Thursday, 13 November 2014

Lycian Way


We have made it to the end of our way. It has been beautiful country.  The last few sections through pine and deciduous forests where lovely and remote feeling. The Chimera near the base of what used to be called Mount Olympus with natural eternal flames coming from the ground seemed a fitting end!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Lycian Way 1

The first days on the Lycian Way have given us spectacular ocean views as we walk up and down the stoney hills along the coast. People in the little towns are very friendly. Bays an amazing turquoise. 
We have seen interesting ruins at Sidyma, Xantos Letoon and Patara (in photo) and walked a trail that included going over/along an ancient aqueduct around a hillside looking out over a sea of greenhouses. That area of the trail appears significantly less popular wih lots of overgrown adventuring and a turtle (?small tortise) along the way. Feels very remote and adventurous although we are still close to some big resort towns like Kalkan. 

Gösleme near Patara delicious and cooked fresh over hot coals!  We are enjoying lots of home style Turkish cooking in our paysions along the way. Not a kebab in sight!

Turkey

I'm afraid the post on Finland and beyond are still on my laptop awaiting photos and upload. We had a great time through the whole stretch including a week in the mountains around Mont Blanc and a quick trip to Dijon and Champagne on the way to Oxford. 
It was a very busy week catching up with friends and research and now we are in rural Turkey. 

We started the Lycian way in seaside Fethiye. Great seafood and cute topiary. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Russia

It has been an interesting week in Russia. We saw lots of amazing places and tried to learn a little history. It is much changed since the opening up of the markets in the early 90s. There has been rapid rebuilding and reconsecration of churches. The shops are full and glitz and glamour are popular.  At times it felt as if I was visiting a place that looked familiar and had the same name but was a totally different one to that I remember and have heard about. To think that such monumental social change has happened in my lifetime is mind boggling.



The Russian people remain vibrant and friendly in spite of all they are faced with. Well once you get past the initial serious face anyway!  

It made me sad to read sounds of restricting access to foreign influence via internet etc is being entertained by the government "in extreme circumstances". It does give me heart to think of how they rose again after tsarist and soviet repression so if such a thing happens their spirit will remain irrepressible I hope.

I have taken too many photos so this may be a bit long....  Large collection of garden photos for you in person when we return mum! :-)

First stop was St Petersburg. We stayed in a cozy little flat in the typical soviet cement blocks. It was a great place to explore right in the heart if everything near the Hermitage. The hermitage was amazing with an impressive collection of art and fancy palace costumes. Their 20th century European art collection had some gems.






While in the city we had great weather so also went to Peterhof by hydrofoil and enjoyed the gardens and trick fountains.  Peter the Great must have been into fountains, they are a big feature of his palace in Tallinn too!
Another day we went to Catherine the Great's summer palace.  It has been restored after damage during the Nazi occupation and is very fancy. They have rebuilt, at immense cost, the amber room that is entirely covered in amber and jasper mosaics.   The garden is follie central with Palladian bridge next to Turkish baths and the requisite ruins etc.



The mosaics in the restored church of spilt blood were amazing.


We enjoyed a night at the ballet to finish off our classic St Petersburg trip.  (the church was used to store sets for the ballet round the corner during the communist era apparently!)


We did a day trip to Viliky Norogrod a town centred around an ancient kremlin with churches and a museum with an encyclopaedic icons collection. It is a nice town with the river snaking past the fortress. Wedding parties were out in force for photos and the trend of attaching a lock to the bridge.

Moscow was huge. We stayed in one of the "Seven Sisters" sky scrapers thanks to Tom's good air b and b-ing. It had a view over the White House and was near the zoo. It was interesting to see inside one of these impressive decorated buildings.


The metro stations lived up to their reputation and one even had a pineapple frieze Anne! It was a shame photography is not encouraged a there was some excellent examples of soviet art.

The Armoury in the Kremlin has lots of glitz with Faberge eggs, diplomatic gifts from across the centuries and ofcourse armour.  
St Basil's Cathedral and Red square (including embalmed Lenin) was as iconic as always.



The fallen monument park next to the modern russian art museum is wild.  Part of it is like a storage yard and other parts give interesting context of the artists and subject.  It is good that this fragment of the great sculpture produced during the soviet era has survived and now is an important reminder of the era and what is was.  Quite amazing that there was a monuments factory to produce these things back in the day!


The Cosmonauts museum was fun too.  Great building and they have a super cool sundial with the planets around the sun.



Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sweden

We entered Sweden following the loads of holidaying Norwegians on the sunny Bohuslan Coast.  Our fist lunch overlooking the bay in Stromstad with all manner of smoked herring and salmon and a caper vinaigrette potato salad was delicious too!  The coast is known for it's red granite and many bays.  It was pretty and in addition we got to see some interesting iron age rock carvings and a stone ship setting.  These ship settings are similar to the stone circles found in the UK with large stones arranged on their ends.  These are in the shape of a boat and gradiated in size rather than the ones we see in the UK.  Some are associated with burials but the largest is likened to Stonehenge with an alignment to the suns Midsummer/ winter axis alhtough exactly what it means is unclear.

Continuing south to Gothenburg we tried a typical Swedish import - Kebab Pizza.  It was better than expected but not to end up on my list of things to eat regularly.  Basically it's a pizza where the meat is like on a kebab and then after it is cooked they sprinkle over lettuce, mayo and pickled chillis like a kebab.  Wild. It was nice to stay in a hotel and do some work. Don't dispair, we did get to more cultural spots with trips to the botanic gardens, wandering the moated old town and the "Fish Church" (market). Then onto a warehouse turned modern art space down the river by ferry (sadly in pouring rain) and then onto the Art Gallery.  They had some interesting impressionist works as well as an eclectic sculpture collection.  We were lucky to have Gg's friends advice and enjoyed a delicious modern swedish meal at Famaligen.

We then cut through a large bit of the middle in a day stopping at Orebro with a little castle and then for great icecream in a little wooden town - Nora and then searched out Angelsburg.  Angelsburg is an old ironworks with a wooden forge on a lake.  In retrospect it wasn't really near anything else but it was an adventure and probably would be much more exciting when they are in costume demonstrating it all in high season.  It did however give me the oportunity to make a new (and unlikely to be found on a local's table) version of Swedish meatballs - ratatouille style!



The next day we visited a stone carving depicting Sigurd's story.  This complex tale went on to inspire a famous icelandic saga and even Lord of the Rings.  Uppsala is a great university town and historic centre in Sweden's history.  We ate in a cool restaurant where there was a good number of locals under the base of the Cathedral and then wandered around before retreating to the art gallery when it rained.  It was fortuitous we did though as they had a great exhibition by Christian Partos.

Our final stop was Stockholm.  We found a nice camp site on the edge of the lake and a short trip into town with (undexpectedly) a great Thai restaurant.  This proved a good base for a hectic couple of days taking advantage of the Stockholm card multi museum entry.  We saw all sorts of royal in the Gamla Stan (old town) Palace.  Some of their old finds of ancient crowns and armour and clothing from centuries ago were particularly interesting. After a wander in the narrow cobbled streets we then went on to the Vasa museum.  This huge 300 year old ship was rebuilt like a giant jigsaw puzzle after it was found at the bottom of the harbour in the 60s.  It is ridiculously ornate and probably sank on its maiden voyage because it was so big/ tall for the size of it's keal.  A fascinating piece of work to have it now looking complete and on display though.  The Nordika folk art and design museum had thought provoking and fascinating exhibitions of Sami (indigenous "Lappland" people who live in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland) objects, art and their fight for recognition of their traditional lands.  We finished a beautiful sunny day cruising the waterways enjoying the view.  The next day the weather stayed on our side and didn't rain until we'd explored the grounds of Drottinghom Palace which is out on one of the many islands of Lake Malaren that make up outer Stockholm.
It is the summer palace of the King and has a theatre that is still in original condition since the 18th Century.  Fabulous with impressive set changing mechanics.  The Chinese pavilion was classic royal fantasy on the time and fascination with the "Far East".  We had run out of steam for more Royal rooms but the cafe did a great traditional meatballs with a pleasingly not as sweet as many ligonberry sauce.  They also did a princess cake named after the youngest princess Estelle.  It is pink like the Ikea one rather than the usual Green and was a cut above with Raspberry mousse inside.  In evening after a cool exhibition on cycles at the design and modern art museum and rejuvenating ice cream at 18 Smakers (18 flavours) we went to Fotografiska.  This is an amazing photography museum with several photographers doing special exhibits.  The Sebastiao Salgado Genesis exhibition was fabulous and brought back great memories of many of the amazing places we've been lucky enough to see, especially in Patagonia, as well as inspiring many more places to explore!  The Lisa Ross Sacred places from the Muslim Chinese deserts near Tibet was totally different but I found fascinating. (http://fotografiska.eu/en/utstallningar/utstallning/living-shrines/)  I was sad they didn't have a catalogue or post cards.  The cafe up top had great views over the city.  The next couple of days we relaxed a bit more wandering around town exploring different suburbs and had an enormous sunday brunch. Apparently buffets are the thing around here!
Now on to Aland and then Finland proper.




Norway 2

Lom stave church at night
We finished up our Juntenheimen/ Fjords touring with a daytrip into the famous Geiranger Fjord (viewed from above on Queen Sonia's chair and on the ferry)



and then back over an old mountain pass with waterfalls

and glaciers and a walk into the middle of the park.  The walk to Olavbu was a bit grey but we still had atmospheric views of the mountains and enjoyed a great sunset from the hut where we overnighted.


I was very glad we weren't camping when we set off after a nice warm night and breakfast into the threat of storms on the way back out!  It was beautiful country but we figured it was best not to push our luck with a longer trip home down an extra valley out to the car which when the wind and rain picked up was a good call!  After one last tasty bun in Lom we were back on the road.

Oslo is a great city with lots of interesting modern architecture. The iceberg inspired Opera House is fabulous!
There is an amazing park filled with Vigeland sculptures including an obilisk of figures.  We found a Somali restaurant with no menu which introduced us to some new tasty foods.  They were very nice given we had virtually no common language.  I was dubious about the addition of banana to curry vege and spice grilled meat with rice but it actually worked well.  Sadly both the Ethiopian places that Lonely Planet listed had closed but it did give us the opportunity to find Somali!

The Viking boat museum completed our Viking boat tour with three amazingly complete wooden boats.  They were again from Viking graves and were dug up in the early 20th centry after being found on farms near Oslo.  The mounds also included intricate carved wood sleighs and objects that are displayed.  I feel we've gained an appreciation of the Viking boats and their finds after seeing one in the ground, some rebuilt after being sunk and finally these very complete ones.  Nearby the Kontiki museum displayed a boat that was used to sail from South America to Tahiti as part of the "experimental archiology movement" to show ancient peoples had greater mobility than expected.
Renzo Piano has designed an impressive private art gallery down on the waterfront.  The exhibits are varied: some hits and some misses.  Although there was theoretically an emphasis on Scandinavian artissts I found it difficult to find at times.


While the National Gallery whet our appetite for scandinavian art and particularly Munch the Munch museum had a great exhibition of Much and his inspirations in nature.  His print making using wood that transferred the patterns of the grain in the wood was particularly lovely.  The camping overlooking the city in Ekeberg was good and had an adjacent sculpture park to enjoy.
After Oslo we went to Finneskogen on the Norway-Sweden border.  This nice wooded region with lots of lakes is a place which had lots of Finnish immigrants in the 1600s earning it's name.  It is known as being mystical with lots of traditional beliefs like sickness trees and markings on rocks still in practice today.  The proprieter at the camp ground was lovely and very knowledgable about the surrounding area and it's wildlife. Sadly we didn't get to see any of the wild Elk or bears that apparently live in the area but the walking was delightful.  I could not believe my luck in the pine forests where the understory is a carpet of blueberry bushes and they were in season!  To add to the variety there were raspberries growing where the trees had been felled.  In the end Tom ahd to remind me if we didn't stop picking and keep walking we may never make it back! We also got to criss cross in and out of Sweden on our hike.  Here's tom on the border cut through the trees.

The views of the lakes were nice too and we got our dream of camping on the beach of a lake.  What a great day when your greatest concern is whether the ducks will stop quacking overnight.  A nice end to our Norway stay and a contrast to the spectacular mountain scenery in the west.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Norway week 1.5

Our last day in Denmak we enjoyed Årburg and it's fjord /dock side Utzon centre. It was exciting to see some of the original work that led to a building I have such familiarity and affection for (Sydney Opera House). Skagen had good seafood but was an extreme popular town with beachside tourists. We moved on to a delightful B and B half an hour from our morning ferry and just nearby to a lighthouse that is being buried by sand dunes. Much more picturesque than the church being buried near Skagen!

On landing in Norway we headed north west to Stavanger through fabulous forested hills, fjords and lakes - and this was via the main highway not the scenic route! We knew this was going to be a good trip.

The next day we joined the hoards of tourists walking up to pulpit rock (priekestolen). We established I would not cope with the other tourist hike to were people stand on top of a boulder wedged in a chasm almost 1000m above the fjord as I was petrified of Tom going near the edge.

Instead we walked up the Månafossen glacial valley to a remote hut. It was a tough/ slow ascent as I am not accustomed to picking my way over boulders in the morain and previous avalanches. It was a beautiful valley with glacial lakes, waterfalls and wild berries to snack on. Up at the hut we were lucky enough to be there on a night the volunteer caretaker and his brother were in residence. They were really interesting to talk to and very welcoming to two tired and wet walkers late in the evening. The huts are amazingly well stocked and maintained. 

Our next stop was a couple of days based in Bergen. It is a beautiful city and we had a great view walking down from our airbnb flat to town. It provided a good rest and research stop. The nearby UNESCO listed fjord and Flåmsbana old railway were a spectacular day trip. We came back out through similar territory to Lom at the edge of Juntenheimen national park. We have had so many scenic drives and pretty country to explore. 

Thankfully the Bessegen ridge didn't look quite as threatening from the direction we travelled and we got great views of several lakes both fresh water and milky glacial from the way along. So many good views of the surrounding peaks too. Our little base camp in Lom at the Nordal centre is serving us well with a nearby tasty restaurant to try one night and bakery for when we're not cooking up a Nordic fish take on red curry!