Saturday, November 22, 2014

THE BALKANS THROUGH MY EYES - #3

Above you see the new quirky bridge in Skopje with lots of equally quirky buildings behind it. 
In stark contrast, the picture below shows the Stone Bridge over the Vardar. It dates from the XV century, precisely in the early years of the Ottoman occupation. 
It reminded me of a similar bridge that is central to the fabulous novel 'The Bridge on the Drina' by Ivo Andrik. 
This bridge is seen in Serbia and it's very well preserved, too.
The inclusion of a mihrab (usually, a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca) in the middle distinguishes it from the other bridges constructed at the same time in the Christian Europe.

~~ Have a great weekend ~~


Sunday, November 16, 2014

THE BALKANS THROUGH MY EYES - #2


The narrow winding streets in Skopje led me to the grandiose courtyard of a Caravanserai (travellers and nomads going through the Balkans,used to stop here in these inns centuries ago, on their way from Europe to Asia) and to the whirling dance of domes in a Haman (Haman means bath in Arabic).




The first mosque I encountered  upon entering the Old Bazaar was the Market Mosque, or Murat Pasha Mosque (XVII century), the most conspicuous of all for the water fountains outside its entrance. Nearly every local passing by will pause here to wash their hands or take a drink. Its position at one of the key junctions means it is a structure you spot regardless which side you have entered or walked through the Old Bazaar. Inside the courtyard of the Murat pasha mosque I saw a well preserved feet washing area - used by believers for washing - which was built in 1937. 



In the area of the Old Bazaar of Skopje, I easily found yourself before the Church of the Holy Saviour. Only a high stone wall and a wooden Bell Tower above it showed the presence of the church.The church is three-nave building, with vaulted roof. It was built in the 18th century and got its final appearance in the first half of the 19th century. Its remarkable iconostasis of woodcarving was constructed between 1819 and 1824 by a western Macedonian woodcarving group. The carvings are not just decorative, but allegorical.



The Old Bazaar area consists of a maze of narrow streets and passages, with lots of shops. 
Jewellers seemed to predominate, but if I wanted I could probably buy almost anything there. 




It was nice to stroll around and feel lost in time, as I breathed the nice Ottoman empire atmosphere.

~~ Have a good start of the week ~~

 Thank you!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

THE BALKANS THROUGH MY EYES - #1


Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, is an interesting city to explore. The centre of this Balkan city is going on under a building spree after several decades of abandon, following the 1963 earthquake that devastated a large area of the city. 





The break-up of Yugoslavia resulted in the creation of a smaller Republic of Macedonia in 1992 and since then, the government in co-operation with architect-planners has been confident in the role of remaking the postwar world. The Ottoman district has been rebuilt while the construction of a new centre by the Vardar river is about to be concluded. In my modest opinion, this new centre looks bizarre, the reason why I was curious about it. The new buildings and bridges are of neoclassical and baroque styles, while the public areas are ornamented with sculptures, fountains and even an arch of triumph!!!








It seems the government hopes the enormous statues will attract tourists. Will they???

As I was strolling through the city, looking here and there, seeing  this and that, I always wondered whether the Disneyland had been the source of inspiration to the government of Macedonia...


Bronze statue of a woman swimmer in bikini at Vardar River 



I think in this city there are not jobless sculptors... From the famous people to the not so, all are represented...

 "Shopping girls", in front of the Skopje shopping mall.

As I was strolling through the city, looking here and there, seeing  this and that, I always wondered whether the Disneyland had been the source of inspiration to the government of Macedonia...

The river already boasts a boat restaurant and others are being built. 

At night, the city centre is very lively with bars and cafés crowded with young people and musicians playing on the streets. Daytime, not so as you can see in the photo below.



The earthquake itself is a distant memory, yet I heard some locals claiming that something of the soul of the city had gone away as a result of the urban development...

 

Have a great weekend!

~~ Thank You ~~

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

DOES THE SEA NEED SOMEONE ADMIRING IT FROM THE WINDOW???


One of the most famous beach houses in Portugal is the so-called Casa Branca (White House) in a small village not far from Lisbon. Architect Raul Lino designed it in 1920 to be his Summer home. Lino had to choose between building within the village perimeter to gain access to electricity and running water, or to forego these modern comforts and place the house on a cliff with an incredible ocean view. For him, the choice was obvious.
Raul Lino became famous for synthesizing the vernacular traditions that go back to Roman times to create the archetypal Portuguese house. The Casa Branca is based on this archetype, but Lino made two surprising choices. Instead of using the traditional green color for the windows, he chose bright orange.
Then, he painted the orange roof tiles white, thus accentuating the orange of the windows. Orange is the complementary of blue and so the windows of Casa Branca became the complement of the sea. It’s as if, to be beautiful, the sea needs someone admiring it from the window.

I have recently visited Lino's Summer house within the scope of a conference. It's a simple two-storey house perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. Nowadays it's property of one of his descendants. Once we step indoors,  the scenery is the blue ocean and nothing else but the blue ocean, only. Simply beautiful!
Some people are of the opinion that Lino should have looked forward instead of backwards, adopting the modernism of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. 
I personally think that by embracing the past, he contributed to preserve the sense of place that we feel when we see a Portuguese house.
Thank you!

Monday, June 30, 2014

I ASKED A WATER-LILY TO BE MY MESSENGER TO YOU



June is about to end within few hours from now and July will be showing up with its warmth, blue sky and a special fragrance in the air. Intentionally, I chose the above photo of a water-lily, I took last week when I paid a visit to Sintra, a very romantic town near Lisbon. I don't know the name of the insect that was having rest on one of the petals but it seemed that he was feeling not only pleased but also relaxed as he laid on such a velveteen-like 'mattress'. This makes sense, considering that water-lilies symbolize pleasure and peace.
The first image that will come to mind when we talk about these floating flowers is the elegance of the bloom. I'm sure you know well that all ancient cultures around the world have associated the white lilies with gods and spirituality, which explains why the bloom became associated with Buddha himself. Mind you, the lotus position commonly used for meditation!

I wish you a pleasurable July filled with peace of mind along with an excellent physical condition.

Thank you!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

'YOU ARE EVER IN OUR HEARTS, MY DEARS'

Char Minar, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
The Russian rehabilitation of the chimney-tall minarets and its mosques made me wander in fascination.

A Shadow of The Silk Road, nicely crafted by the British travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron, was another interesting book that gave me a very pleasurable reading. The author trudges from the Chinese tomb of the Yellow Emperor, in the Chinese Xian, to southern Turkey, more precisely the Mediterranean port of Antakya (known as Antioch in ancient times), in search of the lost hope of struggling with transition.

In this epic journey through China and Central Asia, the literary travelogue, with elements of history, anthropology, personal experience and quest, I found a lot of information about places where I have already been and others that have been in my bucket list for a long time, already.

Bukhara (the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia), the Holy and Noble, still burgeons with crafts and merchandise: rugs, silks, furs are sold everywhere, even in old madrassas (educational institutions). 



Today, I end this post by mentioning an 'intriguing'  reference made by Thubron about an inscription he saw at a memorial park for the II World War, near Samarkand.  Roughly translated into English, it would be: 'You are ever in our hearts, my dears.'

Do you think this might relate to the arrival and expansion of American goods, such as Nike or McDonald's, in Islamic lands??? I would like to hear your comments about it.

Meanwhile, I wish you all, a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A GOOD COMPANION TO THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA


One of the books about history and travels that I have recently read was titled "The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean" by Professor David Abulafia who considers Dubrovnik as one of the most important trading ports in the 16th century. Its merchants possessed what was probably the largest merchant fleet. The secret of their success was that they were neutral, paying tribute to the Ottoman sultan in return for his protection. Furthermore, Dubrovnik was a Roman Catholic city, whose inhabitants called it 'Ragusa'. The Ragusans were great specialists in trading woollen cloths manufactured from Balkan wool. 
I love Dubrovnik that still preserves that charming architecture from the Italian Renaissance and sooner than I had ever expected I will be strolling once again those city walls.

        Enjoy every day of the week