The packing of my bag didn’t take very long! Discarded a lot of my ” rubbish”! I am allowed ten kilos of hand luggage on this flight, and I am determined to manage this!! The wonderful cleaner and cook at the hostel seemed very pleased with her bag of ” goodies”! Dear Amadeu had promised me on Friday a free ride to the airport! He also has very, very good wifi in his agency. So of the historic town I went! I have no idea WHY I thought it is ” incredibly” far! It all seems so close now!
The lovely driver, who took me on the weekend tour, also dropped me off at the airport! He spoke a bit of Spanish, and slowly in Portuguese, so we chatted all the way! I had been able to reduce my backpack to seven kilos! Very impressed!
This was also the first time, that I received a ” full body search”! It must have been the dread locks!! But no, it was my knee brace setting of all the alarms! Oops!
I paid an extra couple of dollars to have a roomy window seat, it is only a three hour flight, but I saved a lot on the taxi, so there you go! Who would walk on board but Raoul and Mauro? This is so exiting! I had just published the story about him missing the boat! Oops! Plus I put his photo, that I took, on line as well! I normally DO ask people if they mind! But I didn’t have their contact details, so couldn’t!
The flight went quick. All movies are dubbed over in Portuguese so I picked the Life of Pi, which I have seen many times, so I know what is going on. Before the movie finished we were ready to land. I took a bus from the air port and arrived at the bus station an hour later. The first thing I noticed was how incredibly clean this town was compared to Manaus and Belem. I didn’t see any rubbish until I got to the bus station itself. Then a taxi to the hotel and check in.
The room was simple. Single bed, which is very unusual. Hot, hot water in the shower! After sending loads of messages to Vitor, his family and Nina’s friends, I finally went to bed at eleven at night! Slept like a babe, another very hot shower and an amazingly good breakfast buffet, one of the best so far! Vitor’s dad, Jayme, was coming to pick me up! I was invited to stay with them! A room had been prepared for me! I didn’t expect this at all. I thought may be a meal together or a few drinks one night, instead the Brasilian hospitality showed itself in full force!
Jayme and Liane took me out for a buffet lunch with all the special foods from the province of Minas Gerais. After my huge breakfast I overdid the lunch, as it all looked very delicious! In the evening we went to a pub to drink some local beer from the area. That night my stomach let me know that this was NOT the way to live anymore and I paid for it all with terrible stomach cramps all night! Bummer!!
On Wednesday I had planned to go to Inhotim, the largest out door gallery space in the world! Jayme dropped me off in the morning and I spend the whole day in artist heaven!! It was totally impossible to see it all. There are over twenty galleries. Each with their own exhibitions. My most favourite was the black and white photography from Claudia Andujar. A Swiss born artist ( Claudine Haas) who lived with the Yanomami, in the village of Maturaca (Amazonia) for over seven years. Her photos were just awesome! I took photos on my camera of the black and white photos, I spend a lot of time in this gallery and it was by far my favourite.
A lot of the art were video installations, in the dark, I felt I was living in the dark as most of it I didn’t understand! The complex is so incredibly huge that in the end it was my legs that decided where I would go to! Several of the pavilions were closed due to exhibition changes. Some of the galleries had long queues waiting to enter. These I skipped altogether, as I had only limited time. I have learned in my life that it is humanly impossible to see all that life has to offer us, one needs to make choices all the time! Although I do my best to see as much as I can, I am aware of my personal limitations.
The grounds of Inhotim are also impressive. Many artificial lakes reflect the pavilions into the water. Creating spectacular images for photographs. I wish I had taken more notes, but by the end it became a survival of slowly going from one to the next with the least amount of pain! There were small tourists carts driving around, but I should have bought my ticket at the entrance, which is interesting as there was nobody at the entrance when I arrived! All together it was an amazing day spend in fabulous surroundings, seeing so much creativity made me one to go home and draw and paint again!
The next day I had planned to go to Ouro Preto, but as I had a late start Liane and I decided to spend the day at Liberty square. What an amazing place that is! In the centre of the town is a huge park, with all old, and new, buildings surrounding a square. Each building has a museum or a gallery. We spend hours in the museum and afterwards we found out that there was a retrospective exhibition of Paul Klee in one of the galleries. As he is one of my favourite artists, I thoroughly enjoyed spending time looking, studying and enjoying these beautiful works.
Afterwards we went out and had lunch, I was in desperate need for a strong coffee, to keep the body moving. In the afternoon we went to the Fiat exhibition, were I saw my very first car on show, a Fiat 500, except mine had the door handle at the other side! I also took a photo of a sculpture and was told off, no photos! Interesting as the Paul Klee had no such restrictions except that you were not allowed to take “selfies” at the exhibition! Go and figure!
Exhausted, wanting to go home, but being close to the ninety year old market, we pushed on. The market was amazing! Lots of products, especially from Minas Gerais, were avaiLable for tasting. Lots of sweets, cheese and alcohol to taste. Some good, some bad and some down right ugly! After so much fun it was time to ” vamos toma uma ” to go and have a drink!! Liane and I shared a cold beer at the bar! Another fabulous day had passed!!
I am so enjoying this town. And Brasil, it will be hard to leave next week!! My last day I had planned to go and visit the old colonial town of Ouro Preto. A small town two hours away. Still the same way as over three hundred years ago. Jayme and I had gotten up early journey would take two hours by bus. Jayme asked if I had my passport on me, to buy the ticket. Hey? You need a passport for that! I had a copy and I know the number, that should do it. Except when I came to the busstation at 6.30 am and my copy was nowhere to be found ( it was in my other note book, I had bought a new one!!) and without photo ID one can NOT travel in Brasil. You live and learn every day.
It took awhile but I managed to catch a bus back to the family s home, pick up my passport and Jayme returned me to the bus station! Feeling incredibly stupid, exhausted and grumpy I was in the colonial town at twelve thirty. It was worth it! The little town was an absolute gem. Lots of restored old buildings, little churches every where. Two art galleries, museum and lots of old cobble stone streets. Ouro Preto is famous for its sandstone sculptures, and there was a huge market selling lots of sand stone products.
All much too heavy, must keep my backpack under ten kilos, so I didn’t buy anything. However it was wonderful watching the stone carvers at work! Wandering up and down the uneven cobble stone streets was enjoyable only for a few hours! After five hours it was exhausting. I caught the six o clock bus back to BH. Caught a taxi home and spend a wonderful evening with the family. Tomorrow I am catching a bus to Macae, where I will meet my friend Gina. The sad part being that Vitor is coming home tomorrow, and again I will miss him to say good bye!
This is a hard part of travel, you make new friends, only to move on again, never knowing if we see each other again!!
Cartagena is full with art. Hereby no story, just photos! Enjoy!
The bus trip took eighteen hours, not thirteen! The Lonely Planet as well as the bus station told me it was ” only” thirteen hours! They both lied. I actually wonder if the travel writers actually ever catch a local bus? Just wondering. Totally exhausted I arrived at the Viajero hostel. It was extremely hot! A cold beer went down well! The American cup was playing! Happy hour was filled with young people on their mobile phones! Interesting concept. A courtyard full of young people and nobody talking! After the match finished, it was Salsa class! I was too tired to do anything else but shower and go to bed. Explorations will start tomorrow!
What a town, what a wonderful, wonderful town. People had told me two nights is sufficient. It probably is, if you are not an artist. I just loved, LOVED the colours! All the houses are in different colours, bright and different! Each house a different combination. Every where huge Bougainvilleas, adding extra colour to the colours. The town historical centre was built in 1533. Compared to the lovely Spring like climate of Medellin, it is stinking hot!
It is just a fairy tale city, and according to the Lonely Planet, and every tourist I spoke to, Cartagena de India is the most beautiful city in Colombia. I have a tendency to agree! It was a main Spanish port, it was from Cartagena the Spanish shipped their stolen gold and treasures back to the Motherland. This of course attracted the Pirates, who were looking for an easy “take away” treasure system. Lots of sieges where fought here, one of the most famous battles was led by the British pirate, Francis Drake, in 1586. Of course the Spanish responded, they made Cartagena an impregnable port, that is when elaborate walls around the old town were build and a chain of forts was constructed. Plenty of old canons and guard houses decorate these walls. A pleasant coolish Caribbean sea breeze is blowing. A lovely place to walk around and stay cooler. It is hot, it is very, very hot.
My favourite place, plaza de la Inquisición, or plaza Bolivar, after Simon Bolivar’s statue on a horse in the centre of the plaza. Plenty of huge old trees, which could have been planted by the first Spanish invaders, give a welcoming shade. The plaza is surrounded by some of the most beautiful, balconied colonial buildings. Everywhere you look you see post card scenes. Lemonade, ice cream, coffee and bracelet sellers try to get rid of their products. Beggars galore. A foreigner is an easy target, especially one who spends a week here! I bought one bracelet, to stop the hassle of all other sellers! This is NOT the place to buy anything. Over priced, very expensive, extremely touristy, but early in the morning explorations worthy of every drop of sweat!
All the churches were closed, although I did enter the Cathedral during mass. It was not appropriate to take photos. Work on this Cathedral began in 1575, but while it was still being built, the prates, Francis Drake used his canons to destroy it! It took quite awhile to finish it, 1612. I did visit the Convent of San Pedro Claver, a monk ( 1580-1654) who lived and died here. He was called the “apostle of the blacks or the ” slave of the slaves” as he spend his entire life helping the enslaved people from Africa. He was also the first Saint in the New World!(1888)
The gold museum was closed for renovations, but as I will visit the gold museum in Bogota, I was not too upset! I did visit the Castle of San Felipe de Barajas. It is the biggest and greatest fortress ever built by the spaniards in any of their colonies. It was quite small when they began construction in 1630. Then in 1657 they built a fort on top of the 40 meters high San Lazaro hill. It was then extended in 1762, which resulted in the entire hill being covered with this powerful bastion.
Beaches are promoted by every tour seller in Cartagena. I visited the tranquila beach! I did a tour as local transport was complicated and ended up nearly as expensive as going on a tour. I had met a lovely woman from Denmark, Julie, and we decided to make this tour together! Tranquility was the last thing to be had there! It took over an hour to pick everybody up from their hotels. The drive to the beach was a lot n one de t the congestion in the traffic. It is school holidays, so every Colombian and their dogs went to the same beach! Then, finally, after all the Colombians on the tour spend nearly an hour in the little shop, buying snacks, sweets and shoes, we finally walked to the beach!
I wish somebody could have filmed my face!! The beach of tranquility! It was anything BUT tranquil! Beach bars were touching each other as far as the eyes could see! Each and every one blaring Latin American music, none of it the same though. Then people on the beach playing their own Colombian rap. It was an absolutely, unbelievable scene. It took me about ten minutes to adjust, drop the expectations, and enjoy this complete chaos. There where thousands of sellers, ice cream, bracelets or massages, each an everyone blowing whistle or a horn.
Jet skies roaring so close to the swimmers it was a scary experience. People with no experience at all losing control of their jet ski. At one stage, two people swimming, were nearly beheaded! A young girl on a jet ski had no idea how to steer or brake her machine. I had just come out of the water and watched in horror, there was just nothing I could do. My brain was desperately searching for the Spanish sentence ” get the hell out of the water”. The owner of the jet was running along the beach, jumped in and yelled at the young girl, he somehow managed to grab the brakes and turn her away from the disaster. The two teenage girls on the jet ski thought it was hilarious, and kept laughing and giggling, until the man took the jet ski away from them. I was completely horrified. As a former life guard and swimming instructor this is just not acceptable. Occupational health and safety is not a big issue here in Colombia! I stayed out of he water for the rest of the day, enjoyed my lunch and couldn’t wait to get back to the backpackers!
It was time to move on! Santa Marta next, then hike to the Lost City!
Marvellous Medellin was a complete surprise. A huge crowded city which at first encounter fails to impress. Crazy traffic, polluted, encounters with homeless people, refugees from Venezuela and drug addicts it was a shock to the system. The history of this city is one of murders, drugs and complete violence. Since the drug boss, Pablo Escobar, was murdered by the police in 1993 the city improved immensely. I started to explore the city.
The Plaza de Esculturas, with 23 huge sculptures by Fernando Botero (1947)was mightily impressive. So was the museum on the same square. Medellin has a spring like climate, so it was lovely weather to explore. There are lots of green parks. The city has striking public art!
I had seen one of the large human sculptures of Botero in Armenia. Not realising the artist was Colombian!
Barrio 13 with its huge murals, is a showcase of social engineering! Not so long ago it was the most dangerous place to wander through. Disappearing people and children was a daily occurrence. Gang violence, drug dealers and other unpleasant practises were the order of the day. The government decided to step in, offered electricity and other bribes, I believe free education was one of them, and managed to turn the whole area around.
It is now a huge tourist attractions and a stark contrast to the other Barrios, who haven’t been so fortunate to get a make over! I thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring all the art on display. I visited the Arvi park which you can only visit by cable cars! Not a pleasant experience! I did an hour tour through the jungle, looking at different orchids, plants and bird life.
Afterwards I decided I better start practising for my hike to the Lost city, and walked for about five kilometres to the waterfall. This lovely family stopped gave me a lift. We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together. They were even kind enough to drop me off right at my hostel! The kindness of Colombian people is overwhelming.
I decided to make a day tour to Guatape, catching the local bus. It is a lovely historical village with a huge monolith, that you can climb. It has 740 steps, I looked at it, decided in this heat 1580 steps was too much for my knees and my overall well being! So no go! According to the opinionated Hungarian woman on the bus next to me, I MUST climb it, why else did I go to this village? I am totally allergic to the word MUST, so I immediately declined the climb altogether. This lady had just spend the last two hours telling me all about Australia and Cooper Pedy, how to get there, how to go “noodling” and overall HOW to be Australian! Interesting woman!
Some people you can not have a conversation with, so I just let her talk about her experiences of the two weeks she lived in Australia, and let her believe she was now definitely an ” expert” on everything Australian! She was shocked I travelled ” without a plan”!! This was NOT good in her opinion! I would only have BAD experiences! I smiled a lot! Didn’t say much, definitely becoming “Zen” like! No longer have the need to go into discussions with people, who have strong opinions! Not that long ago I was one of them myself!
Guatape was lovely. A colourful little town, which is famous for its reliefs on the facade on all the buildings. Apparently they were made to deter chickens from pecking at the buildings, and to discourage children to play ball games against the fragile concrete facades. Whatever the reason behind it, it makes for a very attractive display in the small town.
I also made a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia. A wonderfully perserved colonial town, which was founded in 1541. It was the start of the Colombian holiday season, so the bus station was chokker block full. Two bus companies had no buses going, or they were full, didn’t quite get what they meant! I went to a mini bus company who told me that there was a one hour to two hour wait before the next bus! Hm. What to do? I decided to wait for one hour and see how it all went. I had no other plans for the day anyway. After less then half an hour the men called me and asked me if I was travelling alone? Okay, they had one seat left for a bus which left in five minutes!
The traffic was absolutely shocking! Big traffic jams, bottle neck near the toll booth. I decided to just go to sleep and see what would happen! Santa Fe is, according to the Lonely Planet, famous for its carved doors! I walked for over six hours and I saw only one carved door! So that was a bit of a disappointment! However the town was filled with over fifty attractions. I manage to see only twenty, but in the heat that was quite a good effort!
Also there is an old bridge, 1895, designed by Jose Maria Villa, who also designed the Brooklyn bridge! I had no intention of going there, but as I had over an hour to wait for my return bus, I managed to get a cheap offer to visit the bridge on the back of a motor bike taxi. So off we went!he asked if I wanted to walk over the bridge, which I didn’t, so he actually drove the bike over it to the other side! I took some photos, and did not want to visit the souvenir stalls and buy crap I didn’t want!
So back we went! A lovely “slow” drive through a forest. Wind blowing, cooling me down. Here in Colombia speed is a macho exercise, the faster you go, the more macho you are! Especially if you actually make a phone call or text while driving along! I have seen more accidents in the four weeks I have been here, then in my whole year living in India! I had planned to fly to Cartagena from Medellin, but due to the holidays, prices had tripled! Okay, the bus trip was “only” thirteen hours, so I did that! Cartagena , I am on my way!
It was unfortunate planning on my part, that I arrived in Lima, Peru during Semana Santa. The first twenty three hours were wasted on just sleeping! Only to find out that on Thursday and Good Friday all the galleries and musea were closed! I had picked my hostel, just because it was located close to the Museo de Arte Contemporaro. Fortunately my bus to Trujillo left at 10.00pm on Saturday night, which meant I could spend all day indulging myself in the art and culture of Peru. I did however enjoy the many murals and street art the day before.
At the MAC entrance I met a delightful couple from Bath, England. We kept finding each other in front of the same paintings and sculptures. The space was enormous. The museum was opened in 20017 and was indeed very impressive. What I liked was that each work of art was given plenty of space around it, the dark blue walls enhanced the works as well.
There was an enormous painting, which kept pulling me back. It was in black and white, very layered, very intriguing. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was painted by a Dutchman, Gam Klutier, who has been living in Peru since 1981. After googled him, and saw more images of his work on line, I became a big fan. I enjoy the palimpsest intrigue, wanting to see beyond the first layer. I hereby include some more photos of works that I enjoyed.
When Amal and I started talking, she invited me for a coffee. Amal was born in Iraq, an English mother and an Iraqi father. Her husband Salah was originally from Yemen. Salah is a retired eye specialist for children, and Amal is fluent in six languages and works as a translator. Fascinating and interesting people.
We found out that we were going to the same museum afterwards, so they suggested to catch a taxi. Non of the taxies stopped, so I suggested to jump on a local bus instead. Of course my high energy and enthusiasm, made us all jump off at the wrong place! Yeah, well, this is how I travel! It was a huge craft centre, terribly expensive, but magnificent handmade goods. There was a hand crafted bed, which really was a sculpture! Hand woven, hand knitted, gorgeous dresses and jumpers. At two hundred dollars a jumper, I left them in the shop!
We, well, I, decided to walk to the next museum. Pedro the Osma. The building alone was just awesome. It was mainly religious art, but at the back was a delightful, gallery with sculptures. Afterwards my new found friends and I said good bye. I declined to share a taxi, preferring to walk the hour back to my hotel. Passing another gallery called ” MATE”, the Argentinian social drink! It had a great collection of photos by Mario Tesserino, who took the last photographs of Diana, just before her death. He is a famous Vogue photographer. Thoroughly enjoyable!
That night I took the ten hour bus to Trujillo, sleeping for nine and a half hours! I arrived totally rested, I had arranged to an early check in! So I showered, put on my lovely new dress, my friend Kym gave me, and went to the Cathedral of Freedom. Just in time for the Easter service, where first the tragedy in Sri Lanka was acknowledged. The Mass was deeply touching, the bishop speaking slowly and clearly. I nearly understood it all! The cathedral itself was stunningly beautiful. All the ceilings were painted, it was light, bright and very warm and welcoming. On the way out the bishop blessed all the people, he stood still in front of me and said something to me, before I received the blessing! When I turned back to the front, the woman next to me hugged me, while she had tears in her eyes! I have NO idea what all that was about!
That same afternoon I went to the famous Chan Chan site. I had not planned to do tours, but I was rested, had energy and the tours were dirt cheap. All the famous sites near Trujillo are part of the Moche culture, from I-VIII AD. I only knew what I had read in the Lonely Planet. Fascinating history. I went to see El Brujo, where the Lady of Cao, was found in 2005, wrapped in layers of cloth. Found dressed, with all her teeth, hair, dress and jewellery. She was probably between 20 or 25 years old, and might have died in child birth. One of the most beautiful places was the Huancas del Sol y La Luna. Absolutely fascinating!
I had every intention to go to Chiclayo, further north. However, I had booked myself here for three nights, not realising that the only bus to Ecuador, does NOT stop in Chiclayo!! I needed two more days! Shame! Due to jetlag, Easter, and of course bad planning as usual, I am missing out. Ah, well, I found half day tours easier, and more interesting than full days. I have a need to wander around the streets, going to musea, visit old local houses, and take it easy. Leaving for Ecuador tonight. Flying to the Galápagos Sunday morning. I am thinking of coming back this way, time permitting. Ready to go on.
Yerevan, oh Yerevan. What can I say that does you justice? The first thing one notices is the water fountains! Fountains are absolutely every where. Drinking fountains and coffee dispensers on nearly every corner! Large leafy trees provide one with the necessary shade. Yerevan was hot, stinking, boiling hot. Most days it was forty degrees, in the shade!! I had so many plans, but running around in this heat was just not practical! Instead I found a lovely cafe with very friendly staff, and cold, cheap beer! It became my favourite watering hole!
The museum was fantastic. Informative and well set out. It was a tad confusing that they had the national art gallery on the second floor and you needed to buy extra tickets! I saw the works of Minas Avetisyan, an Armenian artist, who died quite young, at age of forty seven in a car crash. His works are vibrant, colourful and stunningly beautiful.
I did a tour of three of the major attractions. Khor Virap, which has Mount Ararat as a back drop. However, it is unusual to see the mountain in the summer time due to the haze. I was fortunate that the fog lifted for about ten minutes and I could see the impressive mountain. The mountain, as the myth has it, was the landing place of Noah’s arc. It was from this mountain that he send the doves to see if the water had diminished. The mountain has always been part of Armenia, and is regarded as a Holy site. Now, however, it belongs to Turkey, which is an on going dispute between the two countries. Needless to say they are not friends.
Khor Virap was build in IV till XVIII, I was disappointed there were no frescoes of importance. When I saw the Armenian churches in the Armenian quarters of Isfahan, Iran, my expectations were set too high! After KHor Virap, my crazy taxi driver, Artur, drove me to Etchmiadzin, the Hripsime church, which was build in 618. (I was suppose to see the cathedral, to this day I am not sure if this church was the cathedral or not! ) Not having a Lonely Planet is a problem at times. I realise how much I rely on the information in the guide book!
Last but certainly not least, we visited Zvartnots. The first cathedral in Armenia, if I am correct. The remains of St Gregory are buried here, or was it St George?? So many Saints, such a small brain to retain all the information given to me! If I had been smart I could have written down the main points of interest!
There is so much to see and do here, it comes down to having the energy and the money. One can do tours, with groups, but only on certain days is one able to visit certain sites. I took a private taxi, which is a tad more expensive, but gives those young people an income as well. Plus it is a lot more fun when one cannot speak a communal language and you need hands, feet and facial expressions to communicate ! We laughed so much. Artur was thirty seven years old and had a seven year old daughter and five year old son. He was keen to show photos of his lovely family, just a shame he was driving while doing so!!
Garni was another fascinating place.i believe it is the oldest pre Christian site in Armenia, it dates from the 8th century BC. The Temple of the god Mihr was beautifully restored. There were ruins of the palace and the King’s bathroom, which had Roman mosaic floors. It threatened to rain all day, and it was extremely overcast. The previous night it had rained profusely, resulting in a rockslide, which closed off the road to Geghard! I had paid Artur to visit both sites, but as this was an act of God, neither of us could help this. We did have an interesting intermezzo with a trail of police cars behind us, sirens blaring, lights flashing, Artur was not disturbed by any of it!
When we were stopped by the police, who had blocked the road, Artur told me it was the president, with his entourage, visiting the rock slide site! Hm! It could have been! I choose to believe him!
I visited the impressive Genocide Museum and monument. Deeply disturbing tribute to the genocide of 1915-1922 , when an enormous part of the population was murdered by the Ottoman Empire. I cried. How anybody can kill small children and innocent babies if beyond my human understanding. ( and still goes on today!) I met a lovely woman from England, Glynis, ( who was also crying ) and we ended up spending the day together, and shared a meal at the end of it. I don’t often eat out, mainly because it is a boring thing to do on my own, and the breakfast at the Bonjour Guest house is so incredibly huge, that I am often not really hungry for the rest of the day. We ended up going back to the museum, and again to see the art of Minas Avetisyan.
Last but certainly not least, was Cafesjian, Center for the arts. An amazing place where I spend nearly a whole day! The main galleries were closed, only open from Friday till Sunday, I happened to be there on a Thursday! Shame! Didn’t have the energy to go back a second time! A sculpture garden and show casing European artist, in a display that changes every couple of weeks.
Glynis was going to Dilijan the next day, and asked if I wanted to come. I had to organise this with the guest house, as I had booked and wasn’t sure if I could change the dates!
So the next day I travelled to Dilijan, high in the mountains, where it would be lovely and cool! Of course it was Murphy’s Law, that the cool change came the night before I left! Go and figure!
At first before I start writing, I need to apologise to Batumi! My first reaction was, ah, tourist action town, Surfers Paradise in Georgia! However, when I went in to town to have lunch with my friend Ozkan, from Turkey, I did some sight seeing! Some of the architecture is just absolutely amazing! Let me just put in the photos and write a discription of the best ones! The photo above is taken from the Ferris wheel, which is at my back, looking towards the Alphabetic Tower. It has the 33 letters of the Georgian alphabet. It is a 135- meter- high structure and it resembles a DNA molecule. The old light house is on the left.
Piazza Square, is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Batumi! Live music is played here daily and the square usually hosts concerts of world famous musicians visiting Batumi. The architecture of Batumi Piazza is distinguished by mosaic and stain glass art. There was only one old man playing when I was there, but he was lovely to listen to! Although in theory, he wasn’t actually in the square!
The Neptune Fountain with the Chavchavadze Batumi State Drame Theatre in the background. The theatre was opened in 1952. The Neptune a Fountain was established in 2010 and is a copy of the Giambologna’s fountain in Bologna, Italy.
Armenian Apostolic Church built in 1885, under the supervision of the Austrian architect Manfred. The church did not function during the Soviet period, it did re -open in 1992.
There are so many more buildings I could write about, but what blew my mind away was the amazing moving sculpture, Ali and Nino.
this 8 meters high sculpture is a symbol of eternal love and understanding amongst the people of different nationalities.
The statue is created by the Georgian sculptor and painter Tamar Kvesitadze and installed in 2010. It moves very, very slowly and then the two become one, only to move slowly away from each other again! It was mesmerising! I regret not taking a video, but it moves so incredibly slow, and I have so little storage on my gadget, that I declined!
I had a lovely lunch with my dear friend Ozkan, and I promise that the next blob will be about Georgian food! I have been eating mainly fruit, as the heat and the high humidity have killed my appetite! Hallelujah! I could be so lucky! I am sure I have lost weight, as I am eating little, drinking lots of water and walking a minimum of five kilometres a day, most of the time, much, much more! Now the rains are here, it is cooler and I relish the starchy food of Georgia! This blob is a tad long, and I could write much, much more! I will save it for another rainy day!
Amidst the most impressive lightening show I arrived in Georgia. The landing, in a lightweight plane, was frightening to say the least! The heavy rain, the enormous thunderstorm, should have prepared me for an intensely, emotional encounter with Tbilisi, Georgia! There is nothing subtle about this place!
Tubilisi is heaven on earth, for artists and creative people alike.The narrow alley ways make for ideal photo opportunities! Every nook and cranny is filled with sculptures, murals or quirky gardens. Garden benches galore! Huge green, leafy trees, intensely green, giving the necessary shade and creating the feeling of secret hideaways, ideal for romantic couples or illegitimate affairs! I have fallen in love with place!
I found my spiritual place in the world! I always felt that way about Florence, but here it is the contemporary artists that make feel like painting, I cried in front of the works of this amazing artist!
At the Zurab Tsereteli Museum of modern art, I saw for the first time in my life, the works of Zurab, and of my most favourite artist of all time, Natela Iankoshvili, a spiritual heir to Pisosmani! This year marks her 100th anniversary of her birth. I cried in front of her work! This only happened twice before! At the Tate gallery, when I saw Munch’s painting of his sick sister, and at van Gogh’s sunflowers! Oh, and at the Jewish bride of Rembrandt! I wasn’t aware that these amazingly bold, strong and powerful paintings were painted by a woman!
I walked around for over three hours, crying, speechless and in total and complete AWE!! I want to be here, live here, and never, ever leave! To imagine, that I am in Georgia by pure “fluke”! I carried a photograph with me, which has no indication where it was taken. I made the assumption that it was in Uzbekistan, where people told me over and over again, no, that is Tbilisi in Georgia! I didn’t hesitate to change my travel plans once again! How glad I am I did! How wonderful is this serendipity in my life! I am here just by pure “fluke” if there is such a thing!
After my wanderings through the gallery, I entered the bookstore and without even hesitating, nor trying to work out HOW much these books were, I bought two books, heavy as, on these two Georgian artists! Google them! Zurab Tsereteli and Natela Iankoshvili! What a talent! How bold and strong they both are! I was fortunate enough to be allowed to take photographs. Although my camera broke yesterday, I have to use the i pad now, but to be allowed to take photos of these wonderful images was such a blessing! I want to paint! This is the same ineke who decided three months ago to give up painting altogether! Okay, so I am allowed to change my mind! It is the privilege of being a woman and an artist, that I can chop and change as pleases me!
Blessed, I feel incredibly blessed, what a country! What a town, what a talent and joy. In case you didn’t realise it as yet! I feel I have come home! I will now have to organise to send some goods home, as these two catalogues weigh a ton! I will also go and look for an art shop! May be I will start painting here! I am seriously considering renting a room, outside a hostel, so I can paint NOW! Here I am, in the coffee shop, drinking a wonderful coffee, looking at my wonderful books, and realising I am in absolute heaven. This is a place for wandering, exploring and being in the here and now. What a town, what a wonderful, wonderful town!
Nukus is the strangest town I have ever been to! My hotel, Jipek Joli ( Silk Road)was right in the ” centre”! The street was full of apartment buildings and shops, BUT ……..they were ALL EMPTY!The whole ” centre” of town looked, well, just “nuked”!
The good news was that the hotel was right next to the biggest and best art gallery in Uzbekistan. Nukus is in the former republic of Karakalpakstan. The desert area with the famous Aral Sea. Of which I will write more in a minute. The Savitsky art gallery is a very pleasant surprise to find in such a desolate place. There is, of course a story attached to it. Let me put the info of the Lonely Planet in my own words. The Savitsky owns more than 90.000 artefacts and pieces of art- including more than 15.000 paintings- which are not all displayed , by the way. Most of the paintings came here during the Soviet times by the artist Igor Savitski, who wanted to preserve the avant garde art scene. The Russians were known to destroy any kind of art works they didn’t like!
I, for one, am glad he choose to preserve some of the most amazing works in the history of Uzbekistani Art. Nukus is literally the last place one would look for such a collection, and the Russians didn’t bother either. In the mean time dear Savitsky ( I wish his name was Smith!) saved a whole generation of contemporary art. One can also visit the store rooms, if one pays for it.
When I arrived it was in the high thirties. Luckily I didn’t have to walk too far. After my first three overwhelming hours in the museum, I was in need of a beverage. Across the road was a coffee shop, which was the only shop which had something in it! The coffee was delicious, and the enormous piece of cake serviced as dinner! All this for a A$1,50! My last piece of cake I promise! No more! Did I mention I get chocolate cake for breakfast every morning?? What a country! Shame that due to my knee and then my ankle, I can not walk the way I am used to and want! Also I might have mentioned the uneven footpaths and roads, that make a good strong walk rather impossible.
So what I am trying to say in a round abound way, is that this chocolate cake goes straight to my broad and cushioned hips!
The second day in Nukus, looked like the Armageddon had arrived. Dust storm, with very salty tasting fine dust, howled through the empty streets. I went back to the museum and spend another four hours, just wandering and enjoying. I was in heaven. Great art, solo, and after telling the staff to take their loud mobile calls outside, in silence! I wandered, sat, dreamt and was in a state of pure Bliss! The entry to the museum was not cheap. A$10 and if I wanted to take photos I had to pay another A$ 35!! This to me was not necessary, thinking I will buy some post cards of my favourite art, or a catalogue! The catalogue however was also the same price as the photo permit, and in the whole shop I managed to buy two postcards! This area could be improved strongly!
As I walked back into the horrific Armageddon atmosphere, I decided to return to the hostel. When I arrived back I realised that there was a museum just next door. It was a small museum, celebrating the life of the first woman, who performed on stage! Ayimxan Shamuratov, was a lovely woman, who was married to a play writer, Amet. They had seven children together. When her husband didn’t return from the Second World War, she had to make a living and she took to the stage. She saved up her money to support the Soviet war efforts, and managed to save enough for a war plane! Why any woman would support a war effort is beyond me, but it takes all sorts, I am sure! The museum was minuscule, walking in these horrid conditions impossible, so back to my room, to read, draw and watch kittens on you tube! Bliss in other words!
On my last day in Nukus, I had planned to visit the four musea mentioned on my maps app! Well, for some reason or other, I ended up at the presidential palace! Before I could knock on the door to see if he was at home, this soldier in a state of panic came running up! Thank god, no guns! Apparently one cannot , and must not knock on the White House doors! I wonder if one could do this in Washington DC? G’day Don, saw the lights on thought I hop in for a beer! Hm! The mind boggles!
After three hours of walking I gave up, found the directions to the archeological museum. According to my gadget, I was there!! The staff, Russian only, called the professor who spoke English! As he lived just around the corner, he came over, took me to the one room of restored artefacts, and explained all. The set up is paid for by the Sydney University on the initiative of an Australian professor! I was grateful for the opportunity to see it all, but to call this one room a museum, is way over the top! Nukus is one of the strangest places I have ever been to! I don’t think I will be back in a hurry!
Time is flying so fast! It is hard to keep up. It is my last day in Shiraz, and I still have so much to do! Firstly going through the small alley ways of the old city, just around the corner of my hotel, Niayesh, is a contemporary art gallery. I had a hard time finding the place, but what a gem! The Lonely Planet glosses over the extend of this contemporary art collection. The gallery was set up by Hassan Meshkinfam. Who studied under Kamal al-Molk, the famous Iranian painter. I was fortunate enough to meet Hassan, and having a good chat about art, Iran and the importance of preserving the history of art and artists. Altogether it was two hours later before I walked out.
There were no taxies parked at the hostel, so I caught one in the street, the driver asked for 80 , when will I learn to classify toman or rials? One lives and learns. It was about five kilometres to the tomb of Hafez. We chatted most of e way, although he didn’t speak very good English, it was still better than my Farsi. When we arrived he asked for 800 rials! That is about twenty Aussie dollars! ( the fare is about three bucks) sometimes in situations like this, all one can do is laugh. Did I laugh! I laughed so much that tears ran over my face! I had to hold my belly, it was cramping! A nearby policeman came over to check what was going on. He spoke a smithering of English, I told him that the taxi driver was the funniest man I had ever met. In the mean time the taxi drive laughed sheepishly with me.
When the policeman stuck his head in to ask what was going on, the driver quickly wrote down 300 rial to show the cop. I decided to solve the problem in typical Libyan fashion. I split the amount in the middle, told him the extra hundred I was giving him, was due to my generosity and it being No Ruz.( new year) I could still here him lament while walking away! This is the second time somebody has tried to rip me off, both taxi drivers! Mind you I have since heard that the taxi drivers are worse in Tehran, which was not my experience at all.
The tomb of Hafez, is a monument to the great poet Hafez. It was packed with people, due to the new year. I met a group of English students, chatted for a while, spend time taking the compulsory selfies, and went back into town. I had not yet visited the Parsi museum, nor the Valik hamman, both high on my list. The taxi tried to negotiate double the price, what is it with these drivers here in Shiraz? I gave him the right fare, wished him a happy new year and went to find the museum. On the way I met a family, with their eighteen year old son.who spoke five languages fluently. His English was just excellent. His parents wanted him to ” guide” me through the gardens,we walked around ( it was very small) I send him back to his parents and I entered the small but exquisite museum.
Next on the list was a visit to the hamman, this one is restored, filled with life sized figures, mainly men, in different stages of bathing. I just love it. Again the place was packed, again I met English students and again hundreds of boring selfies. I survived this ordeal as per usual, and my Instagram followers are climbing in numbers! To treat myself I had a delicious coffee with an even more delicious cheesecake. I sat in the square, just watching the world go by, when a young artist appeared and started to work on the tree cosies, again for the new year! After a long period of time, draining the last drops of my saffron tea, I went to the Bazar.
I love wandering, I love exploring unvisited places. I love bazaars most of all. Just looking at the range of goods to sell. Especially in an age old caravanserai. Knowing that hundreds of years ago people were already here selling their goods. I like the way people hustle and bustle , going on with their daily tasks. Here is me, timeless in a timeless place. Every where I look there is a still life, waiting to be painted. I love to sit somewhere, just watching, listening and smelling this wonderful world, which I am allowed to experience. Going to Yazd soon.
Time is flying! This country is just so amazing! On Tuesday, my young friend Shabnam, came to pick me up. What an adventures we had! First we took the metro! Wow! I mean, I live in a town where we have three traffic lights and 15,000 people! The metro has special carriages for women, which was lovely. We went to this palace first, but the coffee shop and the palace were both closed. ( the palace for renovations) but we were allowed to walk in the amazing garden! Which would be even more amazing in about two weeks time! Spring is in the air, it is lovely during the day. Very pleasant for walking.
Well what to do next? Ah, we are near the museum and library, let’s go there! Good plan! Except minor little detail, there had been an ISIS attack just a few weeks back, and now one has to apply TWO weeks before! The museum has the biggest collection of Kamal Ol-Molk, one of the greatest Iranian painters. Well, having Shabnam with me proved really helpful, we were invited to have lunch in the staff canteen, where we had a fabulous home cooked lunch, dirt cheap.
Two hours later, we caught the bus! Shabnam had bought me the most delicious smoothie ever, with pistachio nuts on top! Oops! I had two back teeth removed this year, and l and behold I cannot eat nuts any more, bummer! So here I am standing on the bus, hanging on for dear life, hand on pole, other one on smoothie, Shabnam whispered that my scarf had fallen down! Okay, now what!? I only have two hands!! She was so incredibly sweet. Gently she pulled my scarf up!
Finally we arrived at her beautiful where I met her gorgeous sister, Shiva, and her lovely mum. Shabnam is an incredibly gifted water colourist, and after a magnificent diner which could have fed an army, we looked through her works, before I was dropped off at my hostel again! What an amazing day! Overwhelmingly friendly people, the way three men put their job on the line to accommodate a complete stranger, the hospitality of Shabnam’s family, I want you all to know that I appreciated every effort you all took today! It was just magic! A big heartfelt THANK YOU!
My work will be hanging in Curdnatta Gallery in Port Augusta for the month of February, so be sure to pop in and have a look.