Go East Young Man! The Via Egnatia to Byzantium

Via Egnatia route map, Wikipedia

Via Egnatia route map, Wikipedia

The Roman Via Enatia was built in the 2nd century BCE running west-east through Roman occupied lands from the Adriatic Sea to Byzantium (which became Constantinople a few centuries later, then Istanbul… https://youtu.be/Wcze7EGorOk). The road begins on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea at the Albanian town of Durres (ancient Dyrrachium) and heads eastward for about 700 miles through some very rugged terrain, including multiple mountain passes. The modern countries on the route are Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and European Turkey. All roads lead to Rome, as they say, but the Via Egnatia required a transfer to the Via Appia, which picked up on the other side of the Adriatic and continued to Rome.

the Via Egnatia at Philippi in Greece

the Via Egnatia at Philippi in Greece

The apostle Paul used the Via Egnatia to travel between Philippi and Thessalonica in northern Greece on his 2nd missionary journey. In the waning years of the Roman Empire, travel along the Via Egnatia, or any road in the Roman provinces for that matter, was dangerous and by the 5th century CE, the road was in serious disrepair. With the Byzantine Empire, centered in Constantinople, the road was restored and became an important trade route to western Europe. The Via Egnatia made up one leg of the crusader march from Europe to the Holy Land.

Like many highways through once-Roman territories, the modern Egnatia Odos runs parallel to its ancient namesake from Thessaloniki, Greece to the Turkish border.

 

 

NAME THAT CITY

These city walls, built by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, are only the latest fortifications to protect our mystery city. The city and its walls were destroyed in 587BCE during the Babylonian siege and much of the population was deported to Babylon. When the Persians took control of the region some 50 years later, the exiled citizens were allowed to return and the walls were rebuilt. The walls were extended in the 2nd century BCE by the Hasmonean dynasty and by Herod the Great and his son Agrippa in the following century or so. The city and its walls were destroyed again in 70CE, this time by the Romans, who occupied the city and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. The Roman walls built over the following four centuries were destroyed in an earthquake in the 11th century. The walls went up and down again several times more, with invasions and occupations by the Islamic Fatimid and Ayyubid dynasties and Christian crusaders. The existing walls have stood, more or less as they are today, for 400 years.

Can you name that city? 
See below for answers.

 

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Karnak the Magnificent

What Luxor, Egypt attraction is the largest place of worship ever built?

It doesn’t take a wizard to proclaim the magnificence of Karnak Temple in Luxor. After the pyramids at Giza, it’s the 2nd most visited site in Egypt. It’s really a temple complex, with multiple temples added and embellished by a long series of pharaohs over the course of 2,000 years. It was known to the ancient Egyptians as The Most Sacred Place and is reputed to be the largest place of worship ever built anywhere.

Click to see Egypt tours that include visits to Karnak Temple. Continue reading

Crete

Knossos fresco

Knossos fresco

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, 160 miles long and 37 miles across at the widest point, located 99 miles south of Athens at the very southern border of the Aegean Sea and of the European continent. One blog post will not do justice to Crete’s many, diverse attractions but we’ll take a stab at an informative overview.

Crete was the center of the highly sophisticated, pre-Greek Minoan civilization which thrived from approximately 3,000 BCE until it vanished about 1,500 years later. Its main city was Knossos but it had settlements all over Crete, around the Aegean, and even on mainland Turkey. At its height, Minoan influence rivaled that of ancient Egypt.

Most tourism development on Crete is on the north coast of the island; some areas are densely packed with mass market facilities. The main centers are Heraklion, Chania, Hersonnisos and Elounda.

Venetian Harbor, Heraklion

Venetian Harbor, Heraklion

Heraklion is the commercial and administrative center of Crete, the major city on the island and one of Greece’s largest cities, not so much a tourist destination as a hub for air and sea traffic. It is, however, a sophisticated city with excellent dining, shopping and nightlife and its proximity to Knossos and world-class archaeological museum are reason enough to spend at least a few hours in Heraklion.

Phaistos

Phaistos

Knossos is 3 miles from Heraklion. It’s the most thoroughly restored of Crete’s Minoan ruins but the accuracy of the restoration is questionable and has a bit of a theme park feel. For less flashy but still very grand Minoan ruins, see Phaistos, about 40 miles southwest of Heraklion, and Aigia Triada, a few miles from Phaistos. Artifacts from the Minoan sites can be viewed at the excellent Archaeological Museum in Heraklion.

Venetian Harbor, Chania

Venetian Harbor, Chania

Chania is an exceptionally picturesque little city, especially the well-preserved old city with Venetian and Ottoman buildings clustered around the harbor.

On the far northeast end of the island, about 50 miles from Heraklion, is Elounda, mostly known for luxury resorts.

White Mountains (Lefka Ori), Crete

White Mountains (Lefka Ori), Crete

Crete’s interior is mountainous and cut through with stunning gorges. A serious hiker can easily spend weeks trekking about. More casual hikers should check out sections of the coast-long E4 trail, especially in the White Mountains near Chania and the Psiloritis Mountains near Heraklion. The Samarian Gorge, near Chania, is a very popular day hike.

There is a great variety of beaches on Crete, from long and sandy to short and rocky. In general, those on the north coast are more crowded than those on the south coast. Knowing when you’ll be there and specifically what you desire in a beach experience will help us suggest where to go.

During season (April-October), there are multiple daily flights from Athens to Chania, Heraklion and, to a lesser degree, the new airport at Sitia. Flights from Rhodes and Santorini in high season are also a possibility.

Cruise ships dock at Heraklion. Ferries travel from Athens to Heraklion and Chania and from Santorini and Rhodes to Heraklion.

Ariel Sharon Park, Tel Aviv

Built on and around a 60 meter high mountain of trash known as Mt. Hiriya, Ariel Sharon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel is a unique project of environmental rehabilitation, community education and engagement, and recreational greenspace.

The park uses cutting-edge technology to clean up land, air and water polluted by decades of accumulated garbage. At the base of Mt. Hiriya, three recycling plants respectively convert construction materials into gravel, dry organic materials into mulch, & sewage waste into energy. Through anaerobic digestion, microorganisms break down organic materials. The process creates methane and carbon dioxide, more than enough biogas to power the recycling plants. This renewable energy source is also carbon neutral. ArrowBio recycling technology harnesses the natural forces of gravity, flowing water and wind to sort all kinds of solid waste materials. 80% of materials that pass through these plants are recycled.

The public park is opening in stages and is set to be fully open in 2020. At around 2000 acres, it will be more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park. As of early 2018, visitors can enjoy walking and cycling trails, thriving wetland areas, long views of Tel Aviv and the surrounding area and guided tours.