Zurich

The next stop on my three weeks of travel was the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland. I spent two days here, with one of the days being a side trip to Jungfraujoch, but more on that later.

Accommodation was at the ibis Airport Hotel. The cost was reasonable at $70 CDN, although the rooms were rather simple, but the beds were comfortable.

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city at 408000 people. Switzerland has a population of 8.2 million people. Before we take a look at Zurich let’s look at a bit of history of Switzerland and how Zurich came to be.

Switzerland’s history is rather young. Switzerland was inhabited by the Gauls Raetians and was under Roman rule in the 1st century BC. The Gallo-Roman culture was combined with German influence during 235-284 AD time period. The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (similar to states or provinces). Other localities joined the original three cantons over the years. The Swiss Confederation became independent of the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. The constitution of 1848 replaced the confederations with a centralized federal government. This constitution was modified again in 1874. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. Switzerland did not become a European Union member until 2002, but maintains its own currency.

Zurich has an extensive tram network that would make many other cities jealous. The trams run every 6 minutes and are very punctual. This keeps traffic extremely light in the city as most people take public transport. Other cities that I have visited that have had great success with trams are Amsterdam, and Melbourne. Two cities that I’ve visited that used to a great tram network before the 1950’s rush to build automotive highways were Auckland, New Zealand and my home town Calgary, Canada. The mayor of Auckland even ordered the removal of some of the tram lines in the middle of the night! It’s a shame because these two cities are absolutely plugged with traffic.

Zurich is an extremely wealthy city, and Switzerland is also an extremely wealthy country with a large population working white collar jobs such as Google (3000 people in Zurich alone), fine quality jewelery and watches, chocolate, and banking and finance.

Zurich straddles both sides of the Limmat river and has many bridges that offer fantastic views, and a beautiful viewpoint from Lindenhof Park. Another wonderful spot for photographs is Grossmunster church, a Romanesque-style Protestant church, which was built between 1100 and 1220 AD.

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Check back shortly for the final installment of my trip; a trip to Jungfraujoch, a notable saddle in the Bernese Alps, connection the two peaks of Junfrau and Monch.

Santorini

I just spent a few days on the beautiful Greek island of Santorini. Santorini’s history dates back to roughly 5000 BC.

Accommodation was at Villa Danezis. This luxury villa was rather affordable at $70 CDN per night and is managed by the owners who live on site. The villa has ten beautiful appointed rooms with nice art work, a sizeable outdoor pool, a beautiful patio area, and morning coffee with delicious home made muffins.

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During my stay I rented a car as it was a lot easier than trying to take the local transit, despite it being a more expensive choice. When I was on the island I did the famous Fira to Oia hike in reverse, which took about 3 hours to complete and is rated moderate. The hike takes you through both the ancient districts, and along the mountainous terrain between the two districts, with many beautiful old churches painted in blue and white. All of the “towns” on the islands are now just referred to as districts of Thera (Thira), since 2011 when the government decided to do so.

I explored Oia and Fira in detail, visited the old Akrotiri Lighthouse on the south side, and the ancient towns of Akrotiri and Ancient Thera.

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The ancient town of Akrotiri date’s back to as early as 5000 BC, when it was a small fishing and farming village. By about 3000 BC the community had developed and expanded significantly. Akrotiri continued to prosper over the years with the introduction of paves streets, an extensive drainage system, and high quality pottery and craftsmanship. This all came to an end in 1627 when the volcanic eruption of Thera buried the entire community in volcanic ash. The community wasn’t found again until 1867 when some locals found some old artifacts in a quarry. Extensive modern excavations of the site occurred in 1967 by Professor Spyridon Marinatos. Excavations are still ongoing to this day.

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The ancient town of Ancient Thera date’s back to 9th century BC until 726 AD when it was buried after a small eruption of the volcano of Santorini covered it in pumice stone. The ancient city was re-discovered in 1895 by Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen and excavations started to occur between 1961 and 1982, and 1990 and 1994.

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I also ate some of the most amazing food I’ve had in my life. The meat and vegetables are so fresh and the Greek meals are delicious; whether it was traditional Greek coffee, Greek salad, fresh sea food, or vegetarian dishes. Yes you read that correctly, vegetarian dishes! Santorini has vegetarian only restaurants and they serve incredible food; my personal favorite being Tranquilo where I had Greek salad and goat cheese filled hot peppers.

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Another fantastic restaurant that you must visit is To Briki. I had traditional Greek coffee served with old wine grapes soaked in honey, deep fried Greek cheese, and amazing smoked salmon and avocado bruschetta.

Check back shortly for my next blog post where I explore the beautiful city of Zurich!

2018-08-20 – Nairobi, Kenya

Today I woke up at 7:30am. I had a shower and went downstairs to have a buffet breakfast, which was complimentary. The buffet had an excellent selection of cheeses, meats, omelets, sausages, pancakes, etc.

After having breakfast I went and explored the city of Nairobi and bought some groceries as the hotel lunch and dinner menus are exceptionally expensive. I purchased a muffin, yoghurt, bananas, oranges, and a bag of chips for under $5 USD at a local market called Tusky’s!

Since I didn’t have too much going on today I did a lot of reading on the history of Kenya, and the capital City; Nairobi. I’ve consolidated the information that i read into something that you can read in about five minutes.

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Kenya has seen human habitation since the begging of the Lower Paleolithic, back over 3.2 million years ago! In 2011 stone tools were discovered at Lomekwi near Lake Turkana, and these are the oldest stone tools found in the world. Kenya is a very ethnically diverse country with a mixture of African, Arabs, European and Asian individuals. There are 69 different languages spoken in Kenya, with English and Swahili being the most common spoken.

There are over 48 million people living in Kenya (estimated as the last official census was in 2009 and that census had some controversy behind it), and just over 6.5 million people residing in the capital city of Nairobi (including the metropolitan area).

Kenya was colonized by the British from 1888 to 1962. Nairobi was founded in 1899 by the colonial authorities in British East Africa, as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway. The town grew quickly and replaced Machakos as the capital city in 1907. After gaining independence from the British in 1963, Nairobi became the capital city of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenya’s economy relies heavily on Tourism, Agriculture, Industrial Manufacturing, Telecommunication, and Finance. Telecommunication and Finance account for about 60% of the total GDP of the country, and only 20% comes from agriculture even though that over 75% of the workforce is employed in Agriculture. Kenya’s economy is just starting to boom and is it definitely shows when I was walking the streets of Nairobi. You see a lot of economic diversity on the streets. On one street you see wealthier business people dressed in suits with laptops, cellphones, and nicer cars; then on the next street you see slums with tents and people selling textiles and food. 20% of Kenyans live on only $1.25/day but that wage is rising sharply with the economic growth!

As with any developing country with a developing economy there is a rather unwelcome problem of pollution in the form deforestation, water shortage, degraded water quality, and air pollution.

The main source of water pollution in Kenya is the direct and indirect discharge of raw sewage into water bodies. According to the UN Environment over 80% of the world’s water is released into the environment without treatment.

The main source of air pollution in Kenya is from industrial activity and the use of low quality fuels and diesel. Kenya is one of the few African countries that doesn’t use leaded petrol thankfully. According to the UN environment, overall environmental degradation causes 1 out of 4 deaths worldwide. This is an alarming statistic!

Kenya has taken some initiative to try to and solve some of the issues. One of these solutions was to ban plastic bags by imposing some of the world’s stiffest fines. I have noticed no plastic bags so far so I can definitely say this is helping. There is still a huge use of plastic for water bottles as the water in the country is mostly undrinkable due to contamination. Nairobi supposedly has water that is drinkable, but I’m not going to chance it. Another initiative that was taken was to built a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Nairobi, where traffic jams plague the city. People on average spend 3-5 hours stuck in gridlock and it has a huge tole on the air quality and economy; as its believed to cost 2% of the country’s GDP in lost productivity! I can believe it as I find the air pollution stifling here; even worse than what I experienced in my travels to Thailand and limited travels in China.

Another positive is that 87% of Kenya’s main grid electricity (not including personal diesel generators) is generated from geothermal heat, water, and wind, which puts it up there with Iceland and Costa Rica in terms of clean energy production. Way to go Kenya!

Continue following my blog as tomorrow I start my 8 day Kenyan Safari trip; so you’ll be sure to see lots of photos of animals in the wild!

2018-05-25 – US Route 66 Day 9

Today we drove 295 miles from Flagstaff, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. We ended up staying at The Hamptons by Hilton. Today was the final day of our trip. We will fly home tomorrow. We saw the following sights today:

  • Museum Club, Flagstaff
  • El Pueblo Motel, Flagstaff
  • 66 Motel, Flagstaff
  • Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff
  • Du Beau Motel, Flagstaff
  • Pine Breeze Inn, Flagstaff
  • Harley Davidson, Bellemont
  • Park in Pines Café, Parks
  • Twisters Soda Fountain, Parks
  • Grand Motel, Parks
  • Rod’s Steak House, Williams
  • Pete’s Gas Station Museum, Williams
  • Red Garter Bed & Bakery, Williams
  • Grand Canyon Railroad & Hotel, Williams
  • Grand Canyon Hotel, Willliams
  • National Bank, Williams
  • 9 Arizona Motor Motel, Williams
  • Desoto Salon, Ash Fork
  • Delagillos Snow Cap, Seligman
  • Route 66 Gift Shop, Seligman
  • Copper Cart, Seligman
  • Historic Sundries, Seligman
  • Black Cat Bar, Seligman
  • Supai Motel, Seligman
  • Truxton Ghost Town
  • Hackberry Store
  • Anatres Art Gallery
  • Route 66 Motel, Kingman
  • Beale Hotel, Kingman
  • Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, Kingman
  • Powerhouse Vistor’s Centre, Kingman

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2018-05-24 – US Route 66 Day 8

Today we drove 330 miles from Grants, New Mexico to Flagstaff, Arizona. We ended up staying at The Marriott. We saw the following sights today:

  • Ice Cave & Volcano, Grants
  • Tomahawk Bar, Previtt
  • Continental Divide
  • Denny’s Original Diner (now Avalon), Gallup
  • Blue Spruce Lodge Sign, Gallup
  • Lariat Lodge, Gallup
  • Giant Yellow Kachina, Gallup
  • El Rancho Motel, Gallup
  • El Morro Theatre, Gallup
  • Giant Muffler Map, Gallup
  • ARMCO, Gallup
  • Giant Teppee, Lupton
  • 1931 Car, Holbrook
  • Painted Desert Indian Centre, Holbrook
  • Bucket of Blood Street & Saloon, Holbrook
  • Rainbow Rock Shop, Holbrook
  • Joe & Aggie’s Cafe, Holbrook
  • Holbrook Inn, Holbrook
  • Wigwam Motel, Holbrook
  • Globetrotter Lodge, Holbrook
  • Plainsman Restaurant, Holbrook
  • Geronimo & Petrified Log, Holbrook
  • Jack Rabbit Trading Post Signs, Holbrook
  • La Posada Hotel, Winslow
  • Cottage Gas Station, Winslow
  • Standing on the Corner Park, Winslow
  • Delta Motel, Winslow
  • Two Guns Ghost Town
  • Twin Arrow Trading Post, Twin Arrows

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2018-05-23 – US Route 66 Day 7

Today we drove 350 miles from Vega, Texas to Grants, New Mexico. We ended up staying at The Super 8, which was a horrible hotel. We had no working air conditioner, no hot water, bed bugs, and no fire alarm. We saw the following sights today:

  • Route 66 Motel, Tucumari
  • Cactus RV Park, Tucumari
  • Tee Pee Curious, Tucumari
  • Town House Motel, Tucumari
  • Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumari
  • Motel Safari, Tucumari
  • Vista Gas Station, Tucumari
  • La Cita Flowers, Tucumari
  • Odeon Theatre, Tucumari
  • Quality Tire, Tucumari
  • Restored Gas Station, Tucumari
  • Route 66 Sculpture, Tucumari
  • Route 66 Museum, Tucumari
  • Ruins, Newkirk
  • Cuervo Church, Cuervo
  • Blue Hole, Santa Rosa
  • Joseph’s Bars & Grill, Santa Rosa
  • Club Café Sign, Santa Rosa
  • Comet II Restaurant, Santa Rosa
  • Musical Highway, Albuquerque
  • Premiere Motel, Albuquerque
  • Nob Hill District, Albuquerque
  • Route 66 Diner, Albuquerque
  • Triangle Substation, Albuquerque
  •  Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque
  • Dog House Drive In Signn, Albuquerque
  • Old Town, Albuquerque
  • San Felipe Church, Albuquerque
  • Monterey Non Smokers Motel, Albuquerque
  • El Vado Motel, Albuquerque
  • Westward Ho Hotel Sign, Albuquerque
  • Dead Mans Curve, Laguna
  • Cemetery, Budville
  • Old Town, Cubero
  • Gas Station, Cibola
  • Santa Maria Mission, San Fidel

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2018-05-22 – US Route 66 Day 6

Today we drove 230 miles from Clinton, Oklahoma to Vega, Texas. We ended up staying at The Days Inn. We saw the following sights today:

  • Glancy Motel, Clinton
  • Bess Rogers Drive, Clinton
  • Route 66 Museum, Clinton
  • Y Service Station, Clinton
  • Cotton Boll Motel Sign, Clinton
  • Canute Service Station, Canute
  • Tallest Oil Rig, Elk City
  • Old Town Museum, Elk City
  • Beckham County Courthouse, Sayre
  • Western Motel Sign, Sayre
  • Town of Erick
  • Water Hole Mural & Tumbleweed Grill, Texola. We had food here. Dad had Liver & Onions, and I had a Jalapeno Burger with Homemade Fries. Masel, the wonderful woman who owned the place, cooked us lunch and told us stories of her purchasing the place, fixing it up, and expanding it. She also purchased the bar next door and is going to fix it up.
  • Hot Rods Pizza, Shamrock
  • Big Verns Steakhouse, Shamrock
  • Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock. This beautiful gas station. Built in 1936 by J. M. Tindall and R. C. Lewis at the cost of $23,000. With its Art Deco detailing and two towers, the building was designed and constructed to be three separate structures. The first was the Tower Conoco Station, named for the dominating four-sided obelisk rising from the flat roof and topped by a metal tulip. The second was the U-Drop Inn Café, which got its name from a local schooolboy’s winning entry in a naming contest. The third structure was supposed to be a retail store that instead became an overflow seating area for the café.
  • Magnolia Gas Station, Shamrock
  • Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean
  • Cactus Inn, McLean
  • Phillips 66, McLean
  • Red River Steakhouse, McLean
  • Kiser 66, Alanreed
  • Leaning Tower, Groom
  • Chalet Inn, Groom
  • Cross of our Lord, Groom
  • Bug Ranch, Panhandle
  • Big Texcan Steak Ranch, Amarillo. This is the home of the 72 oz free steak if you can eat it in one hour or under.
  • Paramount Sign, Amarillo
  • Downtown Amarillo
  • Taylors Texaco, Amarillo
  • Helium Plant, Amarillo
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
  • Bonanza Motel, Vega
  • Magnolia Station, Vega

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