15 February, 2010

New Orleans and surrounding areas 2002

Here are some pictures from my trip to New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas in 2002.
(Click on the pictures to view larger)

French Quarter.

Me and my nephew, Jesse, with a statue at the Mardi Gra Museum.
Tim (brother-in-law), Geri (sister), and Me outside the Lafayette Cemetery.
"Established in 1833, Lafayette Cemetery No.1 in the Garden District of New Orleans is a unique monument to a city which has known a tremendous amount of cultural diversity." *http://lafayettecemetery.org/
"Walking through the gate of Lafayette Cemetery is like walking through a portal into the past. Row upon row of raised tombs, some a century and a half old, arranged somewhat like houses in a city. You may have heard the expression "cities of the dead" used to describe them- although the word 'cemetery' actually comes from a Greek word, "κοιμητήριο", meaning : "to put to sleep" (interpretation: "to lay to rest, a resting place"). As to the large number of names on a tomb, a technique called "unlimited interment" is employed. This is also a common tradition around the world, especially in places with a direct or indirect Latin, Roman-Catholic influence." *http://lafayettecemetery.org/ 
Angel Statue at Lafayette Cemetery.
Jesse, Me, and Geri at the Lafayette Cemetery.
Live Oak on Destrehan Plantation. These large old trees look like a kids dream to climb!
Destrehan Plantation House.
"Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Destrehan Plantation was established in 1787 and remains the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi River Valley." *www.destrehanplantation.org
Jesse, Me, and Geri on the Bayou Tour.
We saw a few alligators. The tour guide was feeding them marshmellows to get them to come close to the boat.
Swamp canal.

Jesse, Geri, and Me in the swamp.

A wild iris in the swamp.
...and some post cards:

10 February, 2010

Chichen Itza, Mexico 2004

While I was in Cancún, Mexico in 2004, I took a tour to Chichen Itza.
*Click on the pictures to see them larger.

Chichen Itza which means “at the mouth of the well of Itza “, is the 2nd most visited archeological site of Mexico today. The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza which known as “El Castillo” (the castle), is one of the new seven wonders of the world elected in 07.07.2007. It is exactly 24 m. high considering the upper platform.

El Castillo (The Kukulkan Pyramid)Possibly the best known construction on Chichen Itza is Kukulkan's Pyramid. El Castillo (The Kukulkan Pyramid), a square-based, stepped pyramid that is approximately 75 feet tall. Kukulkan Pyramid was built for astronomical purposes and during the vernal equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) at about 3pm the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid's main stairway. This causes 7 isosceles triangles to form imitating the body of a serpent roughly 37 yards long that creeps downwards until it joins the huge serpent's head carved in stone at the bottom of the stairway. Mexican researcher Luis El Arochi calls it "the symbolic descent of Kukulkan" (means the feathered serpent), and believes it could have been connected with agricultural rituals.

HOUSE OF THE DEER Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote)The Cenote Sagrado ( Sacred Cenote ) was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people. Archaeological investigations support this as thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the Sacred Cenote, including material such as shell, gold, jade, wood, obsidian, cloth, as well as skeletons of men and children. The Yucatan Peninsula is a limestone plain, with no streams or rivers. The region is pockmarked with natural sinkholes ( Cenotes ) which expose the water table to the surface. One of the most impressive is the Sacred Cenote, which is 60 m. in diameter, and shear cliffs that drop to the water table some 27 m. below.The legendary Sacred Cenote (natural waterhole) of Chichen ltza was special to the people for its social and religious significance. On occasions, the sacrifice of human life was part of the offerings made to the Water God. But, it was not as common as had earlier been imagined.


Plataform of Eagles and Jaguars
Platform of the Eagles and the JaguarsThe elaborately carved platform is located on the central plain between the Temple of Venus and the Platform of Skulls. The pedestals that top the platform are crowned with serpent many heads, over which it is believed that there had been standard bearers in the form of jaguars.The figures of jaguars and eagles devouring hearts are said to represent the warriors who were responsible for obtaining victims to sacrifice for the gods. The "Eagle Knights" were archers who attacked the enemy before all other soldiers fought hand to hand. The aggressive eagles which sculpted on the walls of the platform are the symbol of these elite vip group of archers who stood out on the battlefield because they wore clothing of feathers from the bird for which they were named.The "Jaguar Knights" were believed to be the army fiercest members, modeled after those found elsewhere in the Central Mexico. They fought hand to hand, with wooden clubs tipped with obsidian knives. They covered themselves with armor made of jaguar skins and also helmets of jaguar heads. The figures of jaguars represented the soldiers who were often charged with obtaining prisoners for sacrifice to the Gods of city.

The Temple of the Warriors is one of the most impressive and important structures at Chichen Itza. It might be the only known late classic Maya building sufficiently big enough for really large gatherings. The temple consists of four platforms, flanked on the south and west sides by 200 round and square columns. All square columns are carved in low relief, with Toltec warriors; in some places they are cemented together in sections, painted in brilliant colors and covered with plaster. The Temple of Warriors is approached by a broad stairway with a plain, stepped ramp on either side, and each ramp has figures of standard-bearers to hold flags. Before the main entrance a chacmool reclined. On the top, serpent columns which had S shaped supported wooden lintels (now gone) above the doorways. Astronomical signs and decorative features on the head of each serpent are carved over the eyes. On the top of each serpent head is a shallow basin that could have been used as an oil lamp.

This step-pyramid temple dominates the platform, on a small scale. Like its larger neighbor, El Castillo, it has four sides with staircases on each side. There is a temple on top, but different from El Castillo, at the center is an opening into the pyramid which leads to a natural cave 12 m. below. Edward H. Thompson excavated this cave in the late 1800s, and because he found artifacts such as jade beads and several skeletons, he named the structure The High Priests' Temple. But archaeologists today do not believe that the structure was either a tomb or that the personages buried in it were priests. Tzompantli is called The Wall of Skulls, which is actually an Aztec name for this kind of structure, because the first one seen by the horrified Spanish was at the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan. The Tzompantli structure at Chichen Itza is very interesting Toltec structure, where the heads of sacrificial victims were placed; although it was one of three platforms in the Great Plaza, it was according to Bishop Landa, the only one for this purpose the others were for farces and comedies, showing the Itza's were all about fun.The platform walls of the Tzompantli have carved beautiful reliefs of four different subjects. The primary subject is the skull rack itself; others show a scene with a human sacrifice; eagles eating all human hearts; and skeletonized warriors with arrows and shields.

The Mayans were great sportsmen and build huge ballcourts to play all their games. The Great Ballcourt of Chichen Itza is 225 feet wide and 545 feet long overall. It has no vault, no discontinuity between the walls and is totally open to the blue sky.Each end has a raised to the temple area. A whisper from end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet far away and through the length and breath of the court. The sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. Archaeologists engaged in the reconstruction noted that the sound transmission became more and more strong and clear as they proceeded. In 1931 Leopold Stokowski spent 4 days at this site to determine the acoustic principals that could be applied to theater for an open-air concert he was designing. Stokowski failed to learn the secret. Today it has not been explained.It is easy to imagine a Mayan King sitting here presiding over the games. Legends say that the winning Capitan would present his own head to the losing Capitan, who then decapitates him. While this may seem very strange reward, the Mayans believed that this to be the ultimate honor. The winning Capitan getting a direct ticket for heaven instead of going through the 13 high steps that the Mayan's believed they had to go through in order to reach peaceful heaven.
Chichen Itza was one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Peninsula of Yucatan. Throughout its nearly 1,000 years history, different peoples have left their mark on this city. The Maya and Toltec vision of the world and the universe is revealed in their artistic works and stone monuments. Several buildings have survived.In the northern region of the Yucatan peninsula, on a limestone plateau lie the relics of Chichen Itza, once one of the most powerful cities of the Maya. Ruins of the temples of this ancient civilization spread from the Guatemala jungles to the Yucatan. Today, Chichen Itza attracts millions of visitors who come to marvel at the spectacular remains.

The Maya originated around 3,000 years ago in present-day Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. The Mayan empire flourished in the southern regions from around 250 AD to 900 AD. The empire in the south collapsed around 900 AD. No one knows the reason. Scholars have suggested, among other reasons, disease, political upheaval, overpopulation or drought. But while the empire in the south waned, that in the north, especially in the Yucatan, flourished until the Spanish conquests of the 16th century AD.The Maya were very skilled farmers and also created a very sophisticated written language; some think it might have been the first written language native to the Americans. The Maya also developed social class system which was a well-ordered and carried on trade throughout a network of cities that went as far south as Panama and as far north as Central Mexico. Mathematicians, their number system included the concept of zero, an idea unknown to the old Greeks, expert mathematicians themselves. The Maya used their mathematical knowledge along with celestial observations to finesse a calendar created by the Olmec which is a culture from the Mexican Gulf Coast and to create monuments to observe and commemorate movements of the moon, the sun, and Venus. Spectacular examples of these monuments can still be seen at Chichen Itza today.- http://www.chichenitza.com/

Cancún, Mexico 2004

I went to Cancún, Mexico in 2004 with my friend "Uncle Milty." The first part of the trip was postponed as a result of a Hurricane Ivan passing by. Hurricane Ivan was said to be a category 5. We spent an entire day in the the basement Ballroom Conference Center of the Hotel. But after that it was fun! Swim-up pool bar, white sandy beaches, turquoise blue water, and Chichen Itza. (The Chichen Itza pictures are posted separate).

*Click on the picture to see them larger.
Me on our hotel balcony after the hurricane when they let us return.
The beach from the view of our balcony after the hurricane passed. Milty at the swim-up pool bar.
Me and Milty at the swim-up pool bar. This picture is small and I don't seem to have a larger size of it anywhere.
Our new friends doing apple pucker shots.
This giant drink is called the "Hurricane."
Tee enjoying the beach.