Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
Maria Rainer is a freelance writer & backpacking enthusiast. She’s written a great article for the Travelblogue about catacombs and crypts in Rome. As photography is not allowed in the crypts, she’s included a few various photos of famous Roman sights nearby. Enjoy!
Originating from about the 2nd century AD, the Christian Catacombs of St. Callixtus (also known as St. Callisto) takes you to a whole new level of history—literally. It stretches nearly 90 acres twenty meters below the surface across 4 vertical levels. They’re named after the deacon Callixtus, who was appointed by Pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.
When you arrive, you’ll have to wait to join another group of tourists before you go under (the ground, that is). The full price is 8 Euros, but the reduced rate (effective as of 2010) is 5 Euros.
Walking down into the catacombs is like being swallowed by darkness, to employ a tasteless but a very accurate metaphor. The air instantly cools and feels slightly thicker in your nose with moisture. It gives you a sense of uneasiness entirely separate from the fact that you’re entering a millennia-old crypt.
An unlikely story
Although one assumes that so many Christians buried underground means they were sent there by some form of prosecution, the tour guide surprises you with a little known fact: the tombs were never secret. Christians buried here were never “driven” underground. Instead, the tomb represents one of the most fundamental Christian beliefs: resurrection. Since pagan Romans preferred cremation, ancient Christians buried their dead (all 500,000 of them, including 16 popes and tens of martyrs) underground outside the city limits.
Boo, no photography
The tour guide lets you know before entering the catacombs that no flash photography is allowed, since such bright lights can over time damage the delicate frescoes representing early Christian art. This makes me a very sad photographer, but at this point I’m too numb to really care. It’s too dark for cameras, anyway, and flash photography in what’s basically a narrow cave is hardly artful. The wannabe archaeologist in me was just happy to let my palms run lightly against the cold walls.
Navigating the crypt
The first thing you see when your eyes adjust is the crypt of nine popes. Some of the marble tablets on their tombs are the originals. Later, you come across the crypt of St. Cecilia. She’s the patron saint of sacred music. How did she become a martyr, you ask? She took three axe blows to the neck. Ouch.
As you go on, the passages grow narrow. They wind, networking for almost 19km. You’d be here all day just trying to find your way out, but lucky for you, the tour guides know where they’re going (you hope). Occasionally, you glimpse stumbling tourists in the group behind you, but seemingly miles down a long passageway that you swear wasn’t there a moment ago.
Still later, you get to admire ancient frescoes that, admittedly, leave more to be desired if you’re used to the stuff in the Sistine Chapel. Much of the 3rdcentury art in the famed Cubicula of Sacraments is deteriorated, but you have to admire that it stuck around at all almost 2,000 years.
When the tour is done, you have the option of dropping by the gift shop. There’s nothing terribly fascinating there, so you might as well keep exploring the other catacombs in the area.
Also on the Appian Way, and another creepy place
If you’ve still got time but want to see something other than catacombs, consider strolling along the Appian Way. It boasts a beautiful countryside complete with stinky but adorable sheep and quaint houses as well as the Church of Domine Quo Vadis. Although you’d never think it by its exterior appearance, this tiny chapel houses the stone that supposedly shows the indentation of Jesus Christ’s foot [see top of article]. The church gets its name from the story that Peter, escaping Rome and persecution, met Christ along the Appian Way. “Domine,” Peter said to Christ, “quo vadis?” (Lord, where are you going?) Christ supposedly replied, “Rome, to be crucified.”
Not too impressed by the catacombs? No big deal. Once you get back to Rome, check out the Capuchin Crypt beneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Via Veneto (near Piazza Barberini). In the 17th century, Capuchin monks made use of the 300 cartloads of dead friars they’d brought along by making art with their skeletons in a series of underground rooms. Some of the bones are those of children, and don’t be surprised to find arches, altars, candelabras, and even entire walls of brown, oxidized skulls. The Catholic Church says it’s not meant to creep you out (are they kidding?). It’s meant to express the brevity of life. Unfortunately, no photography (flash or no flash) are allowed inside.
Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus)
Via Appia Antica, 126
00179 Rome, Italy
9:00 AM– 12:00PM, 2:00PM – 5:00PM
Closed on Wednesdays
How to get there:
From Roma Termini Station, take bus 714 to Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. Next, take bus 218. Fosse Ardeatine is the 10th stop on this bus. The catacombs are just opposite it, so get off there. When you’re done crawling around catacombs, take bus 218 back along the Appian Way back into the city.
Thanks again for the fantastic article, Maria!
Posted 5 years, 12 months ago at 7:46 pm. 3 comments
I met Neil, a fellow Zugspitze enthusiast, via an English-speaking web forum. He was kind enough to write a great post about his love for Germany’s highest mountain, and a recent hike up one via ferrata section. Complete with fantastic Zugspitze photos! On to his story…
When I was 12 years old, I went, with my family, to the Tyrol for the first time. We’d always been on holiday a lot, but this was only my second trip abroad and my first trip to see “proper” mountains. Sure, Wales and Scotland have mountains, but it’s not quite the same! I found the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,962m, on the border with Austria, particularly awesome, and enjoyed the cable car trip to the summit immensely. The holiday to Ehrwald (Austria) made a huge impression on me and has remained one of my favourite destinations.
Fast forward 22 years and this (admittedly slightly weedy) 12-year-old is now 6 foot 2 and a keen hiker. This year, we repeated the holiday – parents, me (and my wife), as a 60th birthday present for my Mum. As our holiday commenced, my sister was drinking fermented mares’ milk in Mongolia on her honeymoon having not washed for 6 days, I was drinking European lagers in the mountains and swimming in crystal clear warm mountain lakes. Sometimes, the world has a wonderful unfairness about it!
If you’ve never been to the Tyrol, imagine for a moment a paradise of good rustic food, refreshing lagers and unusual Austrian wines, snow-capped mountains, beautiful sunshine, meadows of wild flowers, friendly people, mountain lakes, glacial fountains in town centres from which the water is clean enough to drink, pretty houses with flowers bursting from their window boxes. Oh, and Obstler: the local schnapps which is like drinking burning sandpaper, and which is used to toast almost everything.
When my wife and I go on holiday, we usually spend at least a couple of days apart. It’s not that we’ve been married so long that we can’t bear to be together, it’s just that we have different ideas of fun. I like walking, she doesn’t. Ten years ago, our “solo days” would involve my wife painting or relaxing and me going for a country walk. Over the years, “walk” has gradually yet steadily evolved into “fairly dangerous hike/climb”. So this year, against the advice of the man in the hiking shop, I decided to tackle the front of the Zugspitze, via the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte route. There are a number of routes up this mountain, ranging from relatively mild (but long) beautifully scenic routes round the back of the mountain, to this in-your-face, straight up, and slightly shorter trek. And it was fun!
Setting off just after 8am from the village centre, I began the lovely varied walk by making my way through the village, through the meadow, and into one of the larch woods which are so common in the area. Car-wide tracks lull you into a slightly false sense of security, and it took only 40 minutes to reach my breakfast stop, the Gamsalmhütte. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked their opening times, and Tuesday is their closed day. Hungry walk for me then!
I’d like to interrupt my hike story for a second to tell you a little more about hüttes. Basically, these mountain huts, located anywhere from the busy top of a cable car, to the middle of nowhere on a desolate ridge behind a huge mountain. They provide mattresses on which weary travellers can spend the night, as well as a varying range of food and drink items, ranging from a large and diverse menu at the busier huts, to a more limited range of home-made produce at some of the more remote ones. Beer is a staple, although I wonder how they manage to deliver to some of the higher ones!
Back to the Zugspitze, and I proceeded from the Gamsalmhütte up what would be, in winter, a busy ski slope. It was steep yet enjoyable, and looking back there were fabulous views across the valley. From here, already fairly high, the vegetation began to thin out and the hike continued across, at various times, grassland, scree slopes, rocks, unsafe-looking wooden platforms, and snow. The route passed under the cable car, from which the lazy people waved to me, and past some derelict buildings until eventually, after what felt like about 3 days to my stomach, but was nearer 2 hours, I reached the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte, probably the most remote hut in the region.
Deliveries to the hut are obviously difficult, and the chap inside informed me that I could choose between sausage and bread or soup, nothing else. I had a kasknödelsuppe – a clear soup of beef stock with a cheese dumpling in the middle, which was delicious (although to be fair, fermented mare’s milk would probably have tasted good by this point!). The hut itself was built in the late 1800s and was a beautiful cross between refuge, café and museum. For people staying overnight, there was no television, but an “entertainment corner” consisting of board games, a few books, and a guitar. The interior was of dark mellow wood with little natural light, and a number of antique hiking and objects hanging from the walls. There was also a guest book to sign, the first entry having been made in the 1960s. There are various hikes from this hut, but the most popular is obviously upwards. As I left, I looked at the photograph in the porch showing the route up from the hut – basically a wiggly red line up from the rock face!
The last bit is by far the most fun. This is the start of the via ferrata: metal rungs in the rock with a cable to attach safety ropes (which I didn’t have – oops!). The first part after the hut is across scree to the bottom of the rock, and at this point the via ferrata begins, firstly up the side of the mountain, and then for a while through a cave. The views behind and down are truly breathtaking and as the path, marked by red paint (blood?), winds its way up, the ascent is quite rapid.
About half way between the scree and the summit, the via ferrata comes to an end, and what remains is of equal steepness but without the mechanical aids. At times the path is indistinct and you just have to follow the person in front, at other times it’s quite clear. Eventually you reach the ridge, where you join with the Gatterl and Reintal routes for the final ascent, which is a little easier.
The last few yards to the tourist platform are, disappointingly, via a metal staircase, after which you have to get through the crowds of day-trippers (who’d ascended via the cable car) and queue for the final few yards to the summit. When I was there, those queuing for the summit were a mixture of elderly tourists and children wearing plimsolls, and over-cautious 30-somethings with full climbing gear, who looked a little out of place! From the summit, you can see the various routs up in each direction, after which it’s a queue back down to the platform and a celebratory schnapps and germknödel (sweet dumpling) in the café! Remember to take lots of cash with you, as they don’t take cards for the cable car down and it’s a long walk back!
Thanks again, Neil! If readers enjoyed this article, please check out Neil’s Hiking Site for more.
Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 12:06 pm. 1 comment
Fellow traveler and blogger Alan Perlman has assembled a collection of photos from five of the world’s most unfrequented cities. Check out his unique look at five cities that are truly off the beaten track for most Western travelers!
I’ve always loved looking at a world map. So many countries, so many borders and rivers and climates. While the world may feel small at times—like when you run into a friend in a city thousands of miles away—it’s quite large and diverse.
Take Africa, for example, a continent with fifty three different countries. That means fifty three different governmental structures, fifty three flag designs and fifty three languages. No, wait, hundreds of languages. Our world is much more complex than the borders we demarcate.
I think about all of these cities in all of these countries. Sure, I can place some of them onto a map. But as a visual-minded person, if I haven’t seen the way these cities look, the way the people look, I have a harder time retaining information about the location. We read about cities like Baghdad and Pyongyang in the news, but very few of us can talk about the way these places actually look and feel.
By visually exposing people to more of the world, I believe we’d increase tolerance and understanding of other cultures. That being said, here are images from five of the more offbeat cities around the world—places that often have a negative connotation to Westerners.
Image Source: Flickr user egon voyd
Notes: Baghdad Sadr City Market
Behind Cairo, Baghdad is the second largest city in the Arab world. It’s also one of the hottest, with average maximum temperatures in the summer as high as 111 °F (44 °C). The war-torn city is experiencing both residential and commercial reconstruction efforts.
Image Source: Flickr user ctsnow
Notes: Pictures from an armed convoy trip.
“The sandy beaches of Mogadishu,” according to Wikipedia, “are reported by the few Western travelers to be among the most beautiful in the world, offering easy access to vibrant coral reefs.” Despite high crime and the traditional unrest associated with the Somali Civil War, Mogadishu is a commercial and financial center and serves as a major international seaport.
Image Source: Flickr user Jason Judy
Notes: “The city swelled from 500,000 to 1 million people during the war, and the combined impact of the destruction and population swell is very evident. This street is empty compared to the majority of Monrovia.”
Named in honor of U.S. President James Monroe, Monrovia is similar to Mogadishu in that it’s an important seaport and commercial center. If you want more information on Monrovia—and why it’s one of the most ridiculous cities in the world—check out the work by VBS.TV called The Vice Guide to Liberia.
Image Source: Flickr user a.phasia
Notes: Palace of Turkmenbasi on left, Kopet Dag mountains in the background.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to visit Ashgabat in my travels. Notable memories include visiting the annual Oil and Gas exposition (and scoring a free hat!), walking through the large Russian bazaars and learning about Turkmenistan’s megalomaniac dictator, Turkmenbasi, who renamed the days of the week and months of the year at his leisure.
Oh, and the Ashgebat streets are clean enough to eat on. They sparkle at night; the moon bounces off of their shiny stones. It’s really wild, actually.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Image Source: Flickr user Pricey
Notes: Pyongyang – Ryugyong Hotel
The elusive Pyongyang is also featured on VBS.TV. It’s called The Vice Guide to North Korea, and it’s certainly worth checking out. As an American, it’s very difficult to get into North Korea. Have any of you readers out there gotten in?
Thanks, Alan! Very interesting photos, and a thought-provoking look into these offbeat cities. For those who wish to read more by this blogger, you can read Alan Perlman’s blog, or reach Alan on Twitter.
Note: Alan has received special permission to repost these Flickr users’ images. Please do not copy them without similar express consent from the original photographers.
If you’re interested in writing a guest post, feel free to contact me using the link in the left sidebar!
Posted 6 years, 7 months ago at 3:44 pm. 3 comments
Stay tuned for my upcoming ebook: “How to fit a 30L daypack inside an already-full 65L backpack!”
If you’re feeling adventurous, check out an author interview that I gave over at Swordreaver! It’s a cool blog that has lots of author interviews and a fast-growing base.
I leave for my plane in a few minutes, hoping to avoid any ash-cloud delays. 😉
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 11:29 am. 2 comments
Fellow photographer Captain Kimo runs a great website & blog about HDR Photography. What is that, you ask? In High Dynamic Range Photography, one uses a tripod to take several photos of the same scene with different exposures, then combines them using special software. The end result has rich color & detail in all areas of the photo, whereas a single photo of the same scene would either have very dark areas or bright, washed-out areas.
Kimo has volunteered to share a selection out of his amazing portfolio… click on any of the photos to jump to a full-res version on Kimo’s website!
When people think of Florida, the first few locations they think of are Miami, Orlando and Key West. But I’m here to tell you, Florida is a big state. It has a lot more to offer than just these typical destinations.
I’m a native Floridian who lives in Palm Beach Gardens. The most beautiful place I know of in Florida is a city just north of here called Jupiter. Jupiter, Florida, isn’t your typical tourist destination. I would not advise this area for anything exciting, but if you want to relax and witness some beautiful beach scenery there’s no place in Florida I would recommend more than Jupiter.
I photograph the beaches of Jupiter often. Below are some of my favorite photographs from Jupiter’s beautiful beaches, parks and landmarks.
1. Blowing Rocks Preserve – Sunrise at the Rocks
2. Blowing Rocks Preserve – Sea Oats at Sunrise
3. Coral Cove Park – Sea Oats at Sunrise
4. Coral Cove Park – Rock at Sunrise
5. Jupiter Lighthouse – Full Moon
6. Jupiter Lighthouse – Sunset
7. Jupiter Inlet – Sunrise on the Pier
8. Jupiter Inlet – Sunrise on the Beach
9. Dubois Park – Dubois Pioneer Home
10. Carlin Park – Beach at Sunrise
For more beautiful photos of Florida, visit my blog at http://CaptainKimo.com
I plan on taking a journey to photograph the entire Florida coast later this year. This is not a small trip. Florida is a peninsula and a very large state, so photographing the entire coast will require months of work. Subscribe to my blog and join me on my journey as I photograph the entire Florida coast in HDR.
About the Author and Photographer: Kim Seng (A.K.A. Captain Kimo)
Kim Seng a photographer who specializes in HDR photography. His blog CaptainKimo.com is dedicated to HDR photography. Some photos on the site are taken from his travels, but most are from his native state of Florida.
Thanks, Kimo! I’m looking forward to more of your HDR photos, and trying a few of my own during my RTW trip.
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 12:00 pm. 9 comments
Legend says these hybrid fairy-tale animals live in the Bavarian forests. As they’re quite attracted to pretty women, the best way to catch one is to have a lovely lass search for one at night in a forest clearing. When a Wolpertinger shows itself, the Fraulein should bare her breasts, which will leave it stunned and easy to capture.
Here are a few Wolpertinger on display in Munich:
If you’re not bothered by stuffed things, check out the Wolpertinger and other (non-fictional) animals at the Munich Hunting and Fishing Museum on your next visit. It’s right downtown between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz. For more information on some cool and non-touristy things to do in Munich, check out my guest post on Trekhound!
About the Wolpertinger
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 1:10 pm. Add a comment
I recently met fellow traveler Joel from Freedonia Post, who’s about to start his own round-the-world trip in July 2010. His posts are really fun to read, living up to his tagline of “The world’s most entertaining world travel blog.”
As Joel currently lives in LA and loves the city, I asked if he could dispel the myths about Los Angeles and persuade me to visit there one day. It’s now on my list of places to travel! See for yourself…
To paraphrase something a wise woman once said “Los Angeles isn’t bad, it’s just drawn that way.”
LA takes a lot of heat for its traffic, lack of public transportation, smog, crime and cheesy tourist attractions. And a lot of it is well-deserved – Grand Theft Auto didn’t spring entirely from a programmer’s imagination.
It takes a while for a novice to discover what’s underneath all that, but if you look past the movie studios, Disneyland, night clubs and Rodeo Drive, you can find a wonderful adventure.
Here are a few things I’ll miss about Los Angeles:
Lots of places are described as an outdoor paradise, but let’s be honest, many of those are covered in snow 50% of the year. And I hate snow with a passion.
Los Angeles may not be sunny every day, but it rains an average of 26 days per year. That leaves 339 days a year when you can enjoy the outdoors. You can surf in the morning, ski in the afternoon and top it off with an evening bike ride in the mountains.
The highlight: April – the hills are green, the skies are generally clear and the temperatures are ideal for any outdoor activity.
The Los Angeles area is a cyclist’s dream. Within spitting distance from the city, there are hundreds of miles of quiet mountain roads winding through the Angeles Forest, the Santa Monica mountains and dozens of other locations. These are roads you can ride for hours, and have fewer than a dozen cars pass by. It’s odd that few tourists ever get out to these areas, because they have some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen.
In the more urban settings, the terrain sparks amazing levels of creativity in architects and engineers who built hillside homes around Mulholland Drive and its canyon offspring. I question the wisdom of raising junior on stilts in the middle of earthquake country, but I bailed on my engineering degree after two semesters, so what do I know?
The highlight: views from any of the canyon roads above Malibu: Latigo, Sycamore and dozens of others.
One of the largest urban parks in the world, Griffith Park is wilderness smack dab in the middle of cityscape. Almost daily, you can see deer, coyotes and any number of other animals while hiking acres of trails. The Sierra Club hosts regular weeknight hikes through the park.
Attractions in the park include the Los Angeles Zoo, Travel Town rail history museum, Gene Autry museum of Western Heritage, pony rides, horse trails, a carousel and spacious venues to play, have family picnics or even practice your drums without annoying the neighbors.
The highlight: Griffith Park Observatory – beautiful views of the city, the Hollywood sign and the surrounding mountains. Also famous as a location in Rebel Without A Cause.
Forget about the Walk of Fame, watching tourists is the real attraction of Hollywood Boulevard, whether they’re measuring their feet against John Wayne’s at Grauman’s or taking photos with the guy wearing the homemade Spider-Man costume.
Highlight: Venice beach. Another great place to watch tourists and the very offbeat locals, along with arts, crafts and $3 t-shirts.
If you DO want to see a celebrity, forget about going on a movie studio tour. You’re much more likely to bump into Jennifer Garner at Starbucks, Harrison Ford at the Brentwood dog park or any number of actors out for a morning hike in Runyon Canyon.
For the newcomer, you have to keep your eyes open because most people don’t expect to see actors sitting next to them. On the Universal Tour several years ago, an entire tram full of people busily scanned the backlot for stars, never noticing that Mel Gibson and his kids were on the same tram.
The other random encounter I enjoy is the discovery of locations used in television and films. The backlots are certainly interesting, but it’s those little places you happen upon that are much more fun. My childhood memories rushed back the first time I rode my bike past the Brady Bunch house in Studio City or hiked to the Batcave in Griffith Park. Here’s a little list of some random locations around LA and the films they were used in.
Highlight: My favorite random encounter is a tough one to track down – the ecological disconnect of a flock of parrots that calls the area around Pasadena its home.
The Mix of Cultures
Los Angeles culture is like a smoothie made with a broken blender. Part of LA’s struggle and its charm is that the cultural topography doesn’t really blend together throughout the city.
Dreams cross cultural boundaries, so people from other cities, other states and other nations all gather in LA, bringing bits of their homes along with them. Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, K-Town, Chinatown, Thai Town and more surround the downtown area with a wide variety of cultural experiences.
Because of the historical ties to Mexico, Hispanic culture is prevalent throughout the city. The best places to experience it are Olvera Street, and for a special treat, you can check out a traditional Mexican rodeo in Pico Rivera.
Highlight: Mariachi Plaza, where dozens of professional mariachi musicians gather to be hired to play at restaurants, parties and community events.
If all that doesn’t offer you enough adventure, then keep this in mind: other areas of the country may do civil war re-enactments, but where else can you re-enact a high speed car chase of your very own?
Thanks again, Joel! If readers enjoyed this article, please check out Freedonia Post for more.
Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 10:23 am. 13 comments
One of the destinations I plan to visit on my round-the-world trip is Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. By lucky coincidence, I got in touch with a local resident who volunteered to write a guest post about this fantastic island: Jake Garrett from The Villas at Poipu Kai. Currently [month of Mar 2010] they are offering a promotion for a free helicopter ride to Waimea Canyon. On to Jake’s post, which includes details on a great hike I’ll definitely do!
In 1866 Mark Twain travelled to the Hawaiian Islands and gave the secluded tropical paradise a real place on the map. He was on assignment from the Sacramento Union and wrote 25 letters documenting his journey. During his time he never made it to the Garden Isle of Kauai, yet Kauaians are anxious to claim him as part of their history. The legend goes that when Twain visited the Waimea Canyon he dubbed it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Well, the story is false, but it doesn’t require a folk hero to see that the title is well attributed.
The Waimea Canyon stacks up the Grand Canyon quite well in beauty and history. Two natural processes have formed the island over the last 5 million years – natural rainfall from the wettest place on earth and the collapse of the islands’ primary volcano. Centuries of cataclysmic events and continuous erosion give sightseers a breathtaking experience. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 ft deep. The displaced sediment over the years forms the entire plain of the southwest portion of the island.
All these facts make Waimea Canyon a must see when visiting Kauai. You can make the trip to the canyon one day long or a week long. If you are going to make it a day trip be sure to bring a long sleeved shirt. The temperature up the canyon is 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the island. Also, you should go on at least a small hike. While the lookouts are nice and the vistas spectacular – there is nothing like walking down through this immense canyon and forest area. There are a number of hikes that you can choose. A great day hike is on the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. The trail is 2.4 miles one way. The trailhead starts at the Pu’u Hinahina lookout between mile markers 13 and 14 on Waimea Canyon Drive. The hike should take 2-3 hours depending on how long you linger.
The stories that you will be able to tell will give Mark Twain his biggest regret – not visiting the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!!
Thanks for the great post, Jake – this canyon is somewhere I’ll definitely spend a few days during my trip in May!
Posted 7 years ago at 7:39 pm. 6 comments