Friday, July 17, 2009

Nelson Mandela Day

So as to "stick" with the South-African-theme, as one of the new visitors to this blog recommended: "it's strange to find photos from Germany, etc. [See: previous 2 blog entries] on your blog, which otherwise is dedicated to photos taken in SA" - I've decided to do just that again.

Yet today I'm saying au revoir, because I'll be "off-air" until August 1 (= going on tour again) BUT before I leave, I'd like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Madiba for tomorrow, 18 July - which apparently will be celebrated internationally each year from now on as Nelson Mandela Day. So the 46664 campaign (pronounced: four double six, six four - which was his number as prisoner on Robben Island) is in "full swing" once more.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Travel Workshop

I didn't fly to Europe only to visit with family & friends - in actual fact, I didn't even plan such a visit this year [SEE: previous blog-entry]. But when I received an invitation from Studiosus (the company I mainly work for as a free-lance tourist guide) to participate in a "workshop", I gladly accepted. So today I'm sharing a few photos, which I snapped along this week-long tour to mainly Slovenia (& after the whistle-stop tour of Germany = previous blog-entry).

After crossing the border from Austria, we stopped in Bled (Slovenia) - famous for its glacial lake & an iconic castle on a rock overlooking the lake. There's a small island in the centre of the lake - home to the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church, which can be reached on a traditional wooden row-barge called pletna.

Next stop: Ljubljana - the capital & largest city of Slovenia. Located in the centre of the country, it's regarded as the country's cultural, scientific, economic, political & admin. centre since independence in 1991. We explored the historical main centre & visited the busy market.

On to Piran - a small coastal resort situated on the "tip" of a peninsula (or istria) & our "base" for 5 days whilst becoming familiar with more of the surrounding points of interest = tourist attractions.

A panoramic view over the small town of Piran known for its rich cultural heritage, & with the remains of a castle on a hill visible in the background.

On one of many excursions, we visited the Skocjan Caves, since 1986 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a unique underground gorge with many vast chambers of 11 interconnected caves, natural bridges, sinkholes, marvelous stalagtites & stalagmites of different colours, stone curtains & a river flowing through it all. There are as many as 7 000 caves in Slovenia - but are they all as breathtakingly beautiful as the cave at Skocjan?

We also crossed the border into Italy to visit & explore Trieste - where I was mostly fascinated by the architecture. I didn't "recognise" Trieste as a 'miniature' Venice, but it has a charm of its own.

On our way back to Munich, we stopped at the Miramare Castle, built by Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian & his wife, Charlotte of Belgium - also emperor & empress of Mexico. The castle is situated on the Gulf of Trieste in n-e Italy, & the castle grounds include a 22ha seashore park with many tropical trees & plants.

Just as I observed in Germany [SEE: previous blog-entry] lions were to be seen everywhere - a lion with "lip-ring"? (Ha-ha)

There was also a Slovenian "version" of (our SA) Kelp gull - just as I had discovered a German version of our SA Moorhen!! This gull - almost identical to our version (size, etc), with only a slight difference in the colour of the legs/feet.

And then there were the magnificent Lipizzan horses on the stud-farm at Lipica - said to be the home of all the Lipizzan horses in the world! Here the tradition of breeding & selecting pure Lipizzans is alive for over 400 years.

After the Second World War, Lipica developed its own Classical Riding School (NOT to be confused with the Spanish Riding School in Vienna NOR the affiliated South African Lipizzaner Riding School at Kyalami).

During a privately guided tour of the stables, I found these 2 stallions "eyeing" me - a "worthy" opportunity for a photo.

As if amused by it all, this Lipizzaner revealed amusement - or was it contempt?

Is this a case of: "Anything you can do, I can do better"??

OR is it a special send-off?

I certainly had fun & visiting the horses at Lipica was a very special occassion!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Whistle-Stop Tour completed

"Doing" Germany in 6 days is quite an accomplishment! So instead of my customary photos taken somewhere in our beautiful country (to which I'm always happy to return), I'm going to share today some of what I saw & admired whilst overseas.

As most visitors do when in Munich, you head for the Marienplatz with the Rathaus (= city hall) & it's famous "Glockenspiel" (lasting about 12 min).

Next "stop" - Hannover (where I was born) & where I was fascinated all over again by the Fachwerkhaus (= half-timbered house) building style.

More beautiful Fachwerk-houses in Hildesheim (from where, many years ago, my parents emigrated with us to South Africa).

On to Berlin where, I believe, the Gedaechtniskirche (= Memorial Church) at the Kurfuerstendamm is one of the most "recognisable" icons in the city.....

..... as I believe is the case with the Brandenburger Tor.

Coming from Africa, I'm accustomed to lions but strangely, these wild animals "feature" all over Europe where they seem to have iconic status, although they are often represented as "monuments" (apart from being kept in various Zoos).

As many of my blog entries "testify" I'm fanatic with regard to photographing birds - so "meeting" these 2 baby birds was an exciting moment for me. Unfortunately I couldn't identify them as I'm mostly able to do back home in South Africa.

I also discovered the European "version" of our (SA) Moorhen swimming amongst Swans in the lake at the Nymphenburg palace (in Munich).

As if it "sensed" my interest in discovering how the European version is different to our Moorhen, it displayed its features to me during a ballet-like balancing act - so I could gratefully "snap" the occasion.