Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far

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 Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far.

“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.” Michael Alexander,

Architectural ruins connect us to the past and bring history alive. There is something about visiting the sites of these ancient civilizations that fascinates me. You can see the potential that people all over the world and thousands of years ago had for greatness. Some of these amazing structures were built long before all the machinery, transport and communication tools that we have now. 

 Peru, Machu Picchu

The purpose of Machu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu (it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow-capped mountains because that is what they worshipped .How they transported all that granite up there  remains a mystery. It is believed that they quarried  it on site. No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake-proof constructions.

 Chile, Easter Island, Rapa Nui Park

Who carved such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms? The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions. Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes .In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Turkey, Cappodocia

The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities. Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Turkey, Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus was built in the tenth century. It was a large city (over 250,000 inhabitants in the first century BC) and a major port for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was known in antiquity for its sacred shrines, the most famous being the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain). Ephesus came under Roman control in 129 BC, and continued to prosper under Emperor Augustus as capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was also an important centre of early Christianity and its greatest Christian monument was the 4th century church of St. John the Evangelist.

 Turkey, Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the key Roman cities of Anatolia and the well-preserved remains hint at the grand spectacle that the city was during its glory days. Excavations reach back to the second century B.C. It  has one of the largest libraries in the world and one of the steepest theatres.

Cambodia, Ta Prohm 

Yes,Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.  It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century. It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

Cambodia, Angor Wat

Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone. It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today. It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

Jordan, Petra

 Petra is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the third century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery. Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Thailand, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the old capital of the Thai kingdom from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.  The site resembles a  graveyard of temples,  headless Buddhas (beheaded by the Burmese in the thirteenth century) and ruins showing what it might have looked like.

Myanmar, Bagan

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan kingdom. During the kingdom’s height between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

Mexico, Tulum

The ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean was a major trading and religious centre between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. 

Acropolis, Greece

The Acropolis looms over Athens, and is impossible not to recognize.This citadel includes the famous white-columned Parthenon, as well as the fifth century, Propylaia, Erechtheion and Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens.

Italy, Colosseum

The Colosseum has been regarded as an iconic symbol of Rome since the Middle Ages.  Built in eighty A.D, it is a massive structure and is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire. Being able to seat close to 50,000 spectators, it was the premier venue for wild beast shows and bloody gladiator combat.

Italy, Forum

Once the centre of public and political life in Ancient Rome, the Forum is a sprawling labyrinth of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. You’re standing in the very center of the ancient city, surrounded by the remains of famous temples and political buildings. The people of Rome saw the funeral of Julius Caesar here, along with the execution of Cicero and countless triumphal processions.

 Italy, Pantheon

The Pantheon was built as a temple dedicated to the worship of  Roman gods. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV and Emperor Phocas converted it into the Christian church we see today. The Pantheon is considered a rotunda, a circular drum structure. Perfect mathematically, the Pantheon’s dome has an opening in the center.  In fact, the Pantheon in Rome still holds the world record for having the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Croatia, Diocletians Palace 

Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century as a retirement seaside residence for the Roman Emperor, his family and seven hundred or so servants and guards in Split. The rectangular structure (520 x 620 feet) was two stories, fronted the sea and was built more like a fort than a palace. It is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. It is not a museum .Three thousand people live and work on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

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Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering The Fear

Floatplane From Vancouver – Conquering the Fear

“There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.” Orson Welles

My fear of small prop planes started on my very first one. I was flying from Santorini to Athens. There was a lot of seat shifting before takeoff. I was asked to move to the front. When I questioned it, the stewardess said to my friend in Greek, “We need to put the fat people in the back to equalize the weight on the plane.” My friend was American Greek so she thought that was what the stewardess said. I looked around in horror making sure that no one had lied about his weight. I believed my life was dependent on the people who had not stuffed themselves on vacation with generous helpings of moussaka, saganaki,  tiropites. spanakopita, pastitsio and baklava. To this day when I go on a small plane, I wonder if I should I tell them that I gained a few pounds.

The next incident happened when I was leaving Aspen Colorado, with my very young children who had their whole lives ahead of them.   It was late and the airport was very quiet and had only a few people in it. They said the plane had  just arrived. We did not hear anything.  Shouldn’t the airlines have told me if they were putting me on a sixteen seat prop plane through the Rocky Mountains at night all the way to Los Angeles? I asked the pilot if that plane was safe. He said, “Of course, this plane has real leather seats”.  I have no idea what that means. Were the seats the most expensive piece of equipment on the plane? The good news was that I had an individual very small solo seat by the window. So did each of my very small children. This way they did not have to see me plan my own death. Did it hurt more to crash into the mountains at night than to crash in the water and drown?

After that I avoided small planes at all costs. I planned vacations into larger airports and always looked up the plane I was going to be on.

I don’t know why I wanted to take a floatplane from Vancouver to Victoria, British Colombia. Life happened and my children have made it alive to adulthood so maybe a small plane was less scary now. I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my son.

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My hotel window in Vancouver faced the water and I could easily see the small seaplane terminal. For three days I counted the planes that left and made sure the same number returned. I watched the Canadian News to make sure no crashes were reported. It was all good so far but it was exhausting being the safety police.

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My son and I have different meanings of the words, on time for a flight – especially when you can walk to the terminal. When we arrived, the plane was already full and we could not sit together.

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I happened to mention to the man sitting next to me that I was afraid of small planes. (in case I started clutching him in terror) He told me not to worry because he had been a fighter pilot in the Air Force. He proceeded to tell me every almost crash horror story that happened to him. “After all,” he said, We are flying during the day.  It isn’t like we are landing on what we believe to be an airstrip at night in bad weather, with no lights, in the mountains of India.”

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The plane took off. It was so quiet. There was no bumpy turbulence or loud noise of a prop plane. This time we glided into space like a bird in flight.

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It was so incredibly beautiful to look down at the Canadian landscape,

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Flying at a low altitude through the clouds, i saw a completely different perspective of the world below.

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The land looked dreamlike and other worldly.

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It was breathtaking and relaxing. The landing was just as smooth as we cruised into Victoria harbor.

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Its amazing when you find out that you can do what you are afraid to do. I learned that day to not limit my experiences because of my fears . I couldn’t wait for the flight back to Vancouver.

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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