Sunday, August 30, 2020

Bigger Than I Imagined

I only have four photos today from my 1985 trip to Germany.  The first major stop on that trip was to Cologne to see the cathedral I had read about.  I had heard that it was huge but even with that knowledge, I wasn't prepared for the massive size of it.

There was not a single spot where I could get a photo that captured the whole thing.  I needed a wide angle lens, something I didn't have at that time.

I was certainly not the only tourist wanting to see this place.  There were tour buses parked everywhere around the front of the cathedral.

When I finally got past all the parked buses and cars, I was so close to the front of the church that it was filling my view finder. I was only capturing about a quarter of the whole front.  Look how tiny the people look compared to cathedral.

There is no doubt that the Cologne Cathedral is a giant in the world of grand churches.  Do you suppose it's massive size was planned to make humans feel small in the scope of things?

I did a Google search to see if there were any better photos and the image results speaks volumes.  It's not an easy place to photograph unless you are in the air.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Exploring Germany

As I planned my very first trip to Europe back in 1985, there were two countries high on my list.  England was first and Germany was second.  Visiting those two places would cover my heritage, English on my Mother's side and German on my father's side.

I purchased a Baedeker guide book for Germany and I started mapping out the places I wanted to see.  After seeing a photo of St. George's Cathedral in the town of Limburg in Germany, visiting that city scored a high position on my list.

I was not disappointed.  The cathedral was even more beautiful than the picture in the book.

My skills as a photographer have improved by quite a bit over the years so please forgive my slightly tilted photos.  (If truth be told, I tend to lean in that direction still today.  I just do a better job of straightening them before I click.)

These photos were all scanned from that large group of slides I recently discovered.  Luckily most of the slides were Ektachrome so they have retained a lot of their color.

 The town of Limburg itself was full of half timbered buildings an houses.

It was a joy to explore.  This being my very first trip to Europe, it all looked so different and somewhat exotic to me.

Walls that actually leaned into the street seemed to me that they might crumble at any moment.

Interesting doors caught my eye. I kind of wish I had gone into this little restaurant when I was there.

In the same box where I found the old slides, I found this little framed watercolor of St. George's Cathedral.  I remember that I bought it because I wanted something to commemorate my visit.  After all, back in the days of film, one never knew how the photos would turn out.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Reaching Back in Time

My title today has a double meaning.  I'm visiting the city of Bruges in Belgium which is a city that reaches a very long way back in history.  The other meaning is that these photos date back to 1991 when I visited the city.  So, I'm also reaching back into my travel history.  I recently found a large collection of old slides and I was thrilled to find my photos from this wonderful place among those slides.

Sometime around 1989 or 1990, I saw a magazine cover photo similar to the photo above that prompted me to buy the magazine.  It was a travel magazine and it had a long section devoted to visiting the city of Bruges in Belgium.  I saved that article and reread it many times until I finally made plans to visit in person.

Bruges was a trading center that by the 11th century had become wealthy and prosperous mostly from the cloth trade.  By the 14th century, the population was 35,000, as large as London.  It was one of the biggest cities in the world and trading powerhouse.

By the 16th century, the harbor had silted up and Bruges' economy collapsed.  For centuries the town became a mysterious, dead city.  In the 19th century, a new port began to renew the city's vitality.  By the 20th century it was discovered by tourists.  Because of its long sleepy period, it was one of the most well-preserved Gothic cities anywhere.

The city of Bruges has thrived as a tourist destination ever since.

I can say that it is truly like stepping back in time.  I have a distinct memory of arriving at the train station and thinking, this looks like any other European city.  Then I took a taxi from the station to my hotel and watched as the driver crossed a bridge over a canal and into another world entirely.  The difference was abrupt and amazing.

I had discovered from that magazine article that the building that juts out into the canal in my first photo above, was a restaurant.  So my goal was to have a meal there.  I accomplished that goal and found the experience phenomenally rewarding.  The service was impeccable and the food was delicious.  I don't have photos from inside but here is a link to their website so you can take a peek. That meal was one of the most memorable experience from this trip.

In the photo to the right you can see a slim section of the restaurant all the way to the right and in the middle is the medieval belfry that towers over the city.

Wandering through the city was a photographer's dream.  Everywhere I looked there was something picturesque to capture.

During the city's heyday, Dutch artists Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling had studios here so art played a prominent role.  While there I toured several museums including the Groeninge Museum, the Memling Museum and Old St. John's Hospital where a display of medieval surgery implements made my happy I'm living in a more advanced age.

Above is a view over the market square where restaurants and shops juggle for space.

Another place that was on my list of must-sees was the Church of Our Lady where Michelangelo's Madonna and Child resides.  The church is tiny but its treasure is great.

If you happened to see the George Clooney movie "Monuments Men", you will know that this statue played an important part in that movie.

The photo above is one of my favorite travel photos.  On one drizzly afternoon, I walked along one of the canals to the outer ring canal where I saw this scene.  There was something so appealing about the wet path, misty atmosphere and that rugged boat.  Struggling with an umbrella, guide book and camera, I managed to get the shot.

The walk was to see the windmills that run along this canal.  You can see one of them through the mist in the photo to the left.

I have been wanting to go back to this magical place ever since this visit so long ago and it has somehow escaped me.  When travel gets restored back to normal, I will make an effort to see this place again.  I hope I find it just as charming as I did almost 30 years ago.

One last thing I forgot to mention.  Chocolate!  There were chocolate shops everywhere and I indulged in a lot of it.  One thing is certain, when I make it back, I'll indulge some more.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Intriguing Discovery

I had just enjoyed a great lunch at a sidewalk cafe on Via Deli Omenoni in Milan last year when I turned the corner and saw a building with a fascinating facade.  It appeared to house either apartments or offices because I could see multiple mailboxes inside that doorway.  But one thing was certain, it was a very old building.

Luckily I had photographed the the street sign so that I would remember to do a little research and see if I could find some information about this place.  I learned this building is called Casa Degli Omenoni and it is a historic palace built by sculptor Leone Leoni.  Apparently he lived and worked here.  You might think he actually sculpted the facade himself but it appears he designed it and it was created by another sculptor, Antonio Abondio.  The name of the palace is based on the eight statues which in Italian were known as "omenoni" or big men.

What caught my eye immediately was this rather grotesque relief just under the cornice.  It depicts two lions tearing a satyr to pieces.  Lions were a reoccurring theme for this building evidently referring to the "Leoni" family name.  This depiction might serve as a warning to not mess with the people living inside.  That's just a guess on my part.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

White Dove of the Desert

Mission San Xavier del Bac is located about 10 miles south of Tucson Arizona on the Tohono O'odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation.  It was founded in 1692 by Padre Eusebio Kino.  It has come to be known as "the white dove of the desert" because of it's white stucco exterior.

Unlike most of the chain of Missions in California and Arizona, this one is still actively run by the Franciscans and still serves the local native American community and all others who reside in the area.

It is a beautiful church that is easy to find and welcoming to all visitors.  I try to make a point of visiting it anytime I visit Tucson.  These photos were taken during the monsoon season a few years ago.  I think the church looked especially dramatic with those huge, puffy clouds in the background.