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

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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Bergen op Zoom during sunset

Sint Gertrudiskerk aan de Grote Markt

For a sad reason —the cremation of an aunt of mine— we traveled to Bergen op Zoom, the city of birth of my parents. At the same time it was nice to see the family again. To avoid early morning traffic jam we made the trip the day before. We stayed in Hotel Old Dutch in Bergen op Zoom, which is near the railway station. 

 
Last time we visited Bergen op Zoom, which was about a year ago, I only took pictures of Fortress De Roovere and none of the city center. So, we decided to stroll around a bit before having dinner. We left the hotel at a quarter to 6, all the shops were closed, there was hardly anybody in the streets and the sun was about to set. The clouds in the sky were turning warm yellow/gold and the buildings had a nice warm colour. 

At the main square, called Grote Markt, there is a really large church called St Gertrudiskerk. Walking through the Stationsstraat, the Wouwsestraat, and the Zuivelstraat we were heading for the Grote Markt. On the way we got a first glimpse of the church. Notice the colour of the sky.

Sint Gertrudiskerk

The Grote Markt was completely deserted so it was quite easy to take pictures from all sides of the square. Then we continued in the direction of the Gevangenpoort, where I took pictures from both the Lievevrouwestraat and the Rijkebuurtstraat (my mother was born and raised there). 

On the way back we visited the Markiezenhof, a city palace dating back to 1485. Here I missed my 16-35mm lens, I had only taken my 28-300mm lens. Therefore, I could not take a picture of the whole facade at once. Also, there were many cars in front of the building. So, I only shot the tower. A good reason to come back to the Markiezenhof again and get a tour with an official guide, which turns out to be a member of the family!

Markiezenhof during sunset

Just before going for dinner at Restorante Napoli I took the picture below, where you can see the top of the tower of De Maagd.

Former church De Maagd

All 11 pictures of Bergen op Zoom I submitted to Dreamstime were accepted, resulting in a total of 750+ pictures at Dreamstime.

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Bergkwartier and Uiterwaarden in Deventer

IJssel quay in Deventer

When coming from the west heading home — either by car or train — I everytime enjoy the beauty of the skyline of Deventer.

Last week I decided to take the train to Deventer for a walk through the old city and, of course, to take pictures. From the railway station I walked past the theater to the Brink, the main square of Deventer, a former Hanseatic city. Already on the way I saw some very nice buildings. 

The Brink was overwhelming. It was a nice sunny day around lunch time. All the terraces in the sun were crowded with people enjoying the early spring sun. 

I had selected the Bergkwartier en Brink audio tour on the izi.TRAVEL app to guide me in about an hour through the old city. It started at the Brink. The first picture I wanted to take was of the Waag, a very prominent building on the Brink, however, there were all kinds of trucks parked right in front of it. So, I skipped that. To be honest, this happened to me several times during this trip: always cars parked right in front of the most beautiful houses or churches. Still, I took some nice picture to grap the beauty of the old center.

 

As you can see, all these houses date back quite a long time. It was really interesting to hear about the individual history of these houses. For example, De Golden Vijzel used to be a farmacy. The next stop was the Saint Nicolas church, also called Bergkerk, with the two towers. Currently, it is used as exhibition center. Below two pictures of the Bergkerk: one on the outside and one on the inside.

Until quite recently there were still stables for horses in the center of Deventer. At Roggestraat 8 you can see one of these former stables.

Former stables

After finishing the tour I decided to go to the other side of the river IJssel to take pictures of  the quay of Deventer. So, I crossed the Wilhelmina bridge and walked north to the ferry stop to take the ferry back to Deventer. However, the sunny terrace of the Sandton IJsselhotel was quite inviting to have lunch. The pictures below (all accepted by Dreamstime) were taken from the bridge, the Uiterwaarden, the hotel (during lunch), and the ferry.

 

After lunch I returned by ferry to the center to visit the Lebuinus church from close by.

Saint Lebuinus Church

During this tour I used both the 16-35mm and the 28-300mm lens, and I used quite a bit of DoF to make sure that all relevant parts of the picture were sharp. For especially the wide-angle pictures I used the perspective correction Upright of Lightroom to get rid of the distortions of the wide-angle lens. As you can see, all pictures were taken during daytime. So, I still have to comeback for some night shots with a tripod! Maybe it is a good idea to stay the night at the Sandton IJsselhotel.😀

Here you will find all the pictures of Deventer accepted by Dreamstime.

Below you see my route through the old center of Deventer. As you can see the reception of the GPS on my iPhone X was not always strong enough.

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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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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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