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WHAT IS THE MISSING TRUTH ABOUT CLIMBING SRI LANKA’S LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK?

Who Said Climbing Little Adam’s Peak Is An Easy Walk?   Dear Meg, Hello from Ella in Sri Lanka. While here, I decided to walk up Little Adam’s Peak. The…

Who Said Climbing Little Adam’s Peak Is An Easy Walk?

 

Dear Meg,

Hello from Ella in Sri Lanka.

While here, I decided to walk up Little Adam’s Peak. The walk from Ella to Little Adam’s Peak’s summit is approximately 4.5 kilometres (return) and said to take about 45 minutes each way. The walk was described in four guidebooks as an easy, mostly flat walk, with a small amount of climbing at the end.

The hotel’s reference to Little Adam’s Peak summed up the experience:

This walk is unlikely to make you break out in a sweat, and the entire round trip can be completed in about two hours. The first part of the walk is quite flat … some climbing is required to reach the summit. The view from the top is more than worth the gentle exertion though, offering a splendid panorama of Ella Rock and The Gap.

 

Well, they were all wrong! All the guidebooks lied.

  • It was uphill all the way. There was no ‘flat’, and there was nothing ‘easy’ about the walk.
  • I did break out in a sweat – big time.
  • The walk was two hours one way.
  • ‘The small amount of climbing at the end’ was not just uphill; it was more than 300 vertical steps.
  • As for ‘gentle exertion’. There was nothing gentle about the blood pounding in my head when I finally reached the summit. This was heart attack material!

 

Having reached the summit (at the height of 1,141 metres), I was too exhausted and out of breath to appreciate the ‘splendid panorama’. And I thought I was fit! There is nothing ‘little’ about Little Adam’s Peak.

I didn’t feel a sense of achievement but just felt jilted by the guidebooks. In hindsight, I should have stayed in Ella drinking coffee, and left the walk up to the others to complete.

Walking up Little Adam’s Peak would have to be one of the worst experiences of my life. Well, perhaps not, but it sure felt like it. I left the others at the bottom of the mountain and took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. It cost me a lot of rupees, but it was worth every one of them.

Tropical bush framing a mountain peak

View of Little Adam’s Peak – still a long way to walk

 

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.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post. Tell us about a climbing challenge you have faced. What was the outcome? Did you feel a sense of achievement or not?

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps.

 

To read more on what to see and do in Sri Lanka, click on the links below:

WALKING THE LINE IN SRI LANKA FROM ELLA TO DEMODARA

FIRST 24 HOURS IN GALLE FORT, SRI LANKA

A PHOTOGRAPHIC TOUR OF GEOFFREY BAWA’S GARDEN

 

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

 

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UNIQUE SILO ART CELEBRATES LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND FAUNA

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 Joanna Rath.

 

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 more on silo art in Victoria, click on the links below:

AMAZING SILO ART – powerful connections of people and landscapes

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.

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THE UNIQUE YINDYAMARRA SCULPTURE WALK IN ALBURY, NEW SOUTH WALES

Sculptures Beside the Murray River in Albury Showcase Local Aboriginal Culture   Aboriginal sculptures along a walking/cycling track beside the Murray River in the Australian bush – this is the…

Sculptures Beside the Murray River in Albury Showcase Local Aboriginal Culture

 

Aboriginal sculptures along a walking/cycling track beside the Murray River in the Australian bush – this is the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk.

Yindyamarra: respect; go slowly; do properly.

The Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk in Albury is a 5.3-kilometre (return) section of the much longer Wagirra Trail (15 kilometres return, linking Wonga Wetlands with the South Albury Trail). Following the Murray River, the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk stretches from the Kremur Street boat ramp (off Padman Drive in West Albury) to Horseshoe Lagoon (accessed via the Riverina Highway). You can do the walk in the reverse direction.

Completed in December 2014, there are nine contemporary sculptures along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk created by Aboriginal artists telling stories of their living culture. The sculptures are accompanied by explanatory panels, with videos available via smartphone that narrate the story of Aboriginal history and the cultural significance of the Murray River. The sculptures are a celebration of local Aboriginal culture.

Bicycle riders, walkers, and joggers share the predominantly flat, 2-metre-wide sealed path. Dogs on leads are permitted.

Albury, on the New South Wales side of the Murray River (Australia’s longest river), is located in Wiradjuri Country – the traditional lands of the Aboriginal Wiradjuri people.

Yindyamarra is a word from the Wiradjuri language, meaning respect, be gentle, be polite, and do slowly.

This post is written from experience as I have walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk three times. Refer to the end of this post to know the lessons I have learned from walking the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk three times.

At the time of writing, the signage showing where the location of the sculptures was not up to date. Starting at Kremur Street boat ramp, the sculptures end 750 metres beyond Horseshoe Lagoon.

Map of a walking trail

Map of the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk with the location of the sculptures. I have added the handwritten names of the sculptures at their appropriate location.

 

The Sculptures:

Starting your walk from the Kremur Street boat ramp:

Reconciliation Shield

Artist: Tamara Murray. Tamara is a Barkandji on her mother’s side and Yorta Yorta on her Dad’s side.

A metal shield with a black and white human figure

For Tamara, the Reconciliation Shield represents bringing everyone together – to work together, walk together and live together; to make everything better, especially for the next generation. ‘The figure depicted is holding his hands in a position of submission. Enough is enough – we all need to walk together on this journey of reconciliation.’

Creature Seats

Artists: James Fallon High School. The standing goanna by Liam Campbell (Wiradjuri), the turtle by Sara Jackson Edwards (Wamba Wamba), the snake by Raymond Jackson Edwards (Wamba Wamba), and the climbing goanna by Jaidyon Hampton (Malyangaba).

Wooden carved seats in bushland

Under the mentorship from the Aboriginal Men’s Shed and the local community, the students sculpted these creatures. In doing so, the students created a space where stories can be told, and local animal life can be celebrated.

Googar

Artist: Darren Wighton. Darren is a community leader of Wiradjuri descent.

a large wooden goanna sculpture

‘Googar’ is the Wiradjuri word for ‘goanna’. At 4 metres in length, Darren’s Googar sculpture is a larger-than-life version of a small wooden toy goanna that Wiradjuri children would play with and learn from in traditional times.

Wiradjuri Woman

Artist: Leonie McIntosh. Leonie is a proud Wiradjuri woman.


A symbolic woman carved in a tree stump

Leonie’s Wiradjuri Woman sculpture is based on the Possum Skin Cloak design burnt on her Nan’s cloak which she wore for the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

Leonie has created a sculpture of Wiradjuri Woman emerging out of this 350 – 400-year-old tree stump – ‘as if a spirit is breaking free’.

Vertical Message Sticks

Artist: Carmel Taylor. Carmel is a Wiradjuri woman.

Animals carved on wooden boards

The message sticks are a celebration of Carmel’s knowledge of the natural history of the river.

Carmel tells us she chose the theme of animals because she genuinely loves them, and they are native to the Albury area; bringing much joy to children and adults.

An echidna - a spiny animal

An echidna scurries into the bush

 

Bogong Moth Migration

Artist: Ruth Davys. Ruth is a proud Wiradjuri woman.

A tree sculpture with metal moths against a background of water

The Bogong Moth is a creature of cultural significance for Indigenous Australians.

Traditionally, each year the Indigenous people of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria would meet at Mungabareena Reserve (Albury) to perform ceremonies, exchange goods and discuss tribal lore. They would then travel to the high country (Victoria’s Alpine region) to feast on Bogong Moths.

‘Maya’ Fish Trap

Artists: Uncle Ken (Tunny) Murray, Darren Wighton and Andom Rendell, from the Aboriginal Men’s Shed.

A funnel style fish trap

This over-proportioned sculpture is of a funnel style fish trap that was commonly used by the Wiradjuri people in the Albury area. These traps were woven from reeds and could even be customised to trap specific fish as well as allowing smaller fish to escape, thus protecting the species for the future.

Goanna

Artist: Kianna Edwards. Kianna is a young Wiradjuri woman from Albury.

A sculpture of a goanna on a log

Kianna comments, “This Goanna represents one of the main totems for the Wiradjuri Nation. It holds a significant place in my spirit. It’s my totem. My story. My culture.”

The Bigger Picture

Artist: Katrina Weston. Katrina is an Aboriginal person from the Barkindji/Nyampa tribes.

A river captured in a picture frame

According to Katrina, the purpose of the oversized picture frame is so we can see over the years to come how the landscape changes within the frame.

The picture within the frame is a moving, living landscape with many stories to be told and shared. It will bring people together to share traditional stories. The picture frame represents movement and change for Aboriginal people who are evolving to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

Signalling the commencement of the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk is, Teaming Life of Milawa Billa (Murray River) created by the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk Steering Committee – Daniel Cledd, Robyn Heckenberg, John Murray, Aunty Edna Stewart, and Aunty Muriel Williams.

A shield with drawings in metal of fish, yabby and birds

This artwork is located at the Kremur Street boat ramp picnic area. The design draws together significant elements from the natural environment of the Murray River – the birds, the fish, the reeds, and the yabby – telling the story of the health of the river.

Useful information

At Kremur Street boat ramp you will find free parking, public toilets, and picnic area.

Wooden tables and benches with a river behind them

Picnic area on the banks of the Murray River at Kremur Street boat ramp, Albury

 

Horseshoe Lagoon has parking off the Riverina Highway but has no toilets or picnic facilities. From the parking area, it is a couple of minutes’ walk to join the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk trail.

Albury is a large inland city in New South Wales on the banks of the Murray River – Australia’s longest river. It is 553 kilometres south-west of Sydney via the Hume Highway and 326 kilometres north-east of Melbourne.

A river with clouds and trees reflected in the water

The Murray River at Noreuil Park in Albury, New South Wales

 

There are plans underfoot by Albury City Council to add another loop to the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk. The new loop, expected to be completed in July 2021, will start at the Vertical Message Sticks, with the current dirt track to be sealed, and will include the installation of 3 new sculptures.

Lessons learned from having walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk previously:

The first time I walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with my sister. We commenced our walk at Noreuil Park and walked to Wonga Wetlands. As the car was at Noreuil Park, we had no alternative but to walk back the way we had come. This walk was a 14-kilometre round trip. By the time we were halfway back on our return journey, we could barely lift our feet and couldn’t talk to each other.

My second attempt at the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with my daughter. We left the car at Noreuil Park (I must be a slow learner) and headed out on the walk. About a kilometre from Wonga Wetlands (6 kilometres walked), my daughter could see I was flagging. So, you can imagine, I jumped at her suggestion to sit in the shade of a tree while she jogged back for the car. Oh, to be young and fit!

My third walk along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk was with two friends. I insisted we have a car at either end of the walk as I have now (finally) learned my walking limitations. Not knowing the signage showing the locations of the sculptures was out-of-date, we left a car at Kremur Street Boat Ramp and drove to Wonga Wetlands where we left the second car and commenced our walk.

So, what have I learned? Walk between Horseshoe Lagoon and Kremur Street Boat Ramp (or vice versa), with a car at either end, while detouring slightly to The Bigger Picture sculpture. Don’t forget to take water.

What my friends had to say about the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk:

For those bird lovers out there, one of my friends recommends taking binoculars as there are several species of birds to spot along the walk.

Both friends thoroughly enjoyed the walk (described as a ‘leisurely stroll’ by one), and they commented on the number of birds, wildlife and plants seen along the way. As one friend said, seating along the walk would have been good – to absorb a sculpture, to sit and watch the river flow past, and to contemplate the landscape.

I have walked the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk three time now and have not tired of seeing the sculptures. My friends felt the sculptures showcased the artistic abilities of the local men and women of the surrounding indigenous tribes while telling their own unique stories.

I, my two friends, my daughter and my sister, recommend the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk. With the sculptures, the river and the surrounding bush, it is an exceptional walk.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts on this blog post.

 

If you like this post, PIN it for keeps.

 

Still on an art theme in Australia, check out the posts below I wrote on the unique silo art in Victoria; they’re packed with amazing photos, information, and tips:

> Amazing Silo Art – powerful connections of people and landscapes

> Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna

> 3 Things To Do In Rochester

 

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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A VENETIAN WALKABOUT

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.

 

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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.
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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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AMAZING SILO ART – powerful connections of people and landscapes

Take a road trip with a difference – travel along the Silo Art Trail in Victoria, Australia. See how disused grain silos have been transformed into unusual, towering art canvases….

Take a road trip with a difference – travel along the Silo Art Trail in Victoria, Australia. See how disused grain silos have been transformed into unusual, towering art canvases. Each canvas is unique, with murals reflecting the people, landscape and culture of the community in which they appear.

Empty grain silos are scattered around rural Australia. Silo art projects (with 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 reinvigorating some of Australia’s smallest and most remote regional towns. They have become a lifesaver for rural communities; bringing tourism to towns that have been seriously struggling due to economic decline. These towns now have a future.

Perhaps the best-known silo art project is the painted silos in Western Victoria; in the Wimmera Mallee region. Here, there are 6 painted silos stretching for a distance of 200 kilometres from Rupanyup in the south (if coming from Ballarat, as we did) to Patchewollock in the north. This is the Silo Art Trail.

My sister and I took a 12-day road trip around parts of Victoria at the end of April – from Albury to Bendigo, to Ballarat, to Hopetoun, to Sea Lake, to Rochester, and back to Albury. The road trip deliberately incorporated the Silo Art Trail in the Wimmera Mallee region as I had read so much about it and had a strong desire to see the murals for myself. This desire was heightened after visiting the silo art in North-East Victoria.

Silo Art Trail

The Silo Art Trail is Australia’s largest outdoor gallery. The trail stretches over 200 kilometres in Victoria’s Wimmera Mallee region; linking the towns of Rupanyup, Sheep Hills, Brim, Rosebery, Lascelles, and Patchewollock.

Victoria's Silo Art Trail map, Wimmera Mallee region

Silo Art Trail map, Victoria. Courtesy of Yarriambiack Shire Council, at http://siloarttrail.com

 

Providing an insight into the true spirit of the Wimmera Mallee, the trail recognises and celebrates the region’s people through a series of large-scale mural portraits painted onto grain silos, many of which date back to the 1930s.

The national and international artists whose murals appear on the silos spent time visiting the region and meeting the locals before transforming each grain silo into an epic work of art; with each mural telling a unique story about the host town.

The level of detail the artists have achieved in their murals is impressive. Something I find astonishing given the scale of the artworks. How do you create such fine detail with an aerosol can?

The Silo Art Trail was conceived in 2016 after the success of the first artwork in Brim. What started as a small community project by the Brim Active Community Group to save their town from extinction, resulted in widespread international media attention and an influx of visitors to the region and the idea for the trail was born.

The Silo Art Trail was created as a partnership between Yarriambiack Shire Council, international street art agency Juddy Roller, the Victorian Government, and the Australian Government; with the silos donated by GrainCorp as canvases for the artists’ works.

Whether in a car, motorhome or towing a caravan, parking is not a problem at any of the silos.

Why you should visit the Silo Art Trail

  • This is street art at its best.
  • The murals are painted on unusual canvases.
  • The silo artworks are in public spaces; in outdoor galleries that are 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 community members; giving an insight into the area.
  • Grain silos have been ‘painted’ on Australia’s landscape since the 1920s.
  • The Silo Art Trail is Australia’s ultimate road trip.

Getting there

While the trip can be done in any direction, I am going to take you from Rupanyup in the south to Patchewollock in the north – the direction we took on our road trip.

From Melbourne to Bendigo is 151 kilometres (94 miles; approximately a 2-hour drive). From Bendigo to Rupanyup is 169 kilometres (105 miles; approximately a 2-hour drive)

From Melbourne to Ballarat is 112 kilometres (69 miles; a 1-hour and 39-minute drive). From Ballarat to Rupanyup is 177 kilometres (110 miles; a 2-hour drive).

As you can see, it is really neither here nor there as to whether you arrive in Rupanyup from Melbourne via Bendigo or via Ballarat. My preference would be to travel via Bendigo, an historic gold mining town with some of the best food we had on the whole road trip. Historic Bendigo Pottery is worth a visit. Don’t miss Bendigo Pottery’s museum.

Other helpful distances:

> From Bendigo to Patchewollock is 284 kilometres (176 miles). Allowing 30 minutes at each mural, the trip would take approximately 6 hours, 11 minutes.

> From Ballarat to Patchewollock is 332 kilometres (206 miles) allowing 30 minutes at each mural, the trip would take approximately 6 hours, 42 minutes.

> From Patchewollock to Sea Lake (possible accommodation option) is 73 kilometres (45 miles) – a 50-minute drive.

> From Patchewollock to Mildura (possible accommodation option) is 141 kilometres (88 miles) – a drive time of approximately 1 hour, 38 minutes.

> From Patchewollock to Swan Hill (possible accommodation option) is 145 kilometres (90 miles) – a drive time of approximately 1 hour, 36 minutes.

You don’t have to have to have a car to see the silo art. While we rarely saw anyone else at the silos, a quick internet search reveals there are bus tours from Melbourne (Victoria) and Albury (New South Wales) that travel the Silo Art Trail. However, it would appear they don’t visit all the silos.

Rupanyup silo art

Black & white painting of a girl and a boy in team uniforms on metal grain silos

Rupanyup silo art of young people from local sporting teams on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Completed early 2017, the faces featured on the silos are those of Rupanyup residents and local sporting team members, Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. Dressed in their sports uniforms (netball and Australian Rules football, respectively), the mural captures the spirit of community while honouring the integral role that sport and community play in rural Australia.

Rupanyup’s silo art is the work of Russian mural artist, Julia Volchkova. The monochromatic work is typical of Volchkova’s realist portraiture style. And avid traveller, her frequent travels have resulted in numerous large-scale murals of local people in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere around the world.

Sheep Hills silo art

Brightly coloured painting of 4 Australian Aboriginals on concrete grain silos

Sheep Hills silo art of Aboriginal Australians on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Melbourne-based artist, Adnate is known for using his artwork to tell stories of Indigenous people and their native lands; particularly those of Aboriginal Australians. He painted the mural on the silos at Sheep Hills in 2016 after spending 4 weeks with the community. He found his inspiration for the mural after developing a friendship with the Barengi Gadin Land Council in North-East Victoria.

Through his portraits of Wergaia Elder, Uncle Ron Marks, and Wotjobaluk Elder, Aunty Regina Hood, alongside two young children, Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald, Adnate celebrates the richness of the area’s Indigenous culture.

The night sky in the mural represents elements of local dreaming and the overall image signifies the important exchange of wisdom, knowledge and customs from Elders to the next generation.

Featuring a bold use of block colours via acrylic and spray paint, Adnate’s portraits are known for introducing a strong energetic presence to their surroundings. Described as “life-like” and “emotive”, his large-scale murals can be found in various settings throughout Australia and around the world; including the mural he painted inside Goorambat’s Uniting Church in North-East Victoria.

Brim silo art

Paintings on 3 men and 1 woman farmers on concrete grain silos

Brim silo art of multi-generational male and female farmers on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Although the third silo artwork along the Silo Art Trail (travelling from Melbourne), the mural painted on the disused GrainCorp silos at Brim was the first to be painted in Victoria and was the inspiration for the Silo Art Trail.

Painted by world renown Australian street artist, Guido van Helten, his mural of four, anonymous, multi-generational farmers (3 men and 1 woman) was completed in January 2016. Van Helten’s subjects bear expressions that exemplify the strength and resilience of the local farming community as they face immense economic pressure and the tangible consequences of climate change. His work captures the spirit of the local area and connects the characters to their chosen place; infusing the landscape with a comforting, familiar presence.

Celebrating everyday characters in forgotten places, van Helten’s monochromatic, photorealistic style offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of others. His large-scale portraiture murals, found in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland, tell stories of culture, history and identity in an effort to capture the soul of people and place.

Rosebery silo art

Painting of cowgirl, horseman and horse on concrete grain silo

Rosebery silo art of female farmer and horseman with his horse on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

The silo on the left captures the grit, tenacity and character of the region’s young female farmers, who regularly face drought, fires and other hardships living and working in the Wimmera Mallee. In her work shirt, jeans and turned-down cowboy boots, the strong young female sheep farmer symbolises the future.

The silo on the right portrays the familiar connection between man and horse. The contemporary horseman appears in Akubra hat, Bogs boots and oilskin vest – common attire for Wimmera Mallee farmers. Both man and horse are relaxed and facing downward, indicating their mutual trust, love and genuine connection.

Completed in late 2017 by the successful, internationally renowned street artist, Kaff-eine, her Rosebery mural depicts themes that she says embody the region’s past, present and future.

Combining creativity with a strong social conscience, Kaff-eine makes art and film projects in marginalised communities around the world, with her work inviting audiences to engage with social and political issues. Kaff-eine describes her practice from photorealistic to darkly sensual stylised characters as “loaded with symbolism and narrative”.

Lascelles silo art

The murals here of the local farming couple, Geoff and Merrilyn Horman can never be photographed together because they are on opposite sides of two grain silos. The Horman’s are part of a family who have lived and farmed in the area for four generations.

Painted by Rone in mid-2017, he wanted the mural to portray his subjects as wise and knowing; nurturing the town’s future with their vast farming experience and longstanding connection to the area.

Rone worked for two weeks to transform the two 1939-built GrainCorp silos. He went to great lengths to paint in the silo’s existing raw concrete tones to produce a work that would integrate sensitivity into its environment. Utilising this muted monochrome palette, he added water to his paint as a blending tool to produce a ghostly, transparent effect – a signature of his distinctive painting style.

An influential figure in Australia’s early street art scene, Rone is perhaps best known for his large-scale “Jane Doe” portraits, featuring beautiful young women painted onto old, decaying backgrounds. This interplay between beauty and decay is a key theme throughout his work; emphasising the fleeting nature of beauty and encouraging audiences to appreciate it while it lasts.

Patchewollock silo art

Coloured painting of a young man on outdoor concrete grain silo

Patchewollock silo art of local farmer, Nick “Noodle” Holland on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

To prepare his Patchewollock mural, Brisbane artist, Fintan Magee booked a room at the local pub to immerse himself in the local community and to get to know its people. When he met local sheep and grain farmer, Nick “Noodle” Hulland, Magee knew he had found his subject.

Coloured painting of the face of a young man on a concrete grain silo

The face of local farmer, Nick Holland on the Patchewollock silo on Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

 

Why Hulland? According to Magee, the rugged, lanky local exemplified the no-nonsense, hardworking spirit of the region. Perhaps more importantly though, Noodle had just the right height and leanness to neatly fit onto the narrow, 35-metre-high canvas of the twin 1939-built GrainCorp silos.

Completed in late 2016, the Magee’s depiction of the famously reserved Hulland portrays an image of the archetypical Aussie farmer – faded blue “flanny” (flannelette shirt) and all. Hulland’s solemn expression, sun-bleached hair and squinting gaze speak to the harshness of the environment and the challenges of life in the Wimmera Mallee.

 

Combining surreal and figurative imagery with a trained artist’s discipline and technical skill, Magee’s work explores global themes and climate change, displacement and migration, as well as environmental issues such as his family’s experience in the devasting 2011 Brisbane floods. Understanding that not everyone has access to art galleries, Magee aims to make art more accessible to isolated communities and general public.

 

The addition of Sea Lake silo art

In October 2019 (after our visit), Sea Lake, just a 50-minute drive from Patchewollock, completed a mural on its town silos, donated by GrainCorp. Thus, joining Victoria’s Silo Art Trail.

The mural, painted by Drapl and The Zookeeper, depicts a young indigenous girl swinging from a Mallee Eucalyptus tree as she gazes over Lake Tyrrell. A powerful Wedge Tail Eagle soars above the girl and emus run off into the night.

Lake Tyrrell is a large inland saltwater lake; an 8-minute drive from Sea Lake. The water in the lake is never more than ankle deep; creating fabulous reflections, especially at sunset. This was the reason we stayed at Sea Lake.  But more about that in another post.

When to go

Autumn, in my opinion, March to May, is the best time in Australia. The sting of intense heat wanes, the bush comes alive, the landscape changes colour, the desert sprouts, and the people wake from their summer stupor.

Where to eat

Sub-standard food (with a few exceptions), poor food choices due to limited options, or non-existent food outlets, was a common theme throughout the whole road trip. At one point, my sister noted in her journal that the food situation was making her unhappy as she was not eating well (and not from choice).

I make two suggestions here:

  1. Eat up big in Bendigo or Ballarat because it’s the last decent meal you will have until after you leave the Silo Art Trail; and
  2. Buy snacks in Bendigo or Ballarat before heading up the Silo Art Trail. If you find you haven’t bought enough or are sick of what you did buy, you can stock up at the supermarket in Warracknabeal. We made the mistake of eating lunch at the local Chinese restaurant in Warracknabeal because that was what we felt like. Big mistake! However, the chocolate biscuits I bought at the local supermarket were yum and eaten before my sister could blink. Did she want some?

We had a number of good meals in Bendigo. Our first breakfast was at The Boardwalk on Lake Weeroona (28 Nolan street). The service was faultless and the food here was so good we ate breakfast at The Boardwalk each morning of our stay in Bendigo. I couldn’t resist the Gourmet Fruit Loaf with Bacon.

Have lunch at The Rifle Bridge Hotel, 137 View Street, Bendigo. Talk about a yummy salad – Chicken and Macadamia Nut Salad with Beetroot, Pear and Figs.

For dinner, Masons of Bendigo, at 25 Queen Street, is a must. Plating is modern Australian, with all dishes (starters, mains and deserts) designed to be shared. We received excellent service from friendly, informative staff. Awarded “One Chef Hat” in Australia’s Good Food Guide in 2016 and 2017, reservations are essential.

On our first night in Ballarat, we ate at The Forge Pizzeria (14 Armstrong Street) as it was recommended in the Ballarat tourist information booklet. The restaurant was packed, which is always a good sign. My sister enjoyed her pizza, but it was a poor food choice for me as I am not all that keen on pizza.

The next day we had lunch at L’Espresso café (417 Sturt Street). A very popular café (people waiting to be seated) with efficient service and, we both commented, excellent food. That night, we ate at The Gallery Restaurant in the Craig’s Royal Hotel where we were staying (10 Lydiard Street). We had mixed feelings regarding our meals here. I thoroughly enjoyed my main course and desert. But my sister was not impressed with her meal.

In Rosebery, after viewing the silo art, we passed an old church 228 metres down the road with a sign out the front advertising scones and cream. This couldn’t be real! We were in the middle of nowhere! Turning around, we discovered the old church was now a café, Mallee Sunsets Gallery Café, and did indeed, have scones with jam and cream on its menu. This we couldn’t resist. Together with the best ice coffee I probably have ever had (I watched her put 6 scoops of ice cream in my ice coffee), I was in heaven.

The story of this once Presbyterian Church really brought home how much these small, remote farming communities are struggling. It stopped being a church in 1990 because there were only 5 people left in the congregation. The church’s closure divided the community as those 5 people then had to attend services in Warracknabeal or Hopetoun. Three went one way and two went the other.

Our final silo art on the Silo Art Trail was at Patchewollock. Looking to eat after viewing the mural of ‘Noodle”, we had two options: the café that only sold sausage rolls they could heat in a microwave or the Pub. We settle for toasted sandwiches at the “Patche Pub”.

From Patchewollock, we headed to Sea Lake for two nights. At the time, the only meals available for dinner were dispensed from a vending machine at the motel and were disgusting. There were two cafes open for breakfast but one closed at 5.30pm (too early for dinner) and the other advertised they close at 8.30pm. But not this night! They had two tourist coaches in town and had shut the café to all other people. At the time of our stay in Sea Lake, the hotel was being renovated and is now open for accommodation and meals. Bonus!

So, being very, very hungry by this stage in our travels, on our second day in Sea Lake, we drove 45 minutes to Spoons Riverside Café and Restaurant in Swan Hill for lunch. Spoons Riverside is in a beautiful location, overlooking the Murray River. I ate far too much, but the food was so yummy.

You would be forgiven for thinking that our focus was on food and not the massive artworks we had come to see. But when you experience such awful food and wonder where your next decent meal is going to come from, it’s hard to shift your focus. Having said that, I believe everyone should experience and contemplate the connectedness between people and landscape that the Silo Art Trail depicts. Just be prepared.

Where to stay

Being influenced by tourist information advising that Hopetoun is a great base for exploring the gigantic artworks that comprise the Silo Art Trail, we broke our journey for the night in Hopetoun. Both my sister and I strongly recommend you don’t do this. The only accommodation in town was very basic (that I can live with), but my room was filthy. On top of this, our food choices were extremely limited and tasteless.

The Quality Hotel Lakeside in Bendigo (our ‘home’ for 3 night), at 286 Napier Street, is located opposite Lake Weeroona and a stone’s throw from ‘The Boardwalk’ where we had breakfast each morning. A modern hotel, our balconied rooms were very large, with king-sized bed, comfortable lounge, writing desk and tea/coffee making facilities. The hotel also had a guest laundry.

In Ballarat, we stayed at Craig’s Royal Hotel – 10 Lydiard Street, South Ballarat. Located in the historical part of Ballarat across the road from Her Majesty Theatre, this luxury boutique hotel was comfort plus with an old-world charm. Craig’s Royal Hotel has been a Ballarat icon since 1853.

The drive from Ballarat to Sea Lake, at 405 kilometres, or from Bendigo to Sea Lake, at 357 kilometres, can be done in one day. This is not excessive and easily accomplished with plenty of time to view each of the silo artworks. Don’t make the mistake we made stopping for the night along the Silo Art Trail.

In Sea Lake we stayed at the Sea Lake Motel on the Calder Highway (93 Railway Avenue, Sea Lake). Our room (the only time we shared a room on this road trip) was small and basic, but clean. The now renovated Hotel (pub) on the main street in town may be a better accommodation option.

Painting of your man on concrete grain silo and yellow car near silo

Patchewollock silo art of Nick Holland and car. The end of Victoria’s Silo Art Trail

What did surprise me was the lack of infrastructure to support tourism along the Silo Art Trail. I’m not referring to the roads. They were in good condition that my little car had no trouble traversing. If the Silo Art Trail has any hope of encouraging financial sustainability of the towns in questions through tourism and saving them from extinction, then appropriate places to eat and sleep are crucial. We would have seen a maximum of 3 other couples visiting these murals. I can understand that people are loathe to open cafes and accommodation when the tourists aren’t there to generate a viable business enterprise. It’s a bit like which comes first, the chicken or the egg. What are your thoughts on this?

 

 

I would like to leave you with a comment from my sister as she summed up her experience of the Silo Art Trail.

“At first I was not overwhelmed by the silo art. But on reflection, the use of these giant canvases to reflect community has been interesting and something to remember. Some of them, and their place in the landscape, have affected me. It would be good to go back and look at them quietly and reflect on the landscape.”

For my sister, the people in the murals were of the landscape. Her desire to return is based on a need to further examine the connection between landscape and the art themselves.

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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 a copyright of Joanna Rath.

For more on Australia’s silo art, read:

Unique Silo Art Celebrates Local Communities and Fauna

3 of the Best Things to See and Do in Rochester

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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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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