Sunday, February 28, 2010
This twelfth-century monastery, which we visited in 2006, is a fine example of Gothic architecture from the Lusignan period. There are extensive ruins set in lovely grounds in the mountains about ten minutes from Kyrenia in North Cyprus You can also visit the abbey church. Being there was a pleasure; it was calm, peaceful and beautiful. Not far from here you can look up and see St. Hilarion, a castle, originally a monastery, perched high up on a mountain.
As you can see from the second photo taken in 2006, the Troodos mountains are beautiful. We stayed a couple of days at a lovely village called Kakopetria. The first photo is of Archbishop Mykarios' mausoleum which is located in these mountains. Even today, many years after the partition of the island, there is in Cyprus a strong dislike and even fear of Turkey, feelings that were initially promoted by Mykarios and which continue to make it impossible to achieve an accommodation between the two peoples of the island. Recently, the Muslims of the north voted decisively to unite with Cyprus in order to become a member of the EU. However, they were spurned, and, as a result, must continue to rely on the support of Turkey and to suffer from a lack of investment and development.
In 2006 when we visited Cyprus, Paphos was a disappointment. The Lonely Planet guide described the town very favourably, raising our expectations. Little remained of Cypriot culture. Even the food in the restaurants was English, perhaps reflecting the effects of British rule from 1878 to 1960. Almost all of the old buildings in the town have been replaced with the mediocre architecture of the 1950's and 1960's. The town was quite spread out, making it necessary to use a car, but parking was hard to find, and there was no beache until we finally found a nice municipal one in a nearby town. Based on the Lonely Planet guide's recommendation, we had reserved a hotel for four days, and could hardly wait to leave. Paphos is well worth a brief visit, however, in order to see the wonderful mosaics at Roman Paphos. They are by far the most impressive we have ever seen. Perhaps they will be surpassed by those at Ravenna which we haven't yet seen.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
In 1999 we visited Normandy and saw the beaches where the allies landed on D Day in 1944. In the first two photos are war memorials. The third shows Juno beach and the fourth Omaha Beach.
In 1999 we toured the area in Normandy where the D Day landings were made in World War II. It was interesting and very moving. In the first photo you can see one of the German gun emplacements that were situated on the cliffs overlooking the coast. The second photo was taken at Pointe du Hoc where American airborne forces scaled the cliff under heavy fire and were able to gain a foothold in spite of heavy German defenses.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The houses in Simi's lower town share a distinctive Neo-Classical style and are all painted in pastel colours. After Greece joined the EU, most of Simi's dilapidated houses were renovated under the municipality's strict guidelines. We were told by a resident of Simi Town that much of this activity has been made possible by foreign investment. The result is lovely, making Simi one of the Greek islands we love most.
Simi having no airport, we arrived in 2007 by boat after dark. We didn't know quite what to expect as only that afternoon had we decided to leave Rhodos two days earlier than planned and go to Simi instead. We were met at the harbour by the French lady who owned our small but lovely hotel. She was very welcoming and recommended a good seafood restaurant. In the morning we saw how beautiful this small island is. We hated having to leave the next day and wondered for a while if we would be able to. Dark black clouds promised a terrible storm as we waited at the harbour, unsure if the ferry for Rhodos would arrive. Eventually, rather than the ferry we expected, a hydrofoil came instead and took us to Rhodos safely but very stressed. The first photo shows the harbour at Simi. In the second we are having a Coke at the harbour and basking in the beautiful sun.
In 2007 we planned to stay at a hotel at Monolithos on the west coast of Rhodos, but it lacked air conditioning and was not very clean. We continued, therefore, on our drive around the island, hoping to find a boat that afternoon to the island of Simi, which we were interested in and knew was close to Rhodos. We were in luck and had to wait only an hour or so at the harbour in Rhodos Town before boarding our boat. We eagerly anticipated Simi, taking the change of plan in a spirit of adventure. The photos were taken at the harbour in Rhodos Town while we waited for our boat.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Hagia Sophia is a familiar landmark of Istanbul. The cathedral was built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between 532 and 537 and is considered the prime example of Byzantine architecture. It is famous for its huge dome. After Byzantium was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the city became Muslim and Hagia Sophia became a mosque. It was very dark inside. My main impression was of its immense size and the incredible height of the roof. There are some beautiful mosaics as well. I believe it has now become a museum.
One of the most interesting ancient ruins we explored was in 1997 at Perge in Turkey. Originally a Helenistic settlement, Perge became a major city in Ancient Rome. The ruins are quite extensive and it was easy to visualize the ancient city. From top to bottom: 1) where sculpture, now in a museum, was displayed; 2) entrance to Perge; 3) fountain and waterworks; 4) colonnade and agora (i.e., street with columns forming the market area of the city).
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The views looking down from the acropolis at Lindos on Rhodes are truly breath-taking. The photos do not exaggerate the beauty or the intensity of the blue colour of the Aegean.
In 2006, when we looked up at the Lindos fortress from below, it was intimidating to think about the time and effort we would need for the climb. Taking it gradually, we frequently stopped on the way up to admire the views of the sea which were spectacular.
All along Cleopatra Beach are hotels, some quite inexpensive, with each hotel claiming a slice of the beach for its umbrellas and loungers. This is the best beach we've ever seen for swimming. There are usually big waves, but no noticeable undertow. The sand is nice and very clean, and the water is beautifully warm. Hills surround the beach on all sides, adding to its scenic beauty, and there is a view of the Turkish fortress perched high on the rock overlooking the bay. The main road is just the other side of the hotels, giving easy access by minibus to restaurants and any other parts of Alanya you may wish to visit. On a former vacation in 2001, we found an outdoor fish restaurant where we had a table directly beside the sea. After a while, the full moon rose above the mountains making a lovely reflection in the water. It was a most romantic setting! On this trip in 2006, we tried to find the restaurant, but to our great disappointment it was no longer there.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
One of our favorite activities while in Turkey is to go out for a day's swimming off a gulet, one of the boats that are to be seen everywhere along the Mediterranean coast. The entertainment provided by the crew is one of the day's major pleasures. Photographed in 2001 in the last picture at Alanya are Hassan on the left with his crew. The third photo shows a very amusing dance performed by a crew member. Hassan was a very nice man. He asked me many questions about Canada, explaining that he wanted to emigrate. I remember thinking, "How very sad. Lacking the skills that Canada would recognize, he most likely would be unable to achieve his goal, and, even if he did succeed, he would find the differences in culture very difficult to adjust to, and would probably be terribly homesick for his life in Turkey." He was unhappy because he was unemployed all winter - he did not own the gulet - and had a seven-year-old son whose future he worried about.
Monday, February 22, 2010
This photo captures perfectly the atmosphere we experienced on our visit to the south coast of Turkey in 2006. Instead of the brilliant summer sun you expect in the Mediterranean, dark clouds and heavy, heavy rain seemed an almost daily occurrence. My very favourite place to swim is at Cleopatra Beach in Alanya. There was only one opportunity to swim in our three days there, and even then, we had to run to escape a cloud burst. We had a drink in the outdoor bar of our hotel and hoped the rain would stop, but it didn't. It wasn't all bad, though. To be in the Mediterranean in stormy weather was new and different. The threatening clouds and violent rain created a feeling of adventure, particularly when having to go somewhere by boat.
The Betwa at Orchha, India is a very beautiful river, clean and calm. As with many of India's rivers, ghats have been built along its banks. These are steps leading down to the water where Hindus take a purification bath. They may also perform puja, a type of ceremonial worship. For Hindus, all water, particularly river water, is sacred. Consequently, the river is of great importance in Indian communities.
We saw idols of Ganesh everywhere in India. The one in the photo, located in the Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Orchha was one of the most attractive we saw during our India vacation in 2007. As the Hindu god of opportunity and good fortune, Ganesh protects the entrance to homes and other buildings. In Orchha, we asked a travel agent to buy us a train ticket. When we picked it up later, he gave me a small brass idol of Ganesh and wished me good luck. I put it near the front entrance of our house, where it has remained ever since. Giving it to me was such a lovely gesture from this young man, and I shall never forget it. It was only one of many endearing things done for us in India.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
In 2000 we spent two wonderful weeks in Sicily. We saw many interesting things - ancient Greek temples being the most noteworthy. The food was excellent, the people were friendly, hotels were very good and not too expensive, and the swimming was great. Featured in the photos is the citadel of Erice. Occupied since ancient times, Erice has two castles and sits atop a mountain some 750 metres above the sea. We spent an hour or two exploring the place. I found it interesting, but, because most of Erice was totally deserted, the experience was somehow threatening. Perhaps I was affected by a slight tendency to vertigo and an overactive imagination that made it seem possible I might be tossed into a medieval dungeon at any moment. The first photo above is the view looking down from the citadel.
In 2000 we went to Sicily. Early one morning near Agrigento we went for a drive on back roads looking for a small ancient site written up in our guide book. Being Sunday there were few cars or people about. We found the site and spent an hour or so walking around all by ourselves. It was interesting because you could see from the ruins that the streets in this ancient town had been laid out in a grid pattern similar to what is now quite common in Canada. On our way back we couldn't find the road we had used to reach the site. It was a lovely morning and we were enjoying the drive when all of a sudden we came upon the beautiful beach that is featured in the photos. The restaurant was open, but no one else was there. We had a delightful swim followed by Cappuccino. What a wonderful feeling to come upon something so enjoyable and so unexpected! Later we found the name of the place - Eraclea Minoa.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
in 2008 we enjoyed this long, beautiful coastal walk near Cancale in Brittany. The town will always remain in our memory because of the delicious raw oysters we ate at a restaurant there. We had them for lunch, and because they were so good, went for a long walk before returning later in the day for the same delicious meal at dinner.
We love walking these old town centres with their narrow streets and old houses as in these photos taken in Rennes in 2008. Half-timbered buildings have been preserved in several of the towns and cities we visited in Brittany. We noticed that often, as here, several adjacent buildings have been preserved, thus retaining the integrity of an entire street. What adds to the charm of areas like this is the attention given to landscaping and the effort that is made to find commercially viable uses for these old buildings.
In Rennes in 2008 we admired this swimming pool very much without being able to express exactly what it was that made us like it so much. When I discovered that it was an example of Art Deco, a style that was popular in the 1920's and 1930's, I was delighted. Although I had heard of Art Deco, this was the first example I had seen. It's always nice to discover something new and find that you like it.