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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Admiring Sevilla

Plaza de España in Sevilla

Our next stop during our trip through Andalusia is Sevilla. While arriving there we could immediately feel the respectability of an important city, a center of government, a center of power. Also, the taxi driver, showing his proudness for his city, showed us the pavilions of the various South America countries participating in the World Exhibition of 1929. During our stay we visited the pavilion of Peru which is now a Museum of Science. Here are some unprocessed (iPhone) pictures of the city.

Plaza de España
The Plaza de España was also built for the World Exhibition of 1929. With its large, half circle architecture with the two towers at both ends, the canal with rowing tourists, with the colourful bridges, and the enormous square with the fountain in the middle, it is a very attractive place to be, both during the day and in the evening. We visited it several times to take pictures with different lighting and also in the evening when the buildings are nicely lit. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of Plaza de España.

Plaza de España, Sevilla

Alcazar
The Royal Alcazar is a palace. It was built by Christians on the location of a Muslim fortress and is a nice example of Mudéjar architecture, influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship. It is really beautiful. And the gardens are really overwhelming. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of Alcazar.

Patio Royal Alcazar of Sevilla

Cathedral and La Giralda
The Sevilla Cathedral is one of the largest churches in Europe. It is a very impressive Gothic church. I took a lot of pictures of the ceiling. Next to the cathedral is the bell tower, La Giralda. The amazing thing is that it has no stairs. The idea was that you could climb the tower by horse! However,when we were there, there was no horse. Here are some (iPhone) pictures of the Cathedral.

La Geralda in Sevilla

Besides the three attractions mentioned above we went to a flamenco performance in the Flamenco Museum (very nice), we strolled through the Park of Maria Luisa, and we visited the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (very interesting). The days in Sevilla were really enjoyable.

Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, Sevilla

We really admired Sevilla because of its beautiful attractions. However, although it was late September, the temperature was around 37 degrees Celsius. So, we frequently used the swimming pool of the hotel. Sevilla is definitely a city we will visit again.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I add to this my tripod (Plaza de España)
  • 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
  • in the evening at Plaza de España I tried to use Arsenal, however, I could only use it after first performing a firmware update over 3G; so, back in the bag again.

Here you can see the pictures of Sevilla accepted by Dreamstime.

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Malaga: more than Costa del Sol

Malaga: Alcazaba, Cathedral, and Museum of Malaga

Before reading about the region in preparation for our trip to Andalusia, I thought that Malaga was mainly known for its beaches (Costa del Sol). I realize now that Malaga has to offer quite a bit more than that, like the Cathedral, Alcazaba, and Gibralfaro. Also, just wandering through the streets of Malaga is a real treat. Around every corner there is a church, a square, a park, an alley that needs exploring. Here some pictures of parks and plants. In the area around the Alcazaba Roman, Arabic, and Renaissance architecture meet each other. Very inspirational. Furthermore, the early darkness of the warm evenings invites for late dining outside. The food is excellent.

Roman Theatre
Discovered only in 1951 the Roman Theatre is now one of the important tourist attractions of Malaga. It was built in the 1st century and is still used for special types of shows. On the square in front of the Roman Theatre there is always live music attracting a lot of people. Very nice atmosphere.

Roman Theatre by night

Alcazaba
The Alcazaba fortress palace was built in the 11th century by the Moors, partly with material from the Roman Theatre right next to it. It is situated against the Gibralfaro mountain and was later surrounded by the defence walls of Gibralfaro Castle.

Alcazaba and Roman Theatre

Gibralfaro Castle
The Gibralfaro Castle is named after the mountain it is built on. It dates back as far as the 14th century. From the walls you have spectacular views over the city, the harbour, and the sea. It was quite a climb to take this picture.

Malaga from Gibralfaro

Here some pictures of the Roman Theatre, Alcazaba, and Gibralfaro.

Cathedral of Malaga
The Malaga Cathedral was built in Renaissance style within the limits of old Moorish walls. It was suppose to have two towers. However, after the first tower was finished there was no money left to build the second tower. Here some pictures of the cathedral on the outside accepted by Dreamstime.

 

Here some pictures of other churches as well.

We really enjoyed Malaga. Of course we went to one of the beaches (El Palo) to take a swim. However, most of the time we spent on exploring the city beyond the obvious tourist attractions. What struck us most, was that around every corner there is a church and that every hour of the day somebody gets married. Malaga is definitely more than just Costa del Sol.

Photographic tips:

  • for daytime I use my camera and the general-purpose lens (28-300mm)
  • in the evening I normally add to this my tripod (for Roman Theatre, however, I used ISO 64000 and hand held, good quality, already sold at Dreamstime)
  • 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.

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

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Hiking and Churches

Today I hiked again in the neighbourhood of a village called Geesteren. This time I took a route north of Geesteren. It goes mainly through farmland. However, the main reason for going again to Geesteren is the fact that I wanted to take pictures of the church, called the Saint Pancratius Church. Last time a car was parked right in front of the church. So, I decided to come back another time, and so I did.

As you can see here it was an easy 7 kilometer hike, partly off grid. This was the first time I took my Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L with me. I took my D800 with the 28-300mm lens attached and the 14-35mm, just in case. I also took two small bottles of water. So, not a heavy load. I was already positive about my Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, and I now am even more. I walked for a little bit more than one and a half hour, including some short stops. The bag carried quite comfortably. I also carried the camera on the left strap using Peak Design Capture. I really love to carry my camera that way. I can immediatly grap it when I see something worth shooting. I also noticed that my back was less sweaty with this new backpack. 

It was a perfect hiking and photography day. I had two other churches in the neighbourhood on my list that I wanted to shoot with blue sky. I had two specific locations in mind from which I wanted to shoot the churches, one in Tubbergen and one in Ootmarsum. Below you see some of the pictures. I  submitted the first two of them to Dreamstime.

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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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Moses Bridge and Tower Pompejus at Fortress De Roovere

 

Fortress De Roovere is part of the Dutch Water Line. It is an earth fortress dating back to as early as the 17th century. It is close to Bergen op Zoom, where my parents were born, and Halsteren. The Dutch Water Line was a series of water-based defenses conceived by Maurice of Nassau. In case of an attack it turned Holland into a well-protected island.

Recently Fortress De Roovere has been renovated with the help of the Friends of Fort de Roovere, which includes the removal of undergrowth and deepening the moat. Early this year I visited this fortress with some family members who are tourist guides in Bergen op Zoom. Besides being a nice historical place, it also has some interesting architectural art constructs: the Moses bridge and the Pompejus Tower.

The Moses bridge lets you cross the moat below the water level: the top of the flanks of the bridge are at the water level of the moat. In a way it is a “reversed” bridge.

Moses Bridge at Fortress De Roovere
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Pompejus Tower was constructed only recently, named after Pompejus de Roovere. It is a tilted tower, which means that when you are at the top you are right above the moat. It is not just a tower from which you have a nice overview of the surrounding woods and meadows, it is also an open-air theater.

Tower Pompejus at Fortress De Roovere
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

I recommend you to visit this fortress in combination with visiting Bergen op Zoom, which has a well-preserved center.

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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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Rotterdam Central Station

The Dutch Railways realises that railway stations form an important part of the center of cities. I guess that is one of the reasons that the architecture of the railway stations is regarded as extremely important. Rotterdam Central Station is no exception. It was officially opened in March 2014. A year later I took this picture.

Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

It is one of my best selling pictures, especially in 2015. The most recent sales was this week. Below the original picture, it was taken with my Nikkor 16-35mm lens (settings: 16mm, f/4, 1/400sec, ISO 100). Especially, the wide-angle setting gives the pointy shape of the building special attention. 
Rotterdam Central Station: original picture

As you can see, I did quite a bit of post-processing:

  • The diagonal roof line is an essential characteristic of the building, so I cropped the picture to map the roof line close to the diagonal line of the picture. It makes the picture a lot stronger. The additional advantage was that I got rid of the glass building on the right (it distracts).
  • As you can imagine, I took a lot of pictures of this building. In the end, I chose the one with the person in front. It gives depth and it leads your eyes to switch between the shape of the station and him.
  • Last, I made the picture more lively: blue sky and yellow in the building. Especially the diagonal roof lost its color because of various shadows. 

Also inside it is a nice building, definitely worthwhile to pay a visit.

Central Station Rotterdam
© Peter Apers | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Rotterdam is famous for its architectural innovations. Here you will find more pictures of Rotterdam and here a post about it. Enjoy!
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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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