Tag Archives: UNESCO

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?

Click on  an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Sunday Sunsets – Estremoz in Portugal

The walk to the top took us through neglected streets and gardens, some youths played football and tinkered with motorbike engines.  Litter collected in the corners.

They eyed us with suspicion.  I eyed them with equal suspicion.  I felt uneasy, I didn’t feel comfortable there.

By contrast at the top was a five star Pousada hotel which to me seemed hopelessly out of place. Extravagance amongst poverty just seems incompatible and wrong.  There was a bar/restaurant with a roof top terrace with good views over the marble quarry spoil heaps and we liked it there so being a confessed hypocrite I booked a table for dinner later that evening.

Read The Full Story Here…

Sunday Sunsets – Mont St Michel

According to legend (and the travel writer Rick Steves), the Archangel Michael told the local bishop to “build here and build high.” and added “If you build it…they will come.”

I always thought that quote came from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams but it seems the scriptwriters must have borrowed it because it wasn’t only Archangel Michael who said it but also President Theodore Roosevelt who used it to encourage the financial backers of the Panama Canal project.

Read The Full Story Here…

 

A to Z of Windows – N is for Nowa Huta in Poland

Nowa Huta was built for two hundred thousand Polish steel workers in just ten years between 1949 and 1959 and was designed to rebalance Krakow society in favour of the proletariat and to overwhelm the largely conservative and bourgeois city that was a focus of opposition and a thorn in the side for the communist government.

Read The Full Story Here…

People Pictures – Waiting for Customers

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 whilst on an early morning walk on the Greek island of Rhodes…

We woke early and went to the Street of the Knights because this is one of the best preserved/restored medieval streets in Europe and we wanted to get there before the crowds.  As soon as the cruise ships arrive and discharge their guests onto the quayside hundreds of people make straight for this place and it immediately loses its atmosphere and its charm.

The man in the picture had set the tables and was waiting for the tourists to arrive.

Read The Full Story Here…

A to Z of Balconies – Xlendi on the Island of Gozo

The problem with an A to Z project is that it starts off easy enough through the vowels and the popular letter but towards the end becomes more difficult.  I was worried about X, I thought about cheating and using Extramadura or Eixample in Barcelona but then I suddenly remembered the island of Gozo

Thank goodness for the impenetrable Maltese language: Wiki describes it thus – Maltese is a Semitic language spoken by the Maltese people.  Maltese is a Latinised variety of spoken historical Arabic through its descent from Siculo-Arabic, which developed as a Maghrebi Arabic dialect during the Emirate of Sicily between 831 and 1091.”

All very interesting but the important thing for my A to Z project is that the Maltese language doesn’t object to using the letter X.

In 2015 I went on an open top bus tour of the island of Malta and one of the stop offs was the seaside town of Xlendi.  I would like to be able to tell you that it was a delightful and interesting place but sadly I can’t.  For some reason ( which I am glad of now) I took this picture of an apartment block on the seafront.

There is another village on Gozo that begins with X and this is interesting.

The village of Xewkija is a modest place but has an enormous church with what is claimed to be the fourth or perhaps even the third largest unsupported church dome in the World.

To put that into some sort of perspective the largest is St Peter’s in Rome (fourth largest city in Western Europe) and the second largest is St Paul’s in London (population 7.5 million, give or take a thousand).  Xewkija is a village in rural Gozo with a population of about three thousand, three hundred people.  They didn’t have Christopher Wren to design it or Michelangelo to do the interior decoration – they built it themselves!

Malta is the most religious country in Europe – Read the Full Story Here…

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.

Monday Washing Lines – Portugal, Porto

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

I spotted this lady pegging out her washing in Porto in Portugal.

Over the years I suspect that she has lost garments falling into the street below so she now takes the sensible precaution of the addition of an extra peg for each item. She probably can’t afford to lose her washing because (according to Eurostat) Portugal is the nineteenth poorest country in the European Union (out of twenty-seven) and easily the poorest in Western Europe.

This woman on the other hand didn’t have any washing to hang out, maybe because it has all blown away as she didn’t know the three peg trick…

Read The Full Story Here…

It is a challenge, feel free to join in.

On This Day – Guadix in Spain

In the previous post I told you that I visited Granada but stayed outside of the city in the village of Romilla. We regretted that so two years later returned and stayed in an apartment in the City centre.

After three days in Granada we left the city on 25th April 2018 and drove to the town of Guadix…

Guadix was quiet, almost as quiet as Puerta de Don Fadrique and we needn’t have worried in advance about car parking because the streets were empty, the shops were closed and there was almost no one about. We found the hotel easily enough, checked in, unpacked only what we needed for an overnight stay and then went back out into the centre.

I liked it, it wasn’t Trujillo in Extremadura or Almagro or Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha, it wasn’t Santillana del Mar in Cantabria but it was authentic and rustic, Spanish and Andalusian and I was glad that we had chosen to spend some time here.

We walked around the centre, along the banks of the crusty dried-up river bed and through some lush public parks but in late afternoon there was never much sign of life. I looked for a shop to buy some wine but I had forgotten my corkscrew key-ring thingy that I can smuggle through airport security and there were no screw cap bottles anywhere in my price range so I was forced to buy a carton of Don Simon Vino Tinto which is really cheap and tastes just the same.

The product manufacturers make this extraordinary claim… “Don Simon Vino Tinto Wine offers an expertly and exquisitely manufactured wine with fruity aroma; light fruit flavour, crisp acidity, light body and dry, tart finish. Good for every occasion. Best when served chilled. It looks as good as it tastes.”

No grape variety information or expert tasting tips and in truth it is the sort of wine that at about €1.50 a litre, if you have got some left over you don’t mind pouring down the sink when you leave if you are not too concerned about environmental damage or taking the risk of destroying the hotel plumbing system.

We sat for a while in the lonely Plaza Mayor which was abandoned and quiet but decided anyway to return later for evening meal. Two hours after it was transformed, the square was busy and there was fierce competition for tables but we swooped on one and the owner talked us into a Menu Del Dia which, as it turned out was a brilliant bit of salesmanship by him although not a brilliant decision on our part, but we had a hearty meal which filled us up including a truly enormous portion of Tiramasu for sweet for Lindsay which arrived just as she was explaining her planned dieting schedule.

I liked Granada and I liked Guadix, two completely different places which all adds to the richness and diversity of Spain and keeps me wanting to go back again and again.

The following morning we had a good breakfast at the hotel and we cleaned them out almost completely of tomato for the tosta and then we checked out and drove a short distance to the cave houses.

This is the main reason for visiting Guadix. It is like Bedrock and the Flintstones. People still live in caves.

People still live in caves!

Just outside of the City old town there is a community of residents who cling to and persevere with the old ways which includes digging a hole in the limestone cliffs and then setting up home inside. Not just any old cave however and today the mountain homes have brick façade and all of the modern home conveniences inside.

After a walk to the top of the village to an observation platform and then down again a man asked us in to his cave home and invited us to look around. People in Andalusia used to live in cave houses because they are cool in summer and warm in winter and they are cheap to build. Some people, like those here in Guadix still do!

We spent an hour or so investigating the intriguing village and then we left and set off back east towards Rojales and the Mediterranean coast.

On This Day – The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

Without doubt the most important and most impressive building in Pula is the first century Roman Amphitheatre.  It is the sixth largest in the world and one of the best-preserved examples of its kind.

The Coliseum in Rome was built at about the same time and is the biggest Roman Amphitheatre and could seat a massive fifty-thousand spectators (Some estimates suggest eighty thousand but generally about fifty thousand is the agreed capacity of the stadium), the second largest was Capua, also in Italy but now sadly in ruin, which had only a slightly smaller capacity, and the third was in El Djem in Tunisia with a capacity of thirty-five thousand.

The Amphitheatre in Pula was designed for about twenty-five thousand and there were similar sized stadiums in Verona in Italy and at Nimes and Arles in Southern France so this was more of a Championship rather than a Premiership Ground.

I say this but it seems that no one can be absolutely sure about which was the largest in terms of capacity and it is generally agreed that this was the Coliseum but we can be more certain about physical size and there was a plaque nearby that claimed that this was the third largest in the Roman Empire. Interestingly that using this particular criteria the plaque only listed the Coliseum as second largest but it’s like I have always said – size isn’t the most important thing!

We walked around the external walls and I was immediately struck by the grandeur and magnificence of the building.

I have been to Rome and seen the Coliseum and in my opinion nothing can compare with that but this magnificent building made that assessment a close run thing. It towered mightily above us stretching up into the clear blue sky and looking proud and strong. The area around it is open and accessible and that makes viewing it in many ways easier than looking at the Coliseum surrounded as that is by a busy main road and a constant throng of tourists jostling for photographic opportunities.

There are over two hundred surviving Roman amphitheatres across what was the Roman Empire and this is one of the best to see. There is still a lot missing however as parts of it had been dismantled over the years to provide ready prepared paving for roads and a convenient supply of building materials for later construction projects such as the Venetian fortress built nearby.

Thankfully most of the vandalism was restricted to the internal seating and terracing and the external walls with their towering arches are still left in place to see today. Underneath the arena there is a small museum housed in the underground corridors where exotic animals and gladiators waited their turn to be raised to the stadium for their part in the bloody show and one can only try to imagine what a brutal and thoroughly unpleasant place this might once have been.

The amphitheatre was built on sloping ground so that the part facing the sea has three levels and the other side facing the land has two. The great plinths which form the base are visible, along with two orders of arches divided by pilasters and an attic of rectangular windows.

The amphitheatre was part of the primary gladiator circuit and remained in use until the fifth century and in that time it is impossible to imagine how many men and animals died in this place.

When it was in use large beams supported awnings which protected the spectators from the sun or the rain. Four towers around the perimeter had cisterns containing perfumed water that could be sprinkled on the crowd because the smell of animals, butchered bodies and fear must have been rather distressing even for a blood-thirsty mob. Under the fifteen entrances was a ditch served by elevators for beasts, people and stage sets to be moved easily about.

It was late afternoon now so having completed our tour of the amphitheatre and the underground museum it was time to leave and drive to our hotel which was in the nearby fishing village of Fažana.