On The Flight Path.

Another crazy round-the-world tour is at an end.

The first half of the year is coming to a close – and we’ve spent much of it on the move. Our travels have been pretty intense. We (TT, KA, me – EK – and others) began our latest globetrotting stint on 2 May. We’ve managed to do a lot of things, sometimes just to satisfy our curiosity, and we’ve heard some interesting tales along the way. It’s been useful, action-packed, and at times even mind-blowing.

Travel Celebrations

The route was as follows:

More: SVO-GVA-NAS-DFW-BNE-MLB-SIN-CTA-BLQ-FCO … OMG!

Flickr photostream

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A Very Old City.

Jerusalem, the Living City, is older than almost all others that have survived to the present day, older even than Rome, and a couple of millennia older than some of the world’s oldest cities. Only a few others can boast of such a history… the likes of Jericho, Babylon and Yerevan, for instance. But it’s surely true to say that Jerusalem is the oldest among the “big ticket” world cities, and as such it’s one of those places you have to explore at least once in this life. And it’s not just a place for strolling the streets – it’s worth descending underground, since the caves are now open for visitors. I was there recently – these are old sewage tunnels which were discovered not so long ago, enmeshing the whole city like a web. They are more than 2,000 years old!

Jerusalem Tunnels

More: Exploring the history …

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The Masada Fortress.

Finally, after years of dreaming, I got the chance to visit!

Masada is the name of a ruined ancient fortress on the top of a 450 m mountain on the Israeli shore of the Dead Sea. It is notorious for a legend of the mass suicide of a thousand of Jews hiding there from Roman troops. After the Jewish revolt against Rome (1st century AD), was suppressed and Jerusalem fell into Roman hands, a group of surviving rebels settled in the fortress together with their families. The Romans besieged Masada but failed to capture it protected by forbidding vertical cliffs. Besides, the food and water supply seemed set to last for years. In the end, the Romans made a huge embankment in the lowest part of those fortifying cliffs, rolled in a battering ram and broke through a wall. Having realized the hopelessness of the situation, the besieged Jews chose death instead of slavery.

According to legend, a dozen warriors were selected and charged with slaughtering the others – including women and children – before destroyed food supplies and burning down the wooden buildings. Amid the carnage, they drew lots and one was left to stab his comrades in arms and, finally, himself (thereby committing a great sin). That’s how the story goes, and the evidence suggests it’s true. At least the remains of the fortress and embankment remain to the present day, adding weight to the story. Archeologists have even found earthen bowls with names – maybe these were the very vessels used to choose which warrior would be left to slay his comrades and finally himself. For the rest of the story see here.

Masada

More: A legend or a history? …

Rome On The Run.

It’s years since I’ve had a tourist trip to Rome. I visit the Eternal City on business from time to time, but as a tourist … it’s been five, maybe eight years since I last had the chance. That’s why, having got a free day today, I decided to embark on a whistle-stop tour to stimulate my mind and stir my emotions, without wiping myself out in the process. I’d recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind spending six or eight hours on the go, always on their feet apart from a quick bite for lunch …

More: Rome On The Run.. . .

Tuscan Melodies.

Rides come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. On water skis, under sail, on horses, bikes, motorbikes, rollerblades… But for some reason what really gets my heart pumping are rides of the very fast kind in motor cars. And here I am – at the stage of the season of the Ferrari Challenge. Italy, Tuscany, the Mugello Circuit.

Ferrari Challenge? Let me give you a quick guide. It’s something between the German autobahns and Formula-1, and everyone’s in a Ferrari F458 Italia. This is what it looks like:

Ferrari F458 Italia

More: The roar of the Ferrari engines in Ferrari chassis …

Euro-Volcano.

There are hardly active volcanoes in Europe; well, not including those unpronounceable ones in Iceland, that is. Mainland European volcanoes are to be found only in Santorini in Greece and in Italy. And it’s of course Mount Etna that’s the champion in terms of height (but not necessarily on other attributes – Santorini is much more colorful and generally far more impressive to look at).

So, Mount Etna. It’s only a few hours from any point in Europe, so if any Europeans reading this still haven’t been to a real smoking volcano, Mount Etna’s for you for your first volcano visit. It’s always advisable to wait for the next eruption to ensure the experience is a maximally intense Magical Mystery Tour, but here eruptions are real frequent – so you shouldn’t have too long to wait. So off you pop – to Sicily!

The one con: they don’t let you get to the very top! Eh, what’s that all about? What a let-down! The wide area around the peak’s surrounded by a white rope barrier and you’re not allowed to cross it, so taking in the breathtaking fantastical landscapes here is possible only from a cordoned-off tourist viewing area well below the summit.

There’s an attendant pro though: it’s possible to step over or go around the “barrier”, and no one seems to keep watch so you can get away with it! Naughty!

Mount Etna

More: volcanic caves and Godfather background …

A Great Ocean Road Trip.

G’day!

The Great Ocean Road, Australia. I can now say I’ve been there, traveled that, got the… confirmation: it’s another must-see place in the world. And +1 to my list…

Great Ocean Road

So just what is the Great Ocean Road? Surprisingly, it’s a road. It’s also great, as in both great – super, and great – long; and it mostly hugs the ocean shore. It was built in the early part of the last century along a stretch of the craggy coast of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. It’s rich in heritage, incredibly curvy, and offers breathtaking views from the road itself and also just off it a little inland – you just need to leave the road a hundred meters or so to get extra special views at the right, marked places.

More: a two-way trip…

A 16-Hour Flight, and a Day that Never Was.

Flight Plan Map

Yesterday I set myself a personal record – my longest plane journey: 8575 miles, in just under 16 hours. The route we took is the third longest in the world at the moment, but bizarrely enough it doesn’t make the top-ten longest in terms of time taken to fly. It’s probably due to the wind over the Pacific Ocean assisting the plane and saving time (and kerosene). Info on the longest air routes in the world is here.

More: From Paradise Island to Surfers Paradise …