Tag Archives: Travel

A to Z of Postcards – K is for Kefalonia

In the first half of 2000 work was getting onerous and less enjoyable and I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm for working for a company (Onyx UK) that was financed by public taxes but was providing an ever deteriorating level of service.  I had a new boss who I didn’t get on with and I needed a holiday so at the beginning of June I went to the Ionian island of Kefalonia with mum and dad and son Jonathan.

As it happened it turned out to be the last time that I went away with dad because he became too ill to travel soon after that.

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A to Z of Postcards – J is for Jackson Hole in USA

 

Tonight we stayed at the Painted Buffalo Inn in Jackson or more correctly Jackson Hole. which was close to the town’s main square with arches of Elk antlers and close to the shopping and restaurant areas of this busy tourist town.

Later we had buffalo steaks at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which is a cowboy restaurant with lively entertainment, saddles for bar stools and an impressive collection of western memorabilia and cowboy theme bars.   Jackson and the Grand Tetons have been a popular western movie shoot location and includes one of my favourites – “Shane”.

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A to Z of Cathedrals – Z is for Zadar in Croatia

My A to Z of Cathedrals finishes today with Z for Zadar in Croatia…

We flew to Zadar because the air fares were absurdly cheap, our plan was to drive south so we didn’t stay long which in retrospect was rather rude.

Zadar was pleasant but the weather was poor and a couple of hours were just enough to see all of the things that needed to be seen.  In the centre were the ruins of the old Roman Forum and just as in Pula the previous year old bits of Roman buildings, columns and artefacts were strewn about the main square and the adjacent streets and there was an area of what looked like very important excavation work that was completely accessible to the public to go and make their own important archaeological discoveries.

A to Z of Cathedrals – K is for Kotor in Montenegro

 

After a long drive around the Bay of Kotor we eventually arrived in the City which was bigger than I imagined it would be from the descriptions in the travel guides and there was a six deck, two thousand passenger cruise liner tied up at the dock which was so huge it dwarfed the town and looked sadly out of place.  I may have mentioned this before but I really do not like these cruise ships.

At 35º centigrade it was extremely hot so we were pleased to go through the main gate of the old town and into the shaded cooler streets inside, Kim because she was out of the sun and me because she had stopped complaining about it.

It was busy inside because Kotor old town is quite small with a population of about five and a half thousand and it was playing host to the holidaymakers from the cruise liner and hundreds of others as well which temporarily more than doubled the population.

Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage site and inside the walls the narrow sinuous streets took us past little picturesque shops, cafés, bars, antique monuments and cream stone buildings, balconies overflowing with billowing flowers, washing lines full of immaculate laundry and the overwhelming smell of laundry powder and fabric conditioner.

Kotor Cathedral is dedicated to St Tryphon who it turns out is one of the least remarkable Catholic Saints.  His relics are kept in Constantinople (Istanbul) and Rome but his head is kept in Kotor.

The old town of Kotor is wedged in between the rugged Bay and at the foot of the imposing Lovćen massif mountain range directly under overhanging limestone cliffs of the mountains Orjen and Lovćen.  To be honest I don’t remember visiting the Cathedral, I don’t think we did, we just took up position in a nearby bar and looked at it so we didn’t get to see the head of St Tryphon which was a sheme.

I remember this priest on his mobile phone.  I always wonder who priests are talking to on a mobile phone.  Are they checking in with God or are they ordering pizza?

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A to Z of Cathedrals – J is for Riga near Jurmala

I am really cheating with this one.  I feel like Boris Johnson.  If I was an MP I would be obliged to report myself to the Parliamentary Standards Board.  Johnson won’t so neither will I.

For my At o Z  of Cathedrals no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t find a a J.

This is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Riga.  Jurmala is about ten miles away.  In my defence I have been to Jurmala and I honestly didn’t realise that it wasn’t in Riga.  Just like Johnson didn’t realise that he had been to a party.  I have posted this in all good faith.

The Nativity of Christ Cathedral in Riga is a magnificent and impressive building that sits between the old town and the new and was built in a Neo-Byzantine style between 1876 and 1883 at a time when Latvia was part of the Russian Empire.  It was the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces.

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Seafood Dining

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Bratislava, The Old Town and the Blue Church

It was designed in 1907 by a man called Ödön Lechner who was a Hungarian Art Nouveau architect and whose favourite colour was obviously blue because the exterior is painted in various shades of cobalt, sapphire and sky with an indigo roof and blue-black windows.  And the theme was continued inside as well because again the predominant colour was a vivid sky blue that gave a pleasing and cheerful ambience to the building.

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Bratislava Old Town and the Castle

Bratislava flourished during the 18th-century reign of Maria Theresa of Austria and for a short time became one of the most important cities in Central Europe, the population tripled and many new palaces, monasteries, mansions, and new streets and neighbourhoods were constructed.

This didn’t last for very long however and Bratislava started to lose its importance under the reign of Maria Theresa’s son Joseph II who didn’t share his mother’s passion for the place and gradually it slipped behind Vienna and Budapest in importance.

In the afternoon we decided to walk out of town to locate the train station so that we would be fully prepared for our journey to Vienna on the next day.  It wasn’t very far out of the city but a walk always seems longer when you are unsure of the distance or the final destination but eventually we found it and satisfied ourselves about timetables and travel arrangements and returned back the way that we had come past the Presidential Palace with some untidy looking guards in ill fitting Napoleonic uniforms that had clearly been made for someone else of more ample proportions and inappropriate sun glasses.  You don’t see Queen’s  Guards at Buckingham Palace in sun glasses!

Come evening we went back into the city and being more confident tonight of the geography and the environment we walked back through the main square and compared the menus and the prices before we decided upon a back street hotel restaurant that served good food at reasonable prices and we enjoyed a second hearty meal of the day.

Later we returned to the city streets and then to the castle gardens and its good views over the Danube, which actually looked rather nice tonight, the water was an inky black and nicely illuminated by street lights on both banks and by the gay coloured lights from the cruise ships passing by below.

There was no bar at the hotel, which was disappointing so it was an early night in preparation for an early start and the trip to Vienna tomorrow.

It was a pleasant morning with a bluish sort of sky with those high white clouds that give a mottled marbling effect to the heavens and after ham and eggs we left the hotel and walked once again to the castle at the top of the hill overlooking the Danube.

The castle is one of the most prominent structures in the city and stands on a plateau high above the river.  There has been a castle on this site for hundreds of years, the Romans had a fort here and after them there was a large Slavic fortified settlement. A stone castle was constructed in the tenth century, when the area was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and subsequently it was converted into a Gothic fortress under Sigismund of Luxemburg (Luxemburg?) in 1430, became a Renaissance castle in 1562, and was rebuilt in 1649 in the baroque style.

Under Queen Maria Theresa, the castle became a prestigious royal seat.  After her the castle was neglected and became a barracks and in 1811 was inadvertently destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until the 1950s, when it was rebuilt mostly in its former Theresan style but with a bit of communist interpretation.

I have to say that the rebuilding was not the best job I have ever seen and in truth the place was slightly austere and disappointing, but undeterred by this we went in to look around nevertheless. We paid the very reasonable entrance fee and followed the signs taking us to the exhibits.

There weren’t many visitors and in the first room a museum attendant seemed pleased to see us and despite his limited grasp of the English language he made an excellent job of proudly explaining the exhibits to us in a staccato form of English that kept lapsing into impenetrable Slovak.  This was hard work for all of us and when he finished we thanked him with some relief for the attention that he gave to us and we moved on.

If the castle was disappointing then it has to be said that the museum wasn’t very thrilling either.  There just weren’t a lot of exhibits and I suppose that anything that might have been interesting had probably been carted off elsewhere to cities like Vienna, Budapest and Prague over the last two hundred years or so.  And they were very big rooms and impossible to fill with the meagre number of artefacts that were available to put on show.

As we walked through the rooms we kept climbing towards the top of the castle until eventually we were in one of the towers and there was steep staircase ahead that would take us to the very top.  About half way up Micky had a premonition that this might not be very exciting either, so he stayed and waited for the rest of us to complete the climb and report back to him later.  How accurately prophetic he was and we were forced to agree that he had made the right decision as we descended back down from the disappointing tower lookout platform and walked through the castle grounds and back into the city.

Bratislava and Hotel No. 16

Hotel No. 16 was a curious place; in a Swiss chalet style building that is shared with the Liberian Embassy and inside had an intriguing collection of expensive furniture, cheesy bric-a-brac and a ceramic wood-burning stove that was providing far more heat in the reception area than was really necessary.

The rooms were excellent however and had wooden beams and tasteful décor, which probably explained why it was a bit more expensive than I usually like to pay for a room.

Although we didn’t know this in advance it turned out that the owner of the hotel was a man called Braňo Hronec who was a Slovakian jazz musician and pop star in the 1970’s and there were some heavily moustachioed Brotherhood of Man look-alike photographs of him on one wall of the hotel reception.

Apparently he recorded three long play records in quick succession before fading rather  quickly into obscurity as a conductor of the Slovak Television Dance Orchestra in the 1980s and finally becoming a hotel proprietor of the Hotel No. 16.

As a pop star he is remembered in Slovakia chiefly because in the mid 1960s he established his own jazz sextet, pioneering the use of the then rare and expensive Hammond organ, and for releasing some cover versions of popular songs like ‘Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In’, but most of all for a version of Christie’s smash pop hit ‘Yellow River’ with Slovak lyrics.

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A to Z of Windows – Z is for Zadar in Croatia

The final window in the A to Z.  I posted about Zadar quite recently so no link for this picture.

The rose window developed out of the oculus, a small round window found in Ancient Roman architecture, but it was during the mid-twelfth century with the development of Gothic architecture that rose windows came into prominence.

During the Gothic period, the emphasis in church architecture was on soaring height and a greater sense of light. Taller window-filled churches were made possible by advances in building techniques such as supporting stonework in the form of bars or ribs between glass sections. Tracery allowed windows to become larger and more open, more decorative and elaborate, inside spaces to be more open and brighter.