I only got to understand the fascination that everybody has about Las Vegas, after visiting it last Spring.
While in the first day I was revolted by the extravagance and the kitsch, the water expense of this desert town (because every hotel has some sort of luxurious fountain), the unlimited energy consumption and by those men and women almost completely naked provoking you to take a picture for money with them, there’s undoubtedly this energy 24/7 that becomes an addiction and every evening you want to go out, to see more, to experience more: food, casinos, shows or just to be part of the intense atmosphere of the streets. For a few days, not more, otherwise it drains you from every drop of energy and money of course :). Continue reading “The fabulous casino-hotels of Las Vegas”→
Aside from Niagara Waterfall, we didn’t see any of the other natural marvels from the vast Canadian territory, a situation that I would be really happy to change at some point. 4 years ago was the first time getting out of the European frontiers, and it felt the right choice to start with the cities. Continue reading “Three Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa”→
Esslingen Am Neckar is a beautiful town from the Baden-Wurttemberg area in Germany, located 15 km away from the big industrial city of Stuttgart being a suitable destination for a weekend break. Whether you’re a local or you’re a curious traveler, the historic importance and cultural legacy, the beautiful natural surroundings or the cozy restaurants will stimulate your desire to explore, to know, to taste and to live.
When you plan a visit to Las Vegas, try to set aside a few days to explore the surrounding area, because there are many stunning places in the arid state of Nevada. Hoover Dam is one of them, a construction considered a technological wonder of our modern days and one of the principal reasons why Las Vegas developed into the big and luxurious metropolis that it is today.
Hoover Dam – history facts
From Las Vegas, I picked an organized bus tour: Hoover Dam Tour with Lake Mead Cruise for 99 USD, that included a stop at the famous Las Vegas Sign, the Hoover Dam Museum and the power-plant, a cruise on Lake Mead with lunch included (very minimal and not very tasty to be honest) and on the way back a stop to the Ethel M Chocolate Factory (the M&M’s factory).
This was an entire day tour, but it left me with the feeling of being rushed precisely at Hoover Dam. We lost some precious 20-30 minutes in traffic jams and only 2 hours were not enough for the Museum, the Power Plant and then walking on the edge of the Dam. However, the bus driver was very well informed about the history of the places and he shared with us many interesting facts and stories.
Designed to last 2000 years
So this Dam is designed to last over 2000 years and is not completely dried to this day. It’s also the first one to have been built along Colorado river, out of the 5 that exist today. They first called it Boulder Dam and that’s because it was supposed to be constructed inside Boulder Canyon, but the plan was moved to the Black Canyon, because this area was more stable.
A new town was born: Boulder City, first called The Rag Town
In 1929 the authorities made the announcement that they needed 5.000 workers for building a new Dam. But because this was happening during the depression times when there was a lot of unemployment, 42.000 people from all over the US showed up. Nobody was prepared to accommodate so many and the minimal living conditions were not set up for them: they had to live in barracks or under plain sky. 475 people died because of diseases, malnutrition, dehydration and snake bites and the place took the infamous name of Rag Town.
The workers were only given 2 days off per year: one for Christmas and one on the 4th of July, all the rest being hard labor days. But they finished the Dam 2.5 years earlier, a performance never to be seen again.
Part of the gratitude of the Government was to sell houses for 1USD to the workers that wanted to remain and continue to work on the maintenance of the Dam.
And this is how a new town was born, called Boulder City (after the Boulder Canyon). Gambling and prostitution were always and still are prohibited. For fun and noise and losing all your money you can always go 20 miles away, to Las Vegas:). There are only 12000 inhabitants in Boulder City that want to keep it as clean and quiet as possible. In fact they only allow 2 new buildings per year: one for living and one for business purposes.
A myth: there are bodies stuck inside the concrete walls
Around 100 people lost their lives while working to build Hoover Dam. But there’s a grim belief that continues to intrigue: are bodies buried inside this massive concrete sarcophagus? No, that didn’t happen, people were not left behind when they faced a terrible accident.
Moreover, there were many safety measures invented on this construction site, like the hard hat.
Lake Mead, a cruise with the Desert Princess
After spending 1.5 hours inside the belly of the Dam, I was so excited to get back to natural light and continue the tour with a cruise on Lake Mead. This is the largest man made Lake in USA and 90% of the water in Las Vegas and Boulder City is sourced from here. So if there was no Dam, there was no Lake Mean, no Boulder City and no Las Vegas!
But because of climate change and 12 years of drought, there has been a massive dropping in the level of the water as never seen before. The bus driver was making a joke with us, saying that the famous slogan What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas will probably have to be changed with: Save the water, drink a tequila or Save the water, shower with a friend. But jokes aside this is an alarming situation that the area is dealing with.
The cruise lasted one hour and we sailed on the calm and dark blue water of the lake with The Desert Princess, a paddle boat built in Wisconsin and initially used by the workers.
Visiting Athens activated a mixture of emotions like no other city before. I enjoyed many things from this trip, but was revolted by probably just as many other things.
The source of democracy, the beautiful places and the captivating stories were shadowed by the thieves, the dirt, the neglected buildings and the crazy roads.
I was really enthusiastic about this vacation. Probably even more than I am with every other occasion when I get to travel and explore new places. And that’s because we were taking with us my parents and my parents-in-law. Quite a group, I think you will agree on that 🙂 ! So I had made a very thorough list of the things that I wanted to show them. But I failed to read well about the safety rules and the places to avoid.
So here is our story, how we got robbed two times on the same day and the red-alert zones from Athens.
The Red-Alert Zones
Omonia Square is actually one of the most important squares from the city.
After Greece became an independent state in 1832, and Athens was named the Capital city, two major squares were built: Syntagma Square (The Parliament Square) and Omonia Square. They are connected by a well known boulevard, Panepistimiou, lined by all the major banks and university buildings.
But the national importance of Omonia doesn’t make it safe or clean at all. Because it’s a paradise for thieves and apparently drug dealers as well. And the secondary streets that branch from this square, you’d better try to avoid at night time. It’s actually at Omonia that we were first robbed, but in the underground, in the metro-station.
Victoria Square is one metro station away from Omonia.
This is actually where we booked our AirBnb Apartment. I was so happy to find a good apartment in such a central area, close to the Victoria Subway station and at a walking distance from many of Athens attractions. But while the apartment was nice, the neighborhood was so dirty and smelly and populated with all sorts of characters and I would not recommend staying here. Better consider staying 4-5 metro stations away from the central area. On the last night in Athens, we had to change accommodation somewhere close to the Agios Dimitrios metro station. This neighborhood was cleaner and felt safe and accommodating.
Monastiraki Square is also one of their most important and historic squares.
Roman Agora starts here and Ancient Agora is just a few minutes away. But because it is a magnet for tourism and it’s crowded most of the times, it’s also a home for the thieves and beggars. Ermou street is on one side of Monastiraki Square and is packed with ruined buildings and trash, and the narrow streets that converge from it are filthy and smelly so much that I’d wish I had a mask to wear over my mouth and nose.
Between Monastiraki metro station and Omonia metro station, we got robbed again for the second time.
Because all the bad things in Athens happened to us in the metro trains, it’s where I advise you to watch your back the most and hold on tight to your belongings.
Watch over your shoulder – How we got robbed
I think the first mistake that we made, was to look too much as tourists. We were a big group of 6 people, holding maps, quite cheerful and dressed for vacation. It was actually like holding a big flashy sign for TOURISTS.
In my own and personal case, because I have traveled a lot, I’m probably excessively cautious, with my stuff. But my parents were not. Although, they actually were too. But these thieves, they are just so good at what they do…
We were at Omonia metro station, changing trains. When getting into the train, a big guy went before me and my mother, and he was blocking the way. So obviously a lot of people got crammed behind us and this guy. I told him to make way and pushed him aside. I managed to pass, but he then quickly blocked my mother. And before managing to take her besides me, her wallet got stolen from her backpack. Fortunately, it was empty of money and documents… Just an old wallet so it was not a fruitful steal for the thief!
All this experience made us even more cautious, but cautious is not enough.
That same day, when returning from Monastiraki Square, in the metro train again, my father was holding his bag tight with his hand in front of his chest. You don’t want to be robbed again, right!? But, even so, a thief still tried to steal from him by opening one of the smaller pockets. But my father saw his move, made a shout at him, and the thief just calmly left, no other person actually appearing surprised or trying to help in any way. Part of the daily life happenings I guess… And all this time, we did not see any guardians inside the metro stations or the metro trains. We actually did not see any police in the crowded squares of Athens…
So, the final note is that you should make a good research not only about the places that you want to visit, but also the places that it’s best to avoid.
Well, don’t worry though, I have also good things to say about Athens. Keep an eye for the next Travel Article about Athens, that will be a lot more cheerful, I promise:).
Salento Peninsula occupies the lower half of Apulia or Puglia region, forming the high heel on Italy’s map. Knowing the coastline is over 400km long, I was expecting to find beautiful beaches but the diversity of the sea side landscape went beyond my imagination!
Check here all the other places we visited in our car trip in Puglia.
I had this image about Bulgaria, that only small towns and ethnic villages – Veliko Tarnovo, Balcic, Sozopol, Nesebar, Arbanasi – or the natural sites scattered all over the country are worth visiting.
I was never keen on visiting any big city because I had traveled for work in Sofia twice, and I did not like it too much. What would a big city bring other than ugly communist buildings?
But Plovdiv, the second largest Bulgarian city, is a whole different world.
In a couple of days only we’ll go on a new trip to Italy and I recently realized that we traveled here so many times, twice a year in the last 3 years. This makes it our second most visited country, after Germany!
To honor this new discovery about my travel patterns, I have made a short list of the reasons that always draw me like a magnet towards this beautiful country.