Countries, Culture, Europe

Italy’s history written on the walls

It’s often called a living museum and as we shake down the new UNESCO sites and celebrate Il Bel Paese’s pre-eminence.. Italy’s history written on the walls.

The addition of Bologna’s porticoes and Padova’s frescoes makes Italy numero uno with 58 recognised sites.

Arches of triumph

Walk this way: Bologna

Donata McGlynn (she married an Italian) would tear her luscious brown hair out teaching me Italian of a morning.

We would do whistle-stop visits around her homeland in the exercises she set to test nostra lingua.

And we, of course, passed through Bologna’s porticoes which gave us plenty of practise our directions.

The porticoes date back to the 12th century and span over 39 miles with most found in the city.

Made of wood, stone, brick, or reinforced concrete they serve as entrances to arcades and workshops.

And naturally have become hubs for Italians to chatter, or chiacchiera, a beautiful onomatopoeic word.

Of course all with the hands, or parlare con le mani.

Padova’s frescoes

To the greater glory: Padova

Of course, Renaissance Italy all started out with… Giotto in Padova.

Long before Michelangelo got to work on his Sistine Chapel Giotto was setting the template in Padova.

His showpiece the Scrovegni Chapel.

All of which you can learn about by googling. But much more fun coming with me on my Padova journey

UNESCO didn’t just stop there although you could easily while away an afternoon… and I did.

And an advance party to Venice

There are eight religious and secular building complexes which make up Padova’s 14th century fresco cycle.

So why not start your UNESCO Historic Sites of Italy in Padova.

Where its Botanical Gardens are already rightfully on the list.

And take a gentle boat ride to Venice.

Sites for sore eyes

Caesar the day: In Rome

Italy is, of course, an ancient land of regions and cities.

And it is only right that UNESCO should celebrate le citte as a whole.

And La Citta Eterna stands foremost of them, although, of course it’s a high bar.

See Naples and Die

So you should dwell a while in Florence, Sienna, Naples and Verona.

And Ferrara which bills itself as the City of Renaissance although Giotto and Padova might have something to say about that!

So check it all out… Italy’s history written on the walls.

 

Asia, Countries, Europe

In Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace

The Son and Heir was more used to me ordering a coffee and a biscuit, but when in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

Well they say that in life you should try everything (and that would include the shisha pipe) once.

By hookah, by crook


Smokin’: The hookah

You probably need to be from Turkey, the Middle East or North Africa, to pull off the kasbah chic look.

And so that when I joined the shisha gang next in Istanbul and Jordan I declined the pipe of peace.

My cuppa tea

A beautiful day: Bodrum

Instead I just sipped my mint tea and watched the regulars play chess.

In Bodrum. I dare say there were more than a few Bobby Fischers, but on our first days in the marketplace it was backgammon.

They played a different, more fast-paced game than the one me and my Mum would play back in the stuffy Glasgow suburbs.

It wouldn’t have gone down well to chain smoke in front of my Dear Old Mum, exhort Allah or slam my counters down.

Chairman of the board

Counter attack: Backgammon

The cry of Ally filled the air too in Bodrum when I would try to bring the Son and Heir back into line.

And would discover a market trader swirling the six-year-old in the air exclaiming Ally!

They would look out for the boy every day with the Arabic name every day when we would walk through the market.

We had made instant friends.

And we would enjoy a family holiday we still look back on with joy 20 years later.

A slice of Turkey

It’s all about the… tea

I would fall in love with Turkey, its Turkish barbers, mud baths and Turkish dancers.

Which is why my heart breaks to see the wildfires around Bodrum.

And holidaymakers evacuating for rescue boats.

The Turks have suffered particularly badly through the pandemic.

So the wildfires must feel like the last straw.

Flying Turkey

Flying high: Turkish Airlines, Istanbul

Inevitably, and not without some evidence, the climate change zealots are taking excessive joy out of the situation.

I, of course, do not have the answer. But I would say that we cannot glibly just say make it more difficult to fly.

As exploring foreign countries, meeting the locals and making their friendship is the best way of breaking down barriers.

Because when they do get back on their feet, remember in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Amber lists and you’re a gem

I put my foot in it with a colleague, so just to say there will be no more gags about Amber lists and you’re a gem..

The amber threat has had holidaymakers panicking and fretting about getting back from foreign countries and then paying through the nose for self-isolation.

And the latest countries in the firing line are two of our favourites, France and Italy.

But the fossilised tree resin is something to be treasured as a precious jewel.

And also a healing property for hippies, whom I lean to….ooooohhhhhhm!

Museum pieces

Craftwork: amber

You’ll find amber really wherever you’ll find trees, or where trees once were, which is pretty much everywhere.

And among all their magical qualities they also seem to have a magnetic pull on women.

Particularly when you’re on your holiday with la famiglia in the coastal town of Southwold in England’s East Anglia.

And the evidence is somewhere at the bottom of the Scary One’s Jewellery box.

Though not the 2.2 kilo exhibit… it would only drag her neck down.

Pole stars

Shine bright: The colour of the sun

 

Now every day’s a school day when you’re meeting holiday providers from around the world.

And while feeding our bellies with big bowls of Polish soup and warming our hearts with their vodka, our Polish friends gave us the rundown on Gdansk.

And its impressive history with amber.

What’s more it’s even better than it was before with the new Amber Museum of Gdansk opened to the public only last week.

Amber is brilliant in tone and hue and can act naturally as a receptacle for all the things that can get stuck in trees, like bugs.

While it is a great building block for jewellery yes, but from spoons to chess sets to Fender Stratocaster guitars.

Opening gambit

The voice of Dresden: With Ingrid in Dresden

Museum director Waldemar Ossowski said: “Amber items are delicate and sensitive, and the susceptibility to damage increases with the age of the item, which is why many amber masterpieces have survived in fragments and are missing many figurines.”

We’re told too that it sits in the pantheon with the the collection of the Danish royal family, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Grünes Gewölbe museum in Dresden.

Something begotten in the state of Denmark

Walking on air in Nyhavn, Copenhagen

And if you know your Copenhagen you’ll know the museum is located in Kanneworff’s House in Nyhavn which dates back to 1606.

You’ll be taken on a 30-50 million journey and needless to say Denmark is at the heart of it.

And there will be a celebration of Scandinavian forests and their traders.

While there’s also chess too, naturally.

The Russians are coming

And take a tour of the ramparts: Kaliningrad

Whisper it around Poland where they like to claim amber as their Baltic gem but the Russians are coming with their own amber museum in Kaliningrad.

Well, like all things Polish, they’ve already settled and are flagging their own museum.

Should you be in the region then lucky you. So have a look around.

Obviously at all the amber and the many exhibitions including the Fifth Russian Contest of Gallery Art.

But also take a guided tour of the rampart to learn about the history of the growth of Konigsberg fortification power.

So that’s our Amber lists and you’re a gem all of you who are called Amber.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Our world is ever changing

Our world is ever changing but not according to the cork map I’ve been sent.

OIt has taken me, in truth, the best part of a week to realise that this world at my fingertips was the one of my schooldays.

When Britain was still in denial about the loss of Empire.

Pin sharp

A different world

It was only after I’d stuck the pins in (I’d expected them to include them as in the picture) that I’d realised.

I’d covered Western Europe in red, blue and a spot of Irish green.

And adapted as your sticky pins only seem to come in the primary colours.

Red, white and blue

Don’t tell the Indians

So you end up pinning the Oranje Netherlands in red which to be fair is one-third of their flag.

And Italia in verde green the same, though Il Bel Paese is more associated with sporting azzurro.

Some countries have spent generations fighting not to go red so it seemed wrong to pin Germany red, but hey ho.

Red, of course, means different things, in different places and America and the Arab World proudly flashes red.

We will pin them on the beaches

And it can’t be a Beijing Duck

Of course it’s not just travel-longing Travel Editors who pin stickers to an atlas.

And world leaders are probably doing the same as we speak.

I’ve seen it too first hand at Winston Churchill’s War Rooms in Whitehall in London.

Now I’m thinking that I must have been delivered one of Winnie’s maps when I turned my attentions to Asia.

It can’t be a Mumbai mix

It’s not Queenstown any more: Cork

And saw that my mapmakers are still clinging to old British names of Bombay (Mumbai) and Peking (Beijing).

Before scanning back to Ireland to check that the names were correct.

It truly would not have surprised me if their cartographers were working to a 20th Century template.

I should have known when they insisted that my purchase was for a Queenstown map of the world.

Rather than a Cork one.

Our world is changing for sure, it’s just some are stuck in the past.

 

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Europe

Italia und Deutschland

They’ve been wanting to welcome us back, and now they can… bella bella et Wunderbar Italia und Deutschland.

Italy and Germany are heading up a tranche of countries green-listed for us to visit again.

That also includes two of my other go-to countries Austria and Switzerland.

Ciao now Bergamo

Buon Giorno Bergamo

That Italy should be leading the way is reward for the efforts they have made in the last year and a half.

The good people of Bergamo have a claim to the title of huggiest people you’ll meet.

Having got into the Guinness Book of Records just five years ago.

When 11,460 Bergamaschi embraced each other, and that’s 5730 couples.

Huggy bears

Atalanta fans: With Matteo in Betgamo

All of which is revealed in the council offices, an antidote to the heavy subject of Covid, which I was there to discuss with the Tourism Minister.

And isn’t it refreshing to count in cuddles than casualties?

It is, of course, what we miss in these days of restricted engagement when we travel.

And so when I wanted to hug my host Matteo for his friendship after we said Ciao we knew we could only elbow.

Give us a cuddle

My Swiss Miss: In Interlaken

Which used to be what you did when you wanted to get rid of somebody.

Now the peoples of some countries seem to be able to get by without the need for physical contact.

My hugginess then is probably more my Irish than my Scottish half.

Sometimes a smile a clink of glasses and a Prost with your eyes fixed on each other.. a la Germany, the Austrians and the Swiss.

Caribbean dreams

My Tobagonian pals: Auntie Ali, Uncle Kenneth

But quite how my Bajan and Tobagonian pals will get by without enfolding each other in their arms…

I haven’t had the chance to see for myself.

For now I have my sights set again on Italia und Deutschland.

I’ll be back then as soon as I can to throw my arms around Bergamo.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

UNESCO Europe Spa Towns

They’re extra-spacial, our thermal favourites, now officially UNESCO Europe Spa Towns.

Eleven towns were selected to represent Europe from Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Bath time

When in Bath

Bath, naturally flies the flag for the UK… it’s in the name.

And in Germany where they’re known as Bad as in Baden Baden, Bad Ems, Bad Kissengen.

As well as Baden bei Wien in Austria.

Czech these springs

Sip it up: Spa Triangle

We’ve lain back and thought of Western Bohemia In the Czech Spa Triangle of Karlovy Vary, Frantiskovy Lazny and Marianske Lazne

Italy boasts Montecatini and France Vichy.

While, of course, Spa in Belgium just had to be included.

As we owe the Belgian town for bestowing the name for our favourite health-giving relaxation.

Water of life

Meeowssage

Water is, of course, the source of all life and our spas but the Belgians are all too aware of its devastating force too.

And our friends at the European Historic Thermal Towns Association revealed how they had worked hard and held their breath to see if Spa would be hit.

The original Spa

Spa in Spa: Belgium

Spa though was blessed, perhaps because of its status as a healing centre.

With its qualities recognised as far back as Pliny the Elder.

He sayeth: ‘This water purges the body, cures fevers, and dispels calculous affections.’

Royal seal of approval

Henry after his spa

While King Henry VIII’s physician Agostino introduced the monarch to the waters… and dare say he needed it.

It was no surprise then that his descendant Charles II should take exile here from Cromwell.

His warts and all skim could have used some treatment.

Spas, while popular with the rich and famous are not their preserve.

And I happily joined the Great Unwashed in Marianske Lazne.

Though I did indulge myself by bathing in King Edward VII’s bath.

Forgotten somewhere?

Ready Eddie: King Edward VII

So congratulations to UNESCO Europe Spa Towns.

Although this doesn’t let UNESCO dumping Liverpool off its Heritage List or https://visitbelgium.comyears before the reconstructed Renaissance City Dresden.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Get Bach to The Beatles

There have been many candidates for the Fifth Beatle, George Martin, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston. But we want to Get Bach to The Beatles.

The book of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach died on this day 171 years ago more than a hundred years before The Beatles formed in Liverpool.

Bach in Liverpool

A German composer, you say

But Paul McCartney credits the great Saxon (no, not the band but the state) for inspiring his work.

Merseysider Macca cites Bach in Blackbird while the trained ear will pick up a Bach piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane.

That Baroque sound is also unmistakable on the orchestral section in All You Need Is Love.

But it wasn’t just The Beatles who caught the Bach bug.

New York Bach

Simon and Bachfunkel

If it feels like Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and American Tune are timeless.

Then it is because it has its roots 100 years before as Rhymin’ Simon tells us on a US chat show.

In the Liepziger’s four-part chorale O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale sounds like the title of something Bach would rattle it out.

Californian Bach

The Bach Boys

Because it pretty much is and repackaged as Procul Horum’s Sixties classic.

While The Beach Boys’ melodies from California also borrow from Saxony’s finest.

You’ll hear it in their reworking of his Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for Lady Linda.

Of course, a good toon is a good toon and we’re sure if Bach has done words he’d have found a rap rhyme to Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Modern-day Bach

Baaa, Baaa, Baaa, Bach

Detroit’s favourite rapper Eminem sampled the great German in Brainless.

Only to be followed up (upBached) by Bonkers from Yonkers Lady Gaga and her Bad Romance and its harpsichord intro.

So Get Bach to The Beatles and a host of music royalty.

So think on it the next time you’re going to write a classic… dig out Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Who is beerier than Prague?

Whisper it around the Czech capital but they’ve relinquished their boozy crown. So who is beerier than Prague?

In a word Asheville. Ashe-where?

Asheville is a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

And it’s renowned for its arts scene.

Carolina on my mind

Asheville: In the Blue Ridge Mountains

Well they know already that they have more breweries per capita than any city in the US… that’s roughly 100 local beers.

But now they can add the prestiguous title of Best City in the World for Beer Drinkers as compiled by money.co.uk.

The researchers mark the cities on breweries per 10,000 people, bars, pubs and clubs per 10,000 and average price per pint in sterling.

Asheville scores 2.80, 7.86 and £3.58 from which I can only draw the conclusion… get me out there!

Czech out the beer

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Czech Republic

Particularly as second and fourth on the list are beer cities I know well, Prague and Fort Collins, Colorado.

While the third beeriest is one The Son and Heir knows well, Krakow, Poland.

Where it was more ale than hail when he was a youth leader for World Youth Day.

While in Prague the most exercised you’ll get is walking back up from Wenceslas Square to The Castle.

But get this… £1.34 a pint.

Wade in with Colorado beer

Beertown Fort Collins

In Fort Collins you’ll be required to do some white water rafting although you’ll get the reward of a local brew at Paddler’s Pub.

And in FC that’s £2.87 a pint although you’d probably double that with the American tip.

It wouldn’t be a beery list, of course, without Dublin, and the Fair City comes in eighth.

Pure Genius: Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness Storehouse is on every tourist’s list in Dublin’s capital.

Although some local knowledge here and pick your way through tourist trap Temple Bar.

Where you can pay nearly double the £4.70 money.com relays.

Islands of beer

Auld Boozie: In Auld Reekie, Edinburgh

It seems we’re well off too in my local city Edinburgh too although the doors are only a few weeks reopened.

Auld Reekie comes in 16th and will glory in coming in well ahead of London, back in 39th of 40.

Beer bucket list

Blowing a trumpet for Denver

So, who is beerier than Prague? Well, maybe the question should be let’s set a beer bucket list.

And tick off all 40.

Amsterdam, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Rome (all again) and a number of others.

We’re only here for the beer.

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, South America, UK

Olympic anthems

It’s not always the official song, so as we all zone in on Tokyo, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems.

You go, Subo

In the pink: SuBo

Wings to Fly (Tokyo): Were you surprised too to see Scottish nightingale Susan Boyle trilling out Wings to Fly to accompany the release of those doves in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo?

Not bad for a wee lass from Bathgate, Scotland, where the birds disturb the peace by dropping their stuff on you.

Houston, we have an anthem

Smile and style: Whitney

One Moment in Time (Atlanta): Now there was no female singer in the world in the 1990s than Whitney Houston.

And the warbler was the obvious choice for the signature tune for the 1996 Olympics in Georgia. Alas, this had all the saccharine of the city’s most famous soft drink.

What Katy Did Next

And she’ll be in Vegas soon

Rise (Rio)Katy Perry too was stellar, and still is, at the last Olympics in 2016 but she didn’t rise to the occasion with this overproduced piece of schtick.

Too earnest, we’d have far preferred Fireworks. And there are plenty of them in Rio by the sea-o.

Dream Small

Small wonder: Heather

Proud (London): Big hair, big smile voice, Heather Small was Big in the late 80s with dance band M People.

And big again when Heather re-released her solo song Proud as the anthem of the London Olympics in 2012.

We see Heather more now on reality TV, Strictly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but would rather hear That voice.

Barcelonaaaaaaa

Catalan cantatas

Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: And one we definitely see, overblown opera with Fandango Freddie and Spanish Soprano Montserrat.

All against the backdrop of brilliant Barcelona.

Your Olympic anthems

But what would be Freddie’s discipline? A lover of ballet, we’re thinking rhythmic gymnastics.

But what are your Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems?

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

It’s a vexillologist’s dream, Olympics Flag Day… and there were 206 of them at the opening ceremony.

Of course the majority of them will never be seen again on the podium.

Now flags are really just the costume a country dresses itself up in.

Olympics Flag Day

So just like women and dresses it would never do if you turned up with your best flag.

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

But that is exactly what happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

See the Leichtenstein flag

When Leichtenstein turned up for their first Games proudly displaying their blue/red split horizontal flag.

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

And so they did what every lady does… accessorise by adding a crown while Haiti added their coat of arms.

And Haiti has had a redraw

Of course the Olympics are the chance for every country and its athletes to meet people they’d never encountered before.

So just a couple of words here on some flags we’ll see a lot more of in the next couple of weeks.

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

Japan: The Rising Sun flag is one of the most distinctive and easiest to draw… if you’re Giotto.

Japan is said to have been founded by the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the 7th Century BC.

And is an ancestor of first emperor Jimmu… and surely a relative.

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

China: We all associate China with the Reds but, of course, Communism only dates back 70 odd years.

Not being political here but we prefer an earlier iteration, the Yellow Dragon Flag used by the Qing Dynasty.

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

USA: The world’s most famous seamstress, you can learn the whole story of the American flag in the City of Brotherly Love.

Of how Betsy Ross sewed the definitive Stars and Stripes in Philadelphia.

And persuaded George Washington to agree to five-pointed stars rather than six because that was easier to sew.

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

UK: So, you thought you know the story of the Union Jack, actually the Union Flag, the Jack is naval.

It encompasses the St George’s flag of England and its then vassal territory Wales, the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross and the St Patrick’s Saltire.

As was inevitably the way of it the English wanted to tuck the Scots flag up in the corner and the Jocks to have their ceoss dominate.

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

Germany: The German black, red and yellow horizontal bands derive from the 1848 Year of Revolutions.

And are inspired by the black uniforms with red facings and gold buttons of the Lutzow Free Corps who fought Napoleon.

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

Scotland and Tenerife: Vexillologists everywhere know that Scotland and Tenerife share the same flag.

But for those who need a reminder I unpicked the threads of it.

You’ll not see the Saltire fly at the Tokyo Games unless, of course, it’s draped around the shoulders of Jock winners.

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

But it should have been me, it should have been me.