G'day folks,

This ancient town is full of stunning Ottoman architecture and streets so narrow trash collection is done by donkey. 

Just north of Amman, in Jordan’s Balqa Government, is a city that has been inhabited since at least the Chalcolithic period. The ancient town of Es-Salt is home to remarkable Ottoman architecture, the legendary location of the prophet Job’s interment, and streets so narrow and winding that for some residents trash collection is done via donkey instead of vehicle.

Full of gorgeous panoramas and historic structures, Es-Salt is best appreciated by way of a strenuous trek up the historic Harmony Trail. At the end of the ascent stands a striped pink-and-white stone building locally known as al-Qal’a, Arabic for “The Castle.” In fact, it is a mosque and memorial to Ottoman soldiers who died in the vicinity during World War I. Though it requires a long hike, the view of Es-Salt from The Castle is worth the effort. On this peak, you’ll be standing atop layers and layers of history.


While it was founded by Alexander the Great, there is attestation in both written and archaeological record (some of which is on display at the city’s museum) that the area was previously settled by a Semitic-speaking people. It has seen Byzantines, Ghassanid Arabs, Mongols, Mamluks, Ottomans, Brits, and others pass through—alternatively building, ravaging, repairing, and occupying the city. However, the mark left on the city by the Ottomans has persisted.

Under these Turkish-speaking rulers, Es-Salt was the administrative capital of Jordan, and it is consequently full of stunning examples of Ottoman architecture, characterized by long arching windows and elegantly carved stone. Its style has also been influenced by Nablusi architects, who came from Palestine in the late 19th century. This city boasts the oldest public secondary school in Jordan (visible in the distance from The Castle), which is still in operation. In the days when trade was carried out on foot or by caravan, Es-Salt was an important hub, lying on the path between Amman and Jerusalem.

Es-Salt has historically been a mixed city of Muslims and Christians, as attested to by the presence of numerous mosques and churches distributed among the tightly packed line of houses bordering the winding streets. Of all the churches, Al-Khader, or St. George Orthodox Church, is the most famous. It incorporates a small cave and is covered in ornate paintings of the disciples and of St. George slaying a dragon. Another highlight is the Al-Hammam Road, which runs through a bustling marketplace frequented by locals and whose doors are reminiscent of some of the famous markets in Syria. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to visit for an authentic Jordanian experience. 

Clancy's comment: Stunning place for a photographer.

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G'day folks,

A labyrinth of ancient tunnels hidden below the city holds the ruins of 2,500 years of history. 

Underneath the ancient city of Naples lies a vast geothermal zone composed of tuff, a volcanic rock. Over the last two-and-a-half millennia, extensive caves and tunnels have been carved out of the tuff, forming a shadow city obscured below the ground. 


The 280-mile (450-kilometer) subterranean network was formed by the Greeks in the fourth century BC to build what was then named Neapolis, or “New City.” The Romans later used the chambers and pathways to build aqueducts that provided water for many centuries of Neapolitans. As the centuries passed, buildings were constructed on top of previous ancient infrastructure, and the remains of these structures are were hidden deep below the city. 

Today, Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground) offers a chance to explore this Italian city from a different point of view. Down a long case descending some 120 feet (40 meters) below the earth, aqueducts, sewer tunnels, rainwater cisterns, caverns, catacombs, and pre-Christian hypogea can be found in the tuffaceous cavities, along with roadway and rail tunnels. Some caves that were part of the reservoir are still full of water today. One highlight of the subterranean network is the remains of the Greco-Roman theatre of Neapolis, where the Roman emperor Nero also had his private dressing room. 

Many years later, the underground network was used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War, and you can still see forgotten war relics such as weapons and vehicles in the tunnels. More recently, the first Hypogeum Gardens in the world can be found, an experiment to grow various species of plants far from pollution, but also light, in the dark chambers underneath the city.

Clancy's comment: one of my favourite cities. 

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29 March 2020 - ABANDONED BREAD FACTORY, Buffalo, New York

Abandoned Bread Factory
in Buffalo, New York

G'day folks,

Here we go again. Another abandoned factory, and a forsaken wonder in the middle of the East Side neighborhood. 

The Wonder Bread factory, built in 1923, was once an industrial icon of Buffalos East Side. While it was in operation, the facility produced that classic midcentury staple, as well as Hostess brand snacks. The first floor held massive Wonder ovens, making the surrounding neighborhood smell faintly of bread.

The 180,000-square-foot, steel-reinforced concrete building was built with tall ceilings, large south-facing windows, and an open layout to maximize the natural light. The blond brick exterior was topped with Roman arch-style windows that were popular with mill buildings in the late 19th century.

The factory closed in 2004, and has sat empty ever since, in an ever-worsening state of decay. Around 2010 (the same year the building was listed for sale for $800,000), the letter “B” from the giant “Wonder Bread” sign at the top of the building mysteriously went missing. Some months later, the “N” followed, and later the “E.”

The factory remains abandoned today, with just enough fading letters intact to make out its former name.

 Clancy's comment: Mm ... Imagine the great smell you would have had every day if you lived nearby. Enough to make you put on weight. Hey, the three letters that went missing were probably stolen by someone named BEN. Just a thought ...

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G'day folks,

This wondrous waterfall rushing down a green-covered mountain wasn't discovered until 2010.  

Streams of pristine water rushing down a mountain cliff covered wholly in green makes for a stunning image, and the judges of a national photography contest held in 2012 in the Philippines clearly thought so too. They awarded a photo of the Asik-Asik waterfalls in the mountainous Alamada region, and in doing so, announced the existence of this natural wonder to the world.

The picture went viral on social media, and Filipinos were stunned by this discovery. The beautiful falls had been unknown to the public for a remarkably long time; the residents of the nearby village of Sitio Dulao had only come across the site two years earlier, after a series of floods and forest fires destroyed a significant chunk of the forest that was hiding it.


The newfound oasis was christened Asik-Asik, meaning “sprinkle-sprinkle” in the local Hiligaynon language, after the sprinkle of falling water on nearby rocks. Lush vegetation covers the entirety of the ravine, and adds mystery as to where the water is coming from. The most likely sources are thought to be springs deep within the mountain or an underground river. 

Getting to the falls is not as daunting as it used to be, after the government, sensing a wonderful tourism opportunity, developed the roads and site around it. But there are still descending and ascending treks on stairs that wind around the mountain side. A tiny portion of the falls can be seen from the top, but as you descend, the full majesty of water gushing from the green mountainside slowly reveals itself in all its glory.

Clancy's comment: This is a beautiful part of the world. 

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16 May 2022 - THE SPANISH FLU




G'day folks,

In 1918, the world was ravaged by twin catastrophes. 


World War I was entering its climactic phase, after four years of calamity, as Allied armies advanced across Europe to fight the Central Powers. At the same time, a much smaller enemy was beginning to ravage cities and towns across the globe.

Nobody is quite sure where the deadly strain of influenza virus that spread like wildfire in 1918 came from. What is known is that the pandemic killed between 17 and 50 million people, and possibly as many as 100 million, making it one of the worst catastrophes in human history.

There were two main waves of the pandemic. The one in early 1918 was similar to seasonal influenza, in that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions were most at risk. But by August, the H1N1 virus had mutated to a far deadlier form.

There are competing theories as to why the second wave of the disease was so deadly for young people. One explanation is that it caused what is known as a 'cytokine storm', where the immune system goes into overdrive to fight the virus and ends up causing pneumonia and raising the risk of mortality. In this case, a stronger immune system would have been a liability.

The other theory is that poor hygiene standards in 1918, the lack of a vaccine and many people across the world being malnourished due to the effects of war, plus rapid spread facilitated by the movement of vast numbers of troops during World War I's closing stages were primarily to blame for the enormous death numbers.

The 'Spanish flu' was named such not because it originated in Spain, but because of wartime censorship. Newspapers were not allowed to report extensively on mortality in Allied countries, but Spain was neutral, so they could report on the effects there, thus giving the impression that Spain was particularly badly hit by the flu.

Clancy's comment: Timing was terrible. As if folks had not suffered enough.

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G'day folks,

In the centuries since Westerners have bothered jotting it down on maps, New Hampshire’s “The Basin” is without a doubt the most divine pothole to ever be blessed by literary and naturalist heroes.

Centuries worth of explorers have meandered through New England’s White Mountains, delighted by waterfalls large and small wending their way through picturesque deciduous forests. Yet among the myriad cataracts formed by the Pemigewasset River, even just within Franconia Notch State Park, one glistening feature sets itself apart from the rest. 


The Basin, a 30-foot-wide, 15-foot-deep bowl hewn from a torrent of rushing water pouring down the face of a granite cliffs, is a geological masterpiece. Dating back to the Ice Age when a pebble, carried in a stream bed, was trapped in a fissure of igneous rock, The Basin has swirled and churned into its current form. As thunderous, icy blue waters pour into its bowl, the gentle curves of the surrounding rocks rise and fall like great dunes frozen in time. There’s something about the site that is mesmerizing. It has been so for generations. 

Upon seeing the Basin for the first time in September of 1839, Henry David Thoreau called it “perhaps the most remarkable curiosity of its kind in New England.” Similarly, Samuel Eastman described The Basin to early American travelers as, “One of the beautiful haunts of Nature, a luxurious and delicious bath fit for the ablutions of a goddess.” 

The waterfall pothole is there, right now, raging away, awaiting goddesses. 

Clancy's comment: What a shame you can't swim there.

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G'day folks,

The rogue roots are gradually consuming some of the historic marble grave markers in this famous cemetery.  

Arlington National Cemetery is hallowed ground for the U.S. Armed Forces, with around 400,000 burials since 1864 representing every American war. The sprawling rows of white marble headstones and grassy lawns are shaded by more than 8,600 majestic trees. As a work of landscape architecture, the effect is inspiring.

But a few rogue trees are currently in the process of consuming some of the headstones. You can see it here and there in the older parts of the cemetery, where the marble markers are thickly embedded in the arboreal roots and stick out of the timber like stubby molars. Find A Grave puts the count at 11 afflicted markers, with most of the entombed having served in the Civil War, World War I, or World War II.

 The headstone absorption is actually progressing much more rapidly than it would initially appear. The case of Corporal Chas Ippel is a prime example. Find a Grave has photos dated from 2008 that show the stone as relatively unmolested, with the inscribed text still clearly readable. However, as of September 2017, a nearby willow oak’s roots have expanded by inches and begun to absorb the grave. Now all that’s readable is “S IPPEL.” Anecdotal calculations suggest that the tree will eat another character from the inscription every year.

When the tree eventually dies, it will be interesting to see how authorities handle the embedded stone. Perhaps some future chainsaw-wielding arborist will be asked to wade into the solid timber in search of the lost marker.

Clancy's comment: Mm ... I spent hours walking around this hallowed ground when I worked in Washington DC. 

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