How the Knights of St. John managed to attract to Malta the greatest artists of the XVII Century.
If there’s anything more iconic than the New York City skyline, it’s the New York City tradition of the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
With a flick of the switch, a 76-foot Norway Spruce officially became the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree Wednesday (December 04) night after it was illuminated for the first time this holiday season with some 45,000 lights in a ceremony that’s been held since 1933. The tree, which made the 70 mile journey to its new home on the bed of a tractor-trailer, will remain on display until Jan. 7.
Performers appearing at this year’s event were Mary J. Blige, Jewel, Mariah Carey, the Goo Goo Dolls and Leona Lewis.
The workers who were building Rockefeller Center set up the first Christmas tree in 1931 with the first tree-lighting official ceremony held in 1933.
The tree pictured above was erected during construction of the building, when workers decorated a 20-foot balsam fir tree with a “string of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tins cans.”
The magnificent Pantheon, built by the Romans as a temple to all of their gods is the Eternal City’s best-preserved monument. Engineers still admire how such a mathematically precise structure was built without modern technology. Standing under the massive solemn dome, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the grandeur that was – and still is – Rome.
Verbalists exclusively represent in the Balkans the leading Italian language educator. Our partner, school Dilit (Divulgazione Lingua Italiana), established in 1974, was the first school in Rome to teach Italian as a foreign language. Dilit is situated in the center of Rome and conveniently placed for travel to every area of the city.
The Verbalists Language Network has prepared with Dilit a set of unique courses that will give you the opportunity to learn and improve Italian in a creative and stimulating way, while immersing in the Italian art and culture. READ MORE
Photo: Steve McCurry
Stilt fishing is a dying art that is threatened by the very fact that it is so unobtrusive and therefore extremely picturesque: tourists visiting the area get attracted by the sight of the stilt fishermen, stay close by, bathe in the sea, in short, do all the things the fishermen have been trying to avoid for decades – namely disturb the fish.
Photo: James Gordon
This is no ordinary fishing, there might be several methods of catching a fish but this one is mind-boggling. Fishermen in Sri Lanka use stilts to catch a fish. Yes, stilt fishing is an old tradition practiced by around 500 fishing families in Galle, in southwestern-most Sri Lanka, especially around the towns of Kathaluwa and Ahangama.
It had disappeared after the 2004 tsunami that struck Sri Lanka and other countries bordering the Indian Ocean, but resumed after things got back to normal. Its a beautiful sight looking at fishermen balancing on a thin plank, but at the same time its tough too. All this effort and toiling only to preserve their old custom, wonderful!
They usually fish during sunset, noon and sunrise, with each one taking their elevated position and balancing about 2 metres above the water. As you can see in the picture below, there is a vertical pole engrafted into the sea bed, attached to it is a cross bar, called petta, on which the fishermen do the balancing act.
Verbalisti continue the European travel with Rick Steves; this week, we explore the most famous castle in Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle is the fortified birthplace of the city. Used as both a fort and a royal residence since the 11th century, most of the castle buildings today are from its more recent function as a military garrison. This fascinating and multifaceted sight deserves several hours of your time, and admission comes with a fine guided tour. After the tour other sights of the castle beckon — including the National War Museum that illuminates Scotland’s proud military history.
Flights are booked solid months in advance, not from a new interest in exotic destinations but because locals are profiting from a play on the nation’s tightly controlled currency market.
The airline scramble has added to shortages, power cuts and runaway prices as another symbol of the Byzantine economic challenges facing the new government of President Nicolas Maduro in the South American OPEC nation.
After a decade of currency controls set up by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2003, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is higher than ever. Greenbacks now sell on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar.
There are strict limits on the availability of dollars at the 6.3 rate, but Venezuelans are cashing in on a special currency provision for travellers. With a valid airline ticket, Venezuelans may exchange up to $US3000 at the government rate.
The profit is realised from an arbitrage process known locally as “el raspao,” or “the scrape.”
Credit cards are used abroad to get a cash advance – rather than buying merchandise. The dollars are then carried back into Venezuela and sold on the black market for some seven times the original exchange rate.
The large profit margin easily absorbs the cost of flights and accommodation for a trip.
Some Venezuelans do not even bother leaving the country, but merely send their credit cards to friends overseas, who swipe the cards and send the cash back to Venezuela.
“This is the reason many airlines are sending half-empty planes,” Ricardo Cusanno, head of a local tourism council, said, saying the government should cross-reference flight lists with those requesting foreign exchange to outwit the no-shows.
As well as perplexing the industry, the scramble for tickets has become a hot topic of conversation and humor on the street. But not everyone sees the humor in the situation.
The currency controls that Chavez implemented have exacerbated some of the very problems they were meant to address: inflation and capital flight from the country. The lack of dollars has left importers struggling to pay for basic items that range from toilet paper to bread and wine for church masses. It is also fueling the highest price rises in the Americas, 45 percent in the last year.
For critics of the government, the phenomenon of sold-out flights is a symbol of excessive interference and economic mismanagement during the last 14 years of socialist rule. For Maduro and his team, it is symptomatic of unscrupulous and greedy capitalist opponents who are “sabotaging” Venezuela’s economy in order to sink him.
The striking thing about St. Petersburg’s amazing subway system (like Moscow’s) is that it is extremely deep. It was dug by nearly free peasant labor in the 1930s and – after a break for World War II – finished in the 1950s. While London’s impressive system feels rickety, St. Petersburg’s feels industrial-strength and bomb-hardened. Getting around by metro is second nature for locals. Today millions of citizens who use the system spend a good part of their lives – about an hour a week – riding escalators like this. READ MORE