A Travellerspoint blog

On the castle steps, lots of them..

Last night, we hung out the window of our 4th floor room to find the source of drumming. Down the cobbled street marched a crowd, chanting, waving flags and banners and holding flaming torches!! They milled at the bend and then climbed up the steps to the Prague castle. How many times must that scene have occurred in the last few centuries.
We have noticed in the stories references to "defenestration" - this happens when dissenters are thrown out of windows, high windows! There's also a saint who was thrown off a bridge, and an important Czech church reformer who was burnt at the stake for his efforts. However, Jan Hus is remembered by a large bronze statue in the main square. This remembering seems to be a strength of the Czechs- something happened 500 years ago and it is still significant. Hard for us to get our heads around. I have been surprised to learn about the long Protestant tradition here, particularly when there is a plethora of Catholic churches.
We rebelled against the past yesterday and caught a tram along the river to view the Dancing Building, a modern and delightful architectural exercise with bends and curves and windows which are aligned onto curves. Then we tracked down some cubist buildings from the early development of the movement. Have also wandered through a couple of galleries of modern art here.
We have been given tram directions to a quarry on the outskirts where you can kick up crinoids and trilobites !!!!! Think we probably can't get there but oooh, the temptation.
There was a city marathon on Sunday, complete with pounding music and climbing walls and aerobic displays. The toruists milled around in some confusion.
We're off tomorrow to Barclona so need to get one more infusion of neo-renaaissance and Romanesque, and visit the Jewish Quarter.
Weather is amazing, clear blue skies and warmth. Great for walking (sigh..)

Posted by woylie 00:42 Comments (0)

The wheels on the bus, train, tram, suitcase....

Towards the centre of Europe

It has been a few days since I could find a time and place to add to this. Right now, we are in Brno in the Czech Republic, sitting in an internet cafe with maybe a hundred booths. The university term began here yesterday wiht entertainments in the street like "man tries to pull tram"! We liked this place enough to add another day with the hope of seeing a Mies van der Rohe building and a graphic design show tomorrow. Today we have wandered the streets admiring the coloured facades and dipping into cathedrals and monasteries. Most importantly, we paid our respects at Mendel's Museum, where he was abbot to the Bendectine Abbey and carreid out his experiments. They had a charming layout of begonias to illustrate the P, F1 and F2 generations in red and white.

This city feels very different to Budapest where we spent 3 days. Budapest certainly had some appealing aspects, with lots of small parks, a wonderful walk along the Danube,extraordinary detailed decorative buildings and amazingly tanned young women. There was however a darkness to the place, from the grubby appearance of many of the apartment blocks and the generally shabby look of the area, to the remnants of eastern bloc mentality. Navigating the train system was a challenge with information hidden behind corridors, and handed out via tiny windows from a cubicle. Hungarian is totally impossible to guess at and there was not a lot of English signage. We stayed in a student flat inside a grand building with a charming courtyard, which entered Lizt Ferenc Ter, the Northbridge of Pest so that was fine. We succeeded in booking tickets on the international train out of Hungary via Slovakia and then into Czech Rep, so I now have lots more stamps on my passport:)We became quite blase about catching the metro, and mentally transferring forints from their thousands into AUD. My most pleasant memory will be pausing one morning outside the Liszt Academy for the frenetic piano music pouring out of wide flung windows into the morning street. There seemed to be music, sculpture and lots of arts activities.

Our last day in Turkey was in Selcuk where we caught a slow lcoal bus back to Izmir, dodged across the road to a taxi to the airport, flew to Istanbul nd then took a shuttle bus the next day (hysterical driver again!)to Istanbul airport. We enjoyed time talking to an Israeli who travels the world learnign new massage techniques. He was on his way back after a stint in China. Also hangin around were two bankers from Vienna who had been in Kazakstan inspectng a giant drilling infrastructre which they had helped fund. Great to meet people who are open to chats with strangers. Again this hs been a pleasant part of the last few days. Stand in Budapest wiht a map and someone nearby is also looking helpless! Often the two of us can work something out.

Jill, I was told today that the Bendectines had a special fondness for hortensia. Apparently that is hydrangea hortensis - tiny little flowers in the plastered wall details and in mosaics on the floor.

Posted by woylie 07:37 Comments (0)

Fruit wines, kilims and conversations

Selcuk and Sirince

Our last day in Selcuk, so we took a dolmus, the small local bus, up into the hills to visit Sirince. This was a Greek village until the relocation of the population and it is known for its different architectural style and the attraction of the landscape. Very fertile hillsides covered in orchards of olives, citrus, apricot, cherry and other fruits. The slopes are terraced way up to the top and there is quite a lot of small machinery used as well as the customary donkeys and horses. The centre is dedicated to tourists with small stalls of handicratfs and food. We left this behind and took any small laneway up into the heights. There are lots of pensions and places to eat.We stopped for lunch at one with an appealing high terrace but had to wait for a loud and happy group of Turkish ladies who were out on an excursion from a nearby city (at least we think it was a birthday). It was a friendly and noisy session with a real feel of home cooking. We ate gozleme, like a crepe with a spinach and crumbly cheese filling and ayran,the ubiquitous yoghourt drink. The ladies tried to demonstrate how to eat it, to everyone,s amusement. D had a gift of a sample of the lcoal house white wine, a bit like a sherry we thought. As we meandered, some men hailed us form a rooftop and we went up for the vioew. It was the house of a potter with some attractive glazed work on white porcelain.

We ended the afternoon back in Selcuk chasing a cappucino = very hard to find, and visited a man we met last night. We were sauntering (you will notice the use of a range of vocabulary to describe aimless movement)after a meal of sis cop, and struck up a conversation with an older man. We sat on stools on the pavement in the cool of the evening, sipped coffees and chatted with him, and an Australian oil rig diver,covering politics and ancient history and linguistics. He spoke with a fierce sadness about the plight of "his Kurdish brothers".

Amongst the friendly assistance and conversations with people like the girl on the bus with her elderly dad checking our map, to the wrestler waiting on tables who stops for a chat every time we pass, it is hard to comprehend that bombs have been disrupting other parts of Turkey. Hopefully, it will not make a big impact on their tourism industry (second biggest industry we,re told) or cause too many deaths. Certainly not apparent here where most in this guesthouse comment on how little news they know.

Off early tomorrow to take the bus to Izmit then the plane to Istanbul. Coudl not master the keyboard to even log in in Istanbul so might need to leave this til later.

Lasting memory of Ephesus is the stems of single tiny pink dianthus in the crevices of the dusty marble blocks, and the stunning terracotta drainage pipes still snaking around the buildings.

Posted by woylie 05:57 Comments (0)

Mounds of tomatoes and piles of rocks


I may make more typos than usual as this keyboard is a( Turkish and b( very worn so many keys are invisible!

We are in Selcuk and have spent the day visiting the ruins of ancient Greek cities. I have finally walked the same streets as Alexander the Great! We went to Priene, Didimus and Miletus. I had major Mary Renault moments in Priene = we were the only group there and it was very quiet. We wandered through the temple to Athene and the agora, with the sun harsh on the stones, and shade under scattered olives and pines very welcome. The site felt very "human" sized and I felt I could comprehend the concept of city state far better. The site spills down the hill with the acropolis stunningly located at the peak of the hill. From there the columns truly crowned the hill and we could see far into the distance.
We also trudged around Miletus which was an important centre, with much larger but less well preserved remains. It once had 3 harbours which are now silted with alluvial deposits. I relished seeing the caravanserai from later Selcuk times which was in very good condition. We finished by gawking at the attempts to create an enormous temple at Didymus which still has a couple of very tall columns and the original thermal spring which began the sacred importance oif the place.
We have learnt to recognise what our guide told us were testical symbols which represented the fertility of the bull, Athene,s animal. As D said (although in relation to the mighty building not the encircling ovals) these were the people who invented the concept of hubris.
As we drove there we ran alongside the Aegean Sea = the local muezzin has just begun outside= and actually went through Kusadasi to pick up 5 Italian and French people who joined us on a minibus. Wow! Hillsides of apartments and a giant cruise ship in the harbour.

We arrived in Selcuk on Saturday afternoon, hot and bothered after a bus trip, 2 planes and a taxi, to find it was market day. Forget the Grand Bazaar= this was a real farmer,s market = I can,t find how to make an apostrophe on the keyboard= towers of scarlet capsicums and tomatoes, mounds of green and pink striped beans, cucumbers, onions, and assorted greens, not all recognisable. There were piles of green and red grapes, melons, peaches and even Gala apples. One section specialised in white cheeses, and yoghourt. The market was packed, with peopel walking under canvas shades erected over the streets. It was a grteat introduction to Selcuk. We did not buy Armani shirts or (tempted!) one of the 9 types of olives or interesting ground spices, just some ripe figs and grapes for tea. Our pension is right onto the market place so we sat in the verandah and watched the whole thing being dismantled and all the dresses and shoes packed away. Next morning the square was pristine.

This place is a bit of a shock after Goreme which was truly a village. We were reluctant to leave and some of that was obviously the comfort of finding a pleasant place to stay and beginning to know our way around. But it was so peaceful, and the elements of traditional village life visible in the streets so interesting.

The weather has been consistently very hot, always in the mid 30s. Now we are near the coast again it is also humid. By 3 oclock we are flagging. It is also bloody hilly.

I can proudly state that I can tentatively sequence Doric, Ionic, Hellenic,Seljuk,Ottoman but when they throw into the mix Hittite times and blithely comment about early Anatolian mother goddesses I start to reel. It is really extraordinary to contemplate the millenia of settlement of some of these sites.

One enjoyable side to our travels have been the friendly and interesting people we talk to = some local and some from all over the world. Today, I chatted wiht a trio of Italian teachers who teach Italian by immersion in Turkish schiol. One year for results! We agreed that teachers are not paid enough anywhere but they said Italy was very poor.

Looking forward to another 2 days here then back to Istanbul briefly. Today I have been given the address of a special mosque to visit with stunning Byzantine mosaics in a previous church, apparently as good as Ravenna!

Posted by woylie 11:50 Comments (0)

Balloons, pigeons and rocks


This is from Goreme, in Anatolia, the heartland of Cappadocia. The place is famous for its eroded landscape of soft volcanic tufa, with centuries of occupation. It is as dramatic as the tourist photos promise, and this small village in a dry valley is littered with pinnacles of rock. There are many small houses and pensions carved into the rock and then added to with blocks of the pale stone. Houses have roof terraces edged with flowers and vegetables in olive oil tins, grape vines snaking up the walls and chooks scratching in the narrow cobbled lanes. In amongst the remainders of traditional life styles - donkey carts, stock in stables under the house,traditional costume on older men and women, street bread ovens- there are satellite dishes on every roof, solar hot water panels, scooters and vans and mobile phones.

Building is obvious in many streets, although apparently with restrictions about renovations. It seems a healthy mix of opportunity for local people with respect for the natural attractiosn of the area.
We have walked (climbed! lots of hills)some of the tourist trail - walked the length of Ilhara Valley along the river, scrambling up the hillside to look at frescoed churches from many centuries ago, seen a lovely caldera lake, peered into more churches and cave homes and soared in the hot air balloons- but the most memorable times have been wandering along winding laneways and stopping (often so my legs could adjust) to enjoy yet another wonderful view.

Outside this valley, there are extensive farmlands of smallish fields of wheat, grapevines, melons and other vegetables, sometime sunder irrigation. We have been astonished by the familiar plants. Every day, we add another to the list: walnut, almond, pistachio, olive, pomegranate, grape, gooseberry,willows,robinia,oleander, petunias spilling everywhere, morning glory in many colours, asparagus in the river bed, cotoneaster and a multitude of plants D recognises darkly as big time weeds, like caltrop and skeleton weed. It certainly brings home the significance of Mediterranean climatic types.

We are off tomorrow to the south west coast, via a bus, and two flights and another bus. It's been in the mid to high 30s all week so I'm hoping for a cooler chnage near the coast.
Hope to add to this then.

Posted by woylie 07:03 Comments (0)

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