Sunday Stills: Getting It Straight

Terri Webster Schrandt has a Sunday photo challenge, Sunday Stills. The theme this week is straight.

Apartment building (Woodstock, IL)

Here’s a place I’ve really been missing the last few months – the library! (Des Plaines, IL)

Under these floor tiles, several hundred people were buried during the Middle Ages! (Oude Kerk, Amsterdam)

Bridges: Pegasus Bridge (Normandy, France)

Bridge over a river on the border of Germany and Austria (near Scharding, Austria)

A tall house (Mont St-Michel, France)

Entrance to a graveyard (Merville-Franceville-Plage, France)

A straight and narrow street in Passau, Germany

Ornate fence in front of the World Museum in Vienna, Austria

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.
Stockholm, like many European countries, also has tall, narrow buildings.
Even older is Old Jerusalem, Israel…Like elsewhere, vehicles have the right of way, squeezing pedestrians to the wall.
Some of these climbing narrow streets are divided between steps and ramps.
Watch out for motorcycles coming through!
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!
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.
At the Chateau of Caen, France, a narrow stairway leads down to…where??
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!)
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 lot of traffic in Amsterdam travels its canals, which narrow on approach to bridges.
DSC00587Floating traffic jam!
Bridges have these traffic signals indicating when it is safe and permissible to proceed (or not!).
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!
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!


WWPC: Ways and Means in Miltenberg

Miltenberg, Germany, a beautiful small city with some 9,000 or so inhabitants, is located in northern Bavaria on the Main River. This post features ways – how people move around – and means – what is used to get around – in this picturesque town, for Which Way Photo Challenge, now with a new host, Alive and Trekking.


This photo was taken from the Main River, not at Miltenberg, but representative of personal watercraft.

WPC: Going Up & Looking Up

Sue W. sponsors the WP Weekly Photo Challenge prompt and this week the word is Up.

Up makes me think of stairs or other means of ascending. These are photos from our most recent trip to Egypt and Israel, Dec. 2018-Jan. 2019.


This stairway looks a little scary! At a mall in Tel Aviv, Israel


We went up this narrow street in Jerusalem, but had to move aside while a vehicle came down – on the stairs!


Take your pick: stairs on the left or right, or ramp in the middle (Old Jerusalem)


Stairway at the Church of Virgin Mary (Hanging Church), Cairo, Egypt

One of the women in my Egypt tour group confided to me (partly in jest!) that, “If I’d known there would be so many stairs, I wouldn’t have come!”

Of course, when you are touring a place you’ve never been, especially if you’re a photographer, you also do a lot of looking up.

We looked up at:
Ceilings (Hanging Church, Cairo, Egypt)
Tops of buildings (Cairo)
Tops of columns and ceiling carvings (Temple of Khnum, Esna, Egypt)
Church domes (Church of the Flagellation, Jerusalem, Israel)
Windows (Old Jerusalem)
Murals high on a church wall (Peter of Gallicantu Church, Jerusalem)

Climbing and looking up give you a view of the world that you would otherwise not observe!




Getting Our Kicks in Santa Fe (Route 66 Day 6, Pt. 1): Cathedral and Burro Alley

June 12, 2018

We spent the morning in Santa Fe before hitting the road toward Amarillo. First, we went back to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to see the interior.

The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886. There had  been two previous churches on the same site, the oldest in 1626, which was destroyed in a revolt, and an adobe church built 1714-1717. The new cathedral was built around the adobe church, which was dismantled when the construction was complete, only a small chapel remaining from that previous church. (Information from Wikipedia.)

The altar
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The cathedral was built in Romantic Romanesque style, which featured high round arches supported by columns and square towers.

The stained glass windows of the apostles (along the side walls) and the rose window in back were imported from France.


religious relics and art

A side chapel, possibly the one saved from the previous church
Stations or “Way” of the Cross – every Roman Catholic church has 14 of these, depicting Christ’s passion and crucifixion.

View looking toward the back of the church
Rose window and organ pipes

Outer doors
The simplicity of the décor and design is what made the church beautiful for me. Below, stained glass window with candle, “Receive the Light of Christ.”
The basilica is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. It was officially elevated to a basilica by Pope Benedict in 2005.

Leaving the cathedral, we walked toward the Georgia O’Keefe museum, passing Burro Alley.


This mosaic on a building wall may have been in Burro Alley, but I can’t remember.
I will write separate posts about the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and the state capitol.
Stay tuned!

Colorful Cartagena: a fort, a market, and the palace of the Inquisition

March 26, 2017

We arrived in Cartagena, Colombia early this morning. The shore excursion we had signed up for was to meet on the pier at 7:45.  After getting up with an alarm and having breakfast delivered to our room, we were ushered to group #10’s bus. Our guide’s name was Roque and the bus driver was Fernando.

We had signed up for a highlights tour of Cartagena with “less shopping.” Our first stop was San Felipe Fort. We only had five minutes there – disappointing because I would have liked to explore it.

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Founded in 1543, Cartagena was attacked and sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, leaving the city impoverished. It is the 5th largest city in Colombia and its major port. Tourism is its most important industry, second only to coffee. There are three cruise ships in port, including ours, here right now. By the time we left, another had arrived.

Because of this, there were tons of tourists all descending on Cartagena’s old walled city center, following group leaders holding up flags with tour numbers on them. It is the custom here  for the tour guides to provide each group member with a sticker with the guide’s name on it, so people filed by with “Benny” or “David,” etc. stuck on the front of their shirts.

There were also lots of vendors milling around where tourists were taking pictures, and they were quite aggressive.  All of them spoke enough English to get their point across.  I kept telling them, “No, gracias,” and if I showed no interest, they’d leave me alone. Even the slightest interest would have them following me, trying to bargain.  Dale saw some magnets and asked how much they were.

“Three for ten dollar,” said the vendor.

Solo queremos uno,” I told him.  But then Roque was calling us back to the bus.  The vendor followed us. “Five dollar!” he called.

I waved him away, saying, “No tenemos tiempo,” as we made our way back to the bus.

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This is Don Blas de Lezo, a Spanish admiral who in 1741 led a successful defense of Cartagena against an attack by British troops.


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Interesting that Don Blas led a battle against the British, yet on the side of the statue’s base is this plaque!

Since we had other destinations to get to, I didn’t have time to find out more about the history of the fort and why this plaque is on the base of the statue!

Our next stop was Las Bóvedas (The Dungeons) which is now a shopping area with vendors selling native goods. There were a series of bright yellow arches forming a loggia, with stalls that were once prison cells, flanked by bright red gates. Each stall had its own number painted overhead, above which were small grated windows. The stalls overflowed with brightly colored clothing and purses, postcards and artwork. I am not sure how these dungeons were used in the past – for slave pens, prisoners, or what? We were given 25 minutes at this place. It was quite picturesque but seemed a lot of time for a tour with “less shopping.”

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Dale and I climbed on the old city’s wall and walked around but eventually came down and looked at the shops. Although I bought one shirt at the last minute, I was more interested in taking pictures of the colorful stalls and the adjacent streets.

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From there we went to the Palace of the Inquisition, a museum about the history, complete with gruesome details, of the Spanish Inquisition in Colombia. Cartagena was one of three centers during colonial times that maintained this horrific policy – the other two were Peru and Mexico.



“Denunciation window” – here people could denounce others that they believed were heretics, yet remain anonymous. 



Entrance to the Palace of the Inquisition

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This policy arose from the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain, some of whom were able to stay by “converting.” Some probably genuinely did, but others became conversos (converts) in order to maintain their residence and personal property in Spain, and continued to practice their own religion in secret.  The leaders of the Catholic Church in Spain, including the ruling monarchy feared that the conversos were not genuine converts and the Inquisition was their way of rooting out heretics.


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Tomas de Torquemada became the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. He was particular zealous in this role due to his fear of the Moors and the fact that he was believed to have “conversos” among his ancestors. He was responsible for having 10,000 people burned at the stake.

Most of the accused were killed or tortured to death. For example, 3,000 people were “denounced” in Mexico but only 43 condemned to death. However, Roque told us that virtually all the condemned died, because they were either tortured or worked to death. One man he told us about was sentenced to two years of rowing – day after day with only short breaks and little food. He lasted 6 months.



“Confession or Torture” – these pictures depict various scenarios that befell those who were accused of heresy.



Instruments of torture were on display including one for tearing off women’s breasts with a hot metal contraption that was fitted over the breast and was then tightened. I assume these were used on women condemned as witches.

In a green courtyard were two scaffolds, one with a noose and a guillotine atop the other. The guillotine was for the lucky ones – it killed instantly.




Painting of incarcerated condemned. The fate of these prisoners may or may not have yet been determined. 


Another courtyard was lush with tropical plants, including the oldest known bonga tree, 220 years old.

From there we walked to San Pedro Claver Church. It struck me as ironic that we were seeing a church right after touring a museum about the Inquisition. Perhaps if we had toured the church first, I might have been more interested in the religious relics housed in a small museum there.  20170326_102851 Roque told us this was the most beautiful church in Cartagena, but it was nowhere near as elaborate as many Latin American churches I’ve seen. He took us into the church’s museum of religious relics, where he pointed out an interesting painting showing priests and other clerics in Hell because of their abuse of power (like the Inquisition! I thought). That painting was done after the Inquisition!20170326_104728
On the way back to our ship, Fernando took a scenic route along the most well-known beaches. All beaches are public, Roque told us, but the properties alongside are very expensive. Some condos cost up to $700,000. The few houses in that area are worth a million dollars. We passed a handsome house designed in Arabic style with arches, decorative tiles and repeated patterns. This house was custom built and is worth $1.5 million. It belongs to the owner of the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia. Roque told us his name, which I can’t remember but it sounded Arabic.

Panama Cruise C 245He pointed out another beautiful house, considered the most beautiful in Cartagena, that would fetch a similar sum.

We came into view of the cruise ships and made a short photo stop. From this spot we could see the entire curve of Cartagena Bay with its tall white high rises lining the beachfront avenue. Panama Cruise C 216

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São Paulo’s “Beco do Batman” (Batman’s Alley)

November 22, 2016

Our agenda for today was a bit more far-flung and complicated.  We planned to start by taking the Metro blue line, transferring to the green line, getting off at Sumaré and walking from there to Beco do Batman (Batman’s Alley), an area famous for its beautiful and extensive graffiti art. The walls, doors, pillars and even streets are beautifully and creatively painted by several different graffiti artists.  We didn’t get lost due to a main landmark, a cemetery, on our left side and by asking and receiving good instructions.

I’d been a bit apprehensive about going there – it was far from anything familiar to me in this city, and it seemed as though we’d be isolated.  But we weren’t – we actually saw a few other tourists there, posing and taking pictures.  Seeing this place was definitely worth the effort!

Beco do Batman is tucked away in a couple of narrow streets, reached by descending a hill off the main avenue.  We took many pictures there, trying not to duplicate our efforts.  It was easy to see the stylistic differences between the artists. I am going to let the photos speak for themselves.

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There were many more impressive murals! If you liked what you saw here, be sure to pay a visit to Beco do Batman if you go to São Paulo!

Historic downtown São Paulo

November 21, 2016

Another nice day, although not as warm as yesterday.  I realized that I’d gotten sunburned on my neck, shoulder, face and head, so I made sure to bring my hat on our excursion to downtown today. After breakfast at our little table set up next to the kitchen in our host’s apartment, we set out toward Vila Mariana station and took the metro to Praça da Sé. 


At the square, the Catedral da Sé is the most imposing structure.  We went inside but there was a mass going on and a man stepped forward and gestured to us that no pictures were allowed, so we only got a few shots before that.  I went over to look at a large crèche that had been set up – quite beautiful.

Beautiful stained glass window at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Sao Paulo


Metropolitan Cathedral interior

Metropolitan Cathedral interior

Church doorway

Church doorway

Cathedral exterior

Cathedral exterior


Praça da Sé wasn’t really what I expected.  There were fountains, but they mainly consisted of cascades, not classy fountains with statues in them.  What statues and sculptures there were had been made ugly by spray-painted random graffiti.  There were a lot of homeless people who slept in the square and a few even had set up tents.  Someone had washed a pair of jeans and hung them to dry on a sculpture. 

Waterfall in Praca da Se'

Waterfall in Praca da Se’


Another sculpture in Praca da Se’, where homeless people lay their clothes out to dry.


The whole place had an aspect of neglect.  Taking out our cameras automatically attracted beggars, so we put them away in Dale’s backpack and used our cell phones so we were less conspicuous.



Homeless and others gather under a large metal sculpture on one corner of Praca da Se’.

I wanted to go to Vale do Anhangabú, which I’d read was a wide parkway flanked by skyscrapers and historical buildings, and containing nice landscaping with sculptures, fountains, etc., but we never got there.  I was using the map I’d gotten at MAC-USP but not all the streets were marked with names and there being so many small streets crammed into a small area that intersected at various angles with each other, I got confused.  It turns out we were very close to it. I should have tried to use my GPS, which I have used to navigate our way around Vila Mariana. 

We did get to Largo do São Bento with its old church


and Pátio do Colégio where the city was founded. Being Monday, however, the small historical museums were closed.



Here, under the cross of Christ, this city was born, dedicated to the Apostle Paul by the Jesuits Father Manuel da Nobrega and Brother Jose de Anchieta, among others, January 25, 1554 AD




We also strolled down the historic street XV de Novembro



with classic architecture of colorful historical buildings with iron-wrought balconies alongside modern ones and large, elegant turn-of-the-century buildings that housed the major banks. {See my post Thursday doors: Historic buildings in downtown São Paulo for larger versions of these.)

People waited outside City Hall, which was apparently closed for lunch!


In the Praça Antonio Prado, a new monument was erected for the occasion of Day of Black Consciousness on November 20 (yesterday!) to honor Zumbi dos Palmares, the leader of  Quilombo de Palmares in what is now the state of Alagoas. Quilombos were villages formed by runaway slaves deep in the jungle during  early colonial times.  Nearby is the church of the Irmandade de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Homens Pretos  (Convent Our Lady of the Rosary, Black People). The date of Nov. 20 was selected because it marks the date Zumbi was killed: Nov. 20, 1695. The statue is 2 meters tall and was sculpted in bronze by José Maria dos Santos, winner of a contest to select the artist who would create the monument.


A 2 meters tall bronze statue was erected earlier this year (2016) to honor Zumbi dos Palmares. It was created by Jose Maria dos Santos.


We had lunch at about 2 pm at a restaurant called Restaurante Viella with colorful streamers and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. By the time we were finished, it was after 3 pm.

Next: Part 2, Luz Station and Pinacoteca



Av. Paulista, Part 2: MASP & Siqueira Campos Park

November 20, 2016

On a sunny Sunday afternoon on Av. Paulista, São Paulo, we saw:


A “sertanejo” trio, traditional music from Northeastern Brazil


Celtic band!


Live statue – In homage to anonymous writers: “Reading is the food of the soul.”

We went into MASP where they had some unusual exhibits, including a lot of folk art.

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Indigenous pottery


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Dolls representing typical dress of different regions as well as a diversity of races.


This contraption was traditionally used to make “cachaça”, Brazilian sugar cane liquor.

There was also a gallery where all the pictures stood singly in stands across the room, not on the walls.  To find out who the artist was, you had to go around to look at the back of the painting where the information was.  Not knowing this right away made me think about the paintings differently.

20161120_150210One of them, for example, made use of dark colors in a religious scene.  This one has to be Spanish, I thought – and when I went around to the back, I found I was right – it was an El Greco!  Nearby, I saw another one which I also thought was Spanish – that time, I was wrong: it was Italian.  Many of the works were by Brazilian artists, whom I’d never heard of, but I began to recognize certain styles and folkloric themes.


Brazilian artist Vicente do Rego Monteiro, “Menino nu e tartaruga” (Nude Boy and Turtle), oil on canvas, 1923


Maria Auxiliadora da Silva, “Velorio da noiva” (The Bride’s Wake), 1974. Maria Auxiliadora da Silva moved to Sao Paulo with her family when she was a child. She quit school to work as a housekeeper to help support 18 siblings! She began painting at age 32, using acrylics or a combination of paint and hair to lend texture to her scenes of popular festivals, rituals, and religious ceremonies from both the Catholic and Candomble (an African-based polytheist religion) traditions.

Leaving the museum, we found out there was to be a concert later that day by a classical ensemble, which was tempting, but instead we continued on to see more sights along the avenue.


Across the avenue from MASP is a park, commonly called Trianon Park, but it is actually Siqueira Campos Park according to a sign at the far end.  Paths took us through tropical forest plants.  In some spots, we heard music:  a group doing pretty terrible a cappella renditions of Beatles songs; recorded music on a CD or MP3 player while a man watch a woman doing modern dance moves.  It was a great make-out place too – we saw couples of several types:  straight, gay, and lesbian.  I thought, Dale and I should sit on a bench and make out to contribute another type – OLD lovers! At the entrance to the park on the Av. Paulista side were many stands displaying craft goods for sale – we briefly glanced at them, but didn’t stop.  However, somewhere along the avenue, Dale got a São Paulo t-shirt and a new cap that says Brasil on it.