Posted in Around the World

OhBej! OhBej! Christmas Market in Milan.

In Milan, the most traditional and most popular of all the events in the Christmas time is the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market which, for five centuries, has rung in the Milanese festive season with candies, surprises and of all kinds of gifts. Organized in honour of the city’s patron, Sant’Ambrogio, it is celebrated on December 7th, lasts until the next sunday and it attracts thousands of tourists every year. It is a must-see for both Milanese, tourists and curious. In the market is possible search for the perfect gift or just to enjoy the magical atmosphere of celebration and tradition in the most important weekend before Christmas.
Traditionally it was organized in the streets around the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, but in recent years the market has moved to the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle), like an embrace around one of the city’s most important place of interests. This gives give more space to traders and to the large number of visitors who flock to the stalls every day.
Stalls full of products of all kinds and for all budgets: from bric a brac sellers to florists, artisans, tradesmen with prints and books, masters of wrought iron, copper and brass, plus, crafted toys, sweet vendors, local honey producers, roasted chestnuts and “Firunatt” or “Firòn”, the traditional strings of smoked chestnuts that form long necklaces, a typically Milanese tradition that has now disappeared.
Every year lot of people stroll around the stalls and enjoy the traditional Christmas treats.
According to a local who i met on 2018 edition, this is a winter experience not to be missed and the perfect way to get know, love and breath the city just like the Milanese!
But where does the name “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” come from?
In Milanese dialect “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” means “Oh beautiful, Oh beautiful”, or “so nice! so nice!” and tradition has it that it was a cry of joy from the children of the city upon seeing the beautiful products on display.
Another version indicates the precise historical moment when this cry was born: the shouts of joy from the Milanese children when, in 1510, they saw the gifts brought to the city by Pope Pius IV’s envoy Giannetto Castiglioni. Giannetto wanted to ingratiate himself with the Milanese, and thus entered the city carrying boxes full of sweets and toys for children.
Thanks to this version, we can images the antiquity of the fair, which dates it back to the late thirteenth-century!
The Fair is one of the oldest traditions of the city. Its origins can be traced back to 1288, when celebrations in honour of the Patron Saint took place near the old Santa Maria Maggiore.

My text for ©️Random-Times.com
Posted in Around the World

20/11/2018 High Water in Venice.

Venice sinks from when it was born because the sandy soils with time are compacted and are settled. The phenomenon is called subsidence. The subsidence became very fast in the twentieth century when the industrial center of Marghera began to extract rivers of productive waters from the underground aquifers. If the old photos dated back a century ago show a proud Venice, high on the water, today it is a city sitting on the water’s surface.
At the phenomenon of subsidence has been combined with excavation in the lagoon and above all will add up the raising of level of the seas, which will be made more dramatic and fast when the warming of the climate will melt the polar ice.
The lagoon of Venice is a shallow sea of ​​brackish water divided by the sea by a two islands long and narrow, Pellestrina and Lido, and joined to the sea by three natural channels, Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia, called in italian “bocche di porto” (literally mouths of the harbour) mainly oriented towards south east.
Every six hours the tide grows and every six hours it goes down. When the sun and moon add up their astronomical effect with the contribution of rains and the scirocco wind (its prevailing directions being south and south-east) that swells the Adriatic against the lagoon, in Venice the water rises up to flood St. Mark’s Square (70 centimeters, the lowest point of the city).
On November 4, 1966, there was the most devastating of the “perfect storms” in which all the disastrous effects were concentrated, and the water level reached 194 centimeters, with incalculable damages.
Precise scientific parameters define the phenomenon of high water, and exceptional tidal events can be categorized as:
– intense when the measured sea level is between 80 cm and 109 cm above the standard sea level (which was defined by averaging the measurements of sea level during the year 1897)
– very intense when the measured sea level is between 110 cm and 139 cm above the standard
– exceptional high waters when the measured sea level reaches or exceeds 140 cm above the standard.

©️Random-Times.com

Posted in Around the World

|TRAVEL| Tokyo 秋葉原 Akihabara Electric Town.

A great place to walk around and absorb the japanese metropoli’s sights and sounds is Akihabara (秋葉原) district. Just two stops from Tokyo Station, Akihabara is a neighborhood known for its electronic superstores. There’s a reason that it’s known as Electric Town, but the neighborhood is so much more.
Originally this Tokyo’s neighborhood was a gateway used mainly by merchants to enter into the city proper, and was born out of a devastating fire in 1869.
After the disaster locals began reconstruction with a shrine to a fire protection deity, Akiba. As Tokyo expanded the neighborhood developed, and took the name of the shrine that protected it.
Following World War II, as Japan became more future-focused, Akihabara became known as the place to buy electronic goods of all kinds: radios, television sets, household appliances, many of them sold illegally.
Tokyo’s inhabitants knew to head to “Akihabara Electric Town” for all the latest contraptions on the market.
Of course, when home computers entered the global marketplace, Akihabara was the perfect place to buy them. In the 1980s, paso-kons, personal computers, were a niche hobby, but the internet’s evolution over the decades to come meant that otakus (the obsessive fans that have unified into a proud subculture!) could create and share at an ever-increasing rate.
So, the neighborhood’s wares changed to suit this cultural explosion. Though Akihabara is still the place to go for computers, mobile phones, cameras, video games, and other electronic goods, the visual landscape has been dominated by anime and manga aesthetic.
Some of the electronics on sale are only intended for use in Japan due to voltage and other technical differences, Japanese language documentation and limited warranties.
Akihabara has been undergoing major redevelopment over the years, including the renovation and expansion of Akihabara Station and the construction of new buildings in its proximity.
In recent years Akihabara Electric Town has only become more of a consumer’s paradise. On Sundays the central Chuo-dori street is blocked off to vehicles from 13:00 to 18:00 (until 17:00 from October through March), and shoppers flood the streets, crowding into big department stores like Mandarake and Don Quijote as well as tiny independent stalls.
In particular, it has become a popular place for teenagers to congregate, especially those visiting from outside Tokyo.
Cute, colorful wares are for sale, and cosplayers are everywhere. The popular girl band AKB48, which takes its name from the neighborhood, even runs a restaurant in Akihabara!

My text and photos for ©️Random-Times.com

Posted in Around the World

|TRAVEL| Tashirojima Cat-Island

Tashirojima (田代島) is a small, rural island off the coast of central Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture.
Informally known as “Cat Island”, It’s just over three kilometers long and It is the paradise of a large colony of felines, which are cared for and worshiped by the island’s human residents.
It is part of a group of about a dozen “islands of cats” in Japan, small places where there are more feline residents than humans.
More than a hundred cats roam the island (about 120), and they are owners of abandoned houses, and also of the quiet fishing village.
The cats were originally brought over to help with pest control around the island’s silkworm farms, but also to hunt mice that infested fishermen’s boats. In the past, the islanders raised silkworms for silk, and cats were kept in order to keep the mouse population down (because mice are a natural predator of silkworms). Fishing has long been an important industry on Tashirojima.
For ages the fishermen who worked on the island cared for and protected the semi-wild cats because they believed that the cats would bring them good luck. Over time, this cat population left un-neutered began to grow immensely while the human population dwindled down to fewer than 80 residents.
Since then their numbers have increased to the point that they now outnumber the island’s human population six to one!

Cat lovers from all around Japan, but not only, come to visit Tashirojima, which requires taking a one hour long ferry ride from Ishinomaki port.
The boats stop at both of the island’s settled areas: a tiny village around Odomari Port in the north and a larger, more developed village around Nitoda Port in the south.
Several narrow roads and walking trails crisscross the forested island’s interior between the two villages.
In Japanese culture, cats are considered to bring good luck, said to bring money and good fortune to all who cross their path. Some even claim that it was the cats who kept the majority of the island from being destroyed during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which partially flooded both villages and destroyed several buildings around the port towns which were close to the coast. After all, for a few days people all over the world (even in Japan) thought that the whole island was gone (washed away by the tsunami)!
Luckily the island’s location behind a peninsula helped protect it from more severe damage, and the majority of the debris was cleared within a year.

Following the fishing tradition, people built a small Cat Shrine known as Neko-jinja (猫神社), at the center of the island in memory of a cat that was accidentally killed.
Fixed-net fishing was popular on the island after the Edo Period (江戸時代, 1603-1868) and fishermen from other areas would come and stay on the island overnight. The cats would go to the inns where the fishermen were staying and beg for scraps. Over time, the fishermen developed a fondness for the cats and would observe the cats closely, interpreting their actions as predictions of the weather and fish patterns. One day, when the fishermen were collecting rocks to use with the fixed-nets, a stray rock fell and killed one of the cats. The fishermen, feeling sorry for the loss of the cat, buried it and enshrined it at this location on the island, praying that never ever something similar would happen again.
The shrine is located along the road about halfway between Odomari and Nitoda villages. It’s a fairly small shrine, but there are tons of cat related tiny items like those Maneki Neko statues.

The cats on Tashirojima are mostly found around Nitoda Port on the southeastern side of the island. They freely roam the streets and enjoy the attention that they get from the tourists who play with them. The cats sometimes gather around the steps of the island’s lone store, Kamabutsu Shoten, located in the northwestern part of Nitoda village.
Tashirojima does not have many tourist facilities. There are no restaurants, and very few shops or public toilets available on the island. Only a drink vending machine and a public toilet are located along the Nitoda waterfront, but this is a really nice travel destination for all cat-lovers!

My text and Photos for Random-Times.com ✍🏼📸

Posted in Around the World

|TRAVEL| Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree, is a broadcasting and telecommunications tower in Tokyo, and at a height of 634 metres, it was the world’s second tallest structure, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It was inaugurated on May 22, 2012, and it is also the world’s tallest freestanding tower, exceeding the height of Tokyo Tower, previously the city’s tallest structure, by 301 metres.
The major role of Tokyo Skytree is to transmit electric waves in a stable manner free from influences of super tall buildings that have been increasing every year. The area used to be called as “Musashi” in ancient times and the height of the tower, was decided, as a play of words, to be 634 meters, which can also ben pronunced as “Mu-Sa-Shi”.
Tokyo Skytree stands on an equilateral triangle cross-section and, as it progresses upwards, it morphs into a circular cross-section. The structure of circular cross-section is able to support the base structure on a limited area and to fend forces of winds from any directions off. In addition, this unique shape, with “concave curves”, offers different shapes depending on the angle it is viewed.
The tower has two publicly accessible observation areas, the Tembo Deck and the Tembo Gallery. The three-level Tembo Deck features an observation floor that sits at a height of 350 metres, and the Tembo Gallery has two floors. The higher of these floors is 451 metres above the ground!
Tokyo Sky Tree was designed by the Nikken Sekkei architectural firm, and its construction began in 2008. Under earthquake conditions the core column is intended to counteract any sway of the tower.
The center column made of reinforced concrete at the core sways differently from the steel-frame tower body at the periphery, thus suppresses vibrations of the whole structure during high winds and earthquakes. This damping mechanism is called as “shinbashira vibration control” after the “shinbashira” of Goju-no-to towers, Japanese traditional five-story pagodas.
Tokyo Sky Tree is also the centrepiece of a multilevel urban development called Tokyo Sky Tree Town, which include a large shopping centre, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a 31-story office building.

Random-Times.com

Posted in Around the World

|TRAVEL|Crecchio, July 2018

The castle, of Norman-Swabian origin, was built around a watchtower around the 11th-12th centuries. The original tower, called “normanna” and “dell’ulivo”, part of a territorial defensive system, was visually connected with other towers in the surround, like the Mucchia tower (on the coast) and with the city of Lanciano and Guardiagrele inside. To it are linked many legends related to the cruelty of one of its owners who, ruling these places with terror, beheaded its opponents on the highest tower, that of sighting. The tower became a symbol of terror and repression until the De Riseis, some feudal lords of Crecchio (seventeenth century), planted an olive tree on its summit, as a sign of peace with the population, hence the name “Torre dell’Ulivo” (tower of the olive tree).
On the map of Crecchio drawn in 1768 the Castle appears as an austere castellated fortress, but in 1789 it will lose this feature ,when Barone Camillo De Riseis transformed this residence into a leisure and holiday resort for important people and European nobility such as: Letizia Bonaparte, Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Prince Umberto II of Savoy and his wife Maria Josè.
The castle, through a series of vicissitudes and various owners, in 1789 became the residence of the De Rieis, dukes of Bovino, Taormina and barons of Crecchio, and in a short time this manor was one of the most sought after by the nobility of the era for the its garden, with rare plants and its gushing fountains, richly decorated with marble statues and naturally for the luxurious and sumptuous feasts that were held both in summer and in winter.
Unfortunately, a cold morning in September 1943, the enchantment and carefree life of the court was broken by the arrival of King Vittorio Emanuele III, his wife and the General Staff, who were fleeing Rome and before embarking from the port of Ortona, they were guests of the castle for one night. These were chased by the Germans, as Crecchio was crossed by the “Gustav Line”, as soon as the king managed to escape to Ortona and despite the attempts of Gaetana De Riseis to have Vittorio Emanuele III deflect from his serious decision to leave Italy, the Germans bombed the castle from its foundations, reducing it to a pile of smoking rubble. During the following winter the drawing of the Gustav line across the nearby hills transformed it into a German strategic stronghold. In the 70s the castle was restored.
Some argue that the ghost of a De Riseis and his beautiful lover dwelt in the halls of the manor. It is whispered that suddenly there are loud noises on the upper floor followed by a metallic clink. Others say that sometimes you can see a beautiful lady passing through the castle rooms quickly and quietly as if she were suspended in midair!
It is whispered that climbing the fifty-five steps leading to the ancient watchtower, also known as the “tower of the olive tree”, it’s possible hear sounds like lamentations coming from the walls and some feel strange presences right at the foot of that building…
Considered one of the most precious pearls of the province of Chieti, the castle of Crecchio, also called castle “De Riseis-D’Aragona” (from the names of the noble families who inhabited it), is now home to the Museum of Byzantine and High Medieval. The Archeological Museum hosts a series of objects from Pre-Roman and Frentanian tombs. Under the Roman rule this area possibly became a municipium and the landscape was divided among large villae rusticae (farms) for the cultivation of olive trees, vines and cereals. After the devastating Greco-Gotic War (AD 535 – AD 553) the Byzantines re-fortified the main settlement and put garrisons in the countryside, protecting the villae from the Lombard raids of the 7th Lombard Duke of Benevento. The Ducal Castle remained in possession of the De Riseis family until the end of World War II.

Every year, in Crecchio, there is a three-day long event, hosting thousands of visitors yearly: “At dinner with the Byzantines”, from the evening to the night, a travel into the memory of this land, through cultural events, guided tours into the museum, reconstructions of the Byzantine society and (excellent!) eno-gastronomic stands among the borgo alleyways. At the twilight torches are lighted up and ancient soldiers, matrons, courtiers and eunuchs roam the streets. The perfumes exalt the senses in the historical center which echoes with the rolling drums and the war cries of the soldiers. The sound of the trumpet announces the triumphant procession celebrating the deeds of the comes Vitalianus, conqueror of Aternum (Pescara) and scourge of the Lombards.
As guests of the “Vassilissa”, the patrician matron in the retinue of the Byzantine troops, you can taste ancient delicacies, served on red slip plates, and wine mixed with honey, spice and rose petals in the gastronomic points on the borgo’s alleyways.

My text and photos for Random-Times.com ✍🏼📸