DENMARK - May 23- 30, 2015
WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE WE? | THE PLACES WE VISIT ALONG THE WAY
IRELAND - June 10 - 23, 2015
Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. It is the second-largest island of the British Isles after Great Britain, the third-largest in Europe and the twentieth-largest on Earth.
Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, which covers the remaining area and is located in the north-east of the island. In 2011 the population of Ireland was about 6.4 million, ranking it the second-most populous island in Europe. Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.
The island's geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the Middle Ages. As of 2013, the amount of land that is wooded in Ireland is about 11% of the total, compared with a European average of 35%. There are 26 extant mammalspecies native to Ireland.
Prehistoric Ireland saw the arrival of humans after 8000 BC. Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century and lasted until the early 17th century. The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward. Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, England claimed sovereignty over Ireland. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest. This led to colonisation of Ireland by settlers from Britain. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. With the Acts of Union in 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by the partition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973, both parts of Ireland joined the European Economic Community.
Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the fields of literature and, to a lesser degree, science and education. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed for example through Gaelic games, Irish music, and the Irish language. The culture of the island has also many features shared with Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, and golf.
PLACES WE VISITED:
DUBLIN - KILDARE - KILKENNY - NEW ROSS - WEXFORD - CAMPILE
SCOTLAND - May 30- June 9, 2015
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the south-west. In addition to the mainland, the country is made up of more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.
Edinburgh, the country's capital and second-largest city, was the hub of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, which transformed Scotland into one of the commercial, intellectual, and industrial powerhouses of Europe. Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, was once one of the world's leading industrial cities and now lies at the centre of the Greater Glasgowconurbation. Scottish waters consist of a large sector of the North Atlantic and the North Sea, containing the largest oil reserves in the European Union. This has given Aberdeen, the third-largest city in Scotland, the title of Europe's oil capital.
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, King James VI of Scotlandbecame King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. The Treaty of Union was agreed in 1706 and enacted by the twin Acts of Union 1707 passed by the Parliaments of both countries, despite some popular opposition and anti-union riots in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere. Great Britain itself subsequently entered into a political union with Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Scotland's legal system has remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, and Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational and religious institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union. Following a referendum in 1997, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, this time as a devolved legislature with authority over many areas of home affairs. The Scottish National Party, which supports Scottish independence, won an overall majority in the 2011 general election. An independence referendum held on 18 September 2014 rejected independence by a majority of 55% to 45% on an 85% voter turnout.
Scotland is a member nation of the British–Irish Council, and the British–Irish Parliamentary Assembly. Scotland is represented in the European Union and the European Parliamentwith six MEPs.
PLACES WE VISITED:
EDINBURGH - FORT WILLIAM
DENMARK - May 23- 30, 2015
Denmark is a country in Northern Europe. The southernmost of the Nordic countries, it is located southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark forms part of the cultural region called Scandinavia, together with Sweden and Norway. The Kingdom of Denmark is a sovereign state that comprises Denmark and two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper has an area of 43,094 square kilometres (16,639 sq mi), and a population of 5,668,743 (April 2015). The country consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, of which around 70 are inhabited. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate.
The unified kingdom of Denmark emerged in the 10th century as a proficient seafaring nation in the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea. Danish rule over the personal Kalmar Union, established in 1397 (over Norway and Sweden), ended with Swedish secession in 1523. However, Denmark still kept a union over Norway which lasted until its dissolution in 1814. Denmark inherited an expansive colonial empire from this union, of which the Faroe Islands and Greenland are remnants. Beginning in the 17th century, there were several cessions of territory; these culminated in the 1830s with a surge of nationalist movements, which were defeated in the 1864 Second Schleswig War. Denmark remained neutral during World War I. In April 1940, a German invasion saw brief military skirmishes while the Danish resistance movement was active from 1943 until the German surrenderin May 1945. An industrialized exporter of agricultural produce in the second half of the 19th century, Denmark introduced social and labour-market reforms in the early 20th century, making the basis for the present welfare state model with a highly developed mixed economy.
The Constitution of Denmark was signed on 5 June 1849, ending the absolute monarchy which had begun in 1660. It establishes a constitutional monarchy—the current monarchis Queen Margrethe II—organised as a parliamentary democracy. The government and national parliament are seated in Copenhagen, the nation's capital, largest city and main commercial centre. Denmark exercises hegemonic influence in the Danish Realm, devolving powers to handle internal affairs. Denmark became a member of the European Union in 1973, maintaining certain opt-outs; it retains its own currency, the krone. It is among the founding members of NATO, the Nordic Council, the OECD, OSCE, and the United Nations; it is also part of the Schengen Area.
Danes enjoy a high standard of living and the country ranks highly in numerous comparisons of national performance, including education, health care, protection of civil liberties, democratic governance, prosperity and human development. Denmark is frequently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world in cross-national studies of happiness. The country ranks as having the world's highest social mobility, a high level of income equality, has one of the world's highest per capita incomes, and has one of the world's highest personal income tax rates. A large majority of Danes are members of the National Church, though the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
PLACES WE VISITED:
CZECH REPUBLIC - May 16- 23, 2015
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the southeast and Poland to the northeast. The capital and largest city, Prague, has over 1.2 million residents. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia.
The Czech state was formed in the late 9th century as the Duchy of Bohemia under the Great Moravian Empire. After the fall of the Empire in 907, the centre of power transferred from Moravia to Bohemia under the Přemyslids. In 1004, the duchy was formally recognized as part of the Holy Roman Empire, becoming the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1212, and reaching its greatest territorial extent in the 14th century. The King of Bohemia ruled not only Bohemia itself, but also other lands, which together formed the so-called Crown of Bohemia, and he had a vote in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. In the Hussite wars of the 15th century driven by the Bohemian Reformation, the kingdom faced economic embargoes and defeated five crusades proclaimed by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and organized mainly by the emperor and princes of the Holy Roman Empire.
Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the whole Crown of Bohemia was gradually integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy alongside the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. The Bohemian Revolt (1618–20) against the Catholic Habsburgs led to the Thirty Years' War, after which the monarchy consolidated its rule, reimposed Catholicism, and adopted a policy of gradual Germanization. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Bohemian Kingdom became part of the Austrian Empire and the Czech language experienced its revival as a consequence of widespread romantic nationalism. In the 19th century, the Czech lands became the industrial powerhouse of the monarchy and were subsequently the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, which was formed in 1918 following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.
Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany in World War II, and was liberated in 1945 by Soviet and American forces. Most of the German-speaking inhabitants were expelled after the war and thus the country lost its sizeable minority and its bilingual character. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia won the 1946 elections. Following the 1948 coup d'état, Czechoslovakia became a single-party communist state under Soviet influence. In 1968, increasing dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in a reform movement known as the Prague Spring, which ended in a Soviet-led invasion. Czechoslovakia remained occupied until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed and a multiparty parliamentary republic was formed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved, with its constituent states becoming the independent states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Czech Republic is a developed country with an advanced, high income economy and high living standards. The UNDP ranks the country 15th in inequality-adjusted human development. The Czech Republic also ranks as the 11th most peaceful country, while achieving strong performance in democratic governance. It is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
PLACES WE VISITED:
TURKEY - April 21/May 16, 2015
Turkey is a parliamentary republic largely located in Western Asia with the portion of Eastern Thrace in Southeastern Europe. Ankara is its capital, and Istanbul its largest city (approx. 17 million people.) Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Bulgaria to the northwest; Greece to the west; Georgia to the northeast; Armenia, Iran and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. The Mediterranean Sea is to the south; the Aegean Sea to the west; and the Black Sea to the north. The Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (which together form the Turkish Straits) demarcate the boundary between Thrace and Anatolia; they also separate Europe and Asia. Turkey's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia makes it a country of significant geostrategic importance.
Turkey has been inhabited since the paleolithic age, including various ancient Anatolian civilizations, Aeolian and Ionian Greeks, Thracians, and Persians. After Alexander the Great's conquest, the area was Hellenized, which continued with the Roman rule and the transition into the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuk Turks began migrating into the area in the 11th century, starting the process of Turkification, which was greatly accelerated by the Seljuk victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until the Mongol invasion in 1243, upon which it disintegrated into several small Turkish beyliks.
Starting from the late 13th century, the Ottomans united Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during the early modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially during the 1520–66 reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. After the second Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683 and the end of the Great Turkish War in 1699, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline. The Tanzimat reforms of the 19th century, which aimed to modernize the Ottoman state, proved to be inadequate in most fields, and failed to stop the dissolution of the empire. The Ottoman Empire entered World War I (1914–18) on the side of the Central Powers and was ultimately defeated. During the war, major atrocities were committed by the Ottoman government against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontic Greeks. Following WWI, the huge conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new states. The Turkish War of Independence (1919–22), initiated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his colleagues in Anatolia, resulted in the establishment of the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923, with Atatürk as its first president.
Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic with a diverse cultural heritage. The country's official language is Turkish, a Turkic language spoken natively by approximately 85 percent of the population – estimated at around 78 million. Approximately 70–80 percent of the population are ethnic Turks; the remainder consists of legally recognized (Armenians, Greeks and Jews) and unrecognized (Kurds, Circassians, Albanians, Bosniaks, Georgians, etc.) minorities. The vast majority of the population is Muslim. Turkey is a member of the UN, NATO, OECD, OSCE, OIC and the G-20. After becoming one of the first members of the Council of Europe in 1949, Turkey became an associate member of the EEC in 1963, joined the EU Customs Union in 1995 and started full membership negotiations with the European Union in 2005 - but it is currently not part of the Schengen Area. Turkey's growing economy and diplomatic initiatives have led to its recognition as a regional power.
PLACES WE VISITED:
SELCUK - EPHESUS - HIEROPOLIS - PAMUKKALE - ISTANBUL (USKUDAR AND SULTANAHMET)
GREECE - March 21/April 20, 2015
Greece is a country located in southeastern Europe. According to the 2011 census, its population is around 11 million. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, with Thessaloniki being the second largest and referred to as the co-capital. Greece is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the northeast. The country consists of nine geographic regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, Crete, and the Ionian Islands. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1,400, of which 227 are inhabited). Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, of which Mount Olympus is the highest peak at 2,917 m (9,570 ft).
Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, which is considered the cradle of all Western civilization. Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece have greatly influenced the world, being imparted to the East through Alexander the Great's conquests, and to the West via incorporation into the Roman Empire and the succeeding Byzantine Empire. The Greek Orthodox Church further transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World while shaping the modern Greek identity. Greece's rich legacy is also reflected by its 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world. The Greek state, which encompasses much of the historic core of Greek civilization, was established in 1830 following the war of independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Greece is a Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Republic, a developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life and a very high standard of living. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join the European Communities (precursor to the European Union) and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE and the WTO. Greece is one of the world's largest shipping powers, and has the largest economy in the Balkan Peninsula where it is an important regional investor; its economy is also the ninth largest in the Eurozone and the 43rd in the world.
More recently, Greece has suffered greatly from the late-2000s recession and has been central to the related European sovereign debt crisis. The Greek government-debt crisis, subsequent economic crisis and resultant protests have roiled domestic politics and have regularly threatened European and global financial markets since the crisis began in 2010. Greece returned to growth after six years of economic decline in the second quarter of 2014, and was the Eurozone's fastest-growing economy in the third quarter.
PLACES WE VISITED:
ATHENS - DELPHI - LIVIDIA - NAFPLIO - EPIDAURUS - MYCENAE - OLYMPIA - HYDRA - SAMOS
SOUTH AFRICA - Feb 20/March 20, 2015
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located in Southern Africa. It has 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north lie the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; and within it lies Lesotho, an enclave surrounded by South African territory. South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world's 25th-most populous nation.
South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans developed from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans, based on history; English reflects the legacy of British colonialism, and is commonly used in public and commercial life, though it is fourth-ranked as a spoken first language.
The country's three branches of government are split over different cities. Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein, as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital, while the Constitutional Court of South Africa sits in Johannesburg. Most foreign embassies are located in Pretoria.
About 80 percent of South Africans are of black sub-Saharan African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry. Since 1994, all ethnic and linguistic groups have had political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation," a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and later adopted by then-President Nelson Mandela as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology.
The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and regular elections have been held for almost a century. But the vast majority of black South Africans were not enfranchised until 1994. During the 20th century, the black majority sought to recover its rights from the dominant white minority, with this struggle playing a large role in the country's recent history and politics. The National Party imposed apartheid in 1948, institutionalizing previous racial segregation. After a long and sometimes violent struggle by the African National Congress and other anti-apartheid activists, discriminatory laws began to be repealed or abolished from 1990 onwards.
In April 2011, South Africa formally joined the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRICS) grouping of countries, identified by President Zuma as the country's largest trading partners. South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, and is considered to be a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second-largest in Africa, and the 34th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa. But poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day. Nevertheless, South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.
PLACES WE VISITED:
CAPE TOWN - JOHANNESBURG - STELLENBOSCH - DES HOOP - LITTLE KAROO - HERMANUS - KNYSNA - ADDO - PORT ELIZABETH - KRUGER
BRAZIL - Nov 24/Feb 20, 2015
Brazil is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world, and the only one in the Americas.
Bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Brazil has a coastline of 7,491 km (4,655 mi). It borders all other South American countries except Ecuador and Chile and occupies 47.3 percent of the continent of South America. Its Amazon River basin includes a vast tropical forest, home to diverse wildlife, a variety of ecological systems, and extensive natural resources spanning numerous protected habitats. This unique environmental heritage makes Brazil one of 17 megadiverse countries, and is the subject of significant global interest and debate regarding deforestation and environmental protection.
Brazil was inhabited by numerous tribal nations prior to the landing of traveler Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500, who claimed the area for Portugal. Brazil remained a Portuguese colony until 1808, when the capital of the empire was transferred from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro after French forces invaded Portugal. In 1815, it was elevated to the rank of kingdom upon the formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. Its independence was achieved in 1822 with the creation of the Empire of Brazil, a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. The country became a presidential republic in 1889, when a military coup d'état proclaimed the Republic, although the bicameral legislature, now called Congress, dates back to the ratification of the first constitution in 1824. An authoritarian military junta had led the nation from 1964 until 1985. Brazil's current Constitution, formulated in 1988, defines it as a federal republic. The Federation is composed of the union of the Federal District, the 26 states, and the 5,570 municipalities. The current president is Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female president, who was inaugurated on 1 January 2011 and re-elected in 2014. The President appoints the Ministers of State, who assist in government.
The country's economy is the world's seventh largest by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity, as of 2012. A member of the BRIC group, Brazil until 2010 had one of the world's fastest growing major economies, with its economic reforms giving the country new international recognition and influence. Brazil's national development bank (BNDES) plays an important role for the country's economic growth. Brazil is a founding member of the United Nations, the G20, CPLP, Latin Union, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the Organization of American States, Mercosul and the Union of South American Nations. Brazil is a regional power in Latin America and a middle power in international affairs, with some analysts identifying it as an emerging global power. Brazil has been the world's largest producer of coffee for the last 150 years.
PLACES WE VISITED:
RIO DE JANEIRO - NATAL | PIRANGI | PONTA NEGRA | PITANGUI | TOUROS | SAO MIGUEL DO GOSTOSO | MARACAJAU | PUNAU
ARGENTINA - Oct 30/Nov 24, 2014
Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the Southern Cone with its smaller neighbour Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi),Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) - well, don't ask the British -, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
A historical and current middle power and a prominent Latin American and Southern Cone regional power, Argentina is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies and Latin America's third-largest. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, WBG, WTO, Mercosur, UNASUR, CELAC and OEI. Because of its stability, market size and increasing share of the high-tech sector, Argentina is classed by investors as a middle emerging economy with a "very high" rating on the Human Development Index.
The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by anextended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on—while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook—Argentina enjoyed an historically almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th century it already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.
Argentina is a megadiverse country hosting one of the greatest ecosystem varieties in the world: 15 continental zones, 3 oceanic zones, and the Antarctic region are all represented in its territory. This huge ecosystem variety has led to a biological diversity that is among the world's largest. About 529 species of vertebrates and at least 240 plants are threatened, mostly by conversion of natural land for agriculture and deforestation, but also by industrialization, urbanization and a growing number of alieninvasive species.
Argentina is also the 9th most biocapable country in the world. In 2013 it had a protected area network consisting of 299 continental zones, covering 6.3% of total mainland area; 21 Ramsar sites; and 11 biosphere reserves, partially sampling most of its 24 terrestrial ecoregions.
PLACES WE VISITED:
BUENOS AIRES - SAN ANTONIO DE ARECO - LA CUMBRE - ALTA GRACIA - MENDOZA - NEUQUEN - PENINSULA VALDEZ - SIERRA DE LA VENTANA
CHILE - Oct 7/Oct 30, 2014
Chile is a South American country occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and theDrake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. The population is estimated at just under 18 million, with nearly 6 million concentrated in its capital, Santiago.
Spain conquered and colonised Chile in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule in northern and central Chile, but failing to conquer the independent Mapuche that inhabited south-central Chile.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the country experienced severe left-right political polarization and turmoil. This development culminated with the 1973 Chilean coup d'état that overthrew Salvador Allende's left-wing government and instituted a 16-year-long right-wing military dictatorship that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. The regime headed by Augusto Pinochet ended in 1990 after it lost a referendum in 1988 and was succeeded by a centre-left coalition which ruled through four presidencies until 2010.
Chile is today one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations. It leads Latin American nations in rankings of human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, state of peace, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high regionally in sustainability of the state, and democratic development. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Chile is divided into 15 regions, each headed by an intendant appointed by the president. The regions are further divided into provinces, with provincial governors also appointed by the president. Finally each province is divided into communes which are administered by municipalities, each with its own mayor and council elected for four-year terms.
Chile produces world class wines and has several different wine regions and terroirs, including Casablanca (white, like Sauvignon Blanc) and Colchagua (mostly red wines, and particularly delicious Carmeneres and Pinot Noirs.)
PLACES WE VISITED:
SANTIAGO - SANTA CRUZ - VALLE DEL COLCHAGUA - VALPARAISO LAS CRUCES - VALLE DE CASABLANCA
PERU - Sept 22/Oct 7, 2014
Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.
Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. Ideas of political autonomy later spread throughout Spanish America and Peru gained its Independence, which was formally proclaimed in 1821. Peru has gone through periods of political unrest and internal conflict as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.
Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 25.8 percent. Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing.
The Peruvian population, estimated at 30.4 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.
PLACES WE VISITED:
LIMA - OLLANTAYTAMBO - CHINCHERO - PISAC - MACCHUPICHU - AGUAS CALIENTES - CUSCO