Category Archives: History

The Tunnels, Book Review

~K~

So a little while ago, we decided to try out this cool thing that Briana found called Blogging For Books. It’s pretty simple, they send you a book for free and then you just have to write a review about it and post it on their site and as a post on your blog.

The first book I chose was “The Tunnels” by Greg Mitchell. I was in no way required to give a good review, simply an honest review. So here we go.

The Tunnels brings to face the harrowing conditions and turmoil that Berlin faced through the height of the cold war. The stories of the individuals, brought to light by the investigative work of Greg Mitchell, highlights the heroics of the ordinary people who braved ever heightening tensions to bring friends, family, and loved ones out of the control of Soviet controlled East Berlin.

The narrative paints a picture of struggle and conflict simmering to a boil. Through the real life accounts of prison, torture, death, and murder – Mitchell keeps the focus squarely on those who orchestrated the tunnel projects under the Berlin Wall and the political developments that brought about the predicament.

The book also serves as an eerily relevant critique of immigration, as a political tool to control and deny people the basic rights of life. In a time when discussion of a new wall being erected sounds out on the news stations, this book serves as a chilling, thrilling, and informative read that stands to not only commemorate those who worked, fought, and died for others, but also as a warning to look at our current day situation.

neolithic settlement at choirokoitia cyprus

Choirokoitia Neolithic Site, Cyprus

~K~

Cyprus is home to several prehistoric sites across the island, with Choirokoitia being one of the largest, and best preserved sites. It also just so happened to be pretty easily accessible. It lies just off the highway about halfway between Limassol and Larnaka and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hill top at Choirokoitia

We made our way out to the site during the time that Briana’s dad was visiting us. Just like our other adventures out to Tomb of the Kings and Kurion, this would also turn into a hike. 

Being the middle of summer, it was really hot out probably somewhere in the mid to upper 90s so we made sure to bring a fair amount of water and we put on a little sunscreen. The site, like much of the island, is very dry, on the verge of being desert.

Cyprus Thistle

Upon arrival, we saw that the site was very well maintained with a visitor entrance, bathrooms, plaques, and some stone pavement. Entrance to the park cost 2.50 Euro per person, so it was not too bad a price.

Entrance
Entry Path

The site lies at one end of a longer hiking trail that will take you to several neolithic sites including the Kalavasos-Tenta (another site you can see off of the highway) and the Byzantine church of the Panagia tou Kambou. However, considering the heat of the day and the fact that the hiking trail was several miles in length, we elected to just see the Choirokoitia site.

This worked out perfectly anyways as we still were able to explore the site itself for around two hours at a leisurely pace. The entire site makes its way around a hill, with several smaller sections to view. Near the entrance, manicured paths take you to various plaques that describe how the aboriginals of Choirokoitia lived on the land as well as about the wildlife, climate, and habitat of the region.

Fig at Choirokoitia
Building at Choirokoitia

There are also several brick and plaster buildings that have been preserved and restored that you can view. These buildings show how family units would have lived, with each building serving as a room, arranged in a circular pattern forming a larger familial structure.

Restored Village
Interior of Restored Village

Moving on from here, the path turns more to a worn dirt trail and makes its way around the bend, overlooking what used to be a river. It could still be river, but it was hard to see if there was any water considering the drought. Regardless, in ancient times, the settlement existed due to it’s location next to the Maroni River.

Hillside

Along this section we found the remains of ancient walls and early settlements. It is believed however, that this particular site was later abandoned in favor of a location further up the hill by a few hundred feet.

Archaeological Trail
Wall at Choirokoitia

When we arrived the larger location we were struck by the enormity of the site. Numerous stone alleyways, rooms, and buildings stood embedded into the hillside. For preservation purposes, we were not allowed to go into the ruins themselves (which were covered by a tarp to protect from the harsh sun), but elevated walkways and ramps provided for ample viewing of the archaeological dig.

Upper Village Choirokoitia

The structure itself feels small due to the fact that the people of Choirokoitia were between 4’11” and 5’3”. The 300 to 600 inhabitants only lived to 35 years on average.

For reasons unknown, the people of Choirokoitia abruptly abandoned the village around 6000 BCE. The region was not inhabited again for another 1500 years. Recent evidence in Limassol has pointed though, to the theory that the people simply moved further west – mostly likely in response to climate pressures. 

Looking at the Restored village

At the top of the village there is a viewing platform that provides for a great view of the surrounding hills and valley.

All in all the site of Choirokoitia is a great place to see. It’s a little off the beaten tourist path that you’ll encounter near Pafos, but it’s no less amazing. If you want to visit, it is open daily from 8.00 – 17.00.

Neolithic Cave at Choirokoitia

Hungarian National Museum

~K~

Half way through our stay in Budapest, we decided that we were going to visit the Hungarian National Museum. The cost of Budapest tested our budget, so we tried to go on the national holiday, during which time the museums were free. We had first gone to the House Of Terror and expected to follow up with the National Museum, but we had severely underestimated how tired we would be from all the walking and just how much time we could spend at the House of Terror.

With time flying by, we decided that we needed to see the museum. We regretted not seeing the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, so with a little insistence and determination we got up and began the walk to the museum.

It was a pretty brisk day as we made our way. We set off just after lunch, covered up in our winter gear. The walk from our AirBNB took about thirty minutes, but the time passed quickly as we made our way down the busy roads.

HungarianMuseum_2

Entering the grounds, we were greeted by a large columned facade sitting atop a wide staircase. The building was reminiscent of a Greek or Roman temple. The museum was first created in 1802 and initially set up as the National Széchényi Library. In 1807 it became the museum and the Hungarian Parliament donated to the institution multiple times. In 1846, the museum relocated to its current location.

Briana on Steps of Hungarian Museum

Entering the building, we came into a large marble room. Here we purchased the tickets to the museum for 1,600 HUF (~$5.50) each. Because of the cold weather, we had obviously had our jackets on and were directed down to the basement to store our coats and backpack. The coat storage was pretty straight forward, and gave us a great place to begin our exploration of the museum.

The museum has a huge collection of gravestones dating all the way back to Roman times through to the Modern era. We went around the large basement room, checking out the headstones and stone carvings. In the center of the room was a very large tile mosaic.

Headstone
Kyle Near Tombstones
Large Mosaic

After the basement, we proceeded up to the main floor. Here we were able to learn about the paleolithic and early history of Hungary and the surrounding region. There was a heavy emphasis on the iron age and early migration of the Magyar people. I found it pretty interesting, and the museum presented the information very well. 

Bones at Hungarian Museum

Once we finished this hall, we visited the other hall on this floor. It was very interesting and started to get into the medieval history. So here we got to see more exquisite artifacts such as swords, royal jewelry, armor and other such things. We also got to see the influence of east Asian migrations. While it never occurred to me initially, it actually makes a lot of sense considering Hungary’s location on the continent that it would receive a fair amount of migration.

Ancient artifacts

The exhibition halls are very large and takes a pretty good while to get through. Once finishing the main floor, we proceeded up a grand staircase to the second floor. The ceiling of the staircase was painted with intricate murals.

Hungarian Museum Grand Stair

The second floor was even more interesting than the first floor, and it really had some interesting items. There were several rooms and halls on the floor to check out. We didn’t pay to see the special, temporary exhibition, but we did see the other halls.

Museum Hall
Portrait of a Noblewoman

These halls covered the more modern events of Hungary, particularly the Communist uprising and subsequent fall. The Terror Museum covered this far more in depth, but it was nice to have multiple perspectives and sources on such an important event in Hungarian history.

With tired feet, we made our way out and down the front steps of the museum. By this time, the sun had set and rain had begun to fall. We pulled out only remaining umbrella and set out to further explore the city.

To visit the museum, you can find it located at:

Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Hungary

It’s hours are: Tuesday through Sunday 10am – 6pm.

Kyle and Briana outside of Hungarian National Museum

Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade Serbia

~K~

It won’t take you very long to realize that Serbia takes great pride in it’s citizens. They’ve produced many great names, but there is one in particular that seems to stand a little above the rest – Nikola Tesla.

Bust of Nikola Tesla

One of the great engineers, physicists, and futurists in human history, Tesla has become beloved by the Serbian people. They love him so much they even stuck his face on the 100 Dinar bill (he was also featured on the 5 and 5,000,000 Yugoslavian Dinar bill). The airport in Belgrade is the Nikola Tesla Airport. Today, he is a little less known in America due to Thomas Edison stealing the limelight, but he’s no less important or relevant than he’s ever been. His name has been attached the electric car company “Tesla” in his honor.

In the heart of Belgrade, you can find the Nikola Tesla Museum. The museum was founded on December 5, 1952 with effort from Tesla’s nephew Sava Kosanovic. The museum resides in a residential villa that was built in 1927 according to the designs of distinguished Serbian architect Dragisa Brasovan.

Museum Entrance

The museum is divided into two key exhibits: a memorial exhibit and an interactive one. Upon entering the museum, you will find yourself in the main hall of the house where you can purchase your tickets for 500 Dinar (~$2.50).

When we entered, we had about twenty minutes until the guided tour would begin. While we waited for the tour to begin, we took our time exploring the memorial exhibit. The majority of this section was comprised of his personal belongings as well as his urn.

Urn Of Nikola Tesla

There was not a tremendous amount of information here, though there were a few interesting plaques. Most of it was simply his possessions and a few journal writings and the such.

Personal Items Collection

Tesla Museum Plaque
Tesla Museum Plaque

The real interesting part was the interactive tour. The tours run in both English and Serbian. It begins with an informative video presentation about Tesla’s life. It’s really pretty interesting, starting with his early life and working through his professional life. It briefly covers the most important Tesla’s 300+ patents, and spent a great deal of time detailing his work on wireless power and his Colorado Springs project.

Model of Colorado Springs Facility

He spent much of his time in the United States, working for Thomas Edison. Later, he worked on a wireless transmission tower, but when found out by his financier JP Morgan that he intended to provide free energy, his efforts were shut down. Many of his efforts did come to fruition though, such as the development of AC electrical generators and the building of the Niagara Falls power.

After the video, a tour guide went into further detail about some of the details mentioned in the video. As well, they demonstrated some of his inventions such as wireless transmission of energy.

Motor
Wireless Energy
Lightning Plate

The most interesting – and entertaining – was the demonstrations with the Tesla coil. It could shoot over 1,000,000 volts of electricity, but it was turned down to create cool little lightning bolts to shock people with.

Tesla Coil

The tour ended after about 45 minutes. The museum while a little on the small side, packs a nice punch and makes for a great short activity.

Invention Exhibit
Briana In Tesla Museum
Kyle In Tesla Museum

You can find it at Krunska 51, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.
Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Nikola Tesla Museum Belgrade Serbia, Tesla Coil Lightning

late afternoon october Belgrade Serbia Interior gun display of kalemagden fortress belgrade serbia

Kalemagdan Fortress Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

After a long walk from our AirBNB, we began our final approach through the well manicured, gently rising park to Kalemagdan Fortress. Sitting atop the ridge at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava river, the fortress has stood as the center of Belgrade since it was constructed by Justinian I in 535. The city had existed though since the 3rd century BCE as Singidunum. The fortress has remained an important icon to the history of Belgrade, standing strong through the mainly invasions and occupations of Serbia.

Kalemagden Statue
Kalemagden Front Gate

Passing through the flowered gardens, vendors with trinkets, and statues and busts of famous figures, the crisp wind of fall swept through the descending leaves and welcomed us into the massive stone entry. We were brought into an interior space filled with relics from the World Wars, most notably artillery, as well as recreational spaces. We proceeded on though, as were making our way to upper part of the fortress.

Kalemagden Park
Kalemagden Canons

This was not our first time at Belgrade Fortress, due to it’s location and size, it’s quite easy to make several trips to visit. We previously had ventured along the western side of the fortress, looking down upon the Sava and it’s moored bar / barges. The gardens that surround the fortress offer a great place to relax. It also offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Sava River

Our first foray into the fortress was from this western side, and presented slight difficulty as there was some construction going on. However, a quick climb put us right at the top and inner field within the fortress. We took a few photos, but as we’d already had a full day, we did not do a full exploration of the grounds.

Kalemagden Draw Bridge
Kalemagden Interior Home
Kalemagden Front Cliff

However, this time, we took a more thorough look around, and already knew what to expect and where to look. We were in search of the Ruzica church which we knew lay at the northeastern edge of the fort.

Kalemagden Ruzica Walls

We made our way out through the various bridges and fortifications of the massive fortress and eventually came out at one of the entrances facing the Danube. Jutting from the base of the walls was the Ruzica church. The church is small, but has a character to it. The chandeliers are made of the used bullet casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Kalemagden Briana In Ramparts
Kalemagden Side Gate
Kalemagden Cliff Gate Briana
Interior of Ruzica

Setting out from the church, we could see the sun was beginning to set on the Danube, and we made our way down the hill towards a small ruin. What it was, we don’t know, but the crumbling stone walls indicate it was of some importance to the massive fortifications above.

Kalemagden Grass Hills
Kalemagden Field Path
Kalemagden Ruins

Before night fell, we made our way out of the fortress compound on the north where a large manicured field lays.

Kalemagden Panorama

The region around and within the fortress houses a lot to do. There is the Belgrade Zoo, Fortress Exhibition, Gallery of Natural History, and the Monument of Gratitude to France.

Kalemagden Dino Park
Zoo Mural
Kalemagden Tennis Courts
Kalemagden Briana On The Ramarts

The Big Churches Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

Christian influence into the region we know today as Serbia began in the 2nd century. Byzantine missionaries in the 9th century promoted and spread the religion across the land, with Christianity being declared the state religion.

Over the years, the march of history has brought Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism to the region, but Eastern Orthodoxy and Serbian Orthodoxy reign supreme in the region at 84% of the population.

As such, you can find numerous churches across Belgrade (and the nation). We visited a few of the more notable churches and cathedrals. And needless to say, they are quite impressive. Here I am going to go over the three big ones that should be on your tour lists.

Church of Saint Mark

St Marks Cathedral

This church was the first place that we visited. Sitting at the north end of Tasmajdan Park, it is a stunning and imposing church dedicated to the Apostle and Evangelist Mark. It was originally built in the 1830s, but the new church, as you see it today, was built in 1940.

St Marks Cathedral

The exterior is made of two colors of naturally occurring red stone. The interior is a large room that rises to 60 meters (186 feet). There is highly decorated gold throughout the church.

St Marks Interior
Interior of St Marks

Though we only entered the church once, we passed by it numerous times on our way to other parts of Belgrade.

St Marks Alter
St Marks

Today, the remains of Tzar Dushan, a prominent figure in medieval Serbian history is buried beneath the church.

St Marks Plaque

Saint Sava Temple

St Sava

We came to the Church of Saint Sava multiple times during our stay in Belgrade. The surrounding grounds are large parks and fountains as well as a large library. The church stands as a dazzling centerpiece to the area. We attempted to view the library, however you cannot simply go in as a tourist. We were limited to a very small display of old books and bibles.

St Sava Statue
St Sava Park
National Library

In 1594, Serbs rose against the Ottoman rule, during which time they carried flags with the icon of Saint Sava. The Ottomans responded by taking the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Sava and brought them to Belgrade, where they killed anyone in their path and then burned the remains on the Vracar plateau.

St Sava Front

Three hundred years later in 1895, it was proposed to build a temple to St. Sava at the place of the burning. Construction began in 1905, but was delayed by the first and second Balkan War as well as World War I & II. Construction began again in 1985 and progress has slowly continued.

St Sava Candles

Today, the church is nearly complete. The exterior is finished, though interior work continues as decoration of the walls and dome take form.

St Sava Interior
St Sava Interior Arch

The church is organized in the form of a Greek Cross, with a central dome rising 80 meters, and four semi-domes at each arm. The facade is white marble and granite, and the interior will be mosaics once completed. The church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world by volume and is the largest in Serbia.

St Sava Murals
St Sava Interior Dome

Ruzica

Outside Ruzica
Ruzica Ivy

We visited the Ruzica Church at the base of Kalemagden Fort on the Danube. The original construction is not known, but the Ottomans destroyed the original church in 1521. It was later converted to a gunpowder magazine in the 18th century and then converted to a military church in 1867.

Ruzica Church
Interior of Ruzica

It was heavily damaged during the first World War and underwent renovations in 1925. Today, the church is decorated by chandeliers built from the spent casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Ruzica Chandeleir
Ruzica Lawn

Ho Chi Minh Museum And Mausoleum Hanoi

~K~

Ho Chi Minh played a large part in making modern Vietnam what it is today. As such, you’ll see him pretty much everywhere you go in Vietnam. He’s on every piece of money, has a city named after him, and numerous other little spots in honor of his name. In Hanoi, you can find his Mausoleum and a museum dedicated to him.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

While in Hanoi the first time, we made a trip into the old quarter and paid a brief visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh is considered a national hero, having led Vietnam to independence against the French and for establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After his death in 1969, work was put forward to construct a memorial to him. Work broke ground in 1973 and was completed in 1975.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The mausoleum, which sits at the center of Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, was rated the sixth most ugly building in the world by CNN in 2012 – but I believe this is a rather harsh statement to make. The structure is 70 feet tall,135 feet wide, and made of gray granite, inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow. The plaza in front is divided into 240 squares. Surrounding the structure is a garden holding 250 different species of plant and flower. The banner beside the structure says “Nuoc Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam muon Nam” – “State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam forever”.

We did not get to go into the mausoleum itself, because it was late in the day and you can only visit during the morning hours. But generally, you can see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh in the central hall of the mausoleum. There are strict rules however: be sure to cover legs, not have your hands in your pockets or arms crossed. No talking, walk in two lines. You also cannot eat, drink smoke, or take photography of any kind. They’re quite serious about paying respect to HCM in Vietnam.

The mausoleum is certainly a somber and imposing visit, but if you’re in the old quarter, definitely check it out. It’s hard to miss the big open space.

The hours are:8-11am Tue-Thu, Sat & Sun Dec-Sep, last entry 10.15am (closed 4 Sep-4 Nov).

After touring the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and it’s grounds, we stumbled across the Ho Chi Minh Museum by accident. They are located in roughly the same vicinity. But it was late in the day, and we weren’t really convinced on it either, so we didn’t go and decided we might come back another day.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Temple

During one of our last days in Hanoi, upon our return from Cat Ba, we decided to go see the museum since it was (kinda) within walking distance. The building sets the stage for what is to come, a large concrete building – imposing in the Soviet style and pretty much devoid of soul. Hello communism!

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Although everything online states that the entrance fee is 30,000 dong, it is really 80,000 dong per person (~$4). So right out of the starting gate, it left us with a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. When you enter, you start by walking up a rather grand staircase and begin the tour on the second floor. It begins with a rather dull, though informative exhibition on the development of the Vietnamese Communist party from it’s conception to present-day.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Entrance
Ho Chi Minh Museum Room 1

You then enter another exhibition regarding Ho Chi Minh and his early life as well as who he became. The exhibit is purely a highlight reel, and takes liberties with his life where things are vague. Apparently, he was awesome guy, and was the greatest thing that ever happened to Vietnam. Totally not propagandist at all. Still, it was more interesting to learn about the guy, he certainly had an impact on the country and instigated many programs and did build a national unity.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Room 2

Climbing up the next layer of stairs, you enter into an atrium with a grand statue of Ho Chi Minh. This room is probably the most inspired of the museum, and feels designed to show you that HCM is the big guy in country if you somehow missed it. Proceeding on into the remaining exhibition room, you do a complete walk around the entire floor. The floor is far more artistic and showcases the struggles of the Vietnamese people, while of course tying it back Ho Chi Minh. Some of the displays seem nonsensical, while others such as the clock showing time of death feel contrived. A few other displays just feel a bit pointless such as random journal writings from HCM.

Ho Chi Minh Statue
Ho Chi Minh Museum 3rd Floor

The museum as a whole is constantly trying to present this auspice of grandeur around the man. To most outsiders, it can come across as coarse and grating – it gets old after the 50th iteration of “westerners are bad, Ho Chi Minh said so”. It also left us a bit angry, seeing how overt the communist propaganda is within the country. The people are held back so much by their government, and the museum is a testament to it.

Ho Chi Minh Museum 3rd Floor

We finished the museum within about an hour and half. You take an elevator from the top floor down to the ground floor and are released into the gift shop. Our feelings as a whole – way over priced, not particularly interesting nor astounding. I’d say to not place it at the top of your activities list. However, with all that being said, it was enlightening in the sense that you got to see the living propaganda and how pervasive it is within Vietnamese life – and you do learn a fair bit about Ho Chi Minh (if you assume it’s true…).

Ho Chi Minh Gardens

If you want to go, the address is Chùa Một Cột, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam. Keep in mind that photography is strictly prohibited (although no one bothered us when we took a few pics) and that saying disparaging things about the Communist Party or Ho Chi Minh is illegal and can possibly get you into some trouble – so keep your voices low or wait till you’re out of earshot before voicing your “opinions”.

Ho Chi Minh Garden Flower

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Ancient Site Of Kourion

~K~

The ancient ruins of Kourion lie on a coastal cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, just west of the city of Limassol in Cyprus. Kourion is a top spot to explore while on the island, so we made a point to visit once my parents came for a visit.

Kourion Overlook
Kourion Overlook

The archaeological site lies within the Akrotiri West Sovereign Base Area, which is a part of British Overseas Territory today. But the site has existed as part of the inhabited Kouris River Valley since 5500 BCE, and remained settled through Roman and Byzantine times.

Kourion Site Overlook

Today, the ruins of Kourion (also called Curium) remain as an excavation site that you can visit year round.

We set out early morning to see the ruins and after about an hour’s drive from Dhoros arrived to the visitors center to the site. At the bottom of the hill, you will need to pay entry to the site, 4.50 Euro per person. The visitor center is small, but has a large topographical model of the ruins for you to view, as well as pamphlets – and the all important bathrooms.

Kourion Visitor Center

The first structure we came to, which was covered by a large awning, which gave a nice respite from the blazing sun, was the Baths and House of Eustolios. The complex is made up of over 30 ruins and is from the early fifth century. The house was built by the Eustolios as a bath for the patrons, and a large pool is in the center of the structure. The floors are highly decorated with marble and mosaics. It is assumed that the house was initially a private home, but later was made publicly-accessible.

House of Eustolios
House of Eustolios
House Of Eustolios
House Of Eustolios

As we made our way down from the House of Eustolios, we came to the Theater. Initially built in the 2nd century BCE, the theater underwent numerous renovations over the years and enlargements due to damage from earthquakes.

Kourion Theater

We used a corridor of the theater for an impromptu photoshoot as well.

Kourion Theater Posing
Kourion Theater Posing
Kourion Theater Posing

Down from the Theater, we came across a large expanse of ruined stone. This belonged to the Episcopal Precinct of Kourion. This was apart of the early Christian monuments in the area and consisted of a three-aisled church.

Kourion Episcopal Precinct
Kourion Episcopal Precinct

Somewhat connected, but just a little beyond the Precinct lay the Northwest Basilica and Coastal Basilica.

Kourion Bascilica
Kourion Bascilica

An older ruin, from the 3rd century BCE, is the Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates.

Kourion Ruins
More ruins lay a little bit farther down the cliff edge. So we made our way towards them. The day was pretty hot, and we were starting to get a little sunburned, but everything looked so cool we didn’t notice too much.

The Forum and Baths were our next spot, which were an interesting ruin to look at. There was an undressing room, warm room, hot room, and cold room for the baths. You could see how the water would flow from one pool to the next as the water would cool. It was constructed in the 1st century and then renovated during Trajan’s reign from 98-117.

Kourion Agora
Kourion Baths

We ventured further in search of the House of Achilles, but first came across the House of the Gladiators. It is debated whether it was actually a private residence or a public palaestra. However, the house receives it’s name due to it’s preserved mosaics depicting gladiatorial combats. These are the only such mosaics on Cyprus.

Kourion Gladiator House
Kourion Gladiator House

Finally, at the far end of the site, we came to the House of Achilles. It has been identified as a private residence. It contains mosaics of Achilles unveiling by Odysseus before the Trojan War.

Kourion House Of Achilles

On our return to the car, we came to the Earthquake house. The house is not of any particular importance, but it is well preserved and was destroyed by an earthquake.

At the Earthquake House
Kourion Earthquake House

The site as a whole is a wonderful half day trip, and is considered to be one of the best preserved and largest archaeological sites on Cyprus. If you want to visit:

September 16 – April 15 : 8:30 – 17:00
April 16 – September 15, 8:30 – 19:30

Closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday.
4.50 Euro entry per person.

Kourion Olives

 

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Paphos, Cyprus – Activities And Adventures

~K~

Paphos

The coastal city of Paphos lies on the the southwestern most shore of Cyprus. Easily reached via the A6 highway, it is a very direct route from the primary airport on the island in Larnaka, and is just under an hour’s ride from the major port city of Limassol. Paphos is also home to Cyprus’ second largest airport. The city is a bustling resort town that enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is considered to have the mildest temperatures on the island.

Paphos Lighthouse

The city is made up of two parts: Old and New Paphos. Old Paphos has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was the center of the cult of Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romio and various pre-Hellenistic fertility deities. New Paphos contains the modern buildings and resorts, as well as ruins and archaeological sites from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

We visited Pafos on two occasions during our stay on Cyprus: once on my birthday and another time with Briana’s dad while he was visiting us.

Paphos Waterfront

Waterfront

Paphos Waterfront

The Paphos waterfront is a lively resort area with numerous cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You’ll also find plenty of public “beaches”, or rather swimming spots. The waters surrounding Cyprus tend to lend themselves to go swimming, but often lack any sand but instead have large pebbles. In this case, there aren’t even pebbles, just a spot to jump in. We didn’t partake in any swimming, but dozens of swimmers were enjoying themselves.

Paphos Waterfront
Paphose Waterfront

We ate at two different locations on the waterfront. Once for my birthday, which had a pretty good basket of fish n’ chips, and a really strong Irish coffee. Generally I think of an Irish coffee as a bit of Bailey’s in the coffee, but they just threw in a bunch of whiskey on this one. The other place (Mar Bianco Cafe Bistro) was right along the main boardwalk with Briana’s dad who treated us to some wonderful Cypriot food. In both cases the food was plentiful, a trend we found across the entire island.

Meal At Paphos
Paphos Food

We also enjoyed a delicious smoothie from an ice cream shop on our first outing.

The famous Pink Pelican of Paphos Harbor will also make itself seen frequently, and has become a bit of a tourist attraction. While sadly not the original, you’ll find him most days at the Pelican Bar which is aptly named for the bird.

Pink Pelicans At Paphos

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle

At the very end of Paphos Harbor you’ll find the historical Paphos Castle. Originally built as a Byzantine fort, it was reconstructed in the 13 century after the earthquake of 1222. It was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 and then fortified by the Ottomans when they captured the island. The castle has served as fortress, prison, and warehouse throughout it’s long history guarding Paphos harbor, but today stands as a listed landmark.

We didn’t go inside while we were in Paphos, but we did take a few pictures of it. It is a little bit on the small side, but apparently well worth the visit. It costs 2.50 Euro to enter (at the time we were strapped for cash and were more interested in the Archaeological Site).

If you’re interested in visiting, the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Archaelogical Site Paphos

This was one of our favorite things that we did while on Cyprus. I chose to do this on my birthday after we dropped off the homeowners of our housesit at Paphos Airport. The Archaeological Site Paphos is just a few hundred meters north of Paphos Castle along the waterfront.

Ruins At Paphos

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast complex of monuments. Here we found beautiful and well-preserved mosaics in the House of Dionysus – the god of wine.

Mosaics At Paphos
Mosaics At Paphos

The house of Thyseus, named after a mosaic showing the Greek hero Thyseus fighting the Minotaur.

Mosaics At Paphos

The House of Aion and the House of Orpheus also contain great mosaics.

Mosaics At Paphos

The Roman Odeon stands as a well preserved amphitheater and is still used during the summer for musical and theater performances. The Hellenistic theater, a theater cut into the rock is also still used to this day.

Archaeological Site Paphos Amplitheatre

As well there are the remains of an Agora dating to the 2nd Century BCE and the Asklipion, a temple that served as a hospital named after the god of medicine.

Paphos Ruins
Archaeological Site Paphos

If you’re interested in visiting, it costs 4.50 Euro and the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Be sure to bring some water, it gets hot!

Tombs Of The Kings

Tomb Of The Kings

Another one of our favorites, and an awesome UNESCO site to check out located about 4km north of the archaeological site is the Tombs of The Kings. The tombs themselves are not actually of kings, but rather belonged to the rich aristocrats of the 4th century BCE through to the 3rd century CE.

Briana In A Tomb
Tombs Of The Kings

The tombs are carved and cut into the native rock. Some are more simplistic while others contain Doric columns and frescoed walls. All contain alcoves in which the dead were placed (though none now remain.)

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

The site is made up of 7 tombs spread out over a large area. Tomb 3 is the largest and most impressive of the tombs.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

We enjoyed climbing about through the stone caved ruins and trekking through the rough desert landscape.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings Stairs
Tombs Of The Kings
Briana At Tombs Of The Kings

Entry is 2.50 Euro and it’s hours are: 8:30am – 7:30pm year round.

Ayia Kryiaki Chrysopolitissa

Church

The Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Byzantine basilica on Cyprus. The church was originally 7 aisled, but due to damage throughout the years has been reduced and rebuilt into a 5 aisled church.

Church Ruins
Church Ruins

The church still operates today, but also serves as a historical site. Mosaics remain on display and can be viewed from the cat-walks that surround the standing building.

Church Ruin Mosaics

As well, you can view St. Paul’s Pillar, whether tradition states that Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.

St Paul's Pillar

The interior of the present standing church can also be visited. The church is smaller, but well decorated and contains many paintings.

Inside The Church
Brotherly Love
Panagia Theoskepasti 
This is another church, just a little down the road from Pangia Chrysopolitissa. We weren’t able to visit it, but it is still operating and can be visited during service. The church was built in the 10th century, and is today listed as a part of the greater Paphos UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original church was destroyed, unfortunately, but was rebuilt upon it’s foundations in 1923.
Church of Panagia Theoskepasti

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Vietnam Museum

Vietnamese Women’s Museum

~B~

According to a Vietnam tourism site, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is “one of Hanoi’s most overlooked museums and is also one of its best.” I have to agree. The museum was originally established in 1987, but has undergone a number of renovations since that time and had existed in its current state since 2010. It’s run by the Vietnamese Women’s Union and its purpose is to provide knowledge on the history and culture of Vietnamese women, including their role in the country’s past, present, and future. The union as a whole also seeks to promote gender equality.

When you arrive, there is a large open courtyard. To the left is the ticketing office, further up to the left is a special temporary display area/large room for the museum, and to the right is motorbike parking and a cafe/restaurant. Straight ahead is the main part of the museum. Pictured below: view of courtyard from somewhere inside the museum.

Vietnamese Women's Museum Courtyard

During the time we visited (March 2016), the first building on the left focused on women’s role in disaster relief and was pretty interesting! I think the exhibit may have been temporary but I’m glad we got to see it. The area provides information on recent natural disasters in Vietnam and how disasters affect men and women differently.

Disaster info room

One board told us that (according to a study by the London School of Economics), as a result of inequality, women and children are 14 times more likely to be injured or killed during a disaster. It provided examples such as the 2010 Pakistan floods (seventy percent of the 18 million affected were women and children). The study found that disasters have greater long-term impact on the health, learning, and livelihood of women. In a recent cyclone in Myanmar, over half of those killed were women and almost all women lost their primary income source. The large room also provided examples of how they manage with what they have, such as making lamps out of beverage cans.

Tools or something

Though I don’t remember hearing about them on the news, there were two Typhoons in 2013 which were pretty devastating for the people of Central Vietnam. Additionally, in January of this year (2016), Northern Vietnam experienced a record breaking cold-wave which killed thousands of livestock and crops. It also impacted forest there. Obviously climate change is mentioned as a likely culprit.

The frost 2016 VN

As of late, there has been funded training for women to learn to deal with such disasters. Many Vietnamese don’t know how to swim and the training provides/provided them assistance in learning how to swim, administer first aid, and more. It left many of the women feeling more confident and the education appears to have been very helpful. One woman was quoted as having told others in a certain area to change their crops from rice to lotus which more than quadrupled their profits.

At the time we visited (March 2016) they had another interesting temporary exhibition as well: a Comic and Cartoon contest.

Vietnamese WOmen's Museum Temporary Exhibit

This one was just outside of the main museum building. The theme was “Gender Equality: Picture it!” and the contest was organized jointly by Belgium and the UN Women Viet Nam and was originally launched November 25 2015 (International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women) with the 40 winners displayed March 1-10, 2016. It was a really neat display and while I would like to post all/most of the comics, I will just limit it to a few.

Poster Exhibit
More Equality Posters

The sign which provided the information on the contest also contained some facts about gender (in)equality in Vietnam. Over half of ever-married Vietnamese women experience some form of violence from their partner in their life, but only one percent of these cases lead to a conviction. Nearly ninety percent of women have experienced public harassment in public places. Of course, unfortunately, these numbers are not terribly far off from the rest of the world. In fact, according to this article, 100 percent of women in France say they are harassed using public transportation alone. You can find more on street harassment statistics here, and, if you would like to compare, you can also check out the 2010 CDC report on Intimate Partner Violence in the US which reports on violence experienced by both men and women.

Gender Poster
Gender equality posters

The poster also mentioned that a significant sex ratio imbalance in Vietnam (favoring males) has presented itself in recent years which is problematic and is likely responsible for more human trafficking and forced marriages. One in ten girls in Vietnam experiences child marriage. There has also been a recent decline in the political representation of women in Vietnam. One problem in Vietnam is the very deep-seated corruption at every level. We have some issues in the US with corruption, but it is not quite like Vietnam. There is also a growing problem with alcoholism in Vietnam which tends to be associated with abuse. You can see this featured in some of the displays.

Gender Equality Poster

Now to the main building! The main building of the museum is five stories tall and needless to say, we ended up spending quite a bit more time there than we originally anticipated. Honestly, we could have spent even more time examining the exhibits better if not for us getting so tired and hungry and my toe hurting.

There are three primary themes/galleries: Women in History, Women in Family, and Women’s Fashion. I wasn’t really aware of this going in and didn’t think that all of the exhibits were tied strongly to one of these categories, but we also saw a couple of other exhibits which may have been temporary as well. The categories are also divided further (such as by time period). All exhibits provide text in Vietnamese, French, and English. Through exploring the museum, we learned about women in Vietnam and their roles over time. We learned about family life in Vietnam, including interesting aspects of marriage, childbirth, surnames, customs and traditions, and more over time and among different ethnic groups.

For example, the Viet, Yao, Bru-Van Keiru, Ma, Hoa, and a few other populations are patrilineal meaning men are more important and privileged. There are also some matrilineal societies, though, including the Ede, Jarai, Churu, and Raglai, among others. Among these groups the wife’s name is taken, girls inherit wealth (with the youngest girl being the “most privileged”), and the oldest woman in a family has a “decisive role in family affairs.” Girls are preferred as children.

In the past, families were sometimes polygamous, but now monogamy is the norm. One board on marriage (hon nhan) reads: “Wife and husband are as inseparable as a pair of chopsticks.” Marriage used to be arranged, but today people have more freedom in choosing a partner. When it comes time for marriage, there are a number of rituals which sometime includes consulting fortune tellers in order to determine the best days for their engagement and wedding rituals. The Viets look for the “most auspicious timing” for a wedding date. The couple get married in the groom’s house and then live there afterwards. Among one ethnic group (the Sinhmun) the couples would have a first ceremony and then stay with the bride’s family and have a second ceremony eight or nine years later over at the groom’s family (pretty different)! Among the Taoi, people were required to file their top 6 teeth prior to getting married. We also learned about gift-giving and other customs. Don’t worry, there is plenty more to read about if you go there.

In addition to their familial roles, we learned about women’s role in work and war. We had learned some about the significant role of Vietnamese women in war efforts from our visits to the Cu Chi Tunnels, the War Remnants Museum (still need to write about this one) and the Hanoi Hilton/Hoa Lo Prison but learned a little more here as well.

War Posters

In one area we found a tool the women used to grind rice and flour. We struggled with it a bit. These two older American men who we think may have been veterans (also possibly a couple) encouraged me when I was struggling with it. They asked where we were from and seemed disappointed when we said Florida. They were from the northeast. We wished we had engaged them more but were just a bit shocked/excited to find someone else from the US (as almost everyone else we had heard/encountered at this point seemed to be French with a few Brits, Australians, and other Europeans mixed in).

Tool

The fashion section was quite large (an entire floor). We saw jewelry and clothing, both special and regular wear, from different ethnic groups and different time periods. We enjoyed looking at all of it and learning the purpose of the clothing.

Vietnamese dress
Vietnamese Clothing
Special VN clothingPink dress

The top floor was closed when we visited and I’m not sure what was inside (if anything), but other exhibits we saw were on topics such as music and religion.

Vietnamese Religion

One area displayed information on mother goddess worship (the oldest religion in Vietnam). One board read: “In the mother Goddess worship, women are the centre of the universe, looking after all four regions: heaven, earth, water and mountains and forests. Unlike other religious beliefs, worshippers find their expected desires and happiness right here in their current life. By following the Mother Goddess, their spiritual needs are satisfied.”

VN religion

There were a few areas throughout which also contained films/videos to watch (worth watching).

In the gift shop we bought one of our first souvenirs while traveling (a cat picture)! They also have old propaganda posters and things of that nature if you’re interested. We didn’t try out the cafe because I didn’t see any vegetarian food but as we were starving from staying much longer than we anticipated, we did look for a place to eat after we were done and what do you know, we found a Loving hut (a vegan restaurant with locations worldwide) right across the street from the museum. Surprisingly, it was a new and an interesting experience which should be its own post, though (or at least combined with the other Loving Hut we visited in Hanoi).

Visit and you will learn not only about the women of Vietnam, but about Vietnamese culture and history as a whole.

Here’s the info:

Address: 36 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam (see: http://baotangphunu.org.vn/Vi-tri-bao-tang/)
Hours: 8am-5pm Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays)
Admission: 30,000 VND (~$1.34)