A spotlight on Nicaragua

A spotlight on Nicaragua

The largest country in Central America, Nicaragua has been the scene of dynamic events in recent decades, making headlines around the world for political upheaval and conflict.

As unfortunate events in Nicaragua hit the headlines once again, we’ve pooled together a number of our own resources to help brush up on this nation’s fascinating history.

Hurricane Season

2020 has seen the most active Atlantic Hurricane Season on record.

The season officially started on June 1 and will officially end on November 30, though tropical cyclones can form at any time.

Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast has been hit two major hurricanes this month, making 2020 the only year with two severe storms in the month of November.

Sky News: Hurricane Iota makes landfall in Nicaragua with 155mph winds


Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua and home to over a quarter of the nation’s population. Despite being the nation’s main transport, economic and entertainment hub, the city is not a major tourist destination thanks to years worth of destruction and chaos caused by natural disasters, socioeconomic problems and political unrest and revolution.

More touristic destinations include Granada, The Corn Islands and Matagalpa, along with the many incredible lakes and volcanoes that the country has to offer.

Read: Nicaragua: Locations

A Brief History

Pre-Columbian History

The peoples of the area now known as Nicaragua were largely hunter gatherer and fishing communities, and civilasation was related by culture to mesoamerican civilisations such as the Maya and the Toltec with further influence from the Andean cultures geographically surrounding them.

European Discovery

Perhaps unbelievably, the colonisation of the Americas occurred almost by accident, with the majority of voyages motivated by the desire to seek an alternative route to Asia and its lucrative natural resources.

The first European discovery of what is now Nicaragua was stumbled upon by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage in 1502 where he explored the Atlantic coast, not encountering any indigenous tribes.

It was not until 20 years later when Spanish explorer and conquistador Gil González Dávila arrived that a Nahua tribe was encountered.

Despite discourse and hostility, the Conquistadors began to set up permanent settlements for the Spanish with two principle cities: Granada and Leon – two cities which are widely visited for their colonial history to this day.

Read: Great Explorers: The Americas

The Spanish Empire

Many of the tribes people were displaced and sent to work as slaves in Peru and Panama as the Spanish Empire expanded. Others were killed by the spread of diseases that had both arrived with and been exacerbated by the poor conditions created by the Spanish.

Study Guide: Epidemics Throughout the Ages

Further to this, the Spanish conquerors quickly took indigenous wives and partners resulting in a multi-ethnic mix in just a few short generations; the mix which still makes up most of the population in the west of modern day Nicaragua.

Watch: Empire Builders: The Spanish Empire

Nicaraguan Independence

Once the Spanish Kingdom of Guatemala was dissolved in 1821, Nicaragua became a part of the First Mexican Empire, a monarchy which was overthrown just two short years later. Nicaragua subsequently joined the federal Republic of South America for several years before eventually becoming an independent republic in 1838.

Study Guide: Latin American Independence Movements

Travel Writers: Climbing Concepcion by Shannon Cram

Shannon and her partner Adrian embark on the epic ascent of Concepcion, the larger of the two volcanoes which make up Isla de Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua. Read more…

Fair Trade: Working on a Nicaraguan Coffee Farm

In the early nineties, Nicaragua embraced a new economic model of export-led growth. It increased its production of coffee and deepened its dependence on it, just as other developing countries did the same. The result was a glut of coffee on the market and an almost 50% drop in its world price since 1998. Read more…

Watch: The Story of… Coffee

Watch: The Story of Coffee

Main image: Maisons Coloniales (Granada, Nicaragua), Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Flickr Creative Commons

Remembrance, Veterans and Armistice Day 2020

Remembrance, Veterans and Armistice Day 2020
November 11, 2020

Remembrance Day, as it is known in the Commonwealth, and Veterans Day, as it is known in the Americas, is celebrated every November 11.

Remembrance Day has its roots in the Armistice signed at the end of WWI, becoming immortalized as the day the Great War ended. However, the Armistice – agreement to ceasefire on both sides – which was signed on 11 Novermber 1918, did not formally become the end of the war until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919. The ceasefire did however last for the full duration between the armistice and the peace treaty being signed.

Study Guide: What Caused World War I

Following the outbreak of WWII, the Commonwealth nations decided to change the name from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day to honour all the fallen and not just those of WWI.

During WWII and in the many wars that would follow, including the Vietnam war, the Gulf war, Afghanistan and Iraq, millions more would perish as servicemen from all around the world fought for their countries.

Hence, Remembrance and Veterans Day celebrate the bravery of these service personnel, both fallen and returned heroes, and gives thanks and recognition for the service that they have given.

Large celebrations and commemorations often take place, including ‘Remembrance Sunday’ across the Commonwealth, the Sunday closest to the 11th of November, where crowds gather to mark their respect with a 2 minute display of silence, and Veterans festivals in the US such as the celebrations we visited in San Diego.

2020 has marked other important war anniversaries, most notably the end of WWII in Europe and the Pacific, and the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp 75 years ago, and the beginning of the reunification of Vietnam 45 years ago following the end of the Vietnam war.

Watch FREE: Grass Roots – Veterans Day in San Diego

Grass Roots – Veterans Day in San Diego

Main image: World War I Cemetery in The Somme Valley, Pilot Productions.

It’s all eyes on America

It's all eyes on America

It’s been all eyes on the US this week for election-mania!

In the moments that we’ve not been following this year’s monumental race, we’ve been brushing up on our history and knowledge, and all the reasons we love the land of the free.

That’s why we’ve made some of our most popular America shows half price for you to enjoy this month, including the American Empire show from our bestselling series Empire Builders!

Shop Now: Half Price November

Empire Builders – The American Empire

Trailer: Empire Builders – The American Empire

From the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, through to tech solutions of Silicon Valley, America has shaped the world we live in – all the while shaping its own identity through the iconic buildings and structures that chart the nation’s history.

Through bustling ports and strategic forts, cultural quirks and cathedrals of commerce, this episode of Empire Builders tells the the incredible story of the United States through 12 key historic sites.

Our story starts in the humble surrounds of a meeting hall in Philadelphia, with the ‘Thirteen Colonies’ declaring independence from the United Kingdom. And nearby , in Washington D.C., stands the Washington Monument, a tribute to iconic father of the nation and city founder. It was completed almost a century after it was originally commissioned, the huge obelisk a testament to character of man it celebrates.

Shop Now: Half Price November

No geographical entity was more important to the spread of America westwards than the Mississippi River. President Jefferson sought to ensure passage through the purchase of the historic Port of New Orleans at the river’s mouth. He could never have dreamed the outcome; with the eventual ‘Louisiana Purchase’ being described as the greatest land deal in history, almost doubling the size of the United States over night.

Andrew Jackson’s bold and controversial capture of the perfectly preserved Spanish Fort Barrancas at Pensacola culminated in the transfer of Spanish Florida to the United States. Perhaps even more significantly, it resulted in the Spaniards ceding claims over ‘New Spain’, emboldening American progress to the west and propelling Jackson toward the Presidency.

In the story of America’s conquest of west, no chapter burns more brightly in the American conscious than the Battle of the Alamo, with Davy Crockett’s legendary last stand confirming the small Spanish mission’s place in history. It led ultimately to Texas joining the United States and, after victory in the Spanish American War in 1848, the size of the country almost doubling.

With the continent settled, it was soon to be linked by the fantastically ambitious Transcontinental Railroad. The grand project required a grand terminus, with the Vanderbilt family commissioning a fittingly advanced and opulent departure point: ‘Grand Central Terminus’ became the gateway to the nation.

With the nation mobilised, it industrialised at an unprecedented rate. Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Mill was a game changer, dwarfing anything that industry had witnessed. It remained the largest steel producing plant on the planet for the best part of a century.

Fast becoming the most powerful nation on earth, the United States now expanded its strategic and military horizons beyond its borders, taking over the Kingdom of Hawaii followed by the Philippines, Puerto Rico and parts of Cuba following the Spanish American War of 1898. Then the huge Panama Canal project made transit of ships between the American continents possible for the first time.

Economic success meant boom time in the city; and nowhere was this more evident than New York City. Tycoons set about building great monuments to their success, the greatest of all them all was the Empire State Building.

The Hollywood Sign hailed success of different kind on the west coast – the eyes of the world now fell on America as it exported movies around the globe. But the symbol that would go on to define this new industry actually started life as a real estate advertisement hoarding.

After success in WWII, the Cold War raged, but with the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States became the world’s only superpower. Meanwhile, America had  looked to the next frontier: space exploration. The colossal Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas would become the Johnson Space Center – Mission Control for the Apollo and Space Shuttle expeditions.

Crowning America’s technological dominance is Silicon Valley. Apple’s gargantuan new HQ was based on an idea of the late Steve Jobs, and raises the bar for contemporary design standards everywhere. Constructed costs were eye-wateringly expensive, but it is affectionately nicknamed the Spaceship.

Main image: Jefferson Monument, Washington DC, Pilot Productions

Ethiopia: Destination of the Month

Ethiopia: Destination of the Month

Quite simply, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most unique and spectacular countries.

Considered the cradle of humanity, as the location of the earliest found human remains, Ethiopia’s culture and history is as rich as it is extensive. It is a land of fascinating history and thriving culture, best epitomised through its distinctive and delicious cuisine and versatile and unique music.

These cultural and historical riches are complimented by astounding natural beauty. Ethiopia is a far cry from the arid desert state many believe it to be. The land-locked country is home to jaw-dropping mountain ranges, vast lakes and lush greenery, populated by a vast number of flora and fauna endemic only to Ethiopia.

Destination Guide: Ethiopia

Tough Trucks: Ethiopia

Join Zay Harding as he travels by truck across the equally tough and most spectacular cities and lanscapes of Ethiopia.

Read more on our episode page

The Ethiopian Diaspora

The Ethiopian diaspora, despite the long and extensive history of the country, is relatively small and confined to certain countries. With a total population of 107 million, less than 1 million live overseas. The largest diaspora community is in the United States (460,000), followed by Israel (130,000), Lebanon (110,000), Saudi Arabia (90,000), Italy (30,000) and the United Kingdom (20,000).

Learn more with our Study Guide

The Discovery of Coffee

Join coffee roaster and social entrepreneur, Dean Cycon and Judith Jones, as they unravel the secrets behind Coffee: The Drink that Changed America.

Dean and Judith chart the discovery of the bean in Ethiopia more than a thousand years ago, its journey into Arabia where it became a drink favoured among Moslems, and then to the growing number of coffee houses in the Ottoman Empire.

Brought to Europe by the Venetians, coffee houses sprung up in major continental cities throughout the 17th century, around the same time coffee made its way across the Atlantic to America.

After the Boston Tea Party, coffee replaced tea as America’s favorite hot beverage and became an essential ration for soldiers in the civil, first and second world wars. It went on to be established as the national staple drink served at the iconic American eatery, the Diner.

While the Italians invented the culture of drinking espresso, it was an American who invented instant coffee, and when American entrepreneurs brought espresso back from Europe, it was the catalyst for an artisanal coffee revolution exported around the globe.

Read more on our episode page

Wild Goats and Dancing Dervishes: The Evolution of Coffee from Ethiopia

Ethiopia is Africa’s major coffee exporter, exporting only Arabica coffee, the species that accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee. The country produces 200,000 tons, of which a little less than half is for domestic consumption. The Ethiopian Coffee Export Enterprise is responsible for the livelihood of 12 million people, which controls 50% of Ethiopia’s coffee market. Its processing plants are found in Addis Ababa (where five plants process up to 500 tons a day) and in Dire Dawa. This figurehead company sells to Germany, Japan, the USA, France, and the Middle East – specializing in unblended and organic coffee.

Learn more with our article

Where next? Travel beyond the COVID-Zone

Where next? Travel beyond the COVID-Zone

Leaving aside the all-consuming question of when, we’ve been thinking about all of the places that we just can’t wait to travel to.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of Europe’s most unique cities, Amsterdam is known for its relaxed, liberal atmosphere, beautiful historic canals and its love of cycling. With a wealth of diverse, rich museums, lush green parks and thriving nightlife, Amsterdam is one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the world, accommodating to a variety of different tastes. There really is something for everybody here.

Made it onto the world’s most welcoming cities list, and the top cities for millennials to live list

Top 10 Things To See & Do In Amsterdam

Beijing, China

China’s capital is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich, extensive history stretching back over three millennia. This history is exemplified by the plethora of physical relics, which convey a rich portrait of the city’s long, illustrious history. However, Beijing is not just a blast from China’s past but a thriving, massive modern city. The ancient and the ultra-modern sit side by side in one of the most world’s most culturally and historically rich cities.

The Top 10 Things to See & Do In Beijing

Watch: Pocket Guides – Beijing

Athens, Greece

One of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is also one of the most culturally and historically rich. The birthplace of democracy and by extension Western Civilization, Athen’s evolution has been critical to the culture of the world around it, and it remains a more vital destination than ever. In addition to the unparalleled wealth of ancient treasures it still houses, the city has emerged as one of Europe’s premier modern cultural destinations.

Study Guide: Ancient Greece

Read: Athenian Civilisation and Ancient Greece

Read: A Pocket Guide To Athens

Read: Top 10 Things To See & Do In Athens

Read: The Food of Greece

Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City is the biggest and most densely populated city in the whole of the Americas, its vast size matched by its rich cultural and historical identity. A bustling cosmopolitan city, Mexico City is a thriving centre for contemporary culture and the site of several breathtaking historical sites.

Read: Top 10 Things To See & Do In Mexico City

Watch: Pocket Guides – Mexico City

Watch: Empire Builders – The Maya

Watch: Bazaar – Mexico City

Sumatra, Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s most beautiful islands, Sumatra is known for its jaw-dropping natural landscapes and diverse range of wildlife. With many of the endemic species under threat due to deforestation and natural disasters, the island is definitely worth a visit to glimpse some of the world’s rarest creatures while you still can.

Being the coffee obsessives that we are, we’re very keen to drink some of the highly sought after Sumatra speciality crop. In fact, the highest rated coffees in the whole of Indonesia come from northern Sumatra where the Gayo Mountain, Lintong, and Mandheling coffees take top prizes as among the best in the world.

Read: Top 5 Things To See & Do In Sumatra

Read: Southeast Asian Coffee

Study Guide: A Global Guide To Coffee Tasting

Watch: The Story of… Coffee

Cuzco, Peru

The historical capital of Peru and the Incan Empire, Cuzco is the country’s most historically and culturally rich city, which has cemented its status as one of the country’s premier tourist destinations. With both Incan and Spanish Colonial relics adorning the city, Cuzco is a must-see destination for those travelling to Peru.

Read: The Top 10 Things To See & Do In Cuzco

Study Guide: Inca Empire

DVD: Around The World – Conquistadors, Aztecs & Incas

Watch: Bazaar – Peru


Algeria has blossomed, since its independence in 1962, into a must-see travel destination that is ripe with ancient culture, classical history and genial hospitality.

Series (coming soon): Hidden Algeria

Read: Visiting the Middle East: Customs & Culture

Read: North Africa’s Natives: The Berbers

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
October 13, 2020

Cruise Ships dismantled for scrap metal

A number of disused cruise ships are being dismantled and sold for their scrap metal value following the disastrous impact of the coronavirus on the cruise ship industry.

The ships are being stripped down at a ship-breakers yards, the Aliaga Ship Recycling Facility, in Turkey.

Machu Picchu opened up for one lone tourist

Peru has opened the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu for a single Japanese tourist who had been waiting for almost seven months to visit the world heritage site.

Jesse Katayama was due to visit Machu Picchu in March before it was closed due to coronavirus. He went into lockdown with the rest of the nation, finding himself stranded.

Mr Katayama submitted a request to the ministry of culture and was granted special access to see the World Heritage Site before his return journey to Japan.

The ancient Inca citadel – Peru’s top tourist attraction – is expected to re-open next month, although no exact date has been given.

Jesse Katamaya’s Instagram

Lunch at Singapore Airlines, anyone?

Another quirky initiative by an airline has grabbed headlines this week, with Singapore’s national carrier offering lunch on a plane without a flight.

Diners, travel lovers and aviation enthusiasts have purchased tickets priced between $40 and $500, with every available seat selling out.

The airline is also offering home delivery of its meals, which also includes the airline’s tableware and amenity kits.

Phobic Traveller: The Next Chapter for Air Travel

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • World Health Organization director-general has warned against allowing coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity, saying the idea is “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
  • Texas has overtaken California as the state with the second highest Coronavirus death toll, after New York.
  • Trump returns to campaign trail less than 2 weeks after positive Coronavirus test. On Sunday, 11 days post positive test, Trump’s doctor said he was no longer a COVID transmission risk to others and said later on Monday that his most recent tests had all come back negative.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Machu Picchu, Pilot Productions ©

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
October 6, 2020

President Trump and First Lady contract coronavirus

U.S President Donald Trump tested positive for the COVID-19 on Thursday sparking widespread alarm and concern for his health. The President, who has previously expressed skepticism of the coronavirus, spent three nights in hospital receiving treatment before quickly reappearing to put on a strong face for the American public.

The president himself has expressed in a number of statements that he is feeling better. With the presidential election looming, he has made it clear that the show must go on.

Aside from the condition of his health, a number of people have criticised the President for maintaining a busy schedule whilst remaining potentially contagious to others.

Other world leaders who previously contracted the virus include Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro and the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Air pollution in New Delhi expected to worsen COVID-19

India’s capital is bracing itself for its annual ‘air pollution season’ where officials expect the poor air quality and other pollution related health issues to exacerbate the already serious coronavirus health crisis.

The air quality in New Delhi drastically deteriorates between October and December — to levels which are often considered ‘hazardous’ — due to various factors including stubble burning after the harvest, vehicle pollution, cold weather and post-monsoon low atmospheric pressure.

Cycling is still wheelie popular in Europe

A combination of a summer of fantastic weather, the desire to avoid public transport, and err… the pandemic… have proved the perfect series of events for the cycling industry.

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • Paris has once again closed bars and restaurants as officials raise their coronavirus alert level to maximum.
  • Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to introduce COVID-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for its cabin crew and pilots.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Donald Trump, Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

WWII Battle of Crete Nominated for Award!

WWII Battle of Crete Nominated for Award!

We are very pleased to announce that following the very positive reception of our show Ultimate Blitzkrieg: The WW2 Battle of Crete, the 3-part series has now been nominated for the prestigious award of Best Documentary/Factual Program by the Australian Academy for Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA).

The show, which was released in May of this year, was written, produced, directed and narrated by our very own Ian Cross!

The nomination comes following high praise from both Foxtel and the Weekend Australian Magazine, too!

Check out the series page for the show, the DVD, and our episodes On Demand below!

Episode 1: Invasion
Episode 2: Evacuation
Episode 3: Occupation

By Sofi Summers

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
September 30, 2020

Global deaths surpass 1 million

The report of the millionth death arrived on Tuesday, just short of 10 months since the first confirmed death in January. The current confirmed number of cases currently stands at over 33 million. Here are the top 5 nations with the highest number of deaths

PositionCountryTotal CasesTotal Deaths
Source: Worldometers, midday (BST) 30 September

Disney to cut 28,000 jobs at theme parks

Walt Disney has announced that it will be cutting 28,000 jobs from its theme parks, mostly in the United States.

The decision comes in reaction to the new limited visitor capacity at the parks, and ongoing uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic will last.

Disney lost $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in the three months to 27 June.

Disney’s parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris are not affected by the announcement. Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the parks unit, said the company’s problems in the US were “exacerbated in California by the state’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”

60 million Indians may have had the coronavirus, pandemic agency suggests

According to official data, India is the world’s second most infected nation, with more than 6.2 million cases. Officially, nearly 100,000 Indians have died due to COVID-19, though the country’s leading pandemic agency suggest that the real number is likely significantly higher.

Citing an antibody study which was run to determine the proportion of the population have had the virus, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggested that the figure is more likely closer to 1 in 15 Indians (aged over 10), placing the number at around 60 million, which is 10 times the official number.

Other Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • German Chancellor has urged Germans to “continue acting patiently” in the fight against the Coronavirus. She has this week begun to reimpose restrictions on the number of people who can meet following a number of outbreaks at larger gatherings.
  • Despite concerns for the future of office space across London, Morgan Stanley has decided to move to a new, bigger space in England’s capital. It is thought that currently only 1/3 of London’s workers are travelling to the office each day.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Disney, qin linlin, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
September 24, 2020

New restrictions for British public

The UK government has this week announced a new curfew on hospitality venues whereby they must close at 10pm. This new rule follows restrictions placed last week on the size of gathering, reducing the maximum number allowed in a group to six.

According to reports, police call handlers have been experiencing a very high volume of six-people violation reports. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also stated that he is considering using the armed forces to support the police in enforcing new restrictions.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, pubs serving alcohol without food have been allowed to reopen for the first time since March.

Quantas sightseeing flight sells out in record time

It’s nice to share some positive aviation news this week after such a tough year.

Phobic Traveller: Getting Aviation Off The Ground

For a bit of novelty and fun for some, Australian flag carrier airline Quantas cunningly put on a flight which departs and arrives at Sydney and completes a 7 hour round trip of some of Australia’s most naturally stunning sights – from the sky!

The so-called Great Southern Land flight sold out in just 10 minutes, with ticket prices ranging from $787 for economy seats to $3,787 for business class seats (AUD).

Travel within Australia is largely prohibited at the moment, meaning that many have not been able to see the multiple incredible sights that the nation has to offer. The due to its sky-high nature, the flight circumvents the border restrictions and will allow those who choose the opportunity to appreciate the views!

Due to the popularity of the flight, Quantas have suggested that they might run more similar events.

A very quiet Taj Mahal

The world witnessed scenes of a very quiet Taj Mahal this week after it reopened for the first time since March. The absence of foreign visitors made for a very eerie atmosphere in a venue which welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors in 2018!

More Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • More than 600 students of Glasgow University have been told to self-isolate after 124 have tested positive
  • A handful of Dutch celebrities have been heavily criticised in the Netherlands after publicly announcing they were abandoning efforts to combat COVID-19.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: The De Beauvoir Arms, De Beauvoir Town, London. Ewan Munro, Flickr Creative Commons