As the top of the hour nears in Prague, crowds gather in front of the Astronomical Clock on Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) and wait for the show to begin — all in a ritual that’s happened almost daily for six hundred years of the clock’s life.
The first attention goes to the twelve apostles that emerge from the little window at the top. They go around in a circle as if to bless the hour. One level down in the zodiac section of the clock the skeleton rings the bell to measure our lifetime, indicating that we have one less hour of life. Around the skeleton, other figures representing the sins of vanity, greed and extravagance shake their heads, a humorous indication that they are not ready to go, ready to die.
But our personal favorite part of the Prague astronomical clock show occurs at the very end. Continue Reading »
Our alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 4:30AM. We were huddled together trying to stay warm against the freezing temperatures of the night in a rented tent that wasn’t quite meant for people of Dan’s height. The temptation to turn off the alarm and roll over instead of heading out into the frigid pitch of pre-dawn was difficult to resist. Under these circumstances, there’s always a danger that each waits for the other to make the first move.
It was the final morning of our trek in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. The previous five days, we’d survived wind storms that forced us to cling to mountainside shrubs. I’d suffered a mysterious spider bite that made my eye look like I just emerged from a heavyweight boxing match.
We were worn. No pain, no gain, they say. Fortunately, we’d been rewarded with mind-opening landscapes and trekking camaraderie that more than made up for it all.
And this morning’s trek would cap off six days’ effort with a sunrise view of the namesake towers, the Torres del Paine. Continue Reading »
We were on our way north, making the long return journey from south of the Antarctic Circle to our final destination in Ushuaia, Argentina. The captain announced that we would soon be going through the Lemaire Channel, a narrow passage strait in northern Antarctica framed by steep cliffs and icebergs.
Everyone aboard ship was invited on deck and to the bridge to appreciate the view. One of the benefits of our vessel, the G Adventures MS Expedition, was an “open bridge” policy that allowed, within reason and safety, visits with the captain and his crew during our journey. Once on the bridge, we took in the instrument panel, complete with various monitors, scopes and blinking bits. It didn’t take long to determine that the instruments indicated there was a lot more to the icebergs underwater than above the surface. Continue Reading »
When late afternoon falls and the day comes to a close in Southern Namibia, a ritual begins: the sundowner.
Prepare yourself by four-wheeling it to an overlook, high perch, or just about anywhere you can catch the sunset bathe the vastness of the Namibian desert landscape.
Then wait. Continue Reading »
The sun sets on another day in Udaipur, India. People gather at the lake’s edge to watch the day wind to an end and to take part in evening puja (prayers). This ritual, a daily cycle, elegantly pays reverence and homage to one day while preparing for the next.
As we move from reflecting on and closing out the past year to engaging in the new one, I thought of this ritual and scene from the beautiful city of Udaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Colorful, peaceful and connected to the rhythm of the days, the years, and life.
Open up the panorama to full screen to see for yourself. Continue Reading »
We edged toward the end of our road trip visit to friends and Christmas markets in the southern German regions of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. Our stomachs were full from days of Christmas market comfort foods, “fest” foods like spätzle, bratwurst, schupfnudeln and maultaschen.
We’d performed our research to determine which Christmas market served up the best experience, glühwein and all. But — if such a thing exists — had we reached Christmas market saturation point? Continue Reading »
It’s just past dawn and as the sun begins its arc, the Namib Desert sand dunes turn from tinted pink to deep orange. The contrast between the cloudless blue sky and the dune’s edge becomes a clear line in starkness. In this early morning, there’s a narrow window of time until the angle of the sun and the heat of the desert strip away the crispness and the vibrance in one of the world’s oldest deserts.
On the edge of that window, we arrive at Big Daddy Dune. Continue Reading »
Yazd, a historically Zoroastrian town and a sort of desert outpost that took in people fleeing persecution and wars in other parts of the country, is one of our favorite cities in Iran. Its old city is almost entirely built in brown-red adobe clay, helping to blend it into the surrounding desert landscape and to keep its building interiors cool.
Ones eyes adapt to this mono-color, after which the bright turquoise and intricate Persian Islamic design in the Jameh Mosque will make you feel like you’ve put on 3-D glasses. Gaze at the mosque’s designs long enough and they’ll dizzy you, pull you in and play tricks on your eyes as you try to discern the calligraphy, symmetry and symbolism buried within.
Open up the panorama below and take a spin around the almost 900-year old mosque, Continue Reading »
As we take off for Central America (this time to Costa Rica), we think back to our first visit to the region a couple of years ago: Antigua, Guatemala.
Although Antigua has a reputation for being touristy, we found that it wasn’t too difficult to get lost and find a slice of authentic Guatemalan life. One of our favorite places to do this: Antigua’s central market.
Walk past the front section of the market, past the souvenirs and freshly cut fruit intended for gringos, and just keep going back, back — deep into the market, maybe even into the adjacent back parking lot areas where on weekends vendors come from neighboring villages.
It’s beyond this first scratch where you’ll find it: real life. Open the panorama to full screen to see it. Continue Reading »
First day of our Markha Valley trek. We weren’t quite certain what to expect for the remaining six days of trekking through the Himalayas, but we were sure the following day would be steep and uphill, to 4,950 meters/16,200 feet. So on our first day on the trail we were relieved to find relative flatness, to lose ourselves in the red rocks of the canyon around us and to look off into the distance of the climb that awaited us.
Open the panorama to full screen to join us on that first day of our Markha Valley trek. Continue Reading »