G'day folks,

The end of January and all of February is always the most challenging part of winter when the weather has been cold for quite some time and we all start passionately missing the warmth of the sun. At times like these, hot springs and thermal baths come to the rescue, as they combine the two things we all can appreciate: a relaxing warm soak and a picturesque view.

The terraced hot springs of Pamukkale formed naturally, although they do look quite unbelievable, much like an alien landscape described in a science fiction novel. The springs consist of 17 azure-blue tiered pools made of travertine, a type of white limestone deposited from the minerals present in the water.

The water in Pamukkale is a pleasant 94°F (34°C) all year. The hot springs have been in use as a thermal spa for centuries. In the 2nd century BC, the Romans built a spa city and a healing center called Hierapolis nearby. Today, both the Roman city and the hot springs of Pamukkale are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Clancy's comment: Ahhh ... delightful place to relax.

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G'day folks,

Flower parades are held all over the world, but the one that takes place in Zundert, the Netherlands, is extraordinarily artistic. It’s also the largest parade in the world. Huge floats are made of wire, cardboard and Papier-mâché', and entirely covered in dahlias in intricate designs. The dahlias for grown specifically for the parade, and thousands of them are required just to cover one float.

The huge floats are made by twenty different hamlets and each of them consists of hundreds of builders, aged 1 to 100, who are all equally crazy about the Bloemencorso. The older members of the hamlet are often responsible for planting and growing the dahlias, while the younger ones build the float in large temporary tents that are built exclusively for the event.

Building a float for the Bloemencorso is mainly a social event. Builders of all ages work side by side for over three months to get the float of their hamlet ready on time. It has to be as perfect as possible in order to win the competition. The parade itself takes place on the first Sunday of September, but the members of the hamlets work on their floats all summer. The tents are put up in May or June and from then on the volunteers put all their effort in creating the giant artworks. The last three days before the actual parade are the most stressful.

Because the flowers have to be fresh, the hamlets can only start applying the dahlias on the floats on the Thursday before the parade. If necessary, the builders will work day and night to have their float ready on Sunday.

Most people in Zundert will happily give up their days off to work on the float. The social cohesion that comes from building it is very important. A hamlet is like a family where everyone knows each other and everyone is welcome. After a long evening working on the float people drink a beer together and most hamlets organize all kinds of other activities like song contests and barbecues.

Clancy's comment: Beautiful. What an extraordinary amount of work involved.

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G'day folks,

January 15, 1797Fred Astaire hardly ever seemed to be without one and for men it seems to be the essential item of apparel at every formal occasion – from weddings to presidential inaugurations: the top hat.

And the man who gave it a head start into fame and fashion was haberdasher John Hetherington who, on this day, appeared in court after he had stepped out onto the streets of London wearing the distinctive headgear. It caused a sensation.

So much so that a crowd formed and Hetherington was eventually arrested and given a summons for disturbing the public peace. In court, found guilty of wearing a hat “calculated to frighten timid people”, he was bound over to keep the peace in consideration of a sum of 50 pounds.

The arresting officer told the court that nobody had seen anything like it before: “He had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.”

The next day, The Times newspaper reported: “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.”

The newspaper was right. The top hat, which went by several names including Toppers, Chimney Pots, and Stove Pipes, grew in popularity, finally achieving the ultimate stamp of respectability in 1850 when Prince Albert, no less, began to wear one, giving the headgear the royal seal of approval. There was no going back after that . . .


Clancy's comment: Wow. I wonder if the same happened when the mini skirt was introduced? I doubt it. 

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