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NAZCA LINES: HISTORY AND MYSTERIES

WHAT ARE THE NAZCA LINES?

The Nazca Lines are still one of the greatest archaeological mysteries to decipher.
In an arid coastal plain of Peru, near the city of Nazca and about 450 km south of the capital Lima, there are a lot of geoglyphs (drawings traced in the ground) depicting animals (whale, monkey, dog, flamingo, spider, condor, lizard, frigate bird, parrot and others), plants, geometric figures and various drawings, extending for several kilometres.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines map

 

The lines, 40 to 210 centimeters wide and up to 30 centimeters deep, are perfectly straight even if they cross hills, rough terrain and depressions.
They were traced simply by moving the stones made dark by oxidation from the ground, so that the underlying gravel highlighted the figures with its pale yellow and reddish-brown color.

All the drawings are made with a single continuous line, without interruptions.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines close up

 

Their shape is understandable only from above and this increases the mystery of how and why they were created.

The climate of the Nazca plateau, characterized by stable temperatures at 77°F and rains practically non-existent, would have safeguarded the figures to this day.

Since 1994 they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DISCOVERY OF THE NAZCA LINES

The first evidence of the existence of the Nazca Lines dates back to 1547, when the Spaniard Pedro Cieza de Leon spoke of “signs in some areas of the Nazca Desert”.
However, these claims were not investigated at the time and were soon forgotten.

Even if some shapes are visible from the nearby hills, it was pilots of the Peruvian Air Force who reported their presence, after almost four centuries.

 

Peru - Nazca - agricultural land

 

In 1929, Peruvian archaeologist Julio Cesar Tello began studying them, describing them as “sacred roads”.
In the same year, American anthropologist Paul Kosok did the same with his partner, the German Maria Reiche Neumann. Their interpretation pointed to a giant solar and lunar calendar with which Nazca astronomers made predictions about harvest and rain.
Maria Reiche Neumann has dedicated her whole life to carrying out research, preserving it and making it known to the world.
Thanks to her work, the Nazca Lines were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.

WHO DREW THE NAZCA LINES?

Tests with Carbon 14 proved unsuitable for certain dating so the drawings in the plateau were compared with ceramics found in Cahuachi.
Some scientists believe that the drawings were made by the Nazca civilization in different periods, from 300 BC to the 15th century BC, when the Mesoamerican peoples were progressively destroyed by the Spanish conquerors.

It’s possible that they made small-scale drawings and then reproduced them on the ground, multiplying the measurements with a network of poles and ropes.
Taking in mind that at ground level it’s not possible to perceive whether the figures are drawn correctly or not, it is thought that the construction was organized from an elevated place.
A place that may have been a hill, but some scientists proved that the Nazcas had the knowledge to get a hot air balloon up.

 

Nazca Lines drawn from the hills?

 

WHAT DO NAZCA LINES REPRESENT?

As unfortunately often happens, what we cannot immediately understand we think cannot have a logical explanation.
It seems impossible that civilizations lived before us had much more advanced scientific and engineering knowledge than ours, to the point that we still cannot understand how they were able to build certain constructions or know the cosmos better than we do.

Since the mystery is far from being solved, the hypotheses are a lot. Let’s see some of them.

 

Peru - Nazca lines - Whale from the plane

Peru – Nazca Lines – Whale from the plane

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Whale zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Whale zoom + highlighted image

 

Religious hypothesis

A Spanish document from 1653 explained that in the Inca capital of Cusco the sanctuaries were built along lines that started from the Temple of the Sun.
The Aymarà tribe, who lived near Lake Titicaca, also drew very similar lines to join small stone buildings used for sacred functions.

Similarly, some scientists consider the Nazca Lines to be paths used for religious purposes.
In fact, the drawings have one entrance and one exit line, after having covered the whole figure.
It is therefore easy to imagine crossing it in an single file, as during a procession.
In the vicinity of some of the larger figures were found pieces of ceramic vases, agricultural products and marine animals.

Others assume that the drawings were drawn to be seen by their gods, who obviously lived in the sky.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Humming Bird from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Hummingbird from the plane

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Humming Bird zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Hummingbird zoom + highlighted image

 

Astronomical hypothesis

Ancient civilizations have demonstrated much more precise and advanced astronomical knowledge than ours.
It is therefore logical that a hypothesis sees a link with astronomical observations.
Some figures have identical orientations to the Pleiades and other constellations while some have intersection points with sunrises or sunsets at certain times of the year.

The Nazca Lines could be a huge astronomical calendar, with figures representing constellations and lines indicating the celestial course of certain stars.

Those who want to dismantle this thesis argue that not all drawings have an identical positioning in the celestial sphere, so the mystery cannot be solved, at least exclusively, with an astronomical calendar.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Spider from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Spider from the plane

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Spider zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Spider zoom + highlighted image

 

Geological hypothesis

Some researchers see the Nazca Lines as a sacred place where rituals were made for rain and the vital search for water.
For several morphological reasons, water coming down from nearby mountains was absorbed by the desert but continued to flow underground.
The Nazca civilization was able to create sophisticated and ingenious aqueducts, connected by pipelines, from which they extracted water from the aquifers and rivers at a depth of tens of meters.

 

Peru - Nazca - cultivated areas and desert

Peru – Nazca – cultivated areas and desert

 

In this way they made very arid lands arable.
Even today you can see large green oases with small pastures and crops of cotton, beans and potatoes.

According to this hypothesis, drawings of the Nazca Lines indicate the placement of fountains, wells, springs, aqueducts, etc.

Artistic hypothesis

However, the Nazca Lines can be considered the greatest graphic work on the Earth.
The drawings are fascinating and geometrically perfect, so one hypothesis assumes that this is a giant art gallery, designed to be observed from above.
And if this is true, one would have to admit that over 2000 years ago man already knew how to fly.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Parrot from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Parrot from the plane

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Parrot zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Parrot zoom + highlighted image

 

In 2015, a team of researchers from Japan’s Yamagata University presented the theory that geoglyphs have been tracked by at least two cultures and that their purpose has changed over time.
Born to religious worship, they were later made to adorn the pilgrimage route to the pre-Inca city of Cahuachi, capital of Nazca culture.

Extraterrestrial hypothesis

Since one of the figures is called “the astronaut” because its similarity with the appearance we give to extraterrestrial beings, there can of course be no lack of hypotheses on this subject.
The very long lines and gigantic drawings of animal would be a reminder for “prehistoric extraterrestrials”.
Some perfect lines are more than 8 km long and one in even 65 km long.
They could be a landing strip for UFOs.
Or it could be the extraterrestrials who drew the drawings, visible only from above.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Astronaut from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Astronaut from the plane

 

Peru - Nazca lines - astronaut zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca lines – Astronaut zoom + highlighted image

 

A similar but in some ways even more shocking theory arises from the textiles used by the Nazca.
The filaments were narrower than those used centuries later to build airships and did not even allow water to penetrate.
This does not mean that they knew how to fly balloons or airships, but that they had the tools to do so.

Dinosaur hypotheses

In 1961, not far from here, the River Ica flooded the surrounding village with the same name, bringing to light thousands of decorated stones.
Their existence was already known at least 500 years before, since a chronicler of the time described them as a trousseau of the Inca nobles.
In May 1965, farmer Felix Llosa Romero donated one of these stones to his friend Javier Cabrera Darquea, a surgeon at the Ica Hospital and professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Ica.
In that stone, however, was engraved an agnathus, a fish extinct thousands of years before and certainly unknown to Peruvian farmers.
Cabrera then began to buy all the similar stones, going so far as to have about 15,000 that he decided to exhibit at his own expense in the House of Culture of Ica.

 

Peru – Ica Stones – Dinosaurs

Peru – Ica Stones – Dinosaurs

 

The stones are made of granite andesite, the dimensions range from a few centimeters to about one meter and were engraved before oxidation, believed to have occurred around 12,000 BC.
This would mean that those civilizations had incredible technological knowledge.

But even more shocking are the themes of the drawings depicted: dinosaurs and extinct animals, astronomy, maps of ancient continents, cataclysms, medicine and surgical operations.
In short, the drawings on the stones of Ica show very advanced knowledge that a primitive civilization (in our opinion) should not have, and figures of animals extinct millennia before the supposed birth of man.
They also represent interactions between humans and dinosaurs with attitudes similar to those we have with our pets today.

 

Peru - Ica Stones - Man on triceratop

Peru – Ica Stones – Man on triceratop

 

If we don’t want to admit that humans and dinosaurs lived together, we have to accept that 12,000 years ago our ancestors found and studied dinosaur fossils.

What is the connection of the Ica stones with the Nazca Lines?
Among the various drawings are some where men ride pterodactyli, observing a stegosaurus with a telescope.
What if the Nazca Lines were observed in this way?

Of course, this thesis is dismantled mainly in two ways.
Most scientists need only the reference to “Darwin’s theory of evolution” and the consequent impossibility of coexistence between dinosaurs (said to be extinct 65 million years ago) and the first hominids (Australopithecus appeared about 4 million years ago and Homo Habilis about 2.5 million years ago).

Others consider the Ica stones a hoax created by Peruvian farmers.
The quality of the designs and the style of the carvings obviously improves in the stones discovered in more recent times.
No doubt the hype has prompted many forgers to decorate some stones to sell them to tourists as souvenirs, but they should also be distinguished from those mentioned 500 years ago…

Sports hypothesis

In 1980 some researchers carried on the idea that the Nazca plateau was a great sports arena, where “Olympic Games” were organized.
The lines would then be circuits where the competitions took place.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Frigate from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Frigate Bird from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Frigate zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Frigate Bird zoom + highlighted image

 

HOW TO SEE THE NAZCA LINES

Before departure

The best way to get your own idea is always to see for yourself what you’re talking about.
To see the Nazca Lines you have to arrive in the homonymous Peruvian town.
Cruz del Sur buses connect Nazca with Lima, Paracas, Arequipa, Cusco and Puno.

 

Peru, Nazca

Peru, Nazca city

 

But as I said, the only way to see the drawings is from above.
The essential stop is therefore the Nazca Airport, from where the small planes flying over the desert daily.

Almost two months in advance, after reading so many reviews, I booked the fly with Aeroparacas company.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - AeroParacas

 

Arriving at their offices on the chosen day, there was no trace of our conversations but I still pay 90 euros for a flight that would take off after about two hours.
In the small airport your passport is checked and you are weighed. This passage is essential because you will fly on small Cessna and the plane must be balanced.
Aeroparacas’ seriousness with me has been non-existent.
Despite having paid in advance, I was put on the waiting list, warned several times that maybe the airport was going to close due to the sandstorms, only to be boarded shortly after making a memorable outburst.
After 6 hours of patient waiting.

The flight

My advice is therefore to go to the airport early in the morning by yourself and ask at the check-in desks of all the companies for the nearest departure time and the best price.
The cost is about 80 euros to see 12 figures in 30 minutes of flight, or 150 euros for 20 figures in 60 minutes.
Much higher prices are not justified.

As said, the planes are Cessna with 7 seats: the pilot, the co-pilot (who will explain each figure to recognize it quickly, following the tip of the wing) and 5 passengers (two in the first row, two in the second row and one in the queue).

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - AeroParacas interior aircraft

Peru – Nazca Lines – into the AeroParacas airplane

 

Everyone has headphones to listen to the co-pilot and a map showing the plane’s route and the location of each geoglyph.
The figures are not always immediately distinguishable and it will take concentration and imagination to recognize them in the midst of many lines that ply the ground. And you need also a great eye view.

ou have to be aware that the flight will not be quiet but the plane will constantly tilt first to one side and then to the other, to allow everyone to see the famous Nazca Lines.
Or rather, to allow it to those who do not suffer from the plane and can see well.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Monkey from the plane

Peru – Nazca Lines – Monkey from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Monkey zoom + highlighted area

Peru – Nazca Lines – Monkey zoom + highlighted area

 

If you know that you’re afraid to fly, that you can’t handle the inclinations of the plane, if you suffer from vertigo or if you don’t see well from a distance… Forget it.
And, in any case, avoid having breakfast before your flight.
You would spend at least 90 euros not to distinguish any drawings or, worse, to spend the whole flight vomiting while, with your eyes closed by fear, you pray to come back to the ground alive.

I sat in the back of the plane and that allowed me to see both the left and the right sides.
I filmed the entire flight and only on landing did I realize that the other 4 passengers had experienced the worst flight of their lives, or maybe the worst nightmare ever.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - plane route on figures

 

MY CONCLUSIONS

The uniqueness and mysteries of the Nazca Lines make this place a destination to visit to reflect on what you see.
They have fascinated me more than Machu Picchu, but that doesn’t mean I was excited.
On the contrary, they left me with a lot of doubts and perplexities.

Obviously I’m not a scientist, historian, geologist etc but I travel to see the world with my own eyes, analyze and make my ideas.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Flower from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Flower from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Flower zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Flower zoom + highlighted image

 

The first thing I thought as soon as I got off the plane was “it’s not possible that these drawings have been there since 2500 years, where planes can’t fly because wind and sandstorms.”
There are lines 40 centimeters wide and 30 centimeters deep: it’s not possible that in 2500 years rain and wind have not buried them or that someone has not unkkedly ruined them or by vandalism.
It is true that some figures have now been almost completely erased by the construction of the Panamerican or by tyre tracks.
Some drawings also seemed to me too “futuristic” to have been made 2500 years ago.

Believing that the climate that has remained unchanged for millennia has protected the drawings, my idea is that they were made by different civilizations and in very different times.
I think that the first lines were made for religious reasons: the gods were invoked (maybe each figure represented a different deity) and processions were made along the lines in single line.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Flamingo Heron Alcatraz from the plane

Peru – Nazca Lines – Flamingo Heron Alcatraz from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Heron Flamingo Alcatraz zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Flamingo Heron Alcatraz zoom + highlighted image

 

I have no doubt that some ancient civilizations had much more advanced knowledge and specialization than our current ones.
That’s why I’m sure that they wouldn’t have had difficulty in drawing complex and mile-long figures using poles and ropes.
But above all I do not deny that they could have had the ability to look at them from above with flying objects similar to hot-air balloons or airships.
The truthfulness of the Ica stones and the consequent thesis of coexistence, moreover friendly, between humans and dinosaurs is fascinating but perhaps more difficult to support than the previous one.

 

Peru - Ica Stones - T Rex

Peru – Ica Stones – T Rex

 

Ancient civilizations (Maya, Aztecs, Egyptians, Shardana, Babylonians, Persians, etc.) had much more advanced astronomical knowledge than ours. This was seen both from the calendars and in their constructions linked to celestial events at particular periods of the year (not only sunrises and sunsets but equinoxes, solstices, eclipses…).
This obviously makes me think that some drawings depict constellations, celestial routes or otherwise cosmic events.
In part, the Nazca Lines are an astronomical calendar.

I also support the artistic hypothesis, which is also divided into at least two historical periods.
One is related to the period when pilgrimages were made to the capital Cahuachi.
They could have been signs, prayers or, why not murals by the “young Nazca vandals writers”.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Tree Lizard Hands from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Tree Lizard Hands from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Hand Tree Lizard Zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Tree Lizard Hand zoom + highlighted image

The second historical period, or at least the last, in my opinion dates back to the present day.
Some forms are too futuristic, almost identical to characters from movies, comics or cartoons.
Maybe I’m too skeptical, but these were in my opinion made to “increase the myth” and create new sources of investment and profit.

What would the city of Nazca be if the Lines weren’t there?
Would there be a flow of tourists, travelers, curious, scientists, ufologists etc if there were no Lines?
Would there be airlines, hotels and all the economic income if the Lines weren’t there?

What do you think? What idea have you had about the Nazca Lines?
Leave a comment.

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Condor from the plane

Peru – Nazca lines – Condor from the plane

 

 

Peru - Nazca Lines - Condor zoom + highlighted image

Peru – Nazca Lines – Condor zoom + highlighted image

 

 

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCES

Each of us is the result of our own experiences and this is even more true for traveller who go around the world to know populations, cultures and traditions very different from those in which they were born.
Traveling with eyes, mind and heart opened, we could learn and get better.
In this case, however, I speak of experiences because visiting a lot of places around the world, we have also several parameters of comparison.

 

Earth map with place visited on my travels Matteo cosmorevas.tk

 

Visiting one place before another influences our perception of beauty and wonder.
You should perhaps see the most beautiful places after other trips but this is not always possible.
We cannot say that one place is more amazing that another without having seen it…

Another parameter of comparison (for me and many others, maybe not for everyone) is the amount you spend.
I talked with some people who went to Machu Picchu on their honeymoon.
This is a decisive factor: is different if you have a fully paid trip or have to pay as little as possible and what you considered “the correct price”.

BEAUTIFUL BUT…

This anticipation was necessary to understand why for me is difficult to talk about Machu Picchu, the place that left me with the most deep sense of disappointment.

Maybe I should think in an objective way, imagining that I went to Machu Picchu for free and without having seen other wonders of the world (official or considered by myself), but the web is full of similar stories.
I only tell what I saw and the emotions I felt. Neither right nor wrong but real and sincere.

My previous experiences have a great influence on the following considerations.
Peru Peru is not the first trip I’ve made and having first seen the Mayan cities (Palenque and Yaxchilan), the Aztec city of Teotihuacan and the Temples of Angkor, make me little wonder at Machu Picchu.

Beautiful but… I’ve been to… here instead…

 

statues and sign Welcome to Machu Picchu - village of Aguas Calientes - Peru

 

I consider totally negative a visit to the Machu Picchu site also because the absurd and insane amount you have to pay.
Many times I asked myself if I did something wrong but I could have saved a bit of money only with a huge physical effort (possible but I also had to consider that this was the final part of my one-month trip in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, with a temperature change of 70°C and an altitude difference of about 6,000 meters).

I’ll explain all the details soon but I anticipate that going to Machu Picchu costs about USD 450..

Nice but… here I paid… there instead…

 

HISTORY

Machu Picchu, in native Quechua language Machu Pikchu, “old mountain”, is the 3,082 meters high mountain where the Incas built the city.
Over the years, the name was also associated with the archaeological site.
World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is universally known for its scenic location, embedded between the peaks of the Urubamba River valley.

 

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu from the archaeological site

 

The city, or perhaps only the summer residence of the emperor and the Inca nobility, should have been built around the year 1440 and inhabited until the Spanish conquest in 1532 by a permanent population of about 300 people, with a peak of 1,000 when the emperor went.
It was never abandoned or forgotten, but occasionally inhabited by a few indigenous who used the agricultural terraces and the complex water channels.

On July 24, 1911 the american Hiram Bingham arrived at the top of the mountain and was impressed by what he saw.

 

Peru - landscape from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

 

Realizing at once the historical importance of those ruins, he carried out international excavations and publications, with the support of the Peruvian government, Yale University and National Geographic.

In a few years Machu Picchu became the main tourist destination in Peru.

 

HOW TO GET

Cusco

The first stop is to arrive in the city of Cusco.
There are at least two ways, depending on the departure and the time available.
The airport of Cusco is connected to the capital Lima with numerous daily flights and the prices are very low. It may be the best solution if you have limited days and arrive in Lima with international flights (from Europe or, usually, from Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Bogota or Buenos Aires).

Otherwise you can get to Cusco by bus. I recommend this if you are coming from the south (for example Nasca or Arequipa) or from Bolivia (better if after a day stop in Puno to see the tourist floating villages on Lake Titicaca).
The best quality/price solution should be the Cruz del Sur company.

 

Peru - bus Cruz del Sur

 

I used it for some trips and the buses are very clean and immaculate.
The seats on the 1st floor (semi-cama), even if the seats are lowered a little less, they still allow you to sleep peacefully.
Thinking about the comfort of reclining the seat 170°, I chose the ticket for the upper floor. But, like everything else, respect is always needed.
It’s nice stay almost like in a bed, but it means that the person behind will not be able to move because the front seat will rest on his/her knees.
I spent an entire 13-hour journey fighting with the “enemy” of the seat in front of me: he would slam the seat on my knees to tilt it to the maximum and I stopped him with punches and kicks in the backrest and headrest.
Imagine how relaxing this trip was…

 

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Once in Cusco you have to find a way to get to Aguas Calientes, the small village that seems to have been created only to take all money of those who go to Machu Picchu.

To make it simple, there are 4 solutions:

1. Gipsy Trip: from the square of Cusco leave the colectivos (shared vans, classic means of transport throughout South America) to Hidroelectrica. The cost of this trip is about USD 10.
From Hidroelectica you walk for about 30 km until the village of Aguas Calientes.

 

Peru - Sacred Inca Valley seen from the train Perurail Cusco Ollantaytambo Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu

 

2. Perurail train: the easiest but obviously also the most expensive solution is the direct connection, crossing the landscapes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The trains have large panoramic windows, comfortable seats and include a free snack and drink.
A few months before departure I thought it was impossible that the train ticket cost USD 180 (round trip) and I decided to wait and found a better solution in Cusco.
Instead there the price had gone up around USD 300.

 

Peru - Perurail train to Machu Picchu at Ollantaytambo station

 

3. Middle way: I didn’t want to pay it USD 300 but I was also too tired to think of doing 60 km with my backpack, so I chose the classic “middle way”.
I took a colectivos from Cusco to the intermediate railway station of Ollantaytambo, and from there the Perurail train to Aguas Calientes. I booked a last minute ticket for about USD 110 one way.

4. Inca Trail: considered one of the most beautiful treks in the world, it usually takes 4 or 5 days.
Tickets are limited to 500 people, of which about 300 are local guides (required).
The old 43 km long mountain trail links the Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and Machu Picchu.
Prices range from USD 650 to USD 1,500 depending on the duration and comfort required.

 

Peru - cosmorevas Inca Trail Machu Picchu map

 

SITE ENTRANCE TICKET

The Government of Peru often varies the conditions and times of access (it has tried to impose stricter time slots and shorter stay times). Per quanto io cerchi di tenere sempre queste informazioni aggiornate, è meglio fare le verifiche al momento opportuno.

The official website to buy tickets directly is www.machupicchu.gob.pe.
Choose with the most attention the date and time of entry because access is very fiscal and punctual.
Theoretically the stay at the site is not infinite but the times are limited in according to the ticket bought. No one will look to throw you out, but if you are at fault (but do it anyway) avoid to attract the attention of the guardians for incorrect or forbidden behaviour acts. Per esempio, pur se li ritengo For example, even if I consider them absurd and shameful, it’s forbidden to enter with backpacks or bags larger than 40x35x20 cm, bring food or drinks that have not been purchased on the site and have trekking sticks, umbrellas, camera tripods or smartphone holders.

There are 3 types of ticket:
– Machu Picchu: 2.300 places per day, entrance limited to the Inca city, cost about USD 60..
Places are limited to 800 accesses from 6am to 9am, 600 from 9am to 12, 360 from 12am to 1pm and 540 from 1pm to 2pm.
Theoretically you can stay in the site 4 hours from the moment of entry but there are not checks about it.

– Machu Picchu + Mountain: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80 (discounts for children, students and citizens of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador).
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start trekking on the Mountain from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the Mountain at the same time but in the city only after the trekking, and the last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and the Mountain from 09am to 10am
You could stay on the site for a maximum of 8 hours, while the return from the Mountain must take place before 1pm.
I chose to book this ticket as “the middle way”: entering only the archaeological site seemed reductive to me, the Inca Trail was instead excessive and this mountain is higher than Huayna Picchu and therefore more panoramic.

The climb to Machu Picchu Mountain was very hard and tiring.
I had read that it takes 2-4 hours to reach the top and go down.
I tell that after more than 2 hours of climb on the steep path, among irregular dirt tracks and narrow steps, in the middle of the jungle and with the fauna represented mainly by mosquitoes and gnats, I decided to stop and come down.
This is also because, beyond the physical and mental effort, climbing the mountain was very boring.
As you climb the landscape is always the same, only seen from a greater height. I would have climbed to the top to see a totally different landscape, but to see the same I’ve not found a good reason.
It is obviously a subjective thought but, while relaxing on the stairs, I talked with other “climbers” and nobody found a motivation to climb to the top.
We all started off excited but, who first and who later, we gave up, evaluating the excessive effort compared to the achievable result.

 

Peru - stairs to Machu Picchu Mountain

 

– Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on the Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80.
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start the trek from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the same time in Huayna Picchu but in the city only after the trek, and last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and Huayna Picchu from 10am to 11am.
You could stay a total of 6 hours but the excursion to Huayna Picchu takes about 3 hours.

Huayna Picchu is the “young mountain”, 2693 meters high, famous for appearing behind the archaeological site in classic panoramic photos.
The ascent takes place on a narrow, steep, zigzag path, with sections where the stairs are directly carved into the rock.
This trek is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo because its precipices and access is only allowed to +12 years.
You should reach the top in about 1 hour, but I haven’t climbed it so cannot confirm this information.

 

Peru - landscape of Huayna Picchu Mountain and the Andes Mountain from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

Let’s take a closer look at the archaeological site of Machu Picchu.
The royal Inca city of Machu Picchu is located in the Andes Mountains, between the prominent peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, on a high mountain ridge with steep precipices as far as the Urubamba River and near the springs of the Amazon River. It’s also located in a highly seismic region, constantly affected by strong earthquakes and subject to heavy rainfall throughout the year.

Despite this, the city is still intact, demonstrating the high technical and scientific knowledge of the Inca civilization, which hadn’t written language and didn’t know the wheel or the iron.

The complex is divided into two large areas: the urban area and the agricultural area, separated by large squares.
The site is, however, largely to be deciphered, the names and functions of the structures are hypothetical and still under investigation.

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu Square and Huayna Picchu Mountain with Andes Mountain

The urban area

Houses were built here and civil and religious activities were also done.
The Temple of the Sun is one of the best examples of organic Inca architecture and the only circular building in Machu Picchu.
In the lower part there are symbols and steps, inside a sculpture and niches used for ceremonial purposes related to the cult of the dead.
In the upper part, a large sculpted rock served as an altar while the windows were used for observing astronomical events.
For a Sardinian it’s immediate to associate it, both in shape and use, with a nuraghe.

Under the Temple of the Sun, almost hidden, there is a natural stone cave known as the royal tomb because some scientists suppose that it was the mausoleum of the Inca emperor Pachacutec.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Temple of the Sun

 

The capanna del custode is one of the few renovated buildings.
Its high thatched roof is the most accepted hypothesis of how the original roofs of the houses were.

 

 

Peru - caretaker's hut Machu Picchu

 

The agricultural area

The secret of its longevity is the drainage system.
The urban area has 129 canals that prevent landslides and erosion, canalising all the water to the agricultural area of the city and to the spring area, providing a perennial spring of water.
Here the foundations of the agricultural terraces have been built with stone retaining walls, a thick layer of surface soil and, deep down, larger stones, gravel and chiselled stone shavings.

 

Peru - agricultural terraces Machu Picchu

 

This perfect engineering work ensured the necessary drainage to prevent rainwater stagnation and erosion of the hills.
There was no irrigation system on the terraces because the Incas considered rain to be sufficient for this purpose.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - into the city

 

EXPENSES SUMMARY

In this computation I prefer to omit the costs, too variable and subjective, to arrive from any place in the world to the city of Cusco. So I focus on how to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco.

Cusco: the city certainly deserves a few days dedicated but, beyond that, it’s better to sleep here after visiting the archaeological site. You could still stay in Aguas Calientes but, as said, there the costs are much higher while in Cusco you can find a bed for USD 5.

Train: the price varies depending on the travel period, the booking date (I booked the last day in Cusco because I didn’t think that the prices seen online were real) and the departure station.
In general you have to pay about USD 150 from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and USD 100 from the intermediate station of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
So USD 300 or USD 200 round trip.

 

Peru - Ollantaytambo Station

 

Colectivos: the alternative to the train is to use the colectivos (vans with which you share the trip with other people) to reach the town of Hidroelectrica in about 7 hours and from there continue on foot along the railway tracks for almost 15 kilometres until you reach Aguas Calientes.
The colectivos can also be used for the Cusco – Ollantaytambo route.
In both cases the amount is around USD 5 or 10.

Aguas Calientes: you must sleep here at least one night and it’s difficult to find accommodation for less than USD 20.
Everything (souvenirs, drinks or simple empanadas) is at least three times more expensive than what you would pay in Cusco. So get organized in advance so as not to leave crazy amounts at the market or in a restaurant.

 

Peru - city of Aguas Calientes base to go to Machu Picchu

 

Bus: access to the site at 06am implies a wake-up call well before the sunrise, in order to be at the bus stop at least at 03.30am An excessive delay means having to queue for kilometres which, just seeing it, could make you burst into a desperate neurotic cry.
Buses leave from Aguas Calientes from 05.30am to 3.30pm and come back until 5.45pm.
The cost of the ticket is about USD 20 round trip.
The alternative is of course a 10 km walk. I have heard that it takes at least 2 hours, also considering that the climb is long and the buses have no regard to run raising dirt and dust.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes bus queue

 

Access ticket: as I explained before (and waiting for updates) the price ranges from about USD 60 to USD 80.

Guide: when I went, the guide was optional. Now it would seem obligatory at a cost of USD 75.
However, it seems that you can still access the site without paying this additional fee.

To recapitulate, we can therefore consider 4 price ranges:

1. Gipsy experience : USD 100 ( + about 80 km on foot)
colectivos Cusco – Hidroelectrica + 30 km walk to Aguas Calientes + walk up to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way.

2. Expensive comfort: USD 450
night in Cusco + colectivos Cusco – Ollantaytambo + train Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes + night in Aguas Calientes + bus to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way + various expenses.

3. Inca Trail: from USD 650 to USD 1.500
according to the durability and comfort required.

4. Business class: ∞
as someone said, “to infinity and beyond”.

 

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

Is it worth going to Machu Picchu?
Yes, of course! Despite all the negative notes I mentioned, it’s a place to see.
Machu Picchu is still a historic place, one of those destinations that represents a point of arrival.
What makes it unique is the place itself, a city built on top of a mountain, surrounded by the Peruvian Andes mountain.
Its beauty can be elevated by the mystical and mysterious atmosphere that creates clouds, fog and sun.
It’s probably a destination more for tourists than for travellers, but it’s a place where each of us, once in our lives, should go.

 

Peru - landscape from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

 

 

Peru - light in Machu Picchu

TRIP TO THE MAYAN CULTURE

HISTORY AND AGRICULTURE

I’m Sardinian, descendant of the Shardana warriors, people of the sea that nobody has ever known how to fight and nobody defeated them.
That’s why ancient civilizations have always fascinated me and my trip to Mexico could only include a few days to dedicate to them.

I had seen many photos of these places, but being there was a great emotion, a point of arrival.
Previously I had already seen the Great Wall but they are too different, not comparable works.
But I can do it with similar sites: the Aztec city of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is equally beautiful.
The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia, are what most amazed me in all my travels.
I know to be one of the very few people in the world to think that, compared to the world heritage just mentioned, for me Machu Picchu is one of the most disappointing and overrated places.

But let’s go in order:

Archaeologists believe that the appearance of the Mayan civilization dates about back to 2500 BC.
Over the centuries they have become phenomenal astronomers, studying perfectly the movements of stars and planets.
They used these discoveries in agriculture, following the rain and crop cycles.
And this knowledge is still use in Chiapas by indigenous peoples and Zapatista communities.

THE MAYA CALENDAR

The Mayans were among the first in Mesoamerica to write with a logosyllabic alphabet and still leave scientists marvel because their sophisticated and complex astronomical calendars.
The calculations were so perfect that they are still more precise than we currently use.
In fact, the Earth makes a complete turn around the Sun in 365.242189 days.
For the Mayans, one year lasted 365.242036 days while in our gregorian calendar 365.2425 days are considered.

 

Mayan-calendar

 

The Mayans used 3 intersecting calendars:
– the religious calendar (tzolkin): it combined 13 numbers with 20 names, thus creating a period of 260 days,
– the civil calendar (haab): like ours, composed by 365 days but divided into 18 months with 20 days each, plus 5 “additional” days,
– the long cycle: indicates the number of days since the beginning of the Mayan era and is the most complex system, using a mixed base-20 / base-18 mathematical representation of a number.

I try to explain it.
It consists of kin (1 day), uinal (1 = 20 kin), tun (1 = 18 uinal = 360 days), katun (1 = 20 tun = 7200 days, about 20 years), baktun (1 = 20 katun = 144,000 days, approximately 394 years)

Kin, tun e katun are numbered from 0 to 19, uinal from 0 to 17.
On the numbering of baktun, there are different opinions.
There are those who limit it to 13 and from this was the theory that the Maya considered December 21, 2012 as the date of the end of the world.
According to the Mayan calendar, that date would have been 12.19.19.17.19 i.e. 12 baktun, 19 katun, 19 tun, 17 uinal, 19 kin.
The next day it therefore became 0.0.0.0.0 or 13.0.0.0.0
Other scientists instead consider the limit of the baktuns at 19 and in this case the day 19.19.19.17.19 of the long cycle will be in the year 4772.

According to these calculations, the day 0 of the Maya, or better the day 0.0.0.0.0, would be August 13, 3114 BC.

 

ASTRONOMY

The Mayan world revolved around a celestial map.
The cities were built in such a way that the buildings allowed observation of the sun, moon, planets and constellations.
Some astronomical object are visible exactly in the center of a window during an eclipse.
The day of the equinox of spring and autumn Sun creates a play of light and shadow that draws the image of the Serpent God moving along the stairs of the temple.

 

Mexico-ceiba-tree

 

The ceiba was the sacred tree that united the 13 heavens, the Earth and the 9 levels of the realm of the dead.
This large structure operated according to the laws of astrology and the worship of ancestors.
Another fundamental aspect for the Maya were cardinal points: east (the most important because it indicates the sunrise and was represented with the red color), west (on the contrary indicates the sun that disappears and is therefore represented with black), north (from there the rains come, color white) and south (yellow like the southern sun).

 

GAMES AND SACRIFICES

An area dedicated to the “ball game” is clearly identifiable in all Mesoamerican cities.
It can’t be called football, but maybe it looked a lot like it.

 

Mexico-Mayan-city-pelota-game

 

Often it had a real religious meaning: the result decided some choices.
It is also almost certain that at the end of the game one or more players were offered as sacrifices to the gods.
In all cities there were one or more playgrounds.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Yaxchilan

 

DISCOVERING MAYAN CITIES

The Mayan citieshave left me speechless.
They built imposing cities thanks to the abundant lime stone available.
The rulers built increasingly majestic temples, giant pyramidal structures dominated by a thatched roof building.

 

Mexico-Palenque

 

Some buildings are funerary monuments, inside which there were the tombs of the great Mayan rulers.
I didn’t expect such large and perfectly organized cities.
This not only for the beauty of the buildings, but for the nature that surrounds, hides and protects them.

 

Mexico-Palenque

 

PALENQUE

A few hours by car from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the archaeological site of Palenque, in Chiapas, was the first one I saw and perhaps this is also why I’m am very tied to it.

 

Mexico-Palenque

 

The Mayan city is immersed in the jungle and many of the buildings are still hidden under tropical vegetation.
This doesn’t decrease the splendor we see, but gives a more mysterious and fascinating tone.
You have to stay at least 2 hours to visit it well.

Mexico-Palenque

 

Mexico-Palenque

Palenque was together with Tikal and Calakmul one of the most powerful city-states of the Maya, connected to others through commercial exchange networks or alliances between groups of sovereigns.

The old name of Palenque was Lakamba “place of the great waters“.
In the area there are in fact 56 springs and 9 independent streams, with waterfalls on the slopes of the urban plateau.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

The Mayans knew how to manage water resources: they had underground aqueducts for residential areas and agricultural activities and prevented collapses and erosion thanks to the construction of canals and bridges.

Obviously, sacrifices to their deities were widespread.
Over a hundred ceramic urns containing resin, shells, food, but also blood and human and animal remains have been found.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

YAXCHILAN

On the border with Guatemala he archaeological site of Yaxchilan stands instead.
You can get here only by sailing the historic Usumacinta River, the longest and most flowable river in Central America.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Usumacinta River

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Yaxchilan

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

Fruit of over 400 years of activity, in an environment characterized by a great biodiversity and the presence of the Usumacinta river, Yaxchilan became a powerful city with about 120 buildings in its central area, distributed between the lower part and parallel to the river and the limestone hills that rise to the south.

Yaxchilan and other Mayan cities in the Usumacinta Province built their temples with large ceilings supported by walls and decorated with wall paintings.
Based on the ceramic materials, architecture and hieroglyphic inscriptions, it has been defined that the city was inhabited since 250 AD to 900 AD, a period in which the entire Mayan civilization collapsed.

The buildings, which seen the hillside location made use of stairs, ramps and distribution terraces, were almost all red, unfortunately now invisible color today.

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

These areas are obviously the natural habitat of many animals.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Monkey in Yaxchilan

 

 

monkey-mexico-yaxchilan

 

Tucano-Mexico-Yaxchilan-Maya

 

crocodile-mexico-yaxchilan

 

TULUM

Its strategic position made Tulum the hub of trade by sea, river and land.
Walls were also built to control local activities and to divide the upper classes from the common people who lived outside.
The facades of the buildings had bright colors and the city, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, was certainly wonderful.

 

Mexico-Tulum-castle

 

This area of Mexico, the Yucatàn Peninsula, emerged only 2 million years ago.
Its surface is calcareous and the action of water gives life to cenotes and caves.

In front of the city of Tulum, in the depths of the Caribbean Sea, there is the coral reef, currently the second in the world in size.

The Mayans from Tulum used the sea as their main source of livelihood, as food and to obtain work tools, utensils, ornamental and sacrificial objects.
They too, however, like the Mayans from Palenque and Yaxchilan, exploited agriculture by growing corn, beans, pumpkins, chillies, tomatoes and fruit and also hunted in the forest.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Tulum

 

When the Spanish arrived, a cultural fusion began which led to the rapid sunset of the Mayan city of Tulum.
The site is the one I liked least because is impossible to go close to the buildings because of the too high number of tourists, especially from the resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

 

Mexico-Tulum ruins

 

Even the small beach below was so crowded to make activities or rest impossible.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Tulum

 

After the visit to the archaeological site and a dip in the water I preferred to move to quieter and more isolated beaches.

 

Mexico-Tulum-sea

 

 

CHIAPAS: THE HEART OF MEXICO

On my trip to Mexico, Chiapas totally conquered me.
Not only for the particular atmosphere in San Cristóbal de Las Casas or for the teachings of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
The nature of the southernmost State of Mexico is incredible.
Forests, jungles, woods, waterfalls, rivers and caves are the natural habitat of parrots, toucans, monkeys, crocodiles.

 

Canyon-Rio-La-Venta

CANYON DEL RIO LA VENTA

If you want to avoid the tourist crowds in the more famous Sumidero Canyon, you have to go without regrets to the Rio La Venta Canyon.

Chiapas, Mexico: Rio La Venta Canyon

 

This canyon, more suitable if yout like trekking and exploration, is 50 miles long and its walls are up to 1300 ft high.
Going down 750 steps you get to the river that generated it, also reaching the beautiful Aguacero waterfall, 230 ft high.

 

Chiapas, Messico: Cascata del Aguacero

 

Inside the canyon there are many caves, used by pre-Hispanic populations both as a refuge and for ceremonies.
In the most remote area of ​​the canyon, known as “Sacred Canyon” and reachable with a trek of several days, the river allows kayaking and rafting excursions.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Rio La Venta cave

SIMA DE LAS COTORRAS (CHASM OF THE PARROTS)

Thousands of parrots live inside this impressive natural cavity, 460 ft deep and 525 ft in diameter.

 

Chiapas-Mexico-chasm-of-the-parrots

 

I recommend sleeping in the nearby stone huts, to see the incredible exit of thousands of parrots from inside at sunrise.
After this show you could walk safely around the pit or rappel deep into the cavity.

 

Chiapas-Mexico-chasm-of-the-parrots-walk

 

 

Chiapas-Mexico-Chasm-of-the-Parrots-rappet

 

In this way you reach a cave on whose internal walls there are various pre-Hispanic paintings.

 

Chiapas-Mexico-Chasm-of-the-Parrots-paintings

 

 

Chiapas-Mexico-Chasm-of-the-Parrots-deep-cavity

 

I had never made a descent with the rope and being suspended there was very nice.
The descent was quiet and fun … but I still remember the effort to go up.

 

Chiapas-Mexico-Chasm-of-the-Parrots-go-up

 

At sunset, the parrots come back to the chasm and you see their return..
They are very faithful animals and their couples are forever.
So is exciting to note how they always move in pairs.
Alone parrots are those who have not yet found company or have lost it and will still remain faithful to the end.

THE MAYA JUNGLE

The Mayan citieshave left me speechless.
To be clear, for me they are much more beautiful than Machu Picchu.

This not only for the beauty of the buildings, but for the nature that surrounds, hides and protects them.
Most of Palenque‘s buildings are still buried under tropical vegetation.
But this isn’t a problem for the splendor that we see.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Palenque

 

The same about Yaxchilan, an archaeological site on the border with Guatemala.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Yaxchilan

 

You can even get here only by sailing on the historic Usumacinta River, the longest and most flowable river in Central America.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Usumacinta River

 

These areas are obviously the natural habitat of many animals.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Monkey in Yaxchilan

 

 

monkey-mexico-yaxchilan

 

Tucano-Mexico-Yaxchilan-Maya

 

crocodile-mexico-yaxchilan

EZLN: MEETING WITH THE ZAPATISTA ARMY

My trip to Mexico was focused on the days with the EZLN, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.

In high school, the first approaches to politics and demonstrations began.
I started dreaming about the Lacandon Jungle, wondering how to meet the EZLN.
Their balaclavas and their phrases fascinated me: “we are an army of dreamers so we are invincible” accompanied my studies and the rest of my life.
I crossed the ocean to spend a few days with them. And I did it, starting from the symbolic city of Chiapas: San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

I spent 3 days with them: 2 days in two different Caracol and 1 day in the middle of the forest in a support base.

This is a very long article, writed using the words of the EZLN, extrapolated from what was explained to me and from their communiques and books.
I’d like to give tou the teachings that come from the mountains of the Mexican southeast.

I hope you will read it, with your ways, your times, your geography.

 

EZLN - For everyone everything - nothing for us

 

WHY EZLN

In Chiapas most of the inhabitants are descendants of the Original Peoples: Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, Tojolabal, Zoque, Mam.
And as such, always discriminated and deprived of any collective and individual right.
After 500 years of abuse, on November 17, 1983, a group of people, including natives and mestizos, gave birth to the EZLN.

 

EZLN - greeting

 

Born as a classic revolutionary guerrilla army, in 1986 it was an armed group, heavily indigenous, a pupil who listened carefully and stammered his first words with a new teacher: the indigenous peoples.
The EZLN has learned to listen and speak.
This is how it quickly turned into an organization of thousands of fighters “merged” with indigenous communities. They stopped being “foreigners” and became part of that forgotten corner of the country and the world: the mountains of the Mexican southeast.
There wasn’t the EZLN on one side and the communities on the other, they were simply all Zapatistas.

 

EZLN - support bases - Zapata murals

 

They were still in the learning phase (and they never stop learning), when the President of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, had the “brilliant” idea of ​​making reforms that canceled the farmers’ right to land.
NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico, was tremendous.
For the Original Peoples (without differents between the communities and the EZLN) the land is not a commodity, but has cultural, religious and historical connotations.
That’s why soon the ranks of the EZLN grew exponentially, but unfortunately the misery and the death, especially of children under 5 years, also grew.

This happened in all the indigenous communities of Mexico but the difference was that they were already armed and trained for a war.

Death by oblivion was (and is) the worst of deaths and they were faced with a choice, but not between life or death, but between one type of death and another.
The collective decision approved by each of the tens of thousands of Zapatistas originated that spark that was the sunrise of January 1, 1994.
That day thousands of indigenous people covered with balaclavas and armed with rudimentary rifles and machetes claimed what was denied them: a new world made of work, land, roof, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.

Shouting “stop now!” and “earth and freedom!”, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation came to the world occupying the city offices of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Altamirano, Las Margaritas, Ocosingo, Oxchuc, Huixtán and Chanal.

They left their homes in 1994 with the certainty that they would be destroyed but that action would have attracted the attention of good people on a crime no less bloody, because in silence and far from the media: the genocide of thousands of Mexican indigenous families.
The surprising and unexpected Zapatista uprising, broadcast by all televisions, brought Chiapas to the fore how the southernmost state of Mexico and still the poorest today.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Struggling

 

The armed struggle just over ten days, during which the regular army tried to regain control of the occupied areas and the population went down the streets demanding a cease-fire. The President of Messico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, arrived in his final year of government mandate, accepted the dialogue proposal by the EZLN, mediated by the diocese of San Cristóbal and by Bishop Samuel Ruiz Garcia.

From the beginning, the EZLN has made communication with the rest of Mexico and the world a top priority: thanks to the use of technology (phones, Radio Insurgente and then of course the internet) it has created around itself a solid local, international and internationalist defense. It was made by organizations, groups, collectives and individual people united according to their time, geography and way, without having to count the distance, without importing walls and borders or the fences that place us.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and his communiques have become a point of reference.
For many people he was the “leader” of the EZLN but the reality is totally different.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation spoke through his voice.
And everyone realized it on May 25, 2014 when Subcomandante Marcos died.
It was almost funny to read newspapers from all around the world, unable to go beyond the words “dead Marcos”.
The Zapatistas take the name from their absentees and on the same day Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano was born.
You die to live and you live to not die.
Galeano was the name of an indigenous Zapatista teacher,, attacked, kidnapped, tortured and murdered by paramilitaries on May 2, 2014.
Galeano himself took his name for the fight from Hermenegildo Galeana, Mexican revolutionary of the early 1800s.
In those days the collective management of the EZLN decided to kill the character nicknamed SupMarcos, the spokesman for the Zapatistas, and to entrust that task to the Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, always, like many others, in the Zapatista Army.

Enemies never learned to look at the Moon, the EZLN, instead of the finger pointing to it, the dead Marcos.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - School

 

THE BIRTH OF AGUASCALIENTES

On August 8, 1994, in the session of the Democratic National Convention celebrated in Guadalupe Tepeyac, Commander Tacho, on behalf of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, inaugurated, in front of about 6,000 people from different parts of Mexico and the world, the so-called Aguascalientes.
In fact, it had become necessary to have a place to learn to listen and speak with that plurality called “civil society”.
They built the space and since it was to be the seat of the Democratic National Convention, they called it Aguascalientes, recalling the state that hosted the Convention of the Mexican Revolutionary Forces at the end of 1914, where the various groups led by Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, the brothers Flores Magón and Venustiano Carranza.
However, that place was born because a specific political initiative and many thought that the Aguascalientes would closed at its end.

The Aguascalientes was Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, the pirate ship, the anachronistic paradox, the tender madness of the faceless, the absurdity of a civil movement in dialogue with an armed movement, hope, library, homes, hospital, health services, showers, popular music, common effort for change.

The path to get to the construction of what was the first Aguascalientes was rough and painful. And not for its physical construction (completed in record time and without television spots), but for its conceptual construction.
After the first days of fighting, after preparing for 10 years to make war, they were invaded by an army of journalists and men and women of the most diverse social, cultural and national backgrounds.
Journalists continued to come back intermittently, but what they call “civil society”, to distinguish it from the political class and not to pigeonhole it into social classes, has always been constant.
A lot of years preparing to shoot with a weapon and at the end they have to shoot only words. A warrior doesn’t forget what he learns and they have learned to listen and speak.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - murals

 

DEATH OF THE AGUASCALIENTES AND SAN ANDRÉS AGREEMENTS

Then came the betrayal of February 9, 1995 when the newly installed president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, betrayed the agreements.
Although peace talks were going on, he tried to capture the top of the EZLN, destroyed the Aguascalientes of Guadalupe Tepeyac even building a military base, strengthening the military and paramilitary presence in the areas of influence of the Zapatistas and supporting acts of violence and massacres of civilians.

 

EZLN - support bases - prisoners are missing

 

At the end of 1995 the EZLN responded with the construction of new Aguascalientes, as a symbol of resistance and uprising.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the EZLN and a parliamentary commission made up of deputies and senators from all political parties arrived on February 16, 1996 with the signing in the Chiapanec municipality of San Andrés Larràinzar of four documents known as “San Andrés Agreements“, according to which the government should modify the Constitution, recognizing indigenous peoples and cultures, guaranteeing them autonomy.

It was recognized that:
– indigenous peoples have been subjected to subjugation, inequality and discrimination, which have led to a structural situation of poverty, exploitation and political exclusion;
– the partecipation of indigenous peoples is necessary because they are fundamental actors in the decisions that affect their lives;
– indigenous peoples are new subjects of law, respecting their historical origins, their requests and the pluriculturality of the Mexican State;
– indigenous will be able to decide their form of government and their ways of political, social, economic and cultural organizations;
– the Federal State undertakes to widen the participation and political representation of indigenous people at local and national level, recognize their political, economic, social and cultural rights, ensure their full access to justice, recognize their regulatory internal systems for the solution of conflicts as well as their peculiarities forms of organization.
Therefore a reform of the Federal Constitution and of the juridical order would have guaranteed to the communities the status of subjects of public law, the right of the municipalities with indigenous majority population to freely associate, the indigenous participation in the government activities, the free determination and the autonomy of indigenous peoples.
The territory inhabited by indigenous peoples was considered their natural habitat and therefore had to be safeguarded as a whole with them.
Indigenous peoples were recognized the right to direct exploitation of natural resources and the collective use of uncultivated lands.

But none of this has ever been done.

 

EZLN - support bases - no rain no rainbow

 

REBIRTH OF AGUASCALIENTES: FROM 1 TO 5

But if something characterizes the Zapatistas, it is tenacity (“or stupidity”, more than one will think).
Not even a year had passed since the death of Guadalupe Tepeyac’s Aguascalientes, which in 1996 new Aguascalientes were born in various parts of the rebel territory.

Aguascalientes I (La Realidad),
Aguascalientes II (Oventik),
Aguascalientes III (La Garrucha),
Aguascalientes IV (Morelia),
Aguascalientes V (Roberto Barrios).

These Aguascalientes were what they had to be: spaces for meeting and dialogue with national and international civil society, venues for major initiatives and the place where “civil society” and Zapatistas met daily.

 

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Zapatista Territory in Rebellion

 

But someone didn’t understand the meaning of the Zapatista struggle.
Some NGOs organized fundraisers (retaining a large part of the money for the “expenses incurred”) or tried to unilaterally impose projects and works that they considered urgent and fundamental, without asking and also deciding ways and times.
There were modern conquerors, disguised as political parties of the progressive left, who threatened them: they asked to vote for them because they had avoided the genocide in the early days of 1994 and for this reason EZLN were indebted, otherwise left parties would have abandoned them, considering Zapatistas guilty of sending the right to the government.

But the Zapatistas didn’t understand.
They rose up to command themselves, not because someone else commanded them.
The Zapatistas continued to listen and speak, imagine, grow, live, die, build schools and hospitals, they don’t need assistance but want to govern themselves without the parasite called “the ruler”.

The modern conquerors have returned to the city, have continued to make marches, shout slogans to which they add tweets, hashtags, likes, trending topics and followers. In their political parties there are the same ones who yesterday were in the reactionary right, at their tables the murderers and the relatives of the murdered sit together, laughing and toasting together for the money received, complaining and crying together for the lost seats.

In the land of city creditors, the master continues to command, with another face, another name, another color.
In Zapatista Land the people command and the government obeys.

 

DEATH OF THE AGUASCALIENTES

On July 2003 arrived their decision to kill the Aguascalientes.
The Zapatista communities, tired of the alms of some “civil society” and the paternalism of some NGOs, on August 8, 2003, the anniversary of the first Aguascalientes, decreed the “dead good death” of the Aguascalientes.

The party (because there are dead that need to be celebrated) was held in Oventik, with all the people who in those ten years supported the rebel communities with plans, camps and caravans of peace, with attentive listening, with the word companion, with what it is but always not with compassion and alms.

BIRTH OF CARACOLES AND GOOD GOVERNMENT BOARD

On August 9, 2003, the Caracoles and Juntas de Buen Gobierno were born, the culmination of important progress in the autonomous process.

In each Caracol, where there are also health clinics, schools, houses, libraries, surveillance and information offices, etc., a new construction is perfectly distinguished, the so-called “House of the Good Government Board”.

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - House of the Good Government Board

 

The “Good Government Board“, (which is so called not because it’s of course “good”, but to differentiate it from the “bad government”) is made up of 1 or 2 delegates from each of the Autonomous Councils of that area.
It represents the organizational effort of the communities, not only to face the problems of autonomy, but also to build a more direct bridge between them and the world.

They must counteract the imbalance in the development of autonomous municipalities and communities, mediate in the conflicts between autonomous Zapatista municipalities and government municipalities, follow the complaints against violations of human rights, ensure that the projects agreed with the communities are carried out in the agreed times and ways, enforce the laws that, in common agreement with the communities, are in force in the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities.
They must also manage relations with “civil society”: assisting and guiding visits to communities, carrying out production projects, setting up peace camps, promoting and approving the participation of Zapatista comrades in activities or events that take place outside rebel communities .

In short, to be sure that in the Zapatista Rebel Territory, the Government commands by obeying the decisions of the communities.

The Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities continue to maintain exclusive jurisdiction over justice, health, education, housing, land, work, food, trade, information, culture and local transit.
The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee supervises the functioning of the Good Government Board to avoid acts of corruption, intolerance, arbitrariness, injustices and deviations from the Zapatista principle of “commanding by obeying”.

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - House of the Good Government Board

 

Each Good Government Board has its own name, chosen by the respective Autonomous Councils:
The Good Government Board Selva Fronteriza (which includes the area from Marqués de Comillas, the region of Montes Azules and all the municipalities on the border with Guatemala to Tapachula) is called “Hacia la esperanza” (“Towards hope”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: General Emiliano Zapata, San Pedro de Michoacán, Libertad de los Pueblos Mayas and Tierra y Libertad.

The Good Government Board Tzots Choj (which includes the territories in which the governmental municipalities of Ocosingo, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, Huixtán, Chilón, Teopisca and Amatenango del Valle are located) is called “Corazòn del arcoiris de la esperanza” (in the original language “Yot’an te xojobil yu’un te smaliyel”, meaning” Heart of the rainbow of hope “) and groups the autonomous municipalities: 17 de Noviembre, Primero de Enero, Ernesto Che Guevara, Olga Isabel, Lucio Cabañas, Miguel Hidalgo and Vicente Guerrero.

The Good Government Board Selva Tzeltal (which includes part of the territories in which the governmental municipality of Ocosingo is located) is called “El camino del futuro” (in the original language “Te s’belal lixambael”, that is “The path to the future) and brings together the autonomous municipalities: Francisco Gómez, San Manuel, Francisco Villa and Ricardo Flores Magón.

The Good Government Board Zona Norte de Chiapas (which includes part of the territories in which the governmental municipalities of the north of Chiapas, from Palenque to Amatán are located) is called “Nueva semilla que va a producir” (in the tzeltal language “Yach’il ts’unibil te yax bat’p’oluc”, in the chol language “Tsi Jiba Pakabal Micajel Polel”, so “The seed that will go to produce”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: Vicente Guerrero , Del Trabajo, La Montaña, San José en Rebeldía, La Paz, Benito Juárez and Francisco Villa.

La Good Government Board Altos de Chiapas (which includes part of the territories found in the governmental municipalities of Los Altos del Chiapas and extends to Chiapa de Corzo, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Berriozábal Ocozocuautla and Cintalapa “) is calledCorazòn céntrico de los Zapatistas delante del mundo” (in the original language “Ta olol yoon zapatista tas tuk’il sat yelob sjunul balumil”, ” Centric heart of the Zapatistas in front the world”) and groups the autonomous municipalities: San Andrés Sakamchén de los Pobres, San Juan de la Libertad, San Pedro Polhó, Santa Catarina, Magdalena de la Paz, 16 de Febrero and San Juan Apóstol Cancuc.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Emiliano Zapata

 

Among the first provisions of the Good Government Board, there are the following:
Donations and support from national and international civil society to someone in particular or to a specific community or autonomous municipality will no longer be allowed.
The Good Government Board will decide, after evaluating the situation of the communities, where it is most necessary to direct that help.
The Good Government Board imposes the so-called “fraternal tax” on all projects, which is 10% of the total amount of it.
So if a community, municipality or collective receives financial support for a project, it will have to hand over 10% to the Good Government Board to assign it to another community that doesn’t receive support.
That’s to at least slightly balance the economic development of communities in resistance. Certainly, they will not accept discards, alms or the imposition of plans.
Only people, communities, cooperatives and production and marketing companies registered with the Good Government Board will be recognized as Zapatistas.
People who are not zapatistas or who are even anti-Zapatistas are not treated as zapatistas. Surpluses or credit transfers for the marketing of products from Zapatista cooperatives and companies will be delivered to the Good Government Board so that support can be given to comrades and companions who are unable to market their products or receive any kind of support.
It may happen that dishonest people deceive national or international civil society by presenting themselves in the cities as alleged “zapatistas” sent on “secret or special missions” to ask for money for the sick, projects, travel or other such things.
Just get in touch with one of the Good Government Board (in the area from which the “trickster” says he comes) and in a few minutes it will be clarified if he is or is not a Zapatista.

So now “civil societies” know who they have to agree with for projects, peace camps, visits, donations etc.
Human rights defenders know to whom they should forward the complaints they receive and from whom they should expect a response.
The Army, police and government paramilitaries know who to attack (taking into account that they would attack and find the whole EZLN).
Honest media know where to go for interviews or reportage in communities.
And the Power of Money knows who else to fear.

 

ESCUELITA ZAPATISTA

The Zapatistas learned on their own to create and manage their autonomy.
A demonstration of this was the Escuelita Zapatista, in which more than 1,700 “students” participated on 2013 (plus all those who participated remotely by videoconference and then later when the books become available).

In those days, the student’s family was an indigenous Zapatista family.
The teachers of the school were the Zapatista bases of support, who explained their thinking, action in freedom according to Zapatismo, successes, mistakes, problems, solutions, progress, projects to finish (because there is always something missing to do).

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - high school

 

The student didn’t miss anything with his family: ate, worked, rested, sang, danced and was never alone.

All costs were covered by the Zapatistas.

The rules, few and clear, were explained before participation: respect life in the Zapatista communities and their internal rules.
It’s forbidden to produce, trade, exchange and consume any type of drug and alcohol.
It’s forbidden to hold and use any type of weapon, whether fire or “white”.
Anyone who asks to join the EZLN or anything military will be expelled because the school does not recruit nor promote armed struggle, but rather organization and autonomy for freedom.
Propaganda of any kind, political and religious, is prohibited.
No age limit to attend school, no gender discrimination, sexual preference, race, creed, nationality.

In the morning we shared coffee, corn and beans produced independently. Then the daily activities in the community began: cleaning the coffee plantation, harvesting corn, cutting wood, making tortillas and beans.
And during these activities the Zapatista communities and comrades from all over the world listened and spoke, taught and learned. Everyone participated.
We all came out better.

“SAMIR FLORES LIVES” CAMPAIGN

Repression, persecution and death of indigenous people by government, paramilitaries, caciques, foreign companies and criminals have never stopped.
Dozens of militant companions have been murdered and, among them, a brother highly respected by the Zapatista peoples: Samir Flores Soberanes.
In honor of the sisters and brothers who died, persecuted, disappeared or in prison, the Zapatista campaign called “Samir Flores Lives” culminates in August 2019.
After years of silent work, assaults, deaths, lies, defamations, military patrols, counterinsurgency campaigns disguised as social programs, oblivion and contempt have grown, become even stronger and have broken the encirclement.
New Caracoles and further Autonomous Zapatista Rebel Municipalities was born in new areas of the Mexican southeast.
Although slowly, as their name, the original 5 Caracoles reproduced after 15 years of political and organizational work and the Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities (Marez) and their Good Government Board also had to give birth and raise children.
Now there will be 12 Caracoles with their Good Government Board.
This exponential growth is basically due to two things:
One, and the most important, is the organizational political work and the example of Zapatista women, men, young people, children and support bases.
Most of this youth, mainly women, take on assignments and imbue them with their creativity, ingenuity and intelligence.

 

EZLN - For everyone everything - nothing for us

 

The other is government policy which destroys the community and nature. Traditionally party-affiliated communities have been affected by the contempt, racism and voracity of the current government, and have moved on to open or hidden rebellion. Those who thought, with their againstinsurgency policy of almsgiving, of dividing Zapatism and buying loyalty from non-Zapatistas, instead gave the arguments that failed to convince these brothers and sisters on the need to defend land and nature.
They continue with the “indigenous conception” that the original peoples aspire to sell their dignity and stop being what they are, and that the indigenous is a museum item, multicolored craftsmanship so that the powerful hide the gray of his hearts.
Hence his concern that his walls-trains (that of the Isthmus and incorrectly called the “Mayan train“) incorporate the ruins of a civilization into the landscape, for the enjoyment of the tourist.

 

EZLN - support bases - land defense

 

During these years the EZLN has learned to look, listen and speak with each other without falseness, without condemning, without labels, has dreamed for all the world and not for a small area or community, they have thought and researched ways and times, have challenged the contempt of the powerful who consider them ignorant and dumb, using intelligence, knowledge and imagination.

From all this 11 new Autonomous Resistance Centers and Zapatista Rebellion (CRAREZ) are born, which are added to the original 5:

1. New Caracol “Colectivo el corazón de semillas rebeldes, memoria del Compañero Galeano”.
His Good Government Board is called “Pasos de la historia, por la vida de la humanidad”.
Its headquarters is La Unión, a recovered land, next to the San Quintín ejido, where there is the garrison of the bad government army, the official municipality of Ocosingo.

2. New Municipio Autonomo “Esperanza de la Humanidad”.
Its headquarter is in the ejido Santa María, official municipality of Chicomuselo.

3. New Municipio Autonomo “Ernesto Che Guevara”.
Its headquarters is El Belén, official municipality of Motozintla.

4. New Caracol “Espiral digno tejiendo los colores de la humanidad en memoria de [email protected] caídos”.
His Good Government Board is called “Semilla que florece con la conciencia de [email protected] que luchan por siempre”.
Its headquarters is in Tulan Ka’u, recovered land, official municipality of Amatenango del Valle.

5. New Caracol “Floreciendo la semilla rebelde”.
His Good Government Board is called “Nuevo amanecer en resistencia y rebeldía por la vida y la humanidad”.
Its headquarters is in Poblado Patria Nueva, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

6. New Municipio Autonomo “Sembrando conciencia para cosechar revoluciones por la vida”.
Its headquarters is in Tulan Ka’u, recovered land, official municipality of Amatenango del Valle.

7. New Caracol “En Honor a la memoria del Compañero Manuel”.
His Good Government Board is called “El pensamiento rebelde de los pueblos originarios”.
Its headquarters is in Dolores Hidalgo, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

8. New Caracol “Resistencia y Rebeldía un Nuevo Horizonte”.
His Good Government Board is called “La luz que resplandece al mundo”.
Its headquarters is in Poblado Nuevo Jerusalén, recovered land, official municipality of Ocosingo.

9. New Caracol “Raíz de las Resistencias y Rebeldías por la humanidad”.
His Good Government Board is called “Corazón de nuestras vidas para el nuevo futuro”.
Its headquarters is in the ejido Jolj’a, official municipality of Tila.

10. New Municipio Autónomo “21 de Diciembre”.
Its headquarters is in Ranchería K’anal Hulub, official municipality of Chilón.

11. New Caracol “Jacinto Canek”.
His Good Government Board is called “Flor de nuestra palabra y luz de nuestros pueblos que refleja para todos”.
Its headquarters is in the Comunidad CIDECI-Unitierra, official municipality of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

 

MY TRIP TO ZAPATISTA TERRITORY

CARACOL OVENTIK

My first meeting with the EZLN took place in Oventik.
I took a collective in San Cristóbal and after about 2 hours full of emotion and tension, I arrived at the entrance of the Caracol.
On one side of the road a sign reminds you to be in the Zapatista Territory, on the other side there is the real entrance.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Rebel Zapatista Territory

 

A bar blocks access and one of the guardians with a balaclava immediately comes to me.
I communicate my name and ask if I could enter.
He talks to a comrade who go to a wooden house a few hundred meters away.
After a few minutes he come back with 3 other people, all covered but unarmed on sight.
They ask me who I am, where I come from, why I came … and write my answers.
I’m a little nervous, alone in the forest, really I don’t know what to expect.
After this interview they ask me for my passport and tell me to wait.

 

EZLN - Good Government Board

I wait 10 minutes and one of them comes back to asks my job and where I work.
At the time, my company didn’t have a website and I thought these were useless answers, but obviously I answer every request, hoping that there are no problems.
After writing all, comrade back to the wooden house.
I wait for an answer and the seconds seem hours. I feel a little anxiety and worry.
And here EZLN give me their first great teaching.
I ask the guardian if there is any problem, how long I have to wait to enter.
His answer shocks me: “Indigenous People waited 500 years before their rights were recognized. Could you wait 5 minutes?
“Sure, sorry” is the only I have to answer.

Shortly after comrade returns, he gives me my passport and tells me to follow him.
The 3 people belonging to the Good Government Board would like to speak to me.

 

EZLN - Caracol Oventik - Good Government Board

 

They tell me their history, explain the why and how of the Zapatista struggle.
I’m talking and listening to the EZLN and the EZLN is talking and listening to me.
Then one of the comrades accompanies me around the Caracol, makes me take some photos and I’m obviously careful not to shoot the children with their faces uncovered.
I come back to San Cristóbal de las Casas with a lot of teachings and my heart full of emotions.

CARACOL MORELIA

I had the second meeting with EZLN in the Caracol of Morelia, one day that celebrated the 10 years of the Caracoles and just before the start of the Escuelita Zapatista.
Preparations were now over and some “students” were starting to arrive.
The number of Zapatistas present was also very high but the Good Government Board was too busy to receive me.

EZLN - Caracol Morelia - Welcome

However, I experienced wonderful moments and other teachings, such as from children who played basket. Non-Zapatista eyes must get used to what they see.
If we grew up with “who wins, go on”, in the Zapatista Territories the team that wins seems to us to be the one that loses. Because they stop to play.
Those who lost will continue to play instead. Because they have yet to learn.
But however there are’t challenge, rivalry, malice, protagonism, competition. There are only play, fun, desire to learn, to improve, to help each other.

SUPPORT BASES – ZAPATISTA ESCUELITA

The other experience was still different.
I would have liked to participate in the Zapatista Escuelita but unfortunately I didn’t have enough days to stay.
However, I lived a day in the middle of the forest with a support base, Zapatista comrades who don’t live in the Caracol but in perhaps more dangerous lands, because to be controlled and defended.
Eating and sleeping with them among the river, waterfalls and forest, I understood their essence even more.

 

EZLN - support bases - cocoa plant

 

We shared coffee, corn, tortillas, beans, meat, chicken broth.
I have known the plantations of coffee, cocoa (this photo) and eaten the sugar cane.
And in the night, sitting around a table, we talked.

And to my question “you are the EZLN, do you know what you represent for millions of people around the world?” the answer comes after a few minutes, after confronting each other and deciding the words together, as always: “we know that many people think about us, because they come here to talk to us, to listen to us, to be with us.
Yes, we are the EZLN but above all we are farmers, we come from the land and continue the struggle of Emiliano Zapata for land and freedom.
To show us, we cover our faces.
To be named, we deny our name.
We bet our present to have a future, and to live, we die.
We are Zapatistas, mostly indigenous of Mayan ancestry.
We don’t sell ourself, we don’t give up and we don’t limp.
We are rebellion and resistance.
We are one of the many clubs that will break the walls, one of the many winds that will sweep the earth, and one of the many seeds from which other worlds will be born.
We are the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.”

 

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

NY ALESUND: TRAVEL WITH SCIENTISTS

About 30 people live in Ny-Ålesund in winter and 130 in summer.
This settlement on Svalbard seems an international territory, a world fundamental scientific base especially for geologists and meteorologists.

Read more

TRIP TO DERRY/LONDONDERRY:

TELL ME THE NAME OF YOUR CITY AND I’LL KNOW ABOUT YOU

To understand this part of Ireland it is necessary not to stop in Belfast.
Visit Derry is essential to understand the historical, ideological and cultural divisions that separate the inhabitants

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LOW-COST TRIP TO IRELAND

RYANAIR: PLANES FOR NOMADS TRAVELERS

It’s now impossible to pay flights € 0,01 but I will continue to defend the irish Ryanair, which has revolutionized the way of travel, allowing millions of people to get on a plane with a few euros.
I still have the idea that it is just a connection between two city.

It doesn’t matter in which seat I have to sit, it doesn’t matter if there are more sales announcements on the plane than on ebay, it doesn’t matter if I have to challenge the physics to prepare the backpack, it doesn’t matter if I have to fill my pockets with what doesn’t fit in hand luggage, it doesn’t matter if the sweatshirt doesn’t fit and I have to tie it to my waist …

I only care, for example, to reach Belfast and return to Cagliari for only € 30,00.

 

Belfast-irish-flag

 

HOW TO GET

George Best Belfast City Airport, dedicated in 2006 to one of its most famous citizens, is located adjacent to the port, just 5 km from the city center. Its flights mainly connect the island to the United Kingdom, with some seasonal flights to Barcelona, Amsterdam or Brussels.

Belfast International Airport has connections with all of Europe, Cuba and United States.
To reach the Europa Buscentre central station it takes about 40 minutes with the Express Bus 300.
Tickets can be bought in the information desk inside the airport (excellent service, with maps and information on everything the Irish island offers, free and multilanguage) or directly on board (but it could be the exact amount, driver does not always have the rest).
The cost is £ 8 one way, £ 11 including return.
No prohibition for those who want to spend the night into the airport. But the place is not very friendly: uncomfortable chairs, lights on and staff skeaking all night while cleaning.

MOVING IN IRELAND

Experience and safety are always required to drive a car. Here obviously drive in anglosaxon way and I prefer not to risk a frontal car crash.

Using public transport is easy and cheap.
There is a day pass to take every public transport and travel throughout Northern Ireland. It’s called iLink Zone4 and costs 17 £.
You have to ask for it specifically, not always at the station benches they offer, preferring to sell the most expensive single tickets.

There are direct connections between Belfast and Derry airports with airporter.co.uk mini buses.
In this case the rates are £ 20 for a single person trip (£ 30 with return), £ 15 and £ 25 if you are traveling with more than 2 people, £ 10 and £ 15 for passengers under 16 years.

 

WHAT TO SEE

Much of Belfast’s history is focused to the war that divides Irish nationalist Catholics and Protestant British unionists from over 800 years.

The streets of the city have seen over 1,500 deaths and hate doesn’t close into a coffin, but from there it comes out with greater power.

Murals represent the history and culture of Ireland and show the clear and visible division between the respective neighborhoods. And the same is true for different colors of sidewalks and light poles (tricolor greenwhiteorange in Irish area, redwhiteblue in English area) and an always tense and wary atmosphere.

There are many walking or taxi tours but I always prefer to walk around in search of something different from the classic visions.

 

Belfast-sky-streaks-aircraft

 

Irish, Catholic, Nationalist, Republican area

The murals fill the streets around Falls Road.

 

Belfast-falls-road

 

Belfast-irish-murales

 

Belfast-falls-road-

 

Belfast-Bobby-Sands-murales

 

Beyond the images of friends and relatives who lost their lives and supported the IRA, there are independentist links (dedications to the Basque Country e Catalonia), leftists (Palestina, Cuba and those who came from all over the world to support this cause.

 

Belfast-Catalunya-murales

 

Belfast-Palestina-murales

 

Belfast-Fidel-Castro-murales

 

Belfast-Nelson-Mandela-murales

 

Belfast-Ocalan-murales

 

Belfast-soldier-out-murales

 

Belfast-climate change-murales

 

English, Protestant, unionist, loyalist zone

Near the central station, a large mural indicates the arrival in Sandy Row. Here in 1866 the Linfield FC was founded, a team where there are only Protestant players, even if not officially.
A pub with stained glass windows often damaged is the home of Glasgow Rangers Fans, Scottish team supported in the city for its bond with the Protestants.

 

Belfast-sandy-row- king-william-orange-murales

 

Belfast-george-the-best

 

The Unionist population lives mainly in the Shankill Road area. During the war, the “Shankill Butchers” group became very famous.

 

Belfast-welcome-to-the-shankill-road

 

Belfast-shankill-protestant-boys-flute-band

 

Belfast-loyalist-murales

 

On July 12, the “Glorious Twelfth” for Protestants, is still celebrated by invoking the death of Catholics, like that day in 1690 when the Protestant King William III of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II in the Battle of the River Boyne, sanctioning the predominance of English and Scottish Protestant settlers on Irish Catholic nationalists.
The parade is always a symbol of clashes and injuries between the two factions.

The murals here have constant references to the English sovereigns, to friends and relatives killed and in favor of the UDA and UVF paramilitary groups, greater responsible for deaths of Catholics.

 

Belfast-quis-separabit-murales

 

Belfast-uvf-england-murales

 

Belfast-uk-murales

 

Belfast-uym-murales

 

Belfast-resilient-murales

 

Belfast-bayardo-murales

 

Belfast-box-mail

 

Belfast-genocide-murales

 

Belfast-queen-murales

 

The Peace Wall

If the colors of murals, sidewalks and poles represent the different communities, nothing is clearer than the high partition wall, still indispensable that gates are closed every day from 8pm to 6am, physically separating the two enemies communities.

 

Belfast-the-wall-no-peace

 

Belfast-thewall-no-peace

 

Belfast is really divided into two opposite parts constantly at war. Only the almost constant rain makes you see the colors of a peace far from being reached.

 

Belfast-rainbow-wall-no-peace

 

Titanic

Beyond that, Belfast was the world center specializing in shipbuilding. From the Harland and Wolff Shipyard also came out Titanic. Visiting the museum is therefore not to be missed even if perhaps I came out a little disappointed.

 

Belfast-river

 

Belfast-titanic-museum

 

The museum is inside a structure that reminds me of the Guggenheim in Bilbo/Bilbao.
I thought to find a faithful reconstruction of the ship instead everything is centered on its construction (beautiful the route in the train to understand the working conditions) and on its only journey, started from Belfast and finished undersea.

Outside the museum there is the Nomadic Ship, the Titanic’s younger sister and the last ship of the White Star company.
The cumulative ticket costs £ 18.50 and it is certainly worth entering the empty corridors to imagine yourself in that fatal 15 April 1912.

 

Nearby there is also the SSE Arena Belfast.
The flags in the wind and the scarves around the fans pushed me to see an ice hockey match for the first time, the IIHF final which saw the Belfast Giants defeat on penalties.

CONTINUE THE TRIP

Using the iLink Zone4, you can (and should) spend a few days exploring the city of Derry and The Giant’s Causeway, a place so unusual that many legends surrond it.

GENGIS KHAN: THE MONGOLIAN HERO

A few kilometres away from Ulaan Baatar, in the infinity of the steppe, appears the massive monument to the national hero Genghis Khan.

Few people know that in just over 25 years, with an army of only 100,000 men, he created the largest empire in human history: a kingdom that extended for 31 million square kilometres from the Balkans to the Pacific Ocean and from India to Nothern Siberia.

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UNCONVENTIONAL TRIP TO BERLIN

HISTORY AND DRAMAS OF THE CAPITAL

An excellent air offer convinced me to go to the German capital.

I will also talk about a not too conventional Berlin, with attractions away from traditional destinations.

The German capital certainly has much to show, given the events that have marked its history.

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