Tag Archives: Culture

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.

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 – D is for Domenico Modugno

In the centre of the Italian town of Polignnao al Mare is a tall statue of a man with arms theatrically outstretched as trying to attempt flight and this turned out to be the singer/songwriter Domenico Modugno who is perhaps the most famous son of Polignano who after a career in show business went on to become a member of the Italian Parliament.

Domenico who? I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you that Domenico is renowned for writing and performing what is claimed to be the most famous, most copied, most successful ever Eurovision Song Contest entry (even beating ABBA) and most lucrative in terms of revenue, Italian popular music songs of all time.

Think about it…have you got it…

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”

Quite by chance today is Eurovision Song Contest Day.

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A to Z of Balconies – Ronda in Spain

It took about an hour to reach Ronda, which is one of the pueblos blancos (white towns) so called because they are whitewashed in the old Moorish tradition. It also happens to be one of the most spectacularly located towns in Andalusia sitting on a massive rocky outcrop straddling a precipitous limestone cleft in the mountains. It is a town of balconies with metal grills that spill over with flowers.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

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People Pictures – Travelling Salesman

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 Polignano a Mare in Puglia, Italy. A dangerously overloaded three wheel Piaggio mobile hardware shop. I imagine the driver had to be careful going around corners for fear of toppling over…

It reminded me in a way of the door-to-door salesmen who would come by now and again when I was a boy and try to persuade my Mum to buy something from his suitcase. I don’t think she ever did. Later when I had a house of my own men would come by and spill a yarn about being an ex convict trying to go straight by selling door-to-door. I always bought something from them in case if I didn’t they came back later.

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People Pictures – Unusual Headware

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 a street in Marrakech just outside of the busy Souk…

Why do you think she has got a plastic footstool on her head?

a – She has just bought it and it is the easiest way to carry it home
b – She supports Manchester City
c – She takes it shopping with her so she can reach the top shelf in the store
d – Health and Safety – a Moroccan Hard Hat
e – It keeps the flies off

People Pictures – Matching Shoes and Handbag

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 a fiercely hot day in the Catalan town of Besalu. We were sitting in the plaça Major with a plate of tapas and a beer when a wedding party began to arrive. The lady in red was the mother of the groom.

What do you think the people in the bar are saying?

A to Z of Balconies – Ovar in Portugal

We were in Furadouro in Northern Portugal, we had planned a few beach days but the weather was rather disappointing so we had to find something else to do. Suddenly I remembered that the nice lady in the Tourist Information Office next door had yesterday tried to persuade me to take a walking tour of the nearby city of Ovar on a trail of the ceramic tiles.

This didn’t seem especially thrilling to me at the time but it was now getting rapidly more appealing. It was only €2 each which seemed rather a bargain so we quickly made a return visit to enquire if there were still places available and luckily there were so we immediately signed up.

We considered ourselves fortunate about that because as it turns out there is only one official tour like this every month and she told us that this was the last of the season.

We had to make our way to Ovar so being too mean to take a taxi we walked to the bus stop and when it arrived we were glad to be going inland away from the persistent sea mist and we were encouraged to see some welcome brightness in the sky.

To be honest there isn’t a great deal to do in Ovar, at midday the street market was beginning to close down and we didn’t want to explore the streets in case this was the route of the tour and we might spoil it so instead we found a pavement café, ordered a drink and counted down the minutes to the start of the walk.

This is the railway station in Ovar where the bus set us down…

This seemed to take a very long time, the pace of life in Ovar is rather slow, not nearly as fast as our consumption of wine so we had a second drink and then made our way to the assembly point at the Tourist Information Office where we were separated into two groups, those that spoke Portuguese and those who didn’t.

Our guide was proud to begin the tour with an explanation that Ovar is considered to be the City Museum of the Azulejo since it has a rich collection of tiles on the facades of the buildings, more so than anywhere else in Portugal apparently and for this reason the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon has declared Ovar to be a city of historic national importance.

Nowhere in Europe has tiles like Portugal, not even next door Spain, they are everywhere and have become one of the iconic symbols of the country and are used to clad buildings both internally for decoration and externally as an essential component of construction for insulation in winter and for reflecting away the heat of the sun in summer.

It seemed to me that Ovar is a city desperately seeking a tourist identity, every town needs tourists after all and Ovar is exploiting the heritage of the Azulejo. The walk began with a pleasant stroll through the streets of the city centre with frequent stops for information from our tour guide and took forty minutes or so.

Overflowing with unexpected new knowledge we walked now to a ceramic factory on the edge of the city where we were invited to have a stab at painting our own ceramic tile. We applied the paint, tried to remove the smudges (unsuccessfully as it happened) and then left them behind for the oven baking process and a promise that they would be delivered to us later in the day. It was all rather like being back at school.

This was the end of the tour, the coach took us back to Ovar and we caught the bus to Furadouro where the sun was belatedly shining and we hoped for better weather tomorrow so that we could revert to our original beach plan.

Later we went to the Tourist Information Office to collect out painted tiles and were surprised to find that the baking process had seemed to surprisingly improve them. We use them at home now as oversized coasters.

Entrance Tickets – The Village of Peretellada in Catalonia

We were heading for the village of Peratallada which it turned out is a heavily visited tourist bus destination for holidaymakers having an afternoon away from the beaches but it was quiet this afternoon as we pulled into the car park and grudgingly paid the entrance fee before walking into the village.

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