Published in Jungles in Paris
Juan Martin spent his boyhood roaming the Spanish countryside as a goat herder and farmhand. When he was a young man, he met a woman as she was bringing cattle in from the fields and fell in love. Her name was Sinforosa. She lived in La Estrella, a tiny village in Teruel, a harsh and hilly province located midway between Barcelona and Madrid.
Juan Martin courted Sinforosa there. In the evenings, they danced at the town's two remaining taverns. The village had 200 residents, fewer than in former days. People had been trickling out for decades, ever since a flood devastated La Estrella in 1883. The Spanish Civil War, which ended in 1939, had created a new wave of painful departures.
Still, La Estrella had everything a functioning village needed, including a beautiful church and two schools—one for girls, one for boys. Juan Martin and Sinforosa married and settled down. Mostly for economic reasons, the village continued to empty out. The schools shuttered; Juan Martin and Sinforosa's children did not stay. For the last 45 years, these two octogenarians have been the only two residents of La Estrella.
Published in Smithsonian.com
Austria is a country defined by mountains: Well over half of its landscape is shaped by the iconic Alps. A night spent in Innsbruck, the capital city of Tyrol (the state in which Austria’s highest peaks are found), is full of constant reminders of the summits above: crisp mountain air, cool temperatures, the sound of periodic rock fall. Many Austrians spend their weekends and holidays exploring the higher climes. They hike past lush alpine dairy pastures and pristine lakes in the shadow of rocky spires. And at the end of each day, they enjoy a hearty meal, hot shower and night’s rest at a scenic hütte (hut).
There are more than 1,000 hütten scattered through the Eastern Alps, most of which are associated with either the Austrian Alpine Club or German Alpine Club. While a summer hiking in the Austrian Alps might sound like the sort of vacation best suited for serious adventurers, the clubs were founded in 1873 with the mission to make the peaks accessible to all. As Henrich Stenitzer, a prominent club member, wrote in 1912, “The alpine clubs have unlocked the majesty and beauty of the high mountains for the masses, giving countless numbers of people the opportunity, without prohibitively demanding effort…or exorbitant costs, to become acquainted with the Alps.”
Published in Jungles in Paris.
The “Twelve Apostles" of Australia's southern shore push upwards from the surf as though reaching for the heavens. But these dramatic features of the Victoria Coast, some 140 miles southwest of Melbourne, are of course non-living figures, sculpted – and destroyed – by the processes of the sea.
The rock stacks are collectively called the "Twelve Apostles," although there were only nine of them when they got this name. They are made of limestone that is millions of years old, and which was itself formed from petrified dead layers of microscopic marine creatures. In previous geologic eras, these golden towers were part of the terrestrial bluffs behind them. But as the Southern Ocean's Antarctic waves pounded the cliffs over millennia, all but the sturdiest bodies of rock eroded away. The result was these freestanding spires, some of which stand more than 100 feet tall. Other impressive rock structures lie beneath the ocean's surface here. An architectural network of underwater canyons and arches contrasts with the solitary uprightness of the Apostles—and houses abundant fish, crustaceans, and seals.
Though they have endured for millions of years in a marine environment so inhospitable that it is referred to as “Shipwreck Coast," the Apostles are far from invincible. Their number went from nine to eight in 2005, when a fateful wave sent one crumbling into the sea. But these acts of demolition belong to the same process by which future Apostles will be created, as the constant tidal pull causes new pillars to emerge from the shoreline bluffs.
For Jungles in Paris
From the southern jungles to the high plateaus, beneath the blistering desert sun and Himalayan night skies, out of swarming ports and cities and into isolated rural towns, India's trucks plod along the country's roads to deliver the food, clothes, tools, and fuel that keep the country running.
A driver of one of these commercial vehicles might spend as many as ten months a year on the road. Unable to take part in the more stationary life known to his friends and families, he makes his truck his home—often in vibrant, highly personalized fashion. Indian trucks announce their presence on the road in a way unknown in pretty much every other country.
They are, in short, embellished to the max. Silver tassels might hang from the steering wheel, and flower-printed cushions pad the seat. Bright paintings of Hindu, Christian, and Muslim deities hang next to glossy posters of Bollywood stars. Geometric shapes are scrawled all over the exterior, where decals shout messages—“ROAD KING," “NON STOP"—in English and Hindi, red, yellow, blue, green, and orange.