Asia, Countries, Europe

Flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others

And I’m prompted my old friend, Gaelic Scotland’s answer to Simon Reeve, Anna Kennedy, to probe flip-floppin’ Georgia statues.

I admit I didn’t know about The Sea Slippers in Batumi or any of the other funky statues in the Asian country.

It’s not something George Zurabashvili or I got around to.

When he invited me over to his gaffe, the Georgian Embassy in Dublin.

We were too busy talking about Georgian wine, the oldest in the world, and rugby.

And if I could get an Irish delegation out to the country.

Platforms for success

Her arm must be getting sore: The Statue of Liberty

But statues while usually not a sole reason for visiting a destination are often one of the must-do excusions…

The Statue of Liberty in New York, Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Anne Frank in Amsterdam, Nelson’s Column in London, Jim Larkin in Dublin,. or the best of all, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh.

That Georgia has such a funky statue shouldn’t come as too much surprise.

As countries which were long suppressed by Soviet Union have had an explosion of architectural expression since the break-up of the USSR.

Czech out Czerny

Map it out: The Peeing Pragueites

Now I love an Astronomical Clock as much as the next person who takes the most common selfie in Prague.

Although confession time here I do prefer the Beer Astronomical Clock in Zatec.

But if statues give you a historical shorthand for a city then Prague shows its many wonderful, modern, Communist and post-Communist faces.

Whether it’s peeing statues outside the Franz Kafka Museum (he would have approved), hanging umbrella men or the crawling babies up the Zivkov TV tower.

Or Czech patriarch King Charles IV or King Wenceslas.

Though truth be known, it’s hard to top climbing babies and peeing Pragueites.

Slovaks too

Cumil ye faithful: Man at Work in Bratislava

And in a nod too to my pal Katarina who flies the flag for the Czechs but who was born under the banner of neighbours of Slovakia

Cumil, the tin-helmeted bronze sculpture, who emerges from a mancover. 

A road sign warns you as reckless drivers have chopped his head off before!

Bosnian Bruce

G’Day Bruce: In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Now our Balkan friends have some unusual icons.

Remembering that British slapstick comedian Norman Wisdom is a national hero.

In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina when you get out of Medjugorje where there’s something about Mary, it’s Bruce Lee.

Bruce became a national hero through the black market for video cassettes. 

A kick in the ribs for Marshall Tito there.

Alexander’s Great Mate

Something fishy: In Skopje, North Macedonia

Alexander, of course, is a great icon the world over.

But his status is so high in south-east Europe that the Greeks tried to stop North Macedonia getting into the UN because they erected a statue to him in Skopje.

Well, we’ll leave the squabbling to these neighbours and instead celebrate Grozdanka Kanikova’s erection (stop it!).

It is in fact a Fish which seems to have three legs and appropriately stands outside the Olympic Swimming Pool.

Earth-shattering Budapest

Did the Earth move for you? Man Emerging From The Earth, Budapest

And sometimes I (and others) wish the ground would just swallow me up.

In a twist on that the Hungarians give us a giant man emerging from the earth as part of an arts festival.

And so put your preconceptions behind about the old East.

And reflect instead on the statues around us in the UK.

Better flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others than some old relics of Empire.

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Something written in the heart of Denmark

Here’s something written in the heart of Denmark. Who’s to say if he once was an ugly duckling but the world flock to Copenhagen now because of Hans Christian Andersen?

I meet an old university pal Tom off my cruise ship.

No, not by The Little Mermaid which is some way out from Copenhagen’s main square, but by Andersen’s statue.

Red and white dynamite

Once upon a time we…

No, you don’t want to read our story but Andersen’s and Copenhagen’s which are, of course, so richly entwined.

Hans was an only child, schooled in Elsinore, yes that Elsinore made famous by a certain prince.

Hans across the water

But it was to the sophisticated capital of Denmark that he made his life.

As first an actor and then a prolific writer of salutary children’s and adult books.

He took up residence in Nyhavn which is the big hub of Copenhagen today and a magnet for tourists.

You can’t help feeling his fairytale world all around you in Copenhagen’s chocolate box buildings.

Fancy a twirl?

A royal city

Probably because you’re in the Tivoli Gardens.

It was opened in 1843 and is the world’s second oldest operating amusement park.

And was the inspiration for Disneyland.

Swinging time at Tivoli Gardens

The best view that you can get of Copenhagen is from the 80m swing-carousel Star Flyer, one of an abundance of thrill rides in the park.

Twirling around with only air, the park and Tom and Sarah below I feel like one of Hans’s characters.

And there in the distance is my ship to whisk me off to a far-away land.

Street entertainment

And my little mermaid wants a swim.  

Yes, just something written in the heart of Denmark.

And for more scribbled on a ship on the way to the fjords with MSC…  

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Driving entertainment in lockdown

It’s all come a long way since the days when a drive-thru was getting out of the car and picking up the family’s takeaway.

Now because of COVID we can stay in our hermetically-sealed cocoon and enjoy all manner of thrills.

Park by the Pole

Steamy windows

Lucky Devil Lounge, Portland, Oregon: And here’s where you can get extra with your bun… two buns actually!

Customers who order food can pay $30 per car and driver (plus $10 for any passengers in the car) to use the drive-thru and watch a show.

In normal years I find myself in the US around Gay Pride.

And my friends at the American Travel Fair, IPW, put on a fabulous Gay Pride night… Washington, Denver, Los Angeles/Anaheim.

Bless me, Father

Two Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys

Limoges, France: Maybe you’ve not been out enough over these lockdowns to have compiled enough sins but come on, all that food and drink.

And Sainte Jeanne d’Arc in Limoges will hear your darkest secrets from your car.

When all this is over, of course many of us will be going all Medieval and giving thanks to the Great Redeemer.

In France, that’s Lourdes, in Portugal it’s Fatima, Italy is Rome, Spain the Camino and Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Probably the best gig

Mads for it

Denmark: And Mads Langer doesn’t let a small thing like lockdown make him down his mic.

Mads sold 500 tickets for a concert at Tangkrogen outside Aarhus, Denmark’s second city after Copenhagen.

The cars were rockin’ and rollin’!

Airport movies

Bringing some colour into our lives

Edinburgh AirportAnd all of this drive-thrumania has been triggered by the news that my local airport Edinburgh is putting on a Halloween offering.

Drive-ins were always the stuff of James Dean movies (the first drive-in cinema was actually New Jersey, not LA).

You never forget your first time though and that for me was Toronto and a Bond movie, The Living Daylights. And while our first albums are usually embarrassing I’m happy with that choice.

Anyhoos back to Edinburgh. You’ll get Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, Coco, The Lost Boys, Jaws (not nearly as terrifying at Universal Studios Hollywood) and Halloween.

November brings us Back to the Future, Rocketman, Mamma Mia and more.

There’s entertainment galore, food and drink from local producers Cold Town Beer and Alandas plus DJ Captain Calverto will entertain you before each film with car discos. singalongs and quiz fun.

They’ve offered me (and I guess you too) the chance to win tickets.

And you might even see a plane flying overhead… and hopefully I’ll be on it.

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Pandemics… a gruesome business

And to think that just a couple of months ago an underground abandoned street from the Black Death was open…

And drawing in ghoulish visitors in Edinburgh.

It might just give us solace though to reflect that our forebears had it worse.

A city under a city… The Real Mary King’s Close

It wasn’t just that the residents of Mary King’s Close https://www.realmarykingsclose.com were boarded up, they didn’t even have Netflix.

You can see how they lived on a trip to the Scottish capital https://edinburgh.org where the Old Town seeps horrible history.

How they lived in the Middle Ages

The Eyam Plague Village Museum https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk, in Derbyshire in the English Midlands, is another example of how Medieval people lived with The Plague.

In their case sealing their village off in a remarkable feat of self-sacrifice from their neighbours.

Our pandemic will pass, and will become a chapter in history alongside the Plague of Athens and the Plague of Justinian.

Each of which you can trace as you follow in the footsteps of the Byzantines and Ottomans… https://athensattica.com and https://visit.istanbul.

And My Greek odyssey and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

So how will we chronicle these days in which we live?

Well, we have started already, curating the artefacts, masks, robes, PPE and everyday objects that we surround ourselves with just now.

And the everyday stories that inform and entertain.

It will come as little surprise then that it is the idiosyncratic, curious and super-efficient Germans who have been to the fore here.

Oh, the Cologne

Historian Rita Wagner has been curating a time capsule of the spring of 2020 for future generations for Cologne City Museum

Germans know from their own tragic war history that it is vital not to forget.

Cologne https://www.cologne-tourism.com, a city I know from my nearby Oktoberfest adventures, stands proudly with its cathedral at its centrepoint against the ravages of adversity.

Dresden too https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php Dresden’s renaissance

Oh, Vienna, it means something to me

While Wien University https://www.univie.ac.at/en/ (Vienna to you and me) put out an invitation to the public.

To contribute to their collection via email and the.’Corona Memory’ tag.

Take that, bug

One of my favorite objects is a crocheted coronavirus,” says museum director Matti Bunzl.

‘It is not only cute, it shows that objects are ambassadors of their time.”

Not so sure about ‘cute’ Matti but it does help to demystify the bug. https://www.wien.info/en.

Finns can only get better

Finland is the happiest country in the world and has a healthy recognition that death is part of life and life is for living.

And they too at the National Museum of Finland https://www.kansallismuseo.fi/en/.

We all love a fairytale

And wonderful Copenhagen which I visited on my cruse around the fjords with https://www.msccruises.co.uk wew.msccruises.ie and The call of the fjords.

Where when all of this is over it will all be in the one place in Vesthimmerlands Museum https://www.visitvesthimmerland.com/vesthimmerland/planlaeg-din-tur/vesthimmerlands-museum-gdk597684

America may have lost its moral direction in leadership through this crisis but that will surely be temporary.

As its own history shows as evidence in its Smithsonian Museums.

The jewel of the Smithsonian Museums

The National Museum of African American History and Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu is the jewel in the Smithsonian crown.

And they too are curating how we are living our lives now.

Whether long red ties and take-aways of diet Coca-Cola and burgers from up Pennsylvania Avenue will make the cut…

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Visit https://washington.org and Easy DC.

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe

Get on your bikes – cycling around the world

It’s obviously not how cyclists would have planned it but after years of being pilloried THEY now rule the roads.

Back when I was nearer Sir Chris Hoy’s age than Eddy Merckx’s I would cycle everywhere in Edinburgh.

And take my life in my own hands like the time I was cut up at the roundabout by an elderly driver.

I was cycling straight on while Mad Motorist was on the outside lane but decided to turn left.

Not a car to be seen in Amsterdam

Picking myself and my bike up from the ground I was met by s screaming pensioner telling me I should have signalled!!!

Or there was the time I was waterbombed by some hoodlums from a tenement flat.

Ridden off the road

While I was also sprayed in the face with party foam while cycling through Edinburgh’s New Town.

Mmmm… I’d like to see them try any of those stunts in Amsterdam.

When in Amsterdam

Where you’d probably be pushed into the canals by locals shouting CYCLISTS!

But they have a culture there, properly wide and thought-through cycle paths, and lanes separated by small walks beside dual carriageways.

Dutch driving

Which makes it a pleasure for all to enjoy the city with your IAmsterdam city pass www.iamsterdam.com Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Le Tour de Murty: The Pyrenees

France prides itself as the home of cycling where families cycle together The Boat D’Azur and https://uk.france.fr/en.

Or if they’re holding you back then you can always climb the mountain to Le Pic du Midi.

Tour de force

Where cyclists either climbing or whizzing down the mountain have right of way.

The same applies in Scandinavia and Northern Europe where the bike is often the preferred mode of transport.

The best cycling culture in the world probably: Denmark

And where my old University pal New Yorker Tom turned up for our meeting by old Hans Christian Andersen’s statue on his bike.

Wonderful Copenhagen

See https://www.visitcopenhagen.com and fit a day in on your MSC Cruises trip around the Norwegian fjords https://www.msccruises.co.uk and https://www.msccruises.ie. The call of the fjords.

Tom’s own New York may not immediately strike you as a shining example for cyclists but we’re probably thinking Manhattan here.

Staten Island Bicycling Association http://www.sibike.org

And that’s another reason to explore the five other boroughs… for example Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

American cycling dream

While when you do do Manhattan and The Bronx I’d recommend walking tours and here’s where you can get a start Old New York: Hamilton. And www.nycvb.com.

Look at the space you have to cycle

California is all about the outside life where cyclists don the latest fashions and pose on their two wheels.

On the Venice Beach www.venicebeach.com and Santa Monica https://www.santamonica.com/things-to-do/santa-monica-beach/… And My Weekend With Marilyn. And www.visitcalifornia.com.

With a Paralympic champion in Quinta do Lago

Sportugeezer

And my cycling experiences? Showing off on my Sporting break at The Campus in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

And took a straight road too sharply.., https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/. And SPORTUGAL

Remember too in these days of social distancing if you are a driver give cyclists some space.

Adventure, Deals, Europe

Fairytale deals to Copenhagen

Once upon a time there was an airline carrier which offered wonderful deals to Scandinavia.

But guess what we still live happily ever after with these deals from Scandinavia Airlines http://www.sas.com.

They offer Stockholm from €41, Copenhagen from €44 and Oslo from €37.

Our ship down there: MSC in Norway

We got our first taste of Scandinavia https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-call-of-the-fjords/ when we cruised around Denmark and Norway and got a tantalising look at Sweden on our MSC tour of the fjords… http://www.msccruises.ie and http://www.msccruises.co.uk.

Where we also popped in an old friend in Copenhagen … well, yes him. But him as well, my old university mucker American Tom.

Fairytale story: With Tom and The Scary One

It was invaluable having local knowledge for that day trip with Tom being able to show us where you can buy a coffee for under a tenner.

And also tell us which rides to go on and which not in the Tivoli Gardens http://www.tivoli.dk which we all know Walt Disney used as his inspiration for his Disney theme parks http://www.disneyparks.disney.go.com.

BTW I’m up there somewhere and did get a fabulous view of the whole of Copenhagen http://www.visitcopenhagen.com and our ship.

Tom knew all the cool parts, Vesterbro (you’re very welcome).

Dance away: In Copenhagen

Where local artists use industrial holders to play out their modern interpretative dance moves.

And yes Bandanaman was throwing some shapes from the back of the crowd too.

Sweden is tantalisingly close when you sail off from Copenhagen on your way to Norway.

And when you do visit Stockholm http://www.visitstockholm.com you will, of course, hit the dance floor at the ABBA The Museum http://www.abbathemuseum.com.

Munch break: In Bergen

And I will also catch up with my old friend Agnetha… though again not that one. A long story which I’ll return too. And a salutary lesson too!

But while we only dipped our toes into Denmark and barely at all Sweden we did jump in head first into the Norwegian fjords. And will be back.

Dahl boy: Norwegian landscape painting

And this time having sampled the art of Munch and the drama of Ibsen it’ll be full sail for Oslo… http://www.visitoslo.com.

Cruising in the fjords became popular in the 19th century through the works of Hans Dahl and there began an influx of tourists there on the back of it.

Mind you they would have got there quicker and cheaper with SAS.