When people think of castles, they usually think of those in Western Europe such as Spain, France, and Germany. Eastern Europe, however, has just as many if not more.
Greece has some of the best, like the castle of Methoni photographed here by Wolfram Sinapius. Having been fought over by the Byzantines, Venetians, Crusaders, Ottomans, and many others, it seems every island and hilltop has its own medieval fortification. Many changed hands several times. The Methoni castle dates to ancient times and in the Middle Ages the Venetians built atop the old foundations. The conquering Byzantines and Ottomans added their own elements.
Now those castles are in danger, according to an article in the Greek Reporter. Time and neglect are taking their toll. Some are on remote clifftops or islands and hard to get to, so while they are at least spared the vandalism so common in other historical sites, they can’t be properly maintained or studied. Now Greek archaeologists are trying to raise awareness of Greek castles and hopefully get them better cared for. This will be a difficult task with the country’s financial crisis.
One castle at least will be preserved. It was recently announced that the Pylos Fortress will become home to the city archaeological museum. This will bring in more visitors and help raise funds to maintain the site.
Whether you’re hitting the Consumer Electronics Show or Adult Entertainment Expo, get ready to learn the hard way that the Strip is an expensive place to be. Cheap hotel rooms lure you into the city, and you make up the difference everywhere else. So, when you blow your cash at the tables and your reserves at the strip joint gentlemen’s club of your choice, you’ll need a few ways to pass the time while waiting for your flight. Here are a few of my favorites for staying distracted when the slots and strippers have drained your wallet on the first day.
Fill your bags with freebies at the Las Vegas malls. The Shop Vegas Passport is free, and nobody will judge you for not actually spending your own cash while holding your hat out. Then, take advantage of free wireless internet access at the Palazzo or Venetian.
Listen to some tunes and root for your favorite at a dueling piano competition. There are three from which you can choose. Harrah’s and Treasure Island don’t charge a dime, but everything’s more expensive in New York (the New York New York hotel, that is), where you’ll be hit up for a $10 cover. Or, if you want to see people who know famous people, watch six of her band members at the Palms.
Don’t lie. You’ve heard of the AVN Awards … but only from your friends. Er, one friend, really.
Nobody watches porn adult movies, but everyone knows someone who does, right?. Well, now that you have an excuse for knowing about the AVN Awards (porn’s answer to the Oscars) why not check it out for yourself? Part of the broader Adult Entertainment Expo (January 9 – 11, 2009) experience in Las Vegas, it’s only two and a half weeks away, and there’s still plenty of space on the Strip.
Before we get into this, here’s a word of caution. The links in this article are safe for work until you get to the very end. If you want to learn more about the AVN Awards or Adult Entertainment Expo, I’ve supplied the links at the bottom.
January’s a busy time in Las Vegas. The enormous, famous Consumer Electronics Show draws more than 100,000 people every year and overlaps with the first few days of Adult Entertainment Expo, which adds another 30,000 or so conventioneers to the Sands. Fortunately, Las Vegas is rich in hotel rooms. Bargain-hunters can get rates of under $100 a night at the Stratosphere Hotel.
Prefer luxury (or convenience)? The Venetian is the top spot, but it will set you back a minimum of $259 a night. You can right walk from your room to the den of iniquity that is Adult Entertainment Expo convention floor without even stepping outside. Of course, there’s another advantage. If by some chance AVN Award co-hosts Belladonna and Jenna Haze want to join you for the evening (they are porn stars performers, in case you don’t know), the shorter distance allows less time for a change of heart … and you need every advantage.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Let’s go over the logistics first. After all, you can’t just stroll up to the Sands and expect the staff to welcome you like they’ve been awaiting your arrival. Remember: 30,000 people for Adult Entertainment Expo, with another 100,000 nerdy onlookers from the Consumer Electronics Show. When you hit the ground in Vegas, you must have your shit together.
Tickets to Adult Entertainment Expo and the AVN Awards are sold separately, and they are pricey (more on the awards show in a bit). One-day access to the expo will set you back $80. If you plan to go all three “fan” days (there are a few days up front when the show is open only to business and media), that’s a substantial amount of cash. To take the sting out a bit, order your tickets online. You’ll save $20 (per day), and you won’t have to wait in what is usually a horrendous line. I’ve seen people who buy tickets at the event spend more than four hours waiting in line.
You’ve run the ticket-and-bouncer gauntlet, now, and you’re on the floor at Adult Entertainment Expo! Music is pounding, and porn stars are grinding stripper poles and groping each other on mechanical bulls (well, they were at the last expo). All the girls and studios whose names you’d never admit you know are in attendance. Monique Alexander, Bree Olson and Sasha Grey are already on the list (these three links are SFW). Make sure your camera battery is as charged as you are, and bring a spare if necessary.
Excited? Okay, let me ruin the dream for you. If you’re going to Adult Entertainment Expo to meet a few starlets, have a blast with your friends and generally act like a jackass, book your flight. You are going for the right reasons. If you have a particular girl in mind and plan to win her over with your good looks and wit, go to the nearest roulette table and bet your life’s savings on Black 17 (much better odds).
Even without the torrid porn star sex that you crave, the convention can be a blast. You’ll get to see all the big names in the business, hobnob with rocker-turned-porn-director Dave Navarro and fondle the new sex toys adult novelty items that are coming to market. The pictures you’ll show your co-workers will trigger long, penetrating conversations.
For me, last year’s best-in-show was Natch Snatch (read about them, SFW), which manufactures environmentally-friendly sex toys. They have a cool idea and a snappy slogan: “Keep the tox out of your box!” The interview below gives a bit more color.
“Grip and grin” is a major part of Adult Entertainment Expo. The performers pose for cameras, and most will sit for a shot with you. But, there is always something interesting going on beyond the long lines to have Sunny Lane sit on your lap for a fraction of a second. Some booths have adult-themed games (dildo ring-toss), performances by strippers and product demonstrations. Last year (thanks to press access). The amateur porn stars of Abby Winters, for example, offered blitz chess at their booth last year. Look around; there’s more to porn than the girls.
Do keep in mind that business is transacted in the background at Adult Entertainment Expo. Sure, the bulk of the event is for the fans, but if you look to the backs of the displays, you’ll catch glimpses of deals being struck that will shape what you-sorry, “your friend”-will watch for the coming year.
If the convention isn’t enough to scratch the sexiest of your itches, buy a ticket to the AVN Awards at Mandalay Bay (separate event). This will set you back another $107 to $240, depending on whether you spring for closer seats. Or, if you’re traveling in a pack, just spend $2,625 for your own table.
In addition to Best Actress, Best Big Butt Series and Best Cinematography, you’ll learn first-hand which company wins Best Packaging!. Thrilling, right? Do it once … to say you’ve done it once. I’ve covered Adult Entertainment Expo twice and still haven’t been to the awards-not interested in listening to porn stars thank mom, dad and their agents for all the support it took to rise to the top.
Looking back, I regret not having gone. Last year’s guests were able to witness living legend Jenna Jameson‘s on-stage meltdown!
Okay, still want to trek out to Las Vegas for the expo and awards? For all you first-timers, here’s some important advice:
1. Bring an extra suitcase. They give out a lot of free stuff. My pen from porn industry hedge fund AdultVest (probably SFW) still works 11 months later. T-shirts, DVDs and posters are abundant.
2. Make a plan. There are a lot of displays and countless girls. Review the schedule to see when your favorites will be available, and use that to structure your day.
3. Don’t dress to impress, because it’s a lost cause anyway. Nobody cares. Instead, opt for comfortable clothing (especially shoes), as you’ll be on your feet all day.
4. Go with friends. Flying solo at a porn convention may make you feel awkward. Anyway, if you do get (incredibly) lucky, you’ll want someone who can back up your story. Would anybody believe that you ducked into a bathroom stall for a quickie with Stoya?
5. Take only the security guards seriously. Everything else is fantasy land, but these guys are paid not to put up with your BS.
When you get ready to leave Sin City and return to reality, be smart when packing your bags. Remember that your carry-on could be searched in a public setting, and the only thing that can make people happy in line at security is to see someone else having a mounting of porn extracted from his (or her) backpack. Yes, it does happen.
If Las Vegas is “adult” Disneyland, then Adult Entertainment Expo is the Magic Kingdom. Go at least once in your life, and make that once 2009.
Links related to this article are below. Content may be SFW, but the domain names could cause problems. Be smart; do this part at home.