Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#876 Islas Ballestas, Peru

Just off Pisco (of alcohol fame) and Paracas, just outside of Iwa and Huacachina (#923) are the Islas Ballestas, the guano (bird poop) producing center that helped support Peru's economy at the turn of the century because of their phosphorus (and therefore fertilizer) capacity!

While the candelebra above is actually on the Peruvian coast, it astonished early European sailors and its origins are unknown, but perhaps connected to the nearby Nazca line civilization. An hour's sail off the coast, they have no permanent residents except for the noisy sea lions, fur seals, waddling Humboldt penguins, pelicans, blue footed boobys and other sea birds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#877 Gibraltar, UK

There's something about being a Pillar of Hercules that helps to make a place amazing. A gigantic rock jutting up from the Mediterranean, Jebel-i Tariq, the original name for Gibraltar is just one part of the diverse historical heritage. Nice Mediterranean weather, infamous monkeys, a cool cable car and something that doesn't quite fit amongst the Spain that surrounds it... fish and chips!

Interesting facts:
  • They voted in referendums in 1967 and again in 2002 to remain a British overseas territory, despite Spain's claim to ownership. It has been British since 1704.
  • English is the official language, though most schools are bilingual with Spanish, and many other languages are spoken such as Berber and Arabic, Italian and Portuguese.
  • They have been inhabited by Neanderthals, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Nasrids, Manirids, Umayyads, and of course the Spanish and British.

Images are original except for two postcards bought circa 2004.

Friday, January 25, 2013

#878 Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

There's not much to say about this gorgeous, ocean-water filled sinkhole on the road between Ramlah and Sur, east of Muscat, except that it's in the middle of nowhere, very unexpected and a delightful place to swim!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

#879 Busan, South Korea

Port cities are some of the most interesting places of anywhere in the world. Busan, South Korea, is no exception -- Korea is one of the world's biggest shipbuilding nations, and aside from Incheon near Seoul, Busan is its ship hub. A lively city with many Russian sailors, poor fishermen with exotic catches and a rugged coast to explore, it's more than just a port.
Superlatives ensue with South Korea's largest beach and longest river, biggest port (the world's 5th largest port), and many monikers: Pusan, Fusan, Fuzan, Husan, etc! It is closer geographically to Japan than to its capital, Seoul (#970). It is a Free Economic Zone, and boy do you know it!


Monday, January 21, 2013

#880 Beiteddine Palace, Lebanon

Deep in the hills in Southern Lebanon, several hours drive from Beirut lies Beiteddine (literally 'House of Religion'), a palace in a town of the same name filled with Byzantine mosaics, courtyards, fountains and lovely gardens. Began in 1788 on the site of a Druze hermitage, it used architects from across the Arab world and Italy to ensure its masterpiece. Serving as a government office during both the Ottoman and French mandate periods, it was finally declared a national monument in 1934.

Wandering among its courtyards, standing under its arches, admiring the tilework in the hammams (bathhouses), or just taking in the stables, museums and apartments, it is a magnificent place despite being looted during the Israeli invasion.