The Murder Mystery Train in Royal Gorge, Colorado

Looking for a unique experience when visiting the Colorado Springs area, consider taking a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad. Located about an hour outside of Colorado Springs in Canon City, there are a variety of train rides available. We did the Murder Mystery Train several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition to the food and entertainment, the scenery during the train ride is absolutely stunning. The mysteries change on a regular basis, so even if you’ve done it before, you can enjoy a different experience if you happen to do it again.

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View from the Train

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One of the Actors at a Table

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The Mystery Begins as Dinner Options are Considered

We have done a variety of murder mystery dinners over the years, including one in a mansion in Manchester, England, with varying degrees of enjoyment. The train ride definitely makes this one very different and the food and views would have been good enough on their own. The actors walk amongst the tables providing clues and answering questions as each table tries to solve the mystery. We didn’t find the mystery particularly difficult to solve, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment.

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Could She be the Murderer?

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Getting Ready to Board

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Interactive Entertainment

 

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Asian Steak Sandwiches

Marinating flank or skirt steak can turn an inexpensive piece of meat into a delicious and tender meal. Cutting it thinly on a bias is also great for sandwiches, which is what we decided to do. Utilizing Asian influences makes this sandwich even more flavorful and robust. In addition to the marinade, we also drizzled it with an sesame-ginger dressing that enhanced the overall experience. Since the steak only needs to marinade for 30 to 40 minutes, it makes for an easy weeknight meal that is both satisfying and delicious.

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Cooked Steak

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb Skirt or Flank Steak
  • 4 Garlic Cloves – minced
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 2 tbsp Chili Paste (Sambal)
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Ginger Root – chopped
  • Sandwich Rolls
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • Asian Salad Mix
  • Sesame-Ginger Dressing – store bought or home made
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Chili Paste, Ginger, and Garlic

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine the garlic, ginger, chili paste, soy sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil in a medium bowl and whisk thoroughly.  Place the steak in a plastic bag and poor the marinade over the steak, ensuring that the steak is completely covered. Let the steak rest in the marinade for about 30 to 40 minutes. Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Once the pan is hot, remove the steak from the marinade and place it in the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and then flip and continue cooking the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest for 10 minutes and then cut across the grain into thin strips. Place the steak onto the rolls, top with Asian lettuce mix, and drizzle with the sesame-ginger dressing.

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Whisk the Marinade

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Sear the Steak

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Asian Steak Sandwich with Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

 

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The Napo Wildlife Center

During our trip to Ecuador, we stayed at the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon Rainforest. Considering that we were deep in the Yasuni National Park and far away from any city, the amenities at the lodge were actually very nice. We had hot water, plenty of fresh food cooked three times a day, and even a fully stocked bar. There was also Wi-Fi, but it was a little spotty and didn’t always work. The lodge and bungalows sit on the shore of Añangu Lake and we had to paddle in canoes for a couple of hours to reach the lake from the river.

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The Main Level of the Ecolodge

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The Lodge Complex from the Lake

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View from Our Hut

One of the nice features of the ecolodge is the observation deck. There are several levels of the tower, each with a different view of the canopy. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on our first night there and could often hear the howler monkeys all around. Sitting on the upper decks of the tower was a wonderful way to find a bit of a breeze and beat a little of the intense jungle heat. There was also some native art on display as well as a library if you were interested in doing some reading. We were often too tired from a day of trekking in the jungle to do much other than eat and sleep.

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Sunset Over the Amazon Rainforest

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Looking Down from the Observation Deck

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Colorful Artwork

If you wanted to enjoy the sounds of the lake, there were plenty of lounge chairs in the boathouse, but swimming was not an option as caiman could often be seen near the shores of the lake. If that isn’t enough to keep you from jumping into the lake, anaconda snakes were also known to be in the area. Not every animal was threatening, though, we were constantly being serenaded by birds and they could always be found in the trees outside of our hut.

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Looking Down the Shore

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Lounge Chairs

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One of Our Neighbors

If anyone is planning on going to the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, we would highly recommend staying at the Napo Wildlife Center. Run by the local Amazon tribe that owns the lodge, they make every effort to ensure that your stay is pleasurable while providing daily tours that truly emerse you into the jungle.

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Our Room

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Fully Stocked Bar

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Dining Hall

 

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Top Things to See in Prague, Czech Republic

One of our favorite cities in Europe is Prague in the Czech Republic. With its medieval charm, you could spend hours wandering the streets of old town or the lesser quarter with the castle complex. There are many wonderful sights to see, but these were our favorite ones in no particular order. Because Prague is a popular tourist destination, you can certainly count on plenty of crowds wherever you go.

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View of the Castle Complex

  1. Prague Castle – Some of the best views of the castle complex can be found from across the Vltava River where you can get a true sense of its size. Seeing it from the distance isn’t good enough, though, you should take the time to go to the castle and get tickets to tour the grounds and inside. The castle complex is made up of several buildings from the fortress, presidential palace, smaller palaces, as well as several churches.

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    Front of the Palace in the Castle Complex

  2. Charles Bridge – With its impressive guard towers, two on the side of the lesser quarter and one on the side of old town, the bridge is truly stunning. There are many statues, all of which are replicas of their original ones, making it one of the most unique bridges in Europe. Throughout the year, you will find musicians playing historic instruments as well as many different artists selling their works all along the bridge. It can get quite crowded on the bridge, so patience is a must.

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    View from Charles Bridge

  3. Astronomical Clock – Located in the old town square on the southern wall of the town hall, the Astronomical Clock is quite fascinating to see. Crowds gather at the top of the hour to watch the “Walk of the Apostles” where the figures of the Apostles and other figures, including a skeleton representing Death, move around the clock face.

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    Astronomical Clock

  4. Saint Vitus Cathedral – Although it is part of the castle complex, the cathedral certainly stands out as being worthy to visit on its own. With its Gothic architecture, it is the largest and most important cathedral in the Czech Republic. The colorful artwork above the arches definitely stand out as you approach the cathedral. The clock tower is clearly visible from all around the city.

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    St. Vitus Cathedral

  5. Old Town Square – With many shops and restaurants, there is plenty to see in the old town area of Prague. Although there is plenty to see in the square itself, be sure to wander the side streets where you will find even more stores with unique items for sale. If you are wanting to taste some authentic, local food, many options abound, but you will likely want to make reservations as they can be hard to get into at busy times of the year.

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    Walking the Streets

  6. The Lennon Wall – What started as a tribute to John Lennon after his death, the wall has continued to be a dedication to the artist, the Beatles, and to ideals that they expressed. It is an ever-changing work of art as people continuously add to it with their own interpretations. You will also often find artists there playing songs from the Beatles as well.

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    Colorful Lennon Wall

  7. River Boat Cruise – As with many cities, seeing Prague from the Vltava River is a wonderful way to get a different view of the city. Many of them offer dinner cruises or even an afternoon cruise offering wine and beer. Even without the narrative providing the historical facts regarding the buildings along the river, it is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two on the water.

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    View from the River Cruise

There are certainly plenty of other places within Prague that are worth visiting, but these were ones that we enjoyed the most. We didn’t make it to any museums during our trip, but there are plenty, including the National Museum, if you have the time to spend to see the various exhibits and collections. Regardless of what sights you decide to see, Prague is a beautiful city and is best enjoyed at a relaxing pace in order to truly enjoy everything that it has to offer. Make sure to take time to slow down and absorb the sights and sounds, you will enjoy the city much more than if you rush from one historic site to another.

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Artwork on the St. Vitus Cathedral

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Amazing Architecture

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View of the City

 

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The Country of Bolivia

Our trip to Bolivia was one of the most interesting trips that we’ve ever taken and we had a lot of wonderful experiences while we were there. As with all countries, Bolivia is a very complex nation with a lot of contradictions, aspirations, and impediments to success.  Everyone we met along our journey was extremely nice and helpful, but they all expressed a similar impression of their country.  It is a land rich with potential, but that potential is being squandered due to mismanagement and corruption from the political leaders who rule the country.

High Mountain Lake

High Mountain Lake

Andes Mountains across the Plain

Andes Mountains across the Plain

Farmland on the Mountains

Farmland on the Mountains

Despite the success of surrounding countries like Peru, Chile, and Argentina, Bolivia seems to be stubbornly holding onto the past, which is great for a visitor, but not necessarily good for its people.  While these other countries have embraced tourism, the people of Bolivia may want travelers to come to their country, but seeing the sites that the country has to offer is not an easy endeavor.  Just getting from one place to another can be risky and life threatening or is often very expensive.  Because of that, we were able to only see a fraction of what the country has to offer, but it isn’t going to deter us from visiting Bolivia again, as we truly want to see more of this wonderful country.

Driving in the Jungle

Driving in the Jungle

Farming the Land

Farming the Land

Hard Work the Old Way

Hard Work the Old Way

From our conversations with people in the United States, people often know nothing or very little about Bolivia.  Usually the conversation goes something like, “isn’t that where they wear the bowler hats?” or “that’s where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed, right?”.  Perhaps they’ve heard of La Paz, but few associate it with the Inca empire or relate to the ruins the same way that they might refer to Machu Picchu in Peru.  As far as the bowler hats, people are partially correct.  There are three major tribes that trace their ancestry back to before the Incas and each has their own traditional dress and language.  In fact, as you venture out of the cities and into the countryside, you are likely to meet people who speak no Spanish at all, the standard language of Bolivia and South America, but who speak their ancestral language.  We saw people from two of those major groups, Aymara and Quechua.  Outside of Cochabamba, where we spent our first week in Bolivia, the people are Quechua and the women wear white hats, while outside of La Paz the people are Aymara and are the ones that where bowler hats.

Potato Market

Potato Market

Aymara Woman

Aymara Woman

Women from Cochabamba

Women from Cochabamba

Seventy percent of the land in Bolivia is covered by jungle and rainforest, while the rest is either high in the Andes mountains or on open plains, such as the Uyuni Salt Flats.  In fact, the salt flats are probably Bolivia’s biggest tourism draw at the moment, but something that we didn’t get the opportunity to see during our trip because we simply didn’t have the time or money to make it there.  Road conditions in Bolivia are horrendous and travel by bus can take days or even weeks to get places.  You can fly to some smaller cities, but the prices are usually outrageous.  However, to and from the major cities, La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz, flights are not only convenient, but they are cheap as well.  In fact, we flew with BOA (Boliviana de Aviación), which had flights from La Paz to Cochabamba leaving about every hour and a half and it was one of the best airline experiences we’ve ever had.  Our round-trip tickets cost the two of us a total of less than $150 USD and our flights were on time and the service was excellent.

Rough Road

Rough Road

Traffic on Dirt Roads

Traffic on Dirt Roads

Flight into Cochabamba

Flight into Cochabamba

The ancient ruins that we were able to see, both Inca and pre-historic, were definitely one of the highlights of our trip.  Oddly though, the Bolivian people don’t have much of an interest in their own history and therefore these sites are not as fully examined as they would be in other countries and because there isn’t a lot of tourism, they aren’t visited often.  Being the only people at a site, just us and our guide, made seeing them even more enjoyable, but at the same time made us rather sad that these historical sites were not being relished and cared for in the way that they truly deserve.  They are very proud of the fact that they haven’t rebuilt any of the sites in order to show what they might have looked like, but there are also probably many more buildings and ruins left undiscovered and buried beneath the land.  Other than the time that we spent in Copacabana, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, we saw very few tourists anywhere during our trip.  And the people that we saw in Copacabana were most likely just passing through on their way to or from Peru, which is on the other side of the lake.

Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku

Incallajta

Incallajta

Statue at Tiwanaku

Statue at Tiwanaku

The other common perception of Bolivia, at least in the United States, is that it is the country where most of the cocaine comes from.  Unfortunately that is true and growing coca leaves is one of the largest crops that Bolivia produces, much of it legally, but there is also a fair amount of illegal growth as well.  It is common to see people chewing on coca leaves and it was even on our breakfast buffet at the hotel in La Paz.  Other than coca leaves, the country grows everything that it needs in very fertile soil, including potatoes, strawberries, bananas, tangerines, lemons, and quinoa.  Unfortunately, the demand from other countries for the cocaine that is made from the coca leaves has made that the largest cash crop in the country.  It has also created the culture of political corruption as well as a desire not to have prying eyes from tourists, which is probably part of the reason that they make it difficult for tourists to visit the country.

Drying the Coca Leaves

Drying the Coca Leaves

From Farm to Table?

From Farm to Table?

Coca Plants

Coca Plants

Bolivia truly is a fascinating country with plenty to offer the world.  Right now it is like a gem that has yet to be polished to reveal its true splendor, but there will likely come a day in the near future when tourists flock to Bolivia to see all that it has to offer.  From the animals of the jungle, the amazing Amazon river, the high ranges of the Andes, dinosaur tracks, ancient ruins, humble cities and friendly people, there is much to see and do in Bolivia, if people are willing to venture there.  We had heard a lot about petty crime and pickpockets before we left and were on our guard everyplace that we went, but we found that our concerns were pretty much unnecessary.  Every country has places where crime is prevalent and people should be wary, but we didn’t find Bolivia to be any worse than any other country that we’ve visited.  We hope that more people will visit this incredible country and we will definitely return again.  Maybe on our next trip we won’t be the only foreigners that we see as we explore the many treasures that Bolivia has to offer.

Palm Leaves

Palm Leaves

Jungle Beauty

Jungle Beauty

Banana Stand

Banana Stand

 

 

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Historic Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg is a very  popular place to visit in Germany and it is certainly a wonderful city with a charming, historic feel. Clearly it is a popular tourist destination and top among the sites to visit is the castle that looms large over the old town. No matter where you are, the castle is clearly visible on the hillside above the city that lies on the Neckar River. One of the more interesting things is that as you walk around the castle grounds, the castle takes on quite unique perspectives.

View of Some of the Most Preserved Parts of the Castle

View of Some of the Most Preserved Parts of the Castle

Castle Tower

Castle Tower

Signs of Destruction

Signs of Destruction

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Looming Above the City

When we visited the castle, we decided to take a guided tour since we often like to hear about the history and see sights that are sometimes only available by tour.  Unfortunately we were disappointed with this particular tour although we really enjoyed the castle itself. Our disappointment was partially due to two young children who misbehaved and disrupted every aspect of the tour, however, even if that hadn’t been the case, it would not have been worth the small price that we paid. The castle has been in a state of constant flux since its original construction in the thirteenth century. What is left today is a ruin of a castle, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth seeing, because it definitely is.

Clear Sky Behind the Castle

Clear Sky Behind the Castle

Gorgeous Castle

Gorgeous Castle

View of the Castle

View of the Castle

More Signs of Destruction

More Signs of Destruction

It is hard to imagine how beautiful it must have been during the height or its glory, but it must have truly been grand. It helps that it was a gorgeous day when we visited, which added to overall beauty of castle and the city. The castle grounds are no longer filled with lavish gardens, but it is still a beautiful place to visit. Today, the castle is rented out for weddings and special events, so one of the reasons that we didn’t like the tour was the subliminal selling message that we heard throughout the tour. Although the castle is clearly in decay, it is still very much worth visiting if you get the chance to visit Heidelberg.

Model of the Full Castle

Model of the Full Castle

Open Windows

Open Windows

Another View of the Castle

Another View of the Castle

Gorgeous Autumn Day

Gorgeous Autumn Day

 

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Tasty Guacamole

Guacamole is a wonderful accompaniment to southwestern and Mexican food.  It is also a wonderful dip on its own and can even be used as a spread on sandwiches as well. It isn’t complicated to make and you can make it spicy or not depending upon your taste. One of the things that makes it delicious is the use of fresh ingredients. We go to Mexico almost every year and we enjoy getting guacamole every time that we do and enjoy the large portions that we get.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Avocados – diced
  • 1 Medium Tomato – finely diced
  • 1 Jalapeno – finely diced (seeds removed if you don’t want it spicy)
  • 1 Garlic Clove – minced
  • 1 tbsp Red or Yellow Onion – finely diced
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Ingredients in Bowl

INSTRUCTIONS

Cut the avocados in half, using your knife to carve around the large seed.  Twist the avocado to separate the two halves, the seed will remain in one of the halves.  Using a knife, carefully chop into the seed so that the knife is slightly embedded.  Twist the knife to remove the seed and carefully remove the seed from the knife blade.  Use a spoon to separate the flesh of the avocado from the skin by tracing the spoon along the inside of the skin and place the flesh into a medium bowl.  You can dice the avocado prior to removing it from the skin or after it is in the bowl.  Add the rest of ingredients and mix thoroughly.  If you prefer a creamy guacamole, you can mash the avocado dices as you stir, or leave some of the dices whole if you prefer a chunkier guacamole.  Serve with chips.

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Remove the Seed

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Diced Avocado

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Mince Garlic

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Guacamole Dip with Chips

 

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Do You Celebrate Your Blogiversary?

Technically we started our site three years ago in June, but we didn’t truly start blogging with any consistency until August of that year. In that time, we have posted more than 650 posts on our site and continue to learn new things about blogging on almost a daily basis. In the past, we have never acknowledged the anniversary of our site, mostly because we have been focused on the day-to-day activities of simply sharing our stories and information about the places that we have been visiting. When we started our site, we would have never dreamed that we would spend six months living in Germany or that we would travel to 5 different continents.

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Summertime Sunset in Colorado

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Beautiful Scenery in Iceland

Throughout the past few years we have enjoyed all of the interaction that we have had with fellow bloggers, travelers, photographers, and foodies. We try to share a little of ourselves along the way and hopefully not just a dry repetition of facts that could be found anywhere. Every now and then we look back at our older posts and consider updating them now that we know more than we did back when we started, but haven’t taken the time to do so as of yet.

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Skyline of Rome

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Main River in Frankfurt

So, this isn’t necessarily an official celebration of our blogiversary, but it is at least a recognition of the fact that it is occurring. Perhaps if we make it to five years we will truly take time to celebrate the moment and might even pop open a bottle of bubbly. Do you celebrate your blogiversaries or do they pass by quietly?

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Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy

There is more to the Accademia Gallery in Florence than just Michelangelo’s David. Florence was the center of the art world for hundreds of years and still contains incredible paintings and statues to be admired. In addition to the statue of David, there are many other statues by Michelangelo as well as other famous artists. Beautiful and sometimes haunting paintings can be found by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, and many more. Much of the artwork was commissioned by the Medici family and then later donated by one of the last members of the Medici family so that they could be displayed for the pleasure of everyone to view.

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Passionate Art

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Haunting Statue

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Incredible Artwork

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Michelangelo’s David

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Historical Paintings

With seven different halls to wander and enjoy the incredible artwork, you should give yourself at least four hours when visiting the museum. You don’t have to be an art critic to appreciate the wonderful pieces that can be found in the various halls within the gallery. Clearly, most of the artwork is religious in theme, but there are plenty of others that are historical or mythological in nature. Obviously, the statue of David is the main draw and you will likely find lots of crowds surrounding the famous statue. In addition to the Accademia Gallery, the Uffizi Gallery should also be visited to see some of the most famous Renaissance’s masterpieces.

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Unique Artwork

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Wooden Canvas

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Wall Full of Busts

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Mother with Children

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Painting with Symbolism

Florence is such a beautiful city with so much history and art that can be found around almost every corner. The Accademia Gallery is certainly a museum that should not be missed when visiting the Tuscan city. With so many wonderful sights to see, Florence cannot be seen in just a couple of days, but really takes a full week to enjoy everything that it has to offer.

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Detailed Relief

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Unique Use of Colors

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Beautiful Artwork

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Telling a Story

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Dramatic Painting

 

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Ancient Granite Quarry in Aswan, Egypt

One of the first things we visited when we arrived in Aswan was the northern quarry, which contains an unfinished obelisk. Most of the granite that was used in ancient Egypt was mined from the quarries of Aswan and carried up the Nile on boats. It must have been extremely hard work to mine granite by chipping away at it with other stones. The day that we arrived in Aswan it was 114 degrees Fahrenheit (about 44.5 degrees Celsius), which made the thought of conditions that the ancient workers even more oppressive.

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Looking Down at the Quarry and the Unfinished Obelisk

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Marks in the Granite

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The Top of the Unfinished Obelisk

The giant obelisk that remains partially excavated from the granite quarry is quite impressive to see. It was commissioned by the famous female pharaoh, Hatshepsut and would have likely ended up with the other obelisks in the Karnak Temple in Luxor. Had the workers completed the obelisk, it would have been the largest ever created, but a crack in the stone stopped work on the obelisk. It has remained frozen in time as the workers have left it for thousands of years. In the time of Hatshepsut, obelisks were meant to represent the rays of sun, a way for the god Amun-Ra (Sun God) to descent to earth. It was important that obelisks be constructed out of a single stone without any cracks, otherwise the gods wouldn’t be able to travel through them.

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One of the Finished Obelisks in the Karnak Temple

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The Narrow Space for Workers

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Walking Through the Quarry

Probably more interesting than the reason for the creation of the obelisks is the transportation and actual placing of the obelisks in their final positions. After carefully chiseling the obelisks from the hard granite, they would raise them up and transfer them to a ship where they would be transported, standing erect, up the Nile. It must have been an unbelievable sight to the farmers living along the Nile when the ship with its cargo reaching towards the sky when sailing past them. Then, once reaching their location, such as the Karnak Temple, they would have to be transported across ground to their final location, all without breaking these huge structures. It is truly a task to be admired, even in today’s modern world.

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Close Up of the Cracked Obelisk

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People in the Background Provide Scale to the Obelisk

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Ancient Quarry Next to City Buildings

Visiting the ancient quarry with its unfinished obelisk is truly fascinating and should definitely be on your itinerary when visiting Aswan. There is very little shade at the quarry site, so be prepared for the heat and bring plenty of water.  Walking around the quarry will only take about an hour or two, so you should have another destination mapped out for before or after.  During our trip, after leaving the quarry, we continued onto the island of Philae to see the Temple of Isis.

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