Travel Inspiration, One Step At A Time

travel

It’s not so much where we travel, but what we do when we get there that matters. For those who run in real life, there is nothing better than doing so at a remote location.
Like to hike? Getting away from the normal routine to engage a totally different terrain can bring new life to your passion for the sport.

But we don’t need to be into skiing, surfing, biking, climbing or backpacking either.

Many travelers find the first step towards the adventure of a lifetime starts with something simple. A photo posted by one friend on the road, a tweet full of fun from another at some festival or an old-fashioned phone call filled with unbridled joy can be just the inspiration we need to start planning.

Check out this video, pack your bags and hit the road; it can be just that easy to make some meaningful travel happen in your life right now.




[Photo credit – Chris Owen]

Scientists Confirm Remains Of King Richard III Have Been Found

Richard IIIArchaeologists from the University of Leicester have confirmed that they have found the remains of King Richard III beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England.

Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet kings and fought an epic struggle with the Tudors during the War of the Roses for control of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Support for the Plantagenet line crumbled and soon Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.

After the battle, Richard III’s body was buried in the church choir of the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars. Dr. Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist for the project, explained that the church’s location has always been generally known although the friary was dissolved in 1538 and soon all trace of the building above ground had disappeared.

Two trenches were dug at the site last August and human remains were found almost immediately. One male skeleton had suffered from scoliosis that led to curvature of the spine. It was also unusually slender and aged in its early thirties. All characteristics agree with contemporary descriptions of Richard III.

There are ten trauma wounds on the body. Eight are on the skull. One was from a bladed weapon that cut off a section from the base of the skull. A second injury, also on the base of the skull, cut through the bone as well. Both of these wounds would have been fatal. Several other blows shaved off pieces of bone or left pockmarks in the skull. It appears that Richard wasn’t wearing a helmet by this point in the battle.Two cut marks on the rib and pelvis also appear to have been inflicted after his armor was removed. The archaeologists theorize that Richard III was stripped and given “humiliation injuries,” a common practice with dead or dying victims in the Middle Ages. Historical sources state that Richard’s naked body was slung over a horse and brought to town after the Battle of Bosworth. It may have been at this time that the extra injuries occurred.

Richard III almost suffered another humiliation centuries later when the foundation for a 19th-century brick outhouse nearly cut into his grave.

Initially the archaeologists thought they’d found a barb, perhaps from an arrow, in the body but it turns out that this was probably a Roman nail disturbed from an earlier site. No other artifacts were found in the burial.

The next step was to radiocarbon date the bone. Results showed that they dated to the late 15th early 16th century. This was all interesting but still only circumstantial evidence. There was still no proof that they had found the lost king. There was also the troubling popular legend that an angry mob threw his remains into the River Soar after the dissolution of the friary. There’s even a historic plaque at the location where this was supposed to have taken place.

The university tracked down some descendants of Richard III who agreed to give DNA samples to compare with DNA extracted from the skeleton. This was the clincher. Project geneticist Dr. Turi King confirmed at a press conference today that, “The DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III.”

Dr. Richard Buckley added that they could now confirm that the body is that of Richard III “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Back in December, some of this information was leaked to the press, but today’s news conference is the first official confirmation that archaeologists have, indeed found a lost medieval king.

Richard III’s remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral early next year. A permanent exhibition about Richard III and the excavation will open in town at about the same time. The university has also launched a new Richard III website.

[Top photo courtesy University of Leicester. Bottom image of the Battle of Bosworth courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Richard III
Share on Tumblr

Have Archaeologists Found The Lost Tomb Of Richard III?

Richard III
Back in August, we covered a new excavation in the English city of Leicester searching for the lost tomb of King Richard III. Now the University of Leicester reports that their team has discovered bones in the church where he is said to have been buried.

Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet kings and fought an epic struggle with the Tudors during the War of the Roses for control of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Support for the Plantagenet line crumbled and soon Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.

After the battle, Richard III’s body was buried in the church choir of the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars. The church and friary were demolished in the 1530s during the reign of Henry VIII and the precise location was eventually lost. Using old maps, archaeologists figured out the church lay beneath a modern parking lot.

Archaeologists from the university and the Richard III Society sunk trenches through the parking lot and soon located the friary’s chapter house and the cloister, a courtyard with a covered walkway around it. Soon after, the team found the church itself. A public day last weekend attracted more than 1500 people.

Artifacts uncovered include inlaid floor tiles, a medieval silver penny, metal letters that perhaps once were part of an epitaph, and architectural elements from the choir and church. An added bonus was the discovery of a garden from an early mayor of Leicester.

Now the excavation has revealed two skeletons, one of a female and one of a male. The male was found in what archaeologists believe is the choir, where Richard was said to have been buried. This well-preserved skeleton shows trauma to the skull from a bladed instrument and a barbed metal arrowhead was found between the vertebrae of the upper back. The skeleton also has spinal abnormalities.

The university press statement says: “We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback. There appears to be no evidence of a ‘withered arm.'”

Richard was said to have had a hunched back and withered arm, but many historians believe this was later propaganda. Perhaps it was an exaggeration of a real ailment?

Is this the skeleton of King Richard III? The university can’t say for sure. Richard was probably not the only person buried in the church choir, this being a common practice, so the bones will have to be analyzed further. Genealogists have tracked down a direct descendant of Richard’s sister who can provide DNA to check for a match.

The university says a full analysis may take up to 12 weeks. When the results come in, we’ll be sure to report on it.

%Gallery-165014%

Museum Month: JEATH War Museum, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

bridge on river kwaiHistory has never been my favorite subject, but once I began traveling in earnest, I discovered something. If I visited a destination, I usually became obsessed with its history or indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this in time to save the downward trajectory of my GPA when I was a student, but it’s made me sound infinitely more worldly in daily life.

I found the JEATH War Museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, purely by accident. Anything historical pertaining to war is a subject I normally avoid – I’m a girl like that – with the exception of the “Platoon” soundtrack. Thus, the most I knew about “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” which is located in Kanchanaburi, is how to whistle the tune. The town and bridge are actually located at the confluence of the Rivers Kwai Noi and Kwai Yai, at the headwaters of the Maeklong (Mekong).

I ended up there because I had a few days to kill prior to flying home, and it’s less than a two-hour bus ride west of Bangkok. Kanchanaburi sounded peaceful, and is a popular getaway for backpackers and Thai urbanites. The main activities are dining in the many “floating restaurants” on the river, taking cooking classes, hiking in beautiful Erawan National Park and sightseeing (more on that after the jump).

I ended up meeting two fun Australian girls at my riverfront guesthouse, and we proceeded to spend the next three days together. On our first afternoon, I asked them how they’d ended up in Kanchanaburi, and they told me they were there to visit the JEATH War Museum and pay tribute. I looked at them blankly.

“The what?” I asked. They looked at me with pity, thinking, like millions of Aussies before them, that the American educational system is an abysmal failure (no argument there).

“The Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand, Holland War Museum,” one of the girls said patiently. “Y’know, it’s dedicated to the thousands of Allied POWs who died while constructing the Bridge and Death Railway from 1942 to 1943.”

Cue crickets chirping.JEATH war museumThe girls, to their credit, didn’t make fun of me, but instead explained that the JEATH Museum details a tragic episode in Australian (and, to a lesser degree, Kiwi) military history, and it’s something that schoolchildren learn about at a young age. Within the hour, we’d rented bikes and were pedaling through stultifying heat and humidity to the museum.

The JEATH Museum is located at Wat Chai Chumphon temple, and is housed in an exact bamboo replica of a POW sleeping hut. Inside is a horror house of relics, photos, letters, and descriptions of events and forms of torture carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army, as well as depictions of daily life for the POWs. We spent hours there, alternately sickened and fascinated by how 60,000 Allied prisoners and 180,000 Asian laborers were tortured and forced to labor under unspeakable conditions. Sixteen thousand men were worked to death or perished from starvation, dysentery, or other disease.

According to the museum’s website, the photographs on display were taken of “real situations by either Thai’s or POWs. There are also many real accounts written by former POWs, their relatives, friends, and authors that interviewed the many prisoners that suffered at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.”

Like the Holocaust and other genocide museums and concentration camp memorial museums, the JEATH museum is testimony to man’s ability to perpetrate atrocities against his fellow man. I suppose it’s also a tribute to man’s ingenuity when it comes to inventing new and exciting ways to torture other humans, as well as a nod to the resilience of the human body and man’s will to live. Ultimately, I believe museums such as this are also about man’s capacity to forgive: we saw visitors of all nationalities at JEATH, including many veterans.
death railway
In the days that followed, I grew obsessed by the story of the POWs. I took a ride on the famed Death (also known as the Thai-Burma or Burma) Railway, and visited Hellfire Pass, a cutting through sheer rock that earned its name due to the fatalities its labor incurred. It’s said that by night, the flashlights of toiling POWs resembled a scene from hell.

I’ve since told dozens of people about the museum and the events that occurred in the region during the Second World War. While I’ve obviously met Americans who know about the Bridge and Railway, none have been aware of the POWs and loss of life that occurred. My assumption is that because only 356 Americans died – as compared to over 2,800 Australians – it’s not considered one for our history or schoolbooks. It’s a shame, because despite the tragedy, it’s a part of human history that should be remembered, both in tribute and as a warning.

The JEATH War Museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Click here for more information on visiting Kanchanaburi; you can purchase inexpensive bus or mini-van tickets at many guesthouses, backpackers and travel agencies in Bangkok. On a more pleasant note, Kanchanaburi is a lovely town, and the region is definitely worth a visit for its more bucolic charms.

Click here to watch an episode of Gadling’s “Travel Talk” on Kanchanaburi.

[Photo credits: bridge, Flickr user David McKelvey; sign, Wikipedia Commons; train, Flickr user nova031]

Cheesey Street Foods Of Latin America

With the possible exception of Argentina, most people don’t associate Central or South America with cheese. Like all of Latin America, these countries are a mix of indigenous cultures, colonizing forces, immigrant influences, and varied terroir, climatic extremes, and levels of industrialization. They possess some of the most biologically and geographically diverse habitats on earth. As a result, the cuisine and agricultural practices of each country have developed accordingly.

The use of dairy may not be particularly diverse in this part of the world, especially when it comes to styles of cheese, but it’s an important source of nutrition and income in rural areas, and a part of nearly every meal.

While writing a book on cheese during the course of this past year, I tapped into my rather obsessive love of both street food and South America for inspiration. As I learned during my research, the sheer variety of cheesey street snacks from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego are as varied as the ethnic influences responsible for their creation. Read on for a tasty tribute to queso.

Arepas: These flat little corn or flour cakes from Colombia, Venezuela and Panama may be grilled, baked, boiled, or fried. They’re usually stuffed or topped with a melting cheese, but may also feature meat, chicken, seafood, egg, or vegetables.

Anafres: Essentially Honduran nachos, composed of giant tortilla chips, refried beans and melted cheese. Named for an anafre, the coal-fired clay pot the dish is served in.

Pupusas: This Salvadorean staple is similar to an arepa: a thick, griddled corn cake stuffed with meat, cheese–usually a mild melting variety known as quesillo–chicarrones (pork cracklings), or queso con loroco (cheese with the buds or flowers of a vine native to Central America).street food vendorChoclo con queso: Boiled corn with slices or a chunk of mild, milky, fresh white cheese may not sound like much, but this roadside and market staple of Peru and Ecuador is irresistible. The secret is the corn, which is an indigenous Andean variety with large, white, nutty, starchy kernels. It’s satisfying as a snack all by itself, but it’s even better between bites of slightly salty queso.

Empanadas (empadinhas in Brazil): Perhaps the most ubiquitous Latin American street food, riffs on these baked or fried, stuffed pastries can be found from Argentina (where they’re practically a religion) and Chile to Costa Rica and El Salvador. The dough, which is usually lard-based, may be made from wheat, corn or plantain, with fillings ranging from melted, mild white cheese to meat, seafood, corn, or vegetables. In Ecuador, empanadas de viento (“wind”) are everywhere; they’re fried until airy,filled with sweetened queso fresco and dusted with powdered sugar.

Quesadillas: Nearly everyone loves these crisp little tortilla and cheese “sandwiches.” Traditionally cooked on a comal (a flat, cast-iron pan used as a griddle), they’re a popular street food and equally beloved Stateside.

Provoleta: This Argentinean and Uruguayan favorite is made from a domestic provolone cheese. It’s often seasoned with oregano or crushed chile, and grilled or placed on hot stones until caramelized and crispy on the exterior, and melted on the inside. It’s often served at asados (barbecues) as an appetizer, and accompanied by chimmichuri (an oil, herb, and spice sauce).
provoleta
Queijo coaljo: A firm, white, salty, squeaky cheese from Brazil; it’s most commonly sold on the beach on a stick, after being cooked over coals or in handheld charcoal ovens; also known as queijo assado.

Croquettes de Queijo: Cheese croquettes, a favorite appetizer or street food in Brazil.

Coxinhas: A type of Brazilian salgado (snack), these are popular late-night fare. Typically, coxinhas are shredded chicken coated in wheat or manioc flour that have been shaped into a drumstick, and fried. A variation is stuffed with catupiry, a gooey white melting cheese reminiscent of Laughing Cow. Like crack. Crack.

Queijadinhas: These irresistable little cheese custards are a popular snack in Brazil. Like Pringles, stopping at just one is nearly impossible.

Pão de queijo: Made with tapioca or wheat flour, these light, cheesy rolls are among the most popular breads in Brazil.

[Photo credit: Empanada, Flickr user ci_polla; food vendor, Provoleta, Laurel Miller]