Travel News and Articles

Iberian Peninsular - Antequera's Dolmens, Gibraltar's Gorham's Cave Complex and Nerja Caves

File:Tholos de El Romeral 06.jpg
Beehive tomb of El Romeral


At the end of 2016, after years of petitioning, UNESCO added Antequera's megalithic dolmens and two neighbouring mountains onto their World Heritage list. The UNESCO description (below) recognises the importance of the dolmens in contributing to the understanding European prehistory.




"Located at the heart of Andalusia in southern Spain, the site comprises three megalithic monuments: the Menga and Viera dolmens and the Tholos of El Romeral, and two natural monuments: La Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal mountainous formations, which are landmarks within the property. Built during the Neolithic and Bronze Age out of large stone blocks, these monuments form chambers with lintelled roofs or false cupolas. These three tombs, buried beneath their original earth tumuli, are one of the most remarkable architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European Megalithism".

The visitor centre provides a good insight into the role of the dolmens. If you're interested in prehistory, these are definitely worth a visit. http://www.dolmenesantequhttp://www.dolmenesantequerapatrimonio.com/erapatrimonio.com/ 


File:Gorham's Cave.jpg  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gorham%27s_Cave.jpg
Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar
Gibraltar received its first World heritage site nod in 2016 when Gorham's Cave was added to UNESCO's list.   

A rock engraving, described as abstract art by some, was found in the cave in 2012 and is believed to be at least 39,000 years old as it was found below a layer of undisturbed sediment in which 294 Neanderthal tools were discovered. UNESCO listed the caves due to their contribution to Neanderthal and human evolution (see below).

"The steep limestone cliffs on the eastern side of the Rock of Gibraltar contain four caves with archaeological and paleontological deposits that provide evidence of Neanderthal occupation over a span of more than 100,000 years. This exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of the Neanderthals is seen notably in evidence of the hunting of birds and marine animals for food, the use of feathers for ornamentation and the presence of abstract rock engravings. Scientific research on these sites has already contributed substantially to debates about Neanderthal and human evolution". 


For more information on the latest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, go to whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/




The caves at Nerja, east of Malaga, are a popular visitor attraction. However, the most famous symbolic cave painting, the goat, now has its age called into question. A recent investigation by scientists led by Jose Luis Sanchidran from Cordoba university have dated the goat painting as 20,000 years old as opposed to previous ages given of 43,500 to 45,000 years old.

While this is unlikely to deter visitors to the caves, it does call into question the dates of other cave drawings, not just in Spain.

http://www.thenerjacaves.com/

Italy has 2 sites added to UNESCO's World Heritage List (2013)

During the 37th session in Phnom Penh, 19 sites have been inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list.
Two of the sites added are Italian - Mount Etna and the Medici villas and gardens in Tuscany. UNESCO gave the following reason for the inclusion of the Medici villas and gardens:
Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany, (Italy)
Twelve villas and two pleasure gardens spread across the Tuscan country side make up this site which bears testimony to the influence the Medici family exerted over modern European culture through its patronage of the arts. Built between the 15th and 17th centuries, they represent an innovative system of rural construction in harmony with nature and dedicated to leisure, the arts and knowledge. The villas embody an innovative form and function, a new type of princely residence that differed from both the farms owned by rich Florentines of the period and from the military might of baronial castles. The Medici villas form the first example of the connection between habitat, gardens, and the environment and became an enduring reference for princely residences throughout Italy and Europe. Their gardens and integration into the natural environment helped develelop the appreciation of landscape characteristic Humanism and the Renaissance.
Mount Etna's inclusion is due largely to its continuing volcanic activity that lends the site as a "natural laboratory for the study of ecological and biological processes".

Further good news is that the Iranian city of Bam and its Cultural Landscape was removed from the Danger List.

However, East Rennell (Solomon Island) was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger along with the six World Heritage sites of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Information on the other sites inscribed so far can be found at http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1049



The session continues until the 27th June 2013.


Changes at Málaga Airport

15 minutes of ...free wi-fi
It was recently announced that Málaga airport will offer 15 minutes of wi-fi connection, for free, courtesy of Kubi wireless. Users will be able purchase longer periods of usage and higher access speeds from Kubi should they wish to do so.

Family Zone introduced
A family zone has been introduced in the area between T2 and T3. 

Naples Città della Scienza went up in Flames

Four pavilions at the  'City of Sciences' were destroyed by fire following a suspected arson attack. Smouldering remains are all that are left of an interaactive museum and planetarium after a fire on Monday night.


Tsunami in the Solomon Islands

A Tsunami hit the Solomon Islands at 01:12 GMT resulting in four deaths.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21347496


Daytime Hotel Stays
No longer the preserve of illicit rendezvous or the Red Light District, hotels are offering travellers the opportunity to rent a room during the daytime. This is ideal if you are on a business trip with a late departure time or have been travelling overnight. 

It is a win-win situation. Rooms that would otherwise stand empty are filled and the traveller has somewhere to freshen up, catch up on a few hours sleep or have somewhere to work in peace. The problem is that hotels do not advertise these rentals on their websites, possibly concerned that the purpose could be misconstrued. Phoning ahead is the best way to find out whether day rates are available. Alternatively there is the Between 9 and 5 website, available in English, French, German and Spanish, which lists hotels around the world which offer day rates. 


Istanbul to Build World's Largest Airport

Istanbul already has two airports that handle 60 million passengers a year  but plans have been unveiled to build a third.
With six runways and the capacity to handle 150 million passengers per year it will be developed on the Black Coast side of Istanbul at an estimated cost of $5.6 billion. The airport will be built in four stages becoming operational for tourists in 2017.

According to Turkey's Minister of Transport, Binali Yıldırım, by 2017 the airport will have an annual capacity of 90 million passengers. Yıldırım is quoted as saying: “At full capacity the new airport will be the largest in the world in terms of passengers."

The reason for the airport's construction is to add capacity to the region whilst enhancing the role of Istanbul as the flag carrier for Turkish Airlines. 



Cash Only Vatican - 11th January 2013

St Peter's Basilica, Roma
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Attribution: I, Dfamlan


On the 3rd January I read that the Italian government had suspended Vatican card payments.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20903443

That's rich, I thought, considering how Italy's own budget management is a little, well let's say shoddy. No Italian banks are allowed to carry out transactions in Vatican City. What I failed to think about was how that would affect the tourists visitng the Vatican State.  In short it means that entrance to the Vatican Museum, souvenirs, donations, meals and so on can only be bought or made with that old stand-by - CASH.

The reason for the suspension of electronic payments by the Banca d'Italia is the Vatican's non-compliance with EU regulations on money-laundering. The Catholic Church has not been above suspicion when it comes to tax evasion and money-laundering and its bank Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) has been involved in several financial scandals in recent years. Failure by the Vatican Bank to act on the EU regulations therefore is not too much of a shock.

Visitors to the Vatican have to be prepared when visiting the city-state to carry cash. Where possible divide up the cash amounts between family members and carry the cash either in a money belt or in inside pockets, preferably those that can be buttoned or zipped up. Until the 15th January 2013 it is still possible to buy tickets to the Vatican Museums on-line with a credit card (they are cheeky in charging a €2 pre booking fee pre ticket). After that date it is not known what will happen unless the ban is lifted.

In the meantime the Vatican is working hard to get the ban lifted but visitors need to be prepared to resort to cash.



Earthquake in Ascoli - 5th December 2012

In the early hours of the 5th December 2012 an earthquake hit the province of Ascoli Piceno
in the Marche region of Italy. The Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination System has the area under green alert. The epicentre was 9km from the town of Ascoli Piceno and at a depth of 27km.

Reports from Italy suggest that there is little, if any, noticeable damage though it was felt by residents in Pescara.

Ascoli Piceno
Piazza Arringo, Ascoli Piceno



Adopt a Gargoyle...



that is what the management at Milan's duomo want the public to do. In a bid to raise funds for restoration and maintenance work on Milan's gothic masterpiece they are looking for €25 million (a familiar figure). The management said they want "to encourage the Milanese and citizens of the world as a whole to be protagonists in the history of the cathedral, a priceless treasure that belongs to all of humanity". For €10,000 donors will have their name engraved on a gargoyle. The culture budget across Italy has been cut by a third in the last three years and so monuments are having to look to new ways in which to boost funds.

Italy has been criticised in recent years by, amongst others, UNESCO for failing to maintain and restore its historic monuments. Tomorrow (17th November) the First Expert/Stakeholder Meeting will take place in Pompei (Italy) within the framework of the project “Towards a governance system for coordinating the updating and the implementation of the Management Plan of the Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata”. Perhaps we can expect further such meetings in the future with regard to other Italian monuments and sites of historic interest as the battle between budget and restoration continues.

Milan cathedral grotesque





Rome's Colosseum has shifted....

and it is little wonder with the amount of traffic that rumbles past, very closely, to the ancient monument. After careful monitoring officials have discovered a slant on the south side of the monument - 40 cms lower than the north side.

A €25 million project has been put together, starting in December 2012, to restore the structure. The work is being funded privately. At least three years of scaffolding can be expected to mar the views of the Colosseum, but in order to save it this is a small price to pay. After the restoration work is finished it is expected that 25% more of the Colosseum will be open to visitors than there currently is.

Rome's Colosseum

My first view of the Colosseum was when I emerged from a metro station.

"I waved the map in the direction of the Colosseum, 
'I didn’t realise it was in the middle of the road network, open to all the pollution. It seems rather incongruous.'"
A Little Bit of Italy 

I found the monument lacking in areas to explore, as opposed to a similar structure in Tunisia:

"Early we may have been, sole visitors we were not. As we examined inscribed pieces of marble just inside the entrance we were passed by drove after drove of tourists that had evidently spewed forth from the coaches that were pulling back out into the traffic. The strident voice of a tourist guide was enough to propel me forward at speed. Generally I like to soak up the atmosphere of a site without the distraction of another’s voice. We surged up the stairs to the main amphitheatre and stared across the elliptical space. I moved round and looked out across the Fora Romana, from on high a wonderful jumble of arches, old temples and monuments. I looked back in at the space in which so many had performed. There was something not quite right; the aura that I expected to be attached to the largest Roman amphitheatre in the world was missing. I put it down to one thing – I’d been to El Jem.

The ruins of the largest Roman amphitheatre in Africa can be found in a small town in Tunisia. Thysdrus, now El Jem, situated some 60km south of Sousse prospered during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117-38 AD) as an important centre of olive oil production. It was not until the third century AD, however, that construction started on the amphitheatre, under Godius I, who was declared Emperor there. A fine example of Imperial Roman propaganda, it could hold up to 35,000 spectators and is remarkably complete. I had first visited there on my honeymoon and the total number of visitors that wandered around the ruins that day? Six. The six of us that had piled out of the Land Rover as we made one of our stops on our Tunisian safari. We could literally climb over every inch of the 138 metre by 114 metre monument. We had wandered the two passageways that would have been completely covered by the floor of the amphitheatre when it had originally been in use, into the different cells that would have housed animals, prisoners and gladiators. The vaulting system underground was impressive, the vaulting that rose above the ground even more so. The lack of other visitors had meant that we could each find our space and sit and think, imagine how it could have been – the noise, the smells and excitement.  There was no such opportunity in Rome.

Ignoring my inability to absorb the atmosphere of centuries past, the Colosseum is still a building to impress. It was built on this grand scale for no reason other than to perpetuate the imperial cult and placate the masses. Its placement is no accident. It sits on a flat area between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills. It had been a densely inhabited area when the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD devastated it. The Emperor Nero took the opportunity to claim the land and built the Domus Aurea villa with an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, porticoes and gardens. The Aqua Claudia aqueduct was extended to supply water to the area and the huge bronze statue, Colossus of Nero was erected nearby. Nero’s actions were not popular, so when the Emperor Vespasian commenced construction of the amphitheatre on the site, pulling down much of the Domus and filling in the lake, effectively returning the site back to the people, the citizens would have been supportive. However, Vespasian’s decision to build the theatre there could be seen as more than a move to regain popularity for the Imperial Family. The amphitheatre, a stone’s throw from the Forum was both symbolically and physically at the heart of Rome. The Flavian amphitheatre could not be ignored. In 80AD, Vespasian’s son Titus, inaugurated the theatre and Dio Cassius recorded that over 9,000 animals were killed during the inaugural games."

Read more in A Little Bit of Italy available as a Kindle version through Amazon or paperback via my website

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