Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

extra special places

Posted by Hippobean at 7:31 PM
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 Clves Regni Celorvm"

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' ankle 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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