Category Archives: Attractions

Visiting Chichen Itza: An overview and tips for visiting

After a few minutes in the full sun you can almost feel your skin sizzle, and your hair nearly burns your fingers as you run your hand through it. The area is vast, but the tourists surrounding the guide crowd under the sparse trees, seeking shade from the oppressive heat.

This is what visiting Chichén Itzá feels like in April. In short: it’s ungodly hot.

We saw Chichén Itzá in 2013, when we vacationed in Cancun on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. That over was two years ago, but I don’t suppose the area has changed much since then, though some of the excavation work has probably moved forward.

A Bit of History (as always)

“Chi” means “mouth” and “chen” means “well” in Mayan, thus Chichén Itzá means “at the mouth of the well of the Itzá tribe.”

I’m afraid I found conflicting information as to who the Itza were and when they arrived in the region, so I’m not going to say anything about that.

The well mentioned in the name is the nearby cenote, a naturally formed round, deep depression in the ground filled with water, and pretty steep walls. This particular cenote wasn’t actually used for fresh water, however, but rather ceremonial purposes. When the cenote was dredged at the beginning of the 20th century, the archeologists found not only hundreds of objects at the bottom, but also human remains that showed signs of human sacrifice.

Chichén Itzá was a large city, which archaeologists think started gaining importance between 700 to 1,000 A.D.

At the beginning of the 10th century the region saw the arrival of outsiders from the Central Valley, the Toltecs (or people influenced by the Toltecs according to Encyclopaedia Britannica), who made the locals accept their own gods. The main Toltec god was the Feathered Serpent called Quetzalcoatl in Aztec, which was translated to Kukulkan in Mayan.

The most spectacular structures in Chichén Itzá were built during that period – 11th to the 13th century, but the whole area of Chichén Itzá includes both Toltec and earlier, Mayan structures.

panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan
panoramic view of the temple of Kukulkan

Continue reading Visiting Chichen Itza: An overview and tips for visiting

In the Footsteps of Royalty: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Right past the wide open massive iron gates, the vast courtyard is full of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of imperial splendors of the past.

In the times of Emperor Franz Joseph, who reigned from 1848 till 1916, on Mondays and Thursdays any subject of his empire could supposedly ask for an audience with the monarch in his opulent Walnut Room.

What did it feel like, I wonder, to approach the Schönbrunn Palace, crunching gravel underfoot and petition in hand?

Schönbrunn’s size must have must have impressed even the wealthiest of the emperor’s subjects, not to mention the simple city dwellers, if they were in fact ever allowed to see the Emperor.

The grand entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace up close
The grand entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace up close

Continue reading In the Footsteps of Royalty: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Make time on September 16, 2015 for #AskACurator Day

Those of you who have been following museums on Twitter for a while might remember that September 17, 2014 was a #AskACurator Day, organized by @MarDixon.

As @MarDixon’s site says

What is Ask a Curator? It’s a way to talk to curators and people who work in cultural venues you normally don’t have access to.

Basically, the curators from all around the world get on Twitter and answer people’s questions, and if you follow the hashtag #AskACurator you’ll see the full feed of all the questions and answers.

The 2015 #AskACurator day, by the way, will be held pretty soon – on September 16 – so put that date on your calendar if you love museums!

 

Continue reading Make time on September 16, 2015 for #AskACurator Day

The Best View in Town: Observatoire de la Capitale in Quebec City

Observatoire de la Capitale – the viewing deck on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building in Quebec City, Canada – boasts it has “the best view in town” from “221 meters up.”

And they’re absolutely right – the views are spectacular.

The Views

To the east, you can see the beautiful and picturesque Old Quebec and the citadel:

view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward Old Quebec and the citadel
view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward Old Quebec and the citadel

Looking a bit to the north, you can get a glimpse of the expanse of St. Lawrence River, the Quebec City port, and the mountain ranges in the distance: Continue reading The Best View in Town: Observatoire de la Capitale in Quebec City

Krakow, Poland Photo Essay

If you’ve never been to Kraków (Cracow), Poland and aren’t sure whether it’s worth visiting, this essay is for you.

What’s is there to see in Kraków, you may ask? Take a look at the photos below, highlighting just a few places you might enjoy seeing in this beautiful city, with history going back into the medieval times.

The Wawel Castle

The Wawel Castle is, of course, a must. Dating back to the tenth century, it was the seat of the kings of Poland for several hundred years, and includes both Gothic and baroque elements.

You need tickets to go inside the castle, but walking around the Wawel Castle hill, and within the courtyard is free of charge.

the Wawel Castle as seen from Starodomska street
the Wawel Castle as seen from Starodomska street

Continue reading Krakow, Poland Photo Essay

Taking the Cross Sound Ferry = #betterthandriving (much better)

Would you choose spend four to five hours driving to save a thousand dollars on airfare?

We did that a couple of times, when it turned out that flights to Europe from the JKF Airport were much cheaper than those from Boston’s Logan Airport, the airport closest to where we live.

The JFK Airport in New York City is “just” a couple hundred miles away from Boston, which means an about four-hour drive without traffic.

The crucial word here is “traffic,” though.

One time when we were coming back from Europe the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the traffic between New York City and Boston was so bad, it took close to seven hours to get back home. We were completely exhausted when we got back home.

That trip from hell was one of the reasons we decided to try the Cross Sound Ferry after coming back from this year’s vacation in Europe.

Turns out traveling by ferry is a much more pleasant way to travel, even if it doesn’t save a whole lot of time. Continue reading Taking the Cross Sound Ferry = #betterthandriving (much better)