Travel Letters

Athens: The Local Scene

Athens
Greece
April 24, 2015

My friends,

I suppose that when you think of Athens you think of Greek temples and marble columns and sculpture from centuries ago.  And I am sure that very soon I will see those unique features of the city.

But on this first morning I head out from my hotel to Victoria Square.   From the square I can take the subway to the Acropolis stop.  But instead  I decide to walk in that direction.   I eventually arrived at the station but not at the temple.

Athens: The Acropolis

Athens

Greece

April 25, 2015

Here I am at THE Acropolis, one of the wonders of the ancient world. 

So why am I so “down?”

Jetlag?

Homesick?

Headache from the din of noisy tourists?

Just can’t get motivated!

Then along come a Greek Goddess and her Faithful Companion. 

Lake Ohrid

Lake Ohrid

Macedonia

May 17, 2015

Lake Ohrid was my first stop after crossing the border from Albania to Macedonia. *

Here are a few facts about this unusual lake:

Lake Ohrid straddles the mountainous border between southwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania.  It is one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes, preserving a unique aquatic ecosystem that is of worldwide importance, with more than 200 endemic species.

Tallinn: Old Town

Tallinn

Estonia

August 17, 2014

So where do all these tourists come from? 

My friends, they are deposited by the thousands from the cruise ships that dock in the harbor of this ancient Baltic city.   They follow the tour guide with her flag.  They crowd the cobblestoned squares and streets as they ogle the churches and bargain with the market vendors.  They snack at the overpriced restaurants and cafes before re-boarding their ocean-going hotel for the next exotic stop.  Helsinki?  Saint Petersburg?  Copenhagen?

Bossier City, Louisiana: "Warfare"

Barksdale Air Force Base

Bossier City, Louisiana

October 29, 2008

One of my favorite television programs is "The West Wing."  In one episode the President has been shot and the senior military advisors are worried that a foreign enemy might try to take advantage of the moment.  When the military men ask the White House Chief of Staff what message the United States government should send out, the actor, the late John Spenser thinks for a second and says, "Don't mess with us tonight."

"Don't mess with us" was just what I was thinking when I visited the museum at Barksdale Air Force Base.  East of Bossier City, Barksdale is the home of the Eighth Air Force.  The slogan of the museum is "Come see the Might in the Mighty Eighth."

Khiva: The Museum City

Khiva

Uzbekistan

June 5, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Today's vocabulary word is the Persian word "pharsakh". (The word sounds suspiciously like the Hebrew "parashah" - the weekly portion of the Bible that is read in synagogue every Saturday.)  

A pharsakh (pronounced farshach) is a unit of distance about 5km or about 3 miles. A Genghis Khan messenger on horseback, with stops, could travel 50 pharsakh - 250km (150 miles) in one day across the sands of the Kara Kum (Black Sands) Desert.  A camel caravan can travel 160 kilometers (96 miles).

The distance from Bukhara to Khiva, my next stop on the Great Silk Road, is 470 kilometers (282 miles).  It would take the messenger three days; the caravan five days.  On a proper highway, my driver and I do it in about six hours, with stops.

Who can resist the stops?  Under a cloudless sky, with a charm of its own, the flat, bleak, scrub-mottled desert is interspersed with herds of goats, a yurt camp or two, and endless tracts of cotton plants. Finally, a long, narrow reservoir that feeds the cotton - a major commodity in this part of the world

Agriculture and human settlement go back four, perhaps six millennia in this area.  Legend has it that Khiva was founded by Noah's son, Shem.  By the 8th Century, Khiva was a trading post. In 1592, Khiva became the capital of Khorezem.  The history of Khiva goes on with conquests by the Persians and later the Russians.  Fortunately, the old city is preserved in its entirety. *    

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