A Travellerspoint blog

Useful info on climate change

Here are some useful links on climate change. If you have others please do add them in the comments section
Thank you

10 steps you can take: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181102-what-can-i-do-about-climate-change
Mike Berners Lee Book https://theresnoplanetb.net/..
Climate change food calculator: What's your diet's carbon footprint?https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714

Posted by Valfowles 07:29 Comments (0)


Thoughts on the so called cleanliness of the West

On our travels we are often disappointed and a little shocked to see garbage cluttering roadsides, plastic waste littering tropical beaches, river beds full of rubbish.
Indonesia, Peru, Palestine, Halong Bay all come to mind as I write this and I am sure that others echo this in their travel memories. On this trip someone commented to me how the Palestinian territories were dirty in comparison to the State of Israel, so I thought I would address this issue:

1. Everything I throw away has to go somewhere; just because that is not on my doorstep does not make me any less of a polluter than someone who throws away their rubbish at the boundary of their village because they live in a country where there is no proper refuse collection. I must consider what is happening to the items and packaging I throw away, many of these end up in someone else's environment, making me more of a polluter. So, no clear conscience for me just because I put it in the bin! In fact, do I need something new in the first place? If so, have I considered the environmental impact of its purchase?

2. Palestine and refuse collection ( my understanding):
The State of Israel collects the majority of the taxes on behalf of the Palestinian authority and then pays this to the PA in order for them to provide local services such as schools and refuse collection. The State of Israel regularly withholds this payment to the Palestinian territories thus making it almost impossible for them to deliver the services. We are talking large amounts of money. For more detail https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_the_State_of_Palestine
Whilst on a walking tour in Bethlehem we saw plenty of waste dumped from the watch towers on the Separation wall. Some of the packaging of food waste had the IDF ( Israeli army) logo printed on it so unlikely to be Palestinian waste. Bottles of urine etc. All thrown into a Palestinian graveyard, so sad.
Once you start researching this subject you begin to realise that the situation is even worse, with the dumping of hazardous waste from the State of Israel on Palestinian land. Pollution on a huge scale, I recommend reading this report

When freedom of movement is so restricted it is difficult to arrange for waste transfer and rubbish collection. The residents of the Aida refugee camp have therefore been trying to organise their own system. in the first photo is a picture of the waste skips that I took in 2014, the second is in the same place from 2019. The residents have started to build a sorting system for the waste but they have been told by the State of Israel that they may not do so and work has stopped, leaving the residents with few options regarding their refuse disposal


In Gaza the situation is even worse, compounded by fuel poverty and further restrictions on movement.

So before we judge, lets take a look at our own approach to refuse, (mine certainly has an element of out of sight out of mind)., and also begin to understand the far reaching and often ignored effects of the illegal occupation.

Posted by Valfowles 12:20 Comments (0)

Bulgaria, Romania and Prague and home!

semi-overcast 23 °C

Quite a rushed journey home as we were due in Scotland on grandparent duty for the arrival of 7th grandchild! We made it on time and little Frida May Leslie-Melville has arrived safely! We are now back in our house and time to complete this blog and put to print some of the experiences and learning we have gained from this trip.
Sofia was a delight, I didn't have huge expectations but, from the moment that we found an honest taxi driver at the airport and booked into a clean and cheap hotel that was a few minutes walk from the station, we soon realised that this was a city to which me might return. We spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon and evening strolling the boulevards, parks and cathedrals, everywhere was scrupulously clean. We ate a lovely meal at the Art Club museum restaurant. Vey cheap in comparison with all the other places we have been eating, a third of price of Italy and Israel.

The next morning we boarded the train for Videle, Romania. Traditional compartments with a long side corridor connecting, mainly young western travellers. We shared with a chatted to a French woman running an NGO in Albania, a Greek engineering student and a Swedish man who has spent his summer Uni vacation travelling the European rail network. Our journey was about 10 hours. Stunning mountain scenery as we left Sofia and then later in the day, rural landscapes with traditional donkey carts and small tractors working in quite large fields.
As we entered Romania the border police boarded the train and whisked away our passports. We used to find this quite alarming but have become quite blasé and just continued to read and chat.
We arrived at Videle just as the sun was setting. We had not really done our research and so to us this seemed a sleepy little town, there was certainly very little close to the station. We started to walk towards the town centre but after about 10 mins found ourselves in an unlit park in an unknown area looking very like lost foreigners! Caution prevailed and we made our way back to the station and the small grocery shop, we were able to use our Bulgarian money and bought some bread and cheese and settled in the station waiting room, for a good few hours, to await the night train.

It arrived and we were delighted by our classic ( old!) wooden sleeping compartment.

The conductor told us that the train would be arriving 2 hours late so we didn't need to wake up so early! It was actually 4 hours late which gave us a challenge for the next day but at that moment we were both glad for a toilet and a comfortable bed!
The first day in October saw us reunited with Marius and his family, we had become friends with Marius back in the 90's when we were involved with supporting Romanian street children and those who had been abandoned in orphanages during the Ceaușescu regime. I am going to write a separate page about Marius, the Debora House and his ongoing work with vulnerable children.

The train delay in the morning meant we missed our connection to Arad, but hey Romania has Uber! So we eventually arrived. The 2 hour delay in the afternoon caused even more problems ( it wasn't helped by the information people telling us we should never book that particular train, 15:30 Arad Budapest, as it is always late!). We missed our connection and night train to Prague,, but eventually found the international office at Budapest Kaleti station: it is off platform 6 and down a corridor. Here we were able to book a new train for the following morning from Budapest Nyugati. We found an excellent and quite cheap hotel (T62 Hotel) near that station, in the morning the walk along the platform to our carriage was longer than the walk from the hotel to the station! We are now hoping that Inter rail will pay the compensation due for missed connection and refund our tickets.

The train journey to Prague in the daylight almost made up for our delay. We would have missed all the scenery had we been sleeping!
Prague is beautiful another city to which we would return.
We mastered the metro and the trams and took in the tourist sights and the jazz clubs!

Our return journey home was quite ambitious depending on seamless connections and we did it!
Including an short old age jog from the coach stop to the train in Nurenburg

24 hours at home and on our way north ready for the arrival of this little one!

Posted by Valfowles 10:19 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)


lovely to be back!

sunny 28 °C

How lovely to be wondering the streets of this wonderful Old City. This is certainly one of my “happy places”. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the welcome; because this is not yet a tourist venue one can wander the narrow streets, lingering at the shop fronts and soaking in the atmosphere and no-one tries to sell you anything!

So different to the tourist souks. The locals are pleased to see you and the welcome is warm. Our welcome was especially warm as the Sayeh family invited us to their home. It was very special to share this time, Mohammed (aka as Sayeh in the uk!) and Deema’s wedding. The evening we arrived the family were gathering for the forthcoming wedding, some relatives travelling from Jordan. We shared a meal on the terrace with grandmas and uncles and cousins, babies and toddlers. Everyone made such an effort to speak English for us, which is good as our Arabic would have meant quite a stilted conversation! Sayeh’s uncle made Kanefeh (a Nablusi desert) in an outside oven, very much reminded me of western men and their control of the BBQ!


The day before the wedding we left the family to the preparations and took in a few more sights.
A trip up Mount Gerizim, the Samaritan Village
and now also an illegal settlement (Israeli citizens living on land designated for Palestinians by the Oslo agreement).
There is an excellent view of Nablus from here. You can see Joseph’s Tomb, Jacobs Well (possible site of the woman at the well story in the gospels), Tel Balata (5000BC historical site) and the Balata refugee camp. When we arrived at the look out there were a group of about 10 Israeli soldiers using their gun sights as binoculars as they looked over the city. I found it most intimidating as they looked as if they were taking aim, also this is not an area where Israeli soldiers should be. However they soon left and walked past us with a casual “hi!”

It was women’s day at the Hammam ( Turkish baths) so I spent a happy few hours steaming in this beautiful Ottoman building. Women are a little like children: they don’t allow a language barrier to spoil the enjoyment of the moment! I used to go to these baths when I was volunteering so it brought back happy memories.

As you can see by this photo the Old city has peaceful traditions which continue to this day

A visit to a soap factory, eating falafel, drinking Turkish coffee, haircut for Steve and our days were soon filled!


Posted by Valfowles 15:58 Archived in Israel Tagged nablus Comments (0)

Jericho and Bethlehem and onto Jerusalem

The Walled off Hotel

sunny 36 °C

We had intended to get the shared minibus ( Service) to Jericho but Deema’s brother knew a taxi driver who did us a good deal so we had nearly door to door A/c transport as we dropped through the desert a few hundred metres below seal level. I say nearly door to door as his taxi was new and unscratched so he did not want to bring it into the narrow streets of the Old City.
Jericho is close to the Dead sea ( although the Dead sea is retreating at quite an alarming rate0, and 233 metres below sea level. It has a natural spring and so is quite fertile and famous for its harvest of dates.
As we sat outside in the evening we could hear the dates falling from the trees!
There is a cable car up to the Mount of Temptation and St George’s Monastery. At the top you are still below sea level, most strange! It was 36 celsius and there seem to be hundreds of steps to the monastery. If this is the mountain where Jesus spent 40 days and nights no wonder his thoughts were sending him to despair ( is that a good way to describe temptation?).
We also visited the ancient walls of Jericho, there were various ages of historic ruins and I am not sure if they have really exposed the ones from Joshua’s battle of Jericho. Nevertheless as you stand in the searing heat and look across the River Jordon to the Jordanian hills it makes the Old Testament stories come to life and you can imagine a little more of their context.
Our Hotel (loose sense of the word) was out of the town and boasted itself a farm stay—2 mangy camels and one poor horse in a tinned roof pen. However it Had a small pool which seemed very clean and we had this to ourselves. I think this is most unusual in the West Bank, but it was most welcome.
The next day we travelled to Bethlehem via Bethany. Past the ridiculous signs warning people that they are putting themselves in danger of death by entering the towns.
We arrived at the bus station in Bethlehem just below manger Square where hundreds of tourists were being herded to the Church of the Nativity. This however was not our destination (we have been before and it did absolutely nothing to remind me of the birth of Jesus) we were headed to the Walled Off Hotel. Sometimes known as the Banksy Hotel. This was an absolute highlight of our trip, every original and quirky detail. We were living in a work of art! Banksy has done so much for the Palestinian people, all those we met in Bethlehem were so proud of the hotel. This video explains it better than me. Its 12 minutes long but worth a watch https://youtu.be/CMS6Ds3qryY
We took a walking tour along sections of the wall and to the Aida refugee camp.
Good to hear and see some of the projects that are encouraging local enterprise, I was particularly impressed by a new recycled clothing range using older Palestinian garments, with intricate embroidery and weaving, and upcycling them into designer clothing. Good job I had no extra room in my rucksack!
We had the most comfortable night’s sleep of the holiday, it was strange sleeping under/ in a work of art! Also, I have never kept a hotel room so tidy, it felt all wrong to leave things strewn around!
And here is a little video of the secret door!

The next day we walked to Manger Square and bought some replacement Hebron Glass wineglasses and then to the DHL office and the bus to Jerusalem. A 6 mile journey that, with checkpoints, takes a good hour. Because we are old (I think over 60 is the cut off) and probably because we have a British Passport we can stay on the bus at the checkpoint. Most of the Palestinians have to exit the bus and wait in line, no shelter from the sun. The armed soldiers check the papers of those on the bus and then the waiting queue before they are allowed back on. Process took about 20 – 30 mins but it was not a busy day. Its quite unnerving having soldiers with machine guns and wearing flak jackets, helmets etc making their way up the bus.
It was the sabbath in Jerusalem so not very busy. We did not wander too far from the Jerusalem Hotel
which is very close to the Garden Tomb. The next morning we took the shuttle to the airport. We had a short tour of some of the narrow suburbs near the Yehuda Market which interested me as this was where my parents lived in the 80’s when I visited with 2 small children. The tour was because the driver stopped first to buy flowers, then again to pick up passengers raid a bin and cut a coke bottle in half. He then drove through some extremely narrow streets to deliver said flowers beautifully displayed in old coke bottle! Whether he had a guilty secret or perhaps it was to mark the start of the Jewish New year Rosh Hashanah?
We arrived in time for our wonderful Ryan Air flight to Sofia. Tel Aviv airport was, as ever, thorough and efficient!
Our flights this holiday have amounted to 0.88 tonnes of Carbon (between 2 people). I believe we should be aiming at no more than 3 tonnes per year per person.

Posted by Valfowles 15:47 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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