Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Favorites Stats

Posted by Hippobean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Country Stats:

Italia - 18 points, Top 5 Countries No 5
Azure Trail Corneglia to Vernazza, Cinque TerreFavorite Walks and HikesNo 6
To San GimignanoFavorite Walks and HikesNo 7
Pienza to MontepulcianoFavorite Walks and HikesNo 8
Osteria Antica Guetta, BonassolaFavorite MealsNo 4
Pasta Alfredo across from the Pantheon, Roma Favorite MealsNo 7
Cavour 21, GenoaFavorite MealsNo 9
Pappardelle with Wild Boar sauce - Osteria Il Re Gallo, Castellina In ChiantiFavorite MealsRU 2
Grilled sardines at EriceFavorite MealsRU 3
San Gimignano, ToscanaFavorite cities and townsNo 2
Duomo di San Gimignano, ToscanaFavorite Cathedrals, Churches
and Monasteries
No 2
San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Palermo, SiciliaFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 5
Duomo di Siena, SienaFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 6
Mediterranean cruise marco poloFavorite boat rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 9
Gondola ride, veniziaFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesRU 5
Naples to Palermo Overnight FerryFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesBonus
Santa Maria della ScalaExtra SpecialNo 6
Archaeology at Col du Grand St BernardExtra Special Bonus
Morocco - 10 points, Top 5 Countries No 4
Camel Ride in the Sahara, Merzouga DesertFavorite Walks and HikesBonus
Riad Meknes Hotel restaurant, MeknesFavorite MealsNo 8
Bedouin TaginesFavorite MealsBonus
Riad Imlil, ImlilFavorite HotelsNo 4
Riad Mimouna, EssaouiraFavorite HotelsNo 5
Bahia Palace, Marrakesh Favorite Palaces and CastlesNo 8
EssaouiraFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 5
Kasbah Ikelane, TinghirFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsRU
Berber Night Camp in SaharaExtra SpecialNo 5
Indonesia - 7 points
Summit Mtn Ijen,JavaFavorite Walks and HikesRU
Addi Assri Resort, Pemuteran, BaliFavorite HotelsNo 8
Margo Otomo Hotel, Kalibaru, JavaFavorite HotelsNo 9
Kampung Lumbung, Batu, JavaFavorite HotelsNo 10
Tirta Empul, BaliFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 6
Mtn Bromo, JavaFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 4
Java-Bali FerryFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesRU 2
Israel - 7 points, Top 5 Countries Bonus
Renaissance Hotel Tel Aviv Favorite HotelsNo 2
Jerusalem Old TownFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsBonus
Road TripFavorite Drives and Train RidesBonus
Qumran/Solomon's PillarsExtra SpecialNo 2
The Dead SeaExtra SpecialNo 17
The Temple MountExtra SpecialNo 12
New Zealand - 7 points, Top 5 Countries No 3
Whakatane, North Island Favorite Cities and TownsNo 9
Aoraki/Mtn Cook, South IslandFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 3
Doubful Sound, South IslandFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 1
Catamaran Sailing on Tasman Bay, South IslandFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 5
Inter Island FerryFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 10
South Island West CoastFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 1
Jordan - 6 points
Walks in Petra Favorite Walks and HikesNo 3
JerashFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 2
PetraFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 4
The King's HighwayFavorite Drive and Train RidesNo 3
The Dead SeaExtra SpecialNo 17
Mount NeboExtra SpecialNo 13

---------------------------------------Tied for 5 Points:-------------------------------------

Argentina - 5 points
Upper Circuit, Iguazu Falls Favorite Walks and HikesNo 5
Iguazu FallsFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 2
Perito Moreno GlacierFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 5
Pan American HighwayFavorite Drive and Train RidesNo 7
Fitzroy MassifFavorite Walks and HikesNo 9
Norway - 5 points, Top 5 Countries No 2
Golden Route, GeirangerFavorite Drive and Train RidesNo 2
Sognefjord CruiseFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 3
HurtigrutenFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 8
Midnight Sun, TromsoExtra Special No 18
Portugal - 5 points, Top 5 Countries No 1
LisboaFavorite Cities and TownsNo 1
Mosteiros dos Jeronimos, Lisboa Favorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 2
Se Catedral, EvoraFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 8
Road TripFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 9
Russia - 5 points
Ресторан Villa Aston, St PetersburgFavorite MealsNo 6
Pavlovsk Palace, Pushkinsky District, St PetersburgFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 3
Winter Palace, St PetersburgFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 6
Mikhailovsky Palace, The Russian Museum, St PetersburgFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 7
St Isaac's Cathedral, St PetersburgFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 1
Switzerland - 5 points
Eiger Trail, Bernese OberlandFavorite Walks and HikesNo 2
Bernese AlpsFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 7
Trümmelbach Falls, LauterbrunnenFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsRU
Glacier Express, Zermat to St MoritzFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 4
Archaeology at Col du Grand St BernardExtra SpecialBonus
Uzbekistan - 5 points
Tashauli Palace, KhivaFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 4
Adbulaziz Khan Madrassa, BukharaFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 2
Gur Emir Mausoleum, SamarkandFavorite Mountains Temples and MosquesNo 3
Kok Gumbaz Mosque, ShakhrisabzFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 8
KhivaFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 9

-------------------------------------------- 4 Points:----------------------------------------

Cambodia - 4 points
Touk, pnong penhFavorite MeaksNo 5
Pre Rup, Siem ReapFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 1
Angkor Wat, Siem ReapFavorite Mountains Temples and MosquesNo 5
Banyon, Siem ReapFavorite Temples and MosquesBonus
Chile - 4 points
Torres del PaineFavorite Walks and HikesNo 4
Torres del PaineFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 6
Amalia Glacier, Beagle ChannelFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 9
Mois, Easter IslandExtra SpecialNo 3
Ethiopia - 4 points
Simien LodgeFavorite HotelsNo 1
Gheralta Lodge, Tigray Favorite HotelsNo 8
Rock Cut Churches, Lalibela/TigrayFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesBonus
Blue Nile/Lake TanaExtra SpecialNo 15
Turkey - 4 points
PergamonFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 1
Mediterranean Cruise on the Marco Polo Favorite Boat and Train RidesNo 9
TroyExtra SpecialNo 14
Cruise on the Sea of MarmaraExtra SpecialNo 16
UK - 4 points
TintagelFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 1
Truro CathedralFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 4
Lamassu (British Museum)Extra SpecialNo 1
King Penguins, Faulkland IslandsExtra SpecialNo 4

-------------------------------------------- 3 Points:----------------------------------------

Bosnia and Herzogovina - 3 points
Nanima kuhinja, SarajevoFavorite MealsNo 1
TirmaIrma, MostarFavorite MealsRU
Stari Most, MostarExtra Special No 7
Egypt - 3 points
Philae Temple, AswanFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 7
Cruising the NileFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesRU 1
Pyramids at Giza/Valley of the KingsExtra Special No 11
Greece - 3 points
SantoriniFavorite Cities and TownsNo 4
Corinth CanalExtra SpecialNo 19
Mediterranean Cruise on the Marco PoloFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 9
Hungary - 3 points
BudapestFavorite Cities and TownsNo 8
Matthias Church, BudapestFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 7
Dohany Street SynagogueFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 9
Mexico - 3 points
Blue Sky TulumFavorite HotelsNo 3
Chan Khan ResortFavorite HotelsNo 6
PalenqueFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 8
Poland - 3 points
Marlbork CastleFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 9
ToruńFavorite Cities and TownsNo 5
WrocławFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 3
Romania - 3 points
Peleș and Pelișore Castles, SinaiaFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 2
BrașovFavorite Cities and TownsBonus
The Carpathians, TransylvaniaFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 8

------------------------------------- with 2 Points:----------------------------------------

Armenia - 2 points
Noravank MonasteryFavorite Cathedrals, Churches and MonasteriesNo 10
Manuscript Museum, YeravanExtra SpecialNo 10
Belarus - 2 points
Nezvizh Palace HotelFavorite HotelsNo 7
Nezvizh PalaceFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 5
Bhutan - 2 points
Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) HikeFavorite Walks and HikesNo 1
Punaka DzongFavorite Palaces and CastlesNo 1
Croatia - 2 points
Dubrovnik City Wall WalkFavorite Walks and HikesNo 10
Dubrovnik Old TownFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 6
Guatemala - 2 points
Hotel Catamaran, Rio DulceFavorite HotelsBonus
AntiguaFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 7
Hong Kong - 2 points
Tram rideFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 5
Star FerryFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 2
Iceland - 2 points
GullfossFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/Waterfalls No 10
Fromj Rykjavik to VikFavorite Drives and Train RidesNo 10
LAOS - 2 points
TamrindFavorite Meals No 2
Luang PrabangFavorite Cities and TownsNo 7
Malta - 2 points
VallettaFavorite Cities and TownsNo 3
Mediterranean Cruise on the Marco PoloFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 9
Montenegro - 2 points
From Zabljak through DurmitorFavorite Drives and Train RidesRU 1
Ferry from Perast to Kotor, Bay of KotorFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 6
Myanmar - 2 points
Manu Ok Kaung Monastery, Inwa Favorite Temples and MosquesNo 9
Shwe Indein Pagoda, IndeinFavorite Temples and MosquesNo 10
Oman - 2 points
Wahiba SandsFavorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/WaterfallsNo 1
Cruise the Gulf of OmanFavorite Boat Rides, Cruises and FerriesNo 7
Peru - 2 points
Machu PicchuFavorite Ancient Cities and Old TownsNo 10
Train to Machu PicchuFavorite Drives and Train RidesRU 2
USA - 2 points
PhiladelphiaFavorite Cities and TownsNo 6
Lamassu (NY Metropolitan and U of Chicago Oriental InstituteExtra SpecialNo 1
Vietnam - 2 points
Coconut salad with prawns and duck confit on egg noodles Favorite MealsNo 3
ha Long Bay overnight cruiseFavorite Boat rides, Cruises and Ferriesno 4

-------------------------- And now countries with only 1 point: --------------------------

Austria Wolfie's Concert Extra Special No 8
Brazil Boat to Salto tress Mosqueteros Favorite Boat Rides, Cruises and Ferries RU 3
Bulgaria Koprivshtitsa Favorite Cities and Towns No 10
Canada Columbia Icefield Parkway, Alberta Favorite Drives and Train Rides No 6
Czech Republic Praha Favorite cities and Towns No 9
Estonia Restoran Peppersack, Tallinn Favorite Meals No 10
Georgia Gergeti Trinity Church Favorite Cathedrals, Churches and Monasteries RU
Kazakhstan Bactrian Camels Extra Special No 20
Lithuania Trakai Castle Favorite Palaces and Castles No 10
Nepal KTM to Mtn Flight Favorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/Waterfalls Bonus
UAE Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi Favorite Temples and Mosques No 4
Vatican St Peter's Cupola and Scavi Extra Special No 9

-------------------------- Countries with No 1 in each Category --------------------------

Portugal Top 5 Countries No 1
UK/US Lamassu (British Museum/NY Metropolitan/ Oriental Institute Chicago) Extra Special
Bhutan Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) Favorite Walks and Hikes
New Zealand Doubtful Sound, South Island Favoirte Boat Rides, Cruises and Ferries
New Zealand South Island Favorite Drives and Train Rides
Russia St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg Favorite Cathedrals, Churches and Monasteries
Oman Wahiba Sands Favorite Mountains/Deserts/Glaciers/Waterfalls
Turkey Pergamon Favorite Ancient Cities and Old Towns
Portugal Lisboa Favorite Cities and Towns
Cambodia Pre Rup, Siem Reap Favorite Temples and Mosques
Bhutan Punaka Dzong Favorite Palaces and Castles
Ethiopia Simien Lodge Favorite Hotels
Bosnia and Herzogovina Nanina Kuhija Favorite Meals

And 3 countries have multiple No 1's:

Portugal Top 5 Countries No 1
Favorite Cities and Towns
Bhutan Favorite Walks and Hikes
Favorite Palaces and Castles
New Zealand Favoirte Boat Rides, Cruises and Ferries
Favorite Drives and Train Rides

favorite lists

Posted by Hippobean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In Hippo's travels ...

First thing first, Hippo's favorite Meals:

Now the rest:

And finally ...

Check out:

Why the Hippo loves to travel?

T calls her Hippo the Navigator. Perhaps I'm just a hopeless romantic and an incorrigible dreamer. I am like Prince Henry, the Navigator, whose statue by the shores of the Tejo river, stares attentively and intensely into the raging waters of the Atlantic. You see, he doesn't just gaze upon the ocean. His penetrating glance sees beyond the strait of Gibraltar, beyond Africa, and beyond the promontory of New Hope, all the way into the Orient. And perhaps this is the Hippo, contemplating the Descobrimentos ...

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Top 5 countries

Posted by Hippobean at 11:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Top 5 countries in Hippo's heart:

1. Portugal -
Patria! So the Hippo is biased. But for a reason. Because it is indeed beautiful and with a silent history that not many knew. A most beautiful language and romantic people who prefer singing with a guitar than sujugating others. Strategically situated on the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, with an ocean and a sea coasts, historical sites and monuments, unique Manueline architecture, heart wrenching fados, delicious traditional cuisine, fine wine and port, brilliant history. The place the Hippo had enjoyed the most in her childhood.



Heróis to Mar, Nobre Povo!

As armas e os Barões assinalados
Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana
Por mares nunca de antes navegados
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram.

2. Norway -
My heart belongs to Norway. Wild, steep, high and deep fjords, the melancholic fishing villages along the Hurtigruten route, Geiringer, Henningsvær, Gudvangen, Nordkapp, crusing in the midnight sun, glorious coasts, the kontiki and people with good sense of humor. The Norweigian coast absolutely stole my heart.


3. New Zealand -
Loved loved New Zealand.
Great but not overwhelming metropolises with good ethnic cuisine. All the natural wonders our planet has to offer, rugged coasts, mountain ranges, glaciers, sounds, lakes and rivers, geo-thermal areas, forests, valleys, islands with volcanoes. Fantastic hikes. Interesting legends. Wonderful hospitality from people with great hearts and nature lovers. After 3 weeks in NZ, the Hippo fell in love with the land and the Kiwis.


4. Morocco -
The atlantic crashing onto the 15 century portuguese fortifications at the ancient Mogador. i heard the same ocean waves from my window at the Riad. narrow labyrinth cobblestoned streets with blue doors and windows of the harbour town.

Ancient roman towns. 4 imperial cities, each with its unique flavor in the islamic architecture. crenellated towers of the kasbahs along the valleys of the vast expansive Atlas with ochre cliffs. The orange dunes of the ever diminishing Sahara. a night under the stars with beber music. Great camaraderie.
Perhaps what's best Morocco has to offer, is its variety. from ocean to mountains to ancient great cities to parched desert, coupled with savory tagines. Thanks Joann for inspiring the Hippo to go.

5. Italia/Vaticano -
Hello Sicilia, I had wanted to meet you for so long. Yesterday we admired fantastic views of Etna, towering clearly before our eyes and we spent a good time admiring it. Today, she chose to hide herself and absolutely refused to let us scale it. While standing silently over the Valle dei Templi, with the immense blue Mediterranean, an old Italian couple came up and the lady said: 'che silenzio meraviglioso!' I turned to them and smiled 'buona sera'. It's wonderful to know I'm not the only one who appreciates silence and cherishes moments like these. Total quietness standing on thousands year old temple ground.

The Family sat around tile covered patio tables with candle light, serenaded by Italian music off the iPod speakers, 3 bottles of wine (I liked the Lacrima di Christi Rosso) and socialized. Our last night together. Lots of laughter. T's wacky crazy funny family. The Paradizo hotel on Purgatorio street with bathrooms deprived of all comforts. High above and deep below and The bones. St peter's cupola, the Scavi, Beloved Goddess Pallas Athena in the hall of statues and the map room in the vatican museum. Sulking Michelangelo in Raphael's School of Athens, Raphael's self portrait in the School of Athens and Dante in Raphael's La Disputa. Castel Sant'Angelo, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the steps of Piazza de Espagna, great shopping, Vesuvius, Firenze. Corneglia and Vernazza. San Gimignano and Lucca. Hikes among vineyards. Pesto pasta, olives, and prosecco. Miracula Æternitatis.

I think about him constantly. All this beauty, I wish I could share it with him. If he would have me, I'd show him the world!

Quod fuit est sicut quod erit
Et quod erit est sicut quod fuit
Quod fuit ad perpetranda
Miracula æternitatis
Quod superius est sicut quod inferius
Ad perpetranda miracula
Quod inferius est sicut quod superius
Ad perpetranda miracula



Romania, the Runner-Up
Quis et Deus. "These lands require a love for the obscure. If the intruder from the West is not willing to feel with his whole being, he cannot hope to understand. After a few weeks in Romania, a perverse side of your nature allowed you to fall in love with the country and people. You even thought that perhaps the Romanians possessed a peculiar wisdom about life and survival that the rest of the world lacked. And thus you would begin to understand..."
"Travelling in Romania was often like inhabiting the pages of a Dostoevsky novel." - Balkan Ghosts - Robert Kaplan

Romania is a hauntingly romantic country. A capital with a violent past, remote quiet and sad villages, picturesque towns, misty romantic mountains, blood thirsty legends, sentimental palaces, devoted churches and people who seemed to have a deep understanding of hurt and hope. It touches you heart.

The land of Nadia Comaneci, Simona Halep and Elie Wiesel. But also the land of a dark totalitarian and Vlad the Impaler. It is a land of haunting contrasts, beautiful and strong people who overcame adversity and much suffering. And admist all the adversities and suffering, there was a silent hidden beauty that very much touched the Hippo.

Israel, the Bonus
Ever trekked in the footsteps of Jesus on the cobble stones of Jerusalem, or bathed in the warm but often stormy waters of the Galilee? Ever let your body float on the poisonous waters of the Dead sea? The very first time the Hippo set foot in the Promised Land, all the bible stories came alive. and the romantic in me conjured up vivid scenes of the inhabitants of the Testaments walking here and talking there, performing their biblical deeds oh so very long ago. It is a land of great beauty and diverse topography. Long Mediterranean coasts with sandy beaches, highlands in the north all the way to Lebanon, fertile farmland inland to the east, The Great Rift Valley, the arid Negev desert with the lowest point on earth in the south all the way into the Red sea. Beautiful lakes and highlands and microclimate. I remember the sticky sweating in Tel Aviv and the crisp cool air in Jerusalem. the soft breezes in Eilat. The morning cold air at a hill top close to the northen border. Being there and gazing upon the biblical land was not only an honor but a blessing.

extra special places

Posted by Hippobean at 7:31 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Extra special places in Hippo's travels:

1. Lamassu - British Museum/New York Metropolitan/University of Chicago Oriental Institute
Dr Hunt's Archaeology 101 at the Stanford Continuing Studies simply showed slides. When the slides of the ancient Mesopotamian statues of the 5 legged bulls bearing human heads and wings showed up, the Hippo took one look at the Lamassus and she knew she had to visit the British Museum. A few years later she also said hello to them at the New York Metropolitan and at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. Absolutely besotted.

2. Qumran/Soloman's Pillars, Israel-
Standing in front of the cave in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered was absolutely extra special. Later in the day, seeing the King Solomon's Pillars, the sandstone cliffs in the halcolithic copper mine in Timna Valley, absolutely intoxicated the Hippo. the colors and the late afternoon lighting on the pillars were mesmerizing. She positively loves sandstone pillars.

3. Mois, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Chile -
After the 4 hours flight from Santiago, with only water, tea or coffee onboard, you reached Easter Island at midnight. Hippo nearly went mad with excitement arriving there. Having read Thor Heyerdahl's books on Easter Island, it was a dream come true to finally be there. The days were hot and humid and filled with Mois, some laying on the ground, some standing. Some still had their tophats on and lined up on a platform. These giant statues were very tall and most with only their heads shown above ground. the nights were eerie quiet and completely dark. Easter Island, the only place where the Hippo's ever felt uneasy after the sun went down. As if the island was haunted by the mois who lurched during the night.
The Hippo simply loved the Mois and feared them when the sun went down.

4. King Penguins, Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands -
Almost a meter tall (they reached to Hippo's shoulders), they are most striking. They sported a bright orange and yellow patch on their chests, on the back of the head and bill. They're simply adoringly gorgeous. They werent afraid of humans and we could get close to them but not too close as they would step away from you just a little without making a fuzz, or go around them. Penguins werent Hippo's favorites until she saw the Kings in the Falkland Islands. She even bought a stuffy penguin in Ushuaia. Pengui now stands on Hippo's bookstand next to the TV, and loves to eat popcorn.

5. Berber Night Camp in the Sahara, Merzouga Desert, Morocco -
After an hour and 15 mins camel ride, our berber camp welcomed us with tea and cookies, followed by a savory chicken and vegetable tagines. The evening was mild and we pulled the mattresses out from the tents to sleep in the open. With a roaring fire, our guide Aziz, our camel driver and the cook brought out their drums and started drumming and singing berber verses. And T even joined. The music and the swayings filled the quiet camp and the dark skies with wonder, sound and movement. With sore legs but happy satisfied tummy, lying down on her mattress the Hippo lifted her eyes to the starry sky, immerged in the drumbeats and in the songs, appreciating this very lovely and special evening in the Sahara desert. When the sun woke up the following morning, it filled the orange dunes with a supernatural yellow glow. It was beautifully quiet. What a treat!

6. Santa Maria della Scala Museum, Siena, Italia -
With 30 mins remaining, I've poked into the museum and so very very glad I did. What used to be the Ospedale for the Pilgrims as Siena lied on the Via Francigena, now it houses the most gorgeous frescoes I've ever seen. The Pellegrinaio, a long cavernous hall, entirely filled with gigantic floor to ceiling frescoes painted in the mid 1400's. The figures of saints, prophets and Old Testament figures in the vaults were painted by Agostino di Marsiglio, the side aisles painted by 15th century Sienese artists Lorenzo di Pietro, Domenico di Bartolo and Priamo della Quercia. I felt humbled below these gihugic masterpieces.
The subterranean level was the archaeological museum showing etruscan and roman artifacts, ceramics, statues and tombstones from the surrounding chianti and upper Val d’Elsa areas.


It's a spooky place with dim lighting and inside the tunnels, windows looking out to the 'inner' road, a hidden road that was once open to the surrounding landscape.
Incredible place with incredible treasures. this museum which strangely sat just in front of the duomo was mostly ignored by tourists which made it less crowded and one could spend time to quietly appreciate each piece of Art. Very special museum.




7. Stari Most (old bridge), Mostar, Bosnia and Herzogovina -
The parabolic most photographed bridge, entirely made of stone connected the 2 sides of the Neretva river, into the east side, the moslem side of the old town. but until you see it with your own eyes, you wont get so totally stunned. Something about the way it arched with the towers on both ends, the brilliant (and super slippery) wide and long steps going up and down. The iconic bridge is picturesque and the views all around gorgeous. East the Velež mountain and west the Hum Hill. Illuminated at night and everyone was out in the evening strolling across the bridge or simply congregate in front of it, admiring it.

The Hippo did the same each evening with Snowie.


8. Mozart concert, Wien, Austria -
Nothing beats an orchestra dressed in 18th century attire, wearing wigs, playing Wolfie's tunes. The Brams Music Hall was small, intimate and very grandly decorated. It was quite the highlight of visiting Viena, even though I'm not much of a Wolfie's fan. The music was heavenly recognizable. They even played Strauss' blue danube, which the audience enthusiastically applauded, even though it wasnt even a Wolfie's piece.

A most special concert.





9. Scavi/St Peter's Cupola,
Vatican City -
In the morning we went up to St Peter's cupola. Oh, what a site! All 4 of the evangelists under the dome were now up close to us. Out on the base of the dome great views of the piazza and the back of the statues. I've never been above St Peter's before and this was truly a special experience to see Buonarotti's dome so close.

After been high up on St Peter's, we went deep down below the Basilica's foundation, the ancient necropolis. Our guide was a young priest from the Penn diocese. The scavi story started with Nero burning Rome and blaming it on the Christians and subsequently torturing and killing them right on this hill. Peter was crucified upside down and his body buried in a shallow grave. We walked on 1600 years old narrow cobblestoned streets lined with mausoleums decorated with frescoes, ornate tombs and sarcophagi, some with roman/greek motifs and one building had egyptian paintings on the walls. Hard to imagine a sky above us and painted buildings in this dark underground city.

Then we finally came upon the graffiti wall and behind it, the remains of the trophy of Gaius or the aedicule, with its 4 feet tall marble columns. A hole was cut on the wall that revealed 17 glass boxes and inside them St Peter's bones. There the group paused in silence and our guide offered a prayer on the sacred ground. A lady in the group cried silently. Tears rolled down the Hippo's face. It touched the core of my heart. It was a moment to remember. This tiny place was not only significant to the Catholics but also a highly archeological and historical site. Indeed a very special place and the Hippo felt blessed to have been there.

"Tv es Petrvs et Svper Hanc Petram Aedificabo Ecclesiam Meam Tibi Dabo Claves Regni Caelorvm"

10. Manuscript Museum, Yeravan, Armenia -
The Hippo should have been a monk (maybe in a previous lifetime?) so she could spend all her days copying manuscripts. She positively adores illuminated manuscripts. The Matenadaran had an entire hall full of them. simply a heaven to the Hippo. Indeed a most special place.

11. Pyramids, Giza, Egypt -
Ever wandered inside the great pyramid and breathed in the musky odor of a mighty Pharaoh long gone? The Pyramids at Giza humble you. The enormous face of the Sphinx without its nose looked rather cute.


Valley of the Kings, Egypt -
Admiring the elaborately painted walls of the corridors of the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, then suddenly the chambers were bare. All except Tut's tomb, the smallest but most painted. Special, as they are one of a kind, but somehow did not awed the Hippo.

12. The Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel -
Standing on the Temple Mount, with the Dome of the Rock, on Mtn Moriah, one felt blessed as it was the location of the First and Second temple, where the western wall still remains today. Walked the Western Wall tunnel till the sealed Warren's Gate, through which they believed the Ark of Covenant was carried away. An honor.


13. Mount Nebo, Jordan -
"Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
Hippo's been on Mtn Nebo twice and twice she gazed upon the Promised land, with tears in her eyes. So so very honored.

14. Troy, Turkey -
Not much remains of the ancient city of Priam except for the eastern gate towers and wall which were still standing. Not much to see and not even sure if it was the real troia or Illium. however, passing by the ruins that marked the castle, the romantic in me heard the cry of Hector's son being thrown out of the window, and behind the ruins, Aeneas carrying his father on his back fleeing the city. At the gate, I could feel Hector's last breath. Somewhere an arrow pierced Achilles' heel and he, shocked, looked at the arrow protuding from the bottom of his leg and understood his fate. Because of the legend, all Homer's stories, this city although looking uninteresting now, held a special place in Hippo's heart.

15. The Blue Nile/Lake Tana, Ethiopia -
Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile which feeds in to the white nile into Egypt. What was a thundering cascade, the Blue Nile falls are now reduced to a mere simple fall. In lake Tana, it was reputed to have hippos but to my great disapointement, I didnt encountered any. Calm waters. Quite special to have been on both niles, with so much history and importance.

16. Cruise the Sea of Marmara, Turkey -
At the mouth of the Bosphorus, one side is Europe with the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia and the other, Asia, with modern houses running up the hill. Opposite the Bosphorus, are the Dardanelles that run into the Aegean sea. This is prime location, steep in history and legend. Extra special cruise.


17. The Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan Lowest point on mother earth, the Hippo floated on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides. Quite an experience like no other, extra special.


18. The Midnight Sun, Tromso, Norway -
We arrived at 2AM and the sun was barely on the horizon. Soon it crept up again. By 6AM, it was bright in the sky. Then it dipped down again later in the day and towards 11PM it was hovering the horizon again. Very strange feeling and quite an experience having the sun all day long (kinda annoying actually having the sun shine all day, the Hippo prefers nights)

19. Corinth Canal, Greece -
You walk right up to the edge and stare straight down the sheer face of the wall and be awed. No lock, just a bridge over it and straight down to the water. Forever separating the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. Awesome!


20. Bactrian Camels, Kazakhstan -
Seen many camels in Hippo's travels and rode 2 or 3. But never seen a bactrian. On our way from Almaty to Bishkek, by accident we came upon a caravan of bactrian in a meadow with the Tian Shan mountains as backdrop.

They looked mighty strange with a camel face and 2 humps. Tall and long and dark. Hippo doesnt like camels, much less riding on them. However, seeing the rare bactrians was a special treat.

Bonus:

Archaeology at Col du Grand St Bernard (1996), Switzerland and Italia -
An honor and once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in an archaeological expedition without being an archaeologist or a student of archaeology.

Archaeologist and Stanford professor Dr Patrick Hunt has been conducting archaeological research atop the Grand St Bernard Pass on the Swiss and Italian alps.

On this 8200 ft pass, are the ruins of the temple of Jupiter, built between 12-72 BC, the remains of a Roman road, mansiones and a Roman watch tower.

Hippo's duties included digging in St Bernard's grotto, crawling inside the crypts under the monastery eglise among human bones; chipping off pieces of marbles on top of the monastery crematorium; mapping the roman ruins and roads; locating and exploring regional quarries from which the rock was cut to construct the temple. On weekends we returned to lower grounds and stayed at Bourg St Pierre. On days off, we hiked the Alps and had bike rides and picnics in Martiny and Aosta.

We slept in the monastery simple and rustic but comfortable dormitories and had our meals in the refectory. The food prepared by the monastery's chef was simple, fresh and nourishing. With the good humor of the monks, at 7:30AM classical music was played through the loudspeakers, a soothing way to wake up.

2 full weeks of learning the deep history of this alpine pass and the hospice, and adquiring archaeological techniques, such as, how to excavate, analyze artifacts and identify which block of marbles from the monastery foundation came from the temple, good camaraderie, good food, refreshing alpine hikes and medieval cities, monks humor, and evenings with the carabinieries who didnt speak any French or English. The highlights were so numerous and all close to my heart. St Benards are Hippo's most favorite dogs (BigDog is a St Bernard);

An experience of a lifetime and so so honored to have been a small part of it.


 

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