Stock Photography

India’s Ancient Magical Observatories

I wanted to climb the steps, but it was not allowed, and a guard stood by to ensure everyone followed the rules. Still, the idea of climbing on the giant edifices tugged at me just as it does a child who steps into an enchanting playground. And that’s what this place looked like—a playground filled with odd-shaped structures that begged to be climbed.

Part of the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India

In reality, though, we were at Jantar Mantar—an astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, a soldier, scholar and ruler with a lifelong interest in math and astronomy. He founded the city of Jaipur in the 1720s and built five Jantar Mantar observatories in northern India.

Jantar Mantar means “instruments for calculation,” or “magical calculations.” The Jaipur observatory consists of 18 devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, observing planet orbits; calculating the lunar calendar and predicting the start of the monsoon season. It’s main purpose, though, seems to have been casting horoscopes, which require a precise knowledge of the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars at the moment of birth.

The largest instrument (with steps leading to its top) is a sundial 27 meters high, its shadow carefully plotted to tell the time of day to an accuracy of about two seconds. You can see the shadow moving at 1 millimeter per second, or roughly the width of a hand (6mm) every minute.

Influenced by the Islamic school of astronomy, Jai Singh also incorporated elements of early Greek and Persian observatories into his designs. The Jantar Mantars, however, are more complex, on a greater scale, and contain some completely unique designs and functions.

They were made almost entirely of masonry, with some engraved metal rings and plates set into masonry foundations, and they were built large because the larger the scale, the more accurate the measurements. Once finished, they could not be corrected or improved, and observations were limited to those involving the positions and motions of heavenly bodies that are visible to the naked eye.

Over the years, they’ve been restored from time to time—partly because they are tourist attractions, but also to keep them useful and scientifically authentic. Local astronomers still use them to predict the weather for farmers (although the accuracy is questionable), and students of astronomy and Vedic astrology are required to take some of their lessons at the observatories.

Because of their size and inflexibility, the Jantar Mantars were obsolete even before they were constructed and were soon replaced by smaller machined brass instruments and telescopes that proved more useful and accurate. Still, they are amazing reminders of ancient innovation and man’s quest to understand the universe.

Categories: Architecture, Asia, culture, engineering, History, India, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bangkok’s Grand Palace

 In 1956, actor Yul Brynner, as the king of Siam, sang and danced through a gilded palace in the movie, “The King and I.” The country of Siam has since changed its name to Thailand, but its Grand Palace in Bangkok is still something to sing about.

The older Thai capital at Ayutthaya in the North had been destroyed in 1767 during a war with Burma, and newly proclaimed King Rama I ordered his men to remove bricks and other materials from the forts, walls and palaces (but not the temples) of this ruined city and send them by barge down the Chao Phraya river to the new capital city of Bangkok. Not only was he updating his wooden palace, but to solidify fortifications around his riverside capital, Rama I dug canals along its eastern edge, turning the city into an artificial island.

The Grand Palace is not one large structure in the tradition of most European palaces. It’s divided into four main courts separated by walls and gates and originally housing royal offices, state ministries, the royal chapel, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, ceremonial throne halls, and the king’s harem quarters. After a second expansion during the reign of Rama II, the palace covered an area of 2,351,000 square feet and was Thailand’s administrative and religious center, with thousands of inhabitants including guardsmen, servants, concubines, princesses, ministers and courtiers. And just like Rome’s Vatican City, the Grand Palace was considered a city within a city, subject to its own set of laws.

Gradually the government ministries grew in size and moved to other locations. The King, too, relocated to more modern palaces. In 1932, a student-launched revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy of King Rama VII, replacing it with a constitutional monarchy. Today, the Grand Palace still serves as a royal ceremonial venue, as well as a museum and tourist attraction.

I found the Grand Palace to be a photographer’s eye-candy wonderland rife with golden temples; bejeweled pavilions; and giant, elaborately painted warriors. I’d love to return, without having to follow a tour guide, and get lost in the visual magic of it all. Have you been to Bangkok’s Grand Palace? If so, what were your impressions?

Click on any image to see the slideshow.

Categories: Architecture, Art, Asia, culture, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Thailand, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Shanghai, China: Garden of Dragons

Yu Gardens bridge, pavilion and lake.

Yu Gardens bridge, pavilion and lake.

The most delightful maze in the world is not a maze—it’s a 5-acre plot of tranquility in Shanghai’s Old Town. But once you pay your entrance fee and step inside Yu Gardens, it’s easy to get hopelessly turned around amid the tapestry of winding walkways, caves, red pavilions, carp-filled lakes, stone bridges, whimsical doorways and myriad artful rock formations (which I suspect are feng shui inspired). “Haven’t we been to this spot before,” I asked my husband more than once as we wandered around gawking at the aforementioned sights, and peering through different-shaped openings that framed the garden’s treasures.

The largest and most prestigious of its era in Shanghai, Yu Gardens was built in fits and starts during the Ming Dynasty between 1559 and 1577 by Pan Yunduan as a peaceful place for his aged father. It was first opened to the general public in 1780. Despite damage during the First Opium War, Taiping Rebellion, and in 1942 by the Japanese, it was repaired by the Shanghai government and declared a national monument in 1982.

Don’t expect orchids and other floral arrays here, but if you’re ever in Shanghai, Yu Gardens is a must-see. Be sure to go when it first opens to get ahead of the tour busses.

If you’d like to wander with me through this enchanting garden. just click on any photo to start the visual tour. But, as the sign says, “Be Careful,” because here there be dragons.

Categories: Architecture, Asia, China, culture, gardens, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Moonlight Over Waikiki

From Ala Moana Beach's Magic Island, the moon illuminates a rich tapestry of clouds over Waikiki.

From Ala Moana Beach’s Magic Island, the moon illuminates a rich tapestry of clouds over Waikiki.

Categories: Hawaii, Photography, Reflections, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hawaii by Sea

Two of my Hawaii photos have been selected for magazine covers recently. The voyaging canoe was taken on the North Shore of Oahu, and the sunset at Anaeho’omalu on the Big Island of Hawaii.

palm trees at Anaeho'omalu Bay, Big Island of Hawaii

palm trees at Anaeho’omalu Bay, Big Island of Hawaii

Inside Out cover Jan '14

Categories: culture, Hawaii, Photography, Published Work, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Pa’u Rider: Real Men Wear Lei (and so do their horses)

After

Before

In this image I miraculously transported my pa’u rider from the shade trees of Ala Moana Park to the rugged Ka Iwi coast of Oahu, just past Hanauma Bay. (see previous pa’u rider post)

Categories: culture, Hawaii, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Travel Theme: New—Hawaiian Marriage Proposal

The idea of ‘new’ can mean so many things. In this case, it refers to new beginnings and a new commitment (and lots of new paperwork) when two people who are best friends decide to take that extra step. Thank you, Ailsa at Where’s my backpack?, for such a perfect New Year’s theme.

Jack and Jill by the seaplane

Jack and Jill by the seaplane

Jack and Jill had been a couple for almost seventeen years and had shared many wonderful times—travels to exotic places, sunset walks on the beach, cooking meals and watching football games together, long talks, and even—when Jill could persuade Jack, which was rare—going dancing.

They’d also tackled their share of difficulties, but no matter the circumstances, they’d always been there for each other—as confidante, coach, cheerleader, Florence Nightingale, and general support system.

So in the fall of 2012, Jack planned a surprise for Jill. She plagued him with questions, trying to trick him into revealing even miniscule hints about this surprise, but he was resolute (and, if truth be told, enjoying the game). The only clues he would divulge, which weren’t really clues at all, were that she should take two cameras and that the setting would be outdoors.

At 2:15pm on December 22, they set out, driving west. Just before they reached the Honolulu airport, Jack turned down a road that led to an industrial area by the ocean. This was quite puzzling because Jill knew the area. It was mainly used for airfreight services such as FedEx and UPS. As they passed FedEx on the right, Jack turned into a driveway on the left that Jill had never noticed before. And there it was, adjacent to the ocean—a little office, hidden by a hedge, bearing the sign, Island Seaplane Service.

Now she knew—they were going for a ride on a seaplane. Jill had flown on small planes before but never a seaplane. A new adventure. She was delighted.

Inside the office, Jack checked in, then disappeared for a few minutes. He came back carrying a cardboard box, and Jill could see a bouquet of yellow roses—her favorite—peeking out of the top. How sweet, she thought.

Jill was so surprised and overwhelmed by all this, she barely noticed the three TSA security guards until she was told, “You can’t take your camera bag on the flight.” And there were more rules—cameras were allowed but the straps were not and had to come off. While Jill attended to this task, Jack engaged in a serious, hushed discussion with the three security guards who refused to let him take the box containing the flowers on board.

As it turned out, President Obama was in town (Jill didn’t know because she’d been too busy to watch the news in recent days). That’s why the guards were there. That’s why the heightened security. But roses—a security threat? The guards did eventually relent, and after checking the contents of pockets, plus a thorough pat down and wanding (the zipper on Jill’s cargo pants caused a “beep” and had to be investigated), Jack and Jill were allowed onto the floating dock next to which the seaplane awaited, its pontoons bobbing on the water.

The guards followed them, watching for suspicious activity, Jill suspected. One guard offered to take a photo of them together in front of the plane. Then they climbed aboard, Jack in the back seat with his box and one camera, Jill in the fold-out seat in front of Jack so she could have the flexibility to take photos from either side (Jack’s idea because he was accustomed to Jill’s obsession with photography).

After fastening seat belts, they all donned headsets so that Jack and Jill could hear the pilot talking to them during the tour. It would take about five minutes, he told them, to taxi out to the take-off spot.

And that’s when Jack made his move. Out of the box he took an exquisite lei—a garland of perfumed tuberose interlaced with golden royal ilima flowers—and placed it around Jill’s neck. Then, before Jill knew what was happening, he handed her a letter. It read, in part, “I cannot imagine being without you. I would like to share the rest of my life with you. Jill, will you marry me.”

The headphones made it impossible for Jack and Jill to talk to each other, but she turned around and took his hand, squeezing it and nodding vigorously. But Jack wasn’t done. He reached into the box again and pulled out a necklace—a double strand of deep-green jade stones—and fastened it around her neck. She wanted to throw her arms around him and kiss him almost more than she could bear, but again she squeezed his hand and held on tight while the little plane lifted off effortlessly into the Hawaiian sky.

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At first they flew east, the high-rise office buildings of the city glistening below them in the afternoon sun, the deep blue of Honolulu Harbor, the green-roofed Aloha Tower Marketplace sitting aside its namesake ten-story clock tower—once the tallest building in the state and still a beacon welcoming ships into the harbor.

Then came Waikiki. From this vantage point, how azure and enticing the ocean looked as it flowed over coral reefs and onto the most famous strip of beach in the world.

Earlier, the pilot had told them they would circumnavigate Diamond Head for a good view of the storied peak, even though it meant veering slightly off the approved course. But at his attempt, the radio crackled and a voice said, “Are you familiar with the blue line?” meaning, ‘get back on course!’ Air-traffic officials were allowing no deviation today, so the pilot turned around and headed back the way they had come.

Still, there was more to see. Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, its worn volcanic crater rising from the congested city like the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, seemed deserted, although the next day it would be overflowing with a thousand guests—including the President—attending memorial services for the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, a decorated WWII veteran and until a week earlier, at his death, a powerful force in Washington and third in line for the Presidency.

When they reached Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial came into view, its white frame spanning the sunken ship below. It, too, was eerily deserted, its flag at half-mast in honor of Senator Inouye.

At Hickam airfield, the pilot pointed out Air Force One on the tarmac. Nearby, an orderly array of eight fighter jets appeared, with space for a ninth. Was one jet in the air at all times? Patrolling the coast while the President was on island? Ready to shoot down any plane, even a tiny seaplane, that veered off course? A chilling thought.

From there, the pilot headed inland, over Oahu’s elevated central plain with its quilted acres of pineapple fields, coffee and cacao plantations, alongside the island’s western mountain range and across a deep rift in the earth known as Kipapa Gulch, to the North Shore, where winter waves can reach heights of 25-plus feet, drawing surfing competitions and crowds that often bring the two-lane shoreline road to a standstill.

At the edge of sunshine, a wind farm appeared, and beyond it, a rain squall. The pilot ventured a little closer to the island’s northwestern tip, edging out to sea to avoid the inclement weather, and then turning back (they couldn’t continue around the island because, with the President in residence at his Kailua vacation compound, a ten-mile, no-fly zone was in effect).

The partnership of sun and rain must have known what this day meant, though, because it conspired to bestow upon Jack and Jill a blessing in the form of a rainbow before whispering farewell.

Too soon the southern shore came into view, and the pilot landed on the tranquil waters of Keehi Lagoon with a gentle rapid-fire series of smacks rather than the usual rubber-wheel-on-concrete thud. The proposal ride was over. The TSA guards said their goodbyes and left.

And Jack revealed to Jill why he’d been allowed to bring the box on board: He’d confided to the guards that he planned to propose, they made the call, and the Secret Service had given its permission.

His high-flying, Secret-Service-approved proposal accepted, Jack got the “yes” hug and kiss he was waiting for.

A spring ceremony is planned.

Categories: Hawaii, Love & Romance, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Norway: Viking Churches? Not

It’s an ironic story line—after raiding and pillaging towns and villages in countries throughout the north Atlantic, Vikings returned home and went to church.

Perhaps they did, but if so, they didn’t attend services in a stave church—so named for its interior, weight-bearing pillars, or staves. There may be dragons on the roof, but stave churches weren’t built until after the Viking Age ended. That date is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempt by Norwegian King Harald III, who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066. Ireland and Scotland note their own dates, predicated on victories against Vikings.

stave church, Borgund, Norway

stave church, Borgund, Norway

At one time there were more than a thousand stave churches throughout Europe. Most were built between circa 1130 and 1350 AD. Construction stopped when the Black Death started to spread through Europe, and congregating in small spaces became life threatening.

And the stave church is indeed a small space. So small, in fact, that most of its congregation had to stand—men and boys on the right, women and girls on the left. The elderly and sick could sit on benches along the walls.

Today only 28 stave churches survive, and all are in Norway where there is a long tradition of building in wood (remember those sturdy Viking ships). Earlier churches were built on often-soggy ground and succumbed to wood rot. Lesson learned. Stone foundations solved that problem.

stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

Stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

While visiting the stave church in Borgund, I was surprised to see that it—like other stave churches—had no windows. The only light entered through a few small portholes high up on the walls. The altarpiece depicts Christ’s crucifixion. Animal masks adorn the south door, and serpents and dragon-like creatures decorate the main-door side panels and lintel. On the roof turrets, Christian crosses and dragonheads keep each other company. Old legends die hard I guess, and it seems that the parishioners were hedging their bets—honoring old gods and new.

I found it interesting that the timber used in construction of the church was most likely seasoned on the root, strategic cuts drawing the tar to the surface before the tree was felled. After construction and during renovations, additional tar was applied to protect the wood.

carved doorway, stave church

carved doorway, stave church

It was common to bury the dead under the church floor, but that practice stopped at the end of the nineteenth century thanks to the unpleasant smell. However, stillborn infants and babies who died before being baptized could not be buried in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. Tiny coffins were placed under the floor, even in recent times. It seems odd to me that the ground around the church was considered consecrated, but the ground under the church was not.

If you stand inside the church and look up, you’ll see that the roof above the nave looks like an inverted boat with ribs. Hmmmmm! I wonder what inspired that design.

Categories: Architecture, culture, History, Norway, Photography, Scandinavia, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Travel Theme: Liquid

According to one definition, a liquid is a sample of matter that conforms to the shape of its container, and which acquires a defined surface in the presence of gravity. Another calls it a substance that exhibits a characteristic readiness to flow, little or no tendency to disperse, and relatively high incompressibility. In other words, you would be hard pressed to compress it. Ever tried compressing water? I haven’t, but I feel sure it would be impossible. Squeeze it one way and it squirts out another.

But I digress. A liquid could be many things, but I choose my favorite liquid—water. How much of the human body is water? A Google search supplies conflicting answers, but I rather like this breakdown: the body is more than 60% water, blood is 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water, and bones—yes, even bones—are about 22% water. Now I’m definitely getting off track, so to get back on, I’ll take a pictorial look at water as found on the Garden Isle of Kauai. In addition to keeping our bodies hydrated at an optimum level, water can do all the following and more.

Entry to a great photo challenge by Where’s My Backpack?

Categories: Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Kauai: Hawaii’s Garden Isle

Every February-March, my editor asks if I can once again update the Destination Hyatt books for the Maui, Kauai and Waikiki resorts. I look forward to this assignment because I’m a wordsmith, and it’s a chance for me to get creative, writing new sidebars, little-known facts, and intros for each of the resorts and the islands they inhabit. And that means I have to come up with new themes and ideas each year.

A few years ago, I wrote this one for Kauai. And since I just returned from six days on the Garden Isle, now seems like the perfect time to put words and photos together for a blog post. My husband calls this “flowery” writing, but I call it fitting for a garden island.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any Kauai experiences, do tell.

A father takes a photo of his five children at sunset on Brennecke’s beach, Kauai.

Kauai: The Magician

Abracadabra! Endless stretches of powdery-sand beaches strung together like jewels glittering gold in the sunlight. Throngs of red-footed boobies and other acrobatic sea birds soaring gracefully above the cliffs and lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. An impregnable mountain fortress known as Na Pali flaunting its steepled spires, sea arches, and isolated, idyllic pillows of sand.

When it comes to sleight of hand, Kauai is a master, transforming the raw lava of a once barren volcano into an emerald-robed Garden of Eden complete with groves of coconut palms and a smorgasbord of fruits: papaya, banana, breadfruit, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, and the tempting mountain apple.

Like pulling a rabbit out of its hat, the island reveals hidden gardens filled with colorful tropical flowers, the languid Wailua River and its ethereal Fern Grotto, waterfalls galore, a replica Grand Canyon known as Waimea, and towering Mount Wai‘ale‘ale—the wettest place on earth.

Once Kauai has mesmerized, resistance is futile. You’ll find yourself playing 18 holes on a world-class, cliff-top golf course, hiking into Waimea Canyon’s wilderness of pastel reds and yellows or along Na Pali’s carved-into-the-cliffside footpath, kayaking a rainforest river, sipping coffee made from the island’s homegrown beans, relaxing in a rejuvenating spa, visiting locations where movies such as Jurassic Park and South Pacific were filmed, exploring by horseback or astride an ATV, stretching out on a beach in the company of a Hawaiian monk seal or green sea turtle.

Kauai waves its magic wand and you gladly fall under its spell.

Categories: flowers, Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Photographing Pets

We’re a world of pet lovers, and I’m no exception. That’s why I’m always delighted when a client asks me to photograph a pet—in this case, an adorable puppy named Amber. I loaded backgrounds, baskets and a wooden pirate’s chest into the car, along with lights, light stands, my camera and all sorts of other gadgets and props, and set everything up when I arrived at my client’s home. Soft surfaces work best for pets. I don’t want them to slip or be uncomfortable, so the posing table this time was a couch (hidden by my black background drape). I’m also armed with a bag full of squeak toys and my arsenal of animal sounds because the puppy should be looking alert and into the camera as much as possible. You never know what’s going to work and for how long because each pet is different. This was one bouncy, active puppy. In the end, though, we got enough cute photos to make a multi-picture wall hanging.  Which one is your favorite?

Categories: Animals, Pets, Photography, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign, Easter Island

Ahu Tongariki, the largest collection of standing moai on Easter Island.

Ever since Dutch explorer Admiral Jacob Roggeveen landed at a small island in the South Pacific on Easter Sunday 1722 and encountered a landscape filled with giant stone statues, the world has wondered about Easter Island: Where did the statues come from? How and why were they made? And, most puzzling, how were these behemoths—some weighing as much as 75 tons—moved.

In 2004, I flew to Easter Island and spent ten days there with University of Hawaii Professor Terry Hunt and his archaeology students, who were digging at Anakena Beach—site of the first Polynesian settlement on the island. Since then and as a result of his findings, Hunt has taken academic dynamite to the old myths and blown them apart.

The original theories went like this: The first settlement was in 700 AD, after which the population mushroomed to 10,000 or more, and the islanders destroyed their environment, cutting down all the trees to roll the massive statues—called moai—into place. Famine, warfare and even cannibalism followed. It was a classic example of wasted resources leading to societal collapse, one that the world should take note of.

According to Hunt’s research, that’s all wrong.

Carbon dating of bones and other items from his dig now puts the first settlement closer to 1200 AD, and new evidence shows the population reached a maximum of 3,000, which was all the 64-square-mile island could handle because its ecosystem was depleted even before the first settlers arrived.

So did the islanders—now known as Rapanui—cut down their trees? The island was originally covered with thick forests of Jubea palm trees, and the Rapanui did cut down some of them to build shelter, says Hunt, but not to move moai. The real culprits were Polynesian rats that had arrived with the settlers, possibly as stowaways on the canoes. They multiplied rapidly, and their favorite food? The seeds of the Jubea palms. Without seeds, no new trees could grow.

Also, says Hunt, there is no evidence of warfare: no remains of fortress-like buildings or weapons of war. And all anecdotal evidence points to a peaceful people who understood that in order to co-exist in an inhospitable environment—with no lakes or streams, poor soil conditions and inconsistent rainfall—they would have to get along or perish.

Next time: the moai—why they were carved. And did they, as the local folklore says, really walk from the quarry to their current locations?

Categories: culture, Easter Island, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

glittering gold sunset near Waikiki

Sharing this sunset from a few nights ago.

I’m standing on the rocks below Diamond Head, and the structure you can see on the hill at right is the Diamond Head Lighthouse. Most people view it from above, when they climb to the top of Diamond Head Crater on a hiking trail and look down from the pinnacle.

In the 1800s, with so many ships running aground on reefs and shoals during the night, something had to be done, and in 1878 a lookout station was built. Its first attendant, John Peterson (from Sweden), known as “Lighthouse Charlie,” was on duty seventeen hours a day, watching through his telescope for incoming vessels. He lived in a small cottage nearby and was paid $50 a month.

When a steamship ran aground in 1897, a stone tower topped by a fixed white light was built. In 1918, after Hawaii was annexed as a territory, the federal government built the current lighthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands 55 feet tall, 147 feet above sea level, and its 1,000-watt electric light magnified by a 7,300-candlepower lens can be seen 18 nautical miles away.

Categories: environment, Hawaii, History, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

The Trojan Horse. Existing only in the pages of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, it has been recreated on the outskirts of Troy—an ancient, excavated city in northwestern Turkey.

the Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse and me

In the poem, Paris, Prince of Troy and thought to be the handsomest man alive, traveled to Sparta in Greece to win the affections of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus.

When Menelaus found out that Paris had stolen his wife and carried her (and much of Menelaus’ treasure) off to Troy, he sent a fleet of ships to destroy Paris and Troy. But Troy wasn’t that easy to destroy. So a large wooden horse was built. It was hollow so that soldiers could hide inside. When the Greek fleet sailed away, the Trojans thought they had won and brought the giant horse—which they were told would bring them luck—inside the walls. That night, of course, the soldiers in the horse emerged and slaughtered the Trojans as they slept off their victorious drunken stupor.

There’s much more to the story, just as there is more to the finding and excavating of Troy, but that’s for another post.

To show how BIG the horse is, note the relatively tiny figure (all 5’9” of me) leaning against the horse’s leg.

The term, Trojan Horse, is used today to represent a deception—something that looks good on the outside but really isn’t. I’ve had a few encounters with that: an ex boyfriend or two, even a job that looked like my dream job but soured after a couple of months. Anybody else had any Trojan Horse experiences?

Categories: Animals, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Travel theme: Animals

October 4 celebrated the Feast of St. Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It has also been designated World Animal day, so this is perfect timing, says Where’s my backpack? to share our animal photos. Perfect timing for me, too, since I’ve recently returned from a visit to the San Diego Zoo, where my camera caught many animals just hanging around and being their charming selves.

gorilla mother and youngster

Ok, ok. You can have a Twinkie, but you’d better be hungry for dinner.

Just click on any of the photos to access larger images in the photo gallery. (My apologies for some of the incorrect designations [gazelle, not antelope; bonobo, not orangutang; etc.] I’m trying out the gallery style and still have a few kinks to work out)

Categories: Animals, nature, Photography, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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