Random Thoughts From A World Traveler On The Olympics

It is that time again. The two weeks every four years when we shift our attention from high paid athletes in team sports to lower paid athletes in lesser known sports. The time when television crews have to pretend they care about sports such as Equestrian, Synchronized Swimming and the Modern Pentathlon. The Olympics is upon us and because it is the most organized international thing which humans engage in, I figured I should add my thoughts to the already saturated opinions on the internet.
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Photo Essay : Isle of Man

Located between Scottland and Norther Ireland in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man has a unique history and legal status. It is not part of the United Kingdom, nor is it a territory of the United Kingdom. It is a “self-governing British Crown Dependency” which means it is (in theory) a possession of the Crown and not of the country. Because of its location in the rough Irish Sea, the coastline can be very dramatic. I spent 4 days on the Isle of Man in late 2011. Here is a glimpse of what I saw.

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8 Places I Am Embarrassed To Say I’ve Never Been

Over the last five and a half years I’ve managed to visit 116 countries and territories around the world. Despite that, there are still many places I have yet to step foot. Most people are surprised that I’ve never been to these countries because they are so big and many are popular destinations for travelers.

Sure, I’ve been to Nauru, Vanuatu, Samoa, Liechtenstein and San Marino, but they are just specks on the map. There are some enormous holes on my list of countries.

So with all humility, here is my list of places I’m ashamed to say I haven’t yet visited:

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Photo Essay : The Falkland Islands

In January 2012, I went with G Adventures to the Falkland Islands. It was the first stop on a trip which included South Georgia Island and Antarctica. The Falklands is one of the places you seldom hear about unless it is in a news story about its disputed status between the UK and Argentina (who called it the Islas Malvinas). I found the Falklands to be a wonderful if not isolated, remote and barren collection of islands where penguins vastly outnumber people and tourists seldom visit.

I hope you enjoy viewing the photos as much as I did taking them.


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Sydney’s Second Chance and How You Are Never “Done” With A Place

Sydney Opera House at NightIn February of this year I was invited by New South Wales tourism to attend the Australian Open of Surfing in Sydney, Australia. I’m not a surfer and I had been to Sydney several times before, so I wasn’t really that interested in attending and suffering through a 16 hour flight. However, having read my list of my 13 Most Wanted Destinations, they sweetened the pot by throwing in a trip to Lord Howe Island.

This, however, is not a story about Lord Howe Island.

This story is about Sydney and about how no matter the number of times you visit a place, you can never assume you have it all figured out.
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station

UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station
UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Varberg Radio Station at Grimeton in southern Sweden (built 1922–24) is an exceptionally well-preserved monument to early wireless transatlantic communication. It consists of the transmitter equipment, including the aerial system of six 127-m high steel towers. Although no longer in regular use, the equipment has been maintained in operating condition. The 109.9-ha site comprises buildings housing the original Alexanderson transmitter, including the towers with their antennae, short-wave transmitters with their antennae, and a residential area with staff housing. The architect Carl Åkerblad designed the main buildings in the neoclassical style and the structural engineer Henrik Kreüger was responsible for the antenna towers, the tallest built structures in Sweden at that time. The site is an outstanding example of the development of telecommunications and is the only surviving example of a major transmitting station based on pre-electronic technology.

As is the case with almost every industrial world heritage site I’ve visited, I found the Varberg Radio Station seemed sort of questionable before I arrived and positively interesting by the time I left.

The radio station is the oldest, operating long wave radio station in the world. It was originally built to communicate with stations in the US, primarily in Long Island, New York. Its sister stations have long since ceased operation, but the equipment at Varberg is still operational. They still even fire up the radio once a year to send messages, which is a big thrill for radio enthusiasts.

If you drive between Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden, it is worth stopping by for a half hour to take a tour of the facility and learn something about the early days of radio.

Overview

Varberg Radio Station

The Vargerg Radio Station is another cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sweden. Inscribed in 2004, it is also known as the Grimeton Radio Station. It was recognized by UNESCO since this radio station was the original site for an ultra-longwave radiotelegraph transmitter that was utilized for wireless communication during the 1920s.

This radio station is also recognized as the only transmission facility in the world to have a working Alexanderson alternator armature radio transmitter. Meanwhile, this site also serves as an anchor for the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

About the Varberg Radio Station

Varberg Radio Station

The Varberg Radio station is a cultural site that is recognized by UNESCO for its outstanding cultural value. The site that is protected by UNESCO consists of the following: transmitter equipment, aerial system made up of 6 127-meter high steel towers, and residential area that have also provided housing for the staff at the radio station.

The transmitter equipment in this radio station was built during the early 1920s. These transmitters operate at 17.2 Hz in frequency. However, it has the capacity to operate to up to 40 kHz. It was built by the Swedish-American engineer named Ernst Fredrik Werner Alexanderson. He was also responsible for a few other innovations in the communication field at that time, even until his death in 1975. Meanwhile, the six antenna towers were constructed by structural engineer Henrik Kreuger. The neoclassic buildings of the Varberg Radio Station were designed by Architect Carl Akerblad.

The VLF transmitter in Grimeton was also used for shortwave transmissions such as those for TV broadcasts or FM stations. By 1996, this transmitter became obsolete until it eventually went out of service. But while it is no longer use, it is still in good condition and because of that it was recognized as a national monument in Sweden. It soon followed that this site was recognized by UNESCO for its world heritage value.

The Varberg Radio Station in Sweden is one of a global network of stations that were planned post-World War II. This global network of communication was designed to boost communication capacity between various countries.

How to Get Here

To visit the Varberg Radio Station in Sweden, you can use this guide to plan your trip there. There is no airport in Varberg; you can take a flight via the nearest international airport in Gothenburg. There is a small landing strip in Varberg, though, which can only accommodate private jets.

From the Gothenburg airport, you can take a shuttle bus from the airport terminal to a rail system. There are trips every hour to Varberg. From Gothenburg, the train ride will probably take about 40 minutes.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

How Traveling Changed My View of Possessions

Then
Then
Despite 5 years of traveling around the world I think I am still fundamentally the same person I was before I started traveling. I’m kind of a smart ass and a bit cantankerous. There hasn’t been any sort of spiritual epiphany which has lead to a brand new Gary.

That being said, my attitude towards some things have changed. In particular, my attitude towards stuff.

Before I started traveling, you could say I lived a good life. I had a nice house on a lake outside of Minneapolis. It was 3,000 ft² (278 m²) and had all the stuff that a 20-30 something bachelor would want: I had a bitchin 106″ giant projection screen TV and a 175 gallon fish tank. I purchased the house with the idea in the back of my mind that I’d probably be getting married in a few years. That, however, never happened. Continue reading “How Traveling Changed My View of Possessions”

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Rock Carvings in Tanum

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)
UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

From the World Heritage inscription:

The range of motifs, techniques and compositions on the Tanum rock carvings provide exceptional evidence of many aspects of life in the European Bronze Age. The continuity of settlement and consistency in land use in the Tanum area, as illustrated by the rock art, the archaeological remains, and the features of the modern landscape in the Tanum region combine to make this a remarkable example of continuity over eight millennia of human history.

Northern Bohuslän is a land of granite bedrock, parts of which were scraped clean as the ice cap slowly moved northwards, leaving gently curved rock faces exposed, many of them bearing deep scratches made by rocks caught in the receding ice. These were the ‘canvases’ selected by the Bronze Age artists, all of them just above the shoreline of the period that began in 1500 BC, i.e. 25-29 m above today’s sea level.

This rock art is unique by comparison with that in rock-art areas in other parts of Scandinavia, Europe, and the world in its outstanding artistic qualities and its varied and vivid scenic compositions of Bronze Age man. The often lively scenes and complex compositions of elaborate motifs illustrate everyday life, warfare, cult, and religion. Some of the panels were obviously planned in advance.

Archeology sites are often some of the most difficult world heritage sites to visit because there usually isn’t much to see. My previous visits to Ban Chiang in Thailand and the Sangiran Early Man Site in Indonesia left me very underwhelmed. Absent taking part in a dig (which you can’t do) there isn’t much to experience, regardless how important the sites might be. I didn’t even know what I should take a photo of at those locations.

What is nice about Tanum is that the rock carvings are easily accessible. There are several carvings which are easy walking distance from the road. Also, many of the primary sites have the carvings highlighted with a iron based paint to make them stand out in the daylight.

In addition to the rock carvings, there is a nice museum and visitor’s center as well as an historic village that approximates what bronze age life in Scandinavia was like.

Tanum is located about 90 minutes north of Gothenburg just minutes off the E6 highway.

Overview

Rock Carvings in Tanum

The Rock Carvings in Tanum is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sweden. It was inscribed into the list in 1994 and is located in Tanumshede, Sweden. This site preserves and commemorates the discovery of a large collection of petroglyphs (there are about 400 of these rock carvings and artworks) in Sweden. The high concentration of rock art is what is most impressive about this site, which is focused within a 45 kilometer square feet of land area.

With carbon dating, archaeologists are able to estimate that these rock carvings were create some time in 1700 to 500 BC.

About Rock Carvings in Tanum

Even though about 400 of the rock carvings in Tanum are located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site protected area, there are about thousands of petroglyphs in Tanum. The ones that belong within the protected area by UNESCO are noted for their high level of concentration in one area. Another impressive detail about the rock carvings in Tanum that are within the UNESCO protected area is that the rocks were the drawings were made is believed to be the coastline during that time. Today, it now is elevated off the ground by as much as 25 meters.

The Rock Carvings in Tanum are also recognized into the UNESCO list for its unique artistic quality. The artistic representation also provides a glimpse into the way of life for the people in the region during the Scandinavian Bronze and Iron Age. While it is known that these people were excellent craftsmen and are also skilled water travelers, many of the petroglyphs showcase that too and thus provide further evidence to support the claim. For instance, some of the drawings depict a Hjortspring boat that carries passengers. Other forms of transportation that were also showcased by the rock carvings include carts or wagons.

Rock Carvings in Tanum

There are other motifs depicted by these rock art and carvings in Sweden that includes humans, fishing nets, birds, deers, bulls, sun, weapons and more. Therefore, it is like an artistic record from the past and the way of life that the earlier settlers in the region represented. Aside from the objects, a few of the Rock Carvings in Tanum also showed humans performing rituals.

One of the largest rocks that contain these rock carvings is about 22 meters tall and 6 meters wide. According to archaeologists, this rock alone contained about 300 different carvings depicting a variety of subjects ranging from objects, humans, and various daily scenes.

Protection and Preservation

Since its discovery and after being named into the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, there has been a lot of attention focused towards the Rock Carvings in Tanum. One of the biggest criticisms that the preservation society has earned flak for is in the way that these rock carvings were painted red in order to make them more visible to tourists. Some would consider that the act of painting red over these carvings made it lose its authenticity in the process as the original state of the rock carvings and drawings had been altered.

UNESCO is also working on preserving these rock carvings as the natural processes and the elements threaten to wash them out. For instance, acid rain is the biggest threat to these cultural items as they are in danger of being eroded.

To this day, the rock carvings in Tanum have an average of 100,000 tourist visitors per year. These visitors are prohibited from touching or walking on these drawings.


View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sweden.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.