In This Issue
- Ireland’s Giants Causeway and a Legend
- Thera Greece and the Death of a Civilization
- The Port of Grand Caneria
- Considering Cruise or Travel Insurance
More than just destinations but the stories behind the places visited…
The Legend Of The Giants Causeway
There are many stories in Irish Mythology of adventures, grudges, voyages, battles and gods and a key character in many of the early tales is the mythical Irish hero Fionn MacCool and his warriors of the Fianna. These were forest-dwelling warriors often referred to in myths dating back to the 3rd Century AD as the soldiers of destiny. Fionn Macumhaill (Finn McCool) was a chieftain in medieval Ireland. With his adventures documented in the Fenian Tales, said to have been recorded as poems by Finn McCool’s son, Oisín, and told and retold by the Irish people for centuries.
The legend says Finn McCool was a giant of a man and across the waters in Scotland was another giant named Benandonner, also known as the Red Man. Finn McCool and the Red Man exchanged insults from a distance and eventually Mac challenged this Scottish giant to a fight.
According to Irish legend, the Red man accepted the challenge and these two giants began building a causeway across the sea so they could fight. In one version of the story, Finn defeats Benandonner but in another, McCool hides from Benandonner after he realizes that the Red Man is much bigger than he is. To save him Finn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises him as a baby and tucks him into a giant cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the “baby” he realizes that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway. Remnants of the causeway are found today at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa and The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland adding confirmation to the legend.
The Giants Causeway – Up on the rugged coast of Northern Ireland about two hours north of Belfast is a geological wonder and a World Heritage Site named The Giants Causeway. The unusual formation was born of natural processes 65 million years ago, when Northern Ireland was subjected to major volcanic activity. During this period, molten basalt came into contact with chalk beds, forming a lava plateau. In this circumstance, the lava cracks and fractures. Cracks opening along the cooling surface get propagated downward, resulting in the long, well-defined columns known as columnar basalt. Some believe water like rain, lakes, or oceans play a role in the cooling and fracturing process. At The Giants Causeway the lava cooled, the plateau contracted and cracked, forming about 40,000 similar sized hexagonal columns of varying heights that look like giant stepping stones. The largest pilers stand over 35 feet tall.
The Giants Causeway and the other end of the formation in Scotland aren’t the only places you’ll find these unusual basalt columns around the world. They include;
- The Cliff of Stone Plates – Ghenh Da Dia in Vietnam
- Prismas Basalticos in Huasca de Ocampo, Hidalgo, Mexico
- Akun island columnar basalt, Alaska
- The Gangolfsberg, Rhön, Bavaria, Germany
- Froðba, Faroe Islands
- Columnar Basalt in High Island Reservoir, Hong Kong
- The Devil’s Postpile in California
- Symphony of Stones at Garni Gorge, Armenia
- Hexagon pool, Golan, Israel
The site of the Giants Causeway is spectacular and includes a good visitors center, a well paved road down to the Causeway, a shuttle bus and a number of food and refreshment venues around the site that include the Causeway Inn with a cozy bar.
Thera, Santorini And The Death Of A Civilization
You’re standing on the deck of a cruise ship near Santorini, Greece that’s anchored in the middle of a ring of islands. The near island’s sheer cliffs rise almost a six hundred feet right out of the water. You are looking at the aftermath of the largest explosive event in all of human history.
Over three thousand five hundred years ago* a volcanic eruption devastated the Aegean island of Thera. Scientists have estimated the volcanic eruption magnitude between 6 and 7, causing an ejection of approximately 14 cubic miles of dense-rock. This eruption was the largest volcanic event on Earth in all of human history.
That fiery eruption killed upwards of 40,000 people in just a few hours, while colossal tsunamis 40 feet tall swept across the Eastern Mediterranean, as it spewed volcanic ash well into Asia, and caused a drop in overall global temperatures with the blast itself being heard 3,000 miles away. Thera’s eruption was four or five times more powerful than Krakatoa and exploded with the energy of a thousand atomic bombs in a fraction of a second.
The event destroyed the Minoan city on the island at Akrotiri, with subsequent earthquakes and tsunamis destroying communities and agricultural areas on nearby islands and devastated the Minoan home island of Crete.
In Egypt 800 miles south of the Mediterranean coast on the Nile River, the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes was hit by a terrible storm and flood that devastated the city and surrounding area. A stele was discovered that records this event during the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I*;
..the gods expressed their discontent… The gods made the sky come with a tempest of rain; it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was unleashed, without … ?mercy?… the flooding was powerful even on the mountains more than the turbulence of the cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, … each shelter or covered place that they reached… were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus even to the royal residence for..???… day(s)…
This eruption led to the rapid decline of the greatest Mediterranean civilization of the time, the Minoan, with their cities throughout the islands. Centered on the nearby island of Crete, the powerful Minoan civilization was swept by tsunamis spawned by the eruption, it swamped its naval fleet and destroyed its coastal villages. Next the drop in temperatures caused by the massive amounts of ash and sulphur dioxide released into the atmosphere led to several years of cold, wet summers in the region, ruining crops. The aftermath of the event overran every part of the Minoan civilization in less than 50 years. In just that short time, this advanced, peaceful, efficient empire gave way to the warring city-states of ancient Greece that began to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean.
A number of researchers believe that Thera and the city of Akrotiri is the origin of the legend about the lost city of Atlantis, written about by Plato. There is a lot that seems to fit the story including a recently excavated fresco in Akrotiri showing the ringed canals surrounding a city that was described by Plato.
If you have an opportunity to visit Santorini be sure and make time to see the remains of the Minoan city buried by the eruption. Akrotiri is a major archeological excavation site open to the public that will probably exceed the size of the famous archeological excavations at Pompeii Italy. It is also a treasure trove of some of the worlds oldest frescos, well preserved after being buried in the eruption while still showing remarkable detail and vibrant colors. Akrotiri is located on the southern end of the island. Considering how long ago this city was built it is amazing to see multiple story buildings, complex plumbing that suggests the homes had hot and cold running water and those amazing frescos covering their walls. It also suggests that the residents knew disaster was coming as it seems they fled the island taking their valuable possessions like jewelry with them.
Las Palmas de Gran Caneria
The Canary Islands, a Spanish volcanic archipelago less than 100 miles off the coast of northwestern Africa. They are known for their black- and white-sand beaches and rugged terrain. Tenerife, the largest island and most populated of the archipelago, is dominated by the sometimes-snowy active volcano Mt. Teide. Immediately east of Tenerife is Gran Canaria, an equally popular European vacation destination.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is popular for enjoying one of the worlds best climates and miles of beautiful beaches. It also boasts important historical and cultural heritage sites, centered in the district of Vegueta, the oldest quarter of Las Palmas, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.
Where Your Ship Docks
The Las Palmas cruise ship piers are located right in the commercial center of the city which allows easy walking out. There are some public facilities at the pier and in the adjacent mall. Walking into town is less than a quarter of a mile. Right at the entry to the port is a modern five-story shopping mall which is very convenient for picking up some necessities and last minute souvenirs.
The island has a good public bus system. Around the island the buses are operated by the company Global, with routes all over the island. In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, you can use the local city buses.
The city also features Hop-On Hop-Off tour buses at about US$25. The No.1 stop is Santa Catalina Park, a perfect place to begin and not too far from the pier. The bus will carry you to 11 locations in the city.
Playa de las Canteras – Las Palmas is now one of Europe’s most popular beach destinations with almost 2 miles of magnificent yellow sand it is considered one of the world’s best in-city beaches. This attractive seaside promenade – the Paseo de las Canteras, allows walkers and joggers to enjoy the entire length of the beach. If you’re a snorkeler there is an incredible reef, called La Barra, which at low tide turns the waters of Las Canteras into a giant snorkeling pool.
Playa de Alcaravaneras. Taking a stroll through Triana – the city’s central pedestrian shopping area in the city’s historic center. There are lots of high end shops and boutiques, side streets laden with cafes and great places for tapas and drinks. Walk along the Paseo de Las Canteras promenade, situated along Las Palmas de Gran Canaria’s premier beach – Playa de las Canteras. Take a moment to sit and enjoy a coffee or an ice cream from one of many cafes.
Also the Avenida Marítima connects with the pretty fishing village of San Cristóbal, arguably the best place for seafood in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Casa-Museo de Colón. This fascinating museum documents Columbus’ voyages and features exhibits on the Canary Islands.
Travel Or Cruise Insurance?
The last thing we think about when planning a cruise or any vacation, is all the things that can go wrong before and during the trip. There are however major reasons why you should buy travel insurance for your cruise. Like all insurance, travel insurance is only important if you need it but don’t think you wasted your money if nothing goes wrong on that trip. There are a number of potential mishaps that can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars;
Missing the sailing for any number of reasons can cost the entire amount spent on the trip. With few exceptions the cruise line isn’t responsible.
A medical event while on the ship or ashore involving doctors, hospitals, dentists and more can cost potentially a lot of money.
Lost luggage, trip delays, hotels and additional transportation can add up and in most cases the expense is yours without insurance.
International travel often complicates the problem and the expenses involved. Even that short Caribbean cruise could expose you to a medical emergency in a foreign country with major unexpected costs.
The easiest insurance to buy for a cruise is offered by the cruise company but often it isn’t the best choice. There are several reasons to consider purchasing your cruise travel insurance from a 3rd party travel insurance company.
- 1 Your travel insurance will extend beyond the cruise line and provide coverage from the time you leave home until the time you return.
- 2 Your travel insurance will extend to independent travel arrangements before, during, and after your cruise, including flights and hotels at either end, tours and excursions and more.
- 3 Your travel insurance can be much more complete and include coverage for trip cancellation for work reasons, flight delays, financial default of the booking company, weather, pre-existing medical conditions, medical evacuations, and more.
- 4 You will be reimbursed in cash as opposed to future cruise line credit vouchers which are common.
- 5 Purchasing through a state-licensed travel insurance agent means you’ll have real travel insurance backed by government regulated underwriters.
So before that next cruise you need to decide if you can really afford an emergency while traveling and you need to shop around before buying. One of the best online websites for getting comparison quotes is SquareMouth HERE.