Antananarivo, called Tananarive in French and also known by its colonial shorthand form Tana, is the capital and largest city of Madagascar. The larger urban area surrounding the city, known as Antananarivo-Renivohitra (“Antananarivo-Mother Hill” or “Antananarivo-Capital”), is the capital of Analamanga region. The city is located 4,199 ft (1,280 m) above the sea level in the center of the island, and has been the island’s largest population center since at least the 18th century. Sadly Tana is not a city to visit, despite great natural beauty, crime due to extreme poverty, crowding and disease such as pneumatic plague make it inadvisable to walk without a professional escort, take a taxi or any public transportation and in reality, leave the safety of a reputable hotel. It is basically a place to stay until you leave for somewhere else, often on the single runway of the “International” airport. While we are on the subject, Taxibrousse is the famous French name for the Malagasy bush taxi, which is a kind of share taxi for overland drives. For most Malagasy people, these buses are the only opportunity to travel longer distances for affordable prices, and thus they are part of the Malagasy sense of life. They are also really unsafe since the driver and often the passengers will rob you of all your belongings. I was on a Natural Habitat tour and we stayed at the Hotel Tamboho, a beautiful little hotel on a private lake with a guarded little shopping enclosure including a modern supermarket.
Crystal Cave is a marble karst cave within Sequoia National Park, in the western Sierra Nevada of California. It is one of at least 240 known caves in Sequoia National Park. Crystal Cave is in the Giant Forest area, between the Ash Mountain entrance of the park and the Giant Forest museum. The cave is a constant 48 °F (9 °C). It is accessible by Park Service guided tours only. Tickets are not sold on-site, but must be bought at the Foothills or Lodgepole Visitor Center. The study of karst is considered of prime importance in petroleum geology since as much as 50% of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves are hosted in porous karst systems.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum has a truly amazing collection of paintings and I thought I would highlight some of the artists in separate posts. Giuseppe Arcimboldo (also spelled Arcimboldi; 1527-1593) was an Italian painter best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of such objects as fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books – that is, he painted representations of these objects on the canvas arranged in such a way that the whole collection of objects formed a recognizable likeness of the portrait subject. Arcimboldo had been a court painter in Vienna for Maximilian II and in Prague for Rudolf II since 1562. In 1563 he began painting his famous collection of the four seasons and the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air), which were presented to Maximilian II on New Year’s Day 1569. While these funky portraits might have gotten most portrait painters executed or at least banished, the Hapsburgs loved them. Arcimboldo was as much a court jester as a painter, the paintings are full of puns, for instance, the ear of Summer is an ear of corn, his nose is a pickle and the date of the painting and signature of Arcimboldo are woven into the straw garment of Summer.