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 Lord Nelson here in Dublin and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad?

The fallen Zlatan

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: With 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 and

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 and

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.’


And why not read my American Trilogy…, and

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….

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…

And here is proof of that… and

Piss, Prague

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 and here’s some other musings on the Czech Republic

Phil Lynott, Dublin

The boys are back in town: With my old pal Al

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…

And this site will point you in the direction of other goodies…

Nelson, Bridgetown, Barbados

You can stay: Nelson in Bridgetown

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 And and

Martin Luther, Dresden

Closer to God: Martin Luther in Dresden

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 and also take a trip through the ages with me with

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… and digging out my Scandinavian wanderings

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 and And this is how I tries to do it justice…

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


Hungry and Thursday – Biscuits

They are one of life’s little treats – the moreish morsel that’s not just for Elevenses… the humble biscuit.

Or, maybe not so humble.

Take the Garibaldi which has a heroic place in history.

It’s no exaggeration to say that without the currant baked sandwich there would be no Modern Italian state.

The great Italian Nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi marched his revolutionaries south to Rome on the stomachs of his men.

In the Risorgimento in the 19th century.

Garibaldi’s soldiers were poor peasants and refuelled on sandwiches with currants.

The legend travelled with Garibaldi when he visited the north-east of England.

Walk this way

It’s a different package holiday, I grant you, but gorgeous landscape. And there they marketed the biscuit and it took off.

I was energised with Garibaldi biscuits on my heroic march into Rome on my Via Francigena, my 100km pilgrimage from Viterbo… Small roads lead to Rome.

Of course I didn’t know the country as well as Garibaldi.

And while I had planned to mark my entry into Rome with a paper cup of Chianti and a couple of Garibaldi buscuits atop one of the Seven Hills…

It didn’t go to plan as I hit a small wood and by the time I clambered my way out I was in the old Olympic Stadium.

But I did get to sit on the plinth of a Roman God… well, it’s the kind of company I deserve to keep.

FrancigenaWays offers six nights’ 112km self-guided trip April to October, from €570.

Biscuits are my cup of tea, or coffee, but mostly tea. Or best of all una ciocolatta di calda densa, a thick hot chocolate.

I’ve shared with you this week the tale of the Stramberk Ears from Moravia in the Czech Republic…

And how the Moravians took to baking their honey-flavoured biscuits.

After finding bagfuls of Christian ears at the bottom of invading Mongolians’ stash. Visit

And now that I’ve let the biscuit out of the tin… I’ll dig out other timeless biscuit tales, of Anzac biscuits, Scottish shortbread, jammie dodgers….

Off to do some digging. And dunking.


It’s The Czech Republic… wish you were ear

Most people bring back a mug, a bottle opener or a fridge magnet from their travels… the Mongolians, well they had a penchant for ears.

Yes, you read that right. And, no, they were not ornamental ears, if such a thing even exists, but actual ears.

And they were pretty precise about which ears too… they liked Christian ones.

Which went down like earache to the God-fearing Moravians in what is today the eastern Czech Republic.

And so, a tip to what to do when confronted with a Mongolian tourist.

Dig a pond and flood him out… well it worked for the Moravians at Kotouc Hill in 1241.

And when the waters abated the Moravians found that beside the Mongols were bags of Christian ears which they had been stashing like scalps.

To mark that victory the Moravians have been baking Stramberk honey-flavoured ears ever since.

Stramberk, or Little Bethlehem, has continued to keep God on side since with the Feast of the Ascension the highpoint of the biccy-making…

I nibbled on an ear or two when my Czech friends came a-calling to the Royal Hibernian Club on St Stephen’s Green this week…

They’re tasty… and even tastier with Czech beer, Moravian wine or Becherovka, the Czech tipple which was first dispensed by the chemist.

The Czechs have many myths, mores and customs which I discovered ahead of my trip to Prague and the Spa Triangle a couple of years back…

The Triangle consists of the wonderful, wacky and life-affirming towns of Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne, below, Frantiskovy Lazne and Jachymov.

Where visitors and locals fill their sippy cup beakers with lukewarm and salty spring water which i turn cures a whole range of ailments.

The story goes that King Charles IV, the then Holy Roman Emperor had a hunting accident in Karlovy Vary.

But found a spring which magically cured his wounds.

I’d have diagnosed Czech beer myself which I swear could cure anything.

I find out something new every time I catch up with my Czech pals.

And it helps me set a new challenge for the next time I visit.

Such as bathing in beer while drinking more beer through a hose.

Now how many cans will I need. I’m off to draw a bath.



Give us this Day – The First Protestants (of Prague)

In fairness, Martin Luther never billed himself as the Father of Protestantism, or the Reformation, when he nailed his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenburg in 1517.

He was the pious, monk type, rather than the self-publicising kind.

And iconoclasm was the very thing he was railing against… that and the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church to ease your path from Purgatory to Heaven.

Another reason why he wouldn’t have claimed that he was launching a new, and rival, branch of the Christian church is because he must have known he wasn’t.

OK, it just looks like I’m sainted. In Marianske Lazne

The First Protestants (and who can really say?) were the Bohemians.

Some 100 years previously.

I stumbled upon the First Protestants while making my way back to my hotel in Prague… I often get waylaid.

In truth, I’m always drawn to places of worship and often hang in doorways contemplating on going in.

I always do.

Broadening horizons: Prague

It was a basic prayer meeting house with no pictures to distract you from the pastor.

Who was preaching in his native tongue.

He also had his back to us at the start and was playing the organ.

Maybe it’s a thing.

Huis arrest

Whether Jan Huis did the same in 1412 I guess we’ll never know, and to be fair, this is a pretty general sketch of what he might have been like.

What we do know though is that he challenged the authority of the Papacy by asserting that Christ was the Supreme Judge and that worshippers should appeal directly to him.

A challenge that cost Huis his life.

Thankfully times have changed and it is not at all dangerous spending an afternoon in worship with the locals in Prague.

Although many in the Czech capital swear by another religion Urquell Pilsener…

Read my review And visit


The writing is on the wall in Prague

Prague is pretty much the centre of Europe and it has been central to changes in Europe for centuries.

And again these proud people who have been occupied and reoccupied by invaders and hostile political forces on countless occasions have risen up against their rulers to claim back their country for themselves.

About 250,000 people gathered in Prague over the weekend to direct anger at prime minister Andrej Babiš, who has been labelled a threat to democracy.

In Communist times they gathered at the Lennon Wall where their graffiti sent out a message to the outside world that they are central to Europe and they should be central to our thoughts.

I visited the Czech Republic at the time of a special anniversary which celebrated a beloved king and father figure to all Czechs. Read it at in a new tab)