Excavations at ancient city of Perge in Turkey celebrate 65 years

Archaeological excavations at the ancient city of Perge in southern Turkey have reached their 65th year, the Hürriyet Daily News reports. This makes them the longest-running excavations in a country with a wealth of ancient sites.

Perge (aka Perga) is in Turkey’s Antalya province and was founded 3,500 years ago by the Hittites. It became a prosperous Greek colony like Ephesus and Pergamon and was for a time under Persian rule. Many of the surviving remains are from the Roman period. In the early days of Christianity, St. Paul preached there (Acts 14:25). Several interesting monuments can still be seen such as a theatre, a stadium, two city gates, and a temple to Artemis.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is so massive that more than a half century of digging has only uncovered a quarter of it. The current project is to restore many of the columns that once lined the streets.

Perga is at one end of a challenging 300+ mile trek called the St. Paul Trail that cuts diagonally across the country.

For more information and photos, check out this Anatolian travel page.

[Photo courtesy archer10 (Dennis) via flickr]

Christmas in Minnesota

Minnesota, in the icy northern central USA
Temp: 23°F in Minneapolis as I write, and the 25th has a projected low of 19°F
Snow: Lots of it!
Percentage of population who celebrates Christmas: 64.2 percent here are Christian “adherents
Are you there right now: Yes.

All’s quiet on the northern front. What I love about Minneapolis at Christmastime is that we almost always have fluffy blankets of falling snow, which creates a sound barrier and makes the whole city seem blissfully peaceful. Still, there’s lots to do, from munching on doughy, cinnamon and sugar frosted puppy dog tails at Isles Bun & Coffee (trust me) to watching Dickens performed in Star Trek-speak.Even if all the crazy Scandinavian and German foods and traditions are Greek to you, you’ll love the way homes all over the city and suburbs really get into the fantastical holiday light decor. Like in other states, driving through the residential areas of the city to look at the dazzling holiday light displays is a common family ritual. Minneapolitans even take it a step further and throw a yearly, nightly Holidazzle Parade, which locals and children watch from the warm skyways (enclosed bridges which connect a large number of buildings in the downtown area; they’re like all-window hallways) and a heated tent, supplied with hot cider and cocoa, every Thursday through Sunday (this year’s parades ended December 20).

Families line up for hours at the Minneapolis Macy’s on Nicollet Mall to see the yearly SantaLand, a tradition which is almost 50 years old. Once you enter, you wind through animatronic elves and North Pole-esque wonders and eventually arrive at Santa himself for that “will my kid cry or ask for a present” confrontation (through December 30). A newer yearly tradition at the trendy bowling-alley-restaurant-theater, Bryant Lake Bowl, is a performance of David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries by Theater Limina (final performance December 21), a merciless account of working as a Macy’s elf, strangely heartwarming in its cynicism, and perfect for the dark-humored Nords of Minnesota. It typically sells out.

If you’re into holiday theater, a show which every Minnesotan must see once is The Guthrie Theater’s annual A Christmas Carol. It changes a little every year with new adaptations and actors, so there’s always something new to see. What is constant is the beauty and authority with which the classic tale is presented, with enough Dickens for true fans and enough wonder for the whole family (through December 31). Folks travel from far and wide to catch it — and now, many are traveling over the rivers and through the snow for a newer tradition: A Klingon Christmas Carol, presented almost entirely in Klingon by the translation-focused company Commedia Beauregard, with a single English-speaking Vulcan narrator (who happened to be my best friend this year through December 13, clip here). Over in St. Paul, Ballet Minnesota’s annual Nutcracker Ballet plays through December 20 at the O’Shaughnessy. Minnesotans never want for live performances. They say it’s because it’s so cold in the winter; all the indoor entertainment industries thrive.

For Scandinavians, the place to be is The Swedish Institute of America, where they have A Nordic Christmas (through January 10). Insider tip: The SIA’s gift shop always stocked with hard-to-find imported gifts and candies. It’s a Minnesota Christmas goldmine.

Lastly, if you’d prefer liquor over lutefisk and lefse, head to The Chambers Hotel, where they have an Ice Bar (that’s me there with my friend Tim in 2007 — it’s not glass, it’s all ice!). It won’t be open on Christmas Day, so if you’re looking for some literal holiday drinking, head to Gameworks for beer, cocktails and gaming, The Saloon, which is one of the Twin Cities’ most fabulous gay bars, Market BBQ for raucous karaoke or Park Tavern for bowling.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Minneapolis-St.Paul airport spends $2.2 Million to end terminal confusion

When departing out of Minneapolis-St.Paul airport (MSP), do you know whether you are leaving from Lindbergh terminal or Humphrey terminal? Well, neither do 25,000 other people planning to take a flight from this airport.

The two terminals are 3 miles apart, and the only highway signs mention the terminals by their name, not by the airlines that fly out of them.

In a move of sheer brilliance, the airport authority has finally come to its senses, and is going to invest $2.2 Million on new signs and some simple logic to help passengers get to their correct terminal.

One of the measures will rename the terminals “one” and “two”, a system that works for every other airport in the world. Though locals need not worry, as the official names of the terminal buildings will stay unchanged.

Lindbergh was always the main terminal for MSP, and Humphrey was only used by charter planes. The spectacular growth in low cost carriers changed all of that, but the airport never took the time to re-evaluate its signage.

Hopefully the new terminal descriptions and better signage will prevent people from showing up at the wrong terminal, especially since there is no easy way to get from one terminal to another when you screw up.

Budget Travel: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis. What comes to mind? Prince’s purple jumpsuit, Francis McDormand’s accent in the movie Fargo, the Mall of America and six months of winter.

Perhaps the larger of the Twin Cities (Saint Paul being the smaller) is not on the tourist map, but it often gets props for being a nice place to live. (Forbes called it most affordable city to live well. The Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth was rated the best place to live by CNNMoney).

So it’s a fine place to live. But why visit?

First, there is the food…then the live music, the art, the coffee shops, and, of course, the fact that Minneapolis is second only the New York in number of theater seats per capita.

Bring your coat (and if your ears are delicate, a hat as well) during the winter, but don’t expect ice fishing weather from April to October. That is when the city’s lakes, trails, and outdoor events make it a budget traveler’s dream destination.

Get In
It will soon be cheaper to fly to Minneapolis. Southwest will be launching flights to and from Chicago Midway in March. From Chicago, you can get a connection to any city in the US that Southwest flies. That will drive down airfares to MSP, once a stronghold of Northwest. Names like Megabus, Greyhound and Amtrak are also players in the transit game. Minneapolis sits in the cross-hair made by Interstates 35 and 94. It is reachable by car in a day from virtually anywhere in the Midwest.

Getting Around
The bus and train system is better than average for a mid-sized city, but still far from perfect. This is a driving city, especially if you want to take advantage of outdoor activities. Summer is bicycling weather and most of the urban destinations are within pedaling distance of one another. Buses and the new light rail system both allow bikers to bring their wheels on board.

What to do
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free every day and often holds special events and exhibits. The nationally famous Walker Art Museum has free admission on the evening of the first Thursday of every month (with plenty of events and activities on offer). The adjacent sculpture garden is open year round, but is mainly a summertime attraction. The Como Zoo (actually in Saint Paul) does not charge for entry and is known for its polar bears and penguin exhibit. It is also free to peruse the art galleries in the growing hipster hot-spot of Northeast Minneapolis (Nordeast).

Theater prices can vary greatly. The Orpheum and Guthrie put on world-class stage productions, but tickets are highly priced unless you luck out in the rush line. There are plenty of other professional theaters and live music venues. These vary in size from a few thousand to a few seats. City Pages (print version is free at pretty much every restaurant, coffee shop and bar in the city) has a complete list of weekly events plus a collection of liberal editorial rants and naughty adverts in back. There is no better source for what happening and what’s cheap each week.

What to do (summer)
An evening stroll around Lake Harriet or Lake Calhoun, capped by a stop at one of the neighborhood bars or cafés in the area, is a pleasant (and cheap) way to spend a few hours. If you are on the prowl, such a trek can easily be seen as a chance to check out some attractive joggers. If that’s too low-brow, there’s the Shakespeare in the Park series during the summer and $2 movies at the historic Riverview Theater near the Mississippi River Road.

Where to Eat
Ethnic eateries line University Ave in St. Paul (from the State Capital to Snelling). These offer a filling, good meal for under 10 dollars. There is a similar strip in Minneapolis on Nicollet Ave. Sandwich shops, bistros, and cafes offer cheap fare throughout South Minneapolis and near the University of Minnesota.

Where to Drink
Nordeast is one of those hip artsy neighborhoods. Though its desirability is growing, there are still plenty of spots catering to the “I’m hip and creative but rather poor” crowd. Lots of these have live music or events on the weekend evenings (and good people watching every night of the week). If you are looking for some fun of the beer-in-a-pitcher variety, virtually any venue on or near the U of M campus will do.

Minneapolis offers a genuinely laid back trip. Cold weather or warm, there is plenty going on. And no, not everyone talks like Francis McDormand in Fargo.

More Budget Destinations on Gadling

MSP has a fun game on Concourse F

Traveling through MSP over the holidays, I came across a bunch of kids going nuts in the hall on the way from security to Concourse F. Kids usually know what’s fun, so I stopped to see what they were doing.

There was a series of moving posters on the wall, like the one you see above. All looked like red umbrellas, but when the kids touched them, the pieces of the umbrella would scatter like dry leaves. Naturally, kids had their coats off and were circling them overhead, whooping the poster panels cowboy-style.

The neatest thing was, if you touched just the bottom of the umbrella, or just the middle, only that part would break apart. The motion sensors integrated in the projection were that specific!

The whole thing is an advertisement for Travelers Insurance (note the red umbrella logo). Click through the gallery to watch the kids play, and next time you have an MSP layover, go check it out on Concourse F!