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Archive for bolivia

The City With Four Names

By Linda Tancs

You might think that Sucre, Bolivia, suffers from an identity crisis, considering that it’s known as “The City With Four Names.” But the reason for its name changes is rooted in history. The area was originally named Charcas after the indigenous inhabitants. Later, its Spanish conquerors named it La Plata (silver) in recognition of the rich natural resources there. When the Spanish later took control over Buenos Aires using a similar designation, the name was changed again to Chuquisaca, a version of the original indigenous Charcas settlement of Choquechaca. Unrest over economic conditions imposed by the governing forces resulted in an independence movement famously led by Antonio José de Sucre. The city was renamed in his honor. Casa de la Libertad is where, in 1825, the republic was created with the signing of the Bolivian declaration of independence and is one of the most important museums in the city.


To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Where Old Trains Go to Die

By Linda Tancs

Most tourists visit the region of Uyuni, Bolivia, for its impressive salt flats. But the area has another unusual attraction, a Great Train Graveyard bearing silent testimony to a once burgeoning rail system designed for the transport of the area’s rich mineral resources to Pacific Ocean ports. The salt air has not been kind to these British-built trains of the early 20th century, their skeletal remains lending an eerie feel to the place. An easy cab ride away, it’s better to pay your respects in the early morning or evening to avoid the hordes of tourist buses.


To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

The High Life in Bolivia

By Linda Tancs

The world’s highest administrative capital is La Paz, Bolivia, reaching almost 12,000 feet above sea level. At that altitude, you’ll benefit from visiting the many viewpoints in the city. A popular one is Mirador Laikakota, a magnificent lookout point offering clear panoramic views of the city center. Also, Sallahumani (located next to the La Paz – El Alto road) offers cityscape views and mountain views of Illimani, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real of western Bolivia and the second highest peak in the country. Whatever you choose to view, you’ll likely do it using La Paz’s cable car system, providing fast and and reliable transport between the city’s major attractions at an altitude of about 13,000 feet.

Empire of the Andes

By Linda Tancs

The Incas believed that Tiwanaku is where the first humans were created. Located in western Bolivia about 45 miles from La Paz, this ancient site was the capital of an Andean empire that flourished roughly between A.D. 500 and 900. Its ruins include a pyramid and two symbolic monolithic gateways (Gateway of the Sun and Gateway of the Moon). South of the main site is another architectural curiosity, Puma Punku. Its mysterious H-shaped megaliths weigh more than 400 tons. Take a guided tour for the best learning experience.

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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