Siracusa

A quick visit to the ancient Greek city of Siracusa (Syracuse) in Sicily.

After a calm overnight cruise from Malta to Sicily, we arrived just before sunrise in the port of Catania, with the aim of spending the morning visiting Siracusa (Syracuse), the modern capital city of Sicily and the site of ancient Greek and Roman cities.  It was colonized by Greeks in 734 BC, and “for some time stood as the most powerful Greek city anywhere in the Mediterranean.” Read on and check out the photo gallery.

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Malta

A two-night visit to the historic capital of Malta, a tiny island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean.

We began a week-long World Affairs cruise of the Mediterranean with a short flight to the small island country of Malta, which sits in a historically strategic location in the Mediterranean sea.  This tiny island country has been inhabited for over 5,000 years, and has been settled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Spanish, French, and British, not to mention the pre-historic communities who left behind the world’s oldest free-standing stone structures.  Malta’s culture and language are thus a unique mixture of many influences.

Read on and check out the photo gallery.

Map of the Ponant Cruise
Route of W&L’s “World Affairs” cruise on Ponant’s “Le Bougainville”

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Bellinzona and the Tibetan bridge

A daytrip to the Italian corner of Switzerland, with a hillside hike culminating in a tremendously long suspension bridge.

The weekend weather forecast for Zurich and all of northern Switzerland was looking rather wet, but I really wanted to squeeze in one more hike before the fall chill sets in. An officemate suggested Bellinzona, the capital of the Italian-speaking corner of Switzerland – the canton of Ticino.  This small city is often overlooked next to its glitzier lakeside neighbor, Lugano, but has a lot to offer.  UNESCO recognizes its three medieval castles as a world heritage site, and the surrounding hills include a web of well-organized hiking trails.  Read on, and check out the photo gallery.

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Oxford University

I made a quick visit to Oxford University to give a research talk in the Computer Science department.  My schedule allowed a bit of extra time to explore, and (with the help of two generous graduate students) I was able to see some of the major colleges within the university, as well as some of the main shopping district.  The campus (and town) is impressively old, with elegant academic buildings at every turn.  A quick climb to the top of the tower on University Chapel gave me an excellent vantage point to see the overall layout, and one student’s tour included a stop in the Hogwarts dining hall – better known as Christchurch College dining hall.  Impressive place!  More photos in the gallery.

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