Focus on Archaeology

by Julie Skurdenis

“You’ve come at just the right time,” commented the cheerful young woman in the Tourist Information Office. “If you look just outside our front door, you’ll see the archaeologists excavating the Roman Forum. They just started six weeks ago.”

My husband, Paul, and I were in the Croatian town of Pula at the tip of the Istrian Peninsula jutting into the Adriatic. And, sure enough, what we had thought was just another street-repaving project was actually a...

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East of Amman, Jordan’s capital, stretches the desert, a seemingly endless empty expanse of land wedged in between Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south. It’s mostly flat, dotted with low-growing shrubs, bushes and cacti. There are few roads here, but there are dozens of desert tracks crisscrossing the expanse. They’ve been used for hundreds of years by pilgrims en route to Mecca and by caravans carrying goods from one trading post to another.

It was here...

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Our getaway to Lisbon in early March 2006 was intended as a late winter escape from New York’s prolonged freezing temperatures. Lisbon’s temperatures were in the low 60s during the day and the flight from New York less than seven hours, making it ideal for my daughter Katie and me with only four days to spare.

Jet lagged and sleep deprived, on arrival in the early morning in Lisbon we decided on a couple of quick bicas at our hotel, the upscale Pestana Palace. Even with eyes half...

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by Julie Skurdenis

My most recent trip to Guatemala, in January 2006, began with the popular television reality program “Survivor.” The show is now in its 12th season, but it was the 11th season, which aired in fall 2005, that set me on the road to Guatemala again. In that season, the series was set in the Mayan archaeological site of Yaxha in the remote Petén jungle of northeastern Guatemala. Here among Mayan pyramids, some of which date back more than 1,500 years, contestants...

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by Julie Skurdenis

I travel to Lithuania often, most recently in June 2005. Every time I visit Vilnius, its capital, the first place I head for is the square next to the Cathedral just at the edge of the Old Town. It’s here that I watch an archaeological miracle taking place: the rebirth of a palace destroyed over 200 years ago.

It’s something I could never have imagined when I first visited Lithuania in 1977 when it was still under the domination of the USSR. At that time the...

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by Julie Skurdenis

Mention Panama and most people think Panama Canal. There is no doubt that the 50-mile-long canal, completed in 1914, that cuts across Panama from the Atlantic to the Pacific is one of the most spectacular feats of modern engineering. It would be a mistake for any visitor to Panama to miss at least a partial transit of the Canal or, failing that, a visit to Miraflores Locks to see the locks up close and in operation.

But Panama offers so much more besides: for...

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by Julie Skurdenis

Nicaragua, wedged between Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south and with both an Atlantic and a Pacific coast, was a serendipitous discovery. I’m always on the prowl for archaeological sites and artifacts. Nicaragua did not disappoint in its variety: a rediscovered colonial-era settlement which was the country’s first capital; 6,000-year-old footprints, and black basalt statues carved over a thousand years ago.

But it was the physical beauty of...

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I first visited Egypt 22 years ago. On my fourth trip to the country, in November 2004, I traveled with my 25-year-old daughter, Katie. I wanted to see her eyes light up at the sights that make Egypt one of this world’s greatest tourist destinations. I wanted her to say, 40 years from now, “Way back in ’04, I saw the pyramids for the first time with my MOM.”

Katie could only take one week off from her job. Friends and relatives questioned, “Only one week? What can you do in just one...

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