Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Osnabrück, Germany - May 3, 2010

Our annual assault on Europe in 2010 was more structured than usual since we were scheduled to meet one of our granddaughters and a friend of hers en route, at about the halfway mark. As events transpired, we were driven way off track but did recover in time to collect the youngsters in Italy. More on that in future posts.
We set off from our usual launch site in the Netherlands and aimed for Osnabrück, a city in Lower Saxony, Germany, highlighted on the map top right. The population of Osnabrück is around 160,000 making it the third largest city in the region.
Developed originally in 780 CE as a marketplace when the area was controlled by Charlemagne, King of the Franks, in 889 Osnabrück was given merchant and coinage privileges by King Arnulf of Carinthia.
Lots more history over the next millennium although it wasn't until 1561 that anything really memorable happened. In that year Osnabrück killed its first witch the result of which must have been beneficial, for over the next 80 years they killed a further 275 witches and 2 wizards.
Today the city has a run down air not helped by the overcast and gloomy conditions that prevailed throughout our visit. For more views of this ancient city, click here,

Sunday, January 09, 2011

San Juan, Puerto Rico - November 7th 2009

Part of the 16th century defensive walls
Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista (San Juan), is the capital city of Puerto Rico ("rich port" in English), an unincorporated territory of the United States which, with 650,000 population, ranks as the 42nd largest US city. Founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, San Juan is the second oldest European-established city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo.
Christopher Columbus, on his second trip in 1493, named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Curiously, the ambiguous use of San Juan Bautista and Puerto Rico for both the city and the island led to a reversal in use, such that by 1746, the name for the city (Puerto Rico) had become that of the entire island, while the name for the Island (San Juan Bautista) had become the name for the city.
Spain ceded the island to the United States in 1898, an outcome of the Spanish-American war, and its citizens were afforded US citizenship in 1917. While said citizenship excluded the privilige of voting in presidential elections, it did qualify all islanders to participate in the draft during WWI and WWII. The island, the smallest island by land area of the Greater Antilles, endures a high humidity, year round average temperature close to 80 F with occasional highs of 90. In severe winter conditions in 1957, a record low of 60 F was recorded! Click here for Slideshow.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Charlotte Amalie, AVI - November 6, 2009

On his second visit to America in 1493, Christopher Columbus bestowed the Virgin moniker on an archipelago of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea in honor of Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. The present US Virgin Islands was part of this group and comprises Saint Croix, Saint John, Water Island and Saint Thomas along with some smaller islets. With an area of 133 square miles - about twice the size of Washington DC - the American Virgin Islands are home to a little over 100,000 people, mainly of African descent from the days of sugar cane slavery. Over the centuries since 1493, the islands have been held by sundry European powers, including Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark-Norway.
The Danish, who held the islands in the mid 19th century, abolished slavery in 1848 rendering the entire possession a money pit that required huge subsidization for the next 60 years. Despite several attempts to sell the islands, it wasn't until WWI and the American fear of the German submarine bases being established there, that a deal was finally struck. In 1917 the USA became the new owners at a cost of $25 million - about half a billion in today's money. All the inhabitants were granted US citizenship in 1927. Today, tourism is the primary economic activity.
With a population of 19,000, the capital city of the group is Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas, named after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel (1650–1714), queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark. The city is generally very warm and humid with average temperatures at a near constant - highs about 88°F and lows about 75°F. Click here for Slide-show.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Funchal, Madeira

Madiera is the main island of a small Portuguese archipelago about 500 miles west of the African Atlantic coast. Funchal, on the south side of the island, has been the capital since the island was settled by Portuguese explores more than 600 years ago. Although we had visited here on a previous cruise we decided to go ashore and stroll around anyway. The weather was warm and muggy and, from the dock that our cheesy cruise line had secured (the cheap seats, so to speak), the walk to town seemed never ending. Sapped of energy, we managed a rotish walkabout and returned to the ship fairly shortly.
The island is roughly 28 by 10 miles and towers almost 4,000 feet above the ocean. In February 2010, a few months after our visit, the area was racked by torrential rain storms causing flash flooding, sustained run-off and about 50 deaths. Hopefully, this may provide an opportunity to clean up some of the poorer parts of the city. More pictures here.