Tuesday, 20 August 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #197 - BERLIN, GERMANY

“Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” — David Bowie

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Berlin is the capital and the largest city of Germany as well as one of its 16 states. With a population of approximately 3.6 million people, Berlin is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany on the banks of Rivers Spree and Havel, it is the centre of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has about 6 million residents from more than 180 nations. Due to its location in the European Plain, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one-third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.

First documented in the 13th century and situated at the crossing of two important historic trade routes, Berlin became the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (1417–1701), the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). Berlin in the 1920s was the third largest municipality in the world. After World War II, the city was divided; East Berlin became the capital of East Germany while West Berlin became a de facto West German exclave, surrounded by the Berlin Wall (1961–1989) and East Germany territory. Following German reunification in 1990, Berlin once again became the capital of a unified Germany.

Berlin is a world city of culture, politics, media and science. Its economy is based on high-tech firms and the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, research facilities, media corporations and convention venues. Berlin serves as a continental hub for air and rail traffic and has a highly complex public transportation network. The metropolis is a popular tourist destination. Significant industries also include IT, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, clean tech, biotechnology, construction and electronics. Modern Berlin is home to world renowned universities, orchestras, museums, entertainment venues and is host to many sporting events. Its urban setting has made it a sought-after location for international film productions. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts and a high quality of living. Over the last decade Berlin has seen the emergence of a cosmopolitan entrepreneurial scene.

The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor) is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany. It is built on the site of a former city gate that marked the start of the road from Berlin to the town of Brandenburg an der Havel. It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin within Mitte, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building, which houses the German parliament (Bundestag). The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees, which led directly to the royal City Palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by architect Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. Having suffered considerable damage in World War II, the Brandenburg Gate was restored from 2000 to 2002 by the Stiftung Denkmalschutz Berlin (Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation).

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #196 - SPINALONGA, GREECE

“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.” - Mother Teresa

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The island of Spinalonga (Greek: Σπιναλόγκα), officially known as Kalydon (Καλυδών), is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi, next to the town of Plaka. The island is further assigned to the area of Kalydon. It is near the Spinalonga peninsula (“large Spinalonga”) – which often causes confusion as the same name is used for both. The official Greek name of the island today is Kalydon.

Originally, Spinalonga was not an island, but rather a peninsula of Crete. During Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defence purposes and a fort was built there. The Venetians harvested salt from salt pans around the island. Later in the mid-20th century, the island was used as a leper colony.

Spinalonga featured in the British television series “Who Pays the Ferryman?” and Werner Herzog’s experimental short film “Last Words”. It is the (unnamed) setting of Ali Smith’s short story “The Touching of Wood” (in “Free Love and Other Stories”, 1995). It is also the setting for the 2005 novel “The Island” by Victoria Hislop, the story of a family’s ties to the leper colony; the book was adapted for television in the television series “To Nisi” by Mega Channel Greece. The short story “Spinalonga” by John Ware, about a tourist group that visits the island, was included in the 13th Pan Book of Horror.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #195 - CAPE YORK, AUSTRALIA

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.” - Anne Frank 

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Cape York Peninsula is a large remote peninsula located in Far North Queensland, Australia. It is the largest unspoiled wilderness in northern Australia. The land is mostly flat and about half of the area is used for grazing cattle. The relatively undisturbed eucalyptus wooded savannahs, tropical rainforests and other types of habitat are now recognised and preserved for their global environmental significance, but native wildlife is threatened by introduced species and weeds.

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Tuesday, 30 July 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #194 - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

“A great opera house isn't run by a director, but by a great administrator.” - Steven Berkoff

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Sydney, capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities, is best known for its harbourfront Opera House, with a distinctive sail-like design. Massive Darling Harbour and Circular Quay are hubs of waterside life, with the towering, arched Harbour Bridge and esteemed Royal Botanic Gardens nearby. Sydney Tower’s 268m glass viewing platform, the Skywalk, offers 360-degree views of the city, harbour and suburbs.

Here is a view of the Opera House from the front terrace, a view not often seen on postcards. The massive scale of the building is better appreciated here, when one notices the tiny human figures next to the building.

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Tuesday, 23 July 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #193 - PALAIOKARYA, GREECE

“Go to the truth beyond the mind. Love is the bridge.” - Stephen Levine 

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Τhe old, one-arched stone bridge of Palaeikarya was built around 1525, and has a length of 26 metres, an arc opening of 19 metres and a height from the river bed 10 metres. Behind it is a 12 metre high waterfall, with the river continuing after the bridge to a lesser waterfall 2 metres high. The river that passes through the spot is Palaiokaritis and if we continue the journey downstream we reach the gorge of Palieokarya where there is still a functioning watermill where one can watch flour being milled.

The bridge of Palaiokarya joined Thessaly to Epirus and was a busy route at that time. Now it is in a deserted spot and is surrounded by great natural beauty. The bridge frames steep, high rocks with much low-lying vegetation and trees. A large variety of herbs and rare wildflowers grows in the area in Spring and Summer. There is also a great number of animals and birds in the forest around the old bridge.

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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #192 - SORRENTO, ITALY

“One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.” - Debra Levinson

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Sorrento (Neapolitan: Surriento) is a town and comune in Campania, southern Italy, with some 16,500 inhabitants. It is a popular tourist destination which can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii, as it lies at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The town overlooks the Bay of Naples as the key place of the Sorrentine Peninsula, and many viewpoints allow sight of Naples itself, Vesuvius, and the Isle of Capri.

The Amalfi Drive (connecting Sorrento and Amalfi) is a narrow road that threads along the high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ferry boats and hydrofoils provide services to Naples, Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Ischia. Sorrento's sea cliffs and luxury hotels have attracted notable people, including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti.

Sorrento is famous for the production of limoncello, a digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. Other agricultural production includes citrus fruit, wine, nuts and olives. Wood craftsmanship is also well-developed in the area. 

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Tuesday, 9 July 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #191 - KYTHIRA, GREECE

“Greece has got something like 1,400 islands. There is so much of Greece you can’t know even if you’re Greek. It’s sprinkled out all around the edge of the Aegean, all over the place. It’s already a secret place wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere huge like Athens or Corinth. The place enchanted me.” – Joanna Lumley

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Kythira (Greek: Κύθηρα, also transliterated as Cythera, Kythera and Kithira) is an island in Greece lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. It is traditionally listed as one of the seven main Ionian Islands, although it is distant from the main group. Administratively, it belongs to the Islands regional unit, which is part of the Attica region (although at large distance from Attica itself).

The island is strategically located between the Greek mainland and Crete, and from ancient times until the mid 19th century was a crossroads of merchants, sailors, and conquerors. As such, it has had a long and varied history and has been influenced by many civilisations and cultures. This is reflected in its architecture (a blend of traditional, Aegean and Venetian elements), as well as the traditions and customs, influenced by centuries of coexistence of the Greek, Venetian, and Ottoman cultures.

Kythira has a land area of 279.593 square kilometres and it is located at the southwestern exit from the Aegean Sea, behind Cape Malea. The rugged terrain is a result of prevailing winds from the surrounding seas which have shaped its shores into steep rocky cliffs with deep bays. The island has many beaches, of various composition and size; only half of them can be reached by road through the mountainous terrain of the island. The Kythirian Straits are nearby.

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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #190 - NEW ZEALAND STH ISLAND

“New Zealand was one of the most beautiful countries to drive through for the scenery and the vast scale of the place.” - Louise Redknapp

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The South Island or Te Waipounamu is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the smaller but more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean. The South Island covers 150,437 square kilometres and enjoys a temperate climate. As it has a 32% larger landmass than the North Island, it is sometimes referred to as the “mainland” of New Zealand, especially by South Island residents; however, only 23% of New Zealand’s 4.6 million inhabitants live in the South Island.

In the early stages of European (Pākehā) settlement of the country, the South Island had the majority of the European population and wealth due to the 1860s gold rushes. The North Island population overtook the South in the early 20th century, with 56% of the population living in the North in 1911, and the drift north of people and businesses continued throughout the century.

The South Island is divided along its length by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Aoraki/Mount Cook at 3754 metres, with the high Kaikoura Ranges to the northeast. There are eighteen peaks of more than 3000 metres in the South Island. The east side of the island is home to the Canterbury Plains while the West Coast is famous for its rough coastlines such as Fiordland, very high proportion of native bush, and Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The dramatic landscape of the South Island has made it a popular location for the production of several films, including “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #189 - SARDINIA, ITALY

“This land resembles no other place. Sardinia is something else. Enchanting spaces and distances to travel, -nothing finished, nothing definitive. It is like freedom itself.” - David Herbert Lawrence 

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Cagliari (Sardinian: Casteddu; Latin: Caralis) is an Italian municipality and the capital of the island of Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy. Cagliari’s Sardinian name Casteddu literally means castle. It has about 150,000 inhabitants, while its metropolitan city (including Cagliari and 16 other nearby municipalities) has more than 431,000 inhabitants. According to Eurostat, the population of the Functional urban area, the commuting zone of Cagliari, rises to 476,974. Cagliari is the 26th largest city in Italy and the largest city on the island of Sardinia.

An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has seen the rule of several civilisations. Under the buildings of the modern city there is a continuous stratification attesting to human settlement over the course of some five thousand years, from the Neolithic to today. Historical sites include the prehistoric Domus de Janas, very damaged by cave activity, a large Carthaginian era necropolis, a Roman era amphitheatre, a Byzantine basilica, three Pisan-era towers and a strong system of fortification that made the town the core of Spanish Habsburg imperial power in the western Mediterranean Sea.

Its natural resources have always been its sheltered harbour, the often powerfully fortified hill of Castel di Castro, the modern Casteddu, the salt from its lagoons, and, from the hinterland, wheat from the Campidano plain and silver and other ores from the Iglesiente mines. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy).

Today the city is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic centre, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments. It is also Sardinia’s economic and industrial hub, having one of the biggest ports in the Mediterranean Sea, an international airport, and the 106th highest income level in Italy (among 8,092 comuni), comparable to that of several northern Italian cities. It is also the seat of the University of Cagliari, founded in 1607, and of the Primate Roman Catholic archdiocese of Sardinia, since the 5th century AD.

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Tuesday, 18 June 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #188 - ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA

“It’s no good going on living in the ashes of a dead happiness.” ― Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice 

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Alice Springs is the third largest town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Popularly known as “the Alice” or simply “Alice”, Alice Springs is situated roughly in Australia’s geographic centre. The area is known as Mparntwe to its original inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for thousands of years. The name Alice Springs was given by surveyor William Whitfield Mills after Lady Alice Todd (née Alice Gillam Bell), wife of the telegraph pioneer Sir Charles Todd.

Alice Springs has a population of 27,972, which makes up 8.7 percent of the territory’s population. Alice Springs is nearly equidistant from Adelaide and Darwin. The town straddles the usually dry Todd River on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. The surrounding region is known as Central Australia, or the Red Centre, an arid environment consisting of several different deserts.

In Alice Springs temperatures can vary dramatically, with an average maximum temperature in summer of 35.6 °C and an average minimum temperature in winter of 5.1 °C. Alice Springs has faced many problems in recent years, largely stemming from an increase in crime and a strong racial divide that has existed for years in the town.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #187 - PORTOFINO, ITALY

“Italy and the spring and the first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.” - Bertrand Russell 

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Portofino is an Italian fishing village and vacation resort famous for its picturesque harbour and historical association with celebrity and artistic visitors. It is a comune located in the Metropolitan City of Genoa on the Italian Riviera. The town is clustered around its small harbour, and is known for the colourfully painted buildings that line the shore.

According to Pliny the Elder, Portofino was founded by the Romans and named Portus Delphini, or Port of the Dolphin, because of the large number of dolphins that inhabited the Tigullian Gulf. The village is mentioned in a diploma from 986 by Adelaide of Italy, which assigned it to the nearby Abbey of San Fruttoso di Capodimonte.In 1171, together with the neighbouring Santa Margherita Ligure, it was included in Rapallo's commune jurisdiction. After 1229 it was part of the Republic of Genoa.

The town’s natural harbour supported a fleet of fishing boats, but was somewhat too cramped to provide more than a temporary safe haven for the growing merchant marine of the Republic of Genoa. In 1409 Portofino was sold to the Republic of Florence by Charles VI of France, but when the latter was ousted from Genoa the Florentines gave it back. In the 15th century it was a fief of families such as the Fieschi, Spinola, Adorno, and Doria.In 1815 it became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia and, from 1861, of the unified Kingdom of Italy.

In the late 19th century, first British, then other Northern European aristocratic tourists began to visit Portofino, which they reached by horse and cart from Santa Margherita Ligure. Aubrey Herbert and Elizabeth von Arnim were amongst the more famous English people to make the area fashionable. Eventually more expatriates built expensive vacation houses, and by 1950 tourism had supplanted fishing as the town's chief industry, and the waterfront was a continuous ring of restaurants and cafés.

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Tuesday, 4 June 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #186 - LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND

“It’s tough to find a place not to like in Switzerland.” - Michele Bachmann 

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Lucerne (Luzern) is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and a nexus of transportation, telecommunications, and government of this region. The city’s urban area consists of 17 cities and towns located in three different cantons with an overall population of about 250,000 people.

Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (der Vierwaldstättersee), within sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne has long been a destination for tourists. One of the city's famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first erected in the 14th century. This photo is from 1999, when we visited Switzerland and they are taken with my first digital camera, so the quality is not optimal - however, it does bring back happy memories.

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Tuesday, 28 May 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #185 - DAYLESFORD, AUSTRALIA

“People never sing, except in the bathroom. Birthing women also make their natural sounds next to running bath water. There is something about the power of water. People are drawn to water, spas, and sacred streams. Women in labour are drawn to water, too.” - Michel Odent 

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Daylesford is a spa town located in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, within the Shire of Hepburn, Victoria, Australia, approximately 115 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. First established in 1852 as a gold-mining town, today Daylesford has a population of 2,565 as of the 2011 census. As one of Australia’s few spa towns, Daylesford is a notable tourist destination. The town’s numerous spas, restaurants and galleries are popular alongside the many gardens and country-house-conversion styled bed and breakfasts.

The broader area around the town, including Hepburn Springs to the north, is known for its natural spring mineral spas and is the location of over 80 per cent of Australia's effervescent mineral water reserve. The Daylesford wine region is fast becoming known as Australia's best Pinot growing region, boasting continuous gold medals and 95 point plus wines. At 616 metres above sea level, it has a cooler, wetter climate than Melbourne. Summer (January–February) temperatures range from 10 to 37 °C, while July temperatures are cold, ranging from about 1–2 °C to 9 °C. Annual precipitation, occasionally falling as snow, averages about 870 mm but has ranged from 445 mm to over 1,350 mm per year. 

With 65 mineral springs, the Daylesford-Hepburn Springs region accounts for more than 80 per cent of Australia’s known mineral water springs. As a result, the region has a number of spa developments including Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa, Mineral Spa at Peppers Springs Retreat and Salus Spa, Lake House. The town is also known for hosting a number of annual events, including the ChillOut Festival held during the Victorian Labour Day long weekend in March each year, the largest gay and lesbian festival in rural and regional Australia; the Harvest Week Festival; the Lavandula's Festivals; and the Hepburn Springs Swiss Italian Festival celebrating the town's Swiss-Italian heritage.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #184 - LAKELAND, UK

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” - Henry David Thoreau 

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The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains (or fells) and its associations with the early 19th century writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin.

Covering an area of approximately 2,362 square kilometres, the region was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. It is located entirely within the county of Cumbria, and all the land in England higher than 910 m above sea level lies within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest bodies of water in England, respectively Wast Water and Windermere.

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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #183 - CURAÇAO

“The Caribbean is not an idyll, not to its natives. They draw their working strength from it organically, like trees, like the sea almond or the spice laurel of the heights.” - Derek Walcott

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Curaçao (Papiamento: Kòrsou, pronounced [ˈkorsou]) is a Lesser Antilles island in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, about 65 km north of the Venezuelan coast. It is a constituent country (Dutch: land) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The country was formerly part of the Curaçao and Dependencies colony (1815–1954) and is now formally called the Country of Curaçao (Dutch: Land Curaçao; Papiamento: Pais Kòrsou); it includes the main island of Curaçao and the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao ("Little Curaçao").

Curaçao has a population over 160,000 in an area of 444 km2 and its capital is Willemstad. Before the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010, Curaçao was administered as the “Island Territory of Curaçao” (Dutch: Eilandgebied Curaçao, Papiamento: Teritorio Insular di Kòrsou), one of five island territories of the former Netherlands Antilles.

Although Curaçao is autonomous, the Netherlands has interfered when necessary to ensure that parliamentary elections were held and to assist in finalising an accurate budget. In July 2017, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath stated that he wants the island to take full responsibility, but asked for more cooperation and assistance from the Netherlands with suggestions for more innovative approaches to help Curaçao succeed, increasing the standard of living. The Dutch government reminded Curaçao that it has provided assistance with Oil Refinery negotiations with the Chinese on numerous occasions.

While tourism plays a major role in Curaçao's economy, it is less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean countries. Most tourists originate from the Netherlands, the eastern United States, South America and other Caribbean Islands . It is a leader in the Caribbean in cruise tourism growth with 610,186 cruise passengers in 2013, a 41.4% increase over the prior year. Hato International Airport received 1,772,501 passengers in 2013 and recently announced capital investments totaling US$48 million aimed at transforming the airport into a regional hub by 2018. In 2017 the tourism sector was expected grow at 1% in terms of the total tourist stay over and by 15% in total cruise visitors versus 2016.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

TRAVEL TUESDAY #182 - SAN MARINO

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” ― Plutarch 

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San Marino (officially, the Republic of San Marino [Italian: Repubblica di San Marino]; also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino [Italian: Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino]), is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy, situated on the Italian Peninsula on the north-eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. Its size is just over 61 km2 and has an estimated population of about 32,000. Its capital is the City of San Marino and its largest city is Dogana. San Marino has the smallest population of all the members of the Council of Europe.

San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, as the continuation of the monastic community founded on 3 September 301, by stonecutter Marinus of Arba. Legend has it that Marinus left Rab, then the Roman colony of Arba, in 257 when the future emperor Diocletian issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini, which had been destroyed by Liburnian pirates.

San Marino is governed by the Constitution of San Marino (Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini), a series of six books written in Latin in the late 16th century, that dictate the country’s political system, among other matters. The country is considered to have the earliest written governing documents (constitution) still in effect. The country's economy mainly relies on finance, industry, services and tourism. Despite having an extremely small economy for a nation state, it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP (per capita), with a figure comparable to the most developed European regions. San Marino is considered to have a highly stable economy, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus. It is the only country with more vehicles than people!

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