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Iconic Journeys

Ashley Greenwood 2016-03-20 09:58

Homer’s Odyssey 


If we’re going to look at odysseys, we really ought to start by looking at the original voyage that gave birth to word itself. Composed near the end of the 8th century B.C., Homer’s great epic poem “Odyssey” is the second oldest extant work of Western literature. It tells the story of Odysseus’ long trip home after the Trojan war - a journey which should have taken a few weeks but turns in to a ten year adventure, criss-crossing the Mediterranean and encountering storms, a Cyclops, cannibals and witches. A number of travel companies offer cruises that follow in Odysseus’ footsteps, but if you want to enjoy the trip at your own pace, here are some of the key destinations that feature in the classic epic, although there is still some debate about where some of these ancient places were.


The Island of the Cyclopes 


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The extraordinary volcanic Cyclopean Isles, off the coast of eastern Sicily are where Odysseus is lured into a Cyclops’ cave by his cheese and wine. It was later agreed that the Cyclopes was a native of Sicily. Stay at the town Arcireale nearby, with its beautiful Sicilian Baroque and Neo-Gothic architecture. 


The Island of the Lotus Eaters 


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Odysseus sends his men out to search for food, and has to recover them when they eat the Lotus Flower. Today the island is Djerba, off the coast of Tunisia, a popular tourist destination with a pleasant Mediterranean climate and vast sandy beaches. 


The Island of Helios 


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Odysseus’ men drop anchor at Thrinacia where they slaughter one of Helios’ cattle. In retribution, Zeus strikes Odysseus’ ship with a lightening bolt. Some consider Thrinacia to be Malta, the beautiful Mediterranean island with its distinct culture, affluent society and energetic nightlife. 


The Island of the Phaeacians 


The island of Corfu is thought to be the location where Odysseus met and befriended the Phaeacians. One of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations, Corfu has staggering archaeological and historical significance. The Phaeacians deliver Odysseus, while fast asleep, back to his hometown of Ithica. 


Trans-Siberian Railway 


The 6152 mile Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest and most popular train journey in the world, connecting Moscow to Vladivostok. The seven-day journey departs every other day from Moscow and allows passengers to stop off along the way. Although the train is not the most luxurious, there are travel companies that can arrange luxury and authentic cabins. 


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While Vladivostok is traditionally the final city on the Trans-Siberian Railway, many travellers take an alternative to the traditional Trans-Siberian route, such as the Trans-Mongolian line that branches off and heads to Beijing instead. Here we look at some of the popular stopping points along the way. 


Ekaterinberg 


Full of museums and theatres, and home of Ural rock, one of the biggest attractions in the city is the ‘Keyboard monument’ on the embankment of the Iset River. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the 19th century Sevastyanov’s House is a fine example of neo-gothic flamboyance. 


Irkutsk in Siberia 


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The most popular stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway is historic Irkutsk, a city full of 19th-century architecture and the best base for visits to Lake Baikal 70km away. Tourism in the city has been booming in recent years with new restaurants, bars, cafes and museums opening. 


Ulan Bator in Mongolia 


The capital and largest city of Mongolia, Ulan Bator might be the coldest capital in the world, but once the snow melts it’s a vibrant, diverse and thriving city. The Gandan Monastery is one of the most popular tourist sites, and for a day trip visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. 


Ulan Ude 


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The capital city of the Republic of Buryatia, Russia, Ulan Ude in Eastern Siberia is an exotic mix of Mongolian and Buddhist culture. Home to the Monument to Lenin, a huge sculpture of his head, the city is also a good base from which to explore the nearby Buddhist temples, and Lake Baikal. 



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About the Trans-Siberian Railway Faberge Egg 

As construction of the railway neared completion, Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé presented Tsar Nicholas II of Russia one of his famous jewelled Easter eggs, made as an Easter gift for his wife. Currently held in the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow, the exterior of the 1900 Trans-Siberian Railway egg is made of onyx, silver, gold, and quartz, with a route map of the Trans- Siberian Railway engraved in silver around the egg, with major stations marked by a precious stone. Inside is a miniature clockwork replica of a steam locomotive made of gold and platinum. 


Route 66 


Route 66, known as ‘The Mother Road’ after John Steinbeck used the name in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath”, was one of the original US highways that ran from Chicago all the way down through six states to Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The highway is one of the most famous in America and was a major road for those migrating west, supporting businesses along its route. 


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The highway was first finished in 1926 and although it has seen a number of changes since then it is still possible to travel down much of Historic Route 66, making for one of the most interesting road trips you can take through the country. 


Route 66 will take you through some of the US cities and towns that appear less often on traveller’s itineraries, but can give you a great look at the real America. 


Chicago 


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From the iconic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, to the Great Lakes, there is much to see in ‘the Windy City’. Also one restaurant that comes up in almost every guide to Route 66 - Lou Mitchell’s has become something of an institution in Chicago; located at the starting point of Route 66, it has been serving classic eats for over 90 years. 


St. Louis 


Home to the tallest monument constructed in the US, the 190 metre high Gateway Arch, symbolises St Louis as a gateway across the Mississippi River. The city embodies the American musical tradition with a strong history of blues, ragtime and jazz music. The local ‘gooey butter cake’ and the St Louis Slinger are must-eat. Across the river from St Louis are the Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage site of earth mounds made by indigenous people 1000 years before the first Europeans arrived in America. 


Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari


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This motel is on the National Register of Historic Places is believed to be the oldest motel along the route. It’s neon sign is a classic piece of Americana, and as you walk around its like stepping back in time to the 1950s. 


Santa Monica, California 


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The Western Terminus of Route 66 is at Santa Monica Pier. The pier was built in 1909 and is home to what was once the largest ballroom in the US, LA Monica. On the 83rd anniversary of the highway’s inception, the end of the Santa Monica Pier was declared the official stopping point of Route 66, so the highway disappears in to the Pacific Ocean. 


Camino de Santiago 


The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James in the cathedral of Santiago in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. One of the most important journeys a Christian can make, the faithful have walked this route for more than 1,000 years. 


Traditionally Europeans would begin their pilgrimage from their homes, and there are also starting points from all over Europe, especially in France, where many of the pilgrims came from. The most typical route begins on the French side of the Pyrenees in St. Jean Pied de Port and finishes over 500 miles away at the tomb of St. James. If you decide to make the pilgrimage, here are some great places worth a days rest on the way. 


Burgos 


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Burgos, the capital of Old Castile for almost 500 years and home to El Cid in the 11th century, is a city that domands exploration. The Cathedral of Burgos is a UNESCO world heritage site, and there are a number of other medieval buildings to explore. 


Pamplona 


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Famous around the world for the running of the bulls during the San Fermín festival, Pamplona is home to beautiful Gothic architecture and peaceful parks - Yamaguchi park includes a little Japanese garden. The city’s military history is still visible with its city walls. 


León


This old Roman town is full of history and grand monuments and is an important staging post of the Camino de Santiago. Along with the cathedral and basilica, the comparatively modern Casa de los Botines, designed by Gaudi, is a must-see. 



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