these are the posts tagged ‘walking on history’:


walking on history, XI: a really old tree

when i started this walking on history series, i was inspired by all the sidewalk memorials we stumbled upon in berlin. but what about other kinds of history… like natural history?

there’s this olive tree a couple of towns over, in the middle of a touristic resort by the ria formosa. it’s huge and gnarly and falling apart a bit, the trunk wide and open enough to fit someone inside. and it’s also mind-blowing…

…because it’s one of the oldest trees in the world, with over 2200 years old. just let that sink in for a minute.

this tree was here before the visigoths invaded the peninsula from the north, before the moors took their place from the south, before the christians kicked them out. when portugal officially came to existence in the 12th century, this tree was already a thousand years old, bearing fruit and witness to it all. it “saw” the first sailors leaving towards the unknown a few centuries later, saw the empire rise and fall… and these days, it mostly sees tourists and hears their children’s laughter, splashing in the nearby pool.

it’s still here after all these years, like it’s always been, stretching our perspective of time and making us feel tiny in comparison. a few years ago, we planted a small olive tree on our backyard and now i wonder how long (hundreds of years? thousands?) it’ll live and what things it’ll see. i guess we’ll never know… and i’m ok with that. :)

walking on history, X: operation mincemeat

on a quaint cemetery in the outskirts of huelva, there’s a perfectly normal stone grave, with an interesting story hidden behind. we did a pit stop there on our way back from córdoba to learn about major william martin…

… a man who actually did not “exist”, and yet changed the course of the second world war. tom does a better job at explaining the story than i ever could:

sometimes, history happens in unexpected places.


more from this series.

walking on history, IX: garum

my first encounter with fish sauce (back in groningen via a vietnamese neighbour) might have been a bit rocky. i still remember him pouring the stuff on a hot wok and the unbelievable stench it would leave on the corridor as it evaporated… which sounds funny to me now, because i have to say, ten years later, it has kind of grown on me.

visiting the ruins of an ancient garum factory in the ria formosa, i wonder why the garum, the european equivalent of this fermented sauce, got lost in time.

in these stone tanks that are still around in quite a few places in portugal, fish bowels would be mixed with salt water and left to ferment and dry for several months. the resulting paste would be rich in protein and minerals — and probably just as stinky as it was umami. it was prized in roman cuisine where there are numerous records of its usage — poets even make jokes about its smell!

today, all that is left are these decaying tanks by the water… and some geek curiosity! :)

walking on history, VIII: maulbronn’s monastery

img_6248

hesse and kepler stepped on these same stones on their way to class on maulbronn’s monastery (which used to be home to a seminary). it’s a striking place — from the vaulted ceilings to the tombstones that lay on the cloister’s floors.

previously on this series.

walking on history, VII: escape tunnels


thirty nine tunnels were dug under the berlin wall, through which over 250 people escaped to the west – and almost as many were arrested by the stasi. many tunnels ended up never being used.

this one on bernauer straße was dug by hasso herschel, who helped smuggle over 1000 people to the west through tunnels, modified cars or airport exchanges.

more on this series.