Breaking free

Town Hall, Ljubljana SL

City Hall

The Slovenian city of Ljubljana (yoob yee AH nah) spent most of World War II in solitary confinement.

In 1942 Fascist Italy imprisoned the city, encircling it with nineteen miles of barbed wire.

On the perimeter, 206 watchtowers and bunkers were built. Land mines were set. Nearby homes were razed. Twenty-five hundred guards patrolled the wire.

For over three years, Ljubljana was cut off from the rest of the world. The city’s residents struggled to stay alive, as their conditions worsened.

Italy’s intention was to stop the city’s support for Yugoslavia’s anti-Fascist forces. The plan didn’t work.

Throughout the war, the underground movement in Ljubljana succeeded in sneaking people, supplies, and information through secret passages under the wire. Continue reading

Posted in Slovenia | 11 Comments

High old time (Part 2)

Machu Picchu PE

Machu Picchu

I’m in Peru, preparing to hike the Inca Quarry Trail and visit Machu Picchu. To read “High old time (Part 1),” please see the previous post.

After breakfast, our group of nine turned in our packed duffels and left Cusco in the rain. The day cleared as our van headed toward the Sacred Valley, an area that has supported farming for centuries. Both sides of the Urubamba River are terraced for growing crops.

The van turned onto a dirt road and climbed through adobe villages into the mountains. Election signs were painted boldly in black and red on whitewashed stone walls. Twice we were stopped by herds of sheep in the road. Continue reading

Posted in Peru | 6 Comments

High old time (Part 1)

Qorqor PEA few days before arriving in Peru, I began taking acetazolamide pills as a precaution against altitude sickness.

Some people are not affected by high altitude, but I didn’t want to risk enjoying my trek to Machu Picchu in order to find out if I was one of them.

Other measures that were suggested to me included acclimating over several days, staying hydrated, taking ibuprofen tablets, drinking the local coca tea, and chewing coca leaves. I followed all recommendations. Continue reading

Posted in Peru | 5 Comments

In the animal kingdom

Sea lion, GalápagosI had every intention of following Galápagos National Park’s simple rule: maintain at least six feet of distance from the wildlife.

However, the animals were not as compliant.

Blue-footed boobies waddled right up to my hiking shoes. Sea lions grazed me playfully when I snorkeled. Brown pelicans stood beside me, as together we watched the fishmongers in the harbor.

Even giant tortoises lifted their great heads and ambled in my direction, as if they recognized me from long ago.

In Ohio, wild animals run for cover when humans appear; in the Galápagos Islands, they yawn.

Continue reading

Posted in Ecuador | 8 Comments

Rocks of ages

White House, Canyon de Chelly

The history of the American Southwest is written in stone.

It is written in silver ore and petrified wood. In lava flows and cinder fields. On the walls of canyons and caves. In the ruins of pueblos.

It is written on tombstones. And on Spider Rock and Petroglyph Rock and Newspaper Rock. And most intentionally on Inscription Rock.

The Navajo say, “We will be like a rock a river has to go around.”

Instead, the river cut through the rock at Canyon de Chelly (duh SHAY) National Monument, gouging deep channels over millions of years. Continue reading

Posted in United States | 4 Comments

Bright lights, dark sky

The lights dart across the Texas desert, pulsing, merging, and then disappearing.

Some people believe they are UFOs; others, the ghosts of Spanish conquistadors.

A cowboy first reported seeing them in 1883. He thought they were campfires of the Apache.

Other theories as to the origin of the mysterious lights include swamp gas, St. Elmo’s fire, and the glint of minerals in the moonlight. Continue reading

Posted in United States | 6 Comments

Prost, y’all

Enchanted Rock TX

On Enchanted Rock

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner in Texas.

Unless you’re in Hill Country, where it might be bratwurst.

In the mid-1800s, tens of thousands of German immigrants settled in central and southwest Texas, which, at the time, was its own country. Some of the settlers were sponsored by a group of German nobles who aimed to colonize the Republic of Texas and develop trade.

Their scheme was disrupted by a lack of funds, the war with Mexico, and the statehood of Texas. The German homesteaders stayed anyway. Continue reading

Posted in United States | 6 Comments