Nomad Vagabond – Genghis Khan

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

 

Traveling round the world doesn’t usually involve conquest of foreign lands but for Temujin, also known as Genghis Khan, conquest was probably just a means of travel. Starting with nothing as an exile and prisoner means he was certainly an extraordinary vagabond.

Genghis Khan was a nomad, in other words he was a world traveler of sort. Genghis Khan’s real name in his childhood was Temujin. When his brother poisoned his father Temujin killed his brother and in punishment he was thrown into forest, he was held in prison by his former friends after that. vagobond genghis khanAfter few years, Temujin rose up as a powerful leader and united the tribes of the Mongol people. With this goal accomplished, he and his Mongol hordes targeted many and far lands. From the time of his unification of the Mongol tribes, the Mongols called him Genghis Khan.

Genghis Khan first attacked the Tangut tribes to the west of the Mongol homeland. His first important foreign venture was not an easy one, but he brought the tribes of Tangut to their knees by 1209, which was the beginning of his empire. Genghis targeted east and south after that, this was the land ruled by Jin Dynasty of China. Genghis Khan captured Beijing, bringing the pressure to the Jin emperor and managing to restrain the complete northern half of the kingdom.

Kara-Khitan which is called “Xinjiang” today by the Chinese government was the next battleground of Genghis Khan. With just 20,000 soldiers, the Mongols brought the surrender of Kara-Khitan by 1218. Now Genghis Khan’s empire extended from shores of China in the east to Kazakhstan in west.

genghis khan mapThis was not enough and Genghis Khan desired more. He set his eyes on his new neighbor, the Khwarezmid Empire. It stretched from Kazakhstan to the banks of Persian Gulf, surrounding most of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and half of Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan. At first Genghis Khan tried to establish a booming trade partnership with Khwarezmids, but the leader of Khwarezmid attacked his 500 man caravan. After this, he foolishly refused to pay compensation for his act. Genghis Khan later sent his group of ambassadors to the Shah of Khwarezmid in a hope to have some kind of political trade relationship. But the Shah refused his proposal, Genghis Khan invaded Khwarezmid and executed the Shah. After this horrible conquest of Khwarezmid Empire, he headed across Afghanistan and northern India.

By the end of his life, Temujin had conquered everything from Asia all the way to Europe’s doorstep. Most of modern Turkey, parts of Greece, and even portions of Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia were his domain.

As a world traveler, he spilled a lot more blood than most, but the fact is he controlled the largest contiguous empire in history and saw more of the world than most people ever will.

Islamic Aesthetics Unleashed – Asilah, Morocco

Asilah, Morocco
Asilah, Morocco is a great little funky town that hosts a mural festival each year. It’s a gorgeous little town on the Atlantic Coast of Africa. I was going to share about 30 photos of the gorgeous artistic town of Asilah, Morocco when I realized it would be better and allow me to fulfill one of my New Year’s Resolutions (make more videos) if I put them in a video slideshow for you. I hope you enjoy it.

Just 31 km from Tangier. Its ramparts and gateworks remain fully intact. Its history dates back to 1500 B.C., when the Phoenicians used it as a base for trade. The Portuguese conquered the city in 1471, but John III later decided to abandon it because of an economic crisis in 1549. In 1692, the town was taken by the Moroccans under the leadership of Moulay Ismail. Asilah served then as a base for pirates in the 19th and 20th centuries. From 1912-1956 it was part of Spanish Morocco.

 

Fritz, Glitz, and Spritz in Potsdam, Germany

Story and Photos by Katherine Rodeghier

Prussia’s King Frederick the Great was one conflicted character, and the Germans honor him, especially in Potsdam where his summer palace ranks as the top tourist site.

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Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci is the centerpiece of 800-acre Sanssouci Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Katherine Rodeghier

“Old Fritz” despised women, talked philosophy with Voltaire for hours on end, loved playing his flute and adored his pet dogs so much he was buried with them. On tours of the “Prussian Versailles,” his lifestyle always comes up, says guide Oliver Gondring. Was he gay? Impotent? Or did he simply prefer intellectual pursuits to pleasures of the flesh?

Certainly, he was no wishy-washy monarch. The boy who was afraid of guns became a ruler known for military prowess, expanding his small kingdom into one of the great powers of Europe in the 18th century.

Born 300 years ago, Frederick and his kin remain much alive for visitors to Potsdam, as do the remnants of the Cold War and the city’s current status as the “Hollywood of Germany.”

Don’t miss:

Sanssouci: For such a flamboyant character, Frederick the Great built a rather small summer palace. Just one story, you’ll nevertheless find it filled with rococo excesses of the king’s own design. Women were never allowed here. The rooms of varying décor—Chinese, Italian, French—were for men’s enjoyment only, especially the Marble Hall where a meal with the monarch could last five or six hours. Since Frederick thought religion a mockery, the palace has no chapel—a scandal in his day.

For all its 18 -century gilt and glamour, the most expensive work of art in the palace dates from the 20 century. Look for the portrait of Frederick the Great by Andy Warhol hanging in a small gallery just before you exit.

Sanssouci, French for “without care,” is the centerpiece of 800-acre Sanssouci Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site well worth a stroll. Be sure to tour the New Palace, built from 1763-1769 as a showpiece of more than 200 rooms designed to impress visiting dignitaries. Germany’s last kaiser, Wilhelm II, lived here before abdicating at the end of World War I.

Cold War sites: If you’re a fan of spy novels and tales of international espionage, tour the “Forbidden City.” When the Red Army invaded Potsdam during World War II, the Soviets gave residents of this neighborhood just two hours to clear out before they took over their homes and walled off the neighborhood from outsiders. The KGB moved into a private school for girls that still stands with the KGB prison, now a museum, next door.

The Berlin Wall ran through Potsdam and a critical point in this well-guarded border was the Glienicke Bridge spanning the Havel River. Diplomatic negotiations came to a head here where Americans and Soviets met at a barricade at the center of the bridge to trade spies and political prisoners. Now you can drive or bike across the bridge en route to central Berlin, 15 miles away.

Cecilienhof: The last royal palace built in Germany is an English-Tudor-style residence that was the home of Germany’s crown prince and his wife Cecilie, for whom it is named. Unlike much of central Potsdam, destroyed in the last bombing raid of World War II, the palace survived and became the setting for one of the most important meetings of world powers at the time.

During the Potsdam Conference, Joseph Stalin, Harry Truman and Winston Churchill met to divide up postwar Europe, setting the stage for the beginning of the Cold War. Take a tour inside the palace to see the room where the three sat at a round table for days of give and take. Stalin had the advantage, though. He had Truman’s and Churchill’s villas bugged so he knew what they were up to before negotiations began each day.

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Potsdam is surrounded by water, so a boat tour becomes a pleasant way to see the sights. Photo by Katherine Rodeghier

Bike, bus and boat tours: Potsdamers love to bike and it’s easy to join them. Hotel am Grossen Waisenhaus, like many Potsdam lodgings, rents bikes to guests. You can also rent from Cityrad-Rebhan or Potsdam per Pedales, which also offers organized bike tours. Dedicated bicycle lanes and fairly flat streets make for easy pedaling.

One of the best ways to tour Sanssouci Palace is to hop on a double-decker bus for the Potsdam Sanssouci Tour sponsored by Potsdam Tourism Service. Not only do you skip the long lines at the palace, but the guide gives a private, 45-minute tour of the palace with commentary in English that’s way better than using an audio guide. The 3.5-hour tour also covers other highlights of Potsdam.

You may not realize Potsdam is an island. The Havel River and a chain of lakes surround it, so a palace tour by boat on Weisse Flotte is a leisurely way to see the city from the water. And the bar is open throughout the 1.5-hour cruise.

Dutch Quarter: You’ll find Europe’s largest collection of Dutch-style houses outside Netherlands around four city blocks in central Potsdam. Frederick’s father, the “Soldier King,” encouraged Hollanders to immigrate to Potsdam because they knew how to build on the city’s marshy ground. From 1734 to 1742 some 135 red-brick homes were constructed with characteristic shutters and gables.

Now many of them have been converted to shops, galleries, restaurants and pubs. Try the roast pork with red cabbage or calves’ liver with baked apples at Fliegenden Hollander, the Flying Dutchman, restaurant.