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Archive for argentina

Argentina’s Final Frontier

By Linda Tancs

The southernmost city in the world and the gateway to Antarctica, Ushuaia is Argentina’s final frontier. In the past, the town has been a missionary base, a penal colony and a naval base for the Argentine navy. Perched on a steep hill, it’s surrounded by the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel, where adventures with penguins and orcas await. It’s also a prime site where “the longest night in the world” is celebrated. Although the festivities continue from June 20 through June 22, the longest night of the year and the winter solstice take place in the Southern Hemisphere on June 21. That’s the focus for the city’s festival, drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists. A key event is a “burning of obstacles and impediments,” wherein participants write down all the difficulties that have prevented them from fulfilling their goals. The papers are then thrown into a large bonfire on the solstice night.


Raising the Flag in Rosario

By Linda Tancs

The National Flag Memorial in Rosario, Argentina, is a monumental complex built near the shore of the Paraná River. The Tower commemorates the May Revolution of 1810, which started Argentina’s War of Independence. An eternal flame burns in honor of the war dead. Unlike other cities, the Argentine port supported the war, and it was there in 1812 that Gen. Manuel Belgrano hoisted the first Argentine flag. The memorial was inaugurated on June 20, 1957, the anniversary of Belgrano’s death.

To the Moon and Back

By Linda Tancs

The shorebird Rufa red knot pursues an annual migration that, over the course of an average 13-year lifespan, represents a journey to the moon and back.  Well, almost.  The average distance to the moon is 237,000 miles; the average red knot will have traveled over 194,000 miles over a lifetime–breeding in the central Canadian Arctic and wintering in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, an exodus of roughly 14,950 miles each year.  But of course there are outliers.  Like the so-called Moonbird, calculated to be at least 21 years young and to have traveled a whopping 400,000 miles.  And that’s no April Fool’s joke.  Undoubtedly, Moonbird is the king of long-range fliers in the avian world.

Beautiful Music in Buenos Aires

By Linda Tancs

Acoustically, Teatro Colón is one of the world’s best opera houses.  One reason is because the orchestra pit, accommodating up to 120 musicians, is treated with a resonance chamber and special curves for the reflection of sound.  Another reason is the horseshoe-shaped hall.  But the music isn’t the only beguiling feature of this music hall, boasting a majestic flight of stairs, sculptures and stained-glass windows.  They say there’s a secret in every corner of this architectural gem, like the underground rehearsal rooms.  Take a guided tour to uncover more of its charms.

The Highs and Lows of South America

By Linda Tancs

In Argentina, you can truly experience the highs and lows of South America.  That’s because the highest and lowest points of the continent are found there.  Mount Aconcagua is the highest point at 22,837 feet.  Less than 10 miles from the Chilean border, the summit beckons via the northern route, a non-technical climb devoid of axes, ropes and pins.  The lowest point is the Valdes Peninsula at 131 feet below sea level.  This whale-watching destination in the South Atlantic, one of the largest mating grounds in the world, is renowned for its conservation of marine mammals.


Two to Tango

By Linda Tancs

In Buenos Aires, Argentina you can shake off the winter blahs (and those chilly temperatures accompanying many parts of the globe) at the annual tango festival now through 16 March. Originally the dance of poor dockworkers, the popularity of the tango is evident in the number of worldwide festivals honoring this steamy Latin dance.  So why not go back to the source and experience its flavor and flair for yourself in the city that made it famous.  Rhythmically challenged or not, there are dance lessons, as well as exhibitions, concerts and dancing displays.

The World at Your Feet

By Linda Tancs

The world at your feet—that is, under your feet—is a traveler’s mélange of sights and sounds of the earth and under the earth from Old World to New World.  Consider Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.  Descending from a prehistoric lake, this snow-hued wasteland is punctuated with a series of cherry red trains bearing silent testimony to a once burgeoning rail system designed for the transport of the area’s rich mineral resources to Pacific Ocean ports.  Although generally devoid of plant or animal life, a pink brigade of Andean flamingos breeds among the flats each November.

Pink also characterizes a shallow lake in Senegal, West Africa known as Lac Rose (Pink Lake), so named for the gentle pinkish tint owing to the reflection of mineral deposits in the water.   This basin is popular with tourists because its salinity allows for floating.  However, it is hope that floats for the locals in this area some 20 miles from the capital city of Dakar; the huge stores of salt extracted from the lake bed are a vital source of income.

The hue turns to blue in Belize, where an underwater sinkhole near Ambergris Caye attracts divers the world over.  The Great Blue Hole is about 1000 feet in diameter and 412 feet deep, formed from the collapse of a roof of an underwater cave system formed during the last ice age ending over 12,000 years ago.  Not for the faint of heart, the 100-plus-feet dive to a panoply of parrot fish, sponges, grunt fish, elkhorn coral and sea turtles requires advanced skills.

Nature’s fury finds a different mode of expression in Argentine Patagonia at Glaciers National Park.  There you might experience a thunderous roar beneath your feet thanks to Perito Moreno glacier.  Known as the White Giant, the iceberg’s steady advance creates a spectacular collapse, usually in summer, when the warmer waters of Lago Argentino drill a tunnel through the glacier so powerful that its trademark archway ruptures into the waters below.  Be prepared to view a stunning white haze of ice, mist and froth from the observation deck.

Water is an equally powerful part of history in Rome, Italy.  In particular, the 2000-year-old aqueduct, Aqua Virgo, is a miles-long labyrinth still channeling water to many of the city’s fountains, including the legendary Fontana di Trevi.  Running beneath the ground like many aqueducts to protect its precious resource, it is occasionally visible above ground at such locations as beside the Spanish Steps—just minutes away from Trevi fountain.  Another ancient artifact outside the city proper is the Appian Way, the longest and most significant ancient Roman road.  Along this path you can explore the catacombs, underground burial places for ancient Christians (as well as Jews and pagans), such as the catacombs of Saint Sebastian. 

Underground exploration also thrives among the dark, mineral-clad chambers of show caves in the United States.   For instance, Tennessee sports over 8700 caves for spelunkers and casual tourists alike, more than any other state.  Manganese, iron, calcium and copper are in abundant supply along the walkways at Appalachian Caverns in Blountville.  Its most popular natural resource, however, may be the colonies of grey, big brown and eastern pipistrelle bats lurking around the higher ceilings.  Ruby Falls cave in the Chattanooga area is the deepest commercial cave in the country, earning a listing on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the awe of visitors who are drawn to the waterfall gliding 145 feet through its depths.  One of the earliest visitors to the eastern Tennessee attraction of Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater was a Pleistocene-era jaguar, the remains of which are now on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Today’s visitors flock to an underwater lake covering over four acres, recognized by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Underground Sea.

Another kind of commercialism rules in Canada at Montreal’s Underground City (officially known as RÉSO), reputedly the largest underground city in the world.  This subterranean universe comprises 20 miles of tunnels spread over an area of nearly five square miles linking shopping malls, hotels, offices, cultural attractions, entertainment, universities, and transportion stations.  Often referred to as a city within a city, the shopping and entertainment mecca is a convenient respite from both cold and snowy winters as well as year-round traffic.

As poet Henry David Thoreau observed, heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.  Whether buoyed by ancient Roman craftsmanship, modern day urban masterpieces or natural phenomena, a world of enlightenment awaits you underfoot.


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