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…

 

It Is All About… Books!

Books, books…art and culture. One of the reasons to why I love visiting the eastern countries in Europe is just that. I get my share of childhood joy and my faiblesse for books.

Inside, there are more than 8 million books. Just think about all the catalogues there must be…these were only a few. Do you remember the era before the digital boom?

 

This is the outside of the National Library. Slightly resemblance to…books on shelves?

The outdoor book market was a dream – even though I did not understand much and could not buy that many books. You can always look, and be tempted! As you can see in the header, many other things could be bought here as well.

 

The ordinary library for grown-ups had a typical touch of the communist era. (Bulgaria was not liberated until the 1980’s.) Colours, shelves, floor and …books. Almost all the books were paperbacks – no hardbacks. And they were all ”well” read.

Even the benches outside were dedicated to books!

The entrance to the childrens library had an unmistakable sign…our Swedish Pippi Longstocking. Did you know she has been translated into 92 different languages? Astrid Lindgren still belongs to the future!

The children’s library was much more modern, and the reading rooms had furniture and curtains from IKEA.

The ladies working here were very helpful and informative. We had an invigorating chat about children and books. No problem in this country with reading – most children love it. And for small children the books are free to borrow. Older children had to pay a very small sum/year.

Beware of book worms – Bulgaria is a dream country!

 

 

 

 

Cultural Café

We wanted to visit the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, but it was closed and a veritable construction site. I was dying for a nice cup of coffee along with some cultural events…but the building seemed totally abandoned.

Nothing wrong with a construction site…if you can find a place like this when you step down into the underground..

A slight drizzle, and my stomach was making sounds…but when we had totally given up on this place and walked down some steps to get to the street again – suddenly there emerged a big window with BOOKS. From nowhere. Nothing with books can go wrong, so we opened the door and stepped inside…

…a café! A place reminding me of my university years with not too expensive coffee’s, nice company and working in two’s or more. My eyes and spirits went up and I just took it in…..feeling the coziness and the warmth instead of the by now rather chilly, hostile weather outdoors.

We stayed for an hour at least and left with big smiles on our faces ;-D

It went on drizzling – but we felt good all the way home! Keep reading! And…some tea is OK as well…

Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge – Day 3

I was invited by Raj (XDrive) to join the Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge. (Thank you, Raj)

The Rules are
• Seven days.
• Seven black and white photos of your life.
• No people.
• No explanation.
• Challenge someone new each day
Today I would like to challenge Sue at WordsVisual
Sue, participate only if you have time, no compulsion. I know you are a busy woman…

Thursday Thoughts – Hasse & Tage – (‘Swedish Words Ltd’)

This tiny exhibition at Kulturen in Lund was a real hit for me. I  only took a few photos, but hopefully they convey something of what and who they were. Some of their movies  are still on TV every year…and Hasse is still here, even if he does not write or perform anymore. The Apple War and The Simple-Minded Murderer are my absolute favourites.

Nostalgia…yes, but they will never die! Hans Alfredsson and Tage Danielsson – the number one comic artists of Sweden, the best critics of politics and politicians, the front figures working for a better world and environmental awareness. They brought out the best in people…by using their extreme talent for words.

Unfortunately this kind of sophisticated humour does no longer exist. (People are not good at words anymore…) Word jugglers, enthusiasts – ask any Swede my age, and they can recite something from ”Om sannolikhet” (”On Likelyhood”)

 

 

 

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast

Murals in Northern Ireland, are strong symbols and depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions. There is peace now, but 1968-1998, ”the troubles” between working class protestants and catholics were very severe. I remember hearing and reading of them as a young girl. The IRA bombings made black headlines in our papers. In my first teaching classes I remember using a text called ”The Sniper” – about Northern Ireland. It was a ”must” to see these murals in reality.

In Belfast, it is estimated that there are approximately 300 quality murals on display,  These murals are mainly to be found in two streets – Shankill Road (protestant) and Falls Road (Catholic) in western Belfast.

The themes of murals can range from the 1981 Irish hunger strike, with strike leader Bobby Sands,  to murals of fallen heroes and international solidarity with revolutionary groups. For example we found Cuba’s Fidel Castro and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

After walking these two famous streets, we went to the Peace Wall. This wall goes all the way along this street, and most of the paintings are very neatly done. If you look closely, every letter and separate painting is covered in texts on peace. Imagine how wonderful it must have been to participate in the making! Finally, ”War is Over”!

Hiking Festival at Hovdala

Hiking festival at Hovdala  – a part of Eurorando, Europe’s biggest hiking and walking event. There were many groups and trails to choose from. I joined the photography group.

And what a day we had. In the middle of September – and 25 degrees Celsius…A bit too warm for hiking really, but an ordinary autumn, the alternative would have been rain.

 

Between 5000 and 7000 hikers from all of Europe travel to Skåne during 7 days to walk the Scanian trails, socialize and explore the Swedish nature, culture and society.

The landscape showed its best and so did the weather. After the walk we were all served a delicious vegan chili soup with bread. Thank you all participants for a glorious day well spent!

Travel theme: Writing

Travel theme: Writing

We once started writing to sum up collected taxes and to label things. We still do.  But, we also write for many other reasons – Love for example, and for religious reasons (I guess that too is out of love).

Me meeting all the H.P. fans at the "Elephant House"

Me meeting all the Harry Potter fans at the ”Elephant House” in Edinburgh.

Sometimes the writing is not that beautiful…but still written out of love.

Tibetansk skylt ovanför ingången till ett tempel

Tibetansk skylt ovanför ingången till ett tempel – Tibetan sign from a temple in Lhasa.

And sometimes I find writing utterly beautiful.

Often the eastern ”alphabets” and writings are much more artistic and beautiful than ours – or what do you think?

 

WPC: Jubilant

 

I don’t know anything more jubilant than students storming out in real life,  celebrating their achievements and their last minutes in highschool –

 

– and then freeeeeeedom!

 

Thursday Thoughts – School Days

When I go abroad, I try to visit at least one school – if possible. I guess we all like to see how our own profession works in other parts of the world. In Morocco my visit was to an abandoned school – but still it was very interesting.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college in Marrakesh, Morocco, named after the  sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in Morocco, and lies totally embedded in the city. There was nothing to reveal its true looks from the outside.

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The college was founded in the 14th century, and its 130 student dormitory cells cluster around the courtyard, richly carved in cedar, marble and Moroccan style stucco.

The pool is the wash basin – elaborately decorated in marble tiles. I wonder how several hundred students were organized to perform this ceremony? Every day?

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As required by Islam, the carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.

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This madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students. Hard to understand from what we could see of the size.

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The students’ cells were all on the first floor, and richly decorated corridors led to each dorm.

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These beautiful doors opened up to the courtyard, and the student living here could see across the yard to the student on the other side. The cells were very small, maybe 9 square metres, and most of them had no windows at all.

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The college was still alive and working when I was born, but closed down in 1960. The madrasa was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.

Those who lived and worked here were surrounded by beauty…but I wonder where all those students went when it closed down…? And, would I have loved to study here – inside this spectacular work of art? Would you?