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!
Tag Archives: must see
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.
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!
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…
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.
A little bit about… not our taking Orizaba by storm, but the storm taking us away from Orizaba!…
We were just blown away – almost literally, and so didn’t make it to the top of Pico de Orizaba – the highest mountain in Mexico. Conditions were just too outrageously extreme, and stayed that way for the whole time we were there.
With three events (Security Analyst Summit, international press tour, and IT-security industry analysts’ conference) in Cancun over and done with (which completed the last leg of more than three weeks on the road at conferences, etc., etc., etc. all around the world), and the very last guests all having left, a little nostalgia was already setting in for the great times we had in the place… everything was just so very positive, interesting and fun – especially the evenings; extra-specially the Mexican Yucatan nights – yee-ha!
So let me tell you a little about the three ‘best bits’ – what you really must see in Yucatan if you ever get the chance to visit the place.
A few pieces of advice: in Rio Secreto it’s better to leave your camera outside the cave – otherwise it’ll just get ruined down there from being submerged in water. But not to worry – every group of visitors to the caves is accompanied by a photographer who knows exactly how to keep his camera dry above water level. There are three different routes in Rio Secreto – all taking approximately 90 minutes to complete – at first by foot, then up to one’s knees in water, then swimming, then… just anyway, anyhow, as best you can :)
Indeed, a massive ‘big up’ to Rio Secreto . And I recommend buying one of the CDs with photos at the exit – the CDs contain great pics of both underground and surface scenes, plus ones of all the wildlife to be found in the caves.
For Chichen Itza you need to take camera equipment, bathing suit, plus towel – that’s about all you need for a great day’s chillage there.
It goes without saying that all the touristy spots are lined with densely packed stalls hawking the inevitable mass consumption tat. “Onnly van dullaar, senyor!”
The pics below show where the Mayas played their ancient version of basketball. Legend has it that one of the teams in the final after the game would be sacrificed for the gods. Which team wound up dead after the match – the winning or losing one – is not known: scholarly opinion is divided on this.
Swimming in Cenote Ik-Kil is one of the most magical swims in the world! The purest water, at the perfect temperature, at the bottom of a kind of deep sinkhole with long dangling plants hanging from high above. I really recommend it. One problem though is that it’s tricky taking good photos there – it’s quite dark below and very light above L.
That’s all folks! And now, for several days I’m going to be in full offline regime, somewhere here:
The rest of the photos are here.
If you’ve been following these posts for any length of time at all, you’ll have gathered that I travel a lot. A real a lot! So much so that towards the end of the year I even have to put the brakes on a bit and simply say “nyet” to my colleagues who want me here, there and everywhere – otherwise I’d be ejected from the list of proud Russian citizens who pay Russian taxes :) However, at least once a year I indulge myself with a sightseeing-only trip. Yep, no business at all. Well, except for the teambuilding with the guys who help me getting there.
You won’t believe it, but I’m in Dubai… again!
This time we held our annual European Partner Conference at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel, on the beach of the iconic Palm Jumeirah. More than 100 partners from all over Europe worked hard for two days – and played hard at Ferrari World in neighboring Abu-Dhabi.
“I was supposed to travel to a small Muslim country, but here I see no less than Manhattan!” said one guy in the party, blinking in amazement. “Dubaihattan,” I corrected him.
Hi everyone! Here we are with a where, what, and why.
Macau. One of the two pretty much autonomous Special Administrative Regions of China, the other being Hong Kong.
Here they have their own laws and rules and their own currency, but in casinos it seems they only accept Hong Kong dollars. Talking of casinos… Macau really is the Chinese Las Vegas. It even looks like Vegas – skyscraper luxury hotels, countless garish casinos, where nothing ever closes. Put another way, a concentration of depravity!
To get there, first you need to get to Hong Kong. From there it’s straight from the airport with no passport check 45 minutes on the ferry. Once in Macau it’s 100 yuan ($15) for your visa, and off you go…
Since I got to see nothing there apart from the hotel (we were having a partner conference there), I was able to only take a few photos.