If you are looking for some special comfort or experience, you will find it possibly at Hotel Sidi Driss in old Matmata, Southern-Tunisia. We had the opportunitiy to visit the site during a round trip through all Tunisia in 2006, and it attracts not only fans of Star Wars in which this filming location featured as the home of Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine for the 4th film episode in 1976.
The contemporary hotel was designed as a traditional Berber troglodyte underground building at medieval times. The Berbers created them by digging a large pit in the ground with a depth of ca. 10 m. Around the perimeter of this pit artificial caves were then dug to be used as rooms, with some homes comprising multiple pits, connected by trench-like passageways. These structures in the ground were much cooler than buildings on the surface, ancient airconditions not requiring any energy like today.
Actual accomodation fares at Hotel Sidi Driss are not really high, as the standard is obviously quite simple, rural and original. Room numbers are pinned on the long existing old walls, but we did not test it as we had already a booked accomodation at the oasis of Tozeur. Besides a lot of people are passing by for a short visit to feel a little bit of multiple Star Wars ambitions and more here in the vast desert of the Sahara.
If you once have the chance to visit the Eastern part of Poland with the region of Lublin, you should not miss to go also to Kazimierz Dolny being regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in the country with some nice Renaissance buildings. There you also have the opportunity to attend a shipping tour on Vistula river, but the real highlight in my opinion is the fabulous Roots Gorge lying not far away from Kazimierz Dolny.
We speak about a hollow way which has been naturally created by the forces of erosion – just wind and rain forming a new path to wildness. The magical Roots Gorge has a lenght of approximately 1 km where you can now observe varied trees clinging to the edges of the spectacular gorge. The roots of the trees have been exposed over the years, now they may be admired as uncovered streets leading to the depth of soil in search of water and other dark secrets of the plants’ world eventually not known by us.
During summer holidays a friendly advice and recommendation led us to this geological quite special place and rock formation near the Isar meadows of Lower Bavaria in the small village of Usterling. The location is called Wachsender Fels, (i. e. growing rock) but this self-enlarging boulder is not situated within a stalactite cave but just outside at the end of a hillside.
The growing rock with an age of ca. 5,000 years has today a length of 40 m and a height of 5 m, each year 1-2 cm are added by the very small water runnel flowing down on its crest. The fluid from a nearby karst spring contains a lot of soluted limestone and carbon dioxide. As soon as the water reaches the surface the carbon dioxide begins to leave the fluid and the limestone is being deposited down on the rock.
We luckily reached the site late in the afternoon when the last sunbeams of the day touched and transformed the rock for a very short time to a real sculpture. A few moments later this unexpected appearance rapidly dissolved again with the approaching sun-set. A wooden stairways leads visitors easily to the beginning of the growing rock.
The German geological term for this kind of rocks is steinerne Rinne (i. e. stony runnel) but an equivalent scientific term in English seemingly does not exist for this more seldom rock formation near karst hills and mountains.
In late October of 1997 I had the pleasure to stay for a week in Mexico D.F and Merida / Yucatan. What I did not know this is the time when Mexicans prepare themselves for the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). Especially in Merida I was dazzled to see shops full of plastic skeletons of any kind, souvenirs, decoration and weird disguise all related to the topic of death. This reminded me all of European carnival however with a different purpose and a more strange direction.
Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration of death took place at the beginning of summer. And the origins of the modern Mexican holiday can be traced back to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival. Gradually, it was associated with October 31, November 1, and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christianity, nowadays legal holidays to remember friends and family members who have died.
View from Chichen Itza Castle on the jungle of Yucatan
Today the view from the old temples and buildings at Chichen Itza just reveals a total wilderness and endless rainforest which more than thousand years ago meant the homeland for the Maya, a loose alliance of city-states in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. You do not see anymore the cities, roads, reservoirs, channels or terraced fields being swallowed again by a thick jungle.
Around the year 900 the Maya quickly and more mysteriously left the country and vanished most probably due to a climate change, little food and too much fighting. Estimations say that the population dropped around 90 % during this time. At a few locations, such as Chichen Itza, the Maya still lived furtheron, though they would never gain their former grandness.
Each voyage to the South delivers further spontaneous aspects of another subtropical dream nearby.
A rather dreamy place worth a visit is the former rehabilitation centre Beelitz Heilstätten near Berlin in Germany. It is a vast area of varied buildings being constructed in the early 20th century with a quite modern concept for healing and recovery.
After WW II it was seized by the Soviet Red Army which left Germany and this area in 1994. Nobody felt responsible for the place afterwards or had an idea for further use so nature took over control quite easily.
Some years ago the place was changed into some kind of openair museum, and a long freestanding bridge was built for viewing the amazing ruins from the very height which requires however the payment of an entrance fee.
What is nowadays more touching and impressing, a reflective artwork swimming on an apart lake and becoming part of nature or the fluid mirror image of a tree transforming to a fragile visual sculpture being only changed by cool waves and smooth breezes?
Although these pictures show a lot of water we are still waiting for some real rain now for six months here in Central-Europe. The summer started by mid of April and has not ended so far till today making it really easy to stroll around such eye-minded finds.