A to Z of Statues – H is for Henry The Navigator

Leaving central Lisbon I to the railway station next door and joined another glacial ticket machine queue and waited to pay my fare to visit nearby Belém, it took forever, I could have walked there in the time it took to get to the front of the line but fortunately this didn’t inconvenience me so much and I didn’t miss the next train.

I immediately liked Belém, it was a little more relaxed than Lisbon city centre.  I walked first to the east for a good view of the suspension bridge and then to the west to the UNESCO listed Belém Tower and then to the real reason that I wanted to visit, The Monument to the Discoveries.

Located on the edge of the north bank of the Tagus, the fifty metre high slab of concrete, was erected in 1960 to commemorate the five hundredth  anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry looking out to the west perhaps contemplating another voyage of discovery.

A to Z of Balconies – Verona

Supposedly the location of the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare’s love story, Juliet’s house in Verona is a popular romantic shrine and tourist honey-trap where lovers leave messages to each other on the walls and attach the dreadful lovelocks to the fences and the railings.

Although the place has become a major destination for tourist pilgrimage the house of course has no connection at all with the bard’s fictional characters and although it is old and looks authentic enough, the balcony was actually added in 1936 and declared to be “Juliet’s house” by the city authorities in a blatant attempt to cash in on the Shakespeare connection and to attract more tourists.

The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a dainty bronze statue of a graceful Juliet and people were waiting impatiently for their turn to be photographed with the heroine and to touch her right breast which is supposed to bring good fortune but I was worried that public groping was inappropriate and ever so slightly ungentlemanly so I steered clear and elected to do without the good luck boost and on the way out decided not to waste my money on a lottery ticket next weekend.

It is an interesting fact that thirteen of the thirty-seven plays of William Shakespeare were set either completely or partly in Italy and if we rule out the ten English history plays (which naturally have to be set in England) then half of the remainder of the major works are set in the Italian states and no one knows for sure just why.

Those who question Shakespeare’s authorship make the point that he sets his plays in Venice, Milan and Florence not Warwick, Oxford and York and they just may have a point!

The plays in which some or all of the action is set in Italy are: All’s Well that Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Winter’s Tale.

“Ever a shadow, he disappears, all but utterly, from 1585 to 1592….There is not a more tempting void in literary history, nor more eager hands to fill it” – Bill Bryson on Shakespeare.

People Pictures – Waiting For The Bus

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken in the tiny country of San Marino…

San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the World (it is .0008% the size of Australia) and the third smallest in Europe, with only Vatican City and Monaco being tinier. It is also World’s smallest Republic. I have been to the Vatican City but not to Monaco.

Nearly fifty years ago at University I studied the ‘Unification of Italy’, it was my specialist subject, but I don’t remember it ever occurring to me to wonder why San Marino is an independent State (perhaps that’s why I didn’t get a First) and not simply a part of greater Italy because Italy is one hundred and sixteen thousand square miles of territory and San Marino is only twenty-three (.02%). Visiting the country made me belatedly curious.

One explanation offered is that during the wars of Italian unification Giuseppi Garibaldi (he keeps cropping up) in 1849 was on the run from Austrian, French, Spanish and Neapolitan troops and sought refuge for himself and his small army in San Marino where he was given welcome and refuge. In recognition of this support Garibaldi accepted the wish of San Marino not to be incorporated into the new Italian state and in 1862 a friendship treaty guaranteed its continuing independence.

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Monday Washing Lines – Rovinj in Croatia

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

This week I am in Rovinj in Istria in Croatia.

I visited Rovinj with travelling companions in April 2011.

It was time for a coffee and there were plenty of busy harbour side bars to choose from so as we looked for empty spaces Micky reminded me of his theory that if we (the men) made a selection then this would be automatically overruled by Kim who has a curious habit of always walking to the next one perhaps in some sort of belief that it will always be better.

To prove his theory Micky stopped by an empty table at a perfectly acceptable café and waited for the girls to catch up sure enough Kim rejected it and led us instead to the one next door. It was almost identical and the coffee would be exactly the same so there really was no explanation.

Micky smirked, I smiled, Kim was oblivious.

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A to Z of Statues – G is for George Mainwaring

The statue of George Mainwaring (the actor Arthur Lowe) can be found in the Norfolk town of Thetford.

Arthur Lowe was one of the stars of the TV comedy Dad’s Army. It is set during the Second World War and is a story about the British Home Guard which was a amateur defence force army made up of local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service either because of age (hence the name “Dad’s Army”) or by being in professions exempt from conscription. Their job was to defend Britain against a German invasion force of Panzer Tanks and battalions of crack Wehrmacht troops. This was most unlikely and is the real basis of the whole series of programmes.

The show called the fictional town they defended Walmington-on-Sea which was said to be on the south coast of England but it was actually filmed in Thetford in East Anglia.

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People Pictures – Net Fixing

“…lively commentaries on village happenings relieved the monotony of net-mending to which many women were obliged to devote the major part of the daylight hours.  Net-mending left the brain free to create its own fancies and to work on the raw material of speculation and known fact from which the tissue of gossip was woven.” – Norman Lewis – “Voices of the Old Sea”

In my previous post about Castro Urdiales  in Cantabria I referred to the net fixers working on the harbour.  Blogging pal John asked for a picture and I am happy to oblige.

A to Z of Balconies – Castro Urdiales in Cantabria

After lunch we continued our stroll to the handsome old town of Castro Urdiales where the Town Hall stands adjacent to the immaculate main square next to what was the original tiny harbour that was sheltering behind its protective stone walls.

Around the harbour side women were working under parasols repairing fishing nets and past the fish market at the far end of the harbour a set of weathered stone steps took us up to castle which stands on an elevated rocky outcrop. We made the tour of the restored fortress and then walked around the outside of the impressive medieval parish church, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, which had the external appearance of a much grander cathedral.

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People Pictures – Caught in the Sunset

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on the Greek island of Amorgos…

Amorgos has some fabulous sunsets, this picture is one of mine…

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Monday Washing Lines – Venice Canal

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

“The Venetian gondola is as free and graceful, in its gliding movement, as a serpent. It is twenty or thirty feet long and is narrow and deep like a canoe; its sharp bow and stern sweep upward from the water like the horns of a crescent…. The bow is ornamented with a battle axe attachment that threatens to cut passing boats in two.” – Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

Our friendly gondolier took us first through some narrow back canals heading for the Grand Canal that without pavements or people were curiously quiet as we passed by the back doors and water garages of mansions, shops and restaurants but the main canals were busier, lined with cafés and restaurants and with crowds of people crossing the narrow bridges every few metres or so.

I preferred the quieter back canals where it was possible to get a real taste of Venice. The Venice where people live. At water level there was a completely different perspective to the buildings and down here we could see the exposed brickwork and the crumbling pastel coloured stucco giving in to the constant assault of the waters of the lagoon as it gnaws and gouges its relentless way into the fabric of the buildings.

 

It is a challenge, feel free to join in.

A to Z of Statues – F is for Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders was a Royal Navy officer and an English navigator and cartographer of very special talent who led the second circumnavigation of what was then called in equal parts New Holland (named by Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer) and New South Wales. The name Australia derives from Latin australis meaning southern, and dates back to 2nd century legends of an “unknown southern land” . The explorer Matthew Flinders renamed the land Terra Australis, which was later abbreviated to the current form. The name Australia stuck, there is still a part of Australia called New South Wales but there is no New Holland. There is a Tasmania of course.

Although he was modest enough to never name for any feature in all his discoveries, Flinders’ name is now associated with over one hundred geographical features and places in Australia and after Queen Victoria there are more statues of Flinders in Australia than anyone else.

In February 2020 my blogging pal John from Australia came to the UK and we met up. I took him to the village of his birthplace, Donington in Lincolnshire…

We visited the village market square where he was born. The house is sadly now gone, demolished a hundred years ago or so and then on to the Parish Church with a soaring tower and steeple which is a sort of museum about his life and achievements.

There is an interesting story about his coffin. his coffin. England is currently building an unnecessary and very expensive new high speed rail service from London to the north and during excavations near Euston Station in London the coffin of Matthew Flinders was discovered in a graveyard that had been built over a hundred years or so ago. The discovery was almost as big a thing as finding King Richard III underneath a car park in Leicester.

The coffin and the remains are currently undergoing scientific analysis but once this is complete the body will be returned to Donington and interred with special rejoicing and appropriate reverence in the church in the village.

Donington is miles and miles away from anywhere that tourists normally go but will almost certainly become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from Australia.

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