Thursday Thoughts – Taking a Bath

In the header, the Orbeliani bathhouse, Tbilisi.

According to the legend, the king of ancient Iberia, Vakhtang I Gorgasali, (5th C) once hunted in the forests near the first capital of Georgia – Mtskheta. After some time, he saw a pheasant, then shot and killed the bird. The king sent his falcon to find the prey, but the falcon flew away, and the king lost sight of him. In search of the two birds, the king and his hunters finally found them – in a hot water spring. Amazed with this find of  sulphuric hot springs, Vakhtang decided to build his city here.

Thus, according to legend, the city of Tbilisi was founded. The word «Tbilisi» is translated from Georgian as a city of ”warm location”.

Since then, the baths have been of great value to Tbilisi – also depending upon the city’s proximity to the lucrative Silk Road. In the 13th century there were 60 baths here, but today they are reduced to less than 10.

Famous people who took baths here are Alexander Dumas and the poet Alexander Pushkin. A plaque on the entrance to the Orbeliani Baths shows a quote from Pushkin, where he describes the baths as ‘luxurious’. The bathhouse also has got a Pushkin Suite.

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Today the baths are still used by many locals, particularly the elderly, who come to benefit from the healing properties of the sulphur. It is said to help in the treatment of eczema, arthritic pain and digestive problems.
We rented a room with a bath, shower and toilet for one hour, but, the heat made us leave after 30 minutes. On leaving, we asked in the reception how hot the water really was – 45 degrees C! Icelandic baths hold 38-42 degrees, no wonder we had to give in…

You are not allowed to walk on the domes… but many children did. And grown-ups taking selfies, of course setting good examples…

If you ever visit Tbilisi, I recommend you try the baths – for the feeling and for the beauty of the interior! If you ask, you might be allowed inside just for a look.

 

 

 

Thursday Thoughts – Mostar

One of my favourite images for 2019 was one of the Stari Most. I think its special beauty and story is worth a post of its own.

Ever since I was a child I have wanted to see this city and its magnificent bridge. But the Old Bridge was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was devastated to see the war ruining so many people’s lives, the beautiful city and the famous bridge. In my classes, I had several students whose whole family had fled this area trying to escape the terrible war. I am glad they found a new, safer home in Sweden.

Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in medieval times guarded the bridge. The Old Bridge is today one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks. They say the dangerous jump from the bridge into the cold Neretva waters is still a rite of passage for boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We did not see anyone jumping though, but I guess the waters are even more cold this season…

More history: When the town was fortified between 1520 and 1566, the original wooden bridge was rebuilt in stone. Stari Most was erected in 1566 on the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and spanning 28 meters of the Neretva river (92 feet) and 20 meters (66 feet) above the water level, it quickly became a wonder in its own time.

A monumental project to rebuild the Old Bridge and restore surrounding structures and historic neighbourhoods was initiated in 1999 and mostly completed by Spring 2004. In July 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Stari Most and its closest vicinity onto the World Heritage List.

This single-arch stone bridge is an exact replica of the original bridge that stood for over 400 years and was designed by Hajrudin, a student of the great Ottoman architect Sinan. The two towers, Halebija and Tara, have always housed the guardians of the bridge and during Ottoman times they were storehouses for ammunition.

Crossing from the west bank to the east you’ll also be crossing the ancient point where East and West symbolically met. To the right is the oldest mosque in Mostar: the Cejvan Cehaj Mosque built in 1552.

A must is also the visit to Old Bazar Kujundziluk, an Ottoman-era market that maintains its original atmosphere with cobblestone roads and narrow streets lined with artisan shops –

– and of course – Cats.

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It may have been rainy some days on our tour, but we were very grateful to visit the Balkans during off season – letting us thoroughly enjoy and contemplate their many historic gems.

Thursday Thoughts – The Harvest is In

We happened to land in Tbilisi the day before the annual October festival – two days of celebrating the grape harvest of the year. What luck! Follow me to the market!

The whole city on its feet, night and day. The first thing we noticed was the many ”braids” of candy called Churchkhela. Delicious! (Recipe in the link.)

They make long threads of mostly walnuts or hazelnuts, then dip them in boiled/cooked grape juice. A long process for several layers, but oh…the taste! We bough many with us home – all colours.

The lovely ”Tree of Life”, by sculptor David Monavarlisashvili, offers so much to discover for children – and grown-ups… It greatly reminded me of one of my children’s favorite authors, Shaun Tan, his books and movies.

And the nights were warm, slowly walking the Rike Park and Peace Bridge. The bridge stretches 150 metres (490 ft) over the Kura River to create a contemporary design feature connecting Old Tbilisi with the new district. The official opening took place on May 6, 2010. Architect, Italian Michele De Lucchi.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #60: Framing the Shot

You don’t need a framework. You need a painting, not a frame. – Klaus Kinski

I guess most of us love things framed to help us follow lines and reveal the artist’s intentions with his/her work. At least if we put them on our wall at home or go to an exhibition. Now Amy challenges us to consider framing – and in my selection (from Stettin all except the header) I try to show some very different ones as well. An important thing to remember is, that a frame doesn’t have to look like a frame, and it does not have to apply to the whole picture either.

You don’t buy a Picasso because you love the frame – Joss Whedonm

Photography is about finding out what can happen in the frame. When you put four edges around some facts, you change those facts – Garry Winogrand

What counts isn’t the frame, it’s what you put in it – Otto Preminger

I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us, unless it’s inside a frame – Abbas Kiarostami

I have a European frame of mind and Europe is my home – Andrea Bocelli

 

Thank you for all your inspiring Angles last week!  –  and thank you, Amy, for a beautiful set of frames and for all the fun with this challenge!

 

Thursday Thoughts – Over the Pool

This hot May and half of June finally ended today. Chilly winds and some raindrops.

 

 

So…I will have a break for a couple of days…back after the weekend. See you then!

 

 

 

 

Thursday Thoughts – Beyond Beauty

In the fertile Punakha Valley, where the Mo Chhu (Mother river) and the Pho Chhu (Father river) meet, lies Punakha Dzong – Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). It was constructed in 1637 and maybe the most impressive building in Bhutan – also considered the most beautiful dzong in the country.

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The very size of Punakha Dzong is impressive, 180m long and 72m wide, but the elaborately painted gold, red and black carved woods, the brass roof and the location adds to the light perfection.

Punakha served as Bhutan’s capital for over 300 years and the first king was crowned here in 1907. Since the mid 1950’s, Thimpu is the capital, but Punakha is still the center for official meetings, the kings’ weddings and other important ceremonies.

The dzong, like all the other dzongs in Bhutan, has suffered fires several times, but is always restored. Due to its location by the two rivers, it is also vulnerable to the floods following climate change. In 1994 a glacial lake burst and destroyed parts of the building, and before that, in 1897, there was also a severe earthquake.

The temple is grand and holds thrones for the King as well as for the high Lama.

There are 300 monks in the dzong, and our guide told us that today the monastery schools are almost like ordinary schools – you take different subjects like science and mathematics along with languages and the scriptures.

The young monks are very curious and good at English.

The junction of the two rivers, seen from inside the dzong.

And so we left this magnificent fortress – without using the middle, golden steps, made for the King only. A breathtaking visit – only there was so much more we wanted to see, hear and learn – but maybe next time…

 

Rinpung Dzong – Bhutan and Its People

The Paro Dzong is bigger than you first think. As I wrote before, it houses an administration as well as a monastic part.

We walked back there in the afternoon during the Tsechu, to take a closer look.

1974 Bhutan opened up to the world, and some years ago they invited the great leaders of the outside world, to show their winning concept. Not all leaders came, of course, but those who listened must have been impressed. This tiny Himalayan nation, surrounded by much larger countries with massive populations and economies – seem to stand tall in their beliefs and try to follow the road chosen.

Bhutan combines Gross National Happiness (explained further down) with democracy and Buddhism. A concept they try to convey to the world as well. In fact, the Resolution of Happiness was adopted by the UN’s National Assembly in 2011, leading to World Happiness Day now being celebrated across the globe annually on March 20.

 

The Watch Tower used to house the National Museum, but the tower was damaged in an earthquake, so the museum was now set up in a building nearby.

Going down again we passed some sellers. Their hats and clothes tell about their origin – they are Layaps, living in the north western parts of Bhutan, at almost 4000 meters. Until the 1980s the Layaps lived in complete isolation from the rest of the country.

A rapidly growing economy has resulted in increased consumerism – leading to imports mostly from India. The government decided to place a ban on many imports, including cars, but it remains to be seen if globalization and everything in its wake can be sufficiently kept at bay. Let us hope so. The King and the Government seem very determined.

Modernity is coming though. Cell phones and heavy camera equipment already in Paro – and dogs on leash in Thimpu. But – Thimpu is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. There is still a policeman in a box, in the middle of the street, gracefully waving the traffic in the right direction.

 

Gross National Happiness (GNH) in short, is:

  • based on core Buddhist and human values
  • a measurable index and a counterpoint to the economists Gross National Product
  • a philosophy placing real value on cultural heritage, health, education, good governance, ecological diversity and individual well-being

According to our local guide, Rinzen, there is a validation before a decision is taken, and after the implementation of it. If people are not getting/did not get happier out of this – the concept will be dropped.

Bhutan is the world’s only carbon-negative country. Just Imagine. And, this is true.

 

 

The Streets of Paro

At 2200 meters above sea level, Paro hosts Bhutan’s international airport and about 15000 citizens. A charming town with its most famous landmark about 10 kilometres outside town: Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) Hermitage on the face of a sheer 1,000-metre (3,281-foot) cliff. This was our goal for the last day of our tour.

Street life is rather lively, and throughout our trip, the towns and villages were constantly expanding.

Architecture is restricted to the old ways, and no matter the material, you have to build and decorate your house according to tradition.

Roadwork everywhere too. The two, three roads connecting the villages of the valley was built by India. The workers stay for many years to keep up the road quality.

The bridge over to Rinpung Dzong. The Dzong (a fortress/monastery) was built in the beginning of the tenth century. The famous festival, Paro Tsechu, is held here every year – and we visited on our first day in Bhutan.

 

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past Y4-03

For Paula at Lost in Translation.

 

This is the Roman bridge in Verzasca valley, Switzerland. In fact, my favorite bridge – in a very special and surprising landscape. A real treasure of the past.