July 9 SquareTree: The Araucaria

A quote that another blogger posted about trees prompted me to create this post as my contribution to the 9th day of Becky’s July Squares, with the topic of trees.

The author of this quote, Jaime Lerner, is a Brazilian who in the early 1970s was the mayor of the city of Curitiba, the capital of Paraná, a state in southern Brazil. Anyone who has been to Curitiba will recognize how appropriate this quote is for his city and his impact as urban planner and mayor. Between my first visit in 1971 and my last, five years ago, the city has not only grown to over 1 million inhabitants but also contains a number of beautiful parks, including several dedicated to ethnic groups in the city, a pedestrian area in downtown, and a comprehensive system of rapid transit buses (BRT), among many other innovations which began during Jaime Lerner’s tenure as mayor.

Rua das Flores, pedestrian street in downtown Curitiba

I hold Curitiba in my heart as my favorite city in Brazil, and one of its attractions that I am particularly fond of is a tree native to southern Brazil, araucaria angustifolia, better known as o pinheiro do Parana’ although it is not actually a pine. It belongs to the conifer family. I had never seen a tree like it before; it is so unique and is found only in southern Brazil and some parts of northern Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. All over Curitiba are these wonderful trees, which I feature in square photos below.

Towering araucaria against a darkening sky

The Wikipedia article about this araucaria species says that it is critically endangered, having lost 97% of its habitat to logging and agriculture.

araucarias in a park

The species is spread via its seeds, called the pinhão, by Parana’s state bird, the azure jay, and other animals.

Historical Portuguese style church in downtown Curitiba, with an araucaria rising up behind another historical building.

The article also says that this tree is dioecious – some are male and some are female. The male produces an oblong cone (the photo below shows how they look when they are dried up). The female’s cones are spherical and quite large, and inside are the pinhão seeds (100-150 per cone), which are about 2 inches long and taste sort of like pine nuts or chestnuts.

The shell of the pinhão is also used to make small crafts.

CFFC: Murals

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge with the topic Murals and GraffitiI have a wealth of photos in my archives, because I love photographing public artwork! I include here a sampling of each location. Note that I have blogged about most of these places before, so there will be some duplicates. 

Tucumcari, New Mexico: A town I had never heard of before has apparently achieved renown due to at least two songs about the town, and a novel set there. It’s a stop on Route 66.

Cuba, Missouri: This small town on Route 66 is famous for its murals, depicting historical scenes and events, and scenes of daily life.  Many are scenes of the Civil War, but I have not included any of those here. Cuba is a “must-see” for any Route 66 trip!

Pontiac, Illinois:  one of the last (or first, depending on which way you go) along Route 66. In Pontiac also is a good-sized museum and store selling all types of Route 66 memorabilia. 

Because of its prominence on Route 66, there are miniature cars all over downtown Lexington, each with a different artist’s painting.
Local historical figures

Black Cat Alley in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is an alley flanked by old industrial buildings, which has been converted into a “canvas” for local mural painters! Located in the downtown area, it is easy to get to and I would recommend it for anyone visiting Milwaukee that has an interest in mural art.

Lincoln, Nebraska is a surprisingly interesting city. I had never been to Nebraska before our 2018 road trip and since we like to visit capital cities, we spent a day there. There is a section of town we discovered by accident while finding our way to a restaurant recommended online. Across the street was an old warehouse converted into an artists’ co-op workshop with interesting art on the outside walls.

Denver, Colorado:  We stayed at a fantastic Airbnb in the artsy part of town. On Tennyson St. (where the first of these photos were taken), they have weekly art fairs during the summer season.

Sidewalk art/graffiti in downtown Denver

Dubuque, Iowa – near the Mississippi River Museum

Des Moines, Iowa

In Amsterdam, Holland we took a private boat tour on the canals and harbor. We discovered several trailers painted in vivid colors.

Brazil is very rich in culture and teeming with artists of all kinds. The more famous ones display their art in galleries and museums. However, the street art is amazing, painted by very talented “graffiti artists.” In the city of São Paulo, there was literally art everywhere – you could barely walk one block without seeing street art.

Ibirapuera Park is a large park in Sao Paulo containing small art museums, walking paths, and refreshment stands. This mural was on the wall outside a public restroom.
On another wall outside the same restrooms
On a street near Ibirapuera Park
Under a bridge near Ibirapuera Park – graffiti art and a homeless person’s possessions

For connoisseurs of “graffiti art” (although most of it is much more beautiful than graffiti), there is a neighborhood in São Paulo called Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley) – wander its cobblestone streets to see an explosion of beautiful and/or humorous murals and sometimes political statements. The first two photos were taken outside Beco do Batman proper, which is residential – and we needed lunch so these were our view from the small café where we ate.

CFFC: What Noses Smell

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week continues with the senses. This week it is the sense of smell.

Swan noses are two thin parallel slits on their bills.
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Cows smell the grass and feed they eat.
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Cats’ noses…
20200125_191913smell everything they encounter as they explore anything new….
…a birthday cake or
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…someone’s jacket.
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Cats are especially attracted to the smell of catnip, a plant in the mint family with a pungent smell. Pet stores sell little toys stuffed with catnip – Hazel’s was a carrot that we tied to her scratching post. Catnip is the marijuana of catdom!!
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Noses may be displayed in artwork, such as on this tapestry entitled “Processional Nose” at the Eye Film Museum in Amsterdam.
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Human noses…

are also attracted to certain smells. Some research indicates that humans may choose their mates by the person’s smell (unconsciously, of course).

What could be more wonderfully sweet than the smell of lilacs in spring?
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Many flowers have a pleasant fragrance, perhaps to attract pollinators.
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Spices also have strong smells.
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A smell unpleasant to most people is cigarette smoke – yet smokers and those who live with them don’t smell it at all! Their noses are desensitized to the smell that permeates everything they own. (This photo courtesy of Google Images)
Delaware moves closer to raising smoking age to 21 - WHYY
However, we associate some smoke smells with family barbecues.
20170710_192031Like certain songs, many odors, such as smelling a certain cuisine, can invoke memories. Many foods have strong smells, whether one appreciates them or not.
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What smells can you conjure up looking at these photos?
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Words associated with smell include:  smell, stink, odor, rotten eggs, fragrance, perfume, scent, aroma, smoky, musty, garlicky, acrid, reek, funky, malodorous, fetid, whiff, inhale, putrid, rancid, stench, odoriferous, sweet-smelling, flowery, redolent, pungent, bouquet, balm, savory, spicy. (Notice how many words we have for bad smells, less for good smells!)

CFFC: Touching

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is on a series exploring the senses. This week it is the sense of touch.

Touching each other is something many people miss during this pandemic, where we are told to stay 6 feet away from others and not to touch our face! In fact, handshaking as a form of greeting someone may become a thing of the past.

Touching, or petting, our furry friends is one of the ways we communicate with them, and it is something that they generally like. This touching is pleasurable for both human and animal.

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Hazel’s fur is so soft and smooth.

Contentment!
You can tell Hazel enjoys this attention!

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Dogs also love the attention. Dale always stops to pet some of our neighbor’s dogs, like this one, “Iphi” (short for Iphigenia).

We are touched by raindrops that fall on our heads when we pass under a tree just after a rain shower.
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Just as we find out it is raining when the raindrops touch us, we are also touched by the wind, the sun’s heat, or the cold of winter.
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Animals and people touch to show love for each other.

Romantic love:
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Sisterly love:
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Old friends coming together:
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Sometimes we want to touch something because of its texture.
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Top o’ the Morning!

I don’t usually get up early. Especially now – what’s the point? I can’t go anywhere anyway! I have a routine of getting up, getting a cup of tea (I can’t tolerate coffee anymore, although I love it), a banana and a piece of Babybel cheese, and then going to a comfortable spot to read and enjoy my morning snack. In warm weather, I like to sit on the porch and breathe the morning air. So it’s usually 10 a.m. or later before I get going with my day.

But when we travel with tour groups, we often have to get up very early, and on those occasions I do have the opportunity to appreciate the early morning, or Top o’ the morning, as the Irish say, (and in order to fit into Becky’s April Square Tops!)

So for Lens-Artists photo challenge#93 with the topic morning, I am posting some photos I took early in the morning while traveling, mostly with tours, in 2018-2019.

ON SAFARI
On safari, it’s a given to get up really early, so you can have breakfast and go on a game drive in the early morning when the animals tend to be more active. So every day, our alarm was set for 6 a.m. – when I hear that alarm tune on my husband’s tablet, I still think I’m in Tanzania!

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On the patio of our lodge at Tarangire – 6:48 a.m.

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Same exact time the next morning – what a view overlooking Tarangire National Park!

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After this beautiful sunrise in Serengeti National Park…

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…we had a picnic breakfast in the park!

DES MOINES, IOWA
My husband tends to wake up really early whenever we’re sleeping somewhere away from home. Sometimes he wakes me up too. Here we got a great photo overlooking the river toward downtown Des Moines. You can see the capitol building in the distance!

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From Best Western hotel room window, 7:12 a.m. in late September

EGYPT
We were in Egypt in the winter, so I often captured the rising sun between 8 and 9 a.m.!

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The Great Pyramid of Giza, at 9:46 a.m.

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View from our hotel room at the Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor, 6:53 a.m.

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We took a 5-day cruise up the Nile, in an Egyptian style dahabeya. This type of boat doesn’t have a motor – it’s towed by tug or unfurls its sails, but because of this, we couldn’t travel at night. We docked at Besaw Island one night, and in the morning, the trees were golden in the light of the rising sun, at 6:58 a.m.

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At the end of the five-day cruise, we had arrived at Aswan, where we had to disembark. We had a long day ahead, so I took this shot at 6:24 a.m. at the breakfast table on board.

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The next morning, we were at a rustic lodge in Abu Simbel, where I took this photo from the patio, with a view of several islands on this part of the Nile. Since the Aswan High Dam was built, this part of the Nile is now a lake. 6:57 a.m.

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This was part of our view from Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan (where Agatha Christie wrote her famous mystery, Death on the Nile) at 7:20 a.m.

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At 6:22 a.m. the next morning, we were already on a bus which would take us to the Aswan airport, to fly back to Cairo.

ISRAEL
In order to cram as many sites as possible into one day, our tour company in Israel required us to be on the bus no later than 7:30. So we got up at 6 a.m. every morning, and went downstairs to breakfast between 6:30 and 7:00.

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We were on the road already when I took this photo of the Sea of Galilee receiving rays from the early morning sun, at 7:52 a.m. in early January 2019.

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The next day, I took this photo at 6:57 a.m. from our hotel room overlooking Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, before we went down to breakfast.

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We traveled south toward the Dead Sea, seen here between 7 and 8 a.m.

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We were in Jerusalem for the last few days of the tour. This is at the Church of All Nations, at 7:50 a.m. We explored the outside first, and were allowed inside at 8:00.

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Only a few of the faithful are at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to say their prayers at 8:05 a.m. The women’s section is more crowded because it is a lot smaller.

EUROPE
On our European cruise last summer, we only had to get up very early a couple of days. Usually, we’d wake up and go out on the balcony of our stateroom.

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I must have had insomnia, because I took this photo as we were cruising into Vienna at 3:56 a.m. in early July!

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The sun was full up on this cloudy day when I took this photo. It was 8:55 a.m. and I was getting my first look at Budapest just before our ship docked!

Although when I’m home, I stay up late (I’m writing this after midnight! – I’m late, sorry, Becky!) and get up late the next morning, when we travel, even on days we don’t have to get up early, we usually do because we are excited! I cherish these last trips we took before the quarantine put a stop to my planning for the next trip, scheduled for this month! But we won’t be stuck at home forever, and I look forward to more adventures soon!

 

 

 

 

Thursday Doors: Church of the Nativity

While I’m stuck at home, I’m making a photo book on Shutterfly of our trip to Israel last year. Going through the photos, I noticed some interesting doors I don’t think I’ve posted before, like these in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity. So I will tell the story of our visit forNorm’s Thursday Doors.

Bethlehem is located in the West Bank and we took a bus there from Jerusalem. When we arrived, I was gob smacked at how large the church was! It couldn’t all fit in one picture. 20190113_145507d
More remarkable is that this church was built in 530 CE by Justinian, on the site of a 4th century church over the cave in which Jesus is said to have been born.

The first church was commissioned in 326 CE by Constantine and his mother, St. Helena, directly over the cave. In the center was a large hole, surrounded by a railing, which provided a view of the cave. Portions of the floor mosaics from this earliest church are visible in the main sanctuary today.
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Door named for St. Helena

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The Door of Humility, a small rectangular entrance to the church, was put in by the Ottomans to prevent the carts of looters from being able to enter. It is called this because one has to duck to enter the church. I was unable to get a photo of the outside of the door  because a lot of people were lined up to get in, which took some people more
time!
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But back to Justinian…who was responsible for the much larger church that still stands today. Remarkably, it was never destroyed by the Persians when they invaded in 614CE nor by the Muslims who followed them. In 1009 CE, the Crusaders took over, while the Franks and Byzantines, in the 12th century, fully redecorated the interior of the church. In the centuries that followed, the church was neglected but not destroyed, and the building also survived an earthquake (1834) and a fire (1869) which destroyed the furnishings of the cave.

In 1852, the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox secured joint custody of Church of the Nativity. The Greeks maintain the grotto (where the cave is).
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I am not sure if the above photo is the inside of the Door of Humility or it is the one below, with beautiful woodworked panels above it.
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In the cavernous nave, there are 44 pillars, 30 of which are painted with images of saints or the Virgin & Child. The columns are  made of pink, polished limestone and most of them date – incredibly – from the first, 4th century Constantinian church!
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On the walls on both sides of the nave are fragments of beautiful mosaics, from the 1160s, created by the Franks and ‘Byzantines.
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Visitors were lined up on two sides of the wide nave, waiting to get into the grotto to see the site where Jesus was born.

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The main altar and another altar is the property of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Our guide inquired and found out it would be at least 45 minutes, probably more, to get in. The consensus among us was to do the alternative: go to the church next door (St. Catherine) where we could peer through a peephole into the Chapel of the Manger.

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A woman in our tour group emerges from a side door of the church.

We then went next door to St. Catherine Church. In front of the main entrance is a statue of St. Jerome (Hieronymus in Greek), who lived and worked in Bethlehem from 386 CE and is buried in a cave under Church of the Nativity. He is depicted with one foot on a skull.
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St. Jerome always had a skull within his sight when he was working, to remind him that time was limited, so he should not waste time but instead use his precious time wisely.

Behind the statue is this lovely front door to St. Catherine, with a stunning stained glass window depicting the holy family.
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Close-up of the panels on the door
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The sanctuary of St. Catherine Catholic Church
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We proceeded downstairs to the Chapel of the Grotto.

To see into the Chapel of the Manger, where there is a star on the spot where Jesus allegedly was born, we had to look through this peephole! (The people we could see through there were most likely looking down at the star.)
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Church of the Nativity was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.

Information taken from my notes and from the website Sacred Destinations,
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.

 

 

Lens-Artists #89: A River Runs Through It

Amy at Lens-Artists has as her theme for this week’s challenge: river.

Starting out close to home, here is the Des Plaines River during a November walk on the Des Plaines River Trail. This is a very pretty stretch of the slow-moving river, but it is responsible for many floods in the cities along its banks due to heavy rain.
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The Des Plaines River, which gave the suburban city that was my home for over 30 years its name, flows 133 miles southward from southern Wisconsin to south of Joliet, Illinois, where it joins the Kankakee River and becomes part of the Illinois River. Contrary to popular opinion, Des Plaines, a French name, does not mean “of the plains.” It actually refers to either the sycamore or the maple tree, which resembles the European plane tree, and was named by French traders in the 18th century.

The Chicago River is prominently featured in many photos of downtown Chicago and can be viewed from any of the bridges on  main thoroughfares of the city. This photo was taken at Michigan and Wacker near the site of the original Fort Dearborn.
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Chicago celebrates its river by dying it Kelly green every St. Patrick’s Day (although they didn’t do that this year – celebrations were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic), by constructing a pleasant river walk lined with eateries, which is still under construction, and opening a River Museum that tells the story of the Chicago River and offers nice views of the river from its windows. The river is most famous for an engineering feat undertaken at the turn of the 20th century: the main stem of the river’s flow was reversed so that it now flows out of Lake Michigan, through a system of locks. This increased the volume of the river, which now empties into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

The Colorado River is the most iconic and important river in southwestern United States. It is responsible for carving some of the most beautiful scenery of the west, including the Grand Canyon and others preserved in 11 national parks. This photo was  taken at the Grand Canyon and is strangely the only photo I have of the river!
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The Colorado River starts in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and meanders southward 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California. The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. Native Americans have occupied the Colorado Basin for at least 8,000 years and the culture of the region is strongly influenced by their presence. The Desert View Watchtower, from where the above photo was taken, was designed by Mary Colter who took inspiration from the native peoples that inhabited and continue to dwell in the region. Below is the Watchtower from the inside and outside.


No tour of American rivers would be complete without the Mighty Mississippi! Below are two photos of the river just north of St. Louis on the Illinois side of the border. It was nearly sunset when we got to this spot.
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A view of a couple of the bridges across the Mississippi at that spot
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Flowing southward 2,320 miles from its origin near Lake Itasca, Minnesota, it is the second longest river in North America. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi watershed drains 32 American states and 2 Canadian provinces. Native Americans have lived along this river for thousands of years, including the mound builders who are now thought to have been one of the major ancient civilizations in the Americas. The region along which it passes is very fertile and it is now a common riverboat cruise vacation, inspired by the steamboats that have plied its waters for the last two centuries, as well as other riverboats carrying cargo, animals and people as a main form of transportation.

Jumping to another continent, Africa is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile. The Nile was at the center of the ancient Egyptian civilization, which grew up along its banks where the land was fertile. The ancient Egyptians depended on its annual inundation, which no longer occurs due to dams, especially the High Dam of Aswan.
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Sunset on the Nile:
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Fishermen on the Nile

The Nile originates south of the equator and flows northward 4,132 miles to empty into the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Egyptians called the river Ar or Aur, meaning “black” due to the color of the mud created by the sediments when it was flooded. Because of the direction of flow from south to north, the ancient Egyptians referred to their southern territory as “Upper Egypt” and the northern territory and the Delta “Lower Egypt.”

The most famous river in the Bible is the Jordan River. Many songs and prayers refer to it and today many pilgrims go to the river to be baptized.
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A friend about to be baptized at Yardenit Baptismal Center
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The Jordan River connects the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. 156 miles long, it runs north to south along the border between Jordan, the Palestinian West Bank, Israel and Southwestern Syria.

Another river in Israel is the Dan. The Dan River originates in Israel and is the largest of the three principal tributaries of the Jordan River. The Dan River flows from Tel Dan, the site of the biblical city of Dan (Laish). The river is fed by the rains and snowmelt that pass through the rock of Mount Hermon and emerge at its foot to form hundreds of springs.
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The Tel Dan Nature Reserve has hiking trails and encompasses the ruins of Tel Dan.

Last summer we took a river cruise in Europe, on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers.
Cruises on the Rhine River are popular, because one can view a series of medieval castles rising on the hills along its banks, as well as sample a variety of wines grown in its vineyards that cover the hillsides. This photo was taken from Marksburg Castle in Germany.
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Wine growing and castles are beautiful scenery on the Rhine.

The Rhine is the second longest river in central/west Europe, about 760 miles (1,230 km) long. It originates in the Swiss Alps and flows north to empty into the North Sea. The Rhine and Danube rivers comprised most of the northern inland frontier of the Roman Empire.

Through a series of locks, a river cruise travels from the Rhine into the Main River and then into the Danube. The Main River is located entirely within Germany.
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We went through a series of locks.

The Main River is 326 miles (525 km) long, the longest tributary of the Rhine. Major cities along the Main include Frankfurt and Würzburg.

The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe (longest is the Volga) and flows through 10 countries, more than any other river in the world.
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The Danube, called Donau in German, flows 1,770 miles (2,580 km) southeast, originating in the Black Forest of Germany and emptying into the Black Sea. Four national capitals are located along the river: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade.

A tributary of the Danube is the Inn River which flows through Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany.
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Ducks on the Inn River at Schärding, Austria
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The Inn is 322 miles (518 km) long and forms part of the Austria-Germany border at Passau. There is a coin-sized marker on this bridge, indicating the border: on the left is Germany, on the right is Austria.
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Lens-Artists #84: Narrow Passageways

Amy at Lens-Artists this week invites us to explore the topic of narrow.

In my travels to “old” places – places built when there were no cars or crowds of tourists -I explored (or declined to explore) many narrow streets and other passageways.

Places like Old Town Tallinn, Estonia (where I got lost due to sidewalks and streets so narrow that I lost sight of our guide!)…
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A van that is nearly as wide as this street in Old Town forces all pedestrians to the narrow sidewalk on the left.100_0371
There were also narrow witches!
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In Stockholm, Sweden, I tried to imagine returning home to one of these narrow alleys on a dark afternoon in winter!
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Dale ends our bike ride through Stockholm coasting down a narrow cobblestone street.
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Stockholm, like many European countries, also has tall, narrow buildings.
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Even older is Old Jerusalem, Israel…Like elsewhere, vehicles have the right of way, squeezing pedestrians to the wall.
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Some of these climbing narrow streets are divided between steps and ramps.
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Watch out for motorcycles coming through!
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In ancient Egypt, clearly people were smaller to fit into narrow passageways into pyramids and tombs.

Dale and a few other adventurous souls (such as this woman from our group emerging from a pyramid) did go down these narrow steps into a now empty room in the Queen’s tomb in Giza. I took one look and decided to wait outside!
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Tourists descend a long narrow hallway covered with inscriptions and paintings to reach the tomb of Ramses IX in Valley of the Kings. These hieroglyphics declaim the deeds of the king during his reign, and there are also symbols of gods to accompany him to the afterlife.
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At the Chateau of Caen, France, a narrow stairway leads down to…where??
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On Omaha Beach, in Normandy, are the remains of WWII German bunkers, which I declined to enter, also reached through narrow passages and stairways. (I’m glad I didn’t go in – my son’s photos show empty rooms with an inch of rainwater covering the floors!)
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On the way back to our Airbnb farmhouse through the Normandy countryside, we drove down the narrow roads of villages, flanked by houses on both sides.
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A car in front of us navigates a sharp corner into another narrow street.DSC00482
A lot of traffic in Amsterdam travels its canals, which narrow on approach to bridges.
DSC00587Floating traffic jam!
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Bridges have these traffic signals indicating when it is safe and permissible to proceed (or not!).
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The day after our tour of the canals, we went to the “red light district” where we were told not to take photos of the sex workers who lived on either side of these narrow alleyways. Probably also not a good idea to photograph potential clients – good thing this one came out blurry!
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In Amsterdam, we stayed in an Airbnb 2nd floor flat, with a narrow stairway winding up to it. That was one of our son’s obligations to us for paying for his trip – carry our suitcases up and down! The stairway was so narrow and windy that he had to carry the suitcases one by one in his arms!
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Melk Abbey and Town

July  5, 2019

Today we docked at Melk, a town on the Danube known for its abbey, which sits on a cliff overlooking the town. A bus drove us up the hill to tour the abbey.

The Benedictine abbey was founded in 1089. A monastic school was established in the 12th century and the library soon became renowned for its extensive collection of manuscripts.

The Baroque abbey seen today was built between 1702 and 1736. Particularly noteworthy are the frescoes painted by Austrian artist Johann Michael Rottmayr and the medieval manuscript collection which includes a famous collection of music manuscripts.
20190705_093156 Frescoes in the library were painted by Paul Troger, distinguished by their pastel colors and dramatic sense of movement. We could not take photos inside the abbey but I took many of the exterior, with its views of the town and beautiful gardens.
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The abbey managed to escape a series of threats, such as dissolution under Emperor Joseph II when many other abbeys were seized and dissolved between 1780 and 1790, because of its fame and academic stature; and during the Napoleonic Wars. When Austria was incorporated into Nazi Germany in 1938, the school and a large part of the abbey were taken over by the state.

The school was returned to the jurisdiction of the abbey after World War II and it continues in operation to this day, with an enrollment of 900 students of both genders.

Melk Abbey has been mentioned or featured in several works of literature and films.

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Bad Ischl clock (c. 1810), made entirely from 10 kinds of wood, including pear, walnut, beech, linder, maple, ash, oak, Scotch pine, larch, and European spindle tree. After repairs in 1970, some metal parts were installed, such as the middle spring and middle bar.

Entryways (aka doorways)…

Looking down on the entrance to the abbey…

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Scattered around the gardens were whimsical sculptures of animals.

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Abbey mascot? I found this friendly Manx cat just chillin’ in the front courtyard of the abbey. She didn’t appear at all fazed by the crowds of tourists. I speculated that her home was one of the houses that are located on the hill just below the abbey.
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By the time I saw this cat, I had determined to walk back to the ship – it was all downhill and I could use the exercise. Dale didn’t want to walk, however, so I left him to take the bus back.

I was looking forward to taking a lot of photos of the town, which I did, but in the end, I got lost and ended up having to ask for directions and backtrack to get back to the ship.

On my way downhill, meanwhile, I saw restaurants and small patios wedged between houses on the hillside.
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As I descended, I passed through the main commercial area, lined with restaurants and tourist shops. And one shop that sold lederhosen!
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And there were a few interesting doors, to satisfy Norm’s Thursday Doors aficionados…
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Flower-decorated balconies…
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Sculptures and installations…
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The Tower of Babel at the Sommerspiele Melk, made of approximately 30,000 Bioblo building blocks.

Close-up of Bioblo blocks (including Bioblo doors! 😉 )
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Finally, I reached the bar/restaurant/souvenir shop where we had gathered to get on the bus at the beginning of the tour. (When I saw it, I remembered it…”Oh, yeah!!”)
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From behind this building, it was a short hike along the river dock back to the ship! What a relief!

Chicago Botanic Garden’s LIGHTSCAPE

Last week, my husband and I went to the Chicago Botanic Garden’s holiday light extravaganza, called Lightscape. We had to purchase tickets online in advance, and reserve a specific entry time. Many of the dates were sold out, particularly weekends, but I was able to register for 7:15-7:30 on Thursday, Dec. 19. Once we entered, we could stay as long as we wanted until closing time at 10:30. Of course, we didn’t stay that long. Fortunately, it was a relatively pleasant evening, although we were glad we had dressed warmly.

A lot of spectators were there when we were – it was quite crowded, and on the dark path, it was inevitable that we would accidently run into someone. There were lots of children running, also, who also ran into people, including us. Everyone was nice about it, though – there was a general understanding that there were crowds, it was dark, but with patience, we would be rewarded with spectacular light shows.

I’ve been to Chicago Botanic Gardens often enough to understand the basic layout and the types of gardens that are showcased in different areas. Each of these designated areas was used by the artistic light companies to showcase to best advantage each particular light display. The path through the exhibit was marked and one only had to follow it to see everything.

Entrance to the exhibit was through this arc of changing colors of light – it’s hard to see but there is a bow on the top, to resemble a giant light wreath!

These photos were all taken at Lightscape.  Overall, it was a fantastic show and definitely worth the price of admission + parking!
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This brilliantly lit Christmas tree was surrounded by trees with multicolored lights, like the one in the photo above.
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This part was called “Singing Trees.” As carols played, the trees lit up according to the tone and pitch of the music. I have to admit, though, that in these photos, the trees look like giant Daleks (“exterminators” on the Dr. Who series)!
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Looking across one of the ponds to the Japanese garden, with the red lit trees reflecting in the still water.
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In the warm seasons, water tumbles over these rocks to form waterfalls. These strings of flowing white lights are meant to resemble waterfalls.
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Lights in the form of snowflakes on the path leading to…

…pink “cherry blossom” trees.

I took a video walking through hanging curtains of light that pulsated and changed colors.

The tulip garden

This realistic looking “carpet” was projected onto the path.

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Dale took this photo of me standing on the “light” carpet – my coat was transformed into an amazing technicolor dreamcoat!
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Cathedral of Light
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It’s no wonder that this “cathedral of light” was used in the advertising for this event!

A rainbow of pulsating, moving lights covered a large (normally) grassy area, which I recognized as the place where crowds lay on the ground to watch the solar eclipse two years ago!

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This was the last thing in the exhibit.
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One of the coolest photos I took was in the parking lot on our way out – the border of the Botanic Garden was marked by a series of trees, whose branches were traced in brilliant white lights. We had seen this from the road when we were entering, but couldn’t get close enough for a good photo, until we were leaving.
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The lights were actually brighter than in this photo, but I took it without flash, without changing the ISO setting. I like it because all the details of the tree can be seen.
I hope you enjoyed this photographic tour of Lightscape at Chicago Botanic Gardens!