nature

Forgotten treasure: the purslane

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798068-960x720-portulak-in-eiersauceLast week I found a weird herb in our local super market. On its label was written: portulak, in English purslane. When I asked the shopkeeper what a “heck” is it, she didn’t have the faintest idea about the herb. It must be a forgotten herb- she added shrugging her shoulders. -Okay, in spite of this I decided to buy it since I like to discover new stuffs. 

Then at home I started to google about the purslane and I have found the next: Common purslane, also known as (verdolaga, portulak, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley) is an annual succulent in the family Portulacea. It contains more omega-3 fatty acids in particular than any other leafy vegetable plant. What?-I exclaimed. I thought omega-3 fatty acids just exists in fish, but not!

Further more studies have found that purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid as well. It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin A, C, B,  E, carotenoids)-super!, and dietary minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. Also present are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, the reddish betacyanins (visible in the coloration of the stems) and the yellow betaxanthins (noticeable in the flowers and in the slight yellowish cast of the leaves).- I checked my pot plant and yes, the google was right about the colors! Both of these pigment types are potent antioxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies. I will see after eating them!

In traditional Chinese medicine. Its leaves are used for insect or snake bites on the skin, boils, sores, pain from bee stings, bacillary dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, postpartum bleeding, and intestinal bleeding. Use is contraindicated during pregnancy and for those with cold and weak digestion. Purslane is a clinically effective treatment for oral lichen planus. (I don’t want to experience any above mentioned illness or pathological disorders, but in any case it’s good to know!)

Stop to blow its trumpet!- I thought after having learned all those facts about the purslane, I’m totally convinced to eat it.

It has an extensive distribution, assumed to be mostly anthropogenic, throughout the Old World extending from North Africa and Southern Europe through the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent to Australia. The species status in the New World is uncertain: in general, it is considered an exotic weed, however, there is evidence that the species was in  Crawford lake deposits in 1350-1539, suggesting that it reached North America in the pre-Columbian era. –Come on it was a weed!!! Given to pigs!-

Scientists suggested that the plant was already eaten by native Americans, who spread its seeds. How it reached the New World is currently unknown. It is naturalized elsewhere, and in some regions is considered an introduced weed.-You see I ‘ve told you!

Purslane in the history and in the kitchen

Purslane is widely used in East Mediterranean countries, archaeobotanical finds are common at many prehistoric sites. In historic contexts, seeds have been retrieved from the Samian Heraion period dating back to the 7th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Theophrastus names purslane, andrákhne as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April. As Portulaca-portulak it figures in the long list of comestibles enjoyed by the Milanese given by  Bonvesin de la Riva in his “Marvels of Milan” (in 1288). In antiquity, its healing properties were thought so reliable that Pliny the Elder, advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil. A common plant in parts of India, purslane is known as sanhti, punarva, paruppu keerai, “gangabayala kura”, or kulfa. (OMG I have eaten kulfa at my best friend’s house! It was divine, If I have thought…)

Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it may be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach is, and because of its mucilaginous quality it also is suitable for soups and stews. The sour taste is due to oxalic and malic acid, the latter of which is produced through the pathway that is seen in many xerophytes (plants living in dry conditions), and is at its highest when the plant is harvested in the early morning.

Australian Aborigines use the seeds of purslane to make seedcakes.

Greeks, who call it andrakla  or glystrida, use the leaves and the stems with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. They add it in salads, boil it, or add it to casseroled chicken.

In Turkey, besides being used in salads and in baked pastries, it is cooked as a vegetable similar to spinach. Similarly, in Egypt, it is cooked as a vegetable stew. Called Bakleh in Syria and Lebanon, is eaten raw in a famous salad called fattoush, and cooked as a garniture in fatayeh (triangular salted pastries).

In Albania, known as burdullak, it also is used as a vegetable similar to spinach, mostly simmered and served in olive oil dressing, or mixed with other ingredients as a filling for dough layers of byrek.

In the south of Portugal, baldroegas are used as a soup ingredient. In Pakistan, it is known as qulfa and is cooked as in stews along with lentils, similarly to spinach, or in a mixed green stew.

Although often identified as a “weed”, purslane is a vegetable rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, a cultivar, sativa, is shown here being grown in a ceramic pot.

My purslane salad looked like this! And yesterday I also prepared an omlette with purslane, fried in butter!purslane-salad

Purslane also finds mention in a translation of the Bible as a repulsive food. Job’s question in Job 6:6: “Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt or is there any taste in the slime of the purslane?” whereas the King James Version translates this verse as “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”

 

Chess flower for Easter

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P1110317.JPGI bought a chequered lily last week (Fritillaria meleagris) as I decided to choose it for being our major Easter decoration. I discovered it couple of years ago in Germany and since it has been my favorite flower of the Lent. It is a Eurasian species of flowering plant in the lily family. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, guinea flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.

The name Fritillaria comes from the Latin fritillus meaning dice-box, possibly referring to the chequered pattern on the flowers although this derivation has been disputed. The name meleagris means “spotted like a guineafowl. The common name “snake’s head” probably refers to the somewhat snakelike appearance of the nodding flower heads on their long stems. Vita Sackville West called it “a sinister little flower, in the mournful color of decay.

The flower has a chequered pattern in shades of purple, or is sometimes pure white. It flowers from March to May and grows between 15–40 cm in height. The plant has a button-shaped bulb, about 2 cm in diameter, containing poisonous alkaloids. It grows in grasslands in damp soils and river meadows at altitudes up to 800 m.

Fritillaria meleagris is native to Europe and Western Asia but in many places it is an endangered species that is rarely found in the wild but is commonly grown in gardens. In Croatia, the flower is known as kockavica and is associated by some with the country’s national symbol. It is the official flower of the Swedish province of Uppland, where it grows in large quantities every spring at the meadows in Kungsängen (Kings meadow), just outside Upsala, which gives the flower its Swedish name, kungsängslilja (Lily of Kings meadow). It is also found for example in Sandemar Nature Reserve, a nature reserve west of Dalarö in Stockholm Archipelago. It is also a symbol of the Italian Botanical Garden Alpino di Pietra Corva.P1110301.JPG

Wörishofen, the secret capital of health

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Last week I visited Wörishofen, a small village in Bavaria. The reason was because each time when I went to my hairdresser, she couldn’t stop talking/praising this place. She likes thermal bathes and this small town became famous for the water-cure-hydrotherapy, which was developed by Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897), a Catholic priest, who lived in the village for 42 years. That made me curious.

Since Bad Wörishofen is just 80 km/50 miles from München where I live (frontier of Baden Württemberg) so that in spite of the bad weather we decided to go. And we didn’t regret it. Arriving at the town we saw many of the resort hotels and boarding-houses offer their guests treatment using Kneipp’s methods.

By the way the new spa complex out of town is called Therme Bad Wörishofen. The Time Magazine called the city “The secret capital of health.”

I also learned that from the local museum that after World War II, with south-western Germany belonging to the American occupation zone, Bad Wörishofen was the site of a displaced persons camp.

What I’ve learned of Sebastien Kneipp and his methods

Kneipp was a Bavarian priest and one of the forefathers of the Hydrotherapy water cure movement. He is most commonly associated with the “Kneipp Cure” form of hydrotherapy, the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures which he demonstrated to have therapeutic or healing effects, thus building several hospitals in Bad Wörishofen. Although most commonly associated with one area of Nature Cure, Kneipp was the proponent of an entire system of healing which rested on 5 main tenets:

Hydrotherapy – Kneipp was able to heal many people with water

Phytotherapy – The use of botanical medicines was another of Kneipp’s specialities

Exercise– Promoting health of the body through movement

Nutrition – A wholesome diet of whole grains, fruits & vegetables with limited meat.

Balance – Kneipp believed that a healthy mind begot a healthy person.

Kneipp was born in 1821 in Bavaria. He studied theology in the University of München but he had to stop his studying in 1847 because of his serious illness (TBC).  While he was ill, he began reading many books and found his illness described in a book about water cures. In 1850, Kneipp met a student in the Georgianum seminary in Munich that was also ill and shared water cures with him. Both Kneipp and his friend at the Georgianum recovered from their illnesses and with his renewed health Kneipp was able to complete his studies. He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1852.

In the 19th century, there was a popular revival in the application of hydrotherapy, instigated around 1829 by Vincent Priessnitz, a peasant farmer in Gräfenberg, then part of the Austrian Empire. This revival was continued by Kneipp, “an able and enthusiastic follower” of Priessnitz, “whose work he took up where Priessnitz left it”, after he came across a treatise on the cold water cure. At Worishofen, while serving as the confessor to the monastery, he began offering treatments of hydrotherapy, botanical treatments, exercise and diet to the people who lived in the village. Some of his suggested treatments included “ice cold baths and walking barefoot in the snow” and other “harsh” methodologies. In 1893, M. E. Bottey described Kneipp’s water cures as “dangerous in most cases”.”. Worishofen became known as a place with a reputation for spiritual healing. In addition to “peasants”, Kneipp’s clients also included Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his father, Archduke Karl Ludwig as well as Pope Leo XIII. Others took Kneipp’s processes back to their home countries to found alternative therapy spas and colleges.

Kneipp began developing his healing methods in 1849 after contracting tuberculosis and experimenting with the water treatments developed by Sigmund Hahn. After being ordained in 1852, he continued to experiment with water treatments in his parish. Kneipp began working with the cures developed by Vincenz Priessnitz but developed a more complicated and gentle method. His gentle cures contrast the earlier water cures that he referred to as horse cures for their strenuous nature. Kneipp’s treatment of patients also contrasted that of hospital medicine because it was personalized and took into account the patient’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

Kneipp’s approach comes from his theory that all diseases originate in the circulatory system. This theory is similar to humoral theory. Like those that believed in humoral theory, Kneipp asserted that breathing miasmatic or excessively hot air would lead to disease. While it may deal with one humor instead of four, his theory still asserts that an imbalance in the blood whether it be circulation or foreign matter is the root of disease. Under Kneipp’s depiction of disease, water cures work by affecting the blood. They dissolve foreign matter, cleanse the blood of this matter, aid in circulation, and strengthen the body as a whole.

In addition to specific cures, Kneipp had prescriptions with regard to food, drink and clothing. He believed that food should be dry and simple and should not be spicy. He also believed that people should drink primarily water but also allowed consumption of alcohol in moderation.As for clothing, Kneipp preferred self-spun clothing made of linen or hemp over wool.10373715_717659778290732_7418151021632883911_n

Kneipp’s approach to medicine was not independent of his Catholic faith. His focus on water and herbs stems from the idea that remedies are naturally provided by God. HIs emphasis on plain food, drink, and clothing comes from the theory that humans should live in accord with nature. He used scripture as well as references to Roman practice to support the reasoning behind his cure and admitted that his treatments did not fall in line with current scientific understanding. The fact that his treatments were not based in scientific theory did not bother Kneipp because they were seen as able to succeed where scientific medicine could not. Sebastian Kneipp had a particular dedication to helping the poor and those that physicians can’t help. His suffering early in life caused Kneipp to develop a deep sympathy for those less fortunate than him. He turned down many patients that could feasibly recover on their own but claims to have never refused to treat a patient that is poor or untreatable by other methods.

Kneipp’s book ,My Water Cure was published in 1886 with many subsequent editions, and translated into many languages. He also wrote “Thus Shalt Thou Live”, “My Will”, and The Care of Children In Sickness and In Health. Summer

In the Hell’s valley

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Do you crave wild romance? Then a hike through the Höllental gorge is just for you. (The Höllental, English translation “Hell Valley” or “Valley of Hell” is one of the routes on the German side leading up the Zugspitze on the German-Austrian border in the northern Alps. It is located in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.) You can discover the pristine charm of pure nature with all your senses. The Hammersbach stream with glacier run-off carves its way down through the high mountains, tumbling over boulders and dropping over cliffs into pools with milky foam, roaring and thundering along the way. Some of the adventurous sections of the trail go through electrically lit tunnels where you
can hear the dampened pounding of the wild water through small windows. The air you
inhale is fresh and clear, particularly refreshing on a hot summer’s day. The Höllentalklamm gorge is easily accessible, has a length of about 1 km (0.6 mi) and offers an experience entirely distinct from any other gorge.
Follow the signs to the alpine lodge at the bottom entrance to the gorge, the Klammeingangshütte (1047 m), which you will reach after approx. 1 to 1 ½ hours (snacks, cake and coffee, small meals available). Hike through the gorge, passing through tunnels in the cliffs (electric lighting) and going over small bridges and up steps, until you reach the end of the gorge at 1193 m (3914 ft) above sea level after approx. 45 minutes.

It is worth going the extra meters to the Höllentalangerhütte, the alpine lodge further on
up with a splendid view and food and lodging. The wide green valley here reveals a view of the Waxenstein peaks, the Riffelwände walls and the Höllentalferner glacier with the towering peak of Zugspitze 2962 m (9,717 ft) in the background. To return, follow the route going to the Neuneralm alpine meadow lodge above Obergrainau as described under “Höllentalklamm”. The trail is a little more strenuous when going from Hammersbach,
but the extra effort is rewarded by gorgeous views.
Important tips: it is highly recommend ankle-high hiking boots and rain gear. Bulky objects such as baby carriages and bicycles are not permitted in the Höllentalklamm gorge. Temperatures
in the gorge are always cool, even on hot summer days. Therefore, make sure to dress accordingly. The Höllentalklamm gorge is in alpine terrain, so be sure to always exercise the necessary caution. If you are taking children along, it is advisable to secure them with
a rope and maybe a harness.
Opening hours:
The Höllental gorge is open for summer season.
Places to stop for a bite to eat:
Höllentalklamm-Eingangshütte: opening 13 May
Entrance fee per person (up and down):
Adults: 4.00 EUR
Adults with a “Kurkarte” (guest card): 2.00 EUR
Children: 1.00 EUR
DAV members: 1.00 EUR
Group tickets: 2.00 EUR
A museum at the gorge entrance showing interesting cultural exhibits was opened in July, 2011. The exhibits in the museum cover the following topics: Mining and ore mining – History of Höllental, the “Valley of Hell” – History of the Höllentalklamm gorge – General history. Entrance to the museum is included in the gorge entrance fee.

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The three sisters in the Dolomites

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P1070681Third day in Tyrol-Dolomites

Brunico: this was a main town in the Pusteria Valley. I have to confess we stopped there because I saw a cooking show (The perfect dinner) on the German channel Vox, and it was broadcasting from the fortress of Brunico/Bruneck. But the castle was a bit disappointment since its exhibition was devoted to the highest peaks or mountains all over the world. However it was not invane to stop there because we’d found an interesting Ethnography museum in the adjacent village Teodone, covering an area 3ha/7acres and including various types of rural building with country manor, hayloft, farm, grain store, oven, mill. The museum provided an effective illustration of the lifestyles and activities of peasants and noblemen in bygone days. After visiting the museum we left Brunico for Dobbiaco (and slept in Monguelfo/Welsberg, in a three stars Hotel Sunnleit’n).

Next day we decided to go to the Pragser Wildsee, guess why? because of an other -at this time an Italian TV sequel under titled- Un passo dal cielo- A path to the sky, which is a television serie, aired in Europe, starring Terence Hill and Enrico Ianniello. (Terence Hill alias Pietro, is a head of the forestry police and he must help the newly arrived Commissioner Vincenzo Nappi to solve murders). So we went to take a look at the famous Lago di Braies, or in German the Pragser Wildsee, (alt 1495 /4905 ft), and it was also worth to visit. Its shimmering lake is encircled by the Croda del Becco mountains and can be circumnavigated in one hour. Boat trips can be made and it is also the starting point of some rather arduous mountain feet paths. I saw the house of Terence Hill on the lake, it was fascinating! Then we followed the direction Misurina and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. The last stretch of the route was a toll road, 24 euros per car.

Lago di Misurina

Alt 1759 5770 ft. This lake is set among a plantation of fir trees and is an excellent starting point for excursions to the surrounding mountains, from the Tre Cime di Lavardo to the Cristallo.

The Tre Cime Lavaredo

From the refuge at Auronza the Lavaredo shelter we reached in half an hour. From there the Locatelli shelter was reached in an hour. This last stretch of the path offered spectacular views of the Tre Cime (Three rocks) range which forms part of the Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti di Sesto. The Tre Cime can also be reached from Sesto.P1070750

Dobbiaco/Toblach town was really breath-taking place. It was an important town in the Middle Ages as it was at a crossroads with the Strada dell’ Allemagna. In the centre of this village there was a late Baroque church dating from the second half of the 18C.

San Candido: this pretty village known as Innichen in German, had the most important Romanesque church in the Alto Adige the Collegiata dates from the 13C, the Campanile from the 14C. Above the south doorway there are frescoes by painter and sculptor Michael Pacher the most striking piece however is the crucifixion, an evocative wood sculptural group of the 13C with Christ’s feet on Adam’s head.

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The rocky peaks of the Dolomites-or a journey back in time

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P1070676We had four days break of the occasion of the Corpus Christi Feast so we decided to visit the Dolomites! It had been a very successful trip!

The Dolomites

If you don’t know anything about the Dolomites here are some general knowledge: The Dolomites situated between the Veneto and Trentino-(in Italian called Alto Adige), the fan of so-called “Pale Mountains” take on red tints at sunset that suddenly vanish when the sun appears. Their harsh, rocky contours embrace crystalline lakes and mysteries which have become the very stuff of numerous poetic legends.

The Dolomites are made of a white calcareous rock, Dolomite, which takes its name from the French geologist Déodat de Dolomieu who studied ist composition in the 18 C. Some 150 million years ago this land was submerged by the Thethys sea. On its sandy depths coral reefs and limestone began to shape the Pale Mountains.

About 70 million years ago, during the Alpine orogenis the layers were violently compressed and forced to the surface. thus the dolomites were born out of the sea. today visitors can still see fossils of marine life when glaciers softened and hollowed out the valleys. only flora and fauna were missing at this stage. these began to inhabit the dolomites when the glaciers retreated.

Strada del Dolomiti or our voyage from Münich-via Merano to Cortina

On 25th of May we left Munich and we didn’t stop not even until in Meran. However we could move forward pretty slow because of the four days holiday and probably many Germans decided to go to the Alps due to the excellent weather, so our trip lasted for four hours. When finally we arrived in Meran around 2 pm, first we took our accommodation in the Hotel der Linde then we went to down town. Walking in the main street we noticed immediately that Meran was a city of spas. Later I’d read that with its mild climate and thermal waters, Meran attracts people seeking relief from blood disorders, metabolic disorders and respiratory problems, rheumatism etc. But other attractions include the Gran Premio Ippico, the most famous steeplechase race in Italy, which Meran hosts. There were numerous cable cars and chairlifts up to Merano 2000. The latter was a good winter sports centre but also popular in summer for excursion into the mountains. The half day was already past so we could only visit the Castello Principesco, which was built in the 14 C. It was used by the Princes of Tyrol as their residence when he stayed in the town. The day was over (okay we went to a restaurant and dined well) but the next day, -with a very meticulous local map in our hand- we set out to visit the most famous mountain peaks, which were: the Marmolada, Val Gardena and Cortina d’Ampezzo.P1070674

The tour

The main touring route in the Dolomites is the great Dolomite road, which is a wonderful and world-famous example of road-engineering. The road was already used during the Renaissance by merchants travelling between Venice and Germany and it was also used during the first world war.

First we went to see Marmolada. This is the highest massiv in the Dolomites, famous for its glacier and very fast ski-runs. The cable car from Malga Ciapela goes up to 3265 m/10712 ft offering admirable panoramas of the Cortina peaks (Tofana and Cristallo) the Sasso Lungo, the enormous tabular mass of the Sella Massif and in the background the summits of the Austrian Alps including Grossglockner. The second peak was to conquer the Val Gardena which is one of the most famous valleys in the Dolomites both for its beauty and crowds of tourists. (But we had good luck because at the end of May was the off-season)! What was really special for me that the inhabitants still speak a language which was born during the Roman occupation the Ladin dialect, which nowadays can only be heard in some valleys of the Dolomites, the Grigioni mountains and the Carniche Alps. There are some skillful wood-workers as can be seen in some fine shops that are to be found in Selva (in German Wolkenstein) Santa Cristina and Ortisei (St Ulrich).

Finally we finished our panorama tour in Cortina d’Ampezzo. This city is the capital of the Dolomites, and it is a winter sport and summer resort with worldwide reputation. Set in the heart of the Dolomites at the altitude of 1210m/400ft Cortina made a good excursion centre for discovering the magnificent mountain scenery. We had a nice lunch over there, I will write about it in the next blog!

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Sophia Loren and the solfatara

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c26129-bIn the middle of May I spent 2 weeks in Naples, in the South of Italy. Because I’ve heard so much about the small volcanic crater, the “solfatara” which is located in the adjacent city, called Pozzuoli, I decided to visit it. I must admit that I liked it much better than the Vesuvius! (Pozzuoli is easily reached by train from Rome on Naples Metro line 2, and by the trains of “Cumana” lines leaving from the station of Monte Santo, in the city center).Naples 378

Pozzuoli and Sophia

We took the train from Naples in order to reach the small village. After 25 minutes we arrived at Pozzuoli’s station. For the big disappointment of the taxi drivers we decided to walk the city on foot. First we visited the famous Flavian amphitheater, which is the third largest amphitheater after the Colosseum and the Capuan Amphitheater in Italy then we continued our way on the via/street Solfatara which was supposed to led us to the national park. During our walk we discovered that under number five of via Solfatara lived Sophia Loren (in the forties). However growing up in the slums of Pozzuoli during the second World War without any support from her father, she experienced much sadness in her childhood. On the top of that during World War II the harbour and munitions plant in Pozzuoli was a frequent bombing target of the Allies. In her biography, Sophia Loren mentioned that during the war the local people were so afraid that if one bomb reached the volcano the entire village would sink. But luckily it didn’t happen. After the war, Loren’s grandmother, Luisa opened a pub in their living room, selling homemade cherry liquor. Romilda Villani played the piano, her sis Maria sang and Loren waited on tables and washed dishes. The place was popular with the American GIs stationed nearby.Naples 354

Solfatara

Leaving behind the small red house of Sophia we arrived at the entrance of Solfatara. For 7 euros entrance fee we could get in. Since it is in the middle of a national park we walk for a while between gorgeous trees and bushes then at the end of the path we arrive in the valley of solfatara. But what is solfatara? Scientifically it is a shallow volcanic crater, in the part of the Campi Flegrei volcanic area. It is a dormant volcano, which still emits jets of steam with sulfurous fumes. The name comes from the Latin, Sulpha terra, “land of sulfur”, or “sulfur earth”. It was formed around 4000 years ago and last erupted in 1198 with what was probably a phreatic eruption – an explosive steam-driven eruption caused when groundwater interacts with magma. The crater floor is a popular tourist attraction, as it has many fumaroles and mud pools. The area is also well known for its bradyseism. The vapours have been used for medical purposes since Roman times.  Nowadays it’s claimed that the fumes are natural Viagra. At least, that’s what the local male population likes to believe. When our walk ended we returned to the station and in the afternoon we visited the mount Vesuvius…The solfatara was a wonderful experience if, like me, you have no experience of a volcanic landscape.

 

 

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