The Evolution of Spain

La Tomatina 2006

photo credits: davidd

Spain is known for its dominance in the 15th century as the “Spanish Hashburgs” and helped Europe to global leaders in the modern era. Spain is a major tourist attraction for their beaches, monuments, and traditions. Spain has some rich, unique traditions you will not find anywhere else. The Running of the Bulls or San Fermin, and the tomatina or the throwing of the tomatoes are two traditions that have been going on for centuries and will be apart of Spain’s culture forever. The Spanish San Fermin (running of the bulls) is a tradition that has been going on since the year 1215. It started from ancient techniques to get the farm cows to the market for selling. The farmers would taunt and rush the bulls to the market with excitement and fear. This soon began to become competitive for many young adults, seeing who could cross this run with bulls without being harmed. Once this fun competition grew, it soon became a tradition taking it to the streets of Pamplona. The festival starts July 6th, with the opening fiesta. This consists of getting the bulls from outside the city into the bullring. The encierro or the running starts the followingmorning (July 7th) at 8:00 am. Two rockets are then fired signaling the start. The first signals the corral gates are opened. The second signals that all of the six bulls have been let loose. The final two rockets signals that the bulls have been “captured” back into the bullring and the ending of the event. With people running from these bulls, there are accidents bound to happen. Fifteen people were killed in the 1924 Pamplona run, which is the most ever in one year. Another famous, messy spanish tradition is La Tomatina in the Valencian town called Buñol. In 1945, while the gigantes y cabezudos parade in the town center, La Plaza del Pueblo was taking place a group of young men created the event of a staged brawl. With a vegetable stand nearby the men picked up tomatoes and used them as weapons, whipping them at each other. The police later had to break up this “fight” and poured the responsibility of fixing the damage upon those who were apart of it. The following year on the same day more people joined these young men in the staged fight, but this time they brought their own tomatoes. The courageous event was later broken up again, but the people did not give up. They kept coming back the same Wednesday in August doing the same thing until this day became the famous Tomatina. The first event of the tomatina starts at 10:00 am and is called the palo jabón. The goal is to climb a greasy pole with ham on top and collect the ham while everyone is dancing and celebrating around you. Then the fun starts, trucks pour into the plaza dumping thousands of tomatoes. All the participants then throw tomatoes for one hour. Spain’s rich traditions could not be duplicated anywhere else. Every year more and more people visit Spain for their great cultural events. On top of that since 2010 Spain has been the fourth most visited country in the entire world. Between the beaches, amazing cities, and memorable traditions who wouldn’t want to visit Spain.

Around the World from A to Z: Oman

Resting at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has long been forgotten by the Western world, yet boasts of natural marine beauty and a rich history and pure culture.

The capital city of Muscat houses more than a quarter of the country’s population, 735,000 out of a mere 2.8 million. The main language spoken in Oman is Arabic, and the government is an absolute monarchy (and an Islamic state). The Sultan of Oman has ultimate authority but parliament also has some power as a legislature as well. Like most middle-eastern countries, its economy is mainly driven by oil, but agriculture, fishing, and tourism are all rapidly growing industries.

The climate of Oman is very hot and dry in the center, regularly reaching temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, but is humid by the coast of the Arabian Sea. The north is mostly covered by mountain ranges, and the center and southeast coast are largely desert. The country is bordered by Yemen to the southwest, Saudi Arabia to the northwest, and the UAE to the north. It is also bordered by the Gulf of Oman on the west.

In Oman’s early history, it was ruled by four different empires: the Persians, the Parthanids, the Achaemenids, and the Sassanids. Oman was one of the first countries to accept Islam, becoming an Ibadhi state in 630 AD. It was colonized by the Portuguese from 1507 to 1650, when they were driven out by rebels. After that Oman grew into its own empire, which in the early 19th century stretched from the Strait of Hormuz down the coast of Africa to what is now Tanzania.  However, the empire lost power in the 20th century as the UK became a greater influence on the country.

The main attractions in Oman are its expansive, beautiful beaches. Many fjords filled with coral reefs line the waters of the coast, and diving to see them is a very popular activity. However, other attractions include whale watching in the North and deep sea fishing. Since Oman also has some of the oldest cities in the world, the tourism industry there is steadily growing, and desert tours around the country are offered as well.

Oman truly is a hidden gem of the Middle East. With its relative safety and high level of development, unknown yet wonderful natural beauty, and intriguing history, Oman is a very interesting country and a place that none of us should miss.


Around the World from A to Z: Norway

When most people imagine a place widely considered to be the best and most developed country in the world, a place that is one of the largest producers of oil and has the fourth largest per capita income, they probably aren’t thinking of Norway. Settled so far north the sun barely rises in the winter, this sparsely-settled country is one of the most prosperous and naturally beautiful places known.

Norway, officially referred to as the Kingdom of Norway, is home to just over five million people, almost a million of whom live in the capital city of Oslo. The main language spoken is Norwegian. Their government is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, and although it is not a member of the European Union, it has very close ties to the region. Norway’s largest industry is by far its natural resources – it produces the most oil of any country outside of the Middle East, and also has noteworthy amounts of natural gas, lumber, fresh water, seafood, and minerals.

Norway is bordered by Sweden to the east and Finland and Russia to the northeast. It has over 25,000 kilometers of coastline along the Norwegian and North Seas, most of which is islands and fjords. The northern parts of Norway are mostly covered in frozen tundra, while the more southern parts have mountains, plateaus, and valleys. Around the country, the winters can vary from mild to very cold, and the summers are mostly mild, except in the lowlands near Oslo.

Norway’s long history has been mostly characterized by the Vikings and a later alliance with Denmark. After unifying the country in 872 AD, the Vikings ruled until 995 AD, when Christian influence increased and the first King of Norway was crowned. Norway later joined the Kalmar Union with Sweden and Denmark in 1388. They tried to rebel along with Sweden, but they failed and stayed in an alliance with Denmark until 1814. In 1814, they declared their independence and adopted a constitution inspired by those of France and America. They stayed neutral in World War I, and attempted neutrality again in World War II, until Germany invaded in 1940 and they were under Nazi occupation for five years.

While many may view Norway as a cold and desolate place, it is far from it. Norway offers some of the most stunning scenery in the world. The fjords that dot its coastlines are dramatic and unmissable. National Geographic ranks the West Fjords as the number one World Heritage site.

Something else Norway is well-known for is its outdoor activities. Anyone who loves nature would never be bored in this country. The hiking trails through mountains, valleys and fjords attract tourists from all around. The mountains of Norway are also home to many quality ski resorts with hundreds of challenging trails.

One of the, by far, most interesting events that draws people to Norway is the midnight sun. Because of the country’s position so near to the North Pole, in the summer there are often up to twenty hours of sunlight per day. In the far northern parts, such as North Cape, it never even sets.

It’s the things like this, along with the natural beauty and booming economy, that make Norway one of the world’s best countries. Even if cold isn’t your thing, Norway is a place that you truly have to see before you die.


Around the World from A to Z: India

Located in the south of Asia, India is a beautiful country, rich in historical and cultural value. The second most populated country in the world, it also has many famous sites, such as the Taj Mahal, the Ganges River, and the Konark Sun Temple.

India’s capital is the city of New Delhi. The official language of the country is Hindi, and the population is 1,241,491,960 people. It is the seventh largest country by land mass. India is the largest democracy in the world. There are hundreds of languages in the country; 844 dialects are spoken in India alone. India is also very peaceful; in over 100,000 years of India’s history, they have never invaded country at all.

India ranks second worldwide in farm output and agriculture. The GDP is 1.53 trillion dollars per year. According to Goldman Sachs, India’s GDP per capita will quadruple from 2007 to 2020! India also grows more than 12 million tons of mangoes a year, which is equivalent to about the weight of 80,000 blue whales. Another interesting fact: India has 568 million more voters than the US and a better turnout rate too!

One of the many famous attractions in India is the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. It took 20000 workers and took 22 years to build. The Taj Mahal is a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Shah Jahan, who was once an emperor of India. Mumtaz died during childbirth, and Shah Jahan built the tomb for her. He wanted to build an identical tomb for himself from black marble instead of white, right across the river, but he died before its completion. Many types of precious stones were used in the creation of the Taj Mahal. It attracts 2 to 4 million visitors annually.

Photo credit: foxypar4

Another main attraction in India is the Ganges River.  The river is 2525 km long and it originates in a glacier in Himalayas. It is said that the water in the Ganges is holy and people who bathe in it are considered purified, although the water is filthy because lots of sewage and waste travel down the river. Many holy sites line the Ganges River, including the Varanasi and the Haridwar.

The Sun Temple at Konark is one of the Seven Wonders of India.  It was built in the 13th century in Odisha, near the water’s edge.  According to legend, Samba was afflicted by leprosy, brought about by his father’s curse on him. After 12 years of penance, he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built the magnificent Konark Sun Temple. The temple takes the form of the chariot of Surya, the Sun God.

All in all, India is one of the most adventurous places to go if you are ever looking to go on a life-changing vacation.  With its thousands of years of history, it has accumulated a vast collection of cultural richness that is delightful to behold. The Taj Mahal, Ganges River, and Sun Temple are just three of the many, many wonders of India’s culture that will never cease to amaze the world with its uniqueness.

Next in series: Around the World from A to Z: Jamaica by emmakitkat

Around the World from A to Z: Honduras

Lying surrounded by Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador in Central America, Honduras is a beautiful, culturally rich country, especially well known for it’s huge coral reef, the third largest in the world.

Honduras is located in Central America. The capital city is Tegucigalpa, and the population it 7,754,687 people. The country is northwest of South America. There are many ethnic groups in the country, such as mestizos, Lenca, Tolupán, Chorti, Garifuna, Tawahka, and Miskito. There are also ten languages ​​in Honduras: Spanish, English, Ch’orti’, Garifuna, Lenca, Miskito, Pech, Sumo Tawahka, Tol, and Honduras sign language, which counts as an official language of its own. Ninety percent of people in Honduras are Roman Catholic. Three percent are Protestant, and the remaining seven percent consists of the rest of the religious minorities in the country.

Photo Credit: USFWS Pacific

Honduras’s national flower is the orchid, a beautiful species that has “beauty, vigor, and distinction”, according to the decree that dictated it. The national animal of Honduras is the white-tailed deer, which was appointed as an effort to stop excessive depredation. The unit of currency in Honduras is the lempira. A lempira is equivalent to five cents in American money. The main exports are coffee, fruit, and nuts.

The flag of Honduras has a lot of symbolical value for the country, as does the coat of arms. The flag has three stripes, blue, white, and blue, from top to bottom. In the center of the flag are five blue stars. The stars represent the first members of the Federal Republic of Central America. Blue symbolizes the sea, the sky, truth, justice, and loyalty. White means peace.

The coat of arms of Honduras has an eye, a cornucopia, and trees and cliffs.

The triangle means equality and freedom. Trees and cliffs represent the natural beauty of the country.

The coral reefs in particular make the natural beauty of Honduras stand out. The reefs in Honduras are actually part of a larger chain, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, that stretches along the coasts of four Central American countries. This spectacular reef is home to more than 65 types of coral, 350 types of mollusks, and several hundred different species of tropical fish. Many of these species are endangered, so multiple protections have been placed on the reef. The coral is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of manatees, another endangered species.

The coral is only one of the many attractions in Honduras. With it’s rich culture and astonishing natural beauty, Honduras is a great place to visit, and one that is certain to offer an experience that will never be forgotten.

Next in series: Around the World from A to Z: India by urvi011235

Around the World from A to Z: Greece

Greece is a popular tourist destination in Europe. Exquisite beaches line the peninsula’s border, Mount Olympus houses the ancient Greek gods, and the first signs of philosophy are traced back to the early Greeks. White sand beaches and beautiful harbors attract countless tourists to Greece every year. The Greek gods are known and taught worldwide. The Greeks were also the first to write down philosophies, so now we know the ideas of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and many others. Overall, Greece is the best place to go for a relaxing but educational vacation.
With over eight thousand miles of coastline, Greece is great place to go for exotic beaches. Beaches extend countless miles. Blonde stretches of sand with dunes, pebble beaches, caves with steep rocks and dark sand typical of volcanic soil line Greece’s coasts. Greek beaches are not only known for their beauty, but also for their cleanliness, easily seen in the crystal-clear waters. Greece also offers many idyllic resorts for fun and relaxation. It’s no surprise that Greek beaches are some of the most popular in the world.
Greece is a developed country with fish being one of Greece’s main economic exports. Greece’s prime minister is Karolos Papoulias and he has been in office for almost eight years. Although many perceive Greece’s economy to be poor, there are a few pros about the country’s economical stature. Greece is a part of the European Union, allowing the country to trade easily and have more access to allies. Also, tourism is a huge part of the economy, and the tourism most comes from Greece’s history.

Photo Credit: massonth

Poseidon, one of many Greek gods, is the god of the ocean. According to Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon agreed that whoever gave Athens the best gift would become guardian over the city. Though Poseidon gave the gift of water, Athena’s gift of an olive tree was thought by the other gods to be more valuable because Poseidon’s salt water was of no use to the Greeks.
Ancient Greek philosophy is dominated by three very famous men: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. All three of them lived in Athens for most of their lives, and they knew each other. Socrates came first, and around 400 BC, Plato became his apprentice. Socrates was killed in 399 BC, and Plato began his work by writing down what Socrates had taught him, and then continued by writing down his own ideas and opening a school. Aristotle, who was younger, came to study at Plato’s school, and ended up starting his own school as well.
Greece is a fascinating and enjoyable place to go for vacation. Many people want to go to Greece and see the things that they’ve seen in history and geography books. Greece is the perfect vacation destination: beaches for relaxing and the intriguing monuments for sightseeing. All in all, it is a highly recommended country to visit, at any time in the year.

Next in series: Around the World from A to Z: Honduras by emmakitkat

Avalanche Warnings.

Dear skiers,

Many of you are taking a trip into the backcountry. Skiing is very fun and most people do it on there free time. However, there are many dangers in this activity. If you decide to go there are many signs that you can tell if there is an avalanche and ways to help you get out if you unfortunately experience one.

If you are on a slope and you are getting ready to ski there are some signs that an avalanche is likely. Watch to see if there is too much space between snow particles and sudden changes in the weather. Also if there are high slopes and bits of fresh snow I suggest not skiing down them unless you want to die. If you unfortunately experience one there are some ways to stay safe from avalanches. Bring a shovel for digging just in case someone gets trapped under the snow and make sure everyone in your group has one so they can all help. Also bring a beacon for locating a person under the snow. And lastly, consider purchasing a body float made by North Face that helps keep you on top of the snow. I know it is very expensive but would you rather pay $1,179 dollars for a safety jacket or would you rather be dead? This is why you should be very careful if you decide to do this extreme skiing.

This is a very dangerous activity and know that people enjoy it but please be extremely careful. Please go out and buy all the things in this essay because it can happen to anyone and you don’t want it to be you. You don’t want this skiing trip to be your last. Please listen to my advice and be very careful if you decide to go.

Love, Mariano

Around the World from A to Z: Finland

With flat or gently rolling plains and hills, a cold, almost subarctic climate, and a population of merely 5 million people, Finland is an interesting country, known for several attractions like the underground church  and historical ports, as well as … Continue reading

Around the World from A to Z: Denmark

Although Denmark may be small, that doesn’t stop it from having one of the oldest zoos in Europe, the second most-popular seasonal amusement park in the world, and the original Lego factory.  Don’t underestimate small countries!  They can have a huge impact on the world.  For example, Copenhagen is the most visited city in Scandinavia.

Denmark’s capital city is Copenhagen, widely known as a center of culture and the arts. Denmark is also part of the European Union. The official language of the country is Danish. Denmark’s government is a constitutional monarchy, the Prime Minister being Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Located north of Germany, Denmark borders the Baltic and North Seas. The country has a relative area of slightly less than twice the area of the state of Massachusetts, in the United States. Denmark borders approximately 1419 islands. The terrain consists of low to gently rolling plains and floods in some parts. The climate is mostly temperate, humid and overcast, with mild winters and cool summers.

Credit: josef.stuefer

LEGOLAND Denmark is located in Billund, Denmark.  It was built next to the original factory in Denmark, and is very popular among children. Inside the park is Miniland, made up of thousands of Lego bricks. It is one of the most visited sections of the park.  In Miniland, children can make boats out of foam Legos and can sail them in a small waterway.  Another attraction in LEGOLAND is the Lego studio, a 600-seat 4-D theater filled with special effects and a giant screen.  If you are ever visiting Denmark, be sure to visit LEGOLAND!

The Tivoli Gardens are the second most popular seasonal amusement park in the world. It is also the second oldest amusement park in the world. One famous roller coaster in the park is the wooden roller coaster Bjergbanen, the ‘Mountain Coaster’. The park even has two hotels on site for tourists.

Finally, the Copenhagen Zoo is a popular attraction in Denmark, being one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It is, in fact, the most visited zoo in Denmark and the fourth most visited attraction. One of the many fascinating parts of the zoo is the Copenhagen Zoo Tower, which is one of the tallest wooden observation decks in the world.  Continue reading