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Happy New Year! Guam was great; there are a lot of awesome dive sights around the island and it was the perfect end of year vacation get away. I am kicking off 2019 with a much more cultural and historical filled location. I loved learning about the pre-20th Century history of the next country I am going to. Prior to the 18th Century, the culture and knowledge of this country was very limited. One of their ‘great’ leaders traveled to Europe, immersed himself in the culture & brought everything back east. He also brought home a lot of military knowledge & built up a formidable navy in his country. When he got home they didn’t have names for some of the things he brought back, including the name for a tie, so they incorporated the French word of cravate into their vocabulary. Later on, this country didn’t have such a friendly relationship with France when Napoleon invaded.
Through history there were some leaders who weren’t as great, and could be described at ‘terrible.’ Ironically, one of their ‘great’ rulers, did some not so great things. Although nothing was proven, it is said that she may have had a hand in her husband’s death, which lead to her taking the throne. She then became very powerful and had great influence, which resulted in some good. She wasn’t fond of her son succeeding her, so she gave special attention to her grandson, Alexander, whom she spent a lot of time training to become ruler.
The religious history was also interesting. Christianity was brought to this country at the turn of the 10th Century, and was based on Byzantium. As I learned in Ireland, to convert the common people, they had to incorporate folk and pagan traditions. At this time people were baptized in the Dnieper. In the 10th century, a period of religious peace, many churches were built. One is the St. Sophia, which is one of the oldest churches still standing. An interesting fact was that in modern history, there was a large anti-religious movement, which resulted in churches being demolished and turned into swimming pools. The surviving churches have really cool architectural designs, which included onion domes. I could go on and on about the history, architecture, and culture of this country, but I must get some sleep.
I never knew South Africa was so interesting! I just left Cape Town and splashed through Table Bay, named after the flat topped mountain (mesa), that looks like a table. I have covered a lot of ocean, in fact I swam out of Table Bay into the Atlantic Ocean, then around the cape through the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific. Although, I instinctively wanted to go north, as a white Christmas is picturesque, I decided a good ol' Southern Hemisphere Christmas like back home is just what I needed. In fact, I'm pretty close to home, so I'll be able to visit my family for the holidays. Celebrating the holidays here is very similar to home and very similar to your celebrations in the United States, which although surprising at first, makes a lot of sense. There is an annual Christmas Festival sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, during which there are colorful banners and light sculptures, as well as Christmas activities, including Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and park illumination. There are also activities for kids at Santa's workshop, where Santa and his helpers hand out goodies. Christmas decorations can also be seen everywhere, in fact the Visitors Bureau lights of the streets of one of the cities at the same time every year, in addition to all the residences own decorations.
Back to a little geography and history. I love going to islands because they give me a lot of water to swim through. The island chain I am visiting has the same name as the deepest trench in the ocean, but I can’t think it right now. The specific island I chose to explore was supposedly founded by Indonesians, but colonized by the Spanish and eventually given to America in the Treaty of Paris (1898), after the Spanish American War. The island also saw a lot of action during World War II. Even though it is American territory, they won’t have the same problems that the colonists had with no representation before the American Revolution. This island has a delegate in the House of Representatives. I was surprised to learn that there is a large tourist base here, usually the name of this island is used as a euphemism to denote the middle of nowhere.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Atlantis was amazing, but now I am on my way to a brand new continent. I couldn’t decide which country to go to, in the north I might have explored some ancient tombs, but I was afraid of curses. Then I thought about traveling through the desert, however I remember a movie with Matthew McConaughey getting stuck there and I decided not to. Instead I traveled a little farther south. Just like New York, this country used to be a Dutch Colony. As more colonists moved here, some became wandering farmers called Boers. Unfortunately, just like the Native Americans in America, there were natives, like the Xhosa and Zulu, that were pushed out of their land.
Through my visit I learned that the history of this country is very tumultuous, and they had a long history of apartheid. But, I also learned some very interesting facts. Both Ghandi and Winston Churchill are associated with the Battle of Spion Kop, and this was before either one was famous. I also learned that one of their most popular sports is Rugby. In fact, in 1921, they played a big championship game against my home country of New Zealand! If you are interested in more of this country’s history, I’ll let you borrow a book by James Michener, very interesting.
I have decided to explore my natural habitat for this leg of my journey. I have heard many stories about this place, but it is spectacular to see it in person. Many believe it is just a fable, but I now know everything is real. This city is magnificent, with buildings made from black, red and white marble, as well as bridges stretching over the water to connect the areas of land. Besides the attractive architecture there were also beautiful gardens, fountains and groves of flowering trees. Of the numerous buildings, the greatest must have been the palaces of the ten kings or the temple of Poseidon.
The earliest descriptions of this place were written by Plato in 360 BC. Historically these people were known for their engineering and architecture. In his writing Plato also describes them as being a great Naval power. Being influenced by Plato, some Renaissance writers like Sir Francis Bacon, created several utopian works about this location. Disney even made a movie about it in 2001. Although the exact location has been argued for centuries, I found the real location to be off the coast of Africa by the Canary Islands.
I am so glad I was able to visit Ireland. Before leaving the Emerald Isle, I also traveled to Dublin, Galway, Killarney and Dingle. I even met a new friend in Dingle, Fungie the dolphin. I am now on to my next adventure, and it is making me hungry. I have always wanted to come here and try some of their delightful treats, ever since I read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” I also tried Borek and Kofte.
I have loved learning about the rich history of all of the countries I have visited, here is no different. I was surprised to learn a lot of religious history. Did you know the head of the Christian church once sat here, before the big schism. One of the most famous biblical ships is said to have landed here and I tried to follow several streams to the Garden of Eden.
There is also a rich military history. Both Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar celebrated conquests in this region. Veni, vidi, vici! Homer, a native, also wrote about a famous war. Speaking of Homer, one of the activities I wanted to try was horseback riding, but the horse I found was way too big to ride, in fact it was big enough to ride in.
I have had a great time. Due to all of the different waterways I got to do a lot of swimming, especially through all four seas.
Till next time!
Paris was great! I am so excited to be starting my next adventure, but I haven't traveled too far. My next location is a place some of my ancestors may have come from. Many from this country went to Australia and New Zealand when they were penal colonies. I have explored much of the countryside and visited many amazing cities. Currently, I am in a small city in the south. I find it funny that their big claim to fame is a rock, but apparently there used to be a castle here that belonged to the ruling family of this province. I went to the site this morning and I had to walk up a big hill to get there. Most of it is ruins of a cathedral from when the Catholic Church came into Ireland. I also found it very interesting that families in the town still own some of the available plots in the cemetery.
I am staying at a Bed & Breakfast that is decorated to honor a mystery book heroine named Sister Fidelma. I picked up one of the books while I was there, and it was pretty interesting. In the story her brother was a King and his castle was at the historic site I visited earlier today. She grew up a princess, but joined the religious to receive a better education. In Ireland women had a lot of equal rights and she was able to work her way up to the second highest law degree.
I got really excited when I heard people talking about a football game in one of the nearby cities. Then they started talking about the FAI, and teams I didn't know. I have to go now, there is a traditional music and dance show at the historic center tonight and this weekend I am planning on partaking in some of the traditional Samhain festivities. Apparently there will be a big bonfire and a turnip carving contest!
Slán go fóill,
I recently left my home off the coast of New Zealand and have been swimming for miles. I'm so excited to be starting a new adventure and to have the chance to visit so many wonderful places around the world. After a long swim I finally reached my first destination, but it took me a while to decide which route to take. I couldn't decide if I wanted to go west through the Indian Ocean and around South Africa into the Atlantic or swim east across the Pacific and around the tip of South America. I went with the former, because seas around the latter can be rough.
Although we are in the 21st century, I see a lot of historical remnants. The rich history has really taught me a lot. I visited this wonderful tower built in 1889. It was built for some sort of exhibition, but now it is a huge tourist attraction. There were also a lot of churches. Do you know what a flying buttress is? Between those and these weird creatures, they don't look like the churches where I come from.
I also got to visit some wonderful museums, but the arts aren’t really my thing. I was more excited to see Mickey. There was also a huge river that ran through the city. I wonder if they would let me swim down it, or would the Gendarmerie frown up that... hmmmm.
Hope you enjoyed hearing about my first stop. Can't wait to get to my next location!