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It has been a couple years since I lived in Cincinnati, but it still remains one of my favorite all-time American cities.  I wanted to post this while I was living there, but I never got around to it.  So, now I am coming back to things I always wanted to do.

The city of Cincinnati has many hills, and once had several inclines to transport people to the top of the hills.  They are all gone now, but they still exist in memories.  In fact, if you take a hike through the woods where the inclines once stood, you can still see some of the old piers that once held the track.  This was two years ago:  maybe things have changed now since I’ve left.  I don’t know.

But I’d like to share with you the pictures I took on the days that I went exploring the woods where the funiculars once stood to see what remnants of old history I could find.

Bellevue Incline

   

   

   

   

Price Hill Incline

     

Mt. Adams Incline

   

   

 

The Longmen Grottoes

Found in the Henan Province in China, the most rural part of the country, the Longmen Grottoes are declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of China’s 38.  The largest sculpture carved out of the stone sits at 56.23 feet tall, and is a statue of the Vairocana Buddha, considered to be the highest and most trancendental buddha in the Kegon school.

Overall, the Longmen Grottoes contain more than 100,000 statues situated among 2100 “niches”, or small caves.  These caves were originally carved during the reign of the Northern Wei Dynasty, beginning in AD 493, when Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to the nearby city of Luoyang.  They were built by monks and craftsmen as part of a tradition the Northern Wei Dynasty had for building stone temples (as seen at the Yungang Grottoes, constructed earlier), as a way to pay tribute to various emperors and Buddhist deities.

Each cave appears to tell a separate story.  The Middle Binyang Cave, one of a series of three caves whose construction lasted 24 years, contains statues which the Emperor Xuanwu built to release the souls of his parents from purgatory.  The Yaofang Cave, built beginning in AD 520 during the late years of the reign of Emperor Xiaoming, contains 30 statues and was not completed until the reign of Emperor Wenxuan of the Northern Qi Dynasty, 500 years later.  The Wanfo Cave, built during the Tang Dynasty, contains 15,000 sitting statues of bodhisattva Maitreya, and was built because the Empress Wu Zetian believed she was Maitreya reincarnated from heaven.

The tradition continued into the Tang Dynasty, not halting until 705 AD.

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Do you think you’ve really seen all there is to see in the city or town that you live in?  For instance, if you’re living in Washington, you could say that it bores you because you are already familiar with every museum at the smithsonian, and the exhibits are all the same every time you go there.

I discovered a website that allows you to take a different look at your city through taking what I call a “subject trip”.  By doing so, you might discover new features and interesting tidbits about your city or town that you never thought existed before.

Go to the website http://www.waymarking.com and click on the “categories” tab in the upper right hand corner of the page.  It will present you with a list of vague categories to choose from, such as “Signs” or “History/Culture”.   Click on your subject of interest for the day, and it will bring you to a list of more specific subjects based on the category you chose.

As an example, if you click on “Signs” and then “Border Crossings”, the website will present images based around state and country borders.  You will see signs such as “Welcome to Arkansas” and the US/Mexican border at Laredo, Texas.

To find border crossings specific to your city/region, type your zip code or address into the window at the top of the page where it says “Filter:  All Waymarks”.  Now naturally for the Washington, DC area, State of Maryland signs seen on the side of the highway are not that exciting to the common sight-seer.  But this is the beauty of waymarking.com.  You might type in a subject that pertains more to your liking, and actually find something that you never thought you would have seen before.

My personal favorite categories so far are “used bookstores” and “roadside america”.  Not only can I appreciate the used bookstores themselves for what they contain, such as that rare find of a free Life Magazine from the 1960’s showing Richard Nixon’s inauguration, but I can also appreciate each store’s unique interior layout and exterior facade as well.  And I don’t even have to have been there:  someone else has managed to take a picture of their local bookstore in San Diego, California, and placed it online for me out of the goodness of their own heart.

One more thing:  if you don’t see a Waymarking category there of a subject that interests you, you can create it yourself.  And if you only have 2 or 3 pictures of that category to share, don’t worry, because that is the beauty of Waymarking.com:  other people can contribute to your category.  Over a small period of time, the category you create could become a true collaborative effort that is an effective piece of research/fun/learning for many others out there in internet-land.

It is commonly known that Cincinnati once had a series of several inclines to raise people from the main basin up to the top of the city’s many hills.  As a matter of fact, a new “Images of America” book just came out about these inclines.  But what is less commonly known is that the city once had a series of cable cars that helped boost people up the steep streets that were closer to the main basin.  Although San Francisco remains one of the only cities that still operates cable cars (and for nostalgic reasons only), three of the buildings can still be seen.   Unfortunately I was never able to shoot pictures of them myself, because I simply just ran out of time, as I had so many other things on my list that I wanted to accomplish before my lease expired.  But here are some pictures of the cable houses I found myself on the internet that still stand today (believe it or not – they were built in the late 1800’s!):

Old cable car house on Gilbert Avenue at Sinton Avenue in Walnut Hills

Old cable car house on Gilbert Avenue at Sinton Avenue in Walnut Hills, looking northwest. This building was the main cable pulling house for the Mt. Adams & Eden Park Railway. It operated cable cars from 1885 to 1898. Also note the buried tracks in the foreground, pointing towards the building.  Text stolen from Cincinnati Traction History.  http://homepage.mac.com/jjakucyk/Transit1/carbarns/large-52.html.


Old cable car house on Gilbert Avenue at Sinton Avenue in Walnut Hills

Old cable car house on Gilbert Avenue at Sinton Avenue in Walnut Hills, looking northwest.  Text stolen from Cincinnati Traction History.  http://homepage.mac.com/jjakucyk/Transit1/carbarns/large-53.html

Cable car barn at the corner of Highland and Dorchester Avenues in Mt. Auburn

Cable car barn at the corner of Highland and Dorchester Avenues in Mt. Auburn, looking northwest. The stone section is from the original carbarn that burned down in 1892. The brick parts were built after the fire. This building was used by the Mt. Auburn Cable Railway, which operated cable cars along Highland Avenue to downtown from 1887 to 1902.  Text stolen from Cincinnati Traction Historyhttp://homepage.mac.com/jjakucyk/Transit1/carbarns/large-54.html.

So, in Cincinnati there was a serious progression of transportation.  You first had the horse-drawn trolleys, then the cable cars, then the streetcars and the cable cars connected to the street cars, the inter-urbans, and then the automobile.  Please shoot me if I’ve missed one or got the chronology incorrect.  Anyway, here is a link to some of the “car-barns” which once were shops that provided maintenance for the streetcars.  These still stand as well, and I find this quite fascinating.  Do you as well?

Cincinnati Carbarns and Shops that Still Exist

More on Funiculars

The funiculars (inclines) of Cincinnati may be gone by now, but their legend lives on in many ways.  For those who don’t know (or are curious at all), the city of Cincinnati consists of 5 hills.   In the late 1800’s, as a way to expand the city, a series of inclines were constructed that allowed streetcars and pedestrians to be transported to the tops of these hills.  These hills are now known as Mt. Adams, Price Hill, Mt. Auburn, Bellevue, and Fairview.

How does the legend live one?  Well, for starters, you could go look at ruins of the piers that the tracks once stood on.  But, you could also go up Hill Street in Mt. Adams, where one of the properties has a miniature funicular of its own!  The property is called “The Rookery”, and as its street name suggests, the property sits atop a big hill.  There are steps that lead up to the entrance of the property, but they are very long and could become quite tedious when carrying groceries and things like that.

As a result, the owner installed what is titled “The Hillavator”.   Installed in 1962, the owner Neil Bortz discovered while in San Francisco what looked like a “phone booth on tracks”.  He found the name of the company that manufactured these unique systems and had one of his own installed.

As far as I know, there are only a few other Hillavators  like this in the world.  The Shadowbrook Restaurant in Santa Cruz County is another place with a Hill-a-Vator, and they had theirs built in 1958.  This leads me to believe that the same company built both of these, and that they when they went out of business, there were no more to be made.

However, some people still make their own!  Here is a link showing off one of these gems:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jNwK68F8ps

Here are some links showing the Hill-a-Vator at the Shadowbrook:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pamtxXT2u0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JnBWKCSw9w

Here are some pictures showing off the Hill-A-Vator in Mt. Adams:

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Albino Squirrel

Evidently these guys are not too common.  I’ve never seen one until this time, anyway.  This shot was taken in Eden Park, close to my house in Cincinnati.  He was a little timid, so this was as close in as I could get.

Albino Squirrel in Tree

Albino Squirrel in Tree

Albino Squirrel on Ground

Albino Squirrel on Ground

I love squirrels…

Underground Town

The town is called Coober Peddy, and is located in the Outback in Australia.  The area’s claim to fame is the series of old Opal mines, which make up tunnels that not only can be toured, but can also be lived in! 

From Wikipedia:  The harsh summer desert temperatures mean that many residents prefer to live in caves bored into the hillsides. A standard three-bedroom cave home with lounge, kitchen, and bathroom can be excavated out of the rock in the hillside for a similar price to a house on the surface. It remains at a constant temperature, whereas surface living needs air-conditioning, especially during the summer months, when temperatures often exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

The local golf course – mostly played at night with glowing balls, to avoid daytime temperatures – is completely free of grass and golfers take a small piece of “turf” around to use for teeing off.

Inside these opal mines can not only be found comfortable housing, but bookstores, churches, and a Comfort Inn as well!