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Updated: Dec 4, 2020

In the valley of the Yokoyu River lies the Jigokudani Monkey Park, a mountainous area well known for its steaming mists and bubbling waters that erupt out of the frozen ground. Loads of Macaques gather around the hot springs…. Bathing, playing and meeting friends. They even entertain themselves by making snowballs and having snowball fights between themselves!!

Because of the high altitude of the springs, the area is covered in a thick snow four months a year, when you can take the best pictures, but the monkeys bathe all year round, and the area is quite beautiful in summer and autumn.

But remember…..monkey etiquette. Don't feed them, poke them, pet them, tease them, or toss snowballs at them. Don't bare your teeth at them (especially the big males), and whatever you do, don't join them in the water.

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Can you believe the Mayan people built the Tikal Ruins during the ca 200 to 900 AD period in Guatemala? At its peak about 1,500 years ago, Tikal was home to about 100,000 Maya!

Tikal is a great place to visit if you want to see one of the most famous ruined cities of the Classic Period of the Maya. It is located in north central Petén, Guatemala, about 50 miles northwest of the border with Belize. Tikal is the largest and probably the oldest of the Maya cities. In a high canopy jungle, the site has 3,000 buildings, including several tall temples that rise above the trees. It consists of nine groups of courts and plazas built on hilly land above surrounding swamps (which may have been lakes in former times) and interconnected by bridges and causeways. The main civic and religious center of the city covers about 500 acres. Between 600 AD and 800 AD, the great Maya centers of the southern lowlands fell into ruin – they don’t know the exact reason but have many ideas. Many theories have tried to explain this disruption, including over-population, extensive warfare, revolt of the farmer/laborer class, or any number of devastating natural disasters. Whatever the reason, it ended up wiping out most of the population.

The ancient Maya were not empire builders, like many other Indian populations. Instead, they formed independent commonwealths. Their common culture, calendar, architecture, mythology and spiritual view of the world united them as Maya - True People.

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An unexpected surprise in the small town of Delft, Netherlands!! Did you ever hear the term Delftware of Delft Blue?

Delftware is a term now used for Dutch tin-glazed earthenware, a form of faience. Most of it is blue and white pottery and it is actually made in a factory in the small town of Delft. The earliest tin-glazed pottery in the Netherlands was made in Antwerp where the Italian potter Guido da Savino settled in 1500 and in 16th century Italian maiolica was the main influence decorative styles.

Within the factory, you can see how the pottery is made, the complete production process, including the work of the master artists. (See the first photo). Very unique pieces are shown in the factory, including highly unusual tulip holders, Gift's giving to Head's of State, tile walls and portraits and Commemoration Plates that have been issued to celebrate some of the most significant events in history.

(The plant in Delft, by the way is the last remaining Delft Blue factory from the 17th century in Defat that still hand makes Delft Blue according to centuries old tradition.)

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