How tall was Hercules? -Amman Citadel

architecture, art, History, landscape, photography, Ruins, Temple, Travel

The ruins of this temple in the Amman citadel complex once held a statute of the hero of Greek mythology, Hercules. Built between 162-166 CE scientists have not been able to accurately determine how tall he actually was!

Best guess?

The temple of Hercules

The temple of Hercules

The temple of Hercules

The Temple of Hercules

The road to Umayyad Palace

The road to Umayyad Palace

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Jerash – Greek or Roman?

architecture, art, History, landscape, photography, Ruins, Temple, Travel

Sunset over the Temple of Artemis

Name drop ‘Alexander the great’ founded this place; as an ancient greek city you’d think you were in Athens rather than 30 miles north of the modern day capital of Jordan.

Pillars

The main street

Jerash thrived during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods which is evidenced by the expansive ruins which remain. Despite the 749 Galilee earthquake destroying large parts of Jerash a significant portion of the site remains.

What remains of the old market place.The Marketplace

The Jerash nymphaeum.The Jerash nymphaeum.

The temple of Artemis
Artemis is known as the hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women! Built in CE 150 this was once the most important temple of Jerash but was later turned into a fortress and mostly destroyed by a great fire.
Temple of Artemis

Petra- Searching for the Holy Grail

architecture, History, landscape, photography, Ruins, Temple, Travel

Petra has to be visited to be truly appreciated. One of the new seven wonders of the world and it really deserves its place. The complex named Petra is vast and has so much to explore; after spending over 6 hours and walking somewhere in the region of 30km there was still so much to see.

Al Khazneh or The Treasury 

Originally built as a mausoleum and crypt at the beginning of the 1st century AD. Its Arabic name Treasury derives from one legend that bandits or pirates hid their loot in a stone urn high on the second level.

Emerging through the Siq.

Al Khazneh (The Treasury)

Visiting the Treasury at night is a captivating experience; a candle lit walk through the Siq leads you to the base of the structure softly illuminated by hundreds of small candle lit lamps. This is the only time I saw more than a handful of tourists in one place!

The Treasury at Night

The Royal Tombs (incl The Palace Tomb)

A stretch of tombs and burial chambers line the North eastern edge of Petra.

The Palace Tomb

Inside the tomb.

Tomb Entrance

Exit the tomb.

Hopefully this may give an impression of the scale of the city of Petra; this is just one small part.

The Royal Tombs at Petra

Ad Deir or The Monastery

Built by the Nabataeans in the 1st century and measuring 50 metres (160 ft) wide by approximately 45 metres (148 ft) high.

Petra postcard

The climb to reach this ruin snakes up the mountainside covering somewhere close to 900 steps. After avoiding the numerous Bedouins trying to rip-off the tourists selling trinkets and donkey rides you turn a corner to witness this tremendous site.

The Monastery (Ad Deir)

Stone tower

Ad Deir

Other sights..
The Nymphaeum

Petra Amphitheatre

Adventures in Ukraine: Pripyat.

History, landscape, Ruins, Travel, urbex

Pripyat was home to around 50,000 residents when the Chernobyl reactor exploded on the 26 April 1986 causing radiation levels in the town to skyrocket to 200,000 times normal. The evacuation order wasn’t given until 14:00 on 27 April 1986 leaving the residents exposed to deadly levels of radiation. Told to pack for 3 days the residents had no idea they would never be returning….

What is now left of the town is an urban exploration dream; a whole town abandoned and left to rot. All that is needed is a permit from the Ukrainian government and you’re in. Current day radiation levels are fairly safe in most parts of the town not exposing you to any higher levels of radiation than you would receive on a transatlantic flight.

I spent two days on a guided tour where we were shown the highlights and given freedom to explore all sorts of parts of the town.

We weren’t officially supposed to be up here; a 15 minute pit stop gave us enough time to sprint to the roof of the hotel in Pripyat town square.

Hotel

Pripyat town square

The boatyardJunk boatyard

The funfare
Fun at the fare!

Vehicle junkyard

School bus

Fire truck

The recreation centre; amazingly the stained glass hasn’t been broken.Recreation centre

Recreation centre

The hospital waiting room.The hospital waiting room.

Time to take your seat..Take you seat...

Out of tune.A little out of tune.

Conference centreConference Centre

One of many abandoned apartment blocks. These places have been totally looted. Its crazy considering the amount of possessions that would have been left behind after being told you were only going to be gone 3 days

Abandoned soviet aparment

View over Pripyat to Chernobyl

View to Chernobyl

Public Swimming poolThe council need to clean this up...

Schools out for…..ever!

Schools out for...winter..

Time for sports.Gym practice

Cooling tower.Eye in the sky

Adventures in Ukraine: Duga-3 Radar

History, Ruins, Travel, urbex

The Duga-3 radar is found within the 30km exclusion zone surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Originally the first functional Soviet over-the-horizon radar in operation from 1976 to 1989. This radar array was used as an early warning network to alert the Soviets if the USA where to launch ballistic missiles against them.

Duga-3 Radar

 

Unlike a traditional radar which uses microwaves and can only see to the horizon c8 miles an over-the-horizon radar uses shortwave systems that reflect their signals off the ionosphere for very long-range detection. The Duga-3 was apparently able to cover distances as far as the central states of the US.

 

Duga-3 Radar

The signal was so strong it interrupted commercial signals as far as Europe causing issues with radios and televisions!

 

 

Adventures in Ukraine: Odessa Catacombs

History, Ruins, Travel, urbex

Have you ever been somewhere and had the realisation that this could be the end? That current events could be the most dangerous and idiotic thing you have ever done? Welcome to Odessa Catacombs.

We set off at 8am meeting our Guide Egor and his friends (thanks to Darmom at www.thebohemianblog.com for the recommendation)  in the centre of Odessa. From there it was short 30 min drive to small town where part of the catacomb entrances had been turned into a museum. A section of the catacombs had been gated and a few signs erected describing their history. It is  a misnomer calling them catacombs as they haven’t generally been used to bury bodies; the main purpose of their creation was to mine limestone and other building materials. However over the years given the expanse of the system, nearly 2,500km (no-one has actually managed to map them all!), they have had various other uses over the years e.g. smuggling, storage, bomb shelter.

After reaching the official entrance we headed up the road for our unofficial tour. Greeted by a small cave-like hole we entered the abyss. img_7542

The first 2 hours of the tour was easy going; large tunnels and chambers which were clearly easily accessible due to the large amount of graffiti and signs all over the walls. Egor was a good guide providing commentary on the history of some of the older graffiti; including old poems and scripture written by the Ukrainian partisans during WWII.

This section of the catacombs had many rest spots, where makeshift dinner tables had been constructed out of the rock quarried from the tunnels themselves. Interestingly Egor explained how his friends had conducted unofficial wedding ceremonies and other celebrations in these locations.
Odessa Catacomb

Odessa Catacomb

Odessa Catacomb
After a couple of hours we arrive outside again (at a different location). Now is where the real “fun” begins. Egor leaves us with his friend Vannay to explore another large complex of tunnels, side note: Vannay speaks broken English which makes communication tricky.

We re-enter the tunnels and take a different route. Onwards from this point the terrain is totally different. Smaller, more compact tunnels requiring a lot more crouching and crawling. Graffiti on the walls becomes more sporadic and soon the only signs of previous life is the few scribbles on the walls when you arrive at a crossroads.

Odessa Catacomb

Within an hour I had lost all sense of direction, these tunnels are definitely a labyrinth. We continue on for another hour before we come across our first hurdle. Egor had previously informed me there would be no water in the tunnels. Little did we know at this point that he hadn’t been in the tunnels for 2 years and a lot can change in that time!

We turn a corner and are faced with a pool of stagnant water stretching into darkness.

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“We’ll have to build a bridge” Vannay announces.

“Out of what?” We reply.

We start to pull rocks out of the floor, walls and wherever we can find them. Extreme care is taken as the roof of the tunnel feels like it could give at any moment. Standing underneath layers of limestone, sandstone and clay probably isn’t the most stable roof you could ask for.

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The “bridge” is completed and we stepping stone across in an attempt to avoid contact with the stagnant pool. Nobody wants to go home with legionnaires disease (it has a 6 day incubation period..I think I’m ok).

Crisis 1 over, we continue our trek. It gets worse, lower, more cramped and damper. To me this is one of the best adventures yet but I can tell the rest of the group is flagging. We walk for another hour or so, its hard to tell in the darkness. By now none of us are clear where we are what direction we’ve come from or even how far underground we are.

We struggle through a very cramp tunnel squatting through a tiny space for about half an hour. Good job no-one in my group is claustrophobic. And then a smell reaches us, the worst thing I’ve ever smelt! We stop, ahead is a whole through the roof, clearly we’re under a village and this is their dumping ground, literally! Ahead a pool of thick swampy mud, sewage to be exact blocks our path…..

We find ourselves planking across this rancid lake of sewage and human waste trying to avoid contact at all cost. Two of my group lag behind. Once we regroup I find one-off them has slipped and is covered from the feet to thighs in this disgusting black sludge. Impressively everyone is still fairly good natured.

The trip continues uneventful for another hour or so, by now we’ve been underground about 4 hours. As we arrive at crossroads our guide starts asking us to wait and he ventures off for 10 mins at a time returning to then explore alternative routes. After one of these events we ask him if anything is wrong. This is when he confesses. “I haven’t been down here for two years, I don’t recognise everything it looks different”. He was lost, we were lost, how would we ever find our way out!

Odessa Catacomb

Odessa Catacomb

Our guide explains the markings he thinks we should try and follow we continue for another 2 hours. All the time we are trying to decipher any of the Russian text on the walls and follow the signs which apparently lead us to an exit. Mutliple times we re-trace our steps after not losing the trail we are supposed to be following and eventually we fear we will never find our way out. At one point we arrive at a large caved in area where the roof has collapsed, here we rest and wait for the guide to find our next route.

A piece of string was found on the floor this we followed whilst we waited for our guide at one of the crossroads. Upon the route we found an empty rucksack, would a body be next? We continue following the string it but it cuts off with no apparent route that was followed next, probably for the best. At this point we stop and consider how ridiculous the situation is, its pitch black (except for our torches), the caves are silent nothing can be heard no even the scratching of a rodent or traffic from above. If we were left here this would be the end!

Odessa Catacomb

Eventually our guide returns and he has found the next route. Our journey continues for another solid hour before we reach sunlight, the phrase “the light at the end of the tunnel” has never felt so right. We exit into the sunlight, exhausted and relieved. I wouldn’t have liked to imagine the smell as we embarked on our bus journey home.

 

 

Dubrovnik

Croatia, Ruins, Travel

Dubrovnik full of history and home to none other than the Lannister family!

Parts of the walls have been in place since the 7th Century and now a UNESCO world heritage site which definitely deserves this title.

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The Fort of St Lawrence

Built within 3 months to withstand a Venetian invasion this fort still stands today. Also the location for a number of GoT scenes such as Joffrey’s name day tournament.

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