Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija

Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the Heritage of Mercury: Almadén and Idrija World Heritage inscription:

The property includes the mining sites of Almadén (Spain), where mercury (quicksilver) has been extracted since antiquity, and Idrija (Slovenia), where mercury was first found in AD1490. The Spanish property includes buildings relating to its mining history, including Retamar Castle, religious buildings and traditional dwellings. The site in Idrija notably features mercury stores and infrastructure, as well as miners’ living quarters, and a miners’ theatre. The sites bear testimony to the intercontinental trade in mercury which generated important exchanges between Europe and America over the centuries. Together they represent the two largest mercury mines in the world, operational until recent times.

Almaden: World Heritage City
Almadén: World Heritage City

Overview

There are two sites in two different countries which are part of this world heritage site. Almadén, which is in Spain, and Idrija, which is in Slovenia.

I visited the property in Spain and this post will deal with visiting the mine in Almadén.

NOTE: There is no risk of mercury of poisoning in visiting this mine. Mercury in its liquid elemental form is very dangerous. However, you will not see any silverly liquid in the mine. The Mercury is in the form of Cinnabar, which is a red mineral created when mercury bonds with sulfur to create Mercury Sulfide (HgS). The only place you will see liquid mercury is in the visitor center, behind glass.

If you look at a map of the World Heritage Sites in Spain, Almadén sort of sits by itself, at least a 2-hour drive away from any other world heritage site. You could visit on a road trip from Madrid to Seville, but otherwise, you will probably have to make a special trip to visit. I drove out of my way to visit when going from Trujillo to Madrid.

Many people shy away from industrial heritage sites, but they are my favorite types. Learning how the items which made our modern world are an important part of our heritage, and visiting places like Almadén are an important part of that history.

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Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida

Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida UNESCO World Heritage Site, Spain

From the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida World Heritage inscription:

The Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida, located in Extremadura, Spain, has its origins in the year 25 BC when Augustus completed the conquest of the North of Hispania and founded the Colony of Augusta Emerita. The city was created as an idealized model of Rome and was the capital of Lusitania, the western-most province of the Roman Empire. Following Diocletian’s reform, it functioned as the capital of the Diocese of Hispania. It was also temporarily the royal seat of two Germanic peoples – the Suebi and the Visigoths – and under the Arabic dominion, Mérida was one of the three border capitals of Al-Andalus, together with Toledo and Zaragoza, ensuring control of the western part of the Iberian peninsula.

The modern city of Mérida has been built on top of Emerita; yet, archaeological remains are well preserved and still evidence the Roman city. The 22 component parts of the property comprise an area of 31 ha. These include buildings for entertainment (theatre and amphitheater), the public architecture of the Forum and other spaces of power (provincial forum), engineering works (bridges, the dike, cutwater and clean and wastewater systems), and religious buildings, such as the Temple of Diana or the Temple of Marte. The property also includes excellent examples of private architecture, such as the Casa del Anfiteatro, La Casa Basílica, or Casa del Mitreo, which represent daily life. Most of the elements are located within the walled area of the Roman colony, but some are found outside its walls, such as the dams, aqueducts or thermal baths of Alange, in a natural environment and a landscape that has remained comparable to one of Roman times.

Overview

Mérida is a city in the Extremadura region of Spain with a population of 60,000. The city was originally founded as a Roman colony and it is best known of its Roman ruins.

The Roman ruins in the city are probably the best in the entire Iberian peninsula and among the best in the world. In addition to the signature Roman theater (see above), there is also a well-preserved aqueduct, one of the longest Roman bridges in the world, an amphitheater, arches, and a circus. The museum of Roman artifacts is one of the best museums of its kind that I have ever seen in the world.

Mérida should easily be on any list of top places in the world to visit to see Roman ruins and artifacts.

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The Old Town of Cáceres

The Old Town of Cáceres UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the Old Town of Cáceres World Heritage inscription: The Old Town of Cáceres is an urban ensemble of 9 hectares surrounded by a wall of 1,174m, located in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Cáceres has been a trade route city and a political center of the local …

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Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe

Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, World Heritage Site, Spain

Overview

From the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe World Heritage inscription:

The monastery is an outstanding repository of four centuries of Spanish religious architecture. It symbolizes two significant events in world history that occurred in 1492: the Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula by the Catholic Kings and Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its famous statue of the Virgin became a powerful symbol of the Christianization of much of the New World.

The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe is located in the town of Guadalupe in the Spanish Region of Extremadura. It is one of the most important religious destinations in Spain and was a vital place in the history of Spanish exploration and conquest of the Americas, as well as to the political history of Spain.

The site is a popular religious and tourist destination for Spanish tourists, but relatively unknown to international travelers. About 80% of the visitors to the site are from Spain.

Guadalupe is the namesake of many other Guadalupes around the world, mostly in Latin American countries.

The monastery is still an active monastery with monks and daily services, although the number of monks living here is much smaller than what it was in the past.

In 1993 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the many World Heritage Sites in Spain.

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Images of Girona

Nestled in the upper north east corner of Spain and Catalonia, sandwiched between Barcelona and the French border, is the city and region of Girona.

I spent the winter of 2014-15 living in Girona for three months. I had the pleasure to see much of the province as well as experience Christmas, Three Kings Day, and attend several local festivals.

Girona is one of my favorite places in Europe and I continually tell people about it, as it is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor to the south, Barcelona.

If you want to know why I love Girona, you can probably best understand by seeing it for yourself.


Night time view of the City of Girona

The image of the buildings along the River Onyar is probably the most iconic views of the City of Girona. The Basilica, seen in the background of the photo, was my north star for navigating the city. My apartment was nearby, so if I could see the Basilica, I knew how to get back.

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Day 29-30, West African Cruise – At Sea, Off the Coast of Morocco / Punta del Rosario, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Latitude: 28° 29.64′ N
Longitude: 013° 51.49′ W

I’ve decided to merge these two days because our visit to Fuerteventura was the shortest of all our ports of call. We had limited time on the island because the ship had to get to Agadir, Morocco the next day at a set time.

I had previously visited the Canary Islands in 2011 and it was a great experience. I visited most of the islands, but never got to El Hiro and Fuerteventura, so our stop on the island was interesting to me in that it was one of the few islands in the Canaries which I hadn’t visited.

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Behind the Lens – The Milky Way over La Palma, Canary Islands

astrophotography la palma canary islands

I am not an expert in Astrophotography. Nonetheless, I had the chance to try my hand at it when I was on the island of La Palma back in 2011.

La Palma, along with Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is one of the most important locations for professional astronomy in the world. It is the location of the world’s largest single mirror telescope as well as many other high end devices. The reason why La Palma is such a great place to do astronomy is because the top of the mountain there is almost always above the clouds which means there a large number of nights each year where you can see the heavens.

I had the opportunity while I was on La Palma to go out one night and shoot the stars with my camera with a local amateur astronomer. I jumped at the chance.

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Amy’s First Passport Stamp

With half a decade of non-stop travel under my belt, I can talk about a lot of subjects related to travel. The one thing I cannot talk about, however, is what it feels like to travel for the first time. Recently my assistant Amy made her very first trip outside of US/Canada. I asked her to write about her experience traveling abroad for the first time.

In the comments, feel free to share your first time traveling outside of your home country. Everyone remembers their first time and everyone has a different story.

Here is Amy:

A Cross in the Pyrenees near Vall de Nuria
Growing up, my parents weren’t all that big into travel. While we had family vacations, they were always short road trips. So when I graduated from high school, I had been in only 5 states (all of them bordering my home state of Texas) and had never flown in a plane. When I finally did fly for the first time, I flew Dallas to Lubbock. That short haul flight was not all that impressive, nor was Lubbock, but it did prove to me that I could do it and there was nothing to be afraid of.

In the past ten years or so, I’ve definitely broadened my horizons. I’ve been to 34 US states, including Alaska and Hawaii. I have lived outside of my home region for a significant portion of time, and I definitely love the rush of adventure. That 18 year old that was afraid of flying? She herself grew into a glider pilot, and married an airline pilot. I now easily jump on and off flights, fly standby and can calculate the best routes better than the average gate agent.

However, one thing still eluded me – foreign travel.

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