Thursday Thoughts – Hovdala Again

Hovdala is mentioned for the first time in 1130, but the presently visible castle complex began to be constructed during the early 16th century. The date 1511 can be read on one of the façades. In those days, Scania (Skåne) was a part of Denmark.

A renovation of the castle was initiated in 1993. In 2004, renovation project was awarded the Europa Nostra award for ”sensitive and intelligent restoration work.”

The castle was besieged twice by Swedish troops during the Kalmar War. But, Hovdala castle withstood both sieges.

The castle belonged to the Ehrenborg family until 1944, when it was expropriated by the Swedish state. The last owners were however allowed to stay in the castle and did not move out until 1981. The grounds are frequently used for walking, hiking, bird watching and jousting.
The freshwater pearl mussel is a precious inhabitant in the waters of Hovdala.

Follow the road up in the forest behind the castle, and you will arrive at the Library Ruin – on which I have often posted. An unfinished octagon built by the owner of the castle – what a beautiful idea – to have a library in the forest! So, I will leave you there…for now.

Thursday Thoughts – Scanisaurus – Europe’s largest stoneware fountain

Just outside the Ifö factory in Bromölla, live-sized ceramic dinosaurs sunbathe on a ceramic cliff surrounded by springwater. Or should be, but there was no water when we visited.

Plesiosaurs first appeared in the latest Triassic Period, 203 million years ago. They became especially common during the Jurassic Period, thriving until their disappearance about 66 million years ago. They had a worldwide oceanic distribution. Scanisaurus (Saurus from Skåne) bones were found on a small island, Ifö. (Ö means island in Swedish)

Scanisaurus is the masterpiece of Sweden’s renowned ceramic artist, Gunnar Nylund. It is a one of a kind artwork, made by hand and consisting of more than 3000 individual pieces.

In 2014 many of the original plaster forms that were used to make the fountain were rediscovered by Ifö Center’s artists. They are now under restoration at the Center and the goal is to produce new parts and restore Scanisaurus for the 50th anniversary in 2021.

The funny thing is, that the discovery of the plaster forms was what finally convinced ROA to come over from Australia to paint T-Rex in 2014.

This is my third post from Ifö Center. Here are links to the previous posts:

https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/2020/10/22/thursday-thoughts-ifo-center/

https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/2020/10/29/thursday-thoughts-more-ifo-center/

Mother Earth Day

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth –  Thich Nhat Hanh

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #78 – Special Spot Shots

Having delighted in all your favorite photos from 2019, We would love to invite you to some Special Spot Shots!

In November 1979 the historic city of Split, Croatia, built around the Diocletian Palace, was included in the UNESCO register of World Cultural Heritage. Today, the palace is well preserved with all the most important historical buildings. It is so well hidden behind new facades and modern stores, that If you don’t know where the southern gate to the palace is – you will not find your way in!

Somewhere behind those palm trees, lies the entrance to the palace’s cellars – let’s enter – My Special Spot!

Diocletian’s Palace  was built for the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, which today forms about half the old town of Split, Croatia. It is referred to as a ”palace”, but the term is rather misleading as the structure is massive and more resembles a large fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian’s personal use, and the rest housed the military garrison.

The construction of Diocletian’s palace is assumed to have begun around 295, and the ground plan of the palace is an irregular rectangle measuring east: 214.97 m, north: 174.74 m, south: 181.65 m

There is a legend, probably from the 10th century, telling how Croatian king Držislav (named King Solomon), captured by the Venetians, played a chess match to gain his freedom. He won all three parties and was set free, and in some versions, he also got power over the Dalmatian cities. Thus, the chessboard ended up in the Croatian flag.

The northern gate is one of the four principal Roman gates into the Palace – originally the Main gate (the Golden Gate) from which the Emperor entered the complex. The gate is on the road to the north, towards Salona, the then capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia and Diocletian’s birthplace.

The second most important gate was the Silver Gate – here seen from the monumental central square, the Peristyle, inside the palace.

The Palace was built of white local limestone and marble of high quality, most of which was from the Brač marble quarries on the island of Brač, of tuff taken from the nearby river beds, and of brick made in Salonitan and other factories. The stones we walked are the original ones – which gives you quite the feeling and perspective!

As the world’s most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean, European, and world heritage. Diocletian’s Palace was also used as a location for filming the fourth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones.

The old city is very much alive – not a museum.

The Palace was decorated with numerous 3500-year-old granite sphinxes, possibly originating from the site of Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III. Only three have survived the centuries. One is still on the Peristyle – as seen above.

After some hours of breathtakingly being transported through history, we left by the same gate we entered, the southern gate, where the emperor used to arrive by boat. As we already had noticed, today’s modern sphinxes rule the city – the cats. This sphinx sitting on the left hand side – watching you arrive and watching you leave.

Kroatien Bosnien Herzegovina 325-4

Surely he has got the true sphinx look !

Now we are looking forward to seeing Your very special spot shots – maybe a room in your home, a garden, a mountain, a city, an exhibition, a lovely café…a place that is special to you!

 

Thank you for so generously sharing your own 2019 with us! We have enjoyed so many interesting galleries – and it was so hard to pick just some of them, but…

Have you seen these:

Sue’s eclectic gallery

From Beyond the Window Box and Judith we get gardening and beautiful views of Berwick upon Tweed

Paulie of The Life in My Years shares some stunning memories – and life lessons – with us

Su Leslie sends a glorious gallery from New Zealand

Davide‘s gallery will surprise you

Be sure to link to my original post, (Links posted within the Reader are not working correctly) and to use the Lens-Artists tag to help us find you. And, of course please visit Amy’s blog next week for Challenge #79!

As always, Patti, Amy, Tina and I hope you will join us.

 

 

 

Thursday Thoughts – Udabno and Sighnaghi

Why Georgia ? 

Udabno, at first sight, seems a forgotten place in the desert. Originally a Soviet built village – but then abandoned and left to the last, striving old farmers. Since about 8-10 years it has been brought to life again, by a Polish guy who fell in love with Georgia when traveling the countryside. His idea was to build a restaurant and hostel for people driving through on their way to David Gareja  (the monastery I posted on before). This turned out quite well – and his Oasis is thriving. They promise delicious Georgian food and friendly people – and on top you get dogs and cats at your feet, charming the guests.

Sighnaghi, the pearl of the Kakheti region, is one of the most important villages in Georgia’s greatest wine district. The oldest parts are from the 18th century, with a 4-5 km town wall. We also heard it was considered maybe the most beautiful village in Georgia. Built 790 meters above sea level, it overlooks the glorious Alazani Valley and the Caucasus Mountains. In fact almost every part of it was restored by Italian architects, and paid for by the mighty family Sjevardnadze.

We learned that the cradle of Wine is Kaukasus, and Georgia has the oldest wine traditions in the world, second only to Armenia. 8000 years old Clay barrels for wine making have been found here. The wine making was unique – and still is today. The grapes were put in the clay barrels that were buried in the ground for fermentation – no additives…not even sugar. 100% ecological.

No wonder the wine tastes heavenly. We tried three different Saperavi wines from the  OKRO`s Wines, relaxing on a terrace overlooking a lovely cat overlooking the whole valley and the mountains. Finishing off with a mild Chacha (70% – but not noticeable).

In the end I thought the strict rules applied for making these Georgian wines exceeded all intricate EU-rules, making EU not fully able to realize the fantastic quality of these wines – and therefore not marketing them as they should. Rather interesting…

A war monument with thousands of names from the area, meant another moment of contemplation. So many horrors and so many wars this country has suffered. And still – inhabited by upright, friendly and hospitable people.

We hit the road again, and our knowledgeable guide remembered my talking about a photo of the grape vendors…This party was packing up for the night, but we stopped for a chat and a photo. Sweet guys…in the end I jumped in the car with some kilos of the sweet grapes too (not the guys!)! I was not allowed to pay anything…but hugs were free!

Thursday Thoughts – David Gareja Lavra

David Gareja Lavra is a historical and architectural monument within the monastic complex of David Gareja. It was built during the first half of the 6th century under the guidance of San David Gareja, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. He came to bring Christianity to Georgia, and he founded around 15 monasteries in the arid and desert like nature on the border to Azerbaijan.

David Gareja is a Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region, and the complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.

Despite the harsh environment, the monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries; at certain periods the monasteries owned extensive agricultural lands and many villages. The renaissance of fresco painting chronologically coincides with the general development of the life in the David Gareja monasteries. The high artistic skill of frescoes made them an indispensable part of world treasure. From the late 11th to the early 13th centuries, the economic and cultural development of David Gareja reached its highest phase.

We left early in the morning on a private tour, because the roads were all very narrow and bumpy – no buses could go there. Road builders and machines were constantly working and in some places we had to drive in the nearby fields instead of the road.

We wondered where these sheep would get any food, but loved to see them – and their shepherds on horses.

I loved the landscape, the low ridges, the long views and the serenity of the lines. We also saw gigantic areas with olive trees, according to our guide a co-operation with EU. When ready, the olives would be exported for the EU market.

We passed some salt lakes as well. Millions of years ago, the whole area was covered in water, and today these lakes are the only remaining waters to be seen. They have no outflow in this hot and dry area, so what is left is – salt.

This means that the soil is saturated with salt and difficult to cultivate. Even the ground water here is too salty. In order to use it as drinking water, it has to be filtered. This windy day, salt was flying in the air, and you could feel it on your tongue when speaking.

While driving, our knowledgeable guide told us of The David Gareja monasteries and their long history of wars and vandals, destroying and rebuilding. The Mongolians och Timur Lenk were devastating, but that was nothing to the Persians killing of 6000 monks celebrating Easter in 1615. After the prayer in all 15 monasteries, all monks were locked inside the churches and killed. The rich artworks and other treasures were destroyed or stolen. After this blow, the D G monasteries never came back to their former glory.

Then, what seemed a final blow, came after the violent Bolshevik takeover of Georgia in 1921 – David Gareja was closed down and remained uninhabited. In the years of the Soviet–Afghan War, the monastery’s territory was used as a training ground for the Soviet military, that inflicted damage to the unique cycle of murals in the monastery.

After the restoration of Georgia’s independence in 1991, the monastery life in David Gareja – Lavra – was revived. Today it is the home of 13-30 monks.

We only visited Lavra, and we were not allowed to see how the monks really lived their daily life. But, the guide told us that in one of the higher located caves, the monks had their meals – kneeling at stone tables.

The area is also home to protected animal species and evidence of some of the oldest human habitations in the region.

Part of the complex is located in the Agstafa rayon of Azerbaijan and has become subject to a border dispute between Georgia and Azerbaijan, with ongoing talks since 1991. But as there are strong economic and cultural ties between Azerbaijan and Georgia, they both have peaceful intentions in the determination of borders.

On leaving the monastery, my head was filled with thoughts of how a monk’s life must be out there in the desert. I wonder how young or old they are today, what their cave cells look like and how cold it is there in the long, lonely nights. Questions without answers.

A fact is – that Georgians are, and have always been, a strong people. They have been invaded by so many other powers, countries and people, but every time they have risen again. How they have remained so friendly and good at heart is a true enigma.

 

 

Thursday Thoughts – A Day with Georgian Historic Sites

We decided to take a day out of Tbilisi – for some of Georgia’s old historic sites. Uplistsikhe is an interesting ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia, built on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. It is identified by archaeologists as one of the oldest urban settlements in the country.

As our eminent guide, Katie, led us through the remains of this once 20 000 people inhabited town – she told us that even if it was almost destroyed by the Mongolians in the 13th century, the area also suffers from frequent earthquakes, which finally finished its existence.

The town contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the coexistence of pagan and Christian architecture.

At the summit of the complex is a Christian basilica built of stone and brick in the 9th-10th centuries. (Another photo from it last Silent Sunday.)

The quiet interior is in perfect harmony. I felt completely at peace with myself, alone in the natural light, in a translucent sphere.

Archaeological excavations have discovered numerous artifacts of different periods, including gold, silver and bronze jewellery, and samples of ceramics and sculptures. Many of these artifacts are in the safekeeping of the National Museum in Tbilisi.

After this windy adventure, we left for Jvari Monastery (in the header, seen from Svetitskhoveli), whose name is translated as the ”Monastery of the Cross”. Jvari Monastery is a sixth century Georgian Orthodox monastery near Mtskheta, and is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Jvari is a rare case of the Early Medieval Georgian church that survived to the present day almost unchanged. The church became the founder of its type, the Jvari type of church architecture, prevalent in Georgia and Armenia.

The monastery stands on the rocky mountaintop at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, overlooking the town of Mtskheta.

Built atop of Jvari Mount (656 m a.s.l.), the monastery is an example of harmonious connection with the natural environment, characteristic to Georgian architecture.

We ventured down to Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta (this city also recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site), one of the oldest cities of Georgia, founded by the ancient Meschian tribes in the 5th century. It was capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia from the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD, and continued to serve as the coronation and burial place for most kings of Georgia until the end of the kingdom in the 19th century.

The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (literally the Cathedral of the Living Pillar) is currently the second largest church building in Georgia, after the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi. Known as the burial site of Christ’s mantle, Svetitskhoveli has long been one of the principal Georgian Orthodox churches in the region. It is considered a masterpiece of the Early and High Middle Ages.

At the end of the day, our lovely, knowledgeable guide, Katie, waited patiently for her ”sheep” to return to their master.

 

Thursday Thoughts – Guest Blogger – Chernobyl, a Visit

My son went to Kiev and Chernobyl this Autumn, and I asked him if he would share some of his photos and impressions on this blog. He said yes, and I am happy to have him here once again. Hope you will enjoy his work!

 

I’ve wanted to visit Chernobyl for a long time. The combination of two of my biggest interests; urban exploration and history, took me here.

The worst nuclear disaster in history took place in April 26th 1986. A disaster releasing an amount of radioactivity equal to 400 Hiroshima bombs.

Pripyat had 50 000 citizens who were evacuated by bus, roughly 1,5 days after the accident. They were given false promises of coming back – and so they left everything, even their beloved pets.

Every corridor in the buildings I visited felt endless. Seemingly reaching for the end of the world.

The Middle School was modern and well equipped with both music halls and sports facilities. They even had a large storage where they kept child-sized Soviet gas masks, in case of an emergency..

Paper_Hall_BW

This was one of five secondary schools in this town. Hundreds of children once ran up and down these corridors. It almost felt like all of these notebooks, documents and files tried to chase after their owners when they left.

There are an endless amount of houses out in the Chernobyl woods. Some hide treasures, but most of them are just husks. Although they are just as beautiful.

DSC_2265

The Duga Radar was a so called ”over-the-horizon” radar that was supposed to detect missiles and airstrikes. Soon, it got the nickname ”The Russian Woodpecker” because of the repetitive tapping noise it caused at 10Hz on shortwave radios.

The radar itself is enormous – towering 150 meters high and around 700 meters wide.

 

We managed to sneak past security and get a peek at cooling tower #5. It was supposed to pump large amounts of water around the reactor for cooling, but the tower was never finished after reactor #4 exploded.

Stage

The ”Palace of Culture Energetik” was a large community center for the citizen of Pripyat. ”Energetik” is a wordplay – meaning both ”energetic” and ”power plant worker”. The purpose was to have a wide range of recreational activities including a library, gym, swimming pool, dancing halls and the very theater in the image above.

I am barely even scratching the surface of the stories and the history of Chernobyl. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend the TV Series called ”Chernobyl” on HBO. They portray the disaster in an incredibly powerful and emotional way, while staying close to the facts and real life stories. I also recommend the book which the show is based on: ”Voices from Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich.

I would love to answer any questions that you might have.

Regards,

David P

Thursday Thoughts – The Whaling Station

Hvalfjörður is situated in the west of Iceland, and the fjord is approximately 30 km long and 5 km wide. The place has an interesting history.

During WWII, a naval base of the British and American navies could be found in this fjord. One of the piers built by the United States Navy is today used by the Hvalur whaling company for the processing of fin whales, partially for the domestic market, and mostly for export to Japan. None of this in 2019 though.

The origin of the name Hvalfjörður is uncertain. Certainly today there is no presence of whales in the fjord; while the only whaling station in Iceland is still located here. In the past the fjord also contained many herring fisheries.

Today the old buildings, and some newer ones,  are still standing for the workers at the station, even if there were no workers this year. Only goats…

Outside the main building, we came across this lovely man and could ask him about old times, the navy men, the whales and the Japanese workers. In fact, as a young man he had worked as a whaler here himself. Now he was just trying to repair and maintain the houses.

Some of the small houses looked inhabited and we could see through the windows how cosy they were inside. A bit small, but much better than a tent. They could maybe be rented by tourists? I asked – but no, the government did not allow that. The huts were deemed too simple. We learned that they had no toilet and no kitchen. There was this main building for that purpose.

 

Thursday Thoughts – A Life’s Work

Söderto is a tiny place in the southern part of Skåne, Sweden, where Karl-Göran Persson built a fortress for himself, his family and friends – in case of an attack from Russia. Karl-Göran died in 1975, and he had spent his whole life building and reinforcing this fortress.

One day we decided to try and find it, all of us intrigued by the story. So this spring we went, the three of us. And it became a strange adventure, a day to remember. You can come along if you want to…

It is not a very big place, Söderto, and the remains of his own home nearby were gone.

Karl-Göran was a simple man, a single farmer, and well known in the neighborhood for his warm heart, for his building and for his transporting all material on his bicycle.

He even mastered setting rails and railroad ties into the fortress – all by himself. The thought was to build a balcony.

He used what he could find to reinforce his fortress, be it iron beds, chamber pots, baskets or bicycle parts. Look closely at the pictures, and maybe you will find them…

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After so many years of withering down, it is not advised to go inside anymore. But…

there is a friendly silence, a loving atmosphere when you walk here… you can feel his spirit still being there – in his life’s work.

A soft whisper in the fields, and the beauty of the landscape touches your soul.

Thinking of him, Karl-Göran, I believe he would have loved it that we came all that way to visit. And how much we enjoyed it too.

Just see how beautifully the villagers keep his memory.