holidays

Headless horseplay: goating around in Kyrgyzstan 

(A slightly-delayed post from the summer…be warned it’s a little long!)

Two weeks in Kyrgyzstan, a small, mountainous, partially “democratic” ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia – this land of soaring peaks and stunning green-carpeted vistas was the antidote to our city-hopping in Uzbekistan. Two weeks turned out to be not nearly long enough to explore properly as there are lots of places to go to, and travelling around is quite slow and frustrating. There is almost no public transport – between popular places there are shared taxis and minibuses, but as soon as you leave the most central highways, you’re utterly reliant on hitchhiking. More prepared travellers than us arranged car hire, and on balance this would have been a great idea, though apparently there are very few cars available to hire so you must book far ahead. Plus, the number of crashed-up car wrecks we passed on the side of the road suggests it’s not the safest place to drive… However, once we had managed to get to each place we wanted to visit, we had a fantastic time! (more…)

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Elephant No. 40 – Aleria, Corsica 

On our way back to the airport in Corsica we stopped off at Aleria, which had been the biggest Roman settlement in Corsica (also known as Alalia to Herodotus and other Greeks). A quick foray to the archaeological site and museum (neither of which would be high on my list of Corsican recommendations!) yielded this fantastic elephant plate!

The plate dates to the 3rd century BC and is decorated with three colours (white, red, yellow) on a black glaze. Around the edges you can see laurel leaves, and there is also a man on the larger elephant, though very faded. It’s very similar to another elephant plate found in Capena from around the same time which has been better preserved. It’s possible that both plates refer to the victories of Pyrrhus in 280 BC, who defeated the Romans with the help of some elephants, or perhaps to his defeat in 275 BC, where elephants also had an important role. Eight of his elephants were actually captured alive and then displayed in the triumph in Rome following his defeat. A different interpretation of the plate suggests it could be depicting Dionysus returning from India on elephant, or alternatively the elephants could be simply decorative with no link to history or religion. Either way it was a great find!

All crowded round to see the exciting elephant


The other highlights of the small museum included these large Italian vases

I miss travelling

I’m now about two-thirds through my travel-less summer in London, and have just finished an eight-week internship in a big corporate technology company. While I’m genuinely glad to have had the experience of working in a regular office for two months (and even getting paid for it), I can’t say I’m too upset that I’m returning to being a student again – I’ll be spending the next month or so catching up on university work before I return in October for my final year. When I told my manager on Friday that I had learnt a lot from the internship I wasn’t lying – I think almost the best thing about it was that I had the chance to speak to so many different people about what they had done with their careers, how they had started out, and what they would recommend for people of my age. (more…)