Tag Archives: travel

Dabbling in the Dead Sea

As a teenager in the 1980s, inspired by an older cousin’s example, I dreamed of spending time as a ‘work-for-hire’ in a kibbutz. (It didn’t seem too far, workwise, from growing up on a farm but it offered novelty in other aspects.) I had forgotten that, until the BB and I arrived at our accommodation near the Dead Sea.

Fortunately, this was not our accommodation.

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Jaffa: Dishevelled Delight

The Holy Land is baking and laid over with haze. Brown smudges the horizon as if a painter has worked it with her thumb. The buildings are chunks of dirty brown-grey or cream. From the aeroplane, they seem to hug the ground. Even the taller blocks hunker down. Soon, the reason becomes clear: flat roofs. They cut off and create a no-nonsense appearance rather than the illusion of  uplift. Occasionally I spot a cluster of dull red roofs with low gradients; insufficient to alter the perception.

Tonight we stay in Jaffa (or Yafo) – the port from which Jonah set sail. Not only that, it was here that Perseus rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, Cetus. They have the rocks to prove it.

Waves break on Andromeda’s Rocks near The Sea Mosque.

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Porridge in the Pale Mountains

Signor Porridge is giddy with excitement.

flower with whirling background

So much so that he barely knows what’s up and what’s down.

Porridge in the Dolomites Continue reading

Flamenco on the Roof

Last night I saw live flamenco.

Almost unknowingly, I have carried it with me since my childhood in rural Australia.

My grandmother returned from an overseas trip with a gift from Spain – an ersatz tortoise-shell comb to add drama to one’s hair. It features a delicate painting of a pair of flamenco dancers. Their tiny, slender bodies emanate grace and drama. (As a child I couldn’t see the passion.) Continue reading

The Gamble of Sunrise

Is watching the sunrise, mountain top to mountain top, worth a 4.15am rise? Getting up very early to experience or accomplish something is a gamble few of us make. After pondering the long list of considerations revolving around the possibility of satisfaction, one is left with good old opportunity cost, “Would I be better off sleeping?” If you can catch such a sunrise any day then maybe you would trade the early rise in summer for a later rise in another season. But, The BB and I cannot.

After we’d bought the tickets for Mammoth Mountain’s* inaugural Sunrise from the Peak in July, friends of ours advised, “It’s only sleep.” They opted not to join us. Continue reading

Fortress and Fairytale

Dear John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute,

Thank you for Castell Coch.

Of course, you were not entirely responsible for it – you inherited the ruins and employed William Burges, architect, to rebuild and embellish – but your vision and interest in history (not to mention, vast wealth – weren’t you one of the world’s richest people?) fuelled the project.

HDR+pS Continue reading

Walking and Singing

With a thrill of excitement and a touch of disbelief, we took our passports when we walked across the bridge, town to town.

Walking into another country amazes and delights me. Growing up in the south-west of Western Australia meant that travelling to another state was a huge event – one requiring more than a cut lunch and a waterbag. Going to another country was a feat. Transport affordability and border restrictions have changed since then but the novelty hasn’t worn off – memory stalks and history breathes.

Because of their speed, we expect landscape, cultural and time zone changes when we travel in vehicles. Walking is such a simple act, homely and unassuming, so it is all the more surprising to find massive, rapid change attached to it.IMG_6529

We are in the little German (Bavaria) town of Laufen, which is about 21km north of Salzburg. It was once one town spreading on either side of the Salzach River. The river was its lifeblood, as precious salt from the Salzburg mines was transferred here from small boats to larger ones. In 1816, following the Napoleonic Wars, Laufen was separated from its suburbs over the river and became German. The new town was named Oberndorf and given to the Austrians.

Salzach River, Laufen

The river commits a great U-shaped curve through the towns.

The traffic bridge is moody. In the evening sun the plaques and statues glow benignly. In the morning, mist renders it ‘Gothic crime novel’.

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On day four of our stay, after rain-filled day three, the river, which normally appears sluggish due to its width and pale grey-green opaqueness, is raised and racing. It is littered with sticks and branches and I almost expect to see a body. Waves surge up the piers but the bridge is stalwart. (It was completed in 1903 to replace its less-reliable wooden predecessor.)

Salzach River, Austria overflowing

The Salzach flows down a nearby road, misting in the background.

Laufen:

monastery - hotel

This monastery has been added to and is now the hotel, Kapuzinerhof.

Laufen houses

frescoes

Frescoes in the cloisters of the church at the bend in the river.

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A two-way street runs under that arch. The sign at the side indicates the right-of-way obligations…or you could just drive around.

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chapel

A disused chapel in the monastery grounds.

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Across the bridge, walking the streets of Oberndorf, one treads almost hallowed ground. It is the birthplace of the carol, Silent Night, first performed in 1818. The town priest wrote the lyrics and asked a nearby organist and schoolmaster to compose the music. The latter accompanied the inaugural singing on his guitar. The church in which it was sung was demolished in 1913 due to flood damage. A memorial chapel was erected on the site in 1937. It is here that people from all over the world gather on Christmas Eve to sing, in many languages, this beloved carol.

Silent Night chapel

colourful house

Crossing cultures and times can be as easy as walking or singing.