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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Sightseeing Xi’an (1)

During my recent visit to China I visited four universities. One of them was NPU, where NPU and the University of Twente signed an agreement about student exchange. Below the official ceremony.

Signing Ceremony NPU

After this ceremony I was lucky to do some sightseeing in Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province with two Chinese friends. During the Zhou dynasty it was the capital of China. First, we visited the Terracotta Army, some 50 km outside the city. It is incredible to imagine that these terracotta soldiers date back to roughly 200 BC, and were only discovered as recent as 1974. These soldiers and animals were buried with the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, to protect him. The Terracotta army is a kind of funerary art.

Terracotta Army in Xian
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Later on in the afternoon we visited the Buddhist Da Ci’en Temple and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. The Buddhist temple is popular; quite a few people burn incense sticks.

 

Buddhist Da Ci’en Temple
Burning incense

 

 
 
 
 

My youngest friend persuaded me to climb the seven story high pagoda. Well, I made it, and took some nice pictures of Xi’an. The first version of the pagoda was built in 652.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

At night it is very nicely lit and close by every evening there is a nice fountain performance with music. The squares in the neighbourhood are crowded with groups performing dances.

Xi’an at night
Dancing in Xi’an

This concludes the first day of my visit to Xi’an. After a good diner at Xi Bei You Mian Cun Restaurant with my friends I went back to my hotel.

Xi Bei You Mian Cun

Look here if you are interested in my second day visiting Xi’an.
Here are the pictures of Xian that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used my general-purpose Nikkor lens: 28-300mm.
And here are my album of the pictures I took of the Terracotta Army.

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Enjoying The Hague

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Normally I visit The Hague for business reasons, for example to visit the ministeries. This time it was a short holiday with the family. We stayed in a very nice, spacious apartment of Stayci near the Grote Markt. Every morning we had a luxurious breakfast with Anne&Max near the Saint Jacob Church. It was a real treat. 
It just happened that we walked by an Escher exhibition in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma in The Hague. M.C. Escher is a famous Dutch graphic artist. Besides his earlier work on sketches of buildings, towns, and landscape when he was in Spain and Italy, he is most famous for his “impossible figures”, like the one below. 

Belvedere

One evening we had a wonderful diner in Restaurant La Passione (Italian cuisine). The food was really exquisite. We will definitely visit this restaurant again. Below you will see the owner preparing my dorade with sea salt crust.

Restaurant La Passione

One museum that is always worthwhile a visit is the Mauritshuis (see bottom, yellow building). They have paintings of, among others, the famous Dutch painters Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Jan Steen. One of their pearls is of course the Girl with a pearl earring of Johannes Vermeer.

Girl with a pearl earring

Strolling through The Hague was really enjoyable. The variety in  architecture gave us the feeling that we were abroad. However, the main reason for going was to show our youngest son the political center of the Netherlands: het Binnenhof, with het Torentje (office of the prime minister; see below), and de Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights, see top).

Political center the Netherlands
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Here are the pictures of The Hague that have been accepted by Dreamstime. I used two Nikkor lenses: 28-300mm and 16-35mm.
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Picturesque Ootmarsum

Saint Simon and Judas Church, Ootmarsum
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ootmarsum is a picturesque village in the Netherlands near the German border. Besides being a nice village that preserves its history that goes back to 770 quite well, it is also famous for its art/history-related organisations: galeries, museums, and shops. 
My family had friends coming over from abroad. So, we decided to pay a visit to Ootmarsum. We started with the Educatorium; it is a schoolmuseum. It gives a wonderful insight in how classes, teachers,  learning material, books looked like in the early 1900s. On the one hand, quite a lot of things changed, on the other hand, quite a few things are still the same. 
After that we visited the art gallery of Annemiek Punt. She puts layers of coloured pieces of glass on top each other, which in the oven melt, producing a nice colourful composition. She is one of our favourite artists.
From there, we walked to the Gallery of Ton Schulten, a famous Bocage painter. He has produced many colourful pictures of the shapes of the woods and meadows sceneries in Twente. We actually met him with his dog enjoying coffee in a nearby coffee house. 
In the centre of the village there is the Simon and Judas Church, with its nice front gable (see top). At the bottom there is a nice picture of the tower. Here are some more pictures of lovely Ootmarsum. Our friends really enjoyed it.

Saint Simon and Judas Church, Ootmarsum
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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London through a wide-angle lens

Hatchhards Bookstore
Hatchhards Bookstore

A couple of months ago I visited London for business reasons. I had to go to the Academy of Engineering. Walking through Regent Street I realized I had not been to London since ages. So, my family decided it was time to visit London for a long weekend. I had taken only one lens: my wide-angle lens (16-35mm).
The first day we spent in Westminster: London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, House of Parliament, and via St Jam’s Park to Buckingham Palace. Here are the pictures of the first day.
The second day we past the area of the Horse Guards Parade on to Travalgar Square. From there via Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. There we visited many nice shops, among which Hatchards Bookstore. This was a real treat. Although I am a man of digital gadgets it was really nice to visit a real bookstore.  After that we had high tea in Fortnum & Mason. In the evening we strolled along the Thames. Here are the pictures of the second day.
The third day started at the Tower of London. We crossed the Tower Bridge and went through the area where the old warehouses for tea for example are renovated into apartments. From there we walked along the Thames all the way to Tate Modern. After paying it a visit we ended at St Paul’s Cathedral. Here are the pictures of the third day.
The whole weekend we had perfect weather. Actually, the last day was a bit warm so we visited Hyde Park.
I submitted seven pictures to Dreamstime, all were accepted.
High Tea at Fortnum & Mason
High Tea at Fortnum & Mason

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Berlin: from Reichstag to Museumsinsel

Dom Church
Dom Church

Last week I spent with my family a weekend in Berlin. The first time I went there was somewhere around 1985. In those days West Berlin was still an enclave in East Germany. Of course, nowadays East and West Germany are united, as is Berlin. Although you can still see the remains of the Wall.
I have taken some pictures along our walk with the only lens I had taken: Nikon 16-35mm. Please open them in a separate window, so you can read the blog and see the pictures at the same time.
We started our walk near the Reichstag, the German Parliament (2). From there, you can also see where the Bundeskanzler resides (1). A nice modern building. Right next to the Reichstag is the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma (3).
From there on we went to the Brandenburger Tor (4-6), a well-known landmark in Germany. It is meant to be a sign of peace. It was situated right next to the Wall, and was prominently visible while the wall was teared down.
The next stop was the Memorial to the Jews murdered in Europe (7-9). The site is covered with 2711 concrete slabs of varying height.
On the way to Potsdamer Platz we saw this interesting building (10). Potsdamer Platz is nowadays a very modern center (11-12). To contrast this there are still remains of the original Wall (13).
On the way to Checkpoint Charlie (17-18; the former pass through between East and West Berlin) we passed the indoor and outdoor exhibition called the Topography of Terror (14-16).
Then we went on to the Gendarmenmarkt with two almost identical churches and the Concert Hall in the middle (19-22).
Via Unter den Linden we walked to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) with the Lustgarten in front of it (23-26). After a walk around the Museumsinsel we ended up at the Alte Nationalgalerie (27-30).
Berlin is certainly worthwhile a visit.
Here are the six pictures I submitted to Dreamstime and that were accepted.
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