Discovering The New In The Old

I am letting the pictures do the talking as I am taking a new look at the buildings and monuments of Vienna.

I realized so often we take pictures on a broader scale as oppose to a small one the little details many times are missed.

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Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just When You Thought You Have Seen Everything

Vienna is a wealth of leisure activities, my favourite are the coffee houses and Eis salons, there are many other activities but one of the most famous is the Vienna Prater. Unlike our CNE which is only open for 3 weeks, the Prater is open at least 6 months out of the year 7 days a week.

I could also go on about the less working hours for all concerned eg. hard to find stores open beyond 6:00 pm and the longer paid holidays. One could say leisure is more important than working 24/7 (so why can’t North America adopt this lifestyle?). Hence the reason why Steve and I are always seeing full coffee houses, restaurants and wine bars everytime we go into the city. Most of the people filling these places are the people of Vienna themselves.

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Back to the Prater, the land where it stands was once hunting grounds in 1560 for Emperor Maximilian. In 1766, Emperor Joseph II donated the area to the Viennese as a public leisure center (even back then leisure was important). Where upon the emperor also allowed the establishment of restaurants and snack bars, thus began the birth of the Prater. The “better” class of people came here in horse-drawn carriages, Waltz King Johann Strauss performed here much to the delight of the Viennese people.

Now I wrote about this to tell you about a lesser known Prater. Around 1900 one quarter of the originally inhabitants of 10 district (Favoriten) in Vienna had come mainly from Bohemia and Moravia (now part of Czech Republic). Not only did they live in the 10 district the also worked for the largest local employer, the Wienerberg brick factory . Thus when a smaller version of the Vienna Prater came to be in the Laaer Woods about a 150 years ago it would be known as Böhmischer Prater (Bohemian Prater). (more…)

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Is A Long Way Down August 1, 2008

All I can say, I was glad I was the one taking pictures and not driving. However when I think about it being on the passenger side going up the mountains was no picnic. Everytime I stopped taking pictures and looked over the side realized it would not take much for our car to flip off the mountain. When a tour bus came down my heart jumped as we had to move over slightly to give it room. As far as I was concerned there was no room, however with Steve being on the mountain side he felt he had lots of room. Hence I decided to take pictures non stop till we go to the top. I did not even notice if Katrina was nervous or not I was so focused being the photographer.

By now you are wondering where in Spain are these scary mountains, Manresa.IMG_1848

Manresa is in the interior of the province of Barcelona and it is here where we did the heart attack drive up the mountains of Montserrat in order to see the Monastery that sits up in these mountains. Lets just say after that drive everybody had a queasy stomach and we were quite happy to get out of the car.IMG_1858

The basilica was built in 1592. It had to be reconstructed after the Napoleonic invasion then again in the 19th century and in 1939. Beginning of the 20th century several chapels were built in the mountains as well. IMG_1869

There is also a musem, as well as a luxury hotel and hostel. And if you were lucky you could also eat with the monks. Well not actually seat with them but sit in the same eating area as them. Do expect to have any conversation with them as they kept a vow of silence. After I flew home Katrina and Steve spent a couple a nights at the hostel and hiked in the mountains which was breath taking. As you will notice from the pictures these are very unusually formed mountains.

Just to let you know the car ride down was much easier maybe because I was on the mountain side. It was hard for me to believe that my trip was coming to an end as we drove down.

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Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Hot, Hot July 25-30, 2008

We rented a car and drove to the coast, staying in the town of Cadaqués (fishing village) . It is a small town north of Barcelona just south of the French border it was a favourite holiday place of Salvador Dali. We were told there would not be too many tourists here, I think someone forgot to tell the tourists that, however it was still very enjoyable on the Mediterranean coast. Germans and French out numbered the English tourists, it really seemed out of place to speak English yet there must been alot coming from England as the menus were offered in all four languages.

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Steve enjoyed the coastal life style sitting on the front veranda of the Hostel where we were staying while doing his work.Katrina and I loved the much warmer climate especially during our walks to the coast line and finding our own personal swimming spot.We did manage to find a nice one and we unplugged Steve from his computor and spent a couple hours there enjoying the sun, water and sea life.

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Our next costal vacation was at Palafrugel was it ever beautiful there and hot. This place was packed with tourists, however we managed to find a very nice place Hotel Bo. The management went out of their way to accomodate our short stay.

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You could not lie on the white sandy beach for too long, before having to jump into the water. You were a roasting duck without a beach umbrella.

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Alas we could only stay for two days as we needed to head back to Barcelona in order for me to catch my flight home. We did make a stop along the way before we reached the city of Barcelona and that was a hair raising drive. Catch the full story on the next posting.

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment  

The Tale of Two Cities July 20-24, 2008

Katrina and I were most anxious to feel the sun on our face after spending a week in the cool weather of Berlin. Barcelona did not let us down on the weather front. It never went below 28 and it was even warmer when we hit the coast. Once we landed in Barcelona we tried out the transit system, the bus we were on did not seem to have a map nor did the driver call out the stops. This did worry me a bit and gave me a sore neck from constantly turning my head in a full circle (Exorcist) trying to read street signs and hotel names. Fortunately for us our hotel was a stop away from a huge plaza which you could not miss unless you were asleep. From there we had a 2-4 minute walk to our hotel. Steve had been there already for about 3 days for the conference he was attending, but he did manage to welcome us when we arrived at the hotel.

Barcelona was a hard city to enjoy, like Sevilla there we many interesting winding streets to explore.

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However, the city itself was very busy with people rushing , cars racing in circles and old buildings that were being dwarfed by the present architecture which made it feel unwelcoming.

It is not that the people were unfriendly in fact it is a city working hard for the tourist money. There were many waiters jumping out in front of us during our evening search for food, trying to encourage us to eat at their restaurant. We soon found out it did not matter what restaurant you ate at they all served the same thing. Even what they passed off as tapas could not compare to what we found last year in Sevilla. Last year in Sevilla every Tapas Bar we went to was an adventure in food, in Barcelona it was becoming monotonous. Never mind the fact I could not even order a glass of Sangria only on the coast was I able to order a glass, in Sevilla there was Sangria everywhere. Sevilla has historical charm while Barcelona is trying hard to be charming for the tourists. I was not alone in feeling a little let down by Barcelona even first time tourist in Spain Katrina was not totally captivated by Barcelona.

But I would not be fair to Barcelona if I did not mention some of the amazing things we did see. To begin with the Plaza that was not far from our hotel was called Placa Espanya. As you make your towards the Placa Espanya in the distance lies the hill or small mountain named Montjuic.

On top of that hill stands the National Palace which is now home to the National Art Gallery. To reach the palace one has to climb several flights of stairs or if do not want the exercise you can use the escalators. Mind you the exercise is worth once you reach the top the view is stunning.

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In behind the Palace is a lovely park, it is what is below and in center of the Palace that bring the tourists 4 nights a week to Montjuic the Magic Fountain.

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It is a light and water show done to music for about two hours in the evenings, as Spain does have water shortages they have limited the show to the 4 evenings (Thurs. – Sun.). The show is a visual delight and a photographers dream.

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The most amazing day we spent in Barcelona is what I call the Gaudi Day.

We spent the whole day looking at the amazing buildings of this architect who managed to combine geometry, nature and to me fantasy in these buildings.

The first building we came upon La Pedrera (Stone Quarry) as it was considered a bit of joke for it looks. This building was in 1910 ten and some the apartments are still living quarters for those who can afford the rent. One floor is open for public viewing, we decided not to tour the inside of this as there was another building that caught our eye.

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However before touring that building went to see the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi was not the original architect. A year into the construction of the building Gaudi took over as architect in 1883. To say he changed the original design is an under statement, even during construction he was coming up with new ideas. The church is like a visual bible it is no wonder that the church is far from being completed.

Just to give you an idea in Gaudi’s design there are 18 towers presently 8 have been built. It is hoped to have the construction completed by the 2026 the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The model does not do it justice but it gives an idea what it will look like.

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After spending almost an hour taking in this Neo-Gothic/Modernist church from every angle. we decided on a lunch break.

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We needed some nourishment for the long walk still to come and get some much needed shade, we managed to pick a very hot day to do all this hiking around.

After our break we went to a park designed by Gaudi for Count Guell. The mosaic of tiles, using mother nature as a frame work for his design to ensure it was a place of peace and calm. To the fairy tale like design of the two houses that stand at the entrance of the park. Some say one looks like the house from the story of Hansel and Gretel.

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The Tour we did take Casa Batio a nautical adventure here the seas and oceans became Gaudi’s vision for designing this house.

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The are no straight lines just curves or should I say waves. Enjoy the underwater dream of Gaudi.

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Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Thank God For Spain July 10-19, 2008

I had learned while travelling with Katrina not to expect very warm weather. During our 9 days in Berlin visiting Derek the temperature never hit 20c. I was beginning to think winter was around the corner. Of course most of my packing was for hot weather as was Katrina’s. The mornings always showed great promise blue sky and sunshine but by noon it became overcast and cool, we wore many layers during that week.

Berlin is still the evolving city that I had seen last summer. The biggest change is the Palast der Republik (The Palace of the Republic), it will no longer exist, in fact as I write this it may no longer be there. Built in East Berlin where once the Berlin City Palace stood (damaged during WW II and later on demolished by the government in 1950. Now with unification the present day government is tearing down the Palast der Republik to allow for the re-construction of the Berlin City Palace. One part of the Palace still exists and that is the golden balcony which had been used for the Council of State building. It will be interesting to see what Berlin will look like once the re-construction of the Palace is completed, who will be standing on the balcony and speaking to the people of Germany?IMG_1510

Other highlights of our Berlin visit was biking down major streets of East Berlin with Derek as our tour guide. Sometimes we were right in the middle of traffic, what a way to spend your birthday!! No wonder I needed that glass of red wine after our tour. Derek took us to where old communist building that had been abandoned since the end of WW II, eventually taken over by squatters and now taken over by the government. There is one building that has remained with the squatters and they have turned it into quite a complex of bars and artisan shops. Sadly rumour has it the government wants to kick the squatters out, I am sure there will be quite the fight.

Just when you think you have seen and heard everything we came across two Bunkers one which is supposedly haunted and the other owned by someone who has built his home on top and will give tours upon making an appointment.

There were many things we saw that day the last remnants of a train station that was bombed,

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Watchtowers that look too small for even one persontower

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and the famous Rosenstrasse where the German women stood in protest to save their husbands from being sent to Concentration camps.

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My birthday was filled with history and ended with a beautiful dinner with Derek and Katrina.

Though there was seldom a day when it did not rain we still decided to try our hand at canoing outside of Berlin in Spreewald. This area is known for its pickles, when Germany was dividend this where East Berliners went for pickles. So now instead of finding hot dog stands we found pickle stands and were they big.

We discovered that they grow the pickles along the numerous canals that exist in the area and this is where we did our canoing.

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Very easy to get lost even with a map just take a look at Derek’s expression pretty well tells the story.

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It would not be fair to Berlin if I did not mention the great meals we enjoyed at the many ethnic restaurants that now grace the city of Berlin. The best part was that no matter what restaurant we went to, we were never rushed. One time we sat at our table for about 4 hours enjoying a Sunday Brunch which provided meals for breakfast, lunch and even supper. It goes without saying coffee and ice cream were always good.

Of course as always my stay with Derek was too short and I am looking forward to seeing him again. Next stop Barcelona for some heat that is why I titled it thank god for Spain one place where Katrina could not bring on the cold weather.

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Published in: on June 27, 2009 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who Needs Box Stores When There Is Vienna

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Vienna is the place to go if you want to learn about Austria’s history. Here the history is still alive, everywhere you look there is a story to be told. Unlike Germany, Austria does not bear the same guilt or shame in her history .

With pain-staking work there is a re-birth of the many palaces, churches, monuments and several other historical buildings. In the Inner City at the heart of Vienna St. Stephen’s Cathedral stands patiently while her beauty is being re-stored. This has been going on for many years but each time I see the Cathedral there is something new to discover.

The Inner City was once surrounded by a wall, now the wall does not exist instead the Inner City is encircled by the Ringstrasse. Along this ring road you can see many of Vienna’s wonderful buildings, my favourite has always been the Parliament Building.

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As we saw in Berlin,Vienna has many parks which means you are bound to find some very interesting and unique fountains.

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What Steve and I enjoy most here are the many different shops, cafes, bars and restaurants you find along many of the streets. You are never too far away from a good cup of coffee, warm apple strudel and, of course Steve’s favourite, a large glass of beer.

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One of our favourite places to go at night is the Rathaus(City Hall).

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Here the city hosts a Open Air Film Festival that runs from June to September showing mostly Opera, Operettas and musicals. Along with this there is an International Food Fair where the food choices are great. Plus the various drinks including wines, beers and punch bowls do a great job of quenching your thirst. The best thing, is there are no plastic plates or cups when it comes to the food and drink being served. We always have a wonderful evening here with family and friends.

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This is the end of our journey. I hope my writings were able to give you some idea what a wonderful trip we had.

img_1032.jpgimg_1017.jpgMaybe there will be another adventure to write about, but in the meantime it has been fun. Bye, Bye!!

Renee

Published in: on August 2, 2007 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mountains, Music and Rubber Boots

The clocking is ticking, our incredible adventure is slowly coming to an end. Many people we have met in our travels have asked what will come next. I thought Australia would be hard to beat, but this trip, even though tiring at times, has been remarkable. So what’s next hmm, Africa, Japan, Chile etc., etc.? I know as long as we have the means and opportunity we will travel somewhere and then likely end our trip in Vienna. Before I write about our fun in the mountains of Austria just wanted to mention that I put up two different posts last time on the same day. One was on Berlin (What To Make of Berlin) and the other on Ecuador/Galapagos (The Two Sides Of Traveling), apparently there was some confusion.

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It always takes my breath away when we travel through the Austrian mountains. There is majesty, wisdom and beauty in these old Alps, our Canadian mountains still need to grow as they are youthful, rugged and defiant. We were in Tirol, the heart of the European Alps. Tirol is Austria’s third largest province, most of the region is habitable but through conservation and land use laws around 20% of the region is protected. Another great thing about Tirol is that it borders onto Germany, Italy and Switzerland, and in no time you can travel to another country. We stayed in the town of Brixen am Thale, which is among the Kitzbuhel Alps and all you ski fanatics should know the importance of Kitzbuhel (downhill racing).

So now close your eyes for moment and imagine you are standing in the middle of a beautiful Austrian village in the mountains. Now open them and this is what you see all around you.

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One of the reason we came to this particular town is that my cousin was organizing and running a game he created called Baurengolf which translates into “Farmers Golf”.

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No, it is not playing golf in a farmer’s field, no balls and golf clubs are required however you do need special footwear — rubber boots (but not for wearing).

The Baurengolf course is set up by using containers and farm equipment (usually old) such as wheelbarrows, wagon wheels, butter churns, water troughs and many other types of farm implements. Around 14 stations are created with a certain task and point value. This is where the rubber boots come into action. At each station you are have to throw the boot into a bucket or through a hoop, or bounce it off something and to ring a cow bell. Another time you toss the boot from a distance to try and land on top of an old barrel and if it lands upright you get a bonus point.img_0036.jpg

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With another you throw a boot so it knocks over an upright log with a piece of wood on top extra point if it is just the piece of wood that falls. These are just a few of the stations but it should give you the general idea.

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As well there is a separate contest of throwing a boot into a wheel barrel and seeing what is the furthest distant you can do it from…..7m, 9m, 11m, up to 17m. Your are allowed a total of 14 throws but must land one in the barrel by 7 tosses in order to continue on. Hey I managed to land one in from 11m to beat Steve. The following photos are from this year and last year as Steve and I were too busy play and working as referee/score counters, allowing little opportunity to take pictures of all the action.

Theses guys you will see later on provided us with some wonderful music and they won the team competition.

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Our entertainment was provided by the Salzburg Alpenklang Musi with Maria. They very traditional Austrian folk music with lots of comedy in between. All I can say is PAPA , MAMA YOU WOULD HAVE LOVED IT!!!!img_0946.jpgimg_0963.jpg

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After hearing this guy yodel one soon realized that Walt Disney must have spent a fair bit of time in Austria and Germany. Just google Neuschwanstein which is a castle in Germany built for crazy King Lugwig you see immediately that the Disney castle is almost identical. If you have ever watched a Disney cartoon where Goofy is skiing and flying through either he lets out a howl that sounds exactly like what we heard here. So think it is safe to say in the early Disney cartoons there was some European influence.

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Like the big conches of the sea, the horns of the mountains entice you to follow the sound to behold the beauty of the Alps. The sound from the horns seem to me to be championing the harmony of nature. All the political leaders from around the world should be blowing these type of horns who knows what could happen then.

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Now this wonderful entertainment was not here just for the Bauerngolf but for the Organic Herb Festival. My cousin only sets of the Bauerngolf at events where there is organic farming. On this farm organic herbs were being grown and they had a show garden where you walk around and see all the different plants and herbs used in all their herbal products.

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The day was fantastic, who could complain being in the mountains with great food, drink and music, and with a little bit of fun on the side (Baurengolf). You can tell by these winners they had a great time (I’m poking my head through in the back).

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Just one last look at Brixen am Thale from way above (Steve had no altitude problems here).

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Last stop Vienna.

Renee

Published in: on July 29, 2007 at 9:41 pm  Comments (1)  

What To Make Of Berlin

Ha Berlin, what can one say about this city which is still trying to establish its own identity. Steve and I often felt perplexed by Berlin’s constant transformation. How does a country/city deal with her past history and establish a strong positive future identity?????

Lots of reconstruction (more than last year) and many memorials for victims of the Holocaust and for the many who died during the war.

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Here are some facts I thought might interest you about Berlin.

Berlin is Germany’s biggest city and the most multi-cultural one (on this I hope Hitler is turning in his grave). It’s the greenest city of Germany with approximately 400,000 trees just on the streets alone, which is good because they love owning dogs:  its about 3:1 ratio trees to dogs.

Berlin has over 2000 bridges, around 170 museums and approximately 11,000 places where you can eat and drink i.e. restaurants, bars, cafes, bodegas etc. What Berlin is most famous for it is known as the city that never sleeps as quite a few eating and drinking establishments are open for 24 hours.

One of the more harder things to find are historical buildings as many had been blown up during the war and some deliberately torn down afterwards. This church is one of the few buildings even though damaged (fire inside from the bomb) left standing as it had a important pre-nazi history.

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Throughout the Third Reich walking tour, Derek (my son the tour guide), gave us pictures to view of buildings that no longer exist. Another time we found ourselves standing in the middle of a apartment complex that spanned several blocks where once stood the Reichs Bureau, which held Hitler’s football-field sized office.

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The transit system here is great, a day pass gets you anywhere using all various modes of transport, however you almost need a course to fully understand the map.

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One of the sites we visited was the Olympic stadium where a certain athlete made Hitler look stupid, I am speaking of Jesse Owens of course. One can only imagine what Hitler must have been thinking when he had no choice but to shake Jesse’s hand.

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Hey look Canada did win a medal that year. Out of the 23 or more events women were only allowed to take part in 4. Even in gymnastics they only did the team event, no individual events. Boy ladies, have we come a long way.

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One of the most fascinating thing about Berlin is it’s continual transformation. As one walks through and around derelict buildings some surprises can be discovered. Beach bars along the canals, a beach volley site that held 21 courts.

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The most surprising of all an old barge sitting in a canal that had been changed into a pool. The Berliners find unique ways to provide fun and relaxation.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour and next time we will be in the mountains of Austria.

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Published in: on July 24, 2007 at 9:13 pm  Comments (2)  

The Two Sides Of Traveling

Traveling these past few weeks through Quito and Galapagos have left me with many different thoughts. The city of Quito itself is not a city I would be quick to visit again. The smell of diesel fumes were overwhelming at times but they did have a great transit system. Seeing people young and old selling or doing whatever they could for a few dollars was disheartening at times, yet these were very happy people.

Often Steve and I heard how North American companies received lots of support in developing their business and the people of Quito would receive no financial help in developing their own business. Which in one way has created another problem Quito’s people are now flooding into the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos for the earning power tourism has to offer. But Santa Cruz is also in crisis because it cannot support the influx without encouraging more tourism. If this is not managed properly this unique ecosystem will be in danger of suffering great damage.

It feels like a double edged sword when touring the islands. By being there you help out the economy and at the same time you are disturbing a fragile environment. I mean some of the tourists have a total disregard for the wildlife on the islands.

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This is not supposed to be a rant but when you are traveling to so many different places it is hard notice things unless I travel with my eyes closed.

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I will leave you with some parting images of Santa Cruz and Quito.

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Published in: on July 24, 2007 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment