Blog Posts by Christy Karras

  • A Ghent getaway: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: Sergio TB / Flickr)(Photo: Sergio TB / Flickr)

    At pretty much any time of day or night, Ghent looks every bit the historic city it is. Like Bruges — another small, art-centric medieval city in northern Belgium — it makes for an easy day trip out of Brussels. But you might find yourself wanting to stay the night, and not just for peaceful walks like this one along graceful canals and cobbled streets that shine in this photo. You'd have to stay a while to really get a feel for this place that’s been productive and prosperous, for the most part, since the Middle Ages and still continues to evolve.

    By the 13th century, this was Europe’s second-largest city (behind Paris, of course), its growth fueled by the textile trade. Many grand old buildings, including Gothic-style Saint Bavo Cathedral with its magnificent altarpiece artwork, are preserved in a car-free town center. Ghent’s Museum of Fine Art hold works by artists including Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Paul Rubens, and a comprehensive textile museum tells the story of the cloth

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  • These faraway hills: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: Shehzaad Maroof / Flickr)(Photo: Shehzaad Maroof / Flickr)

    Travel isn’t just about going places. It’s also about hearing others’ stories, seeing their images and letting our imaginations take us to places we may never go — and photography is a crucial component in that virtual journey.

    Many of us will never see the mountains of Pakistan, for example, but Shehzaad Maroof’s photo takes us there. We imagine what life could be like for people who might take shelter in that tiny hut clinging to a terraced hillside.

    This is the Nagar Valley, part of the Hunza Nagar District. The valley lies at about 8,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by mountains soaring to 20,000 feet. The beauty of those mountains — snow-covered, scarred, majestic — draws tourists to the region, which is hoping to draw more English speakers. So while the Nagar Valley seems far away, you never know: You may find yourself there in person someday.

    Do you have your own compelling travel photos to share? Join the Yahoo! Travel Flickr group, or look us up on Facebook, Twitter, Google+,

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  • Jan. 15, 1759: British Museum first opens in London

    (Photo: Eduardo Otubo / Flickr)(Photo: Eduardo Otubo / Flickr)

    Prosperous people have always enjoyed collecting things, and one of the best at it was Sir Hans Sloane, an English physician. By the time he died in 1753, he had gathered more than 70,000 items, everything from plant specimens to ancient objects to works by famous artists.

    Rather than have his collection broken up after his death, Sloane bequeathed it to his home nation. Parliament voted to accept his offer and to merge his collection with a handful of smaller but similar personal collections and libraries that Britain already owned. Thus, the British Museum became the first truly public museum, owned by the British people rather than a private or royal entity and open to all.

    Under Parliament’s direction, museum trustees bought a mansion in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of central London to house everything. It first opened to the public on Jan. 15, 1759, and almost immediately was two small for its growing collection — especially after archaeological findings started pouring in from

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  • Catching waves: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: Sal Celis / Flickr)(Photo: Sal Celis / Flickr)

    Few subjects make better photography subjects than an empty shore, but there’s also nothing like having a human-related object in the picture to lend perspective. This is one of a series of sea shots photographer Sal Celis took recently as he toured Oahu. In his Flickr photo notes, he titles this one “Patiently waiting.” There’s no word on whether he ever caught anything. The glowing light, gently moving water and sturdy volcanic rocks evoke a feeling that mixes serenity with energy — the perfect vacation mindset.

    Celis doesn’t mention where exactly he captured this photo, but some of the shots in his photostream are from Ka’ena Point State Park on Oahu’s west side, a rare remote area on a busy island. The park has a long beach (swimmable “only during completely calm conditions in the summer,” the Hawaii State Parks website warns) and views of a sea cave (“Kaneana, legendary home of Nanue the shark man,” the site mentions without further detail) but few trees and no drinkable water. One

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  • Forest hike, city lights: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: chusu / Flickr)(Photo: chusu / Flickr)

    Darkness is a great equalizer, in many ways: Most cities look beautiful at night (from a distance, at least). But few are as striking as Hong Kong, especially if you get the chance to view it from one of the many hills surrounding this crowded, vibrant, colorful place. This view is from the Peak to Pok Fu Lam hike, easily accessible via bus or train. There’s even a tram that does most of the hard climbing work for you. Starting near the top of the hill, the trail winds through forest and open stretches, passing a couple viewpoints and an old military site along its way to the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir.

    From this vantage point, one of the world’s most crowded places is stunningly juxtaposed against its verdant mountain backdrop. As the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website puts it: “From viewing a forest of skyscrapers, you will hike into an actual forest.” Residents say that the proximity to outdoor recreation is one of the best things about life in Hong Kong.

    Do you have your own compelling

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  • Jan. 13, 1666: French traveler Tavernier arrives in what is now Bangladesh

    Jean-Baptiste Tavernier is often depicted in "oriental" dress, as in this painting by Nicolas de Largilliere from about 1700. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)Most of us have never heard of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, but the Frenchman was a world traveler of the first order who hobnobbed with some of the most important figures of his day.

    After hearing tales of far-away lands from his father, a cartographer, Tavernier developed a serious case of wanderlust that would take him to corners of the world largely unknown to folks back home. He first traveled all over Europe, learning multiple languages along the way. That skill would help him in his early career as a translator for both military and merchant explorers.

    As a jewel trader with his own fortune, Tavernier went to India—where he met Emperor Shah Jahan—and Indonesia. He made his fortune partly by selling the 116-carat Tavernier Blue Diamond, which he discovered in India (and which was later recut into the Hope Diamond), to Louis XIV of France. It was on his last long trip that he reached Dhaka, now the capital of Bangladesh, and met Shaista Khan, a powerful general and governor of what was

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  • Caesar’s shrine: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: Matt Harvey / Flickr)(Photo: Matt Harvey / Flickr)

    At first glance, this looks like a fine example of the glittering sacred shrines scattered around Southeast Asia. But it could hardly be farther away. It's one of the many replicas of famous landmarks all over Las Vegas—and it’s been around longer than the half-scale Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas or the fake skyscrapers of New York-New York. It’s not on display in a Thailand-themed casino, either (although such a casino could happen; you never know in Vegas). Instead, this shining shrine sits rather incongruously in front of Caesars Palace.

    As photographer Matt Harvey explains, this is an 8,000-pound bronze and gold replica of the Erawan Shrine near the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel in Bangkok, complete with a statue of Phra Phrom (the Thai version of the Hindu god Brahma). A pair of Asian businessmen donated it to Caesars 30 years ago, and hotel staff have quietly maintained it in the Roman Plaza ever since. A plaque says it was meant for “people of all faiths, as a place of prayer

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  • January 10, 1863: First underground railway opens in London

    Commuters wave their hats during a trial run on the London Metropolitan Underground railway in 1863. (Photo: Cassell's 'Old and London New'/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

    The idea of linking central London neighborhoods with a rail system had been floated for decades, as more and more people commuted into the center and jammed traffic. But the crowded, narrow, winding streets on land — all owned by many different entities — hardly made for streamlined rail lines. Thus, the Metropolitan Railway came up with a completely new (and untried) solution: put the trains underground.

    The London Underground’s first 3.7-mile section, from Paddington to Farringdon, opened on January 10, 1863. Its wooden cars, pulled by steam-powered engines, carried 38,000 passengers — making it an immediate and undisputed hit.

    Soon, other segments joined the first. By 1884, the Circle Line fulfilled its promise, circumnavigating the city and taking people to most of the city’s major train stations. Thus, passengers could ride the national rail network to London and go straight into an Underground station, emerging near their eventual destination in central London.

    The Underground,

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  • A bridge to the past: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: Brad Hammonds / Flickr)(Photo: Brad Hammonds / Flickr)

    Most people call this the "Roman bridge of Córdoba," although very little of it is left over from Roman times. Most of the structure that now stands in the southern Spanish city’s historic center is a medieval-era recreation, which still makes it plenty old.

    The bridge has long been beloved for its substantial looks. In the daytime, those giant supports might appear out of proportion to the wide, shallow Guadalquivir river bed below, where the water is usually a mere trickle. In winter (when Brad Hammonds took this shot) it flows more swiftly. That reflecting water plus the strategically placed lights make this image a romantic gesture to craftsmanship of the past.

    The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba rises beyond the bridge, its majestic architecture clearly reflecting Roman, Islamic and Christian influences. At the bridge’s south end is a battlement tower that Enrique de Trastámara fortified in 1369 to fend off attacks by his half-brother brother. Given that the notoriously murderous

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  • A window perch with a red-rock view: Flickr photo of the day

    (Photo: JY O'Reilly / Flickr)(Photo: JY O'Reilly / Flickr)

    The human subjects in JY O’Reilly’s photo appear tiny against the massive arch that frames them. This is North Window Arch in Arches National Park, and Turret Arch rises in the distance. You’ll find North Window next to South Window; together, they’re called the Spectacles—a name that’s obvious from a distance.

    The national park, which lies near Moab in the red-rock desert country of southern Utah, is full of such photographic synchronicities. Its many red-rock arches, towers and ridge lines appear different depending on your angle of approach. While the Spectacles are easily accessible via a short hike, O’Reilly’s caption explains, “A bit of climbing was required to get to a spot high enough to be level with the window.”

    Spider-Man types take note: while many visitors scramble under and around the park’s arches and natural bridges, climbing onto their tops is strictly forbidden.

    Do you have your own compelling travel photos to share? Join the Yahoo! Travel Flickr group, or look us up on

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