2012-09-27 - Swiss location 10. Drove out from Basel Stadt to Frick in Aargau. Choose it to be our stop in Aargau due to its name- sounds like..., and its proximity to E60, our main route to Zurich. The most exciting thing about Frick has to be that a dinosaur graveyard with more than 100 Plateosaurus was found there in August 2007. Plateosaurus lived during the Late Triassic period, around 200 million years ago, in what is now Central and Northern Europe. You can see fossils at the town museum.
2014-11-28 - Leaving Pesaro in Marche and down the long long coast of Abruzzo to Pescara. Rail line skirts the shore and rarely out of sight of the sea. Pescara like a big Spanish Costa city but in places a little less well groomed especially on the wide beach. Visited Museo Casa Natale di Gabriele d Annunzio, a big draw in Pescara. Had recently read a biography of this poet, playwright, libertine, adventurer,spendthrift, demagogue and came away with very mixed feelings about him. From 1889-1910 he was considered important in Italian literature, his work being both sensuous and mystical. He had affairs with several notable women and used wommen throughout his life. During 1914-18 war he was transformed into a genuine national war hero because of his exploits on the Austrian Front. However as a reaction against the Paris Peace Conference, he set up the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume (Rijeka, Croatia) with himself as Duce and where the only rule was that there are no rules. Some of d Annunzios ideas and aesthetics influenced Italian fascism and Mussolini. Was really looking forward to visiting Museo d Arte Moderna on the beach front. As it was a public holiday the museo was closed! After two days left by train for Molise.
2016-12-23 - Flew in from Dublin and immediately left by Ethihad bus to Dubai. Four days later came back by bus again. Stayed Royal Rose in city centre, I can recommend it. After Dubai this place seems more relaxed. The current standout features for me are the walk along the Corniche, the stunning five Etihad Towers and the exquisite Sheik Zayed Mosque where we spent an evening mesmerised by vast expanse of white marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, ceramics and atmospheric lighting. However this city continues to grow and some exciting projects are taking place on Saadiyat Island including the new Louvre museum by Jean Nouvel, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi by Frank Gehry, the Sheikh Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners and the Abu Dhabi Performing arts centre by Zaha Hadid. Three days later we flew out to Mumbai.
2010-03-27 - I visited in September 1974 coming from Pakistan (Peshawer) over the Kyber Pass by bus. I can remember seeing the names of British regiments, from their colonial wars against the Afghans in the 19th centuary, enscribed on the rock face as the bus went over the Pass and down into Jalalabad. Kabul was a fairly quiet city. The country had had a coup the previous year and the old aristocracy had been banished. I visited the zoo and found the animals to be few and not in great condition. I also walked up the Paghman Valley, a lush area in this arid country, past deserted villas and holiday homes from the previous royalist period. I regret not going to see the Bamyan Buddha statues which were later so disgracefully destroyed by the Taliban. The bus took me on to Kandahar, an altogether, for me, more gritty frontier place. The sunsets in this desert town were magnificent. Onwards to Herat in the west and towards the Iranian border.
2017-12-19 - The first thing you notice about Aguascalientes are the clean, very clean, streets. There are no bins away from the central square but no litter either. In fact all the cities I have seen so far are clean, litter free. European cities take note, especially Rome. Arrived from Zacatecas a two hour bus ride away. Stay hotel on Plaza de la Patria, the lovely heart of the city. The Plaza is a full history lesson, Palacio de la Gobierno (1663) and its murals, Cathedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion, its twin steeples soaring and the Teatro Morelos where Villa, Zapata et al held a constitutional convention in 1914 laying the framework for a more equal society. Within walking distance are four other highlights, Santuario Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Museo Jose Posada, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo No. 8 and the Museo de Aguascalientes. As a consequence of the security situation in Mexico more than once I have been advised to treat safety seriously. This advice comes from Irish Department Foreign Affairs and individuals. The 14 locations I am visiting on this trip are well away from the northern states and western risk areas. I try to keep under the radar, walk as if I know where Im going although I suspect few are fooled, I look like an outsider. Generally don't go out after dark and avoid disagreement. However I have met only kindness, welcome smiles and handshakes. Everyone , including generally taxi drivers have behaved/ charged as I would expect. On taxi in from Central de Autobus I forgot to check/ agree price of ride to city centre. Was expecting to pay 50 pesos which seems to be near norm for most rides, however driver indicated meter, which I hadn't seen and asked 35 pesos. After one night leave for Guadalajara in Jalisco state.
2016-12-27 - Arrived by taxi from Umm Al Quwain shared with a Russian traveller. Took us about 30 minutes to cover the 30 km which included driving over a strip of Sharjah which surrounds Ajman on three sides. Dropped at Ajman Bus Station and walked the short distance to Ajman Museum. This is a late 1700s fort that was the rulers residence until 1970. In the very spacious and atmospheric museum Ajman’s past is displayed using photographs, weapons, tools and archaeological artefacts. There is also archeological evidence that Ajman had human settlements more than five thousand years ago. Current ruler is Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi ( bin = son of, bint = daughter of). He belongs to the Al Nuaim bedouin tribe which has branches across the UAE. Ajman is mentioned by the desert explorer Wilfred Thesiger in his account of his 1945-50 travels, Arabian Sands, across the Empty Quarter. Left by bus to Sharjah (5Dhs).
2016-10-20 - The name Albania conjures up images of old communism, third world conditions and surely people. This is not what I encountered on my one day visit over from Corfu to Sarande and Butrint. The fast ferry left Corfu at 0900 and arrived at 0845. Nice trick of the time zone change. Passport check but no stamp. Fell in with fellow traveller. We walked through city centre to bus stop on corner Rruga Skenderbeu and Rruga Ismail Tatzati for bus to Butrint, euro 1. Good run down to UNESCO site. Butrint was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods. Interesting but hardly visually overwhelming. Of probably more interest is location -surrounded by beautiful watery parkland. Set in a marshy landscape between Lake Butrint, an inland lagoon, and the busy straits separating Corfu from Albania. Later back in Sarande sit on waterfront in warm autumn sun. Slow ferry out at 1600, sailing back through sea channels to Corfu town at 1830.
2011-10-12 - Arrived by air, Aurigny Air, from Guernsey on Sunday 25 Sept. at 9.15 am. Four passengers and a black labrador who seemed a frequent flyer. Walked the 15 mins into St. Anne, the one and only settlement. As it was Sunday morning not much movement about although grocery shops open. So I set of walking across the island. After making it out to the lighthouse on the east coast near Fort Quesnard I walked directly across the island to a point looking over at The Gannets, a gannet colony on Les Etacs rocks. I crossed the island in a time of 1 hour 20 minutes. I am now claiming the MTP world record for crossing Alderney on foot. I left the island by air back to Guernsey at 2 pm, five hours after arriving.
2012-09-27 - -My first visit to Alsace was very short. I had been in Basel Stadt as part of a personal MTP tour of Switzerland and took advantage of the proximity of Alsace on the edge of Basel to walk across the border and into France. This trois frontieres area of Basel (Switzerland), St. Louis (France)and Weil am Rhein (Germany)is one large urban landscape, economic zone and cultural sphere.
The frontier customs post here, to the casual eye, is located in the city a bit like Checkpoint Charlie but without the other physical signs of seperation. I parked the car outside a small shop on Elsasserstrasse, Basel just in front of the frontier control and walked through the frontier to Av. de Bale in St. Louis. Walked down the street probably 300 metres into France, took a few photos as evidence, and returned on foot to Switzerland. The international boundries of France, Switzerland and Germany meet not 2km from here in the middle of the Rhine.
25 Feb 2013- Arrived in Strasbourg from Saarbrucken(Saarland) by train. Two nights at Ibis Centre. Three particular highlights were 1. walk around European Institutions- European Parliament/Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights, 2.Vauban Barrage and Petite France on the UNESCO listed Grande Ile, and 3.the wonderful Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Strasbourg was a very pleasant surprise and I can recommend it to the discerning traveler.
2015-10-05 - Crossed over the Bosphorus into Asia with my friends Bob Cooperstein and Aussi Cal in Bobs VW campervan. Our plan was to set out in search of the mysterious near East. We were all Asia virgins. Bob and I had entered Turkish Thrace on 20 February and now at beginning of March the three amigos were entering Turkey in Asia. I would eventually exit Turkey into Syria on 12 April 1974 after more than 50 days on the road there. Our route was Bursa, Canakkale (Troy),Bergama (Pergammon), Izmir, Ephesus, Pamukkale, Marmaris, Fethiye, Kas, Finike, Antalya, Alanya, Silifke, Mersin, Nevsehir (Cappadocia-Goreme, Urgup) and Ankara. My friends then departed to go back to Germany while I took the train to Gaziantap and crossed the border into Syria. Travelling with other people can be a fraught experience. However in our case we managed to stay cordial and have fun all the way through. The coastal areas were fine in March but when we drove onto the plateau the weather deteriorated to a wet and cold spring. We always stayed in the VW at night, where possible one of us would sleep outside to ease the space restrictions inside. The VW had a big foam mattress on the floor, our bed, the sides had attached cupboards and a gas ring for cooking. It was basic. We drove about 2600 km and adding in the train to Syria I must have covered over 3000 km. What is remarkable about Turkey is the extent of the Greek and Roman structural remains. There are the big hitters like Ephesus and Pergammon but equally many, many smaller structures are scattered across Asia Minor. I can remember one morning after we had woken going for a short stroll in the warming air and literally just 50 metres from the van was a beautiful small amphitheatre tucked in among the groves - pure class. The natural wonders of the country are stunning, swimming in the hill top flowing calcium hot waters of Pamukkale, of course the Mediterranean coast and Goreme where we slept in one of the rock hewn caves. Getting away from the coast to the interior was like stepping back in time. Striking was the small town and rural backwardness and probably poverty. In the countryside lonely shephards managed herds of sheep or goats like they had been doing since the dawn of time. Many had big wolf like dogs wearing iron pronged collars - to fend off real wolves in a fight ! Each town or village we stopped in we made a bee line for the local chai shop, naturally to drink the sweet mint tea but also to play backgammon with the locals. This was good, friendly and enjoyable. I became quite a respectable player !
2012-11-21 - Have been to Andalusia 4 times in past 30 years. FIRST as part of a trip away from Ireland during the 1980s. Flew from Dublin to Malaga. After stay in Marbella YHA, bus to Gibraltar, Algeciras and ferry to Tangier.
SECOND visit July 1992 with my wife to be. Stayed in friends apartment in Benalmadena. Shopping in Torremolinas and Marbella had to be done. Hired car and drove to Grenada and Alhambra.
THIRD visit 2003 with friend Seamus. Hired car, over a number of days drove up Atlantic coast to Cabo Trafalgar and Cipiona, then back via Rhonda.
FOURTH visit February 2015. Came in on ferry from Ceuta past looming dark presence of Gibralter. No hassle at customs and 10 minute walk to bus station for 3 hour onward travel to Sevilla via Cadiz and Jerez. Sevilla is a wonderful city, with a UNESCO site centered on the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias. The cathedral is the largest Gothic building in Europe, it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, an MTP must. Next to it is the Giralda minaret, a masterpiece of Almohad architecture. The Archivo de Indias, house the archives from the centuries of colonisation in the Americas. Beside these sits the beautiful Alcazar- you must see the Courtyard of the Maidens and the gardens. About 20 minutes walk is another gem in the shape of the Plaza Espana. In two days only scratched the surface of a city I will return to. Met a group of Renault 5 travellers from France and Bosnia. They were part of a large contingent of Renault 5 owners from across Europe taking clothing etc. to a charity on the far side of the Atlas mountains in Morocco. On this trip have been reading As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, by Laurie Lee, of his epic walk across Spain in 1935-36. His route took him from Vigo, Valladolid,Segovia, Madrid, Toledo, Valdepanas,Cordoba, Sevilla, Cadiz, Algeceras, Malaga and Almunecar. He stays in Seville for a while, – dazzling, a creamy crustation of flower-banked houses fanning out from each bank of the river...[yet]..no paradise. He lives on fruit and dried fish, and sleeps at night in a yard in Triana a ramshackle barrio on the north bank of the river, which has -a seedy vigour, full of tile-makers and free-range poultry, of medieval stables, bursting with panniered donkeys, squabbling wives and cooking pots. I left by bus to Merida in Extramadura.
2013-10-16 - Arrived in Andorra La Vella by bus, Novatel, from Toulouse. Surprised at seeming wealth of place but then probably low taxes and tax haven status help. It is the sixth smallest country in Europe, pop. 85,000 approx. Andorra la Vella is, not surprisingly, the highest capital city in Europe, at over 1,000 metres above sea level. Official language is Catalan. Stayed overnight and took first bus out at 8am to La Seu dUrgell and with immediate connection was in Llivia by 10am.
2015-06-23 - We had been hiking in the Chamonix area (Rhône-Alpes, France) and had been living in the shadow of Mont Blanc for days, been to within a dizzying 1000 metres of its big round white head on the Aiguille du Midi, now it was time to burrow beneath its massive hulk. For 26 euros we could take a bus to Courmayeur and back through the Mont Blanc Tunnel. At an elevation of 1400 metres it is higher than the highest mountain in Ireland- Carrauntoohil, Co. Kerry. Opened in 1965, its 11 km length is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes, especially for Italy, which relies on the tunnel for transporting as much as one-third of its freight to northern Europe. Now I know how all those Ferrari cars, Gucci fashion and Martini drinks make their way to Ireland. Courmayour has an elevation of 1,222 metres/4,000 ft. It is one of Europes most famous ski resorts. French and Italian are the official languages of this semi-autonomous region although we had no difficulty being understood in English. Juste ainsi cos mon français laisse quelque chose à à désirer . We- my son Chris, brother Eunan and I settled for ice cream and a walk to the Societta della Guide and through the centre of town before returning back through the tunnel.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 15. Drove the short distance from Gossau to Herisau in Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Ausserrhoden(outer), protestant, seperated from Innerhoden, catholic, about 1530 as part of the fallout from the Reformation. Womens right to vote was introduced only in 1989 on a canton-wide level.
Hermann Rorschach, psychoanalyist, was born in Herisau. Best known for developing the Rorschach inkblot test. Apparently personality can be determined from looking at these inkblots. Give it a try.
Really liked the countryside. Looked just like chocolate box pastoral images of Switzerland.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 16. Arrived by car from Herisau in Appenzell AR. Appenzell Innerrhoden (IR) is the majority catholic area of Appenzell that split in about 1530 to form a seperate canton. It was the last Swiss canton to grant women the vote on local issues in 1991.
Appenzell town is attractive and photogenic. We spent some time exploring the historic centre.
2014-04-17 - ... in Alberobello the strange landscape dotted with trulli. A kind of stone encampment....groups of cones. Remote country like a dream, and from a long time ago. I see a house made of seven trulli, with a golden interior, with walls made of lapis lazuli, with floors covered with Arab carpets. I fall asleep in exhaustion. I wake up and I see a land of dreams... From the diary of Gabriele DAnnunzio, September 27, 1917. Arrived in Bari from Matera, Basilicata. Destination Alberobella and its extensive and now UNESCO listed trulli. A trullo is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof, a style of construction specific to the Itria Valley. Trulli were generally constructed in the 19th centuary as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small landowners or their labourers. Most of what you see now is after extensive and sensitive renovation over the past 20 years. Reminded me a little of the round dwellings in southern Africa especially in Natal. Alberobella itself is well managed and clean. Yes a number of the trulli are tourist shops, but remember this is how people here try to make a living, so dont bemoan the commercialism and pay up if you like whats on offer.
2013-10-16 - Flew in from Dublin to Bordeaux. This is start of 9 location stops- Aquitaine, Limousine, Auvergne, Rhone Alps, Languedoc Roussillon, Andorra, Llivia and Catalunya. Bordeaux is city of impressive public art and culture as well as wine capital of world. Centre of city UNESCO Port of the Moon, is second only to Paris in number of protected buildings, mainly from Enlightenment period [This was a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in the late 17th and 18th century Europe. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. Spinoza, Voltaire and Newton main thinkers, big influence on US, French and other constitutions]. Bordeaux is a wealthy city, easy to get around, trams, cycles and attractive routes along Garonne. Pont de Pierre built on Napoleons orders to celebrate his victories!
2011-12-09 - Arrived by car in Teruel, a world heritage site. My mission was to see the 12th-13th centuary Mudejar architecture. These buildings 'symbolize pacific coexistance between Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures..' The buildings in Teruel are 4 exquisite towers and associated churches. After visiting the towers realised I had mislaid my day pack with documents and car GPS/sat nav. Retraced my steps but to no avail. Reported loss to Townhall/Ayuntamiento and policia local. Drove back in evening to Valencia. Arrived at hotel to be told pack and contents had been handed into Teruel police. Policia local kindly arranged to send pack by courier to Valencia. Viva Espana
2017-11-07 - After the madness of California's roads it was pleasant to cross into Arizona heading east on the Interstate 40. Landscape less crowded, more open and fresher. Grand Canyon NP very well organised. Arriving early we get parking close to shuttle bus. Spend most of day walking and bus hopping out to end Red Route at Hermits Rest. The Canyon defies description- the depth, the breadth, the colours and every so often the lonesome sound of the wind through the pines. Following day we arrived at Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park. The highlight for us was the 6km sunset hike around West Mitten Butte. This brought us up close to Monument Valley experience in a way the drive around the 17 Mile Loop didn't. The Loop road is very rutted, challenging and dusty; the need for concentration spoils the drivers enjoyment. We then drove up to Moab, Utah.
2012-11-02 - October 2012 - Must tell you about the bus from Santander to Oviedo- Supra Plus (ALSA) was a bit like better class air travel, 190 km of comfort and service, I recommend it. I used buses exclusively on this 9 day trip, covering 1700km. Liked the ASLA site as you can see all timetables and pre-book all buses to suit own itinerary. Its well to sign up for their Bus Plus card as it means, among other things, no booking charges, and with conditions- free ticket changes prior to departure and ticket can be used if bus missed. Oviedo has a number of UNESCO sites and was able to visit La Foncalada/Fountain, the only functioning civil work from 9th centuary Europe, and the beautiful Basilicia of San Julian de los Prados, c.830 AD. Great city to walk around with many beautiful buildings, and shop if you feel inclined. Stayed overnight in Ibis. June 2017 - Return to this location to trek in Pico de Europa NP. Trekking is an annual event in the company of my son, my brother and his son. We flew into Santander, hired a car and based ourselves in Las Arenas, our gateway to the NP. Three hikes- the first two are in the central Picos - Ruta del Cares, an excellent 6 hour hike along an old miners route through deep canyons, an exhilarating 5 hour trek up to the refuge (2000 metres) at the base of Naranjo de Bulnes/Picu Urriella and finally around the Covadonga lakes in the western Picos. My first time in the Picos and I thoroughly recommend them.
2012-09-28 - My first contact with Austria was in May 1973.I was returning to Ireland from Africa and was hitch hiking up from Greece. Route took me through Yugoslavia and across Austria via Villach to Munich.
In February 1974 crossed into western Austria from Liechtenstein. This was one cold jaunt. Snow was piled high, in some places 3-4 metres on side of road. Spent night in alpine gasthof before going on to Innsbruck and Bavaria. Met friend Coop on US Base in Berchtesgaden and after some days we boarded his VW combi, visited Salzburg and set out across Austria to Yugoslav Adriatic. We were going to Istanbul.
Returned to Austria in September 1974. Coming back from Asia was lucky enough to get lift with lorry going from Gulf to Germany. Boarded at Turkey- Bulgaria border and three days later said farewell in Hannover.
In October 2010 visited Feldkirch, Austria coming from Appenzell en route to Liechtenstein.
April 2013. Must be my fourth time in Austria, no wonder as its at the crossroads of Europe. This time made first call to Vienna. Came in from Bratislava for the day. Vienna regularly features as one of the top cities in the world to live. Anyway its clean, excellent transport system, safe, full of Austro-Hungarian Empire history, high culture, schnitzel und apfelstrudel. Walked a lot from Stephanplatz to eventually arrive at Museum Quarter and the exceptional Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK)with its collection of modern and contemporary art including Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein.
2013-10-16 - Arrived from Limoges for two nights in Clermont Ferrand. My plan was to go to top of Puys de Dome the highest point of Chaine des Puys. From here it should be possible to see not only some of the 80 volcanoes aligned N-S on 3-5 km strip about 45 km in length but also Mt. Blanc. No luck, not only was the transport to base in mothballs for the season but the summit was clouded over during my stay. Will have to return. Clermont Ferrand was not a disappointment however and a pleasant time was spent in the city of Vercingetorix (defeated Caeser no less, once), Jardin Lecoq, Place de Jaude and the Musee Bargoin. Train to Lyon.
2017-07-24 - We continued our MTP journey from Madeira. Its a two hour flight to Ponta Delgada. The Azorian archipelago stretches over 600 km across the mid Atlantic. Discovered in 1427, eight years after Madeira. Ponta Delgada has a colonial feel especially evident in old fort of Sao Bras. The fort has extensive military exhibits. Of personal interest is section detailing colonial opposition and wars in Africa 1961-1974, including in Angola, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe and Mozambique the north of which I travelled through in late 1973. The locals call these islands Paradise on account of the warm humid climate, fertile soil and abundant vegetation growth including roadsides decorated with glorious hydrangeas. However its the volcanic heritage of the islands that is the star attraction. We made two very special trips. First was on an organised bus tour to Sete Cidades, a small town set inside an enormous caldera, and its adjacent Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. Second trip using public bus to Furnes. We walked 9km around crater lake, photographed the hot springs, bathed in the Terra Nostra hot mineral waters and wandered the sub tropical botanical gardens. Dined in popular Restaurante Nacional. After 4 days flew back to Lisbon.
2016-04-08 - Left Zahedan, Iran by train. Night journey across Baloch desert. Full moon grey sand no vegetation. Train slowly snakes across empty landscape. Lucky to have seat on wooden benches, no place to sleep, other passengers standing all night. In Ahmad Wal where we stop young man who struggles with English manages to say with obvious pride - I am the Baloch. Arrived exhausted Quetta next day. Quetta, pop. 250,000, very much a frontier city. Many migrating tribes people, some carrying rifles almost as ornaments, from Afghanistan and Balochistan, passing through. Major languages Pasto, Balochi, Punjabi. Very relaxed place. In centre possible to go to chai shop and with your tea order marijuana to smoke while sipping milky chai. After four days left by train through broken landscape of eastern Balochistan. This area, especially around Quetta, is very prone to earthquakes. Major quakes throughout 20th centuary especially 1935 when over 50,000 people died. Tremors also 1966 and 68. The shattered landscape is very visible from the train, mountains broken apart. Arrived in Multan, Punjab.
2012-09-26 - Swiss location 7.Drove up from Jura to the town of Laufen in Basel Landschaft. This canton is one half of what had been the canton of Basel. After 1830 there were political quarrels and armed conflict in that canton. Some of these had to do with the rights of the population in the agricultural areas. This ultimately led to the separation of Basel-Landschaft from the city of Basel(Now Basel Stadt) in 1833.
Laufen is a working town. The Christian-Catholic Church of St. Katharina is listed as a Swiss heritage site. The Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, new to me, is apparently the Swiss member church of the Union of Utrecht, also known as Old Catholic Church. Founded by the Jansenists, plus a later influx of unhappy Catholics after the First Vatican Council, it has 14,000 members and 40 parishes in Switzerland. One of their beliefs is of a state called efficacious grace whereby only a certain portion of humanity are predestined to be saved- from what I am not sure ?
2012-09-27 - Swiss location 9. We arrived in Basel Stadt from Solothurn canton. Basel-Stadt was created when the historic canton of Basel was divided in 1833, after political quarrels and armed conflict about the rights of the population in the agricultural areas. This ultimately led to the separation of Basel-Landschaft from the city of Basel in 1833. With an area of 37 km², Basel-Stadt is the smallest canton in Switzerland. Basel is home to many of the big multinational names in the chemical industry and pharmaceutical industries.
We drove into city centre, parked car and walked to area around SBB train staion. It being a working day people were busy moving to and from the train station and trams whizzed everywhere.
2014-04-16 - I really liked unique Matera. It is built on an arm of the western Murge and faces towards the deep gorge of the Gravina with its sheer cliff walls interrupted by the Sasso Barisano to the north and the Sasso Caveoso to the South.
The “Sassi” (Stones) are the old rocky landscape living quarters and churches of ancient Matera, excavated from soft volcanic tuff and ramdomely placed one on top of another. This is the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region. Earliest habitation is probably from 1000 BC. This cave living and its associated poverty led the Italian Government to rehouse the population of the old quarters and the ancient centre was deserted in the 1950s. Unusually for a UNESCO site you can still wander and see parts of it just as it was left 60 years ago.
Do visit the beautiful and unique Musma museum of international contemporary sculpture housed in a series of Sassi caves. MUSMA is located in the impressive 16th century Palazzo Pomarici, in the heart of the Sassi. The exhibition galleries, in fact, consist not only of the rooms of the palace, but also the vast hypogea - underground caves.Recommend hotel Il Belvedere. Sensitively incorporates parts of Sassi caves and dwelling. Your breakfast is served on a balcony overlooking ravine and UNESCO heritage areas.
2015-09-22 - Belarus - White Russia. I had conjured up an image of Minsk as a post Soviet city down at heel. The reality is very different. The city is modern, very clean, safe, no graffiti, drunks or rough sleepers evident. The metro system is excellent- any time I used it there was a train every 90 seconds, quicker than waiting for our traffic lights at home to change. People universally approachable and helpful. The city left a strong impression. Perhaps understandably its history seems to start in 1941- the year the Germans invaded. Belarus was very hard-hit during World War II; the Nazis destroyed two thirds of its 290 cities and towns, wiped nearly all its industry, buildings and infrastructure. Then they killed over 2.6 million people. The Soviets came back in 1944 and another sad chapter unfolds. Unlike the Baltic states who regard the Soviet period as a continuation of terrible subjugation Belarus seems to mark it with thanks for defeating the Germans. The city is filled with WW2 commemorative monuments. A visit to Park Pieramohi, Hero City Obelisk and the tribute to the Great Patriotic War is poignant. This whole area gives a sense of the impact of WW2 on the psyche of Belarussians - newly weds in their wedding dress come to the area to remember and acknowledge. The National Art Museum is a treasure trove of Belarussian fine art over the past 2-3 hundred years with a predominance of 20th century and modernist pieces. As is often the case the interior of the building and the exhibition spaces are themselves art. Arrived by plane from Kaliningrad. As the flight originated in CIS area I had no passport or customs check on arrival. Stayed 3 nights in Bon Hotel. Left by train for Vilnius. All passport formalities carried out efficiently on train.
2017-06-09 - Take train down from Kursk for a day trip to Prokhorovka. Walk out to site and commemorative area of 1943 tank battle. Largest tank engagement in military history. Estimated that about 1,000 tanks involved in confrontation. Nazis defeated and war finally turns against them. Sits on slightly rising ground but still mainly flat plain. A little like Waterloo, fairly featureless terrain. The main monuments are massive tank sculptures - 1. Russian tank grinding over a German tank, 2. Tank and Russian troops advancing in full fight mode, 3. Display of original tanks and artillery from the period, 4. Metal pieces recovered from battlefield. Very poignant. Return to Kursk in afternoon.
2012-10-02 - Apr. 2013 flew in from Dublin to begin 4 state trip in east Germany. Time short, visited UNESCO Schiller Park and Weisse Stadt both Bauhaus style housing developments from 1920s. It just shows the importance of Bauhaus and the Modernist movement when two not now unusual developments get UNESCO listed. Took metro to East Wall to see remnants of The Wall. The graffeti art is moving covering as it does themes of freedom, escape from tyranny and hope. Delighted at friendliness and openness of Berliners.
Feb. 2009 was my first MTP type trip since Andalusia in 1986. Did a lot of preparation including using YouTube to navigate from Berlin airport to connecting train to city centre. Arrived on a cold February afternoon. Stayed 5 days in The Circus, Mitte. City is certainly impressive but not in the way I had anticipated. Had not expected it to be still showing so many scars from its WW2 and partition period- empty lots, bullet wounded buildings, crumbling apartment blocks. Was touched by some memorials- remains of Wall(136 killed 1961-89 trying to reach freedom), Remembrance and Reconciliation bronze at the Chapel of same name. Found Holocast Memorial strangely cold and failing to evoke horror of suffering and pain of loss.
Really liked new architecture in Reichstag, Chancellory and Frank Gehrys DZ Bank building beside Brandenburg Gate.
2012-09-26 - Swiss location 5. Twann is in Berne Canton our stop after Neuchatel.Beautiful town situated on Lake Biel. Mainly involved in growing grapes for wine making. The Canton of Bern is the second largest of the 26 Swiss cantons by both surface area and population. The canton is bilingual and has a population almost one million. The cantonal capital Berne is also the federal capital of Switzerland.The southern end of the canton includes some of the tallest and most famous peaks in Switzerland including the Jungfrau and the Eiger. As you can guess tourism is big business here. The area also has its own highly distinctive cheese- emmental, the one with the holes.
2013-08-26 - Had wanted to listen to the Brandenburg Concerto, Bachs best and Baroques finest, just to get in the mood but had to make do with some excellent deep house out of Berlin. Took train out from Hbf Berlin to Potsdam. Walked into town, down Charlottenstr., through Brandenburger Tor and into Sanssouci Park. Sanssouci is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia,(1712-86). Its not long before the grandeur of the Park begins to register and you have to stop and take in the famous terraced gardens atop which sits Sansouci Palace, completed in 1747. The tour of the Palace is well worth it if only to see Andy Warhols portrait of Frederick. The Park is littered with marvelous idiosyncratic buildings including the massive New Palace with over 200 rooms and, my favourite, the Roman Baths built in the style of an ancient Italian villa. Its quite obvious that Frederick plundered Prussia, his own country, to satisfy his ego. I suppose he felt he had to keep up with the Jonses in all this, only the Jonses here was Louis XIV of France and he had Versailles. You can easily spend a day here.
2012-09-23 - Bremen is the smallest of the German federal republics, easy to get to and easy to get around, perfect for an MTP junkie. Took train from Hamburg and walked short distance to city centre. Most places of interest are in centre and easily accessible- Rathaus, Roland (both UNECSO listed), Dom St. Petri, Bottcherstrasse and the Schnoor area. Go take the tour of the Rathaus, one of the most beautiful in Europe. It displays some of the wealth and power Bremen held for hundreds of years and to some extent has although no longer based on shipping. Tickets from tourist office. The other half of this federal republic is in Bremerhaven, 70 km away on coast.
2015-11-02 - Second visit. Brussels was a pleasant surprise this time around. I had expected an anodyne and soulless city built around the EU HQ. It probably has a lot of that however we found a city easy to get around,not particularly expensive given the EU money that must be sloshing around, great restaurants and bars and a genuine warmth in the people we met. We stayed in the Anderlecht area not far from Gare du Midi which in retrospect is not exactly the best choice of area. Particular highlights included the Victor Horta Museum, Rue Américaine, in one of his spectacular houses. I was never a particular enthusiast of Art Nouveau but that has all changed after seeing this genuine work of structural and decorative art. It is all beautiful flowing organic forms and curves. The whiplash curve– an extravagant line that abruptly changes direction with great flair is alive and well here. Horta designed not only the building but every piece of life within them, from internal staircases to the furnishings to the textiles and even the cutlery.Its justly on the UNESCO list. Other highlight is the Rene Magritte Museum. This artist has,for me, rewritten the surreal and, unlike Dali, mostly kept his vision rooted in the everyday but with a twist. In The Ignorant Fairy he inverts light, a theme Magritte uses many times- here the candle flame absorbs light and sends decreasing levels of blackness into the space around it, the opposite of what we would expect. He also plays intriguingly with our perception of light in The Dominion of Light, see what you make of it. There is something of Beckett in Magrittes use of light and dark. My favourite Magritte is The Return, particularly the distant horizon below the blue bird with clouds. First visit to Brussels was in May 1973 on my way back from Africa. Arrived in city with no idea where to stay. Went to police station to inquire and was directed to house run by Catholic clergy. Stayed three nights and continued on to London.
2017-06-10 - MTP trip powers on. Leave Kaluga 0300 on sleeper train. Arrive Bryansk 0700, deposit backpack left luggage and take tram to city centre. Hoping to visit State History Museum but it does not open until 1000. Walk busy pr. Lenina in intermittent rain. City rush hour gathers pace and soon I am just another body on this wide street. Past Drama Theatre which I can make out has Romeo and Juliette in its upcoming programme. The cathedral is just opening, quick visit inside- love the small of incense in the morning. One lady worshipper blessing herself and kissing what I take to be her favourite icons. On up to top pr. Lenina and Metro-Pavlovskiy Zhensky Monastery. At this stage on trip am definitely feeling have had fill of religious buildings so as appealing as it looks admire from outside. Take marshrutky back to train station. Really like marshrutky as form of transport. They are ubiquitous, rapid, fixed price 16-20 rubles. Just ask at any bus stop and people will say which one you need. I prefer them to taxis any day. Taxi drivers are sharks generally. Around town taxis can be 100-200 rubles for same journey as marshrutky. Not extorionate but nearly always have feeling paying more than going rate, which is probably a correct reading. Train to Smolensk leaves on time, of course, at 1120. Again a sleeper. Have a compartment to myself. Make up bed and chill, eat lunch - its rubbish. Continue reading Anna Karenina, she announces she is pregnant by Vronsky. Arrive Smolensk 1630.
2016-03-18 - I was really looking forward to meeting one of Argentinas serious travellers Sergio Alvarez Campos. We had been in touch via email, Sergio was advising me on my first trip to South America. We had coffee in La Boca and he showed me around the area, the city centre and shared good stories of BA, Argentina, and world expeditions. Sergio is a true traveller, I hope we meet again. One of the biggest problems I had before arriving in BA is getting hold of some pesos for bus/taxi to city centre. Although I can buy almost any Latin American currency pesos are not to be had in Ireland. It was a relief to see the Banco Nacion in the arrivals hall. However they are very slow and bureaucratic. Had only one person on counter and the queue stretched for 25 customers. Anyway four nights in a beautiful city beckoned. Visit a few city highlights- Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Congress de la Nacion, Av 9 de Julio,, Puerto Madero, Recoleta. Museo de Arte Moderno in San Telmo is a big disappointment. It has no more than 15 pieces. For my reading started on Luis Borges Labyrinthe. After four days head down to dirty jungle that is Retiro and take bus out. Its eight and a half hours and 604 km to Santa Rosa.
2016-03-21 - La Plata has a population of 750,000. That means it has more people then Dublin. But where are they- the place should be vibrant and bustling, instead city centre seems so quiet, almost provincial. Waiting for bus out from BAires on Av 9 de Julio learn I need preloaded SUBTE card to access bus. Realising my predicament lady passenger volunteers use of her card. I give her fare in pesos. On bus meet proud mother of Argentine photographer Esteban Pastorino Diaz. His claim to fame is an entry in Guinness Book of Records for longest single image, 39.54 metres. In La Plata first stop Le Corbusier house, Casa Curutchet. Some similarities to Bauhaus villas in Dessau, Germany. Beautiful exterior, beautiful atrium, small interior rooms by our current standard. Walking around rooms meet two young women obviously in love. Next over to Museo d Arte Contemporaneo Latinoamericano. Exceptional period building occupying one side Plaza San Martin. Creaking entrance door announces my arrival to six reception staff. They tell me there is nothing beyond reception. Apart from 3-4 sculptural pieces in foyer, completely, absolutely devoid of any art, modern or otherwise. Fascinating. Walk around first floor. Stunning interior. Sergio Alvarez Campos jokingly says this is the new minimalism- a completely empty building/ art gallery. Finally to Cathedral on Plaza Moreno. Apparently inspired by cathedrals in Amiens and Cologne. Personal informative tour in company of supervisor.
2012-05-12 - Arrived on a wet October day by car from Shaffhausen in Switzerland. From a travellers point of view Busingen is a curiosity- a German village of 1500 people entirely surrounded by Switzerland. This has its advantages though, residents can use either Swiss or German local services as they wish. However dont misbehave as both Swiss and German police will respond!
2014-04-16 - What a journey to Reggio. Six thirty morning flight from Lampedusa to Palermo airport, three hour bus journey to Messina and a fast ferry ride to Reggio arriving at 1 pm. Two places stand out for me -Lungomare , the most beautiful kilometer in Italy according to Gabriele dAnnunzio, is the promenade along the sea front in Reggio di Calabria. With its refreshing sea breezes the early Greek colonists, so far from home, must have stood in wonder at the long views across the Straits to Sicily and smoking Etna. Heading up to the Museo Archelogeo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria you must see the Bronzi di Riace. These two famous 2 metre Greek bronze sculptures of nude bearded warriors, cast about 460–430 BC, were discovered by chance in 1972 in the waters of Riace Marina and are now in reverent display inside a microclimate room on top of an anti-seismic carrara marbled platform. Make the most of your twenty minutes in the presence of jaw dropping antiquity.
2017-11-01 - First visit 1990- San Francisco, Sonoma, Silicon Valley, Carmel, Route 1 to Santa Barbara and LA, San Diego, Palm Springs, Death Valley, Yosemite. Mike Murray (Contra Costa County) showed me around the Bay Area, Shaun Mc Curdy (Ontario, Canada) joined me on trip as far as LA, Elizabeth (cousin,San Diego), was navigator to Inland Empire and beyond.
Second visit 1997- San Francisco, Pacific Grove with my wife.
Third visit October 2017- My wife and I took twelve hour flight from London, surprisingly unstressful. After checking in to hotel took taxi to Hollywood to see Average White Band in concert.There is so much to like about the city. Our first and last days spent walking the beaches up from Venice to Santa Monica. Enjoyed Beverley Hills/Rodeo Drive, Downtown LA, La County Museum Modern/ Contemporary Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall (Gehry). Mostly didn't like driving in area and beyond. Its not for the faint hearted. However my experience, even with all the traffic and lorries, is that the drivers are surprisingly courteous and generally observe the rules of the road, except the speed limits. An overnight in Palm Springs with its superb Museum Modern Art and the Barbara and Frank Sinatra Sculpture section, 5 star. Made time for cable car trip up Mt. San Jacinta and morning walk downtown stopping to sip ginger shots. Joshua Tree NP introduces a whole new vegetation shape and landscape contour. Meet impressive Pilar Schmidt who had just completed Pacific Crest Trail in one take, 2600 miles. We then exit to Arizona and Utah. On return via Nevada pay homage to Death Valley and its wondrous geography and geology.
2014-04-17 - Arrived into Naples from Bari by bus and met friend Brendan who had just flown in from Dublin. Over 3 days we visited the treasures of old Naples, Pompeii and ate pizza. Campania was colonised by the Greek civilization and was part of Magna Graecia. However became full part of the Roman Republic by end 4th century BC, valued for its rich countryside. Later Roman Emperors chose Campania as a holiday destination- if it was good enough for them....! Naples highlights for me include Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Farnese collection, Campania wall paintings, Gabinetto Segreto), Capella Sansevero (Veiled Christ), Pio Monte della Misericorda (Seven Works of Mercy-Caravaggio) and the heart of the old city. Pompeii was a particular surprise, the size of the recovered city and the high quality of life before destruction in AD 79 were most unexpected. Met BBC Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen at Napoli Garibaldi train station.
2016-04-30 - Casino bus from Milan leaves at 1500 from Via Pietro Paleocapa beside Cadorna metro. Judging by half dozen pensioner gamblers on board I am the only MTP person making the journey. Takes one hour, euro 15 return. Campione has a beautiful setting on Lake Lugano. Pop. 2,000 and wealthy if the cars parked around are anything to go by. It takes 25 minutes in the cool spring air to walk most of length of exclave. After photographs, coffee and look into Casino take 1900 bus back to Milan.
2012-09-23 - Its hard to believe but this was my first visit to the Canary Islands, a very popular year round holiday destination for northern Europeans since the 1960s. Located 1000km from Spain and just 125km from south Morocco its an extension of Sahara in the Atlantic.
We found it a great place to visit and holiday. Spent two weeks enjoying the beautiful weather, food, landscape and the major influence of artist Cesar Manrique. Hire a car, two days should do, and get out to see desert and volcanic landscapes especially Timanfaya National Park and Montanas del Fuego, Mirador del Rio, Jardin de Cactus and Fundacion Cesar Manrique. After that kick back and enjoy the lifestyle.
July 2013- Came back with family for two week stay in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, as good as ever.
2012-11-02 - October 2012- This was a short 3 hour visit to Santander en route to Asturias by bus from Euskadi. It rained incessantly. Spent the morning in city centre walking through the rain to see the monuments, imposing buildings, marina and the views of the wide bay.
June 2017- Santander is our airport en route from Dublin to Asturias. After hiking in the Picos de Europa we came back to Santander to visit the city and overnight there. Its set on a beautiful bay with lots of beaches. The city was opening a new Arts Centre designed by Renzo Piano (he of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1977, The Shard, London 2012, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, 2015) on the waterfront and the King and Queen of Spain were in attendance. So without an official pass we could not visit. Maybe next time. No such difficulty seeing the Plaza de Velerde photographic exhibition by the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado, a social documentary photographer and photojournalist. He has traveled in over 120 countries for his photographic projects. On display is his 2013 project Genesis. "In Genesis", he says, "my camera allowed nature to speak to me. And it was my privilege to listen".Following morning we walk around the headland leading to the Palacio de la Magdalena. Midday we drive into Bilbao.
2012-11-03 - Really like this province. It was good to leave the mountains of NW Spain behind and feel the wide open spaces of the interior plateau. The main road from Santiago to Leon, Burgos and beyond across the north of the province seems to follow the Camino. Every so often see pilgrims in the full mid morning light making their way in the opposite direction First overnight in Leon. As it was Sunday had expected Leon to be quiet, however it was wide awake. Stayed in Hotel Paris in centre, excellent choice. Cathedral closed by time I reached it, pity as it is reputed to have great stained glass windows. Walked historic centre, didnt like look of Gaudis Casa de Botines, a bit Disneyland, out of place. Leons origins lie in the stationing of Imperial Romes 7th Legion here from about 69AD. Calle de la Legion VII recalls the connection.
Next day on to Burgos and another cathedral. This one is in many ways the greatest of them. Absolutely exquisite. I have no hesitation saying Burgos cathedral takes your breath away. Both outside and inside it deserves its UNESCO listing. Go see it. El Cid and Jimena Diaz (wife) are buried in the centre of the Cathedral.
2012-11-09 - We came out from Madrid for the day to Toledo by train- 70km. Toledo is a World Heritage Site (UNESCO, 1986)and capital of Castile–La Mancha. A sort of tour bus was waiting at the train station and for a few euros took us on a scenic route to the city centre. Armed with street map we set off on foot, we soon got lost in the warren of small streets in the old quarter. The afternoon heat did not help either. The 13th centuary Cathedral charged a hefty entrance fee and as our own teenage charges had little interest we moved on past the shops selling swords and knives. As attractive as they were I could see them being risky family souvenirs. Puerta de Bisagra Nueva, the main entrance to the city and the beautiful train station stand out.
2013-10-16 - Catalonia or Catalyuna, take your pick. During 3 day stopover in Barcelona was closeup to two demonstrations - pro and anti Catalan independence. Mostly good natured with plenty of flag waving and rousing speeches, hope it stays that way. Arrived from Llivia on bus. Stayed just off La Rambla which was a bit of a mistake as the area is crammed with tourists and grimey, not a comfortable experience. Queues at Picasso Museum very long so didnt go in. Really enjoyed day spent on Montanya de Montjuic - Fundacio Joan Miro, area around Torre Calatrava and views from Castell de Montjuic. With a bit of imagination, from the stairs fanning out from the corner of Placa del Rei can get a sense of a triumphal Christopher Columbus meeting Ferdinand and Isabella on his return from New World trip. Flew back to Dublin.
2013-08-14 - Came out from Paris on TGV (euro23 return). Had last been through Centre in 1973 en route to Paris from Brittany with my friend Phillip. Chartres cathedral was my destination this time. One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, mostly constructed between 1194 and 1250, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With spires over 110 metres high the cathedral is visible for miles around and dominates the area. Visitors all note the sloping floor and the soaring ceiling, but for me the star of the cathedral is the Blue Virgin/ Belle Verriere window next the south portal. Such exquisite colouring. Showing the Virgin and child surrounded by adoring angels it dates from 1180-1225. The Virgin is wearing a blue robe and sitting on a throne, with the Christ Child seated on her lap raising his hand in blessing. Very striking. The other important attraction is the Sancta Camisa/Marys Veil located in a side alter behind the main alter. Believed by the faithful to be authentic it is openly venerated.
2015-02-28 - Arrived by grand taxi from Tetouan. Crossed the frontier in no time. Walking into Ceuta was rather good in the sense it was good to be back in the EU and I was glad of my Irish/European passport- ease of entry. Again realised how privileged I am / Europeans are. Took bus from frontier to city centre. Stayed Tryp Ceuta. Preferred Ceuta to Melilla, liked its modern Spanish feel- perhaps the fact the rain and wind had stopped was a factor. Later when booking ferry learned there had been no sailings past two days due to weather and that many people waiting for resumption of schedules following day. Remainder of day spent walking around town, seeing the impressive old coastal defense system - the Royal Walls. Built between 1000-1800 they are an historical monument. Had hoped to see César Manriques Parque Maritimo del Mediterraneo on the sea front but it was closed ! Next morning took 0945 ferry for the ninety minute voyage to Algeciras. On this sailing the mythological Pillars of Hercules are clearly visible, in ancient times this was close to the edge of the known world.
2016-03-24 - Alejandro Ruiz is a very talented man. As well as composing for guitarron Argentino he is the director of the Orquesta del Pinar in Resistencia. He composes and plays both Chamame - the music of the north east, and Jazz. He also supports the work of the Museo del Hombre Chaqueno where we meet. He has a deep knowledge of Chaco history and culture, especially of the Wichi, Toba and Moscovi, the original and continuing inhabitants of Chaco. He guided me through the history and mythology of the region. The rightful place of the indigenous peoples is slowly being recognised- in 2010 their respective three languages joined Spanish as official languages of Chaco. This is quite an achievement as their combined population remain probably below 20,000 here. To further underline a change in official attitude, the Chaco government, in 2008, formally apologised to these peoples for the Massacre at Napalpi in 1924. Then police and farming interests surrounded the indigenous settlement and massacred over 200 people.This was done to deprive the residents of their ancestral way of life, land and force them to become almost slave labour. Some 18 Wichi settlements remain in north-west Chaco. Their ancestral lands though are under continuing threat from logging and agri business. No stay in Resistencia would be complete without a walk along the route of the sculptures in the city centre. Stayed in the modern Niyat Urban Hotel right which I can recommend. Arrived by bus from Santa Fe, visited Corrients and left two days later for Formosa.
2013-03-19 - Took TGV from CDG airport to Reims. The highlight of my visit to Reims was the majestic cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims. It was the church in which numerous French monarchs were officially crowned. It is renowned for its soaring height especially evident in the interior. The stained glass in the high windows of the nave and choir and windows by Marc Chagall are stunning. The other big draw for me was the the Surrender Museum in the building in which on 7 May 1945, General Eisenhower and the Allies received the unconditional surrender of the German Wehrmacht. This is well presented with the original surrender room on display giving a sense of time and place. Left the following morning by TGV to Nancy, Lorraine.
2018-06-05 - Staying in Rhode Island made way over by hire car to Mystic. Such a beautiful name. Originally inhabited by the Pequot people who were devastated through disease (1633) and force of arms (1636-38) by the newly arrived Europeans. My wife and I walked through a town just waking up from its long winter grip. Mystic is an old New England kind of port. Yes it has top class ships museum and a well recognised aquarium, neither of which we visited. The town is the star with its individual shops on the main street, cleanliness, old civilised air and water setting. Wealthy shipping people and merchants built large waterside homes in Colonial, Greek Revival and Italianate styles throughout the 19th century and these add to the glamour of the place. For lunch we succumbed to Mystic Pizza with its Julia Roberts association. The pizza was decent although the endlessly hovering waitress a bit off-putting. Its all about the tip I suppose. Later left for Newport, Rhode Island.
2016-03-23 - I developed a love hate relationship with Cordoba city. The hate started early. My hotel was a bad choice. It looked good as advertised but as I found to my disappointment the room was atrocious. It felt like poverty- smelly, dark and worn. Glossy images, reasonable price, bad room. So its grim and bear it for three nights. On the other hand the city is a great place to visit - surreal Cabildo, UNESCO Manzana Jesuitica, the strangely alluring Museo Historico Provincial Marques de Sobremonte and the delightful Museo de Bellas Artes Dr. G. Perez, all close to Plaza San Martin. Then up around Plaza Espana there is a seemingly endless supply of more wothwhile museums especially Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita Palacio Ferreyra, Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes Emilio Careffa plus the interesting Centro Cultural Cordoba. A veritable feast of art and culture and to a standard that rivals many European cities. Every provincial city I visited on this trip has a museum that tries to show the history and development of the area. Many have excellent displays showcasing their art, culture and items from significant social or political events. There is often though a dearth of pre Colombian and first peoples art and history. The history of Argentina, as recorded in detail, is really the story of the colonists and immigrant population. We may be in more enlightened times, however the past and and certainly the present of the original people seems somehow absent. After three days left by bus to Santa Fe.
2016-03-24 - The bus to Corrientes city from Resistencia costs 7 pesos. My route in is over the majestic Puente Belgrano. The bus drops passengers one block from Plaza 25 de Mayo. Very photogenic park and square with fountain, church, pink Casa de Goberno and university all gathered around. Of course San martin sits high on his charger in pride of place. Walking down the Costanera gives a sense of the importance of the Parana River to commerce and the movement of goods by ship. We may be over 900 km from the Rio de la Plata but ocean going ships continue to head north into the interior of the continent. Much of the length of the Paraná is navigable and serves as an important waterway linking inland cities in Argentina and Paraguay to the ocean, providing deep water ports in many of the cities along its shore. The mighty Parana, 4,800 km, comes into Argentina at Iguazu Falls. Then it merges with the Paraguay River just above where I stand in Corrientes, and in the delta area with the Uruguay River. I take the bus back to Resistencia in the afternoon.
2015-06-06 - The air route down to Crete was a lesson in European geography. From Dublin over the Irish Sea to look down on Anglesey and north Wales. Next The Wash in east England glints in the sunshine. Over the North Sea turn right over Holland and the long straight lines of the canals. The North German Plain is, well, flat and from 36,000 feet seems featureless. After Slazburg the eastern Alps rise up and the magnificent Salzac Valley flanked by snow capped peaks marching into the far west. Soon the Adriatic appears and we are looking down on Trieste with hints of the Venetian lagoon on the horizon. Over Croatia, Bosnia with a front seat on the Adriatic islands and unmistakable Dubrovnik. Above Albania the sight of the Ionian Islands was special- I was reading The Odyssey for this trip and the Greek hero Odysseus destination was of course his home in Ithaca. The sun was setting 370 km or 230 miles away toward Sicily as we began our descent to Hania/Chania in western Crete. Stayed in hotel El Greco in Venetian Port, Chania. From balcony to the left the Mediterranean, to the right the snow capped appropriately named White Mountains- Med and snow, reminiscent of Lebanon. Two places worth visiting on Chalidon Street, the Municipal Art Gallery and the Archaelogical Museum, a taster for what is to come in the classy Archaelogical (Minoan) Museum in Heraklion. After two days take morning bus to Heraklion and then out to Knossos. This is a site of our/Europes first advanced civilization, the Bronze Age Minoan (c. 2700–1420 BC). Knossos is impressive. An appreciation of the place is probably helped by the, to our modern eyes site vandalism , reconstruction work carried out especially on the Palace by Arthur Evans, archaeologist, just over 100 years ago. Evans drew on Greek mythology to name the civilization. In the myth, King Minos ordered Daedalus and his son Icarus to construct a maze like structure to hide the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull creature that was the offspring of Minos wife, Pasiphae, and a bull. The Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. The story of Icarus is well known and the Minotaur has been a source of fascination for artists especially Picasso. Back to Heraklion to visit the Archaeological Museum, for me probably the greatest in Greece certainly for Minoan artifacts. Some of the highlights include the athletic bull leaper, the unique Phaistos Disc, the unbelievable vases, the snake goddess with her tits hanging out and of course the beautiful blue bulls head rhyton. Left Heraklion and sailed to Santorini and Rhodes, however flew back via Athens to Chania to attempt the walk through the Samaria Gorge. It did not open on 1 May as hoped so took bus to Palaiochora on south west coast to walk part of magnificent E5 coastal route. With cooling breezes and the evocative Libyan Sea stretching away to the horizon the day was well spent. On 2 May flew back to Dublin.
2012-04-29 - It rained almost incessently my first day in Dubrovnik. Flew in from Dublin on what is probably the Mudjugorje shuttle from Ireland. The Placa/ Stradun in the stari grad or old town was remarkably just as I remembered it from last visit in February 1974. Then my friend Coop and I had left snow covered Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, in his volkswagen combi on our way to Istanbul. We drove south across Austria. First stop was Ljubljana in what was then communist Yugoslavia and now Slovenia. On again via the very beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park to the Adriatic coast and the long sunny drive in and out of endless bays to Dubrovnik. This time, after a wet introduction took bus to Bosnia Herzegovina, returning some days later to a wonderfully warm, bright Dubrovnik.In the sunshine this town is a truly beautiful gem, perfectly restored by UNESCO and others after the military shelling of 1991-2 during the break up of Yugoslavia. There is a cable car to top of hill overlooking town- dont take it- find the good path to the top and walk up instead and then walk back down later. Great views over town and up and down the coast and great walking.
2015-06-10 - They say the best way to arrive at Santorini is by boat. The morning ferry from Heraklion arrived at 1130. The cliff of the caldera was impressive and the thin white strip of the towns of Thira and Oia were clearly visible, expectations were rising. I was not disappointed as the sights and views from both these cliff top towns day and night were quite simply overwhelming. Thira is the main stunning cliff-perched town, it has all that Oia has. Although much more crowded its spectacular location somehow justifys the crowds. The houses, hotels and tavernas seem to be stacked on top of each other and somehow cling way down on the side of the caldera. Could not resist the 3 hour walk between both towns- it follows the rim of the remaining caldera so I was always aware of the sheer drop to the sea 900 feet below and the remnants of the volcano dotting the seascape away to the horizon. Must mention the very interesting Museum of Prehistoric Thira- it has some exquisite pieces from the 17th centuary BC (3,700 years ago, just prior to the massive volcanic upheaval)- especially the statue of the golden ibex and the wall paintings of the blue monkeys. Slept one night on the island, on the second night took the 0100 ferry to Rhodes.
2013-08-26 - I was a little disappointed in Prague. Its obviously very firmly on the tourist trail, however the throng of visitors combined with the heavy on-street parking and the forest of signage made it very difficult to appreciate from walking level the undoubted beauty of the old town. On the advice of the hotel concierge I set off early (0800) and for two peaceful hours began to find something of the true spirit of the city. Again go up to the Castle early. It is well worth the visit and probably the highlight of my stay. It offers exceptional views of the city spread out below. In the Castle grounds is St. Vitus Cathedral with its soaring interior, palaces and museums and the beautiful Royal Garden. Two personalities stand out in the city- Franz Kafka, of The Trial and The Castle fame. Had wanted to read The Trial during my visit, unfortunately it did not arrive in time but got to grips with its delicious absurdity soon after. Second personality is Vaclav Havel, playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Saw his play The Increased Difficulty of Concentration about two years ago in Enniskillen. Written during the Prague Spring it confronts the challenge of being honest with oneself. The play satirizes a philosopher (and a politics) which talks about the importance of love but lives a life almost empty of true feeling. Came to Prague from Dresden by train and left by bus for Bratislava.
2016-12-28 - Departed Mumbai on 2240 train to Vapi, arriving 0130. In these dark quiet hours walking through the many rough sleepers on Vapi platform and at the station entrance and haggling with an auto rickshaw driver over 100 rupee fare to hotel is an experience not to be repeated too often. I never felt threatened just completely out of place. Hotel Silver Leaf is ok as a base. Next morning with help hotel reception arrange taxi for the day to take me to Silvassa and later to Daman. Air con taxi cost 1600 rupees. The driver is young and like many of his kind here is aggressive on the road and has little regard for traffic rules. This not helped by the police seeming to be indifferent to gross violations such as going around roundabouts the wrong way. We reach Silvassa 20 km away in record time. The Tribal Cultural Museum and Swaminarayan Mandir in Silvassa are definitely with visiting. Stopped to walk around Vanganga Gardens in Dadra. The Tribal Cultural Museum is a highlight. It displays a good set of masks used in tribal dances, tribal musical instruments, fishing implements and life-size sculptures depicting the tribal way of life. The museum also displays bows, daggers and spears and has a commentary on individual tribes. Of the total state population of 342,000 less than 50% are Scheduled Tribes, i.e. recognised by the Indian Constitution -The Varli are by far the largest tribe followed by the Dhodia, Kokna and small numbers of the Dubla, Kathodi, Koli Dhor and Naikda tribes. Many are nature worshipers who regard the Sun (Dis) and the Moon (Chand) as the eyes of God. Tribal literacy levels are below 60% and many work as cultivators and as agricultural and unskilled labourers. Varli/Warli art is highly prized and pieces are both on display in the museum and for sale in the museum shop.
2016-12-19 - Came in from Vapi with my speeding hired taxi, horn blasting. This being India so many people everywhere. Along the road sides are an almost continuous strip of shack like food stalls, repair shops and lines of hand carts selling vegetables and other perishables. People everywhere. The roads busy with scooters often carrying women pillion sitting side saddle. Younger women have their own scooters and display positive independence. The other big road user is the auto rickshaw and they weave in and out of all traffic cutting up other road users. Remarkably I never witnessed a road accident, or should I say thankfully. Bicycles are still used but numbers are very small now. On my last visit to India 42 years ago the bicycle was the local transport of choice for most everyone.
We arrive in Daman and go into old walled fort area. Inside this early version of a gated community is the seat of government, civil service , church of Bom Jesus, health centre and many business premises. Stopped to visit Bom Jesus which seems to be an MTP staple. After visiting various Indian places of worship it is remarkable that christianity or should I say catholicism chooses to display its god as a flagellated suffering person. There is a striking image of a deeply cut and bleeding Christ on one of the side alters. Who knows what Hindus, Jains, Buddists and others make of this. Suffering and pain are integral to the christian religious experience whereas this does not seem to be the case in Indian religions. I am struck by the Indian use of animals to represent deity and their recognition of the joy of sex. Entry to the Daman Ganga lighthouse is prohibited but get photo image outside with members of local football team. Final stop is above Daman Gangas dark sandy rubbish strewn beach and with views to the fishing fleet at anchor and across the estuary to what I suppose is the new town.
I return to my hotel before dark. On the way my driver informs me that he has had a call to take some people to Mumbai airport. They are in for a white knuckle hair raising ride. I hope they made it safely.
2018-06-14 - Wilmington, Delaware was a fairly short stop on the train from Baltimore BWI to Philadelphia. My companion and I left our bags in the Amtrak station interestingly named after Joe Biden, 47th VP of US. Walked up to the Delaware Centre for the Contemporary Arts to sample the local scene. Some exceptional work on display in small relaxed galleries. Recommended. Then up to city center at Rodney Square. Many historic buildings including the Public Library dating from 1788. Wilmington is among the most dangerous cities in the US for its size. I was aware of this and moved around with some unease. It is a puzzle how one of the citizens of this state could become VP of USA yet fail so utterly to deal with the horrendous lawlessness in his own state.
2012-10-03 - Flew in to Copenhagen from Dublin for a 5 day stay. This is a great small city to enjoy and a cyclists paradise. Cycling is the predominant form of transport and great fun once you get the hang of it on the city road system. Really enjoyed the city bike tour led by Bike Copenhagen with Mike- departing daily from Copenhagen Bikes beside the main train station at 10am.
Two sets of buildings stand out, the modernist Opera House and the classicist royal palaces of Amalienborg. These face each other across the Christianshavn waterway and make a wonderful architectural contrast.
Art galleries you should really see include Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, beside Tivoli and the Danish National Gallery/Statens Museum for Kunst, Solvgade.
No trip, pardon pun, would be complete without visit to Christiania, a self-governing free town established in 1971, a city within the city, on the site of a military barracks as an alternative to mainstream culture. Its safe if reminiscent of an earlier time and place.
Went to Malmo by train for day.
2018-06-12 - I really liked DC. It far surpassed my expectations as a political capitol. It must surely be the Political Capital of the World. It felt safe, clean and its wide streets have a sense of grandeur, certainly where I ventured. Magnificent buildings and monuments show the history and power of the US. The highlights for me included an embassy arranged visit to the White House and a tour of the Capitol Building, including seeing the Vice President in the Senate. A day spent walking around in the warm spring sunshine is the perfect way to absorb the atmosphere and the iconic monuments along The Mall. The superb National Gallery of Art, especially the modern East Building, designed by I. M. Pei, deserved longer than I could give it. Next time. This is indeed a city to return to. My companion and I stayed at BWI Airport and came in over three days on the commuter train to Union Station. Next stop on this MTP trip- Wilmington, Delaware.
2015-06-24 - I think I fell in love on Rhodes. I was probably not the first to do so. The object of my affection was the Rhodes Venus, the exquisite statue of Aphrodite bathing on display in the Archaelogical Museum. There are other larger Aphrodite statues in the museum however they dont match this young lady for sheer classical beauty.
MTP travellers will probably get excited wandering through the Medieval City (UNECSO). This city is an important part of the jigsaw that lead to the formation of the Soverign Military Order of Malta. After loosing control of the Holy Land the Knights Hospitallers, a military hospital order, prospered in Rhodes from 1309 - 1523, becoming the strongest military order in all the Christian world. This impressive medieval city is a testimony to their determination and power. After defeat by Suleiman the Magnificent the Knights were granted Malta by Charles 1 of Spain.
If you get the chance visit the Gallery of Modern Greek Art in the Municipal Art Gallery, just at the entrance to the medieval city. Absolutely first class modern art that proudly displays the Greek contribution to modernism. You will not be disappointed.
I was thrilled to imagine the possible site of the Colossus of Rhodes near the inner harbour. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Built in 280 BC to celebrate a victory over Cyprus, it stood over 30 metres/ 100 feet tall. An earthquake in 226 BC did for it.
I will mention Paola Nestoridi who died in 2011. This lady made a significant bequest to Rhodes- she gave her hotel to become the new wing in town of the Greek Museum of Modern Art. She also set aside funds to build a nursing home. I arrived in Rhodes on the overnight ferry from Santorini. I left after two days by air for Chania, Crete via Athens. Two 40 minute flights giving ringside views of the Aegean Islands.
2012-10-02 - My friend Brendan and I arrived in Dubai via Dublin and Abu Dhabi on Etihad. They conveniently lay on a coach into Dubai from Abu Dhabi. We stayed at the Atana, Barsha Heights. I like Dubai- its high rise modernity, excellent transport systems, cleanliness, safety and endless variety. The highlight of our 4 night stay centered on the Burj Khalifa - the night time view across Dubai from level 124. This is matched and in some ways bettered by the LED illuminations on the Burj as seen from waters edge on Burj Khalifa lake. The piece de resistance though for me is the water fountain, light and music show at the Fountain on the lake. Quite an overwhelming experience. Next two days I travelled on MTP business to the northern and eastern Emirates. We left by coach to Abu Dhabi.
August 2006. My family and I stayed in Dubai for 5 day stopover en route to Queensland. Flight took us Dublin-London-Dubai-Singapore-Brisbane.
Really liked the place, whats not to like- the beauty of the buildings in a Gulf/desert setting, the displays of wealth, the shopping malls. Had afternoon tea in Burj al Arab, shopping in Mall of the Emirates, hunting for handbags in the souk and going dune bashing and desert safari. All great fun.
The other side of Dubai is the largely unnoticed vast foreign labour force that not only builds the place but keeps it afloat. You can catch a glimpse of them high up on the building sites or returning home in the late afternoon on old darkened buses.
2014-06-08 - At one point midway on our path in life,
I came around and found myself now searching
through a dark wood, the right way blurred and lost./ Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una sela oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita. Dante, Inferno, Canto 1.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe. The name is a legacy of both pre imperial Rome and post imperial collapse. Emilia comes from the Via Æmilia, the Roman road connecting Rome to northern Italy, completed in 187 BC. The Via Emilia still runs straight through the city under changing names including Strada Maggiore and San Felic. Although Bologna was once one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire what we see today is a Renaissance creation. The University of Bologna (1088 AD) is widely considered to be the first university. It counted Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarca among its students. In 1256, Bologna promulgated the Paradise Law, which abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves. Bologna was the only Italian city that allowed women to excel in any profession. The second part of the province name Romagna is from Romània, the name given to Ravenna when it was an outpost of the Constantinople controlled Eastern Roman Empire (540-751 AD). It is the building work, particularly the exquisite Byzantine mosiac decoration, completed in this period, that makes Ravenna a unique UNESCO world heritage site. Dante, the great Italian poet, lived in exile, died and is buried in Ravenna. The Divine Comedy is the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. Flew in from Dublin to Bologna. Paula and I based ourselves here. The city is an historic and cultural delight. Used Bologna as a base to travel to Ravenna, San Marino and Florence. As Bologna is a centre of Italian rail transport and it has excellent connections across the region and indeed the country.
2012-10-05 - Must have visited England a dozen times. Last time was with my son to see Manchester United play Bolton Wanderers in a league game, 4-1 to United. Left home at 4am to catch bus from Cavan and ferry from Dublin to Holyhead and arriving Manchester at 1.30pm. Returned home following day.
First went to England in July 1970 with two school friends. Travelled over on ferry Belfast to Heysham, Lancashire. Almost got fleeced on board by card sharp who, no doubt, saw three country boys a mile away. Learned a valuable lesson. Spent summer in London working at a variety of jobs-building site, pubs, furniture factory. Remember the music- Make It With You, Bread, Mama Told Me (Not to Come),Three Dog Night, All Right Now, Free.
Returned May 1973 from Africa. Stayed London and worked Sherborne,Dorset on big estate farm until September when headed off to Brittany and Paris ,and back to Ireland.
Brief visit to London February 1974 en route to continental Europe and Asia.
Arrived back London end 1975 and stayed until 1978 working and visiting Lake District, York, Stonehenge, Windsor, North Downs, New Forest, Exmoor and so much of London.
During 1980-2000 made number visits to places such as Newcastle,
Manchester, Bath, Cornwall, Stratford on Avon, Oxford, Norwich, Milton Keynes.
2016-03-24 - Crossed over to Parana city on the 20 km route over an immense flood plain and Hernandarias Subfluvial Tunnel, which runs under the Parana river between Santa Fe and Paraná. Bus Fluviales, 50 pesos. Pleasant city especially its centre and the area along Parque Urquiza down to the Parana river. Visited two very fine museums- Museo Historico de Entre Rios and Museo Provincial de Belles Artes. Around Parque Urquiza expensive and beautiful homes have long views over Parana basin to distant Santa Fe. Plaza 1 de Mayo and its adjacent streets hub of commercial and social life. It is dominated by blue domed Cathedral. Returned to Santa Fe in afternoon. If like me you have wondered at the street names that constantly appear in each city and but didnt know their significance, here is my take on them. Dates: *5 de Mayo* -The May Revolution, 1810. The Spanish Viceroy removed and the first local government, the Primera Junta, set up on May 25 in BAires. *9 de Julio* - Independence of Argentina declared July 9, 1816. *1 de Mayo*, Constitution approved 1 May 1853. Revolutionary Leaders: *San Martín*, Liberator - main leader of southern part of South Americas successful struggle for independence from Spanish Empire. National hero of Argentina. His name and statue take pride of place in each city. *Manuel Belgrano* - Argentine economist, lawyer, politician, and military leader. Served on the Primera Junta. Created flag of Argentina. Presidents : *Bernardino Rivadavia* - 1826-27, first president of Argentina. *Hipólito Yrigoyen* - 1916-22 and 1928-30. Called father of the poor, guided progressive social reforms, including regulation of working hours, compulsory pensions, and a universal public education system. *Juan Peron* - 1946-52,1952-55 and 1973-74. During his first term he was supported by his second wife, Eva/*Evita* Duarte , and the two were immensely popular. Evita died in 1952. They fostered populist policies including attempts to end poverty. *Alvear, Pueyrredon, Urquiza, Mitre, Sarmiento, Pellegrini, Pena*, Presidents all.
2015-09-24 - Tallinn. The UNESCO centre of town is well preserved and presented. This was a remote outpost of the Hanseatic League in the 13th-16th centuries and naturally it was a trading city. Like the other Baltic capitals a great place to wander and soak up some of the medieval atmosphere especially at Raekoja Plats, Toompea Hill, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Riigikogu (Parliament). Next time must visit National Art Museum KUMU. Unfortunately the hotel I stayed in had a bit of a medieval atmosphere - I cant think when I last felt almost physically sick due to the pervading smell in an hotel. A can of air freshener was only partially successful. I was not sad to leave after overnighting there. Arrived from Riga by bus and left by morning ferry to Helsinki.
2013-03-30 - This is one amazing country unlike any place else I have experienced in Africa. The route was Moyale on Kenya border up to Dilla, Hawassa and Mojo to Addis Ababa, then north to Debre Markos, Gondar, Aksum and into what is now Eritrea. First I had to get to grips with the time and the calender. The Ethiopian calendar begins the year on August 29 or 30. It has twelve months of exactly 30 days each plus five or six additional days which make a thirteenth month, sensible enough. Ethiopia uses a series of 5th centuary calculations which identifies 29 August 8 AD as the starting point for the modern religious era. This causes the Ethiopian year number to be eight years less than the Gregorian year number from January 1 until September 10 or 11, then seven years less for the remainder of the Gregorian year. The Ethiopian clock has 24 hours in a day, like our own, however, it is shifted by six hours so midnight is at 6 am - the start of the day. There was no road from Moyale. Joined men, women, chickens and a bicycle atop a lorry loaded with sacks of grain heading north. We took off across and up what looked like uncharted countryside. After some hours and after dark arrived in village to exchange grain for locally mined salt.
2012-11-02 - October 2012 - This was the first stop on a nine day tour of seven northern Spanish provinces - Euskadi, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia, Castile and Leon, La Rioja and Navarre. Bilbao is a great small city with a surprisingly cosmopolitan feel. In many ways its all about the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum building. The building is a visual delight with its successive long curves on different levels and its titanium cladding is a tactile pleasure. Visitors can easily spend half a day marveling at the building both outside and inside. The Jeff Koons installations add to the wonder of the experience. Bilbao also has great riverside walks and of course no visit would be complete without riding the gondola of the Vizcaya Bridge. Flew in from Dublin (110 minutes) and stayed at Ibis Centro. June 2017 - Drove in from Santander. My brother wanted to see the Guggenheim Museum. We were also accompanied by my son and nephew, they went to visit Athletico Bilbao football ground. The Guggenheim is still spectacular. This time appreciated Richard Serra's The Matter of Time, 1994–2005, eight sculptures in weathering steel. Intrigued by the video installation from Pierre Huyghe entitled Human Mask. Early evening we drove back to Santander and our flight to Dublin.
2015-02-28 - This is my last location to visit in Spain. Came in by bus from Sevilla to Merida. A UNESCO town but a place I could not get to like because of the way the modern town is built all through the extensive Roman City. Let me put it another way- the modern town is far below the standard of the Roman city and is a blot on the landscape of the Roman city. If you can calmly excise the modern town there are more than enough 2000 year old antiquities to satisfy the most demanding traveller in this unlikely corner of western Spain. It all goes to show the enormous reach of the powerful Roman Empire. Founded in 25 BC by the veterans of the army of Augustus, with the name of Emerita (Merida !) Augusta. It became the capital of Lusitania province, and one of the most important cities in the Roman empire. My highlights are especially the excellent archaeological museum, Museo Nacional de Arte Romano (designed by Rafael Moneo) and the justifiable star attraction, the Roman theater and amphitheater with its tangible spirit of place.
Two days later left for Caceres by train. Now this city has a much better integrated UNESCO centre with its cohesive blend of very well presented Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture and the modern town. Cáceres flourished during the Reconquista and the plunder of the Americas. Families from Extremadura went to the new world, made their fortunes and on their return built homes and small palaces in the town. Particularly liked the Museum of Caceres - it has an interesting section on modern art.
Spent the evening with Robert Kodric from Slovenia who was also travelling in the area. We had met in Merida and as often happens in the more remote places it is easy to link up again.
2012-04-29 - It rained most of the first day in Bosnia. Took 7.15 am bus up from Dubrovnik to Mostar. The attraction is the Stari Most (old bridge) and the old town. Destroyed, among many other ancient buildings and priceless cultural artifacts during the 1992-3 phase of the Yugoslav war, the bridge and old town have been rebuilt and are UNESCO listed. Good view of bridge from garden of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque in old town. The 3.00pm bus to Sarajevo follows spectacular river valleys however reminders of the war are still evident in the burnt out homes along the roadside. Heavy cold cloud hung over Sarajevo, trapped by the semi circle of the snow streaked Dinaric Alps towering above the city. Sarajevo was beyond my expectations. The concentration of Islamic culture in the many mosques, the massive graveyards which of necessity were laid in public parks- over 11000 people were killed in the shelling of the city between 1992-95, and the still visible signs of the mortar and machine gun attack on apartment blocks cannot fail to leave a lasting impression. Adding to the city\\\'s war association is the Latin Bridge where Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in 1914 thus setting in motion the process of World War 1. Can recommend The Hayat hotel in old city.
2015-09-24 - Helsinki. My raging head cold, courtesy bus passenger on Polish-Kaliningrad border, was beginning to subside however the weather had turned decidedly cold and wet. Getting around the city is relatively easy on the tram system. Tram 4 stops just beside the Eurohostel on Katajanokka. Hadnt stayed in a youth hostel in over 30 years. The room is IKEA style (basic) but the morning sauna is a treat. The explicit advertising for and easy availability of pay to view hard core porn was a bit of a shock - this is a youth hostel after all ! Over two and half days walked around south city, visited Soumenlinna, the sea fortress (UNESCO),and especially enjoyed the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, not far from the central train station. They were showing provocative work by photographer Robert Mapplethwaite and separately in the foyer arguably equally risqué live performance art. Great food and endless coffee. I try to read a book related to the place I am visiting and the choice here was The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna. Easy story of the man Vatanen befriending a hare and taking it on his adventures up through Finland. The ending though is a bit savage and against the grain. Came over to Helsinki on morning ferry from Tallinn. Left by air to Stockholm.
2015-11-01 - At least my third visit. Everyone it seems falls in love with Brugge after a canal boat trip and hot chocolate. My wife is no different, and, she believes the shopping is easier than Brussels where we were staying. My first visit was in February 1974. Came in through Ostend on ferry from England. Hitch hiked down to Brussels and in snow, fog and cold eventually reached Berchtesgaden, Bavaria via Luxembourg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wurttemberg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria. Second visit was official- as my local authority delegate to the laying of the foundation stone for the Messines Peace Village in June 2005.The idea is to have accommodation for people from Ireland, and I expect beyond, who have come to visit the Island of Ireland Peace Park and the WW1 cemeteries, monuments and battle sites. About 70,000 Irish men were killed, wounded or missing from the 36th (Ulster) Division – 32,186, 10th (Irish) Division – 9,363, 16th (Irish) Division – 28,398. Many Irish people also joined other British, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand regiments and were killed or wounded. In Ireland this war was sold to the people as necessary to defend Belgium- ironic as Ireland itself was under full occupation at the time, by Britain. Back to my visit in 2005. The big political guest at the ceremony was An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. For the first time in my life I wore a red poppy as a mark of respect and like others fell in behind one of the civilian bands taking part in the events. Later I took part in poignant and moving visits to the many cemeteries spread across the countryside. I had the privilege to be present as people wept openly at the graves of distant relatives who never came home. On our penultimate night we assembled at 2000 at the Menin Gate, Ypres to listen to the local Fire Service play the Last Post in memory of those who died. They have been doing this every evening since 1927. On this particular evening the event was followed by a very emotional violin rendering of Danny Boy by a young lady. I will never forget my visit to Flanders.
2012-09-11 - This was a great two week visit. We arranged with a couple from Bradenton to exchange homes, cars and neighbours! Flew in via NY to Tampa. The home was close to Anna Maria and Longboat Key islands. Highlights included the beautiful beaches on the Keys, Sarasota and the Ringling Museum, Myakka River State Park, Orlando of course, Cape Canaveral and one or two shopping outlets. Florida is hot in July and the afternoon thunder storms can leave you wet.
2016-03-24 - As I travel further north in Argentina my affection for the country grows. The people both here in Formosa and earlier in Resistencia/Corrientes are easy going and a pleasure to be with. Beginning to leave the wet Chaco with water, high humidity and productive land. Slowely now moving into drier Chaco and the palm savannah begins to assert itself. Initially scattered palms on the flat plain now give way to whole forests of palm coming right up to the road. It is a great sight. I first encountered this landscape in Botswana and meeting it again reminds me of its almost primeval beauty. Take early morning bus from Resistencia and arrive Formosa 0900. Taxi up to city centre, 250,000 residents. From Plaza General San Martin the centre is beautifully laid out continuing on to the Parana River. Walk on down to the river. Opposite the city is Paraguay and a ferry brings people over to Alberdi on the other side, a source of cheap goods. Visit the former Governor's Mansion, now the Formosa Historical Museum. Finally coffee in one of the many relaxed places along Av 25 de Mayo. Back to terminal for 12.30 bus to Asuncion, Paraguay.
2013-03-19 - Arrived by TGV from Strasbourg to Besancon. The Romans left their mark in the Porte Noire triumphal arch and some adjacent columns at Square Castan. These monuments are on the way to the Citadel, a UNESCO site. It has to be visited for its sheer size and fortress strength. Built by the 17th Centuary French military engineer Vauban it is testimony to his skill. The citadel itself has two dry moats, with an outer and inner court. It is part of a complex of forts that surround the city. The perimeter walls were closed during my visit because of ice and snow so it was not possible to take in what must be exceptional views of the city and countryside.
2012-11-27 - Took train from Johannesburg and arrived at what would be my location for next seven months at Harmony gold mine, Virginia. Put to observing in pay department for three months, bored out of head. Transferred to mine lift/elevator operator bringing down and sending up men and materials from gold bearing reef over 1500 metres deep. Men from all over central/southern Africa worked on mine. Due to use of many languages everyone was given a basic grounding in Fanakalo- a type of Southern African Esperanto made up of Zulu, English, Afrikaans- inni wena enza. Black and white Africans occupied very different worlds. Black men lived in single sex hostel accommodation without their families, returning home once a year. White men lived in bungalows with country clubs and all the western lifestyle trappings. Apartheid operated in the mine as elsewhere and attempts to question it led to difficult incidents. The Orange Free State was notorious for the harshness of its application of racism. Virginia did not allow Black Africans to live there, out of state Black Africans were not allowed to overnight in the state even if travelling from one part of the country to another. Yes there were decent white Africans there but the sterility of mine existence and the openly racist life was very oppressive and made the place deeply uncomfortable. I left in November 1972.
2012-09-24 - Swiss location 3.We drove from Vaud on into Friborg canton and stopped at Estavayer le Lac. Two-thirds of the canton population speak French,the remainder speak Alemannic dialects of German. The French-speaking areas are in the west of the canton. There are a number of bilingual towns. Estavayer-le-Lac is situated on the south shore of Lake Neuchâtel.
2014-12-06 - Walking down Via Roma late on Friday evening, the casual observer would find little amiss; not much to suggest that Triestes trajectory over the past 50 years took it from being a UN sanctioned free state to an integral part of modern Italy. Trieste has been a Free Port since 1719 and is the most important centre worldwide in the coffee trade. It is the home of illy coffee. Trieste is also synonymous with our own James Joyce. He spent 15 creative years, 1904-1920, here. Joyce wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and began Ulysses here. His spirit still lives on here in the life size statue beside the Canal Grande in the city centre, the plaque to his activism in Piazza della Bursa and the Joyce circuit. Stayed in the most wonderful apartment in Borgo Teresiano (Austrian Quarter) belonging to a member of Triestes Pinkover, a Pink Floyd tribute band. Over breakfast Allesandro and guests reminisced about the Floyd, prog rock and the music we loved from the late 60s- 70s. Set the controls for the heart of the sun, anyone? Quite an unexpected pleasure. Must mention the Museo Revoltella, a great modern art collection of paintings and sculpture, it is one of the jewels of the city. Arrived from Istria by bus and left two days later by train for Venice.
2016-12-31 - There is a regular bus from Union Square bus depot to Fujairah, takes about two hours. Had the pleasure of the company of an Indian tailor. He was going to a Fujairah hotel to fit staff with uniforms he had made. Hired a taxi for visit. First stop the Historic Fort. Set on raised ground overlooking the whole area. The Fort site is entered via a series of adobe outer walls. Fort itself closed during my visit. Nevertheless it is an impressive sight set against a barren mountain backdrop. Beside it is the Fujairah Museum. With the taxi driver now acting as guide we next visited the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the 2nd largest mosque in U.A.E. After more driving around taxi left me at the bus station to wait return bus to Dubai. On the trip back to Dubai it is possible to see an endless series of sand dunes as far as the horizon. This landscape feeds ultimately into the Empty Quarter, brought to wide attention by Wilfred Thesiger in his account of his crossing in his 1959 book Arabian Sands. Between 1946 and 1950 he crossed the area several times and mapped large parts of the Empty Quarter. This account by the last of the great travellers in an unforgiving environment was my literary companion during this trip to Fujairah and the UAE.
2017-09-24 - Made it to Gare du Sud, Chisinau , with minutes to spare. The 1000 19 seater minibus left at 0945, so bad luck if people arrived any later.Trip cost 46 Mleu, about 2 euro. People get on and off at scheduled and unscheduled stops along the 90 minute route.
The journey down is quite beautiful, to me anyway. The road is good quality, some dual carriageway initially. Countryside a bit undulating but with long views toward very low hills. Many vinyards with their anticipated cargo continuing to ripen. Extensive agriculture- sunflowers, dark brown now, heads deeply bowed, waiting for harvest in early autumn heat. Soil dark, deep and rich all the way.
Comrat is a mixture of cultures- Moldovan(Romanian?), Gagauzian and Russian. The three flags appear on the desk of the reception in the Museum of Local History. Museum gives a prominent place to autonomous regions Turkish heritage. To the visitor its all a bit complex.
Walk down to Central Park, with its small set of gardens , fountain and Cathedral. The cathedrals onion shaped domes undergoing renovations- a gold tile being applied. I am told this is being funded via Russia.
With the help of Dinny locate the Gagauzian Art gallery. On the top floor of a multipurpose building, below police station, it has a triple room display area. Largely features one artists very abstract images. Not easy to decipher. Not easy to like. Anyway hats off for pushing ahead with subject matter.
People are generous with their time and help me find my way around town. Russian seems to be language of choice, although young people have some English.
Late afternoon take bus, 2 euro, back to capital Chisinau.
2012-11-03 - Visited three cities- A Coruna (Tower of Hercules), Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) and Lugo (Roman Walls). In A Coruna take bus 4 from outside Estacion de Autobus to stop Sant Tomas and walk 500 metres to tower. There is an Irish connection to area recalled in the statue of the Celtic king Broegan at the entrance to the tower and in the compass rose behind the tower. Santiago de Compostelo is about the pilgrims. It is an iconic place and it does not disappoint. What gives the place its atmosphere is the joy and excitment of the Camino pilgrims having reached their destination after walking, for maybe weeks, across northern Spain. Makes you think. Where I come from in Donegal has a pilgrimage island, St. Patricks Purgatory, still in use after over 1000 years. It is three days of fasting, sleep deprivation and reflection, try it. Old Lugo has the best preserved Roman defence walls of any town in Europe. They are 10-15 metres high and have a remarkable 71 defensive towers. The 2 km walls encircle the town and it is possible to walk them in 30 minutes - MTP record?
2012-11-26 - Flew into Johannesburg from Belfast to London and on South African Airways stopping at Frankfurt, Ilha do Sal(Cape Verde)and in over Namibia (SW Africa). In those apartheid days South African Airways was not allowed to fly over Africa and had to take an Atlantic Ocean route. Settled into hotel in Hillbrow awaiting contact from Rand Mines Co. So many cultural differences to try to assimilate especially the apartheid structure of everyday life - seats in parks reserved for white people, separate entrance for black people to post offices etc. In virtually all walks of life black and white lived in parallel but intensely unequal separate worlds. To help get a more complete picture of life under apartheid go to Wikipedia - Apartheid in South Africa. After five days left by train for Harmony Gold Mine, Virginia, OFS.
2012-09-24 - Swiss location 1. My friend Seamus and I flew in from Dublin. Leaving our bags at the airport, took the free train to the city centre and walked along the lake front and up to the United Nations area. The Jet dEau was not operating due to wind but we saw it when we returned to Geneva 5 days later. We went to France to overnight, returning next day to pick up a hire car and begin 5 day tour of Switzerland before returning to Geneva.
Over the next 5 days we visited every Swiss canton, all 26 of them, plus Rhone Alps(France), ITU (Geneva), Alsace(France), Austria, Lichtenstein and Piedmont(Italy).This was an MTP of military precision and the route was designed specifically for this. You can see our route by following my post numbers at the beginning of each Swiss location. In total we drove 1400km. We would have liked more time in some of the locations and we will return at various times as we criss cross Europe in the years ahead.
Geneva is the second most populous city in Switzerland (after Zurich) and the largest city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Situated where the Rhone leaves Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.
JUNE 2015- My son Chris, brother Eunan and I spent day in Geneva on our way from Dublin to Chamonix. Visited UN area, lunch in centre of old city- vieille ville and walk down Grand Rue.
2012-10-13 - Staying in Marbella en route to Morocco and took day trip to Gibraltar. Its like being whisked to England- red phone boxes, Marks and Spencer shop, police uniforms. Views from top of Rock superb- all the way to Africa. Trafalgar Cemetery is quite historically poignant- it has the remains of those who died of wounds following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This naval engagement took place off Cabo Trafalgar, a wild and magical place, further up the Spanish Atlantic coast. It was fought by the British, under Nelson, against the combined fleets, under Villeneuve, of the French and Spanish during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 18. According to legend, the area was converted to Christianity in the 6th century by the Irish monk Saint Fridolin. His image appears on the Glarus flag and coat of arms, a little bit of Ireland in Switzerland. Glarus became the first Swiss canton to lower the voting age to 16.
We drove up from Maienfeld in Graubunden and stopped in Bilten, pop. 2000, for coffee and cake.
2017-01-01 - The journey down from Mumbai by air started inauspiciously enough. Paid for our taxi to Betual in southern Goa, so far so expected. Hop into taxi and vrooom- we started a white knuckle ride to our hotel that left us gasping as the driver put his foot to the floor, chased down other road users, overtook in the most risky manoeuvres and lined up his next target. When I think of this journey now I still can't believe I let him away with driving like that, especially as I was paying. Our hotel was beautiful, on an estuary looking out to sea. However it was surrounded by the most upsetting environmental degradation. Migrants had set up make shift homes among the beautiful graceful palms, rubble and refuse accompanied this human habitation, the estuary was used as both a toilet and waste dump, the retreating tide carrying the detritus out to sea. We enjoyed the fabled beaches and our fine hotel but the uncontrolled destruction of paradise by a human wave is my lasting impression of south Goa. After four days fly back to Mumbai. To go back would be too painful.
2018-04-02 - The first surge of Golan excitement came as the bus from Haifa crossed the River Jordan. Looking down into the green water of the surprisingly narrow river its size here seemed at odds with its religious, cultural and historical importance. Ten kilometres later arrived in Qatsrin/Katzrin, the administrative capital of Israeli Golan. Israel captured most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war. The modern town of 7,000 people only came into existence from 1976. Most of its inhabitants arrived after the collapse of the old USSR. My first stop was Katzrin archaeological park. These remains date from the late Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic periods (3rd–4th to mid-8th centuries), when the site was a Jewish village with a Talmudic-era synagogue. The site has been excavated and partly reassembled. Its main significance probably rests in the confirmation of Jewish presence from an early time. Across town is the Golan Archaeological Museum with finds from the Golan Heights. Part of the museum illustrates the story of Gamla, the Jewish town besieged and razed by the Romans during the Great Jewish Revolt in 67 CE. The museum also has an interesting collection of columns, lintels and other architectural pieces with ancient inscriptions and symbols recovered from sites across the Golan. Later in the day I caught a bus back to Haifa.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 17. Came in from Feldkirch (Austria) and Vaduz having previously been in Appenzell. Graubunden is by far Switzerlands largest canton. It is entirely mountainous. It is the only Swiss canton with three official languages: German, Romansh and Italian. Tourism is big and the names of Davos, also the venue for the annual World Economic Forum, and St. Moritz are world famous.
We pulled into Maienfeld, making it our stop in Graubunden. Its a small place of 2500. We didnt know at the time that Maeinfeld is the setting for the story of Heidi, a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfathers care in the Swiss Alps. Heidi is among the best-known works of Swiss literature. After walking around town we drove on to Glarus canton.
2010-10-25 - Sept 2016. The bus from Corfu, the X4, is the perfect way to reach Meteora. Stayed Hotel Tsikeli, Kalambaka, right under the towering Meteora rocks. In a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these 'columns of the sky' from the 11th century onwards. This is a truly magnificent area and deserves its UNESCO listing. Took bus tour (Euro 25) around the monasteries. This allowed time to visit many of them. Yes there are many tourists but they don't lessen the impact of this place. Next by train to Thessaloniki and Hotel Olympial overlooking the agora. The most interesting area has to be around the waterfront, museums, White Tower, art installations and the waterfront itself. Took a day long bus tour to trace the early history of Macedonia and Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. At Pella the Macedonians built their great trading city. Philip II was invited to a wedding in Vergina, ancient Aigai. There he was assassinated and buried. The magnificent contents of his royal tomb are displayed in the underground museum. Back in Thessalaoniki what is especially noticeable now is the silent despair among many of the working age population. Savros, an engineer, has not worked for three years. He wants to go to England. He is in his 40's and has had to move back in with his parents. A young person in one of the city museums is on a years internship, no pay. Next stop, Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain. May 2010. Flew down from Dublin. Had to share taxi to centre of city as general strike in progress due to country being forced by EU and IMF to live within its means. Stayed close to base of Acropolis, an area of truly vital and amazing antiquity. First visit to Athens and Greece was in Sept 1973. Flew in from Cairo and after a few days in Athens visited Cape Sunion and then by car up to Delphi. From there travelled overland into Yujoslavia into what is now Macadonia and onward through Europe. Was not overly impressed with Athens as a city this time. Just seemed an unremarkable sprawl. Of course walked Acropolis and around Parthenon, mixing with crowds from cruise ships up for the day. Felt more at home in the Athenian Agora. Retraced visits to Cape Sunion and Delphi. Both settings are very poignant, certainly owing to their spectacular locations, but more especially, due to their central place in the culture that has shaped our lives in so many ways. Delphi has a spirit of place I first felt in 1973 and again at this visit. After 5 days flew back to Dublin.
2017-12-16 - Come up from Queretaro on ETN bus to San Miguel de Allende. Stay in lovely hotel set around an open courtyard across the road from the Teatro Angela Peralta. The city is old fashioned, hilly, cobbled streets, colourful buildings and plenty of Mexican Baroque, which is why its UNESCO listed. Central to the city is the wonderful pink granite Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. Sunset really draws out its magical pink-orange hues. It is flanked on either side by a pair of tall slender palms that add a real tropical feel to the building. Inside a St. Patrick statue makes, for me, a surprise appearance on a pedestal near the central isle. It is festooned with votive photos and pieces of cloth. No visit to the city would be complete without calling into the Museo Casa Ignacio Allende (1769-1811) just off the zocolo. The museo charts his central role in the early part of the independence movement of 1810-1821. Allende and Hildago were among the leaders executed by the Spanish in 1811. An intriguing aspect of the city is the number of expat north Americans, 15,000 apparently, living here. They are involved in the cultural life of the city, I met a few at a book stall in La Bibloteca and later many more at an annual Jazz Festival event (Sarah Reich) at the Teatro. Spend an afternoon on the hotel room balcony reading 'Under the Volcano', Malcolm Lowry. My book for this trip. After two days head for Guanajuato city. Leaving SMA inadvertently take beat up 2nd class bus. Warnings about holdups surface and I cast a wary eye over my fellow passengers- is that person across from me texting that a gringo is on board ? We stop in oddest places for people to get on and off, including what looks like the middle of nowhere. City bus into Guanajuato enters via a series of tunnels under the city, like a metro system. People walk down from the streets above and line up at bus stops in the tunnels, different. Guanajuato is also a UNESCO city. Some places appeal immediately and Guanajuato is one of them. Possibly helped by genuine warmth of hotel staff and a good steak lunch at Truco 7. Suitably fortified visit Museo de Diego Rivera, the house where he was born and Monumento al Pipila for its great views across the city in a slowly, too slowly, setting sun. Next morning go to Museo de las Momias. Am a bit apprehensive about going. Join the crowds at entrance. The mummies are surprisingly fascinating but with a twist of personal horror at the decay stage we could all go through even if we won't be aware of it. Thoughts of mortality naturally arise. On a lighter note really like the Alhondiga de Granaditas/ Warehouse of Pomegranates. In this fine building are exhibits of local history and culture. The Aztecs rule extended here until 16th century. Xochipilli was their god of art, sport, dance, fun and love. Intriguing. While the ancient Greeks had similar gods, we, in the west, now have nothing comparable, instead we have a cult of suffering and death. Finally of interest, Maximilian, after being tried in Queretaro, was executed here in 1867. Take the three hour long evening bus to San Luis Potosi.
2011-09-29 - Arrived on Guernsey on 24 Sept. from Jersey by fast ferry (1 Hour). Used Guernsey as a base to visit Alderney, Herm and Sark. Stayed in St. Peter Port for two nights. Victor Hugo~s house on Hautville Rd. is well worth a visit. He was exiled from France in 1851-65 after the rise of the dictator Napoleon 3rd. He wrote ~Les Miserables~ here. The house itself is as Victor Hugo left it and has a strange, almost errie, feel- go see it for yourself. Bus service runs to the shiny new airport terminal, however if you are flying to Alderney on Sunday morning then you will have to take a taxi (£10).
2017-12-26 - Its a long bus ride from Cuernavaca up to Taxco. The Estrella Blanca bus makes its way up over the twisting passes of the Sierra da Huautla and into the wooded valleys below before the final climb into Taxco. I was expecting somewhere a bit grand, I had heard the place described as Tuscan village like. What I did find is a city on steep inclines, clogged with traffic, people and markets. The army were present on the street near the bus station. The small zocalo is fronted by Santa Prisca (1759) with lots of high Baroque features. The Museo de Arte Virreinal has an interesting section on the early colonial trade routes (1550's) through the area from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coast with connections onward to the Philippines. Late lunch in restaurant overlooking zocalo. Needed pesos, found Banco Santander but for some reason they didn't change money. Another bank customer, a well dressed lady, arranged for a nearby money changing outfit to send one of their staff down to bring me up to their place, a somewhat shady looking office up a short flight of steps. I got a better dollar rate than I had anticipated. Return to Cuernavaca early evening.
2017-01-02 - Came up on the midnight train from Mumbai to Vapi my first stop on a seven day stay in Gujarat. Vapi was the jump off point for my visit to Daman and Dadra & Nagar Haveli. It is a very down at heel city, home to many large chemical plants for making pesticides, dyes and paints. As a result it has a pall of visible smog from early in the morning. Apparently it is one of the most polluted places in the world, although from what I have seen on this trip it has plenty of Indian competitors. The city attracts migrant labour from rural areas. I had to pick my way through sizeable groups of them asleep in Vapi train station at 1.30 am when I arrived.
Next stop Vadodara/Baroda. At last a city with some pride. It is reasonably clean and very cultured. Had planned to go to the UNESCO site at Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park however due to currency demonetisation needed to preserve rupees. Instead visited beautiful Lakshmi Vilas Palace home of the Gaekwad Maharaja. This enormous palace is built in a unique architectural style with sections representing a Hindu Temple, a Sikh Gudwara, a Christian Church and a Mosque. Also visited the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum close to the Palace and the surprising Baroda Museum & Picture Gallery in the city centre.
After two days take train to my last stop this trip, Ahmedabad. A city of 6 million in a state with over 60 million. When I travelled in India in 1974 the population was 0.55 billion, today it is 1.3 billion. A monkey sitting on pavement outside hotel eating fruit unleashed a flood of memories of the India of 1974. This was the image that finally connected me back.
I like Ahmedabad. The Sabarmati (Gandhi) Ashram is a place of pilgrimage for all of us I suppose. Gandhi lived here 1917- 1930 overlooking the Sabarmati River, spinning cotton thread, practising his philosophy, thinking about Indian independence and receiving visitors.
I had the privilege of visiting the Le Corbusier designed Mill Owners Association Headquarters. It is one of four buildings he designed in the city between 1954-56 and truly outstanding. If you like modern architecture by the master this is the place to go.
My journey continued to the Sidi Sayad Mosque with its delicate screens carved out of stone, Hathisingh Jain Temple built out of white marble and Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum with its remarkable collection of ancient Hindu stone sculptures. Swaminarayan Temple is in some ways the India of the imagination - orange robed monks, Hindu gods, the sounds of prayer and monkeys high up on the buildings.
Deep in the historic centre is Gandhi Road. Starting at Bhadra Fort (1411) and stretching along through street markets, under the arches of Teen Darwaja (1415), past the splendid Jumma Mosque (1424) and into the pols area of old housing, Hindu temples and small heards of sacred cows. My favourite street in the city.
During my week stay I met and passed among Gujarati people who offered an easy welcome to this outsider. I never felt threatened or at risk except from the almost reckless driving of the auto rickshaws.
Reluctantly I had to return home. Flight out to Dublin via Abu Dhabi.
2012-09-05 - My wife and I flew in from Dublin to the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, stayed in Novotel Alster.Population 1.8 million, second largest in Germany and sixth largest in Europe. Ranks as eleventh largest port in world. An industrial and media powerhouse and a very wealthy and affluent city. Highlights of city include superb shopping district, industrial might on display in port area and Elbe Estuary, and, for me,Sunday morning run around Lake Alster.
Excellent train/fast ferry connections to adjacent MTP areas.
2012-09-19 - Sailed out from Hamburg on fast ferry, takes 3.5 hours, costs 70 euro return. Dont forget to buy ticket in advance if travelling early August. Best part of journey for me was ferry up and down Elbe and across sea. Journey on Elbe was an education on might of German economy- massive container ships moving goods from Germany to the world and goods coming the opposite way, probably mostly from China, to Europe. Also really impressed by sheer size of container port, floating dry docks for ship repair and endless industrial complexes along southern side of river much of its length to the sea. Industry has a reputation for being unsightly, however the view from the ferry was not unpleasant with evidence of order and good management.
Spent about 4 hours on island, taking the coastal path, meeting the gannets up close, seeing Lange Anna, walking across some of the bomb sites and enjoying the sea breezes on a beautiful summer day. Overall a very relaxing MTP location.
2011-09-29 - Sailed out to Herm from Guernsey, about a 20 minute journey. What a lovely island. No roads, no transport, not even bicycles. Main feature is its 3 mile coastal path right around the island. It was a pleasure to walk on this fine autumn day. Great sea views all around the headlands and beaches and across to Sark and Guernsey. Nice place to visit.
2012-11-06 - Took train down from NR Westphalia. We had a window seat as we followed the UNESCO listed Upper Middle Rhine along the Rhine Gorge and passing Loreley Rock. In German myth Loreley is a beautiful woman who, sitting on the cliff above the Rhine and combing her golden hair, distracts sailors with her beauty and song and causes them to crash on the rocks. Some would say Loreley is not just confined to the Rhine. Frankfurt is an international centre for finance, commerce, culture, transport, education, and tourism. It is considered an alpha world city and ranked as seventh in the world for its quality of life. It is the seat of the European Central Bank. All in all a very powerful city that also spends to raise its living environment. Favourite place in city was probably the Museum fur Moderne Kunst- modern building housing modern art. Stayed in Novotel City and can recommend it. After 3 days we took train back to NR Westphalia.
2017-12-24 - From my base in CDMX take bus from Norte out to Tula. Its a long walk out to archaeological site. This is a Toltec, 950 - 1150 AD, place and the centre of their power. The Aztecs who came later held the Toltecs in high regard. Apparently they were very militaristic and favoured human sacrifice, a lot. The pyramid shaped Templo de Tlahuizalpantecuhtli (Morning Star) is the main structure of interest. Around the base are stone carvings of animals and dieties, on top stand five metre high figures of Toltec warriors loyal to the Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcoatl. These would have supported a roof. There is a curious connection here with the writer Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda wrote about his training in shamanism, especially with a tribe that claimed descent from the Toltecs. I can remember reading The Teachings of Don Juan (1968) and being amazed at the possibility of other realities. Did this originate in Tula ? From the elevated site there are long views over the countryside. A small museum at site entrance has some interesting stone carvings and pottery. Back on main road hail taxi minibus to central de autobus and take bus back to Mexico City.
2015-07-05 - Budapest is a big hit with us. We arrived for our first 4 day stay mildly expecting another central European city reeling from the pressure of tourism on local lifestyle. While we got the beautiful buildings on the wide Danube we also got a city able to absorb tourists. The wide streets and elegant buildings seemed strangely empty of people for the size of the city. Budapest is a city of space unlike say Prague which is about the tension between narrow streets, parked cars and many people. Unusually we felt relaxed even at the hot spots- except perhaps around the Fishermans Bastion. A remarkable thing about Budapest is that while it was bombed severely during WW2 today it looks almost as if it was never in rubble- it looks old in a mitteleuropa way. Apart from the obvious also took time out to visit Liszt museum. It is in his three room apartment which gives the experience an intimacy. The apartment looks on to Andrassy Ut/Avenue. and is part of the old Academy of Music where Liszt taught. I could hear the close by sounds of violins being put through their paces by anxious examination students. Intriguingly this was probably the same as Liszt heard in the 1870s. Also lucky to visit war photographer Robert Capa exhibition in city.Born in Budapest he covered all the major upheavals from the Spanish Civil War to First Indochina War. He co founded Magnum Photos with among others Henri Cartier-Bresson. Many of his images would contain two related scenes conveying contrasting narratives. Finally took tram 2 out to Ludwig Museum Modern Art. Great exhibition Soviet era modern art.
2016-06-11 - Iceland does not do summer time. While it is west of Ireland it is one hour ahead of us. Early June sun rises at 0300 and sets at 2350. Euro 86 return fare from Belfast too good to ignore. A good time to try Airbnb for first time. Even with its limitations the centrally located room was a reasonable experience over the four nights. On Golden Circle tour most interesting stop on our 250 km day had to be geothermal energy plant at Hellisheið. It captures 300 degrees centigrade steam from the vulcanic substrata and supplies every home in capital with very hot water and electricity. Waterfall at Gullfoss, the erupting hot spring at Geysir and the Þingvellir national park where Europe and N-America are being pulled apart great sights. Can't forget the barren countryside, little grass, very few trees in this volcanic tundra landscape, and always in the distance the snow covered mountains and the permanent white ice cap glinting in the bright sun.
Spent enjoyable time in capital old town and visiting Kjarvalsstaðir Art Museum with a large collection from Icelands best 20th century artist, Perlan for great views over the city, ever visible Hallgrímskirkja cathedral, modern and contemporary art in The Culture House, National Gallery of Iceland with the only Picasso in the country and stunning Harpa concert hall and conference centre. In Iceland the only writer to read is Halldor Laxness, Icelands literature Noble Prize winner. Enjoyed his 1948 book The Atomic Station. It is funny, socially questioning, insightful and still relevant today.
2013-03-20 - A few years since last visited. Arrived Gare de Lyon from Besancon, Frenche Comte. As the banks of the Seine between Pont de Sully and Pont d léna are UNESCO listed set out to walk the distance, 6 km, in just over 90 minutes. Route takes you from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, past the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, Place de la Concorde to the Eiffel Tower, all the while following the Seine on its curved progress through the centre of Paris. After paying homage at the base of the Tour Eiffel caught metro from Champ de Mars to St.-Michel Notre-Dame and RER B to CDG and flight back to Dublin and home. Thus completed a trip to Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Saarland, Alsace, Franche Comte and Ile de France.
2-7 August 2013. My wife choose Paris for our 20th wedding anniversary. Stayed St. Germain des Pres and walked everywhere. Was able to read Parisians:An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb before arriving- it made a marked difference to enjoyment of the city, especially on the major influence of Baron Haussmann on the building design and boulevard layout of the city between 1853-1870. All buildings same height, five floors, second floor with a balcony; third and fourth floors in the same style, sometimes lacking balconies; fifth floor with a single, continuous, undecorated balcony; garret rooms and dormer windows in roof space.
The Haussmann urban street is uniform, building façades have horizontal lines that continue from one building to the next and balconies and cornices are perfectly aligned. The Rue de Rivoli served as a model for the entire network of new Parisian boulevards.
For me the magic of Paris is the Isle de la Cite, Louvre complex, Tuileries Gardens, Place de la Concorde, Av. de Champs Elysees and Arc de Triumph. However I left my heart at the Eiffel Tower, at night it is illuminated superbly especially for those glorious six minutes on the hour. Truly magnificent. Best seen from the Esplanade du Trocadero on the opposite side of the Seine.
2016-10-25 - Flew in from Dublin. Corfu town was base for two days. The old town and fortifications are a UNESCO site, reflecting its importance from1386 and for four centuries defending the maritime trading interests of the Republic of Venice against the Ottoman Empire. Corfu remained part of the Venetian Stato da Màr until Napoleon dissolved the Republic of Venice in 1797. The archaeological museum was closed for renovation however the Esplanade, Old Fortress and Palace of St. Michael and St. George plus its Museum of Asian Art were ample compensations. This was the start of a four location trip that included Albania, Greece mainland and Mount Athos. Breaking the habit of the past few years not reading anything directly related to location, this time taken along What are you Looking at, 150 years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye by Will Gompertz. From here sailed to Sarande, Albania. Later took Green bus to Kalabaka for Meteora.
2015-10-10 - This is in the time of the Shahanshah, King of Kings- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Arrived on board dhow from Kuwait. After overnighting in hot and dusty Khorramshahr took bus bound for Tehran and arrived late in evening. Strange walking through new city with little idea about suitable accommodation. Eventually found room in small hotel near city centre. My route from Tehran was firstly a hitchhiking loop over the mountains behind the city to the lush coast of the Caspian Sea at Mahmudabad. After washing my face in the Caspian I travelled along the coast to Nowshahr. In many villages I was typically followed by children asking my name, where did I come from, speak english. This was an almost daily experience in many parts of the world. However here something spooked the children and they started to throw stones firstly in my direction and then at me. I was horrified and moved off as quickly as possible but not fast enough and feared for my safety. Others obviously saw this and luckily a car pulled up and carried me to safety. I gladly headed back that day to Tehran. From the friendly, cosmopolitan city- even Niall Diamond was popular, headed off on a journey through the heart of Iran. A feature of Iranian main roads is the placing of car wrecks on raised pedestals at the side of the road as a reminder of the dangers of careless driving. My route took in the great cities of the Dasht-e Kavir / the Great Salt Desert, Isfahan with its beautiful squares and mosques, Shiraz and join the faithful at the beautiful Shah Cheragh tomb, and Persepolis where the Shah held a questionable celebration of the monarchy three years earlier amid the 400 BC remains of the city of Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes. Then turned east into the Dasht-e Lut / Empty Desert, and the city of Kerman, wandering through ancient Bam, whose origins may be from the Achaemenid period (6-4 BC). It flourished right up 16-17 centuary (Safavid dynasty). Finally to Zahadan on the Pakistan border. Some months later came back through Afghanistan to Meshad, Tehran, Tabriz and into Turkey. In all I must have travelled 6,000 km through Iran.
2012-01-08 - I was born and raised in County Donegal,Ireland. My favourite places are Donegal county, Boyne Valley historic area, Wicklow county, Killarney, Dublin and Giants Causway. I still live here although in the part called Northern Ireland.
Today Donegal, my home county, won the All Ireland Gaelic Football final against Mayo by 2-11 to 0-13. Tir Conall Abu.
If you are coming to Ireland and want any advice/information get in touch via MTP.
2012-11-07 - This turned out to be a longer stay than I had anticipated. Took ferry from Belfast on Easter Sunday to Douglas. Plan was to stay overnight and take following days ferry to Dublin and bus home. On arrival informed all outgoing ferries cancelled until Wednesday due to storms coming up Irish Sea. Storm blew for two days. Waited it out walking the Prominade between the showers and reading. Learned again that patience is a virtue. Wednesday morning took ferry back to Belfast.
2018-03-31 - Israel surpassed my preconceptions. It is modern, efficient, clean and polite. It is like a sliver of calm and safe middle Europe lodged in the fiery cauldron of the Levant. Stayed five days in the old city of Jerusalem and was present at the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Very atmospheric and indeed moving. Moving also, although for a different reason, is Yad Vashem, Israels official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. On a lighter note the worthwhile Israel Museum carries a vast display of archaeology and art from antiquity to contemporary times. Next, bus up to Haifa and use it as a base to visit Golan. I liked Haifa. A modern city with easy going charm. The gardens at the UNESCO listed Baha'i World Centre are scene stealers; Michael, my guide, took me down through the various levels. A day in UNESCO Akko/Acre failed to excite. And so to Tel Aviv, a beautiful city, so full of life and vitality. It felt like home, as it was for 4 days. The extraordinary Tel Aviv Museum of Art and beach life added to the lustre. Flew in and out to Dublin via Bucharest.
2014-10-20 - Something I learned in Porec- The main street in the old town is called Decumanus. This is the original Roman street/road still in use. In Roman Empire city planning, a decumanus was an east-west-oriented road. Near where the Decumanus Maximus crosses the perpendicular Cardo Maximus, the primary north-south road that was the usual main street, the Forum was normally located. The physical imprint of the Roman (and Greek) period is profound still today. The sixth largest amphitheatre in the Roman world, Pula Arena, was constructed between 27 BC – 68 AD, much of it still standing. You have to wonder what will be visible 2000 years from now of our present empire? Back in Porec the major landmark is the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Porec is an interesting and well presented town to spend a few days in. My route was Dublin- Pula and by bus up the coast to Porec and on through the short coastel strip of Slovenia to Trieste. This was the first location on a nine day/four location trip through Istria, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.
2012-05-13 - Arrived on a lovely autumn morning, walking up from Lake Geneva/ Lac Leman to the very important United Nations complex. ITU is an agency of the UN responsible for worldwide information and communication technologies including, interestingly, helping to assign satellite orbits. So now you know!
2017-06-06 - They say Ivanovo is a dull city at the best of times. Today it rained incessantly. Bus down from Kostroma. Dropped off near Museum of Industry and Arts. Beautiful historic building, built for local 19th century textile magnate. Exhibits include oblast fauna, military items, 19th century pottery, ceramics and paintings of the great and good. Exhibits not really my thing but on a cold wet day learned to take an interest. Far mor engaging are the staff. Keen to show me around with personal tours of many of the display rooms- somehow we managed in Russian and with Google Translate to exchange information and admire. One elegant lady, Irena, conveyed it all in French. As I was leaving another woman appeared to explain in impeccable English the workings of the local transport system. This friendliness has continued all day on buses, hotel, restaurant. This seems to be the Russian way even as they get on with their lives. Unlike in west Europe many people are employed across transport, museums and other settings to do security and observe. To the outsider its not oppresive, indeed its welcome. In afternoon take bus from modern bus station onward to Suzdal.
2017-12-20 - Take bus, Primera Plus, rapidly becoming my favourite, clean, professionally run, on three hour journey down from Aguascalientes. Buses are usually half full so buying ticket just before boarding is not a problem although I normally get my ticket out on arrival in city. Make mistake of taking cramped bus 616 from Central de Autobus to city centre. Its only 7 pesos but it takes over an hour as it travels what seems like every side street through the south of the city. The taxi at 40 pesos is a much better option. After check in, lunch and video chat home start long walk through city centre to Plaza Guadalajara, Cathedral, Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, Palacio de Gobierno, which has art on display by Javier Aretalo, Curiosidades Mexicanas and Plaza Tapatia. Walk home through the heaving evening crowds. Spend much of second day in Hospice Cabanas, a UNESCO site. It was built beginning 19th century, first opened its doors to the care of the sick, disabled and poor in 1810 and continued in this role on and off until about 1980. The complex is built around a series of 23 courtyards. Off each courtyard are rooms devoted to some great art displays. For many the highlight of the place are the Orozco murals although personally I didn't find them appealing. Each public facility has a visitors book and I am encouraged to sign it. Looking through some pages at the Hospice Cabanas it seems the majority of visitors are from Mexico, of course, then smaller numbers from USA and a few from Latin American countries. Europe, Asia and Africa visitor numbers are almost non existent. Cant say I warmed to the city eventhough its clean and people are friendly enough. After two days take bus to Morelia in Michoacan state.
2011-10-03 - Flew into Jersey on 24 Sept from Dublin and took the ferry to Guernsey. However returned on 26th Sept. A highlight was going out to the Jersey War Tunnels / HOF 8. These tunnels were built to house an underground hospital that would be able to treat the occupying German military wounded in the event of British attack. The hospital was fully equipped and today it is still possible to see the operating theatre. The hospital was never needed. However it has a series of exhibits that record the history of the island under German occupation, including the extensive use of slave labour from across Europe and island life under very severe military rule. Flew home on 27 Sept.
2012-11-21 - Part of an 8 month trip from Donegal to Delhi and back made during 1974. Crossed border from Syria at Ramtha. After usual border check went on to El Hammam, place where Jordan, Israel and Syria meet. Sitting in natural spa pools watching Israeli planes screeching overhead toward Golan. Planes disappear over mountain toward Syria and hear boom boom sound of explosions.
The extensive remains of the Roman city of Jerash make a worthwhile stop. Was in Amman for the visit of Richard Nixon, US President. His motor cavalcade passed to great excitment. Amman supposedly built on seven hills (as is..), anyway in the evening when the call to prayer goes up the calls echo across the dips in the hills in a quite remarkable way.
Met up with my friend Elanor and we travelled throughout central and southern Jordan. The landscapes are quite outstanding and the people kind and courteous for the most part. Elanor however had some bad, if isolated, experiences from Jordanian males which included verbal and physical harrassment, the last in the sea at Aquaba.
In Petra lived in cave for days, learned Beduin songs, hunted for snakes by lamp light, climbed down into gorges, got lost and overnighted on side of stream.
Wadi Rum, probably the most beautiful desert place in the world. Mountains like melting ice cream, only sand no vegetation of any kind. We didnt get as far into the area as we would have liked having no transport and relying on the hospitality of the Beduin for tented accomadation.
Finally up to Dead Sea to float. Crossed Allenby bridge to enter Israel. Elanor allowed in, I was refused entry. Some days later hitchiked out of Amman toward Saudi border.
2012-09-26 - Swiss location 6. From Twann we made our way to Courroux in Jura canton. The Republic and Canton of the Jura is the newest (created in 1979) of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont. The term \"Jurassic\" is derived from the Jura Alps, strata of which date to that era. Courroux has a pop. of 3000. We really liked its name!
2015-09-21 - MTP 200. It has taken almost 5 years to get from MTP 100 to MTP 200. All this new one hundred has been in Europe. Kaliningrad is a busy place. It takes a little getting used to seeing Cyrillic script almost in the heart of Europe. Luckily for me English also appears on the signage. Stayed Hotel Kaliningrad in room looking directly onto and down Leninskiy street. Much vaunted Konigsberg cathedral did not do it for me, however the tomb of Immanuel Kant at the side of the cathedral reminds us of his contribution to the development of western thought. In his major work, the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant argued that reason is the source of morality. If you want to know more try reading the original- good luck with that. Visited Kaliningrad Gallery of Art, a great oblast museum of modern and contemporary art. On the bus up from Gdansk we had to stop at the Polish-Russian border for the usual formalities. I was sitting in front of bus and had to vacate to further down to give space for officials to check passports. I was put beside a young woman with obvious charms. However she had a bad cold, coughing and sneezing all through my 45 minutes in her company. Three days later I was struck down with her disease and it wrecked my onward journey around the Baltic. Damn her long legs. After two days left by air to Minsk, Belarus.
2017-06-10 - The bus trip from Tula went well. We made journey in 105 minutes, well ahead of time. Visit to Fine Art Museum. Art from pre Revolution including furniture pieces. Not the greatest museum and I wouldn't especially recommend it. Then over to space/cosmonaut museum or to give it its full title- The State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics. A much better prospect especially if you are interested in the space effort of the last 70 years. Massive displays of authentic and replica satellites , engines, capsules, space suits, shuttle pieces and a big globe of the moon showing USSR/Russian and US surface contact places. This exceptional building has an actual 38 metre Vostok rocket outside- it was the standby rocket for the Yuri Gagarin mission of 12 April 1961. The building is named after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky- he worked out the theory of space flight. He lived in Kaluga and a monument to him can be seen in city centre. To bed early as must get 0300 train to Bryansk.
2013-03-24 - Arrived in Mombasa from Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Stayed in house rented/owned by European woman that seemed to act as a base for trans Africa travelers. Slept on roof. After a few days around town, old fort, port area and perfume sellers set off up coast to Malindi with its dual road signage in English/German for Lamu. Crossed over to Lamu by boat and took up residence in traveler hotel in town, again using flat roof as cool nighttime place. Passed away days playing chess under shady awnings, walking on long beach, watching dolphins leaping offshore and snorkeling in Indian Ocean crystal waters. Eventually had to leave. Joined group travelers renting car, driving slowely through Tsavo West,special place, sunset, vast herds moving across plain- emotionally moved by deep sense of Africa. Camping around Voi. On to Tsavo West and underwater hippo viewpoint at Mzima Springs. Up and over vast lava flows through volcano country with Kilimanjaro as backdrop and on to Niarobi, campsite in City Park among the overlanders. After some days took bus to Arusha and Kilimanjaro.
Later back in Kenya head up Rift Valley to Lake Nakuru a soda lake home to maybe millions of pink flamingos, one of Africas great animal sights. Continued on to Kisumu and the shore of Lake Victoria. Turn inland to Eldorat, ride with German couple for a while, sleeping under stars with sights and sounds of Africas wildlife close by. Stop at refreshing Thomsons Falls and then on to Isiolo above Mt. Kenya. Landscape semi arid, hot, dry on road to Marsabit and north on dirt road to Moyale on Ethiopian border.
2017-06-06 - Train over from Yaroslavl. Two and half hours on what must be 3rd to 4th class elektrichka train.It stops everywhere, including what is to me the middle of nowhere. People get off and walk into the forest at a number of stops. At Kostroma station go outside and along comes trollybus no. 2. Pay R20, standard fare, to conductor and use Google Maps blue dot to know when to get off. Walk 20 minutes to hotel on banks of Volga. There Tatiana looks after me. Later take taxi to St. Ipaty Monastery. Taxi driver tells me he had an Irish girlfriend, once. Alexi says she was not nice to him. I sympathise. St Ipathy was a Romanov favourite for 400 years. It has usual displays including film of the last Romanov visit. Each room has a matronly lady who checks ticket and watches me as I go around. There are religious images on display, many showing the Madonna and Child. One particular image stands out- it shows Mary and an adult Jesus physically touching face to face. This is highly unusual. Back to city centre, Susaninskaya Ploshchad. This could be a UNESCO town with its neo classical layout but its not. Large Trading Arcades (1880's) on one side of square and Fire Tower (closed) on another. Go shopping for beer, chocolate and fruit. Not necessarily the best diet but I need some down time after 6 days on the road. People really pleasant everywhere here. I have noticed they rarely make eye contact. Maybe I should change my wardrobe. Anyway I feel privileged to be here. Looking out across the Volga, wind coming in over the water buffeting the windows, light slowly fading, cloud gathering. So many people I know never visit this or other wondrous places/sights. They turn in their own tight circle. Thanks to MTP life is interesting- to me at least. It takes me to places I would not dream of visiting. Continue reading Anna Karenina- "'Do this for me: never say such words to me, and let us be good friends.' These were her words, but her eyes said something different".
Have a surprisingly successful day in Kostroma.
2017-06-09 - Arrived from Voronezh in mad marshrutky. Two nights Gostinista Grinn hotel atop massive shopping centre. Great location. Main visit here is to Regional Museum. Traces all history of oblast from prehistory inc. fauna, archaeology, settlements, tsarist, revolutionary and current periods. Especially good on - bourgeoisie living and has some fine marble figures, the Revolution, WW2 inc. destruction of area and fightback. All in Russian however with a little patience possible to follow much of the narrative. Up from the museum in front of oblast administrative building with its hammer and sickle crest high up, enormous statue Lenin pointing skyward, to the future as it was then. Although the city is outwardly a consumer society it retains these statues and symbols from a Communist time just over a quarter of a century ago. Lenin is the only figure I have seen regularly on this trip. Every city also has its ul. Karla Marksa and some other references to the period 1917-1992. Some other things have not changed- civic pride is strong with flower beds, clean streets, no garbage in or around railway stations, litter bins a plenty on pavements. Kursk State Picture Gallery that I was looking forward to visiting closed, I think its a Monday thing. This morning, 23 May, receptionist said "Happy Birthday". Nice touch. Use Kursk as base to visit Prokhorovka, Belgorod. Later travel by train to Oryol.
2015-10-09 - This city state far exceeded my expectations. It was like nothing else I had seen in the Arab world. The city was totally modern, hardly surprising as it had had really been built in the previous 30 years- wide roads, big cars driven by men in gleaming white thawb and keffiyah, dripping with gold watches and jewelry. It was easy to hitch hike through the city- and it was a pleasure to hop into the air conditioned american cars. Stayed at the youth hostel. It was free, clean and friendly- this was oil rich Kuwait after all. The heat was ferocious - the best way to walk along the street was to proceed from one air conditioned shop to another. Very few people walked. In the late afternoon would go with friends to sit on the beach within sight of the Kuwait Towers and take in the sea breezes. To get here had to get visa from Kuwaiti embassy in Amman. I was then lucky enough to get a lift on a lorry from the Jordan- Saudi border, crossing Saudi Arabia in two days and entering Kuwait at Khafji border crossing. Leaving Kuwait for Iran was another challenge. After many inquiries finally managed to get passage on a dhow. From the port in the early morning the crew of 4, myself and our cargo, which included a car that took up most of the deck space, headed out into the Arabian Gulf. In my eagerness to get passage I forgot to pass through border control at the port. This didnt seem to be an issue at my destination. We crossed over into the Shat-al-Arab and sailed up to Abadan and my destination at Khorramshahr in Iran. On the open sea we were nearly always in sight of land. Entering the Shat we sailed up through the southern part of the largest date palm forest in the world. At the time this region had 16 million date palm trees- one-fifth of the worlds total. I could only stare and wonder as we sailed slowly by. Disembarked in the late afternoon.
2016-03-23 - Santa Rosa- Saint Rose, capital of La Pampa, start of Patagonia. Last day of southern summer, 29 February 2016, 25 degrees, warm breeze. I finally gave up on Louis Borges stories in Labyrinthe. So very unsatisfying. Maybe its the translation. The fiction makes little sense as fantasy and is disjointed from beginning to end. I am giving the book to Guillarmo, the only person I met in Santa Rosa who can speak English fairly well. It is becoming clear my great regret is not having sufficient Spanish to understand or converse on nearly anything. The people try to communicate with me. I am a traveller nearly alone. As I move further from BAires I hope this will not get worse. Walking through this small city today I see no other obvious outsiders and stand out a bit being so white skinned in a sea of beautiful shades of tan/brown. Immerse myself in what city has to offer. Best things to see here- 100 year old Teatro Espanol and Municipal Cultural Centre behind Centro Civico. Its a modern contemporary building, but like other similar centres it has little except a pleasant impressionist style portrait of a lady. This evening is a little unsettling. Had to check out of Hotel Cuprum at 1100 but cant leave town til midnight on express to San Luis. Feel awkward using public areas of hotel but not staying in hotel. Guillarmo the receptionist assures me it is ok. Other staff join us and we talk, joke and drink mate until near midnight.
2012-11-05 - Arrived by bus to Legrono from Burgos. This was an afternoon visit to the capital of Spains wine making region. Prosperous city, maybe built on wine, no doubt being on the Camino route helps too. Walked around old part city, visited Concatedral de Maria de la Redonda and crossed river Ebro. Then settled back in Pasteleria Viena, Calle del Muro de Francisco de la Mata opposite the pleasant Paseo del Prince De Vargara park for coffee. Left on 3pm bus to Pamplona.
2013-10-16 - I was excited about coming to Montpellier from Lyon. For years had wish to see this iconic city close to the Mediterranean. First impressions were not good, train station under development, hotel in less salubrious area close to gare. Next impressions in city centre not good either - beggars, drunks, dirty people with big dogs wandering around. And litter especially cigarette ends everywhere. I was shocked, my idyll was damaged. Exploring older part of town through Arc de Triomphe failed to remove the downbeat impression. This began to change however as the more modern side of the city revealed itself firstly on an early morning walk down through the neo classical Antigone district, and later to the Musee Fabre which was hosting an exhibition of Paul Signac entitled Les Couleurs de L Eau. Finally had found a Montpellier that had pride in itself.
2015-09-23 - Riga is probably my favourite of the three Baltic state capitals. Each capital has a UNESCO heritage listed old centre. Each has a similar 20th century history and its not good, having suffered badly at the hands of the Germans and the Soviets. Now they are undergoing a sort of renaissance due in no small part to their EU membership. Rigas river location gives it a certain grandeur. My hotel was on the opposite bank in Kipsala and the views past the Vansu Bridge towards the old centre are panoramic. Walking around the old centre is easy enough. The Freedom Monument is central to the Latvians sense of independence and has a ceremonial military guard, probably 24/7. I arrived by bus from Vilnius. This journey has to rank as one of the most pleasant I have made. The ECOLINES bus was superb with films, wifi, endless coffee and clean. The road to Riga is smooth and excellent. Four and a quarter hours of bliss and all for euro 14.90. After two nights left for Tallinn, Estonia.
2014-07-13 - March 2009- Flew in from Dublin for a 5 day visit, first. Lazio is Rome. Rome is the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Catholic Church, the largest city and political capitol of Italy. Rome is too much for one visit, there is simply too much to get your head around, stimulation burnout is likely. Be warned. Oct. 2014. Second visit followed 7 day trip around Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo and Molise. Began three night stay over morning coffee with another MTP traveller, Mauro, who lives in the city. Met in the beautiful EUR area, home of Romes 20th centuary modernism including the stunning Palazzo della Cilivta del Lavoro. Back on the metro to Piramide area and later joining throngs around Circus Maximus, Capitoline Museums, Vittorio Emmanual monument and Forum. Next day to Zaha Hadid designed MAXXI (21 st centuary art and architecture museum), Auditorium Parco della Musica, Galleria Nazionale dArte Moderna and the Museo Borghese (Renaissance art). So much culture, so little time. For this trip read Woman of Rome by Alberto Moravia- innocent Adriana works as a prostitute to make a better life for herself !
2012-09-28 - This was a second visit to Liechtenstein. First was in February 1974, part of a detour en route to Bavaria. Went into town and at the time stamps seemed to be big business. Dont know if this is still the case, maybe it is.
In October 2010 came back to Vaduz from Austria en route to Switzerland. The place is so small we were almost out of it before we realised it. The Principality has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world and has the world\'s lowest external debt. It is a tax haven and unfortunately I had no funds to deposit during my visit .
2016-05-07 - My friend Brendan and I came down by train from Milan. In ways the ancient heart of this maritime city does not seem to have changed since the Republic of Genoa (1005-1797) was a major sea power - its dark narrow streets populated with prostitutes, fish sellers, cheap goods and shady characters have a medieval air. This is where our hotel the beautiful Palazzo Morali is, almost under the big ugly flyover. However just up from the seedy old quarter the commercial and UNESCO city amazingly opens up. Its easy to explore and small enough to navigate on foot. There are good views of the city from the roof of Palazzo Rosso. Most impressive of the Palazzi dei Rolli has to be the Palazzo Reale in Via Balbi, its Mirror Gallery and royal rooms are spectacular. The Palazzo belonged to the House of Savoy, leaders of Italian unification and only monarchs of unified Italy until their abolition in 1946 when the republic was declared. The following day we left by train for Monaco.
2013-10-16 - Arrived from Bordeaux by train. Highlights include catherdal, botanic gardens and Musee des Beaux Arts area. Do visit the Musee, it is an excellent example of a small city museum with collection painted Limoges enamels spanning six centuaries, fine arts, Egyptian antiquities and 2000 year history of Limoges. The vieux ville is small and, to me, disappointing. Of interest may be the Eglise Saint Michel des Lions which was redesignated a Temple of Reason during the French Revolution. Big thanks to tourist office who kept my backpack while I went walkabout. Caught the early afternoon autocar (sncf bus) to Clermont Ferrand.
2012-11-25 - Passed through on way from Gauteng to Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Two months earlier drove up through Limpopo and through Rhodesia/Zimbabwe with friends to visit Victoria Falls. This time had left Virginia, Orange Free State and hitchhiked from Johannesburg and Pretoria right up through Limpopo/Transvaal province to cross into Zimbabwe at Beitbridge. Most remarkable sight on the road has to be the Boabab forests in the north.
2017-06-08 - The marsrukta from Tambov to Lipetsk officially takes 16 however I counted 24 squeezed in. On the journey some get off and others get on. One lady brings on a bucket of eggs which I guard under my seat. At our destination this same lady makes sure I get correct local bus connection to train station to deposit backpack. Lipetsk is a proud city of monuments, fountains and public spaces. Walk to Revolution Plaza, Lenin Monument at Oblast HQ., and past Christ Cathedral to Regional Art Gallery which itself is impressive with a surprising range modern and contemporary art pieces. In afternoon board train. Happiest time of this day. The train sways along in the warm spring weather. Three hours sleeping and catching up on Anna Karenina and Vronsky's developing infatuation. Mouthwateringly well written, thats why its a classic. Reach Voronozh early evening. Some observations thus far - the cities are clean; the cities are safe; transport is extensive, good and relatively inexpensive. Google maps is a great addition to travel planning and as an on the spot locator.
2015-09-23 - Vilnius. After 3 days in Minsk coming to this EU city was a return to a misplaced tolerance for antisocial behaviour-drunks, graffiti, litter. The head cold I had picked up on the Polish-Kaliningrad border was really beginning to kick in, so patience was at a low ebb. Two things impressed me 1. the Miricle tile- stand on the Miricle tile, between the cathedral and the bell tower, turn three times and make a wish- according to locals it should come true. Equally interesting is that this marks the southern end of the Vilnius-Tallinn human chain in the 1989 protest against the Soviet Union occupation of the Baltic states. Speaking to a participant he said two million people held hands across 690 km linking the three Baltic capitals. This was not only a great feat of organisation, it sent a powerful message to the Soviets. Independence was restored seven months later in March 1990, ending 50 bad years of Soviet and German occupation. Being a Monday the Museum of Modern Art was closed. However I was able to walk through the wonderfully named early 16th century Gates of Dawn on the edge of the old town. For many in Lithuania and Poland this has religious connotations, the gates contain religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travellers. Being a second half of the twentieth century person my connection is the Pink Floyd album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)- Interstellar Overdrive anyone. Left following morning by bus to Riga.
2013-10-16 - Before I left on this trip access to Llivia from Andorra was my greatest worry. As it turned out the 8am bus from Andorra to La Seu D Urgell connected directly to the bus to Llivia, happy days. Arrived about 10am and left on Barcelona bus at 1.15pm. Walked around town twice taking photos. It was cold so was glad to repair to Hotel L Esquirol for coffee and friendly chat. All told a pleasant short stay in an unlikely European location.
2012-11-13 - My friend Brendan and I flew into Bergamo and bus to Milan for overnight stay in centre. City centre now home to people sleeping out on pavements and outside main train station. Cannot understand why city authorities allow this, I am sure city business people not best pleased. I go up to Campione d Italia in afternoon. Next day take train to Genoa. Three days later arrive back in Milan to visit Turin and then catch flight home. April 2009- My family and I flew in from Dublin to Milan over the Easter week. We stayed in Novotel Nord Ca Granda, 5km tram ride from city centre. Milan, pop. 1.35 million, 2nd largest city Italy and 5th in EU. Main industrial, commercial and financial centre of Italy and a world fashion capital with giants Prada, Valentino, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Missoni, Moschino. No we didnt go mad. Made it to top of the Doumo, fourth largest cathedral in world, and Santa Maria delle Grazie,(UNESCO World Heritage), with the Leonardo da Vinci fresco(no foto)The Last Supper. Just had to take tour of the San Sera Stadium, home to A.C. Milan and Inter Milan.
2013-03-19 - Arrived in Nancy by TGV from Reims. Really liked Nancys UNESCO heart. Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière and Place d Alliance were built 1752 - 1756. These three squares are outstanding urban spaces especially Place Stanislas, both by day and night. Being February the squares were largely empty allowing the visitor to fully experience the scale of the monumental buildings,ironwork and fountains. Top off the Place Stanislas experience with a visit to the Musee des Beaux-Arts to see works by Caravaggio, Rubens, Claude Monet, Signac, Modigliani, Picasso, and Raoul Dufy among others. A great feature of French museums is that they allow you to take photos of the exhibits, pas de flash of course. Have fun. Following day took train to Luxembourg.
2012-10-01 - Swiss location 21. We drove in from our overnight stop in Zug. As we were heading to south Switzerland we made a stop in the village of Root for photographic evidence of our canton visit. Then drove on to Lucerne centre. Stopped to walk around and visit one of the fine hotels. Tourism is big business in this city of central Switzerland.
2016-08-02 - My wife and I arrived on old ferry boat Oldenburg from Ilfracombe, Devon. The island is a granite outcrop measuring 3.5 miles by 0.5 mile. It is 12 miles off the North Devon coast. It rises to 400ft above sea level. The excellent circular coastal path comes into view soon after leaving the harbour. We walked the stunning coast as far as the old quarry and then took an ancient road to the centre of the island. Long haired highland cattle, ponies and sheep live on the top of the island. We made our way to the Old Lighthouse, no longer used. It was decommissioned over 100 years ago because being situated at the islands highest point its light was easily obscured by fog and cloud. The island has two other working lighthouses, 3.5 miles apart, powered by solar energy. In the afternoon we returned to Ilfracombe. This harbour entrance has the unforgettable 20 metre (66 ft) tall Verity, a stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst.
2013-03-03 - It was 40 years almost to the day that I arrived back in Luxembourg. In 1973 set out from London for Bechtesgaden(Bavaria). Hitchhiked through Belgium but slow lifts, snow and cold forced me onto train at Namur for Luxembourg. Spent night at Youth Hostel under high arches of bridge over Alzette river. Next day went on my way into Germany, down to the Bodensee/ Lake Constance, across Switzerland to Andorra and deep into Austria before turning north to Bavaria.
This time, 2013, arrived by train from Lorraine (Nancy) en route to Saarland. The highlights of this 5 hour stopover were the Jean Cocteau exhibition in the Cercle Municipal, Place d\' Armes in the UNESCO designated city centre, a visit to the I.M. Pei (of Louvre Pyramid fame) designed Museum of Modern Art / MUDAM at the Place de L\'Europe and the walk along the Chemin de la Corniche with its great views of the meandering Alzette, Grund and the Rham areas.
Left by bus for Saarbrucken in the afternoon.
2017-07-24 - What better after a family wedding near Lisbon than 10 days travels in Madeira and Azores. Discovered by Portuguese 1419, Madeira first reached by the MTP Britttons 2017, almost 600 years later. Our stay was supposed to be poolside, but with so much on offer we burned candle at both ends. Highlights have to be amazing Charles Lloyd Quartet with Bill Frizell around midnight in Parque Santa Caterina, hiking wild Ponta de Sao Lourenco peninsula, taking it all in at the contemporary Nini Andrade Silva Design Centre, the truly special Jardim Tropical Monte Palace, wanting more in the Oscar Niemeyer designed Pestana Casino Park Hotel and morning coffee at Golden Gate Grand Cafe with a later red snapper dinner perched high above the sleeping Atlantic. We will be back. Thanks to MTP for introducing us to this great island.
2012-11-07 - Its hot in Madrid during July. We flew down from Dublin to stay five days in the city, based in the Novotel Puente de La Paz. Madrid is third-largest city in the EU with a pop. of 3.3 million. Highlights for us included seeing Guernica at the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia and of course overdosing on art at The Museo del Prado. Buen Retiro Park is nearby and on a Sunday it is full of people and improvised music. The Palacio Real is the official residence of Juan Carlos 1, used only for state occasions and makes for a great visit. Of course we could not miss seeing Real Madrids home, the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
On way back to Dublin from Extramadura in February 2015 stopped in Madrid for 6 hours. Spent most time in Museo Thyssen Bornemiza near the Prado.They had an exhibition by Roual Dufy. Not really a fan although his French Riveria paintings are eye catching in an immature way. The museums big draw for me was the extensive modern art section. I was a bit like a child in a sweet shop. Later walked up to Puerta del Sol.
2017-01-05 - My friend Brendan and I landed in Mumbai from Abu Dhabi. Try to avoid changing money at Mumbai airport, its a rip off, by my calculation the exchange booth took 9%. Our first visit to this city and what an introduction to modern India. Stayed in Colaba, Gordon House Hotel. Best restaurant in area Delhi Darbar, three minutes from hotel. Spent most of our three days in south of city except for half day tour of Dharavi slum- an unforgettable walking journey through industry, creativity, hope, poverty and environmental hell. I will never forget the upsetting sight of the wide slow moving Mithi River with its deep grey filth, sludge and naked pollution from the city flowing past the edge of the slum into the Arabian Sea.
Taj Palace Hotel very welcoming, great place to sit and relax. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Churchgate both amazing train stations. National Gallery Modern Art very disappointing. It had an exhibition from Germany entitled ~Interior Design as a Contemporary Art Medium~. What a load of rubbish for such a prestigious location.
Flew out to Goa.
2018-06-10 - My wife and I came into the Pine Tree State from North Conway, New Hampshire. Drove down the 63 miles to Portland. We had high hopes for an enjoyable time in the city. Its Museum of Art was closed, probably because it was Monday. The Wadsworth Longfellow House however was open and we were greatly impressed by this 1786 built family home and the warmth and knowledge of the volunteer guides. While I knew he wrote the Song of Hiawatha it was The Village Blacksmith that we learned at school in Ireland. Later walked through downtown and the Old Port area finishing in Davids restaurant on Monument Square. Next day drive down to Kennebunkport to see the Bush compound, the summer home of George H. Bush and family. The closest one can get is to see it from across Sandy Cove just outside the town. Barbara Bush had passed away the week before we arrived. Drive on to Massachusetts.
2015-10-13 - I wont forget Malawi in a hurry- President Banda had me taken off the train at Nsanje to have my hair cut. I was absolutely flabbergasted when immigration came onto the train, looked at me and indicated I should follow them. Shortly an English VSO appeared and explained the ruling that no one was allowed to have shoulder length hair. This is the style of half the western male population but the law here wasnt having any of it- no western degeneracy ! Of course while my new friend is busy making my hair suitable for the Malawian authorities the train toots and takes off. Stranded in Nsanje. Next day hitch hike up to the escarpment and on to Blantyre. Along the road side are big posters quoting the President extolling the virtues of the verdant countryside as he drives from Blantyre to Zomba or Lilongwe. Blantyre for a few days and on up to Monkey Bay and ferry, MV llala, to Nkata Bay. Find space on deck between mountain of baggage, bicycles, caged animals, household goods in all shapes and sizes and their relaxed owners. We all eat and sleep on deck and the ferry chugs between terminals up the lake. Next day disembark at Nkata Bay. Travel inland to Mzuzu to stay in VSO house. My contacts gone, out in bush. After two days move on by road to Karonga and Chipita on Zambian border. Eight years later at a university class in Enniskillen meet the VSO from Mzuzu, Ian.
2014-04-12 - Flew in from Belfast. Stayed Sliema across the bay from Valletta. Malta is probably one of the few European winter sun destinations available to northern Europeans-Canary Islands and Cyprus being the others. Island has a number really interesting UNESCO sites- Valletta the capital, magnificent underground burial site at Hal Saflieni Hypogeum ( 3600-2400BC),and a number of free standing temples especially Mnajdra beautifully overlooking the south coast. MTP people should not miss probably one of the most beautiful churches in the world- the magnificent St. Johns Co-Cathedral in Valletta. It is the church of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta whose headquarters is in Rome. I want to mention the kindness of some of the people I met especially Charlie who went out of his way to show me the Blue Grotto and the adjacent temples.
2014-12-07 - The best time to see Urbino is early in the morning before people start moving around to work and college. There is a walk along the top of the defense walls with views across the mist filled valleys, rising steadily to the high Appenines. As the sun burns off the mist beautiful Italian Cypress trees (Cupressus Sempervirens Pyramidalis) emerge to complete a classical landscape. And that is how it should be for Urbino is an incredibly intact Renaissance town, UNESCO listed. Home to the humanist Duke of Urbino and Raphael, painter and architect of the High Renaissance. Raphaels work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. The town is rightly proud of its painter son. His birth place, close to the centre, is now a museum and a large statue of the painter looks down toward his home from Piazzale Roma. Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, nicknamed -the Light of Italy- is a key figure in the history of the Renaissance for his contributions to enlightened culture. He made his money as a Condottiero/leader of a mercenary army contracted by the Italian city-states and the Papacy. He used this wealth to build up Urbino. He also imposed justice and stability on his tiny state through the principles of his humanist education, all citizens, regardless of rank, were equal under the law. His academic interests were the classics, particularly history and philosophy; he put together the most comprehensive library outside of the Vatican. He supported the development of fine artists, including the early training of the young painter Raphael. He also left us the sublime Palazzo Ducale which now houses the Galleria Nazionale della Marche and the Museo Archeologico. So much culture in so small a place. Arrived by bus from Perugia, after two nights left by bus to Pesaro and train along the Adriatic to Pescara.
2018-06-11 - Per head of population Baltimore is the 21 st most murderous city on the planet in 2018. How did it get to this ? The city has so many advantages - proximity to DC, excellent commuter links, its port is in the US top 10 by trade value and it has over 25 million visitors annually. Add in the renowned John Hopkins University and unemployment rate of 5.6%. Most of the world would give a right arm for a fraction of the advantages this city has. Baltimore should be a safe prosperous city. I was warned more than once to stay in the Inner Harbour area. Anyway headed up to elegant Mount Vernon to climb Washington Monument, visit the Walters Art Museum nearby for its superb Asian and Renaissance collection and see something of the Peabody Institute. The Inner Harbour has plenty to divert, great views from the top of the Baltimore World Trade Center. Used BWI Airport as a base for 5 days to also visit DC and Arlington. Left for Wilmington, Delaware.
2018-06-07 - Had two bites of this state on New England tour. Came in from Rhode Island and drove along busy Massachusetts Turnpike en route to Mass MoCA, North Adams. The collection of modern and contemporary art is wide ranging with pieces by such exponents as Sol Lewitt, Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys. Somehow though it fails to fully satisfy. The Berkshires country side still has its winter bareness and is uninteresting to us. After arcing through the three states above Massachusetts re enter from Maine to Lowell to pay homage at the graveside of Jack Kerouac. I am not alone in being greatly inspired by his writing and travels, it seemed right to acknowledge his influence. Returned rental car and took to feet and city transport for three days enjoying beautiful Boston. The city is a special place for Irish people, many made their home there over the past 170 years and of course there is the Kennedy connection. The highlights include the waterfront Institute of Contemporary Art, the brilliant Museum of Fine Arts and the house where Jack Kennedy spent his early years. Sipping long cool drink at the Top of the Hub and watching the sea mist roll in over the city. Later down to Cheers for more refreshment. A day spent around Harvard University and its associated art museums passed too quickly. The city looked and felt good in the Spring warmth. Boston is one of my favourite east coast cities alongside NYC and DC. Took bus down to T G Green Airport, Rhode Island. My wife flew back to Dublin, I flew to BWI Airport for more travels in the Capital Region.
2012-09-22 - Visit was the last of a five location MTP trip to north Germany. Took train out from Hamburg (25 euro return) on 7 Aug. to Schwerin, state capitol. Very small city, highlight of which is the beautiful Schweriner Schloss which houses state parliament and adjacent to it the Schweriner See ( Lake). By all means go into the schloss and see art collection, however the real gem is the building itself. It is best seen from across the lake, and if you are lucky, in shifting sunlight accentuating its golden hues. Also by the lake is an amazingly tall pergola, in reality modernist art- go see it.
The Dom in the city centre is not worth the climb, go straight to the schloss instead. Took the train back to Hamburg in the afternoon.
2015-02-28 - This location was the start of a six location trip also taking in Morocco, Ceuta, Andalusia, Extramadura and Madrid. Flew in from Dublin via Malaga. Immediately encountered the kindness of local family who brought me from airport to my hotel. Every MTP location has its special charm and often the traveller has to search for it. On the afternoon walked the streets around the Plaza Espana, looked at the Modernismo architecture as they tell you to, but this, as important as it is locally, didnt do it for me. Headed into Melilla la Vieja. Interesting fortified old town. The February sky was starting to get low and heavy and was about to call it a day near the top of the fortress when spied a sign for the Museo Ibanez- collecion de arte espanol moderno y contemporaneo. Went in. A relatively small collection spread over three floors of paintings, drawings and sculpture mostly by local artists, but included two drawings by Picasso and a Dali. The quality of the local pieces displayed in the fortress setting would put the offerings of larger cities in the shade. I had found my Melilla. Next morning took bus to frontier and walked out into Africa proper.
2017-12-22 - Long bus ride down from Morelia, over 4 hours. It was comfortable enough, but couldn't sleep properly. Hotel in Plaza de la Republica is clean and modern, however for some unfathomable reason there is no heating in the place. Temperature range is 7-23 centigrade over 24 hour period. So for me night time is cold. I later discover this lack of heating is a common enough problem in hotels. Next morning up late after 12 hour sleep- the effect of medication for flu I suppose. Wife phones.... problems at home. Afraid I respond rather badly, she gets upset, then I get upset and it dogs the better part of the day. Take bus tour around part of city. It was ok and helps with orientation. The historic part of city seems a bit dingy, selling cheap goods, low rent. The newer shinier parts more to my liking. This is the opposite of most of the cities I have been to where the historic centre takes pride of place and as one moves away from it the locations become less appealing. Very many police, including riot police plus private security people around. Should give some reassurance on safety, although as yet have not felt uncomfortable. Buy metro tickets and take metro back to hotel. It was rather easy. City is my base for day trips out to Teotihuacan and Tula.
2017-12-23 - Teotihuacan, 'The place where men become Gods' to give it its Aztec name. Head out from CDMX at 0650 with Amigo Tours and arrive about 0800. Largest pre Hispanic site in Mexico. At its height Teotihuacan is believed to have been the greatest city in the western hemisphere with a population estimated at 125,000. In world terms it would have been the sixth biggest city at that time. The rise and fall of this great civilisation occurred more or less at the same time as the Roman Empire, 200BC-550AD. This is a UNESCO site, dominated by the massive Piramide del Sol and nearly as large Piramide de la Luna. From high up on the Piramide de la Luna the view over the plaza down below and way out along the line of the calzada de los Muertos is arguably the best of its kind in Central America. Afternoon return to CDMX. Next day make day trip by bus from Norte out to Tula, Hidalgo.
2017-12-22 - Early bus from Guadalajara, Jalisco. I like Mexican bus stations. So far all modern, clean and with plenty security. For todays journey we had full baggage and body search. Haven't seen this level of scrutiny since leaving Mexico city airport. In Morelia buy taxi ticket inside bus station. Stay Hotel Casino, opposite Plaza de Armas and Cathedral. The centre of Morelia is UNESCO listed due to its 16th century urban planning and the quality of its 200 historic buildings. There is no doubt this is an attractive and historical city centre - a blend of the medieval spirit with renaissance, baroque and neo classical elements. All of this transported from Europe 5,000miles/8000km away to Central America. Its shows the wealth that existed here and the almost complete dominance of an alien culture. While this is de facto the real Mexico it is not reflective of indigenous Mexico. Walk out along aqueduct to find Museo de Arte Contemporaneo; interesting if small collection. Saturday night in city centre is full of street family entertainment and pleasant enough. Next day board bus to CDMX, Mexico City.
2013-10-16 - Came over by train from Carcassonne to Toulouse. Liked this working city,4th largest in France - makes its money from industry, education and research- centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, EADS, ATR and the Aerospace Valley. Went on tour of Airbus 380 assembly hangers. These monsters can seat 525- 850 people, have a range of 15,700km, eg.New York to Hong Kong, and a cruising speed of 900 kmh/ 560 mph. They can assemble a plane in 8 days from parts brought in from Germany, Spain, England and locally. For sale to you at 400 million euro (the engines alone cost 130 million).
The city also has Oncopole de Toulouse, the largest cancer research centre in Europe. The Université de Toulouse is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229). It has 119,000 students and is the third-largest campus in France. Next stop Andorra.
2016-03-24 - Came in from Parana State, Brazil. Border formalities easy. Stay four nights in Iguazu in hostel I would rather forget. Another case of glossy image, reasonable price, rotten room. Highlight must be the Falls. They are breathtaking. Cant recall when I have seen nature so exhilarating, powerful and beautiful. I will come back to the Falls again. Finished reading Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F.—"After Ford"—in the book). The novel sees advances in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and social conditioning that combine to change society in a profound way. This new world is both welcome and scary in equal measure. Soma anyone ! Anyway this is the last stop on my three week 14 location tour of Argentina. In total travelled 3,500km by bus from BAires in a wide arc across the Pampas, stopping in the cities on the Parana River as it comes powering down through Argentina.Then pick up the Paraguay River above Resistencia and follow it to Asuncion. Cross Paraguay to Parana State, Brazil and back to Misiones. Great journey, many memorable people. Best bits must be BAires, provincial fine art - history museums, palm savanna and Iguazu Falls. On 14 March 2016 fly Iguazu- BAires - Sao Paolo - London - Dublin - home, 40 hours, a lot of time spent waiting on connections.
2017-09-24 - Spent 4 nights in the country. I didn't want to leave when the time came to return to Ireland. I miss the crisp mid September heat, the endless street markets, the quiet sophistication around the Parliament/museums area and the warmth of the people whether in the capital, Tiraspol or Comrat. Arrived in Chisinau by air from Bucharest, 50 minutes, far better than the six hours by bus. Inside arrivals hall a wall of taxi drivers awaits and touting for business. As I don't trust taxi drivers in general opt instead to take minibus from outside to city centre, 3 Mleu, 0.15 euro. Check into hotel for 4 night stay. Up on Bulevardul Stefan cel Mare si Sfint visit Arcul de Triumph and Cathedral Nasterea Domnului. It has a very ornate and elaborate interior, and as very often, probably the most exquisite interior in the city. The faithful are making their prayers. One man is on his knees with his forehead touching the floor, motionless, quiet in front of icon. Poignant sight. Next two days travelling out to Gagauzia and Transdneistr. Final day up early and into the sprawling street markets to practice my photography. Afternoon in the Moldovan National Museum of Art. As nearly always the building is a star in its own right. Its interior has a satisfying, relaxing colour scheme - white, greys and the faintest blues from the sky combine to give a special glow to the natural light streaming through the glass panels on the roof. The art is mostly ceramics, busts of stone, bronze and 20th century paintings in various styles. Moldova is special. Thanks to MTP for the experience. I know I would not have been here otherwise - this forgotten corner of Europe..
2014-11-29 - The inland capital of Campobasso was a disappointment. It didnt need to be. The bus station is a gigantic graffiti infested run down tip. The endless graffiti winds its way up the frankly dismal streets towards the center. Yes the centre is old but quiet in a sleepy afternoon sort of way. The city is built around a hill with the oldest part, the Castello Monforte (1460 AD) overlooking the town. Moving down the hill you meet the medieval remains then the 18-19th century streets. At the base- Campobasso, low field- is the 20th century ugly sprawl. To be honest only the wonderful Museo Sannitico and the fine views of the many hill towns in the foothills of the Apennines from the Castello were of interest. The Museo Sannitico displays beautiful pottery and metal art of the Samnite peoples who inhabited the area from before Roman times. They have the distinction of defeating the Roman army in 321 BC. However they were subjugated in 290 BC and finally ethnically cleansed out by Rome in 82 BC because of their persistent refusal to relinquish their freedom. Arrived from Percara via Termoli, left following day on bus to Rome, three hours away.
2016-05-05 - My friend Brendan and I arrived by train from Genoa. We had not anticipated the sheer extravagance of the place. Initially it was jaw dropping, by day two the obvious wealth and carefully fostered sophistication felt a bit saccharine. Visited some of the sights around the Palace and Port Hercule and took in the views which, to be fair, are impressive. Probably most poignant for me is the tomb of Princess Grace (Kelly) - Gratia Patricia - in the cathedral. The area around the Casino is another experience. It is a feeding frenzy of onlookers, people watchers and visitors in the midst of very conspicuous wealth and high end cars - maserati, porsche, rolls royce, bentley, ferrari, mercedes et al which circle endlessly past. There is no income tax levied on residents. However they pay 19.6% VAT on all purchases which raises over half state revenue. The excellent health, education and social services are paid for by high social insurance levies. The fabled casinos only contributes 3% to state coffers. With the largest police force in the world per capita and per square metre and a 24-hour video surveillance system in place which covers the entire surface area of the Principality it is the safest place in the world. We left by train direct for Milan.
2017-12-22 - Cuernavaca has been called the City of Eternal Spring. It has an annual average temperature of 21 centigrade, nice. Managed the journey from hotel in CDMX by metro to Sur, bus to Cuernavaca and hotel by 1200. Hotel Canarios is an attractive spa hotel, wish I could stay longer. The highlight of stay in city is visit to Robert Brady home and museum. Beautifully laid out (it was originally a 16th century convent) and a showcase for his art and life. Later dined in Los Arcos, Plaza de Armas, with a trio of Californians. Cuernavaca is where novel 'Under the Volcano' by Malcolm Lowry is set. This book has been my travel companion since arriving in Mexico. The story follows the British Consul, an alcoholic, awash with mescal, as he lives out his last day. Visit Taxco, Guerrero on day trip. After two days departure for Puebla.
2012-11-20 - In July 1987 came down from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, train to Rabat and Marrakesh and bus to Zagora. Travelled with Mike(US) and Pete(Aussi) friends had met in Marbella YHA. A number of things stand out from that trip- the fun we had every day, the aggressive hustlers in Tangier and Marrakesh, the electric atmosphere in Jemaa el Fnaa after sunset, strange happenings in Ourzazate, Zagora on the edge of the Sahara (55 days to Timbuktu)and the heart stopping mad bus journey back over the Atlas back to Marrakesh. In January 2008 my friend Seamus and I flew down to Agadir for a week. This was my second trip to Morocco.This trip brought us out into the beautiful rural southern Atlas of Tiznit, Tafraute and Taroudant. Later by bus to unforgettable Marrakesh for two days and back via the Hendrix hideout at Essaouira to Agadir.
In February 2015 crossed over from Melilla at 8am before arrival of Spanish ferry traffic. No holdup at border, fill out Moroccan form, get passport stamp and walk through. At roundabout turn right for shared taxis. Fifty dirhams got a seat to Nador CTM bus station and 10 hour trip across top of Morocco and over Rif to Tetuoan (135 dirhams). It was a long day from sea level to the snow on top of Rif and down again into Tetuoan. Hustlers waiting at Tetuoan bus station. Maybe because it was late they gave up after a few tries and I walked easily to hotel nearby. A big attraction in Tetuoan is the Medina, a UNESCO world heritage site.Tourist office could arrange guide, 200 dirhams for day, but advised not especially needed. Wandered through in morning from Royal Palace and Bab Ruah gate-quiet mostly, no particular buzz, no hustlers. Would have liked to explore city more but had to take shared, and speed limit busting, taxi ride to Ceuta border at midday. Small friendly queue at Moroccan frontier post, helpful officials and walking into Ceuta in no time.
Returned August 2016 with son, brother and his son to climb Mount Toubkal in High Atlas range. Highest mountain in Atlas range. After some acclimatising in Imlil (recommend Riad Atlas Prestige) we hiked six hours to refuge (3200 metres). Overnight in refuge started at 06.30 and made summit (4200 metres) by 0930. Views over endless ranges to Sahara. Descending took longer, treacherous fine scree underfoot. Then long trek down to Imlil. On this day we hiked a total of 13 hours. Great physical adventure and Berber cultural exposure. Finally two days recuperating in Marrakech.
2017-06-04 - I think about the opening lines of Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) "All families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" as my flight from Dublin via London comes in to land at Domodedovo. This is my first trip to Russia proper and I am anxious. My aim is to cover 18 MTP locations in three weeks. Have been planning this trip for months. Will it unfold according to plan? Biggest challenge initially is finding my way on the metro. I could get to the correct line but then not sure which platform side to go to. Learned to memorise Russian spelling of an easy station going my direction and use that as platform locator. Anyway sometimes had to ask people and they are unfailingly helpful even when they they have little or no English. "I hope you have a pleasure today" said one woman as we parted near the platform. The weather is cold with snow and rain. St. Basil's, Red Square, is much more visually interesting from the outside than inside. To keep warm hop into State Historical Museum. Interesting exhibits from all over Russia. Especially interesting are those from antiquity e.g.. stone disc with image of Sun God, 1300 BC, Khakassia, southern Siberia and "Rider on a Ram", 900 BC, Coban Culture, north Caucasus. Brings it home what a vast and culturally rich territory Russia is. Lenin's Rolls Royce on display near exit. Continuing on theme of keeping warm and dry walk to Puskin State Museum of Fine Arts. Beautiful Impressionist, Modernist, Renaissance and Dutch masters. The ancient Egyptian collection and Priam's treasure gold hoard allegedly recovered from ancient Troy are impressive. Over two more days visit Novodevichy Convent, Tolstoy House Museum, Gallery of 19th-20th Centuary Art, Moscow Museum Modern Art, Kremlin and Lenin's Mausoleum. Unexpectedly powerful experience to be able to look on the body of this icon of Russian Revolution. Whether or not one understood or agreed with his political action he was a high presence for a large part of 20th centuary politics. I thought Moscow would be a dry post Soviet sort of place. To my surprise it is a fully functioning modern European capital city with history, glitz, glamour and power. It has symbols on buildings and elsewhere of its Soviet heritage- hammer and sickle, Lenin, but its people seem to have embraced up to date consumerism with flash cars, mobile phones and torn jeans. Towards the end of my three week trip arrived back from Smolensk.Had been in contact with Cam Bethwaite, MTP Russia, prior to visit and arranged to meet him in a kalyannaya. We had a very pleasant evening sharing a hookah and reminiscing about, what else, travel. His travel is genuinely impressive and he embodies something of the adventurer of old together with more than a dash of modern derring-do. Walking home through the modernist neon of Novel Arbat on a late Spring evening is a bit of magic.
2017-06-05 - Bit of a palaver getting ticket at Yaroslavl station, Moscow. Queued forever at wrong KACCE window. Eventually get 0935 commuter train to Sergiev Posad. The UNESCO Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is stunning. "...it is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architectures finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of eastern Europe" (UNESCO). I enjoyed a very pleasant morning and afternoon in spite of the hoards of tourists- but who can blame them for coming- it is a must see. On the way back my train very delayed. There had been a violent storm in Moscow area and a number of people killed. Rail services disrupted due to falling trees. Authorities had to cope with difficult situation. The visit today marks the last of my planned 18 locations on this trip. It has been a great experience and changed my perception of Russia. I shall return next year on the MTP journey.
2016-10-28 - The bus leaves Thessaloniki in the dark at 0600. After three hours we reach Ouranoupoli. Diamonitirion, visa, costs euro 35. They only issue ten per day to non orthodox pilgrims. Ferry cuts steadily through the blue waters of Halkidiki calling in at each monastery on the way. I get off at Xenophontos, founded 1070. I felt such an outsider, no language, little affinity with Orthodox religion and monastic life. Luckily lodged in room with 3 Athenian men who spoke english and became friends. Now I was able to know when to go to prayers and ceremonies. Especially memorable are the services. The 0500 service lasts two hours, in candlelight and, I am told, conducted in a classical Greek. Constant homage to the icons and the words Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy) permeate the worship. Monks come and go throughout the ceremony, we pilgrims stand or sit throughout. There are three sections in the church, two we can enter. The third, a holy of holies, is forbidden to lay people. After the service we have our cold breakfast. A monk reads from scripture while we eat in silence. At the sound of a bell the meal ends. Six monks, three either side facing each other, line up at the exit to the dining hall as we depart. We are led out by the 'grandfather' or head priest followed by the other monks and then us pilgrims past the deeply bowing monks. Its touching and humbling to have monks bowing as we depart, but I can't help wondering what they are thinking about us. My three friends, two pilots and a banker, tell a now familiar story of loss of jobs and cut after cut to their state supports. Next morning depart on ferry again to Dafni where I board a smaller ferry to Dionysiou. This wonderful monastery also looks out over the beautiful sea. The ceremonies are rooted in antiquity. The monks, in their long beards and monastic gowns, read the sacred scripture by candlelight surrounded by fresco covered walls in highly ornamented church buildings. Its a privilege to be able to be in the intimate proximity of such deep historical, spiritual and culturally important surroundings and to share in ancient ceremonies. Get a warm welcome from the Prior. Later back to Ouranoupoli and Thessaloniki. Fly home via Amsterdam following day. As women cannot enter Mount Athos, MTP should allow women a free pass on this location.
2015-10-13 - Crossed in from Umtali/Mutare to Beira for a Christmas on the beach. Peter Niblett and his girlfriend Lois drove us down from Salisbury/Harare. Camped on Macuti Beach. The crabs- every evening hundreds, nay thousands of crabs would come in from the sea and scuttle over the beach past astonished and not a little uneasy people like me sitting on the sand. I have no idea what they were doing or why they were crossing the sand. Two days after Christmas at Beira train station said goodbye to my friends from Bulawayo - for ever as it turned out, we never met again. Last I heard Peter had taken up an appointment in Brazil. As the train pulled out I envied their return to life in a safe work and home environment. Part of me felt unsure, vulnerable, leaving a structure and certainty I had known for 12 months. Inside me is also a lightness, a joy at setting out to see some of this great continent of Africa without carrying a daily burden of responsibility for some part of it. The steam engine pulled the train up country. I was in a third class coach. The other passengers were surprised to say the least, pointing out that white people should not be on those wooden benches in that class, that we could afford to travel in a more comfortable coach ! True but I was on a journey that stretched from Cape Town to Cairo and my finances had to stretch just as far. Anyway we travelled on, stopping to have a feast of mangoes on the side of the track as we waited at a siding for a train to pass. We crossed the Zambesi at Villa da Senna. Eventually reached Malawi border and left Portuguese East Africa on 27 December 1972.
2011-12-09 - Visit to Murcia was a bit on short side. Arrived by car from Elche. Highlights were - countryside around Fortuna, Monteagudo castle and its 'Christ the Redeemer' type statue which dominates the area and the views of the Murcia plain from high ground above Algezares. Travelling in November meant experiencing some pretty heavy downpours but when the cloud cleared the temperature at about 20 centigrade was perfect for being out and about.
2012-11-05 - Last stop on 7 province trip around NW Spain. Arrived on bus from Logrono, La Rioja. Stayed in Hotel Eslava, in historic centre. Great location, ask for 4-5 floor for best city views. In the contemporary imagination Pamplona is all about San Fermin/Bull Run and Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises). I was able, like so many visitors, to retrace the route of the Bull Run from Santo Domingo to the bullring where what must be the saddest spectacle in entertainment/sport takes place, the ritual killing of the main participants. Cafe Iruna did not disappoint and a relaxed time was spent soaking up the atmosphere and spotting at least one Hemingway lookalike. On this trip I have begun to appreciate the quality of city/Spanish evening life. It seems large sections of the population come out between 6-9pm to walk, see and be seen and have something to eat or drink. This quite different from the way we live in Ireland, maybe its a climate thing. After two days took bus back to Bilbao and flight home.
2012-11-06 - First part of a family trip which will also take in North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. We flew in from Dublin to Amsterdam and made our way to our holiday destination on the coast at Wassenaar between Leiden and Den Haag. The resort was just about ok, it was probably better suited to a younger age group than our teens. However we used it as a base to explore Leiden, an exceptionally beautiful town, Den Haag, the political capital, and especially Amsterdam, everyones favourite. The Dutch national football team arrived home to a big excited reception during our visit to the city- we never saw so much happy orange! Cycling is big here, all age groups use cycles as an everyday form of transport and one has to ask why cycling is so little used across most of Europe, especially in places with what would be regarded as having a better climate.
2012-09-26 - Swiss location 4. This is my MTP 100 location. Drove up from Friborg canton on our epic Swiss journey to the town of Le Landeron in the canton of Neuchatel. It is a residential community with numerous, especially in the microtechnology industry, specialized small businesses and has the second-largest wine growing region in the canton. We spent some time walking through the well presented center of the old town.
2017-11-10 - We, my wife and I, came in from Utah on Interstate 15. At one time as we neared LV sandwiched between two massive trucks as the three of us pushed forward at 70mph- white knuckle time. Thanks to our sat nav made hotel Downtown Grand easily. Didn't care too much for downtown. First impression of Freemont Experience is jaw dropping. Reality sets in on second visit - it is a noisy, boozy, cheap sex and licensed hustler enclosed stretch. There is obviously a market for that. The Strip has similarities but on a higher and more sophisticated level. We liked the Strip, the colour, architecture, shops, entertainment possibilities, big casino names and the transport links to and from our hotel. Its easy to be immersed in this part of town and not feel like you are doing a bad thing. Adult Disneyland. After three nights headed west to California and Death Valley. Previous visit 1990 with cousin Elizabeth when we drove in from San Diego for a wedding and afterwards on to San Francisco via Yosemite.
2018-06-08 - Live Free or Die, great state motto. Came in on interstate 93 from Vermont. At Lincoln took a left onto Hwy 112, the Kancamagus Hwy, through the White Mountain National Forest to North Conway, our overnight stop. Plenty shopping outlets here, however the scenic original village is still to be seen clustered near the old railway station. While my wife went shopping I headed out to hike at Echo Lake and Cathedral Ledge State Parks just on the edge of town. Following day drove on into Maine.
2018-06-17 - May 2018. State motto - Liberty and Prosperity. First visited in 2008 on day trip out from NYC. Now in 2018 came in from Philadelphia on train to the area of Paulus Hook. Stayed at Hyatt in Exchange Place. Great location and easy access via train and ferry to Manhattan plus great views across Hudson. The area I stayed in looks like it is becoming an extension of Manhattan, which is interesting in some ways. Left for home through New York/ Stewart International.
2012-10-06 - May 2018 is my third visit to NYC. Staying in Jersey City beside Exchange Place train station on the Hudson opposite World Trade Centre. Great views Lower Manhattan and Hudson. This trip took the greater part of two days. It was a retrace of many of the places seen in 2008, although some had a new significance, for example the 9/11 Memorial, Trump Tower. Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park holds special significance. One million people died of hunger, starvation and disease between 1845-1849. Two million emigrated, many to the USA. New York was an important port of entry. This memorial in its simplicity is strikingly reminiscent of the harsh landscape the people fled from. Each county is remembered in engraved stones located throughout the memorial. In so far as I am aware my family did not loose anyone to the famine although one lady did migrate to Quebec in 1842 just prior to the catastrophe. Flew back to Dublin from Stewart International Airport. March 2008 my son and I were members of local St. Michaels Scout band which took 70 band members and volunteers to NYC for 11 days to take part in St. Patricks Day parade. We assembled in 48h St. and wheeled out into 5th Ave to join parade. The march along 5th Avenue was something people dream about and we were very privileged to be part of probably the only occasion the traffic on 5th Ave. gives way totally to people. The parade took us to Central Park, past the Guggenheim and up to 86th St.
Thanks to friends in high places we were able to stay in Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn. Visited Empire State building, 9/11 site and United Nations.
Second stop in NYC was in July 2008 on our way home from family holiday in Florida. Flew in from Tampa and again stayed in Fort Hamilton. We were able to visit Guggenheim, MoMA, John Lennons Memorial in Central Park, walk the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhatten, take ferry to Statue of Liberty and GreyLine tours of city, shop in China Town, lunch in Little Italy and stare in Times Square. The city leaves you breathless in so many ways.
2012-10-01 - Swiss location 23. Arrived from Obwalden to Stans the capital of Nidwalden. When we arrived a celebration was underway, part of which involved a parade of decorated cows, with traditional bells, through the town centre accompanied by shepards. We spent some time with the parade before moving on to Uri canton.
2012-10-13 - My family and I made a home exchange with a German family. This was our fourth having previously been to Ontario, Queensland and Florida. The great thing about a home exchange is being able to live, if I can describe it as such, like a local. Certainly we had our exchange partners home which is a relaxing way to be abroad, their car and most importantly some of their extended family or friends. This give us the opportunity to have a close relationship with their culture.
Our exchange family lived in the village of Reken, between Essen and Munster and not far from the Dutch border. We visited Essen, Oberhausen, Munster and a few schloss in the area. Perhaps our greatest pleasure though was cycling along the cycle routes around Reken. Also spent a few days in Frankfurt.
JUNE 2014. A three day visit as part of Fermanagh delegation to our twin town of Brackwede to celebrate Bielefelds 800 birthday. Thank you to all the Council people who made our stay so enjoyable including our own Loughted traditional Irish music group and Moybrone Pipe Band. During this trip I read the novel All Quiet on the Western Front (German: Im Westen nichts Neues) by Erich Remarque, a German veteran of World War I from Osnabruck. The book describes the German soldiers extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of them when returning home from the front. The Nazis banned and burned it. Read it be moved by the portrayal of life on the front line.
2011-12-22 - Been working here since 1980 and living here since 1990. Favourite places are Fermanagh county and Giants Causway. If you are coming to Ireland and want any information or advice send me an email.
2014-07-07 - Paula and I flew from Dublin to Oslo for a five day stay. Great city, well run, high standards, cool vibe. Stayed in centre. Especially enjoyed Norwegian people, easy to get along with, all speak excellent English, so much so that some of their tv programme imports are not even subtitled. If you get the chance try to read some Ibsen play while there. I am embarrassed to say I knew very little about Ibsen before arriving therefore reading A Dolls House was a particular pleasure. The play is significant for its critical attitude toward 19th century marriage norms. It was controversial at the time and will still be in many places. Ibsen believed that a woman cannot be herself since it was an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess womens conduct from a masculine standpoint and religion that seeks to control female behaviour. In a broader way the play points to the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person. In Oslo we spent pleasant days visiting the modernist City Hall (Nobel Prize awarded there), adjacent Nobel peace Centre, new waterside developments at Aker Brygge especially the graceful Piano Renzo designed Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art building, the stunning new Opera House, The Scream and other gems at the National Gallery and The University Aula where Munch produced decorative great art work. Oslo should rank in the top tier of European cities for its cool and modern outlook on life.
2012-10-01 - Swiss location 22. Drove down from Lucerne to Alpnach in Obwalden canton, the geographical centre of Switzerland. Within the Swiss Confederation Obwalden is one of six half cantons. It has all the rights and duties of a full canton except that it can only send one deputy to the Council of States, the Upper House of the Federal Assembly.
Stopped in Alpnach, pop. 5500. From Alpnach take the Pilatus Railway, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to top Mount Pilatus (May - November).
2017-06-09 - Had to hurry from hotel to catch 0914 train from Kursk. Oryol didn't exactly light my fire. However one high point - tour of Ivan Bunin Museum given by the delightful Elena. She took me around, in Russian of course, but her manner and care enabled me to understand surprisingly much. Bunin came from aristocratic background, lived 1889-92 Oryol, then St. Petersburg, Paris, Cannes, had three wives, first Russian Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1933). I will put him on my reading list. During this trip I have become so much more aware of Russian culture especially those writers, poets, composers and dancers from its golden period 1800 onwards - literature- Pushkin, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, music- Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, dance- Pavlova, Nijinsky, Nureyev. Very great influences on all of us. In afternoon took train to Tula.
2016-03-24 - I didnt like Asuncion. It was not only the near continuous heavy rain. It was the third world brokenness of the place. The broken pavements, the heaps of rubble, the litter, people sleeping on the city roads, the shanty dwellings right up next the seat of government, the poverty. Throughout the city the dark covering of black subtropical mold on older buildings shouts neglect. The Cabildo with its worthwhile collection of modern art and Guarani culture is in near darkness because of a power failure, the missing panes of glass in the buildings atrium only add to my despondency. The Centro Cultural Manzana de al Rivera is an interesting collection of colonial buildings saved from demolition 25 years ago by architectural students and restored. Apart from office space it is virtually empty of artifacts. There is a big poster from the city authorities inside proclaiming - Trabajamos Para VOS - We Work For You. Nothing could be further from the truth. The city council has failed the people, they should be ashamed of themselves. Crossing the frontier from Formosa, Argentina is surprisingly easy. All formalities are on the Paraguayan side and speedy.The people I meet in the city are just fine and easy. My hotel the Asuncion Palace is perfect, NSA bus company very helpful even showing me where to get the best exchange rates. After two days make the six hour bus journey to Foz do Iguacu via Cuidad del Este. Again border formalities straight forward as we are guided by the bus driver to the respective authorities.
2016-03-24 - I first entered Parana State from Paraguay at Foz do Iguacu on my way to Puerto Iguazu. All the border crossings at this point where the three countries meet are relatively straight forward. I must have crossed these frontiers four times in three days. Foz is a clean modern city and a pleasant surprise after all the environmental neglect in Paraguay. The big attraction here is the falls at Parque Nacional do Iguacu. It is estimated that two million people visit the Falls each year. The entry and journey through the falls landscape is well managed. Not as much to see as on the Argentine side. Waterproofs are useful here, this is the side where the viewing platform goes out into the very heavy spray and updraft from the falls. Being able to get very close to one of the falls and see the massive force of water thundering past on its downward drop into the cauldron below is a thrill. Coati, a little racoon like animal, patrol the tourist route looking for visitors carrying food. They are a pest. Left Foz for Puerto Iguazu, Misiones.
2014-04-13 - Flew out from Catania,Sicily. From the plane the 12km long island sits in a shimmering sea, Africa is on the horizon as we bank left in prep for landing. Walk around the main settlement and you sense a place of contrasts- the beautiful poor island with little or no work for young people, no second level school, no hospital but with six fast coast guard vessels and some naval protection boats. The vast continent just over the horizon places Lampedusa on the people trafficking route into Europe. I was acutely aware of the islands recent history involving the tragic drowning of hundreds of migrants. This is recognised by a plaque in the main church although more attention is given to the Papal visit that followed the sea tragedy. I expected to meet some Africans around the streets- not one to be seen. The following morning I left on the 0630 flight to Palermo, most of the passengers were locals going to school, work or, in one case, hospital.
2018-06-17 - Virtue, liberty and independence. The greatest thing about Philadelphia has to be the Philadelphia Museum of Art . This is not to take away from the historically significant Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (UNESCO), Congress Hall and City Hall. The Museum of Art is simply superb as a collection of art, as a building and as an an extraordinary location with its long views back to the city centre. An afternoon is not enough to take in all the collections treasures. My travelling companion did not care much for the art, this caused friction and he became difficult. We had been together five days by the time we arrived in Philadelphia and a sense of being seperate was brewing. We had known each other for over 35 years and had travelled together successfully before. This time it was not working and I began to wish I was on my own. We were scheduled to be together for four more days. Stayed in Marriott Downtown. Came in by train from Wilmington, Delaware and departed two days later by train to New Jersey.
2010-10-24 - April 2016. My friend Brendan and I take fast train from Milan to Turin for the day. Another beautiful Italian city. From Porta Nuova we walked up Via Roma, through Piazza San Carlo and into Piazza Reale. Tour the Palazzo and the astounding Armeria Reale. Then to see the Turin Shroud alter in the Cathedral. Finally to Piazza Cesare Augusto and the Porta Palatina. Every name oozes history and class. Plenty for one day. Will have to return. Oct. 2010. Through Piedmont en route from Locarno, Switzerland to Brig , Valais. Stopped in Santa Maria Maggiore for refreshments and to visit church of same name. April 2009. My family and I took a bus from Milan to Serravalle Outlet Mall for the shopping experience. All the big Italian designers are here. We enjoyed the faux Italian ambience and the warm sunshine.
2015-09-21 - Gdansk is all about Solidarity. Yes there are old town delights but none can match the critical importance of what happened around the shipyards. Severe repression and State murder in the 1970s led directly to the founding of Solidarity to confront the communist regime. Led by electrician Lech Walesa, Solidarity grew strongly, peacefully confronting State forces and forcing them into negotiations. This led directly to the downfall of the regime in 1989 and, indirectly, the fall, domino style, of all communist regimes in Eastern Europe. On the way into the excellent European Solidarity Centre I passed through what I take to be the atmospheric entrance gates to the old Lenin Shipyard which filled our tv screens in the late 1980s. It was moving to see a modern historic site and a place that had to wait 45 years after the ending of WW2 for its happy ending. In town centre stayed in Apartment Piwna managed by the helpful Stan- even helping me to get Belarus rubles. Aiming to take the ECOLINES bus to Kaliningrad at 0630 I could not find the bus stop. Had an anxious time until I found its departure point from a side street before the train station. Luckily it was 45 minutes late ! I arrived in Gdansk by air from Dublin. This was the start of an eight country loop around the Baltic- Poland, Russia(Kaliningrad), Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden.
2012-05-22 - July 2017 - A return to Lisbon with my wife and two sons for a nieces wedding in Torres Vedras. Being a family event 46 of my extended family made the trip. After the wedding my sons returned home and we travelled on to Madeira and the Azores as part of my MTP. April 2015- Luciano, the receptionist at the Fundacao Saramago in Lisbon really brought Jose Saramago alive for me. He spoke with great passion and affection for the novelist and seemed to have an understanding of his writing that was inspiring and impressive. I was reading Blindness at the time, my choice for this trip to Lisbon with Paula so anything that brought me closer to the great author was to be welcomed. He was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Literature, this in the face of the struggles he had with the Catholic Church and the Portuguese political establishment over their attempts to curtail his creative spirit. As you enter the Fundacao is a hundred year old olive tree transplanted from Saramagos native Ribatejo, some of his ashes are laid beneath it.
The train from Rossio, Lisbon took me to UNESCO Sintra. Of course it was overflowing with tourists however it is possible to find calm and soak up some of the beautiful interior of the National Palace and the mysterious gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira.
Back in Lisbon spent a happy afternoon in the Museu Colecção Berardo, Centro Cultural de Belém. This museum of modern and contemporary art traces the story of the major 20-21st century art movements. The stunning modernist buildings of the Centro Cultural across the road from the Jerónimos Monastery are well worth the visit alone. October 2009- The weather was just perfect, bright sunshine at 20 degrees C, as I came out of the airport in Lisbon after the flight from Dublin for a five day visit to the city. A short bus ride took me to the city centre and my accommodation in the Bairro Alto. In Lisbon every traveller should make a point of paying respects at the tomb of the great adventure traveller Vasco da Gama. He lies inside Jeronimos Monastery (UNESCO), built as a monument to his successful voyage to India in 1497. The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian with its ancient and modern art makes a rewarding visit on an otherwise quiet Sunday in the city. I liked the modern architecture of the Parque das Nacoes, built for the 1998 World Expo. Hire a cycle and tour the area down as far as the beautiful Vasco da Gama Bridge and watch it disappear into the horizon as it crosses the 17 km wide Tagus estuary. The highlight of my visit was the opportunity to meet with Malalai Joya over breakfast. Malalai is an Afghan MP. She had been suspended by the present regime for voicing opposition to the inclusion of warlords and human rights abusers in the Parliament. She was on a tour of Europe to highlight the injustices in her country and to draw attention to the terrible oppression of women there. Malalai Joya is a courageous and inspiring person. July 1992 - my girlfriend (now wife) and I based ourselves in Praia da Oura (Albufeira). We travelled throughout the Algarve from Cape Saint Vincent to Tavira and inland to the Serra de Monchique.
2016-05-04 - April 2016 - My friend Brendan and I stayed in delightful Cap d Ail during our visit to adjacent Monaco. The coastal walk along the Mediterranean past 100 year old villas and into Monte Carlo is probably my highlight of our stay. April 1999 - My wife and I flew into Nice, picked up our hire car and decamped to Hyeres for Easter week. We spent our time between Saint Tropez and Cassis and with visits to Cannes and Vence to see the Chapelle du Rosaire with its stained glass and other religious fittings by Henri Matisse.September 1998- Four of us, Henry, Paul, Larry and myself, were on a cycle journey from Paris to Nice. We cycled 1130km in total over 8.5 days, averaging 133km per day. We entered Provence at Pont Saint Esprit and continued via Aix en Provence, Frejus, and Cannes to Nice. This was the longest cycle journey I ever made. It was tough. I never repeated it. It was months before I could even look at a bike again. Flew back to Dublin from Nice.
2017-12-27 - The journey by taxi from Cuernavaca to the Estrella Ora bus station (Cuanhnahuac) is through 5 km of urban sprawl. Bit of a white knuckle ride but we get there just in time to catch 1000 bus to Puebla, three hours away. Bus takes us past the twin volcanos of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, looking so inviting for long hikes. In Puebla stay in Nueva Luna, great place near zocalo. Visit Cathedral, another masterpiece in Baroque exuberance. Museo Regional de la Revolucion Mexicana explains in detail the Revolution, the first significant event taking place in this building when Aquiles Serdan was killed by pro government (Diaz) forces in 1910. Zapata and Villa are a later part of revolutionary struggle. Remembering that while this was happening in Mexico, 1910-20, Europe was mired in war, 1914-18 and Ireland had its own revolutionary period, 1913-23. Everyone should visit the stunning Museo Amparo with its pre Columbian, modern and contemporary art collections. The views from the roof restaurant are worth the effort alone. Before leaving Puebla made a day trip to Tlaxcala. After two nights took a bus to the airport and the flight home. In total travelled 2620 km by bus and visited 14 locations. Mexico is amazing.
2015-11-11 - After walking across the border from Wagha, Pakistan I was directed by passport control at Attari to meet Indian security people. They quizzed me about my travels in Pakistan and in particular if I had witnessed a political meeting in Multan and knew who the speakers were. Unfortunately for them I knew nothing. Next stop Amritsar, which beautifully translates as Pool of the Nectar of Immortality. Walking through the streets followed the crowds to the Golden Temple complex. Early on shown to a very grey cell like room with nothing but a mat on the floor to sleep on. Joined lines of pilgrims sitting on floor in communal meal area in low hanger like area. First given large green leaf which acted as a plate, then member of feeding team came along and gave each person flat bread and lentils. Suitably refreshed made way into Temple. This is one of those experiences that surely enriches life- the tranquility, beauty, the artificial lake and at its centre a truly Golden Temple. Join the slowly moving queue of women and men to the entrance, receive another leaf with sweet cake remove shoes and enter the temple to the continuous sound of musicians playing and singing hymns. It is mesmerizing and in some way profound. Later go upstairs to sit and listen as the holy book is read aloud, continuously. Amritsar revolves around Golden Temple and devotees throng the streets. It was here I developed a taste for the sweet chai brewed on the streets in big open cauldrons and ladled out for a rupee or two. After two days continue on my journey through Haryana to Delhi.
2012-10-02 - Our trip to Queensland was as a four week home exchange with an Australian couple in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast about 80 miles north of Brisbane. It was the southern winter but for us it was as good weather as we would have during our Irish summer.
Our travels took us up and down the Sunshine Coast from Noosa to Caloundra and inland to Steve Irwins Australia Zoo. We saw him perform a show just 6 weeks before he was killed by a giant manta ray. The beaches along the Sunshine Coast are superb and can recommend the coastal walk from Noosa Heads. Further south Brisbane is worth a visit.
Drove 400km north. On way up called into Hervey Bay and took cruiser out to see migrating whales in Coral Sea. In 1770 joined a fast ferry out to the southern Barrier Reef to snorkel.
The distances are vast and the people welcoming and helpful.
2017-12-15 - This is my first stop on 14 location trip in central Mexico. To get here took bus from Enniskillen to Dublin, plane to London and onward to Mexico city with bus to Queretaro and taxi to city centre. Total time 26 hours. Total cost euro 537. Flight, Aeromexico, good, food v poor, sleep 6 hours. Bus, Primera Plus, modern, clean, executive class, buy tickets at MX. Queretaro taxis regulated, buy ticket inside bus station at booth- city centre, 50 pesos. Hotel evocative old Spanish style, bourganvilla filled open courtyard with rooms opening onto it. Queretaro is UNESCO city. The old colonial center retains the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors beside the twisting alleys of the indigenous sections. City has many ornate civil and religious baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries. Favourite places - Museo Regional de Queretaro which is a beautiful building with fountain filled courtyards, orange and lemon trees, high arched colonnades on two levels and the archeological and historical displays. Teatro de la Republic witnessed history that shaped the country. The court met here that decided the fate of Maximilian 1 in 1867, and, later in 1917 it hosted the gathering that put together the Mexican Constitution. The Templo de Santa Clara has an interior that is delicious extravagance of baroque decoration. Its so over the top its breathtaking. I like this city. At hotel speak with Rosa. She is from Venezuela. Her story is perhaps the story of modern Venezuela. She studied civil engineering at university but the political and economic situation caused the faculty to stop teaching as money ran out and wages went unpaid.She left and went to the Dominican Republic to manage an hotel, then to Columbia and now here to stay with an aunt. Her brothers and sisters are scattered- Spain, Argentina, Columbia. Rosa is now starting over again. A resilient lady. Depart next day to San Miguel de Allende.
2017-01-06 - The RAK bus leaves from Union Square bus station, Dubai. Take taxi from RAK bus station to National Museum. Housed in the former palace of the ruling Al Qasimi family, it has exhibits on natural history, arts and crafts of previous centuries, and archaeology of the area. Nice enough place to explore. One of the exhibits is of a domestic scene. In it the woman is presented wearing traditional dress and a black band over her mouth. Obviously RAK society and the museum curator see nothing distasteful in this show of misogyny. It was hot and appreciated the offer of coffee and discourse on very early history of area in shaded stand outside museum. Later took taxi back to bus station and departed for Umm all Quwain.
2014-03-14 - Flew in via London to Larnica and bus to Nicosia for 3 nights. At least twice a week the tourist office in the old city has free walking tours of the area, take one if you can. Highlight of city for me is State Gallery of Contemporary Art. Beautiful small museum, no big international names, exhibiting modern/contemporary Cypriot artists-one of the best I have seen, I have no hesitation recommending it. The other highlight is the UNESCO site in Pafos whose 3-5th century mosaics are extremely rare and rank among the best examples in the world. These mosaics are found in the Houses of Dionysus, Orpheus, Aion and Theseus. They mainly depict scenes from Greek mythology.
The remains of the villas, palaces, theatres and fortresses are historically important as they are one of the keys to understanding ancient architecture.
2012-04-29 - I was somewhat anxious about visiting Republika Srpska. The atrocities carried out by the Bosnian Serbs and the continuing war crimes trials in The Hague made me fear there could be hostility and anger toward outsiders. This was not evident during my visit to East Sarajevo and Pale.East Sarajevo has a few suburbs of the main city, the best known to travellers is Dobrinja where tram 103 ends and the bus station for greater Srpska is. Lots of new apartment and commercial buildings otherwise remarkable as the nearest point at which Republika Srpska meets Sarajevo. Took bus from main station in Sarajevo to Pale, about 30 minute ride into mountains, for the day. Pale was the seat of the Serb parliament during the war and is the home of Radovan Karadzic\\\'s wife and children. A lot of money has been spent on infrastructure, educational and commercial buildings and there is a discernable buzz as people go about their business. The old single storey parliament building is now a police station.The impression I got from people I spoke with was of anger at the way they, Bosnian Serbs, had been treated by Western Powers, especially the arrest and trial of their leaders when, they say, other ethnic leaders were culpable also. One man, Vladimir,who clears land mines as a seasonal job spoke of the lack of employment opportunities especially as they dont have free access to the EU. They see their future as either joining with Serbia or going independent from the Federation. Finally, one man kept coming over to me and calling Ira, Ira!
2018-05-27 - In 1776 the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations became the first of the original Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from British (mis)rule. Today it is the smallest state in the most powerful country in the world. I flew in from Dublin and met up with my wife who travelled over from NYC by train. We were based for two nights at a pleasant hotel near T F Green Airport, Warwick. Picked up hire car and drove down to Newport. Unfortunately The Breakers was closed but managed to spend some time at the interesting Newport Art Museum. Rhode Island was the first stop on a 10 day visit to the New England states. Next stop Mystic, Connecticut and The Berkshires, Massachusetts.
2012-09-24 - June 2015 my son Chris, brother Eunan and I came down to the Chamonix Valley for 4 days hiking on both sides of the valley which includes the mountains around Mont Blanc. We stayed in Les Houches at one end of the valley. Luckily for us the local bus and train services are free with a hotel provided pass so we were able to zip up and down the valley. Armed with a 100 euro 4 day multipass each we set about maxing it out on cable cars and ski lifts as we moved around the valley in pursuit of excellent hikes around the 2,000 metre height. The highlight of the area and a constant presence is Mont Blanc itself- the highest mountain in western Europe at 4800 metres. From the Aiguilles Rouges (Red Peaks), opposite Mont Blanc we could fully appreciate the glacial Mont Blanc Massif. October 2013 arrived by train from Clermont Ferrand. This was a short stopover. Explored area around gare Lyon Part Dieu close to city centre while waiting for TGV to Montpellier. In October 2010 my friend Seamus and I had thought we could get a bus from Geneva airport to Fernay Voltaire and our Formula 1 hotel, however the tourist advisor at the airport said there was no bus and to take a taxi so we ended up paying 40 euro to an hotel costing 32 euro. The hotel was rubbish. Next morning we walked back to Ferney Voltaire centre and took bus back to Geneva and picked up a hire car for our tour of Switzerland.
From 1759 to 1778 Ferney was home to French writer and philosopher Voltaire, sometimes referred to as “the patriarch of Ferney.” His influence on the town was profound. He built the local church and founded cottage industries that produced some of the finest potters and watchmakers of modern France. After the French Revolution, the town was renamed Ferney-Voltaire in his honor.
2017-09-24 - Fly Dublin- Bucharest. Its easy to get into city centre. Outside arrivals entrance buy return tickets for 8 lei/2 euro and hop on bus 783. Takes about 45 minutes. Stay near Piata Romana. Walk down to see Causesceu monster Peoples House/Palace of Parliament. From outside its huge, like an hotel from Las Vegas only bigger. Hotel make booking for my visit next day. The building now used as national parliament, but it has other uses including a museum of contemporary art. Apart from being the second largest building in the world (Pentagon no. 1) it has a place in Romanian history- 30,000 homes were demolished in the centre of the capital to make way for this grand design. Add the social and economic cost of repaying the money borrowed from the West ($4bn) to put up the building and the seeds of Ceausescu's fall in 1989 are clear. He used the state budgets for energy, health, food, transport etc. to repay the massive loans he had taken out. As a result people lived in near poverty for almost a decade- Basic goods such as bread, oil, coffee or meat were rationed, while electricity, hot water and heating were distributed on a very limited schedule, maybe available for only two hours daily. Millions of people were living in cold, dark apartments, without being able to buy basic food or goods. On the plus side the interior seen on the tour is magnificent especially the huge crystal chandaliers. Later in the day, leaving the beautiful Royal Palace, meet Ratko. We walk over to Revolution Square. He points out the window in what was the Communist Party HQ where the dictator stood when the proletarian masses vented their anger. Ratko was there on the day. It was 22 December 1989. Twice a year his factory, along with many others, were bussed to the area, given banners with messages of socialist solidarity and choreographed to respond to the great leaders words. At this time Communist regimes were falling all over eastern Europe, Timișoara in the west was in revolt. Ceausescu appeared on the balcony and urged people to be calm and not heed reports of what was happening elsewhere. His mistake was then to regurgitate his old rhetoric - progress, people living in best political and economic system with a bright future. Among the vast crowd, estimated at 80,000, a section started to boo and whistle. Clearly unhappy Ceausescu tried to calm them but they got emboldened and began to push towards the front of the building breaking windows and doors. Alarmed the great leader raced to the roof, climbed aboard his helicopter and fled. Three days later, 25 December, the Ceausescu's were executed, becoming the last people condemned to death and executed in Romania. A fascinating eyewitness account. After two days I flew out to Chisinau on the next leg of my MTP journey.
2017-06-07 - It was late when I arrived in Ryazan from Suzdal via Vladimir and Moscow. Plush double decker train from Moscow. Passengers treated well. Business class seats, disposable slippers, head phones, snacks, drinks. As good as any train western Europe. At Ryazan hotel receptionist insists on copying every page on passport including empty pages, hadn't seen that before. Get out onto street at 2000 in rain. Move fast and capture some images up around the Kremlin. Three beautiful cathedrals and a bell tower help to make up the historic buildings. None opened this time of evening however very atmospheric in the falling light. Would have liked to have visited the Ivan Pavlov museum. He was born and reared here. Famous for his work in classical conditioning- dogs. Nobel Prize winner 1905. Finally to sleep at 2330. Up again 0500 to catch train to Tambov.
2013-03-19 - Came in to Saarbrucken by bus from Luxembourg. Used Saarbrucken as a base to visit Volklingen UNESCO site. The ironworks cover 6 ha and dominate the city of Völklingen. They went out of production in 1986 and are the only intact example in the western world of an integrated ironworks that was built and equipped in the 19th and 20th centuries. The place is massive and will appeal especially to people with an interest in engineering. I had difficulty following some of the processes but was still in awe of the sheer scale of the place. I dont know how UNESCO intends to maintain the site in the long term- it is all outside and made of iron and steel visibly rusting. Across the autobahn is the modern Saarstahl making steel (the old ironworks made pig iron an intermediate product of smelting iron ore). Part of the site, the blower shed, had an exhibition of Ferrari cars- nice, my favourite was the 1961 Ferrari 250GTE in grey. After two nights in Saarbrucken took train to Strasbourg.
2017-12-18 - Three hour run up to city on bus from Guanajuato. SLP is a big industrial city. Certainly not beautiful. It may have a UNESCO status being one of the 60 places on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, however it does not immediately attract. Having said that it had some quite special gems. The Museo Federico Silva ranks as the best collection of modern sculpture art in town if not in the country. Big exquisite pieces are a modern take on pre Columbian stone expression. Lighting adds to effect and is as creative as the individual pieces. A strikingly beautiful display of Silva's monumental works. The Capilla de Aranzazu is a remarkable small church. Its strikingly beautiful blue toned interior crowned with a small dome raises it above the ordinary. It is believed to be the only church located on an upper floor of a building - the building in this case part of the cultural ensemble of the Church and ex Convent of San Francisco. The MAC, Museo de Art Contemporaneo, has excellent displays of high quality pieces. Finally the Casa Cultural Universitario at the Caja Real (1764) is a fine historical building showcasing contemporary art. The weather in November is ideal for travel, 20-26 degrees centigrade. After two night stay head further north to Zacatecas.
2016-03-23 - The midnight express from Santa Rosa to San Luis was rotten. I had a cama on ground floor not far from noisy engine and very smelly toilet. From now on its to be planta alta/top floor. Arrived at 0800 in what must be most modern and clean terminal in the country, like a new airport terminal. As its on the edge of town after coffee took taxi up to centre. Lots of people around in the warming morning sun. Disappointing cathedral. Spent better time in Museo Dora Ochoa de Masramon. It is multidisciplinary and reflects many facets of the history of San Luis including fauna, paleontology, archaeology and 20th centuary fine art. Took afternoon bus to Cordoba and with top deck front seat can see the wide flat countryside. Start to read Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, 1932.
2014-06-08 - The Most Serene Republic of San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world with beginnings about 301 AD. Its size is just over 61 km2 (24 sq mi). Today it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, has probably the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, no national debt and a budget surplus - there must be lessons for the rest of us in this. San Marinos governance comes directly from the customs of the Roman Republic (509-27 BC). The elected Council elects two Captains Regent to be heads of state. The Regents are chosen from opposing parties so that there is a balance of power. They serve a six-month term. The Council is equivalent to the Roman Senate; the Captains Regent, to the consuls of ancient Rome. Is San Marino a living example of successful ancient governance systems ? Does this go to show the relevance of the Roman Republic governance to today ? From the top of Mount Titano if you look south there is range upon range of mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. They have a mysterious quality that beckons the traveller to venture into their interior. I took train from Bologna and bus from Rimini to San Marino.
2016-03-23 - People I know sometimes ask if loneliness is an issue when travelling on my own. It does raise its head at some point(s) during each trip. Language barriers are definitely the main cause of loneliness, followed by big city anonymity. Like many travellers I have developed a strategy for dealing with feelings of isolation- 1. have a daily plan, even if it not fully developed, this also helps to make good use of the MTP travellers time which does not come cheap when all costs are added; 2. of course be outgoing and make an effort to meet and speak to people who are naturally curious about this obvious foreigner in their midst; 3. have a good music playlist on the phone, although I find listening to music over long periods can act as a barrier to whats going on around; 4. bring a good book or two along, if possible one related to the location, great for the waiting times at bus/train stations, late evenings in hotel rooms; 5. keep some kind of daily diary, record highlights and impressions; 6. enjoy my photography, certainly makes looking at people and places far more interesting, also helps with the MTP proof. Arrive on midday bus from Cordoba. Hotel disappointing- glossy images, reasonable price, bad room. Grim and bear it again. stay close to historic centre and beside pedestrianised San Martin street the place to be for shopping and social life in the city. Short walk to beautiful colonial Iglesia San Francisco, now also a provincial museum highlighting the significant stages of the areas development.Then over to another fine building housing the Museo Etnografico. It has a very fine display of first peoples pottery. Finally to the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes with its modern art and sculpture, my taste exactly and well worth the visit. Next day cross over to Parana in Entre Rios. After two nights Santa Fe take 0200 bus to Resistencia, Chaco.
2011-03-10 - I was in Sardinia from 28 February until 4 March 2011.I arrived by air from Dublin at Alghero. Took bus , 1 euro, from airport to town centre(taxi is 25 euro). Stayed overnight in town in excellent Hotel Angedras. Following morning back to airport to pick up hire car.Drove along north coast- Porto Torres, Castelsardo, Santa Teresa di Galura, Porto Cervo and on to Olbia. It rained virtually incessantly, although had some lovely coastal views. Porto Cervo was almost completely closed, being out of season. Some beautiful houses though. Ciro's House in Olbia is memorable for the owners warmth and friendliness. Young Eduardo certainly makes a big effort.Drove on in the rain on the main road to Cagliari, stopping off at the world heritage site of Su Nuraxi di Barumini. This is a beautiful area, especially the view from the Su Nuraxi site of the castle atop a conical hill in the far distance. In Cagliari stayed in Albergo Aurora, Piazza Yanni in the centre.Fron a tourist point of view one- two days are probably enough here, although it has an interesting historical centre. Unemployment especially for young is a big issue and young people generally expect to have to leave the island for work. I especially want to say how warm, generous and helpfull the people in Cagliari (as throughout the island)were to me. There is something in the nature of the people that reminded me my own people here in Ireland. Travelled, or should I say drove, 870 kilometres. Car hire cost 101 euros and fuel about 80 euros
2011-09-29 - Came over on 26 Sept. 2011 on 7am ferry from Guernsey. About a 40 minute journey costing £26.30 return. Tractors and trailors will take visitors and their luggage from the port up the hill to their accommadation, otherwise it is fine to walk. In the main part of the settlement is a tourist office, bank, cycle hire, etc. Tractors, bicycles and on foot are the ways of moving about, roads are not paved. Great walking island. Walk to La Coupee, 100m high sliver of land linking Sark and Little Sark worthwhile for a feel for the main island and the coastel views. Many people on this island , as indeed in all the Channel Islands, were forcefully removed to Germany from 1940. I was fortunate to spend an hour with an older lady who talked of many things including her family\'s incarceration near Bodensee/ Lake Constance. Leaving the Island I had the pleasure of meeting the Sark Harbour Master, Peter, origionally from Dublin.
2012-10-13 - I was on my way to India and had taken a detour into the Middle East coming in from Turkey to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In Amman got a 3 day transit visa for Saudi Arabia. At the time I was hitch hiking and made my way out to the Saudi border at Al Haditha. By asking around the lorry drivers going into Saudi was able to get a lift on a lorry going to Kuwait. The first night spent close to border sleeping on sand beside lorries. Before first light we were up and away.
The road south was straight, and after a while monotonous, following the oil pipe line coming from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Every so often we would stop at a road side truckers place for chai, food and maybe a hookah (the smoke variety!). Everywhere I was met with some curiosity, kindness and warmth.
In the afternoon of the second day we got our first sight of the Gulf- oil platforms and flares. It was quite a sight sitting out in the heat hazed water. Soon we turned north toward the Kuwaiti border at Al Khafji. My lift was 1440km long ( not as long as a lift later in this year from Turkey-Bulgaria border to Essen, Germany of 2320km.)
2013-08-26 - Came over to Dresden from Weimar by train. Dresden was and is another powerhouse of German cultural splendour. My only previous knowledge of the city before visiting was of the Allies carpet bombing of the city centre on 13-5 Ferbruary 1945 virtually obliterating its splendid buildings and killing 25000 mostly women and children in the process. The city hasnt fully recovered and large empty lots are visible in the centre, however much restoration and reconstruction has taken place and continues. Three things stood out during my visit- Canalettos View of the city from the right bank of the Elbe. You walk over the Augustus bridge, turn left and walk along the bank to the metal structure that frames the famous view- with the Elbe in the foreground the ensemble of buildings you see has the Frauenkirche, Katholische Hofkirche, the Hausmannsturm and Duke Brühls palace among others, all dating from before 1750. Second highlight was a visit to the VW Glass Factory within walking distance of the city centre. The factory assembles VW Phaeton cars for the world market, 13,000 in year 2012-3 a majority going to China. Glass refers to the see through nature of the assembly plant- all walls are of glass and the visitor has an excellent view of the very highly automated assembly process on 3 levels in almost clinically spotless conditions. I would recommend this to any visitor to the city. Third highlight was the vast shopping plazas between the train station and the city centre. I am not a shopping person however was enthralled by the sheer size of the retail area, especially visually attractive at night when the lighting and neon come alive.
2013-08-26 - Saxony Anhalt was the big surprise of this east Germany trip. Hadnt expected anything more than the usual succession of schloss und medieval buildings. First I got an introduction to a remarkable man - Martin Luther, in what was his base at Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Going through his house and seeing the church where he nailed his 95 theses, or areas for reform, made me fully realise what he achieved, namely he broke the total power of Rome in the middle of Europe and at a time when the Pope was arguably at his mightiest. Remarkably Luther didnt set out to take on Rome, he wanted the excesses of the church curtailed and a return to basics. To his amazement many people shared his views. Rome, in typical fashion, refused to listen and began the process of silencing him, a process still used today! Martin Luther being a person of great courage followed the logic of his convictions and socialised and democratised religion. The rest as they say is history. My second big surprise was in Dessau, about 30 minutes away by train. I had some knowledge of Bauhaus and had visited two Bauhaus influenced housing developments in Berlin- Weisse Stadt and Schillerpark. The Bauhaus school was founded with the idea of creating a total work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style became one of the most influential currents in Modernist architecture and modern design and has had a profound influence on 20th centuary developments in art and architecture and graphic,interior and industrial design. Go and see the Bauhaus School and other buildings especially the modernist houses built for the schools professors one of which was Wassily Kandinsky. The Bauhaus must have been on to something - the Nazis shut them down for being degenerate.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 12. We drove up from Zurich to Schaffhausen the most northerly Swiss canton. Two parts of the canton are physically seperate from its main part.
The weather was damp and chilly. Got parked near centre of town and set off to explore some of the alt stadt/old town with its many fine Renaissance era buildings decorated with exterior frescos and sculpture. It was once a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire. Stopped for coffee and cake. Drove short distance to Busingen the German enclave entirely surrounded by Switzerland.
2012-09-23 - Lubeck altstadt/old city is UNESCO listed making it my city of choice in Schleswig Holstein. Took train up from Hamburg, 25 euro return. Capital and Queen of Hanseatic League 11th-17th Centuary, wealth and prestige slipped as shipping trade moved from Baltic to North Sea.
Coming from train station you will see excellent tourist office and Holstentor (city gate), go on to visit Dom, impressive Willy Brandt Haus, Gunter Grass Haus and Cafe Niederegger for best marizapan cakes and tea.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 19. Drove to Lachen in Schwyz canton from Glarus. In 1291 Schwyz together with Uri and Unterwalden were the founding cantons of Switzerland. Switzerland\'s Standard German name, Schweiz, comes from the name of the canton and the instantly recognisable white cross on red background flag of Switzerland from its coat of arms. The Swiss Army knife is made here.
Lachan has a pop. of 8000, remarkably over a quarter are foreign nationals. It was a handy stop for us as it is beside the A3 motorway.
2016-08-06 - Leaving Port Issac my wife and I drove down to Cape Cornwall. We flew from Lands End airport to St. Marys, Scilly Isles. Its a 20 minute hop. We had the inevitable cream tea in Hugh Town, overlooking quiet beach. Later we walked around the magnificent coast to Old Town. In the church graveyard we searched for and found the last resting place of Harold Wilson, ex Prime Minister of Uk. His wife Mary is a poet. One of her poems goes like this-
If I can write, before I die
One line of purest poetry;
Or crystallise, for all to share
A thought unique, a moment rare
Within one sentence, clear and plain-
Then I shall not have lived in vain.
(Selected Poems, 1970)
We returned on the Scillion III ferry in the afternoon to Penzance.
2012-05-17 - We have visited Scotland many times. A great country of mountains, lakes, wild coasts and friendly people. Summer is the best time to visit- while its wet its warm. We like Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Highlands, driving to the Isle of Skye, and, the Average White Band. On this visit we had the pleasure of visiting members of our extended family whose parents had left Ballintra, Co. Donegal, Ireland over 60 years ago.
2017-01-06 - Sharjah is now an extension to the Dubai urban landscape. I arrived by bus from Ajman and took taxi to Sharjah Art Museum. This is a the first worthwhile art museum I have seen in UAE. This major collection of modern and contemporary Arab art has paintings and sculptures by some of the most famous artists in the Middle East. These were not known to me previously. It presented a great opportunity to see at first hand and learn of the current trends in this part of the Arab world. Very impressive exhibition and and, as nearly always with art museums, housed in an interesting building. Satisfied, I took easy evening bus back to Dubai.
2014-04-13 - A great companion during this trip to southern Italy and Sicily was The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa which is set in his native Sicily during the Risorgimento. Arrived from Malta and in Catania hired car. First stop in Piazza Armerina and Villa Romana del Casale. UNESCO site with extensive mosiacs which decorate almost every room including famous bikini girls. Probably the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world. Second night in Ragusa and visits to four of the stunning UNESCO listed towns of Ragusa, Modica, Scicli and Noto. These were all rebuilt on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake in 1693. These towns contain the finest examples of late Baroque art and architecture in Europe. This area is also the location for the Montalbano police series and I was under instructions from my wife to visit film locations here. Third and fourth nights in Syracusa. Ancient Syracusa was founded on Ortygia island by Greeks from Corinth in the 8th century BC. The site of the city, which Cicero described as ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all’, has remains of the Temple of Athena (5th cent.BC), later clearly incorporated into the Baroque Duomo on Piazza del Duomo. On the other side of town is the Archaeological Park of Neapolis which includes the outstanding Greek and Roman monuments: the Greek theater; the Ear of Dionysius/Orecchio di Dionisio, the sanctuary to Apollo; the Roman amphitheater and the tomb of the mathematician Archimedes, he of the Archimedes Principle. Flew out to Lampedusa from Catania.
2013-08-26 - Arrived in Bratislava by bus from Prague. Stayed in old town in city centre: its pretty enough in an historical way. If you like Thai massage parlours you will like it here, the place seems to be coming down with them. Great views from the castle. Alexander Dubcek, the leader during the Prague Spring, was from Bratislava and lived out his later life in his native city in a villa overlooking the Danube close to the castle and the Parliament building, its a restaurant now. I flew out to Dublin from here but not before spending a day in Vienna, 50 minutes by train.
2015-04-02 - My travelling companion, Bob Cooperstein, and I were en route to Istanbul from Berchtesgaden, southern Bavaria in his VW Combi, a trip of over 2500 km. We crossed into Slovenia at Podkoren- this was Yugoslavia at the time ! Drove on to Ljubljana. Being part of a so called communist state we we not sure what we would find. Our preconceptions of communism were of a harsh and repressive state, shops with supply side issues and dull lifestyle. Walking through the centre of town we were impressed at the near normality of the shops, peoples fashion and the air of business activity. It is worth mentioning also how taken we were at the beauty of the women we saw on the street. After a light lunch and suitably reoriented we headed back on the February road in search of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.
Passed through in October 1974 on my way back from India. At the Turkey - Bulgaria border got the most incredible long lift from an English lorry driver. He was on his way back from the Gulf and had stopped at the frontier to sleep. He was checking his truck in the early cold mist and I asked him if he would bring me to Sofia. At his invitation I stayed with him all the way to Cologne, 2200 Km.
2017-06-10 - Two nights in Hero City. After Bryansk this city's historic centre is a delight especially around pr. Lenina. Can't understand the continued promotion of Lenin in every city. Its as if he was an out and out good guy. He was a revolutionary but certainly never a democrat. He never respected a democratic mandate. He led a coup against the Provisional Govt in Oct. 1917. Cementing his anti democratic credentials he banned all political parties except, you guessed it, the Communist Party. All opponents were eliminated. Anti democratic seizure of power and shocking methods employed to hold it. Highlight of afternoon is visit to city/oblast Art Gallery. Well laid out, pleasant and helpful staff. Pieces from 17-19 century Russia and west Europe plus some modernist Russian. Glinka gardens just the place to walk in late May sunshine. Surprisingly few people around this beautiful historic part of city. Although I have one more oblast to visit this trip have successfully managed to navigate through 17 locations in 18 days. Take train to Moscow.
2012-09-27 - Swiss location 8. We drove the short distance from Laufen to Breitenbach in the canton of Solothurn. The shape of the canton is irregular and includes two exclaves along the French border, separated from the rest of the canton by Basel-Land. This is not unusual for Swiss cantons to have parts of their canton located in another canton. The ebb and flow of history, in the Swiss case related to language, religion or power has created a stunning patchwork of cantonal layouts.
Most of the 3,500 population of Breitenbach speaks German.
We didnt stay long in the town.
2014-03-14 - Came out on bus from Limassol to Kourion Archaelogical area. Kourion was a city which lasted from antiquity until the early Middle Ages. It was recorded by numerous ancient authors including Ptolemy. It lies within the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area. The most spectacular site at Kourion is the Greco-Roman theatre. Originally built in the 2nd century B.C.this superbly located theatre with views out to sea, and down the coast for 20 km, is now fully restored and used for musical and theatrical performances. The House of Eustolios, a private Roman villa, has the remains of a complex of baths and rooms and has remarkable 5th century A.D. mosaic floors.
2014-11-12 - Rome must be unique among cities in having three MTP locations. Walking down Via Condetti it is easy to miss the location dazzled as most people must be by the high end fashion shops and the well dressed pedestrians. Being on an MTP mission I probably looked more Indiana Jones than George Clooney. Had no difficulty getting as far as the courtyard of the Magistral Palace, SMOM headquareters with extraterritorial status. I was well received in the post office around the corner. Had just arrived from Dublin and was on a circular route taking in Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo, Molise and back to Roma. So after spending two hours crossing city to SMOM and back took train from Termini to Perugia.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 14. From Thurgau we drove to Gossau in St. Gallen. Surprisingly there is an Irish connection, St. Gallen was founded by the Irish monk Gallus who built a hermitage at the river Steinach in 612. This is from the time Ireland was known as the Island of Saints and Scholars and sent missionaries across Europe. The mountains of the canton include part of a thrust fault that was declared a geologic UNESCO world heritage site, under the name Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona, in 2008.
Gossau, pop. 17000, has, like most Swiss cities/ towns, a resident foreign population of almost 20%. A now closed rubberband factory is listed as a Swiss heritage site as is the old part of town.
2015-02-09 - I waited three days for the lift across the desert. Had travelled across the burning sands from Asmara to Teseney, Ethiopia as was, now Eritrea. The frontier control people were very understanding but clear- they were not aware of any imminent traffic if a vehicle was going to Kassala they would get me on board. Wait they said. Nothing for it then but to sit around a chai shop on the road out and wait, in the blasted heat. Hours passed, day one became day two, hope rose as the odd vehicle passed. Had they forgotten me? Every so often a wave of despair swept over me would I ever get out of Teseney. The 31 March dawned and around eleven in the morning the immigration people came over, checked my passport, stamped it and pointed to a four wheel drive parked nearby. I was off. Where was the road- no road, we just took off across the open flat desert following the half kilometer wide tyre mark path left by many others. The desert was so vast and flat I fancied I could see the curvature of the earth. Huge mirages kept rolling in, I could really see vast lakes of water. My head said mirage, my eyes said water. Most peculiar. Ninety minutes later we were in Kassala, during Ramadan. Through earlier contacts was able to stay in a VSO - Voluntary Service Overseas- house. Found copy 2001, A Space Odyssey and started to read. Evening in town and around sunset hundreds of men and boys sit around long tables stacked with water, food and waited for canon to fire announcing official sunset and end of days fast. I was very kindly invited to take part and shared in the excitement, bonhomie and relaxed mood under the hot evening star. Later to bed and the all night cacophony of dogs barking at- each other? Bus to Khartoum and stay at youth hostel. Following day massive sand storm swept across city. Rain was obviously falling into the sand because every so often I would be hit with what looked/felt like blobs of mud. A particular highlight was going onto Tuti Island and standing on the point where the Blue and White Nile rivers meet. Invited to Omdurman, sleeping outside on rope bed.
After getting Egyptian visa boarded weekly train to Wadi Halfa. On this 900 km, 36 hour journey called at Atbara, Abu Hamid. No air conditioning on train. Sitting in dining car made the mistake of opening window to get some cooling air- what I got was a deluge of sand mixed with coal fired soot from the engine. People sitting on the roof seemed to be enjoying cooling breezes, but a bit too risky for me.
In Wadi Halfa embarked on ferry across Lake Nasser. Surreal landscape slipped past, water, sand, sky, no green vegetation.
2012-09-19 - Sept 2009- Came across on train from Copenhagen to Malmo over 8km Oresund Bridge. Hard to get a good view of bridge from train, better from car or land. Motorway on top and twin train tracks on lower deck. Cost almost $10 billion. An engineering marvel.
In Malmo the only sight of delight is the Turning Tower by Santiago Calatrava. Third highest building in Europe and tallest in Scandanavia. This is simply stunning and worth the stop in Malmo alone. Do walk around area in this modern part of town and savour the atmosphere.
The old town is pleasant, King Karl X Gustav (liberator) has a statue in Stortorget (Main Square) and a little beyond the Slottstradgarden has a windmill. After my visit took train back to Copenhagen.
Sept 2015- Second visit, this time to Stockholm and a coffee in the afternoon with the remarkable Markus Lundgren, Swedens MTP number 1. We met at the top of the Kulturhuset in the city centre. Markus is so well travelled and an inspiration to us lesser mortals. Enjoyed our time together talking about, guess what- travels. Weather was less than kind so happily spent next afternoon sampling delights of Moderna Messeet. Stayed in Solna centre which meant negotiating the challenging T Centralen metro area to get in and out of the city. Flew in from Helsinki. This was the last stop on my 14 day trip around the Baltic Sea- Gdansk, Kaliningrad, Minsk, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Helsinki and Stockholm. Flew back to Dublin on 7 Sept.
2015-01-31 - Came in from Turkey to Aleppo. I was back on my own again having taken train from Ankara. My travelling companions had gone back in the direction of Europe and Germany. In Aleppo staying right at an entrance to the old city suq. Invited out to the university to meet some students and help them with their english conversation. I was big into Santanas Caravanserai. Played some of the tape, apart from the cricket sounds on first track Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation, the music did not seem to be known. Later joined by some other young people who were on a religious conversion quest and anxious for me to visit an Islamic centre in London, it was time to leave. Hitchhiked down the main road to Homs, passing the ancient wooden water wheels of Hama. The hospitality of the people was extraordinary including the teacher with two wives and two separate families who insisted on sharing a meal. It was spring and the countryside was in green full bloom, some crops though were bring harvested.
Headed west to the Crusader fortress Krak des Chevaliers. It is certainly remarkable for its sheer scale, its position on high ground and its isolation. Built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem between 1142 and 1271, it has a commanding position over a vast swathe of western Syria. Was free to wander around this gigantic monument to European expansionism. After headed to the Mediterranean coast and crossed into northern Lebannon.
Some weeks later travelled from Beriut to Damascus with Christine Luhmann. We stayed in the Damascus youth hostel. I had my 22nd birthday there. Damascus has biblical connections and visited the Street called Straight, the Roman street Decumanus Maximus that runs from east to west in the old city. The market lining the street is typical eastern with stalls selling spices, cloth, household wares, etc. Well down the street is St. Pauls church, said to be the place where he fled by being dropped in a basket through a window in the wall.
I had learned that Aramaic, the language Christ spoke, was still to be heard in isolated villages about 70 km north of Damascus. Could not miss the chance to hear it so set off by bus to the christian village of Maloula. The place was rocky and poor. Try as I might to listen for something distinctive in the peoples conversation it sounded like Arabic to me and I left a bit disappointed at not making an obvious Christ connection. By way of footnote the extensive influence of the Babylonian (1792-52 BC), Assyrian (911-605 BC) and Persian (539-323 BC) empires led to Aramaic gradually becoming the lingua franca of most of Western Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia Minor, The Caucasus and Egypt.
It is only from the late 7th century AD that Aramaic is gradually replaced in the Middle East by Arabic.
Next out to beautiful Palmyra in the Syrian desert. Known as the Bride of the Desert under Roman rule it was a wealthy and elegant city located along the vital caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia. It is fair to say I looked in awe at the temple of Baal, considered the most important religious building of the first century AD in the Middle East and the Great Colonnade. It corresponds to the ancient decumanus.
Returning to Damascus took lifts to the Jordanian border. We travelled to the east of the main highway as it was being used for military convoys moving in the direction of the Golan. The Golan featured heavily in the Yom Kippur War. A further flare up was now taking place. After leaving Deraa crossed into Jordan at Ramtha.
2017-06-08 - At this time I seem to be the 126th MTP person to visit Tambov. This is surprising - its not far from Moscow, relatively speaking. My journey here from Ryazan was first time on Russian sleeper train. Left Ryazan 0650. The provodnista saw me settled in. Like the professional way these ladies stand to attention on platform next to coach entrance. There they check ticket and passport before letting passenger board. Three sleeping in my compartment. They got on in St. Petersburg yesterday. Slept for a few hours. Anyway breakfast time 1000. No one shared any food- so Lonely Planet wrong this time. With help young person found marshrutky to hotel. He came along for ride and made sure I got off at hotel. Receptionist does not speak English, unusual on this trip. However another staff member Philip set up a Google Translate exchange mechanism which works very well. Heading downtown to see sights joined by Olga and Irena, two young women met at hotel. They walk with me to Regional Museum and Exhibition Centre. Displays of items from prehistory up to Boris Yeltsin's visit and beyond. Some interesting flags from revolutionary period and later posters encouraging everyone to increase output. Next day must travel to Lipetsk by bus. Philip says he will go with me to bus station. Later enjoy best steak so far in hotel. Altogether satisfying MTP type of day. People continue to impress with their easy kindness.
2015-01-28 - Walked across the border into Tanzania at Tunduma from Zambia. Route was to Mbeya and night sleeping on porch in Iringa. On to Morogoro and into top end wild Selous Game Reserve and close encounters elephants and giraffe. Dar Es Salaam is crumbling. Although independent since 1961 President Julius Nyerere from 1967 has focused on sustainable development on a Pan African socialist model and stayed clear of World Bank- hence infrastructure decay. North of Dar came upon most exquisite beach at Bagamoyo. White sand beach, full moon through palm trees and lights of Zanzibar blinking across tropical waters. I am 21 and feel so very privileged to be there. Part of me has remained there. After some days cross into Kenya at Lungalunga and more adventure. Eight days later take bus from Nairobi and re-enter Tanzania at Namanga. In no mans land between the Kenyan and Tanzanian customs posts approached by a French man claiming to have checked out of Tanzania but refused entry to Kenya as he did not have enough money, now likewise the Tanzanian authorities would not let him return there. He asked for money. Afterwards continued to Moshi, the base for attempt on Mount Kilimanjaro, 5895 metres, Africas highest. Met up with Dave Telder and Tony Knebel and set off up the mountain. Took us three days to hike to top staying in refuges along the way. On third night from 4700 metres we were due to set off for summit at 2am however fell ill. Very disappointed. Following morning headed back down and arrived back to Moshi two days later. On 7 Feb, twelve days after entering Tanzania crossed the border back to Kenya at Himo/Taveta.
2012-09-28 - Swiss location 13. Thurgau canton has the beautiful Lake Constance/ Bodensee to the north and known for its fine agricultural produce especially apples, pears, fruits and vegetables. It is mostly German speaking. Munchwilen is a town of about 5000 people in an agricultural area. The courthouse is probably the most notable building in the town with its Dutch style gables. The St. Margarethen Chapel is listed as a Swiss heritage site.
2013-08-26 - Came by train from Dessau in Saxony Anhalt to Weimar. Weimar conjures up two images - the Weimar Republic and Clasical Weimar . Named after Weimar, where the drafting constitutional assembly met in 1919 as Berlin was too dangerous, the liberal democratic republic replaced the collapsed imperial form of government. The Weimar Republic lasted until 1933 when, you know who, ended the Weimar Constitution and took unfettered dictatorial powers. What I hadnt appreciated was the importance of Classical Weimar ie. the home of Goethe and Schiller, two giants of German literature. I knew little about them apart from their names. The Goethe-Schiller Monument in front of the Deutsches Nationaltheater is like a place of pilgrimage only rivalled by the tour of Goethes house which is well worth it to see how a person of his standing lived in the early 19th centuary and especially as it has so much of Goethes vast personal collection of art items. Inspired by the visit I have started to dip into his great work, Faust. Such is the value of the great MTP adventure.
2010-10-30 - Swiss location 25. My friend Seamus and I drove to Ticino through the Gotthard Tunnel. We had earlier left Altdorf in Uri Canton. The 17 km tunnel was a pleasure to drive, and like all Switzerlands roads and tunnels it had no tolls, much to our relief. We had intended to take the high Pass into Ticino however it was shrouded in cloud. What we did not know at the time was that there was a memorial ceremony at the top of the Pass for Steve Lee of the rock band Gotthard who had died on the 5th October. We would have liked to have been part of this event. We drove on down to Locarno on the super motorway and over-nighted there in the Dell Angello Hotel in the Piazza Grande. After the Germanic culture of much of Switzerland Ticino seemed more relaxed and easy going. Locarno has a beautiful old centre and higher up behind the town are great views over the lakes and mountains.
2017-12-27 - This is my last location on this trip, number 14. It feels good to have achieved this. Leaving hotel in Puebla walk seven blocks to collectivo station and take Azul bus to Tlaxcala city. Takes about one hour as we stop so frequently to pick up and drop off passengers. Alternative is to go to CAPU and take direct bus from there, overall it wouldn't be any quicker. First stop is zocalo and Palacio de Gobierno. There a series of highly coloured murals tell the history of the Tlaxcalan people from Pre Columbian times. Was intending to visit Museo de la Memoria however opposite on Plaza Xicohtencatl a religious ceremony was taking place. Xicohtencatl (11 House/1424 - 4 Rabbit/1522) was the ruler of this area when Cortes arrived. Indigenous people dressed in stunning traditional ceremonial costume were making offerings to Xicohtencatl at the warriors statue. In highly elaborate ritual they moved and bowed to the four cardinal points, sounding conche shells, burning incense and placing symbolic animal and other gifts at the base of the statue. There followed a moving dance ceremony to a rapid drum beat. The company seemed to dance into a choreographed frenzy, each participant taking turn to move to the centre spot. This is my first experience of a living connection to pre Columbian tradition and it is amazing. Later in afternoon take collectivo back to Puebla.
2017-09-23 - Minibus from central Chisinau, 37 Mleu/ 2 euro, for 90 minute trip. Border formalities straight forward- they copy main page passport, using Google translate say I am returning same day. Issued printed 10 hour 'visa' on separate piece of paper. On way back show slip of paper to immigration man as he walks through bus. Even get to keep it. In Tiraspol bus terminates at train station. Change money there and head into city centre. Main sights on Strada 25 Octobrie. Mostly the outside of buildings for a while- theatre, city hall, Kotovosky museum (closed). Meet Arniv or rather he meets me. Calls out 'Are you taking a tour?' We talk but when he says he was fired from his job and is now a hustler,'..do you know what this means?' my apprehension rises immediately- should I go now and not get involved. His phone rings, its his wife, she keeps ringing he says, she wants him home quickly with the groceries he is carrying. . Arniv's plan unfolds- he is trying to make a living as a tour guide and an artist. He shows me his line and colour drawings of buildings and monuments in the city. Impressive. He also has designed a Transdniester passport cover. I couldn't resist and take this plus some drawings, three euro. His wife rang again. Next section of road where it skirts the bank of the Dniestr river has many monuments to wars, a tank (WW2), eternal flame (conflict with Moldova 1992) and statues (Afghanistan, I think). A wedding party mount the tank plinth for photos, the bride not so sure its a good idea in her high heels and flowing white wedding dress. Into the local history museum. My guide, the patient Mina, took me through each room and drew attention to highlights. All in Russian but I could make out something of her careful commentary. Highlights- Soviet political pieces, busts, flags; room dedicated to 1992 conflict, moving, and finally, modern/contempory art gallery. All the people I meet throughout the day showed interest and kindness. Tiraspol is a clean, well ordered city. Back to railway station, buy bus ticket, two euro, change money back to leu and 90 minutes later back in Chisinau in time for tea.
2014-12-31 - Came up to Rovereto on the morning train from Verona. Rovereto - Italian and with a certain mitteleuropa order. The draw here is the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea i Trento e Rovereto - Mart. It seems to be a law of museums of modern/contemporary art that the name is shortened to an acronym, eg. MOMA, where did this come from? Mart styles itself as the centre of modern and contemporary art in Italy. The Mart building itself is stunning. The center of gravity of the building is the large dome of glass and steel overlooking the central access space to the museum. The dome is in constant dialogue with light and its steel beams project a strong slowly shifting mesh of shadows onto the supporting walls. The shadows strength is dictated by the sun and clouds, the shadows movement by the earths turn. A biplane suspended from the apex of the dome serves to illustrate the enormity of the space. The dome dimensions replicate the Pantheon in Rome. A major exhibition inside- drawings, photos and architectural models from the career of Portugeuse architect Alvato Siza. He nicely describes architecture as dedicated to the design of spaces for the life of man in nature. There is a photo on display taken by the architect from the roof of the Museo Madre in Naples of a horse installation in the distance- I took almost the same photo in April 2014. A second exhibition dedicated to landscape is titled Earth Scenario. Here modern and contemporary artists present thoughtful art representations by among others Uncini, Raciti, Rubbi and Dali of our relationship to landscape. Later in the day I returned to Verona.
2017-06-09 - My stop in Tula is to make a bit of a pilgrimage out to Yasnaya Polyana, the home, estate and resting place (1910) of the great Leo Tolstoy. Easy to get to from Tula, marshrutky 114, 117. As I have been reading Anna Karenina on this trip it is quite special to stand in front of his beautiful home. From the inside it has parallels with his Moscow house. When he writes about country life in Anna Karenina this is the place he is using as a model. Tolstoy's grave is deep in the forest, unmarked by a cross or nameplate. Anna, a visitor from Moscow, explains something of the circumstances surrounding this resting place. She is on her fourth reading of Anna Karenina, I am on my first. To mark my visit I took my copy and read Ch XV, Part 2 by the Master's grave side. By sheer coincidence, or providence, this chapter describes in part the countryside in Spring- the greening of the estate, the bird song, the warming sun, just as it is on my visit. Later walk through well kept Tula Kremlin. Arrived from Kursk via Oryol. Stay two nights then take bus to Kaluga.
2014-03-06 - Cross twice through Ledra St., centre of Nicosia, to northern part of city, Turkish Cypriot controlled. Visit to Selimiya Mosque, Venetian column and through Kyrenia Gate. Bus to Kyrenia/Girne. Walk port area and visit excellent Girne Castle. Area occupied by Greeks from 800 BC and then Romans. Castle first built by Byzantins, then enlarged in succession by Knights Templars, Lusignan Kings, Venetians, Ottomans and British. Castle has must see museums with superb pottery and tools from as early as 3000 BC.
2015-01-27 - After leaving Thessaloniki Bob Cooperstein and I entered Turkey at Ipsala and drove on to Istanbul in his VW campervan. He had arranged to meet his parents there on their way from Israel. We stayed at the Pudding Shop- anyone else stay there ? It was firmly on the Hippy Trail then and had a constant dream of travellers going to and coming from India. Fantastic vibe. Stories, routes and advice aplenty. Just make you want to go. Notice board had requests for lifts, people looking for friends, travel companions and maybe something more. We marveled at the Blue Mosque, the vast covered bazaar- our first taste of the mysterious east. Excited we drove up to Karacakoy on the Black Sea and on wet cold February days came slowly back to Istanbul. Aussi Cal joined us and we crossed the Bosphorus into the East.
2011-10-17 - Flew in from Dublin on 10 May to Pisa airport. Plan was to visit four World Heritage Sites- Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano and Pisa in five days. Caught last bus from airport to Florence where stayed for two nights. Very crowded city with tourists everywhere, which in fact is the story of all these Renaissance towns. Its no wonder considering the wealth of art in all its physical forms around every corner. Got my fill of art in the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Croce church and the Uffizi galleries. For really good city views walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, especially near sunset. Bus services throughout Tuscany are generally frequent and fairly cheap so its easy to get around however planning is necessary to get the most from a packed schedule. Recommend every traveller samples the local food and drink. This can be bought from markets or farmer cooperative shops. Sienna then became my base for 3 nights. Everyone quite correctly spends time in the Piazza Del Campo and the Duomo, however an early morning walk through Fortezza Medicea is rewarding. San Gimignano is a good half day trip, certainly for the novelty of its towers. On the last morning took the 7am bus to Pisa for the exceptional Leaning Tower and its environs. There is more to Tuscany than these beautiful towns, but that will have to wait for another time.
April 2014. Paula and I took super fast Frecciarossa train from Bologna to Florence for the day. Sight seeing and wandered city centre and of course went up to Piazzale Michelangelo for the views across the city.
2017-06-05 - Saspan from Moscow. Trollybus to Tver Museum Life. Of more interest are Galena and Mikhail who show me to museum entrance. Delighted at her excellent English she explains everyone learns English at Primary School and in addition, if they want, German and French. Some are also learning Chinese. Next walk over to Tver Art Museum, housed in Catherine the Great's 1775 Road Palace (she used it only five times on her journeys between St. Petersburg and Moscow). Trying to find out about the opening times I meet Anna. The art museum is still closed for 'renovation' she says. This is a pity as the Road Palace is probably the major attraction in the city. Anna then takes time to explain something of the history of the city and part of her own story. Since WW2, she says, men have been in short supply in Russia and women have had to look abroad in some cases for husbands. She has replied three times to foreign men looking for wives. She travelled to meet a man in France. They met twice and then he disappeared. A German man she travelled to meet was 'strange', while a third German was ok but he lived in a small apartment which she could not see herself being happy in. Now she has a daughter by a local man whom she remains friendly with. Anna is still looking for her man. At the train station meet Boris. He is waiting for his daughter coming on the St. Petersburg express. We communicated using Google Translate- slow, but reasonably successful and fun. High levels of security around station and on platform. This is reassuring. Tver itself did not particularly impress. Kind of worn out city. Its jewel, the Road Palace, if opened, could raise its esteem.
2014-11-13 - The albergo in Perugia just off the town centre was, according to the owner Marcello, built about 1600AD. The cavernous entrance hall to the building had doors and stairs leading off from it. Not so long ago animals, probably horses, were kept here overnight while their owners slept upstairs.The accommodation on the second floor showed its great age with typical features including richly decorated timbered ceilings and, what got me excited- part of an original fresco on the dining room wall. Marcello claimed he was descended from Roman (as in Empire) stock on his mothers side, a 2000 year connection. Highlights of two day visit included Palazzo dei Priori (Town Hall), one of Italys greatest buildings where is housed the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria; the Rocca Paolina, a Renaissance fortress (1540–1543); the Steve McCurry photographic exhibition of Umbrian images, and just walking around the Renaissance city with its contemporary feel. Day two took bus to UNECSO pilgrimage town of Assissi and the home of Saint Francis. The faithful gathered in their hundreds to pay homage to the saint. Arrived in Perugia by train from Rome and left by bus for Urbino in Le Marche.