Malta: Cultural Melting Pot

Roman Catholic Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta

The history of Malta dates back a long time (5900 BC). It has been occupied by many different cultures: Sicilians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. Followed by the Arab period. And not to forget the French and the British. The reason for all this is the strategic position of the island Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, being surrounded by many ports of various countries. You can imagine that all these cultures had a substantial influence on the island.

View from hotel

Birzebbuga We stayed in a hotel in Birzebbuga, right next to the sea. There was a small, half circle sand beach in the middle of the city. It was nice weather, so immediately after arrival we took a dive in the sea. Many locals enjoyed the refreshment of the water. Some were serious swimmers, others had a “tea party” in the water.

Waterfront Valletta, from 3 Cties

Valletta is the capital of Malta. We visited it several times. It is nice to wander through the streets and enjoy its long waterfront. The picture on top of this post is one of the many churches in Valletta. On the right a view of downtown Valletta from Cabo Isla, part of the 3 Cities. At the bottom of this post a view from Sliema. On one of our visit we went to The Knights Hospitallers where an excellent guide told us about the role of the Knights of Malta in the hospital during the many religious wars.

House in Mdina

Mdina is a fortified city which used to be the capital until the medieval period. Its nickname is “Silent City”. Only a few hundred people still live in the city, the rest live in the neighbouring city called Rabat. Mdina is like an open-air museum. You can walk for hours through tiny streets connecting small squares with churches and restaurants. On the right just an arbitrary house. It shows that in the past many wealthy people lived in Mdina. It is well kept and definitely worthwhile to pay a visit.

Tourist swimming at Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon is famous for a small lagoon of the island Cominotto where the water turns turquoise because of the sun. It is really nice to visit, although you have to realize that you are not the only one. To get there, you take a small ferry from Cirkewwa to Cominotto. It was quite windy, which caused some people to scream. The place was really crowded and because of the wind the turquoise color was not as bright as we had hoped for. On the right you get an impression of Blue Lagoon (already sold via Dreamstime).

In Birzebbuga we were kind of disappointed about the quality of the restaurants. Therefore, we often had dinner in Valletta and Marsaxlokk. The latter is a small neighbouring village of Birzebbuga. On the way we walked along several small harbours full with fishermen’s boats (see on the right).

Arriving in Marsaxlokk we had a hard time making a choice for a restaurant. There were many good restaurants although they were not famous for vegetarian meals. The last day we went to the restaurant Tartarun, it is a high quality, family-run restaurant and it specialises in fresh ingredients, especially fresh fish. Both fish and vegetarian meals were excellent. Tartarun is located at this small square (see on the right). This restaurant is definitely worthwhile a visit to Marsaxlokk.

Waterfront Valletta, from Sliema

End of WW II: 75 years ago

C.T. Stork square in Tuindorp, Hengelo – Historical Place in Hengelo

This year, 2020, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. For example, on January 27th 1945 the extermination Camp Auschwitz was liberated by the Russians; April 3rd 1945 Hengelo was liberated. All of us have family members or friends that vividly remember what happend in WW II. Everybody agrees that what happened in this war should never happen again.

Kindergarten: green doors on the right

Last year I was contacted by Johanna Lemke about some of my pictures of buildings around the C.T. Stork square. She told me that she went to kindergarten in Tuindorp (Hengelo); this kindergarten is now part of Hotel ‘t Lansink. Shortly after WW II, she, together with the rest of her family, migrated to Canada. Recently she decided to write her memories of that period: an innocent, pre-school child noticing the characteristics of a war and experiencing the behaviour of soldiers.

The book is called: Enemy Under Our Roof written by Johanna M.W.F. Lemke. Below you find the back cover description of the novel:

The novel will be available as of April in Boekhandel Broekhuis in Hengelo, and there is a chance that Johanna Lemke will come to Hengelo to participate in the celebration of liberation of Hengelo (April 3rd, 1945).

Two of my pictures of the C.T. Stork square are included in the novel. It was quite an honour to have email conversations with Johanna Lemke about her upcoming book and to be able to contribute a little bit to the book. As of April I would like to invite you to Boekhandel Broekhuis to get a copy of the novel yourself. It can also be purchased on line at Friesen Press Online Bookstore, Amazon.com (with look inside submission), Apple iTunes/iBooks, and a number of bookstores as well as libraries in Canada.

Reading this book will be a way to remember things that should never happen again.

Bern: the Old City

In the previous posts about our holiday in Grindelwald, I discussed Jungfraujoch and hiking. This blog is about our visit to Bern.

Because our chalet in Grindelwald was next to a railway station we decided to go to Bern by train. It took us via Interlaken to Bern Main Station, right next to the Old City (Alstadt). From there we walked to the Building of Parliament (Bundeshaus). On the right a picture taken from the Kirchenfeldbrücke across the river Aare (see map below), which almost completely curves around the Old City. The river is amazingly green.

While crossing the Kirchenfeldbrücke, looking into the other direction, we had a spectacular view of the cathedral of Bern (Bern Minster) and the houses along the Aare. Its construction started in 1421 and it was built in Gothic style. It is the tallest Cathedral in Switzerland (100m).

After paying a visit to the cathedral we walked on to the Nydeggbrücke, where I took some more pictures. On the way, there were many small shops and restaurants. Like the rest of Switzerland, everything is clean and orderly. Via the northern part of the Old City, alone the Aare, we returned to the railway station. It was an enjoyable day.



Below the pictures of Bern that are accepted by Dreamstime:

Short visit to Finland

Our short short visit Finland started of course in Helsinki. It was late May and we had wonderful weather, although it was a bit chilly. From the main railway station in Helsinki we walked to the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral, the White Cathedral. The building is really impressive, especially when viewed from the lower stairs. When we were there, a group was rehearsing for a music concert for the evening. A big stage right in front of the building made it a bit challenging to take pictures.

White Cathedral

As you can see the white building against a blue sky gives a really nice picture. By the way, this picture has been sold via Dreamstime. After that we continued our walk to the Uspenski Cathedral, the Red Cathedral.

Red Cathedral

Helsinki is a very nice place to visit: impressive buildings, the harbour, a lot of green. Not an average capital of a large country.

Time to explore nature. In Finland they have a lot: an enormous number of lakes and many woods. Nuuksio National Park is a nice example of the wonderful nature of Finland. However, it is close to Helsinki, which means that is also attracts many tourists.

Lake in Nuuksio National Park north of Helsinki

Our next stop was the cottage of friends in the neighbourhood of Lappeenranta at the largest lake of Finland: Saimaa Lake. The Finnish really enjoy nature and silence. Below the view from the cottage during sunset.

Sunset at Saimaa, largest lake of Finland, near Lappeenranta

Our short visit to Finland was wonderful. We really enjoyed being part of the beautiful nature.

All pictures in this blog were accepted by Dreamstime.

Two cities in one weekend: Frankfurt and Wiesbaden

Frankfurt am Main


 
On Saturday I visited Frankfurt. I took the regional train from Wiesbaden, where we stayed overnight, to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof I walked via the Willy Brandt Platz to the famous Eiserner Steg, an iron bridge for pedestrians, crossing the river Main. From there you can see on the one side the Church of the Three Kings and on the other side the mixture of high-rise office buildings next to the old city center. 

Church of Three Kings

View from Eiserner Steg

Then I walked to Römerberg (Roman Mountain), the Town Hall square. Here you see all the old buildings. This square being the center dates back to the Middle Ages. The place was crowded, so it was not easy to take nice pictures. Below some impressions.

The next stop, before going back to the train station, was the Alte Oper, the former opera building, which is now used as music hall. As you can see, people were really enjoying the perfect weather.

Alter Oper

Here you can see all the pictures of Frankfurt accepted by Dreamstime.

Wiesbaden


 
On Sunday I made a tour through Wiesbaden. Via a park with a small pond in the river Salzbach I went to the Marktkirche and the Neue Rathaus. 

New Town Hall and Market Church

Kochbrunnenplatz

From there I walked, via Kochbrunnenplatz (above Cafe del Sol with the nice tree), all the way up to the Russian-Orthodox Church on the Neroberg. This was quite a climb. It is one of the oldest Russian-Orthodox churches in West-Europe with its typical architecture with golden onion-shaped domes.

Russian-Orthodox Church

On the way back I passed the Saint Bonifatius church at the Luisenplatz. 

Saint Bonifatius Church

Walking through Wiesbaden was quite enjoyable, all the nice houses, churches, buildings. You can see the richness of the city everywhere.

In most cases I used my 16-35mm lens and used the correction perspective Upright of Lightroom to avoid “diagonal buildings”. 

Here you can see all the pictures of Wiesbaden accepted by Dreamstime.

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Overwhelming Granada

After Cordoba our next stop during our trip through Andalusia was Granada. Our hotel was in Albaycin, known as the Muslim quarter, and just as Alhambra on the list of World Heritage of UNESCO. It still has its original narrow and winding streets going all the way up to the top of San Nicolas. The taxi that took us to our hotel barely fitted the narrow streets.

The first thing we did was walk down to the Rio Darro passing through Albaycin to enjoy the view of the magnificent Alhambra.

Nasrid Palaces and Alcazaba, Alhambra and Albaicin, Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is really impressive to see the Nasrid Palace, the Palace of Charles V, and Alcazaba, the fortress of Alhambra, being the oldest part of Alhambra.

Get your tickets via Internet as soon as possible. If you try to arrange it on the spot, it may happen that only awkward times are available. Our timeslot was a couple of days ahead at the end of the day. So, we first visited the Museum of Sacromonte Caves. It exhibits the way people lived in caves and also discusses the link with flamenco.

Museum Sacromonte Caves

Here are some pictures of Albaycin we took during our strolls through the narrow, winding streets going from one church to the next mirador.

Our next visit was the part of Alhambra for which no tickets are needed, for example the Palace of Charles V.  It is a very dominant, square building which stands right in front of the entrance of the Nasrid Palace. On the outside it looks like a solid cubic building filled with a lot of rooms. To our surprise the middle is a huge open circular space.

Circular patio in Palace Charles V

One evening I tried to take a nightspot of Alhambra. So, we went to Mirador San Nicolas. I was not the only one. Even using the tripod was not enough. The exposure times were long and there were a lot of people walking around me. The picture taken was my iPhone X came out slightly better.

Alhambra by night

The next day we visited Generalife, Alcazaba, and Nasrid Palace. Generalife is a kind of summer palace with beautiful gardens, patios, terraces, and fountains. A real joy to just walk around and enjoy the beauty.

Patio of the irrigation ditch of Generalife, Alhambra
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Alcazaba forms the oldest part of Alhambra and is a two-towered fortress. It was used to defend the region.

Alcazaba, fortress of Alhambra, Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Standing in line to visit the Nasrid Palace, I realised that we were about to enter something special. So many people, specific time slots for entering, and very strict guardians, especially regarding backpacks. 

Entrance Nasrid Palace

Although you get the feeling that you are entering the palace from the rear door, you immediately get overwhelmed by the beauty of the walls, the ceilings, the patios, the Lion fountain. Everywhere you look you see impressive art work showing a very high level of knowledge of science and technology. The beauty really overwhelms you. Here are some really beautiful pictures of the Nasrid Palace.

The last attraction in Granada we visited was the Cathedral. Below a view of the Cathedral and the city from Alcazaba.

Aerial view of Granada Cathedral and city of Granada
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is an impressive cathedral with huge pillars and beautiful ceilings. In the pictures I mainly concentrated on the lines of the pillars and the curves of the ceiling.

Granada — staying in Albayzin, visiting Alhambra, strolling around in the city — really overwhelmed us. It is definitely a place to visit over and over again.

Here are all the pictures of Alhambra accepted by Dreamstime at Flickr.

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Impressive Cordoba

After Sevilla our next stop during our trip through Andalusia was Cordoba. Our apartment was right across the river Guadalquivir close by Mezquita. So, everyday we crossed the Roman Bridge and enjoyed live music almost all hours of the day.

Mezquita and Roman bridge in Cordoba
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The winding streets in the quarter behind the Mezquita are nice to wander around, do some touristic shopping, having a delicious lunch, ending up in tea houses, like Salon de Té, or having an excellent diner at Gourmet Iberico.

Of course, the Mezquita is one of the most important tourist attractions in Cordoba. We had arranged a guided tour to know more about the history of the Mezquita. It is fascinating to see the co-existence of an Islamic mosque and a Roman Catholic church: there is actually a large cathedral in the middle of the mosque. Inside it is already impressive, however, seeing it from the top of the bell tower makes you realize the sheer size of it.

Roof of Mezquita in Cordoba
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

One day we went beyond the winding streets and walked to Plaza de las Tendillas, a nice square with fountains and a statue of El Gran Capitan.

Plaza de las Tendillas

From there we walked to Palacio de Viana, a nice palace with many courtyards. Here are the pictures that were taken on the way.

Talking about courtyards, we also took a tour along a number of private patios. Of course, in September it is not as colorful as in June, however, it was nice to listen to the proud owners of these patios explaining all kinds of details and how they water the plants. Here are some pictures of these patios on Flickr.

Cordoba, being the last Islamic capital in Spain, really impressed us. We really enjoyed crossing the Roman Bridge everyday and being immersed in the mystique mixture of Islamic and Christian culture.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I add to this my tripod (Roman Bridge and Mezquita)
  • indoors I use my camera and the wide-angle lens (16-35mm)
  • for street photography, panoramic and live pictures, and when I travel light, I use my iPhone X, the pictures are of amazing quality, even when it is dark.

Here are all the pictures of the Mezquita accepted by Dreamstime at Flickr.

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Hiking around Tubbergen

Tubbergen

Last week I decided to hike in the neighbourhood of Tubbergen, a small village in the eastern part of the Netherlands. On this hiking website for the region Twente I found a nice hike, called Schultenwolde; a little bit more than 10 kilometers.

Before leaving home I downloaded the GPX file and uploaded it to my Komoot website. I always use the Komoot app to get directions, to record my GPS track, and to match the pictures I take with my iPhone with my hike. The Komoot app on my iPhone gives me spoken directions in English and the directions are also visible on my Apple Watch. So, it is next to impossible to get lost.

 

The first part of the hike took me along a small creek, called Markgraven.

Markgraven

The weather was perfect, not too hot, a bit windy, and nice big white clouds posted against a deep blue sky. The nice thing about the hike is that the part along the creek is not on paved roads, the Komoot app calls it off grid.

On the way back I walked through the fields around Tubbergen. As you can see it has been an extremely dry summer. On the horizon you can see the upper part of the tower of the Saint Pancratius Basilica in Tubbergen.

Fields around Tubbergen, the Netherlands,
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

While entering the village I took the picture at the top of this post. Being back in the village I decided to take some pictures of the basilica. The upper part of the tower of the Saint Pancratius Basilica was renovated about 40 years ago (the bricks are a bit lighter). 

Saint Pancratius Basilica in Tubbergen, the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here two more pictures of the church at Dreamstime: Pancratius from the front left and Pancratius from the front right.

Thumbs up for this hike and this village.

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Strolling through the streets of Alicante

Harbour of Alicante in Spain
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Alicante is a nice Mediterranean port on the east coast of Spain. From The Santa Barbara Castle you have a nice view of the harbour and the city. Walking down from the castle you end up in a mesh of very narrow streets and squares, going up and down stairs. It is a beautiful part of the old city.

Calle San Rafael in Alicante
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is a very colourful neighbourhood with lots of red, blue, and yellow. And, of course,  many plants. 

Blue in the streets of Alicante

It is wonderful to stroll through these colourful streets of Alicante and taste the history and the Arab influences (the palmtree is just an example). Enjoy the pictures of the streets of Alicante.

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Sightseeing Xi'an (2)

If you want to know more about my first day in Xi’an, click here.

Breakfast Crowne Plaza in Xi’an

After a good breakfast, the second day we strolled on the Xi’an City Wall. The original fortification was built in the 14th century. It is one of the oldest city walls in China. As a tourist you have to pay a small fee to get access to the wall, for the inhabitants of Xi’an it is free, once a month. The wall is in excellent condition; it is even possible to take a bike ride on it.
Biking on City Wall Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The parks and streets next to the wall are actively used for gymnastic exercises, playing music, and singing. Also, there was a colorful market (as you can see in the album). 
Gym in park next to City Wall Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Just before lunch we visited the Muslim Quarter. The streets are full of shops and tiny restaurants. You can get a wide variety of  delicious small snacks. It is a colorful and lively quarter. Next time I need to spend more time in this quarter to visit the mosque as well.
Beiyuanmen Muslim Market in Xian, China
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

After lunch at the famous Hai Di Lao Hot Pot Restaurant, I went off to the airport to fly to Beijing to visit Tsinghua University. Xi’an is defintely worth paying a visit.
Here are the pictures of Xian that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used my general-purpose Nikkor lens: 28-300mm.
And here the street photography pictures I took in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an.
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