What better way to spend your early morning than to climb up the hill over the red rooftops and watch the first sunlight touch the face of St. George's church, then gradually embrace the town in a nice, soft and warm light.
Boris picked me up at the airport in Trieste just before 4 pm. I had arranged for a car service knowing that I wouldn’t have made the 3:00 bus to Piran and needed the quickest way to get there before sunset.
It was only 24 miles (40 kms) away, driving along the coastal route, first passing the Gulf of Trieste in Italy then the Adriatic sea as we cross the border of Slovenia. As we pass different towns along the way – Koper, Izola, and smaller towns – I see the same campanile over and over again just like the famous one in San Marco of Venice. The landscape did not change much and had it not been for the border crossing sign, I wouldn’t have guessed where Italy had stopped. [...Read more about Piran...]
A sad day for Norwegians. A blanket of roses filled the grounds of Oslo Cathedral as Norway mourns the victims of the massacre that took place on July 22, 2011.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Oslo. The European city known for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize has its own peace compromised just a few weeks ago when a car bomb exploded in front of the government quarters while a lone gunmen went on a shooting rampage at a youth camp in Utoya. This sort of violence I would expect anywhere else in the world, but it just seemed farfetched to me that it would happen in Norway. Suffice to say, this is one of the most horrific events in Norway’s peacetime history which left not only the Norwegians stunned, but also the rest of the world.
The white Lutheran Cathedral takes on some golden colors during magic hour, at 10:00 pm! In Helsinki, where one can experience white nights in the summer, it was hard to distinguish the end of night and the coming of morning, but it definitely is a city where one can savor twilight.
On my research about Finland in general, I came across this Finnish word sisu and found out that it means strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. It is also a word that is used to describe an understanding of the Finnish culture. The word sisu and its meaning is something that interested me the most in my reading. Apparently, the word is so popular that it has been used in many occasions, but what I liked the most is how Time magazine has described it: The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win.
The sun slowly dipping into the horizon can send one into a momentary trance here at Toompea Hill. Just off to the righthand side, not shown in this frame, is the historical old town of Tallinn.
According to Estonian folklore, Toompea Hill was created when Linda, bereaved wife of King Kalev, gathered and piled stones on top of her husband Kalev’s grave until it formed a mound. Grief-stricken as she sat on top of this, she cried tears that formed the Lake Ulemiste. Whether or not there’s scientific truth to this, I’m sure the history books won’t keep telling this story if it did not appeal to Estonian culture. There must be a more reasonable geological explanation as to how the limestone hill of Toompea was formed, but the old folklore that tells of the undying love between Linda and Kalev seems, to me, better suited as a story behind this romantic city. For what better words to associate the city of Tallinn with but by these three: folklore, fantasy, fairy tale.
Lough Tay is also named Guinness Lake because they say it looks like a Guinness stout with its dense midnight-black color caused by a bed of peat bogs. The startingly-white sandy beach around it is supposed to look like its foam. So, cheers!
With only a little over 3 hours of sleep last night, I was up at 4 this morning to catch some blues. I left the drapes undrawn so I’ll have unobstructed view of the light, and there it was – a deep blue picture staring at me as I opened my eyes. My destination was just across the street so it did not take me long to get to the Sean Casey bridge, and then later to Ha’Penny after a brisk walk to chase the fading light. Early morning with a nice cool breeze blowing, hardly any cars nor people on the streets, it’s just me and my bridges – just the way I like it.
I was back at the hotel at 5:45 since I decided to take some post-sunrise shots as well over at the Samuel Beckett. The light was good today – not great, but good enough that I couldn’t have asked for anything more. When you live in gray England as a photographer, just good light is good enough. [...Read more about Wicklow...]
Sunset colors trying to break through the clouds over the Samuel Beckett bridge after a rain storm.
They gave me a room on the 4th floor overlooking the Liffey river. It’s one of those windows that does not open all the way in case some nutcase wanted to jump. Definitely no jumper here, just wanted to see if the barrel of my lens would squeeze in through the gap, and it wouldn’t. Too bad, because I have a nice view, and although it has some blind spots, it still gives me a decent visual sweep of the south bank which seems to contain most of the attractions. I have the three-masted Jeanie Johnston ship almost directly below me, the Sean O’Casey bridge to the right, and Calatrava’s Samuel Beckett bridge is not too far downstream.
I’ve been skeptical about the weather since I got here. It looks like two different stories written in the sky. It has been sunny for the most part, with passing rain showers at least once a day. On the third day though it was just unforgiving rain – a bitter reminder of how photographers are always at the mercy of the weather. It is also a true test of one’s faith; I seem to pray more often when it rains. [...Read more about Dublin...]
The spire of Riga Dom Cathedral, with Vansu Tilts spanning the Daugava river. Seen from the tower of St. Peter's.
When I first looked at Riga’s map, it seemed to me like a huge city, so at first I was concerned about having to get to one place to another in a short span of time. But arriving here, I quickly found out for myself that it’s compact, walkable, and as an added plus – has easy orientation with well-planned street layout. The landmarks are distinguishable, and when you’re walking around old town, all you need to to do in case you lose your bearing is to look up at the church spires – sort of like the North Star guiding your way.
The skyline of Riga is dominated by church spires. I lost count of how many churches there are but the famous ones are the Riga Dom, St. Peter’s and St. Jacob’s Church. Not only the churches have the pointy tops, even the town hall and the Latvian Academy of Sciences bear it. Of course, they look great across the river at sunset or twilight when their silhouettes stand out against the blue sky. [...Read more about Riga...]
Arriving in Riga very late last night under a drizzly and heavily-clouded sky, I could only hope for a better day today. It was hard to predict how today was going to fare weather-wise. Every few minutes, the skies would change its palette from fierce grays one minute to bright blues peeking through clouds the next. If there was anything constant and unpretentious today, it was this man’s – Zbirbulu Peteris – sunny smile and disposition. Although it was the least of things I had expected coming to Riga, a smile from a stranger was what made my trip memorable.
The city of Riga sure has taken a bad rap from travelers’ forum and reviews on the web, from being dubbed as the drunk capital of Europe to having the most rude and unfriendly people in the Baltics. Although I don’t want to arrive at my destination on a clean slate as far as impression goes, I also try take these bad reviews with a grain of salt and find things out myself. After all, this city had endured quite a beating from its turbulent history of occupations, and has not too long ago just broken free from a confused and oppressed rule. Difficult times, they say, build character and perhaps that’s what it’s just all about. [...Read more about Peter...]
Florence Cathedral, Giotto's Campanile and the Baptistery, at dawn, before the mad crowd.
Although still hesitant to get up for the sunrise call, I was able to make it out early today. I also found out that the hotel’s main doors are padlocked during wee hours, a discovery that was not very reassuring, to say the least. So I had to wait until they opened them, and as I stepped outside, I was greeted by the brisk, cold morning air. It felt invigorating to be out there with a purpose. Ah, Italy. It’s like being in another place and time. Just the thought that men like Da Vinci and Michelangelo had once walked these same streets makes me feel like I’m part of something great.
Naturally, I stayed clear of suspicious-looking street corners and took the fast route to the Duomo, but really, it did not seem too bad at all. There were a few folks walking to work, early birds who are clever like me were already out enjoying the freedom of empty piazzas, and the whirring noises from the street sweepers could be heard from a distance. Nothing like waking up to see a city come to life. [...Read more about Florence...]
My decision not to shoot at dawn today was based on my fear of being out there in the dark in a city I did not feel comfortable in. I read a couple of warnings and bad experiences from female travelers on Virtual Tourist just before the trip and that planted the fear in my head. Still, with all good intentions to go, I set the iPhone to alarm at 5:50 this morning. I stood up, peeked out the window and saw the sky had already turned blue. Went back to bed.
That’s always the dilemma I face when traveling. There is of course the reluctance to wake up so early when the bed feels so much more comfortable. And then when you’ve managed to get out of bed, you second-guess your safety to be out there, still in unnerving darkness, before all of the city wakes up. If I detect the sound of street sweepers outside, I would feel more at ease, but they don’t usually show up until 7. Otherwise, the empty streets and what could possibly be lurking in the dark alleys bother me quite a bit.
So, I had planned for a day trip to Siena today. I left on a SITA bus at 9, a little later than I had wished, but still early enough. The 75-minute ride was enjoyable; it was nice to just sit down, listen to my iPod, look out the window, and re-assess my itinerary and the photos I’ve taken so far. The bus made a number of stops to pick up passengers but soon as it hit the motorway, we were smooth sailing. [...Read more about Siena...]