Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Travel Tuesday: Cheesy Shot of the Canary Islands

Hello from Tenerife in the Canary Islands! I'm here for the next two weeks while my wife works at the local astronomy institute. I'll be doing some writing and exploring. The Canary Islands are volcanic, and Tenerife is basically one big extinct volcano. Should be some good hiking!

The islands are Spain's most distant possession, being off the coast of Western Sahara. It has a sort of Moroccan feel to it even though the architecture is Spanish Colonial or tastelessly modern. The local cuisine uses a lot of different sauces and they absolutely love garlic. This dish is baked cheese, a bit like the Greek saganaki except they don't bring it flaming to your table. The sauces are dill, coriander, and blueberry. They were all good, although the blueberry didn't work with the cheese because it masked the flavor too much. There are also several local wines that we'll be sampling. Look for more pictures soon!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Military History Photo Friday: An Assyrian Chariot from the National Museum of Iraq

This bas-relief shows an Assyrian chariot, c. 9th century BC. The king stands in all his splendor, relaxing under a parasol as he runs over an enemy. His soldiers have gathered a pile of heads for his inspection. Yeah, the Middle East has been a rough place for quite some time now.

If we are to judge from Assyrian art, the chariot was an important arm of their powerful war machine. Chariots could move quickly, with a driver steering while an archer fired from the back. The chariots could be used to break up enemy formations before the Assyrian infantry moved in, as well as for scouting missions and running down fleeing soldiers. The Assyrians had one of the most organized and technologically advanced armies of the time, with elaborate siege machines, a disciplined and professional force, and quality weapons. It's no wonder they were both feared and hated.

I took this shot in the National Museum of Iraq when I was in Baghdad in 2012. Yeah, I'm still nattering on about that trip. I haven't gotten to travel much in the past year so I miss being on the road! Hopefully 2016 will be a better travel year. I've also blogged about the museum for Black Gate, with plenty more photos.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Military History Photo Friday: The Medieval Walls of Tallinn, Estonia

In keeping with the theme of this week's Travel Tuesday post about Tallinn, here are some shots of Tallinn's medieval fortifications. The old city in Estonia's capital is ringed by a 14th century wall strengthened by several towers. Large stretches of it are open to the public.

Above you can see the wall from the back, where the catwalk is open to view. The wooden hoardings are, of course, modern. Hoardings were usually temporary structures put in when there was a threat of siege. Given the conditions in Tallinn, however, I bet the sentries wanted a little extra protection not from arrows, but the elements, and kept them up all the time.

Here's what it's like walking along it. Not as sheltered as I would like! Jump the cut for more photos.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Travel Tuesday: Winter in Tallinn, Estonia

Summer is heating up here in Madrid. It's already broken 40 degrees Centigrade on a few days. Everything is in bloom and the dominant colors are a bright blue sky, green trees, and harsh yellow sunlight.

So let's switch over to the whites and grays of winter. Winter in the capital of Estonia, to be precise. Tallinn is an artsy city, and what can be more artsy than two snow-covered lovers? It's also a historic city, so here's a shot of a medieval tower and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. I like how the snow keeps the pattern of the roof tiles on the cathedral.

People generally don't go to Estonia or any of the other Baltic states in winter, which is a shame because the mantle of snow beautifies the city and countryside and there are no crowds to contend with. So if you want a different sort of winter vacation, consider heading north!

All photos copyright Sean McLachlan

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Travel Tuesday: Old-time tourist trap in Apache Junction, Arizona, 1940

This group of figures made of papier mache stood outside a roadside zoo to attract passing tourists at Apache Junction, Arizona, in 1940. They represented the three stages in the development of the state--"the prehistoric man, the Indian, and the prospector." These figures have long since disappeared. That's not a bad thing.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Military History Photo Friday: Luxury Armor in Vienna

I've posted here before about visiting the lovely city of Vienna, which feels like a museum with all its palaces, elegant nineteenth-century cafes, and fine squares. While I wouldn't want to live in a museum for very long, I certainly enjoyed my visit.

One interesting spot was the Royal Armory, housed like many Viennese museums in an old Hapsburg palace. It has one of the best collections of luxury arms and armor made for nobility in Europe.

Above are three suits of blued steel made in Augsburg around 1570. Blued steel is created by heating the metal to 300°C, polishing it, and reheating it to 300°C again. It creates an attractive finish but doesn't make the steel stronger.

Below are two other blued steel harnesses with gold inlay, and a shield that you wouldn't want to use in battle. They were made around 1575 for Don Juan de Austria, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, back when the empire included Spain. He led the Spanish to victory over the Ottomans in the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571, the same battle where Cervantes got wounded.

For more on this amazing collection, check out my post on Black Gate about The Royal Armory of Vienna.

Photos copyright Sean McLachlan.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Travel Tuesday: Street Food in Iraq

Mazgouf, a fish native to the Tigris River, being cooked by an open fire at Abu Nuwas Park, Baghdad. This is a local specialty. The fish is cut in half and cooked. The remaining skin acts as a bowl as you scoop out the gooey innards.

There's been a lot of grim news coming out of Iraq for a long time now. Usually when we see Iraq on TV we see some psycho fundamentalist or something that's just blown up. So it's important to remember that real people still live there and are trying to make the most out of a bad situation.

Back in 2012 I traveled to Iraq and wrote a series about it for the now moribund travel blog Gadling. It was one of the best and most intense trips of my life. Click the link to read the series. Sadly, the photo galleries have been taken offline, but you can still read the articles.

So here, for your culinary enjoyment, are some photos of the food, mostly street food, I ate while I was there. There are more after the jump. Bon appetit!
Mazgouf ready to be eaten.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.