Category Archives: divided by an ocean

243. Across two continents: Istanbul, Turkey

sultan ahmed blue mosque istanbul turkey by roadsofstoneAs I stand below the Blue Mosque in the early morning, the Call to Prayer is deafening, drowning out all the other senses and sending forth the unmistakeable message — Istanbul is an Islamic city.

But this narrow street hides a wider view. Because just across the road stands one of the great ancient cathedrals of Christendom. The Agia Sofia spans the history of the Holy Roman Empire.

agia sofia from topkapi palace istanbul turkey by roadsofstoneThe first church here was founded in 360 AD whilst the present structure dates back to 532 AD — and for almost a thousand years formed the largest cathedral in the world.

Contrasts run through this city, at every level. We landed here in Asia, but we’re staying in Europe.

inside the grand bazaar istanbul turkey by roadsofstoneLast week, this place felt bafflingly exotic and full of oriental mystery. Yet returning now from central Turkey, Istanbul’s efficient trams and city bustle seem much more familiarly European, almost recalling Zürich rather than the Middle East.

city wall and turkish flag istanbul turkey by roadsofstoneI wend southwards through winding streets to reach the city wall. High above it run the last few kilometres of the mighty railway line which carried the Orient Express towards its European terminus at Sirkeci.

türkmen store kadiköy istanbul turkey by roadsofstoneFrom there, the ferry across the Bosphorus sails to Kadıköy, the town which gave the quartz mineral chaldedony its name, where another line begins at Haydarpaşa station for the onward journey to Baghdad.

The long odyssey from Western Europe into Asia is divided in two by just this narrow stretch of water which lies ahead of me now.
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232: Cuba 3 – Havana

view from the hotel sevilla habana cuba by roadsofstoneThe street outside Graeme Greene’s Hotel Sevilla is quiet, but as the dramatic Prado opens up beyond, suddenly the sheer scale of this paradox strikes me: Havana is truly a world city.

on the prado havana cuba by roadsofstoneColumbus sighted Cuba in 1492 and landed here two years later. The island has been a prize for empires ever since. Spanish, British and American armies all fought for this land.

street life in old havana cuba by roadsofstoneCuba’s history and her population embrace that diversity. Cubans of every shade and colour fill the streets.

And whether descended from white Europeans, African slaves or indigenous peoples, they’re all simply Cubans.

By rights, Havana should be the hub of Latin America, entrancing and captivating in her charm, passion and style as nowhere on Earth.
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229. Ryder Cup 2010 – the perfect blue day

ryder cup 2010 blue scoreboard celtic manor wales sunday c visitwales comClear skies may have been in short supply in Wales this week, but at least by Saturday night the Ryder Cup scoreboard was showing its first hint of blue.

As I left home on Sunday morning to find a TV showing the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, news came through on the radio. The start of play had been delayed until noon, and then 1.30 pm. I’ve watched the last day of the Ryder Cup many times, but this year the weather and the schedule were both out of kilter.

Instead of a full Sunday programme, play would be restricted to the last nine holes of six fourballs and foursomes which had begun the day before. The singles matches to conclude the event would be delayed until Monday.

For just a very few moments, I pondered turning around. But, meagre as it was, this was all the live golf I would see in this Ryder Cup.

rainbow sky ryder cup 2010 celtic manor wales day 3 visitwales comFor me, and for many others, the Ryder Cup is the highlight of my sporting calendar. The reasons that the event is so special?

In truth, there are many. It’s all about pride, about fear, and about the vagaries and unique demands of match play in golf.

The Ryder Cup is about individual performance in the heat of the battle, and about bringing a team together to outdo even its own expectations.

On this side of the pond, it’s about proving the worth of the European Tour against the PGA Tour in the US. It’s about showing who are the best golfers in the world — for many years it really was the Americans, which is why we tried so hard to foster the illusion that maybe they weren’t.

That’s the Ryder Cup. It encapsulates so many glories in this game of golf, and it celebrates all that divides us and unites us across the Atlantic Ocean as well.
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226. The price of oil: 5 – Deepwater Horizon and the missing toolkit

florida beaches oil risk deepwater horizon press cutting july 2010Dear Don
And so they’ve capped the well for now, although storms aren’t far away and the oil is still out there across the Gulf. I really hope your Florida beaches manage to avoid it.

Elsewhere around the coast it’s a mess, and although hurricanes might spread the oil, a silver lining from experience of the Braer oil spill off the Shetland Islands in the 1990s is that severe storms may finally help to dissipate the slick.

bp poster wildcat road heathrow airport london england july 2010 by roadsofstoneDeepwater drilling is challenging. High Pressure / High Temperature drilling is difficult.

Combining these operations into drilling HP/HT deepwater wells is new within the past decade, pushing the technological envelope while incorporating the difficulties of both.

Although vilified for his PR gaffes, finally Tony Hayward did get it exactly right in one of his pronouncements last month, when he said that the real problem is we just didn’t have the toolkit to deal with problems in this setting.

In that sense, the Deepwater Horizon, just like the Sea Gem or Piper Alpha, will be a disaster which changes the way we do things for ever more beyond.
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222. Cuba 2 – Viñales: Talking ’bout a revolution

revolucion es unidad roadsign peninsula zapata bay of pigs cuba by roadsofstone I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further:
… In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.

— US President John F. Kennedy: 24th October, 1963

Daybreak, 210 km from Havana.

dawn in the rainforest vinales pinar del rio cuba by roadsofstoneIt’s dawn. The rainforest stands still etched in grey, the air dank and humid with half-forgotten warmth.

The sky is dimly promising a future brightening through blue, already revealing white-topped clouds in the firmament above.

Behind me, the friendly valley calls. The massive limestone mogotes above Viñales rise to frame a monochrome outline of last night’s perfect Cuban sunset. I turn the other way and run towards the sunrise.

tropical sunset in vinales pinar del rio cuba by roadsofstoneThe track is damp from unseen rain fallen in the night. The air is heavy, silent, folded thick amongst the trees and scrub lurking close around the path.

The Cuban Revolution started somewhere like this, in the Sierra Maestra above Santiago. The 82 men who sailed from Mexico in December 1956 on the yacht Granma were swiftly cut down to twelve when they landed on Cuba’s swampy southeastern shores.

che guevara mural bus shelter pinar del rio province cuba by roadsofstoneThe survivors, among them a charismatic Argentinian doctor named Che Guevara, fled for the refuge of the mountains where they could regroup and recruit fresh rebels for their cause.
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212. Cuba 1: Just imagine

mogotes valle de vinales cuba by roadsofstoneJust imagine.

Picture a beautiful country of fertile green plains and lush, forested mountains.

A country washed by warm tropical seas, blessed with the finest beaches in the world.

A nation with a proud history extending across three millennia and more. A land coveted by great empires and fought over for centuries — where the fate of our planet was decided, many times more than once.

balcony architecture parque marti cienfuegos cuba by roadsofstoneThink of a country rich in art and architecture, with nine World Heritage Sites for culture and nature.

Wander streets at the cradle of music and dance, listening to rhythms echoing all around the world.

Dream of stunning cities, beautiful towns and remote villages, set across a landscape unblighted by shanty towns or ghettoes. A land where men, women and children of all different colours live side by side, and where racism is confined to the past.

Envisage a country with excellent health care which is free and accessible to all. A society where life expectancy rates equal those in the United States, and where infant mortality rates are significantly lower.
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200. Welcome, President Barack Obama

mountaintop-by-david-fitzsimmons-the-arizona-daily-star

By David Fitzsimmons in The Arizona Daily Star, 18 January 2009.

It’s a long road to the top of the highest mountain. So today, let’s enjoy the view.
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