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mtview

The new mountain

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General information board

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The whole area is also called a GeoPark

One of Japan’s Youngest Mountains

Most people know that Japan is a country that has many earthquakes and volcanoes—after all, it’s on the Pacific Ring of fire—and is a geologically very active, and unstable, part of the world. The whole country is on the Pacific Rim, including the northern island of Hokkaido. So, on our last visit to Hokkaido it was fascinating to visit a new mountain, to see these forces of Nature at work. We had a chance to see how that activity has worked—a new mountain that pushed up, and for all we know is still growing.

Hokkaido has had a lot of volcanic activity, and you see many conical mountains that are supposedly dormant, and not extinct. One day, our hosts Satoshi and Max took us on a day trip south from Sapporo to visit the evidence of new volcanic activity.

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Special National Monument SHOWA SHIN-ZAN

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We can walk up fairly close to the base of the new mountain

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View from one of the shopping areas and where the ropeway begins

In the south part of Hokkaido is Shikotsu-Toya National Park, which includes Showa Shinzan Special National Monument and Mount Usu, among other sights.

We went to the Showa Shinzan Special National Monument, just off Lake Toya. Lake Toya is a caldera lake created by a major volcanic eruption tens of thousands of years ago. Around the lake today is a hot spring region, with many spa facilities, and fertile soul for agriculture. There is also Showa Shinzan, sometimes called the “natural volcanic museum”. It’s a volcanic lava dome, next to Mount Usu. The story of this mountain shows that volcanic activity around here continues and it’s a hot spot for volcanic activity. And it’s a pretty amazing story.

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The mountain is still smoking

The name Showa Shinzan means Showa new (shin) mountain (zan), as it formed during the reign of Emperor Hirohito, in the Showa period. The mountain was created between December 28, 1943 and September 1945. Initially a series of strong earthquakes shook the area from December 1943-June 1944 and wheat fields were uplifted. Next came the eruption phase, which lasted between the end of June 1944 and the end of October 1944, when lava broke through the surface. Lava reached the banks of Lake Toya, burning houses and forests in its path. Volcanic ash was deposited kilometers away, and the protuberance in the ground continued to grow. In the post-eruption phase (November 1944-September 1945) eruption activity stopped and the lava dome began to take shape and the current peak was created. It is now 1,306 ft (398m) tall and still actively smoking and gently steaming, so who knows what’s coming next!

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No doubt that this is still active!

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The board is rather damaged and not clear, but you can still see one of the postmaster’s diagrams

Showa-shinzan first appeared during WW2 so the Japanese authorities were worried that it might be interpreted as an unlucky wartime omen, and therefore its existence was kept secret. Much of the information about the peak’s formation during these years comes from local postmaster, Masao Mimatsu, who kept detailed measurements of its progress. Those records are very important, with lots of geological information.

It was really interesting to see the new peak, smoking, and giving off a faint sulphur smell. The top of the new mountain is still barren: vegetation only starts growing slowly from the base. It’s a very pretty park, as there are woods below the mountain with many silver birch trees and plenty of bright green bushes. The day we were there the new mountain, reddish-orange in color, was glowing in the sunshine, so the view was like a landscape painting. Interestingly, the colors of the mountain changed a bit, depending on the vantage point and on the light, so sometimes it seemed more reddish and at others more yellowish.

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Very pretty woods

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Max shows us an Ezo deer at the Visitors’ Center

There is a small Visitors Center to one side, with information on the development of this whole area. We were also fascinated to learn about certain animals that are unique to Hokkaido. Ezo is the old word for Hokkaido so these animals are known as Ezo higuma (bear), Ezo lisu (squirrel) and Ezo shika (deer), for example.

Lining the carpark are many small shops selling curios, souvenirs etc.

A ropeway takes you from near the foot of Showa Shinzan to the top of Mount Usu, with great views out over the area and the lake, but we didn’t do that.

Thanks again to Satoshi and Max for being such wonderful hosts!

 

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We saw many pelicans

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Merida has many interesting street signs

waterBEACH, BIRDS, AND BYGONE CITY

If you don’t fancy the crowds along the Maya Riviera, on the Caribbean coast south of Cancun, Mexico, a great alternative is to use Merida as a base. This pretty Colonial city on the northwest of the Yucatan Peninsula is within easy distance of many famous Mayan sites (Chichen Itza and the Puuc Route, with Uxmal), the northern biosphere, and good sand beaches.

On this daytrip, we went to Progresso for the beach, the sea, and the sun; to Uaymintun

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Progresso beach

for the lagoon and flamingo viewing; to Xtambo for a Mayan ruin and more flamingoes. We returned to Merida on side roads, passing through typical small Yucatecan villages.

We decided on this as an alternative to flamingo viewing at the Celestun Park to the west. On a previous visit to Celestun we felt concerned at how the tourist boats on the estuary are disturbing the birds, especially the flamingoes. Another plus—this way is free.

We drove north out of Merida on Paseo Montejo, noting the richer colonial side of the city, with wide streets, mansions and shopping complexes, and even a Sams Club!

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Part of the lagoon—if you look closely there are a few flamingoes there

Progresso, Merida’s port, is about a 30-minute drive, past a huge abandonned henequin factory (which produced ropes, mats etc), evidence of the previous wealth from this crop; and Dzibilchaltun, another ruined Mayan city with an excellent museum of Mayan history. It’s a worthwhile stop if you’re interested in the Maya. The site also has the famous House of the Seven Dolls, and an interesting cenote (steep-sided natural well.)

Progresso has progressed, compared to our visit four years before. Parking is plentiful along the esplanade, rebuilt after the hurricane a few years ago. All the usual tourist facilities line the esplanade, in a scaled-down version compared to the Caribbean coast, and we found it much more pleasant. A wide sand beach, with beach chairs, palapa huts, and beach restaurants, looks out over the calm blue water, tiny waves lapping.

After a swim, and lunch at one of the beach restaurants, we headed out east along the

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Beautiful birds

coastal road, palm trees on one side, stubby salt-flats bush on the other. There’s a string of development in the narrow strip between the sea and the biosphere, mostly brightly-painted houses, some holiday flats and hotels.

We followed the coastal road to Uaymintun, a small village with a tall wooden lookout tower over the lagoon; a great way to see part of the lagoon and biosphere preserve and do bird-watching, especially with binoculars. (The lookout tower is free, but you can rent binoculars there). The biosphere extends for hundreds of kilometers: lagoons, shallow lakes and waterways with small islands and mud flats. Scores of flamingoes were walking in the shallow water, many still bright pink even though this wasn’t nesting season. We saw many other birds too, including pelicans.

A few miles further on, the sign for Xtambo ruins is on the right. The drive is along a miles-long causeway over the lagoon with views of an amazing number of birds, especially flamingoes. The road is not busy, so stopping is easy. What a marvelous place for viewing and photographing birds in their natural environment: pelicans, oyster catchers, sandpipers, cormorants, white herons, blue herons, turkey buzzards.

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Xtambo

Xtambo ruins are just off to the right after the lagoon, along a narrow dirt road between tall grasses and stubby trees, swampy areas just to the side. The name means “place of the crocodile”, and we could easily imagine there might be a crocodile in there somewhere!

These Maya ruins are bigger than we expected, and much still remains to be excavated. It was a salt distribution center, reaching its peak around 600AD. The bases of two large structures are in a clearing before the main ruins: the low Pyramid of the Cross, and other buildings around a courtyard. All are grey stone, with little visible ornamentation now other than some stone masks. Xtambo was important as the port for Izamal, a bigger town inland, which was far away for people in those days. We’d known that the Maya traded, but did they travel by sea?

There were no other visitors, so we rambled happily around at will. The structures are not

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A mix of Mayan and Catholic beliefs

remarkable, compared to Chichen Itza, for example, but it’s an interesting little site. Of note is the small Catholic Chapel of the Virgin at the base of the temple, built 50-plus years ago after the Virgin of X’Cambo appeared here, showing us that old and new beliefs can co-exist. The view out is to scrubby palm trees and swamp, rather than jungle, but it’s completely isolated, giving us a real feel for what it must have been like thirteen centuries ago.

On smaller roads south back to Merida, prolific vines are creeping over almost everything, and the jungle encroaches on both sides of the road. It’s not hard to see how they could ‘eat up’ the area again. We passed through a number of villages, all arranged around a central square. This can be hazardous driving. Topes (speed bumps) slowed us down, but people walk along the road, or ride bikes, or pull carts loaded with firewood. Children play in the unpaved streets lined with banana trees, and animals wander at will. Huts with thatched roofs, or low houses with tin roofs and faded, chipped paint, are in dusty yards, with washing draped on fences, pigs tethered to small papaya trees, mangy dogs prowling under acacia trees, and a group of kids playing in the dirt, their noses running.

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Scrubby jungle around Xtambo

This is local life, as it really is, not a sanitized version for tourist viewing. We felt privileged to see this natural version of life in rural Yucatan.

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Merida’s cathedral—one of the oldest in the Americas

PRACTICAL INFORMATION—MERIDA:

Given the sometimes-poor state of the roads, this is more than enough in one day. Start early, especially if you want lots of swimming time. There are gas stations in Progresso, but not on the smaller roads.

Picking up a rental car at Merida airport is very easy. The airport has a Tourist Information desk and an ATM for cash. The best Tourist Information Office is on Calle 60 in town, on the edge of Parque de la Maternidad, two blocks north of the main square (see below). General information at www.travelyucatan.com/merida_mexico.php

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Balloon sellers are popular on the main square

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Traditional Yucatecan dancing

DSCF0045.JPGPlaza de la Independencia, the center of downtown Merida, is a green oasis. On Sundays, the streets around it are closed, so everyone can enjoy the bustling Sunday market, and free music concerts and traditional Yucatecan dancing. Don’t miss the huge cathedral, and the Governor’s Palace, with a series of enormous, strikingly colorful, abstract murals by Fernando Castro Pacheco of Merida, depicting the history of the Yucatan.

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Part of the colorful Merida market

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Many tasty tropical fruits

The Anthropological and Historical Museum on Paseo Montejo has an excellent, although small, collection of ancient Mayan artifacts.

Around the main plaza, and Park Hidalgo—another square one block north—are many restaurants, food stalls, bars, and coffee shops (most with internet connections).

Merida has many hotels in all price ranges. Two of our favorites (with swimming pools, and parking facilities offered) are Hotel Dolores Alba, with rooms arranged around the courtyard of a restored colonial house

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Imagine a hotel in a lovely old Colonial building

(www.doloresalba.com); and Gran Hotel, a grand 100-year-old Italianate building on Park Hidalgo. Tel: +52 999-924-7730, fax +52 999-924-7622, www.granhoteldemerida.com.mx

Friends stayed at Hotel Colonial and were very satisfied, www.hotelcolonial.com.mx (in Spanish)

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Variety of chile peppers

 

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chickencrowingWe found Ybor City, Florida, really interesting for 4 main things: the old cigar stores and stories; the Columbia Restaurant; the World Trade Center Memorial; and a fairly large population of feral chickens (which is what Rod was looking for there as part of some research).

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, just northeast of down town. It was founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers, and is named after Vicente Martinez Ybor. Ybor was a Spanish-born cigar manufacturer, who moved his operation from Cuba, to Key West, to near Tampa. Thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain and Italy, came to live in this area, many as cigar workers. For the next 50 or so years, workers in Ybor City’s cigar factories rolled millions of cigars each year. It was an unusual immigrant community in southern US at that time because of its multi-ethnic and multi-racial population.

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cigar2Another historical tidbit: A plaque tells us that the Rough Riders rode by here in 1898. “The intersection of Seventh Avenue and Twenty-second Street was a sandy cross-road connecting three army encampments in the Ybor City area during the Spanish-American War. At this cross-road was a water-trough where the Rough Riders watered their mounts. Col. “Teddy” Roosevelt frequently rode by here on his horse “Texas” followed by his little dog “Cuba”.”

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Lions Club

A plaque at Columbia Restaurant explains the involvement of the Lions Club

During the Great Depression a slow exodus out of the area began and became worse after WW2, leading to a time of abandonment and decay. From the early 2000s, part of the original neighborhood has been redeveloped into a nightclub and entertainment district, with movies, restaurants and shopping opportunities.

The neighborhood has been designated a National Historic Landmark District and a number of structures in the area are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2008, 7th Avenue (the main commercial street in Ybor City) was recognized as one of the “10 Great Streets in America” by the American Planning Association.

In 2010, Columbia Restaurant was named a “Top 50 All-American icon” by Nation’s Restaurant News magazine. Besides serving food, this restaurant has played a large role in the history of Ybor City. For example, it’s the headquarters of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago, and the Lions Club of Ybor City was organized and met here.chickensbycar

See next posts for Columbia Restaurant and the World Trade Center Memorial.

How the chickens came about, who knows? But they are very pretty birds.

 

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A woman in Quito making wonderful crafts for sale

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Mongolian singer at a conference we attended

International Women’s Day (IWD)

This day is celebrated on March 8th each year, in varying ways in different parts of the world, supported by many different organizations and institutions. In some countries it is a national holiday but not in others, in which case they celebrate in other ways: a fun run, a dinner gala, conferences, breakfasts, festivals, tech talks etc.

Each year, the UN picks a different theme for IWD. In 2015 it was “Empowering Women. Empowering Humanity.”

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Ronel in Australia is co-captain of this boat

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Graduate students of Beijing Agriculture University visit the Forbidden City

The 2016 theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, or “Closing the Gender Gap, or Gender Parity.”

These goals are all good, but I think it’s also a time to just celebrate women and honor them all, whether famous, powerful or not; to acknowledge what they do, however menial, as it contributes to the good of their society in some way.

To that aim, here are some pictures we’ve taken over the years of various women in different countries, involved in a number of differing activities, or just smiling for us.

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Marching in the Gay Pride parade, St Louis

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Handicrafts seller at the Equator, Equador

But first, a bit of history.

On March 19, 1911 the first official International Women’s Day was celebrated in Europe. At that time, in many European nations, as well as in the USA, women’s rights and women’s

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Curio vendor on Grenada Island

suffrage were hot topics.

It was honored in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, to vote, to be trained, to hold public office and to end discrimination.

However, many people believe that there were earlier events that were a build-up to this first official IWD. Some say the first International Women’s meeting was on March 8, 1907 in the US. This was to commemorate the garment workers’ strike 50 years earlier, an event that many think was the initial trigger for a deeper consciousness about women’s issues.

 

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Guide at the Secret Garden in Seoul, Korea

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Kirsty from Norway

What happened 50 years before? On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten-hour day, and equal rights for women. Police broke their ranks, quite violently.

One year after the women’s gathering in 1907 there was another march. On March 8, 1908, the garment workers’ sisters in the needle trades in New York marched again, honoring the 1857 march, demanding the vote, and an end to sweatshops and child labor. The police were present on this occasion too.

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Old meets new in Kyoto

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Traditional Mayan-style dances in Merida, Mexico

The first official meeting in 1911 came about because earlier in 1910 at a meeting in Copenhagen, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed an International Women’s Day, to commemorate the US demonstrations and honor working women the world over.

After 1911, because of WW1, the Depression, and WW2, interest in a women’s day was low, but in the 1960s the women’s movement began a new revival, mainly because there was a growing sense that “history” as taught in school was incomplete and had a male bias.

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A street vendor on Insadong, Seoul, Korea

In 1975, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8

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Mayuko from Japan enjoys a bridal shower in USA

March during International Women’s Year 1975. And in 1987, a group of women in the US campaigned with representatives from museums, schools and libraries to expand the celebration, and Congress responded by declaring the entire month of March as National Women’s History Month.

On the 100th anniversary of IWD, March 8, 2011, the IWD Organization collaborated with women’s organizations around the world to present gatherings and celebrations in 152 countries. In the United States, President Barack Obama honored the day and the then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges“. In the UK, celebrity activist Annie Lennox lead an amazing march across one of London’s iconic bridges, to raise awareness in support of the global charity, Women for Women International.

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Nora helps sell flowers in KZN, South Africa

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A worker at the Gouyave Nutmeg Station on Grenada explains the spice to us

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A new employee at Uva Mira Wine Estate in South Africa explains a wine to Rod M

So, since those early years, International Women’s Day has taken on a global dimension for women in both developed and developing countries. Other well-known charities such as Oxfam have actively supported IWD, as have many celebrities and business leaders. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate small acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have tried to help their countries and communities.

See the official website:

http://www.internationalwomensday.com

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Last but not least, my mother Joy Vermaak (left) with a friend. Mothers make all things possible!

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Last, but not least, my mother-in-law Peggy Mackie

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Colonial times in southern Africa

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April gets married in a semi-traditional Shona wedding in Zimbabwe

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The enormous Vrijthof Square

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One side of the square is lined with very nice cafes

Maastricht is the charming capital of the province of Limburg, right in the south of Netherlands. It has many narrow picturesque streets and small squares, and lovely old houses, many from the 16th and 17th centuries. You also see remains of the old fortifications and old city walls, testament to the town’s strategic importance at a European crossroads and that it withstood 21 sieges over the centuries.

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St Jans Kerk, St Servaas Basilica, and the Hoofwacht on the far side of the square

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The churches lit up at night

Most of its squares are small and enclosed, which is why the Vrijthof comes as a bit of a surprise. In the heart of the city, it is very large, a huge open space lined on three sides with trees, and on one side by lovely café terraces. Many pedestrianized shopping streets radiate out from it. It’s dominated by the vast and ancient Romanesque St Servaas Cathedral, and behind that the St Jans Kerk from the 12-15th centuries.

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Spanish Government House

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Emblem on Hoofwacht

On the south side is the old Spanish Government House (was the residence of the Dukes of Brabant and the Spanish kings), now the Museum of the Vrijthof and painted bright red/pink. On the west is the Hoofdwacht (1700s), once a guard house and now a military headquarters.

On Vrijthof, you can almost forget you’re in the Netherlands. When you stand in the middle and look around, it doesn’t look or feel like other Dutch squares, as it’s enormous and is the cultural heart of the city. It’s usually wide and open, but also hosts jam-packed events: from Carnival; to becoming the beautiful backdrop for the concerts by local favorite Andre Rieu; to the Preuvenemint, the Netherlands largest food festival.

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The cafes in early evening  light

What’s in a name? According to one tradition, the name means “free place” or “sanctuary”, but it more likely derives from the German for cemetery, two of which were known to have occupied this site.

The square was built on the marshes of the River Jeker. The area was

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Note statues far left, and the fountain front

originally unsuitable for building but by medieval times was used as a military parade ground, an execution site and a pilgrims’ meeting place. Every 7 years, the Fair of the Holy Relics attracted pilgrims, craftsmen and traders to the lively square. Something of this spirit is recaptured in Vrijthof at Carnival time these days.

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St Servaas as backdrop to 2 of the Carnival statues

The square’s connection to Carnival is strong. Besides being one of the main venues for carnival activities in the city, it boasts several permanent carnival reminders. On the SW corner is a group of 5 colorful and oddly-shaped sculpted figures of different sizes. They depict players from a carnival marching band (see details in an upcoming post).

Close by is a small fountain, whose 5 bronze figures depict masked carnival figures dancing hand-in-hand. Called “Hawt Uuch Vas!” by Frans Gast, 1976.

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One side of the square is lined with lovely old buildings, now cafes, bars and brasseries. One, roughly in the middle, is a bit more ornate than the others. It’s the Grand Café Momus and it used to be the carnival hall. Their logo is still a carnival mask, which features on the chairs and menu.

We ate there one evening—see an upcoming post.

 

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hailsignHonoring the Mohawk Native Americans

Reaching out with Hope

When we attended a family wedding in the Berkshires this October, one of the things I was determined to do was visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” Statue on the Mohawk Trail. Luckily we were staying nearby, so it was quite possible. And we were not disappointed.

The Mohawk Trail is a 63-mile winding road stretching east from the Massachusetts/New York line, close to Williamstown, to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River, just beyond Greenfield in Massachusetts. It runs through part of the well-known Berkshires, and is especially beautiful to drive in fall when the fall colors are truly glorious.

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You can just see the Chief directly behind the circular pool

chiefRodThe Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

Hail to the Sunrise” is a lovely monument just outside the town of Charlemont, Mass, about halfway along the Trail. The Monument consists of a prominent statue of a Mohawk Indian and a reflecting pool, and is the main feature of Mohawk Park, a roadside park on the Mohawk Trail. It was sponsored by The Improved Order of Redman, and Degree of Pocahontas.

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The monument honors the peoples of the five Mohawk Nations that inhabited western Massachusetts and New York State. The Mohawks who traveled this trail were said to be friendly to while settlers. Today the monument is a reminder of the area’s Native American heritage.

The bronze statue depicts a Native American man in traditional garb

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Note the arrowhead-shaped inscription stone

looking eastward across the Deerfield River with his arms uplifted in supplication. He faces the direction of the rising sun and is greeting the Great Spirit. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Joseph Pollia (1893-1954), rests on a 9-ton boulder. It was unveiled in October 1932, attended by more than 2000 people. The arrowhead-shaped tablet on the base of the statue reads: “Hail to the Sunrise—In Memory of the Mohawk Indian. The Mohawks of the Five Nations began to settle in New York State in 1590 and for 90 great suns they fought the New England tribes. The New York Mohawks that traveled this trail were friendly to the white settlers.”

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One of the inscription stones

The pool is lined with 100 inscribed stones from various tribes and councils from throughout the US. The grounds are open to the public and the park is a welcome stop along the scenic highway. It’s a great place to stop and contemplate Native American culture and history and how these peoples were so badly treated overall by the white settlers. For me, the man’s pose gives cause for hope, like he’s reaching out for a better future.

Charlemont is an old town, first settled in 1749. Every summer, the Mohawk Trail Concerts take place in the old, acoustically-perfect Charlemont Federated Church. They have been held here since 1970, founded by Arnold Black, a violinist.

 

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Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Salt pans in Korea

Salt pans in Korea

Selling bags of salt in Korea---obtained from evaporating salt ponds

Selling bags of salt in Korea—obtained from evaporating salt ponds

Seems like I’m on a ‘salt kick’ briefly. No, not an actual binge on salty foods, although for many people those salty snacks are oh so desirable. And, generally, food without any salt does taste rather bland! No, rather on a quest for salt information and interesting salty factoids.

I wrote recently about the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland near Krakow, a very deep underground rock-salt mine (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/wieliczka-salt-mine-wieliczka-kopalnia-soli/ )

and about a Korean Salt Field (see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/korean-salt-fields/ )

That got me thinking about the importance of salt to humans and animals, which has been recognized from ancient times to the present. Thousands of years ago, animals created paths to salt licks, and men followed. Their trails became roads and next to these, settlements grew and became cities. Salt’s ability to preserve food was an important factor in the development of civilization as we know it, as it eliminated the dependence on seasonal availability, and allowed travel over long distances. However, it was difficult to obtain, so was a highly valued trade item and sign of wealth, and was used as currency before there was money. Roman soldiers who performed their duties well were said to be “worth their salt” (competent and skilled) and the word “salary” comes from the Latin “salarium” used to describe their wages in salt. They were paid in salt, literally worth its weight in gold.

Huge rock salt crystal from Wieliczska Mine

Huge rock salt crystal from Wieliczska Mine

Salt from evaporation

Salt from evaporation

Scene of salt miners in Wieliczska

Scene of salt miners in Wieliczska

There are many other phrases using “salt”—all an indication of the importance given to salt in society. Here are a few of the better-known ones.

Below the salt, meaning “common or lowly, or ordinary”. In mediaeval England, salt was expensive and only the higher ranks of society could afford it. Salt was extracted from seawater by evaporation. This was more difficult to do in northern Europe as evaporation was brought about by boiling over a fire, compared to the action of the sun in countries with warmer climates. In England this method was abandoned in the mid-1600s when they started to mine natural rock-salt commercially in Cheshire. Before that, the high value of salt gave it a high symbolic status in the day-to-day language of England in the Middle Ages.

At that time the nobility sat at the ‘high table’ and their commoner servants at lower trestle tables. Salt was placed in the centre of the high table and only those of rank could use it. Those on the lower tables were below (or beneath) the salt.

Another mining scene underground at Wieliczsak

Another mining scene underground at Wieliczsak

Salt collected in a wagon at salt pans in Korea

Salt collected in a wagon at salt pans in Korea

Green rock salt crystals from Wieliczska

Green rock salt crystals from Wieliczska

To take with a grain of salt, meaning “to consider something to be not completely true or right”. This is based on the idea that food tastes better and is easier to swallow if you add a little salt

Salt of the Earth (Matt v 13 in the Bible). Jesus used this as a metaphor to mean the best or most worthy people, embodying moral integrity

A few Interesting Facts about Salt:

— The first written reference to salt is found in the Book of Job in the Bible, recorded about 2,250 BC. There are 31 other references to salt in the Bible, the most familiar probably being the story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the angels and looked back at the wicked city of Sodom.

Tunnel and walls of salt in Wieliczska

Tunnel and walls of salt in Wieliczska

Salt wagon reflections, Korea

Salt wagon reflections, Korea

Pink rock salt crystals, Wieliczska

Pink rock salt crystals, Wieliczska

Hippocrates encouraged his fellow healers to use salt water for healing by immersing patients in sea water.

England’s “-wich” towns. “Wich” and “wych” are names associated with brine springs or wells in England. By the 11th century this came to be linked with places with a specialized function, including salt production. Four famous ones in Cheshire are Northwich, Leftwich, Middlewich and Nantwich. Other famous ones are Sandwich and Norwich.

Solnitsata, the earliest known town in Europe (4700-4200BC), was built around a salt production facility. The town was located in present-day Bulgaria, and archeologists believe it got wealthy by supplying salt throughout the Balkans.

The Natron Valley of Egypt was a key region that supported the Egyptian Empire in the north as it supplied a kind of salt that came to be called by its name, natron. It was used mainly as a cleaning product and in Egyptian mummification.

Saltzburg in Austria (meaning ‘salt town’) has salt mines close by. They are now tourist attractions and well worth a visit.

A wall of salt, Wieliczska

A wall of salt, Wieliczska

Another salt wall

Another salt wall

See more at

http://www.maldonsalt.co.uk/About-Salt-Salt-an-amazing-history.html

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