Imaginate Me: Blog https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog en-us www.imaginate.me.uk guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Fri, 04 Sep 2020 11:19:00 GMT Fri, 04 Sep 2020 11:19:00 GMT https://www.imaginate.me.uk/img/s/v-12/u142592362-o867032290-50.jpg Imaginate Me: Blog https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog 90 120 The story of Oradour-sur-Glane https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2020/9/the-story-of-oradour-sur-glane I normally write a travel blog encompassing an entire trip or holiday and try to give some insight into history, culture, food and beauty of a region and generally to inform, educate and entertain. Also, obviously, to showcase my photographic skills! Here I am going to break with this tradition and focus on just one site and one story, the abandoned village of Oradour-sur-Glane. I am doing this because the story of this martyred village affected me in a way that few museums or memorials ever have. This is the story of a single atrocity committed by Nazi SS soldiers against unarmed civilians and so I would ask anybody of a sensitive disposition to look away now. I think the reason that this site had such an effect on me is that it has been left to tell its own story. The village is abandoned and has the bare minimum of maintenance to keep it as it was left all those years ago. So without further ado I will get to the story of this hauntingly atmospheric site. 

To place these events in a timeline it may help to remember that D-Day (codename for the Allied invasion of Normandy) took place on 6th June 1944, we now know that this was the beginning of the end for Hitler and Nazi Germany. Stationed near Toulouse in Southern France was the 2nd SS Panzer Divison Das Reich, it is believed that SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, commander of the 2nd SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion had been captured by the French Resistance and was being held in the village of Oradour-sur-Vayres. Early on the morning of 10th June 1944 news of this capture reached SS-Sturmbannfűrer Adolf Diekmann via members of the collaborating Vichy regime, Diekmann's response was a brutal reprisal. Later that morning Diekmann's battalion sealed off Oradour-sur-Glane and ordered the entire population to assemble in the main square to have their identity papers checked. This included six non-residents who happened to be cycling through the village when the SS unit arrived. The men were led to six barns and sheds where machine guns were already in place waiting for them. According to a survivor's account the SS men aimed for their legs to prevent them from running away and then poured petrol over them and set them on fire. Only six men managed to escape and one of those was seen and shot in the street, but the Germans were not finished yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The women and children were locked in the church which was then set on fire, any trying to escape were met with machine gun fire. There was only one female survivor who managed to escape through the sacristy window at the back of the church. The town was then looted and razed and left to serve as a message to any locals in the surrounding area who thought of further acts of resistance.

In total 642 unarmed and innocent civilians were murdered that day including 190 men, 247 women, and 205 children. 14 of the perpetrators were Alsatians, French nationals who's home region of Alsace had been annexed by Germany in 1940 (see my blog https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2017/9/border-lands-of-france). Even German high command felt Diekmann's unilateral action had far exceeded his orders and began an investigation. However, Diekmann was killed in action shortly afterwards during the Battle of Normandy; many of the 3rd Company, which had conducted the massacre, were also killed in action. The investigation was then suspended. Oradour-sur-GlaneOradour-sur-GlaneAn abandoned car in the martyred town of Oradour-sur-Glane. For the full story see my blog! After the war General Charles de Gaulle decided that the village should never be rebuilt, but should remain as a memorial to the cruelty of the Nazi occupation.Now I know that bad things happen in times of war, and that many atrocities have been perpetrated in all conflicts before and since. This is not even a unique event in the context of World War II, nor indeed is it the most brutal example. However the fact that the town is still intact enough that you can easily imagine a thriving community occupying it today gives the site an eerie air which is only enhanced by the scattering of tourists wandering through the streets in hushed reverence. The wording on the side of a memorial near the entrance to the site sums up the inhumanity displayed by the members of the SS. "Here men committed the most serious insult to their mothers and to all women, they did not spare the children." For me, this is why the defence of "I was just following orders" is no defence at all. In a world where far right views are on the rise across Europe and America this should serve as a reminder of what can happen if extremism is allowed to continue unchecked. The above picture shows the entrance to the cemetery. I have decided not to show any images of the graves, many of which hold moving memorials including photographs of several generations of families. The majority of the graves in this cemetery have one thing in common, date of death: 10th June 1944.

The new town of Oradour-sur-Glane to the North West of the site of the martyred town was built after the war and is now a thriving town with a population of 2,205 (in 2007).

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) children. France genocide Germany II martyr murder Nazi of Oradour-sur-Glane slaughter War World https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2020/9/the-story-of-oradour-sur-glane Fri, 04 Sep 2020 11:18:53 GMT
Switzerland - more than just chocolate and cheese. https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2019/9/switzerland---more-than-just-chocolate-and-cheese

I suppose I fell in love with the mountains on a school skiing trip some forty years ago. The snow and the dramatic landscape, and of course the sport which I regret to say I have not kept up with.

 

Anyway Switzerland certainly has its share of dramatic scenery. A friend  recently described the country as "The Peak District on steroids" so I was really looking forward to this trip to the Swiss Alps.

 

We arrived via Geneva airport in the afternoon and had arranged to meet up with my friends and colleagues at Le Baron Tavernier, a hotel, restaurant and bar perched high on a cliff overlooking Lake Geneva and which happened to be about half way to Thun where we were staying that night.

Across the lake.The view of the mountains is constantly changing in the weather and the light.

Room with a view.Le Baron Tavernier boasts an unrivalled view across Lake Geneva

I had been to the bar here on a recent work trip to the area and was keen to share the amazing view with my wife. As always Christophe and Monique gave us the warmest of welcomes and we had a very pleasant meal of a traditional local dish, fresh perch from the lake. Christophe introduced us to a local white Chasselas wine which was very drinkable despite the fact that I am not usually a white wine drinker.

 

 

Thun at nightSchlossberg Thun towers majestically over the town.

 

After dinner we drove to Thun to check in to the Hotel. We were now in the German-speaking region of Switzerland where we found we had a little difficulty in getting ourselves understood. My German is restricted to just a few words and Gilly, who has a better grasp of languages but whose German is nonetheless limited, found that her accent was not easily understood by those speaking the Swiss dialect. The Swiss, because of the very nature of their country, tend to be multilingual but here we found that English and French were not so commonly spoken, with Italian seeming to be the second language.

The main square in ThunBy daylight the next morning we were able to explore a little further. The old town of Thun is pleasant enough with a very pretty main square but the town can be seen in a couple of hours and the newer part of the town is nothing special.

Split level shoppingThe main shopping street of the old town of Thun.
Just hanging aroundA model car hangs outside a shop to advertise their wares.

 

 

In the main shopping street of the old town the shops are set on two levels which seems to be a remarkably efficient use of space.

 

 

Exploring further we discovered that the old town clung to one bank of the river whilst the other side was more modern, with bigger high street shops and offices.

Untere Schleusenbrúcke300 year old covered wooden bridge.

 

 

On our walk we discovered the Untere Schleusenbruecke, a 300 year old covered wooden bridge (pictured left and below).

 

There are lots of restaurants in Thun, especially lining the river but food was eye-wateringly expensive. On the second evening we had dinner out of town in a greasy spoon café which was popular with the elderly locals who seemed to take their time over a drink and a game of cards. Even here one plate of sausages with rosti and a salad to share came to about £40. After that we started making sandwiches at breakfast to take with us as a packed lunch.

Schlossberg ThunThe castle is worth a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Bridge

Gilly on the bridge. Looking down on the river from Jakobshubeli. A short walk along the river to the to the south followed by a steep climb brought us to the Jakobshubeli viewpoint from where you can get a panoramic view looking down on Thun. The view was slightly disappointing but the exercise did us good!

Gilly outside Schloss Thun. Brienz is a quaint and quiet town set on the edge of the exquisitely turquoise waters of its namesake lake. If we had known then we would probably have based ourselves here for the first part of our holiday but it was easy enough to get to, just an hour from Thun by car.

Brienz Lake

Carved wooden signpost.

Brienz is famous for its wood carvings and they are even on display at the roundabout on the way into town. The shops are full of locally made produce including the iconic cuckoo clocks.

A roundabout on the outskirts of Brienz.

Brienz church Local wildlife!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brunngasse (below) is reputed to be the prettiest street in Europe although I would dispute that as you will see later. Brunngasse The view from Brienz church.

The inside of Swiss Protestant churches, at least the ones we saw, is very bare and spartan compared to the Catholic churches that we are more used to seeing elsewhere in Europe.

 

On the way back to Thun we stopped off at the Giessbachfalle waterfall. Although the waterfall plunges over 500M into the valley below, it tumbles over 14 rocky ridges, which means that you only see a small section at a time unless you stand well back. We got a more distant view of the falls when we walked to a nearby hotel for a coffee.

The view from behind the waterfall. Gilly takes a photo from behind the waterfall.

 

The public walkway winds around the back of the falls where you can feel the real power of the water.

 

Another lakeside stop along the way was at Spiez, a low-key village nestled in a fjord-like slither of the lake. We sat in the sunshine and ate dinner at a restaurant/bar by the harbour (below) and took in the view. Spiez harbour The following day we visited the much-hyped Interlaken. We had considered staying here as it seems to be the place that is recommended in the guides but we had decided on a smaller, quieter town.

 

It turned out that we had made the right choice. Sitting between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, as the name suggests, the town itself is surprisingly bland. A hint to this can be found in the travel literature which all hold an image of the same street. The street in question (below) is indeed the most beautiful in town. It is however, the only truly beautiful part of town. Interlaken The best views in Interlaken are in fact of the lakes and mountains which surround the town on all sides. This makes it an ideal venue for the paragliding thrill seekers who circle over the town like vultures. Also available in Interlaken are white water rafting, bungee jumping, sky diving, ice climbing and every other conceivable activity to get your adrenaline flowing. We didn't do any of those!

We did spend a small fortune to take the Funicular up to Harder Kulm otherwise known as the top of Interlaken. The view from Harder Kulm. Harder Kulm viewing platform.

 

At 4,334 feet above sea level the viewing platform offers a spectacular panoramic view of Interlaken, the lakes and the mountains. The view (above) was well worth the expense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switching the more open panoramas of the lakes for a rather more vertical landscape, we drove towards Grindelwald. The road wound up between vertiginous mountain peaks and through alpine meadows, passing on the way the sort of chocolate box, geranium-studded chalets from which you imagine a cuckoo will emerge on the hour. Our self-catering chalet is pictured top left in the photo below. Self-catering in Grindelwald.

The cheese fondueI am always at my happiest when I have good food in front of me! Our apartment (top left).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grindelwald is a small town with a bustling centre packed with tourists but fortunately we had booked a self-catering chalet a short way out of town. In the evening we went in to town to try a traditional cheese fondue.

 

 

 

 

While driving I don't get to look at the scenery very much so we decided that the best way to get to see this area properly was by walking or hiking. Our walk from the chalet took us up a winding lane, through a wooded valley with tumbling glacial streams opening out to rich mountain pasture. The peace was broken only by the near-constant thrum of helicopters taking tourists to get a bird's eye view of the peaks.

Unfortunately the scale of this landscape is such that photography cannot hope to capture its majestic grandeur but I hope that I can convey something of the beauty which is never anything less than astonishing. If you have not visited this region before (and even if you have) the uplifting scenery will make your heart skip a beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Lauterbrunnen which nestles deep in a valley of 72 waterfalls, although we did not see them all. The most impressive that we did see was the Staubbach falls which plunges 297 meters to the valley floor. From a distance the water looks wispy and vaporous with threads of spray floating down the cliffside. Once you get closer however you realise that this is a torrent and if you decide to take the walk that leads up behind the falls then you are going to get wet!

Mirror imageI thought this looked like one goat sitting by a mirror. Swiss cottage

Evening view from our balcony. Room with a view.

In the evening I cooked us a meal and we spent the time on the balcony of our chalet, with a glass of wine, gazing across at the snow capped peaks of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Munch and listening to the chirrup of the crickets. As evening fell the swifts darting up and down the valley catching a late meal on the wing were replaced by bats, and later we took advantage of the dark skies to do some star gazing. In the distance we could see the illuminations of the river flowing down the valley in a colourful display of artificial light. 

 

Daytime view from our balcony. Bird's eye view from Murren.

We returned to Lauterbrunnen again the following day but this time we took a cable car ride up the mountain followed by a short train journey to Murren. From there we hiked the stunning alpine trail which drops 280 meters through breath-taking vistas to the one-horse-town of Gimmelwald. Gilly was in Heidi heaven!

Heidi Heaven. The walk is advertised as being 40 minutes there and 55 minutes back, however, the outward journey took considerably longer as we paused regularly to take in the views and the return leg was hiked at a pace, fuelled by the promise of cake and a cold drink at the end of it.

Lunch stop

GruyereMore cheese than even I can eat!

On the last day, with the temperature rising to a very pleasant 32'C, we broke up the journey by stopping off at Gruyere. Now back in the French speaking region we were able to communicate rather more fluently.

 

Famous for its cheese, our first stop was at the dairy to look around the production facility and then the gift shop to buy samples of the renowned produce.

 

Gruyere castle

What is less known, and what took me completely by surprise, is that this is quite possibly the most beautiful town that I have ever seen. If there is a prize for the prettiest street then I would rate this above the lauded one in Brienz; and if there is a prize for the most beautiful town then I have rarely seen any in this league.

 

The world's prettiest street? Gruyere is a perfect picture postcard town. It embodies everything that I imagine a Swiss village to be. Perched on a rise like a Disney castle, the gate in the towering walls which encircle the town lets on to an idyllic high street that seems lost in time. 

As you enter the town don't miss the chocolate shop on your right which sells the most exquisite dark chocolate ice cream.

Outside the ancient walls cows grazed, their bells clanging like wind-chimes on a summer breeze. A perfect fairy tale ending to the most extraordinarily beautiful summer break.

So that's where the cheese comes from.

Switzerland's best kept secret. Well not quite the end. There was a stop for tea and chat at Gilly's cousin's house on the way to an evening flight out of Geneva. Thank you to Osy and Sally for your company and hospitality. 

And so, as the sun set on our holiday, the heat of the day gave way to thunder storms and we were kept on the runway for two hours while the pilot waited for a break in the weather. Did this spoil our vacation? No, not one bit.

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Bartlett Grindelwald Interlaken Jonathan Bartlett Jonathan Bartlett photography photography Swiss Alps Switzerland Thun travel blog travel photography travelogue https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2019/9/switzerland---more-than-just-chocolate-and-cheese Tue, 10 Sep 2019 19:57:55 GMT
Calvados and crêpes https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2019/2/calvados-and-cr-pes I love France. In particular I love Normandy and Brittany. I love the people, the granite farmhouses, the sleepy fishing villages, the rolling countryside and of course the bread, croissants, crêpes, cidre and especially the calvados, so I had been really looking forward to this trip to the Cotentin peninsula.
Le Mont Saint Michel We flew into Dinard, hired a car, and drove to Dinan for lunch. This is one of my favourite towns and I find it very hard to pass through this area of France without stopping and wandering through the mediaeval streets.

Our first evening was to be in Granville but Gilly wanted to stop at a cemetery on the way. For those of you who do not know Gilly, I should explain that this was the Mont des Huines German war cemetery where slave workers from the Channel Islands were buried and was all in the line of her research. The photo above is Mont Saint Michel and was taken from the cemetery. Granville harbour.
Chausey ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we took a boat to Chausey.

Les isles de Chausey are a small archipelago of islands 17km (10 miles) off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel (La Manche).
Chausey harbour They are, in effect, Channel Islands, except that they are owned by France and the Channel Islands are a self-governed part of the British Isles.

We wanted to visit the island to see how it differed from the other Channel Islands. The main island of Chausey has a permanent population of about 30 people and is very reminiscent of Herm. This actually came as a bit of a surprise as I had always thought that the island was bigger and had a greater population.
Fisherman's cottageThis little cottage near the harbour had crab and lobster pots stacked up outside. The trip allowed for about 3 hours on the island and so we had time to explore and exclaim to each other at the similarities to Herm around every corner. Gorse is always in flower.


The island church on Chausey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Granville Back in Granville we had a cute apartment overlooking a square and, with several restaurants close by, the only dilemma was where to eat!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Granville behind we drove up the coast to Barneville-Carteret. I had heard a lot about Carteret over the years and was ready to be impressed by a cute seaside town with cafés and a bustling market. Unfortunately these are one horse towns with not much going on. I had just said to Gilly that I would not be surprised to see somebody I know around here when we bumped into old friends of mine from Guernsey (Pete & Lorraine Rose) who were visiting with their boat. We joined them in a trip to the hypermarché in Barneville where we stocked up on supplies of Calvados to take home with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having failed to find the beach at Carteret, which we are told is the prettiest part, we headed inland to Briquebec (left) where we stopped to look around the castle and the old town (below).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night we stayed at a beautiful château in Le Rozel. We arrived while the château was hosting a market for the local village so we hastily checked in and joined the fun. There was local produce including artisan breads and cakes which we bought for lunch the next day. Then we played quoits, archery and table football.


The château in Le Rozel. The only drawback was that it was in the middle of nowhere so we had to drive about 7 miles to find the nearest restaurant in Diélette.

Afer breakfast we had a look around the various out-houses and walked through the woods before moving on toward Le Nez de Jobourg.


Le Nez de Jobourg is almost the most northerly point of the peninsula and about as close as you can get to Alderney without getting your feet wet. This area again felt very familiar; the landscape and the architecture was very similar to Guernsey's south coast. 


Gilly on the cliffs at Le Nez de Jobourg with Alderney in the background. You can clearly see Alderney in the background of the above picture. We could also see both Jersey and Guernsey from here and I felt just a little homesick knowing that many of my friends were so close but just out of reach.

We were heading to Barfleur but had one more stop to make on the way in the pretty fishing village of St. Vaast La Hougue.


We took our time wandering around the harbour, soaking up the atmosphere, listening to the seagulls and eating lunch.

This was my favourite kind of day. A warm summer day with the sun glinting off the sea and the tang of sea salt in the air. We could take our time watching the fishermen mend their nets, locals sipping coffee or something stronger outside the cafés, and children playing by the boats, ice-cream in hand. Best of all I didn't have to worry about work!

There was a similarly relaxed atmosphere in Barfleur (below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we had booked into a self-catering fisherman's cottage right by the harbour and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town and deciding where to have our next meal. As you will have noticed by now, food is never far from my mind. Next on the agenda was a little drive further up the coast to the Utah Beach Museum where the American section of the D-Day landings took place. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearby was the town of Sainte Mere Eglise where a paratrooper got caught in the tower of the church (above) and if you look closely he is still there!

There were a lot of American tourists here, as you can imagine, and the local area is certainly geared up to catering for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact the entire town's economy seems to rely on the U.S. dollar, from the American diner style restaurants to the 'Hairbourne' barber's shop, and from the many shops selling morally questionable militaria souvenirs to our bedroom that night which had a definite U.S. military theme.

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, it was a battery-recharging break, driving down country lanes which had echoes of the Channel Islands around every corner in their names, their granite farmhouses and walls, and in their atmosphere.  

 

 

 

 


 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Chausey Cotentin peninsula France Jonathan Bartlett photography Normandy photography travel blog travelogue https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2019/2/calvados-and-cr-pes Sat, 09 Feb 2019 19:46:22 GMT
The Baltic capitals https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2018/9/baltic-capitals Four countries in ten days sounds like quite a hectic schedule but actually this was a very enjoyable (and educational) trip. The tour was organised by Voyages Jules Verne and took in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

We began by flying to Vilnius in Lithuania.

It is important to remember that these Baltic states were a part of the USSR until Cherub or face of Lenin? March 1990 (Lithuania and Latvia) and September 1991 (Estonia) and so have only been independent for less than 30 years.

The church (above), Kazimiero Baznycia, was, ironically, an atheist museum during the Communist era. The city tour guides had to be very careful what they said; frequently there would be KGB agents in their groups. When one guide was asked about the angelic face above the door he replied "Wasn't Lenin a beautiful child?"


Vilnius is not a large town but it is attractive and well worth a visit for a couple of days.

On the first evening we found a street food market selling every conceivable kind of food, much of it made up of local specialities.

This fish was fresh out of the smoker. Umbrellas hanging above a restaurant courtyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we were taken on a walking tour of the town which included the Palace Museum and the KGB museum. This was followed by a traditional lunch of local meats and cheeses, beetroot soup, Zepelini dumplings and apple cake. Outside the cheese shop a mouse pokes his head out of a bronze statue of the traditional local cheese.

 

There was a demonstration of how to make the Zepelini and when a volunteer was asked for nobody wanted to step forward. The chef in me came to the fore and I volunteered. It was not a daunting task, I just had to make a dumpling in front of an audience, but everybody seemed to think that I was very brave to do it.  Our tour guide, Agnetta, was very entertaining and informative.
 

 

 








































The view from our bedroom window.
Teapots set into the wall outside a café.

We left Vilnius and visited Trakų castle on our way to Riga.

I put Gilly in the stocks at Trakų castle. Although I did let her out after I took this photo.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the coach between Lithuania and Latvia I was idly gazing out of the window at the scenery when I saw, through the window on the opposite side, a deer running along the far edge of the field. Then I noticed something else moving up quickly behind it and realised that it was being chased by a wolf. This is not something that I was expecting to see in broad daylight and was a fleeting and distant glimpse of the action so unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to take a photograph. Nonetheless this was a real treat to see.

Riga is the capital city of Latvia and is much bigger than Vilnius. You could easily spend a week here as there is plenty to see and do.

Me with Gemma.So lovely to meet up with an old friend when you are travelling.

In fact an old friend of mine moved here with her boyfriend and, although the relationship didn't last, she loved it so much that she stayed for three years. Gemma happened to be back visiting Riga when we were there so we met up for a meal at the Ala Bar which has traditional food and live folk music. We would never have found this gem (no pun intended) without her local knowledge. 

Riga is famed for its art nouveau architecture so a walk around the city reveals some wonderful buildings. SpiralThe stairwell inside the Art Nouveau Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We didn't have time for the Art Nouveau Museum, but it shares its entrance with businesses and private apartments. We stuck our heads inside the building to see the beautiful Art Nouveau staircase all the same.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The museum of occupation is very interesting and deals, not as one might expect, with the German occupation, but with the Soviet occupation which followed. The Baltic states suffered three consecutive occupations; Russian, German and then Russian again. So you might say that, after the war, they went from the frying pan back into the fire.

KGB 'corner house' in Riga 50 years of occupation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 'Corner House' pictured above was the headquarters of the KGB for 50 years (minus a short break for the Nazi occupation of 1941 - 1944). This is the site of the museum and here we were guided by an ex-prisoner who was able to recount horrific stories from personal experience.

Below a single rose lies on the floor of the execution room. The dots on the wall behind are bullet holes.

The dots on the wall behind the rose are bullet holes from the firing squad.

Riga has a great food market and we spent a couple of happy hours exploring the halls of fresh produce. These places always offer wonderful photo opportunities and we bought fresh bread, cheese and fruit for our lunch.

The customer service was as good as it looks!

Of course it would have been rude not to sample the local produce, and this vodka was very good!



When Easyjet tell Gilly she can only take one piece of hand luggage.















 

 

 

Gilly demonstrates her reaction to Easyjet's policy on one piece of hand luggage per passenger (above).

 

Caption competition (left & right).

 

Coffee is the answer. . . What was the question? (below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This monument (below) is controversial. The local Russian community call it the Freedom Monument as it was erected by the Soviet state to mark the Russian liberation of Latvia from Nazi Germany. The native Latvian population however call it the Peace Monument as they say that it marks the end of the war but their country was not 'free' until the end of the Russian occupation.

On the top floor of our hotel was the Sky Bar which offered spectacular views across the city. Of course we felt that it would be inappropriate to go there for to take some photographs without buying a drink!

You can just see our hotel, the Radisson Blu, in the background of this photo (left). It is the tallest building in Riga.







It was at about this point in our tour that the American couple in our group were heard to say "If we had known there would be museums and stuff on this tour then we wouldn't have come!" Obviously you can't educate some people, but I guess their little brains couldn't cope with the idea that Europe has more than 300 years of history.
The penultimate leg of our tour took us to Estonia's capital, Tallinn. The old town area of Tallinn is a beautiful and charming medieval city with the newer communist era architecture kept outside the city walls. 
Tallinn city walls If you are going to pick just one city to visit from this blog then it probably be Tallinn. It is a relatively small town and there is not a great deal going on, but it is picturesque and definitely the right location if a romantic weekend is what you have in mind.

Panorama of Tallinn The local shops and restaurants trade on the historic atmosphere for the sake of the tourists but, far from being kitsch, this actually adds to the city's charm. A local tea shop where we had a very nice sandwich and cake for lunch. It seems that you have the option here to pay with € or squirrels. Yes you did read that correctly (see picture below) I wonder if anybody has ever called their bluff on this? Ladies beware!Toilet sign in Tallinn.

Furry currencyThis shop appears to accept squirrels in payment.

 

 

They also seem to have a good sense of humour as this toilet sign shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A local restaurant also demonstrates the Estonian sense of humour. (below) WaitingGoodwin wondered if his date was going to show up.

Town Square, Tallinn, Estonia. Unfortunately every city has its characters and its undesirables, but I had to admire the honesty of this guy's sign. Moments after I took this photograph the police showed up to escort him to a comfortable cell where they undoubtedly helped him to sober up.


An honest drunk.The sign reads "Welcome to Estonia, Help I need money for beer and vodka."


In the evening we succumbed to the city's busiest tourist trap restaurant and we were not disappointed. Gilly tackles the baked cheese starter.
The Olde Hansa restaurant has character by the bucket full, including serving wenches in medieval dress who stayed in character extremely well, traditional food and ales and a period décor entirely lit by candles.

Serving maidWaitress in period costume at The Olde Hansa restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the bottom of the menu it states that "The serevers will humbly and with everlasting gratitude accept any squirrel skins or ducats that the guest may generously offer". Those pesky squirrels keep on making an appearance.

Photography was quite challenging in these conditions but I persevered and was rewarded with some very atmospheric images.

The food here was great, the service attentive and the atmosphere created a real experience. I highly recommend the honey beer which is not as sweet as it sounds and has a depth of flavour which rivals any English real ale. The cardamom vodka was also surprisingly good.


Gilly by candle light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ground floor restaurant had a little more natural light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interrogation Gilly being interrogated by the KGB. The KGB museum in Tallinn was housed on the top floor of the hotel opposite ours. Now you may think this is a strange place to put a museum until you realise that this was the hotel in which all foreign visitors were accommodated. The local joke was that the hotel was built from micro-concrete; that is 50% concrete and 50% microphones!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . And so on to our final destination, Finland and its capital city, Helsinki. We left by ferry and I took this parting shot of Tallinn from the sea.

This leg of the tour was optional and very expensive. My advice. . . don't bother! After sampling the delights of three very different cities and enjoying the cultural shift, from western European perspective, Helsinki felt like a bit of a let down. 

The city is almost exclusively made up of wide streets and modern buildings. There are one or two gems but after about an hour, even the tour guide was struggling to tell us anything interesting.


 

Helsinki is expensive. Have I said that already? I mean really eye-wateringly expensive! We paid €9 for a greasy reindeer burger, about €12 for an open sandwich (which was very nice) and wine started at about €14 per glass. Needless to say we didn't drink.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to resist the temptation of visiting the Barbie exhibition at the local museum and so, with little else to see in town, we headed out to Seurasaari Island open air museum. Bridge to Seurasaari island This gave us a pleasant walk around a heavily wooded island studded with traditional wooden buildings which have been gathered together from all over Finland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This was an anti-climax to an otherwise very enjoyable journey. I thoroughly recommend a tour of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia but do yourself a favour: if you travel with Jules Verne, save over £400 per head by not spending two days in Helsinki.

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Baltic capitals Bartlett capital city Estonia Finland Helsinki jonathan bartlett photography Latvia Lithuania photography Riga Tallinn travel blog travel photography travelogue Vilnius https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2018/9/baltic-capitals Wed, 12 Sep 2018 19:04:54 GMT
Borderlands of France https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2017/9/border-lands-of-france I'll start this blog with a little shout-out to Google Earth and Booking.com, which helped us to identify Alsace as a beautiful part of France, and our village in particular as the prettiest part of Alsace. While many sources seem to suggest that Colmar is the most beautiful town in the province, this is simply hype. It was inferior to our little mediaeval corner in every way - except it had a chocolate shop to die for, even if the hot weather meant that we carried home a plastic bag of liquid hot chocolate. Certainly there were some lovely colourful pictures of Colmar online, but pictures can be deceiving - I know, because I'm a photographer. We decided to find a smaller town nearby and tour round in our own hire car. GourmetA typical restaurant sign in this region. Rue de la Premier ArméeThe door to our holiday apartment is first on the left of this picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little more research led us to a self-catering apartment in Riquewihr and this turned out to be a great decision.

Riquewihr is a quiet village; you can walk from one side to the other in about 5 minutes yet it has colourful medieval buildings, lots of shops and 24 restaurants. In short we had everything we needed right here (except a chocolate shop).

The vineyards came right down to the edge of the village so of course we had to sample some of the local produce! Many of the wine producers have shops in the high street where you can have a free tasting. We tasted several, purely in the name of education, and then of course felt obliged to buy a bottle. Gilly decided that she liked the Gewurztraminer whereas I prefer red wines so really was in the wrong region. Having said that the local Pinot Gris is quite acceptable.

The vineyards really are at the edge of town. Wine tastingGilly samples the local produce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of an alleyway we discovered just how close the village is to the vineyards. I guess the locals don't have far to go to work in the morning.

At various times in its history Alsace has been independent as well as being part of Rome, France, Germany, France, Germany and France again! On arrival at Basel airport you can exit to France, Switzerland or Germany. So it is hardly surprising that there is a mixed French/German feel to this area. Locals identify themselves first as Alsatians, second as Europeans and third, as French, and yet the traditional language of the region is a dialect of German.

Some of the architecture looks German, and Alsatian food has a strong German influence too, the menus heavily featuring sausage, pork and choucroute (Sauerkraut). The wine is predominantly white and tastes very similar to German whites (of which I am not a fan).

On the wagonA feature made of old wine barrels on the edge of town. RiquewihrLooking across the vineyards towards Riquewihr We had a hire car so of course we went to explore some of the other villages. Just outside of Hunnewihr we came upon this little chap looking for food among the vines.

StorkStorks are quite common in the area. Up on the roof.Another stork spotted in town. Unless it was the same one following us!

In the surrounding countryside (below): its all about the wine!

Wine estateCountryside view

In Hunnewihr the vineyards even go right up to the church.

The vineyards even go right up to the church. Another beautiful town is Ribeauvillé. We found a rather nice patisserie for lunch and then went back there later for coffee and cakes. Well the calories don't count on holiday do they?

Ribeauvillé

Flowers in the WindowA window in Ribeauvillé NestingStorks are actually encouraged to nest on top of public buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in the photo above, storks are actually encouraged to nest on the roofs of some public buildings.

Next we went to Colmar which is where we had first planned to stay. It certainly had some beautiful canals and buildings but these were restricted to a very small area known rather boastfully as 'Little Venice'.

Colmar's 'Little Venice' district.

Colmar itself is quite a large and unremarkable town trading on the reputation of this small area. Boat trips were available for tourists and were quite reasonably priced but it was a short trip up and down one stretch of canal. It is picturesque, but Venice it is not!!

Boat trips in Colmar.

The boats were shaped very much like the Cambridge punts but with a small electric outboard motor which we considered to be cheating. If you were lucky enough to get a front row seat then there were some opportunities for good photography. I wasn't that lucky and had two ladies with wide rim hats in front of me who instinctively put their heads together for a chat every time I wanted to take a photo. I thought that having a large telephoto lens shoved in their ears might have given them a hint that they were blocking the view but they were either oblivious or being deliberately obstructive.

None the less I managed to get a couple of photographs and quite like the reflections (below).

Reflection of roadside flowers. Reflection of a window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wherever I go food is never far from my mind and in this respect Colmar certainly did not disappoint. At an outdoor créperie we had a galette complete and a bolée of cider.

Un Galette et un bolée du cidre.

The old part of Colmar also had some attractive streets away from the canals and, being a larger town, there was more opportunity for shopping, but we decided that we had easily made the right choice staying in Riquewihr. With this in mind we happily returned and found that there was an evening food market on the edge of the village.

Riquewihr food market.Grilling my sausage on an open fire.

Each of the market stalls specialised in different things, so while Gilly queued to get a mixed salad each and then went to another stall for a glass of wine, I stuck to my gender stereotype and joined the other men grilling our own sausages on an open grill. (No double entendre intended). We supplemented this minor feast with bread from another stall and contemplated the cake stall for afters.

While eating I ruefully thought that this would not be allowed in the UK. Members of the public actually allowed near an open charcoal grill with children running around; the 'health and safety' executive would have seven fits! Yet we saw no serious injuries, no children were cooked alive, people were drinking responsibly and families were all having a good time without so much as a burnt sausage!

Strasbourg

The next stop on our agenda was Strasbourg (above), and this was a town that exceeded my expectations. Gilly in Strasbourg

Strasbourg Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was expecting Strasbourg to be a historic city with some old buildings and great architecture but I was also expecting it to be mainly modern. This is however a much prettier city than I had anticipated and has the feel of a medium sized town rather than a major city.

The cathedral is particularly impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

It would be rude to visit Alsace without trying out the local specialities and one such dish is 'tarte flambée'. The only way I can describe this is to say that its mother was a pancake and its father was a pizza!

Tarte FlambéeIts mother was a pancake and its father was a pizza!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visited Barr which was an unremarkable town and if you are in the area you could certainly improve your stay by giving it a miss and visiting somewhere else instead.

Wooden detail on a door in Barr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped for a coffee here and then quickly moved on.

Hotel de Ville in Barr. Now I am of the opinion, and I am certain that I am not alone in this, that there are only so many Nazi concentration camps that you need to visit. Gilly, on the other hand, is an archaeologist with a professional interest in the subject so has a slightly different viewpoint. I dropped her off at Natzweiler Struthof and went off with my camera to explore Obernai.

Obernai Now this town was well worth the visit and after a pleasant hour wandering around I found a great spot to have a coffee and watch the world go by.

ObernaiThe busy high street! Obernai is a beautiful town with cobbled streets and unspoiled buildings. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and cafés and I was happy to pass some time here.

A stork sits in the window watching visitors pass by below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to collect Gilly I spotted this lonely cabin and stopped to take a photo.

Riquewihr as seen from the road when approaching the village. Of course we couldn't visit this part of the world without taking a trip out to Verdun. 

The Victory V at the entrance to Verdun Bullet holes can still be seen in the walls.

In the first World War Verdun was the most heavily fortified region in France and the German army launched a savage attack on the area in an attempt to break the stalemate of trench warfare. The Battle of Verdun began in February 1916 with an opening German barrage that lasted 10 hours and comprised two million shells. This was supposed to be a decisive blow to French morale but was ultimately unsuccessful. The German army got within 5km of the town before the French started to regain ground and by the time the Americans arrived on the scene in 1918 hundreds of thousands of men had died on both sides.

 

You can still clearly see the bullet holes in the wall of this church.

 

 

 

 

 

In Verdun the war memorial stands proud over the town as a permanent reminder.

 

Given the pounding that it took in WWI and the bomb damage of WWII the town of Verdun is not as grim as you might expect but it is almost entirely made up of relatively modern buildings and is certainly not picturesque.

The town is surrounded by the battlefields where farmers still uncover bombs and other battle scrap with their ploughs on an alarmingly regular basis. The Victory V at the entrance to the town (pictured above) is made up of scrap metal found in the battlefields.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip to Verdun very educational with a fabulous museum, a number of memorials from various conflicts and lots of interesting battle field sites including the village of Fleury. (below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleury was completely obliterated in the conflict and all that remains among the bomb craters are posts saying what each building was.

Overall Verdun was well worth the 3.5hr drive in each direction which passed through some beautiful winding mountain roads. On the way back I drove nearly 30 miles on these roads without seeing another car - bliss!

On our final day we drove to Freiburg in Germany.

Sunflowers in Freiburg market The best thing about Freiburg was the extensive market. The town was a pleasant mix of old and new but nothing special.

Marbles for sale in the market took me back to my childhood.

A final word of advice if you are flying from Basel-Mulhouse: buy some food on your way to the airport. We treated ourselves to a meal in a Michelin Star restaurant for our last night and this was cheaper than a sandwich, pastry and orange juice at the airport!

 

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) alsace france jonathan bartlett photography riquewihr travel blog travel photography travelogue vinyards wine https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2017/9/border-lands-of-france Thu, 14 Sep 2017 19:44:48 GMT
Florence https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2016/9/florence As a former capital city Florence is one of the most important destinations in any tour of Europe. The city has some beautiful scenery and architecture it is a great base from which to explore Tuscany or if you like lots of museums and art galleries then everything you need is within easy walking distance.  Morning reflections in the river Arno Depending on your preference you may well find that this city has only enough to hold you for a few days. There are beautiful parts to the city and many great restaurants, shops and markets to explore but the main attraction, the thing that will take up all your time, is the museums and art galleries. If touring these institutions is not your thing then that would be a shame as some of the greatest collections in Europe are housed here.

Morning coffee I like to go for a walk first thing in the morning and then sit and have coffee while waiting for Gilly to wake up. Here I pictured some locals having their morning coffee. Duomo in the rain ​Florence has some stunning architecture and the colours in the stonework come out best in the rain.  Campanile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Spotted two porcelain dogs with sun glasses looking out over the main square.

From the top of the Campanile you get a great view of the dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The indoor food market is an absolute delight for any 'foodie'. The stalls are varied and all beautifully laid out. There is also a large area upstairs where you can buy food and drink from a wide variety of open restaurants. The seating area for all of these food establishments is communal and very busy so get there early or prepare to queue for a seat. ​I had to get up early in the morning to get the shot above as later in the day the reflections are not so clear.

​The Ponte Vecchio from a higher viewpoint (left) can also be seen on the left side of the panorama (above).

This shot was taken from the Piazzale Michelangelo. This was quite a climb, undertaken on a hot day, but well worth every step. Besides you have to burn off all those extra holiday calories somehow!

Gilly in the Gilli café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gilli café became a regular haunt. It was right in the main square, the Piazza della Repubblica, and so it was rather expensive. Having said that the coffee was well worth the price and the name made my Gilly feel right at home.

By the way the chocolates here were to die for!

Above: The church of San Miniato al Monte nestles into a Tuscan hillside just outside of Florence.

Below: The outside of the Galleria degla Uffizi as seen from the other side of the river.

​Above: the Ponte Vecchio taken from inside the Uffizi.

I love street photography in the rain. This was taken during a sudden downpour in Florence. Gilly having coffee in her favourite café.

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Florence Italy Jonathan Bartlett photography Ponte Vecchio travel blog travelogue https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2016/9/florence Sat, 10 Sep 2016 21:54:47 GMT
America - the 'New World' https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2016/9/america---another-planet I think I need to start this blog by apologising to all our American friends for any offence that I am about to cause with my observations of your "Great Nation" (Yes well, we'll come to that later!) and any sweeping generalisations that I will make about the American public. My comments are based on what we observed in just two cities: New York and Washington DC, and from what we observed it is clear that you are all as mad as a box of frogs. But it would be unfair to claim that the same is true for the whole of the USA, that would be like saying that the people of London and Manchester (those are both in England by the way) are representative of all Europeans, which they clearly are not.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way I can get on with the business of insulting the whole of America. . . Except for you my dear friends, obviously none of this applies to you!

​New York - the busiest city in America:

To begin with I expected America to be not quite as foreign in the way that European countries are foreign. Let me explain: when travelling to other countries you expect them to have different food, culture and language but Americans speak English, don't they? And as we have adopted some US culture, the food will be basically the same, most of the people came from Europe originally, mainly from England, Ireland, Spain and France, so how different can it be right? WRONG!

New York is big, and by that I mean that everything is big and busy and bustling, it is all skyscrapers and neon signs. Of course, I have visited many big cities before: London, Paris, Rome, Berlin; but this felt different. New York is brash, ostentatious and NEW. Even the old buildings look new to European eyes and some  are designed to look older than they are, creating a false history that is not felt; a poor imitation of European culture. And that, I think, hits the nail on the head for me; the city feels false. Rather like Milton Keynes, it has been created rather than evolving organically over hundreds or thousands of years and this impression is intensified by the grid layout of the streets and the fact that almost all roads are numbered rather than named. Streets run East to West and avenues North to South with the odd exception such as Broadway which cuts diagonally across the city. On the plus side this makes getting lost almost impossible!

Times Square was also not what I expected in as much as it is not really a square at all but rather a very busy elongated junction between Broadway, Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. It does have all the neon signs that you expect but the pedestrian area is a disappointingly small paved triangle no bigger than Piccadilly Circus in London.

The famous 'lights of Broadway' are pretty much confined to the Times Square area and away from that, the theatre district, which is less glamourous than London's West End.

We were staying in the Hell's Kitchen area of the city which is known as the restaurant district, which meant that most nights we were able to find a good restaurant within a stone's throw of our hotel. Most of the food is familiar once you get past the language barrier, because American food consists of burgers, steak and ribs, everything else is Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, etc. Fast food seems to dominate to such an extent that some of the best restaurants in town specialise in burgers and sandwiches all served with fries. There is a Starbucks on every corner (I didn't see a single Costa in either city!) and the majority of the daytime food available is burger, pizza or a sandwich from Pret a Manger or similar. And almost always with an offer of endless refills of fizzy drinks.

"England and America are two countries divided by a common language", wrote George Bernard Shaw - ​I'm afraid George understated the situation somewhat, so a typical lunchtime conversation went something like this:

"Can I ask you a question?" This is a necessary prelude so that the waiting staff can make the giant mental shift required to prepare to receive a question. "What are matzo balls?"

"That will be like dumplings made from crushed matzo crackers." (Always in the future tense.)

"And what are matzo crackers?"

"Oh that will be what we make the matzo balls from!"

"Err. . . OK. . .(you're not really helping!). . . and what is a Rueben?"

"That will be a grill san'ich with corn beef, provel and sauerkraut."

"and a Hoagie?"

Oh, that will be pastrami, pepper jack and mesclun on a rye sub."

"I'm sorry, I do not understand any of the words that you are saying." This is met with a blank look as if I am the one having trouble understanding the Engilsh language.

"OK, can I please order one hoagie with ham cheese and arugula, one pulled pork Po' boy and a portion of hush puppies." I have no idea of what I have just ordered but it sounds like a half smoked cigar, a bedpan and a pair of shoes.

 

"Will that be here or to go?"

"I think we'll eat in, thank you."

"Will that be here or to go?"

"Are you doing this on purpose?"

"I am trying to help you sir!"

And all this in a bored voice, without smiling or making eye contact, and then they expect a 20% tip.

Now while we are on the subject of tips, and I'm not being funny here, but this is the only country that I have ever visited where it is quite normal to see on the bottom of your check (that's your bill to us English speakers) a ​"Minimum 18% tip!" ​I mean a minimum tip? What is that all about? In the UK we tip according to how good the service has been, which is normally about 10% for good or excellent service, and less, or nothing at all, if the service (or food quality) has been below par. We expect the employer to pay their staff a decent living wage and the gratuity is a "thank you" for going above and beyond the bare minimum level of service.

I appreciate that this is a different culture and waiting staff are paid very poorly in America even though food prices, to us, seem very high (partly due to a poor exchange rate at the moment). Employers expect their staff to pick up the extra out of tips. None-the-less I was surprised in one restaurant to see at the bottom of the bill '18% for acceptable service, 20% for good service, 22% for excellent service'. When I went to pay it was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms that the 18% was a MINIMUM!

Americans pride themselves on great customer service but actually we only experienced it in a handful of establishments. They could learn an awful lot from the Canadians, Italians and even the French! Manhattan as seen from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

The Empire State building is big and impressive and at the time of building was the tallest skyscraper in the world. We had to queue to get a lift to the 2nd floor where you buy your tickets, then queue to get into the lift to the museum which in truth was just a few information boards to prevent the boredom while you queue for the lift to the 86th floor. It took over an hour to get to this level and there was a further queue to get up to the 102nd floor but I suspect that the view from up there was no better. The cost for the 86th floor was $32 and it would have been an eye watering $52 for tickets to the 102nd. Alternatively you can jump the queues by paying $60 for the 86th floor and $80 to the top. This is one of the must do experiences of NYC but I did feel that anything over the standard price to the Observation Deck (86th) is a bit of a rip-off.

Showing the multi-layered architecture of the Museum. The Museum of Modern Art had high points, Claude Monet's Water Lilies being the highlight for me. It also had its low points. In one gallery the room was divided up with large bits of bent cardboard so that you had to meander through such exhibits as the head of a sex doll rising up out of a pile of scrunched up tissue paper, or several large boxes of brightly coloured straws which had been tipped out in a heap on the floor. I'm not going to apologise for my views here: this was not a work of art, this was a pile of straws!

I took some interesting shots of the inside of the building which I believe to be far more skilled and artistic than a box of straws! I spotted this girl taking some time out from the exhibits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking down through two stories of the MoMA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Italy and Chinatown districts were interesting to walk through but had little of photographic interest. We made our way to Pier 17, which is supposed to be an area of shops and restaurants with picturesque walks along the waterfront. Unfortunately the advertised opening date of 2015 was somewhat inaccurate and the pier itself was still a building site. We found a café which served suitably delicious looking sandwiches and set about trying to translate the menu board.

Little Italy, NYC. After lunch we made our way along the waterfront to the Museum of the Native American Indian which was interesting and infuriating in equal measures. These native people who were living in peace with the land (if not always with each other) were treated abysmally by the Europeans who arrived on their shores. At first all was friendly while the Europeans needed the natives experience of how to survive in this 'new world'. Later, when the immigrants became greedy, they cheated the natives out of their lands if they were lucky, and subjected them to genocide if they were unlucky. It really upsets me when I hear the likes of Donald Trump complaining about the immigrants. Just try looking at your history before you throw stones!

Wall StreetThe building on the right is the New York Stock Exchange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we were in the area we took a walk down Wall Street, just one more of those places that just has to be seen.

When I said that everything is big here, that includes the open spaces. The main green space for people to escape from the rat race of the city is Central Park. This is a park on a huge scale, approximately 4km by 1km it sits, as the name would suggest, right in the middle of the city.You can get an idea of the scale of the park in the top of this photograph (below). Another view from the Empire State Building: Central Park can be seen in the distance.

 

 

The city crowds in on Central Park from all sides. Obviously in such a big park there is plenty to see and we spent a whole morning meandering through. Below is a picture of the boating lake, on the other side of which is the Boathouse restaurant and café. We only stopped here for a sandwich and a drink but I was told later that the restaurant is one of the best in NYC. Fountain and boating lake in the middle of Central Park.

Nearby the fountain is a memorial to John Lennon who owned an apartment overlooking this part of the park. A little further round is this tribute to Lewis Carol.

A scene from Alice in Wonderland, the Lewis Carol tribute. The John Lennon tribute. A stained glass window in the Metropolitan Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are going to explore Central Park I suggest you get a good map as ours in the guide book was a little vague and it was sometimes hard to locate the things that you want to see. Then getting lost is all part of the fun!

Please note - it is not advisable to still be in any of the city's parks after dark.

 

 

 

 

Of course no trip to New York would be complete without visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Taking advice from friends we had booked our tickets a couple of months in advance which saved us from queueing at the ticket office. The iconic view of the Statue of Liberty at the 'Gateway to the New World'.

We were told to arrive 30 minutes before departure which would be plenty of time to get through security. This, as with all major tourist attractions in this town, was a full airport style security. When we arrived the queue for security was 90 minutes long and all tickets had sold out for the day. Well we had our tickets so we joined the queue. At least there is a boat every 20 minutes and once you have a ticket you can get on any boat. 

You can get some idea of scale from the tiny people at the base of the statue in this picture.

​The boat trip to the statue was crowded but short and we walked around the outside of the statue taking pictures. The café and gift shop were also crowded and prices were high for some of the worst souvenir tat available in the modern world. We didn't bother, nor did we think it was worth the long queue (and extra fee) to go up inside the crown. After all the best views of the statue are from outside the statue!

We took another boat and next stop was Ellis Island. This is where would-be immigrants to the USA had their applications processed and is now a museum.

 

We had been blessed with good weather for most of our trip with an average temperature of about 35'C (That's 95'F). This meant that you could work up quite a sweat just strolling around outside and of course meant that we left the hotel each day wearing cool summer clothes. On entering a museum, art gallery, shop, restaurant etc. they insist on turning the temperature down on the air conditioning to something that Sir Ranulph Feinnes would find challenging.

Another definite must-see site is the site of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. On the 11th September 2001 Islamic extremists hijacked four planes that were flying over the US. Two were crashed into the World Trade Centre bringing down both towers; one was flown into the Pentagon; and the fourth crashed into a field after passengers, who had heard on social media what was happening with the other planes, tried to overcome the terrorists and take back control of the plane. 9/11 MemorialOne of the two commemorative pits at the World Trade Centre site.

The twin towers rose a quarter of a mile above the centre of the financial district of Manhattan, dwarfing every other building in the city. When they collapsed they left an 11 story high pile of rubble. Above is one of the two pits where the basement levels of the towers were, transformed into a memorial. A wall of tears. The water falling all around the edge forms the 'wall of tears'.

There is also a museum next to the memorial; part of it is under the memorial. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the 9/11 attacks. Like everybody else, I watched in horror as the news unfolded. It is somehow quite uncomfortable to think that day has now passed into history, but history it is. If you are going to view this museum then allow at least 4 hours and take a large box of Kleenex. As you travel around this museum you will relive the events of that day in every detail; nothing is held back.

 

After the 9/11 museum we were in need of a coffee and something to eat which we found across the road at the Winter The winter gardens at Brookfield Place. Gardens in Brookfield Place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that just about concludes the New York section of our trip. I don't have any interesting photos for you of the Highline which is a raised walkway that snakes its way through part of the city on a disused tram line. Nor do I have any great pictures of the Chelsea market, a large indoor area which is good for browsing souvenirs, clothes etc. but even better as a place to buy fresh food or to stop for lunch.

Viewing the art of the Frick Collection I told Gilly not to bother with a particular gallery that I had just exited because "it was just a box of straws", which has now become our metaphor for sub-standard modern art.

Grand Central Station (above) is the largest and busiest train station in the world. We passed through in the relatively quiet mid afternoon and then went on to get our train to Washington.

 Washington D.C.

The Whitehouse. After the madness of NYC, Washington seems very laid back. The tallest building I saw in town was only about 12 stories high and the city has plenty of wide open space.

This is the capital city of the 'greatest nation on Earth', the main seat of power, the centre of the free world, the birthplace of modern democracy and the self-appointed arbiter of world justice. Well it is if you listen to the highly polished American propaganda machine in this town.

Here the American people can live 'the American Dream', whatever that is supposed to mean.

The American national arrogance is even more on display here and that is all the more worrying for it being the seat of government. Indoctrinated from birth with a patriotism that rivals any other nation, school children swear allegiance to the flag and everybody seems to buy in wholeheartedly to the idea that this is the greatest nation on Earth, and by reflection they are therefore the greatest people, and that is an easy lie to sell to an insular nation that rarely raises its eyes above the horizon to look beyond its own shores. It is also an idea which, if pushed to extremes, is very dangerous.

The people here seem to find it impossible to believe that the rest of the world does not share their view. This nationalist propaganda which is being exploited by Donald Trump while the rest of the world pray that the people of the USA as a whole cannot possibly be stupid enough to put him in power; and it is the very arrogance that has been behind American foreign policy for decades.

 

The American girlThe American girl Anyway that's enough politics for now. On our first evening in Washington we went for a walk past the White House and then made our way down to the harbour area where we found this courtyard of restaurants (above). Here we spent a very pleasant couple of hours having a cocktail and dinner outside at the water's edge.

​I saw this young lady being photographed on the pier and couldn't resist getting a shot myself.

 

 

Of course no holiday with Gilly would be complete without a visit to the local Holocaust museum and the one in Washington has the reputation of being one of the best in the world. Like so much in America it failed to live up to the hype. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good and moving museum but not a patch on either Yad Vashem or the Berlin Holocaust museum.

An interesting exhibit was called "Some of them were neighbours" which examined the motivations behind some of the people who betrayed friends and neighbours to the Nazi authorities.

 

 

 

The US Capitol stands on a slight rise in the landscape and was deliberately set there to make a grand statement. This is the powerhouse, the seat of government. On one side of the dome is the House of Congress, and on the other, the House of Representatives.

The US Capitol building. There is a two mile long broad green strip which lies across Washington. From the Lincoln memorial in the West, through Constitution Gardens, past the Washington Monument and along the Mall to the US Capitol Building in the East. This area and the tidal basin to the south of it are just full of all the nation's most important monuments and memorials and one thing that Washington does well is memorials on a grand scale.

Washington is a city which serves the Capitol; there is no industry or big business. The city grew as more and more politicians and civil servants needed to have an office and a home near the central government building. With large numbers of people, catering and entertainment businesses are obviously attracted to serve that community but there is little else here and when you are aware of this you begin to wonder who all the grand memorials and monuments are for. Are they just self-aggrandizing? Are they there as a statement to the American people, to show what a great nation they are part of? Or a statement to the world? It seems the only people who are going to see these are tourists and the politicians and civil servants who live here. All other capitals that I have visited are great cities where the business of government makes up just a small part of the whole.

World War II memorial.On a very hot afternoon this girl takes advantage of the cool water in the WWII memorial with the Washington monument in the background.

Half way between Lincoln Memorial and the Washington monument is the National World War II memorial (pictured above and below).

Panorama of the WWII memorial. The grandest memorial of all is the Lincoln memorial. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. He guided the country through its civil war, the greatest moral, constitutional and political crisis in the country's history and in doing so he preserved the Union, abolished slavery and strengthened the federal government. He was assassinated in 1865. The memorial is set at the top of a flight of steps where Abraham Lincoln is enthroned in a magnificent and imposing classical temple with a direct line of sight to the Washington monument and the Capitol beyond. Here he is raised to god-like status, worshiped and adored by all who come to pay homage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This idolisation of past presidents seems odd until you ask yourself whether we do the same with our royal family. Well perhaps we do, but I don't feel that the comparison is entirely fair. In the shops you can buy all kinds of political souvenirs and paraphernalia featuring Barack and Michelle Obama and numerous past presidents but it doesn't stop there. The public are truly engaged in politics, which I suppose is a good thing, but for sale were Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump dolls, badges, T-shirts, baseball caps, chocolate bars, post cards and any number of other items advertising your political leaning. Add to this Donald Trump's political rallies (which put me in mind of the Nuremburg rallies) and the whole thing makes a reserved Englishman feel very uncomfortable. The temple of Abraham Lincoln. ​Above the temple in which Abraham Lincoln's statue is housed. (You see, I wasn't joking!)

If the Lincoln memorial is the grandest then the most imposing is the Washington Monument. 17 metres square at the base and 169 metres high this giant obelisk towers above the surrounding landscape and can be seen from miles around. It was built in 1884 to honour George Washington, first president of the United states. I believe that you can tell an awful lot about a culture by the TV that they watch and here the offering completely fails to inform, educate or entertain. Olympic coverage consisted of 5 minutes of mindless chatter followed by 10 minute ad breaks and about 30 seconds of actual sport by the end of which you are convinced that America is the only country taking part. News coverage is fatuous and sensationalistic, political reporting is sycophantic and very little seems to be newsworthy if it happened outside the USA.

Let me give an example. Towards the end of our stay we read on the internet that there had been a severe earthquake in central Italy so we switched on the TV news to find out what was happening. CNN would appear to be the most professional news network. They briefly announced that there had indeed been an earthquake in central Italy but before the adverts they spent 5 minutes interviewing a B-list US sports personality about how much his wife's cousin's hamster enjoyed watching baseball. After the adverts things began to improve marginally; we had a three minute sensationalised report on the human disaster story in Italy which focused on the fact that one woman's hand was sticking out of the rubble and she appeared to still be alive and that some of the buildings were "more than 200 years old" and so presumably they were about ready to fall down in any case. And anyway there had been an even bigger earthquake in Myanmar but there were no reports of any injuries and the news reporter didn't seem too sure where Myanmar was.

In the UK we are so lucky with our television service, and to anybody who complains about the BBC I say take a look at what is available in other countries and then shut up and pay your license fee! The Old Stone House in George Town.

We took a walk through Georgetown, which is easily in commutable reach of the city and has much more of a village feel to it and even has a little bit of age. The 'Old Stone House' pictured here was built in 1756 and is the oldest home and property in Washington DC. Almost new by European standards.

The museum of American History further emphasised this disconnection with historical context. I suppose when your country only has 400 years of history then something that is more than 200 years old is relatively ancient.

A fairly typical street in George Town. It is quite disconcerting when you see items in a museum that you remember from your childhood but here they had exhibits from as recent as 2014. I have socks in my drawer older than that! To be fair, that was in the section on household products and technology and the item in question was an iPhone which in a couple more years will be positively stone age technology.

Other sections helped me to understand more about the War of Independence and the American Civil War, on both of which I was shamefully vague.

 

The narrative on the Second World War was typically American. The story starts with America joining the war because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and concentrates on the D-Day landings during which it seems that the US army invaded Normandy and managed to win the war by bravely defeating the might of the German army. Oh and they might have had a bit of help from one or two dozen Brits and a Canadian, but they almost completely neglect to mention any of the other allied nations. Nor do they mention the fact that they were a bit late coming to the party in the first place.

The story ends with America winning the war in Japan by dropping two atomic bombs.

Statues in the Vietnam War memorial. One afternoon we walked around Arlington National Cemetery. As you can imagine this did not present the best opportunities for photography but did contain items of interest such as the grave of John F Kennedy, the tomb of the unknown soldier and a memorial to those who died in the disastrous space shuttle Challenger mission.

We also visited this memorial to those who died in the Vietnam conflict (left). There was an inscription nearby which read "Freedom is not free".

 

 

As I mentioned earlier there are several memorials around the edge of the tidal basin. The Martin Luther King memorial (below) had the inscription on the side "Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope".

The Martin Luther King memorial.

A little further round and this little dog was a small part of an extensive memorial to Franklin D Roosevelt.

 

 

 

 

Another temple (below right), this one housing the statue of Thomas Jefferson.

The welcome gate at the entrance to Washington's Chinatown (below left) with the animals of the Chinese calendar painted into the zebra crossing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a couple of hours spare before returning home we visited the Washington National Art Gallery (below). Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to do it justice and we each went our separate ways to see the exhibitions that were most interesting to us. 

So is America the greatest nation on Earth? Well I suppose that depends on your definition of greatness. The British Empire was once great, ruling the world's seas and spanning the globe. But like every other empire before and since its success came at a price, at the expense of other nations, and expanded only to take advantage of the natural resources which rightfully belonged to the people of those countries.

The USA was not the first democracy. It was not the first to give women the vote, or abolish slavery, or have same sex marriages. They still have the death sentence in many states and their gun laws are a disgrace. America will truly be great when it bases its foreign policy not on influencing power in oil rich nations but on fairness, democracy and freedom and all the other values that it claims to hold so dear. They could make a start by giving back the Philippines and Hawaii to the people who truly own them, acknowledging the rights of the American Indians and giving some compensation to the few tribes who remain. They could acknowledge that Mexico is their neighbour and that the immigrants are not stealing jobs, they are doing the jobs that the average American doesn't want to do. In short this country has its good points and its bad just like any other civilised country, none of us are perfect. Iwo JimaThe US Marine Corps memorial incorporating the Iwo Jima statue.

And as for the birth-place of modern democracy? May I refer you to a little document called the Magna Carta, a copy of which you have in your very own Capitol building, and which dates back to 1215 AD. That's 405 years before the first 'Pilgrim Fathers' arrived in America and a full 561 years before American independence, so go back to your history books and do some research before you start telling English tourists that you invented democracy. That honour actually falls originally to the Greeks! 

I am patriotic but would I, or any other Englishman, stand on a street corner and declare in a loud voice "I LOVE ENGLAND"? No. Because, well that just wouldn't be British.

I am very glad that we did this trip but I would not be in a great hurry to return to either of these cities. I will probably return to America at some point to give the country the benefit of the doubt, there are still a few places on my list to visit. Although we had a great time I have never been so pleased to get home at the end of a holiday.

 

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) America Bartlett Jonathan Bartlett Jonathan Bartlett photography New York travel blog travelogue USA Washington https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2016/9/america---another-planet Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:31:03 GMT
Monopoli - Do not pass GO! https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/11/do-not-pass-go Gilly and I wanted a nice relaxing holiday with Mediterranean food and a glass of wine in a sunny piazza so we decided on this trip to go to Puglia in Southern Italy.
 

Floral windowA window in Monopoli. We flew into Bari and headed to Monopoli and, before you ask, we were not sent straight to jail, nor did we pass GO or collect €200.
 

The good life.Gilly enjoying a glass of Prosecco in the sun.
 

Monopoli was our base for the first few days. It is a small but pleasant old town with lots of great restaurants and a beach for swimming.
 

I love Italian Churches.
 

Gilly particularly enjoyed the odd glass of Prosecco.
 


 


 


 


 


 

Gilly admiring the architecture.
 


 


 


 

Ceiling detail  
 


 

We spent the first day exploring Monopoli and then on the second day went to the Grotte di Castellana where we took a 3km tour of the underground caves.  Grotte di CastellanaNo photography beyond this point!
 

A subterranean world. No photography is allowed in the caves (presumably so that they can sell more postcards) but I managed to snatch these couple of shots while the guide was not looking.
 

In places the corridors were quite narrow but some of the caves were the size of a cathedral. The entire cave system is filled with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.
 

The bottom picture is of the White Cave which is supposedly made up of the whitest concretions anywhere in the world. If you are visiting the area then this is a 'must see' site.
 

Castel del Monte And from a must see site to a don't bother site. While it looks impressive on the outside, the Castel del Monte comprises 16 almost identical empty rooms on the inside. The best thing about this place was the view of the surrounding countryside from the top.
 

Beach at Polignano di Mare. The restaurant at Polignano di Mare. There are not very many good beaches in the area so where there is a place to swim it tends to get very busy. This is the beach at Polignano di Mare and this was not peak tourist season!
 

Nearby the was a rather impressive restaurant set into the side of the cliff. Although it has an impressive view and a good reputation we did not eat here as it was quite a long way from where we were staying.
 

Exploring the streets of Ruvo di Puglia.
 

We explored the streets of Ruvo di Puglia where I took these charming pictures. I enjoyed the slower pace of life on this holiday as we took the time to meander through back streets, stop for lunch or ice cream or just relax with a glass of wine or fresh orange juice.
 

Regular refreshment was essential in temperatures reaching as high as 38'C.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

After dinner in Monopoli one evening we came across a band playing in the street, where everybody seemed to be enjoying the music.
 

Dancin' in the street. From Monopoli we drove to the Arco di Solé agriturismo, a self-catering apartment near Alberobello. This was to be our home for the rest of our holiday.
 

Arco di Solé If the pace of life had been slow up until now, this was positively snail pace.
 

The Truli village. In Alberobello is the Truli Village. Truli are the traditional dwelling in this part of Italy and are very easily identifiable by their iconic roofs.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Of course this area is highly commercialised with most of the truli turned into tourist shops and bars; there was even a truli church.

The countryside around Alberobello is beautiful and is also scattered with truli.
 

In Martina Franca we came across a shop which, at first glance, seemed to be a florist and gift shop but the flowers were not what they seemed. On closer inspection the flowers were made of 'confetti' or sugared almonds.
 

ConfettiIn Italy 'confetti' are the sugared almonds associated with weddings not bits of coloured paper. This is not a florist as it may first appear.
 

The town square in Martina Franca (above) is beautiful and presented another opportunity to sit and enjoy a glass of fresh orange juice in the sunshine.
 

In the evening I went for a walk near our apartment and took these images of the truli at sunset.
 

A Trulo in a field at sunset.

On another outing we took a look around Ostuni.
 


 


 

Did I mention the beautiful countryside in this area? This road may have been quiet but in the towns the Italian drivers lived up to their reputation!
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

On my morning walks I was able to pick figs right off the tree. YUM :)  
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

The ceramic quarter at Grottaglie looks like it is well worth a visit although you may want to research it a little first. I am not sure if we were there at the wrong time of year or the wrong day of the week but most of the shops were closed! Nevertheless we managed to see lots of beautiful (and some not so beautiful) ceramics and even bought some which the shop owner was happy to ship back to the UK for us. To our surprise it even arrived intact.
 

 


 

On the final day of our holiday we visited the town of Matera with its beautiful ancient churches.
 

Like all old towns Matera has a combination of modern and historic buildings but there is an extra layer here to explore. In a limestone gorge beneath the modern town is one of the oldest towns in the world. These old cave dwellings, known as the sassi, were in constant use for around 7,000 years. In 1952 the local government ordered 15,000 inhabitants to be moved to new quarters in the modern city. At that time this meant the relocation of half the population of Matera. By giving homes in the new quarters the government became proprietor of the ancient dwellings. As a result 70% of the sassi are now owned by the state and managed by the town hall. The sassi, having been incorporated into the UNESCO World Heritage list, are now undergoing a complex restoration and renovation to show off this impressive historic site. That is another way of saying that the whole area has become one huge tourist attraction. Although I would not wish to live in one of these peasant houses, it makes me sad to think that 7,000 years of traditional living has come to an end at the whim of the local authorities rather than by the choice of the inhabitants.
 

A church inside the Sassi. After Matera we headed towards the airport via Bari where we stopped for lunch and a final look around.
 

GelateriaGilly enjoying a final Gelato before we head to the airport.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

And so this is where we leave Puglia with Gilly enjoying one last Gelato before we head off to catch our flight.
 

Overall we had a lovely and relaxing time in this beautiful part of Italy. There was the opportunity for some good (but perhaps not great) photography, hot weather, great food and friendly people.
 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Alberobello Bari Bartlett Grotte di Castellana Jonathan Jonathan Bartlett photography Matera Monopoli photography Puglia Southern Italy travel blog travelogue Truli https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/11/do-not-pass-go Sun, 15 Nov 2015 12:12:33 GMT
A cruel age (or life begins at 50) https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/6/50-is-the-new-30 Birthdays are strangely cruel, particularly the big important ones. There I was, busily minding my own business in my late-mid 40s when suddenly I woke up one morning to find that I had jumped from the 40-49 age bracket and had now been cruelly dumped in the 50+ category. Is that it? I cannot age any further, 50+ is the final category, according to many questionnaires! In running terms I have gone from Veteran to Super Vet.
 

The revealThe moment that I realised that we were going to Venice for the weekend. I am too young to be 50. I always thought that this was something that happened to old people but I am told that 50 is the new 30 and as I don't actually feel any different I decided not to worry about it.
 

My lovely wife, Gilly, had been planning for several months a way to make the transition easier. Of course I knew that she was up to something; she is the world's worst at keeping secrets and had, on a couple of occasions, burst out singing "I know something you don't know", but I had not pushed the subject and she somehow managed not to let on.
 

Champagne GillyGilly enjoying a Kir Royale in Gatwick airport before departure.
 


 


 

I had been instructed to pack a case for two nights and a taxi arrived at 8:00am on the Friday morning to take us to a mystery destination. Of course I had my suspicions that it may be an airport but thought perhaps a party with friends in Guernsey was the most likely destination.
 

As we drove it became increasingly obvious that we were going to Gatwick airport and this is where Gilly gave me my first present which I unwrapped to find a map of Venice!
 

The water taxiFinding out what it feels like to be rich and famous. We had arrived early for the flight so there was plenty of time for lunch and a celebratory glass of Kir Royale to start the holiday as we meant to go on.
 

When we arrived in Venice, Gilly had arranged for us to be met by a water taxi so we had our own private fast motor launch direct to the hotel. I was starting to feel very spoiled.
 

More ChampagneDrinking Champagne in the hotel room.
 


 

At the hotel our room overlooked the grand Canal and there was a bottle of champagne waiting in the room so we decided to have a glass before going out to explore.
 

Spice of lifeSpices in the window of a local shop.
 

The Grand Canal In the evening we went to the Bistrot de Venise where my mother-in-law had paid for our meal as my birthday gift. I had soft shell crabs followed by fillet steak and finished with tiramisu while Gilly chose scallops with asparagus followed by a veal tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and truffle.
 

Me with my Tiramisu.
 


 


 


 

The soft shell crabs were delicious. The following morning was actually my birthday, so after opening cards and presents we went out to explore further and came across a large food market where we bought some pasta, risotto and sun dried tomatoes to take home with us.
 

SwordfishWho are you calling "big nose"? Fruit & veg market  
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Venetian glass
 


 


 


 


 


 


 

The weather was not great; it had been raining since we arrived but at least we had umbrellas and we were not going to let a little water spoil our holiday.
 

Gondolas in the rain.

Continuing the theme of being spoiled, we went to the Florian café in St Mark's Square for an indulgent lunchtime coffee and sandwich. Afternoon coffee in the Florian The Florian Caffe
 


 


 


 


 


 

. . . and listened to the live music while we were there.
 

Enjoying a coffee in the Florian. Outside the Café the band plays all day and evening. Outside the Florian the tourists were braving the rain. Chairs in the wet Piazza San Marco. After our coffee we decided to get some exercise by climbing the Campanile. This didn't go quite as planned as the only way to the top is in an elevator so there were not very many calories burned in the climb but the views from the top were quite spectacular.
 

S. Maria della Salute
 

View from the Campanile I thought that this view across the roof tops would make a great jigsaw which, incidentally, you can buy from this website!
 

Looking downFewer people seem to hire a Gondola in the rain. San Giorgio MaggioreOne of the islands in the Canal di San Marco. We continued shopping and generally exploring Venice. On many of the canals the properties seem to be in poor repair, unpainted and with missing plaster, but this only adds to the charm and beauty or the city. I guess you could call it shabby chic.
 

All roads lead to water. Another Gondola, another canal.
 

Masks in the window of one of the many masquerade shops. The shops all seem to sell either Venetian glass or masks like the ones in this window. Venetian lion    Reflections Lady in red. Wet feetThe wet weather offers slightly different photo opportunities. The Canal GrandeThis view is taken from the Ponte dell'Accademia. GondolierThis photo was taken by Gilly.
 


 


 

   Five wishesYoung people gazing into a fountain. Venetian bridge
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

After a trip to see the Ca' Rezzonico Museum we went back to the hotel to get changed and have another glass of champagne of course! Then we headed out for my birthday dinner.
 


 

Window display in another mask shop. A typical Venetian street scene.
 


 

This special birthday dinner was another surprise that Gilly had been keeping from me as she led me a circuitous route through the streets so that I wouldn't guess. We had a reservation at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli - the gift from my mum.
 

The Danieli is one of the best hotels in Venice with rooms starting at €1,100 per night for a standard room and going up to €12,000 per night for the poshest suite! We did our best impersonation of rich celebs and nonchalantly walked in.
 

A panoramic view of the Bacino di San Marco taken from the Terrazza. Mum had booked us a table on the terrazza but the weather, although now dry, was still a bit chilly and so we decided to eat inside with a table by the window. We did, however, take advantage of this spectacular view as we enjoyed a peach Bellini cocktail before going to our table.
 

Champagne cocktailsEnjoying a Bellini on the Terrace before dinner. Cherries of foie-gras The menu was fabulous and the surroundings and service made this a very special evening.
 

I decided that this was definitely worth missing the Eurovision Song Contest for.
 

Gilly chose baby octopus with crisp vegetables, caviar, Italian salsa verde and jelly bread to start. I had caramelised cherries of foie-gras with spinach, pan brioche and strawberry flavoured rhubarb.
 

Gilly's starter, baby octopus with crisp vegetables. For our main course we both went for the fresh handmade "Apulia Cortecce" pasta with crab sauce, zucchini flowers and almonds.
 

After dinner the waiter bought over a fruit flan with a candle in it as the pianist played Happy Birthday for me.
 

We rounded off the meal with coffee and mini assorted shortbreads and I requested that the pianist play 'She' by Charles Aznavour as it is my song for Gilly. Gondolas lined up at the water front.   At last the sun came out!
 

The next day, being our last day, the sun finally came out. As our boat back to the airport didn't leave until 2:00 we had time to explore some more and have a leisurely lunch in the sunshine.
 

A rather bored looking gondolier. The ceiling of the Scuola Grande.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Before lunch we visited the Scuola Grande Arciconfraternita di San Rocco famed for its ceiling paintings.
 

In the Scuola Grande there are framed mirros that you can use to more comfortably view the ceiling. I decided to put one on the floor to take a photograph of the ceiling.
 

  My artistic interpretation. Finally it was time to leave and so here are a couple of farewell pictures taken from the boat to the airport.
 

On the water. Doge's Palace

A final glass. With one final glass of champagne (well almost final, we had one on the flight as well) we said goodbye to Venice but swore that we would return.
 

And so it would seem that I am one year older, or perhaps just one day older than I was yesterday. Maybe my knees feel 50 years old but the rest of me feels about the same as I did at 35.
 

Here's to the next 50!
 

All that remains is for me to thank Susanne Carr (mother-in-law) for the lovely meal on the first night at the Bistrot de Venise and Patti McPherson (my mum) for the wonderful evening at the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli but most of all my incredible wife for organising the whole thing. All of you conspired to make some very happy memories and a birthday weekend that I will never forget.
 

Thank you.
 


 


 


 


 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) 50th birthday Campanile Canal Grande gondola Italy Jonathan Bartlett photography photgraphy Piazza San Marco Travel blog travelogue Venice https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/6/50-is-the-new-30 Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:31:37 GMT
Bacon, Vikings and "That Mermaid". https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/4/bacon-vikings-and-that-mermaid The tourist guide tells you that, to blend in with the locals, you should wait for the green man when crossing the road. It does not say that you need to be tall and blonde with broad shoulders and very pale blue eyes. So with our cameras around our necks and map in hand we went forth to explore Denmark looking every inch the tourist!
 

Up until now, if I thought about Denmark at all, I thought about Danish bacon, Vikings, flat landscapes and of course 'that Mermaid', but more about her later.  My ideas about the country were not too far from the mark.
 

Moesgaard Museum We flew in to Aarhus at lunchtime and drove straight to the Moesgaard Museum to get a couple of hours there before it closed. As you can see from the picture the museum does not impose itself on the landscape and there are great views of the surrounding countryside from the roof.
 

Terracotta warriors at the Moesgaard Museum.
 

Bog body on display in Moesgaard Museum.
 


 


 


 


 


 

The museum is most well known for its bog bodies of which many have been found in this part of the world but there was also a temporary Chinese exhibition of terracotta warriors.
 

Silkeborg museum.Open only at weekends! Next we made our way to Silkeborg. The main attraction here was another museum. It is this museum which houses Tollund Man, one of the best preserved bog bodies in Europe, that Gilly was particularly keen to see. Unfortunately we arrived to discover that the museum was only open at weekends!
 

Silkeborg is a small town with a parade of shops and a picturesque stretch of river but seemed to have little else to commend it to visitors. We had a mediocre meal in an overpriced Italian/Mexican restaurant.
 

We had heard that Jelling was a quaint medieval village so that was our next stop.
 

The church at Jelling, taken from the top of a burial mound.

Jelling is said to be the birthplace of Christianity in Denmark. The church is set between two burial mounds and within the area of a symbolic Viking ship burial site which has been marked out with white stones. Again we were met with a closed museum, this one closed for renovation, so after a quick look around the village we moved on to Vejle (pronounced Vile).
 

The river near Vejle.

The next morning we drove almost as far as the German border for Gilly to visit a former concentration camp. Those of you who know Gilly will know that this is an essential part of any European holiday!
 

Watch towerThe watch tower in the centre of the camp with a school located in the renovated barrack blocks in the background.

A perimeter watch tower at Froeslev. Froeslev was unusual in that it was run by the Danish not the Germans. The Danish government insisted that all prisoners remained in the country which meant that they had more control over the conditions in the camp. This agreement continued until the Nazis took over the running of the camp in 1943, when conditions worsened and the political prisoners were removed to death camps in Germany and elsewhere. Inside one of the barracks.
 


 

At the end of the war the camp was re-named Faarhus and was used to house German prisoners of war.
 

Today the barrack blocks have been renovated or rebuilt and half the site has been given over to a school. The other half is an eclectic mix of museums. Some of the barracks form a museum dedicated to this site; others are taken over by such institutions as the UN and The Royal Danish Navy. FroslevA view of the camp from the central watch tower. Above is a view of the camp from the top of the central watch tower. Original buildings are painted brown, reconstructions are painted red and hedges mark out the place where some barracks were demolished and have not been re-built.
 

The next major stop on our tour was the Viking museum and ship burial at Ladby where I got talking to one of the craftsmen who were constructing a Viking ship using traditional methods, tools and materials.
 

Danish craftsman

   
 


 

A short walk from the museum was a burial mound which contained the excavated remains of a Viking ship. The remains are preserved behind glass in a controlled environment.
 

Big kidCarts were at hand to take your kids to the ship burial site. Burial mound with a mini museum inside.
 


 


 


 

A typical Danish farmhouse
 


 


 

We moved on to another Viking museum at Roskilde where several ships had been found at the harbour mouth. It is thought they had been deliberately sunk as a kind of blockade against invasion.
 

Gilly inspects one of the reconstructed ships.


 

A girl takes a photograph of the ship. I stopped to photograph this church on the road from Lejre to Copenhagen.
 

We finally dumped the hire car and spent a few days just exploring Copenhagen.
 

Our first stop was at the picturesque Nyhavn where we spent a pleasant hour soaking up the atmosphere with a sandwich and a drink before taking a boat trip around the harbour.
 

NyhavnProbably the most picturesque part of Copenhagen.


 


 


 


 


 

Back on dry land and we found this graffiti wall. The little doors are all painted black on one side and coloured on the other so you can flip them to make a new design. I confess I thought that this was a great idea. Graffiti wall in Copenhagen.

In the centre of Copenhagen there are 5 streets collectively known as Stroget; this is the main shopping area and is totally pedestrianized. At the heart of this area is the Rundetaarn (round tower) which has some interesting architecture. RundetarnInside the round tower. . . . and some great views from the top.
 

The view from the top of the Rundetarn.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

In the park we found one of Copenhagen's most famous past residents, Hans Christian Andersen.
 

The guards outside the palace are very smart but not as disciplined as those in London. This one even smiled for the camera.
 

Hans Christian Andersen.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

On the way to the harbour we passed St Alban's church; I thought this was worth a photograph. The Little Mermaid St Alban's church.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

I had been warned to expect to be disappointed by the Little Mermaid. Apparently the locals cringe at the mention of her and even the travel guide says that tourists shrug and say "is that it?" at first sight of this 'small underwhelming' statue.
 

Personally I failed to be disappointed. The statue is about life-size, as I expected. Although, as I had seen photos of her, I did expect her to command pride of place at the main entrance to the port instead of being tucked away in a corner, but love her or hate her she is the most photographed object in Denmark. I saw these two walking in the evening sun and thought it made an attractive picture. On a morning walk I spotted a little girl playing around some statues so I sat back to see if she did anything interesting and was rewarded with this shot.
 

Below left: something scary in Copenhagen.
 

Below right: I decided to climb this spiral tower which, as you will see, was not for the faint hearted.
 


 

Above: Two views looking back down the spiral staircase. At the top the stairs narrowed to nothing.
 

Once again the views from the top made the climb worth while. A rooftop viewed from above.
 

These open sandwiches in the market made for a very tasty lunch.
 


 


 


 


 


 

The last item on our itinerary was the Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum where I took these final few pictures.
 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Food and drink are expensive in Denmark and we felt a bit ripped off with additional charges on the hire car but the locals are friendly, everybody speaks English, and breakfast buffets are amazing! 
 

Copenhagen has a laid back atmosphere and some great museums, all in all this was an interesting and very enjoyable trip.
 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Denmark Froslev Jonathan Bartlett photography Ladby Moesgaard ship Silkebourg Terracotta warriors travel blog travelogue Viking https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2015/4/bacon-vikings-and-that-mermaid Tue, 28 Apr 2015 19:03:37 GMT
Berlin: A tale of two cities. https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2014/10/berlin-a-tale-of-two-cities The title of this blog of course refers to East and West Berlin; now one city but with two very different histories. Brandenburg GateA powerful imperial statue tops the Brandenburg Gate.

When I was growing up, the Berlin Wall and the 'Iron Curtain' were talked about regularly on the news and were symbolic of the 'Cold War', the division between West and East, democracy and Communism, good and evil.

Growing up as I did on an island that was itself an occupied territory, one is imbued with some idea of what it was like during the war and perhaps a heightened sense of the importance of peace and freedom.

I vividly remember watching the news on 9th November 1989 showing the fall of the Wall.

 

Telecoms tower is the tallest building in Berlin.The toothpickThe telecom tower in Berlin, given the nickname 'the toothpick' for obvious reasons.

Divided we fall.This photograph reproduced with permission from the Mauermuseum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"From the top of a watch tower everybody looks like an enemy"

Berlin November 1989This painting captures the scenes of celebration as The Wall was breached on 9th November 1989. Reproduced with the permission of the Mauermuseum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I watched scenes of people breaking down the physical and symbolic barrier to their freedom, families being re-united after more than 30 years of separation, pickaxes chipping away at the concrete; guards, who just days before would have shot anybody daring to do such things, joining in the celebrations, I cannot deny having a lump in my throat.

Checkpoint CharlieCheckpoint Charlie is now a tourist attraction. For €2,00 you can have you photo taken with fake US military personnel. With the Mauermuseum (The Wall Museum) in the background. It makes me feel old when I think that these events that I watched unfold have now been consigned to the category of '20th century history'!

 

And so it was very interesting to re-visit the history behind the building of the Wall and events that would lead to its destruction. Checkpoint Charlie, then, seemed as good a place as any to start a tour of the city. Now a museum and tourist attraction, this was once the main passing point between East and West and was the site of a tense tank stand-off in October 1961. With the exception of the Cuban missile crisis a year later this was the closest that the Cold War came to triggering World War III. The Berlin construction industry.The Berlin skyline is dominated by construction cranes.

Berlin was not quite what I had expected. We are constantly being told by our media that the German economy is the strongest in Europe and no doubt this is generally true. I was therefore expecting the country's capital to be a wealthy and thriving modern metropolis. It isn't. Berlin is a relatively poor part of the country with low pay and low property prices, although it is clear to see that there is a lot of money being invested into construction and renovation. Berlin is a building site.

Three girls and a boyThe statues of three girls and a boy sit on the wall by the Spree river, across from Berlin Cathedral.

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. It has been 70 years since the end of the war and 25 years since the Wall came down and a great deal of progress has been made in that time. There are large areas of the city that have everything that you would expect of a western capital but you do not have to step far away from the historical centre or the expensive shopping areas around Friedrichstrasse or Potsdammerplatz to find areas of poverty, dereliction and more graffiti than I have ever seen before in my life!

Just across the Oberbaumbruke in former East Berlin I came across this impressive mural towering over a little 'shanty town' area of immigrants. Time for changePoverty is never far away in Berlin. This mural towers over a shanty town of immigrants. The little girl ran over and politely asked me (in reasonably good English) for some money to feed her family. I could not refuse!

By the end of WWII Berlin lay in ruins and the victorious powers divided the city into the four sectors of the Western Allies; the United States, the United Kingdom, and France formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin. Traces of the communist regime can still be seen in East Berlin.

All four Allies shared administrative responsibility for the city. However, in 1948, when the Western Allies extended the currency reform in the western zones of Germany to the three western sectors of Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on the access routes to and from East Berlin, which now lay entirely inside Soviet controlled territory. Scars of warBullet holes and battle scars are still visible on many of the buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The founding of two separate German states increased Cold War tensions. East Germany proclaimed East Berlin as its capital, a move that was not recognised by the western powers. The West German government established itself in Bonn.

Black bearThis black bear is the symbol of Berlin. The USSR wanted Western armed forces to withdraw from Berlin. East German officials had begun to deny US diplomats the unhindered access to East Berlin that was part of the agreement with Moscow on the post-war occupation of Germany. General Clay ordered that the next American diplomat entering East Berlin was to be escorted by armed US military police in jeeps. The manoeuvre succeeded, but the East Germans continued to attempt to assert their claim to control western allied officials entering East Berlin.

The thin lineAlong the path of The Wall a memorial stands in memory of those who were killed trying to get across the wall. Never one to suffer defeat easily, Clay ordered American M48 tanks to head for Checkpoint Charlie. There they stood, some 75 metres from the border, noisily racing their engines and sending plumes of black smoke into the night air. Alarmed by the apparent threat, Moscow, with the approval of the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, sent an equal number of Russian T55 tanks rumbling to face down the Americans. They too ground to a halt some 75 metres from the East/West Berlin border and, as with the US tanks they faced, stayed there for 16 hours.

By now, American officials were deeply alarmed by the potential consequences. General Clay was reminded by Washington that Berlin was not so "vital" an interest to be worth risking a conflict with Moscow. President Kennedy approved the opening of a back channel with the Kremlin in order to defuse what had blown up. Berliner MauerTHE WALL: The route that The Berlin Wall once took

As a result, the Soviets pulled back one of their T55s from the eastern side of the border at Friedrichstrasse and minutes later an American M48 also left, so it went until all the tanks were withdrawn. General Clay's reputation among West Berliners had risen further but his warrior days were effectively over.

 The division of Berlin by the Wall in 1961 meant that West Berlin was encircled and effectively cut off from West Germany the economy there was heavily supported by the West while industry in surrounding East Germany was subsidised by the soviet state.

In 1989, with the end of the Cold War and pressure from the East German population, the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November and was soon mostly demolished.

The challengeYou can still buy sections of The Wall. When the Wall came down in 1989 West Berlin no longer had such support, industry in East Berlin collapsed as it was no longer subsidised and unemployment in the area rose above 20%. A massive redevelopment plan began but in recent years that has been slowed by the global recession. In 1991, the German Parliament, the Bundestag, voted to move the seat of the (West) German capital from Bonn to Berlin, a move that was completed in 1999. Wandbild der menschenThis mural on the side of a block of flats has clear socialist imagery.

In much of the city it is easy to see whether you are in the East or West although I am told that “if you ask two Berliners exactly where the wall ran you will get at least three opinions.”

Broken toothThis church, nicknamed the 'Broken Tooth' was one of the many damaged by Allied bombing raids in WWII. West Berlin was in better repair than the East in 1989 and there has been some renovation and new building since. The East however was poor and dilapidated but had the majority of the historically important buildings. Many of the historic buildings have now been restored so the East is now quite a mixture of old and new, restored and decrepit.

The Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church (now nicknamed 'The Broken Tooth') has been made safe and partially restored but is kept in this condition as a memorial. The ceiling inside has been patched as you can see here. The ceiling of the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a third area which is the no man’s land or ‘Death Strip’ that existed within the wall. This means that West Berlin was encircled by a wide strip of land over 96 miles in length that was ripe for development after 1989 and in many places the old course of the wall now passes through new buildings or smart shopping centres such as the one at Potsdammerplatz. PotsdammerplatzThe Potdammerplatz shopping centre.

Glass houseOne of the buildings within the Potsdammerplatz shopping centre. Up on the roofAt night the roof of the Potsdammerplatz lights up with changing colours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1985 the younger generation, (people of my age for example!) who had been born after the war but grown up in a divided city, were frustrated by the older generation's reluctance to talk about WWII. Represented by the Association of the Active Museum of Fascism and the Berlin History Workshop, they organised an event called 'Let's dig' as a symbolic act at the site of the former Gestapo headquarters. What they found, unexpectedly, was the basement cells of the 'House Prison' of the Gestapo. This is the site where the Topography of Terrors museum now stands.

The basement cells of the Gestapo now form a part of the museum.

Jewish museumThe new museum is the stark grey building on the right. The most interesting and thought provoking of the museums that we visited was without a doubt the Jewish museum. In this picture you see the old museum building in the foreground. The stark grey structure to the right of it is the new museum.

The new museum building zigzags away from its narrow front with long narrow galleries, jagged lines and slanting floors giving a feeling of loss, dislocation and disorientation.

 

A lamp post in front of the museum.

 

 

Within the labyrinthine design of the museum are deliberate 'voids' empty areas which represent the vacuum left behind by the destruction of Jewish life. Small facesA 'void' within the Jewish museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching one of these 'voids' we could hear a clanking noise echoing around the corridors as if there were slave workers, just out of sight, labouring with metal. This sound turned out to be caused by other visitors walking over a layer of more than 10,000 cast iron faces spread over the concrete floor. The artist calls this installation The Fallen Leaves and has dedicated it to "All innocent victims of war and violence". Walking over the faces was quite a moving experience.

Fallen leaves

  The dull colour and hard lines of the Jewish museum. I We want youSome of the graffiti has a message. already mentioned the graffiti, didn't I? In the tourist areas and the more prosperous shopping district it is no more noticeable than in any other European city but as soon as you step in to the side streets you soon realise that you are in a whole world of graffiti. It covers everything up to about 10 feet from the floor and 99% of it is just of the mindless "I woz 'ere" variety.

There is some street art however that is worthy of note. It may be small or it may cover the side of a house. Some is truly art, sometimes it is used as an advertising medium and sometimes it has a powerful political or ideological message but it is everywhere!

Berlin bunniesSome photos just defy description.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we are only interested in the famous, the artistic or the meaningful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other thing that Berlin has a lot of is memorials. Allegedly the highest concentration of memorials in the world and of course they have a lot to memorialise on both sides of the wall. It is clear that this is a country that is coming to terms with and perhaps even beginning to embrace its dark history. That of course kept Gilly busy.

  

This sculpture of a mother with her dead son, by Käthe Kollwitz, is the central memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the victims of war and tyranny.

There are also some rather more obscure memorials designed specifically to make you think about the subject. For example there is a glass window set into the pavement in the middle of a square where you could easily walk over it without even noticing that there was anything unusual about it. But this is the square in front of the library of Humboldt University; this is where the famous book burnings took place. Look down into that window and you will see a room of shelves with no books, an empty library. Unfortunately it was rather sunny when we were there so I could not get a decent photograph.

Industrial skyline

 Something else that could easily pass underfoot unnoticed are the stolpersteine or stumble stones. Set into the cobbles, these are found in residential areas and commemorate individual victims of Nazism and tell what happened to them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 There were also opportunities for some dramatic urban landscape photography.   Berliner DomA storm brews over the Berlin Cathedral.

 

Sometimes it is good to zoom in for a more abstract shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue windows.

 

 

 

 

Coming back to street art for a moment, we visited the East Side Gallery, a section of the Wall consisting of paintings by artists from all over the world. Painted in 1990, the gallery was created after the successful merger of East and West German  artists' associations to represent euphoria and hope in a time of great change.

The Gallery is about 1,300 metres long and covered with 105 paintings, most of the paintings require no explanation, here is a small selection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kiss: This has arguably become the most famous painting of the East Side Gallery. It is based on a greeting kiss between Leonid Brezhnev, head of the communist party of the Soviet Union and Erich Honecker, General secretary of the Socialist Unity Party in East Berlin.

This photo was taken on 7th October 1979 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) or East Germany becoming a Communist nation. Why is it that any state that feels the need to put the word 'democratic' in its name is always anything but democratic?

The wording under the painting translates as "My God, help me to survive this deadly love."

The two photographs above are of the souvenir shop at the Eastern end of the East Side Gallery.

Below: The Berlinerdom (Berlin Cathedral) dominates the Berlin skyline.

On the Oberbaumbruke I took several pictures of the brick bridge with yellow trains passing over it before settling on this shot: a close up of one of the towers with patterning behind provided by another brick building.

 

As I mentioned earlier, Berlin is filled with memorials and perhaps the most disturbing and controversial of these is the 'Places of Remembrance' memorial for a former Jewish district of West Berlin known as the Bavarian Quarter. Here street signs hung from lamp posts throughout the area attempt to bring the reality of the holocaust back into every day life. There are about 80 signs, each one spelling out one of the hundreds of Nazi rules that gradually dehumanised the Jewish population.

One example is this sign, positioned near the exit to the underground station. It says "When there are large crowds Jews must not use public transportation. You are allowed only to take a seat when it is not required by any other travellers. 18.9.1941".

Other signs make such statements as "All Jews are obligated to forced labour", "Jews may not run or own a retail shop" and "Jews may not be members of the German Red Cross".

Enjoying a morning drink, this group seem happy enough as a man walks forward to give them some money, but begging, homelessness and poverty here are common. This shot was taken by the fountain in Alexanderplatz, one of the main tourist areas.

The glass dome of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, is meant to represent the new transparent form of government. It certainly presented me with some wonderful photo opportunities.

I spotted this cartoon in the Stasi museum (the polar opposite of transparent government). The wording says "Peace grows from justice" and I certainly hope that this proves to be the case for the future Germany.

It is difficult to sum up how I felt about Berlin as there are so many factors that may have influenced my view.

It is hard to know to what extent your feelings are effected by being brought up by somebody who spent their childhood looking at the war through the barbed wire of a civilian internment camp in Germany. Or my own childhood, watching war movies where the message was as black and white as the monochrome cinematography.

Arriving in an unfamiliar city you also have preconceived ideas gained through historical knowledge of the horrific events perpetrated from this seat of power and the society who either took an active part or through ignorance, fear or intimidation failed to stop the rise of an evil empire. And of course it is wrong to blame today's generation for the actions of their parents and grandparents.

And then there is the intangible psychic vibe, an instinctive gut feeling that you get about a place. The city itself creeps into your consciousness; the grand historic buildings, the remnants of communist architecture, the graffiti and decrepitude, the museums and the ubiquitous memorials to a dark past which some would prefer to forget.

You could see the city as the phoenix rising from the ashes of its past. There is still some anti-Semitism here, as witnessed by the rally against anti-Semitism at the Brandenburg Gate on the day we left, where Angela Merkel told the crowd that it was "Every German's duty to stand up against Jew-hatred" "enough is enough".

There was also a man who shouted insults at us for photographing the Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church as it was the bombs of the Western Allies that had damaged it in the first place.

Despite the museums and memorials full of good intentions I was left with a feeling that maybe the process of being at peace with the past is not yet complete in Germany. Although the vast majority of people were friendly, I left Berlin with an unsettled feeling that I could still sense an echo of both the Nazi evil and the oppressive Communist regime and for that reason alone I am not in a hurry to return.

I will leave you with a final picture; taken at the 'memorial for the victims of the Nazi terror who were murdered in the extermination camps'.

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Berlin East Berlin Germany Jonathan Bartlett photography Pictures of Berlin travel blog travelogue West Berlin https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2014/10/berlin-a-tale-of-two-cities Sun, 05 Oct 2014 17:08:47 GMT
Malta, the long road to freedom. https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2014/6/malta Grand Harbour, Valetta.As seen from the Upper Barrakka gardens.

So what do you expect to see when you visit a place that has the reputation for being the most bombed place on Earth? Bombed out ruins? 70 years of decay among the 1960s concrete architecture of a modern city? In Valletta that is not what you get. Although some areas of the island and indeed the city are a little run down and many buildings away from the centre are in poor repair, it did not seem to be any worse than in other parts of the Mediterranean. There is an air of shabby chic which is being gently and sympathetically upgraded with the aid of EU funding.

Room with a view.Spanish balconies adorn the front of the buildings in a typical street in Valletta.

The foot bridge.Near to Victoria Gate in Valletta this bridge spans the road for pedestrians.

 

The journey to Malta was fairly uneventful but we stepped off the plane into a warm and sunny Mediterranean evening. We had had lunch at the airport before our afternoon flight which was fortunate as the in-flight catering was the usual mix of the unappetising with the inedible and the unidentifiable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lockupThe lockupStorage sheds near the Victoria Gate, Valletta, Malta.
I don't think the traffic light colour scheme is intentional!

 

 

The first full day was 23rd May, my birthday. I was awake at about 8 am so I went out for coffee and a quick walk around, took some photos and started making the first notes for this blog while Gilly caught up with her sleep.

 

 

By the way, if you want to see any of these photos full size then you can just click on them.

Stuffed bird.Funny place to leave your cock.
 
 

 Valletta is the tiny capital city of Malta, measuring just 600m x 1,000m and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site because it is a 'highly concentrated historic area'. 

When Valletta was built by the Knights of St John in the 16th & 17th centuries they decreed that it should be a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen and it still retains a tranquil charm.

Noon day gun.The gun being fired almost exactly at noon.

Malta or bust!The bust of Sir Winston Churchill takes pride of place in the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

 

After breakfast we took a self-guided walking tour of Valletta. First stop was the Upper Barrakka Gardens from where there is a beautiful panorama of Grand Harbour (as seen at the top of this blog) and it also overlooks the Saluting Battery where we watched the noon day gun being fired. If you could see the face of these soldiers you would see them smiling as the first three charges failed to go off so on this day it was the gun at 12:01:08 precisely!

 

 

 

VallettaA view across Valletta with Victoria Gate in the foreground.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valletta, Malta. We continued to Lower Barrakka Gardens and the Siege Bell Memorial commemorating those who lost their lives in the convoys of 1940 – 1943. That's my wife! :)Gilly in Lower Barrakka Gardens with Valletta in the background.

 

Siege Bell Memorial.The Siege Bell Memorial with Grand Harbour behind. We then stopped for lunch at Tony's Sicilia Bar where Gilly tucked in to her first octopus salad of the holiday (not the last) and I had the seafood soup.

  The Siege Bell Memorial.

  Memorial plaque.

Tony's Sicilia BarGilly about to tuck in to her favourite dish. The Bridge Bar.Next door to Tony's, these bright red balconies can be seen for miles to the South and West and guide you in to the best coffee in Malta!

Valletta as seen from the Lower Barrakka Gardens. St John's Co-Cathedral was mercifully spared any significant damage during the bombing. Built by the Knights between 1573 and 1578, it contains the finest examples of baroque art that I have ever seen. On the outside it is quite unimpressive which makes the inside even more of a surprise. It was raised to a status equal to that of St Paul's Cathedral in Mdina by papal decree in 1816, hence the term 'Co-Cathedral'.

Inside St Paul's Co-Cathedral.

A glorious side panel typical of the cathedral's décor.

 

 

 

 

 

It is impossible to capture the true splendour of this cathedral in pictures but his one gives some idea.

Outside St John's Co-Cathedral this is the most impressive part of a rather plain building.

The Royal Opera House, built in the 1860s, was destroyed in a German air raid in 1942. The scaffold-type structure behind is a recent addition which makes this into an open air concert venue today. There are calls locally to fully restore the building to its former glory.

The Royal Opera House.

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening we ate at the Rubino Restaurant for my birthday meal where we both had antipasti, after which Gilly chose the sea bass stuffed with mint and pine nuts, an unusual but very tasty combination. I had a pork fillet with honey and thyme followed by a crème brûlée with a birthday candle in it. My birthday dinner.The sea bream was hidden under the lettuce leaf but was very tasty.

 

A boy cycles between some ruined warehouses and a traditional fishing boat. The island nation of Malta is only about 14 miles x 7 miles with a population of about 418,000.

Malta has a long and rich history and identifies itself strongly with the two great sieges but there is a great deal more to the island's story. 

Plaque on the Grand Master's Palace.The George Cross is the highest honour that can be awarded to civilians.

Malta is a heavily fortified island and has an embattled history but the more recent memories of bombing and survival through hardship take at least equal place alongside the romantic stories of crusader knights. It is almost as if the stories of WWII have been deliberately thrown out along with the colonial British powers. One thing is for sure: without the British, Malta would have been occupied by Italy and then come under Nazi rule which I believe would have been much worse for the island.

There are two factions in Malta which will make themselves obvious in the forthcoming World Cup: those who support England and those who support Italy. Some of the older generation feel nostalgic for the Empire and colonial British rule; others see the British as an oppressive occupying force and celebrate independence and joining the EU.

Many of the Maltese people are bilingual, speaking the native Malti and English. Some also speak Italian.

To understand the courage and fortitude of the Maltese in the face of overwhelming adversity it helps to look at a time-line of their turbulent and violent past. I have put an idiots' guide to the island's history at the bottom of this blog (the idiot being me. History was my worst subject at school so I apologise for any errors).

Church of the shipwreck of St Paul.This is the stunning ceiling is in the church of the shipwreck of St Paul. In 1942 King George VI awarded the whole island of Malta the George Cross which is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon civilians. Not everybody still wants to be associated with this as some see it as a patronising symbol of British colonialism.

Forgive me for jumping around a bit through history but I am doing this in the order that we visited places. So next we come to the Church of St Paul's Shipwreck. Here you can see a ceiling panel. The church hides behind a 19th century façade but it actually dates from the 16th.

Later that day we took the boat across the Grand Harbour to Vittoria to have a look around and visit the war museum.

Stairway to heaven.Steps leading up to a church in Vittoria.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilly couldn't resist knocking on heaven's door!

Knocking on heaven's door.Well you would wouldn't you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Mint Street.A view down Old Mint Street in Valletta with Carmelite Church in the background.

The entrance to a church in Floriana, Malta. The shape of the trees caught my eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maltese people claim to have the Mediterranean laid-back attitude mixed with British efficiency. On this holiday we didn't have a hire car. We had thought about it and even got as far as trying to book one but the rental companies would not deliver to Valletta as it was too far (4.5 miles from the airport) and not worth their while for only a three day hire. We would have to collect, which meant getting a bus or taxi to the airport and then they would not guarantee that they would have a car for us when we got there! This was clearly too much effort and as they didn't really seem to want our business we decided that we would rely on the bus service.

Marsaxlokk harbour.Colourful, traditionally painted fishing boats lay at anchor in Marsaxlokk harbour with the Sunday fish market in the background.

We caught a bus to Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marsa-shlock) where there is a fishing harbour filled with boats decorated in very colourful and traditional designs (See above). The town is also well known for its Sunday fish market and the many excellent restaurants get busy with locals and visitors alike.

Little Winston.A fishing boat painted in the traditional Maltese manor. The Eye of Osiris at the front of the boat is for good luck. Unidentified swimming things.There was a wide variety of unfamiliar fish for sale in the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we stopped for lunch we managed to resist the local 'Spnott' (is that pronounced with a silent 'p'?). Equally, eating food from the 'Il-Bukkett' was an experience that we could easily do without!

SpnottIs that a silent p?

Tempting?Would you like to eat from the Il-Bukkett?

 

How big?Look behind you Gilly, that's the size you will need if you keep eating all that octopus!

 

 

The crying roomIts always good to know that there is a crying room nearby if you should need one. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buses in Malta are frequent and cheap. 1 Euro 50 cents will buy you a day ticket to anywhere and back, you can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like. Unfortunately the timetables are not written for accuracy but more for their entertainment value. On one occasion when our bus did not arrive the locals told us that we would have to walk the 4.5 km to the next village where there was a bus depot.

Next stop on our bus route took us to the temples at Tarxien (pronounced Tar-sheen), megalithic structures dating from between 3600 and 2500 BC and were excavated in 1914. 

Tarxien temples.

 

Just down the road from Tarxien is the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum; this is a subterranean necropolis discovered during building work in 1902. When workers broke through into the top level they did not report it but continued building which caused some damage to the site. 500 sq meters of chambers and passages are carved out of the rock and it is estimated that 7000 bodies may have been interred here. The Hypogeum dates from between 3600 and 3000 BC, the lintels and support structures that you can see are carved in to the rock to make it appear like the megalithic structures that you would have seen above ground at that time. No photography is allowed inside so I bought you all a post card. . . 

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.

Gilly is enjoying the local wine.

 

 

Back in Valetta we spent an evening with a bottle of wine and the bread, tomatoes, cheese etc that we had bought at the market in Marsaxlokk that morning.

The homeless of Valletta.Homeless cats sleeping on the streets of Valletta. Some local people put out food and water for them daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back to our apartment I photographed the homeless of Valetta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evenings this was the view from our apartment window.

Valletta at night.Sorry about the quality of this picture. This was taken with a long zoom (107 mm) at ISO 400 and 1/15 exposure hand held as I didn't have a tripod with me!

 

The parish church of Santa Maria, better known as the Rotunda or Mosta Dome, was built between 1833 and 1860 using funds raised by the local people. With a diameter of 39.6 meters it is one of the world's largest domes though comparison is difficult. The parishioners at Xewkija on Gozo claim that theirs is bigger and, although is has a smaller diameter (25m), it is higher and has a larger volumetric capacity. So there!

Mosta Dome

The stunning blue and white interior of the Mosta Dome.

In 1942 a bomb tore through the roof of this church, skidded down the aisle and came to rest in front of the altar. a replica of the bomb (below) is still on display in the church.

Gilly and the bomb.A replica of the bomb that should have destroyed the church is still on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beneath St Paul's church in Rabat are the catacombs which were extended to form a war shelter consisting of 50 rooms about 10' x 6' which housed 350 to 400 people during the incessant bombing of Malta.

The catacombs and war shelter underneath St Paul's church in Rabat.

 

 

 

During a walk around the walled city of Mdina we discovered another impressive cathedral and, with food never far from our minds, we also found a roof top cafe with spectacular views where we enjoyed coffee and cake in the sunshine.

In Mdina the birds enjoyed my cake too.

A stained glass window in Mdina.

Bird's eye view.This was the view from our roof top cafe.

One of the Anderson shelters at the craft village.

Pot plantThis rather nice scene was taken just on a street corner in Mdina.

 

Yet another bus ride took us to an extensive but rather disappointing craft village at Ta'qali. Well I say disappointing but in honesty it was the expected mix of tourist tat with the occasional gem hidden among it. The businesses of the craft village are housed in Anderson shelters which I suspect may have been a large part of why Gilly wanted to visit but she managed to find some beautiful silver filigree jewelry so it was not a wasted trip.

The megalithic structures at Mnajdra are decorated with tool markings.

 

Another set of impressive megalithic remains are to be found at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra (just 600 meters apart).

These are among the best preserved of Malta's prehistoric sites and have an enviable cliff top location overlooking the island of Filfa. Like many other remains of their time they are believed to have been constructed to align with the movements of the Sun.

Gozo harbourArriving in Gozo.
 

 

Gozo is a small island to the North of Malta and it is just a short ferry trip to get there. On arrival we took a bus to the capital Victoria which is in the centre of the island 6 km from the ferry terminal.

After looking around the town we found another roof top restaurant with an impressive view across the city and the most wonderful ricotta-filled ravioli with an intense tomato sauce. YUM!

Not a bad view while eating lunch.

We had heard that the buses here were less reliable than in Malta and so, after a little negotiation, we found a taxi driver who agreed to take us everywhere that we wanted to go and wait for us at each site. The cost for this service was just 30 Euros and he got us back to the boat in plenty of time for our return trip.

While Gilly looked around the local archaeology museum I went for a walk to help digest my lunch. (Translation of the last sentence: I sat in the sunshine and had a sneaky beer!)

Later in Dwejra we took a boat trip through a tunnel in the rock and out on to the crystal blue waters around the Azure Window (pictured below). We also saw Crocodile Rock (which surprisingly was not named after Elton John) and Fungus Rock before returning to the taxi and moving on to Ggantija; another megalithic archaeological site in the village of Xaghra.

The Azure Window.

150 year old graffiti on the stones of Ggantija.

 

At Ggantija we found some 150 year old graffiti carved in to the rock.

 

This, we eventually worked out was actually called the Nile restaurant. I think they need to re-brand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in Valletta, the Vile restaurant was another one that we somehow managed to resist. After some head scratching we worked out that it was actually called the Nile. I think they need to consider re-branding.

 

 

The Old VicA new street sign in Valletta covers an old and fading advert.

BarredA window in Valletta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took a day off to go to the beach while Gilly explored more WWII heritage sites with a friend. Aware that I have not had a decent sun tan since I left Guernsey (i.e. nearly 3 years as I left in spring) I took it easy with just an hour on the beach followed by a swim I still managed to get a little burnt.

Golden Bay.
 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lascaris War Rooms were set out as a command bunker and designed to replicate a similar facility in London. From here the whole of the Mediterranean fleet was controlled including the American and British Army, Air Force and Navy. This was the nerve centre for the invasion of Sicily and subsequent invasion of Italy. The war rooms were carved out of the solid limestone rock 40 meters beneath Valletta.

Lascaris War Rooms.

 

On our last day we went on a harbour cruise to see the three cities from the sea before heading off to the airport.

Valletta from the sea.

The Maltese Cross.I put this compilation together out of interest as the Maltese Cross seemed to be used everywhere. Later I noticed that this was a phenomenon mainly in Valletta and was not so common on the rest of the island.

 

 

A lovely holiday on a beautiful and very interesting island.

Gilly and I would like to thank Sandro Debono for recommending the restaurant for my birthday meal and also for coffee, friendship, local knowledge and being Gilly's tour guide for a day which had the added advantage of giving me a day off from war heritage studies! Getting tickets to the Hypogeum for us was a nice bonus as they normally have to be booked about two months in advance. We would also like to thank Sandro and Cynthia for great food and company in Marsaxlokk on our last night.

 

The idiots' guide to Maltese history.

5000 BC civilisation already had a toehold in Malta.

Between 3600 and 2500 BC temples are built at Tarxien, Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra.

2500 BC Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is hewn out of solid rock. It is thought to have once contained the remains of 7,000 people.

800 BC the Phoenicians colonise Malta.

480 BC Malta is controlled by the Carthaginian Empire.

264 – 241 BC The island serves as a naval base for the Carthaginians in the First Punic War against Rome.

218 BC (approx) Malta becomes part of the Roman Empire.

60 AD St Paul is shipwrecked in Malta whilst being taken to Rome as a prisoner. While in Malta he converts the local population to Christianity.

After the Roman Empire splits (395 AD) there was brief rule under the Byzantine Empire.

870 AD Malta occupied by the Arabs beginning 200 years of Islam on the island.

1090 The Normans expanding their territory from North and West Europe pushed South from their stronghold in Sicily but it was late 13th century before Christianity again became the dominant religion.

For over 300 years the Germans (Hohenstaufen), French (Angevins), Aragons and Catalans each took their turn while the poverty stricken population suffered increasingly wretched conditions.

1428 The Magna Charta Liberatis went some way to relieving Malta & Gozo of their feudal obligations.

1479 Aragon formed an alliance with their Spanish neighbours Castile giving some stability albeit under an elite nobility.

1530 AD The Knights of the order of St John arrive in Malta having been expelled from Rhodes by the Turks in 1522 they are looking for a base in the Mediterranean from which they can launch a counter attack and regain Rhodes.

1551 The Ottoman Turks launch an unsuccessful attack on Malta.

1565 From May to September the island is besieged by the Ottomans. The Knights hold out though vastly outnumbered and the Turks withdraw having lost more than 9,000 men. The siege lead grand master Jean de la Valette to heavily fortify the island including the city that bears his name to this day. There followed almost 200 years of relative peace.

1798 French invasion under Napoleon who saw the strategic importance of Valletta as a stronghold to drive the British out of Egypt and India. News of a French defeat at the Battle of the Nile encouraged a revolt in Malta and the sighting of a British naval frigate panicked the French to take refuge in the walled city of Valletta causing the British to set up a blockade which lasted for 2 years.

1800 French surrendered and British rule was established and maintained until 1964.

1802 The treaty of Amiens handed the island back to the knights however Nelson considered Malta to be too strategically important and retained possession.

1853-1856 Malta is the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet and is used as a base for the Royal Navy during the Crimean War.

1862 Suez Canal opens meaning that ships no longer have to make the perilous 3000 mile journey around the horn of Africa to get to the Middle and Far East. Malta becomes an important stopping off point on the Mediterranean trade route.

1914-1918 Malta serves as a military hospital during WWI.

1940 Mussolini’s Italy enters WWII on 10th June. On June 11th they start the bombing of Malta but they are disorganised and over stretched. The Germans soon take over the bombing and with 154 days and nights of non-stop bombing Malta becomes the most bombed place on Earth.

1942 King George VI awards the George Cross to the entire population of Malta.

1943 The Italian surrender, following the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy, marks the end of the war for Malta as German bombers do not have the range to attack the island.

1964 The island achieves independence from the British Empire but Queen Elizabeth II remains head of state. Malta is free for the first time in its history.

1974 Malta becomes a republic.

1979 British forces leave the island.

2004 Malta joins the European Union.

2007 Malta joins the Euro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) bombing Grand Harbour Jonathan Bartlett Jonathan Bartlett photography Malta most bombed city photos of Malta Road to freedom travel blog travelogue Valletta WW11 https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2014/6/malta Sat, 14 Jun 2014 16:03:15 GMT
Rocky honeymoon https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2013/9/rocky-honeymoon   Gilly doesn't like to do AM; I've known that for a long time but this was different. This was the start of our honeymoon so the alarm went off at 7:00 and a taxi was due to arrive at 9:00 to take us to Heathrow. Due to Gilly's love of sleep, everything had been calculated to the last minute and so, when there was a bit of a delay on the motorway, she started getting edgy. This it seems was a good time to admit to me that, although the tickets advised a 3 hour check in time, Gilly had thought this excessive and calculated allowing just 2 hrs. Thus we arrived at the airport at 11:45 for a 1:00 pm flight and had to rush through security and straight down to the departure lounge. I pointed out to Gilly that, if we had missed our flight, she would have felt guilty for the rest of our VERY SHORT marriage as it would have been completely her fault!

The flight took off on time with us on board and about 9 hours later we touched down at Calgary airport. By this time we were quite tired and had got on to a transfer bus to the hotel before we realised that we were supposed to pick up our rental car at the airport. This was where we first came across the English / Canadian language barrier: if you tell a Canadian that you are looking for a hire car, he is likely to ask “Higher than what?” Our upgrade room.

Car rental sorted, we made our way to the Fairmont Palliser Hotel where  we were greeted as 'the honeymoon couple' and told that we had been given a free upgrade to help us celebrate. Our room was a suite on the 'executive floor' of the hotel and came with a separate reception desk, executive lounge on the top floor where our breakfast was served, and there were drinks and free canapés from 5:00 to 7:30 pm. We made our weary way down to the bar where we enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder before returning to our room and collapsing into bed at 9:30 pm local time (04:30 UK time) after having been awake for 21.5 hours.

Gilly enjoying the luxury of breakfast in the executive lounge. I awoke at 4:30 am with my body clock telling me that it was mid-day. Knowing that Gilly would be asleep for several more hours I quietly got dressed and went for a walk around down town Calgary in search of coffee. I noticed that the few people who were on the streets at this time were actually obeying the pedestrian crossing lights even when there were no cars in sight. Apparently, although it is highly unlikely that you would get a ticket here for jay-walking, it is socially unacceptable.

These modern sculptures in the heart of the city act as a reminder of what was here just 200 years ago.

Modern Calgary reflected in the mirror-like side of an office block.

From the penthouse 'Gold'  breakfast lounge we got our first glimpse of the Rocky mountains in the distance and we felt very pleased to have a little luxury in which to start our married life together and to recover from the jet-lag.

 

Calgary is the self-styled 'centre of the new west'. The town has grown rich on the oil industry and is growing rapidly but it lacks any real tourist interest. Even the guide book struggles to find anything encouraging to say about Calgary, describing it as 'brash and bold, liveable but characterless, prosperous but economically precarious, super modern but not pretty'. The economy in this old cow town is nonetheless growing 40% faster than the rest of Canada.

 

The black squirrels in the park completely ignore the people passing by. The Peace Bridge is loved and hated by locals in equal measure. From my perspective this looked like a relatively small city and it was hard to believe that it was big enough to have hosted the 1988 Olympic Games. That is not to say that Calgary does not have anything to commend it. There are lots of shops in the several shopping malls and a few good restaurants. The river area has over 50km of paved track used by walkers, runners, skaters and cyclists. The Glenbow museum and the controversial Peace Bridge were for me the highlights of a rather dull town. The same bridge takes on a completely different look at night.

I'm sure you can get arrested for that Gills!

 

On the third day, well rested from a night of Melatonin drug induced sleep, we drove on to Banff National Park which was the first National Park to be created in Canada. Banff town itself was founded in the late 1800s with tourism in mind; it has been a tourist destination ever since. The town is protected and further development is forbidden so it has become quite crowded and the existing hotels seem to be permanently full. We took the gondola to the top of Sulphur mountain where we found the local wildlife (the ground squirrels) to be very friendly. Afterwards we drove on to the waterfalls at Johnston Canyon, stopping to admire the views at Vermilion Lakes on the way. Double visionDouble visionThe still waters of Vermillion Lake in Banff national park perfectly reflect the mountain in the background.

Gilly has found a new friend at Johnston Canyon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first impression that you get of Canada is of a BIG country of wide open spaces. Although this may be less intuitive and more to do with a knowledge of geography, you soon get an idea of how vast this country is when you go outside of town and find that where the town ends, wilderness begins but I will come back to that later.

The water swirling around these rocks made for an irresistible long exposure pic. The second impression is of a new country. The aura of history in Europe is a tangible thing that  hangs in the air like a mist that goes unnoticed by those who live there until you step out of it into the clear air of a new civilisation; suddenly you can see all the way back to the dawn of 'modern history'. The 'old' buildings here may date back to the early 1800s; in the 'New West' of Canada even those are rare. I have pairs of socks older than that! Coming from Cambridge (or Cambridge-England as our transatlantic cousins insist on calling it), a history of 200 years is positively recent and even in the First Nations pre-history that we had discovered at the Glenbow Museum, little is known before the early 1700s.

The Lady McDonald Inn.

At the end of a busy day we went to the Lady Macdonald Inn in Canmore, a charming B&B run by an Swiss-German called Peter. Canmore was once a mining town which has expanded with tourism but is still small and retains much of its character. There is one main street with a collection of restaurants and small hotels spread out along its length and a number of houses scattered around the outskirts. An ideal stop over to avoid the bustle of the bigger towns. Here I had my first taste of the famous (AAA) Alberta steak which just melts in the mouth.

The following morning Peter made us a breakfast of blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and crispy streaky bacon (I didn't see back bacon anywhere in Canada); this was a rather odd combination but was strangely delicious.

The moods in the mountains change as quickly as the weather. There were storms all around but moments after this photo was taken the sun came out. . . briefly! With our stomachs bulging we set off for our next destination, a town called Field, stopping to take some scenic photographs en-route. We drove past Lake Minnewanka (pronounced Mini-wonker in case you were wondering) but did not stop there. If we had thought that Canmore was small we had seen nothing yet. Field is a one-horse town which deserves no more of a mention than that. About 2 miles outside of Field is Cathedral Mountain Lodge where we were booked to spend the next night. Champagne and a log fire on the only cold and wet day of the holiday - Perfect!

This turned out to be a small group of log cabins with a restaurant and reception. Surrounded by forest and mountains on all sides and with the river running right past the door, this was by far the most romantic accommodation of our holiday. After dropping off our luggage we drove on to Takakkaw Falls, the third highest waterfall in Canada where we managed to take some more photos in between heavy showers. The bear nativity won the prize for the tackiest gift. At $38 we didn't buy one!! Then, as it was still raining, we drove to the village at Lake Louise, which comprises about 8 shops, 2 cafés and a post office. A sandwich cost us $10 each which is not unusual in this part of the world. The village was rather smaller than we had imagined; there is a petrol station and several hotels around the outskirts of the village.

 After an hour or so of looking in the tacky gift shops and laughing at the rubbish that tourists will buy we returned to our log cabin to find a real fire set in the grate and a complimentary bottle of champagne to help us celebrate our honeymoon. Later in the restaurant we chose scallops to start which were the best that I have ever tasted outside of Guernsey and a succulent Alberta (AAA) steak rubbed with espresso and herbs. The steak was even more tender than the previous night but the restaurant was very expensive. As we were beginning to realise, everything in the Rockies is expensive!

Me and Gilly standing by Emerald Lake.

The Canadians are very helpful, hospitable and enthusiastic people. Their “You want to check in? That's perfect” on arrival at the hotel, “How are you today?” when you walk in to a shop or “You're on your honeymoon? That's awesome!” may sound false and disingenuous to our ears but once you get used to it you realise that it is their way and is perhaps the reason why the English are seen here as being reserved. Pause for just a moment on any street with a map in your hand and somebody is guaranteed to ask if you need directions. When we got back to the UK we found ourselves greeted by surly, sour faced and unhelpful English (and European) staff and we yearned for the enthusiastic Canadian manner.

I found my speech alternating between a faux Canadian accent and a very English one as I got used to words and phrases that feel unfamiliar in my mouth. I decided to stick with English and if I was not understood then I would deal with that when I came to it!

Emerald LakeEmerald LakeThe aptly named Emerald lake in the foreground is one of many beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies.  

Emerald lake is yet another stunning place in a part of the country where truly beautiful scenery is quickly accepted as the norm. We trekked about 4km around the lake as we needed to burn off some of the calories from the last couple of days. Next, on our way to Lake Louise, we visited the Natural Bridge where the water has eroded under the rock to form a bridge over the river. 

This Chipmunk sat in the tree just a few feet from me and posed for photographs.

Lake Louise was busy. This was the Labour Day bank holiday weekend before all the schools go back and so every family in the country was out enjoying the last of the summer sunshine. Gilly nearly got into a fight with an English tourist who aggressively tried to jump into a parking space by reversing his car at speed and then getting his father to stand in front of my car so I couldn't move. Needless to say Gilly won the argument  and we quickly moved on to our next challenge.

 

On the way up to the Lake Agnes Tea House. There was actually a path up and this part of the climb is not nearly as dangerous as it looks! This was the view from the Tea House, well worth the climb.

The trail from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes is a 7km (4.5 mile) round trip with an elevation gain of about 367m (1,204 feet) and takes somewhat longer on the way up than it does on the return leg. The reward at the top of the climb is the view back down the mountain and Lake Agnes itself. On a hot day, it was great to find the Lake Agnes tea house at the top of the mountain; with an extensive tea selection and chocolate brownies, we were very happy to sit down and enjoy the view over a cuppa! The tea house get their supplies just once a year by helicopter so there were no cold drinks but we didn't mind once we had had our brownies! All the staff live at the top of the mountain for a summer season; walking to Lake Louise about once a week they usually hike back up with a pack of supplies.

This Hotel is on the shores of Lake Louise. This is where we will stay after we win the lottery. Gilly showing how to wear a baseball cap the wrong way round!   Perfect reflections on Moraine Lake.   Back at Lake Louise we just about had enough energy left for a gentle 2km stroll around the lake.

The nearby Moraine Lake is even more beautiful than its more famous cousin. We spent a happy couple of hours canoeing across the lake and taking some photographs.  The canoe rental is $50 dollars each per hour (about £35) but the man at the kiosk said that they never keep an eye on the time and often people are out for 3 hours at no extra charge.

  Gilly scaring the local wildlife.

Another attraction in the area is a gondola (cable car) ride up the side of another mountain where you are 'almost guaranteed' to see some bears. We didn't see any bears but the views from the top were almost worth the extortionate price of the ride.

View across Saskechewan river.

Another stopping point on the Seskachewan river.

Looking down on Peyto Lake from the mountain top. Travelling further on, we crossed in to Jasper National Park. Passing stunning mountain vistas around every corner, we stopped to take more photos at Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, the Saskachewan River crossing and Peyto Lake before arriving at the Athabasca Glacier.

 Staying at the Glacier View Inn we found that we had been upgraded to one of their best rooms in honour of our recent wedding. The room was certainly comfortable and generously sized with great views of the glacier. We walked to the foot of the glacier. Pedestrian access on to the glacier is restricted as there is a danger of ice falls and hidden crevasses on the ice and besides they need a way to encourage the us to pay $110 (approx. £75) for a bus to take us on to the glacier. Climbing the moraine left by the retreating ice we could see a clean blue/white area in the otherwise black and dirty wall of ice where a piece the size of a football pitch had fallen away. The young man (bottom right of the picture) give scale to the image. At this altitude the landscape is pretty barren as can be seen from this photograph of our hotel (beneath the tree-line on the left of the picture) but it still has a rugged beauty.

You can gauge the size of this ice fall by the young man at the bottom right of the picture. Our hotel in a barren landscape. The nearest civilisation was an hours drive in each direction.

If we had considered some of our previous meals to be overpriced then we were about to get an unpleasant surprise. The restaurant next to the hotel was not, as hotel staff were keen to point out, run by the hotel. The nearest alternative was an hours drive in either direction so in this tourist trap the unethically priced menu could only be described as mediocre pub food. We paid about $80 for a salad and a rack of ribs and the compulsory 15% service charge just added insult to injury.

It was cold up on the glacier.

This was the view from our hotel bedroom window. Gilly was quick to make friends with the locals.    

Athabasca Falls.

 

 

 

We drove to Jasper and had a look around the town before heading about 5 miles away to check in at the Pyramid Lake Lodge. Here we were welcomed with the now customary “You want to check in? Perfect! Oh you're the honeymoon couple, that's awesome. There is a complimentary bottle of Champagne in your room to help you celebrate this happy occasion.” We went for a hike around the lake and took a wrong turn, it was evening, the light was fading and Gilly was wearing sun glasses so under the trees it was getting dark and she began to worry about the bears. Although it was the longer route we decided to turn back as then we at least knew where we were so we put on a bit of speed and sang Monty Python songs to keep the bears away. After all that energy and excitement we headed back in to Jasper for a well earned dinner. On the way we spotted an elk at the side of the road; this was the first large animal we had seen. A view across Patricia lake.

The next morning I awoke at 6:30 and went out in the car to try to spot some more wildlife., I only succeeded in finding two more elk, one of which was the same one that we had seen the night before (I recognised her by the tracking collar and the tag in her ear). I consoled myself by taking some photographs at sunrise by the lake. Having already taken more shots than I could count of mountains reflecting in the lake I decided to try something a bit different and was rather pleased with this picture (below) with the rocks appearing to float in the sky. After breakfast we went to the Miette hot springs where we soaked in the naturally heated sulphurous waters. This picture is actually upside down. It is a reflection of the mountain which is why there appear to be rocks in the sky.

Before you arrive in Canada the tourist propaganda would have you The pine cone on the left of the picture has just been thrown out of the tree by a red squirrel. He was busy storing up food for the winter, throwing lots of cones down before running down to gather his harvest. Each morning he was back up the tree to find any more cones that had ripened since the previous day. believe that there are bears around every corner, standing by the side of the road, giving autographs to passing motorists and that you will see a bull moose standing in every river waiting to have its photograph taken. You may even be lucky enough to see wolves! When you get there they constantly tell you how dangerous the bears are and that you should try to avoid them. Even more frustrating is that they frequently close off entire areas to the public because of  'high bear activity', telling you that 'It is far too dangerous to go up there, you might see a bear!' We had now been in Canada for over a week and our wildlife sightings so far included nothing more dangerous than a ground squirrel.  Locals will tell you that they often go hiking alone and have only ever come across two bears while out walking, and "one of those was way in the distance and he didn't even see me”. The light was fading and I didn't adjust my ISO in time so this potentially wonderful shot of mother bear and her three cubs walking across the road is unfortunately rather blurred. The tourism health and safety executive (and shops selling tourist paraphernalia) will tell you that you must never go outside without bear bells, bear spray, bear bangers, guns and armoured suits because the bears are hiding behind every tree waiting to jump out and eat you. The truth is that if you want to see the wildlife then you will have to go out near dawn or dusk and even then you need a bit of luck or to know the best areas where to look. With this realisation dawning we decided to book an evening wildlife safari.

 

Finally we got to see some of the real wildlife, some Big-Horn sheep, a female moose, a white tail deer and a female black bear with three cubs. Unfortunately the light was beginning to fade and so we were unable to get any good photos. The picture above of the bears is rather blurred.

Back at the hotel we sat on the balcony with some sandwiches and the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted, drinking Champagne and looking out across the lake.

The next day we had a 5 hour drive to Kamloops stopping en-route to have a picnic and to stretch our legs at Mount Robson and a strange little antiques shop in the middle of nowhere. The 439km drive took us across the border from Alberta into British Columbia and was mainly downhill, dropping 833 meters (about 2,733 feet). For much of the drive I could not see any cars in front or behind; the road was straight and even wider than the one from St Peter Port to the Bridge, eh! There were no traffic lights, no roundabouts, no police and no speed cameras; of course I stuck to the speed limit all the way!

A perfect days driving, beautiful scenery and no cars! On the road to Kamloops. It is only when you drive such distances, only passing through the occasional one-horse-town or small settlement and then looking at the map later, seeing how short a distance you have actually covered, that you realise just how vast this country really is. The highway gives the illusion of civilisation, especially in the National Parks with the myriad signs for local beauty spots and tourist attractions. Now that we had seen some of the wildlife our senses were heightened to the fact that when you step away from the main road you are in their country. Somewhere out there are black bears, grizzly bears, elk, moose, cougar (mountain lions), lynx, coyote and wolves. This is virgin forest, true wilderness; the nearest town may be 80km away and may be no more than a small collection of buildings, a settlement founded for trade, tourism or rearing cattle. The blue skies belie the fact that mountains can be treacherous; the weather changes fast here especially in the winter and if you are not prepared then a change in the weather can be fatal. If you are lucky you may have a mobile phone signal but in all but the larger towns you can forget any hopes of Wi-Fi.

The trees in Kamloops had been "Yarn bombed". The city of Kamloops has the appearance and feel of a small town but surprisingly has a population of 85,000 (spread over a large area) and an equally surprisingly varied selection of restaurants. We ate in a Mongolian-themed restaurant to try something different. This had an all-you-can-eat buffet style servery from which you choose your ingredients from an impressive selection of noodles, meats, fish, vegetables and sauces, all of which you pile into a bowl and then take to the counter where they fry it all up together on a large round flat-iron grill. The food was delicious, filling and different but, I suspect, not terribly authentic, having strong influences from Chinese, Japanese and North American cuisine. The town has an arty vibe with First Nation culture and early settler history mixing with the many immigrant cultures. The town centre had been 'yarn bombed' and if you don't know what that is then the picture here should help explain. Yarn bombing is a kind of knitted graffiti, the 'artists' will put jumpers, scarves etc. on public statues, or as you can see here, decorated trees or monuments. The advantage over traditional graffiti is that if a property owner objects then the wool can simply be cut off. Michael and his English Mastiff, Hugo.

Another 5 hours in the car took us down to Vancouver (and sea level) with an ear popping descent from the mountains. As we descended the landscape began to change, the mountain firs gave way to more broad leaf trees and the valley floor widened. Increasingly large areas had been cleared for farmland and we began to see cattle and barns. Gradually the farms and dwellings became closer together and the impact that humans have had on the land became obvious. For the last 60 miles or so we were passing through small towns and villages, farms and suburbs; this is where 'civilisation' begins and becomes more and more densely populated as you get closer to Vancouver.

Vancouver is a city in every sense of the word, complete with sky scrapers and traffic jams; its wealth is obvious and it was going to be our home for the next few days. We had rented a private apartment owned by a genuinely lovely man named Michael and his giant dog Hugo. Michael had one thing in common with all of the other locals that we met and that is that nothing was too much trouble. He gave us maps along with directions and helpful local tips on how to get around the city, where to visit and where to eat. Along with his intelligent conversation and hospitality, we left at the end of our stay feeling that we had made a new friend. We have invited him to stay with us in Cambridge the next time he visits the UK and we both sincerely hope that he will take us up on the offer. We spent an evening in Vancouver's fabulous China Town.

This is a Healing Lodge on the roof of a fair-trade, first nation art gallery. Inuit style modern art on a brass plaque set in to the pavement. Vancouver was a shock to the system after being deep in the countryside but it is a beautiful city beside the sea with a great deal going for it. There are many museums and art galleries (which kept Gilly happy), a large park with views across the harbour and the usual selection of shops, restaurants etc. We visited Gastown with its old buildings and steam clock (which these days runs on electricity!), various galleries of First Nations art,  the food markets on Granville Island and the Bill Reid museum before meeting up with Gilly's lovely friends Bill and Peggy New for dinner. Gilly's friends (and now mine too) Bill and Peggy New Over the next couple of days we also cycled around Stanley Park, visited the aquarium, and the Anthropology Museum at the University of British Columbia. Ships in the Strait of Georgia. The survival suits were definitely not designed for fashion! Gilly's college friends (and now my friends too) Kristin and Derek.

We took a ferry across to Victoria in Vancouver Island for an overnight stay. There we went whale watching in really sexy survival suits and saw orcas (killer whales), dolphins, porpoises and a seal. We also visited the Royal B.C. Museum and went out for a really enjoyable dinner with Gilly's college friend Kristin and her husband Derek.

Vancouver at night. Vancouver pictured from Granville Island.

 

 

Jelly fish in the Vancouver aquarium. View from the ferry to Vancouver Island. Totem poles in the Vancouver museum. Whale topiary outside Vancouver museum.              

Inuit mask on display at the U.B.C. Anthropology Museum.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orcas (Killer Whales) off the coast of Vancouver.    

On the beach a man was balancing rocks and collecting money like a street artist. There is no trick to this, no cement, just balancing skill. He was also selling photographs; I left a small donation and took my own photos.

Traditional art in the Anthropology Museum at the University of British Columbia.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In summary: I definitely recommend the Canadian Rockies as a holiday destination: the scenery is stunning,  the people are friendly, courteous and hospitable if slightly over-enthusiastic and we hardly saw any litter the whole time we were there. Do your homework well before you go so that your expectations are realistic (e.g. for seeing the wildlife) and decide in advance which tours and activities you are going to shell out for as the starting price for everything seems to be $50. This is not a holiday that is easy to budget, for you will need very deep pockets. The only thing that we found to be cheap was the petrol (gas) at $1.35 per litre (about £0.90) and be aware that all prices displayed in shops and on menus are exclusive of tax so the price you see is not what you will pay. The English hospitality industry could learn a lot from the 'nothing is too much trouble' attitude of the staff here - they genuinely seem delighted to serve you; perhaps that is partly due to the 15% tip that is the expected norm. The pace of life in the cities that we visited is much slower than we are used to in UK or Europe. The cities also have the illusion of space, even when surrounded by high buildings; six-lane roads and broad sidewalks help to create that feeling but there is something missing. The towns' 'downtown' areas are relatively small with sprawling suburbs and don't seem to have a central focus such as a square, a cathedral or other landmark so some towns feel as if they have no heart or soul. Perhaps that is because they are purpose-built rather than evolving over the centuries. None the less the towns have their own charm and there is plenty to keep visitors' interest.

 

We had a thoroughly wonderful two weeks and have acquired some new friends along the way. Our sincere thanks go to:

Bill and Peggy for a warm welcome, a home cooked meal and an extremely generous wedding gift.

Kristin and Derek for good food, good wine, great company and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Michael (and Hugo) for hospitality, kindness and friendship that went way beyond the call of duty.

To all those who we met along the way who helped to make our honeymoon such a memorable experience.

And to all of our friends who gave wedding gifts so generously to our 'Honeyfund' website, making the final credit card bill a little less painful than it would otherwise have been.

We love you all.

 

Jon & Gilly Bartlett

 

 

 

 

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Banff Calgary Canada Canadian Rockies Gilly Honeymoon Jasper Jonathan Bartlett Jonathan Bartlett photography National Park Photography Rocky Mountains travel blog travelogue Vancouver https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2013/9/rocky-honeymoon Fri, 27 Sep 2013 20:30:38 GMT
The road to Paris https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2013/4/the-road-to-paris A recent trip to Paris brought some beautiful photo opportunities in some of the most unexpected Statue of Jeanne d places and, as I was travelling with Gilly, it of course involved stopping at German bunkers, war memorials and Occupation Museums on the way. It is lucky for Gilly that I have an interest in her research, lucky for me that she usually recognises when I have had enough, and lucky for you that I don't feel the need to bore you with photographs of every Memorial des Martres along the way.

We drove at lunchtime to Folkstone arriving early for our train and, although the directions are initially a little confusing, I was impressed that we were put on the next train with no fuss and therefore arrived earlier than expected in Calais.

The whole process seems strange to me. Coming from an Island I am used to getting on a boat or plane in order to get anywhere at all. But in Folkstone you drive on to a train, sit in your car for a while, and then when you drive off again everybody is speaking French! You don't even get to see fish swimming past the window on the way!

Our first stop was at La Coupole, a WWII facility for manufacturing and launching V2 rockets aimed at the UK. This is now a large museum telling the story of the war in France and of the Nazi genocide but surprisingly little about the structure that we were standing in.

Next we drove to St Omer where we checked in to a hotel and after a brief walk around the town centre we found a quirky little back street restaurant with great food.

 

A V1 Rocket sits on its launching ramp outside the largest "Blockhaus" in Northern France.

 

In the morning we visited the “Blockhaus” at Éperlecques which was the largest bunker in Northern France and an important part of the Atlantic Wall. The bunker suffered a direct hit on several occasions with only minor damage. It was only after a Tall Boy bomb landed 100 meters North of the bunker with the effect of a mini earthquake that there was significant damage causing the bunker to be abandoned. Today only a small part of the bunker is open to the public but it is still a truly impressive structure. Gilly studies the wall of plaques at Arras

 

 

 

 

En route to Paris there was one more stop that Gilly wanted to make and that was in Arras where 218 “patriots of all origins” were shot in the ditches of the citadel between 1941 and 1944. Their names on plaques line the walls of the ditch and a small memorial notice at the entrance acknowledges their sacrifice.

Nearby is one of the many war grave cemeteries that litter the countryside of Northern France. American soldiers were, as a rule, buried in massive cemeteries in their thousands; the bodies of German soldiers were repatriated; British soldiers were interred in small cemeteries near to where they fell and the burial grounds are maintained by the Imperial War Graves Commission.

Poppies lie by a row of graves in the military cemetery.

Gilly takes a moment to reflect and study some of the names on the cemetary wall. The left bank of the Seine (on the right hand side of the picture!) with the Musée d

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last we arrived in Paris where an evening stroll around the city produced some good night shots despite having left my tripod behind at the hotel.

The Eiffel Tower dominates the Parisian skyline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning mist I took this shot of the lights on Pont Alexandre III.

Lights lining the Pont Alexandre III The following day I wanted to visit the Père Lachaise cemetery and was quite surprised at how enthusiastic Gilly was to join me; I should have known that there would be a whole section of war memorials there encompassing both world wars. This is also the site of the Mur des Fédérés where, in 1871, 147 Communards (the last defenders of the workers) were shot. There were few visitors to the cemetery on a cold day in March.

Père Lachaise is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris (110 acres) and is reputed to be the world's most visited cemetery, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to the graves of the rich and famous of France over the last 200 years. Those *inhumed here include (in no particular order) Oscar Wilde, Frédéric Chopin, Sophie Blanchard (professional balloonist and first woman to die in an aviation accident), Marcel Marceau, Samuel Hahnemann (founder of Homeopathy), Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Gioachino Rossini, Moliére and over 1 million others.

*Pedants will know that the word inhumed does not appear in the dictionary but this is surely the opposite of exhumed! Terry Pratchet fans will know that I have borrowed the word from Disc World.

 

There is no doubting what this memorial is trying to portray. The Mauthausen memorial.

 

 

The photography in this section is dramatic as the memorials are quite graphic and the mood  here more sombre and subdued than in other parts of what has become a morbid but popular tourist attraction.

If anybody reading this does not know the names Auchwitz, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck etc. then I shall not dwell on what happened there but you seriously need to read more 20th Century history.

 

 

 

 

 

Simple but effective design.

 

On the left bank of the Seine (The French refer to the left and right banks of the Seine which is confusing as the river snakes and turns hrough the city. The direction assumes that you are travelling downstream in a generally East to West direction.) the Musée d’Orsay is housed in an impressive The Main Hall of the Musée d former railway station built at the turn of the 20th century.

 

Of course I wanted to see the numerous works of art on display in the largest collection of Impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, but I was also aware that there would be a couple of photographic opportunities.

This clock feature dominates the museum

 

Pictured here are the Main Hall and the clock in the 5th floor café, both of which I wanted to photograph. I was told off by a guard for taking pictures of the Main Hall but I refused to let this stop me as everybody with a camera or mobile phone was doing the same with little effort on the part of the museum to stop them. Besides I had had my camera around my neck as I passed through security on the way in and they had not thought to mention it. I decided to have a look at the Monet exhibition and on my way came across a clock that I had not known existed. It was surrounded by crowds of people so I waited for the throng to part and my patience was rewarded when, in a brief quiet moment, a couple came to stand in front of the clock to look at the view of the city beyond. This is my favourite image of the whole trip. Today we will be looking through the round window!Watching the clock

Even at night the traffic is busy on the Champs-Élysées.

In the evening there was a particular night shot that I had in mind of the Arc de Triomphe from Avenue des Champs-Élysées; this was not as dangerous as it might look as there was a traffic island in the middle of the road where I could set up my tripod.

The other night shot that I desperately wanted to take was from the top of the Mont Parnasse tower; one of the tallest buildings in Paris. The view from the top of Mont Parnasse is better than the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower in that it includes the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately the evening that I had set aside for this was too misty to get the view I wanted so that will have to wait for my next visit.

 

 

Thop of one leg of the Eiffel Tower. Intricate iron work on the Eiffel Tower.

 

My pictures of the Eiffel Tower then, apart from the obvious tourist shots, were these rather more abstract close up shots. Built in 1889 as the entrance arch to The World's Fair, the Eiffel Tower was only intended to be a temporary structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French really know how to build a war memorial and despite their modern reputation as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” they have the most successful military history in Europe. The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile (not to be confused with the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel) was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon in 1806 at the peak of his fortunes but not completed until 1836.

The arch honours those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars and was one of the first two symbolic sites for a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 1921 (the other being in Westminster Abbey). Many other plaques and memorials now adorn the site from various nationally and historically important conflicts. A section of the freize that runs around the top of the arch.

I had carefully checked out the opening times of the arch in advance as I wanted to go inside. It opens at 10.00am every day of the year. . . except on the day that I wanted to go up when it was closed due to several thousand bigots parading through Paris to protest against gay marriage. Our departure from Paris was thus delayed by an hour as I made my way to the Place Charles de Gaulle the following morning.

Image on the side of the Arc de Triomphe. A section of the ceiling under the arch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking up the stair well.L'escargot

 

 

 

View of the Eiffel Tower as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the start of the 49.5M (162ft) climb up the inside of the Arc de Triomphe I looked up and couldn't resist this abstract shot of the spiral staircase. Inescapably it reminds me of that great national dish of France: Les escargots - Snails (delicious for those of you who have not tried them!). 

From the top there are stunning views across the city in all directions, up the Avenue de le Grande Armée towards the commercial centre and the West, across town toward the Eiffel Tower to the South and the distant Sacre Cœur to the North East.

  Looking across Paris with the dome of Sacré Coeur in the distance.

First World War mural painted in 1996. The restored church.

 

After Paris we headed back north towards Calais but before settling in a charming old farmhouse for the night we stopped to look at a mural. Painted in July 1996 it tells the story of the local church which was hit by a bomb in 1916 causing the statue of the Madona on top of the spire to lean precariously. The legend grew up that when the statue fell the war would end, leading tired soldiers to take pot shots at the statue to make it fall and thus hasten the end of the war. The restored statue can just be seen in the background of my photograph above the mural.

 

 

Finally the obligatory stop at the hypermarche to stock the car up with food and drink.

I had not been to Paris since I was a child and, like any capital city, found that there are a million and one things to do and see for everybody whatever your taste. I love France and the French people (most of them) and found the Parisians to be friendly and helpful. They do like you to at least try to speak their language which I consider fair, and I am able to hold a basic conversation in french which definitely helps. The food is fantastic, especially if you are prepared to step outside of your comfort zone; I love seafood, éscargots, frogs legs and have even eaten horse steak in the past (at least the french are honest with their labeling!).

My advice: Do not drive in Paris without a sat nav. Park the car up and either walk or use the Metro.

Will I go again? DEFINITELY!

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Arc de Triomphe clock Eiffel Tower France Jonathan Bartlett Musée d'Orsay Paris Photographs of Paris travel blog travelogue https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2013/4/the-road-to-paris Sun, 07 Apr 2013 20:11:38 GMT
The colours of Lavenham https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2012/11/the-colours-of-lavenham I recently re-visited Lavenham with my fiancee Gilly. This is a special place for us as I proposed to her in the restaurant of The Swan Inn. This is a 15th century building which I can thoroughly recommend for a weekend stay.

Lavenham is special for other reasons too. As you will see from my photographs, the architecture in this medieval village is stunning. With their bright colours, which seem to be typical of Suffolk, the half-timbered buildings conspire to form a picturesque village in the middle of the English countryside. If it were not for the presence of motor cars you could be forgiven for thinking that you had travelled back to a bygone era.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course not all of the buildings here are brightly coloured; some opted for the more traditional black and white, but this just adds to the character of the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't know to what extent the ancient timbers have moved with time or if the houses were built crooked in the first place. Having renovated a 19th century property a few years ago I suspect that there is an element of both. Some of the houses appear only to remain standing with the generous support of their neighbours.

 

 

Old gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather worn

 

 

 

 

We took an afternoon walk around the village, Gilly browsing the shops and boutiques, me escaping at every opportunity to take another photograph. The winter sun did its best to cast shadows accross the buildings and, as it sank lower in a cold, clear sky, the colours intensified and the grain in the weathered timbers stood out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It is often worth slowing down and paying attention to detail, such as these three wise imps above a shop doorway. 3 wise imps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even some of the more modern buildings employ a vivid palette of orange and pink.

 

An old chapel has been converted into an antique furniture showroom with an enormous dining chair outside. My feet didn't reach the floor, making me feel like a little boy again with legs swinging in mid-air. It is surprising what memories can be evoked by such simple things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a while we made our way to the church and wandered in to take a look, which is where I spotted this beautiful carving of Mary and the infant Christ. Mother and child  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that seems to be an apropriate point to leave Lavenham for now but we will return to this beautiful village for our aniversary again next year.

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) architecture buildings church Jonathan Bartlett photography Lavenham Medieval Photos of Lavenham travelogue village https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2012/11/the-colours-of-lavenham Sat, 24 Nov 2012 11:18:50 GMT
Cambridge weekend of photography https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2012/11/weekend-of-photography  

Last weekend was a thoroughly enjoyable, if rather tiring one:

King's Parade Two friends (Carol & Jayne) from Prism Photography Club in Guernsey came to visit and I had a packed schedule organised.

My friends arrived on Friday afternoon and, after checking them in at their hotel, we went straight in to town to show them around. It was a cold evening and we soon found ourselves in the famous Fitzbillies cafe (a Cambridge institution) with coffee and a 'cheese Chelsea'. The idea of a savoury Chelsea bun may seem strange to those of you who have not tried them but these have to be tried to be believed.

After a good walk around the town we were soon ready for more food and drove out to The Plough Inn in Coton to meet my fiancee Gilly for dinner followed by an early night to prepare for the rigours of the next day.

 

Dawn on Saturday found three figures standing on Garret Hostel Bridge in the rain waiting for what turned out to be an unimpressive sunrise which added little colour to a dull grey sky. We stuck it out for a little while until the light improved, even if the weather didn't, and then walked on to the 'Backs' and Silver Street to photograph the Mathematical Bridge and the punts resting under a dripping willow.

Eventually Carol said "Actually I'm quite hungry" - words which were to be repeated at regular intervals throughout the weekend. So, cold, wet and hungry, we found a welcoming cafe on King's Parade where we were able to dry out clothes and equipment while tucking into a well deserved full English.

Later, refreshed and revitalised but still rather damp, we made our way back onto the streets to go punting up the river Cam and have an "access all areas" tour of some of the historic colleges with Gilly as our guide.

After dark it was time to play! I had a selection of torches, sparklers and a whisk with wire wool (if you don't know what that is for then see the photo above), and we experimented with "painting with light" which was fun and I think I learned a bit about the technicalities of this versatile discipline. It gave me some inspiration so keep an eye open for future photos. Time flew by and so, with our stomachs leading the way, we retired to the Black Horse pub in Dry Drayton.

Smoke on the water

 

The weather on Sunday morning was much kinder to us. As we walked accross Grantchester Meadows a crisp frost crunched beneath our feet and a light mist hung like a veil over the river. This was looking promising; even before the sun came up we were photographing a blue haze over the water and, sure enough, our early start was rewarded with some great landscape shots as the sun rose and cast a pink and orange hue through the mist.

 

 

Golden dawn

 

Setting up my camera in a dark field I heard movement behind me and turned around to find a bull, previously unseen, casually grazing 8 feet behind me, but he did not seem bothered by my presence so I decided not to be bothered by his and continued with my shot. Eventually hunger got the better of us once again and so we stopped for breakfast en-route to our next destination.

 

 

 

 

 

The Raptor Foundation near St Ives, Cambridgeshire, is a great place for photographers and anybody else who is interested in birds of prey. Birds kept in aviaries do not make for good photography as the bars of the cage get in the way but many of these birds are kept on display perches so that you can get some good close-up shots.

Kids love getting up close and personal with the birds as you can see from this picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had timed our visit to coincide with one of the flying displays; a great way to practice your panning skills especially with some of the faster birds.

In this image the trainer concentrates on one falcon approaching the lure as another craftily comes in from behind.

You can see more pictures of the birds in my "Nature" album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last stop was the Welney Wildfowl & Wetland Centre which lived up to its name as all but one hide were closed due to flooding. On the way there we had spotted that one of the main roads was also closed by the floods and the surrounding fields were similarly under water so we decided that this would make just as good a location for our final shoot. After the flood

Luckily we all had our wellies with us and waded down the road to find a good viewing spot. This shot was taken while standing in about a foot of water (for my younger readers that's 30cm). At last after two very full days of photography we filled our stomachs once more and tired but happy, went off to get a good nights sleep.

 

If any of my photography friends in Guernsey think that this sounds like their idea of a fun weekend you are always welcome to visit me in Cambridge and I will be more than happy to show you around.

 

Since this blog was first published I have visited the Raptor Foundation several times so here are a couple of my favourite images.


KestrelKestrelThe easiest way to get close enough to photograph these birds is at a falconry display, otherwise you need a lot of luck and patience to photograph them in the wild.

Bald EagleBald EagleOf all the birds at the Raptor Foundation this chap is by far the most impressive specimen. I could sit for hours just studying him and he has definitely given me some of my favourite bird portraits.

 

Barn OwlBarn OwlEver since I was a child, when I had a story book with these birds in it, the Barn Owl has always been one of my favourite birds of prey. I don't remember much about the story but I can still see some of the illustrations in my minds eye.
They have the most beautiful plumage with a white frosting over the brown feathers and so much carachter, this cheeky chappie even seems to be smiling for the camera!

Well that's all for my very first blog entry. I hope you all enjoyed reading it and looking at my pictures. I have already taken the pictures for my next entry "The colours of Lavenham" until then take care.

Jon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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guernsey_donkey@hotmail.com (Imaginate Me) Cambridge Grantchester Jonathan Bartlett photography Pictures of Cambridge Raptor Foundation travelogue Welney Wetland https://www.imaginate.me.uk/blog/2012/11/weekend-of-photography Sun, 18 Nov 2012 20:00:34 GMT