Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas

Pandamonium

The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran. http://www.itto.org

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO WHOEVER YOU ARE AND WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Sono Spartacus and Failte Ireland

What a joyless and jealous species we can be.

A hard-working man takes his family on holiday abroad and breaks no laws.

And is shamed into giving up his job, his passion, his skill and his livelihood.

I am talking here about Failte Ireland Chairman Michael Cawley.

The Francigena Way

About whom Ireland’s Tourism Minister Catherine Martin (no, me neither) said…

She was ‘disappointed to learn that the chair of Failte Ireland was holidaying in Italy.’

Before going on: ‘While Italy is on the green list, meaning that people who return from there do not have to restrict their movements…

‘The government has called on people to avoid all non-essential travel.’

IMG_0841.jpeg
Ah Venice

And still more: ‘Many of our citizens and residents have followed the guidelines at some personal and financial cost to themselves.’

Before sticking the knife right in: ‘I rang Mr Cawley this morning and he has offered his resignation which I have accepted.

‘I wish to thank Mr Cawley for his service as chair of Failte Ireland.

IMG_1940.jpeg
I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain

So Michael Cawley broke no laws nor in fact did anything unethical or any harm to anybody.

Other than those naysayers who do not like the idea of somebody else having what they don’t.

While a Government purporting to represent its people leaves its own Travel industry up the creek without a paddle and facing a complete collapse.

IMG_1947.jpeg
Sono Romano

So the message here is support your local travel agent.

Your Top Flight, your TUI, your Sunway, your Francigena Ways and go to Italy I have, and did again, and will do in the future.

And if anyone wants to shame you Michael about going on holiday to Italy, do what I’d do and tell them Vaffanculo.

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Eid celebrations around the world

The best way to learn about a culture is to go where they play and pray so the disruption to the Eid celebrations around the world diminishes us all.

I have a special connection with Eid.

As it was one of the early stories I covered as part of a column ‘Church News’ which I broadened beyond Christianity.

Eid ul-Adha, to give it its first full name, means ‘the celebration of the sacrifice’.

And it brings to an end the holy month of Ramadan.

All our story

It marks the story of Allah asking The Prophet Mohammed in a dream to sacrifice his son Ismael.

Which Jews and Christians will know as the Abraham and Isaac story.

pexels-photo-2989625
The way it usually is

It should come as little surprise to us that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same roots and stories.

But it is nowhere more evident than at the crossroads of the great religions in the Jordan valley and in Israel.

Ever the diplomat

Where I would readily recommend my G Adventures host Zuhair Zuriqat.

His diplomatic prowess in managing our international party surely marks him out.

To broker the peace in this part of the world.

Now you know I love a festival as much if not more than the next man or woman…

And that those festivals normally involve drink.

Festival time

But not always.

I am transfixed by religious festivals too and will gladly travel the world to witness or take part in them.

pexels-photo-1122679
Joy in our hearts

Of course, the world being a smaller place, particularly now, we should also acknowledge that many of these festivals are on our doorstep.

Which is why it is alarming to hear that the lightning lockdowns in the north of England on the eve of Eid weekend may be deliberate.

Eid is all about extended families coming together at each others’ houses.

And there is more than a hint of mistrust from our politicians here who do not think that Muslims can adapt their customs accordingly to the pandemic.

pexels-photo-261462
Our cup of tea… and I love reship

When in fact they are already doing so around the world with Turkey a prime example.

Of course Istanbul as we saw on our televisions with the Hagia Sofya celebrations last week is even more epic when its citizens come out to pray.

But they too are adapting their Eid to the current circumstances.

Sing out

That means communal prayers are cancelled to be replaced with broadcast prayers from the minarets of mosques.

Now just think about that… would our Government cancel Christmas, and with just a few hours’ notice?  Time will tell but you have to think not.

EID MUBARAK OR (AS THEY SAY IN TURKEY) BAYRAMINIZ KUTLU OTSUN

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

The Sunday Sermon – the Hagia Sofia

Hate has no place in the house of God – Desmond Tutu

The anti-apartheid hero and man of God was talking in metaphors, and about South Africa, but his balming words fit Hagia Sofya in Istanbul just as well.

When Turkey President Recip Erdogan championed Hagia Sofia’s return.

In prayer

From a museum to a mosque it drew 250,000 of the faithful to pray on the streets of Istanbul.

And it roused an outcry from the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

Which rung way beyond the ancient high walls of the iconic Istanbul building.

Orthodox

Iconic, yes, to the Orthodox churches.

For whom it is one of their holiest places and who focus on icons for their worship.

Fount of all wisdom

So the sight of drapes covering the mosaic of Our Lady was bound to have raised their ire.

Of course central to Islam is that Allah and the Prophet Mohamed, and Jesus or Our Lady, cannot be represented by images.

Crossroads

Istanbul is unique among the great cities of the world, one foot in Europe, one in Asia.

Royal splendour

Which is why the great Christiian churches of old which called Constantinople, Istanbul’s old name, home are prefixed with their country of origin.

Powerplay

There is, as there always has been in this part of the world, a powerplay going on.

And we, those of us who have been to Istanbul, and those who have yet to, must not fall for it.

Circle of trust

Because this should not, or ever be, about Islam v Christian.

And yes President Erdogan is tapping into Islamic popularism but that does not have to equate to anti-Christianity.

Icons

And we will still be able to visit it as a mosque which we will do.

Our house

Because as I discovered in Sarajevo with Marian Pilgrimages and Jordan with G Adventures and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time God is the same whichever house you’re in.

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St James on Bray Head in Ireland

If you see Her throwing me over Bray Head don’t call the Gardaí… she has my permission.

No, I’m not getting maudlin during lockdown, it’s just that that’s where I want my ashes scattered.

There on my favourite walk between my old home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and also by Bishop Elphinstone’s grave in King’s College, Aberdeen.

My beloved Greystones and my beloved

I wish I could be with you (alive you understand) tomorrow as you take your first steps on your Camino.

I took mine too on one of Camino Ways’ training walks on St James’s Day in Ireland’s Garden County.

Where I met founder and ‘force of nature’ Roland Monsegu who I would share many a glass of wine with over future years.

Got there

Including at one of my billets on the French Way to Santiago de Compostella where he was doing a recce.

Today is both St James’s birthday and the national day of Galicia where his bones lie in Santiago.

The first of their training Sunday walks will begin at the seafront in Bray at 9.30am and last a leisurely two to two-and-a-half hours.

It is a 7km healthy cliffside walk skirting the sea.

Working my ass off

While you can look down on the train to Greystones making its way to the tunnel built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Before emerging through the other side in Greystones.

You’ll see it yourself halfway around the bend, its newly-refurbished harbour dotted with yachts.

And its blue and yellow cottages standing out in the distance as it did in times of old so the fishermen could recognise their homes in the dark.

On the road

Which is the same in Galicia where the name of the province is a giveaway… they’re Gaels really.

If you’re in Ireland then you’re already blessed and it’s likely you’ll need to be to walk the Bray Head.

And to be part of the fun here’s where to get tickets.

You’re James too

And if you feel like going that extra mile then why not veer off from the group and go up to the top of the Head and the Southern Cross.

Where there is (yes, you guessed it) a Christian cross.

America, Caribbean, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

The Sunday Sermon –

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 104:33).

Psalm 104:3

But when will we be able to sing again in church?

I have long sung lustily and croakily and in the wrong place and always find that the service is less uplifting when the organist or the choir are off.

But that is what we’ll have to put up with when our churches reopen, initially for private prayer and funerals.

A hotel with its own church… on the road to Rome

The sound of a stirring choir has lifted me in cathedrals and smaller churches on all the pilgrimages I have been on… A pilgrim’s prayer, Small roads lead to Rome, The Lourdes prayer and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

There is a gravitas to the singing as the botafumeiro swings from side to side in St James’s Cathedral during the Pilgrims’ Mass at the end of your Camino Ways walk http://www.caminoways.com.

But the real stirring stuff comes from the black gospel singers on the other side of the Atlantic.

And yes, I know we have them over here but they’re not in the same number.

I’d been chasing the choirs unsuccessfully on my travels and was disappointed to have to miss the Southern choir in Jackson, Mississippi https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land because our flights back through Texas clashed with the choir.

Mas took precedent over Mass during Crop Over on Barbados http://www.visitbarbados.org. And Mas is a party.

But I did get to take in said choir in Anaheim https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/ at our street breakfast party http://www.visitcalifornia.com.

Before finally getting to a church in Tobago https://www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – the sermon on the mountain

Watch therefore for ye know neither the.day nor the hour that the Son of Man cometh – Matthew 25

Ignoring that this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins and that it deals with how prepared or otherwise they were to serve the bridegroom.

But there is a message here about preparedness and the buzz phrase ‘stay alert’ and, scholar that he is, I’m sure Boris Johnson would know of the passage’s significance.

All of which Biblical touchpoints brings me to a mountain looking over Jericho, Jerusalem and The Promised Land… www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

The Promised Land: On Mt Nebo

Which is the closest Moses got to taking his people home which was of course the central theme of the sermon on the mountain.

He died atop the mountain, punishment for an earlier row with God.

No, not that one, but a homily in the church given by the Sri Lankan pastor in Mt Nebo.

Alas, I was whisked away from hearing his pay-off as our G Adventures group www.gadventures.co.uk were bound for the desert.

As you all know by now I make a point of going where people play and pray.

And listen to the sermons.

Here’s to Moses

When your holy man (and it’s almost always a man) gets to pace the stage.

Use his hands and tease, cajole, comfort and berate us.

It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s greatest orators have been preachers… Martin Luther Dresden’s renaissance and https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php.

And Dr Martin Luther King Easy DC and https://washington.org,

Me and Martin: In Dresden

Though, of course we could never see Martin Luther in his pomp now but you couldn’t help but get a sense of the man in Saxony.

And there is a preacher at Luther’s church, the Frauenkirche in Dresden worthy of his famous predecessor.

As he recalled his own father taking him to the ruins of the church where only the statue of Luther still stood and vowed that one day it would be rebuilt.

His near namesake is all over Washington where his statue remains unfinished in homage to the unfinished struggle.

While in Memphis https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org his last resting place The Promised Land the Civil Rights Tourist will want to take in the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Where he gave his rousing ‘I have been to the Mountaintop sermon https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgVrlx68v-0.

Like Moses he (and me) did not get to the Promised Land but he has seen the glory of the Lord.

And we will too when all this is over.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Pilgrimage

Hungry and Thursday – Pickle your Croatian walnuts

It was a family tradition to bring home a bottle of liqueur from foreign shores.

But my parents” drinks trolly seriously lacked a bottle of Croatian Orahovaca.

Sure we had Dubonnet from thr Riviera The Boat D’Azur and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/us.france.fr/en/news/article/about-atout-france-0/amp made for a competition in 1846.

Here’s to Our Lady

To provide the French Foreign Legion to take quinine to combat malaria.

And ouzo from Greece My Greek odyssey https://athensattica.com and Aperol in Padova https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/15/padova-city-of-frescoes/amp/ to name just a few.

But while we’ve all ventured through the Balkans on the other side of the Adriatic nobody dipped a toe in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Would I look big in this?

Until I visited Our Lady and Medjugorje where they’re all Croatians, with Marian Pilgrimages https://marian.ie and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/www.thesun.ie/travel/5132756/a-pilgrims-progress-in-medjugorje/amp/.

Now Medjugorje is many things other than a site to Mary… who am I kidding, it’s all about Our Lady.

But trawl the stalls and you’ll find some treasures other than the holy water and Virgin Mary that will get you into Heaven.

A cross around every corner

Such as Orahovaca which a Balkan trader up by the bus station in Medjugorje was showcasing.

I’ve been to a few wine-tastings in function rooms of hotels, so testing Maria’s samples from plastic cups was a different experience altogether.

But it was worth it and got the thumbs-up from the Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl when I finally broke open the bottle yesterday.

We adapted the sweet walnut drink by having it on the rocks which meant we drank more.

And you’ll get a statue in the village

But at about a fiver I can always stock up the next time I’m out there.

And at the end of it all we all felt filled with wholly spirit.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Give us this Day – church is back in Germany

And again the Germans are leading the way.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel giving the green light for churches to reopen.

Worshippers will have to wear masks, respect social distancing, and there will be no singing.

Which will, alas, be taking the best bit out of the service.

Signs of peace are out and you will have to keep to your own marked territory at communion.

Pray de Cologne

Closer to God: Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral will be their guide with only 122 people allowed in for its reopening ceremony as opposed to the 20,000 who visit every day.

Now I’ve spent a bit of time in German churches.

Not as much as I’d like… wherever I travel I love to go where the locals play and pray.

Churchtown: Oberammergau

This year I was meaning to go to Oberammergau for the ten-year resumption of the Passionsspiele https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home.

Passion of Bavaria

But the reenactment of the Passion of Christ which the villagers first put on in 1634 as a thank you to God for ridding them of the plague has been moved back to 2022.

Thankfully I did get to join the Bavarians at play as part of our walking holiday with www.topflightforschools.ie and www.topflight.ie.

When they had the drapes out for the 2020 Oberammergau which was due to start on May 16.

Everyone has a cross to bear

But they were that day celebrating a landmark anniversary of their fire service.

By dressing up in traditional lederhosen and parading through the streets.

With their buildings adorned with murals depicting their plague history.

Simple Christianity

Their churches by contrast are fairly simple affairs with small wooden crosses, a lectern and an inviting Bible on a seat when you enter.

Light a candle: Oberammergau

Which I did, taking a detour from the people milling through the streets and villagers to find a place of worship with its doors open.

Remember that!

Plague reminders

Now while it seems like 40 days and 40 nights since we last did Mass…

It’s as nothing compared with the resilient and God-fearing Dresdeners.

Dresden, a city rebuilt

Who saw their Frauenkirche levelled by the Allies’ firestorm in 1945.

And left in rubble all through Communist rule until the Saxons started rebuilding it when they got their province back.

Which you can read about in Dresden’s renaissance and https://www.dresden.de/index_en.php.

A day out in Oberammergau: Remembering the firemen

It’s an inspirational story, one of endurance, patience and redemption.

Here in Scotland it’s our Catholic Church rather than the reforming church which is first out of the blocks on lockdown xx (yes, the great resistors).

And of course in the absence of live sport never since the Holy Spirit dropped in on the Apostles will transubstantiation feel so exciting.

When the church doors reopen.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Pilgrimage

Every day’s a schoolday – the virtual Seven Wonders

Every day is a schoolday was never so apt with parents all over the world going back to class with their kids… and relearning our geography.

The world is all around me… from fridge magnets to desk souvenirs to the big atlas that takes up half the wall.

Say a prayer: With my pal Hannah

But in the absence of actually being able to get out there just now to visit the wonders of the world we can take a virtual voyage.

Uswitch have brought together seven virtual tours of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World to inspire us for the future.

In with the locals: With my pal Humpy

Carved in my heart

Which, of course, includes magical Petra, where I sweltered and swooned… www.vistjordan.com www.gadventures.co.uk.

This is what Uswich has got for you .

With the honey-toned voice of this teacher better suited than the nasal Scottish twang of your Bandanaman… https://www.google.co.uk/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/treks/petra/.

But, of course, I took my own circuitous journey… The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Don’t tell anyone… I’m a Christian

Colossal

Like everything in life there is always someone who wants to charge you for what you can see with your own eyes.

The Colosseum is one such example.

Your own imagination is your best tool… and supplement it with Uswich’s tour with this hour-long walking tour of the Colosseum.  

And why not at the end of your Francigena Ways 100km pilgrimage walk from Viterbo into Rome www.FrancigenaWays.com

Now that obviously leaves a golden of wonders (if that’s the collective term) for me still to do.

Now that’s a walk

China in your hands

Which are… The Great Wall of China. And one that got away from me.

When a former colleague who would usually turn their nose up at going to Travel events decided they would grace this promotion in Dublin.

Hey ho, I was off on my travels elsewhere at the time.

But I’ll get there yet, and don’t you know the Wall isn’t going anywhere… Virtual Tour provided by The China Guide

And that’s another

Peru too true

Machu Picchu, Mexico: And the preserve of the backpacking trustafarians but heck us oldies can walk the legs off most of them.

The Uswich virtual tour comes complete with a voiceover, will be right up your street.

Dome from home

Indian stunner

Taj Mahal, India: I’ve spent many a happy and drunken night at the Taj Mahal… trouble is it’s the Indian restaurant in Glasgow.

Still Uswich have allowed me behind the scenes of India’s Crown Jewel and once I do get out there I will channel my own Princess Diana look.

Mexican rave

Mexican areeba

Chichen Itza, Mexico: The nearest I’ve got to Mexico is a summer spent working in GuadalaHarry’s in Boston.

Don’t judge me! Rather let’s us all experience a 360 view of the stepped pyramids in this virtual tour. 

Putting Christ on his pedestal

Rio by the sea-o

Christ the Redeemer, Rio: And did you know there’s one in Lisbon too? Yes, if you’re Portuguese obviously.

But Rio offers the added extra of the Copacabana.

Here’s Uswich’s www.uswitch.com introduction to Christ the Redeemer in Rio… a virtual tour of the statue.

All wonderful wonders we’d all agree and ones you can tick off with G Adventures www.gadventures.co.uk and well done Uswitch but why no place for the Acropolis?

The wonder of the Acropolis

Greek gift

Which is just one of many contenders for the Wonders of the World… https://athensattica.com and My Greek odyssey.

And your teacher will be back next week with more perils of wisdom. Remember your homework everyone.