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A Little Polish Never Goes Astray

My new years resolution is to learn a little of the Polish language. Why? Because the culture, food and language of Poland, has pretty much intrigued me as soon as I stepped off the plane in Krakow. But this post is not about Krakow, but rather, it is about somewhere a little further south – in the Tatra Mountains and a delightful walk I took through a town called Zakopane.

Rural Poland and the Tatra Mountain Ranges

It has been well over a year since I walked through Zakopane, in Poland. Yet the memory of that day still haunts me in the very best way. [And I am still learning Polish.]

Krupowki Street, Zakopane

Zakopane is a town in Southern Poland, about a two hour drive from Krakow, lying close to the Slovakian border, in the Tatra Mountain range. Communication between Zakopane and other towns was difficult for many years due to the mountainous terrain, and so the locals developed their own dialects, songs, architecture and traditions.

If you are a fan of gabled timber architecture, you’ll have come to the right place. Come and walk with me down the main street of Zakopane.

If you are too tired to walk, there is always a horse and wagon option that will take you to the Funicular station.

These beautiful horses wait for the chance to take you for a carriage ride

Cafes in Zakopane feature seating carved with traditional designs from Lower Silesia.

I found plenty of things to tempt me to open my purse in Zakopane and prices a pleasant surprise.

If you didn’t want trinkets, you can always try some of the delicious local foods from the many street vendors along the way. A specialty in this region is Sheep’s cheese.

If you have ever tasted Haloumi cheese, the Sheep’s cheese has a similar texture, but also a delicate smoky flavour. So very delicious. I could eat it every day if I could. Yum!

Norm’s Thursday Doors fans would appreciate the work in this door along Zakopane’s main street.

Walk through the door to gawk at the ornately decorated church, clearly loved by the community.

The interior of the church

Poised above the town of Zakopane is the summit of Gubałówka. This is my next stop.


That Yellow are in the photo below is the summit and we are going to get there in a mountain cable car. You can find the entrance to the funicular at the end of the main street.

Especially lovely in Summer, the summit lookout is frequented by skiers in winter as Zakopane is a hugely popular ski resort. Here I am enjoying the breathtaking view over the Zakopane Valley.



Time to explore more at the top of the mountain.

Can anyone read Polish? Is it 5 zloty to feed or pat the sheep?
Some traditional huts for smoking sheep’s cheese perhaps?
These bundles are so cute, they look like Cousin It from the Addams family.


The return cable car journey gave me a different perspective on the Zakopane valley.

Ready, Set, Here we go.

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Linking to Jo’s Wonderful Monday Walks

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Living History at Røros

Røros World Heritage Site – The Church

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Røros Church in Norway – its reputation preceded it and my only chance to visit was offered to me when I was in Trondheim, Norway. Of course, I leapt at the chance. Walking through a living World Heritage Site, is not something one gets to do every day. Built during Norway’s golden age of copper mining, the church in Røros dates back to 1780 and is nestled amongst classical Norwegian village architecture.

Walking around the town’s old Wooden houses

Initially the church was closed and locked when I arrived, but my intrepid Norwegian friend was not to be deterred and energetically sought out a nearby caretaker who lived in one of the neighbouring wooden homes, who was then kind enough to open the church and give the “Australian,’ a short tour.

This was greatly appreciated.

The guide told us the church has been extensively renovated and restored in recent years, as it frequently plays host to popular concert series and services, often attended by the Norwegian Royals.  Isn’t it stunning?

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Some photos from my walk around the old mine site

Røros is a town high up in Eastern Norway, not far from the Swedish border. Dotted with historic wooden houses and the large copper mine turned museum, the copper mine flourished from 1644 right up until 1977.

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The mine is now a museum and the town’s Instagram-worthy architecture has been reincarnated as home to a range of craft artisans, gourmet food purveyors selling their local products, such as cheese and flatbread, in Instagram- worthy shops, as well as boutique objects popular with tourists. The walk along the main street is a delight.

The working life of the town’s citizens in the past was never easy, being as it was, a mining frontier town set high in the mountains on the border of Sweden. Conditions in the mines were neither comfortable nor healthy, it seems and the citizens a resilient lot, coping with difficult work and the threat of marauding Swedes over the border. You can re-live a little more of their history and life in the extensive displays at the museum, located at the mine’s site.

[Note: Signs were in English.]

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Walking inside the copper mine

Contrastingly, modern day Røros is peaceful quiet and colourful. The old wooden houses are beautifully maintained and the town continues to be a World Heritage Site in which people actually work and live out their daily lives.

Every February, the town hosts an annual Winter festival. I imagine there would be quite a different colour on the ground this time of year than when I completed my walk in early Summer.

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Røros is also a place that tries to re-invented itself from its mining past by being sustainable and enjoyable for visitors. They try to preserve local nature, culture and environment, and tourists love it. I wrote more on a prior post about the history of Røros and its Mining Museum.

Something other regional towns might ponder about.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walks

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Punting in New Zealand

A Time Warp to the Victorian Era – in Christchurch

The best way to see Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Avon river in Christchurch, New Zealand, is not on foot but by boat.

This is seriously one of THE most serene and relaxing things I’ve done. Punting at the Antigua sheds at Christchurch is something, like the city itself, very English. By way of contrast, the weather was anything but English; we were blessed with the most beautiful winter’s day – it was indeed quite cool but sunny and clear.

A Punt is a flat bottomed boat that does not have a keel. Typically, a punt is approximately 21 feet (6 metres) long and 3 feet (1 metre) wide. It should be propelled by means of a pole – about 16 foot (5 metres) long. The punt and consequently, the passengers sit very low in the water, although at no time do the passenger feel in any danger and I did not even get my feet or anything else wet.

Punting history

The abridged version is “To punt without losing your balance, getting wet, wetting your passengers, while keeping the trip smooth and making sure that the passengers enjoy the ride, is something requires expertise indeed. Punting originated as a means of fishing, dredging, carrying and transporting all kinds of materials.

In other words, the punt was originally a work boat. The punting style consisted of starting at the bow, where the operator dropped the pole to the bottom, leaned on it, and then ran after it, pushing the boat under his feet. It was a method that often left the novice clinging to their pole while the punt drifted away in solitary splendour. Pleasure punts were unknown prior to 1860 and found in Nelson and Christchurch and a couple of places in England.


A time warp would take me back to the days when men were gentlemen, women genteel, Bota hats, hats and gloves, but it was not necessary to build a time machine,as I simply took a Punt ride to Victorian splendour in the heart of Christchurch.

There are two Punting routes to choose from, one passing through the river as it goes through the main part of the city and the other, which is close to the hop on hop off point of the city trams, just a short stroll past the entrance to the museum and Botanic Gardens.

There you will find Antiqua Boat sheds, which is the starting point for the Gardens punts and Hagley Park. I only hope the historic Boat sheds, which appear to have changed little since early last century have not been ruined by the earthquakes.

We were also blessed to have the punt all to ourselves, not having to share with anyone else except Andrew, “Mr Gondolier” or should it be “Mr Punter”?!!!


Along the way, we all had to duck our heads as we went under a very low road bridge, and Andrew maintained the perfect balance whilst undergoing this manoeuvre.

Andrew, a University dropout with a flare for business, and a love of history and stories, has turned this tourist attraction into a successful part of his thriving business empire. He does not have to work, but does so he claims, “because he loves his job” and who wouldn’t: even in the rain, the guests are protected with blankets and large football umbrellas from the elements.


The ride through the Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park, a 50 acre green zone in the middle of the CBD which is never to be built on, the legacy of a pioneer settler, is a dream for those who appreciate and love nature. Also a wonderful area for environmental oxygen carbon dioxide exchange, a green zone in the metropolis, although Christchurch could hardly be called a metropolis. Just a nice sized city, really.


You also pass by the curators house and herb garden. The punts themselves are very comfortable and Andrew has blankets to keep you warm on cooler days.

Other creatures enjoying the Avon will be the endemic ducks, swans, and other aquatic life, the Daffodil garden which is really a lawn, as the daffodils are not mass planted but erupt from beneath the soil anywhere to the point that they mow a path through the daffodils in spring. They would be a bright point in the city’s current misery, as I feel sure that they would be in full bloom at this moment. (We were a few weeks early for the daffodils and the earthquake and for that I am truly grateful. (But right on time for the Lambing)
A few brave early plants showing their blossoms amongst the grass are seen here, before the mower gets to them…..

The daffodil garden shortly to be cropped by the mower….
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No motor pervades this almost spiritual atmosphere, the water is shallow and clear, rocks form the bottom of the river, and the excellent and entertaining commentary given by Andrew, pertinent and interesting.
Near the end of the ride, you get a good view of the Curator’s house, and adjacent herb garden, seen on our approach to the Punting on the Park Attraction.

“Some days you are the statue, and some days the pigeon….” one of my favorite sayings, so I had to take a photo of one of the important people in Christchurch history…

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This was definitely a day where I was the pigeon, on top of the world as I knew it then, and felt that in finding a new relaxing pastime, in a foreign city, discovered something new about myself. Surely that is something to ponder about….. even on a punt….

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Walking Around in Whitby

Named after British explorer, James Cook, this place is as far from its namesake town locality as it could possibly be, so what is there to see in Whitby?

Join me for a walk and see….

 

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A suburban street in Whitby

 

You may have read about my previous visits to New Zealand, but it is Whitby, a suburban area, located north of the capital, Wellington, that featured on our walk today.

There is strong evidence of middle income suburban New Zealand, here, but Whitby also offers some unique but lesser known features, which I was to discover on a family walk among its well manicured streets.

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Coniferous trees relish a cool, temperate climate, quite different to the sub-tropical flora my kin might see at home.

Seeing them along dotted along the littoral fringe and stream that bisects this town, our minds filled with thoughts of hobbits and elves and ‘Middle Earth.’

Well, we were after all, in New Zealand!

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The path, to the right, next to the tunnel of trees, along the littoral fringe.

 

 

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The flowers alone are worth walking miles for….

 

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Plants like the Protea, above, and this spectacular hydrangea bush, that I struggle to grow back home, relish the cooler, more wet humid climate and seem to grow like weeds!

 

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What is that definition of a weed?

Just a plant in the wrong place!

 

But it is not all trees and flowers we spotted on our walk.

 

The Kiwis are not at all overly formal in their manner, their sense of humour being evident in this unusual garden statue.

 

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Who wants a regular garden gnome, anyway?

 

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Besides being named after the British birthplace of explorer, Captain James Cook, the attraction about Whitby for me, was found in the unique, natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Visible from practically any street in this locality, it is easy to be mesmerized by the distant mountains which remind me of convolutions of a green Giant’s velvet brain.

Our walk encompasses a stop at a flat-topped Spinnaker Summit Lookout, at which the mandatory photo stop was required.

 

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The mountains of green velour on the far side of the lake look as if a giant laid down a carpet and then slept on it, failing to smooth the grassy covers when he arose from his slumber.

One feels like you could rub your hand over them just to feel their soft, velour texture.

I have never seen hills like this anywhere else in the world.

It is said that New Zealand has some similarities to Norway, well, maybe not in this area…..

 

A backdrop of mountains and hills like the convolutions of a green velvet brain

 

A walk around a suburban area often gives one a feel for the personalities who live there.

The diversity of boutique letter box designs was a delightful recurring theme in Whitby.

 

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I would like one of these letter boxes!

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Walking further from the lake and Summit lookout, we spotted several Tui birds relishing the blossoms, hunting, as they were for some food.

This species of honey-eater is not under any threat, having adapted well to the urban environment in the North Island.

Wiki states that apparently the early European colonists called it the Parson Bird but, as with many New Zealand birds, the Maori name ‘Tui’ is now the common name.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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After a good hour of strolling the suburban streets, Miss H and the young ‘uns were getting that glazed look in their eyes that said,” I’m soo bored” – you know the one that teens do so well, thus, a extension to our walk was quickly made to Adrenalin Forest, Porirua, on the outer edges of Whitby!!! Now it was the kid’s turn to dictate the direction of the “walk,” as the “Adrenaline forest” is an aerial obstacle course consisting of flying fox, high ropes, climbing through barrels, nets and steps, suspended above the ground, which makes for a fun and energetic few hours. The kids are harnessed with two dual locks, so it is impossible to remove both clamps from the harness at the one time, making it a perfectly safe activity, even for the most reckless individual. Furthermore, the attendants give full instructions and a good dose of practice on ground level before starting the course.

Adrenalin Forest

 

I venture to say it is a kids only activity, as I didn’t see any adults participating in the course.

Why?

The parents/carers were all down on terra firma, shouting encouraging thoughts above, who were hanging by the harness up to 60 feet above them in the tree tops.

The course becomes incrementally more difficult, and Miss 11 who was part of our group, piked out at Level 3, and had to be ‘rescued’ – which meant that an attendant had to climb a ladder and disengage you from the course.

Miss 13 and 16 kept going till Level 4, but were exhausted afterwards. A real endurance activity for some.

 

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The Adrenalin forest is loads of fun if you are ever in Wellington, or Whitby surrounds.

Kids have exercise, fun, learn new skills, conquer their fears and the bonus is they are sun safe (in the shade) and cannot check mobile devices whilst they are up there!! I noted there was limited seating, (and nowhere to purchase refreshments) for adults who are watching, and the constant looking upwards was a posture most adults are not used to.

Like me, I suspect most of them could use a neck brace of sorts afterwards.

Something the young 19 year old me would not have to Ponder About

New Zealand
Restless Jo
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Walking with Edmund at 760 metres

Once a humble beekeeper, Sir Edmund Hillary came to know this mountain very well. For it was here that he would hone his mountaineering skills to become the first man, along with Tensing Norgay Sherpa, ever to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world – Mt Everest.

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Hillary was certainly an imposing figure, even in Bronze. The man was apparently very tall, and perhaps this is what gave him an edge over other mountaineers, when climbing with cramp-irons on his feet up vertical ice cliffs….??

His statue stands at the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook, New Zealand, a place that came to be his second home. Known as Aoraki in the Maori tongue, I stopped here en route to Queenstown and took a walk around the Mt Cook vicinity.

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Yes, I was mad enough to go to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter!!

Mt Cook is in the South Island of New Zealand and a stunning place of phenomenal beauty, yet a very unforgiving place.

 

There was a patch of blue sky in the far distance, which looked promising for my walk, but at this altitude, the weather can change exceedingly quickly so there was no guarantees.

So my walk entailed being extremely careful when I stepped, not wanting to fall on the ice like I did, once, in Norway. That little trick rendered me unable to walk properly for weeks.

Ouch!!

The flora around the Hermitage area is very much alpine heath, struggling to survive in a harsh environment, although there are also sheep grazing here. The finest merino wool in the world, is in fact, grown a few kilometres away, at Mt Cook Station.

 

The sheep seem to have right of way here, at one point we had to ‘split the mob’ to get through.

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The finest fleece – Mt Cook’s Flock

In the area around Mt Cook, you can also see the most delightful blue snow/glacial fed lakes, like this one which form part of the hydro and irrigation scheme.

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We had to walk back very quickly to the Hermitage, as the weather was closing in, fast.

 

Lunch was a quick bite in the hotel restaurant and whether it was due to the intense cold, I am not sure, but it tasted really delicious. And prices were very reasonable. They do have a monopoly as it is the only place to eat, for miles and miles, But oh! I would pay a lot more for such a meal when one can take advantage of that very special view.

We ate in front of these magnificent full length glass windows at the hotel admiring the view. You can also get an idea in the reflection of the windows….

There was then only a little time for my daughter to throw around some snowballs and slide up and down the slopes on a toboggan, which the lady at the hotel reception said we could use free of charge.

She was so kind, and it seemed that her manner was from a bygone era, when you do things for free, with no expectation of returning the favour.

(Great New Zealand hospitality!)

It is claimed by some, that New Zealand is a rather conservative place and that they are still a bit stuck in the past at the end of the world. Well if that is the case, it is not a bad way to be, is it?

And certainly not a bad place to be stuck, either.

All too soon, it was time to leave and I was left with the memory of these wild and extreme walks, I took, at Mt Cook.

Linking to Jo’s Monday Walk

Jo’s walk this week is to Carding Hill Valley

New Zealand
Restless Jo Monday Walks

Footnote: Up to 1953, seven separate climbing expeditions had thus failed to reach the summit of Everest, but on May 29th, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a native Nepalese climber who had participated in five previous Everest trips, were the only members of the party able to make the final assault on the summit. At 11:30 in the morning, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level, the highest spot on earth. As remarkable as the feat of reaching the summit was the treacherous climb back down the peak.Throughout the rest of his life, he worked tirelessly on humanitarian and fund raising projects, building schools, health clinics, and many aid projects for his beloved country of Nepal, (a country dear to my heart), until his death from heart failure in 2008.
Banksia
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Walking on Straddie with Maddie

It started out with Maddie wanting to go to Straddie….

Maddie was Swedish, in high school, and on an student exchange to experience Aussie culture, language, and the few contemporary traditions, we Australians have. She wanted to see Straddie, aka Stradbroke Island, a secluded beach paradise off the coast of north eastern Australia. This is how we came to meet Bill, but more about that later.

As Australians are oft to shorten names, Stradbroke Island is affectionately called Straddie, even though it’s name has anything but humble beginnings, being named as it was, after the British Lord of Stradbroke.

Aboriginal communities have long existed on Straddie, as has a plethora of wildlife and flora, including the much-loved koala, kangaroo and ‘Gin–gin,’ otherwise known as a Grass tree.

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Koala

Add to this, miles of pristine white sandy surf beaches, and you have a swimming meccas for locals, and occasionally, sharks.

“Maddie” wanted to see “Straddie”, so we booked in at the Backpacker’s  Manta lodge, situated just a few kilometres back from the famous Point Lookout, and took an early morning ferry to Dunwich. This was actually called the ‘Flyer’ and the fare also included the bus to our lodge, which has a convenient timetable that coincides with the arrival of the ferries.

The beach from the porch of the Manta Backpackers Lodge

 Desperately hoping the name Adder Rock was not synonymous with the highly venomous snake, the Death Adder, we arrived at Manta lodge, an accredited scuba dive centre and above average Backpackers in a 4 share room. This backpacker is in an excellent location, step outside and you are on the beach, also reasonably close to Point Lookout by road, but we chose to walk along the beach for the scenic journey over the rocks and beach verges.

Stradbroke Island Adder Rock
4WD vehicles are permitted on the beach here

Gunter’s point where perhaps a German tourist was not careful enough?

If you visit Stradbroke and stay here, I would caution you that the beach trail to Point Lookout takes over an hour, and we found later that it is more direct to take the road, or catch the bus, but, of course, it was a lot less scenic. You can also find toilets along the way at Cylinders beach Caravan Park and a small shop and Post Office. We ever saw a Beach wedding taking place. High Heels in the sand… can you imagine the difficulties???

A nice diversion along the way is the Point Lookout Hotel, good for a hearty/ liquid lunch, or refreshment, or two… the view from there is simply amazing, from anywhere in the hotel. After we were suitably refreshed, we continued on, exploring the headland at Point Lookout, named by Captain Cook as he sailed along the East Coast in 1770.

The views from Point Lookout afford amazing views along Thirty Mile Beach…..or or was it Sixty MileBeach…. plenty of it anyway!   Take the Gorge walk for a long and very scenic view of this cove and the turbulent surf hitting the headland in front of the Surf club and you will see views like this….

As for amenities, Point Lookout has a number of eateries to suit a variety of palettes.  You will find a small collection of avant-garde gift and boutique fashion shops. Their opening times are various, but you could be lucky. One that caught my eye seem so ‘Straddie’…. laid back…. not always open and simple but good… the Fresh local Seafood shop called “The Prawn Shack.”

But this is where Bill comes in, our local tour guide – the quiet achiever Bill who would take us on a 4 hour 4WD tour of the Island.

As I am linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks,  I will talk more about Bill’s fabulous adventures in another post.

Some Walking with Restless Jo on her Monday walks – lots to Ponder About

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Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge: Travel

I have followed Sally’s blog for some time and her regular weekly feature with changing themes gives photography buffs a good array of choice and inspires creativity. I am thrilled to have a chance to blog some of my favourite travel photographs in her Challenger’s choice week.

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A perfect day on the river!

Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge

20160623_204028-k A Great spot for lunch!

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A world like no other!

Joyously or not the photograph becomes the source of reality, but it can also become a dreamlike force for interpretation. So if photography is memory, then the image is the moment–a moment of sanctuary in a lifetime of them. [Source: Sally D]

Even when I am so old I can no longer travel, I will have my photos and memories to ponder about.

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Architecture, Community

Te Papa, Beach and Wind Walk

Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand

A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????

Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.

The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.


After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.

New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.

An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.

The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.

If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.

Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.

On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated),  to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!

The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.

Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.

Linking to RestlessJo and her Monday walks

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Monday Mystery Photo – Last Week Norway

Each Monday, I post a mystery photo, or occasionally a mystery object. I encourage you to leave a comment if you think you might know where this week’s mystery photograph, is located, or what it is. If you guess correctly, I will link back to your blog the following week when the answer will be revealed. Guest submissions are very welcome.

Drop me an email if you would like to submit a photography to Monday Mystery Photo.

Where would you find the following structures?

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Last week we were in Norway at the cruise port in Andalsnes, where the giant Troll  awaits tourists exploring the Romsdalfjord and heralds the nearby Trollstigen and Trollvegen.

Last week we were in Norway at the cruise ship port in Andalsnes, on the beautiful Romsdalfjord. It is here that the Giant Troll greets tourists who make their way to his nearby home in Trollvegen or climb the hairpin bends of  Trollstigen.

There were many correct guesses last week. Well done, guys. Here they are:

Tidious Ted

Hungry Dai At An Englishman’s Life in Lisbon

Joseph elon Lilli – put

Gerard from Oosterman Treats blog

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and Millie, who changed her mind at the eleventh hour!!!

Monday Mystery

I hope I have given you all Something to Ponder About again this week!

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Hanging Around in Helsinki – Part II

So there I was, walking about in Helsinki, [read previous post here] when I discovered  what delighted me the most about this city was the many fantastic things you can see on foot, without spending much at all.

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Esplanadi park – Helsinki

Having just eaten a ‘larger than life’ Cinnamon bun, at the iconic Cafe Esplanadi, opposite the park on Pohjois-Esplanadi, followed by another – yes, another, salmon lunch at the Market Hall, (read more about Helsinki food options here), I set off through Helsinki’s streets to burn off some calories.

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Tuomiokirkko

My walking path through the city took me to the iconic Senate Square and the very impressive and landmark that is Tuomiokirkko. This Lutheran cathedral, built in neoclassical style, in 1830-1852, was originally a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who through the imperialist era, was also the Grand Duke of Finland. It is a must see!

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This church is also a very useful navigational mark for any tourist, dominating the city’s  skyline as it does, from every angle, as you can see below.

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Tuomiokirkko

The cathedral is decorated in spartan Lutheran style, quite different from the next stop on my walk:

Uspenski Cathedral

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Walking easterly from the market square, I didn’t stop to buy paella, berries, reindeer meatballs or furs at the many market stalls, but continued in the direction of Katajanokka peninsula and Uspenski Cathedral, a red brick orthodox church with gilded ‘cupola’ style towers. It is a good stretch for the calf muscles getting up the steep path to the church itself, [definitely not wheelchair friendly], but the view from there does make it all worthwhile.

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If you are thinking, ho hum… another church… think again, as it is the largest orthodox church outside of Russia. Much more ornate than the Lutheran cathedral, the cupola domes were even gilded in gold for the church’s anniversary and are often illuminated at night.

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 If you are a fan of Russian style icon art, Uspenski is a great place to visit. Just don’t expect to see the famous icon of ‘St.Nicholas – the wonder maker’, which was stolen from there in broad daylight, back in 2007, and has yet to be found. It’s free for visitors to enter the church and also handy to know that they do allow photography inside.

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I could also chat about walking past various Marimekko outlets and seeing unique Finnish clothing design at Stockmans retail centre, or the fact that 60% of the world’s ice breakers are built in Helsinki, but it was the Helsinki architecture, located behind Uspenski, that really garnered my attention.

architecture

Helsinki architecture
Helsinki architecture

I saw so many wondrous examples of Art Nouveau buildings, with ‘Jugenstil’ detailing, often coloured in the soft pastels, so popular in that era.

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“Can you imagine what it is like to live in one of those buildings?” I say to my Finnish friends.  I doubt I’ll ever know, as they proceed to tell me it is actually very expensive real estate. Furthermore, I noted that security grills and pin – codes to enter the doors are, no doubt, a more contemporary addition.

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Suomenlinna UNESCO World Heritage Site

My walk, continued following a short ferry ride, across the Helsinki archipelago, to Suomenlinna – (formerly known as Sveaborg): a military fortress  dating back to 1748. Due to its strategic position between three nations, this fortress served not just the Russian Military, but also the Sweden government of the day, (hence the name Sveaborg), and in later times, an independent Finland.  It was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, and one can make their way around the many cobble stoned roads, walls and tunnels, on foot.

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There is no charge to visit the island, only the nominal fee for the ferry ride over there, unless you want to enter the museum, which I didn’t, as there was SO much to explore on foot.

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Another Church???

Back on the mainland, I must tell you about another church I saw on my walk:  the very unique Tempooliaukko, or Rock Church. The concept of a “Church in the Rock,” was  first mooted as an competition for architects in the 1930’s, before WWII. Economic challenges meant plans to build the winning design were shelved until the 1950’s. It was finally opened in 1969.

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Church in the Rock

Quarried out of the natural rock that one finds in Helsinki, the church provides excellent acoustics for all kinds of concerts and visitors may enter, anytime, unless there is a wedding ceremony taking place. I was lucky enough to arrive just as a wedding was concluding. As they exited the church, the bride and groom were congratulated by a larger group than they anticipated –  applause from a host of tourists waiting outside! Heads up – they do ask for silence when you are inside the church, but photos are welcome!

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However you find them, Finns do enjoy their summertime.  My walk back to the hotel took me via a summer music festival, street musicians, and even some impromptu flea markets along the main street.  I would like to have enjoyed a dinner at the beautiful Kappeli restaurant, but alas, it was Saturday night and the stern-faced maitre told me it was booked out!

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I guess it will just be Something I’ll Ponder About

Linking to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks and Friendly Friday Photo Walks

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Australia, Community

Why I Like Melbourne

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Not just home to Victoria Bitter, or Tennis Australia’s epicentre, but every jar of Vegemite ever made AND the largest Greek population outside of Athens, Melbourne is the world’s southernmost, largest city and I like it. A lot.

 So what’s to like?

1. The Climate

Yes, don’t faint.

Australians mercilessly tease anyone heading to Melbourne, taunting them with comments like: “you’ll need your umbrella or,  don’t forget your raincoat, (even in summer!). But in my experience, this is almost always wrong. Unless, of course, you visit in wintertime, which is, in Melbourne’s defense, their scheduled wet season!

Other Australian cities actually have a higher rainfall than Melbourne, but Melbourne does have more rainy days. This is most likely due to “fairy rain” or “Melbourne mist”- hardly worth worrying about, when compared to the drenching one might receive in northerly Brisbane (the so-called Sunshine state)! When the tropical thunderstorms unleash their fury in that city, nothing will protect you from being wet through. This is hardly likely in Melbourne.

Those coming from northerly parts of the globe will revel in the temperate climate with  30 + Celsius temps in summer and be relieved that there is no white stuff to shovel in winter, but if you want that, of course you can  travel to the snow fields of Falls Creek, (a mere five-hour drive), in the highlands of the Snowy Mountains. So, yes, the climate!!

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The Floral Clock, Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Note the blue sky!!

2. The Arts Scene     

There is no shortage of exhibitions, events, displays to sink your teeth into. Jean Paul Gautier is currently on display at the National Gallery of Victoria, overlooking the river, with a “Home” exhibition outside. The Film Institute at Federation Square is also free to enter, [now closed for a revamp],and the Ian Potter Museum, next door, houses the biggest collection of native art and changing contemporary exhibitions of interest.

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Hosier Lane Graffiti Art

Opposite these iconic institutions, there’s an informal but fascinating street display of Graffiti in Hosier lane. Undiscovered talent abounds there!

3. The History

Melbourne, touted as Australia’s capital city in the gold-rush era, was one of the wealthiest cities in the world in the 1800’s.  Zürich, eat your heart out!!! The Queen Victoria exhibition building,  housing the World Expo of 1880, is but one example of the wealth and status of Melbourne in years gone by.

1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building  (Blue sky again!)
1880 Fountain at Queen Victoria Exhibition Building (Blue sky again!)

Unfortunately with all the wealth, comes crime, and the Old Melbourne Goal was built from blue-stone blocks to house the undesirables of society. Whilst no longer in active use, it makes a great sightseeing destination, one that is completely interactive. I spent a few hours there, including several tense minutes being locked in a padded cell, (as a visitor), saw the flogging triangle, then was a “witness” in a mock courtroom trial of Ned Kelly: (the famous bush-ranger), stood under the gallows and trapdoor, where Ned Kelly and other notorious criminals were hung, saw their death masks, and even tried on a Ned Kelly style metal helmet. Great stuff and loads of fun!

Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Gallows at Melbourne Goal
Ned Kelly Mock Trial
Ned Kelly Mock Trial

On a more sombre note, the Shrine of Remembrance is a gargantuan memorial to the fallen veterans of war and gives an excellent vantage point of Melbourne, from the upper balcony. The structure is something like a cross between an Egyptian pyramid and Mayan temple. Impressive and grandiose are words that come to mind.

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The Shrine of Remembrance

The date 11th November is earmarked as Remembrance day, when all Australians observe a minute of silence to honor their veterans, and the Shrine is constructed so that at 11am on 11th November , sunlight will cross a stone inside the Shrine to illuminate the word Love in the verse, “Greater Love Hath No Man,” in reference to the supreme sacrifice many young men have made in support of war efforts in Allied countries. (N.B. not our own). This phenomenon is recreated, most days, on the hour, for visitors.

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You can also visit the Melbourne Museum for a chance to see the real “Phar Lap”, a revered Australian race horse (world’s fastest of its time), which died prematurely whilst competing in America. For someone like me who is not into horses at all, I found the exhibit surprisingly mesmerizing.

Don’t forget to check out the Fairy Tree and Captain James Cook’s cottage (transported brick by brick from England) in the ‘Fitzroy’ Gardens for some unusual features in Australian history.

4. The Architecture

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The Shot Tower, Melbourne

Historic and beautiful examples of great architecture abound in Melbourne, like the Windsor hotel, the State Library’s Reading Room, the original gas lights, (on the Prince’s bridge and outside the Parliament building), as well as the old Shot Tower, now protected by an awesome glass dome.

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Gas light on Yarra river bridge ( Sky is still blue!!!)

In addition, Art Deco is alive and kicking at Luna Park and the ‘Palais’ Theatre, in St. Kilda and both sit comfortably together with more innovative modern examples of architectural genius like the Rialto building and Eureka Towers, with it top 10 floors plated with 22 carat gold. Visit Eureka at sunset for a fantastic view, of the city lights, or “hang out” suspended in mid-air, 88 storeys above the ground, in the Edge glass cube.

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The Eureka Skydeck and "The Edge" glass cube. Sunny weather continues
The Eureka Skydeck and “The Edge” glass cube. Sunny weather continues

5. The Beach

Unless you are anywhere near the calibre of surfing legend Lane Beechley, the swell at St Kilda Beach is everything you need in a beach and its within a stone’s throw of the city.  There may not be any ‘dumpers,’ (i.e. large waves that roll in and crash over your head, throwing you around and forcing you to swallow copious amounts of salty water) but hey, I am comfortable with low lapping waves, and white sand that goes on for miles, with swanky cafes nearby (offering free Wi-fi), grand federation era guesthouses and an old style picture theatre and amusement park. Coney Island: eat your heart out….

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6. The Shopping

Not really my scene, but I do have a teenage daughter, so it is a must do. It seems there is a very good reason Swedish fashion giant H& M decided to open their first Australian store there. It is Australia’s fashion capital, (also the former hub of cloth manufacturing), and the city is alive with shoppers and not too pricey shopping arcades with brand labels.

Check out the Spencer Street outlet centre for bargains under $10.00

7. The People and Food

Australians are, by and large, a friendly, laid-back bunch. Melbourne has a lively and vibrant Italian community so that you can visit authentic Italian restaurants and coffee houses in Lygon Street, such as the fabulous “Brunetti,” to the north of the city centre, where the pasta, pastries and espresso are better than that served in the streets of Milan.

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For an alfresco dinner, there is nothing better than Hardware Lane, (where waiters entice customers in by offering extra deals) or, De Graves Street: a cosmopolitan alleyway of small street cafes, intimate restaurants and eateries that would feel more at home in France or the continent than in Australia. The food is pretty good too, with all cuisines catered for.

Not only Italians, but a mix of cultures, live quite happily within Melbourne, be they Greek, Asian or Indian, indigenous, or white Australian. On the face of it, everyone co-exists happily enough.

8. Public Transport

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Biking around Albert Lake

Melbourne is thanking its lucky stars that they kept their tram system, even after other Australian cities ditched theirs years ago. Trams will take you to a multitude of destination and the free city circle tram enables tourists to quickly access each end of the central business district without fuss, or tired legs! The whole city is a free transport zone, meaning any bus, train or tram is free within the city centre boundaries. ‘Win-win’ for tourists. N.B. You will need a ‘myki’ (electronic) card to access areas outside of the city centre on public transport. The airport bus runs every 10 minutes and is fast and extremely efficient.

Grab a city bike, located at various stations around the city, and for a few dollars, you can have a pleasant 5km cycle along dedicated bike-ways along St. Kilda Road or around Albert Park Lake, dropping off the bike when you arrive at St. Kilda beach.

9. Further Afield – Proximity to other Attractions

Melbourne is the starting place for those venturing on the Great Ocean Road, one of the World’s most Scenic journeys. Melbourne is also the departure point for the ferries to Tasmania. Don’t forget to spend some time in country Victoria in the cherry orchards, take a steam train through country villages, experience the history of Gold Rush towns like ‘Ballarat’ and ‘Bendigo’, or get a taste of Aussie wine at the many Yarra Valley wineries.

10. The Gardens

If you have  a green thumb, you will be in heaven in Melbourne city. With three botanic gardens and several parks all within a 3 kilometre radius of one another, everyone in the family will find something to like. Fitzroy Gardens has Cook’s cottage and a fabulous Victorian Conservatory; Carlton Gardens, the Queen Victoria building and Museum and the Botanical Gardens includes The Shrine, Government House and the Myer Music Bowl.

11. The Sport

If spectator sport is your thing, Melbourne offers viewing of the world’s top tennis players at tournaments, throughout the year, in the state of the art ‘Rod Laver’ Arena, cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the very Australian “Aussie Rules” Football  in almost every city suburb and is currently hosting the Asian cup in Soccer.

As my taxi driver advised me: There is never time to be bored in Melbourne

Something to Ponder About

Community

New Zealand – Wandering around Whitby

What is there to do in Whitby?

Following on from my last post about New Zealand, and the three divisions of Whitby, which you can find here, it was quite apparent this stronghold of middle income suburbia was not without other attractions, mostly for me, it was found in the natural beauty of the area.

trees Coniferous trees relish the temperate climate  and I thinking hobbits and Frodo, when I walked along the tunnel of trees this morning.

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The cool climate trees were a delight, as were the range of boutique letter box designs, I found to be a recurring theme.

letter boxI want one of these letter boxes!

letter boxThe ubiquitous Tui birds were relishing the blossoms, hunting for some food. This species is not threatened and is found predominantly in the North Island of New Zealand.

TuiWiki tells us: The Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is an endemic passerine bird of New Zealand. It is one of the largest members of the diverse honeyeater family. The name tui is from the Maori language name tūī and is the species’ formal common name. The plural is tuis, or tui following Māori usage. The early European colonists called it the Parson Bird[2] but, as with many New Zealand birds, the Maori name tui is now the common name and the English-language term is archaic.[

Tui  [Source: Wikipedia]

Apart from nature walks and bird spotting, what else can you do in Whitby?

 

After a day or so settling in and shopping, Miss H and the young ‘uns were getting that glazed look in their eyes that said,” I’m soo bored” as teens do so well, thus, a trip to Adrenalin Forest, Porirua, (next door to Whitby), was called for, and quickly!!!

Adrenalin forest is an aerial obstacle course consisting of flying fox, high ropes, climbing ropes through barrels, nets and steps, which makes for a fun and energetic few hours.The kids are harnessed in and the harnesses have two dual carbiner locks, so it is impossible for participants to remove both clamps from the harness at the one time, making it perfectly safe for even the most reckless individual. Furthermore, the attendants give full instructions and a good dose of practice on ground level to all, prior to starting the course.

  Adrenalin Forest

I venture to say it is a kids only activity, as I did not see any adults participating in the course. Wonder why? They were all down on terra firma, shouting encouraging thoughts to their loved ones, hanging by the harness up to 60 feet above them in the tree tops.

The course becomes incrementally more difficult, and Miss 11 piked out at Level 3, and had to be ‘rescued’ – which meant that an attendant had to climb a ladder and disengage you from the course. Miss 13 and 16 kept going till Level 4, but were exhausted afterwards. A real endurance activity for some.ImageAdrenalin forest is loads of fun if you are ever in Wellington, or Whitby surrounds. Kids have exercise, fun, learn new skills, conquer their fears and the bonus is they are sun safe (in the shade) and cannot check mobile phone/ipads whilst they are up there!! I noted there was limited seating, (and nowhere to purchase refreshments) for adults who are watching, and I suspect most of them could use a neck brace afterwards………….Makes me wish I was 13 again.

Something to ponder about.

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Day 1 and 2 New Zealand

Wellington, and we took in the marvellous view from cousin Barbara’s beautiful abode in Khandallah. The next day we experienced the typical unpredictability of Wellington weather. Rain and wind followed us around Eastbourne.Normandale

Later the sun was out and the view from Wainuiomata road was breathtaking. We went out for a little sightseeing.
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Cousin Sandra showed us around Wellington and the Belmont Regional Park, which is under her jurisdiction. Sometimes I felt like I was in Norway, except the houses were a little more English.

parkYou can read more about the history of Wainuiomata here….
http://www.wainuiomata.co.nz/history.php

The view from Cousin Sandra’s house was breathtaking. I could sit there day and night taking it all in.

Normandale and Lower Hutt is quite a pretty part of Wellington. They obviously cater for the young too…. as there was a skate bowl with a fantastic view…

The Hutt Valley

Whilst Sandra had a “nanna nap” and H was exploring Sandra’s secret garden, I explored the local vicinity.

A little walkway revealed some hidden native gems.

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 Although a little muddy, the pass was pleasant in the light misty rain and the size of the tree ferns unbelievable. They just don’t grow this big in my part of the world. Too hot, I guess. The gorse plant was introduced but did provide a lovely splash of colour amongst the many shades of green in the wintry landscape of Lower Hutt, Wellington.

We also had the privilege of seeing into some of the homes of the Wellington residents, as we visited the garage sales with Cousin Sandra. It is surprising what some people want to sell, and try to sell. Many were lined up outside waiting to go in early in the morning.

Of course, we had to have “Fush and chups” for dinner, bro!!!