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Finding Neverland Blog Archive

A Trip to Italy

Rome City
Rome, Roma in Italian, is a cosmopolitan city with 3.8 million inhabitants. A city of culture, capital of Italy and seat of the Vatican. It lies on the river Tevere (Tiber), on seven hills. Since it became Italy's capital in 1870, Rome has grown rapidly in size. This has caused problems because of the many archeological sites: try and dig a tunnel for a subway when there are valuable archeological finds everywhere in the ground.

I am at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino and am desperately looking for the logo of the Italian railways (ƒ), when I suddenly realize that the railway station probably is in a different building.

Outside the heat gets me. In June it's 30 degrees Centigrade in Rome. Cabs offer their services, but I want to take the train. On the other side of the road I notice the Italian Railways logo.

The train to Termini in downtown Rome takes almost 40 minutes to get there. Not because of the distance, but because it doesn't pick up speed on the way, as if it will stop again any minute.

Rome is huge city, but the historical center is relatively small. It's roughly between the Tevere (Tiber) river, Villa Borghese, Termini train station and the Forum Romanum.

This is convenient, because it means that everything is at walking distance. The Vatican is on the other side of the Tevere.

Before exploring the city I have a pizza slice in a snackbar. There are lots of these small eating places in Rome, where you can have a sandwich, a slice of pizza and sometimes also spaghetti, eat in or take out. And this for only a few euros.

On the Piazza della Republica I see the first big fountain. The four nude nymphs caused a scandal when the fountain was unveiled in 1901. Each of the nymphs rests on some kind of water animal: a seahorse, a seasnake, a swan and a weird frill-necked lizard.

The Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli, designed by Michelangelo, sits on this square.

From the outside it's not all that impressive, because the front has been kept simple. It looks as if the entrance was hewn from a rock. Once inside, the basilica turns out to be very large and covered in colored marble. The walls and ceiling have paintings on them and the floor is covered with mosaics.

Vittorio Emanuele II Memorial

Vittorio Emanuele II Memorial

The Vittorio Emanuele Memorial on the Piazza Venezia is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II. This building is clearly newer than other historical buildings in Rome. It was finished in 1911.

Everything about this memorial is gigantic. Built with white marble it has nicknames like "the bridal cake" and "the typewriter." In front of the building is a bronze horse on a pedestal with a lenght of 12 meters. From the upper galeries of the memorial you can see the Colosseum. On the other side are Trajanus' Markets, with a few fora.

Just around the corner from the monument is Caesar's Forum. Julius Caesar built the first imperial forum in Rome. It cost him a fortune to buy the land and demolish the houses.

In the temple were statues of Caesar as well as Cleopatra and Venus. Only a stage and three columns remain of the temple. The forum itself once was surrounded by a double row of columns, but a fire destroyed most of it. The forum is not open to the public, but can be seen from the street.

Trajanus' Markets

Trajanus' Markets and the Jewish ghetto.

The Marcati Traianei (Trajanus' Markets) were a complex of stores and offices in the second century. Everything was for sale here: silk, spices, fish and fruit.

The markets and the adjoining Forum Augusta and Forum di Nerva used to form one large complex with the Forum Romanum on the other side of the road. Mussolini had a road constructed on top of these ancient cultural treasures, in order to have his army march there for his own glory (the Via dell'Impero, now Via dei Fori Imperiali).

When I try to walk around the whole complex, I end up in the former Jewish ghetto.

During the Roman Empire Jews were highly respected for their financial and medical talents.

Starting in 1556 Jews were forced to live in a walled-in area in Rome, as decreed by Pope Paul IV. This was the beginning of a period of intolerance toward Jews that lasted until mid-nineteenth century and started again in the Second World War.

Of the ghetto itself only ruins remain. But there still is a Jewish neighborhood where you can have an excellent kosher meal.

Wandering through Rome I all of a sudden come upon wide stairs that are incredibly crowded. At first I think that people are waiting to see a parade, but soon enough I understand that these are the famous Spanish Stairs, a popular meeting place for young people.

I walked by the Trevi Fountain in the daytime and now I come back at night to see the way the fountain is illuminated. It's a disappointment. I expected that this famous fountain would be in floodlights, but the illumination is minimal.

At 9 PM the streets are as busy as in the daytime. This is the time when most people go out for dinner in Rome.

Tevere River

A walk along the Tevere River.

The Tevere (Tiber) winds through Rome. It's great to take a walk along its banks. The foot path is mostly in the shade, which is pleasant when it's hot. In some places you can approach the river at close distance.

In the middle of the river is Tiber island, a small island with a few houses, a hospital and a church.

Rome is noisy because of all the traffic, but this part is almost like a village. From the other side of the river it's clearly visible that the island causes a little rapid.

Circus Maximus.

Circus Maximus was a racing track for horse races, but it was also used for athletic competition. It had 300,000 seats and was famous in Roman times. It was built in the 6th century BC in the Tarquins era. It was later rebuilt by Julius Caesar, because Circus Maximus burnt down twice. The stands collapsed at least on two occasions, causing several fatalities. Now only grass grows there.

To the left is the Palatium (Palatine). It is named after the hill on which it was built: Palatinus. It used to be Alexander Severus' Imperial Palace. The palace had a view, on the other side, of the home of the Vestal Virgins. According to legend a she-wolf nurtured Romulus and Remus on this hill.

The houses bordering on the Palatium are old and delapidated. Still, their worn terra cotta is picturesque. The only parts that seem to have been maintained over the years are the rainwater pipes. They are painted a fresh yellow.



The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in Rome. Emperor Vespasiunus started building it, it was dedicated in the year 80 by Emperor Titus and later finished by Emperor Domitianus.

The Colosseum was Rome's first permanent amphitheatre. It belongs to the most important architectural landmarks of ancient Rome, both because of its size and because of its allure. It has the shape of a large ellips, 188 x 156 meters, and had 50,000 seats around an ellips-shaped arena. Beneath the sand-covered wooden arena floor was a system of corridors and rooms for wild animals, gladiators and everything else they needed for a spectacular show. The corridors, which lead to the arena, are shaped by over 80 walls.

Between the inner and outer walls where corridors on every level. They are decorated with three layers of arches. The stands were adjacent to the inner wall and could be covered if necessary. The building is a construction of concrete, large stones and masonry. It is 48.5 meters high, roughly the heighth of a modern 15 stories apartment building.

In the arena were fights between gladiators and between gladiators and (wild) animals. They were bloody fights. It was not an exception that in one day a thousand lions, ten elephants and hundreds of gladiators would die. The gladiator fights were held until the year 404, fights with wild animals until 523, when they were outlawed.

Outside the Colosseum are "real" Romans who try to convince tourists to pose with them for a picture. They often are successful. Meanwhile they also seem to be hot in the sun.

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum.

The Forum was the commercial, political and religious center of ancient Rome. It lies scattered in the valley between the Capitol and Palatine hills.

The Forum was built over a period of 900 years and comprises architectural styles from the time of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Traianus, Nerva and Vespucianus. In its heyday it must have been very crowded here. When the Roman Empire started to fall apart, the Forum was ever less maintained and eventually fell to ruins.

On the east side is the House of the Vestal Virgins. These virgins were universally respected. They were selected from nobel families between their sixth and tenth years. Then they were trained for ten years. In the next ten years their most important task was to keep the sacred fire burning in the House of Vesta. During the last ten years of their thirty years of service they trained new virgins. After that they were free to leave the House and get married. The Vestal Virgins had to take an oath of chastity. If they broke their oath, they were buried alive.

Above the Vesta House is the Palatine. This Palace of Alexander Severus is open to the public.

The Forum also housed the Senate, where Julius Caesar was assassinated. His ashes rest in the Forum.

To the Romans, Rome was the center of the world. To be more precise: the milestone Milliarium Aureum on the Via Appia was the center. Think of the expression "All roads lead to Rome.". That once was true. From Rome a network of roads spread all over the known world. All road signs indicated the distance to Rome. 
 Vatican City

Vatican City.

To visit Rome without seeing the St. Peter is of course impossible. And it's not only fun to see where the pope gives his annual "urbi et orbi" blessing, the building itself is really worth a visit.

I take the subway to St. Peter. The Metropolitana (subway company) is helpful in marking Ottavanio station as S. Pietro. When I reach St. Peter Square I hear an American say: "I'm a little disappointed, I thought it was bigger." He hasn't even entered the square and hasn't seen the inside of the basilica. Well, in America apparently everything is bigger.

In my opinion it really is the mother of all churches and cathedrals. It's grander, more impressive and more decorated than any cathedral I've ever seen before. The building is decorated with meters high statues. Immediately upon entering one is overwhelmed by its size.

On the floor the sizes of other basilicas are indicated. This stresses the size of the St. Peter. You can go up to the cupola. I take the elevator for the first part. It takes me to the mosaics above the text "callorum." From here there are 300 steps to a panorama spot.

It starts with a regular spiral staircase. Half-way the walls become slanted, which looks weird. The last part has a piece of rope as a handrail.

The diameter has meanwhile shrunk to a little over a meter. At the top the view is stunning. We can see most of Rome, including the Vatican.

Back downstairs I just have enough time to explore the basement of the Vatican. The dead popes are buried here.

Just around the corner is the Vatican museum. I get there around 9 AM. Bad timing: there's a line all the way down the block.

Inside, the herd is lead through endless corridors with paintings on both sides.

I want to see the Sixtine chapel and try to walk fast. This is hard because of groups of visitors who stand in the middle of the corridor, admiring the paintings. As an introduction to the Sixtine Chapel you pass by other painted walls and ceilings that are so beautiful that I can't imagine that the Sixtine Chapel could be even more impressive.

But it is. After the last restoration the colors are so clear that the Italians call it the "Benneton Michelangelo". Originally the ceiling was simply painted as a starry sky. Michelangelo changed that drastically.

Many images have been painted in a kind of 3D: the perspective of the painted columns is right and the painted figures also throw shadows on the background.

Because of this you have to look to find out whether the images are just painted or are statues which have been painted.

There is much more to see in the museum, from statues to paintings, from utensils to religious ceremonial objects.

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese.

After crowded Rome it's wonderful to relax in the quiet park of Villa Borghese. On the map the old city wall is indicated and I decide to walk via the city wall to the park.

But the wall is not everywhere and soon enough I lose my way. When I take a look at the map, an old man approaches me: "I zpeakah Englis." He advises me to take the bus.

When I'm on the bus, it turns out that I can't buy a ticket. The driver is enclosed behind a glass wall. Oh well, I'll go without a ticket.

When I see a sign "Villa Borghese," I get off the bus at the next stop. And I am in front of the entrance of the park. The bus turns into the park: there are bus stops throughout Villa Borghese.

At first I don't know where to go and so I wander along fountains, a kind of athletics course and statues. It becomes clear to me that "villa" is Italian for park. It does not refer to a building.

The zoo is at the other end of the park, so while walking to it, I see most of the park. The entrance fee to the zoo is only 8 euro. The zoo itself is spacy, but clearly still in the process of improving animal habitats. Some animals already have surroundings that are adapted to their natural habitats, but others are still in cages.

The zoo has several picnic spots and a playground for kids. They are used well. The zoo is an outing for many Italians.

There are other parks attached to Villa Borghese. Sometimes you don't even notice getting from one to the other, but sometimes the parks are fenced in by huge walls. They are just as beautiful as Borghese and also have statues, foutains and places to sit down.

It's so hot in June that most people just want to sit in the shade. For me it's the perfect place to wait until it's time to take the train to the airport.

Biggest Jailbreaks in History

Prison breaks loom large in pop culture: they’re in movies, TV series, books, even cartoons. It’s the chaos they cause, more than anything, that makes their stories so riveting. It’s also interesting to note that not all prison breaks are created equal. Some of them are escape attempts by hardened criminals (and these never, ever end well), but quite a few others are rooted in political activism or a desire to break free from imprisonment by an enemy combatant. The most notorious escapes of all time were perpetrated by abused men and women in prison camps who just wanted to fight back. No matter where they fall on the spectrum, these prison breaks were all impressive in their own way.

The Great Escape

1. The Great Escape, March 1944

The story of Stalag Luft III, a German-run POW camp in what is now Poland, was immortalized in the 1963 film The Great Escape, but the real story is even more incredible. In late March of 1944, a coalition of Allied troops banded together to break out of the prison, putting into motion a plan that had been working since early 1943. The men dug three tunnels underneath their cabins that shot out into the German countryside, using wood slats from their beds to shore up the holes as they went. They even installed makeshift air pumps to supply oxygen to the men digging (the tunnels were 30 feet below the surface and stretched out a great length), as well as a series of lights to guide the work. Despite weather setbacks, 76 men were able to escape via the tunnel system on a moonless night in March. Of those, 73 were captured, and 50 were executed. The rest were shipped off to other camps. It remains one of the biggest and most daring POW prison breaks in history, involving 200 planned escapees and more than 600 construction workers.

Alcatraz Prison Break

2. Alcatraz, June 1962

The fantasies of Michael Bay notwithstanding, nobody ever made it off the Rock alive. There’s only been one possibly successful escape attempt, and it came in June 1962. After three dozen inmates had made 14 unsuccessful attempts, four men — Frank Morris, Allen West, and brothers Clarence and John Anglin — banded together and got closer than anyone else ever had to realizing their freedom. On June 11, Morris and the Anglin brothers escaped through holes they’d cut in the walls of their cells, climbed to the roof, and entered a raft fashioned from prison-issue raincoats and rubber cement. West wasn’t able to get out of his room in time and was left behind by the others, so he returned to his cell and eventually revealed all the details to investigators. (He was subsequently never charged with trying to escape.) Despite an investigation of the area, the men were never found, leading officials to surmise that the men drowned while trying to make it to shore. No one really knows, though.

Maze Prison break
Sobibor Prison Escape

3. Maze Prison, September 1983

This is the largest prison escape in British history, and it’s actually known as "the Great Escape" to Irish republicans and others sympathetic to their cause. Her Majesty’s Prison Maze closed in 2000, but the Northern Ireland prison ran for almost 30 years, and the maximum-security prison was mostly devoted to housing inmates related to the constititional battles of Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. The Troubles themselves saw a number of escapes, but the Maze breakout was by far the biggest. On September 25, a pair of prisoners used guns that they’d had smuggled in to take over one of the prison blocks, holding guards hostage to prevent an alarm from being sounded. They stole guard uniforms and eventually worked their way en masse to the gate. A few were eventually stopped, but 35 men breached the perimeter and got out. Some were caught within a day, and over the next two decades, many more would die in paramilitary ops or find themselves caught and returned to prison. By 2003, only two escapees remained at large.

4. Sobibor, October 1943

The Polish village of Sobibor was home to a gruesome death camp in World War II. It’s estimated by some sources that more than 200,000 Jewish citizens were executed there during the war. Yet for all its horror, the camp was the site of one of the few successful uprising and prison breaks in the war. On October 14, 1943, a pair of Jewish prisoners managed to kill almost a dozen SS members and a few guards as part of a plan to weaken the camp’s infrastructure and allow an open revolt. The plan originally called for a more stealthy overthrow, but the dead Germans were soon discovered, at which point about half of the camp’s 600 prisoners fled into the forest. Many were soon caught by guard teams or met their fate on nearby minefields, though at least 50 of them outlived the war.

The Forbidden City of China

Forbidden City, China

The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty. It is located in the center of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political center of Chinese government.

The site of the Forbidden City was situated on the Imperial city during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty moved the capital from Beijing in the north to Nanjing in the south, and in 1369 ordered that the Yuan palaces be razed. His son Zhu Di was created Prince of Yan with his seat in Beijing. In 1402, Zhu Di usurped the throne and became the Yongle Emperor. He made Beijing a secondary capital of the Ming empire, and construction began in 1406 of what would become the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City's plan was designed by many architects and designers, and then it was examined by the Emperor's Ministry of Work. The Chief Architects were Cai Xin and Nguyen An, a Vietnamese eunuch, and the Chief Engineers were Kuai Xiang and Lu Xiang.

Reko Diq Pakistan

Reko Diq

Reko Diq is a small town in Chagai District, Balochistan, Pakistan, in a desert area, 70 kilometres north-west of Naukundi, close to Pakistan's border with Iran and Afghanistan. The area is located in Tethyan belt that stretches all the way from Turkey and Iran into Pakistan.

Reko Diq is a remote location in the North-West of Chagai district. Chagai is a sparsely populated western desert province of Balochistan. It is mostly low relief and thinly populated desert. The weather of Chagai ranges from very hot summers of 40-50°C to very cool winters of up to -10°C with less than 40 mm precipitation (winter rain and minor snow). It also exhibits periods of high wind and dust/sand storms which have a demobilizing impact on the local activities and trade. Access to the Chagai district is via the Zahidan - Quetta highway also known as the London Road.

People of Kalash, the lost children of Alexander the Great

Kalash Women
The Kalash, are a Dardic indigenous people residing in the Chitral District of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. They speak the Kalasha language, from the Dardic family of the Indo-Iranian branch, and are considered a unique tribe among the Indo-Iranian peoples of Pakistan.

The neighboring Nuristani people of the adjacent Nuristan (historically known as Kafiristan) province of Afghanistan once practiced the same polytheistic religion as the Kalash. By the late 19th century much of Nuristan had been converted to Islam, although some evidence has shown the people continued to practice their customs. Over the years, the Nuristan region has also been the site of numerous war activity that has led to the death of many endemic Nuristanis and has seen an inflow of surrounding Afghans to claim the vacant region, who have since admixed with the remaining natives. The Kalash of Chitral maintained their own separate cultural traditions.

Vintage and Classic Car Club of Pakistan

Vintage and Classic Car Club of Pakistan

VCCCP as the Vintage & Classic Car Club of Pakistan is known started laying its foundation way back in 1979 -1980 when a teenager got immensely interested in certain jewels as he saw them but what others saw as heaps of rusted steel not even fit for scrap. The heaps were actually a couple of old cars, one a 1949 Mercedes Benz SV 170 and a 1920's Daimler Limousine with Sedanca coachwork.

The seeds of passion were sown and that teenager managed to raise Rs.5,000 and bought a 1949 Mercedes which laid the foundation of this club's impressive 150 vintage and classic cars collection. Mohsin Ikram is regarded as the pioneer in introducing the hobby of restoring, driving and collecting classic and vintage cars in Pakistan . Although there were some others as well who had some passion for vintage & classic cars but none as enthusiastic as Mohsin.

Pakistan's memorable matches in Cricket World Cups

Pakistan has been one of the most successful team in the World Cup Cricket, here is a look at all the memorable matches Pakistan have played from each World Cup from 1975 to 2011.

Pakistan vs West Indies 1975

Pakistan v West Indies (Birmingham, Jun 11, 1975)

This match was one of the first classic and thrilling ODI matches and is still regarded as one of the greatest World Cup ODI match. Majid Khan was captaining Pakistan in the match after taking over from Asif Iqbal, he won the toss and chose to bat. This was a do or die match for Pakistan who had lost to Australia comprehensively and needed to win the match if they wanted to keep their chances of playing the semi final alive. Pakistani batsmen were comfortable all through the inning one reason being the most of the players had been playing in county cricket. Majid Khan, Mustaq Muhammad and Wasim Raja all scored half centuries and Pakistan reached 266 in their 60 overs which in those days was considered a very good total. West Indies didn't start their inning well and thanks to a brilliant spell by Sarfaraz Nawaz kept on losing wickets at regular intervals at at one stage were 99/5 the things got worse for West Indies as Pakistani bowlers kept on taking wickets reducing them to 166/8. The 9th wicket stood firm for sometime and took West Indies to 203 when they lost their next wicket. They needed 64 runs in about 16 overs but Pakistani team started losing the grip of the match because of over confidence, last pair of Murray and Roberts took West Indies closer and closer and they were finally able to chase down the target with just 2 balls left and 1 wicket in hand. Interestingly though Sarfaraz Nawaz was declared man of the match because the adjudicator left the match when West Indies were 8 wickets down and thinking Pakistan will win.

History of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011

West Indies1975 World Cup Champion

The first World Cup in England in 1975 wore a different look from modern standards, for the game was traditional as players had not discarded whites for coloured clothing and money was scarce. Fielding restrictions were non-existent, and wides and short-pitched balls were not so firmly enforced. The beginning was humble, with no global television coverage and six Test-playing nations in the competition with associate members Sri Lanka and East Africa. The tournament lasted just a fortnight with 60-overs-a-side games. The final will be remembered as much for West Indies captain Clive Lloyd's 102 off 85 balls as for Australia's fightback and for West Indian Viv Richards's brilliant piece of fielding which led to three of the five run-outs. The West Indies were 50-3 before posting 291-8 off 60 overs despite a five-wicket effort from Gilmour. Australia captain Ian Chappell led from the front with an impressive 62, but fast bowler Keith Boyce took four wickets to reduce Australia to 233-9. The game was not over as the last-wicket pair of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson threatened to conjure up an unlikely victory. Pressure mounted on the West Indies as the Australians added 41. Australia lost by 17 runs in a fitting finale to the tournament, but they looked a different side in the next World Cup held again in England.