The TravPad team is a group of friends who have collective experience of many countries of the world, and still enjoy travelling widely.
While hitchhiking down a dusty road one day, two members wanted to know how far it was to the next bar. This led to talk about travel guides and how important ‘local knowledge’ was. They were disappointed at the lack of published local information out there and discussed a service they both wanted to see from travel sites in the future.
They quickly decided that rather than waiting around, they’d have a bash at doing it themselves. They shook hands and that was the start of TravPad.
We’ve used various social and traveling sites and we believe we know what travellers want; that is to get the local knowledge about a spot and then put it all in one place. You know, where to sleep and eat and what to see. This is what travelling and social websites should offer – not a chance to show off and make other people feel sad – about mutual cooperation and the free and easy exchange of information.
We hope TravPad will offer an alternative to the more mainstream and more ‘polished’ sites. We, like many other travellers, know what existing sites lack and we also know what services are missing for us. We suspect that’s probably the same problem for other people.
We think that travelling is about getting into the society you find yourself in. We believe the special experiences happen when you “get behind the scenes”. We know the special memories are formed when you get to know the things that the locals care about.
We aren’t happy with the way things are. We want to change things. We want to build something useful and unique. That something is TravPad. This is the philosophy behind the project.
We just started and we will add more features to the TravPad project. We started out with the Point of Interests (POI), the foundation of the site. Later we will add the social elements, like being able to hook up and hang out with local guides, sharing accommodation and hitching available rides.
Stay with us to see. It’s a big project but we think it’s going to be fun!
Some of the founding members of the team in Costa Rica. That day, we started talking about an idea which would later become TravPad.
The wall divided the city of Berlin. It was dragged down and the pieces are now scattered around the world.
I’m very young. What was it?
Construction of the Wall
The Berlin Wall was a … well, it was a wall wasn’t it? It was in … hmm. .. ‘Berlin’. That’s the easy bit. It divided Berlin into East and West. That’s the geography bit. The political bit’s more complicated.
Following the war, there were four Allied Powers supervising the reconstruction of Germany. Berlin was divided into four parts, each supervised by an Allied country. Three of them had a falling out with Russia. The three decided that it was time to combine the non soviet parts of Berlin for ease of reconstruction – West Berlin. Russia went it alone with its ‘piece’ – East Berlin. This essentially created a conceptual melting-pot of two opposing political philosophies; capitalism (West) and communism (East). There were then problems as some people did not consider themselves capitalist and some did not consider themselves communist. This led to people attempting to leave Eastern Berlin. The emigrants happened to be young and educated. This needed to be stopped. How to do it? A whacking big wall. Work commenced in 17 August 1961 and took approximately 3 months to build. A massive expanse of land was cleared as a ‘no man’s land’. Those attempting to escape over the wall were shot.
Due to a leak of people from East Germany into a bewildered Hungary in 1989, and then into Czechoslovakia, the political ideology began to show cracks. Demonstrations began and ultimately, this led to the border between East and West being opened again. What started as a tentative, cautious souvenir collection by some, by taking bits of the wall (using chisels and sledgehammers) to ‘have their piece of history’, mushroomed into full scale demolition by mobs of sometimes angry, sometimes jubilant Germans – happy to be reunited. The wall was torn down. Some bits found themselves in entirely different parts of the world – even in different continents. Now, they stand, on quiet streets and in public parks as a symbol and reminder that attempts to segregate people with either physical or abstract barriers, can never endure.
Lovely. So I’ve been patient. I’ve read that. Where’s the travel bit? Where in the world is the wall now?
In short, all over the world. This symbol is so potent that it is now present in all continents on the planet and in almost every country on earth. Here are the more obscure placements:-
The pieces to be found in Madrid now form part of a fountain in the leafy Parque de Berlín. The plaque explains that these segments are a present from the City of Berlin to the City of Madrid.
A large slab of wall has even made it to Cape Town. This one lives at the end of St George’s Mall, in the middle of the city:-
Everyone loves a dragon. I think there was a time in my childhood when I thought they were real. Just very, very rare. That’s right – they used to hang around with the unicorns. Oh, how my literally ‘fantastic’ world was shattered when I was told, rather aggressively, that they didn’t exist (that conversation might have taken place last week).
But, did they exist? Were they simply very big eels with bad breath which existed in the middle-ages – eels that someone told a bit of a stretcher about down the local tavern to his drunken mates to show off? “Yeah, slayed a dragon down near Black Pond yesterday. Fierce brute. Fiery breath. Nearly did for me”. And the reality? Some fat bloke in armour wrestling an eel in some grass. Perhaps we’ll never know. Anyway, here are some of the dragon hotspots of Europe, where the mythology is strongest.
The Wawel Dragon, Krakow, Poland
On Wawel Hill, in Krakow, Poland, is a huge hill with Warsaw Castle perched on top. The medieval city of Krakow – and Poland’s original capital – meanders around beneath it.
Many different stories exist. This is just one of them. When that place ‘was all just fields’, stories would be told to wide-eyed children of a fearful beast which dwelled in an overgrown cave somewhere in the rock. The creature was known to carry off a sheep or two here or there, perhaps a man or a child on occasion. It had to stop. Yet no-one was a match for this ferocious monster. Until a shoemaker called ‘Krakus’ had a pop at it. He basically fed the dragon a poisoned sheep. Once the slithery character had been killed, the locals made Krakus king. They built him a castle and renamed the area Krakow in his honour.
A small statue of him and the dragon can be see on Sienna Street, Krakow. A collection of huge bones, suspended above the entrance of the castle are said to be the bones of the dragon.
Nowadays, beneath the citadel, you can see a statue of the beast outside of the cave supposed to have been its lair. It breathes fire every few minutes (thanks to some natural gas and a nozzle in its mouth).
See the location on TravPad here.
The Sockburn Worm, Durham, England
In the most southern part of County Durham, there’s a curious loop in the River Tees – at this point, it seems Durham is bulging as far south as it can – like an inflating balloon – into the southern neighbouring county of what used to be part of Yorkshire.
This area is ancient. The ‘loop’ which has been formed in the river, encircles an area of land which is only entered by land at the ‘neck’ of this loop. This entrance to the wider territory is small – less than a quarter of a mile across. The current owners of the hall are restoring it and do not seem to encourage tourism. This just makes the area more enigmatic.
Sockburn was an area ravaged by a “…worm, dragon or fiery flying serpent…”. This story was said to have inspired Lewis Carroll (who grew up at the nearby village of Croft) to write his ‘Jabberwocky’.Although the details of the scrap between the knight Conyers and the unlucky beast are scant, the remnants of what is supposedly a myth are suspiciously rich and numerous. The spring where the dragon used to bathe is still there and visible.
The ‘Grey Stone’ beneath which lie the remains of the beast is still also partially visible. There is an effigy of Sir John Conyers in the ruined and ancient church there, with the dragon wrapped around his feet, as it must have been for centuries.
The extremely rare Conyer’s Falchion (a type of old sword and the best surviving example of its type in the world), used to actually slay the dragon, still exists and can be seen in Durham Cathedral treasury (see location on the TravPad map).
Read more about this fascinating area on TravPad here.
The Dragon’s Well, Brinsop, England
Given the actual importance of what is said to have happened here, the fact that most English folk haven’t even heard of this place is staggering. Even I hadn’t heard about it until a few months ago.
For the tiny village of Brinsop was the location of the epic battle between a knight called St George and a now quite-well known dragon. The knight has become the patron saint of England. The dragon could only hit ‘A-List’ historical/cultural-celebrity-status by being killed.
Like the Sockburn beast, this dragon based itself near a water-source in a grassy meadow in the village. Plainly, the villagers didn’t like it roaring around, breathing on everything, burning their crops and eating their sheep. And their relatives. George was called in. And he slew it. And that’s a very long story, told in a very tiny nutshell. The stone shown above, buried in a meadow just south of the small churchyard of – yes, you guessed it, St George’s Church – marks the spot where the creature was said to have been killed. See the location on TravPad here.
The Dragon Bridge, Ljubljana, Slovenia
The reason the bridge has dragons on it is simply because the Greek hero Jason (and his sword-happy argonauts) supposedly killed a dragon not too far from the city.
Fresh from relieving the Colchians of their golden fleece (and reportedly killing a dragon which had been guarding it), Jason legged it, only to be pursued by a huge army. In an attempt to give them the slip, he took a turning up the River Danube, on up the River Sava and eventually up the River Ljubljanica almost to its source. They took the boat to bits, marched it across to the Adriatic and carried on their way. Somewhere between Ljubljana and Vrhnika these cheeky mythological chappies encountered a marsh. Guess what was living in the marsh? Yes, a dragon. Having battled a substantial number of monsters already, this wee swamp-beastie was dispatched without breaking into a sweat.
It is now immortalised by one of the dragons on the bridge.
If you have any dragon related spots, please either tweet them to us, send us a comment on this blog, or place them directly on the TravPad map!
Now for most people, this is quite interesting, as its design is rare. For some other people – computer types – particularly fans of a ‘video game’ (showing my age there) called Zelda, this place is even more intriguing. The windows are in the shape of a ‘trinity’ (called the ‘triforce’ in that game, but enought about that) and when the sun shines through them, it looks quite something.
It was designed by Sir Thomas Tresham (father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters) and constructed in the late 1500s.
Tresham was Roman Catholic and that’s why the number three is all over the place here. The ‘three’ (most illustrated by the triangle here) symbolises the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). There are three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side. The three walls are 33 feet long. Each wall has three triangular windows. There are three gargoyles.
On the entrance front is the inscription ‘Tres Testimonium Dant’ (‘there are three that give witness’), a Biblical quotation from St John’s Gospel referring to the Trinity.
Opening times are generally between 11:00am and 4:00pm, except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when it’s closed. Tickets cost £3.20 for an adult, £1.90 for a child and concessions (OAPs and students are £2.90).
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