While we live in a world where we can quickly jet from one side of the planet to the other, there’s still something about vintage travel posters that inspires a sense of wanderlust. Reminiscent of a time when travel was more exotic, and often took much longer than today, these vintage posters seem to capture the essence of travel and adventure.Maybe it’s that essence that we’re always seeking when we set off to our next destination. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that these posters, all pulled from an amazing collection at Boston Public Library, get us excited about making our way out into the world. From the mysterious landscapes of the National Parks of the West, to the winding railways of Europe, these posters capture travel at its very best. Consider your wanderlust fueled.
Imagine what it would be like to never see the sun.
In the Norwegian town of Rjukan, that’s exactly what life is like six months out of the year. Located in a valley, because of the high mountains that surround the town, from September to March there is no sunlight. But this year, that will change.
At the end of October, the town will install three giant sun mirrors, in order to reflect sun into the town square, bringing sunlight in the middle of the winter for the first time to the town’s 3,000 inhabitants.The idea for a sun mirror was born a century ago when local businessman Sam Eyde had the idea to give access to the sun to his workers. While the sun mirror didn’t get constructed, a gondola was built to take Rjukan’s up to the top of the mountains where they could get some sunlight during the winter.
But now thanks to technology, Eyde’s original idea will become a reality, and the the sun mirrors will be launched on October 31, the exact day 100 years ago that the idea was presented in the local newspaper.
Engineers in Venice have successfully tested a new flood barrier that they hope will protect the city. The BBC reports that the first four flood barriers of a planned 78 were floated in the entrance of the city’s famous lagoon.
Venice suffers annual floods due to unusually high tides that threaten irreplaceable buildings and a destination essential to Italy’s tourism industry. It’s also sinking at a rate of one to two millimeters a year, Discovery Magazine reports.
The barrier isn’t complete and has already cost $7 billion. It will take another $800 million and two years more work before it can protect the city. While Italy is suffering badly from the global economic crisis, the government has promised to complete the project by 2016.
We’ve all stayed at hotels that proudly boast, via little signs on the bed and/or bathroom sink, that they’re doing their part to save the environment. Don’t want towels changed in order to save water? Just hang ‘em up, and the housekeeper will know that you’re a carbon footprint-savvy traveler.
Sure. I can count on half of one hand the number of hotels that have actually paid attention to the location of my towel. I’ve seen countless housekeepers dump the contents of in-room recycling bins into their trash bags. I don’t have any expectations at motels, but when it comes to boutique, “eco-friendly,” or high-end properties making these claims, I find it infuriating.
My focus as a writer and traveler is on sustainability issues, and I’m overjoyed that an increasing number of hotels are more aware of their environmental impact. What doesn’t thrill me: the amount of greenwashing, or false eco-claims, that take place in the hospitality industry. This problem isn’t unique to hotels, but it’s prevalent.
We’re living in an era of climate change. Lowering our individual and collective carbon footprint should be something we do, to the best of our abilities, on a daily basis. Hotels are hip to the fact that an increasing number of travelers have an elevated eco-awareness, and they want to capitalize on that.
In the absence of a word-of-mouth or written recommendation, it can be difficult to ascertain a hotel’s eco-integrity (although certain chains are well-known for their green policies; a 2012 Reuters report cites chains like Six Senses Resorts & Spas, Taj Resorts, Kimpton Hotels and Marriott).
Sites like Green Traveler Guides, however, (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor) exist as unofficial industry watchdogs, reviewing properties and assessing their green policies. If you’re looking for a hotel or resort that’s genuinely green, sites like GTG feature properties that are both green and great, as well as provide tips on how to be a more eco-minded traveler. Other resources include sites like Green Lodging News.
For a quick study, here’s a checklist of what to look for when researching hotels:
If the only mentions refer to buzzwords like “organic,” “local,” “eco-friendly,” “eco-lodge,” or “environment,” caveat emptor. There’s no law that prohibits the use of green jargon; it’s up to you as a consumer to do your homework.
Is there a bona-fide recycling (bonus points for composting) program?
Does the property employ locals/incorporate and support local culture and community? How?
Is the property built and furnished with natural and/or reclaimed or renewable materials wherever possible?
Are there green options for guests, such as bike rentals and local culture-based activities?
Does the property have green certification from a legit international or domestic organization or program?
Does the property use alternative fuel or electric carts for guest transit on-site and off?
Are bathroom amenities and cleaning agents chemical-free? Bonus points your in-room goodies are locally made.
If there’s on-site dining, is the food seasonal and sourced locally whenever possible (which reduces fossil fuel output as well as promotes local food security)? Do family farmers, ranchers and fisherman supply ingredients? Is there a chemical-free on-site rooftop or other garden from which the restaurant sources product?
Archaeologist Dr. Dean Snow of Pennsylvania State University came to this conclusion through studying one of the most enigmatic icons of prehistoric European cave art–hand stencils. In many European caves, there are negative images of hands produced by placing the hand against the cave wall and blowing paint all around it. They range from 12,000 to 40,000 years old, an astonishingly long artistic tradition.
Men’s and women’s hands are different, especially in the relative length of the fingers, so Snow examined 32 of these these stencils from caves in Spain and France. He found that 75 percent of the hands were female.
It’s long been assumed that most cave art was done by men, since so many of the subjects have to do with hunting, generally a male activity in hunter-gather societies. Of course, what Snow’s data really show is that the majority of hand stencils in the sample are of women, which doesn’t say anything about the rest of the art. It could be that there was a separation in the sexes as to who painted what, or perhaps the majority of prehistoric artists were indeed women.
The biggest contributor to the study was the cave of El Castillo in Cantabria, northern Spain, where 16 stencils were measured. This cave is open to the public, so you can take a look at the hands yourself and come to your own conclusions. Gargas and Pech Merle in France were also in the study and open to the public.
Hand stencils have been found in areas as far apart as Argentina, Africa, Australia, and Borneo. It would be interesting to see what results Snow’s study would have on these artistic traditions.