Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

World Book Day – a leaf through the world

Happy World Book Day… I’ve been turning over a new leaf by re-reading some old favourites from around the world.

Some will be yours, others I’d recommend as they namecheck places you’ll want to visit, and the people too.

Czech’s in post for this classic

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: Or you can have The Trial.

OK, I’ve not read either, but I have checked out Kafkaesque Prague, his home city.

And he’ll be glad to know that the Czechs still retain his take on the world around him and its leaders…

Bureaucracies overpowering people often in a surreal, nightmarish way.

Anne’sterdam

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: It’s chilling to listen to the audio of Anne‘s words in the diary she wrote in her family’s hideout in Amsterdam.

And I make no apologies in saying that I choked up.

When I heard that the vibrant young girl destined for Auschwitz had wanted to become a journalist.

Anne, of course, made a lasting impression, and has gone on to inspire generations of chlldren and adults alike.

Eastern Eden

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Olive Schreiner’s The Story of An African Farm: Olive may not be on every, or any, schoolchildren’s radar in the Northern Hemisphere.

And athough its style is of its time, the 19th century, this chronicle of South African life in the Eastern Cape, is required reading.

A feminist and ahead of her time Olive railed against the prejudices around her .

And she also moved in some pretty famous circles. Required reading.

Crusoe in Tobago

Give ‘em rope: With Levi and Bandanaman the goat in Tobago

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Tobago: And if you’re lucky enough you can even reprise the actions of some of your favourite literary characters.

Like in Tobago where Robinson Crusoe swept ashore and took years to get off.

For all his protestations I think he probably enjoyed it. And we know that he made some friends of the local goats.

The Odyssey

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Homer’s Odyssey: And this one I did read, or at least study, and then parts of it.

As a Classics scholar (or messer) at school.

I had my own odyssey trying to make my way through Munich Airport and on way to Greece and over to its islands.

There’s nothing like walking in the footsteps of your legend’s… so there’s an invitation to you.

And it’s been flagged up that I’ve been down this road before with this book collection. See if my choices have changed and tell me your faves. 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, Pilgrimage

Rainy Days and Songdays – Happy Hanukah

And I’ll light a candle in unison for a Happy Hanukah though, in truth, The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl have the place looking like a Meatloaf video already.

Hanukah’s status has grown in modern times.

Mainly in North America as part of a better recognition of other cultures and religious observances in December.

So it’s commonplace now, and rightly so, to wish your Jewish friends Happy Hanukah.

Which, in fact, Matisyahu does more tunefully than I ever could, even if I were swollen with sweetened Israeli wine.

Matisyahu’s song touches all the right points, to be fair, King David, Maccabee, Mount Zion, and, of course, candles.

Matisyahu means ‘gift of God’ .

He has, as you might expect from one who terms himself thus, a confidence about himself.

Gift from God

Matthew Miller is actually a Pennsylvanian who is a foremost proponent of Jewish rock, Jewish hip hop and fusion reggae.

We all have our images of Judaism.

And, in truth other than my own home address the place names in The Promised Land’ from the Bible were the most familiar of my childhood.

Anne Frank Statue, Amsterdam

The Jewish story I learned in my early years has infused a lifelong interest in the Chosen People.

Alas that has mostly meant visiting Holocaust markers, Dachau concentration camp on a booze bus trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

Charles Bridge in Prague

And the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

In every city around the world, as much as the Irish or the Scots, or more, there has been a Jewish diaspora.

Venice ghetto

I found it in the first ghetto in Venice and again in the Jewish quarter in Prague.

But it is to modern-day Israel that I am drawn most.

And saw up close and personally at the Site of St John’s Baptism of Jesus in Jordan on my G Adventures trip the other side.

When Russian Orthodox pilgrims doused themselves in the River Jordan from the Israeli side just 50n from us in Jordan.

I’ll make it over one day, and hopefully soon, but in the meantime give Happy Hanukah an oul’ lesson.

It’ll make a change from Marish Carey and The Pogues.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Holiday Snaps – Amsterdam attics and grand hotels

I really should try harder, or even try at all, to get back to church.

That would mean me filling out a form on the net which is as nothing compared with the Mass Rocks of Ireland, the nooks of England and the attic of a canal town house in Amsterdam.

Our forebears whether they were Catholic, Protestant. Muslim or Jew, or any other belief would go to greater lengths than we do now to practise their faith.

Fit for my queen

We all know about how Anne Frank  and her family and friends lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

And it is truly humbling to hear the words from her diary spoken as you walk through the confines of their attic retreat.

That truly does put our own lockdowns into perspective.

As does the Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder.

The Ons’ Lieve Where?

That’s the Lord of the Attic Museum the ‘Our Dear Lord in the Attic’ built in 1663 when Catholics lost their right to worship in their own way.

Genke will show you around the Dylan

You’ll have a lot more room, and comfort. in George and Amal’s favourite Dutch billet, The Dylan Amsterdam.the Keizersgracht, one of the city’s most famous canals in the stylish Nine Streets shopping district.

Where, of course, their peerless personal service, will ensure you know everywhere to go in Amsterdam, from brown cafe to Sunday chapel.

Doubles start from €223 per night including breakfast.

Fit for yer man, the President

A sign of the times that the most bombed hotel in the world was now hosting the most important couple in the world of the times, the Clintons.

The Europa Hotel also entertained another stellar group, the Republic of Ireland’s finest journalists, to see a Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco jazz cabaret.

The Europa.

The Europa is undergoing an extensive refurb of its bedrooms to be completed by March.

Of course, the staff can’t be improved on, and they’re always there to clean up after you… when you leave your room like a bomb-site, as I do.

All llamas great and small

If like me you’ve been enchanted by the new version of All Creatures Great and Small on the telly you’ll be warning to seek out the Yorkshire Dales in England.

For those who don’t know the story it’s the real life tale of how a Scots vet won over the suspicious people of ‘God’s Own County’.

Let me remind you of a particularly humorous incident sees James Herriott lose his watch up a cow’s bum.

But they’re certainly there now. The Nidderdale Llamas  experience offers treks through the farm in the company of llamas and alpacas.

The best stay is at the nearby Grantley Hall.

You’ll never want to get up

Where you can get pampered at the Three Graces Spa and get restorative treatments from Ila and Natura Bisse.

Dip in their 18-metre indoor swimming pool, indoor to outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and snow room (me, neither).

You’ll also have six drinking and dining outlets.

Rates start from £385 per room per night, including breakfast.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Putting these statues on a pedestal

All joking aside about Zlatan ‘The Ego’ Ibramovich being cut down to size.

But is it right that the Sweden soccer superstar should befall the same fate as Edward Colston in Bristol, Lord Nelson in Dublin and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad?

The fallen Zlatan. www.abc.go.com

Now I’m all for sportspeople, celebrities, actors and even, and particularly, animals to be put on a pedestal.

Because haven’t the aristocracy and the war leaders had their day in our affection and deference?

So here are is my unscientific list of my favourite statues.

And please let me know who I’ve missed out.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

Bobby’s boy: Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh

Well, if Bobby’s tale was good enough for Walt Disney then it’s good enough for me.

Bobby is buried not far from here in Greyfriars Kirk next to his master John Gray on whose grave he slept every night.

And he was then awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.

You’re advised though not to kiss his nose for luck as many started doing… it’s not lucky for Bobby as it’s wearing away.

For more on Edinburgh and Scotland visit http://www.edinburgh.org and http://www.visitscotland.com.

And, of course, I always like to flag up ma wee hame country. And here’s a wee sample of what we eat and drink…

With https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/12/19/hungry-and-thursday-whisky-and-the-water-of-long-life/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/12/26/hungry-and-thursday-curried-christmas-turkey/

Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruleville, Mississippi

A little big woman: Fannie Lou Hamer in Mississippi

Sometimes it’s the design that catches you and stops you in your tracks.

And so it is with this remarkable little woman,

The President of the USA, Lydon Baines, Johnson took extraordinary measures in stopping her saying her piece at the Democratic Convention by having television change its schedule.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s life was extraordinary, born into a sharecropping family and picking cotton from the age of six, she was later forced out of her home, threatened with her very life and beaten.

All because she wanted to sign on on the voting register.

She summed up her struggle in the Civil Rights Movement thus, and of course nobody could say it better: ‘I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.’

Visit www.visitmississippi.org

And why not read my American Trilogy… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-promised-land-martin-luther-king/, https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-story-of-the-blues/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/elvispresley-the-king-of-kings/?

Anne Frank, Amsterdam

The flower of youth: Anne Frank in Amsterdam

Us journalists like to think of ourselves as hard-bitten but I had to choke back the tears walking through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam…. http://www.annefrank.org.

The audio narrative dwelt on a passage in her diary where she mentions that she wants to become a journalist when she’s older.

And what a journalist she would have been… ethical (yes, some of us are), prying and fearless.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great cities and Anne one of history’s greatest figures… http://www.iamsterdam.com.

And here is proof of that… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pictures-of-amsterdam/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/george-and-amal-hotel/

Piss, Prague

Splash

Statues should be provocative and the Czechs have this one down to a T.

‘Piss’ is the good people of Prague’s commentary on the politicians who have urinated all over their country.

You’ll not see it here but once the water gets flowing they pee all over the map of the country.

The Czechs as well as being the world’s biggest lager drinkers, per population, with some of the world’s best beers, are wonderfully anti-establishmentarian.

Visit http://www.czechtourism.com and here’s some other musings on the Czech Republic https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/06/24/czech-it-out-2/

Phil Lynott, Dublin

The boys are back in town: With my old pal Paul in Dublin

There are statues to musical giants all over the world but while former Thin Lizzy lead singer Phil Lynott isn’t the best or most famous singer of them all, try telling that to Dubliners.

It is a tradition now for visitors to Dublin to have their photo taken outside Philo’s statue off the main Grafton Street shopping thoroughfare.

That other statue, the Tart with the Cart, Molly Malone? Well you can leave that to the uninitiated.

And seeing you’ll be in town here is where you want to stay… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-intercontinental-what-a-ledge/

And this site will point you in the direction of other goodies… http://www.visitdublin.com.

Nelson, Bridgetown, Barbados

He’s obviously not the only Horatio or the biggest, and as I’ve alluded to already some not too far from here even blew him up.

But he was a survivor, except when he was killed obvs, and he lost an eye and an arm.

Death might even have been a better gig too as he was transported home in a vat of rum… a good way to go and one that the Bajans would have approved of.

Until, of course, his old shipmates drilled a hole in the vat and drunk the rum!

Statues are a controversial subject but my Bajan hosts were keen to tell me that Nelson was part of their story too.

And so ignore the white liberals who like to speak for black people, they’re glad to have him keeping his one eye open on what’s going on in Bim.

For more on Barbados see http://www.visitbarbados.org. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/rihanna-in-barbados/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/

Martin Luther, Dresden

Closer to God am I: The Frauenkiche

Some statues can withstand anything.

Martin Luther stood as a defiant symbol of Dresdeners refusal to see their city disappear after the Allies’ firebombing at the end of the Second World War.

The Dresdeners rebuilt the obliterated Frauenkirche sixty years later, after they had got rid of the Communists.

Using as the plans photographs they had asked the public to send in from their weddings.

Dresden was known as the Florence of the Elbe and it is one of the great architectural stories of our age, or any age, to see how the Dresdeners have rebuilt their city to the same grandeur of its renaissance days.

For more information on Dresden http://www.dresden.de and also take a trip through the ages with me with https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/dresdens-renaissance-martin-luther/

Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen

With Tom and My Little Princess in Copenhagen

Yes, the Little Mermaid is more visited, but personally I prefer the top-hatted Hans in the heart of Copenhagen.

Hans was an eccentric all right and once decamped on Charles Dickens, walked around the house in the starkers, and made it difficult for Charlie to show him the door.

Very Scandinavian and it just makes me want to revisit Denmark… http://www.visitingcopenhagen.com and digging out my Scandinavian wanderings https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-call-of-the-fjords/

Nelson Mandela Voting Line, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

March to Freedom: In Port Elizabeth

Statues shouldn’t just stand there. No, really. And this is a moving symbolic Voting Line which sums up South African democracy.

This is our host Sisseko and beside him a kid as he would have been back in 1995 when South Africa had its historic vote.

It is also immersive and you don’t have to climb up a plinth to get next to it as they do in Glasgow when they put police cones on the Duke of Wellington.

It is the way I should imagine that Nelson, a native of the Eastern Cape, would have wanted it.

And for more on South Africa’s Eastern Cape visit http://www.meetyoursouthafrica.net and http://www.southafrica.net. And this is how I tries to do it justice… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/homemyoffice/whats-new-pussycat/

Martin Luther King, Washington DC

Unfinished business: Martin Luther King in Washington DC

We’ll never stop building statues, of course, and I expect a Bandanaman up in my name when my Travelling days are done.

This statue of Dr Martin Luther King is never meant to be finished though.

Until the Civil Rights struggle has been finally met which, of course, it never will be, alas.

But what genius and how moving. For more on my favourite capital city visit http://Easy DC and http://www.washington.org.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Myrlie and Marilyn – and other world heroines

Anne Frank, Amsterdam: ‘Nothing is off limits,’ a former newspaper colleague chimed in when I tried to steer morning conference back from an insensitive area.

And a lot of journalists like to paint themselves as hard-bitten and cynical… as if detaching yourself from feeling will help you present the story!!!

The words of the young Anne from her diary of life i. Hiding in an Amsterdam attic and her idealistic dream that she might one day become a journalist choked me.

Visit https://www.annefrank.org/nl/, https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIusPow-eI6AIVS9HeCh2utgDfEAAYASAAEgIWY_D_BwE and here’s my thoughts on one of my favourite cities… Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Little Shepherd of Fatima

Say a prayer for me

Maria dos Anjos, Fatima, Portugal: Maria dos Anjos is the closest you can get to a Little Shepherd of Fatima.

And perhaps she’s got a secret up her sleeve.

But visiting Marian site Fatima a couple of years ago I got to say an Our Father with her… God’s a polyglot so speaks Portuguese and Scottish!

See www.visitportugal.com and Secret Portugal.

A Civil Rights soldier

On a pedestal: Myrlie Evers

Myrlie Evers, Mississippi: Myrlie Evers hunkered down with her young children in the bath of her Mississippi home.

Outside, her husband Medgar who was Mississippi’s Dr Martin Luther King, was emptying the car trunk of fliers.

When he was gunned down in his carport.

Bob Dylan immortalised Medgar in song in Only A Pawn In The Game https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F229G4Dx2yc

And he can have no richer legacy than firebrand Myrlie who I met In Mississippi and was energised by her continued passion for the struggle.

Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com and my American trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

A mother called Judy

A jive with Judy in Portugal

Judy Murray, Quinta do Lago, Portugal: Now, I wouldn’t swap my Irish mum for anybody but if I had had a Scottish mum I’d have wanted her to be Judy Murray.

Of course that would age her and Judy, as well as being as athletic as a teenager she is also just as mischievous.

The tennis coach was quick to say that we weren’t to ask about her famous sons Andy and Judy…

So after the tennis coaching at Denis O’Brien’s The Campus https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ we naturally spoke about Strictly.

And had a dance… Secret Portugal.

An icon called Marilyn

Lying with Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe, Los Angeles: Who wouldn’t have wanted to lie with Marilyn.., though maybe not now.

Although Hugh Hefner had no such qualms (funny that) and bought the drawer next to Marilyn Monroe in Los Angeles so he could rest with her in perpetuity.

Marilyn is all over LA https://www.discoverlosangeles.com and https://www.visitcalifornia.com/uk?&a=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1ePq6oOJ6AIVENreCh2rTQGvEAAYASAAEgJKP_D_BwE on Venice Beach murals, her hands and star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and even sashaying around…

As a lookalike… and I love a good lookalike.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Crocus gold… Valentine’s in Amsterdam and Ireland

When it’s Spring again we’ll sing again ‘Crocuses from Co. Waterford’.

Yes, I would and, when I can afford it, do cover my flower beds with tulips from Amsterdam.

And one we enjoyed on our visit to Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Dylan promise: At the Dylan in Amsterdam

Where we also took home ice cream tulips (think raspberry ripple colours) from the Amsterdam Museum https://amsterdamtulipmuseum.com.

And got a Spring out of them before we handed over the keys of chez notre maison in Ireland.

To someone we can only hope appreciates the opportunities as we did.

My wee flower in Amsterdam

The history of the crocus is also captivating.

We can date the crocus back to the Egyptians, Greeks and Menoans.

With a few pounds of corn served as a loan of gold and jewels.

The best place to see crocuses in Ireland is the Mount Congreve Gardens in Co. Waterford.

Purple reigns… in Co. Waterford

The gardens will open early this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

To showcase more than 20,000 crocuses in flower at the beautiful gardens located just ten minutes from Waterford City.

Which is a two-hour drive south of Dublin.

Which we all know is served regularly by our friends at Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com.

For more on what the gardens have to offer throughout the year visit www.mountcongrevegardens.com.

The crocus story doesn’t finish there.

The Crocus Project from Ireland

The Crocus Project was launched in Ireland in 2005 by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Intended for pupils aged 11 and over it provides schools with yellow crocus bulbs.

To plant in memory of the one million and a half Jewish children.

And thousands of other children who died in the Holocaust.

The yellow flowers recall the yellow Star of David all Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule.

Which Anne Frank had up on her wall of the attic house she, her family and friends hid away in from the Nazis during the War.

A giant: Anne Frank in Amsterdam. http://www.twitter.com

On this the 75th anniversary year of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where Anne and her sister Margot died, and Auschwitz were liberated, pay tribute…

By either visiting those sites or the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam… https://www.annefrank.org/nl/.

And also make use of the wonderful city pass https://www.iamsterdam.com/en.

While all major airlines fly to Amsterdam I like to promote national airline carriers and recommend KLM www.klm.com.

Me, I’m off to buy crocuses and tulips for someone who deserves them… and also The Scary One.

And I’ll get back to you on Friday, Valentine’s Day, with more blooming marvellous places to visit for gardens and flowers.