Flags without countries

Do you recognize this flag? Neither did I. It’s the flag of Lapland. Lapland isn’t a country, but a region in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia where the Sámi (Lapps) live. Only Norway recognizes this flag, and it’s flown throughout the country on February 6 to celebrate Sámi National Day.

I discovered this flag in Aberystwyth, Wales, of all places, while walking along the seaside promenade. It was flying proudly in the stiff breeze and caught my attention because I’d never seen it before. Then I noticed a whole line of flags I’d never seen before. A sign explained that because the Welsh so rarely see their flag flying in foreign countries, they decided to fly the flags of various European regions that are seeking autonomy or independence. The display of flags without countries was an interesting lesson in European politics and history. Several are shown in the gallery.

%Gallery-129478%Europe is a patchwork of different languages and cultural groups. Many are subsumed into greater national entities and this causes friction. One of the deepest divides in Europe is between is in Belgium, where Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south may very well become two different countries. Luckily this debate has been nonviolent, although not always civil.

Many regions are looking for greater linguistic recognition. France’s strict one-language policy has raised the ire of groups that speak other languages, such as the people of Britanny and Alsace. Some linguistic regions, like Occitania, run across more than one country, further complicating any attempt at greater recognition.

Some independence movements are small, like that in Sardinia, while other are marred by a radical extreme that has undermined the legitimacy of the general movement, like in Corsica and the Basque region.

While none of the flags shown here represent actual nations, they do reflect the feelings of vibrant cultures that enrich Europe. Many of the people who fly these flags probably realize they won’t ever see true independence, and some may not even want it. They fly these flags to show the world who they are. And you never know, when the monument was set up in Aberystwyth, it included the flags of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and they’re real nations now!

If you’re interested in flags, check out the amazing Flags of the World website for lots more.

Photo of the Day (8.8.09)

At first glance, this cliff looks precarious and tall, but when you look even more closely, you can see just how precarious the dwellings that sit atop it truly are. While I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live atop a cliff, I don’t think I’d ever be so daring as to do it.

This shot was taken on the lovely island of Corsica in France by mikegoldstein, whose photographs span nearly half the globe — from southeast Asia to the warm beaches of Europe. I’m in awe of the contrast between light and dark and the medium tones of the water that balance this photo so perfectly.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!

Photo of the Day (5.3.09)

Photographers like to describe the last hour of sunlight before the sun goes down as “the magic hour.” Colors somehow seem more brilliant. Shadows lengthen. All the world somehow seems lit by a golden hue of color and light. Even though this photo of Corsica by Flickr user Michael Joseph Goldst… etc is in black and white, I think it’s a great example of a “magic hour” photo. I love the long shadows and brilliant sun in the background. It lends an air of the surreal to the whole shot, like it was some strange dream.

Have any travel photos you’d like to share with the world? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Amazing Destinations That Can’t Be Reached By Car

Modern transportation has made it extremely easy for travelers to get to just about any place in the world. Each day there are international flights that can take us to the four corners of the globe and modern roads and trains will deliver us to the best sights and monuments to be found at our destination, before whisking us back to a comfy hotel, complete with hot and cold running water, room service and a big comfy bed.

But not all of the world’s great places are accessible by vehicle. There are still some amazing destinations that fall way off the beaten path, that will force us to work a little harder to take in their splendor. The Times Online has put together a collection of these places, which they’ve dubbed “Holidays you can’t reach by car“, with a variety of unique locations that you’ll have to trek, paddle, or both if you plan to ever see them in person.

One of the more intriguing places to make their list is the Source of the Ganges River in India. The famous river which plays such an indelible part of Indian culture gets its humbles start at the foot of the Gangotri Glacier, located in the Himalaya at 12,600 feet in the Garhwal region. Anyone wanting to make the journey should be prepared for a ten day trek that will take them high into the mountains, past ancient caves where Hindu practitioners still meditate in their search for enlightenment.
The Omo River in Ethiopia is yet another interesting destination to appear on this list. The 470 mile long stretch of water drops more than 6000 feet over its length before emptying into Lake Turkana, while passing through rocky gorges and over beautiful water falls, offering up great whitewater in the process. The trip can only be made by raft or kayak, and along the way travelers will encounter crocodiles, hippos, and remote villages that still remain mostly untouched by the outside world.

There are plenty more similar treks, climbs and other adventures on the list as well, offering up great destinations that don’t just fall off the beaten path, they leave that path far behind. But for the adventure traveler, there is plenty to like here, with some ideas for your next trip that you may not even have considered before.