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Dr. Jack Wheeler

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THE AMAZIGH

amazigh They call themselves Amazigh – meaning “the unconquered” – who are the original people of Morocco having lived there for over 12,000 years. You’ve heard of them as Berbers, a name they find offensive. Another people you’ve heard of are the Lapps, the reindeer-herders of far northern Scandinavia, who call themselves Saami.

Astoundingly, they are directly related, for both are descended from the same stock of Cro-Magnon Ice Age hunters in Western Europe that split in two 15,000 years ago – one moving thousands of miles far north, the other thousands of mile south crossing the Gibraltar Strait to North Africa. Geneticists know this because the Amazigh and Saami share the same mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U5b1b. (See Saami and Berbers – An Unexpected Mitochondrial DNA Link, American Journal of Human Genetics, March 2005.)

So when you visit Morocco and meet a gentleman like that pictured above amidst a display of spectacular Amazigh artwork, you’ll know what incredible history resides within him. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #242 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: HAJJAR QIM

hajjar-qim The megalithic temple of Hajjar Qim (hah-jar seem) on the island of Malta in the center of the Mediterranean, was built a thousand years before the pyramids in Egypt. The Stone Age people there made their temples of enormous stones weighing several tons cut from the limestone bedrock with tools of stone and antler horn for they had no metal, and moved them using small round-cut rocks as ball bearings for they had no wheels.

The massive stone I’m in front of weighs over 20 tons. These folks figured out all by themselves how to build these extraordinary temples to their gods and goddesses close to six thousand years ago. Nobody taught them. They were the first.

These ancient temples are only one of the so many things that entrance the visitor to Malta. Medieval walled cities, sea caves of day-glo blue water, sunset dining in fabulous restaurants with great food, great beer, and great wine, luxury hotels made from palaces or palazzos – all at reasonable cost.

90% of Maltese are devoutly Christian, having been so since converted by St. Paul himself in 60 AD. They are warm and welcoming, eager to have you join in the fun of their village festivals. I had such a wonderful time with them when I was first here in 2009 (when the photo you see was taken). I’ve been back twice now and can’t wait to be there again. So much so I’ll be leading an exploration of Malta over next Memorial Day (May 25-June 2). Let me know on the Forum if you’d like to join me. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #241 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE EIFFEL AT NIGHT

eiffel-at-nightThe Eiffel Tower is especially impressive at night. Taking the elevators to the first, second, and finally the third platform on top with the girders lit up against the black of night makes you gape at the herculean engineering achievement of Gustav Eiffel. It’s overwhelming that it took only 26 months to build – from the start on January 28, 1887 to the celebration of its completion on March 31, 1889.

The Eiffel was built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 1789 French Revolution, and of the century of scientific progress and the Industrial Revolution since. It may seem bizarre that it was bitterly opposed by hundreds of Paris’ artistic and intellectual elite, who publicly condemned it as “a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack… stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”

Too bad for them, for The Eiffel was quickly embraced by Parisians as a beloved symbol of their city, while it has gone on to be one of the world’s most epically famous monuments.

Rebel and I are here in Paris with our son Brandon for Thanksgiving. I took this picture last night. Should you ever be in Paris, be sure to visit the Eiffel – all the way to the top! – at night. The experience is simply glorious. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #240 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE REAL HISTORY OF THE FIRST THANKSGIVING

of-plymouth-plantation

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans gather with their family and friends to celebrate the blessings that Providence has bestowed on their beloved country.

A deep appreciation of these blessings involves understanding that they were earned. It is to understand the awesome truth of how “God helps those who help themselves” applies to the Mayflower Pilgrims and their First Thanksgiving at America’s birth.

This is an appreciation and understanding of which those on the Left are incapable – for it would mean celebrating the capitalist freedom that made that original Thanksgiving possible. That made America possible.

Thus they must distort history instead. The distortion starts in Kindergarten, with the childish make-believe of your kid’s school play portraying the noble Squanto teaching the helpless Pilgrims how to feed themselves. So let’s drop the curtain on the distortion and watch the real thing. Here it is.

The real history of the Mayflower Pilgrims was recounted by their leader, William Bradford (1590-1657) in his book Of Plymouth Plantation, completed in 1647. It is from Bradford that we learn of Squanto, who did indeed show the Pilgrims how to “set” or plant corn (a new unfamiliar crop for them).

Then we learn that the Pilgrims taught the Indians how to grow more corn than they ever had before:

“The Indeans used to have nothing so much corne as they have since the English have stored them with their hoes, and seene their industrie in breaking up new grounds therwith.”

Reading the real history of the Pilgrims is so revelatory that I want you to see it at length. It is as effective a refutation of socialism and affirmation of capitalism as there has ever been.

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MONTEZUMA’S CASTLE

montezumas-castle When American explorers came upon this extraordinary cliff dwelling in 1860s Arizona, they dubbed it “Montezuma’s Castle” on a whim. The Aztec ruler had nothing to do with it, of course. The Anasazi people built a number of these marvelous structures in the Southwest, high up on cliffs above a river that seasonally flooded.

For hundreds of years the Anasazi flourished, skilled agriculturalists and brilliant at constructing vast irrigation systems. Yet it all came to naught with a devastating megadrought with no rain for many decades, culminating in the collapse of the Anasazi culture and abandonment of their cliff dwellings by the early 1500s.

Another lesson that it is nature that control’s the Earth’s climate, not us. You’ll find Montezuma’s Castle above Beaver Creek south of Sedona. It’s a marvel not to be missed. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #194 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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CHRISTIANITY IN KERALA

kerala In 52 AD, St. Thomas the Apostle, one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples, sailed down the Red Sea and across the Arabian Sea to the Malabar Coast of Southwest India to preach the Gospel of Christ. He found a receptive audience among the peaceful fisherfolk in the villages along the coast – so receptive he established a series of churches that still exist today. Some remain small and humble, others like the one above rebuilt with soaring glass and stone.

There are many Christian denominations in the Indian state of Kerala, which has the entire Malabar Coast, from the original St. Thomas Syrian Christians to Catholic, Pentecostal, Charismatic and others. Of Kerala’s 34 million people, at least 20% are Christian. Kerala is a place of relaxing beauty and peaceful serenity. The best way to explore it is via a luxurious houseboat along the many canals or “backwaters” dotted with fishing villages and churches. You’ll be warmly welcomed. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #155, photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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TASMANIA’S MOUTH OF HELL

mouth-of-hell On the south coast of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, there is a huge sea cave the aboriginal Tasmanians called The Mouth of Hell for the shrieking and moaning the waves and wind made emitting from it. Boatsmen prefer to enter it to this day protected by a cross on their fishing boat’s bow.

The wild beauty and mystery of Tasmania is absolutely extraordinary. At 35,000 square miles, it is the size of Maine with a population of less than half a million. Towns like Hobart and Launceston are charming, but the magic is in the uninhabited wilderness that makes up much of the island as a hiker’s paradise. That and a momentous coastline almost beyond belief.

If you’re ever in Oz, especially Melbourne, don’t miss the chance to explore Tasmania. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #150 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: THE TURFAN OASIS

jw-at-emin-minaret-in-turfanThe Turfan Oasis in East Turkestan is far older than the Silk Road. Sitting in the Turfan Depression, second lowest on earth at over 500 feet below sea level) with a climate perfect for agriculture (like grapes for wine!), it was first settled by the Caucasian Tocharians some 4,000 years ago.

Over time it was absorbed into various empires ruling the Tarim Basin encircling the empty Takla Makan desert – proto-Mongols, the Tang Dynasty, the expanded Tibetan Empire at its height in the700s AD, Buddhist Uyghurs, and Genghiz’s Mongols. By the 1400s, the people of Turfan were mostly Buddhist or Nestorian Christian. By the end of the 15th century, they were ruled by the Moslem Moghuls who converted them to Islam.

Turfan was a key trading oasis on the Northern Silk Road which Marco Polo’s father and uncle, Niccolo and Maffeo traversed in 1266 to meet Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. (Marco’s route with them in 1271 took the less-traveled Southern Silk Road underneath or south of the Takla Makan). I traversed both Silk Roads in 2008. Here I am at the Emin Minaret in Turfan. It’s a fabulous place to explore. Maybe some day again? (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #239 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 11/18/22

democracy-dies-in-darknessJust as the motto on the New York Times masthead – “All the news that’s fit to print” – is mendacious, so is WaPo’s. That’s why the sardonic meme above best describes the 2022 midterms farce.

Democracy in America really did die in darkness as election results have trickled in since Nov 8. How this happened is simple – the 2022 Midterms were The Voldemort Elections.

J.K. Rowling’s character of Voldemort, as Harry Potter’s arch-nemesis, strikes such fear within the wizard world that his name cannot be spoken, only referred to as He Who Cannot Be Named.

It is the same phenomenon the GOP world, in fear of being cursed as Election Deniers – an absolutely brilliant locution tainting all those who claim the 2020 presidency was rigged and stolen from Trump as on a despicable moral level as Holocaust Deniers.  So brilliant that it worked like a black magic charm in 2022.

There’s only one thing to do about it.

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LUANGWA LAGOON SUNSET

luangwa-lagoon-sunset It’s hard to find a better example of the glory of nature than here – a lagoon off the Luangwa River in Africa’s Zambia. It’s also hard to believe I took this picture just a few days ago – and now I’m back home, and Africa so far away.

It was so fulfilling, so rewarding for me, over the past weeks, to provide a life-memorable experience of real Africa to eight TTPers – they’ll never forget it ever. I plan to be here again soon – perhaps you’ll be with me. There’s a primordial magic in Africa that grips your soul like nowhere else. The wisdom of those most familiar with the world is: “If you can visit only two continents in your life, go to Africa – twice.” (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #145 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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WHAT WOULD HE THINK OF US?

xikrin-kayapo-tribesmanThis Xikrin-Kayapo tribesman and his people live in the deepest heart of the Brazilian Amazon on tributaries of the Xingu River. You wonder what he would think of us as panic, fear, and madness engulfs our civilization. Having spent time in his village not long ago, I’m confident he would simply shake his head in bewilderment and say, “Please just let us live our lives in our forest, that’s all we want.”

True indigenous tribes who keep to their traditional way of life are so rare now in the Amazon or anywhere else where they once flourished. Each one is a precious living cultural heritage of humanity. It is such a privilege when they share their way of life with you. They deserve to have their wish granted, as my tribesman friend would express it. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #4 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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TIJI — CASTING OUT THE DEMONS

tiji-ceremony Once a year in the capital of the Tibetan Kingdom of Lo, the medieval walled city of Lo Manthang, the Lo-pa Tibetans hold a ceremony called Tiji (tee-gee), meaning casting out of demons. It’s meant to prevent any demons or malicious spirits from destroying their barley and buckwheat harvests.

Tiji is colorfully spectacular and dramatic, but this is no tourist show – Tiji is a deeply serious religious ritual. The Kingdom of Lo is in a very remote and roadless region of the Himalayas known as Mustang, lying north of the Himalayan giants of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri in Nepal on the border with Chinese-occupied Tibet.

We were privileged to witness it on a Himalaya Helicopter Expedition. We hope to be so privileged again next year. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #238 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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PATAGONIA WONDERLAND

patagonia-wonder-landscapeWWX-Patagonia Wonderland 2023 Jan 7-17

Patagonia! You’ve heard of this place all your life, a wonderland of enchantment almost beyond imagination. A land of gauchos on the pampas, of the world’s most beautiful lakes, of massive glaciers flowing into those lakes, of staggeringly awesome mountains unlike anywhere else on earth.

A land of people who live life to the brim, who eat marvelous food with gusto, who drink fabulous wine merrily, who party exuberantly, who will welcome you graciously with both arms.

Experience all of this luxuriously with Wheeler-Windsor Expeditions as we explore Patagonia together.

You won’t believe what a safely thrilling adventure this is, how much fun you’ll have. To find out all about it, for lots of photos of what you’ll see and do, it’s all right here: WWX-Patagonia Wonderland 2023 Jan 7-17

Start the year off right with a life-memorable experience with your fellow TTPers… See you soon in fabulous Patagonia!

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: ASTRIDE WHERE AFRICA IS SPLITTING APART

jw-at-afar-triangle-of-djibouti

It looks like a crack in a road, but this is in the Afar Triangle of Djibouti, where a triple junction of tectonic plates is tearing Africa in pieces. Plates spreading apart is called a Rift. I’m standing over where three gigantic rifts – the Red Sea that has split Arabia and northern Africa in two, the Gulf of Aden that will split off Somalia from the rest of Africa, and the Great Rift Valley of East Africa currently ripping Africa itself asunder – originate. Here the once intact Africa Plate began to tear in three directions.

afar-triangle-on-map

Ironically, here is where humanity did the same. Genetic scientists have determined that some 60,000 years ago a small band of Africans (less than 200) rafted from what is now Djibouti to what is now Yemen in Arabia – and that incredibly, every human on earth today except for those who stayed, is descended from them. That means, e.g., all Europeans, Chinese and Asians, Australian Aborigines, North and South Native Americans, descended from those 200 people long ago.

Two amazing facts from this tiny country. There’s a third – it’s the best place in the world to swim with whale sharks, an unforgettable experience. All in Djibouti! (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #238 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 11/11/22

election-results-as-of-111122_9am This is the current election results graphic as of 9am EST this morning (11/11) on RealClearPolitics. It’s been frozen for some 36 hours now, never changes.  That can mean only one thing – blue cities and counties in purple states are desperately trying to create enough cheat-by-mail ballots to win. Here’s how it works…

But that the midterms were close enough to cheat means they were an IQ test that America failed at.  In other words:

best-2022-metaphor

Oh, and this just in from the Babylon Bee: Trump Bid To Be DeSantis’s VP Pick Off To Rocky Start.

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THE DUNES OF SOSSUSVLEI

dunes-of-sossusvlei The gigantic sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia are among the world’s tallest – and oldest at some five million years old. Many consider them the world’s most beautiful, with ancient sand filled of iron oxide turning them bright ochre. The one you see here is named Dune 45.

You can climb the dunes, float high above them in a hot air balloon, or just revel in their beauty. Sossusvlei is only one of the many wonders of Namibia. We’ll have another exploration of Namibia in another year or two. You should mark Namibia down on your bucket list. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #237 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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A FATHER IN CHAD

chadThis is the most anti-Marxist picture I have ever taken. I am a White American. He is a Black African in N’Djamena, Chad. And those differences mean nothing compared to our both being fathers.

Look into his soul through his eyes. Look at the tranquility and peaceful joy his soul feels in being the father of his two beautiful children. It is the same with me.

The Left’s purpose is to divide us into tribal differences of hate – white vs. “people of color,” rich vs. poor, employers vs. workers, exploiters vs. exploited, victimizers vs. victims, the anti-white racist hate of Critical Race Theory. Always, always, they focus exclusively on differences, to separate people apart, to hate other different than them. All in the ancient “divide and conquer” scheme to control people’s lives.

Yet the differences between us are so unimportant compared to what we all have in common, our basic humanity. The bond that I have with this man from Chad is so much greater than anything that separates us. Focusing on what we all have in common with our fellow human beings is the way to rid the world of the anti-human hate of the Marxist Left. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #157, photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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WHY THE RED WAVE NEVER REACHED THE SHORE

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The Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore is one of surfing’s most legendary breaks.  It’s a triple-reef break, with these huge swells from Northern Pacific winter storms piling enormously up on an outer reef, then a middle reef, and lastly on an inner reef.

If you stand on the beach watching these gigantic waves rise above you, with surfers taking off into the wave’s tube or wiping out, you are sure the wave is going crash right down on you and sweep you off to sea.

But no, that inner reef smothers the wave and without warning the wave is suddenly gone to gently foam over your feet in the sand.

I saw that many times when I lived in Hawaii years ago, and immediately thought of it when I saw the news this morning.

Except, at Banzai, the waves don’t cheat.

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AMERICA AT MOUNT RUSHMORE

mount-rushmore I took this photo of Mount Rushmore looking straight on from a helicopter – so it may be from an angle you have not seen before. This election week and on Veterans Day this Friday (11/11), it may be worthwhile to think of these four heroic Americans from a different perspective, to reflect on the almost unimaginable -- in the light of our comfortable lives we live today – challenges they faced and triumphed over to create and sustain our America.

It is worth asking what would they say to us today, what advice and counsel would they give us on how to face and triumph over what unimaginable – to them during their lives – challenges of ours as Americans today.

Look into their eyes. What are they saying to you? Election week and Veterans Day is a time of deep reflection on the meaning of being American. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #173 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE CALL OF THE WORLD

JW’s world travel map up 2013, needs updating to the present

JW’s world travel map up 2013, needs updating to the present

As you may know, I’ve had memorable experiences in every country in the world. Ever since I was a young teenager, the world has been calling me to explore it – and I’ve been responding deeply to that call for well over sixty years now.

And yet… and yet… I must confess to you that I’ve barely begun, barely scratched the surface of the wondrousness of our Earth.

There is a literal endlessness to what there is to learn, witness and infuse your soul about the history, culture, people, and sheer magical beauty that surrounds our planet.

Can you feel it – the world calling you to experience and explore it? The call may be loud and persistent. It may be faint, drowned out by the daily humdrum of life – or under the illusion that you’re too old or somehow unable. But however loud or faint, it’s there in most of us – for how else did we humans populate the entire globe? To seek, to know, to experience, to explore is a very deep part of what it is to be a human being.

The Call of the World is part of the glory of being human – of using our unique, unique of all life on earth, capacity for self-consciousness, of our human ability to appreciate and live in gratitude for being a part of this glorious Earth and Universe.

You know that for almost a half-century now that I’ve made a living enabling people to respond to the Call of the World. This year, with the two year-long Dark Covid Winter ending, that response will be in the Himalayas, Central Asia, Atlantic Paradise Islands, and so much more.

I am hoping, of course, that you will be joining me on at least one of these explorations. More than that, however, I want you to answer the Call of the World that most resonates within you.

Is there a forest, a scenic wonder, a historical town or place near you that you haven’t been to and wondered about? Bet there is. What about somewhere nearby that your kids or grandkids don’t know about and would think is very cool?

Whether the Call of the World in you is to the back of beyond or around the corner, life-memorable experiences await once you answer. In all history that’s been or will be, our earthly existence happens only once for a tiny moment in time. I urge you to answer the Call of the World while you still have that time. Carpe diem. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #187 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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REGAINING YOUR SANITY IN A TIME OF MORAL INVERSION

Afghan Mujahaddin with destroyed Russian T-62 tank, 1983 ©Jack Wheeler

Afghan Mujahaddin with destroyed Russian T-62 tank, 1983 ©Jack Wheeler

This week, Joel and his family are on a well-deserved vacation in Hawaii.  So my turn today.

Every week on TTP Joel Wade gifts us with his wisdom on how to keep your sanity amidst the stresses of life we all experience.

Yet such is the bizarre moral inversion that has been occurring for over eight months now that it has caused some of us to lose their sanity.  You cannot keep what you have lost.  It must first be found, then you can keep it once more.  This is a discussion, then, on how to regain one’s sanity that has been lost.

When one has suddenly become morally demented, factually delusional, and spiritually grotesque; when one suddenly lives in an Orwellian world where slavery is freedom, lies are truth, and evil is good, then one’s sanity has been lost.

Now what if this happens regarding one issue, one set of circumstances in the world – and regarding everything else, one retains their normal moral, factual, and spiritual good sense?  What’s going on here?

And what if this happens to people in reverse?  To those who on so many issues are morally demented, factually delusional, and spiritually grotesque suddenly become paragons of sanity fully on the side of freedom, truth, and moral decency on one single issue and that alone?

This is the puzzle of moral inversion that needs to be recognized and dealt with, for the issue that is causing it happens to be one of the most dangerous and critically consequential the entire world faces at this very moment.  And what is that issue?

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – SERA GOMPA, LHASA TIBET

jackson-at-sera-gompa July 12, 2001. I took my son Jackson when he was nine years old on an overland expedition across Tibet this summer. Here he is at the Sera Gompa, a Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Tibetan Buddhist Monastery just outside Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.

Several hundred monks live here, teaching young acolytes and conducting prayer ceremonies for villagers in the area – albeit under the watchful eye of Chinese Communist government agents. Being here was a very educational experience for Jackson, which he still remembers. Always try to take your kids or grandkids on travel adventures when they are young – they’ll never forget them either.

Another benefit of doing this – particularly with grandchildren – is the exceptional bonding that happens on such adventures. They cement an emotional closeness in a powerful and lasting way. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #236 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE POLISH SAVIOR OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

king-jan-iii-sobieski-of-polandOn September 12, 1683, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet IV as the Caliph of all Islam was on the verge of realizing the great Moslem dream of conquering all of Christian Europe for the glory of Allah. The great obstacle in his way – the city of Vienna – was about to be overwhelmed by the Sultan’s gigantic army of 140,000 Islamic Taliban of their day.

On the Kahlenberg hilltop above Vienna, the commander of the Christian forces, King Jan III Sobieski of Poland, gave the order to attack. Twenty thousand armed horsemen galloped down the slopes of Kahlenberg, the largest cavalry charge in history, with the Polish King and his Winged Hussars in the lead. The cavalry trampled the Ottomans and made straight for their camps.

Ottoman commander Kara Mustafa fled out of his tent and barely escaped with his life (it didn’t last long – the Sultan ordered him strangled). With the Christian victory at The Battle of Vienna, the Moslem threat to Europe was over. Sobieski wrote a letter to Pope Innocent XI, paraphrasing Julius Caesar:

Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit” – “We came, We saw, God conquered.”

In turn, the Pope hailed Sobieski as “The Savior of Western Christendom.” Indeed he was, and still is so revered by the Polish people to this day – with no apology.

For the people of Poland stand out among those of all Europe for their pride in being part of Western Civilization – symbolized for them by this statue of their Hero King trampling the Ottomans in the beautiful Royal Baths Park in Warsaw. They will make sure visitors to the statue note that underneath the right forearm of the fallen Turkish soldier is a book – the Koran.

You owe it to yourself to visit Poland and meet the Polish champions of Christian liberty, having freed themselves from the Ottomans, the Russians, and the Soviets. We need more like them today. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #159 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE PAINTED CHURCHES OF THE TROODOS MOUNTAINS

church-of-kykkos-monastery For 500 years, from Ca. 1000 to 1500 AD, the Byzantine Christians on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus labored with love to decorate the interior of their humble churches tucked away in hidden valleys of the Troodos Mountains.

There are a total of 10 such churches which are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The one you see here is the church of the Kykkos Monastery, with its extravagantly painted vaulted ceiling preserved immaculately for centuries. Christianity remains very much alive in these mountains. Come here to be awed yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #235 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE PARADISE OF ZIHUATANEJO

zihuatanejo-paradise Once a small Mexican fishing village far from everything, Zihuatanejo (zee-wah-tan-ay-ho) – Zee-wat to locals – has become a paradisical escape hatch for many seeking refuge from our pressure-cooker world. 150 miles up the northwest coast of Acapulco, Zee-wat is its own world of peace and serenity.

Stroll on the beach or along the Paseo del Pescador (Fisherman’s Path) with its shops, bars, and restaurants unbothered. Just relax surrounded by flowers, warm water, and blue sky. All the worries elsewhere in Mexico, much less in the US or anywhere else are not here.

The time to come is now, the dry season November-May. Prices are a bargain with the dollar way up on the peso. Non-stop flights from multiple cities in the US and Canada. Just a few days here will do wonders for your soul. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #182 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE TREE OF JESSE

tree-of-jesse The Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St. Francisco) was built 800 years ago on a ledge overlooking the Douro River in Porto, Portugal. 500 years later in the early 1700s, the people of Porto devoted themselves to making its interior supremely magnificent.

Most breathtaking is the polychrome wood carving depicting The Tree of Jesse springing from the reclining body of Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David, and showing the genealogy of Jesus through the branches of the tree that are the Twelve Kings of Judah, ending with Joseph and above him the Virgin and Child. Above the Tree to the ceiling is intricately carved woodwork deeply covered with hundreds of pounds of gold leaf.

This masterpiece of baroque art is an awesome tribute to the importance of Christianity to Western Civilization. To experience the power of this masterpiece yourself, come with us on our next exploration of Portugal this coming March. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #234 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – THE TIGER’S NEST OF BHUTAN

tigers-nest November 1990. The “Tiger’s Nest” or Taktsang monastery is built in front of caves on a vertical cliff-face high above the Paro Valley in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Originally a meditation site of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava in the 700s, the monastery temples were first constructed in the 1600s.

Bhutan is arguably the most fabulously exotic country on earth, still adhering to the ancient traditions of Ningma (Red Hat) Tibetan culture. It is quite a steep hike to the Tiger’s Nest but certainly worth it. We’ll be conducting an in-depth exploration of Bhutan this coming November. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #133 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 10/28/22

musk-in-twitter-hq-sinkin On Wednesday evening (10/26), Elon posted a video of himself marching into Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters physically carrying an actual kitchen sink, then posting:  Let that sink in.

Then yesterday evening (10/27), immediately after finalizing his personal ownership of Twitter came:

free-bird Freed of what, you may ask.  We immediately found out – Musk fired all of Twitter’s top wokesters: CEO Parag Agrawal, hyper-leftie from India; CFO Ned Segal; and General Counsel Sean Edgett, all of who were escorted out of Twitter HQ by security guards.  Bret Taylor is no longer Board Chairman, but most important of all, Twitter’s Censorship Czarina, Vijaya Gadde, is gone along with her $17 million-a-year job.

It was Indian-born Gadde who ran Twitter’s censorship teams that banned Trump, stymied any mention of China’s Wuhan Lab being the source of Covid, rigorously whitewashed conservatives out of Twitter, and blocked the Hunter Biden Laptop story just before (and thereafter) the 2020 election that caused millions of votes not to swing for Trump.

Good riddance – for that alone, the Twitter Bird is freed.

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GRANDMA AND GRANDPA NEED NOT FIGHT IN THE CAUCASUS

tatik-papik2This is “Tatik-Papik” (Grandmother-Grandfather), a stone monument built in Soviet days as homage to the mountain people of the Transcaucasus Highlands of Armenia and Azerbaijan. After both became independent with the fall of the USSR, Armenia seized the Azeri part, known as Nagorno Karabagh. Since late September, war has broken out anew, with Turkey supporting the Azeris and Russia supporting the Armenians.

The dispute could be settled easily with a “land swap.” There is an exclave of Azerbaijan called Nakhchivan (see The Land of Noah, Glimpse #3) separated by a sparsely inhabited corridor of Armenia called the Mehgri Strip running to the border with Iran. It could be swapped for the Armenian-populated portion of Karabagh. Result: Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan are united and whole, Armenia and Armenian Karabagh are united and whole.

Should be win-win achievable given recent peace agreements achieved by our genius POTUS between Serbia and Kosovo, plus between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan don’t you think? (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #71 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE FORTRESS OF LUXEMBOURG

luxembourg-fortress Originally built upon Roman fortifications on a rocky promontory in the 900s by the Counts of Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Fortress gained strategic importance located between the French Kingdom and the Hapsburg Empire. By the 1600s it became so impregnable it was called the “Gibraltar of the North.” It was fought over by so many armies that finally, in establishing the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s full independence and neutrality in 1867, Luxembourgers agreed to tear it down.

What you see here is what is left, and is now a World Heritage Site. The Chemin de la Corniche ­– the promenade along the top of the ramparts overlooking Alzette River and the Old City – is renowned as “Europe’s most beautiful balcony.”

Wedged between France, Belgium, and Germany, small 1,000 square-mile Luxembourg is a haven of peaceful beauty. Come here to stand on these ramparts to experience it yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #233 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE WORLD’S MOST UNIQUE BIRD

hoatzin This is a Hoatzin. I took this picture in the Amazon jungles of Colombia, its native habitat. It has no genetic relationship to any other bird, and thus has its own family, the Opisthocomidae, and its own suborder, the Opisthocomi. Extensive DNA-sequencing demonstrates that “the hoatzin is the last surviving member of a bird line that branched off in its own direction 64 million years ago, shortly after the extinction event that killed the non-avian dinosaurs.”

The Hoatzin is the Dinosaur Bird, the only bird on earth directly descended from the dinosaurs. It makes weird noises – grunts, hisses, groans and croaks – no melodious birdsongs. It emits an awful smell due to its fermentation digestive system, and tastes just as awful so no one hunts it for food. Yet it is distinctively pretty in a hyper-funky way. Spend enough time exploring the Amazon, and you may be lucky to see one. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #186 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE CARRICK-A-REDE ROPE BRIDGE

carrick-a-rede-rope-bridge One of the most dramatic sights along the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Originally built in the 1660s by salmon fishermen to get to their nets on the tiny islet of Carrick, it spans 70 feet across and 100 feet above the ocean waters surging below. It’s still used by the fishermen to this day. And while it’s been sturdily reinforced since it was a simple rope bridge, it’s still an invigorating experience to negotiate – especially in the wind and rain when I was there. Don’t pass it up if you’re ever in Northern Ireland. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #232 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY – CANNIBAL TREEHOUSE

cannibal-treehouseAugust 1977. High in the mountains above the source of the April River, a tributary of the Sepik in Papua New Guinea, I had a First Contact with an undiscovered tribe calling themselves the Wali-ali-fo. They ate “man long pig,” cooked human meat and lived in thatch dwelling built up in trees. Here I am in one with my Sepik guide Peter who got me here.

Peter translated a description of their practice: “When a man dies, we take a pig to his wife and exchange it for the body of the man. We take the body out into the forest and…cook ‘im eat ‘im. We do this so the man will continue to live in the bodies of his friends.”

Not something we’ll do but something we can understand, yes? These are people we could laugh and joke with, tell stories with, enjoy being with. A very different culture, but human all the same. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #148 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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HALF-FULL REPORT 10/21/22

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Alright… let’s crank those speakers to the max, for it’s Beatles time. Park yourself in your easy chair, relax, and listen to Getting Better.

One of the favorites from their 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Getting Better is the theme of this week’s HFR… at last.

We’ve got 18 days to go before America’s Do or Die Day of Nov 8 – and while there still may be many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, it’s looking good for the good guys, while those on the Dark Side of the Force are sliding into ever deeper gloom.  Yes, for every day this week, it’s getting better all the time.

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BIRTHPLACE OF A GODDESS

rock-of-aphroditeThis is the Rock of Aphrodite – where Greek mythology says the Goddess of Love was born fully formed from the sea-foam surging around it – and makes Cyprus the Island of Love. It is south of Paphos on the island’s west coast.

Adjacent is the Temple Sanctuary of Aphrodite, where pilgrims came from every Greek city and kingdom for 2,000 years to worship her. The ancient Greeks prayed to Aphrodite more than any of their other gods, for she was the apotheosis of love, desire, and fertility or having children. Which explains why today couples travel from all over the world to get married here.

Folks have been living in Cyprus for a really long time. So long that they were the first people in the world to domesticate cats over 9,000 years ago. A Neolithic village has been unearthed called Choirokoitia that’s surprisingly sophisticated for being 8,000 years old. In Roman times, after Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead, he went to Cyprus -- there is a beautiful church, the Agios Lazaros, built over his tomb.

The Painted Churches of Troodos are adorned with magnificent medieval art. The ruins of a Crusaders’ fortress inspired the fairy tale castle of Walt Disney’s Snow White. I hope Cyprus’ inspirational history will inspire you to explore it someday. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #101 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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PENA PALACE

pena-palace Built as the summer residence of the Portuguese Royal family almost 200 years ago, Pena Palace stands atop the highest hill of the Sintra mountains with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean far below.

Today a museum showpiece and World Heritage Site, it is one of the most spectacular castles in all Europe. I am here with your fellow TTPers completing another marvelous exploration of the wondrous land of Portugal. We’ll be here again next Spring - hope you’ll be with us. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #231 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKSTORE

livraria-lello-bookstore This is the Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto, Portugal where I am right now. Built in 1906, its Neo-Gothic/Art Noveau architecture and design make it the world’s most beautiful place to buy books. Not only was J.K. Rowling inspired to write her Harry Potter books here, but she based the dramatic staircase at Hogwarts on the work of art staircase at “The Lello” that you see above. Porto oozes with such beauty, charm, and entrancement. You deserve to experience it for yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #230 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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WHERE AN ANCIENT WONDER ONCE WAS

helios-god-of-the-sun This is where The Colossus of Rhodes once stood, at the entrance to the Old Harbor of Rhodes. Standing as high as today’s Statue of Liberty – 108 feet from feet to crown – it was of the Greek god of the Sun, Helios. Completed in 280 BC, travelers from all over the Mediterranean flocked to see it – as they did all Seven Wonders of their world.

They marveled at the Great Pyramid of Cheops and the Lighthouse of Pharos at the entrance to Alexandria, both in Ptolemaic Egypt; the massive Tomb of King Mausolus or Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, on the Ionian (western) coast of present-day Turkey; the giant Temple of Zeus at Olympia in mainland Greece; and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – in addition to The Colossus on the Greek island of Rhodes, now still Greek right off the coast of Turkey.

The Colossus only stood for sixty years, and was then toppled by a great earthquake. One by one, the others were destroyed by earthquakes, floods, fires and other disasters, until only one of the Seven is left – the Great Pyramid, already over 2,000 years old when the other six were built.

All seven sites where the wonders stood are worth visiting today. We’ll be organizing such an exploration soon. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #132 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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FLASHBACK FRIDAY: AMAZON INITIATION

amazon-initiation August, 2002. In the remotest Amazon jungle of Brazil, along a tributary of the Upper Xingu River, live the Xicrin-Kayapo people. They live traditionally as they have for centuries, isolated in their forests from the world. Here the young boys, painted and adorned, apprehensively await their initiation ceremonies into becoming young men. They are to be tested to show they have what it takes for the village to be proud of them.

In some of their eyes, there is confidence. In others less so. This is an ancient Rite of Passage, an enthralling experience to witness. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #229 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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A KYRGHIZ EAGLE HUNTER

kyrghiz-eagle-hunter A Kyrghiz eagle-hunter doesn’t hunt for eagles to eat. He hunts with an eagle he has trained from infancy to hunt food for his family.

Female eagles adapt to training the best and are fierce huntresses. Retrieved as a young chick from their mother’s nest when she’s out hunting, it takes one or two years to train them. The eagle the hunter is holding is age six. When they are too old to hunt at around age 20, they are released back into the wild, where they can live free for up to age 50.

That would be among the high rock outcroppings dotting the high grasslands of Kyrghizstan in Central Asia. That’s where the hunter’s assistant (usually his son) climbs up with the eagle gripping his forearm high enough to launch. Upon the hunter waves thee command on horseback, the hood is removed from the eagle’s head so he can see and is released.

Soaring high, the eagle searches for game like rabbits which are plentiful in the grasslands. Upon spotting one, the eagle swoops down to snare it on the run with her amazingly powerful talons. Allowing her to eat a bite or two as her reward, she’s re-hooded and the rabbit soon to be on the family dinner table. If you want to see this for yourself, come with us to Kyrghizstan on our next exploration of Central Asia. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #228 photo ©Jack Wheeler)

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