Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Lord of the Rings: the Legend Lives on

The Lord of the Rings is possibly one of the greatest stories ever told and this is not simply my personal opinion. Almost everyone seems to be in agreement over this: experts, the public and even… history have adequately proved that the epic story of life and war in the Middle Earth is of unique beauty; its charms and its depth have won over the respect and the admiration of most of us and have proven resistant to the test of time.

Lord of The Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien, the writer of Hobbit and the three books that complete the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, is today considered to be a genius, a writer that managed to speak about the serious matters of his times through the creation of a fantasy world that, in some ways and metaphorically speaking, resemble ours. To put it differently, we might not be living among hobbits and elves, and thankfully there are no orcs or Uruk-hai around neither, however, basic elements of human life just like death, war, greed, ambition and most of all friendship are incorporated in Tolkien’s unique literary universe. We might all hide a little Hobbit (which reflects our kindness) inside us and, unfortunately for all of us, some people do resemble to orcs in terms of their nastiness and potentially destructive behavior.  

Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, Book Covers
Our generation came in contact with the legendary tales of the Hobbits and men through the movies of Peter Jackson that managed to transfer the magic to the big screen for the first time with the success that the books always deserved. That said, even after you watch the movies, reading the books is still highly recommended. Only by reading Tolkien’s books one can get fully acquainted with his mysterious world; only in there you will be able to grasp his visionary imaginary world at its full glory.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to underestimate the power of the moving image, not at all! I myself have watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy multiple times and of course I didn’t feel like waiting not even for a day when the fourth installment of this epic story came to our screens last Christmas. At this point, I do want to state that the last movie, Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which actually narrates the story before the time the fellowship of the ring joined forces in order to save Middle Earth from the almighty evil of Sauron), even if  exciting, it did feel that it was slightly less impressive than the first three movies. This is what I felt when I saw the film a few months ago, but something tells me that this could potentially change in the near future and after I will have the chance to watch the movie again… and again… and again!

Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
What is more, with the second movie of the new Hobbit trilogy coming next Christmas, one must admittedly be patient a little bit. Nevertheless, there is a way out of the stress of waiting till this moment comes: one can head to New Zealand where all of Jackson’s films were shot! By booking early your GoSeeDo Attraction tickets you will have the chance to take the Middle Earth Filming Locations Tour and live the legend! As a big fan of Tolkien’s stories as you probably are, a guided tour will help you bring in mind all of the glorious battles you watched on the big screen as you will explore the beautiful Wellington region.
 
The Hobbit Holes. Photograph:
The Hobbit Holes. Photograph:

A 13m-long sculpture of Gollum diving to catch a fish awaits passengers at Wellington airport. Photograph:
A sheep farm near Matamata, doubles as the Shire in both The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy. Photograph:
There might be numerous regions in this world that get to be perceived and described as paradises. For Americans, for example, Hawaii is the paradise, while for some North Europeans the Greek Islands of Cyclades are those lands that resemble the most to an earthy Garden of Eden. What is for sure, though, is that in the case of New Zealand most of us would agree that we’re dealing with a geographical region that is unique and renowned for its wild natural beauty. Its attributes and characteristics can only bring in mind a place that doesn’t belong to this earth, but to a rather imaginary paradise, where souls meet in the afterlife for a bit of relaxation.

What is more is that there is also a second choice for the Lord of the Rings fans and New Zealand aficionados. If you choose the Palliser Bay Seals and Lord of the Rings Sites Day, you will once again visit places like the Great River Anduin, Riverndell and Helms Deep. However, this time you will also enjoy a visit to a huge fur seal colony located at the Cape Palliser Bay. Let me put it this way: fur seals are much better than orcs, don’t you think!?
 Rangitikei River Bend in New Zealand, used as River Anduin in LOTR
Kaitoke Regional Park in New Zealand, used as Riverndell in LOTR,
Angitata River valley used for Helms Deep in LOTR


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

What to expect while driving around the globe



For some, cars might seem to be a relatively recent invention, as the year of birth of the automobile dates back to only 1886 (the end of the 19th century, that is). Comapred to the infinity of centuries going back in human history, 1886 makes for a quite recent date, being very close to nowadays. Still, cars feel so much part of our everyday realities that it somehow feels that they have been here, among humans and for humans, since times immemorial. But when I say "our" everyday realities I have to be specific and stress out that I am particularly refering to Western societies, defined by values which promote democracy, equity and equality of rights, personal, social and political freedoms and the like.

Western societies, though, are not the only societies existing in the wide world we live in. And, even though the planet is round, I won't pretend that just because of that I cannot see through to the other side of it. On the contrary, I insist on stretching my neck to take a look at what is the case with cars and car-related issues in other parts of the globe as well. Let's take China, for a start.

China

Did you know that, as a non-Chinese, you cannnot actually drive around China, even if you have the International Driver's License? Well, yes, it is true; unfortunately, China did not book for that. However, if you happen to go by plane to China and land in one of its major cities, you might want to convert your International Driver's Permit into a Chinese permit at the especially assigned counters in the airport. This is the only chance you've got! Otherwise, I guess you will just have to pass the Chinese examination for a Chinese driver's licence and I wish you good luck with it!

Central Ningbo -
Immediately after, you might also need to forget any driving rule you might have known, as there will be no other way for you to adapt to the Chinese traffic otherwise. Maybe just because of that, taking the car in China might prove to be dangerous, especially if not adapted to the chaos. There are twice as many car accidents happening in China annually compared to the United States, even though the numbers of cars registered in the US are four times more than those registered in the whole China. Interesting numbers! Not to mention that most of the car accidents happening in China prove to be fatal in too many instances. So, if you are in for some extreme adventure and for that drive on the 'wild side', just try out driving in China!

Eastern Europe – Romania

However, if China seems too far away, but you are still into a drive on the wild side, why not take a car tour of countries that used to belong to the former Eastern European block? You might be impressed with the number of very expensive and truly luxurious cars that you might be faced with in these parts of the world. It so many times happens to get surprised when over there!

Transfăgărășan Highway, Romania
Romania is famous for the very expensive cars that one might get to see on the roads, but also for the ... unfinished highway leading to the West – or linking the Central-West to its more Eastern paths. So, if coming from the west, pay attention to this uniquosity and avoid the road that leads to nowhere. As funny as it might seem, I think that it might get less amusing if you find out, for instance, that the AA breakdown cover will be of no use in these "off the beaten track" situations - literally speaking! Good luck with it!

Africa


Cars are also present in Africa, even though to a much lesser extent than in other parts of the world. Safari in Africa sounds very posh to anyone's ears, as it stands for a very exquisite treat that one might offer to him/herself, don't you think? Maybe because for a safari in Africa you need a car and cars are rather scarce on the African continent. You will find the rather practical cars, well equipped with a very strong engine to take you out of troybling roads – as a paved road is hard to find on the Black continent – that's a fact!

Saudi Arabia



Last, but not least, in case you go to Saudi Arabia, well ... you will be seeing cars. But the cars will only be driven by ... men. Saudi Arabia is one of those cases of striking discrimination when it comes to gender issues that could drive any European nuts. Over there, only the boy can play with his toy – namely, the car – and women are left outside of it. Maybe that is why the roads are also unsafe, as the drivers tend to onfenly get agressive.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the car ride around some of the places you could visit around the world. I also conclude that, even though it might come natural to many of us to drive a car, it seems that the car is, indeed, a rather recent invention and it still has a long way to go. Maybe not for us – those offspring of Western societies -, but certainly for those born non-Western.