Survey Ranks ‘World’s Most Unfriendliest’ Countries

Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.

The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.

According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).

Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).

On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.

Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.

The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.

Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)

Friendliest

1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 6.7
5. Austria 6.7
6. Senegal 6.7
7. Portugal 6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.6
9. Ireland 6.6
10. Burkina Faso 6.6

Unfriendliest

1. Bolivia 4.1
2. Venezuela 4.5
3. Russian Federation 5.0
4. Kuwait 5.2
5. Latvia 5.2
6. Iran 5.2
7. Pakistan 5.3
8. Slovak Republic 5.5
9. Bulgaria 5.5
10. Mongolia 5.5

Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.

[via CNN]

[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]

Naughty Women, Leafy Men And Shameful Anti-Semitism: Church Art The Church Would Rather Forget

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kilpeck_Sheelagh_na_Gig.jpg
Historic European churches and cathedrals are high on many travelers’ to-see lists. People admire the soaring vaulted ceilings and richly colored stained glass windows. Look closer, though, and you’ll see things you weren’t expecting.

Like this lovely lady at the Romanesque church of Saint Mary and Saint David in Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England, shown here courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Yes, she’s doing exactly what it looks like she’s doing. And she’s not the only one. Sculptures of naked ladies spreading it for all to see decorate numerous churches. Most are in Ireland and smaller numbers can be found in England and continental Europe.

They’re called Sheela-na-gigs and nobody has any idea what they mean. It’s uncertain when they were made as the churches they’re found on date from several centuries and some Sheela-na-gigs appear to have been reused from earlier buildings.

So why were they put in churches? Some people like to see them as pagan survivals, although that fails to explain why church authorities would permit them in churches. A bit of support for this comes from the Royal Navy, of all things. An 18th century Navy ship was named Sheela-na-gig and in the ship’s listing the name is explained as a “female sprite.” Other researchers think they’re symbols of the sinful nature of women. While this is possible, it fails to explain why the women aren’t being shown in Hell or being punished by devils, as is typical of didactic church art.

%Gallery-167773%Another mystery is the Green Man. This is a face surrounded by leaves and buds. Sometimes greenery is coming out of the Green Man’s mouth. At first glance it appears to be a very pagan symbol. Indeed, a similar type of leafy face was common in Roman art but died out when Classical art died. The Green Man reappeared in church art in the 11th century. He became hugely popular in Victorian Britain, which celebrated both nature and Classical art.

Once again, we’re stuck for an explanation. Pagan symbol or co-opted Classical decoration? Perhaps a fertility symbol celebrating the abundance of spring in what was still a predominantly agricultural society? Like with the Sheela-na-gigs, the Church didn’t leave records as to why they appear in a religious building.

The motive behind another odd bit of church art is all too clear – the Judensau, or “Jew’s sow.” In this scene a large sow is being suckled by a number of Jews, identifiable by the conical hats they were forced by law to wear. Another Jew is shown lifting up the sow’s tail to lick its rear. Often a Semitic-looking Devil stands by watching in approval. This disgusting bit of anti-Semitism first appeared in medieval Germany and remained a popular church “decoration” for several hundred years. The image seems to be limited to German-speaking areas and is found on churches and cathedrals and occasionally secular buildings.

The Stadtkirche in Wittenberg has a famous example on the exterior wall, clearly visible from the street. Martin Luther mentioned it in one of his anti-Semitic writings: “Here on our church in Wittenberg a sow is sculpted in stone. Young pigs and Jews lie suckling under her. Behind the sow a rabbi is bent over the sow, lifting up her right leg, holding her tail high and looking intensely under her tail and into her Talmud, as though he were reading something acute or extraordinary, which is certainly where they get their Shemhamphoras.” In the last line, Luther is talking about the Hebrew term for the ineffable name of God, thus insulting their beliefs as well as their dignity.

In modern times a memorial plaque was put beneath it acknowledging that six million Jews were killed “under the sign of the Cross.”

Want To Buy An Irish Castle? Now’s Your Chance!

castle
If you’re in the market for a new home, why not think big and buy a castle? There are several for sale in Ireland and now that middle income has been defined as up to $250,000, many are within the means of the middle class.

Take Cloghan castle, shown above. It’s in Banagher, County Offaly, and comes with 157 acres of woodland and riverside. The original castle was built in 1336, making it one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland. Although it was attacked and burned in 1595, it continued to be used as a home. Its three floors have six bedrooms, four bathrooms, an office, store room, laundry and a big dining hall.

It even counts as a tax shelter. Because it’s a historic building, if you open it to the public on occasion you get certain tax exemptions, and any maintenance and improvement costs count as a tax write-off.

So how much will this put you back? You’ll have to contact Premier Properties Ireland to find out. If the quote is too high, wait for a while. Beagh Castle was originally priced at €695,000 ($906,000) but has been reduced to €299,000 ($390,000). It only comes with 17 acres, but it’s picturesquely located on a promontory above the River Shannon in Ballysteen, County Limerick. Nobody is sure when the first castle was built on this spot, but it was rebuilt by a knight in 1260. An old tradition says a secret tunnel connects this castle to the local church half a mile away. The tunnel has never been found, but if you buy the castle you’ll have plenty of time to look.

An even cheaper option is Ballymaquiff Castle near Labane, Ardrahan, County Galway. It’s going for €145,000 ($189,000). It’s a fixer-upper but features some fine medieval architectural features such as large vaulted rooms, pointed doorways, a medieval fireplace and a spiral staircase.

You might also want to comparison shop on their castles page, where they have several more medieval fortresses for sale. There’s even a bargain basement castle for only €75,000 ($97,850). That’s less than six month’s wages for a middle-class household!

[All photos courtesy Premier Properties Ireland]

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Ten Dublin Literary Attractions

Dublin

Dublin is known worldwide as the capital of Ireland, hosting landmarks such as the Spire of Dublin, Trinity College and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Along with the UK’s Edinburgh, Melbourne, Australia, Iowa City in the U.S. and others, UNESCO recognizes Dublin as a City of Literature, reflecting the city’s rich and varied history of writers and writing.

As the birthplace of James Joyce and Nobel Literature Prize winners William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, Dublin pays tribute to its literary heritage in a variety of ways. Statues, streets, bridges, pubs and book stores that make for a grand tour that visitors can take in an organized way or on their own.

James Joyce Centre is dedicated to a better understanding of the life and works of James Joyce and has exhibitions, events and workshops.

National Public Library of Ireland has the most comprehensive collection of Irish documentary material in the world. Talks and major exhibitions are hosted throughout the year.

Dublin Yarnspinners invites visitors to listen as the Storytellers of Ireland spin an array of tales, tall and otherwise, from its members on the second Thursday of every month.DublinBewley’s Cafe Theatre has lunchtime drama and one of the city’s most popular venues for evening cabaret, jazz and comedy every day by reservation.

Sweny’s Pharmacy
features daily readings from the works of James Joyce in the original pharmacy where Leopold Bloom bought lemon soap.

Trinity College has an official, student-guided walking tour of the historic campus on a daily, scheduled basis. The 30-minute tours run from mid-May to the end of September.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, where writer/satirist Jonathan Swift was dean from 1713 to 1745 is open every day. Visitors to the cathedral can see his tombstone and epitaph on an escorted tour.

Marsh’s Library was the first public library in Ireland, opening in 1701. With over 25,000 books relating to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the collections covers medicine, law, science, travel and more. Open daily except Tuesday and Sunday.

Dublin City Bike Tours are an easy, eco-friendly way to see the sights with local guides along for the ride. Starting in the lobby of Isaacs’s hostel, the tours run three hours and begin at 10 a.m. daily.

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is a fun, walking tour led by a team of professional actors who follow the footsteps of literary greats on an evening filled with prose, drama and song as we see in this video:



For more information on these and over 20 other Dublin literary attractions see www.dublincityofliterature.ie

[Flickr photos by infomatique]

Insane Cliff Diving Footage From Ireland

Two very unique things happened in the Aran Islands last month: people talked on the street conversing only in Gaelic, and world-class divers threw themselves off of an 89-foot-high platform into a rectangular blowhole known as the Serpent’s Lair.

A collection of three inhabited islands off the western coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are regarded as being one of the last places on the planet where it’s still possible to hear the Gaelic language spoken amongst the majority of locals.

The commitment to maintaining the Irish heritage in the Aran Islands is so strong that the main island of Inis Mor even houses a coláiste, an Irish-only language school where students caught speaking English at any point are open to expulsion without refund of their tuition.

With that thought in mind, I wonder what the Gaelic term is for “psychotic cliff-diving freak athlete,” because I can imagine that was mumbled a number of times by the crowds of local onlookers watching divers jump 28 meters (89 feet) into a roiling cauldron of freezing cold seawater.

Last month’s participants found themselves jumping into the fourth stop on the 2012 Red Bull World Series of Cliff Diving, “The Serpent’s Lair,” a naturally occurring, perfectly-rectangular blowhole, which according to Irish lore was once home to a tempestuous and violent sea serpent.

With the serpent nowhere in sight for this year’s competition, divers instead needed to worry about doing a belly flop at speed’s topping out at 60mph.

Next up on this year’s circuit? The September 8 event being held in the similarly chilly waters of Wales.