Visiting and relaxing in a sanitorium

Heheh… the word sanitorium in the modern context might suggest to you that one’s gone bonkers… Or that one had contracted a virulent form of TB. But did you know that sanitoriums were not all built for the purposes of taking in such afflicted persons?

If this post is true, then the good folks of the soviet era did have a little more joy than we are told. Though it would only be for two weeks, the vouchers or subsidized holidays would be a respite from the daily grind. Did you read the post? They sure have some strange ways to relax!

You might recall, outside of the soviet system in supposedly capitalist countries we also get the two weeks of paid vacation (some places much more), but we have pay for our own relaxation… hmmm… the irony. Is it really so much better to have to slog your way and yet be “worse” off? Do you think you are worse off today then before or will things only look up?

The world is in flux these days. Income inequality is rising. Technologies are disrupting the way businesses and how their processes are being run. New ways of doing things are emerging that will subsume existing ones in a disruptive creation. It’s no surprise that many folks who are caught up in these changes on the wrong side of the road are beginning to resist the tide.

Many might wish for a return to the past when life was predictable. At least the soviets had a way for workers to relax. Will you travel to a Soviet era sanitorium?

Happy 53rd Birthday!

In our little red dot, getting close to being 55 years of age was considered to be a very important milestone. For those who are not aware (our dear non red dotter audience that is), being 55 entitles a red dotter to pull money out of his/her retirement account. Whatever is left in there after a whole life of paying for the mortgage and who knows what else. Plus some restrictions here and there… not the scope of this post though.

We’ve heard many stories though not necessarily representative, of folks who plan extensively on how they will “manage” the monies they can get out of the retirement account. Some dream of stopping work and traveling the world. Others want to use the money to help their kids… you get the picture no?

So now that the country itself is close to 55, are the same symptoms manifesting themselves albeit at the national level? Are there folks out there who eye the national reserves for use? Remember, someone said (ancient Greek we think) democracies start to fail when the electorate vote for themselves monies from state coffers.

Heheh… but today is a national day of celebrations, so let’s not ‘pour cold water’ – local expression for dampening the mood. As our little island looks back over these last 5+ decades, there is much more to thank than to complain. Nothing’s ever perfect and having lived in a few other countries helped us adjust to that reality.

Remember to put on your red and white today and wear it proud!

Set amidst the Eurasian meeting point

The grainy picture as the feature is intended. For you see, to us Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It straddles two continents we are told, though the start and end of each one is not really that clear in any case. Hence the blurry photo. By the way that was the underground cistern, where the old Byzantine state drew water for the city’s inhabitants.

Yeah, byzantine indeed. For even as the word suggests complication, full of contradictions between the young and old, the have and have nots. Is it still secular? Or is it drifting away from that? But we digress.

For the last 500+ years, the city has been embellished by its Ottoman rulers. Palaces and historical landmarks aplenty to awe one. But it has also embraced modernity like any other European city. Walk in any of its central streets and you might not even notice the difference.

So here we were. Twice actually.

We came by sea and we came by air. We came, we saw and we left part of our heart there. Rhymes huh? There is so much to see and do. But being part of a tour group had its advantages, being whisked into sites on “priority”… saves time from queuing to buy and getting in line for the entry. Wanna know what WE did in Istanbul? Read all about it here.

Have you visited Istanbul?

Who loves skiing?

Yeah who? Posting this in the middle of the year when it’s summer (well for the northern hemisphere anyway) seems odd?

For tropical folks facing the sweltering heat every day, sliding on snow and ice is surely not something usual. But you see, some things in life one needs to try out. Even if one is getting on age. Active ageing, yeah that’s it. Of course we weren’t that aged when we first skied, but it was surely not encouraging when we got off the aircraft.

Why? Read all about that here. Btw we actually enrolled in practice classes in Amsterdam before heading out.

And if you should have read the story in the link above, you would have known that we ran out of gas after 3 days of hitting the slopes. The ‘baby’ ones actually. We cannot imagine folks skiing all day for 7 days in a row… too much stress on the knees… moving on! But of all things we had to do was to go sliding down a mountain in the dark. Have you done night tobogganing? Looking back now, darn that was risky.

In winter it gets a little harder to do touristic things. Places open later and close earlier. Accessibility becomes an issue in some cases. But we took that all in stride and had a wonderful time exploring the city of Innsbruck.

Fortunately for us it did not cost an arm or a leg when we were skiing in the mountain sides of Innsbruck. Do you enjoy the exhilaration of skiing?

Salt mountain city?

Salt.

Chemically NaCl (aka sodium chloride). It is both essential yet detrimental to life, depending on how much or how concentrated it is. You might know Mel’s a history buff. But history is not just about political events or wars. It is also about economics and social development.

Did you know that in ancient days salt was considered a controlled commodity?

In fact, it was considered so valuable that it was taxed and in some case (such as dynastic China) its manufacture was managed as state monopolies. Take note, panning for your own salt was a crime punishable with a fine, confiscation and imprisonment! Can you imagine that?

The situation in Europe was perhaps slightly different, though it too was taxed while it made its way to the consumer. Now you know why cities in Europe would get wealthy from the salt trade. And this was no different for the city of Salzburg in Austria. A lot of the beautiful buildings in the city was funded by the trade and tax on this now common commodity.

But enough about salt already. For the hills did come alive for us, or at least we did as we examined the sites (and story) that inspired this movie. Read all about our super long weekend to Salzburg here, where had great fun and ate potato dumplings too (no photos unfortunately).

Can you hear the sound of the music? What did you like about Salzburg?

Who came to the Americas first?

Depending on whether you are an anthropologist, archaeologist, historian or zoologist, we might get a myriad of answers. So, let’s state the question clearer : who were the first humans to come to the Americas?

Again this will be subjective.

For if we go back long enough to the last ice age, a land bridge (of ice?) was apparently connecting Alaska with Asia via Siberia. Folks are said to have made it across to seed the continents (if you separate north and south America) with peoples as diverse as one can imagine. Alternately, folks could have journeyed the Pacific ocean and landed in the Americas too…

So how do folks who’s forebears supposedly hail from the Asian continent become so vastly different? The power of the environment to alter genes, albeit over long periods of time. Yep, we are stepping onto a minefield here. With today’s advance gene research, we’ve come to a cross road where we can either take the path of trying to be gods or leave nature alone to do its miraculous work. Oops, sorry we digressed.

Today it is not about this topic but about adaptation. How humans ingeniously fashion, accommodate and mould the environment around them to eke out a living. It is all rather fascinating. That how humans braved the oceans (of water and ice) to seek out new lands. Why did we do that? Join us (read here) as we did some surface scratching on the history of native Americans.

What do you know about the history of Pre Columbian America?