9 Beautiful European Cities By The Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DISCOVERER BLOG)

 

Europe’s long and varied coastline is dotted with settlements whose inhabitants have, for centuries, made their living from the sea. Today, many feature historic mansions, charming historic squares and quaint harbors that draw as many tourists as fishermen. Though some have grown into cities, others are constrained by the physical landscape to remain impossibly beautiful coastal towns.

Rovinj, Croatia

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The gem of Istria covers a tiny headland, huddled around a harbor full of fishing boats. For centuries, the steeple of St Euphemia has risen like a beacon from the mass of terracotta roofs which surround it. On the ground, explore cobbled streets and narrow alleyways to discover a liberal scattering of gift shops, cafés and bijou apartments.

Portree, Scotland

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The largest town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye welcomes visitors with the sight of rows of brightly-painted cottages. Life centers around the busy harbor, but those with time on their hands are advised to take a hike. The Scorrybreac trail and the path up the headland known locally as The Lump are two of the best local walks.

Oia, Greece

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Few Greek towns have made such an impact as Santorini’s Oia, and you only have to set eyes on the place to understand why. The town’s whitewashed homes and businesses cling to the rocky flanks of the dormant volcano overlooking the azure lake that fills its caldera. Its intense beauty has drawn artists and photographers for years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Vernazza, Italy

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Though visitors would not be disappointed with any of the Cinque Terre settlements, there’s something about Vernazza that’s especially compelling. The cupola-topped bell tower of Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church stands tight against the waterfront but for the best views, climb the steps to the tower of the ruined Castello Doria and look out over the glittering sea.

Tavira, Portugal

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There are many contenders for stunning coastal towns along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve, but Tavira is a stand out. The town itself is located inland of a long sandy beach and the salt pans are home to a wide variety of seabirds including waders, spoonbills and flamingos. In the heart of the medieval town, you’ll find a castle built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque and Santa María do Castelo Church, which houses the tombs of seven knights allegedly ambushed by the Moors.

Visby, Sweden

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Located on the Baltic coast, the Hanseatic port of Visby lies on the island of Gotland. Its 13th-century ramparts, historic warehouses and the former homes of wealthy merchants make this one of the most delightful towns in Sweden. Pull up a chair at one of the pavement cafés that grace Stora Torget, the main square, and people watch over a cup of coffee. But when you can drag yourself away, the Gotland Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s Viking past.

Cadiz, Spain

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In their rush to tick off the sights of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, visitors sometimes overlook Cadiz, but to do so would be a shame. In the 17th and 18th centuries, merchants built watchtowers to ensure they knew their ships had returned to port. Today, 126 of the 160 remain. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Camera Obscura at the top of Torre Tavira before taking a stroll at ground level to gaze up at these interesting structures.

Aeroskobing, Denmark

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Nicknamed “the fairytale town of Denmark,” Aeroskobing, or Ærøskøbing as it’s written in Danish, is a stunner of a coastal town. Cobbled streets, winding alleyways and historic houses give the place bags of character. Don’t miss the Priors House, which dates from 1690, the town’s cook house – built to reduce the risk of fire breaking out on the wooden boats that docked in port – and Ærøskøbing Church in the market square, the third to grace this spot.

Fowey, England

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Pronounced “Foy,” well-heeled Fowey made its money on the export of china clay, which these days manifests itself in the pastel-colored houses and cosy pubs that jostle for position around this characterful Cornish harbor. The town that inspired Daphne du Maurier to write Rebecca makes a handy base for sampling the famous local mussels and for exploring the rest of the Polperro heritage coastline.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

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4 Islands Where No Cars Are Allowed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Islands Where No Cars Are Allowed

4

Islands Where No Cars Are Allowed

Cars have helped civilization in countless ways, but it can be hard to disconnect from the modern world with their constant presence pulling you back to reality. Take a trip to one of these car-free islands and let yourself drift away to simpler times.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island, Michigan

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Mackinac (pronounced MACK-in-awe) Island in Lake Huron is a tourist destination that has not changed much over the years. Carriage operators worked together to ban the presence of automobiles in 1898, and to this day the only way to get around the island is to take a horse-drawn carriage, bike or walk. Horses on the island almost outnumber the year-round residents, with more than 500 horses available for tourist transportation in the summer months and only 600 humans as permanent residents.

Mackinac Island has a long history, having first been inhabited by Native Americans. It was later inhabited by the French and then the British, and Fort Mackinac was a central pawn in the Revolutionary War. Though it’s been a tourist town ever since, the island’s varied (and somewhat dark) history has led it to being called one of the most haunted places in Michigan.

Rottnest Island, Australia

Rottnest Island, Australia

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Affectionately called Rotto by the locals, Rottnest Island in Australia is a perfect, serene getaway location. With no cars and a whopping 63 beautiful beaches, you would be hard-pressed not to relax. Rottnest Island is also home to the happiest animal on earth — the adorable, ever-smiling quokka. While it’s illegal to touch or feed the little guys, they are more than happy to smile with you for a photo.

Though it only has around 100 permanent residents, Rottnest Island certainly is not lacking for tourists. It’s recommended to make reservations well in advance to guarantee yourself a place to stay, though it’s also a very popular location for camping and backpacking. Visitors arrive by ferry and can rent a bike or take the bus once on the island. Watersports and diving are incredibly popular, and Rotto is also an excellent location to view migrating humpback and southern white whales.

Hydra Island, Greece

Hydra Island, Greece

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Hydra (pronounced EE-drah) Island off the coast of Athens is an amazing way to experience the beauty of Greece without the bustle of the city. Visitors to this car-free island can walk its streets or opt instead for a donkey ride through the quaint village streets. While only 19 square miles, the island has a surprising number of museums, which were converted from old mansions owned by the rich and famous. Speaking of famous — the late Leonard Cohen was just one of many celebrities to use Hydra as a retreat.

The lack of motorized wheels on the island has kept Hydra from overdeveloping, thereby preserving its cozy, authentic feel.

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Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

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The word Perhentian means “stopping point” in Bahasa Malaysia, and that’s exactly what these islands are. The two main islands, Besar (meaning “big”) and Kecil (meaning “small”), are connected by a short jungle trail but could not be more different. Besar has beautiful beaches, but its inland is a mass of rocks and trees. As a result, this bigger island is more resort-focused. Kecil has two distinct sides. There’s the quiet side, which can be found at Coral Bay, and the party side of Long Beach.

Because these islands are only accessible by boat, they practically close down during the summer months when the waters become too dangerous to bring people or supplies. The Perhentians are a much more remote location than most Western travelers are used to, which means you can’t expect to have reliable access to power or credit card services while you’re there. But if you’re looking to take a break from more than just the sound of cars, the Perhentian Islands are the perfect place to switch off your devices, disconnect from the outside world and enjoy snorkeling with the turtles instead.

7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

7 Jaw-Dropping Architectural Masterpieces

Of all the artistic works we humans have come up with over the years, our architectural achievements may be the most powerful. Great architecture combines form and function; it serves a purpose while acting as a symbol of the culture that created it. Much of our understanding of ancient cultures comes from the architecture they left behind, making it a crucial part of world history and our understanding of civilization as a whole.

If you get a chance, pay a visit to a few of these jaw-dropping masterpieces to get a full idea of how powerful architecture can be.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Created in 1997 by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple is one of the newest architectural wonders on this list, though it certainly deserves its place. A sparkling wonder of white plaster and glass, the White Temple is an artistic expression that combines traditional Thai beliefs with modern culture.

Though the exterior of the temple was designed in the Buddhist fashion common in Thai temples, the interior contains an expansive series of pop culture imagery, including depictions of Spider-Man, The Terminator, Michael Jackson, and more. Yes, really. And while photos of the inside of the temple are prohibited by Thai law, seeing the exterior alone should be enough to give you an idea of the grandeur of this bizarre project.

Great Wall of China

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Yes, China’s Great Wall certainly makes our list. And while it’s not the easiest architectural wonder for Americans to reach, it’s worth the trip. Sections of the 13,000+ mile wall were built as far back as the 7th century BCE, with new additions and revisions made over the next several thousand years.

There’s not much else to say about this one, because you already know it! The Great Wall of China is one of the most enduring works out there, with historians agreeing that it’s one of the most impressive architectural feats in human history.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran

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Known casually as “the Pink Mosque,” the design of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is stunning.

This isn’t your grandma’s mosque; rather than the plain grays and slates typical of religious buildings, the Pink Mosque features a kaleidoscope of color, with pink floor tiles, rainbow stained glass, and painted geometric patterns adorning every interior wall. The outside is similarly impressive, but for this one, you really need to go inside to see its most impressive elements.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

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Another architectural favorite, the Colosseum is one of those ancient works that always seems to capture our imaginations. Completed around 80 AD, modern scholars believe that the Colosseum represents the brutality of Imperial Rome, noting its dark history of public executions, gladiator matches, and violent chariot races.

Despite its brutal history, it’s hard to ignore the Colosseum’s beauty as an architectural achievement. Reported to hold anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators in its prime, it dwarfs many modern arenas and serves as a constant (and fragmented) reminder of a lost world.

Santorini/Thera, Greece

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If you ever find yourself in Greece, stop by the island of Santorini. One of many islands on the Aegean Sea, Santorini doesn’t feature one specific architectural achievement. Instead, the whole island can be considered an architectural achievement, acting as a modern representation of ancient Cycladic architecture.

On the island, you’ll see a series of white painted villages dotting red island cliffs, with residents adorning their homes in bright yellow, cyan, and red. Combined with the lush greenery of the region and its proximity to the deep blue Aegean, the whole island bursts forth in vivid colors and unique cliffside architecture unlike any you’ll see in the world.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, USA

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The Golden Gate Bridge is a masterpiece of engineering if we’ve ever seen one. The bridge’s impressive length of 1.7 miles is matched by its height, standing a cool 220 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate Strait. Designed primarily by Charles Alton Ellis, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most enduring modern architectural works in the United States, even being named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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One of the most visually striking buildings on this list, the Sagrada Familia basilica is an unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1852. However, despite Gaudi devoting his life to the building’s creation, he would die with less than a quarter of the project complete. And while a current team of architects is working to finish what Gaudi started, the fact that the church is unfinished is a selling point to many of the basilica’s 2.5 million annual visitors. With a surprisingly modern design approach that blends traditional church architecture with Gothic elements, this one is worth a visit—finished or not.

Monuments to Culture

From China to Italy to right here in the U.S., our architectural monuments are more than just buildings. They’re tributes to our culture. If you ever get a chance to scope out one of these engineering marvels, we suggest you take it. These wonders won’t be around forever, and when they go, they’ll take huge chunks of history with them.

4 Exotic Locations in Europe You (May Have) Never Heard of Until Now

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Exotic Locations in Europe You Never Heard of Until Now

You don’t necessarily need to travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the Seychelles to find you own slice of paradise. Here are four European destinations that you probably haven’t heard about that exude exoticness.

Iona, Scotland

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If you pick the right time of year, and also get some luck with the weather, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve found utopia when setting foot on Iona. This island in the Inner Hebrides is just 3 miles long and one mile wide, and has a coastline dotted with beaches that often awaken spiritual experiences. When the sun shines, the powdery white sand and crystalline waters shimmer like a scene typical of the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Check out the postcard-perfect images of Port Bàn and Traigh Ban, on the north coast. Enjoy views of Mull from Martyr’s Bay, clamber over the pebbles of St. Columbus Bay and watch spouting caves at the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. All of Iona’s beaches are accessible by foot, which is great news because visitors aren’t allowed to bring their own transport.

Omiš, Croatia

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It’s only an hour away from Split, but the nonchalant atmosphere and time-honored townscape of Omišmake this one-time pirate town feel world’s away from Croatia’s second city. Omiš is part of the spectacular Dalmatian Coast, a region that can easily be explored on self-drive and sailing vacations. Imposing rock formations rise up behind the town’s beaches, which look out over the Adriatic Sea toward the island of Brač. Hike to the clifftop Starigrad Fortress, where panoramic views of the sea and countryside await. A stroll along the town’s Roman alleyways, home to street vendors and seafood taverns, is a quintessential evening activity. If adventure is on the cards then head into the emerald green Omiš hinterland for everything from canyoning to fishing and whitewater rafting.

Paxi, Greece

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Situated south of Corfu, Paxi is the smallest chain of islands in Greece’s Ionian Islands. According to Greek mythology, Paxos, the larger island, was created by Poseidon in an attempt to impress the goddess Amphitrite. From the dramatic cliffs to the sweeping olive groves, whitewashed fishing villages and sparkling waters, every corner of the island looks as if it has been painted by the hand of an Old Master. Soak up the Venetian flare of Gaois, watch magnificent sunsets from the Lakka marina, and bathe in the calm turquoise waters of Kipiadi. Jump on a boat to the sister island Antipaxos to discover superb snorkeling, sea caves, and arguably the finest beaches in the Ionian Sea. Drink in the views of Voutoumi Beach from a hilltop tavern with a glass of the island’s signature red wine in hand.

Porquerolles, France

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Bathed in sunshine off the southernmost tip of France’s Côte d’Azur, Porquerolles (Île de Porquerolles) showcases a beguiling Provencal landscape that is near impossible to find on the mainland. Limestone cliffs loom over isolated coves and long sweeps of soft sand around the coastline while eucalyptus forests and lush vineyards spread across a rustic interior. It’s hard not to be drawn to the beaches, such as Plage Notre-Dame and Place Noire du Langoustier, and the nostalgic charm of the island’s eponymous main town. But drag yourself away from the coast to around a dozen old forts. The views are unsurpassable from Fort du Grand Langoustier and Fort St. Agatha and at times all you’ll hear is the sound of waves and cicadas.

5 Countries With The Most Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5

Countries With the Most Debt

If you live in the United States, you have surely heard a lot about the billions of dollars that America owes to other countries. This is not an uncommon thing, though, as countries loan money to and accept money from each other all the time. Just like with individual loans, accepting a lot of financial help from other countries can add up to a lot of debt. In 2017, global debt rose to an incredible 225% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) according to Focus Economics, which means that many countries owe a lot more money than they earn each year. Here is a look at the five countries that have the most debt, according to Focus Economics.

Italy

Italy

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As you walk the cobbled streets of Italy, taking in all the enormous, ornate cathedrals and looking at all the fashionable people, the last thing on your mind is that this country might have money problems. Like any country, though, Italy has its share of debts — and it has some pretty big ones. According to GraphicMaps, Italy has an external debt of $2,444,000,000,000 (USD), which, when put in terms of GDP, will be 131 percent of its earnings in 2019. Fortunately, though, this number is expected to fall to 128 percent by 2023, which is still high, but much more favorable.

Venezuela

Venezuela

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This is where things get a bit tricky. If you just look at the amount of money owed to other countries, Venezuela doesn’t even crack the top ten. But if you compare this debt to the country’s GDP, things look a lot worse — and the country comes in at number four on the list of countries with the most debt. Venezuela’s public debt is 152 percent of its GDP in 2019, which is more than one and a half times as much money as it brings in each year. According to World Population Review, this country is currently going through a very rough patch in terms of finances, so it is not clear at this time whether the debt will increase or decrease over the next few years.

Lebanon

Lebanon

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The winner of the bronze medal for highest external debt is Lebanon. This country has been struggling for some time, and its debt is expected to increase from 153 percent to 156 percent between 2019 and 2023. This is only barely more than Venezuela, so there could be a competition for this third place spot in the coming years.

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Greece

Greece

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Greece was one of the most successful empires in the ancient world, contributing everything from myths to democracy to our modern culture. Today, however, the country is mired in debt. Greece was required to take multiple bailouts. Its external debt currently stands at 175 percent. This debt has been steadily decreasing over the years, however, and is projected to be almost 10 points lower by 2023.

Japan

Japan

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If you were expecting the United States to be number one on this list, you aren’t alone. And technically, America does owe the highest debt in the world: 29.27 trillion dollars. But when you take into account how much money the country brings in per year, Japan takes the top spot, with a debt of $3,240,000,000,000, which is a whopping 236 percent of its GDP (the United States “only” owes 108 percent of its GDP). This number might seem incredibly high, but one must remember that Japan has one of the world’s largest economies, and has a population of over 127 million people.

China’s President Xi Says He Is For Dialogue Among Civilizations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S SHINE NEWS NETWORK)

 

Xi for dialogue among civilizations

Xinhua

Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcome ceremony for Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos outside the Great Hall of the People before their talks in Beijing yesterday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday held talks with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who is on a state visit to China and will attend the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing.

Xi spoke of the significance of Pavlopoulos’ visit to promote exchanges and mutual learning of civilizations in Europe and Asia, as well as dialogue among civilizations in the world.

Xi underscored the inclusiveness of Chinese civilization since ancient times, noting the entry of ancient Greek civilization, ancient Roman civilization, Mediterranean civilization, as well as Buddhism, Islam and Christianity into the country through the ancient Silk Road.

There has never been any clash of civilizations or any religious war in China, Xi said, adding that the Chinese nation does not have a tradition of aggression. The Chinese people have long upheld the devotion to the country, believing that the country always comes first, before the family. They are convinced there would be no individual and family happiness without a strong unified nation, he added.

He said the Chinese people remain rock-firm determined in safeguarding the national unification and territorial integrity, as well as protecting the national interests and the state dignity.

Describing people of all countries as living in a global village destined to swim or sink together, Xi stressed the need to promote exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations and win-win cooperation of various countries to build an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.

Pavlopoulos said the “clash of civilizations” argument drummed up by certain people in the international arena was a huge mistake. He said different civilizations should respect each other, enhance mutual learning through dialogue and exchanges and draw upon each other’s strengths, which is the way to guarantee lasting peace of the world and harmonious coexistence of humanity.

Xi also met with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Singaporean President Halimah Yacob yesterday who are in Beijing for the CDAC.

Israel, Cyprus, Greek ‘Cooperate from Firefighting to Energy’

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

 

Israel, Cyprus, Greek ‘Cooperate from Firefighting to Energy’

Friday, 22 March, 2019 – 09:30
Israeli PM Netanyahu sits with US Secretary of State Pompeo, Greek PM Tsipras and Cypriot President Anastasiades during their meeting in Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Tel Aviv – Nazir Magally
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, under the supervision and encouragement of the US, as the best and strongest regional association in the world.

He made his comment following a summit he hosted in Jerusalem on Thursday with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“This is the sixth summit meeting between Israel, Cyprus and Greece. We began this a few years ago, and it’s blossomed into one of the best regional associations in the world,” said Netanyahu.

He added: “We cooperate in everything, from firefighting and now to energy.”

“We are planning to lay down a pipeline called the East-Med Pipeline, from Israel, through Cyprus, through Greece, to Europe, something that will benefit our economies greatly, provide stability for the region and prosperity to our peoples, but also we think would diversify the energy supplies to Europe,” said Netanyahu.

A source close to Israeli PM said that the summit unveiled a leap in military cooperation among the three countries, to the extent of establishing a joint supervision body in the Mediterranean Sea to protect gas wells.

Anastasiades affirmed Cyprus’ “commitment to promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

“Revisionist powers, like Iran and Russia and China, are all trying to take major footholds in the East and the West. We view the United States, Israel, Cyprus and Greece as great key partners in security and prosperity,” said Pompeo.

In 2015, Israel participated in wide-range military exercises in Greece, including a training against a Russian-supplied S-300 anti-missile system.

European countries signed with Israel in 2017 the joint declaration to enhance the work aimed at extending the sea line to transport Israeli gas to Europe within the next eight years.

The 2,000-kilometer underwater pipeline is intended to have a capacity of 12 billion cubic meters of gas annually. The project includes the construction of a 1,300 km long submarine pipeline from the East Mediterranean gas field to southern Greece, as well as a 600 km long pipeline to western Greece, linking existing pipelines to transport gas to Italy and other EU countries.

Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan Prisoners Has Been Found

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Tenea, the lost ancient city built by Trojan prisoners, is found for the first time

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Greek archaeologists discovered for the first time remnants of the long-lost ancient city of Tenea, Greece’s culture ministry said this week.

Having been previously documented only in ancient texts, Tenea was excavated in the southern region of Peloponnese, and the dig uncovered “proof of the existence of the ancient city,” the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

Tenea is believed to have been a city settled by Trojan prisoners permitted to build their own city after the Trojan War. Past digs have found clues near the city, but the most recent excavation uncovered the “city’s urban fabric,” including floors, walls and door openings, the culture ministry said.

Taking place from September to early October, the excavation found remnants of residences, pottery, coins and tombs, among other discoveries.

“It is significant that the remnants of the city, the paved roads, the architectural structure, came to light,” lead archaeologist Elena Korka told CNN. “We’ve found evidence of life and death … and all this is just a small part of the history of the place.”

More: Archaeologists opened a mysterious Egyptian sarcophagus. Here’s what they found

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Korka also told CNN that her team found child burials, a key clue to determining they had uncovered residences because only children were buried in buildings during Roman times.

Korka and her team had been digging in the area since 2013, but only in nearby cemeteries, she told the Associated Press.

This recent excavation also indicated that the city experienced economic prosperity under Roman rule. The city had been believed to survive Rome’s invasion of nearby Corinth.

Specifically, coins discovered in the dig dated to the era of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who ruled from 193 to 211, indicating economic success, the ministry said.

“The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” Korka told the Associated Press.

More: Oldest weapons discovered in North America tell us more about first Americans, researchers say

More: Extinct gibbon discovered in an ancient tomb. It might have been a pet.

However, archaeologists determined that the city was likely damaged by Visigoths between 396 and 397 and abandoned some 200 years later during Slavic raids, the ministry said.

Korka and her team plan to continue their excavation work moving forward to uncover more of the city’s history.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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Greece: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Ancient Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Greece

Introduction Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories, most with Greek-speaking populations. In World War II, Greece was first invaded by Italy (1940) and subsequently occupied by Germany (1941-44); fighting endured in a protracted civil war between supporters of the king and Communist rebels. Following the latter’s defeat in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years. The 1974 democratic elections and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the EC (now the EU); it became the 12th member of the euro zone in 2001.
History The southern shores of Greece’s Aegean Sea experienced the emergence some of the first advanced civilizations in Europe. Minoan and Mycenean civilizations, and later Greek city-states, emerged across the Greek peninsula but also on the shores of Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor, reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment. Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedonia, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians, to presage the Hellenistic era, itself brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC.

The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic culture took form in the making of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey), and remained a major cultural and military force for the next 1,123 years until its fall at the hands of Ottomans in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman era the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Western Europe, playing a significant role in the Western European Renaissance through the transferring of works of Ancient Greeks to Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.

Through the Greek War of Independence, successfully fought against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, a noble Greek from the Ionian Islands, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers soon installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm (William) of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, a dominant figure of the Greek political scene who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country’s infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.

As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece successfully increased the extent of her territory and population, a challenging context both socially and economically. In the following years, the struggle between the new King Constantine I and the charismatic prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the country’s foreign policy on the eve of World War I dominated the country’s political scene, and divided the country into two bitterly hostile factions (see National Schism).

In the aftermath of WW I, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal,a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne. Instability and successive coup d’etats marked the following era, which was coloured by the massive task of incorporating 1.5 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor into Greek society.On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas famously responded to the Italian ultimatum with the single word “OXI” (“No”). In the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land. The country would eventually fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece, but the occupiers nevertheless met serious challenges from the Greek Resistance.

After liberation, Greece experienced a civil war between Royalist and Communist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between its Rightists and largely Communist Leftists for the next 30 years.[12] The next 20 years were characterized by persecutions of the left in the political and social spheres but also by a significant economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan. In 1965, a period of political turbulence led to a coup d’etat on April 21, 1967 by the US-supported Regime of the Colonels. On November 1973 the Athens Polytechnic Uprising sent shock waves across the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannides as dictator. On July 20, 1974, as Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus, the regime collapsed.

Ex-Premier Constantine Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had lived in self-exile since 1963, marking the beginning of the Metapolitefsi era; a 1975 democratic republican constitution was activated and the monarchy abolished by a referendum held that same year. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Party, or PASOK, in response to Constantine Karamanlis’ New Democracy party, with the two groupings dominating Greek political affairs in the ensuing decades. Greece became the tenth member of the European Union on January 1, 1981 and ever since, the nation has experienced a remarkable and sustained economic growth. Widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenues from tourism, shipping and a fast growing service sector have raised the country’s standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001, and successfully organised the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens

Geography Location: Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey
Geographic coordinates: 39 00 N, 22 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 131,940 sq km
land: 130,800 sq km
water: 1,140 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Alabama
Land boundaries: total: 1,228 km
border countries: Albania 282 km, Bulgaria 494 km, Turkey 206 km, Macedonia 246 km
Coastline: 13,676 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
Climate: temperate; mild, wet winters; hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly mountains with ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains of islands
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917 m
Natural resources: lignite, petroleum, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, nickel, magnesite, marble, salt, hydropower potential
Land use: arable land: 20.45%
permanent crops: 8.59%
other: 70.96% (2005)
Irrigated land: 14,530 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 72 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 8.7 cu km/yr (16%/3%/81%)
per capita: 782 cu m/yr (1997)
Natural hazards: severe earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution; water pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds
Geography – note: strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands
Politics Greece is a parliamentary republic.[13] The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term.[14] After the Constitutional amendment of 1986 the President’s duties were curtailed to a significant extent, and they are now largely ceremonial.[15]

The current Constitution of Greece was drawn up and adopted by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975 after the fall of the military junta of 1967-1974. It has been revised twice since, in 1986 and in 2001. The Constitution, which consists of 120 articles, provides for a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and grants extensive specific guarantees (further reinforced in 2001) of civil liberties and social rights.[16]

According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government;[17] after 1986, however, the role of the President in the executive branch is ceremonial.[15] The position of Prime Minister, Greece’s head of government, belongs to the current leader of the political party that can obtain a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The President of the Republic formally appoints the Prime Minister and, on his recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet.[18] The Prime Minister exercises vast political power, and the amendment of 1986 further strengthened his position to the detriment of the President of the Republic.[19]

Legislative power is exercised by a 300-member unicameral Parliament.[20] Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic.[21] Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the President of the Republic is obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier on the proposal of the Cabinet, in view of dealing with a national issue of exceptional importance.[22] The President is also obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier, if the opposition manages to pass a motion of no confidence.[23]

The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation (Άρειος Πάγος), the Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας) and the Court of Auditors (Ελεγκτικό Συνέδριο). The Judiciary system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge administrative cases, namely disputes between the citizens and the State.

Since the restoration of democracy the party system is dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Non-negligible parties include the Communist Party of Greece, the Coalition of the Radical Left and the Popular Orthodox Rally.

On March 7, 2004, Kostas Karamanlis, president of the New Democracy party and nephew of the late Constantine Karamanlis was elected as the new Prime Minister of Greece, thus marking his party’s first electoral victory in nearly eleven years. Karamanlis took over government from Kostas Simitis of PASOK, who had been in office since January 1996. Kostas Karamanlis won a second term on September 16, 2007, however his party acquired a slimmer majority in the Greek Parliament gaining only 152 out of 300 seats.

People Population: 10,706,290 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.3% (male 789,637/female 742,535)
15-64 years: 66.7% (male 3,565,237/female 3,570,630)
65 years and over: 19% (male 895,384/female 1,142,867) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.2 years
male: 40 years
female: 42.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.163% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 9.62 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.33 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.34 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.063 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.998 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.783 male(s)/female
total population: 0.962 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.34 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.38 years
male: 76.85 years
female: 82.06 years

Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU? A historic referendum will decide

Rally in Skopje, MAcedonia in support for the referendum on EU and NATO accession.

Pro-referendum rally on 16 September 2018 in Skopje. Photo by Andreja Stojkovski via Twitter, used with permission.

On September 30, Macedonians will vote in a referendum to decide whether their country should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and the European Union (EU).

The referendum is part of a process that began in 1993, when all political parties in the then newly independent Republic of Macedonia declared joining NATO a key strategic priority. Many believe that membership in the military alliance would help protect Macedonia, located in the volatile Balkans region, from external aggression and civil war. Years later the country made a similar commitment to strive for EU membership.

Admission to both NATO and the EU require the consensus of all existing members, so Macedonia needed first solve bilateral disputes with its neighbors, some of which already belonged the two organizations.

The biggest obstacle was the long-standing naming dispute with Greece, which has hindered Macedonia’s development for 27 years. In June 2018, as a precondition for removing the Greek veto on its EU and NATO membership, Macedonia signed an agreement which obliges the country to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

In spite of the agreement, the name change remains a core issue. The September 30 referendum explicitly asks:

‘Are you in favor of EU and NATO membership by accepting the Agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?’

A majority must participate

The referendum is not legally binding but rather consultative, and will only be considered valid if a majority of registered voters participate. But failure to reach the required 50 per cent voter turnout would not stop the NATO and EU accession process, which requires further action by parliament.

According to one Twitter user:

Мутен@toVornottoV

30 септември дава можност за конечно помрднуење од status quo-то у кое што смо заглавени и конечно ослободуење од бизарен проблем што не влече надоле скоро 30 године. Затоа ќе .

September 30 provides an opportunity to finally move from the status quo which has stymied us, to finally break free from a bizarre problem that has been holding us down for almost 30 years. That’s why #IVote.

For other voters, the referendum is both symbolic and cathartic, representing a return “to the right path” after “the lost decade” of democratic backsliding, and many have been holding their breath in anticipation:

mindрluмbеr@mindplumber

Цела држава се неуротизирала, све се остава за „после 30-ти“.
А бе, сендвич да сакаш да купиш, таа на скарата ќе ти каже „немој сеа, ај после 30-ти, да се расчисти“

The whole state has become neurotic, everything is left [for] ‘after the 30th’. Even if you want to buy a sandwich, the barbecue lady might say, ‘Not now, let’s do it after the 30th, after the situation clears’.

Calls for a boycott

This anxiety may have to do with the boycott campaign being waged by right-wing populist opponents and led by several fringe non-parliamentary parties, including pro-Russian, Euro-skeptic and anti-NATO United Macedonia, which styles itself on Putin’s United Russia.

The campaign stokes the fears of ethnic Macedonians by presenting the country’s name change as the first step along a slippery slope that will lead to genocide, or ethnocentric. The campaign is steeped in disinformation and hate speech, from intentional misinterpretations of the consequences of the agreement with Greece, to claims that the government has given citizenship to Albanians from Kosovo to boost the number of “yes” votes. There have even been suggestions of election fraud, to which one Twitter user replied:

Ленка многу кенка@RedRadish5

Кога стварно мислиш дека ќе местат гласање излегуваш да гласаш за да им отежнеш, а не седиш дома

When you really think that authorities plan voter fraud, citizens go out and vote to make it harder for them, they don’t sit at home.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, a member of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), has sat on the fence, neither openly endorsing the boycott campaign nor encouraging its supporters to participate in the referendum and vote against the agreement with Greece, which it considers “a capitulation”.

Other EPP members have accused VMRO-DPMNE of hypocrisy, as high ranking party officials participated personally in the boycott, and the campaign was vigorously promoted by media outlets reputed for being party mouthpieces.

Representatives of the ruling SDSM have also claimed that VMRO-DPMNE had attempted to make a deal, promising to throw its support behind the referendum if its former party leaders on trial for corruption were given an amnesty. The government refused, and the VMRO-DPMNE’s indecisive position is largely being interpreted as sign of weakness:

НиколаСтрез@NikolaStrez

За едно од најважните прашања за Македонија, вмро нема став и повикува секој да гласа по свое убедување.

Очекувам на следните избори, кога ќе сакаат да дојдат на власт, да излезат со истиот став и да не сугерираат за кого да гласаме.

VMRO-DPMNE has no official position on one of the most important issues for Macedonia, and has declared that people should vote according to their own preference. In the next elections, I expect that they will adopt the same position and won’t advocate whom to vote for.

Social media tactics and allegations about Russia

On social media the “I boycott” campaign (#бојкотирам) started over the summer, and involved mainly anonymous social media profiles and sock puppets from the VMRO-DPMNE troll army. Observers noticed a high number of new profiles appear in August 2018, suspected to be automated bots originating outside the country. The campaign was also shared via profiles linked to specific individuals, including VMRO-DPMNE’s foreign lobbyists, Macedonian nationalist organizations operating in the diaspora, and Macedonia’s president, who gained his position with the party’s support.

Around 50 people attended the Boycott campaign rally in Ohrid on 22 September. Photo by GV, CC-BY.

Western sources alleged that Russia was trying to obstruct the consolidation of the NATO and EU process; when asked, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev diplomatically said that the authorities have not found “evidence of direct Russian influence with fake news” regarding the referendum, and that he trusts Macedonia’s NATO allies on this matter.

Prior to that statement, however, Zaev was less reserved in pointing to Kremlin-related attempts — including the funding of violent protests by a Greek-Russian oligarch — to obstruct the deal with Greece. Moreover, an independent journalist discovered that back in 2015, a Russian troll farm specialist named Anna Bogacheva had visited Macedonia on business. She has since been named as one of 13 Russian nationals indicted over alleged interference in the 2016 United States election.

The “I Boycott” campaign has also employed tactics used by the American alt-right, including use of the Pepe the Frog meme, which was ridiculed even by VMRO-DPMNE members who couldn’t understand how their party’s symbol, the mighty lion, was reduced to a frog.

Ready for change

There have been attempts, mostly through cyber-bullying, to intimidate activists and ‘dissenting’ right-wing figures who have said they will take part in the referendum. Former VMRO-DPMNE government minister Nikola Todorov’s revelation that he would vote “no” exposed him to particularly vicious harassment on Facebook. But in spite of some of the threats issues, observers don’t expect much violence.

Numerous citizens have also expressed their support for both the referendum as the ultimate tool of democracy, and for the government-backed campaign to vote in it:

Бени@Shushmula

Скоро три полни децении живееме во пештера а сакаме светот да не знае и прифати.
Од сето тоа светот знае само дека живееме во пештера.

Almost 3 decades we’ve been living in a cave, while wanting the world to know about as and to accept us.
Out of all that, the world only knows that we’ve been living in a cave.
#IVote!

If surveys conducted in the months before the referendum are anything to go by, most Macedonian citizens are ready for change, even if that means swallowing the bitter pill of the name change in exchange for the long-term benefits of NATO and EU membership.

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