Dr. Jack Wheeler
FLASHBACK FRIDAY THE BAMIAN BUDDHA
Bamian, Afghanistan 1973. I spent some time in the Bamian Valley north of Kabul 50 years ago. What you see is the largest of the Bamian Buddhas carved into to sandstone cliffs in 600 AD by a Central Asian people who revered Buddha and called themselves Ebodai. It stands 180 feet tall. The Bamian Valley was a Buddhist pilgrimage site, with thousands of monks in monasteries and temples from roughly 100 AD until 800 AD, the time of the Moslem conquest of Afghanistan.
It was left untouched until the Moslem Emperor of India, Aurangzeb (son of Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal), blew off the statue’s legs with artillery in 1700. Then in 1890, the Moslem Afghan King of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Khan, ordered the Buddha’s face above the nose sliced off. The same Islamic practice of literal de-facing conducted upon ancient Egyptian statues including the Sphinx.
It was in 2001 that the Afghan Taliban blew up the entire statue you see here along with others as anti-Islamic “idols.” I consider myself immensely fortunate to witness this extraordinary work of historic art while it still existed.
(Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #260 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE WORLD’S REMOTEST INHABITED ISLAND
That would be Tristan da Cunha in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Some 260 Tristanians live here, all British citizens as the island is a UK Territory, in the island’s only community of Edinburgh-of-the-Seven-Seas. There’s no way to fly here – you have to take a boat for at least a week from Cape Town (and then a week back).
Tristanians are among the world’s most special people. Since the island was first settled in 1810, there has never been a single murder, abortion, or divorce among them. They are at peace with themselves, unfailingly cheerful, hospitable, and contented. If you are lucky enough to reach here, you may not want to ever leave. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #42 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE ROCK-HEWN CHURCHES OF LALIBELA, ETHIOPIA
900 years ago, the Church of Saint George (Bete Giyorgis in Amharic) was not built – it was hand carved downwards from a horizontal rock ledge. There is nothing like the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela anywhere else in the world.
Christianity was established in Ethiopia in 330 AD and has flourished ever since. Experiencing the devotion still so very much alive in one of the oldest Christian countries on earth is inspiring. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #26 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HOW HAPPY CAN A YOUNG BOY BE?
And his father too. I started taking my son Brandon on expeditions with me at age five. Here we are in the Serengeti during the Great Migration. He saw three lion kills happen yards away, a baby born in a Masai hut – he’s never forgotten his first great adventure to this day, over 30 years later.
I encourage you in every way to take your children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces on an exploration of one of our planet’s many wondrous places when they are young. It will be formational for them, a founding experience of awe for what a magically extraordinary world they are privileged to live in. And your seeing it through their eyes will be a shot of youth elixir in your veins. It will be a life-memorable bonding experience for you both. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #92 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE BLUE CITY OF CHEFCHAOUEN
My wife Rebel and I love this uniquely picturesque ancient Berber village in Morocco where everything is painted in shades of blue. Suffused in soothing blue, there’s no more relaxed place than just about anywhere. Everyone is welcome from the wealthy staying in sumptuous boutique hotels to backpackers in hostels. There are no “tourist spots,” for every café and bar is where the locals go themselves. (It’s pronounced shef-shah-win, by the way.)
Berbers – “Amazigh” (Unconquered) in their language, are the original people of Morocco having lived there for over 12,000 years. They are directly related to the reindeer-herding Lapps of Lapland in northern Scandinavia (they share the same mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U5b1b). 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 far north, the other south crossing the Gibraltar Strait to Africa.
One more reason why Morocco is so magical. Would you like to experience the Magic of Morocco with us next year? (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #21 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
FLASHBACK FRIDAY: THE TOMB OF CYRUS THE GREAT
In the vast valley of Pasargadae there stands this simple tomb with nothing around it for miles and miles. It has been like this for many centuries, for it entombs the founder of Persia, Cyrus the Great (600-530BC). Revered as the liberator of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity in 539 BC, hailed by Herodotus for his humanity and wisdom, this small structure symbolizes the humility of an extraordinary man. Yet the tomb is a structure of engineering genius, the oldest built on principles of base-isolation withstanding the countless earthquakes Persia has suffered for the last 2500 years.
I was first here in 1973 when Persia (renamed Iran in 1933) flourished under the Shah. Here I am in 2014, when everyone I met expressed admiration for America and their contempt for the mullah tyranny they endured. I hope to return once more when the Land of Cyrus will be free again. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #146 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HALF-FULL REPORT 03/10/23
TTP honors and celebrates International Women’s Day this week! Where to start, Step One:
Step Two would be to honor and celebrate actual real female XX-chromosome women – and not mentally-ill gender-dysphoric actual real male XY-chromosome men pretending to be women.
Step Three is to ridicule and laugh at woke idiocy claiming that such men are XX-chromosome women.
Such as Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders did regarding a man winning an International Women of Courage Award at the White House on Wednesday (3/08):
Step Four would be to denounce tranny-worship as misogyny, hatred and disrespect for real women; define the term “woman” in state and federal law (such as Title IX) as “a person with an XX and not an XY chromosome”; and publicly label anyone who claims a man with a Y chromosome can be a woman as a “biology denier.”
Oh, and demand that Justice Ketanji Brown recuse herself from any SCOTUS case regarding Title IX, as she testified she doesn’t know what a woman is.
There is so much more in this HFR!! Jump right on in… this is going to blow you away!
THE MYSTERY OF THE REEF OF HEAVEN
In a remote corner of the Pacific Ocean, off the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia lies one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries: the only ancient stone city built on a coral reef. No one knows who built it or how.
Micronesians say their ancestors called it Soun Nan-leng, The Reef of Heaven. Their name for it today is Nan Madol, the City of Ghosts.
On artificial islets connected by a series of canals are massive walls up to 25 feet high enclosing temples, tombs, ritual centers, and platforms for thatch homes – all made of giant columnar basalt stone. Eons ago, lava flows on Pohnpei cooled into vertical pillars. Over a thousand years ago, ancient Micronesians began hauling these basalt logs miles away to build this stone city. With an average weight of 5 tons, 10,000 pounds – and some up to 25 tons, 50,000 pounds each – how they did this remains unexplained. It lies deserted today, abandoned and lost for centuries.
Paddling a kayak through the canal maze of Nan Madol to clamber over these monumental stone complexes in solitary silence – for visitors are rarely here – leaves you in a state of unforgettable awe. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #6 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE FLATTEST PLACE ON EARTH
The Salar de Uyuni, 12,000 feet high in the Altiplano of Bolivia, is a 4,000 square mile expanse of salt so flat it is used to calibrate the altimeters of NASA observation satellites of the earth. After a rain, it becomes the world’s largest mirror, 80 miles across. The incredible reflective surface extends to the horizon in every direction – it is both hallucinatingly disorienting and makes for amazing mirror-to-horizon photos (especially at sunrise/sunset).
The brine underneath the salt crust contains 70% of the world’s lithium – critical to our battery-fueled global economy – produced in evaporation pools that are a kaleidoscope of colors.
You can stay here in relative luxury at one of the world’s most unique hotels – the Palacio de Sal, built entirely of salt: walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, sculptures. Being here is one of South America’s more astounding experiences. Let me know if you want a Wheeler Expedition to take you there! (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #39 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE ISLANDS OF SERENITY
Mulafassur waterfall below the village of Gasadalur is only one example of the serenity of the Faroe Islands. They’re a self-governing Danish possession in the North Atlantic halfway between Norway and Iceland. You won’t find a place of more captivating serene and peaceful charm.
Warmed by the Gulf Stream, in the summer it’s so strewn with wildflowers the roads are known as “buttercup highways.” At every turn along them you’re stunned by the incredible scenery. The capital of Torshavn is so laid back the Prime Minister’s Office – the Løgmansskristovan – is a wood cabin with a green grass sod roof. Great beer from the Faroes’ two breweries is always flowing in the pubs, where the Faroese islanders welcome you like an old friend.
You can easily fly here from Edinburgh, London, Copenhagen, or Reykjavik, Iceland . A few days here will do wonders for your soul. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #18 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
ALL FIVE STANS AGAIN
This is my son Brandon at “The Door of Hell” – the Darvaz Gas Crater in Turkmenistan, one of the “Five Stans” of Central Asia, the ultimate in the remote, the exotic, the unknown full of wonders.
Here you will find the ancient cities of the Silk Road still in all their splendor, and one of the glitziest cities you’ll ever see built yesterday in the middle of nowhere. Here you will find the Mountains of Heaven, the Door of Hell, and the Seven Pearls of Shing.
We explored all five in 2018 and 2019, but then came the Covid Lunacy with the world going wacko over a flu bug. Finally we were able to explore four of the five last September (2022) but Turkmenistan remained closed.
Now we just received word that Turkmenistan is reopening at last – so our Heart of Central Asia 2023 this September will soon be revised – for crossing the Kara Kum Black Sand Desert to spend overnight in a yurt at the Door to Hell, and on to Turkmenistan’s marble capital Ashgabad.
It’s All Five Stans again! Hope you’ll be joining us. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #259 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
FLASHBACK FRIDAY – LIFE MAGAZINE DECEMBER 12, 1960
Yes, believe it or not, this was a 4 page story in LIFE Magazine more than sixty years ago when I first swam the Hellespont. I repeated the swim twelve years later for my book, The Adventurer’s Guide. You can see the whole LIFE story here. Quite an adventure for a 16 year-old kid. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #121 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE REMOTEST SWIMMING POOL
This is St. Paul’s Natural Pool on Pitcairn Island, where in 1790 Fletcher Christian and his mutineers of the Mutiny on the Bounty settled, and where their descendants live to this day. They were awed by the uninhabited island’s lush beauty, with huge banyan trees rising above them like giant cathedrals, and thought it a Garden of Eden where anything grew, coconuts, bananas, taro, breadfruit, mangoes, guavas, passion fruit, yams and sweet potatoes in the rich volcanic soil.
Pitcairn has no beaches, though, so this was their swimming hole – and still is for Pitcairners today. They are happy to take you here, and to the island’s colorfully named spots, like Where Dick Fall, Oh Dear, Break Im Hip, Down the Hole – and to Fletcher Christian’s Cave, his lookout for British warships hunting them (they failed for 25 years) .
It’s not easy to get here – fly to Tahiti, then remote Mangareva from where you sail for two days on a supply ship. But you’ll be so welcome upon arrival. You stay in one of their homes in Adamstown and be treated like family. It’s a travel experience like none other. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #63 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE POLYNESIA PARADISE YOU NEVER HEARD OF
Have you ever seen the ocean turn day-glo pink? It does here naturally during a sunset (this is not photoshopped). Between Samoa and Tonga in the South Pacific is a raised coral atoll, 100 square miles of old limestone between 60 and 200 feet high: the island of Niue (new-way), and it’s is uniquely fabulous.
With no silty river runoff, the water is incredibly clear – visibility can reach over 200 feet. There are a multitude of chasms through which you clamber to these out-of-a-movie tidal pools perfect for snorkeling surrounded by colorful reef fish. The limestone cliffs encircling the coast are riddled with caves with multi-colored stalactites and stalagmites.
You can snorkel or dive with spinner dolphins and humpback whales. The big game fishing is world class – within a few hundred yards off shore. The Niueans are unfailingly friendly and welcoming, the beautiful Matavai Resort is the best bargain in the Pacific, the food and beer is inexpensive, the weather is balmy. It’s a Polynesian paradise you never heard of. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #48 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE RED-OCHERED WOMEN OF THE HIMBAS
The Himbas are a tribe of nomadic cattle herders in far northern Namibia. Himba women make a paste of butter fat and red ochre clay called “otjize,” to protect their skin from the burning African sun and braid their hair for beautification.
The Himbas’ exotic practices are not for tourists. This is the way they live as one of Africa’s most genuinely traditional peoples. Living on the move in remote roadless regions, it takes an effort to find them. But when you do, coming with an attitude of respect, you will be welcomed with smiles and hospitality in return. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #66 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE UNIQUE BEAUTIFICATION OF KAYAN WOMEN
The Kayan tribal people live in a remote roadless valley in the Shan Hills of Burma. Kayan women practice their tradition of beauty starting at age five. The young girls have a few brass coils placed around their necks, adding to them progressively as they grow until in older adulthood they are wearing as many as two dozen – becoming what the world knows them as Giraffe women. (The Shan people call them "Padaung" meaning "long-necked," but they call themselves Kayan.)
We are not here to gawk. We are here to make friends, treat them respectfully, and learn about their traditions. It is an intensely memorable experience to meet these ladies. We’ll be here again in early March next year. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #58 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
FLASHBACK FRIDAY – LIVING WITH HEADHUNTERS
Yes, that’s me at 16 (in 1960!) with Tangamashi, a Shuar Jivaro chief who adopted me into his clan. The Jivaros are the only people on earth who make a shrunken head of their enemies killed in battle – called a “tsantsa.”
They inhabit the Amazon rain forests of the Ecuador-Peru border; living with them was the first adventure I had by myself alone. Tangamashi accepted me, taught me how he made a tsantsa from an enemy’s head skin, took me blowgunning monkeys with curare-tipped darts, and introduced me into the Jivaro spirit world with a tea they called “natema” from the Banisteriopsis vine – a very colorful experience. How cool can you get for a 16 year-old kid?
It set me on a path of an adventurous life from which I have never wavered – and there’s no slowing down now. Another great adventure always awaits. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #25, photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HALF-FULL REPORT 02/24/23
Just as New Orleans had their Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday this week (2/21) – before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday – so Cologne, Germany, celebrated on Rose Monday (2/20) with a float parade and huge party, attending by well over a million people lining the city streets.
The theme float was Putin Kissing the Devil – followed by Putin’s Blood Bath in the bathtub of Ukraine:
Yet there’s so much more in this HFR – including some real ROTFLMAO moments. Let’s go!
THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA
On This Day In History, Feb. 23, 1945, US Marines Raise American Flag Over Iwo Jima, Captured In Heroic Photo
This is the black sand beach the US Marines stormed on February 19, 1945, beginning the legendary Battle of Iwo Jima. Overlooking the beach is Mount Suribachi, where four days later Joe Rosenthal took his iconic photo of six Marines planting the US flag on its summit.
You can come here once a year at a commemoration jointly held by the US and Japanese militaries. Guests of honor are the few Marine veterans of the battle still alive. I attended on the 70th Anniversary of the battle in 2015. To be here on these sands and on the summit of Suribachi, where the memorial lauds them – “On Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue” – with these heroic men is an indescribable privilege. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #23, photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE TOMB OF THE FRAGRANT CONCUBINE
Princess Iparhan, granddaughter of the ruler of the Silk Road oasis of Kashgar, was so famous for her beauty and the intoxicating natural aroma of her body that the Manchu Emperor far to the east called for her. She was 22, the year was 1756. The Emperor became completely infatuated with her, making Iparhan his Imperial Noble Consort, loving her deeply until her death 33 years later in 1789.
In mourning, the Emperor kept his promise to her that her body would be returned to Kashgar and buried in the mausoleum of Apak Hoja, built in 1640 by her Apaki family. And there she rests today. Everyone in Kashgar and beyond, however, knows the mausoleum as The Tomb of the Fragrant Concubine.
It’s a wonderfully romantic legend, and even though there are several conflicting versions, let’s hope this one is true. Regardless, a visit to this peaceful shrine is certainly memorable. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #54 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
On the left is a secret natural pool on the most extraordinary island in the Mediterranean – Malta. On the right is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in a hidden Tibetan Kingdom in the Himalayas – Bhutan.
Rebel and I have time to run one more exploration this year – to Malta in October or Bhutan in November. We can’t run both. We’d like to ask you to help us choose – by telling us which you would choose if you had to decide.
I consider Malta the world’s most fascinating island. I consider Bhutan to have the world’s most fascinating culture.
Here’s why… you choose.
THE REAL ATLANTIS
Here we are at the real Atlantis in Knossos, Crete. More nonsense has been invented about Plato’s myth of Atlantis – mentioned briefly in his Timaeus and Critias and not by anyone else in antiquity – than any other legend you care to name.
Yet like many myths, it was constructed out of something that really existed. Atlantis is the Minoan Civilization of Crete, Europe’s oldest. By 2,000 BC, the Minoans had created the world’s first peaceful capitalist empire, based not on military might and conquest but on trade, with trade routes across the entire Mediterranean. They became immensely wealthy, building fabulous palaces and villas – but their cities were not fortified. Europe’s original civilization was the most peaceful in European history.
Around 1450 BC, the Minoan island of Santorini 60 miles north of Crete – known to the Greeks as Thera – suffered a colossal volcanic explosion with the resultant mega-tsunami wiping the Minoans out on Crete. It was “The wave that destroyed Atlantis.” Yet you can see for Atlantis for yourself, its excavated villas with fabulous preserved frescoes, and step back into a period of inspiring history. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #68 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
TODAY DOESN’T EXIST: THERE IS NO “PRESIDENTS DAY”, ONLY GEORGE WASHINGTON’S DAY
This Wednesday, February 22, is the 291st anniversary of the birth of America’s founder, the equal in nobility, heroism, and virtue of any human being who ever lived — George Washington.
What it is not, nor is any day such as today (Monday 2/20), is the phony holiday called "Presidents Day." Let’s be quite clear on this. There is no such holiday. It exists only in the minds of furniture dealers, car salesmen, and Hate-America leftists.
This third Monday of February is legally in federal law celebrated as Washington’s Birthday and has never been amended otherwise. The left’s duplicity in the “Presidents Day” charade is two-fold. First is to erase the memory of George Washington from schoolchildren and people in general, and second is the Marxist goal of collapsing individuals into a collective, with no one better than any other.
We cannot let them get away with this any longer.
FLASHBACK FRIDAY: THE ONLY CAR I EVER LOVED
When you get to be as old as I am, you’ve had a number of cars. I’ve had many over the years – but only one I really loved was this 1952 K2 Allard.
Sydney Allard (1910-1966) was a famous English race car driver in 1930s, and founded the Allard Motor Car company in London in 1945. His most famous race car was the J2 which finished third in Le Mans in 1950. The K2 was the roadster version of the J2 with those amazing swooping fenders.
Allards were always powered by an American V-8 – mine had a big block Chevy. I had drag races in it right out of American Graffitti or the Beach Boys’ Shut Down, and once hit 160 on a long empty stretch of highway out in the California desert racing a supercharged Porsche.
I asked Rebel to marry me in my K2 driving along the Pacific Coast Highway – best decision I ever made. So many memories in this car. But that was long ago. A car like that won’t last in East Coast winters, so I sold it when we moved to Washington long ago. Have I ever thought of getting another K2? Sure – but I know at my age driving a car like that (and knowing how I’d drive it!) is not wise. Better stick with the memories. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #258 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
FIVE FEET AWAY FROM AN 800-POUND GORILLA
You know the adage about the “800-pound gorilla” going wherever he wants to – such as five feet from you in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda. It is one of the world’s great thrills to be this close to these giants and feel at ease doing so. They are “habituated” to small groups of people whom they ignore. You of course are very quiet and do nothing to alarm them, just observing the little ones playing, mothers nursing, young ones climbing trees, huge male silverbacks watching over their families.
Gorillas are vegetarians, males eating up to 75 pounds of vegetation a day – thus they spend most of their waking hours chewing! The biggest silverbacks never get anywhere near 800 pounds by the way – 450 to 500 pounds at most (like the fellow in the photo). Big enough, believe me.
Rwanda is one of the best-run countries in all Africa. President Paul Kagame deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for healing his nation after the genocidal horrors of the 1990s. That’s far in the past now in this beautiful, peaceful land. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #93 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE LOST CITY OF DJADO
In the remotest center of the Sahara Desert lies an unknown, unexcavated mysterious lost city known as Djado. No one knows who built it or when. Lying on the ancient Roman trade route from the Saharan salt mines of Fachi and Bilma to the Mediterranean, the Djado oasis flourished for a thousand years (the 1st Millennium AD), but has been forgotten and abandoned for many centuries.
The only people who live near Djado in the vast desert wasteland where Algeria, Libya, Chad, and Niger come together, are the wandering Toubu nomads with no permanent settlements. It is an indescribable experience to explore such a wondrous lost city right out of an Indiana Jones movie that you have all to yourself. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #17, photo ©Jack Wheeler)
YOUR NEIGHBORS IN BORNEO
Live on a private houseboat exploring the jungles of Borneo by river and families of Orang Utans will be your neighbors.
To get here, you fly from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta to a small town in southern Borneo, Pangkalan Bun, on the Sekonyer River. You hire your own houseboat called a klotok (shower, nice bed, good warm food and cold beer) and English-speaking guide to take you up river through the jungles of the Tanjung Putting Orang Utan reserve. You’ll see proboscis monkeys, hornbills – and more wild orang utans than any other place on earth.
Spend time among them and you’ll understand how smart and human-like these gentle giants are. It’s an endearing experience never to be forgotten. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #72 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, TTPERS!!
Welcome to TTP’s celebration of Valentine’s Day, 2023!
Today is for celebrating the love and friendship that bless our lives. A day for feeling an infinite gratitude for having love in our hearts and being fortunate enough to have it returned.
It was Pope Gelasius I who, in 496 proclaimed that February 14 would be the feast day of Saint Valentinus of Rome, as he was martyred on that day in 269 on order of Emperor Claudius II for refusing to renounce Christianity.
Almost nine centuries later, England’s greatest poet of the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400), created the tradition of Valentine’s Day celebrating romantic love
What’s fascinating is how in recent times, Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide, and not only in Christian countries like throughout South America. The day is a big deal now in Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. In Thailand, couples on Valentine’s Day get their marriage licenses on the back of an elephant –
INCREASING YOUR SANITY WITH ARISTOTLE’S GOLDEN MEAN OF ADVENTURE
Joel Wade is on a break this week, so it’s my turn. Alexander the Great famously said that while he owed his life to his father, he owed his ability to think from his revered teacher, Aristotle (387-322 BC).
So let’s talk this week about how we can use Aristotle’s philosophy of “the Golden Mean” to increase your sanity – physically, inside your brain. Ready? Here we go!
AWE AT RILA
In a hidden remote mountain valley there is a Christian monastery built over a thousand years ago by the students of a hermit who became the patron saint of Bulgaria, St. John of Rila. The colonnade you see leaves you awe-struck. Earthquakes, fire, pillaging by Ottoman raiders, all through the centuries the Rila monks would build it back ever-better and care for it immaculately.
It is little wonder that the Rila Monastery is a World Heritage Site. The picture you see is only one small section of the magnificent frescoes of the exterior archways – and the interior is equally extraordinary. There are nine more World Heritage sites in this Virginia-size country, like the 3,000 year-old (and still flourishing) city of Nessebar on the Black Sea. Bulgaria is one of Europe’s true undiscovered gems. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #74 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HOW JOHN WAYNE SAVED THE MARINES
To celebrate the birthday of a truly great American, let me tell you how John Wayne saved the Marine Corps. In the aftermath of World War II, the psychological letdown after years of war and bloodshed, the huge demobilization of servicemen, the desire to slash military spending, and the antipathy towards the military by left-wingers in the Democrat Party all combined in a call by a number of Senators and Congressmen to abolish the Marine Corps.
In this, they were supported by the Doolittle Board, created by the Truman Administration, which called for the Marine Corps to be “disbanded” as a separate military force, and “unified” with the Army (yes, the board was headed by an Army general, Jimmy Doolittle).
A group of enterprising Marines - you can always depend on Marines to be enterprising - with Hollywood connections thought a movie made around the most famous photograph of World War II, Joe Rosenthal’s of the Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, could help sway public opinion against their disbandment.
They approached legendary director Allan Dwan, who agreed to commission a script. The movie was to be called “The Sands of Iwo Jima,” and everybody agreed there was only one man who could play the lead role of Sergeant Stryker: John Wayne.
To their great surprise, Wayne turned it down. He didn’t like the script, and he wasn’t enamored of the character of Stryker. The Marines came to the rescue again. The Marine Corps Commandant, General Clifton B. Cates, got on an airplane and flew from Washington to California to personally request Wayne make the picture. When General Cates explained the stakes involved - the very existence of the Marine Corps - Wayne immediately changed his mind, promising the general he would do everything in his power to have the movie be a success.
The Sands of Iwo Jima was released in 1949 and quickly became a runaway blockbuster, with millions of moviegoers packing every theatre showing it. Wayne was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, establishing him as Hollywood’s Number One box-office star. The Doolittle Board folded its tent, and no politician on Capitol Hill ever again said a word about disbanding the Marines.
So let’s all say “Semper Fi” to the memory of John Wayne.
FLASHBACK FRIDAY – TRANS-SAHARA EXPEDITION
January 2003. Our campsite at dawn in the center of the Sahara called the Téneré in Niger. We found hand stone axes here 8,000 years old when the Sahara was green. Crossing the world’s greatest desert is a true expedition, one of the most astounding adventures to be had on earth, geographically, culturally, and historically. Unfortunately, it is too dangerous with lawless and ideological banditry today. I can hardly wait to do it once more when it is safe again. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #70 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
HALF-FULL REPORT 02/10/23
Here we see the Three Twitter Perps being sworn in at Wednesday’s (2/08) House Oversight Committee hearing regarding their colluding with the FBI to block anything that could help Trump and hurt Biden before the 2020 election.
E.g., Twitter Files Reveal ‘Laptop from Hell’ Censorship Was Orchestrated by Security State (12/19/22).
Of course, all they did was give a Three Monkeys Saw Nothing-Heard Nothing-Said Nothing performance. As the NY Post put it:
Ex-Twitter Executives Now Say They Forget Key Details Of Censoring Post’s Hunter Biden Laptop ScoopHouse Oversight Chair James Comer gave an opening statement detailing the “coordinated coverup” between the FBI and Twitter – the video (over 7 minutes) is here – but it was the ladies who stole the show.
Jump right on in for another great HFR!
THE SCHOOL OF ATHENS
The School of Athens by Raphael (1483-1520) is one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of the Renaissance. Here you see the two principal figures, Plato on the left and Aristotle on the right. It is a classic example of the picture worth a thousand words. Plato is pointing to the heavens and his imaginary world of Forms that didn’t actually exist, while Aristotle has his outstretched hand towards the earth – cautioning Plato to pay attention to Reality. For only in the real world can Plato’s ideals of Truth, Justice, and Virtue actually exist, expressed in concrete human action.
Raphael’s masterpiece was commissioned by Pope Julius II for a room in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican – just as Julius commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Apostolic Palace’s Sistine Chapel at the same time! Raphael from 1509-1511, Michelangelo from 1508-1512.
While the Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, the part of it containing these masterpieces can be open to the public. It is one thing to see a photo of them, and quite another to contemplate them in person. Only then can you be appropriately overwhelmed by the superhuman genius it took to create them. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #257 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
We’re all familiar with the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead four days after his entombment in John 11:1-44. But what happened to Lazarus afterwards – what did he do with the rest of his (second) life?
He left Judea to live on the island of Cyprus. There he met Paul the Apostle and his evangelizing partner Barnabas who was a Cypriot. They appointed him the first Bishop of Kition (present day Lanarca), where he lived for another 30 years, then upon his second death was buried for the last time.
A church was built over his marble sarcophagus which has undergone many resurrections itself over the last two millennia. But here it stands today after all those ravages of time, Agios Lazaros, the Church of St. Lazarus, over his still-preserved sarcophagus. On every Lazarus Saturday (eight says before Easter), an icon of St. Lazarus is taken in procession through the streets of Lanarca. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #165 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
DEAD VLEI, NAMIBIA
Many consider this the most surrealistic place on earth. The clarity of the air turns the sky deep cobalt blue, the dunes are so old they’ve rusted red, combining with the white clay floor to give the skeletal trees a scene out of a Dali painting or a science fiction movie. But it’s real.
A thousand years ago the river watering these trees dried up, leaving a white clay pan amidst red sand dunes almost as tall as the Empire State Building. It’s so dry here these acacia trees can’t decompose, their skeletons standing scorched in the sun for ten centuries.
Dead Vlei is in a region of enormous dunes called Sossusvlei. It’s a mind-boggling experience to float over Sossusvlei in a hot air balloon. Namibia, in fact, is full of such experiences – the largest fur seal colony anywhere at Cape Cross, the marvelous abundance of African wildlife at the Etosha Pan, the dramatic shipwrecks dotting the Skeleton Coast, traditional people living untouched by the modern world like the Himbas.
Plus it’s one of the safest and best-run countries in all Africa – certainly worth consideration for your bucket list. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #47 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
We’re in Portugal preparing for our WWX Portugal Exploration 2023 (May 12-21) where it’s sunny, clear, 64 degrees, and wildflowers are everywhere. This as an Ice Storm was sweeping across the US from Texas to New York the last few days. Lisbon, by the way, is just about the same latitude as Washington DC. (Not many know how far north Europe is – Rome, Italy for example, at 41°39’ North latitude, is north of New York City, at 40°44’N.)
The weather here is as benign as the culture. Portugal is consistently in the top five of the safest, most peaceful and crime-free countries on the planet. There is a total absence of divisiveness, anger, and woke insanity in this country. It is normal in the way America used to be but tragically is no more.
We all, of course, hope and pray that our country will be normal once again and in the not-distant future. But if you’d like to experience normality right now, with extraordinary history, spectacular beauty, and fabulous food and wine thrown in, join Rebel and me on our WWX Portugal Exploration 2023. You’ll have so much fun with your fellow TTPers!
(Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #256 photo ©Jack Wheeler)
FLASHBACK FRIDAY – DIVING IN A GALAPAGOS FISH BALL
Galapagos Islands – November 2015. In the waters here, enormous schools of striped mullet swim together in one huge swirling ball by the tens of thousands.
One of the more astounding experiences a scuba diver can have is to swim far below one of these rotating living balls, then slowly rise straight up into it. The fish do not scatter, but merely create an empty column or vertical tunnel for you – so you float inside the ball with countless thousands of calm unperturbed fish circling around you and your dive buddy (who took this picture of me).
I’ve had the good fortune to go diving all over the world for the past sixty -plus years, and this experience is surely one of the most memorable of all. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #140 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
CLIMBING JACOB’S LADDER ON THE ISLAND OF SAINTS
Jamestown on Saint Helena in the South Atlantic is two blocks wide and a mile long in a narrow deep ravine. One of the world’s longest straight staircases, Jacob’s Ladder, was an original way to get out – 699 steps each 11 inches high – and it’s a workout.
People who live here call themselves “Saints” and pronounce their island “sent-uhl-LEEN-ah.” It’s famous of course for where the Brits exiled Napoleon after Waterloo. His residence and gardens on a high promontory, Longwood House, is preserved with original furnishings and his death bed. Dying in 1821, he was buried in a beautiful peaceful glen nearby (in 1840 he was reinterred at Les Invalides in Paris).
After climbing the Ladder and visiting Longwood, you’d want to refresh yourself at one of Jamestown’s pubs, where local Saints will be happy to hoist a pint with you. And don’t pass up a visit to the Saint Helena Distillery, the world’s remotest distillery, to learn how Head Distiller Paul Hickling makes his memorable Prickly Pear Whiskey, White Lion Spiced Rum, and Jamestown Gin – all in unique stepping stone bottles in honor of Jacob’s Ladder. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #46 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)
THE PORTUGUESE RIVIERA
A cliff-top fishing village on the Italian Riviera? Nope, Azenhas do Mar – Watermills of the Sea – is on the Portuguese Riviera. This is a magic place of fairy tale castles, thousand year-old fortresses, luxury boutique hotels, fabulous food, great wine, gorgeous beaches, and postcard-perfect scenery everywhere.
The Portuguese people are among the kindest in Europe, while Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world. Of all the planet’s First World countries, it’s hard to find one more friendly, calm, and welcoming than here.
Who’s the pretty girl? Lucky me – she’s my wife Rebel, mother of our two grown sons, my business partner, and my best friend. We’ve had a home here for many years. Rebel loves Portugal so much she taught herself to be fluent in Portuguese.
If you’d like a personal experience of the best of Portugal, come with Rebel and me on our Portugal Exploration this May.
Let me know if you’d like to have too much fun here with your fellow TTPers: [email protected]. (Glimpses of Our Breathtaking World #123 Photo ©Jack Wheeler)