July 2007

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – A heat wave sweeping central and southeastern Europe killed at least 13 people this week, with soaring temperatures sparking forest fires, damaging crops and prompting calls to ban horse-drawn tourist carriages.

In Romania, where temperatures reached 104 degrees Friday, the Health Ministry said at least nine people had died since Monday due to heat. …

Elsewhere, authorities in Slovakia and Hungary distributed free water in some cities. In the eastern Hungarian town of Kiskunhalas, temperatures reached a record 107.4, according to the national weather center.

See story here …

Europe Makes Early Climate Adaptation High Priority 

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 2, 2007 (ENS) – Rising temperatures are already changing Europe, so Europeans must make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and adapt now to climate change to lessen adverse impacts on people, the economy and the environment, the EU said in a discussion paper published across the 27 member states on Friday.

Issued by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, the Green Paper sets out options to help people learn to adapt to global warming by taking action to cope with changing conditions.

Read story here …

For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. (The Kingsley family’s hotel room in London was $500 a night; five bite-sized chocolates at Harrods cost $10.)

“It’s O.K.,” said Mr. Kingsley, 59, with a resigned laugh. “I’ll just have to work a few extra years to pay off this vacation.” His wife, Laura, did her best to soothe him. “It’s just play money,” she said.

By now, five summers after the dollar began its long swoon against the euro and the pound, American travelers are used to $5 cups of coffee and triple-digit dinner checks in Europe’s great capitals. But the dollar’s latest plunge — to record lows of 72 cents to the euro and 49 pence to the pound — has turned mere sticker shock into a form of disbelief for many tourists.

Read story here …


All afternoon the trail continues up the Kali Gandaki, which rushes down from Mustang and Tibet onto the Ganges plain; because it flows between the soaring massifs of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, both more than 26,000 feet in altitude, the Kali Gandaki has the deepest canyon of any river in the world.

“… So far from the nearest sea, I am taken aback by the sight of a purple land crab, like a relict of the ancient days when the Indian subcontinent, adrift on the earth’s mantle, moved northward to collide with the Asian land mass, driving these marine rocks, inch by inch, five miles into the skies … The rise of the Himalaya, began in the Eocene, some fifty million years ago, is still continuing: an earthquake in 1959 caused mountains to fall into rivers and changed the course of the great Brahmaputra, which comes down out of Tibet through north-eastern India to join the Ganges near its delta at the Bay of Bengal. All the great rivers of southern Asia fall from the highest country in the world, from the Indus that empties into the Arabian Sea east to the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yangtze, and even the great Hwang Ho that pours eastwards across all of China into the Yellow Sea; since they come from the Tibetan Plateau, these rivers are much older than the mountains, and the Kali Gandaki forged its great abysses as the mountains rose.”


— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Read story here …

A former Laotian General, Vang Pao, accused of being the ringleader in a plot to overthrow the Laos government, has been freed on bail in the US.

A magistrate ordered General Vang be released on a $1.5 million bond.

He and 10 other defendants are accused of plotting to spend millions of dollars on weapons to topple the government in the capital, Vientiane.

Read story here …

grand-bazaar.jpg blue-mosque-with-flag.jpg hagia-sophia-inside-3.jpg

  Left to right: the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque at night, inside the Hagia Sophia


inside-the-blue-mosque-2.jpg hippodrome-with-bird.jpg hagia-sophia-outside.jpg 

Left to right: Inside the Blue Mosque, obelisk (with bird) of Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia at dusk  

sufi-dancers-1.jpg window-cleaner-topkapi.jpg medusa-sideways.jpg


 Left to right: Sufi dancers, man cleaning gold-plated window grating at Topkapi Palace, Medusa head column in Basilica Cistern


Our last day in Istanbul and we have clouds, and rain, for the first time. We duck into a coffee shop and watch the storm through tall double-pane windows.


Black clouds and thunder. The steep cobblestone streets are alley-narrow and become slick in the soft rain. Grey water puddles outside the window, splashed by taxi wheels and the sandals of passersby.


Looking out the window at the bread sellers. Blue walls and orange windowpanes of a neighboring building. Strato-cumulus roiling overhead. The hours pass in the coffee joint, a comfortable woodpaneled lounge owned by an expat Albertan, listening to Neil Young, the Tragically Hip, the Beatles. “Oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go.”

Read story here.



FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Worries about the strength of the U.S. economy sent the dollar stumbling in Europe Friday, where the euro broke through the $1.38 mark for the first time.

The 13-nation euro moved as high as $1.3813 in afternoon European trading before falling back to $1.3786. That was up from $1.3783 in New York late Thursday.

Read story here

The most well-preserved Roman ruins, it’s said, outside Rome itself. Deep summer. Bright. Hot. 




Cypress trees like arbor columns along a wide paving-stone thoroughfare. Sandstone structures crumbling in the sun. Behemoth thistles, Queen Anne’s lace and sunflowers. Olives and unripe grapes. Caves in the hills above. It’s cool in the caves: no surprise people lived there.




Mulberry trees along a walkway planted by a great forgotten Mayor in the 1930s, all the way between Selcuk and the ruins. Hizzoner’s footpath carpeted with mulberry sludge, pecked at by crows.


A pleasant walk in the shade past the Artemision, once a World Wonder. Now just a single column serving as a perch for gulls. Plundered for marble 1,500 years ago. Turtles in a green pond, sunbathing, swimming.




Fruit sellers shaded by implacable Isa Bey Mosque. Touts with fake Roman coins wrapped in newspaper outside the St. John’s Basilica.


basilica.jpg basilica-2.jpg


Storks on aqueducts.


 storks-2.jpg storks-on-aqueducts.jpg


The Saturday market, in full swing. Mid-afternoon. Summer. Heat. Sun.



Ok, so I’m a lazy, lazy blogger. But, better late than never.

Quite simply, Bulgaria rocks. Who knew? After a long and wacky sleepless train ride over the border from Turkey (that’s a whole other post), we’ve had several good days soaking up some Bulgarity. At the moment, we’re sitting here in Veliko Tarnovo, a college town in the mountains with a river running through it, after a scrumptious meal of shopska salad (like greek salad only better), rakia (really strong wine type stuff) and yummy bulgarian stew prepared by our hosts Maria, Fredeo and Georgi, playing Texas hold ’em and listening to the frog chorus outside–DJ Frog.

church-3.jpg church1.jpg church-2.jpg

Earlier today, we took a little hike with an Australian bloke, Pat, to Arbanassi, the town in the hills above that has several very old churches filled with thousands of intricate golden frescos hidden in inconspicuous buildings to save them from the Ottomans during their rule here. The day before we hiked to a monestary and scaled a ladder up a cliff to visit caves that once were home to neanderthals and the biggest cave bear ever found.

georgi-marc-pat-in-mtn.jpg  hike in bulgaria  cave.jpg
beer.jpg musicians.jpg
Hiking, cave bears, cheap beer, and music. Life is good.

And, as if it could get any better, this place is home to the 80 cent (USD) pint of beer and–get a load of this–the World Arm Wrestling Championships will be held here in October!

Armwrestling in Bulgaria
Veliko Tarnovo: Home of the World Arm Wrestling Championships. Sweet.

Alas, we will miss this exciting cultural experience as we have to be going up north on the train to Bucharest, Romania and . . .Transylvania! Transylvania is home to the Carpathian mountains, one of the last big chunks of wilderness left in Europe and home to all sorts of fuzzy wild critters like wolves, bears and vampires. And just in time for our wedding anniversary. How romantic.

The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.

— W. Somerset Maugham

Hmm. Wait a minute …

BERLIN, Germany (AP) — The show is over: The Berlin zoo’s fast-growing polar bear cub, Knut, won’t be appearing anymore with the keeper who raised him.

The zoo said Monday that it has ended 7-month-old Knut’s twice-daily public appearances with keeper Thomas Doerflein. (scroll down)

The playful pair have delighted audiences since Knut — then an irresistibly cute 20-pound cub — made his first public appearance in late March. Now nearing about 110 pounds, the boisterous bear, who will remain on public view, will have his enclosure all to himself.


Next Page »