Martian clock and calendar - Festivals and holidays - When to go - Visas - Getting around - What to bring - Language
What to see and do - Cities: Sheffield - Cairo - Nicosia - Odessa - Sabishii - Mangala - Dorsa Brevia - Christianopolis - Acheron
Historic sites: Ares fjord - Burroughs - Underhill - Zygote and Gamete
Moholes - Craters - Sports - Feral trekking - Beaches
Dangers and Annoyancies - Other Guidebooks
The following information was copied with permission from "Mars on a Wristpad", published by Not Lonely Anymore Publications in Melbourne, Australia, Earth (25th edition, 2219)
Martian clock and calendar
A day on Mars is only 37 minutes longer than one on Earth, hardly enough time to eat a decent meal, but many people claim they do notice the difference. Martian hours, minutes and seconds have the same length as the ones you're used to; The difference is all in the "timeslip", after "midnight" all clocks stand still for 37 minutes.
An M-year has 669 days, except for the leap years (ending with 0, 2, 5 and 7) that skip First February 28. There are 24 months, each of them counting 28 days, except for every eight month which is one day shorter. Nobody every came up with a satisfying naming system for these months, and so people still talk about "first" and "second". A typical Martian appointment therefore could be on Second March 5th, during the timeslip...
Festivals and holidays
A Martian year is long, so almost any major historic event has become a reason for a planetary holiday: Viking Day, Pathfinder Day, John Boone's Day, Independence Day, Constitution Day, Arkady Bogdanov's Birthday. New Years's Eve is celebrated with unparalelled intensity. Probably the most well-known Martian festival is the one on Olympus Mons. It was originally organized by John Boone to celebrate the end of the Great Dust Storm; although the main festival is held on the slopes of the mountain itself, there are smaller festivities all over the planet. Those who lost their lives during the first and second revolution, under the UNTA regime and in the troubles between the Greens and Reds are commemorated on Lost Millennium Day.
The 1998 foundation of the Mars Society is celebrated every First August 15. The Society itself still exists and has its headquarters in Port Zubrin on the Elysian Westcoast. Now that its goals have been achieved it mainly engages in documenting the planet's turbulent recent history.
Festivals of older origin usually stick to their Terran schedule. Christmas, as a result, is celebrated twice in most M-years, so if you're in for a white X-mas, make sure you pick the right one. Martians seem to eagerly take every opportunity to light some candles and let off some fireworks on their relatively dusky planet, so the Hindu festival of Diwali is widely celebrated too, also outside of Indian communities. Martian muslims usually observe the fast during Ramadan; the rest of the planet joins in the afterparty.
When to go
The tourist traffic between Earth and Mars reaches it's peak every two earth-years when the two planets are so close to each other that the distance can be bridged in a little bit over a day. Even though the short travel time looks attractive, it's wise to avoid these periods as prices of accomodation, transport, food or actually almost anything on Mars rise tremendously.
It's wise to make a little study of the climate before you go.The planet may have been terraformed, but large parts of it can still be very cold during winter, whereas on the other hand some areas can be stunningly hot in some periods. In general the southern hemisphere has the most extreme climate: very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter; the best monts for a visit are the Marches, Aprils, Septembers and Octobers. In the polar area however travel is only possible from the Novembers thru the Februaries. The northern hemisphere is more moderate and can be visited the whole year round but from the Mays thru the Septembers the climate is at it's most enjoyable.
Since the so-called "third revolution" (2212) the immigration policy of the Martian government has become a lot more relaxed and also getting a tourist visa is a lot easier than it used to be in the past. Tourist visas are issued by Martian embassies, to be found in most countries on Earth and many other places in the solar system. They're valid for three M-months, with a possible extension of another three months. Young people under 65 can get working visas for longer periods. Special permits are required to visit the calderas of the four big vulcanoes, Argyre and some other areas.
Many of the big towns and cities are linked through the network of the Martian Rail Coop, most of which was already set up in the twenty-first century. A major hub is Lybia Station, where the line from Tharsis to Elysium meets the piste to and around Hellas. As many population centers are located on the North Sea coast, around Hellas or along the Grand Canal, boats are a popular means of transport in these regions, though somewhat unreliable because of the unpredictable weather. When you're in a hurry there is nothing better than the plane. In more remote regions you could try to hitch-hike or use your legs. Renting a jeep, or even a blimp is another option.
What to bring
"Travel light" is the advice that can be given to backpackers to almost any destination on Earth, but for Mars it's a little more complicated. With a gravity of just over one third of what you're used to, you could easily carry a backpack that back home would weigh 40 kilo's. Adventure stores usually have a broad choice of huge Martian backpacks, their spacious design taking advantage of this fact. The problem is: how do you get such a load from your home to the space elevator? The answer is: take only the stuff you need during the space trip and buy the rest on Mars. Except for some remote regions anything you need can be bought there, often for considarably lower prices.
English has always been the lingua franca on Mars, like it was on Earth in the beginning of the 21st century, when the first hundred arrived. Locally a great many other tongues are spoken, the most important being Hindi, Mandarin, Indonesian, Japanese and Spanish. You may have some problems understanding the native Martians' version of English. During two centuries a lot of influences, especially from Russian and Japanese, have created a characteristic dialect, with a lot of borrowed words and expressions. Issei, nissei, yonsei and sansei, for exemple, refer to the first, second, third and fourth generations of Martians.
What to see and do
Most of the big tour groups have a kind of standard itinarary: Glassbanks, South-Elysium and Cydonia (location of the infamous "face", and the biggest tourist trap of our century). As a result many other highlights of the planet are relatively unspoilt by mass tourism.
Sheffield proudly calls itself "Cradle of the Constitution - Gateway to Mars", but the actual place of the 2128 congress is a few miles northeast in East Pavonis, and many of the organized tourist groups bypass the city altogether, heading directly for the spaceports in Glassbanks or Cydonia. The city has a lot to offer however; it has been a tented city for almost twohundred years now and as such has been an example for many other climatized urban environments from later periods. Sheffield is also a place where some neighbourhoods still have a very strong ethnic identity: Chinatent, Little Africa, Hindipuram and Kampung Marikh certainly justify another nickname: "the fourth planet's food capital".
Cairo, built on the edge of a plateau overlooking Noctis Labyrinthus, is an important Tharsis crossroads. With still a large arab community, it's the best place on Mars to get a kebab or kouskous. Check out the famous "medina" for exotic products from all over the Solar System and beyond.
Nicosia ironically owes much of it's fame to the fact that John Boone was killed here in 2053. The John Boone Museum has a good exposition about his life and about the many theories concerning his assassination. The medina isn't as famous as the one in Cairo, but it's a good alternative for those who feel that one lost too much of it's authenticity.
Odessa is beautifully located on the northern Hellas shore. Although winters can still be a little bit cold the city definitely has a mediterranean atmosphere. This is the most likely place to bump into one of the very few remaining first hundred, as most of them chose their residence here over the last few decades.
Sabishii has always been the most important university town on Mars, which may be the reason that the town is blessed with a flourishing nightlife. As a contrast it's also a good place to do meditation courses and other spiritual investigations, as it's the center of Martian buddhism. A few miles east of the town you'll find the famous 520 metres long reclining buddha, the biggest in and probably also outside of the known universe. If you're lucky you may be able to attend a lecture by Russell or even Clayborne at Sabishii University.
Mangala, located on Chalmers Bay on the zero meridian, was chosen as the location of the Martian government and other institutions after the independence in 2127. Due to the non-centralist character of the Martian constitution it lacks the monumentality of other planned capitals like Brasilia and Washington DC, but it's a friendly place that's certainly worth a visit. Main points of interest are the Central Assembly Hall, the Viriditas Monument and the John Boone Memorial, all located around Taneev Square. Mangala is also a good place to check out the many townships that regularly call here.
Dorsa Brevia was founded during the late 21st century in a huge lava tunnel in the highlands south of Hellas. In 2104 it was host to the historic conference of the underground and demi-monde. Although the necessity to live in an underground habitat disappeared with independence and the coming of a breathable atmosphere there's still a flourishing community, living in what's more like a chain of villages rather than a town.
Christianopolis was an important stronghold of the demi-monde before independence. It's a friendly easy-going place, although believers in the trinity of sex, drugs and rock'n roll may find it a bit boring. St-John's Cathedral is, of course, the biggest and most beautiful church on Mars.
Acheron is the place where in the 2040's the longevity treatment was developed. It's setting is magnificent: the town is partly excavated from a 15 kilometres long fin of rock, partly built on top of it. Except for the "Longevity Land" theme park however there's not really a lot of things to do, but its a good starting point for treks in the foothills of Olympus Mons
Ares fjord is the place where in 1997 the Pathfinder and it's rover Sojourner triggered a new era of Mars exploration. The actual landing site is now under water but the two vehicles have been relocated to the nearest shore, together with Yogi, Barnacle Bill and those other ancient heroes (see photo)
Burroughs is another place of interest that has disappeared beneath the North Sea, but it's become a lot easier to visit the famous old capital, since some years ago the Toitovna Hotel opened in one of the drowned mesas. You can also visit the place on a one day tour from Dumartheray or even Lybia Station.
Underhill, the original settlement built by the First Hundred, is high above sea level, but it's no longer a place of any importance. It's one big open air museum that gives a good impression of the tough years the colonists went through after their arrival in 2027.
Zygote and Gamete, the villages under the southern polar cap where Hiroko and many other legendary revolutionaries spend the years between the first and second revolution, were demolished due to both natural causes and a raid by UNTA-forces, but a replica has been constructed a couple of years ago. Spending some days in a three-house under the giant ice-dome is well worth the long journey south.
These enormous shafts, with diametres around a kilometer and down to eightteen kilometers deep were created in the middle of the twenty-first century to speed up the process of global warming. Most of them are still intact if they didn't get flooded by Oceanus Borealis. Most easily accesible are the moholes at Sabishii and at Bogdanov Visniac. Some other moholes offer bungee-jumping facilities.
The millions of craters on Mars have diameters from a few metres up to many hundreds of kilometres. Some of them are filled with water but most of them got drained. Crater interiors often have a slightly different climate than their surroundings and in many places this effect has been enhanced by installing molecular nets over them. These craters are like little worlds on their own. There's a large variety in mesoclimates: from mediteranean to tropical. Some specialize in producing wine, marihuana or tropical fruits.
With 95% of it's land surface being covered with snow for at least a part of the year, it's no surprise skiing is a favourite pastime on Mars. Most popular areas are Central-Elysium and the long slopes of Olympus Mons. Speedskating is another big thing. Larges stretches of sea still freeze over every winter. One reader described the feeling of low-gravity skating as "being in a very low orbit".
In summer the southern shores of Amazonis, Isidis and Chryse attract crowds of surfers, as the low gravity creates waves unlike Earth has ever seen. Low gravity is also responsible for Mars' reputation as a mountaineering mecca, together with the abundance of climbable features. Flyers paradise is to be found at Echus Overlook or at Santorini Island. Even though you're an experienced flyer it's recommended to take a few lessons to get used to the different circumstances.
The only ballgame of any importance is Martian football, which has more or less the same rules as soccer, except that the field has a size of 1000x500 metres.
The most important sports event, the Hellas games at Minus One Island, is held every M-year. The Round The Worlder, the legendary long distance run, starts every perihelion.
You don't have to buy yourself into one of the feral coops to experience the life of a hunter-gatherer for a while. Several agencies organize treks from two days to six weeks or even longer, for every taste and budget.
Moving away from the sun, lazing on a beach may not be the first thing you have in mind when you come to Mars, but you'll be surprised by the number of superb red sandy shores the planet has to offer. The best thing is: they're untouched by the crowds you have to share Terran beaches with. The best places to go are South-Elysium, the west coast of Isidis Bay and the Chryse Gulf Islands, where temperatures stay within comfortable limits the whole M-year round. During the southern summer Hellas is the place to be, whereas in the northern summer many a coastal town becomes a hotspot. Nudity and sex are allowed on all of these beaches, except in specially designated so-called "prudist area's"
Dangers and Annoyancies
To say Mars is a utopia where theft and other crimes are non-existant is a little bit beyond the truth, but in general it's a pretty safe place. You can leave your bike, boat, or blimp unguarded and unlocked, even in the big cities.
There are occasional fights between young natives and youngsters from newcomers groups, but this seems to be almost a ritual thing rather than a sign of deep-rooted racial tension. It's wise however to try not to get involved in a conflict with a native, as they're probably two or three heads taller than you... A lot of different cultures co-exist on the planet, but you'll find that everybody will respect you as long as you respect them.
Beware that Mars has a land-mass as vast as Earth's but less inhabitants than the Netherlands, and that it may be hard to get help if you get in trouble in remote areas. Even though duststorms, aquifers outbreaks, landslides and other violent by-products of the terraforming are largely a thing of the past, a lot of areas can still be dangerous. In many places there's a risk to bump into wild animals like leopards and bears.
Other Not Lonely Anymore guidebooks on Mars:
Travel Survival Kits on:
Elysium - Tharsis and Marineres - Hellas and The Grand Canal - The Southern Highlands - Xanthe - Tempe
Sheffield - Odessa - Sabishii
Martian Native Phrasebook