Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, move to Give SA Migration, Investment Boom

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, will be moving legislative changes to Australia’s visa rules to encourage migrants to invest in the state.

Under the current Significant Investor Visa rules, a migrant can become a permanent resident if they have at least $5million to invest in a particular state, and maintain that investment for four years.

Senator Xenophon is proposing an amendment to the Migration Act to be introduced later this year, that will lower the threshold for the visa requirement from $5million to $2million if a state has regional migration status and population growth at least 30% below the national average.

The current average national population growth is 1.8%—South Australia at 0.9% is 50% below the national average, with the only state lower being Tasmania, at 0.1%.

“If you want to give this state a massive boost overnight, we need to change the Significant Investment Visa rules,” Nick said.

Senator Xenophon unveiled the plan at the SA Press Club ‘State of the State’ forum this afternoon.

“Just imagine what 3000 skilled investor migrants each with $2million would do for the state—it would be the equivalent to $6billion investment alone and a significant shot in the arm to start-up and existing businesses, and with it, a massive investment in investment and jobs.”

Two weeks for the opening of the 2nd International Colloquy in Sydney between 15 and 17th November

MEDIA RELEASE

31 October 2013

The second International Colloquy with title: “Parthenon. An Icon of Global Citizenship” will take place at the University of Sydney between 15 and 17th November. The event is hosted by the International Organising Committee – Australia – for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles (IOC-A-RPM) with the support of the British and American Committees.

The event will be opened by the Premier of NSW, The Hon Barry O’Farrell MP on Friday the 15th of November at the Nicholson Museum (University of Sydney, Camperdown Campus).

A provisional program for the 3 day event is now available on the event’s website :
http://www.parhtenonmarblesaustralia.org.au/colloquy2013.

The organisers believe that the global community will be inspired to be part of the conversation, comprising a mix of lectures, visual presentations and workshops and wide public participation, through the use of the popular Social Media platforms Facebook and Twitter.

Workshops, on the major themes of Education, Activism, Litigation and Economy, will be open to the online community around the world through the use of special hashtags (#). Workshop participants will be able to follow and discuss comments by the online community in real time.

Since mid-year the campaign for restitution has increased in pace. This Colloquy has been a major focus of social media activity drawing global attention from Committees and interested individuals. The Greek Minister for Culture and Sports, Panos Panagiotopoulos, has suggested Greece/UK mediation through UNESCO as one possible strategy. All the latest developments will be discussed at this event, which will help to build international interest and momentum in the campaign for return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Visit the event’s website for more information.
http://www.parthenonmarblesaustralia.org.au/colloquy2013

Christos Tsiolkas still amazed at book’s runaway success

Christos Tsiolkas


BARRACUDA – Christos Tsiolkas


Christos Tsiolkas’ Barracuda, a big-hearted social realist novel set in Melbourne. You might have read Tsiolkas’ previous novel, 2008’s The Slap; his analysis of middle-class Australian culture and its relationship to the subcultures around it was a worldwide success.

This new novel is about success and failure, and what it means to be a good man.

Danny, a young teenager from a working-class family, has a dream of sporting success and a body that will help him achieve it. Like many young men in this position, he is given access to a great school, a passionate coach and the chance to make a heroic dash for the prize. But at what cost to his family, his friends and his sense of what is right?

Danny finds he can’t always achieve what he sets out to do, and the shame that comes with this is the subject of his struggle. He is gay in a group of straights, working class in a group of well-to-do boys, a wog in a sea of skips. Why can’t his parents be more like those of his new friends? What does it mean to be really different, when your body won’t do what you want it to do? And who do you trust in this life: your mentors, your parents, your friends? Are they all doing just what they need to do to get ahead?

As Christos Tsiolkas says in the Monthly Book interview:

“I think that ethos of ‘the winner takes it all’ – of the individual who, by their own talent or genius, is successful as if they are disconnected from the social, from family, from everything – I think that’s one of the plagues (laughs) in our society at the moment. So I was very aware of that as a writer. And I could see it in someone like Danny that that too was, I think, a destructive thing … I think the thing about the hero in something like sports, say, with swimming or football, with young men like Danny, is the aspiration is to be Superman. And when they’re being Supermen, we are cheering them, and we are making them gods, and we are giving them licence to believe that they stand alone, that they can be anything they want to be. But they make one mistake, and we tear into them.”

It’s a coming-of-age novel that isn’t afraid to look into the darkness of the human heart and the murky world of developing sexuality.

And it takes on a technically difficult task: how do you keep a reader engaged in the repetitions of effort required in training and the winning of race after race in the waters of a variety of swimming pools?

Here’s Christos again:

“There are a series of words and expressions, and a couple of phrases, that form a chorus in the book. That’s one thing I wanted to do, but part of the work on the book was actually making sure that I didn’t overuse them, that they didn’t become banal by then. So that was one of the tasks.

… the breathing part, you know, the breathing in and the breathing out … and the other thing I wanted to do, and this was a real challenge, was how do you convey to a reader the discipline and actually the monotony that is part of that swimming process?”

Christos Tsiolkas succeeds mightily in this task of keeping the reader engaged, and Danny’s life and his intensities will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. You might even detect a longing to dive into the water and test yourself against its force.

Watch the interview

Read the transcript

Greek Australian actress, director and poet, Koraly Dimitriadis in her upcoming performances “Good Greek Girl”

Good Greek Girl (La Mama Theatre show)

What does a Good Greek Girl do?

You’ll have to come to my show to find out!

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 2.11.50 PM
5th, 6th, 7th November
7:30 sharp start (nobody comes in after that!)
La Mama Theatre
205 Faraday Street, Carlton

Tickets and more info

“I studied accounting, had the big fat Greek wedding. We purchased our working-class, suburban picket fence, birthed our daughter. I did everything I was supposed to.

Ten years later I fall from wog grace, land in the
single-parents Centerlink queue. Mum wants to bury herself in Springvale Cemetery. This wasn’t meant to happen. Then I’m introduced to men and dating.

But I don’t fuck and tell. Not me. I’m a Good Greek Girl.”

What does it mean to be a female born in Australia but raised in a migrant culture? Is it easier just to be a Good Greek Girl? What happens when you do that and it all falls apart?

Following on from their poignant one-off collaborations, Nick Tsiavos and Koraly Dimitriadis explore the space between music, film, language and theatre.

Koraly Dimitriadis
Koraly is a widely published Cypriot-Australian writer and performer. She is the author of the controversial bestselling Love and F**k Poems. Koraly received an Australia Council ArtStart grant this year and wrote, produced and co-directed four films of her poems, one of which will be incorporated into the theatre production Good Greek Girl. Koraly presents on 3CR radio and has a residency at Brunswick Street Bookstore. She is mentored by Christos Tsiolkas. www.koralydimitriadis.com

Nick Tsiavos
Nick Tsiavos is a bassist and composer whose work operates at the intersections of a number of cultural boundaries: from the mystery and beauty of 6th century Byzantium and the 12th century Medieval West, to the instability and anarchy of the present. He explores the musical possibilities that occur when Ancient Chant collides with the energies of Modernism, contemporary Minimalism and experimental improvisation. http://nicktsiavos.net/

Film: Extract from the Good Greek Girls film project
Films was written, co-directed and produced by Koraly Dimitriadis. Cinematographer and co-director, Nathan Little. The films are adapted from Koraly’s poems from her book, Love and Fuck Poems, and from her upcoming book, Good Greek Girls. Partially funded by Australia Council. A selection will be screened at the 2013 Greek Film Festival.

Why we celebrate Halloween?

Why we celebrate Halloween

Halloween is around 6000 years old. It is derived from the ancient Celtic festival called Samhain celebrated on October 31, the day before the Celtic New Year began. It was believed to be the day when spirits of the dead visited the living world.

Amidst the fun and frolic of Halloween, is its true significance forgotten? Halloween is about trick-or-treating, guising, wearing scary costumes, lighting bonfires, making pumpkin lanterns, and telling and listening to horror stories. How are these traditions related to the festival?

The term Halloween is an abbreviated form of ‘All-hallow-even’ that comes from All Hallows’ Day, also known as the All Saints’ Day. It was regarded as a religious day in the European Pagan culture. Pope Gregory III and Gregory IV shifted the Christian Feast of the All Saints’ Day to November 1. Today, All Saints’ Day follows Halloween. During the 9th century, both were celebrated on the same day.

The Celtic festival Samhain marked the end of harvest season. It was believed that the boundary between the living and dead worlds dissolved on the night of October 31 and that spirits of the dead visited the living world. People feared the spirits. To seek protection from them, people wore scary costumes and lit bonfires.

Halloween and the Jack O’Lantern

A pumpkin lantern is made by placing a lit candle inside a carved pumpkin. The pumpkin symbolizes the Stingy Jack of Ireland. Here’s his story.

Jack was a greedy, old farmer. Once he invited the Devil for a drink for which he didn’t want to pay. He asked the Devil to turn into a coin so that he could buy them drinks. The Devil did as told. Jack slid the coin into his pocket with a silver cross. This did not allow the Devil to change back to his original self. He agreed to free the Devil under the condition that he would not trouble him for a year and not claim his soul if he were to die. The following year, Jack tricked the Devil again. He asked him to climb a tree and trapped him there. In return of freeing him, he asked for a favor. It was decided that the Devil would not bother him for ten more years. When Jack died, he was neither accepted in heaven, nor could the Devil claim his soul. The Devil cursed Jack. He was condemned to roam on earth during nights. He was given a burning coal as his guiding light. Jack carved out a turnip, placed the burning coal inside it and used it as his lantern. The Irish called him Jack of the Lantern or Jack O’Lantern.

Turnips, potatoes and even beets began to be used to make lanterns. Immigrants brought the tradition to America, where pumpkins were chosen. The tradition continues, and has become an important part of Halloween celebrations the world over. Pumpkins are carved into comical or fearful faces and placed at the doorsteps of houses. Originally, carved pumpkins were also associated with the harvest season in America. By the late 19th century, they were linked with Halloween.

 

Why are Orange, Black, and Purple the Colors of Halloween?

Black and orange are regarded as the traditional colors of Halloween. Over the years, even purple, green and red have become popular as Halloween colors. They are used heavily in decorations and have become a part of Halloween party themes. People dress up in these colors. Gifts and supplies are wrapped in these colors. Let’s see how they are linked with Halloween.

Orange is associated with pumpkins, autumn, and fire. Since Samhain was celebrated in autumn and orange leaves and gourds are elements of this season, orange came to be linked with Halloween. Orange also represents strength and endurance which might have a link with the wars between Julius Caesar and the Celtics.

Black is linked with death, fear, night, and silence. Since Halloween was believed to be the day when the boundaries between the living and dead worlds blurred, the festival came to be linked with death and hence the color black. Black also represents bats, black cats, witches, and vampires which are a part of Halloween lore.

Purple represents the supernatural, the spiritual, and the mystic. Halloween elements like witches, vampires, and spirits of the dead add that mystic element to the festival, making purple a Halloween color.

Red, the color of blood and evil, and green, the color of goblins and monsters are regarded as Halloween colors owing to their symbolism.

 

How Black Cats, Spiders, Owls, and Bats are associated with Halloween

We see them in Halloween costumes and masks. They become themes for treats and party food. Why are they a part of Halloween celebrations?

Black cats were considered to be reincarnations of living beings. In the Middle ages, people believed that witches turned themselves into black cats. That’s how black cats were linked with Halloween.

Spiders have long been associated with haunted houses and graveyards. This ‘haunt’ element links them with Halloween. During the Middle Ages, spiders were regarded as companions of witches. According to a superstition, seeing a spider on Halloween meant that the spirit of a loved one was watching over you.

Bats and Owls are attracted to bonfires lit on the Halloween night. And that’s how they are linked with the festival. Bonfires were a part of Samhain traditions. Bonfires lit during the nights attracted insects. Bats and owls came to prey on them. As Samhain evolved into Halloween, bats and owls came to be associated with it. According to an old myth, a bat flying into a house on Halloween meant that the house was haunted. Bats have been a part of the vampire lore, and especially so after the discovery of vampire bats in the 16th century. This has strengthened their association with Halloween.

 

Why are Apples associated with Halloween?

Candy apples are a common Halloween treat. Bobbing for apples is a fun game played for Halloween, which includes lifting apples floating in water with your mouth, without using your hands. Traditionally, unmarried women played this game. It was believed that the first one to lift an apple would find her love soon. Around the time of Samhain, there’s a Roman festival celebrated to honor Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. She was also regarded as the goddess of fertility. An apple is her symbol and hence the association of apples with Samhain and also Halloween.

 

Why Trick or Treat?

It was believed that spirits of the dead visit our world on the Halloween night. Years ago, there was a superstition that they would come disguised as beggars and go door to door asking for money during Samhain. It became a custom to not let them return empty-handed. Even before trick-or-treat, the tradition was followed in Great Britain and Ireland, where children and poor people would go door to door, pray for the dead in those families and receive food in return. Back then, the tradition was called souling. Trick-or-treating during Halloween is believed to have existed in Scotland in 1895 when the tradition was to visit households asking for food and money. Some time in the early 20th century, trick-or-treating came to America and spread west to east.

Today, kids dressed in scary or funny costumes visit houses in their neighborhood, asking for treats. At each door, they say “trick or treat” which means “give us a treat or we will play a trick on you!” Since the 1950s trick-or-treating is a Halloween tradition in many parts of the world.

 

Halloween in Different Cultures

In Ireland, people dress up like creatures from the underworld. Barmbrack is important in the Irish tradition. It is a kind of fruit bread. There’s a tradition to bake cakes with a ring, rag, or a coin placed in them. Whoever gets the ring is believed to find his love soon; finding a rag foretells poverty while finding a coin indicates otherwise. A game called Puicini is also a part of the Irish Halloween traditions. In this game, a blindfolded person chooses a plate from several others. The food in that plate determines his life in the following year. Fireworks during the preceding month are a prominent feature of the Halloween celebrations in Ireland.

In Scotland, houses were protected with candle lanterns. If the evil spirits got past the lanterns, it was a custom to leave the house and spare it for the spirits for one year. Until recently, trick-or-treating was not known to the Scottish. Children dressed in scary animal costumes and pretended to be evil spirits. They went guising to houses in the neighborhood and received offerings from homeowners.

On the Halloween night, Austrians leave food and light a lamp on the dinner table to greet souls of the dead. The Belgians too, light candles in memory of the dead. The Czechoslovakians place chairs by the fire for spirits of the dead to attend their gatherings.

In China, Halloween is known by the name Teng Chieh. They have a tradition to place food in front of the photographs of their deceased loved ones. Bonfires and lanterns are meant to serve as guides for the spirits on their way to our world. In Hong Kong, Halloween is known as Yue Lan or Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. They believe it’s the time when spirits of the dead visit the living world. American expats celebrate Halloween on a grander scale. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park host annual shows for them. Influenced by the American pop culture, the Japanese have started celebrating Halloween only recently. Decorations are limited to tourist attractions. Costume parties are a private affair and trick-or-treating is not commonly practiced. Halloween is limited to only some parts of Philippines. The Filipinos regard November 1 as the Day of the Dead and observe it on a grand scale. October 31 which is Halloween is not a public holiday for them.

Alla helgons dag is what Halloween is called in Sweden. It is celebrated in the week following October 31. For them, it’s the time to remember their departed loved ones.

In Latin America, Mexico, and Spain, Halloween is a three-day celebration to remember the dead. Houses are decorated to greet spirits of the dead family members. Food of their choice is prepared and family members gather to remember their loved ones. In some families, there’s a custom to gather near the graves of the deceased.

Halloween became an American holiday only in the 19th century. It was a custom in North America to seat an unmarried woman in front of a mirror in a dark room. It was believed that her husband-to-be would appear in the form of an image in the mirror. Seeing a skull meant that she would die before marriage. Today things have changed. Trick-or-treating, bonfires, and parties are integral to Halloween celebrations. Halloween is the second most popular holiday in the United States. In some parts of Central and South America, Halloween is popular, while in others it is not. In Colombia and Chile, children dress up and visit houses in their neighborhoods, asking for treats. Teenagers and adults attend costume parties. In Brazil, Halloween celebrations are limited to only some schools.

Halloween in the United Kingdom is believed to have a Pagan origin. During the Puritan times, celebrating Halloween was forbidden by law. Influenced by the Americans, the English started celebrating it in the 20th century and trick-or-treating, costume parties, and apple bobbing became a part of their Halloween traditions. The festival is celebrated in other countries like Netherlands due to American influences.

Australians have never found Halloween much relevant to their culture. They have stayed away from this festival for long. It’s only in the last few years that Halloween has started gaining some popularity there. In France, Halloween is regarded as an American holiday and isn’t linked with remembering the dead. Halloween in Africa is derived from the American Halloween. In most parts of the Indian subcontinent, Halloween is not celebrated.

In cultures where Halloween is celebrated, traditions change but only slightly. In most parts of the world, it is celebrated as a day to remember the dead or seek means to communicate with them. As it is linked with harvest, many of its traditions revolve around food and fertility. Halloween is associated with a mixed bag of elements. There’s horror, there’s excitement; there’s fright, there’s fun. The celebrations today have taken an all new form, but the underlying philosophy is almost the same.

Are these the 10 best attractions in Europe?

 

Cappadocia. Picture: Wadgey, Flickr

Cappadocia. Picture: Wadgey, Flickr Source: Supplied

NINE months ago Peter Shaw quit his job in Perth to set off on a journey without an end date. Here he reveals his picks of the places you can’t afford to miss while in Europe.

“It’s tough putting together a list of the 10 best tourist attractions in Europe.

After all, Europe’s a big place and there are a ridiculous number of great sites to experience.

So following my list of the worst attractions in Europe, here are some of the best. Enjoy.

1. Cappadocia, Turkey

Hoodoos, fairy chimneys, earth pyramids – whatever you want to call them – they look awesome. These earthly towers of cool are about as common in Cappadocia as carpet salesmen are in the Grand Bazaar, and to make them even more interesting, a large portion have been hollowed and carved out to form dwellings that look like they’d be more fitting to a sci-fi film like Avatar than Central Turkey.

Try to imagine one of the most interesting and desolate places on earth with a solid dose of history, a dash of adventure and spectacular sunsets and you have Cappadocia. Lying on the ancient Silk Road, the region has been inhabited since the latter part of the Bronze Age and the remnants of the various civilisations who once called the area home now lie scattered across the region. Underground churches, real life Flintstone houses and hot air ballooning make the Cappadocia experience possibly one of the more memorable in your life.

Travel tip: Hire a scooter or four-wheeler and go off-road; exploring the fairy chimneys around Goreme. When it gets too steep leave the bike and keep going on foot for some truly breathtaking views. I’d recommend packing a bottle of (great) locally produced wine and timing your walk to catch a spectacular Cappadocia sunset.

 

The weird sites in Cappadocia. Picture: Virtualwayfarer, Flickr

The weird sites in Cappadocia. Picture: Virtualwayfarer, Flickr Source: Supplied

2. Sagrada Familia, Spain

Gaudi was to architecture what Einstein was to physics, Tesla was to electricity and Leonardo was to the Ninja Turtles. In my opinion it’s humanity’s single greatest architectural achievement and the Pyramids, Hanging Gardens and Acropolis can all go jump in the lake.

It’s like nothing you have ever seen and in the words of an American tourist I overheard: “What kind of insane genius could come up with something like this?!” Gaudi described the interior of his work as a ‘spiritual forest’ and the building does indeed remind you of something organic, even alive … The outside of the building is enough to keep anyone spellbound with its size, complexity and the bizarre interplay of shapes.

While not as ‘alien’ as the exterior, the inside of the cathedral is equally powerful and interesting. The colours, shapes, columns, scale, use of light and metal make it literally breathtaking. I can’t think of anything else in the world I have ever seen built by man that comes even close to this building.

Travel tip: Buy your tickets online, print them out and you can skip the insane line wrapping around the block. For some reason people don’t seem to research these things before arriving, and much like the Louvre, spend hours waiting in line in the hot sun.

 

Top 10 surprisingly awesome places in Europe

Sagrada Familia. Picture: Supplied Source: News Limited

3. Bruges, Belgium

It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, however the downside of Bruges is that every man and his dog knows about it! Still, it is worth a couple of days in any European itinerary.

Bruges is built on the canals, is a history buff’s dream and has one of the best medieval squares in the world; complete with bell tower and enough Gothic architecture to keep the Addams Family happy. Hire a bike and tour the canals from the saddle (in summer), you can circumnavigate the town in about an hour and there are plenty of quaint little lanes and cobbled streets to meander down and explore when you’re not riding along the canals themselves.

Travel tip: Summer pulls larger crowds than The Beatles did so I’d recommend visiting in winter, which has the added bonus of the beautiful buildings and canals being dusted in snow.

 

Bruges - Market Square shops. Picture: Supplied

Bruges — Market Square shops. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

4. The Tower of London

Maybe it’s the small part of me that still holds some nerdish Game of Thrones style fantasy about being a knight sitting atop a steaming warhorse, leading my men at arms into glorious battle … OK I admit it’s not a very realistic fantasy as just the thought of medicine, hygiene and religious practices in the 12th century are enough to keep me firmly grounded in the 2013. Still, the Tower of London is a fantastic experience for anyone with an interest in English or Medieval history.

The various museums within the walls and White Tower are really worth a look given the powerful historical context of the structure. Hilariously, there are also the world’s biggest and smallest sets of full plate armour on display. That’s right, the museum even has the armour of a giant and a dwarf. Brilliant.

Travel tip: Your admission includes a free tour by one of the well-practised and hilarious Beefeaters, which are absolutely worth doing.

 

Tower Bridge in London. Picture: Supplied

Tower Bridge in London. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

5. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Berlin

This place is scary. This memorial museum lets you walk in the footsteps of a concentration camp prisoner for a day. Rewarding as it is confronting, the Sachsenhausen experience is an important one for anyone visiting Berlin.

Travel tip: Pack lunch and spend a day with your audio guide (cheap and totally essential in my opinion) wandering the grounds, going through each area in-depth for a powerful, moving and unforgettable experience. I spent about six hours at Sachsenhausen and felt that I could easily have spent a few more wandering the grounds, absorbing the personal stories and tragedies of its occupants.

 

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Picture: David. Kungsholmen, Flickr

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Picture: David. Kungsholmen, Flickr Source: Supplied

6. The Louvre, Paris

So you’ve made the pilgrimage to see the Mona Lisa and noticed its somewhat underwhelming demeanour … the best part is you now get to spend the rest of the day getting lost (both physically and metaphorically) in the labyrinthine halls of one of the world’s best museums. There is so much art at The Louvre that if you spent a minute at each piece (forgetting the time spent admiring the building itself) it would take roughly 24 days to see them all. You would also have seen enough naked flesh to make Vegas blush.

Travel tip: The first Sunday of every month is free and there are MULTIPLE ENTRANCES. Never wait in the main (glass pyramid) line to get in. On a recent visit this line was literally about two kilometres long and yet the side entrance I used did not have a single person waiting.

 

The pyramid of the Louvre Museum. Picture: AFP

The pyramid of the Louvre Museum. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

7. Orvieto, Italy

An absolute must for anyone visiting central Italy, this tiny village is perched precariously atop a rocky and fortified plateau in the Umbria region (very similar to better known Tuscany). This for me is the real Italy, with rustic lanes, cobbled roads, beautiful buildings and the earthy colours all brought together with the sound of old Italian ladies pinching the cheeks of their grandkids. I can honestly say this is one of my favourite spots in all of Europe.

The village is accessed via the funicular at the train station and once at the top you can easily walk around the entire town in a day taking in the amazing views of the surrounding countryside which is dominated by vineyards, fruit plantations, old churches and monasteries. There is also a rather impressive 14th century cathedral and a series of underground tunnels, passages, galleries and cellars cut deep into the rock below the town itself known as the ‘Underground City’.

Due to the extreme average age of Orvieto’s’ withered inhabitants (everybody is really, really old) there are a number of random emergency defibulators (like phone booths) situated all over the village. Some would say that they’re only necessary due to the town’s heart-stopping views.

Travel tip: Orvieto is easily accessed out of Rome, lying only about two hours away by high-speed train.

 

Orvieto. Picture: Hsivonen, Flickr

Orvieto. Picture: Hsivonen, Flickr Source: Supplied

8. Santorini, Greece

I feel sorry for the donkeys in Santorini. They have the unenviable job of hauling an endless supply of overweight tourists up the side of a truly monumental cliff. It’s a tourism hotspot (which usually I hate) however in this case I’m going to overlook the irritations of dealing with tourists because Santorini is amazing. This crescent moon-shaped Greek Island is what’s left of what was once a more symmetrical shape after one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded human history (the Minoan Eruption) disintegrated most of the island in about the year 250. Yep that’s right most of the island exploded!

The volcanic activity is the reason behind Santorini’s famous black sand beaches (which physics dictates is also the reason so many tourists have burnt feet here).

The classic town of Oia on the NW point of the island is famous for its blue domed roofs, whitewashed dwellings and as one of the best spots to watch the fabled Santorini sunsets, which alone are worth coming to the Island to see. Join the mob of eager tourists in the early evening to enjoy the sun’s last hour as it plunges into the South Aegean.

Travel tip: Santorini is like a magnet for cruise ships and prices reflect this so the best way to do the island is to sleep out of town, hire a four-wheeler and cruise the island at your leisure.

 

Santorini. Picture: Supplied

Santorini. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

9. The Burren, Ireland

What would the earth look like if people stopped planting crops, trees and grass, then decided to just grow rocks instead? Exactly like the Burren, that’s what. The name ‘Burren’ derives from the Irish word Boireann, meaning ‘great rock’ … wonder why they called it that? This rural ‘Karst’ landscape in NW County Clare, Ireland is filled with more rocks than soil.

I have no idea what the farmers do, given 80 per cent of their land is one big stone. Like everywhere in country Ireland the people are absurdly pleasant and the quaint roads are also so narrow that every time you pass another car you get a few more grey hairs. There are some memorable sites in the area too, including the fabled cliffs of Moher, the tiny musically inclined village of Dingle and more pubs than a drunk Irishman can poke an empty Guinness glass at. The Burren is where you go to hike through the little lanes, climb ancient stone walls, gawk at standing crosses, meander through cow-laden fields and dance to excellent Irish music. It’s ountry Ireland at its best.

Travel tip: You need a car to really appreciate the region.

 

The Burren. Picture: TechnoHippyBiker, Flickr

The Burren. Picture: TechnoHippyBiker, Flickr Source: Supplied

10. The Isle of Skye, Scotland

The most northerly island of the Inner Herbrides of Scotland is a beautifully picturesque, barren and untamed place. It’s an amazing spot to do some camping and hiking, and has some of the most intriguing landscapes in all of the UK. Skye also has the rather unique ability to make its inhabitants constantly appear as though they have just woken up and stumbled out of bed. It’s windy on Skye, really, properly, briskly, category five, Scottish windy; even in summertime (which may or may not actually exist in Scotland, the jury’s still out on that one).

There are two spots on the isle that turn it from just ‘damn cool’ to ‘freaking amazing’.

• The old man of Storr, a large rocky pinnacle that dominates the southern approach of the Trotternish Peninsula. You can see it from kilometres away and can climb up to the bottom of the pinnacle if you’re careful (lots of loose rocks, and a fairly steep incline) but the view is worth the effort and with any luck the area will get covered in low hanging clouds for added atmosphere. It’s also been used as a location in many films due to its remarkable appearance, the latest being Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

• The Fairy Glen is a tiny area on the outskirts of Uig that does almost feel magical in an eerie sort of way (hence the name, genius). The glen is dominated by a number of bizarre corkscrew shaped ‘twisted’ hills in addition to the gnarled, old trees and enough creepy stone piles and circles to keep the Blair Witch happy (legend has it that if you get lured into a stone fairy circle by the fairy lights you will be trapped there, mesmerised by their dancing forever). Sadly I didn’t see any fairies or freaky lights but the glen does make for a truly memorable experience and some very unique photos.

Travel tip: Camp on Skye if you can, that or hire a camper van and stay in one of the many campsites on the island.”

 

The Isle of Skye. Picture: Supplied

The Isle of Skye. Picture: Supplied Source: News Limited

NSW bushfire state of emergency over

Source: News

A member of a Building Impact Analysis team

Insurance companies are paying $2m a day for damage to homes and businesses after the NSW bushfires. Source: AAP

THE NSW bushfire emergency is officially over two weeks after it started.

A state of emergency was declared on October 20 and gave emergency services the power to make decisions on the community’s behalf.

It was revoked on Friday.

In a statement, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons thanked the community for its cooperation during the emergency period.

More than 200 homes across the state were destroyed in the fires resulting in $156 million worth of insurance claims for damages to homes and businesses.

The Insurance Council estimates assessors have visited 95 per cent of the properties where claims have been made.

Insurance companies are paying out more than $2 million a day for repairs.

Spokesman Campbell Fuller says insurers have been able to respond to more than 1200 claims coming from fires that were still burning only days ago.

He says although insurers have been quick to respond to claims, the process of rebuilding will take time and customers should raise all concerns with their insurance provider.

Insurance providers say some claims will take many months to be closed.