More exciting news for 2019

It has been a big year for the Memorable Destination team.

After starting with a humble travel blog 25 years ago, we gradually achieved our dream of providing travellers with a free resource to objectively rate the ‘Age-Friendliness’ of travel products and hotels.

Along the way, we sometimes wondered whether our belief that travel and hospitality services should cater for all ages was too idealistic.

But, we kept going and early in 2018, we again moved with the times to provide more visual content by integrating a suite of galleries on Instagram.

First came @memorable_destination, which focused on the photographic and artistic side of our travel advice – including growing  visual trends like HDR photography and quality editing.

This was soon complemented by @memorable_travels and @memorable_hotels, which also provide more information for travellers in easily digested photographic and video format.

And, it’s now our pleasure to announce that, from January 7, these will be further complemented by an Australian photographic hub on Instagram.

Part of the prestigious and influential ‘Worldwide Community’ of international hubs, @ww_australia will showcase Australia and its artists.

Join us by Following @ww_australia.  If you are not part of the billion Mor more people using Instagram, we’re sure you will be very soon.

As the launch is just in time for the festive season –  we decided to celebrate by giving you a look at some of our collection of Christmas Tree decorations, gathered around the world during our travels over a quarter of a century.

We realise that it’s a bit ‘out of left field’, but here are some of our favourites:

Decoration from Denmark

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This angelic decoration has long held pride of place on our family tree. It is gorgeous.

Decoration from Austria

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Classy and elegant: what else would you expect from the Austrian Alps.

Decoration from Barcelona

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Bold and bright: just like Catalonia and its wonderful capital.

Decoration from London

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How very British – a Harrods Bear.

Decoration from Greece

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A new one in our collection: a Santorini donkey

Decoration from Italy

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From Ravello, on the glorious Amalfi Coast of Italy.

Decoration from Slovenia

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Another new one. Slovenia is wonderful and this decoration sums up this charming country.

So, on that note, thanks for reading our site throughout 2018 – and have a wonderful and safe holiday period.

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Earthquake memories: a Christmas feature

It sounded like a train passing outside the office.

And it felt like one had passed clean through the office.

Anyone who has been in a big earthquake will, I’m sure, remember the feeling of helplessness as the movement and shaking becomes more and more violent.

I certainly remember feeling that way in Australia’s Newcastle earthquake.

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The quake – Australia’s deadliest – killed 13 people when it hit the east coast industrial city of Newcastle mid-morning on December 28, 1989.

I was on the third floor of an office building in the heart of the city. It was the first day of work after Christmas and many were away on holidays.

The 40 or so people in the office mostly froze in their seats at 10.27am as the walls shook, swayed and cracked around us – and the rumble of the quake gave way to the crunching sounds of breaking masonry.

Neither the lightweight desks nor flimsy partition doorways offered much protection, so we rushed from the building down damaged stairwells into streets littered with bricks and swelling crowds of bewildered office workers.

No one had dared take the lift and, in the confusion, there wasn’t time for a headcount.

So it was that, after making it out of our office unscathed, I joined two colleagues in venturing back to free a woman trapped in the restroom and help a tradesman who had been working in the ceiling and had been temporarily knocked unconscious.

Minutes later, the building was declared structurally unsound.

Some inner-city buildings had disappeared in piles of rubble. Others had lost their facade, or had huge jagged cracks through the brickwork.

Royal Newcastle Hospital had been evacuated, with patients taken to the adjoining beach; the Returned Services Club was flattened; and people were trapped inside the damaged Newcastle Workers Club, where nine people eventually died.

The Newcastle earthquake caused damage to over 35,000 homes, 147 schools, and 3,000 commercial and/or other buildings, with significant damage caused to 10,000 homes (damage worth over $1,000) and 42 schools (structural damage), within the immediate Newcastle area.

Damage to buildings and facilities was reported over an area of 9,000 square kilometres.

With public transport halted , pay telephones mostly out of operation, mobile phones yet to come into general use, no electricity in much of the inner-city, and roads blocked by debris, I then walked out of the heart of Newcastle.

A few hours later, the Australian Army arrived to seal off the most dangerous areas.

On the way out of the crippled city area, I discovered yet another unAustralian impact of the quake – without electricity, even suburban pubs that had escaped damage were unable to serve cold beer.

Our home in the Newcastle suburb of Charlestown had suffered several thousand dollars worth of damage and large parts of the metropolitan area became a sea of scaffolding for many months as the city underwent massive reconstruction.

Aussie stories

The story of the Candy Bomber

On a past visit to Germany, we were intrigued by an unusual Christmas decoration.

Small multicoloured parachutes with a gift suspended below each seemed to be a key part of festive displays – especially in the eastern areas of Berlin.

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Asked about the meaning of the decoration, Berliners told us a fascinating story that harked back to the Soviet blockade of the city during the Cold War.

Apparently, a young American pilot, who was airlifting supplies into blockaded Berlin, was touched by the plight of local children and started to drop candy from his plane as it descended to land.

Fashioning small parachutes, he and his crew sent them floating down as they approached the Berlin airport, wiggling the wings of their plane as a signal to the children that their anticipated cargo would soon arrive.

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The pilot became known by thousands of children in Berlin as “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Candy Bomber.”

Word soon spread, and donations of candy and other supplies poured in from sympathetic Americans.

In this way, a small idea became a great symbol of hope not only to German children in a bombed-out city, but to all those who yearned for freedom.

And that inspiring story also spawned a range of gifts and one of the world’s more unusual Christmas traditions

This black and white photograph, which is in the public domain, shows a U.S. Air Force Douglas C-54 Skymaster making a candy drop (note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54) in about 1948.

 

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Is this the most quirky Christmas tradition ever?

The Catalans have a general quirkiness that nicely complements their warmth, humor, passion and intense nationalism.

Take, for example, the tradition of  ‘El Caganer’.

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Each Christmas, when Catalans prepare a Nativity scene in their home or business, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the shepherds are not the only figures on show.

There’s also ‘El Caganer’, a little man squatting down and – there’s no delicate way of saying this – answering a call of nature.

The ‘Caganer’ has been a part of Catalan Christmas mangers for at least two centuries.

Fertility or equality?

Some say it is a symbol of fertility and good fortune, with its origin in rural areas

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But, we were also told that the little man was a not-so-subtle reminder that all people are created equal.

And yet others said the tradition was just an example of the fact that Catalans are ‘different’ to their fellow Spaniards – and like it that way.

The last two explanations may tell us why the ‘Caganer’ is sometimes dressed like world leaders or even revered sporting heroes.

Regardless of the origin, it is generally agreed that El Caganer (literally ‘the pooper’) has been doing his business in Catalan mangers for centuries.

Human towers

Then there are the Castellers.

DSCN0941On special holidays, groups of Catalan people gather together to climb on each other’s shoulders and form a massive human ‘tower’.

In some cases, these towers rise for seven stories – or higher.

The Castells are a source of great pride for the Catalan people.

They believe the construction of the human castles is indicative of the Catalan people’s ability to work in teams, persevere, endure suffering and, ultimately, to succeed.

Traditional treat for the taste buds

A more sedate tradition is ‘Pan Con Tomate’ (Bread with tomato).

This Catalan speciality involves scraping a tomato and clove of garlic on lightly toasted bread, followed by a dribble of olive oil.

The ‘Pan Con Tomate’ is often served as a separate tapas, but is a traditional opening dish at the well known Sunday family feast in Catalonia.

Each of these traditions has developed as part of life in a very special part of the planet.

Is ‘El Caganer’ the most offbeat tradition you’ve encountered? If not, we’d sure like to hear about others.

Main photo courtesy The El Guarda Posts

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