these are the posts tagged ‘walking on history’:

walking on history, XIII: roman roads

over 400,000 kms of roads connected the roman empire and it’s amazing that many of them still survive to this day. famously straight and featuring big slabs of polished rock, they were used for centuries to move troops around, trade goods, spread messages quickly… and even transport the animals that would fight humans and each other in the colosseum.

it’s fun to spot them throughout europe. the ones above are in rome, while the one below is in italica (near seville)… and yet, they look remarkably similar, despite being over 2000km apart.

it’s quite a feat of engineering!

walking on history, XII: el torcal de antequera

besides really old trees, you know what else doesn’t usually get associated with history — but actually has a lot to tell? rocks, that’s what! they’re in most places, and can definitely tells lots of stories, even when they’re not particularly interesting at first glance.

on our andalusian roadtrip last summer we made a detour through the torcal de antequera, a famous karst landscape. the slovenes gave the name to these special limestone topographies (with their caves and intermittent lakes), but they can be found a bit all around the world.

in antequera, they rise above the hills in impressive stratified forms… like piles of pancakes!

wikipedia explains where they came from:

The Jurassic age limestone is about 150 million years old and was laid down in a marine corridor that extended from the Gulf of Cádiz to Alicante between the present Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. These seabeds were uplifted to an elevation of over 1300 meters during the Tertiary era, resulting in a modest mountain range of flat-lying limestone, which is rare in Andalucia.

so they used to be in the sea, which was much more inland than what it is now. neat!

do you know how rocks split? they can dissolve or exfoliate for instance, but my favourite is called freeze-thaw. in this weathering process, water seeps into the cracks of the rocks. when it freezes, its volume increases about 10%, but it has no place to go… thus cracking the rocks in its expansion. when it melts, the water then travels further into the rock, repeating the process. voilà!

i still think i could have been a geologist, in a different life. :)

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! :)