Tag Archives: history

Back in Time: Here Is How to Enjoy a Long Weekend in Historic London

2018-07-18

For those looking for the perfect way to while away a long weekend, the vast and fascinating history that London has to offer is hard to beat. From ancient relics in its numerous museums to crumbling Roman ruins and glamorous boutique hotels to the oldest pub you’re likely to find, the capital has it all.
London. Photo by vgallova.Photo: vgallova / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Roman Temple of Mithras

When it comes to sightseeing in London it makes sense to begin chronologically, with the oldest building in the capital. Discovered in 1954 by a team of builders in the heart of the City, the Roman Temple of Mithras is a second-century AD ruin. It was originally built in honour of the Roman God Mithras and was situated on the banks of one of London’s long lost rivers, the Walbrook.

Not too long ago, this ruin was showcased on the top of a multi-storey car park! However the relocation to its original home has certainly been a great success. The ruins of the temple can now be found underneath the ultra-modern Bloomberg Building, alongside a number of notable roman artefacts. With new low level lighting, eerie mist and an atmospheric soundscape, a visit to The Mithraeum is truly like taking a step back in time.
The Mithraeum in London.  Photo by Allan Harris.Travel back in time at the London Mithraeum. Photo: Allan Harris / CC BY-ND 2.0.

Lunch at the Jamaica Winehouse

Just a stones-throw from the Mithraeum is The Jamaica Winehouse. Even though the name might not suggest it, this place is actually famous for being the home of the oldest coffee shop in London, which opened in 1652.

The walk here is a pleasant stroll through winding alleyways and courtyards dating from the middle ages. The façade of the Jamaican Winehouse is charming – now a characterful red sandstone building designed in the Art Nouveau style, the coffee shop has been reborn.

Although Samuel Pepys no longer makes such frequent calls, ‘The Jampot’ as known by locals, is still definitely worth making time to visit. One can now find mainly city workers in the downstairs snug, enjoying the atmosphere and incredible fine dining of Todd’s wine bar. The ground floor is home to a traditional and cosy London pub, with dark wood panelling, serving real ale and simple food.

Lates at the Natural History Museum

It may seem like an obvious choice, and in a sense it is, but have you ever visited a museum after dark? ‘Lates’ at the Natural History Museum run on the last Friday of each month from 18:00 until 22:00 and whilst free, give you the option to pay for perks such as tours of the behind the scenes collections. A fascinating and awe inspiring museum during the day, the museum becomes truly special after dark. Luckily, ‘Lates’ are just for grown-ups, so you can enjoy a tour of the Hintze Hall with a drink in hand.

If a race to the oldest is what you’re hoping for, then the Paleobotany collection at the Natural History Museum is the indisputable winner. In fact, one particular fossil takes that honour. Discovered in 1993, but dating from 3.5 billion years ago, the imprint of cyanobacteria is one of the Earth’s earliest life forms, almost three quarters of the age of the planet itself. It doesn’t get a great deal older than that!
Natural History Museum in London. Photo:  Kathryn Wright.Explore the magnificent Natural History Museum after dark. Photo: Kathryn Wright/ CC BY-ND 2.0

Opulence at Blake’s Hotel

After a first day full of culture, a good night’s sleep is essential. Many of the capital’s hotel buildings are steeped in rich history, so why not choose the most luxury option for your three days in London? Blake’s Hotel is a truly lavish place to spend the night.

Established in 1978 by Anouska Hempel, this timeless design classic was arguably the birth of the ‘couture’ hotel. Constantly updating and changing, but never leaving behind its elegance, a night spent here is luxury in the extreme. Chinoiserie and Western elegance collide in the interiors of the bedrooms – rich drapes and lacquered furniture can be found alongside canopied beds and lustrous gilt finishes. Understated is not what Blake’s aims for.

With day one completed, it’s likely that you’ll have begun to find your bearings around the centre of the city. One of the best parts of any trip is finding little places you stumble upon and there are so many around London’s winding streets it would be impossible to plan for them all. A list of notable places to spend the remainder of your visit can be found below; including plenty of iconic photo opportunities! Take time to pick and choose, part of the joy of travelling are the places we discover when we’re a little lost!

The Geffrye Museum – Meticulously Restored 18th Century Almshouses
www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/explore-the-geffrye/explore-almshouses
Westminster Abbey – 700 year old Coronation Church of England
www.westminster-abbey.org
Lambeth Palace – Residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury
www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/lambeth-palace/visit-lambeth-palace
Dr Johnson’s House – Home of Samuel Johnson, composer of the English Dictionary
www.drjohnsonshouse.org
Sir John Soane’s Museum – Home of 19th Century Architect John Soane
www.soane.org

Books have destroyed our civilization multiple times if we believe the wise men of the past

2018-03-19

There is nothing better than laughing at mistakes other people have made. BBC put together an infographic with famous predictions gone wrong. Here are the highlights from the compilation that relate to books and communication technologies.
clip art cartoon: old man with papyrus and young man with mobile phone and computer
Circa 370 B.C.
Socrates predicted that the written word will destroy our memories. Men will cease to exercise memory because they rely on what is written.
Yet, the world can remember what he said because Plato wrote it down.

1492
Monk Johannes Trithemius wasn’t happy about the new innovation: printing press. He worried about the future of his profession because Gutenberg had invented a machine that could print books. Monks who earned a living as scribes had to find something else to do.

1545
Swiss scholar Conrad Gesner worried that too many books in the world is perilous. Confusing and harmful abundance of books seriously bothered him.

1685
More than hundreds year later, after many books had surely been printed with new machines, French scholar Adrien Baillet wrote that he had a reason to fear that a multitude of books would drive humankind into barbarous state.

1879
A new invention, telephone, had arrived in England where the Head of the Post Office regarded the new device useless. Relaying messages with the help of messenger boys was the proper way to communicate for him.

1883
Just like books used to be a threat to powerful people in ancient times, because ordinary people could actually learn something, public education was seen as a threat at the end of the 19th century. New York Medical Journal warned that public education would exhaust the children’s brains and nervous systems.

1929
Telephone continued its inevitable conquest across the world, and was seen as a threat to the society. San Francisco Catholic Adult Education Committee worried: does the telephone break up home life and the old practice of visiting friends?

1936
Another relatively new invention, radio, was too much for the music magazine Gramophone. Children have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the loudspeaker, the magazine concluded.

1959
Although there were not many computers in the entire world at the time, mathematician I.J.Good believed in artificial intelligence (AI). He thought all work could be handed over to machines in 10-30 years.

1964
Arthur C. Clarke, one of the most successful science-fiction authors, predicted the rise of remote work and digital nomads accurately. He even got the popular nomad destination, Bali, right. Clarke thought that in 50 years, we can work remotely.

1975
The buzzword Paperless Office appeared on an article in BusinessWeek. Well, it is kind of happening now. The magazine article predicted that all office information would be digital by 1990. The consumption of paper, however, started to decrease in US offices in 2001.

1995
Robert Metcalfe, one of the pioneers of the Internet estimated that the network will catastrophically collapse in 1996. He had to eat his words in 1997 in front of an audience where he mixed his column into water and drank it.

The list of false predictions is endless. It is only the predictions by famous people that went horribly wrong which will live long after the world has moved on. It is also easy to find parallels between ancient and recent studies and research papers that conclude how evil a new invention is.

How many times have I seen the story that reading a book from a screen rots our brains. How many children have been doomed to damnation because they use social media. How many times has it been proved that only the “smell of book” and “holding a book” improves learning when studying something – instead of reading an ebook. How many studies indicate that the Internet is destroying our memories.

All right, I will make one prediction. Now that audiobooks and voice control are growing strongly, the backlash will be in 2019: no one can learn by listening to a book, you have to read it.

This is why Portugal has become such a popular travel destination: 5 arguments

2018-02-26

The differences between north and south, east and west in Portugal are surprisingly big, even though the geographic area of the country is not large. Is it possible to identify reasons for the growth of tourism that apply to all parts of the country? The author of the travel guidebook Algarve, Southern Portugal lists five key reasons for the success of tourism in this southern European country.

Carvoeiro, Algarve, Portugal

1. Nonuniform cities.
2. Nature and landscapes.
3. Tourism infrastructure.
4. Pleasant climate.
5. Colorful history.

Cities are different from other old cities in Europe

Two largest cities in Portugal, Lisbon and Porto, are old cities and they show their age. There is nothing like these cities in Europe – they are odd, strange, but lovable. The unique Portuguese culture defines the way of life in all communities. Traditions are readily visible in small villages, but city residents also like their cod and coffee. Digital nomads may choose to stay in Lisbon or Porto, or head to the south coast for a less hectic environment. Towns like Faro, Lagos and Albufeira in Algarve draw thousands of people from Nordic countries who spend their winters on the coast.
Faro old town, Algarve, Portugal

Varying landscapes from beaches to mountains

Mountains, hills, and rivers define the inland landscape in Portugal. In central Portugal, large fields dominate the landscape, but in other regions, the sceneries are varying.

Both the west coast and south coast have so many types of beaches and coastlines that they provide endless possibilities, for instance, for hiking and birdwatching. Most visitors spend their time sunbathing and swimming, but beaches near town centers, like in Portimao (Praia da Rocha) and in Albufeira have plenty of activities on the sea as well.

The west coast that faces the Atlantic Ocean is a home for many of the best surf beaches of the world.

Services for tourists

Services for tourists, such as hotels, apartments, restaurants, shopping malls, health services, car rentals, motorhome parks, and tour services have been built relatively recently. Of course, tourism started in Portugal a long time ago, but a big investment in infrastructure has been made later than in other southern European countries. It means that many facilities are modern in Portugal.

In Portugal’s main tourism regions (towns on the south coast of Algarve, Lisbon region and Porto region), everything a traveler needs is readily available. In these areas that have plenty of tourists, English is widely understood. Outside those areas, everyone has to survive in Portuguese.
Surfers in Sagres, Algarve, Portugal.

Coast vs inland, north vs south

The most pleasant climate around the year in Portugal is in the south, Algarve. That is why winter escapees from other parts of Europe have discovered it.

The rule of thumb is that it rains very little in the south, and the amount of rain increases the further north you go. The same with the temperature: south is warmer than north. Inland is another story. For instance, in summer, it is not a pleasant destination for outdoor activities because of excessive heat.

Rich history

The oldest Portuguese towns were established even before the Romans moved in to the territory, but the richest history in Portugal was created by Moors who ruled large regions of Portugal and Spain for hundreds of years. Castles, fortresses and other buildings that they left behind have been restored, and can be visited in many towns.

The rich history is visible in everyday life of Portuguese people. It is easy discover: find a fishing village that still has wooden fishing boats on the beach. Follow how the fishermen work and spend their time in there while other locals hang around in cafes and restaurants.

How come “incredible food” or “friendly people” didn’t make it to the top 5 list? Well, there are good reasons for it that are explained in the book. A travel guide to Algarve, the warm south coast of Portugal is available at bookstores, including Amazon.

The best parties during Finland’s 100th independence year 2017

2017-09-08

The Nordic country Finland became an independent nation in 1917, on December 6th. It had been the westernmost, autonomous province of Russia, and before that, the easternmost province of Sweden. The early years were tough for the new nation, and only after the Second World War, the country began its rapid development to one of the most advanced societies in the world.

Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki
Finland is celebrating its 100th Independence Day throughout the year 2017. A dedicated web site published by the Prime Minister’s Office shares up-to-date information on events associated with the celebrations. Which event or party is the one to attend?

Here are some guidelines to help you plan:

– The actual day 6th December tends to be dark and murky in southern Finland where the biggest cities are located. In Lapland, there is snow on the ground and the Northern Lights in the sky.
– In September, Helsinki is cooling towards winter, but weather is often fine. In Lapland, hikers and trekkers have the highlight of the year as the autumn colors light up the landscape.
– In October, the annual Herring Market is a traditional big event at the Helsinki market square in the city center.

How Finns themselves celebrate their 100th Independence year?

The traditional way to celebrate the Independence Day in Finland is to watch television. That’s right. The highest viewer numbers each year are for a program that lasts several hours in the evening of the Independence Day. The majority of Finns are glued to their TV screens, watching as important politicians, celebrities, artists, successful sportsmen and ambassadors of countries who have representatives in Helsinki shake hands with the President of Finland and his wife (or husband, as happened with the previous president who was a woman).

During recent years, Finns have adopted other alternatives – in addition to watching television – for celebrating their Independence Day. Since the day happens to be during the darkest time of the year and often, during the murkiest weather, staying indoors is the preferred option. Having dinner and lighting candles at home, or attending a concert are a few alternatives to television.

Tips and advice for the best destinations in Helsinki and for understanding the Finnish culture and customs

A Concise History of Finland – an easy-to-digest history of Finland.
The Best of Helsinki – a travel guide to the capital Helsinki, features also local favorites.
The Lighter Side of Finland – an American author living in Finland has captured the essence of Finns in an entertaining way.
Lapland – a travel guide to Europe’s last large wilderness.
8 Arctic Seasons – an award-winning book on the delicacies and adventures of Lapland.
Spaghetti and Sauna – insight into Finnish culture and customs through Italian eyes.
Finnish Cookbook with Modern Flavors – a brief introduction to some traditional meals, and modern variations of them.

Ten things every traveler should know about Finland

2015-11-24

People who live in the far north, for instance, in Scandinavia have to cope with different environment than, say, people in Italy or US. This inevitably leaves its mark on local cultures and customs of each region. If you are planning a journey to Finland, here are ten tips that help you explore the country and communicate with locals. Otherwise, you may wonder for the whole duration of your trip why didn’t anyone speak to you or why did locals eat reindeer.
reindeers in Lapland

1. Reindeer is not the national dish of Finland.
In Lapland (the northernmost region of Finland, Norway and Sweden), however, reindeer is daily food. A few restaurants in the capital Helsinki have reindeer on their menus, and meat is available in large grocery stores. If you want to taste reindeer, here is a tip: try the smoked reindeer first. It is a delicacy that practically every meat eater loves. After that, if you are adventurous, try the traditional fried reindeer with mashed potatoes. More tips for touring and eating in Helsinki in this book.

2. Helsinki is the most popular tourist destination, but there are other places worth a visit.
Finland´s capital Helsinki draws the country’s biggest tourist crowds, especially, in summer. Visitors who are looking for natural landscapes, peace and quiet or adventures head to Turku archipelago, Lapland or lake district in eastern Finland.

3. Mobile networks in Finland have a wide coverage, and they are among the fastest and most economical available.
Roaming costs both for voice calls and Internet data are easy to avoid by getting a prepaid SIM card from a R-Kioski shop (it is like a 7-Eleven) and inserting the local card to a smartphone. If you want to find a free Wifi access point, look for a hamburger restaurant, like Hesburger or McDonalds, a shopping mall, or an access point in the center of Helsinki provided by the city.

uspensk cathedral in helsinki
4. Russian influence is evident in Helsinki, but don’t tell it to the locals.
Until 1917, Finland was Russia’s territory. Hundred years earlier, when Russia had won Finland from Sweden, the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. The new capital needed administrative buildings, university and proper infrastructure. That’s how Helsinki’s uniform city center around the Senate Square was established. Today, excellent Russian restaurants can be found in Helsinki, and plenty of business is conducted with Russians. A visitor should never question if Finns are eastern or western Europeans: Finland wants to belong to the west.
Read more about Finland’s history between the east and the west.

5. Midsummer turns Finland’s cities into ghost towns.
Midsummer is no ordinary fiesta in Finland. The sun doesn’t set at all in the north, and in southern parts of the country there is enough light to party through the night without artificial lights. The thing is that locals escape to the countryside and into deep forests to celebrate the Midsummer. Shops and restaurants are closed, leaving only innocent tourists roaming on empty city streets. If you happen to be in Helsinki during Midsummer, take a boat ride to Suomenlinna fortress or ferry to Tallinn in Estonia. Other places to visit are medieval town of Turku where an old castle stands by the sea, or the medieval castle in Hämeenlinna by a lake.

6. Leave your cheque book home.
The preferred way to pay in Finland is a debit or credit card that has microchip for added security (chip card). The only alternative is cash (Euros). The overall price level in Finland is higher than in Continental Europe, but somewhat lower than in neighboring countries Sweden or Norway. The price of Big Mac meal was 6.50 Euros in 2015.

7. You will not a see single reindeer or elk.
Reindeers live only in Lapland where it is easy to find them and photograph animals even in selfies. The only town where reindeers occasionally visit is Rovaniemi because they organize reindeer races. A large elk population roam in forests across the country, but you would have to be extremely lucky to see one.

8. Finland is a bilingual country.
Both Finnish and Swedish are official languages in Finland. This is the reason why street signs in Helsinki and in other coastal towns are in Finnish and in Swedish. Children learn both languages at school, but still, English is the foreign language that Finns know the best.

9. Finns follow the rules.
If you see a pedestrian waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to change to green, even though there are no cars in sight, you are looking at a local person. More than 600 000 people live in Helsinki . and more than a million in the metropolitan area, but the city is a safe place. In summertime, public drinking in parks and streets may surprise visitors, as well as Finns’ fairly natural way of dressing, but you should excuse them because of the short summer that they enjoy from the bottom of their hearts.

10. The top sights in Helsinki are not the Sibelius statue or Olympic stadium.
Don’t waste your time, but head to Suomenlinna (a beautiful island fortress outside the city), Temppeliauko Church, also known as the Rock Church, or Ateljee Café at the top of hotel Torni. If you have time, take a hike in Nuuksio wilderness (only 30 minutes from the city) or get an invitation (or rent yourself) a cottage by a lake and enjoy the summer the Finnish way. More tips in the book The Lighter Side of Finland.

Suomenlinna, Helsinki

Suomenlinna, Helsinki.

Free Ebooks for History and Art Lovers from Metropolitan Museum

2015-04-01

Many museums publish beautiful paper books on art collections, historical objects and exhibitions they have. Print books, however, only have a limited life span. When books become too costly to print and keep in stock, they become unavailable. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has solved the availability problem of old books elegantly: the museum has released books older than 50 years as free ebooks.

metropolitan-museum-freeebooks-sshot

You can explore the collection of free art and history ebooks here. Ebooks are available as PDF downloads, or you can read them online. Online reading seems to be more convenient option, because downloads are very, very slow.

We are always looking for travel tips, and Metropolitan Museum’s free ebook collection didn’t disappoint. For instance, book titled Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain shows many magnificent historical destinations in Spain that can be visited today.

metropolitan museum al andalus free ebook

The Brief History of Reading: from Tablets to Tablets

2015-03-22

A recent innovation, tablets, is a wonderful way to read books. Particularly colorful ebooks, textbooks, and comics that include both fun and useful images, graphs and other images really shine on a modern tablet. Did you know that tablets were the first book format when writing was invented thousands of years ago? A lot has happened between now and then, but here is an infographic that highlights major milestones from the history of reading.

history of reading, from tablet to tablet

Visual.ly originally published the infographic.

How Was Finland Created? Lessons from History

2012-10-12

In 2017, Finland will celebrate its 100th Independence Day. It has been a long and turbulent path to prosperity for this Northern European nation, but today, Finland is a stable democracy.

A Concise History of Finland outlines the key historical events that created the nation. The story of Finland starts from the early Middle Ages, and takes readers to the new challenges set by globalization.

Mobile Phone Success Story

2010-09-23

In the 1990s, Nokia outrivaled the traditional telecommunications companies Motorola and Ericsson by introducing innovative mobile phone products that allowed personalization and gaming, and by exploiting new technologies which created businesses that didn’t exist before, such as ringtones.

Once the dot-com bubble had burst and 3G licence bidding had driven the industry into a downturn, Nokia faced new competition. Microsoft challenged Nokia in software, and Samsung and LG in hardware. Yet, Nokia was thriving as the competition heated up. It wasn’t enough, because the biggest disruption in mobile communications was yet to come – the Internet.
Behind the Scree, the Nokia story
Was it the Apple iPhone, Google Android or mismanagement of the corporation that brought Nokia to its knees? Behind the Screen tells the Nokia story from a near-bankrupt enterprise to a world leader business, and provides background information on changes in managament.