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Hierapolis – World Heritage site in Western Turkey



Hierapolis is a World Heritage Site in Western Turkey and a major tourist attraction with a two-thousand-year-old mystery, only solved by modern technology. The town stands on five hundred feet high white cliffs and definitely has the wow factor. In 150 BC the Romans took over control of the area from Greek settlers and proceeded to build an amphitheatre and gymnasium, these amenities being a traditional part of Roman life. They didn’t stop there though. They built a Sanctuary for Apollo and a statute of Pluto, the God of the Underworld together with his hound Severus. Why Pluto, when there were so many gods to choose from? The reason for this was because the Romans felt that at Hierapolis, they had an entrance to the underworld.
The evidence for this was a portal in the rock, which became known as the Plutonium, into which birds fell from the sky and by dying ,entered the underworld. Hierapolis was deemed to be a mysterious and holy place. With modern technology, Scientists have refuted this by finding that the presence of the spring water here, gave off carbon dioxide. This gas, toxic to living creatures rose in the air, killing the birds and any other animal that succumbed to it. There was indeed something in the water!
The Romans did not have the technology to discover this, and so Pluto the God of Death was served in the Plutonium by priests, who accepted annual sacrifices to the God. Cattle presented at the entrance to the portal duly died, but the priests were unaffected. 
As the priests were standing, they initially inhaled less of the poisonous vapours from the water, 
than the cattle.  An eye witness to the proceedings noted that the priests held their breath, so they knew that there was something to be avoided., although they didn’t know what. These events were watched by an audience, who sat at a distance from the proceedings where the air was less contaminated.
The priests known as Galli priests would perform their own ritual before the crowd, dressing up in women’s clothing, scourging themselves and sometimes self-castrating!
While these religious observances were part of society, the town developed its economy as a centre of textile manufacture. 
The many Stone Monuments, which have survived for two millennia are the tombs of rich merchants, who would part with a year’s salary to build them. Hierapolis contains one of the largest surviving cemeteries of the Roman world, with many artifacts being found and on display in the museum.
The trade grew up due to the calcium carbonate deposits in the spring water which were good for fixing dye in woollen fabric, which the merchants would then take to Rome. Hierapolis, a town with a population of twelve thousand people, also developed a spa industry, with the water used for drinking and bathing, as it is today.
Unlike any other town Hierapolis is built on a subterranean fault and in 60 AD a massive earthquake destroyed the town, but the Romans rebuilt it! Maybe it was the call of religion that was the reason. The name Hierapolis means Holy City having as the Romans believed, direct access to the underworld.
There was also the beauty of the place, vast white mineral deposits of calcium carbonate creating an otherworldly atmosphere and the very fertile farmland in the valley. However, the writing was on the wall for the ancient gods. Initially Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman empire.  Phillip the Apostle came to Hierapolis and among his healing and preaching activities, annoyed a Roman official by converting his wife to Christianity. Phillip was duly executed in 80 AD. 
The tide was turned in favour of Christianity when Constantine conceived it to be in his best interests to adopt the faith as the religion of the Roman empire. Later in the time of Justinian, in the fifth century AD, the entrance to the Plutonium was blocked up and the statute of Apollo knocked down. (I do feel a bit sorry for Apollo)  After further earthquakes, in the seventh and fourteenth centuries the Romans finally abandoned the town. 
Hierapolis has become a place of Christian pilgrimage to Phillip, whose tomb is thought to have been discovered and is revered.
 The beauty of Hierapolis remains and if you are thinking of a visit, I hope that this brief description of its history will encourage you to do so.

In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.

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Sighisoara in Romania, a place of towers, churches and Dracula



Sighisoara in Romania  has a look and atmosphere that immediately makes us think of Count Dracula. We should not be surprised, in fact Sighişoara is located in Transylvania and was the birthplace of Vlad III the Impaler. A historical figure who inspired Bram Stoker to write the novel Dracula. It was not fa coincidence that Vlad was really called Vlad Dracul.

The medieval centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you will immediately understand why. Visiting the centre is certainly a unique pleasure.

The centre had 14 defense towers, each managed by a different guild and corporation, this was an area often attacked by the Turks. The towers have been used a lot. Now 9 of these towers survive, for example the shoemakers’, the tailors’ and the blacksmiths’ towers remain. They are generally closed to the public but are nice to photograph from outside.

The clock tower which dates back to 1300 is not closed to the public. Not only is it beautiful to look at but you can also climb it to have beautiful panoramic views.

Many will want to visit Vlad Dracul’s house where there is now a restaurant, but if you go there and ask the waiters, for a small fee they will show you Vlad’s room.

Sighisoara in Romania; the place of Vlad the Impaler

The unpronounceable Piaţa Cetăţii is the market square that was the centre of medieval life of the town, here there were also the many executions by Vlad.

The church of the Dominican monastery has a decidedly Baroque look and was in fact rebuilt in 1600 after a raging fire. The church has existed here since at least 1200. Visit it just to see the carpets from Anatolia. Behind the church you will find a statue of a very mustachioed Vlad Dracul.

If you feel like climbing stairs, you can go up to see the church on the hill in a late Gothic style. This church was also older and initially in Romanesque style but was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1300-1400.

There is also a festival dedicated to vampires, during the event you may have problems finding a place to sleep, so book in advance.

Sighisoara in Romania is located on the railway line to Bucharest and therefore easily accessible

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Albert Bridge in London, facts you might not know



Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in London, but perhaps the Albert Bridge is the most beautiful and certainly the most delicate bridge. Named after Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the best time to see this bridge is after dark when over 4000 lights illuminate it.

But its pastel colors play with the sunlight at any time, it is a bridge to be seen several times, with the sun, the moon and the clouds. The Albert Bridge connects Battersea to Chelsea and is a modification of a cable-stayed bridge but has been modified several times due to its instability. Initially, you paid to cross the bridge but it was not very successful and after six years it became a bridge open to the public.

If the bridge has a delicate look it is no coincidence, this structure has always been delicate and shaky since its inauguration in 1873.

The thing got worse with the advent of the car and heavy vehicles. Especially the SUVs driven by the wealthy inhabitants of Chelsea. Another problem was that the bridge was used by troops from Chelsea Barracks to cross the Thames, and hundreds of marching men were a danger to the bridge. For this reason you still see signs instructing the troops not to march on the bridge.

The problem of dogs on the Albert Bridge

Another thing that ruins the bridge is the urine of dogs taken for a walk from Chelsea to Battersea Park, in short, dog pee corrodes the wood of the structure.

In the 1950s, the bridge was due to be demolished, but vigorous campaigning by prominent supporters, including the poet John Betjeman, who was fighting at the time against the destruction of many historic buildings, stopped the demolition.

In 1973, pillars were placed to strengthen the bridge which remains the least used of London’s bridges. It was recently closed for restoration for a year and officially reopened in 2011 by two dogs from Battersea Dogs Home, aptly named Prince and Albert.

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London: How to visit Hyde Park Pet Cemetery



In the northwest part of Hyde Park, almost hidden away is the famous Pet Cemeteryfrom the Victorian era. Not everyone knows where it is and it’s not easy to see even from Bayswater Road.

Opened in 1881, the animals of wealthy London families were buried here until 1903. It all started by chance when the park keeper a Mr. Winbridge allowed two children who always visited Hyde Park to bury their little dog Cherry in the garden. The following year another dog was buried and then another, until the cemetery began to become popular.

There are not only dog graves but also two cats, a couple of monkeys and other pets. They all have a small headstone exactly like a miniature human cemetery. There are over 300 small tombstones in the cemetery and often have writings that show how much these animals were loved by their owners.

Keeping pets was very fashionable among wealthy Londoners in the 1800s. The second dog buried here belonged to Prince George the Duke of Cambridge’s wife who was the granddaughter in the male line of King George III of the United Kingdom. He was an army officer and served as commander-in-chief of the British Army from 1856 to 1895. The little dog was a Yorkshire terrier and was killed after getting under the wheels of a carriage.

To visit it you have to book one of the tours that are organised every now and then to see the animal cemetery, otherwise you can only see it from the outside. To see when there are organised tours you can look here. There are regular guided tours to visit the cemetery and the good thing is that they are completely free. Even the pandemic has not stopped these initiatives. If you want to participate, just book online.

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