27 Sep 2009

Riga 1: Beautiful Buildings and Art Nouveau (Latvia)

A nice destination for the romantic getaway ... It has all the ambiances suiting the moods of the soul, from pleasure to sadness...
People actually live in some of these nice buildings! This is the Art Nouveau area of the city, it does rival with Brussels and some other cities better known for it.

6 Jun 2009

Tejo / Tagus river, Estoril coast, Lisbon area, (Portugal)

I would say this is a common view in Portugal, the water and boats of the fishermen, seen over the red rooftops made of round or grooved tiles, like... waves.

30 May 2009

Braga (Bracara Augusta), Portugal

Early this summer I took advantage of cheap Ryan Air flights to visit my friends in the North of Portugal. Braga, said to be somewhat a 'posh' city, turns out to be full of tradition (I was lucky to visit during the medieval/ Roman fair) and beautiful buildings, as well as much opportunity to party - and good Francesinhas! (local dish)

23 May 2009

Tampere Outdoors, Finland

Oh yes... The first time I was here, back in 2000, I was already convinced of the beauty of this country. And now, to the merit of my cute partner in crime, who is a native, I could also appreciate some of the beauty of its people, the Finns.

The Land of the Thousand Lakes, home to Amorphis, Nokia, Bitchball United, and (according to some)... the Santa Claus

4 Mar 2009

Brussels 1:Vote Left or Right? (Belgium)

The Belgian humor never ceases to surprise me...

With coming elections, this poster was put up around town.. by clint.be, a "info-tainment" website, non-political. The pic reads "Do you vote Left or Right?"

25 Dec 2007

Zurich 1: by Day (Switzerland)

I went 3x to Zurich for work from December to February. I took the opportunity to visit as much as possible from Swiss cities, and indeed I'm impressed, I like the country.

18 Dec 2007

Zurich 2: by Night (Switzerland)

The city can be very beautiful by night. If you abstract from the winter cold, you can certainly enjoy even just a simple stroll through the streets and to the lake. I was lucky to be around in Xmas period, there's all the nice Weinacht markets and stuff: in some ways there are similarities to Germany..


Zurich is reputed as a city with good venues for going out, and that I did confirm, when joining a friend and her colleagues to a disco.

18 Nov 2007

Istanbul 4: Culture and Religion

Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium... it is a long story. The Russian envoys of ten centuries ago were convinced to take up the orthodox christianity because the rituals and temples were "so beautiful". The city had a short Latin (catholic) period, and later was conquered and converted to Islam. Famous architect Sinan built here the Suleymanie Camii, and Sultan Ahmed had the Blue Mosque built on the foundations of several old palaces in front of the symbolic Hippodrome. You can find nice photos of them in wikipedia and in earlier posts in this blog. Still today a small Jewish community lives here along with some Orthodox and the Muslim majority. However, judging from the excitement in the city after a soccer match, soccer still has the strongest appeal :-D

Turkey, like Indonesia, is one of the few countries where Islam is separated from State. Perhaps eyeing the relations to EU, they have gone as far as banishing the scarf for women in public office. It is maybe an exaggerate imposition, or not, as many women now may discard the scarf and have to make no excuses. I must say I admire Turkey for being able to modernise, instead of blindly keeping the medieval interpretation of the Koran. In the city tram for example, you can see a young chick in a short skirt as well as a full covered lady. However, at the Mosque the women still pray at a small confined division, maybe only 5% of the area used by men. Some things could change, or is it fine to Allah?

On the right a support for the Koran, at the very interesting Turkish museum at the Hippodrome.

I think not many places in the world have such a history of Religion, Culture and Peoples coming together. Besides the religion, in Istanbul Europe and Asia meet, the Mediterranean (by Marmara) sea connects to the Black sea, via the Bosphorus. People from all places were making a living here, perhaps in old times this was the New York of the Old World. And now, it is just another large city, struggling to get by day by day, with all the uncertainties from economics to earthquakes. But vibrant and full of life. And still in touch with older traditions, like the famous carpets below..

17 Nov 2007

Istanbul 3: The Night

I regret much that I don't have a pic of the Taksim streets by night (Instanbul's social centre). So much life and people! Again, too many guys and few girls, but still, it is a vibrant night at Taksim! Here is a pic of the city from the Asian side:

A scene from a bar in Taksim: as the musicians played on, some of the people got up and started to dance, until more than half the customers were all dancing together! and check out the kebap on wheels!

Istanbul 2: The Everyday Scene

I felt the heart of the city beating at the Galata Bridge, everyday totally lined up with people fishing, and talking, doing business etc..
and check out the improvised fishing cane with a cork and wire! cool! 

It's beautiful by the river side, say with a cup of coffee...

There's many markets around the streets. Sometimes it seems that everyone makes a living selling something! I also noticed there's far more men than women on the street.

and something else, most people seem to wear rather plain, discreet clothes. Are these signs of Islamic influence? or maybe just my impression..

all in all, it's a busy and vibrant city (as you can see in this underground pass)

Istanbul: Some main views

Istanbul is modern and at the same time historical, you can find glamour and sophistication as well as down to earth simplicity and living. Let me start with the grandeur..
Here are two views on the ancient hippodrome square, and a river view. The first shows some pole offered by the Egypcians, and the unique Hagia Sofia behind it.

Night view of the Blue Mosque...

and the Old city topped by Suleymaniye mosque (Camii)

Like silver..

16 Nov 2007

On the way to Istanbul

The Alps were beautiful as ever... and notice the contrast with the Istambul seaside, upon arriving at the airport :-) See also the ships in the distance, lining up to cross the Bosporus

I would come back to the Alps soon enough (see more recent posts)

11 May 2006

Shaolin Monastery (少林寺) and Pagoda Forest (Henan, 河南)

Being a martial art fan, I had to go here too. I did not expect much, and actually you don't get much. I-m not the only fan... The monastery is heavily exploited for tourism, and the entrance to the site looks more like the entrance to a stadium than to a historic site.
I was lucky, however. It was raining, a heavy storm, water pouring all over. So there were no tourists! I had the place almost for myself!

Nearby, I visited the Pagoda Forest. Each pagoda
seems to be related to a master. Among them, I found a
rather interesting one. The drawings included a kung-fu practice
scene as well as a Laptop!!

10 May 2006

Longmen Caves - Giant Buddha (LuoYang, Henan, 龙门石窟, 洛阳 河南)

A trip to China would not be complete without seeing some gigantic buddha statues :-)  From LuoYang city is a short bus trip to this place by the river. It is impressive - not just how big, massive and time frozen - but think of all the work to carve this out of the rock!

The guys below are said to be the Boddhisatvas, beings in a state close to Buddha (depending on the interpretation). I cannot help to notice, they remind me of Indian figures...

That's me :-)

The surroundings are also pretty. You can see, below the temple, the carved grottoes that abound around here. More details here.

On my way to the site, I stopped by a Buddhist temple, supposed to be the first site where a buddhist temple was erected in China. Now its is a rebuilt/renovated construction, with gardens, with construction in wood and cement. An interesting scene which I could still capture with my camera, two monks playing table tenis. It is nothing extraordinary, especially in China, but it surprised me, I guess I was still expecting the stereotype of the introverted meditative monks!

9 May 2006

LuoYang: the Museum (Henan, 洛阳河南)

LuoYang was one of the ancient capitals in China, like Xi'an. I found the city to be a grey concrete aglomerate, but it has a nice museum. The meditating man (left) inspires a peaceful state of mind to me. The coins (right) are also interesting, more than two milenia old I think, money was not invented only around the mediterranean..