainforest  etc.”  They are usually social.  Sunrises in my life  are fewer,   accidental and  sometimes seen alone. My goodbye to a city  is often at sunrise.  I  take a lot of early morning flights .

1. Machu Picchu, Peru   My plan was to meditate at sunrise on Machu Picchu.  By 4:30AM , the road into  Machu Picchu becomes Disneyland on a crowded Sunday. .   It wasn’t easy to find a quiet place .  Machu Picchu is in the clouds. The sunrise is cloudy and rainy most of the time.  Still, the eery light hitting Machu Picchu  in the morning  feels very spiritual.  We will never  know why  Machu Picchu was built and who lived there but we know that every morning they saw this same sunrise.

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2.  Mount Masada, Israel   When I was in college,  we climbed   Mount  Masada.  It was very hot and very dark. At the top,  there was  water and a ladle that everyone drank from (I know we didn’t have Aids then, but we did have germs!!) It is still the best water, I have ever tasted.  We sat down to watch the sunrise .  The guide told us the story of the Jews  surrounded  by the Roman army. We reflected on their choice to kill the women and children themselves before the Romans got up there.   It was a somber sunrise.

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3. Venice, Italy    My kids and I were taking a boat to the airport  in the dark as the sun quickly rose over Venice. The colors change with every light and shadow and it is truly the most beautiful city in the world .

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4. Havana, Cuba   Leaving Havana in darkness, thirteen years ago,  I was filled with a lot of emotions.  My daughter had performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival. We had no information going in and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be one of  the most amazing experiences of our lives.  The dark streets were filled  with humanity going to work.    They were crowding the bus stops to get on the few running buses .    People were selling snacks.   The sun rose over  the busy streets and faded colors of the buildings. It sparkled off the water hitting the  Malecon ( sea wall) and shined on the old cars from the fifties.    I took an imprint in my memory because I knew when I came back and Fidel was gone it would be different.

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5. Barcelona, Spain   was the opposite experience.  It was summer and the city was crowded with tourists. As I drove to the airport at sunrise, the streets were filled with students and young people  who had been out all night, dressed in their club clothes. They were all  on Las Ramblas, trying to keep the evening going.

6. Perissa Beach (black sand), Santorini, Greece   I also had been out all night and now we were sitting on  the beach .  A large Pelican stood next to us, waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast, as the sun rose over the black sand beach.

7. Gamboa Rainforest, Panama   We came into the hotel at night and everything was very dark .  At sunrise,  I saw and heard the sounds of the  amazing rainforest for the first time.   The sunrise is nature’s alarm clock.  I got up every morning  to lie in my hammock and have a  coffee (best room coffee called Puro –I brought some home) and listen to the sunrise .

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8. Cervina, Italy    Sometimes a sunrise involves a decision.  I was seventeen and it was my first trip to Europe. I  had gotten up to ski from Cervina to Zermatt, Switzerland.  We had to bring our passports. (it was so WW2) As the light of day broke,   all we could see was the white of a  huge snowstorm.    I went shopping in Milan instead.  I can be flexible.

9. Bangkok Thailand   The sun rose just  as  we pulled up to Suvarnabhumi Airport.  There was no one  outside  except for two monks wearing saffron robes and sandals. They were leaning up again the modern steel and glass building of the airport. The sunrise reflected them in the glass.

10. Yufuin, Japan    It was our last morning and we wanted to use the onsen (mineral baths) . I was the only American in the ryokan (probably in the town)  I decided not to wear my kimono and just go in my pajamas and a jacket. It was outside and very cold.    To my surprise, the pre dawn bathhouse,  was filled with Japanese women in kimonos  or showering. It was 32F degrees and I just  couldn’t shower outside.  .I jumped in as the sun rose in the sky.  I made so many cultural mistakes that morning (including coffee before breakfast)   Luckily, the Japanese are  very polite.

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Brooklyn, NY    When I was growing up,   my favorite place to see the sunrise was to go to Kennedy Airport and watch the planes take off .  After the sunrise, we would have breakfast there.   I wondered when I would be a person, going to some exotic location on an early morning flight.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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