30 Years Since Berlin Wall Fell, Now It Is All At Risk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

  • This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event has failed to deliver on its full potential, writes Frederick Kempe.
AP: Berlin Wall pulled down 891111
East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin wall after demonstrators pulled down one segment of the wall at Brandenburg gate Saturday, November 11, 1989.
Lionel Cironneau | AP

The most significant hopes and gains unlocked by the Berlin Wall’s fall, which was 30 years ago Saturday, are all at risk.

They included a historic expansion of democracies and open markets, a wave of globalization that created the greatest prosperity and largest global middle class the world has ever seen, and the enlargement the European Union, to 28 from 12 members, and NATO, to 29 from 16 – deepening ties among the world’s leading democracies.

That all brought with it the hope of what then-President George H.W. Bush called in 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free,” in which Russia could find its proper and peaceful place. Bush went even further in September 1990, after the UN Security Council had blessed the U.S.-led coalition’s war to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion, envisioning a New World Order, “an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.”

The idea had been hatched a month earlier by President Bush and General Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, while fishing near the president’s vacation home at Kennebunkport, Maine. They came home with three bluefish and an audacious vision that the Cold War’s end and the Persian Gulf Crisis presented a unique chance to build a global system against aggression “out of the collapse of the US-Soviet antagonisms,” in the words of General Scowcroft.

Reflecting on those heady days, Scowcroft recently told me that he felt everything he had worked for in his life was now at risk. If U.S. and European leaders don’t recover the common purpose they shared at that time – and there is yet little sign they will – this weekend’s Berlin Wall anniversary is more a moment for concern than celebration.

“Look at what is happening in the world,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a freshly published interview in the Economist. “Things that were unthinkable five years ago. To be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues; nobody would have believed this possible.”

This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event – one of freedom’s greatest historic triumphs – has failed to deliver on its full potential. Understanding that, might unlock a better path forward.

1. China’s authoritarian turn

Another thirtieth anniversary this year, the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989, might have had even more lasting consequences.

The regime’s attack on the pro-democracy movement, at a time when the Communist Party could have chosen greater liberalization over repression, ensured that the most important rising power of this century would be increasingly authoritarian in nature.

The lesson Beijing took from the Cold War’s end was that the Soviet Union had failed because it had liberalized its economy too little and its politics too much – a fatal combination. Economic liberalization and a growing Chinese middle class failed to bring with it the Western-style democratic freedoms that some thought would follow.

That doesn’t mean a New World Order can’t still be built with Beijing, but it will take considerable vision and patience to knit the two most important countries of our times together simultaneously, as strategic competitors and collaborators.

2. Revanchist Russia and the ‘Gray Zone Conflicts’

There’s a lot of finger pointing still about “who lost Russia” after the Cold War, whether it was Westerners who didn’t offer enough of an embrace or Russians who missed the opportunity.

Wherever you stand in that debate, the U.S. and its European allies failed to appreciate the potential or staying power of Putin, who has made it his life’s purpose to redress what he considered the biggest disaster of the 20th century, Soviet collapse.

At the same time, the enlargement of the European Union and NATO left behind a “gray zone” of 14 countries like Ukraine that were no longer in the Soviet bloc or Warsaw Pact but hadn’t been integrated into Western institutions.

French leader Macron has argued that it would be a huge mistake not to work to find more common ground with Russia. The difficulty is how to do so without selling out the democratic, sovereign hopes of Russia’s neighbors.

3. Europe’s lost momentum

Bill Emmott argues in Project Syndicate this week that the European Union’s biggest problem “is not Euroskepticism but indifference.”

He’s partially right: some 72% of French respondents in an opinion poll based on interviews with over 12,000 respondents across the 28 EU countries don’t think they would miss the EU as well as 67% of Italians and 60% of Germans.

That said, the EU also suffers from not having addressed design flaws that hobble it even as it has grown to its current size of 28 member states with 513 million citizens and a GDP of $18.756 trillion.

They include a monetary union without a fiscal union, immigration policies that allowed free movement inside the so-called Schengen Zone but too-porous external borders, and a failure to envision a world where the U.S. is losing interest, Russia remains a problem, and China is remaking global politics and economics.

Europe is “on the edge of a precipice,” Macron told the Economist. “If we don’t wake up … there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear Geo-politically, or at least we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply,” he stated.

4. The lack of U.S. vision and strategy

The Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 – taken together with Soviet collapse and the Cold War’s end – marked an inflection point of history for U.S. leadership globally that one can compare to 1919, the end of World War I, and 1945, the end of World War II, in its potential historic consequences.

U.S. and European leaders failed after 1919 to prevent the rise of European fascism, and then the Holocaust and World War II. The US got it more right than wrong in 1945 after World War II, creating the institutions and principles that paved the way for one of the world’s most sustained periods of relative peace and prosperity.

In his 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free”, President H.W. Bush underscored how “too many in the West, Americans and Europeans alike, seem[ed] to have forgotten the lessons of our common heritage and how the world we know came to be. And that should not be, and that cannot be.”

Thirty years later, the jury is still out on what the post-Cold War period will bring, but none of the post-Cold War presidencies – from President Bill Clinton to President Donald Trump – have yet recognized the stakes or laid out a strategy commensurate to the risks.

Saudi: Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:45
Turkish military vehicles arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border before a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeast Syria, near the Turkish border town of Kiziltepe, Turkey, November 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey announced Saturday that it would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, complaining about European inaction on the matter.

“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone.

“We will send the captured ISIS members to their countries,” he told reporters.

Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there.

Ankara launched its offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units following President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October. The YPG helped the United States defeat ISIS in Syria.

Last week, Ankara and Moscow agreed to remove the Kurdish fighters to a depth of at least 30 km south of the border.

Under the deal, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria on Friday.

What Was It Like to Be an Executioner in the Middle Ages?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

What Was It Like to Be an Executioner in the Middle Ages?

The lore surrounding medieval executioners is fairly off base.

The lore surrounding medieval executioners is fairly off base.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

One afternoon in May 1573, a 19-year-old man named Frantz Schmidt stood in the backyard of his father’s house in the German state of Bavaria, preparing to behead a stray dog with a sword. He’d recently graduated from “decapitating” inanimate pumpkins to practicing on live animals. If he passed this final stage, Schmidt would be considered ready to start his job, as an executioner of people.

We know the details of this morbid scene because Schmidt meticulously chronicled his life as an executioner, writing a series of diaries that painted a rich picture of this profession during the sixteenth century. His words provided a rare glimpse of the humanity behind the violence, revealing a man who took his work seriously and often felt empathy for his victims. But what’s more, Schmidt wasn’t necessarily all that unusual; historical anecdotes reveal that the prevailing stereotype of the hooded, blood-spattered, brutish executioner falls far short of the truth.

So then, what was it like to do this work hundreds of years ago in Europe? And how did “executioner” become a legitimate job title in the first place?

Related: Are Iron Maidens Really Torture Devices?

“What’s common to all [countries in Europe at the time] is that they’re all trying to have better criminal law enforcement,” said Joel Harrington, a historian at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the author of “The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century” (Picador, 2013), a book about Schmidt’s life.

The problem was that things were “a little like the American Wild West, in that most criminals got away,” Harrington told Live Science. “So when they did catch them, they really liked to make a good example and have a public spectacle” — hence the need for public executioners to carry out that work.

But people weren’t exactly lining up for the job of hanging, beheading or burning criminals at the stake; most people understandably saw this as undesirable work. In fact, those who ultimately became executioners didn’t choose the job for themselves. Instead, it was bestowed upon them.

In some cases, butchers were roped in to become executioners, or convicts were offered the job as an alternative to their own deaths. But typically, executioners came into the jobs through family ties; most in the profession were men whose fathers had been executioners before them, Harrington explained. Even the diarist Schmidt was descended from an executioner. His father had unwillingly received the job when randomly ordained by a prince as a royal executioner.

Over time, this passing of the baton from father to son created what Harrington called long-standing “execution dynasties” that spread across Europe during the Middle Ages.

But the existence of those dynasties also reveals the poor image executioners had at the time. People were trapped in this family cycle of employment because, in reality, they had few other opportunities to work, according to Harrington. People whose professions revolved around death were people that the rest of society did not want to associate with. So executioners were typically consigned to the fringes of society — and even forced to literally live at the edge of town.

“People wouldn’t have invited executioners into their homes. Many executioners were not allowed to go into churches. Marriage has to be done at the executioner’s home,” Harrington said. “Some schools would not even take the children of executioners.”

This social isolation meant that executioners were left to consort with others forced to occupy society’s underworld, “undesirables” such as prostitutes, lepers and criminals. That only boosted public suspicion of executioners and their families.

Related: Medieval Torture’s 10 Biggest Myths

Executioners, therefore, were a conundrum: crucial for maintaining law and order, yet shunned because of their unsavory work. “Attitudes toward professional executioners were highly ambiguous. They were considered both necessary and impure at the same time,” said Hannele Klemettilä-McHale, an adjunct professor of cultural history at the University of Turku in Finland who has studied representations of executioners.

Yet, there were some professional perks to this morbid work. Executioners benefited from something called “havage,” a kind of tax that gave them the right to take a portion of food and drink from market vendors for free, said Klemettilä-McHale. What’s more, “the authorities usually gave [the executioner] free lodging and released him from tolls and taxes,” she told Live Science. These small allowances were intended to compensate for executioners’ social isolation — and to compel them to stay in the job.

But at odds with their lowly societal position was the professionalism that executioners were expected to show in their work. While the business of execution may seem like it would require little more than brute strength and barbarity, in reality, executioners needed a relatively high degree of expertise to do the job smoothly, said Klemettilä-McHale.

“The officeholder was expected to be successful at every execution. If he failed, he was accused not only of incompetence, but also of cruelty,” she said.

In some regions, executioners were limited to three strokes for a beheading — and if a grisly scene resulted from one too many swings of the ax or sword, there could be serious consequences. “Sometimes, an unsuccessful executioner was attacked by the furious spectators, and if he survived, the authorities punished him by withholding his fee [or] with imprisonment or dismissal,” Klemettilä-McHale explained.

There was clearly a powerful incentive to execute as cleanly as possible, and that meant having a relatively good understanding of the human body. Contrary to popular opinion, executioners weren’t uneducated. In fact, those in the profession had uncommonly high literacy rates for members of their social class, along with fundamental knowledge of human anatomy, Harrington said.

This led to a surprising irony of the job: Some executioners could double up as doctors. This created an interesting societal paradox: “People who didn’t want anything to do with an executioner socially would come to his house and ask to be healed,” Harrington said. We know, for instance, that Schmidt “had many, many more patients he healed than people he executed,” Harrington added. In fact, Schmidt wrote that doctoring would have been his chosen career, had he not been forced into execution.

Related: How Real Is the ‘Game of Thrones’ Medieval World?

Clearly, executioners from olden times were more than just blood-spattered brutes. Instead, the history books paint a picture of regular people forced into a job that nobody else would do — and in a time when execution was deemed essential for keeping the peace.

“Forget that image of the hood and them being anonymous and sadistic,” Harrington said. “They would have seen themselves as law enforcement officials.”

There’s a final twist in the story of Schmidt. Over the course of his career, he had gained an unusual degree of respect due to his notable professionalism, which led to his appointment as the official executioner of the town of Bamberg, Bavaria. That earned Schmidt a generous salary and allowed him to live a very comfortable life with his family in a large home. However, he was still stigmatized because of his work — a fate he did not want to pass on to his children.

So as a retired 70-year-old, Schmidt made it his mission to restore his family name. He appealed to Bavaria’s authorities to release the Schmidt sons from their father’s tormented legacy, and his bold bid was a success.

His children were ultimately freed from a life at the executioner’s block and given the right to pursue their own careers, as Schmidt had always wished to do — a happy ending to the executioner’s tale.

Originally published in Live Science.

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

Europe is made up of 50 fascinating countries, each of which has its own individual charm while also sharing similarities with its neighbors. From the heartland of two of the world’s greatest civilizations, to Mediterranean islands and mountainous regions, it is a continent of immense diversity. Its cities are often considered among the most romantic on the planet and visited year-round by couples and honeymooners. Here’s five spots to visit for when you want to add a touch of romance to your travels.

Amsterdam

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Rent a bike and explore the endless miles of canals that meander around the Dutch capital. Stop at a waterfront bar for lunch and admire a cityscape characterized by medieval merchant houses. At night, antique street lamps illuminate the cobblestone streets to create a fairytale-like setting. If biking sounds too energetic, consider renting a boat, or go one better by staying overnight on a houseboat. In summer, bring a picnic to Vondelpark and be sure to cross to quieter Amsterdam-Noord to hang out in the shadow of a windmill. Of course, there’s the coffee shops and a superb collection of museums to visit, too.

Budapest

Credit: Augustin Lazaroiu/Shutterstock

Budapest straddles the mighty Danube with magnificent works of architecture rising up on both sides of the river. Soak up the sights from one of the benches that line the embankment, traverse the zigzagging alleyways of Castle Hill and find a quiet spot to snuggle in the leafy grounds of the Citadella. After a busy day of sightseeing, you’ll want to indulge in some therapeutic treatments at thermal spas, such as Rudas Baths and Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Finish your evening with a champagne and sunset Danube cruise.

Florence

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Forget Rome and Venice and opt for this glorious city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region. Renaissance art and architecture give Florence an old-world charm like no other, and you can pass the time strolling hand in hand through the narrow lanes of the Centro Storico. Take breaks at pavement cafes and grab a gelato at a traditional ice cream parlor. Sit on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo for exquisite views of the city, and don’t miss the sunsets on the Arno River. If you simply want to relax, head to the beautiful gardens of Giardino Bardini and Giardino di Boboli.

Mykonos

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From kicking back on secluded beaches during the daytime, to dinner and drinks at Little Venice, Mykonos is a dream come true for couples. Jump on a quad bike and feel the breeze in your hair as you travel the twisting, hilly roads to stunning beaches. Agios Sostis and Lia Beach are two of many perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming in crystalline waters. Dress up for some excellent photo opportunities in Little Venice, whose quaint whitewashed and blue houses could have been lifted straight from a movie set. Why not take a snorkeling tour and spot exotic fish together?

Vienna

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Once home to the House of Habsburg, Austria’s imperial capital has enchantment at the turn of every corner. With labyrinthine lanes, arcaded courtyards and grand palaces, the Old City is a wonderful place to amble aimlessly and discover hidden treasures. Ride a horse-drawn carriage between major attractions or see the city from the water on a Danube river cruise. Make sure to spend an evening at either the Burgtheater or Vienna State Opera. Smell the roses in springtime at Volksgarten and follow footpaths through Vienna Woods. December’s Christmas markets add another welcome dose of romance.

5 European Cities That Are Breathtaking in Spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 European Cities That Are Breathtaking in Spring

Spring is the perfect season to visit Europe. Airfare and lodging options are more reasonable, and museums and attractions aren’t as crowded. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, which European city should you choose? Here’s a list of potential destinations that are absolutely breathtaking in the spring.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Credit: Yasonya/Shutterstock

Ideal for travelers with a modest budget, Budapest is a city that lies on both banks of the Danube. The city was initially three separate towns of Buda, Óbuda and Pest until they were combined in the year 1873. Today, you can visit Budapest in the springtime, stroll down cobblestone streets and enjoy food-themed festivals that highlight Chilean and Moroccan cuisine. Visit the historic Jewish quarter, go to the opera or see a play at a theater. Don’t forget to check out the Aquincum, a museum housing the reconstructed remains of an ancient Roman city.

Paris, France

Paris, France

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Sure, Ella Fitzgerald sang the praises of “April in Paris.” But May and June are even better. That’s because during those two months, the sun is out for 16 hours before it finally sets. This allows you to enjoy so many outdoor activities like sipping wine at a cafe in the sun, strolling by the banks of the Seine or taking a romantic boat ride with your significant other.

What’s spring without flowers? Fortunately, Paris offers plenty of green space for quiet reflection and relaxation. The city boasts over 100 gardens, from simple pocket parks to more flamboyant ones such as the Tuileries.

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow, Scotland

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Arts lovers will definitely need to consider a springtime visit to Glasgow, Scotland. Visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to check out the work of various artists, including the designs of artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Mackintosh was born in Glasgow in the year 1868 and is considered one of Scotland’s most influential artists. If you visit Glasgow in April, you shouldn’t miss Glasgow International, a bi-annual art festival featuring contemporary art.

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Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland

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Located on Lake Geneva, Lausanne is a Swiss city that offers medieval architecture and beautiful vineyards. A quaint mixture of holiday resort and commercial town, Lausanne is a wonderful place to visit in the spring. Tiny, narrow roads and winding alleyways comprise the city, and many of those roads and alleys contain cafes and quaint shops. The city abounds with opportunities to eat mouthwatering cuisine. And if you visit Lausanne in the spring, don’t forget to visit its parks which boast Mediterranean plant species. There’s plenty to satisfy art lovers too. Art museums, theater, music productions and ballet performed by the world-renowned Béjart Ballet are just a few of the cultural activities available in Lausanne.

Lisse, Netherlands

Lisse, Netherlands

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When you think of Netherlands, you think of tulips. Lots of them. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you visit Lisse, Netherlands, in the spring. If flowers are your thing, check out Keukenhof, a lovely garden located in Lisse. It has 7 million planted flower bulbs, making it one of the world’s largest flower gardens. Flowers are planted in a specific pattern to fit a theme that changes each year. So the effect will always be stunning, no matter how many times you visit Keukenhof over the years. And, of course, since this is the Netherlands, the garden has plenty of tulips. Don’t miss the rare black tulips that are featured there as well.

4 Ancient Cultures We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

4 Ancient Cultures We Bet You’ve Never Heard Of

Unless you magically skipped world history in school, you’ve probably learned of the biggest ancient cultures over the years. Whether it was the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, or the aboriginal peoples of Australia, we know that this world has served as a home to shifting civilizations over the centuries. But while some cultures like those mentioned above tend to get consistent attention, others are lesser-known and are usually limited to academic communities. If you thought you knew about ancient cultures, here are four often-overlooked civilizations to expand your knowledge even further.

Caral Supe

Credit: Rudimencial / iStock

Location: Modern-day Peru

When you think of ancient cultures based in modern Latin America, we usually think of the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations. And maybe if you’re more well-read on the topic, you might know of the Olmec. But the region is rich in distinctive Pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Caral Supe. This culture dates back to 5,000 BCE and is centralized around the Supe River in Peru. The Caral Supe are also known as the Note Chico. So, what makes this civilization so unique?

Even though the culture pre-dates the ceramic age, archeologists were able to find a major site called the Sacred City of Caral-Supe with intact structures that included six massive pyramids, numerous temples, various plazas, and an amphitheater. While the site was first “discovered” by earlier archeologists in 1905, it was left untouched until a 1994 excavation because it didn’t contain gold, silver, or pottery. In fact, those six pyramids are so massive that they were initially mistaken for hills. Today the Sacred City of Caral-Supe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit.

Indus/Harappan

Credit: CRS PHOTO / Shutterstock.com

Location: Modern-day Pakistan & India

The Indus or Harappan civilization is one of the earliest recorded on the Indian subcontinent. However, not much is known about them since researchers have yet to crack their ancient language to translate any of their writings, drawings, or stone carvings. The culture existed between 3300 and 1600 BCE and occupied a region that stretched between Pakistan and India in the Indus Valley—hence their name.

Even though archeologists and anthropologists have been unable to decipher their language, the Harappan left behind structures that provide clear insight into their capabilities and ingenuity. This culture is best known for its advanced sewage and drainage systems, well-built granaries, and impressive walls. And according to artifacts, the Harappan believed in dentistry, too. So what happened to this culture? Experts believe climate change was the culprit that caused sustained rainfall reduction. This led to population decline as groups left in search of wetter regions.

Sanxingdui

Credit: bleakstar / iStock

Location: Modern-day China

Ancient cultures can be found nearly anywhere in the world. It can be hard to believe, in some cases, that there could be anything from pre-civilizations to long-standing cultures. But even in a country like China—which has a rich and ancient history—the current culture wasn’t the first. The Sanxingdui is a Bronze Age culture that lived in what is now the Sichuan province of China. So what do we know about this culture? Sadly, aside from beautiful artwork that has been discovered over the years, the Sanxingdui is a bit of an enigma. To date, no written words have ever been found from the archeological sites.

The culture is best known for creating massive carvings out of bronze and intricate engravings on delicate materials like jade. Artifacts from their settlements were first discovered in 1929 with later discoveries in 1986 unearthing eight-foot-tall statues. Experts theorize that geological events led to the settlement’s abandonment somewhere between 1200 to 1100 BCE. Geologic evidence shows that a possible earthquake and landslide took place 2,800 to 3,000 years ago that could have cut off their access to the Minjiang River. But a nearby settlement, Jinsha, features nearly identical artifacts that point to the possibility that the Sanxingdui relocated there.

The Bell-Beakers

Credit: nicolamargaret / iStock

Location: Modern-day Europe & northern Africa

Who built Stonehenge? Experts have proof that the Bell-Beakers heavily contributed to creating this unique structure. However, the culture is so obscure that they’re named purely for their most commonly-found artifact—shaped pottery that looks like an upside down bell. The Bell-Beakers are believed to have lived between 2800 and 1800 BCE and occupied lands across Europe from the present-day United Kingdom to the Czech Republic and as far south as northern Africa.

More recent research has shown that the Bell-Beakers weren’t the first people who inhabited the present-day U.K., but they ultimately became the dominant genetic contributors. DNA evidence of prehistoric skeletons reveal that a massive migration occurred over the course of hundreds of years, nearly replacing the previous Neolithic cultures. Present-day Brits have more in common genetically with the Bell-Beakers than the Neolithic peoples.

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5 Oldest Cities in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Oldest Cities in Europe

Walking through any country in Europe is like stepping back in time. There are cathedrals in Italy that are hundreds of years old. There are castles in Britain that have been standing since medieval times. There are ruins of ancient civilizations in Greece and Ireland waiting to be explored. Some of the oldest cities in the world are located in Europe, and many of them date back nearly ten thousand years (which seems pretty incredible for people who live in relatively young countries like the United States). Here is a look at the five oldest cities in Europe, as well as some insight into their long and storied history.

Lisbon, Portugal

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According to its tourism website, Lisbon, Portugal, is one of the least-visited capitals in the world. Established in 1,200 B.C. by the Phoenicians, Lisbon is the fifth oldest city in Europe, and and also one of the oldest cities in the world. After the Celts settled the area, the Phoenicians built a civilization here called Ulissipo. This civilization was later conquered by the Greeks. Then it was taken over by the Carthaginians. After that, the city was seized by the Romans, then the Germans, then Islamic conquerors, all the time absorbing bits and pieces of all of these cultures. Finally, after changing hands (and names) a few more times, things settled down, and Lisbon became a stable and important city due to its location on the sea and the expansion of Portugal’s maritime trade.

Chania, Greece

Credit: Neirfy/Shutterstock

Greece is home to nearly all of the oldest cities in Europe, beginning with the fourth oldest, Chania. While it is difficult to say with certainty when most cities were founded, most sources agree that Chania has been in existence since around 4,000 B.C. Ruins have been found in the area that date back to the Minoan period (which took place between 2,100 and 1,100 B.C.), but other artifacts suggest that the city’s history goes back even further, to the latter part of the Stone Age. The site is rich in historical finds, such as pottery, paintings and coins, many of which you can see in museums today. The city was reportedly destroyed sometime in the 800s, but was rebuilt by the Venetians as the modern, beautiful, coastal city that stands there today.

Argos, Greece

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Argos, Greece, is located on the Argolid plain in the Peloponnese. It is historically significant due in part to the fact that it is one of the longest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Just like with Chania, Argos’ official founding date is uncertain, but it is thought to have been settled around 5,000 B.C. People have lived in this area since prehistoric times, and continue to live there today. The ancient version of Argos was built on two large hills, Aspis and Larissa, and was a very significant setting for much of the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods of history. Today, visitors can still see the remains of Mycenaean tombs and theaters, and can walk along the same paths that the city’s founding fathers did so many centuries before.

Athens, Greece

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According to The Telegraph, Athens, one of Greece’s most well-known cities, has been inhabited since 5,000 B.C., and likely much earlier. Like many Greek cities, this one has a particularly interesting origin story based in mythology. Legend has it that the city got its name after the goddess Athena won a contest against the water god Poseidon. They were competing to see whose powers were more valuable, with Athena planting an olive seed and Poseidon bringing forth a stream of water from a rock. The olive tree that grew there was deemed more important as it brought life to the area, and the city was named after Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war. The city later went on to become the birthplace of democracy. Just like in Argos, many of the original structures of the city still stand, so tourists to the area can see first-hand where all of these incredible things happened.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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There is much debate over which city is truly the oldest in Europe (as this is a very difficult thing to prove), but many people believe Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is number one. This city was reportedly founded in about 6,000 B.C. It was built around an important hill called Nebet Tepe, and was expanded and strengthened by the Thracians over the course of the Iron Age. It changed names and hands many times after this, and continued to be inhabited for thousands of years due to its ideal military position (any place with a hilltop lookout is a good place to direct an army) and its status as an important trade center. Today, one can still see evidence of all of the cultures that came before, including the remains of a partially unburied Roman stadium, which peeks out from beneath the city’s main street.

10 Etiquette Rules to Know Before Visiting Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

10 Etiquette Rules to Know Before Visiting Europe

As the majority of Americans are the descendants of European immigrants, you’d think there would be more cultural similarities between the two. But thanks to a few centuries of separation, there are certain differences that have cropped up that are always getting American tourists into trouble, as well as ruining our reputation abroad. Bone up on your European etiquette by following these 10 tips.

In General | Don’t Tip Like an American

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Tipping culture in America is out of control. Put simply, we’re entrenching ourselves in a custom that shortchanges (pun intended) everyone. In contrast, most countries in Europe operate without tipping, so while staff are aware that Americans are prone to tipping, they’re neither expecting it nor depending on it. Instead, use tipping the way we say it works here at home, by which we mean throw a bartender or waiter a few extra euro only when the service is truly exceptional.

In General | Don’t Rush Your Meal

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On a related note, since waitstaff isn’t working for tips, they’re not focused on turnover and won’t check in on your meal as often as someone might in America. That creates a certain amount of dissonance between the paces of American and European meals. We don’t mean to insult American waitstaff, but the emphasis on tips also emphasizes turnover, which can rush diners. European staff is more focused on doing a good job than a fast one, so relax and enjoy your meal.

In General | Dress Yourself Up a Bit

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To the untrained eye, it might seem like most Europeans are on their way to some kind of meeting, with most people in pants that aren’t jeans and shirts that aren’t T. If you’re abroad in Europe, it’s best to take a cue from this and pack clothes that fit the setting. Button-downs, nicer pants and more formal footwear are a good idea. In fact, on that last point, Americans take a lot of flak overseas for our proclivity for sneakers. Unless you’re doing a lot of outdoorsy walking or playing a lot of sports, you might be best served leaving the Nikes at home.

Continental Europe | End Your Meal at 5:25

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Apparently there’s an American dining style, which, for all the jokes we hear about Golden Corral and cheeseburgers, we think might just be Europeans making fun of us again. Instead, we think it’s safer to go with the Continental style. When you’ve finished your meal, place your utensils at the 5:25 position on your plate.  Traditionally, the fork’s tines would be facing down, but modern dining etiquette allows them to be left up as well. That will show your server you’ve eaten everything you want to and they can come to clear your place, all without interrupting the flow of your evening.

Portugal & Rome | It’s Not Rude to Refuse Extra Snacks

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It’s not a guarantee that someone’s going to do it to you, but sometimes servers will bring unrequested snacks to the table in restaurants in Rome and Portugal. If that happens in America, in our experience at least, it’s on the house. Not so much overseas. You’ll probably find these on the bill at the end of your meal, which could potentially cause some problems, particularly if you’re traveling on a budget. Don’t feel too bad about refusing these dishes, since you’re going to be paying for them anyway. On the flip side, you could eat them too. But again, don’t feel bad saying no.

France | Put Your Bread Right on the Table

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You might think going out to a French meal means you’re going to have more knives, forks, bowls, glasses and plates than you know what to do with. That might be true for all but the last, as you’ll at least be lacking a bread plate. The French place their bread right on the table next to their plates in all but the fanciest dining experiences. It’s weird at first, but by the end, you’ll probably be wondering why you were scared to do it in the first place.

Great Britain | Don’t Mess With the Tea

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While it might be the Irish who have the British beat on per capita tea consumption, the British are the sticklers for how people should take it. You’ll have it with milk and no sugar and be thankful for it, especially since it was a Brit who made it for you and offered it to you in the first place.

It’s also understandable if you want to ignore this particular piece of advice if you find yourself having tea in the U.K. Just know you could get some looks.

Norway | Don’t Talk to People You Don’t Know … Unless They’re Drunk

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Norwegians are a surprisingly reserved nation. We say surprisingly because their major claim to fame is the Viking penchant for outgoing behavior. But a modern Norwegian has assured us it’s a bad idea to talk to people we don’t know in virtually every conceivable situation. Buses, trains, walking around, in shops, they’re pretty much all off limits for the kind of random amiability Americans are reasonably accustomed to. Though, they did clarify that all bets are off once alcohol’s entered the picture. Evidently the only thing standing between us and being friends with any random person in Norway is a few pints.

Ireland | Buy Your Round

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Essentially, when a small group of friends or family goes out drinking and plans on staying out for some time, it falls to each person to buy everyone else’s drinks, but usually only once. To put a finer point on it, if you go out with five friends, each friend should expect to buy five drinks. If you try to skip one, or genuinely don’t know what’s happening, you’ll find some bad blood with people who are otherwise hard to upset.

Greece | Nodding Means No

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Nodding is such a common behavior for us that it almost feels like a human instinct instead of invented behavior. But the people of Greece basically switch our “yes” and “no” head movements, which we assume has led to many a misunderstanding between American tourists and Greek locals. We commend anyone for trying to adjust to the new head indicators, but it might be better to simply switch to verbal responses while you’re there.

108 degrees in Paris: Europe is shattering heat records this week

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

108 degrees in Paris: Europe is shattering heat records this week

Paris reported its highest temperature ever this week as Europe’s second major heat wave of the summer continues.

People in Eindhoven, North Brabant, The Netherlands cool down in a kiddie pool in front of a restaurant during record heat.
Record heat has gripped Europe this week, as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium set new all-time temperature highs.
 Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Europe is now baking under its second heat wave this month, but this latest is one for the record books.

On Thursday, Paris set its all-time temperature high, reaching 108.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The United Kingdom’s Met Office reported that London’s Heathrow Airport reached 98.4 degrees, a record for July. Cambridge, England, heat climbed to 100.5 degrees, marking only the second time triple-digit temperatures have been recorded in the United Kingdom.

Several countries also set all-time heat records this week: The Netherlands heated up to 105.3 degrees. Germany reached 106.7. Temperatures in Belgium soared to 103.8.

Greta Thunberg

@GretaThunberg

42,6 °C in Paris. The heat records are not just being broken all over the place… they are being smashed.
New record in Paris by over 2° and in Lille by almost 3° C… https://twitter.com/meteofrance/status/1154401878177996800 

Météo-France

@meteofrance

42,6 °C relevés @paris à 16h32, et la température pourrait encore augmenter #Canicule #vigilancerouge

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The high temperatures have done more than make people sweat; French officials observed that drownings are up 30 percent compared to the same time last year, with at least 60 deaths indirectly attributed to the ongoing heat as more unskilled swimmers sought relief in the water.

At least five deaths in France have directly resulted from the heat. Such fatalities can occur when prolonged exposure to high temperatures prevents the body from cooling off, leading to heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Police in the UK have also recovered bodies of swimmers this week. Health officials in Belgium issued a code red warning for the whole country.

The searing weather has also degraded infrastructure across Europe. Two nuclear reactors at a power plant in France shut down because the water they used for cooling became too hot. The heat forced trains to slow down in the UK due to risks of heat causing rails to expand. The weather may also have contributed to the breakdown of a Eurostar train in Belgium on Wednesday that stranded more than 600 passengers in a sweltering tunnel for two hours. Heat is also threatening iconic landmarks like the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Its roof collapsed in a fire in April, but the cathedral’s chief architect Philippe Villeneuve warned that high temperatures could dry out the church’s fragile masonry and lead to more structural failures.

Cyclists in the ongoing Tour de France have even strapped on ice vests to stay cool.

A cyclist of the Netherlands’ Jumbo-Visma cycling team wears a special plastic bib with several pockets filled with ice due to a heat wave during the Tour de France cycling race  on July 23, 2019.
A cyclist of the Netherlands’ Jumbo-Visma cycling team wears a special plastic bib with several pockets filled with ice due to a heat wave during the Tour de France cycling race on July 23, 2019.
 Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

Europe’s ongoing heat wave is a reminder of just how vulnerable we are to extreme heat, even in wealthy parts of the world that have the resources to cope. And the risks of extreme temperatures are only increasing as populations grow and the climate changes.

Europe’s ordinarily temperate climate makes it more vulnerable to extreme heat

Countries in Europe are vulnerable to extreme heat for several reasons. One is that triple-digit temperatures are unusual across the continent. As a result, people aren’t used to the extreme heat and are unprepared to deal with it by staying hydrated or taking frequent breaks away from high temperatures.

And because super-high temperatures in Europe are so rare, buildings are not designed to cope with it. Air conditioning isn’t common — about 2 percent of German homes are air-conditioned — and most homes and offices are designed to stay warm in European winters rather than passively cool off in scorching summers.

Another factor in Europe’s heat wave is that 72 percent of the population lives in cities and suburbs surrounded by heat-trapping concrete and asphalt, so people are densely concentrated in areas that warm up more than their surroundings.

These heat islands continue to dissipate heat even after the sun sets, so nighttime temperatures stay high. That poses another health risk since it means people have a harder time finding relief from the heat, adding to their cumulative heat exposure. People who already have an underlying condition like high blood pressure stand to suffer the most.

Embedded video

Met Office

@metoffice

After an exceptionally hot day for some, it’s going to be a warm and humid evening with temperatures barely dropping overnight

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History has shown us that heat waves in Europe can be extremely deadly. In 2003, a heat wave almost as intense as the current one killed upward of 70,000 people across the continent, mainly among the elderly in homes that became too hot. Since then, European health officials have taken heat far more seriously, proactively issuing public health alerts and opening public cooling centers during periods of extreme heat. The death tolls of subsequent heat waves have not come anywhere close.

However, the planet is getting hotter, and heat waves will only become longer, more frequent, and more intense. And Europe is already getting a lot of heat. All of Europe’s hottest summers in the past 500 years have been in the last 17 years.

“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change,” said Johannes Cullmann, director of World Meteorological Organization’s climate and water department, in a statement on Wednesday. “This is consistent with the scientific finding showing evidence of more frequent, drawn out and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures.”

And because of climate change, evening temperatures have been rising faster than daytime temperatures.

Forecasters now expect rain and thunderstorms in the UK and parts of the continent over the next few days, which should help people cool off. But the future still holds more heat for the region.

5 of the Most Stunning Churches from Around the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 of the Most Stunning Churches from Around the World

Even if you’re not a religious person, there’s something humbling and awe-inspiring about the masterful architecture of beautiful churches. You can’t help but appreciate the design and effort that went into building these structures. And, you just might be surprised to find that there are eye-catching cathedrals around the world, not just in Europe.

St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City

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Of course, we start with Europe because this is really where grandiose churches and cathedrals began. While most people might focus on France, probably one of the most iconic religious structures is also the home of the Roman Catholic Church. Next time you head to Rome, be sure to take a trip to the Vatican to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, which is technically located in Vatican City, a papal state within Italy.

The structure took roughly 120 years to build between 1520 and 1626. It is considered one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance design and was a collaborative effort from some of the era’s top creatives: Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Even though St. Peter’s Basilica is the oldest church in the world and carries significant symbolism for Catholics worldwide, it is not the mother church of the Catholic Church or even the primary cathedral for the Diocese of Rome.

Las Laras Sanctuary – Ipiales, Colombia

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South America contains one of the largest demographics of practicing Catholics in the world. For a nation steeped in magical realism, the story behind Las Laras Sanctuary makes perfect sense. In 1754, an indigenous woman and her daughter claimed that they experienced a religious vision when the Mother Mary appeared to them after lightning hit a stone while they sought refuge during a storm.

Their location, Las Laras, became a religious pilgrimage site as countless followers visited it to marvel at the image of the Virgin Mary in stone—which you can still see today. A shrine was initially built in the mid-18th century, and in 1802, the shrine was converted into an actual cathedral. Today, the current Las Laras Sanctuary is a reimagination from the older sitem, built in the early 20th century. However, it’s an architectural feat because it rises 330 feet above the canyon bottom and includes a bridge that spans 160 feet to the other end of the canyon.

Notre-Dame Basilica – Montreal, Canada

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It’s understandable that a country with close ties to Europe would follow in its architectural traditions. Montreal is located in Quebec, one of the two provinces in Canada that speak French. The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal is the first Gothic Revival style cathedral in the country. The sanctuary is best known for its colorful interior and accents. Colorful touches aren’t just limited to stained glass windows. In fact, various portions of the cathedral are painted bold blues, purples, reds and greens.

Also interesting is the fact that the stained glass windows don’t depict common scenes from the Bible. Instead, the windows show the history of Montreal. The church was initially built in 1672 and began various refurbishing and renovation projects in 1785. In 1824, a congregation boom served as the catalyst for a completely new build, giving way to the current iteration of the Notre-Dame Basilica. Construction on Notre-Dame ended completely in 1891.

Church of St. George – Lalibela, Ethiopia

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Depending on how plugged in you are to religious trivia, you may or may not be surprised to find out that the largest population of Christians is actually in Africa. The Church of St. George, located in Lalibela, Ethiopia, is the oldest structure on this list and is the only one that is not a place of worship for Catholics. Built from volcanic tuff—the only material used in creating the church—construction occurred between the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Church of St. George is one of the most recognizable symbols for members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, a division of the Episcopal faith. The church was commissioned by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, who wanted to recreate Jerusalem. Because it is a rock-hewn church, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral – Singapore

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Last but not least, Asia also makes this list. There are a number of beautiful cathedrals and churches across the continent, many of which are popular destination wedding sites. But Singapore often tops the list when you look at Asia because of the variety of classically built structures. And, if you have even a passing knowledge of Singapore’s colonial history, this shouldn’t be surprising.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral traces its roots to Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, who personally selected the land where the church stands today. The first version of the church was completed in 1837, but multiple lightning strikes caused the cathedral to be condemned in 1852. Undeterred, parishioners set to work planning the church’s replacement and opted to design it in the Early English Gothic style. Construction on the second version was completed in 1862.

Which churches do you think are the most stunning? Have you had the chance to visit any of these beautiful places yet? If not, be sure to add them to your next vacation itinerary.