Page 4 of El Gringo Viejo Travel Blog Posts

Central America Caribbean » Guatemala » Petén Region » Tikal February 26th 2013

On Thursday Feb 25, Paulino picked us up in the little town of Flores, a small town that is the capital of the State of Peten in Guatemala. It is an island in Lake Peten Itzá, the last holdout of the Maya against the Spanish conquista, remaining an independent native city until 1697. (The first to fall was Q'umarkaj, 174 years earlier. The Peten was just too remote and hot to bother with, apparently.) There is little to show for it today; just a small city park with a few steles, which we did not bother to visit. It is a pretty little town; see Photo 1. Tikal, according my own theory of Maya history, is the great Mother City of the whole civilization. Professional historians are not quite ready to say this, but on the ... read more
2.Road into Tikal
3.Top of temple 1
4.Side of temple 1

We are just back from a four day road trip to the Eastern part of Guatemala and then on North to the great ruins at Tikal, deep in the jungle of the Peten. There is a map of it as Photo 1. Almost all the way to Rio Dulce, the road runs along the edge of the great Motagua fault, with the Rio Motagua running along in the trough. This fault is rich in minerals, and somewhere along it is where the ancient Maya mined their jade. It comes in sizes from pebbles to boulders, but the boulders are hard to recognize because they are covered by a limestone crust. To find it, you just bang on them until you find one where the crust breaks off to reveal a beautiful green-veined rock so dense and ... read more
2.Stele 3 in its hut
3.Face on Stele 3
4. At the edge Quirigua

Guatemala has the honor to be transected by the collision of two major tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Carribean Plate. They are still moving, one pushing up and over the other, leaving an easily visible fault in the surface of the earth, called the Motagua Fault, that runs right across the whole country. See photo 1. This fault runs right near Antigua, and is responsible for its distinguished history of earthquakes. There was a fairly big one in 1717, and another in 1751. In 1765 they had an 8.2 that ruptured the earth all the way into Chiapas. Then the Big One hit on July 29 1773, leaving most of the city of Antigua in rubble. With that, the Antiguans had had it. Formerly the capital city, Antigua was essentially abandoned for many ... read more
2.Capuchin ruins A
3.  Capuchin garden with bride
4. Calle Arco

If New Orleans is a town with a Drinking Problem, Antigua is a town with a Chocolate Problem. It is sold in every form, everywhere, until you think it must have been invented here. Well, it was, in a way. But that was long ago and in another culture. The annual world prodution of cacao beans is now about 3 million tons, of which Guatemala produces a hardly noticable 1000 tons- not even enough to supply its national consumption. The choclate tree is a minor bush, just taller than a man, living in the shady underbrush of the jungle. It is easy to spot because of the large bright yellow or orange cacao pods hanging directly off the trunk. Botanists believe it is indigenous to the Amazon jungle in Ecuador, and was brought to Central America ... read more

Greetings to all Old Gringo fans, from Antigua, Guatemala. We snowbirds are nesting a little farther South than usual this year, in the uplands of south-central Guatemala. Years ago, in Chiapas, I said that you could see the landscape change when you cross the Rio Grijalva just before Chiapa de Corzo (in the narrowest part of Mexico, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec). There are tall wild fig trees on the banks of the Grijalva, full of monkeys eating the figs, and crocodiles waiting below for a monkey to make a mistake. No more cactus, no more of the dreary arid landscape that fills all of northern Mexico. You are quite suddenly in the Central American jungle, with plentiful water, gorgeous flowers, and vegetation so dense you can only see a few yards. This is doubly true in ... read more
Our room in back patio
Posada La Merced, Antigua
Textile museum

Middle East » Turkey November 12th 2012

Blog 5 Troy We left the Dardanelles on a car-and-bus ferry, leaving Europe from a small port named Kilitbahir, and landing in Asia about thirty minutes later at a Turkish provincial capital named Çanakkale. See photo 1. The province of Çanakkale used to be called The Troad, because it was once ruled by Troy. I attach a map (photo 2) that shows the exact location of ancient Troy, and the two rivers, Scamander and Simoeis, that flanked it. The land at the top of the map is the Dardanelle peninsula, and the city of Çanakkale is just off the map to the northeast. The location of Troy was not at all obvious in modern times. As you see, it is not very close to the waters of the Dardanelles Its remoteness was one of the main ... read more
2.  Location of Troy
3.  Plain of Troy today
4. Some of the layers of Troy

Middle East » Turkey October 24th 2012

After our big day on the Golden Horn, we departed on our circular tour of Turkey. The map of our first day's travel is attached, because it took us through some very interesting geography. We left Istanbul going West through the little European piece of Turkey, along the north coast of the Sea of Marmara and down into the Dardanelles peninsula to Gallipoli, the grim birthplace of modern Turkey. Here the Turks smashed an invasion by the British Empire in 1915 and sent the Brits home in absolute humiliating defeat. They had thrown 469,000 troops into the effort, losing 141,000 dead and wounded, and absolutely nothing to show for it. The Turks lost about double that number, but they gained their national identity and a leader, Mustafa Kemal, the father of modern Turkey. Americans don't know ... read more
Our route on the Dardanelles peninsula
Dardanelles landings
ANZAC Cove, looking seaward

Middle East » Turkey October 19th 2012

Big Ancient Domes After an hour and a half in Topkapi, we walked to the Hagia Sophia, then on to the Blue Mosque, then on to the Grand Bazaar. They are all very close together, but it makes for a day so full of things that it is hard to remember accurately, even today as I write it up a few weeks later. The sequential photos from my camera help. The Hagia Sophia brought up some thoughts about the big domes we have seen on our travels. Let's start with the Pantheon in Rome, the oldest unruined building in the world. It was built by Hadrian as a temple for All the Gods in 126 AD. It has a huge dome; a sphere 142 feet in diameter would fit snugly inside it. It has a hole ... read more
Hagia Sophia from the air
The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Ablution outside the Sultanahmet mosque

Middle East » Turkey October 17th 2012

An amazing Turkey tour website I blundered into an absolutely amazing website that has panoramic pictures of many scenic things in Turkey. There are at least hundreds, maybe thousands of these panoramic views, of all kinds of things to see in Turkey. I have spent a few hours with it and I have only seen a small part; Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque, and many rooms inside Topkapi. It doesn't absolutely replace being there yourself, but it comes fairly close. In some ways it is better. Just click here and you will go right to it. After you click, you will see a page called "Sites in 3D". Click on Topkapi Palace. You will see a plan of Topkapi surrounded by many things to click on. The "Main Gate" is a good place to start. ... read more

Middle East » Turkey October 14th 2012

Friday, Sept 21 in Istanbul Istanbul has perhaps the most famous and beautiful site of any city in the world. It has had three names. In ancient times it was the Greek city of Byzantium. Then after Constantine made it the capital of the Eastern Roman empire it became Constantinople. After it was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453, it became Istanbul. Mehmet The Conquerer visited the old Byzantine palace in the first days after he took Constantinople. It had been built by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II in the 5th century AD, and the place was an utter wreck. As he viewed it, Mehmed remembered the words of a Persian poet, "The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars; the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab." These Byzantine ... read more
Dolmabaci Palace
Tolga and the Holy Umbrella
Topkapi, second gate

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