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ex HARALD JARL ::: ex ANDREA ::: SERENISSIMA :::

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    I was ready with my camera to take a photo of the lighthouse from the excursion bus on leaving for a full day excursion to see remains of ancient Carthage.







    Founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, Carthage had become a major sea and trading power and the great rival of Rome for control of the Mediterranean, until the Punic Wars and eventual defeat in 146 BC. I must admit I had always been a bit confused by that word 'Punic', but basically it refers to the Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean in general, whereas Carthaginians were specifically from that city. Moreover the ancient Greeks didn't distinguish between western and eastern Phoenicians, whereas the Romans certainly did once those western Phoenicians from Carthage became such rivals!

    Despite their almost total destruction of Carthage in 146 BC, the Romans did eventually rebuild there, and so developed a major city, before it too was destroyed in later conquests after the fall of the Roman Empire.

    The remains of these periods of Carthage's past that can still be seen lie in various localities in what is today a well-to-do suburb of modern Tunis. We drove past villas and embassies in garden surroundings, stopping first to see the Punic tophet, a grove-like sanctuary and cemetery with numerous stone stelae. There is still controversy about the extent to which the cremated remains of children here were child sacrifices, or whether such reports were Roman propaganda to justify their destruction of the city.

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      Next we reached the place that had been the harbour in Punic times. Today there are just a few fishermen here, but once this was the home port of a great fleet. There were two harbours, mercantile and naval, the latter capable of mooring two hundred ships around a circular artificial island (seen here on the left} and hidden by high walls from the commercial activity.

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        Heading up Byrsa hill we leave the bus near the Cathedral of St Louis, built in the 1890's and now used for cultural purposes.



        But we are here to see the acropolis. There are remains from the Punic period that have been excavated below the terraces on which the Romans subsequently built their forum and capitol.

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            There isn't too much remaining of the Roman ampitheatre, as although it was said to be intact in the early Middle Ages, it was subsequently used as a source of building material. The remains are set back from nearby roads and are surrounded by trees, giving the place an idyllic 'pleasure of ruins' kind of feeling. I liked it a lot.



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              Proximity to the sea results in a different kind of idyllic setting for the best known ruins of Roman Carthage, the Baths of Antonius Pius, within what is now an archaeological park. The scale of the baths and its facilities must have been impressive to say the least. In later times, after the baths were no longer used, the structure collapsed and subsequently became another source of building stone. Only the basement remains.

              The presidential palace is situated next to the site, which should be considered when taking photos here as photography of all kinds of official and government buildings is strictly not allowed in Tunisia.




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                The excursion then continued in a different vein with some free time to look around the vilage of Sidi Bou Said, set on a hill with picturesque white and blue Moorish style buildings. It was well known as a favourite of artists and writers. The lower part of the main street is crowded with souvenir stalls - haggling essential! Many of our group didn't seem to like it, finding it excessively touristy and the stall holders aggressively persistent. But I could happily have spent longer continuing further up the hill, exploring the side streets, and taking photos.

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                  It's probably because my expression can look very unapproachably distant when I'm just around on my own, (something I've always put down to being alone a lot when a child and facial muscles getting set in their ways!), but I wasn't even hassled when obviously taking a photo of these.




                  So many details and motifs captured my attention.





                  A favourite photo, taken in a side street at Sidi Bou Said.
                  Last edited by Seagull; February 12th, 2015, 14:06.

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                    Returning to the buses, we move on and my next (and also a favourite) photo panorama shows the amazing system of cisterns and aqueducts that supplied water for the baths.

                    There will be a chance to have a closer look later, but now the buses have parked nearby and lunch has been arranged for us at a local restaurant.

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                      Lunch was an enjoyable buffet at a modern restaurant complex just across the road from the aqueduct. I am surprised that it doesn't seem to get good reviews on travel social media, but perhaps Noble Caledonia are paying them more per person for group catering than other companies, or are better able to negociate their requirements. I was altogether impressed by NC's arrangements for the full day excursions. Where the location of the morning and afternoon sightseeing leaves one close to many local facilities and the ship, there is the opportunity to eat out independently, as I did in Lipari for example. But where, as in the sightseeing from Trapani and here in Carthage, one is either somewhat 'in the middle of nowhere' or an area with very limited local options, they have managed to research and book a place that can accommodate the entire group. Such meals are all included in the price of the cruise, even including similar drink options that are included on board the ship. (I should also add that anyone not participating in the excursions can be catered for on the ship.)

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                        After lunch there was time to take a closer look at the aqueduct and cisterns. The above photo was taken from the restaurant grounds.

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                          The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Bardo Museum. I can hardly do justice to saying how marvellous this place is, quickly running out of superlatives.

                          The origins of the museum date from the French Protectorate period in the 1880's when palace buildings, originally residences of the Beys of Tunis, were transformed into exhibition halls. With the establishment of the post of Director of the Tunisian Antiquities Service, the museum project evolved and became central to the conservation and exhibition of Tunisian antiquities.By the 1900's, the Alaoui Museum as it was then called had become an institution with a growing number of departments of expertise central to ongoing archaeological work and scholarship. Its increasingly world-wide reputation continued through the 20th century and after independence.



                          Today the Bardo Museum collections on public display are housed in part of the original palace as well as in modern extensions.

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                            Palace architecture



                            The photo on the bottom right is a baptismal font.

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                              The modern building has architecturally striking and spatially innovative exhibition spaces.









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                                This mosaic depicts Odysseus whose has plugged the ears of his crew and tied himself to the mast of his ship so as to protect himself from the lure of the Sirens.




                                A magnificent mosaic depiction of Neptune.

                                I can only give you a glimpse of some personal favoutites and details from the outstanding collection of Roman mosaics.

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