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Tag Archives: must see

Underground Jerusalem

I have read and heard a lot about the about the excavations in Jerusalem, around the Holy Temple and under its walls. I have seen the pictures, licked my lips in anticipation but I only managed to visit the ruins of the city and one of the newly discovered tunnels (not the main one though) that runs under the Western Wall.

Then all of a sudden – a surprise!

Down the stairs, under the ground, from level to level, from floor to floor. How many of them have not been excavated yet?? Along the Roman cobbles, under the 700-year-old Turkish renovations, along the ancient walls of the Temple. Wow! I never even dreamed of it – but it really happened!

Underground Jerusalem

What is hoary antiquity for New York, is just last night for Jerusalem…

Onekotan: None better than.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason volcanos are my fave natural phenomena.

I’ve clambered up scores around the globe, and seen even more from up above in helicopters – more again from the side. The views they all provide are just breathtaking. Santorini, Mount Fuji, Gorely (before the eruption), Mutnovka, Ksudach… I’ll have to tot them all up one day.

All volcanos are unique in their own special way, and each is beautiful in its own special way, so to compare and rank them is no simple task.

However, now I know which volcano tops my list of the best of the best.

Easy: it’s the Krenitsyn volcano on the Kuril island of Onekotan. It’s also a rather exclusive volcano – just for the more discerning connoisseurs of volcanism; after all – it doesn’t even have its own Wiki page in English :).

The views it has in store are absolutely magical.

The almost perfectly round caldera is colossal – stretching seven (7) kilometers across. Inside the caldera there’s a correspondingly capacious lake, out of which peeps the cone of a new volcano (height 1324m). The volcano’s surrounded by the sea on all sides; the lake’s at a height of around 400 meters above sea level, and its depth is about 200 meters. That’s the basic run-down of this fantastical phenomenon of nature.

Kuril islands, Krenitsyn volcano

Read on: The view from up above is also impressive…

Gobsmacked on Kunashir.

Besides cha-cha, on Kunashir island there’s still plenty to check out…

…Ludicrous lava columns on the coast, the fantastic fumaroles of Mendeleyeva volcano, and the magnificent mud baths in Golovnina’s caldera, for example. Bathing in a 30°С muddy lake didn’t quite do it for me, but the volcanism of Mendeleyeva – especially the lava columns there – now that was something else. Quite simply gobsmackingly unforgettable.

Kuril islands

Read on: Basalt columns on Kunashir – breathtaking!…

Island No. 14: Ushishir.

Just a month ago I was unaware of one of the most amazing, enchanting and photogenic places on the planet. Now I know. The place I’m talking about is Ushishir.

“Ushishir?” you ask. What’s that? A distant relative of Yorkshir? A cousin of Middle-earth’s Shir?

No, silly. It’s an old volcano with a caldera that’s collapsed down to sea level. A volcano bay.

The best place here for visual meditation is up on the top of the edge of the caldera. The bay itself inside the island is pure eye candy. Then there are waves coming in off both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk on the outer sides. It’s a place where you can just sit and stare at the surroundings for hours, and the higher you get up the sides the better – it’s sure worth the climb.

Kuril islands, Ushishir

No Photoshop enhancements needed. Well, just a bit maybe

Read on: An extraordinary place. Unique. Totally recommended…

Having a ball in Nepal.

How many timezones does the world have?

On being asked that question many will come up with the perfectly logical answer of 24. After all, that’s the number of hours in a day. But they’d be wrong! Yep, in all there are quite a few more than 24… There are actually 39 time zones! In a handful of countries the local time differs from the respective ‘geographical time zone’ (of which there are 24) – by half an hour (like in India, Iran and a few others) or even by 45 minutes – like, for example, in Nepal. Here the time difference from London is +4 hours and 45 minutes! These offsets are the reason for there being 39, not 24 time zones.

Last week, I was here in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal!

Nepal, Katmandu

Read on: the country of the Buddha, the Himalayas and Everest…

Isn’t it good, Norwegian fjord.

I’ve made up a list of what I feel are the Top-100 Must-See Places in the World. Number 45 in that list is ‘Norwegian fjords’ – and the entry under it says ‘Haven’t been’. But that was before last weekend. Now it needs amending to ‘Been there, done the akvavit’.

Norwegian Fjords

Read on: Turquoise water running down the cliffs…

The rainiest city in Europe. Allegedly.

According to various sites on the Internet, Bergen is the wettest, rainiest city of the European continent. Don’t believe a word of it! Me and some pals were in the city just recently and in all the three days there not a single drop of rain fell on any of us. In its absence was a preponderance of sun – so much so that our cheeks became redder than the king prawns on offer in the Bergen fish market (see pic further below).

And probably up to 200 kilometers away there was nothing but clear sunny skies too, save for a few fluffy clouds. Only on the horizon did there sometimes appear something reminiscent of light rain. The locals were also fairly amazed too – they’ve never known such rain-free summery days here ever!

Bergen, Norway

Read on: fish appetizer, fish main dish and a desert …

Ice axe allergy.

Hi all!

You’d be a fool not to climb Mount Fuji. Doubly so to climb it twice.

~ A traditional nugget of Japanese wisdom

I agree: to be in Japan and not go up the most beautiful mountain in the country – that’s just silly. But to do it again is also pretty bonkers. I wonder if a third ascent would cancel out the madness? Hope so, because last Saturday was my second climb up Fuji!

Mount Fuji Japan

Fuji from below…

Mount Fuji Japan

…and from the top!

Read on: Fujiyama or Fuji-san?…

3, 2, 1… liftoff!

At last! Another dream of mine has come true – to see a spaceship take off! Hurray!

Last week it left Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and by the weekend it had already reached the International Space Station and docked. The crew’s made up of two Russians and one American – which perhaps explains why around town and in our hotel much American-accented English was to be heard.

We watched the liftoff from about two kilometers away, which might seem a long way off. But it isn’t. This isn’t U2 playing a stadium where being at the back is almost a waste of time and money… This is the Baikonur experience. The power generated by the massive rocket engines shook everything around so much it felt like an earthquake was occurring at the same time as the liftoff. Rather unnerving.

Baikonur Space Launch Center

The spike on the top means the ship’s manned; if it was without one, it would mean no crew – an unmanned remote-controlled cargo mission

Read on: Baikonur from inside…

Patagonia: Pata-utopia.

Jules Verne, fat adventure novels, In Search of the Castaways, Paganel and Patagonia

Such childhood reminiscences are indelibly etched somewhere in the deeper recesses of my memory. I always conjured up images of mysterious countries in far-flung corners of the world, all exotic and unusual… but always beautiful.

Turns out those images were pretty accurate. For four decades later I found myself in Patagonia on a hiking trip, and if I was only allowed one word to describe the place, it would not be difficult choosing it: beautiful.

We wound up there after having a few free days left over after our visit to Brasília. And since that visit was a culmination of non-stop mental effort and oratory exertion, the timing was just right for some serious back-to-nature getting-away-from-it-all with lashings of fresh mountain air.

Of course, the whole of Patagonia can’t be checked out in just a few days as it covers such a massive territory. Still, we did manage to experience one of the most precious jewels in the Patagonian crown – the Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres del Paine National Park

Read on: 120 km in 5 days…