Venus of Willendorf

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(Venus of Willendorf on display at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria)

The Venus of Willendorf is a 4.4-inch figurine made around 28,000 years ago, a famous example of “Venus figurines” from the Old Stone Age (Upper Paleolithic). (Archeologists associate this period with the earliest appearance of modern humans — this is where “Paleo diet” comes from, also called caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet).

The “oldest undisputed example of a depiction of a human being yet discovered” is the Venus of Hohle Fels dating as far back as 40,000 years ago.

These figurines, no more than a few inches high, are carved from stone, ivory, or molded from clay. Many depict women with exaggerated sexual features, faceless heads and missing arms and legs. Their use and meaning are naturally subject to much speculation and nobody will probably ever know.

The exact purpose of the carvings aside, it is worth noting that they show such detail and craftsmanship. It is mind-boggling that such artifacts of great creativity and symbolism already existed in the Stone Age, a manifestation of culture at the dawn of human history.

The Venus of Willendorf, like other Venus figurines, is unusual. But maybe we can also take pride that our species is truly unusual too.


Unusual

Remnant of York Castle from the Time of the Vikings

York Castle was built on the orders of William I to dominate the Viking city of York in Northern England in the year 1068.

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Clifford’s Tower, the keep (strongest and most secure part) of the castle, survives to this day and is one of the most distinguishable landmarks of the city.

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It has gone through a tumultuous history involving massacres, fires, explosions and wars.

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It has been used as an office, an armory, a prison, and even a cattle shed over the centuries.

The tower has a commanding view of the city, perhaps only matched by the more famous York Minster in the distance.

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Going down the spiral staircase, one is reminded of how lonely it must have been for the guardsmen as they kept watch over Clifford’s Tower.

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“Human says time goes by –
Time says human goes by.”
― Anonymous

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Heritage
Not quite Evanescent
Survive

We Should Stop and Look at Stained Glass Windows

The world today sometimes makes us feel “broken” in our everyday life, our aches and pains and joys disjointed, we ask “what is the meaning of it all?”

“The easiest thing to do is throw a rock. It’s a lot harder to create a stained glass window.”
– Jon Foreman

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Stained glass windows are made of fragments, like pieces of a puzzle. Only when viewed from afar that they transform into a beautiful whole.

If we stop and step back, maybe we can see how far we have come. In our relationships, the joys we have brought to others, our contribution to the world no matter how small, perhaps we can see a pattern emerging – a beautiful stained glass window in the making.

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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Stained glass windows offer a glimpse into something sublime. They tell us that there is something beyond the mundane, that perhaps we can transform ourselves and our world beyond the ordinary.

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Stained glass windows at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic

Transformation
Shine

The Narrow Tracks That Unite Europe

If there’s one thing that has united Europe — more than kings, emperors, religion, political ideology, or a common currency — it’s probably its train system.

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Antwerp Central Station

The narrow tracks that seamlessly connect cities and countries and people.

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You can be in Amsterdam from Brussels in two hours, or to Paris for that matter; Salzburg from Vienna or to Munich under three.

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It takes a lot of infrastructure and investment, but it’s more efficient in the long run and has created tremendous economic value.

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It also requires a vision and determination, and a mindset that connects instead of isolates.

Railways, narrow as they are, link and expand the world.

Castles, lovely as they are, went obsolete 500 years ago.

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Ghent Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen)

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Narrow

Trivia:
There’s a belief that the standard distance between railroad tracks of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches dates back to the days of Roman chariots. Not so, according to this article.

Don’t Miss the Golden Lane at the Prague Castle

When visiting Prague Castle, don’t miss the Golden Lane. It’s the little side street between the castle and the wall, built in the 16th century for the marksmen guarding the castle and their families.

The little houses contrast with the royal dwellings and state rooms, but have their own charm.

It got its name reputedly from alchemists who lived in the street. Franz Kapka was not known to be an alchemist but the writer apparently lived in house no. 22 for a couple of years.

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Today, the houses are little souvenir shops, basking in the sun in their colorful facades and tiny pot gardens.

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It is also a museum that shows how the interiors may have looked like 500 years ago.

After all that walking, a treat of trdelniks is in order; it’s a traditional Czech dessert that looks like a doughnut wrapped around a stick and roasted.

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Looking out towards Charles Bridge and the city of Prague from the Castle grounds while munching on the trdelniks would be a perfect way to cap this Golden experience.

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Cherry On Top