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SEE 3 OF THE BEST WATERFALLS IN THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, NEW SOUTH WALES

“There’s no better place to find yourself than sitting by a waterfall and listening to its music” – Ronald R Kemler   Australia’s Southern Highlands in New South Wales is…

“There’s no better place to find yourself than sitting by a waterfall and listening to its music” – Ronald R Kemler

 

Australia’s Southern Highlands in New South Wales is a destination of scenic beauty. It is considered a foodie and wine region but is also renowned for its national parks and waterfalls. On a road trip around the Southern Highlands, I explored three waterfalls in two national parks.

 

‘Lush’ is the word that comes to mind when visualising the Southern Highlands in New South Wales. The landscape is green, painted with the odd red roof, black cows, and white sheep. Vineyards, forests, and skyscraper pine trees dot the rolling hills.

The Southern Highlands is around a 90-minute drive from Sydney and less than two hours from Canberra – 110 km southwest of Sydney CBD and 140 km northeast of Canberra. The Southern Highlands is an area centred around the picture-postcard heritage villages of Mittagong, Bowral, Berrima, Moss Vale, Bundanoon, and Robertson, and located in some of the prettiest landscapes I have had the privilege to see. Geographically, the Southern Highlands sits between 500-900 metres above sea level on the Great Dividing Range. The Great Dividing Range runs roughly parallel to Australia’s East Coast for 3,500 kilometres, from the tip of Queensland, through New South Wales and ending in Victoria’s Grampians National Park.

In the Southern Highlands, you will find three of the best waterfalls in two New South Wales national parks:

  • Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park;
  • Belmore Falls in Morton National Park; and
  • Fitzroy Falls, also in Morton National Park.

All three waterfalls are within a few minutes drive of the historic village of Robertson on the lands of the Gundungurra Nation.

  • Carrington Falls is seven kilometres east south-east from Robertson;
  • Belmore Falls is approximately eight kilometres south from Robertson; and
  • Fitzroy Falls is about 15 kilometres southwest of Robertson.

I love waterfalls, but how do I describe why I love them. It’s not enough to say, “I just do”. I have travelled the world (well, some of it!), and I am obviously drawn to waterfalls when I look back through my photos. Waterfalls make me happy. Even though the cascading water can be thunderous and constantly moving, I find the sight and sound of waterfalls calming. I can sit and chill out for hours beside a waterfall.

New South Wales National Parks’ website provides up-to-date, detailed information on Carrington Falls walking track, Belmore Falls walking track, and Fitzroy Falls West Rim walking track. The website is a significant resource that provides trail maps and advises of park alerts, walking grades, safety, best times to visit, getting there and parking, accessibility, facilities, and the plants and animals you may see in each national park.

I recommend you call into the Southern Highlands Welcome Centre in Mittagong early in your visit to the area. I found them very informative and helpful about what to see and do in the area. They also advised on the best days to visit specific villages and towns so I wouldn’t be disappointed with closures. This latter made it easier to plan my days ahead, as I had come to the Southern Highlands with no specific itinerary in place.

Carrington Falls

A waterfall

Carrington Falls, Budderoo National Park, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

 

Carrington Falls is in Budderoo National Park, seven kilometres from Robertson. Entry is free to the falls and walking tracks.

Carrington Falls is a result of the Kangaroo River plunging 90 metres over the escarpment. It is considered one of the most impressive and beautiful waterfalls in and around Sydney. You be the judge of that from the three waterfalls presented in this post.

You can view Carrington Falls from three lookouts along a 600-metre loop walking track from Thomas’ Place picnic area – all giving a different view of the falls. The walk is a formed track and clearly signposted. But note, there is a steep metal stairway to descend and some short steep hills to ascend. Waratahs, an Australian native plant and the floral emblem of New South Wales, can be seen along the track in spring and summer.

Red flowers

Waratahs in bloom at Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park

 

Thomas’ Place picnic area is the car park for Carrington Falls. Picnic tables and long-drop (non-flushing) toilets are available.

Getting there: In Robertson, take Jamberoo Mountain Road (opposite the famous Robertson Pie Shop) and continue for five kilometres. Turn right onto Cloonty Road at the Carrington Falls sign and continue for about two kilometres. Turn a sharp right onto Thomas Place Road and continue to the end, where you will reach the car park and picnic area.

Budderoo National Park is always open but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

I saw people swimming at the top of the falls, but access to the base of the falls requires advanced navigation and bush survival skills. If you want a swim, make your way to Nellies Glen.

Nellies Glen

Water cascading over a rock ledge into a natural swimming hole

Nellies Glen swimming hole in Budderoo National Park, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

 

Nellies Glen is in Budderoo National Park, just 240 metres from Carrington Falls on the other side of the river. From Thomas’ Place picnic area, drive back to Cloonty Road heading north and turn left into Nellies Glen picnic area after crossing Kangaroo River. Entry is free. Facilities include car parking, long-drop toilets, and picnic tables.

The small waterfall and picnic area at Nellies Glen are just 100 metres from the car park on a flat, unpaved path. The natural rock pool, surrounded by ferns, is an idyllic place to swim.

NSW National Parks’ website on Nellies Glen provides directions, safety, and practical information, including the best time to visit and plants and animals you may see.

A small waterfall dropping into a rock pool

Nellies Glen in Budderoo National Park, Southern Highlands

 

If you haven’t brought a picnic lunch with you, then grab a pie at the famous Robertson Pie Shop – noted for its award-winning savoury and sweet pies. I had a steak and mushroom pie which was very tasty. However, I did not finish my apricot and cream pie because I found the pastry stodgy.

Belmore Falls

A picture of a waterfall dropping into a rock pool

Belmore Falls in Morton National Park, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

 

Belmore Falls is a two-tiered waterfall on the Barrengarry Creek. The waterfall’s overall drop is 100 metres, with the first drop plummeting 78 metres down the cliff face to a pool below before continuing its rush to the valley floor.

Located in Morton National Park, eight kilometres from Robertson, entry is free to Belmore Falls.

The Belmore Falls walking track is a 1.8-kilometre loop with three main lookouts. The dirt track is a Grade 3 with gentle hills and many steps.

Commencing at Hindmarsh Lookout (100 metres from the car park), this lookout provides spectacular, panoramic views of Kangaroo Valley.

A green forested valley with grazing land

View of Kangaroo Valley from Hindmarsh Lookout, Morton National Park, Southern Highlands

 

It is not until you reach the third lookout, Belmore Falls Lookout, that you are rewarded with the best views of the upper and lower falls.

Getting there: From Robertson, turn south on Meryla Street and right into South Street, then left onto Belmore Falls Road.

Fitzroy Falls

A waterfall surrounded by bush

Fitzroy Falls, Morton National Park, Southern Highlands, New South Wales

 

Fitzroy Falls is in Morton National Park, 15 kilometres southwest of Robertson or 28 kilometres south of Mittagong, where I was staying in the Southern Highlands. The waterfall walk starts at the Visitor Centre, 1301 Nowra Road, Fitzroy Falls. Parking at the Visitor Centre for Fitzroy Falls – your only parking option – will cost you $4.00 per vehicle, but entry to the falls is free. The parking ticket machine takes coins only. If wanting to pay by card, you will need to pay in the Visitor Centre.

You need to take the moderate West Rim walking track for views of Fitzroy Falls – viewed from three lookouts along the 3.5-kilometre return track. Unlike the loop tracks at Carrington and Belmore Falls, you must return the way you came on the Fitzroy Falls walking track. The track follows the western edge of the horseshoe-shaped escarpment. It is a well signposted, formed track with many steps and gentle hills. About 400 metres along the track, a family had abandoned their stroller, opting to carry their baby instead. I came across the family at the next lookout. They said it was too difficult managing the stroller up and down the steps and over tree roots along the track.

Your first view of Fitzroy Falls, and the best, is at Fitzroy Falls Lookout, 150 metres from the Visitor Centre. From this viewpoint, at the top of the falls, the waterfall cascades 81 metres over the rim to the Yarrunga Valley floor. The further you walk around the rim, to Jersey and Richardson Lookouts, Fitzroy Falls becomes more and more distant. From Richardson Lookout, the track continues to Twin Falls (600 metres return). I was disappointed with Twin Falls. On the day of my visit in October, it was just a trickle running down the cliff face.

If you still feel energetic after completing the West Rim walking track and want to see something other than a waterfall, take the East Rim and Wildflower walking tracks. Starting from the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre, the Wildflower walk is the first 1.25 kilometres of these joined tracks, totalling 6.7 kilometres return. There are several lookouts along the tracks, offering views over the Southern Highlands.

When to visit the Southern Highlands

The Southern Highlands has moderate summer temperatures and mild winter temperatures. The volume of water in waterfalls is dependent on rain. The Southern Highlands has moderate rainfall throughout the year – averaging 54 millimetres in July to 103 millimetres in February.

Where to stay in the Southern Highlands

You are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation options in the Southern Highlands, meeting all budget types. There are camping grounds, motels, hotels and B&Bs, as well as luxurious retreats on vineyards and in historic manor houses.

I stayed at the Fitzroy Inn Historic Guest House, 1 Ferguson Crescent, Mittagong. I was initially accommodated in a light, airy and spacious room in the main house. The room opened onto a wide veranda overlooking the rose garden, with dapple lighting created by old oak trees. I was very comfortable.

A house with veranda and gardens

Fitzroy Inn Historic Guest House, Mittagong, Southern Highlands

 

On my second day, I was upgraded (due to a plumbing problem elsewhere in the house) to an even larger room in the School Master’s Cottage. I soon discovered that an upgrade comes with a spa bath and a shower, bath sheets instead of bath towels, and up-market toiletries.

Whether accommodated in the main house or the School Master’s Cottage, the rooms comprise quality furnishings, tea and coffee making facilities (always a winner for me), and free WiFi.

Don’t forget to say hello to the resident miniature dachshunds, Jack and Jill.

Fitzroy Inn Historic Guest House offers boutique accommodation in an environment where history meets luxury.

Where to eat

Be warned; it is not cheap to eat in the Southern Highlands. A Chicken Caesar Salad, a coffee and a cake cost me AU$43.85 at Magpie Café in Berrima. A similar lunch at The Shaggy Cow in Mittagong cost me AU$45.70. While the food at both cafés was delicious, I found the cost staggering. However, if you forget the ‘recommendations’, you can come up with some gems if you are prepared to explore cafés in the area. The Vale Café in Moss Vale (8/256 Argyle Street) and the Exeter General Store in Exeter (corner of Exeter and Middle Roads) served some of the best lunches I had at AU$21.00 and AU$20.00 respectively.

Going against my own advice, I did have lunch one day at the recommended, award-winning Robertson Pie Shop (4400 Illawarra Highway, Robertson). My savoury pie was delicious, but my sweet pie was indigestible.

Avoid dinner at the Mittagong RSL Club. After one meal at the Club, I bought food at the supermarket for my remaining dinners.

Know before you travel

It is crucial to check NSW National Parks’ website for any park alerts to avoid disappointment. Alerts can include road closures, fire bans, safety alerts, and closed areas.

Due to COVID-19, it is crucial to check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before travel. Check the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for their COVID-19 update.

Even though some of your travel in the national parks will be on narrow winding dirt roads, 2WD vehicles are suitable to access the waterfalls.

I found I was reliant on Google maps, connected through car play, to get around the Southern Highlands and ensure I arrived at the waterfalls with a minimum of fuss. Dora (my name for the lady speaking the directions on Google maps) led me astray only on the odd occasion. Dora loved Range Road. We seemed to travel it every day driving around the Southern Highlands.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Some consider Carrington Falls to be the most beautiful in the Southern Highlands. Of the three waterfalls featured in this post, which do you think is the most beautiful or most impressive?

 

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Related posts

While visiting New South Wales, consider travelling to see five fabulous painted silos or a sculpture trail celebrating indigenous culture.

 

5 OF THE BEST PAINTED SILOS IN NEW SOUTH WALES

THE UNIQUE YINDYAMARRA SCULPTURE WALK IN ALBURY, NEW SOUTH WALES

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government advice.

 

Copyright © Just Me Travel 2021. All rights reserved.

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5 OF THE BEST PAINTED SILOS IN NEW SOUTH WALES

Join Me on a Road Trip as I Visit Painted Silos Around New South Wales’ Silo Art Trail in Australia   Follow me on a road trip with a purpose…

Join Me on a Road Trip as I Visit Painted Silos Around New South Wales’ Silo Art Trail in Australia

 

Follow me on a road trip with a purpose as I travel the Silo Art Trail in New South Wales. Learn the location of the painted silos, who are the artists, and discover what else you can do in the silo art towns.

 

Following Silo Art Trails provide a focus for your road trip and is a great way to see rural Australia.

See how grain silos have been transformed into amazing, towering art canvases. Each canvas is unique, with murals reflecting the people, landscape and culture of the communities in which they appear.

I need to admit, I have become somewhat addicted to silo art, having visited the Silo Art Trails in Victoria’s Wimmera Mallee region and North East Victoria.

Silo Art Projects (with the first being completed in 2015) have become a national phenomenon in Australia, appearing in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland. The silos provide a canvas for artworks that intend to boost tourism revenue in rural communities that have suffered from years of drought and other hardships. The silo murals take an average of six to eight weeks to complete.

Silo Art Locations in New South Wales

At the time of writing, there are eight painted silos in New South Wales. On a recent, extensive road trip through the Central West and Riverina regions of New South Wales, I deliberately made detours to include 5 of the silo artworks – at Murrumburrah, Grenfell, Portland, Dunedoo, and Weethalle.

The Central West region is west of the Blue Mountains, which are west of Sydney, while the Riverina is a region of south-western New South Wales. The painted silos in Murrumburrah, Grenfell, Portland, and Dunedoo are located in Central West New South Wales. The Riverina region is home to Weethalle’s silo art.

A map of a portion of New South Wales showing a route with the locations of 5 painted silos

Map of the painted silos locations I visited on my NSW road trip

 

Why You Should See the Painted Silos

  • This is street art at its best.
  • The murals are painted on an unusual ‘canvas’.
  • The painted silos are in a public space; in open-air galleries, open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And they are free to visit.
  • It is artwork on a massive scale. How many paintings do you know that require an extended cherry picker to complete?
  • The murals painted on the silos depict local history and landscapes, giving an insight into the community.
  • The silos themselves have ‘painted’ Australia’s rural landscape since the 1920s.

Jump straight to a silo art location, including learning about the artist and what else you can do in the silo art town:

Murrumburrah Silo Art by Heesco Khosnaran

Murrumburrah and its twin town, Harden are on Burley Griffin Way. The closest capital city is Canberra. Murrumburrah is approximately equidistant from Canberra, Goulburn, and Wagga Wagga.

I specifically detoured to Murrumburra to see the silo art on my way from Wagga Wagga to Cowra. Wagga Wagga to Murrumburrah Silo Art is 127 kilometres, while Murrumburrah to Cowra is 102 kilometres.

Google maps show the painted silos on Albury Street, Murrumburrah, but the murals face Lyons Street. It is from Lyons Street that you will get the best view of the artworks.

Street parking is available for cars. However, the trees that line Lyons Street make parking difficult for travellers with caravans. So, too, does the 45-degree angle parking on the town’s main street. But Roberts Park on the corner of Neill and Iris Streets may provide a better option for caravaners.

A fenced-off private property stands between the murals and the public, creating a barrier to getting up close to the silos. However, the private property does not impede your view of Murrumburrah’s silo art. There is a short steep incline between the private property’s fencing and the road. To view the silo art, you do need to get to the top of the slope. At times I had to hang onto the fence to keep myself on the incline.

A painting on grain silos of a boy, two ladies and a man holding bags of wheat, and a man ploughing a paddock with 2 horses

Murrumburra Silo Art by Heesco

 

The murals, completed in February 2021, depict people at work on a farm, reflecting the profound historical significance of the mills to the Harden-Murrumburrah community.

Who is Heesco Khosnaran?

Heesco Khosnaran, originally from Mongolia, is a Melbourne-based professional artist. Although his background is in fine art, illustration, graphic design, and print media, he has extensive experience in large-scale public murals. Heesco has an ever-growing national and international presence.

Heesco painted three of the five silo artworks I visited on my road trip through the Central West and Riverina regions of New South Wales – at Murrumburrah, Grenfell, and Weethalle. By the end of my road trip, I had become quite familiar with his style.

While in Murrumburrah

Call into the Visitor Information Centre for the story behind creating the Murrumburrah Silo Art – from the community’s involvement in the design to Heesco’s integration with the townspeople.

Murrumburrah is proud of its history as the birthplace of the Australian Light Horse. Staff at the Visitor Information Centre willingly chat with you about the significance of the town’s Light Horse Memorial, the bronze sculptures, and a horse named ‘Bill the Bastard’.

Murrumburrah is not short on choices for cafes. I had brunch at Barnesstore Emporium and Café at 356 Albury Street. Walking into the café, I thought it was pokey, with minimal seating. However, an opening to the left leads you into a substantial barn-like dining area with a warm ambience. Service was quick and friendly, and the food (poached eggs, bacon and tomato on toast) was excellent. I finished my meal with a coke spider – coca cola with ice cream in it. When I saw the coke spider on the menu, I happily forewent the coffee I thought I needed for the childhood memories this drink brought back for me.

From Murrumburrah, I took Wombat Road to get back on the Olympic Highway for Cowra.

Grenfell Silo Art by Heesco Khosnaran

From Murrumburrah, Grenfell is 83 kilometres. The closest town of note to Grenfell, at a distance of 56 kilometres, is Cowra. Cowra is on the Mid Western Highway, 160 kilometres from Canberra, the closest capital city.

I was staying in Cowra when I took a day trip to see the silo art at Grenfell.

Grenfell’s painted silos are located at 42 West Street, on the corner of South and West Streets. The silos, owned by Grenfell Commodities (a local grain trading business), commissioned Heesco to transform the silos into an impressive outdoor gallery. The artwork was completed in March 2019.

A landscape painting on grain silos of sheep, cattle and native birds. The painting has a mountain range in the background. A truck is receiving grain.

Grenfell Silo Art by Heesco

 

Painted on a continuous mural, the four concrete silos at Grenfell depict the local farming landscape. The artwork is a compilation of images taken by a local photographer. The Weddin Mountains National Park is shown in the background of the mural.

Parking is not an issue at the Grenfell painted silos, no matter what size your vehicle or caravan. There is space for many visitors at the same time.

Who is Heesco Khosnaran?

Heesco Khosnaran is a Mongolian-born, Melbourne-based artist who also painted the silos at Murrumburrah (above) and Weethalle (below).

While in Grenfell

A large white obelisk. A tall gum tree, a wooden seat and plaques.

The Henry Lawson Monument in Grenfell shaded by the sugar gum tree planted by Henry’s daughter

Grenfell is proud of its heritage as the birthplace of Henry Lawson, the famous Australian poet and writer of short stories, noted for his realistic portrayals of Australian bush life. Born on the goldfields at Grenfell, Henry Lawson can be seen around town. There is an interactive bust of Henry on Main Street, next to the ambulance station. Push the button and listen to some of Henry’s most famous poems. You can sit next to Henry (bronze statue) on a bench on the corner of Main and Forbes Street. There is a monument, the Henry Lawson Monument, marking the site of his birthplace, just a 2-minute drive from the town centre. A sugar gum tree, planted by Henry’s daughter Bertha in 1924, shades the area.

When I first drove up to the Henry Lawson Monument on Lawson Drive, Grenfell, I wondered why I had bothered because all I could see was a white obelisk. But I am glad I got out of the car for a closer look because the 12 interpretive plaques around the Monument tell the story of Henry’s life, his challenges and achievements, was very interesting. I did not know Henry was deaf!

I would have like to visit Wallangreen Sculpture Garden while in Grenfell, but, unfortunately, it was closed at the time.

Portland Silo Art by Guido van Helten

Portland is located just west of the Blue Mountains, with Lithgow being 25 kilometres to the east. The closest capital city is Sydney, at a distance of 163 kilometres.

I detoured to Portland on my drive from Bathurst to Mudgee. Bathurst to Portland is 49 kilometres, then the drive from Portland to Mudgee was 111 kilometres.

Officially named ‘The Foundations’, Portland’s painted silos are located in the centre of town on Williwa Street, where there is plenty of off-street parking available. The silos are accessible seven days a week, 10.00am to 5.00pm. During these hours, you can walk right up to the silos. When The Foundation’s gates are closed, you can still get a good view of the silos but cannot walk right up to them.

The Portland silos were painted by Guido van Helten, with completion in May 2018.

Five elderly men painted on five silos

The Foundations – Portland Silo Art painted by Guido

 

Portland was the site of Australia’s first cement works and became known as “the Town that built Sydney”. The Cement Works closed in 1991. The figures painted on the silos, five men and one woman, are former workers of Portland Cement Works. Guido immersed himself in the town, the people, their histories, and connections to the Cement Works. Guido’s visits with Portland’s residents and tapping into their memories influenced the design and resulting artwork.

Painting of a the face of an elderly man

Jack Abbot – the face on the Portland silo

 

Who is Guido van Helten?

Guido is a world-renown Australian street artist. Celebrating everyday characters in forgotten places, Guido’s monochromatic, photorealistic style offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of others. His large-scale portraiture murals are found across the globe throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the United States, and Australia. They tell stories of culture, history, and identity to capture the soul of people and place.

There is no denying the brightly coloured silo artworks have the wow factor. But there is something about Guido’s artwork that draws me in; that makes me stop taking photos to contemplate what I am seeing. For me, he captures the heart and soul of the people he paints. Now, in my opinion, that takes real talent when painting on such a massive scale. You be the judge! I felt the same way about the silos he painted in Brim on the Victorian Silo Art Trail.

While in Portland

Painting on a brick wall of a parrot eating a biscuit, and painting of a dog and a gramophone.

Signs of Yesteryear murals on a building in Portland

Take a walk down memory lane. To be specific, see the Signs of Yesteryear – murals of past advertising signs from historic brand names on the walls along Wolgan Street.

I recommend timing your visit to Portland on the weekend. I drove to Portland on a Wednesday and planned to have brunch in town. The only place open was The Corner Takeaway, where the coffee was undrinkable. The pub has a café, but the pub is only open from Thursday to Sunday. The museum was also closed.

In the yard of The Foundations, next to the painted silos, I could see some rusty iron sculptures. A Google search tells me these are the works of Harrie Fasher, the permanent Artist in Residence. I would have loved a closer look but was told at the café that the yard is only open to the public on the weekend.

From Portland, I continued my drive to Mudgee, where I stayed for six nights.

Dunedoo Silo Art by Peter Mortimore

Dunedoo, in Central West New South Wales, is 77 kilometres north of Mudgee and 97 kilometres northeast of Dubbo. From Mudgee, I was staying the night in Dubbo at Zoofari Lodge, Taronga Western Plains Zoo. My detour to see the painted silos at Dunedoo only added 41 kilometres to my trip, as Mudgee to Dubbo, without the detour, is 133 kilometres.

Dunedoo’s painted silos are in the centre of town, on the Castlereagh Highway, shown locally as Bolaro Street. There is generous off-street parking at the silo art. Toilets are available in the parking area.

The primary silo artwork honours local hero, champion jockey Hugh Bowman sitting on Winx, the Australian world record winning racehorse Hugh rode to fame. Hugh is shown with his winning, ‘she’s apples’ gesture – thumb and forefinger forming an ‘O’. Also featured in the mural is Winx’s trainer, Chris Waller.

Hugh Bowman was born and grew up in Dunedoo. Chatting to a Dunedoo resident while photographing the painted silos, it was evident she was proud of Hugh and what he has achieved in the world of horseracing. She told me how she remembers Hugh as a 3-year-old learning to ride in the local pony club.

The silo artwork also includes a mural of Dunedoo’s rural landscape, including black swans. The name ‘Dunedoo’ is derived from the Aboriginal Wiradjuri language for ‘black swan’.

What you see today was painted in July and August 2020. The artwork is yet to be completed.

Who is Peter Mortimore?

Peter is a self-taught Australian artist known for his Equine Art and ‘rural realism’ style. He has held successful exhibitions in Australia and overseas.

The painting of the murals on the Dunedoo silos was Peter’s first Silo Art Project, the first time he had painted anything on such a massive scale. Unlike established street artists, Peter used brushes and rollers rather than spray cans to paint the silo artworks.

While in Dunedoo

Dunedoo’s main street is lined by shops on one side and a narrow parkland, OL Milling Lions Park, on the other side, with the painted silos off to the side of the park. Displayed in Milling Park are several sculptures of local birdlife created from recycled metal and farm machinery parts. According to my local lady, “Sculptures in the Park”, which predates the silo artwork, was designed to get people to stop in the town. The sculpture of the Wedge-Tail Eagle in the photo below against the backdrop of the painted silos was created by Dunedoo Central School’s design and technology students.

A sculpture of a bird made from recycled metal. A painting on grain silos of flying black swans is behind the sculpture.

Sculpture of Wedge-Tailed Eagle in OL Milling Lions Park, Dunedoo with the painted silos a backdrop

 

A sculpture in a park of a black swan made from recycled metal

Sculptures in the Park: “The Swan” designed and constructed by David Sherlock

 

After viewing the sculptures, I suggest you grab something to eat from one of the cafés in town and eat at one of the picnic tables in the park.

Weethalle Silo Art by Heesco Khosnaran

I made a deliberate overnight stop in West Wyalong on my way from Forbes to Lockhart to give me time to view the painted silos at Weethalle.

Weethalle is a small farming town in the Riverina Region of New South Wales. It is a 59-kilometre drive from West Wyalong – a round trip of 118 kilometres as I had to return to West Wyalong to continue my journey to Lockhart. However, returning to West Wyalong allowed me to wander around the town; to check out its cafés and historic buildings.

The closest capital city to Weethalle is Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, approximately 337 kilometres to the southeast.

Weethalle painted silos are on the main road through town, on Railway Street, along the Mid Western Highway. There is plenty of off-street parking at the silo, no matter the size of your vehicle or what you are towing.

Paintings on grain silos of a shearer shearing a sheep and of a farmer looking at his wheat

Weethalle Silo Art by Heesco

 

Completed in June 2017, the Weethalle silos were the first to be painted in NSW. The mural portrays a shearer, a grain farmer, and sheep up on the balcony. It is a tribute to the rich agricultural heritage of the small community of Weethalle and the surrounding communities.

Painting on a grain silo of some sheep

Weethalle Silo Art – sheep on the balcony

 

Who is Heesco Khosnaran

The Weethalle Silo Art was the third silos painted by Heesco Khosnaran that I visited on my road trip around New South Wales’ Central West and Riverina regions. I was, by now, familiar with his work.

Back in 2017, the Weethalle silos were the tallest ‘canvases’ Heesco had ever painted. He had previously painted on canvases four or five stories tall, but, at 21 metres high, the silos are close to eight stories. Using 200 litres of paint and 300 spray cans (for the finer details), Hessco took two weeks to complete the mural.

While in Weethalle

Have a meal at the roadhouse Road Kill Grillz at 13-15 Railway Street, Weethalle. I had the Hanky Panky hamburger with beetroot, tomato, onion, lettuce, and sauce. Delicious! Perhaps the best hamburger I have ever had! The coffee was also excellent. Friendly, helpful staff topped off my experience.

Someone at Road Kill Grillz is into boxing as there are posters all around the interior walls.

After a drive of 272 kilometres from Weethalle and one more overnight stop, I arrived home safe and sound. And so, my road trip came to an end. I had travelled 2,614 kilometres – through sun, wind and rain, on highways, country roads and dirt roads. I drove through a locust plague, slept in a mouse plague, and navigated flooded roads. I had lunch with a stranger, chatted to locals, slept in a zoo, and visited five incredible painted silos. It was all a great adventure and experience that I will be talking about for a long time to come. One that I encourage you to experience for yourself.

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Tell me which silo artwork featured in this post is your favourite. While the brightly coloured murals have that WOW factor, my favourite is the Portland painted silos. The muted tones used by Guido van Helten capture the heart and soul of the people he paints. Do you agree?

 

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps

 

To read my other posts on silo art in Australia, open the links below:

UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA

 

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO ROAD TRIPPING VICTORIA’S SILO ART TRAIL

 

3 OF THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN ROCHESTER

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

No Comments on 5 OF THE BEST PAINTED SILOS IN NEW SOUTH WALES

UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA [2021 UPDATED]

Take a Drive Along North East Victoria’s Silo Art Trail – Just 33 Kilometres From the First Silos to the Last   In mid-April 2019, I travelled with a small…

Take a Drive Along North East Victoria’s Silo Art Trail – Just 33 Kilometres From the First Silos to the Last

 

In mid-April 2019, I travelled with a small group to view North East Victoria’s silo artwork. I returned in December 2020 because artists had completed painting silos or had painted additional murals since my last visit. My return trip included a friend who was eager for a day out and interested in viewing the updated silo artworks.

This post is an updated version of the original post, “Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna”. Originally published May 6, 2019, it was updated January 10, 2021; providing up-to-date information and photos.

Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (the first being undertaken in 2015) have become a national phenomenon, appearing in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australian, South Australia, and Queensland. The silos provide a canvas for creations that are, hopefully, reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest and remote regional towns. Considered to be a lifesaver for rural communities by bringing tourism to towns that have been seriously struggling due to economic decline, towns expect the painted silos will breathe new life into their districts.

Perhaps the best known are the painted silos in western Victoria; in the Wimmera-Mallee region. These six painted silos stretch for 200 kilometres from Rupanyup in the south to Patchewollock in the north.

I took a road trip with my sister to these painted silos at the end of April 2019 and have written a blog post on them. For everything you need to know on these silos, read AMAZING SILO ART – powerful connections of people and landscapes.

 

Silo art North East Victoria map

Google map of North East Victoria silo art trail

Located in four small towns between Yarrawonga and Benalla – Tungamah, St James, Devenish and Goorambat – the painted silos of North East Victoria are relatively recent attractions to these towns, with the first painting completed in 2018. At a distance of 33 kilometres from the first silos to the last, they are close to each other.

Why you should see the silo artworks

  • This is street art at its best.
  • The murals are painted on an unusual ‘canvas’.
  • The artworks are in a public space; in open-air galleries, open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. And they are free to visit.
  • It is artwork on a massive scale. How many paintings do you know that require an extended cherry picker to complete?
  • The murals painted on the silos depict local history and fauna; giving an insight into the area.
  • The silos themselves have been ‘painted’ on Australia’s rural landscape since the 1920s.

Getting there

Silo art map Tungamah north east Victoria

Google map of Wodonga to Tungamah silo art

 

Coming from Wodonga, North East Victoria’s silo artworks are an easy one-day road trip. From this direction, the first painted silos are at Tungamah; about 1 and a half hours from Wodonga.

Leaving Wodonga on the M31 (Sydney to Melbourne freeway), turn off at the Rutherglen/Yarrawonga exit (B400; Murray Valley Highway). At Rutherglen, take the C372 to Tungamah; skirting the towns of Bundalong South, Yarrawonga South and Boomahnoomoonah (no, I have not made up this name).

Coming from Melbourne is not, in my opinion, a day road trip. The first painted silos from this direction are at Goorambat – a distance of 228 kilometres; taking about 2 and a half hours. Staying overnight in Benalla might be a good option.

From Melbourne, take the M31 (Melbourne to Sydney freeway) to Benalla. At Benalla, take the A300 to Goorambat.

Silo art north east Victoria map

Google map of Melbourne to Goorambat silo art

 

Tungamah silo art

The privately-owned Tungamah concrete silo highlights Australia’s dancing Brolga. Famed for their elaborate courtship dance, Brolgas are Australia’s most iconic birds. There is even an Australian Christmas carol about dancing Brolgas.

Several traditional Aboriginal legends and dances are associated with the Brolga, with movements mimicking their graceful performance.

The Kookaburra painted on the metal silo is a well-known symbol of Australia’s birdlife. The Kookaburra is also the inspirational subject of a children’s song.

The Brolgas and Kookaburra completed the first stage (February 2018) of the Tungamah silo artwork. In September 2019, the artist returned to paint other birdlife, filling in the silo around the Kookaburra. A Pink and Grey Galah, a Kingfisher, an Owl, a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, two Blue Wrens, and an Ibis were painted on the metal silo to complete the mural. Can you spot the Owl hiding in the leaves and the Ibis sitting among the grasses?

Colourful birds painted on outdoor buildings

Australian native birds painted on the silos in Tungamah

 

Western Australian street artist, Sobrane painted the birdlife on the Tungamah silos using spray cans and roller. Internationally known for her signature bird-inspired art, Sobrane was the first Australian female artist to take on a silo art project.

St James silo art

The GrainCorp-owned wheat silos at St James, painted in sepia tones, represent the life of yesteryear. The portrait on the concrete silo to the left in the first photo below is that of Sir George Coles, the founder of Coles supermarkets and a local of St James. His first store opened in 1910 in St James township; with the shopfront captured on the silo under his portrait.

The murals were a work in progress at the time of my first visit in April 2019. The Clydesdale horses carting bags of wheat was being painted at the time of my visit in 2019. Depicting how farmers historically delivered their grain to the silos, motor vehicles eventually replaced the horse and cart.

The mural on the concrete silo to the right in the first photo below, a blank canvas in April 2019, shows two local men sowing up bags of wheat in readiness for transport.

Local artist, Timothy Bowtell painted the murals on the St James silos. Timothy is due to complete the horse and cart mural by the end of April 2019.

Devenish silo art

Focusing on nurses’ role in service and how that role has evolved, this artwork is a visual tribute to the 50 young men and women from the Devenish community who enlisted in military service in the First World War. The paintings represent a First World War nurse’s historical image juxtaposed with that of a female combat medic, whilst highlighting the role women play in military service.

Melbourne street artist, Cam Scale, has captured the past and present and acknowledges the critical role our medical personnel play in caring for military and civilians during wars and national disasters, including peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

Completed after my first visit to the North East silo artworks, Cam has painted a World War One Australian Light Horseman and his horse on Devenish’s final silo.

Female military medic, First World War nurse and First World War soldier and horse painted on silos

Medic, nurse, and Light Horseman with his horse painted on the silos in Devenish

 

Cam Scale is a well-renown fine artist and mural painter in Australia; exhibiting work in galleries across Australia and internationally.

Cam works primarily with aerosol, oil and acrylic, specialising in large-scale figures and portraits.

Goorambat silo art

The Barking Owl painted on the concrete silo is a tribute to this endangered species. With fewer than 50 breeding pairs in the wild, the Barking Owl is the most threatened owl in Victoria. North East Victoria remains a stronghold for wild populations.

Ironbark is the Barking Owl’s habitat. This tree is depicted in the forefront of the typical, Australiana farming scene on the second silo.

The third silo features three Clydesdale horses that resided in Goorambat. Clydesdales are an intricate part of the Goorambat area. They are literally the work-horses of the country and rural areas like Goorambat might not exist without them.

Silo art mural at Goorambat in north east Victoria

Clydesdales mural at Goorambat

 

Jimmy Dvate is a Melbourne based artist and graphic designer. He is passionate about conservation and is particularly keen to highlight the plight of endangered species.

While in Goorambat, don’t miss the beautiful mural of “Sophia” painted by the artist, Adnate inside Goorambat’s Uniting Church. Painted in 2017, Sophia was created to depict the female aspect of the Holy Spirit. This tradition draws on God’s spirit as manifested in the Old Testament times and the post-Pentecostal period. Sophia is by nature wise, nurturing, comforting, inspirational and ever-present.

Goorambat Uniting Church mural

‘Sophia’ mural painting in the Uniting Church at Goorambat

 

You can visit “Sophia” daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

Where to eat

On my first visit to the North East Victoria silo artworks, we had morning tea, cake and coffee, at the heritage-listed Tungamah Hotel. I recommend the lemon slice.

However, I strongly suggest contacting Tungamah Hotel to check their opening hours if wanting morning tea. My friend and I arrived in Tungamah at 10.30 am, only to find the pub closed. I later found out the pub had opened specifically for the group booking in April 2019.

There is a general store across the road from Tungamah Hotel where my friend and I ordered coffee. I don’t know what beans they were using, but the coffee would have to be one of the worst I have ever tasted.

On the group trip (2019), we lunched at Goorambat’s Railway Hotel. With an extensive, reasonably priced menu, we were spoilt for choice. My hamburger was delicious.

As Benalla is only a 15-minute drive from Goorambat, and we were free agents not tied to the demands of a group, my friend and I decided, on this revisit trip, to lunch in Benalla rather than at Goorambat’s Railway Hotel. We lunched at Bouwmeesters Bakery on Bridge Street. With so many cafes available in Benalla, we could have made a wiser choice.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel 2021.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Tell me which of the silo art featured in this post is your favourite.

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps.

 

To read my other posts on silo art in Australia, open the links below:

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO ROAD TRIPPING VICTORIA’S SILO ART TRAIL

3 OF THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN ROCHESTER

5 OF THE BEST PAINTED SILOS IN NEW SOUTH WALES

 

Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.

3 Comments on UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA [2021 UPDATED]

A VENETIAN WALKABOUT – how to spend 5 perfect days in Venice, Italy [2020 UPDATED]

How to Spend 5 Days in Venice, Italy – a solo traveller’s perfect self-guided walking itinerary Join me on a leisurely journey around Venice – on a ‘walkabout’. Over four…

How to Spend 5 Days in Venice, Italy – a solo traveller’s perfect self-guided walking itinerary

Join me on a leisurely journey around Venice – on a ‘walkabout’.

Over four days, my self-guided walk led me to some incredible experiences as I strolled through and discovered five of Central Venice’s six districts. On the fifth day, I went island hopping to Murano and Burano.

It is possible not to get lost in Venice if you allow yourself just to wander; with the very occasional “Where am I?” moments. The secret being that Venice has got wise, and everywhere you go there are strategically placed signs pointing the way to St Mark’s Square or Rialto Bridge, both major landmarks. However, I have to confess that I did pull out the map once – in San Polo. I had wandered down so many narrow alleyways that when I entered a tiny courtyard, I didn’t even know which direction I was facing.

Venice is flat. The best way to see it is just to walk. With my camera slung over my shoulder, my favourite walking shoes on, and my trusty guide book in hand, I let my feet and curiosity find the direction.

The starting point for each day’s walk was my hotel, Hotel da Bruno, in the San Marco district. Located at Sestiere di Castello 5726/A – 30122, Hotel da Bruno is ideally located in Venice’s historic centre. For my review on Hotel da Bruno, refer to the section, ‘Where I stayed’ at the end of this post.

As I have taken a different district each day to explore, you don’t have to follow my self-guided walking itinerary per se. This post is a guide, explore what you want, mix it up, or add to the discoveries.

This guide is an updated version of the post, A Venetian Walkabout. Originally Published: January 23, 2018. Updated: August 5, 2020; providing more information and resources.

Let’s walk together. Or step out on your very own walking itinerary.

Day 1: San Marco

On my first day in Venice, I wandered down alleys, crossed some of Venice’s 400 unique bridges and watched the waters of the canals lap the doorsteps of antique buildings in various states of glorious decay. Everywhere I turned I saw evidence of Venice’s unstable foundations, with lopsided arches and leaning church bell towers. So much to photograph. I have fallen in love with Venice.

Over a coffee in Campo Santa Maria Formosa, I saw canal barges loading the linen from hotels and learned from the waiter it is taken off the islands to the mainland for laundering so as not to pollute the canals.

Taking in my surroundings from one bridge, I witnessed a gondola traffic jam and was thankful I was not playing tourist.

Many open boats jostling for position on a narrow canal

Gondola traffic jam

 

Multi-storied brick building with external spiral staircase

Contarini del Bovolo Palace

 

Venturing down a very narrow alley near Campo Manin, requiring me to maneuver through crab-like, I came across an unusual building with the most elegant external multi-arch spiral staircase – the gothic Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. The staircase, with its ascending rows of round-headed arches, is the only one of its kind found in Venice today. Closed at the time of my discovery, I let my camera do the sightseeing.

Stumbling across Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) for the third time within half an hour, I decided it is time to experience a coffee at the iconic Café Florian in St Mark’s Square. Established in 1720, Café Florian is the oldest café in Venice and claims to be the oldest in the world. At the cost of €15 for my coffee, I knew it was an experience I would not be repeating.

As I wandered around Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Cathedral), marvelling at the brilliant mosaics, I wondered at the story of the two merchants from Alexandria in Egypt stealing St Mark’s body and bringing it back to Venice. And then there is the miracle of St Mark’s body reappearing in 1094 after being destroyed by fire in 976. St Mark’s body now lies in the Cathedral’s altar.

I experienced a sense of awe as I watched a fireboat race down the Grand Canal and disappeared into a side canal. My amazement was due to the unusual sight of a ‘fire engine’ being a boat and not a large truck. Later, I witnessed an ambulance maneuver into a narrow canal.

Day 2: San Polo and Santa Croce

The defined boundaries between San Polo and Santa Croce are not as clear-cut as those of Venice’s other four districts. Hence, their grouping together in this post and many guide books.

Crossing the Grand Canal from San Marco into San Polo via Rialto Bridge, my first stop this morning was Rialto Markets. Markets are a great way to gain an understanding of the local people; providing an insight into the local culture. As I wandered around the vegetable section of Rialto Markets and chatted to the stallholders, I learned the humble tomato is not so ordinary. Firstly, there are 25 tomato varieties in Italy. Secondly, no self-discerning vendor will sell you tomatoes without first knowing what you are cooking. To know it is imperative because they all have a different taste and must accompany the right dish. Only by understanding what you are cooking can the stall owner advise on just the correct type of tomato to use. I have to admit my palate is not up to Venetian tomato standards.

A white mask with open eyes and a long nose

The Plague Doctor Mask I bought from Tragicomica

 

Walking past San Giacomo di Rialto’s 15th-century 24-hour clock and through Campo San Polo, I found the shop Tragicomica on Calle dei Nomboli, San Polo 2800, which my research at home before leaving for Italy told me it sold traditional Venetian masks. The shop was crowded – with masks – and I wondered how I was ever going to find that special mask with my name on it. After a lengthy chat with Tragicomica’s artisan Mask Maker about the different types of masks and the history behind the masks, I bought an authentic Venetian, paper-mache Plague Doctor Mask, with its long beak-like nose. The beak was filled with herbs to protect the doctor from the plague.

 

Sitting in a café opposite the rear of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a large Gothic church commonly known as the Frari, I spent a pleasant hour just people watching. Even though Eyewitness Travel (Venice) describes the interior of the church as “striking for its sheer size and for the quality of its works of arts”, I did not venture inside. Instead, I wandered around the church’s exterior taking photos. The front of the church was very plain while the rear was much more impressive architecture.

Exterior of large brick church in gothic style with many windows

Rear view of the Gothic church, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

 

Lunch today was at Pizzeria Cico in Campo San Polo. The food was edible but ordinary, and the Square was plain but great for people watching.

Day 3: Cannaregio

Today was my longest walk – 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) from my hotel, via Strada Nova to the Jewish Ghetto in the Cannaregio district. The walk took me longer than the said 21 minutes because I kept stopping to explore different areas, admire the architecture, and take photos.  And I had to stop for a coffee!

The Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, is a small, pretty Square with compelling monuments to the holocaust. Very tall buildings, unique in Venice, characterise Campo di Ghetto Nuovo. The tall buildings are due to the Jewish population being confined to a tiny area 500 years ago to segregate them from Venice’s Christian population. As the Jewish community grew and needed more housing, the only way was up.

The Ghetto’s five synagogues, unrecognisable from the Square, date back to the 16th century. Through the Jewish museum’s guided tour, the only way possible to see these hidden treasures, I discovered three of the five synagogues on the top floors of buildings – the French, German and Levantine, each representing a different ‘school’.

Back in Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, I contemplated the Holocaust memorials depicting Nazi brutality to the Jews during the Second World War.

The Holocaust Memorial on the brick wall in Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, created in 1980, comprises of seven bronze bas-relief plaques depicting deportation, Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the quarry, punishment, execution, the Warsaw Uprising, and the final solution. Nine years later saw the addition of another memorial, the Deportation Memorial, also called “the Last Train”. Carved on the wooden boards behind the Deportation Memorial is the name and age of each victim who was deported.

Before the long walk back to my hotel, I had lunch at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant. GAM GAM is located opposite the main entrance of the Jewish Ghetto on the Canale di Cannaregio – a great place to people-watch while enjoying a leisurely meal. I couldn’t resist ordering the house speciality, ‘Israeli Appetisers with Falafel’, served with the most delicious Italian bread. I was not disappointed and can honestly say this was the best meal I had in Venice.

With my feet crying ‘enough’, I took a traghetto (pedestrian transport) across the Grand Canal, alighting near Rialto Markets. Traghetti are cheap ‘pedestrian’ gondola ferries that just cross the Grand Canal from one side to the other. There are several points along the Grand Canal where you can pick up a traghetto. A traghetto will cost you (the tourist) 2 euros, while residents pay 70 cents. The crossing is so short that locals usually stand up in the traghetto. I sat! I didn’t trust my balance well enough not to end up in the Grand Canal. Did I save any walking distance? Probably not! But for about 6 minutes there, I felt like a real local and knew I had experienced something unique as tourists don’t usually use this mode of transport.

An open boat on water with people in it

A traghetto (pedestrian transport) crossing the Grand Canal

 

Day 4: Castello

From my hotel, a 15-minute walk this morning took me to the Arsenale in the Castello district. While primarily disused today and, except for exhibitions, closed to the public, the Arsenale was once the greatest naval shipyard in the world. A whole galley, using an assembly-line process, would be constructed in 24 hours. Two massive lion statues (the symbol of Venice) guard the gate to the Arsenale. Venice’s maritime past can be viewed in all its glory at the Naval History Museum, near the Arsenale. I found naval personnel a common sight around the Castello neighbourhood.

Clock tower beside a canal

The Arsenale

 

The largest of Venice’s six districts, Castello was a lovely area to walk around and lacked the tourist crowds found in neighbouring San Marco. My wandering took me to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Lined with restaurants, bars and cafés, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is Venice’s widest street due to it being a filled-in canal. Feeling hungry, I stopped for a sandwich and coffee at Hopera Coffee and Bakery on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Heading back towards Piazza San Marco, as I crossed Ponte Canonica, I saw for the first time Venice’s most famous and only covered bridge, the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). This little Baroque bridge spans the canal, Rio di Palazzo, between the New Prison in the Castello district and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) in the San Marco district. From Ponte Canonica, I had an uninterrupted view of the Bridge of Sighs for my camera to record the moment.

Covered bridge

The Bridge of Sighs

 

After a coffee and people watching from Ristorante Carpaccio on Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice’s most famous promenade, I took a tour of the Doge’s Palace and the New Prison. The tour included crossing the Bridge of Sighs. Walking across the Bridge, I sighed, just as legend has it that the prisoners did when they crossed the Bridge from the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to their cell or execution in the New Prison. Catching their last glimpse of Venice through the Bridge’s windows, they sighed, knowing they would never walk back the other way. I learned Casanova was the most famous person to have crossed the Bridge of Sighs on his way to his prison cell, from which he later escaped.

Close to my hotel was a gelato shop, Gelatoteca Suso, on Calle de la Bissa. Before heading back to my hotel, I decided I would try a gelato because everyone I met raved about Venetian gelato and this shop in particular. I am not a big ice cream fan, and this experience did not convert me.

Day 5: Island hopping – Murano and Burano

Before embarking on my trip to Venice, I had decided there were two things I wanted to buy – a Venetian mask and Murano glass jewellery. Having bought my Doctor Plague Mask in the San Polo district on day 2, I had that item crossed off my shopping list. Now I needed to concentrate on finding that right piece of Murano glass jewellery. The best way to do this was to go to Murano. So, I took a day tour of Murano and Burano islands. Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Venetian Lagoon, both islands are a short distance from Venice; with Murano being the closest.

Taking a private boat across the Lagoon, our first stop was Murano. Murano is world-famous for its glassmaking and has been since 1291. At this time, there was a forced removal of all the Venetian glassmakers to Murano. Woe betide the glassmaker who tried to leave the island. Any attempt to leave the island would result in severe penalties, including death. The tour included a visit to a glassmaking workshop and a demonstration by the in-house glass artisans. I always feel it is a privilege to watch artisans engaged in their craft. We were given free time following the glassmaking demonstration to shop and explore the island on our own.

Glassblowers in their workshop

Glassmakers working at their craft at a glassmaking factory on Murano

 

I was now on a mission – to find that piece of jewellery with my name on it (figuratively speaking). I looked through the showroom attached to the glassmaking workshop, but the jewellery was too glitzy, too fussy for my taste. I was not able to access other showrooms (in the hope of finding something more to my liking) as it is only possible to go into a showroom with a tour. With some free time still available, I tried my luck at small, individual jewellery shops. But they offered nothing better. I expressed my bitter disappointment to the tour guide. She offered to take me to a boutique jewellery shop on Burano, where I should find Murano glass jewellery more to my ‘no bling’ taste. Read on to find out why I will be forever grateful to this guide.

Leaving Murano, we motored to Burano. Burano is primarily a fishing village but is famous for its brightly coloured houses and handmade lace. After a lacemaking demonstration, my guide took me to the shop, Alessandro Tagliapietra Murano Glass Jewels. The owner of this small jewellery shop only sells what he makes. I had a lovely time choosing several pieces of handmade Murano glass jewellery – necklaces and earrings. So, I bought my Murano glass jewellery on Burano – go figure! Now totally satisfied, I wandered around Burano taking photos of the canals and coloured houses, chatting with the locals and discovering the 17th-century leaning bell tower.

There ends my self-guided, 5-day walking tour of Venice. Where will your feet take you?

When to go

I was in Venice in early May. According to the World Weather Organization, the average daytime temperature in Venice in May is 21.5OC (70.7OF), and the average number of rain days is 8.2.

The week I was in Venice, the daily temperature was around 23OC, but felt warmer. Perhaps all that water increases the humidity?

Being my first visit to Venice, and from what I had read, I expected tourists to be inundating Venice. I was pleasantly surprised by the reality of crowds in May. Sure, there were many tourists around St Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge, but in most other areas, I was virtually on my own.

In my opinion, May is an ideal time of year to visit Venice. Not too hot, not too cold, little chance of rain, and limited crowds.

Getting there and away

My time on my own in Venice followed an 8-day river cruise on the Po River. As such, I had two arrivals in Venice – the first at Venice Marco Polo International Airport and the second, at Venice’s pier Marittima 123 (where most cruise ships dock).

I first arrived in Venice, at Marco Polo Airport, on a flight that was 36 hours delayed. Consequently, I had missed my pre-arranged private transfer from the airport to the ship. As a result, I took the Alilaguna water bus (vaporetto) Red Line (Linea Rossa) service from the airport to the Arsenale stop (the closest stop to the ship). Catching public transport proved to be very easy; leaving me wondering why I had organised a private transfer in the first place. The Alilaguna water-bus Red Line runs only from April to September. I was in Venice in May. See Alilaguna for lines and timetables throughout the year.

My second arrival in Venice was at pier Marittima 123. From a nearby canal, I took a water taxi to my hotel (Hotel da Bruno); as opposed to the vaporetto. The travel guide, Eyewitness Travel, describes the water taxis as a means of transport for those short on time and with lots of money. While I was neither time-poor nor wealthy, I baulked at the thought of managing my bags through the crowds around Rialto Bridge; especially as I was unsure how far the hotel was from the Rialto stop. So, a water taxi it was! Ninety euros later, the water taxi dropped me off at the canal beside my hotel. I won’t do that again! Knowing now how easy it was to get around Venice by vaporetto, I will be catching public transport on my next visit to Venice.

From Venice, I took the train to Rome. A friend had advised me to allow one and a half hours to get from my hotel to Venice’s Santa Lucia train station. I don’t know how my friend managed to take so long to get to the train station because it took me half an hour maximum. The trip time included walking from my hotel to the Rialto vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal and catching the vaporetto to the train station, also on the Grand Canal. Dead easy!

Where I stayed

I stayed at the Hotel da Bruno for my five nights in Venice. This hotel is all about location, location. Being only a 5-minute walk to Rialto Bridge and a 6-minute walk to St Mark’s Square), it is well-positioned to explore all Venice has to offer on foot.

However, I was bitterly disappointed with my room. I had booked a single room and was shocked when I saw it. My room was no bigger than a broom closet. It was dark and dingy, with outdated, tired furniture. The view from my window was that of the air shaft. Not a place I wanted to be! I tried to upgrade to a double room, but there were none available. Hotel da Bruno’s only saving grace was its location.

Would I stay again at Hotel da Bruno? Yes. But I would ensure I had a double room. As the saying goes: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t! And location, for me, is paramount.

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps

 

For more on Italy, read: “The Sassi di Matera – from national shame to cultural showcase”

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Joanna Rath.
18 Comments on A VENETIAN WALKABOUT – how to spend 5 perfect days in Venice, Italy [2020 UPDATED]

GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR HOLIDAY PHOTOS

What can I do with my holiday photos? 15 creative ideas to revisit your favourite holiday destination anytime. Discover 15 creative ideas for projects you can undertake to get your holiday…

What can I do with my holiday photos? 15 creative ideas to revisit your favourite holiday destination anytime.

Discover 15 creative ideas for projects you can undertake to get your holiday photos out of the dark. Create a photo book, a jigsaw puzzle, a calendar, a slideshow, and so much more. Like the cushions on your couch, the rug on your floor, make your holiday photos a part of your everyday visual content.

Do you have hundreds, thousands of holiday photos that just sit there on your computer, tablet, and/or phone? It’s time to get creative with those holiday photos; to get them out of hiding and do something productive with them so you can enjoy them and share them with others.

But first, you need to organise your holiday photos so you can easily find them. Then jump right in and have a go at one, two, three, or more of the 15 creative ideas in this post.

Use these quick links to jump straight to different creative ideas in the post:

 

Organise your photos

This might seem obvious but it is a critical step if you want to find your photos again.

So often I have had people scroll through the photos on their phone looking for a specific photo to show me. By the time they have found the photo, I have lost interest in seeing it. Sound familiar?

Let me set the scene. You have a photo on your phone that you want to share on Instagram. You have never taken the time to sort your photos into meaningful ‘albums’ in your ‘Photos/Gallery’ app. You have hundreds of photos on your phone. You now spend 50 minutes scrolling through all your photos looking for that ‘one’. Do you still want to post on Instagram?

Heaven help you if the photo you want has been taken with a camera and has been uploaded to your computer or tablet. All you get is a file number, which you need to click on to see the photo. This is even more time consuming that scrolling through photos on your phone. At least on your phone, the photo is immediately presented.

The moral of the story is, if you want to get creative with your holiday photos, then you need to organise your photos. Like a filing cabinet. It will save so much time later on.

This post now assumes 2 things:

  1. You have chosen the photos you want to use; and
  2. You have applied some editing techniques (optional) to your photos.

This is not a ‘how-to’ post. That is, it is not about ‘how to post’ photos on Facebook or Instagram; it’s not about ‘how to make’ a photo book or calendar; it’s not about ‘how to develop’ a website; and so forth.

This post is about planting the seed; about posing ideas for what you can do with your holiday photos.

 

Cloud storage and sharing

As well as storing your photos directly on your own personal device (eg, the hard drive on your computer or laptop, or your phone), you can store them in the “cloud”.  Cloud storage involves storing your files remotely on servers owned by companies and made accessible to you from any device, anywhere that has an internet connection. This is a safe means for backing up your photos.

I am an advocate for backing up photos. Think about how you would feel if you lost all your photos because your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone crashed and that was the only place you had your photos stored.

There are many cloud storage service providers. Perhaps the best known (because they are the only ones I know of) are, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, which gives you access to Google Photos, and Microsoft OneDrive.

All of these cloud storage service providers offer free file storage at varying degrees of limitations. They are available using various Operating System platforms, across different devices, for example, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android. To share your holiday photos with family and friends, simply send them a link via email or text.

 

Post and share on Facebook

Share your holiday photos with family and friends on Facebook – a website that allows users to socially network with other people online. Once you have created a free Facebook profile, you are then able to share your holiday photos with family and friends.

Broaden your sharing horizons and join travel photography groups on Facebook.

Facebook is available on any device with an internet connection. Because Facebook is web-based, as long as you have internet access, you can post your holiday photos while you are travelling; not having to wait until you get home

 

Post and share on Instagram

Instagram is a free app for sharing your holiday photos. Unlike Facebook, which is multi-faceted, Instagram is photo-centric and mobile-centric. The Instagram app is available on Apple iOS, Android, and Windows phones.

Once you create an Instagram account you can upload your holiday photos and then have the option to share them with a select group of friends who also have an Instagram account, or with people who have chosen to follow your account.

 

Create a photo book / Coffee table book

A soft toy green frog reading a book of photographs

Pixabay free stock images

 

A photo book is a great way to share your special holiday memories in a printed format. A photo book is a compilation of your chosen photos that create a visual story. While the photos are the primary message, you can add text to complement the story.

An internet search for photo book services/makers is overwhelming for choices. My search of the 5 best photo book services/makers in the USA, UK, and Australia showed ‘Snapfish’ to be the only one appearing on all 3 lists. I have used Snapfish, but only for making a birthday card and printing a photo on a mug.

With so many photo book services around, how do you choose the right one for you and your photo book project? How do you know what you should take into consideration? ‘Choice’ is a highly credible, unbiased, and well-respected product and service review organisation in Australia. They have published an article that you may find useful …

How to find the best photo book service: Our expert guide to price, comparing services, design and tips to build the best book.

If you have Adobe Lightroom, you can make a photo book in the Book Module and have it printed by Blurb.

Suzi Pratt, in her blog post for the Digital Photography School, “8 Ideas of What To Do With Your Vacation Photos“, writes:

Some photos simply pop and look better when they’re physically printed in book form. Consider putting together your top vacation photos and getting them printed via a service.

I recently used Zno and was impressed with their high-quality printing and the fact that the images lay flat without the book gutter running through them. Another service called ChatBooks is a little more automated and can sync your Instagram or Facebook photos into a book design for printing.

Having created the photo book of your favourite photos from your holiday, don’t hide it away in a cupboard or tucked into your bookcase. Keep it on your coffee table so you, your family and friends can enjoy those photos at will. You might be surprised as to just how many people will pick up and browse through your photo book.

 

Create a calendar

A calendar makes a beautiful photo gift for yourself, family, and friends. And practical too! I had so much fun creating these two calendars as examples to show you.

You only need the free version of Canva to create a calendar.

There are several products you can create in Canva where you can then place a print order, and have it delivered straight to you. Calendars, unfortunately, is not one of those. Save your calendar and find a printer to bring your creation to life.

The bonus with using Snapfish to create your calendar is the ability to create, order, and pay all online within their website. It will then be shipped straight to you.

There are many online options available for creating a calendar from your holiday photos.

 

Create a photo ‘flip’ book

I saw this idea using postcards, but don’t see why it wouldn’t work just as well with photos. To make the photos more durable to much handling, you could laminate them.

To create a photo flip book, print your favourite holiday photos (with a flip book for each separate holiday); punch a hole or two in each photo; and then ‘bind’ them together with a split ring or, better still, with a hinged ring.

Like your photo book, don’t then hide your flip book in a cupboard, but leave it lying around on your coffee table.

 

Make a photo wall

Framed photos hanging on a wall

A section of my photo wall

 

Create a photo gallery on a wall in your home – a photo wall. This is a fun way to showcase your favourite holiday photos and creates a talking point when visitors come to your home.

I see a photo wall comprising of that one photo from each holiday that ‘speaks’ to you; that sums up your holiday; the one that captures the ‘heart and soul’ of your holiday. The one photo that tells the whole story of your holiday experience.

How you display your photos on your photo wall is entirely up to you – framed; printed on tiles, glass or canvas; or just stuck on the wall. Let your decorative style take hold.

 

Transform your favourite holiday photo into a jigsaw puzzle

For Christmas 2018, my adult children had one of my photos from my trip to Morocco transformed by Jigsaw Puzzles Australia into a 1000 pieces jigsaw puzzle.

I was thrilled with this present. However, there has been many a time that I have cursed them because they probably chose the hardest photo for a jigsaw. As you can see from my progress photo above, I still have not finished it 18 months later. Even so, I advocate this creative idea as a gift for yourself, family, or friends.

Once you have completed your jigsaw, you can have it mounted and framed and hang it on your wall.

An internet search of, for example, “personalised jigsaw puzzles”, “turn photos into jigsaw puzzles”, will reveal numerous services for you to choose from. Refine your search by adding your country, for example, “personalised jigsaw puzzles australia/uk/usa/nz” etc, to localise your search and make it more relevant.

Snapfish, that seemingly worldwide photo products maker, also makes custom jigsaw puzzles from your photos. Dead easy to create yourself and have shipped to you.

 

Turn your holiday photos into a movie

DVD covers

DVDs of the movies I have made of my holiday photos

Would you like to watch a movie of your holiday on your television?

For those of you with an Apple device, you can create a movie of your holiday in iMovie that includes adding background music and narration (voice-over). Once created and saved (exported), you can stream your holiday movie on your television.

There are several ways you can share your holiday movie project: email, YouTube, Prepare for Facebook, and File. On an iPhone and iPad, you will have additional sharing (exporting) options, including AirDrop, YouTube, Messages, and Mail.

I have created 6 movies from my photos in iMovie and have been thrilled with the results. I burn my movies to DVDs. When there is nothing worth watching on TV, I will put one in the DVD player and give in to nostalgia. There’s something special about seeing the places you have been to on the big screen.

I have done some trips with family members. I plan to create movies from those trips in iMovie and upload them to YouTube to share with them.

Don’t have an Apple device? An internet search of “software similar to imovie for pc” presented many options that could be worth trying.

 

Create a slideshow

Like movies, slideshows are a great way to present your favourite holiday photos. You can create a slideshow in Adobe Lightroom’s Slideshow module. However, unlike iMovie, you are not able to narrate your slideshow.

You can use any video editing program for creating a slideshow of your holiday photos. However, viable options include:

  • Google Photos. There is no recording option (narration) for a movie slideshow in Google Photos.
  • Windows 10. You will need the updated version of Windows 10 (above 1809) to access the ‘video editor’ (the free app in Windows 10).
  • Microsoft PowerPoint. Export your slideshow as a video file (.mp4) and you can upload it anywhere, for example, Facebook; YouTube.

With all of these options, you can apply time duration, transitions, effects, and background music.

I had fun creating a slideshow with Pholody. To get the benefit of all the features of this free online slideshow maker, use Google Chrome. Once created, your slideshow is downloadable as an mp4 video file and shareable.

By using your Google account, you can create your own, free YouTube account. Thus, enabling you to stream your holiday slideshow on your TV and (depending on your privacy settings) share it with family and friends.

 

Keep a holiday diary

One of the best ways to revisit your holiday is to keep a holiday diary; making daily entries and uploading photos as you go. By using an online diary, the friends and family you share the link to your diary with, can read it and see where you are and what you are doing as you update it.

There are many online travel diaries available. Initially, I used the app, TravelPod. When it closed in 2017, I did a lot of research looking for another free alternative that would appeal to me and meet my needs. After reading many reviews on several alternative apps, I chose Travel Diaries, and haven’t looked back.

Travel Diaries is easy to use, and editing is a breeze. I can customise my diaries, add as many photos as I want, and include location and route maps. I share my ‘Travel Diaries’ entries with family as I travel.

 

Turn your holiday story and photos into a printed book

Open book on a table

My travel diary book

 

Take your holiday diary and photos one step further and turn it into a printed book.

When I was using TravelPod, I had one of my travel diaries made into a printed book. I often get this book out and get great pleasure out of revisiting my holiday through my words and photos. There is something special about holding a physical book.

With Travel Diaries, you can order your completed diary as a printed book from within the app.

 

Start a photo blog

Suzi Pratt, in her blog post for the Digital Photography School, “8 Ideas of What To Do With Your Vacation Photos”, writes:

One of the best ways to recap your vacation is to make a blog post, combining photos with stories and words to give it more context. Don’t have a blog? No worries! It’s very easy to create a free blog on sites like WordPress. If making a blog sounds like too much, Adobe Spark offers a free, very intuitive format for quickly creating a travel blog of words and photos.

 

Sell your holiday photos

Turn your holiday photos into money.

My internet search found the following services were the most frequently identified top places to sell your photos online: Shutterstock; Alamy; Adobe Stock; and 500px.

Alexandra Bateman (March 18, 2020) at Envira Gallery shares the top 11 best places to make money selling your photos online. This article is not just a list but provides detailed information on each suggested option.

A good place to start if you are looking for free options include:

  • Picfair – Sign up for free. You create your store, upload your images & name your price. Picfair does everything else – produce and send a print to the customer or handle the license for a purchased download. You can upgrade to Picfair Plus (at a cost), which gives many additional features and more customisation options.
  • With Zazzle, you join as a designer – it’s free. Upload and sell your photos on hundreds of their products without the hassle of fulfilling orders or dealing with customer service.

I have not, as yet, progressed to selling my photos online. But this is something I regularly give serious consideration to. I particularly like what I see on the website of TourPhotos because it is a platform specifically for tourists and travel photographers to sell their photos online to travel agencies, tour companies, and the general public.

 

Showcase on the web

Create a web gallery for your holiday photos. Sound scary? Not really! Google Photos (discussed at the beginning of this post) is a web photo gallery program.

Flickr is one of the most widely known photo-sharing social networks. And it has free image hosting. You can set up your privacy options to share with everyone or a selected audience.

Or, you can build your own website. Become a photo blogger. The following article from ‘Envira Gallery’ shows you how to set up a photo gallery website with WordPress:

How to Create a Photography Website in WordPress (Step by Step). A beginner’s guide to creating your photography website in WordPress. Learn how to add your photos and make money with your website.

Creating a specific website is a great option if you want your holiday photos to be visible to everyone who lands on your page.

 

Print on clothing, coasters, etc

Photo of elephants on a coffee mug

One of my photos printed on a coffee mug

 

Creative ideas for using and sharing your photos is only as limited as your imagination. With so many apps and services available, your photos can be printed on a wide range of products

Suzi Pratt, in her blog post for the Digital Photography School, “8 Ideas of What To Do With Your Vacation Photos”, writes:

Thanks to printing companies such as Zazzle, you can print your photos on a wide range of objects. T-shirts, magnets, and mugs might seem like traditional items on which you tend to find custom printed photos. But did you know that your photo can be printed on an iPhone case, blanket, pillow, bathmat, Zippo lighter, playing cards, and even a skateboard?

Snapfish is certainly worth a look at as they have so many products you can choose from to print your holiday photos on – mugs, drink bottles, coasters, stubby holders, phone cases, pencil cases, keyrings, dog tags, playing cards, cushion covers, fridge magnets, blankets mousepads, shopping bags, Christmas decorations and more.

I have a coffee mug with my favourite elephant photo on it (pictured above). I rather fancy printing a couple of my favourite holiday photos on some cushion covers.

If you have any questions or are interested in knowing what tools I use, send me an email <joanna@justme.travel> or leave a comment.

 

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. Unless specifically stated, all photos are my own and remain the copyright of Joanna Rath.

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BENIN CELEBRATES VOODOO DAY WITH AN AMAZING JOYOUS FESTIVAL

AN ANNUAL EVENT NOT TO BE MISSED Dear Ryan, Voodoo Day in Benin falls on January 10 each year and is a national holiday celebrating the country’s heritage of the…

AN ANNUAL EVENT NOT TO BE MISSED

Dear Ryan,

Voodoo Day in Benin falls on January 10 each year and is a national holiday celebrating the country’s heritage of the West African religion of Voodoo (or Vodoun as it is known in Benin).

My trip to West Africa was coordinated around attending Benin’s Voodoo Festival in Ouidah.

Ouidah is regarded as the birthplace of Voodoo, which is one of Benin’s official religions. It is probably one of the most misunderstood religions in the world. I have to admit it was curiosity that fed my travel plans to include the Voodoo Festival in Ouidah. I wanted to witness this annual celebration of Benin’s heritage and traditional culture, and to experience a unique festival.

My participation at the Voodoo Festival commenced with a visit to Ouidah’s Temple of Pythons – home to some 60 pythons. They are said to be docile, which was just as well because they are free to roam. The pythons are a major symbol for followers of Voodoo. They are not feared but are revered and worshiped. It was here, through a break in the trampling crowd, that I momentarily sighted the Voodoo Pope who had come to pay homage at the Temple of Pythons.

A group of black women in colourful dress

Women Voodoo followers at the Temple of Pythons in Ouidah, Benin

 

From the Temple of Pythons, the Voodoo Pope led a procession along the historical, 3-kilometre Slave Road to the ‘Door of No Return’ (of slave trade infamy) on Ouidah’s beach along the Atlantic coast. It was here, on this stretch of sand, that the celebrations of the Voodoo Festival truly got underway.

And what a celebration!

Once the dignitaries’ speeches were completed (this took over an hour), it was all action. The Voodoo Pope, whilst hidden within a circular wall of blue plastic away from public view, sacrificed a goat to appease the spirits and Voodoo gods. Animal sacrifice is a fundamental element in Voodoo. No Voodoo ceremony is worth its salt without an animal sacrifice in exchange for favours from the spirits.

Immediately following the sacrifice, the Voodoo Pope made his way to his throne, which was placed in the shadow of the Door of No Return. I say ‘throne’ because the festival hosts referred to him as, “His Majesty the Pope”.

With the Voodoo Pope seated, the atmosphere changed. The speeches gave way to vibrant displays of dancing and the throbbing of drums. I witnessed ‘exorcisms’ in which a seemingly possessed person would run away from a group of people; to be caught, dragged to the ground, and have powder sprinkled over him. The crowd became particularly excited when coloured haystacks appeared, spinning around the grounds. I learned these ‘haystacks’ are Voodoo spirits known as Zangbeto and are the traditional Voodoo guardians of the night – the Nightwatchmen. They are the unofficial police force and dispensers of justice. I did not envy the human police who battled to keep the crowds from encroaching on dancers and Voodoo spirits.

So much was happening in different areas of the Festival grounds that I didn’t know where to stay or where to go next; what to watch (fighting the crowds to do so) or what to move on from. This went on for a couple of hours until I decided it was time to sit down and people watch.

Overall, the celebrations taking place at the Voodoo Festival in Ouidah was a hive of activity in which people would swarm from one dance display to another. The Festival was dominated by a kaleidoscope of colour from the attire worn by attendees, and a cacophony of noise from the frenzied pounding of drums. The crowd was buzzing. [Sorry about the bee analogies but that’s exactly how it was.]

But, perhaps the best way to describe the Voodoo Festival is to share some photos with you.

 

Black man dressed in coloured shirt in front of a crowd in Ouidah, Benin

Black man with woven grass baskets, bags and mats on his head

This was a never to be forgotten experience.

 

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Joanna Rath.

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EXPLORING BEAUTIFUL MELK ABBEY IS GUARANTEED TO BE SPECIAL

There are not enough adjectives to describe Melk Abbey. My first sighting of Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, took my breath away and it took a while before I could…

There are not enough adjectives to describe Melk Abbey. My first sighting of Melk Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, took my breath away and it took a while before I could pick my jaw up off the ground. This beautiful, beautiful monastery (duplication not a typo) in Lower Austria should be on everyone’s European itinerary.

Melk Abbey is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. It is Austria’s largest Baroque structure. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the old town of Melk and the Danube and Melk rivers, it sits within the Wachau Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The abbey you see today was built between 1702 and 1736. But Melk Abbey is 900 years of history – all evidently told in the abbey’s museum. Originally a palace, Melk Abbey was gifted to the Benedictine monks in 1089 and has remained an active abbey ever since. Today, Melk Abbey has 30 monks (ranging in age from 21 to 96 years); a co-educational secondary school with 900 pupils; and extremely well presented, minimalist museum; and a church that I can only describe as ostentatious.

From every angle, Melk Abbey is impressive. I lost count of the number of times I said, “Oh my goodness”. Swathed in ochre-coloured paint, Melk Abbey is just the most beautiful building to behold. You might have gathered by now that I fell in love with Melk Abbey. And the guided tour cemented my love.

The guided tour through Melk Abbey commenced with a meet and greet in the large outer courtyard, the Gatekeeper’s Courtyard. In this courtyard, you will find the oak wooden statue of Saint Coloman. The statue is 150 years old and the oak was sourced from the abbey’s forests. Saint Coloman was Austria’s first patron saint until 1663. He is still the patron saint of Melk Abbey and the town of Melk.

From the Gatekeeper’s Courtyard, it was through the Benedict Hall and into the Prelate’s Courtyard. In this latter courtyard were four vivid, contemporary frescos; replacing the Baroque frescos that were unable to be restored. These frescos represent the four cardinal virtues – Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. The modernist style of the frescos caused some controversy as people tried to adjust to the move away from the original, and expected, Baroque style.

The fountain in the Prelate’s Courtyard is a copy of the Coloman fountain. The original, removed from Melk Abbey in 1722, now stands in Melk’s Town Hall Square.

Leaving the Prelate’s Courtyard through a narrow passageway, the Imperial Staircase leads up to the Imperial Wing.

The Imperial Wing was originally designed for the imperial court. Here, we find the Imperial Corridor and the imperial rooms (now housing Melk Abbey’s museum). A lot of ‘imperials’ happening here!

The Imperial Corridor, at 200 metres long, is impressive. The Corridor is hung with portraits of Austria’s rulers – from the first Babenberg Emperor, Leopold l, to the last Habsburg Emperor, Karl l. There are more portraits of Habsburgs because they ruled for longer.

The Melk Abbey museum, in the imperial rooms to the left of the Imperial Staircase, is extremely well set up and informative. It is minimalist in a positive way. That is, you get a good overview of the history (past and present) of the abbey, of its cultural, political and economic functions, but you are not left feeling overwhelmed; feeling as though there was too much to take in and, therefore, coming away none the wiser. No information overload here.

The museum comprises of 11 small rooms. The overriding theme of the museum is, “The Path from Yesterday to Today: Melk Abbey in its Past and Present”, with each room having its own individual theme. What follows are snippets of, in my opinion, interesting information taken from the guide’s explanations throughout the museum tour and my impressions.

Room 3 (“The Ups and Downs of History”) has a wavy floor, representing the ups and downs of life. The flooring is not the original Baroque because Napoleon was an unfortunate guest who burned documents on the floor.

Rooms 5 and 6 are a tribute to Melk Abbey’s contribution to the Baroque period. The Baroque period was a time in history of excess and all that glitters (gold, and more gold). “Heaven on Earth” seems to me an appropriate theme for this period. However, Room 7, with its, “In the Name of Reason” theme, represents new times and a sensible, frugal monarch. Joseph ll said the Baroque style was too expensive. But perhaps he was a little too frugal. Taking the Baroque style to the opposite extreme, he only allowed one coffin per church. The coffin designed to meet this requirement had a bottom that would open, allowing the corpse to drop through. Thus, the coffin could be used again.

Room 10 (“To Glorify God in Everything”) contains a 17th century iron chest used for secure storage and transporting the abbey’s most important documents and treasures. The chest has a convoluted locking mechanism, comprising of 14 locks that are still working.

The detailed model of Melk Abbey housed in Room 11 (“Motion is a sign of Life”) turns so you can see all sides unobstructed. There is a mirror on the ceiling to enable a view into the courtyards of the model.

The Marble Hall was a place to receive guests and dining hall for the imperial family. The name ‘Marble’ Hall is somewhat misleading as only the door frames are true marble. The ‘marble’ on the walls is faux marble. However, this is easily forgiven by the magnificent ceiling fresco that is complemented and framed by stunning architectural painting.

Magnificent views of the town of Melk, and the Danube and Melk rivers are to be had from the Terrace that connects the Marble Hall with the library. The Terrace also provides a great view of Melk Abbey church.

The library is the second most important room in any Benedictine monastery; second only to the church.

My favourite library to date has been Coimbra University library in Portugal. However, the competition between that library and Melk Abbey’s library would be a close contest. Both are stunningly beautiful. There is something uniquely special about the mix of dark wood and old books.

Melk Abbey library houses approximately 10,000 volumes, with manuscripts dating back to the 9th century. The uniformity of the books in the inlaid bookshelves is due to them all being bound to match. With internal balconies, wooden sculptures, a huge free-standing world globe, figurines and frescoed ceilings, the library is an entrancing vision. It also exudes peace and tranquillity; a place where I could easily spend hours just sitting and soaking in the atmosphere. I know I am waxing lyrical here, but I can’t help it. Melk Abbey library does that to me. No wonder Umberto Eco conducted his research on his book, The Name of the Rose in Melk Abbey’s library. But more on that later.

The upper floor of the library, reached by a spiral staircase, is not open to the public.

The guided tour ended in the library. I lingered to absorb the library’s ambiance before heading to the church on the recommendation of the guide.

My visit to Melk Abbey’s church, not part of the guided tour, was very brief as I am over what I can only describe as ostentatious, Baroque churches. Of note, however, is the Altar of St. Coloman. Here you will find a sarcophagus with, we are told, the remains of St. Coloman, the patron saint of Melk Abbey.

Photography was not permitted inside Melk Abbey’s museum, the Marble Hall, the library, or the church.

You don’t have to take the one-hour guided tour of Melk Abbey (except in the winter months). However, it is my opinion this would be false economy as the explanations provided by the guide throughout the tour were invaluable. The guide’s story telling brought Melk Abbey alive; revealing all its traits.

 

Melk Abbey’s literary connection is not just confined to the books in its historical library.

The Name of the Rose, written by Umberto Eco (1980), is a historical murder mystery (a medieval whodunit) set in an Italian Cistercian monastery in 1327.

But what does a story about murders in a Cistercian monastery in Italy have to do with a Benedictine monastery in Austria? The connection is Melk Abbey’s magnificent library. You see, the focal point in The Name of the Rose is the library where all the murders take place. Melk Abbey’s library is said to be Eco’s inspiration for the library in The Name of the Rose.

But the connection goes further than that. One of Eco’s main characters in The Name of the Rose is Adso of Melk, a Benedictine novice from Melk Abbey. The Name of the Rose is Adso of Melk’s story as he is the narrator. As way of introduction, Adso of Melk informs us he is writing his narrative, now an old man, at Melk Abbey. On the last page of The Name of the Rose, Adso of Melk tells the reader he is leaving his manuscript in the library of Melk Abbey.

 

In summary, make the effort to visit Melk Abbey. You won’t be disappointed. I guarantee it is something special.

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Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

 

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JOIN A PHOTO SAFARI – a unique way to see amazing Amsterdam

What better way to capture a city than through a photography tour or workshop with a local? That’s just what I did when I signed up for two photography tours…

What better way to capture a city than through a photography tour or workshop with a local? That’s just what I did when I signed up for two photography tours in Amsterdam with Amsterdam Photo Safari – the 6-hour walking night photography tour (5.30pm to 11.30pm) and the 5-hour walking day photography tour (11.00am to 4.00pm).

Ruud was my guide and tutor on both photography tours. Amsterdam is his home. I had Ruud to myself for both tours. This was simply luck of the draw as I had not booked private tours. As we walked around Amsterdam’s districts, he exposed this amazing city’s personality; opening up its beating heart and its multi-facetted soul. Ruud took me to places I would never have got to as a traveller. His knowledgeable stories brought Amsterdam to life for me. According to Ruud, “Every photo has a story and to every story there is a photo”. Not only did I feel I improved my photography skills from the guided tuition of a professional photographer who was an excellent teacher, but I discovered Amsterdam from a born storyteller. I found my time with Rudd increased my consciousness of my surroundings. Particularly in terms of what to photograph; what will make an interesting photo; and what will make a photo pop. Thank you Ruud.

Amsterdam house with reflections in windows

Buildings reflected in every window of a house in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Photo Safari cater for all skill levels. I describe myself as an amateur photographer with (now) intermediate skills. I firmly believe that no one is ever too skilled to learn new things. Ruud gave me the confidence to use manual focus (I have a DSLR camera); showing how it better captures a subject that is, for example, reflected in a window or puddle of water. He provided positive and constructive feedback. At no time was I made to feel inadequate.

Ruud’s focus was on me, my learning, my camera, my photography. I believe this was not simply because I was the only participant. Even had there been other participants, the focus still would have been ‘individual’. This was important for me as I was extremely annoyed (to say the least) on one photography holiday a number of years ago where the photography tutor was more interested in the photographs he could capture for himself than those of his paying guests.

Ruud was very keen on shallow depth of field; recommending I set the camera’s f-stop to f/3.5 (the lowest my camera will go). For those non-photographers, shallow depth of field is the immediate foreground in focus, for example a box of flowers or a bicycle (plenty of those in Amsterdam), and the background out of focus (blurred). My passion is travel photography and I doubted such shallow depth of field would suit my purposes. Ruud’s argument was that even though the background is blurred, it is still recognisable and produces a more creative photo. See the photos below for a visual explanation of what I am referring to. While I went along with Rudd, I thought I would never use such a shallow depth of field with my travel photography. I am also someone who wants everything in the photo in focus. So, to find myself using f/3.5 on my further travels through Europe, I surprised myself and silently thanked Ruud. I now have some pretty good, creative photos to add to my memories of the places I have been.

The sign of a good photography tutor is one who can work their way around any camera brand, no matter how unfamiliar they might be with different brands. Ruud’s camera of choice is a Sony, while mine is a Nikon. Rudd admitted he was not overly familiar with Nikons. However, I would not have picked up on this without him telling me. The only hint came during the night photography tour. I had my tripod (these can be hired from Amsterdam Photo Safari at a minimal cost) but had left my remote shutter release back in my hotel room (clever!). I couldn’t remember how to set the in-camera timer. Ruud wasn’t fazed by this. After a quick, unfruitful play with my camera’s dials, out came his mobile phone and an internet search quickly told us where the timer was. No shooting time or opportunities lost.

Given that I live in Australia, all my communications with Amsterdam Photo Safari was via email. Booking with Amsterdam Photo Safari was made so easy thanks to the prompt and detailed responses to my email queries. Payment was made through PayPal (no account required). I even managed to negotiate a discount with Amsterdam Photo Safari for booking two photography tours with them. Once booked, communication from Amsterdam Photo Safari did not cease as they kept me informed with who would be my photography tutor, the meeting place, time etc. Thanks Barry.

Barry went above and beyond, suggesting (unrelated to Amsterdam Photo Safari) places near Amsterdam worth visiting; one of which I added to my itinerary. I was not disappointed.

Comfortable walking shoes are essential. Even though we stopped for coffee breaks, to have the stamina to keep going was crucial. I have to admit, by 3.30pm on the day photography tour I was ready to sit down and not get up again.

I thoroughly enjoyed the night and day photography tours with Amsterdam Photo Safari. I got to discover Amsterdam from a local and learnt so much. My knowledge and understanding of composition and perspective and how to look for and achieve these, were significantly enhanced. But for me, I learnt the most on the night photography tour. Learning how to set up and use long exposure (an area of photography I was not familiar with – as evidenced by my inability to find the timer on my camera) has opened up a whole new genre of photography for me. The canal boats made an excellent subject for long exposure; with their lights making colourful trails across the photo.

Streaks of lights from a canal boat passing houses on a canal in Amsterdam

A canal boat passing in front of houses on a canal in Amsterdam becomes a transparent, colourful trail of lights through long exposure

 

I highly recommend Amsterdam Photo Safari.

Note:  Flexibility around Amsterdam Photo Safari’s tour hours was not a hassle. I needed to end the night photography tour earlier than designated as I had to ensure I did not miss the last tram back to my hotel. Additional time was simply added to my day photography tour the next day (hence my flagging energy?). Had I not been taking another photography tour the next day, I am convinced Amsterdam Photo Safari would have suggested something appropriate and mutually acceptable in the way of compensation.

 

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A yellow boat and blue boat on a canal in front of narrow, tall buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

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HOW BEST TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME IN ROTHENBURG

So, how do you best spend your free time in Rothenburg? The short answer to this question is, WALK. Being relatively flat, Rothenburg’s Old Town is easy to walk around,…

So, how do you best spend your free time in Rothenburg? The short answer to this question is, WALK. Being relatively flat, Rothenburg’s Old Town is easy to walk around, despite the cobblestone streets. If you don’t stop to window shop, it should only take you about 15 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other.

But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Firstly, Rothenburg is the common abbreviation for this German town’s full name; that being, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Translated, Rothenburg ob der Tauber means, “Red Fortress above the Tauber”. Red Fortress above the Tauber is an apt name. The town is situated on a plateau above the Tauber River. While ‘Red Fortress’ – translated from rot (red) and burg (burgh, fortified settlement) – is attributed by some to the red roofs of Rothenburg’s houses inside the fortification.

Red roofed houses enclosed by Rothenburg's fortifications

‘Red Fortress’ – the red roofs of the houses behind Rothenburg’s fortifications

 

Secondly, why visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the first place? With its medieval architecture, narrow cobblestone streets and intact fortification wall, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is considered one of the prettiest towns in Germany. It is a medieval town frozen in time and said to be the most perfectly preserved, medieval walled city in Europe. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s last remaining walled medieval towns, reached via the ‘Romantic Road’ in the Franconia region of Bavaria in southern Germany. There are photo opportunities everywhere you look.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is 1000 years of history in the making. It was one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire; survived a siege in 1631 during the Thirty Years’ War between Protestant and Catholic states in the Holy Roman Empire (1618-1648); and stagnated in 1634 due to poverty and plague. It is this latter that preserved Rothenburg in its 17th century state. But this post is not intended to be a history lesson. However, it is worth pointing out that Rothenburg survived WWII substantially intact because its historical significance was recognised and acknowledged by the invading British army. What this post does focus on is a visualisation of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Through my photographs, I hope to arouse your senses enough to step back in time and visit this beautiful town.

My time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber was on an optional day excursion from my river cruise when we were docked at Wurzburg, Germany. I chose this excursion because I couldn’t resist visiting a place where the Viking Cruise Documents used words like, ‘romantic’, ‘walled’, ‘medieval’, ‘preserved’, ‘inviting’, and ‘picturesque’ to describe it. I was not disappointed, and I immediately fell in love with this picture-perfect, medieval walled town. With its half-timbered houses, elaborate shop signages, and window boxes full of geraniums, every turn was a picture postcard moment.

It was a 1½ hour drive from where the ship was docked at Wurzburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The drive took us along the ‘Romantic Road’. I can’t tell what was romantic about it because I slept most of the way. I believe it has something to do with being a picturesque countryside. I do know that each time I roused from my sleep it was to a view of a vineyard. Shame I slept so much!

Once in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, our guide gave us an orientation walking tour; taking us past St James Church, through Market Square with its 13th century Gothic/Renaissance Town Hall, past fountains, museums and amazing architecture, explaining the relationship between shops and their signage, and ending at St John’s Church (our meeting point for lunch).

With the orientation completed, we were left to spend our free time as we pleased. I wasn’t interested in the well-known Christmas shop. And I decided to take the guide’s advice and not try the local ‘delicacy’, a Schneeball, which he described as “horrible”. This is deep-fried dough shaped like a snowball and covered in either confectioner’s sugar or chocolate. In our guide’s own words, “you will choke on a Schneeball if you don’t take a drink of water with each and every bite to wash it down”.

I wanted to explore and photograph my own experience; to follow the direction of my feet. And I only had 1½ hours to do this in. After pointing my feet in the direction of what the guide said is the most instagrammed photo in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I headed for the town’s fortifications.

Rothenburg's Plonlein (Little Square)

The Plonlein is the most instagrammed image in Rothenburg

I cannot fathom why this crooked, half-timbered house on Plonlein (Little Square) is the most instagrammed image in Rothenburg ob der Tauber; why it should be so photographed. I have read that it has featured in a number of movies and been the inspiration for others, but the town is full of much more interesting, charming architecture. If anyone can enlighten me, that would be appreciated. Or, better still, go check it out for yourself.

Taking the Kobolzeller Gate (built 1360) to the right as you face the half-timbered house in the ‘most instagrammed photo’, I climbed the few steps to the town’s medieval wall. Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s medieval wall, built in the 13th century, is 4 kilometres long and completely encircles the town’s historical centre. Walking along the wall, there are 6 gates and 42 towers to explore. With my limited time, I only managed 2 gates (up through one gate and down through the next) and a handful of towers. Despite all the tourists in town, I had the wall to myself – a very pleasant experience.

Coming off the wall, I proceeded to walk in a large circle that took me back to Market Square.

I was back in Market Square in time for when the clock on the 14th century Councillor’s Tavern performs its hourly ritual. Our guide had informed us that on the hour between 10.00am and 10.00pm two doors open on either side of the clock face. Out comes Rothenburg’s former Mayor, Nusch, and the Catholic General, Tilly, who challenged Nusch to drink a gallon tankard of wine in one go without stopping to save the town during the Thirty Years’ War. And save the town he did! It’s not the most interesting mechanical clock I have seen on my travels, but I did like the story behind it – the “Legend of the Master Draught”.

Rothenburg's Councillor's Tavern with mechanical clock in main Square

The “Legend of the Master Draught” mechanical clock on the Councillor’s Tavern

 

I have to go back to Rothenburg ob der Tauber:

  • to visit the gardens that replaced Rothenburg Castle which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1356;
  • to visit the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum;
  • to hike down into the valley;
  • to climb the Town Hall Tower to see the views for myself rather than just read about them;
  • to check out the interior of St James Church and its famous Holy Blood altarpiece;
  • to sit in a cafe in Market Square and people-watch;
  • and much more

I reckon this will take me 2 to 3 days (at least).

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I will see you again.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

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SHOES ON THE DANUBE – a holocaust memorial

  Dear Pip, It is from a cold, dark place that I write you this postcard. A place that reminds me of a horrific time in history – a time…

Caste iron shoes on the riverbank with Budapest in the background

Budapest’s holocaust memorial, Shoes on the Danube Promenade

 

Dear Pip,

It is from a cold, dark place that I write you this postcard. A place that reminds me of a horrific time in history – a time that should never be forgotten.

I refer to the holocaust memorial, “Shoes on the Danube Promenade” in Budapest, Hungary.

“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” was created in 2005. The memorial comprises of 60 pairs of life size, iron shoes stretching along a section of the Danube’s riverbank. Caste in the style of the 1940s, the shoes are in different sizes; representing the men, women and children this memorial is a tribute to.

“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” holocaust memorial is dedicated to the thousands of Jews (approximately 20,000) who were executed along the Danube riverbank during 1944-1945. They were shot by members of the Hungarian fascist and anti-Semitic organisation, the Arrow Cross Party. The victims were forced to remove their shoes, face their executioner, and were shot so that they tumbled into the river. The river would then carry their bodies away. This saved the Arrow Cross Party having the hard labour of digging graves. The victims were forced to remove their shoes because shoes were a valuable commodity and could be sold by the executioners.

‘60’ was not just a random number of shoes to include in the holocaust memorial. It reflects the 600,000 Hungarian Jews who died during World War 2, and the memorial was created 60 years after the war.

“Shoes on the Danube Promenade” is located on the banks of the Danube River on the Pest side of Budapest between two well-known landmarks, the Chain Bridge and the Parliament Building.

I deliberately set out to walk to this holocaust memorial after our tour guide pointed it out from the bus on the way back to our ship from our walking tour of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. The memorial is unique; unlike anything I have ever seen. Even with all the tourists, I found the memorial poignant and haunting; a place for reflection and contemplation.

On my way back from the Parliament Building, I passed the “Shoes on the Danube Promenade” holocaust memorial again. Someone had put a white carnation in two of the shoes. I like to think it was the wedding couple who were being photographed nearby. That, on a day that was so memorable for them, they have taken the time to remember and honour those who so tragically had their memories taken from them. Perhaps they were remembering a family member.

I was profoundly moved by this holocaust memorial (more so than any other I have been to on this trip), and thankful for how fortunate I am.

Love,

Joanna

A carnation placed in a shoe

A carnation is placed in one of the memorial shoes as a sign of remembrance

Line of caste iron shoes on the Danube riverbank

Some of the holocaust memorial’s 60 pairs of shoes on the Danube Promenade

 

Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain a copyright of Joanna Rath.

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