Ziga, Baztan – Natural, Yet Sophisticated

In Navarra, Spain, there is a green valley of rolling hills where I left a piece of my heart.

We stayed a couple of days at Casa rural Zigako Etxezuria.

Everything here so neat and clean, rustic and authentic. Our hosts were genuinely kind and helpful with everything from sightseeing to choosing the right thing from the menu.The gastronomic traditions of Navarre makes eating a social event and all products come from the local farmers. Furthermore, Chefs from Navarre are among the most prestigious in the world of Nouvelle Cuisine.

After a delicious meal, it is time for a walk through the charming little village!

Navarra region is one of the regions with the highest quality of life indicators in Spain. And one of the greatest joys for me was all the farm animals – so many horses, cows, sheep, cats, dogs, hens and donkeys – and they were all well kept. Although some cats seemed to lead a rough life…

The last evening I had some difficulty in handling my feelings. Ziga and all its inhabitants had gone straight to my heart. I could live and die here. So I went out in the misty night to think.

Of all the places I have been to during my travelling years, I guess Ziga in Baztan, Navarre is the one that reminds me the most of my childhood at my grandmother’s and grandfather’s. All the animals I grew up with and the kindness and authenticity of the people. The landscape is of course even more beautiful here among the green hills, but still…

In the morning I waited for him to say goodbye…but I knew he would not come. I am glad we once met.

Lingering Garden, Suzhou, China

The Chinese garden is a landscape garden style which has evolved over three thousand years. It includes both the vast gardens of the Chinese emperors and members of the imperial family, built for pleasure and to impress, and the more intimate gardens created by scholars, poets, former government officials, soldiers and merchants, made for reflection and escape from the outside world.

The earliest recorded Chinese gardens were created in the valley of the Yellow River during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). These gardens were large enclosed parks where the kings and nobles hunted game, or where fruit and vegetables were grown.

They create an idealized miniature landscape, which is meant to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature.

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Every detail is important. Carefully selected, crafted and put in its proper surroundings.

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Originally a classical private garden, the Lingering Garden (23,310 m2 ) is one of the four most famous gardens in China. Possessing typical Qing style, it is well-known for the exquisite beauty of its magnificent halls, and the various sizes, shapes, and colors of the buildings.

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Like other famous gardens in Suzhou, the Lingering Garden seeks to create stunning natural landscapes within limited space. In it, domiciles, ancestral temples and private gardens are included. Buildings, trees, and flowers blend harmoniously with their surroundings.

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Of the four parts, the central part is the essence of the whole complex. This part was the original Lingering Garden while the other three were added during the Qing Dynasty.

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Lingering Garden was commissioned by Xu Taishi (徐泰时), an impeached and later exonerated official in 1593 CE. Stonemason Zhou Shicheng (周时臣) designed and built the East Garden (东园) as it was initially called.

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Liu Su, another official in 1798 CE, reconstructed and renamed it Cold Green Village. He was an avid collector of Scholar stones or viewing stones( naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars), and added 12 more to the garden housing them in the ”stone forest”. The garden soon acquired the nickname ”Liu Yuan” from the owner’s surname. From 1823 CE the garden was open to public, and became a famed resort.

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During the Sino-Japanese War, the garden was abandoned and it even degenerated into breeding zone for army horses. After establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Suzhou government took over and renovated the garden.

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It was reopened to the public in 1954. In 2001 the garden was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and remains a major tourist destination.

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To sum it up, a typical Chinese garden is enclosed by walls and includes one or more ponds, rock works, trees and flowers, and an assortment of halls and pavilions within the garden, connected by winding paths and zig-zag galleries.

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By moving from structure to structure, visitors can view a series of carefully composed scenes, unrolling like a scroll of landscape paintings.

 

The Legend of the Isle of the Immortals

 A miniature version of Mount Penglai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals, was recreated in many classical Chinese gardens

An ancient Chinese legend played an important part in early garden design. In the 4th century BC, a tale in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) described a peak called Mount Penglai located on one of three islands at the eastern end of the Bohai Sea, between China and Korea, which was the home of the Eight Immortals. On this island were palaces of gold and silver, with jewels on the trees. There was no pain, no winter, wine glasses and rice bowls were always full, and fruits, when eaten, granted eternal life.

In 221 BC, Ying Zheng, the King of Qin conquered other rival states and unified China under the Qin Empire, which he ruled until 210 BC. He heard the legend of the islands and sent emissaries to find the islands and bring back the elixir of immortal life, without success. At his palace near his capital, Xianyang, he created a garden with a large lake called Lanchi gong or the Lake of the Orchids. On an island in the lake he created a replica of Mount Penglai, symbolizing his search for paradise. After his death, the Qin Empire fell in 206 BC and his capital city and garden were completely destroyed, but the legend continued to inspire Chinese gardens. Many gardens have a group of islands or a single island with an artificial mountain representing the island of the Eight Immortals.

Source, Wikipedia

The Latvian Etnographic Open – Air Museum – an Island of Harmony

Lettlands Etnografiska Friluftsmuseum inrättades 1924 och är Lettlands motsvarighet till vårt svenska ”Skansen” – en av de tidigaste efterföljarna till vår stolthet. Området är stort, hela 88 ha, och det ligger naturskönt och avskilt från Riga stad. Genom åren har gamla hus och tillhörande byggnader flyttats hit, så att friluftsmuseet idag omfattar 118 olika byggnader. De äldsta från 1600-talet, de yngsta från 1930-talet. Hela Lettland speglas områdesvis på ett förtjänstfullt sätt.

The Ethnographic Museum of Latvia was established in 1924.118 folk architecture objects and more than 3000 household items from all Latvian historical and ethnographical regions (Kurzeme, Latgale, Vidzeme and Zemgale) , evidence from life and culture of the rural population from the 17th century until the 1940´s. the museum researches, exhibits and promotes the monuments of traditional life, as well as educates and informs about Latvias cultural heritage.

Den protestantiska kyrkan från 1704, har en fantastiskt vacker interiör.

The Lutheran church (1704) is a silent beauty.

Fantastiskt träsnideriarbete i altare och predikstol, och ett lika fantastiskt bemålat tak. Här hålls gudstjänst varje söndag klockan tio.

Magnificent wood carvings and the ceiling in soft blue, white and golden brown. Service every Sunday at 10 a.m.

Lägg märke till att ljushållaren vid predikstolen är i form av en människoarm!

Holding the candle, to the left, is…a carving showing a human arm.

Silence and Serenity

På väg nerför backen står ett vägkrucifix från 1907, en katolsk företeelse som var vanlig på den tiden.

Riga med omnejd 2015 675_copyKorsen dekorerades med blommor, särskilt under festivaler. Man hade också som tradition att samlas vid korsen och sjunga psalmer under majkvällarna.

Den här mannen hade sin atelje/verkstad på en bondgård från 1850. Han svarvade skålar, men tillverkade också slevar och gamla tiders leksaker för hand, vilka han gärna demonstrerade och sålde.

This man worked at a farmstead from 1850. His bowls were for sale, as well as spoons and toys made according to old traditions. He was very good at showing visitors how they worked.

Många skolklasser besökte förstås – och förundrades över dåtidens leksaker.

Many school classes visited, of course, and wondered at the old time toys.

Vi kände igen alla leksaker från förr, bland annat snurra, ”helikoptervingar”, ”brumma” och slangbella.

We recognized all the old toys, like this one below, made swirling through a twist with your hands only.

Till gården hörde ett praktfullt boningshus med vasstak, en köksträdgård, ett magasin för spannmål och textilier, samt en badstuga.

The farmstead had a main building with reed roof, a kitchen garden, a storage house for cereals and textiles, and a bath cottage.

Det mest intressanta var biodlingen, mycket tack vare en besjälad idealist, Janis Snikvalds, som tillbringar en del av sin tid på friluftsmuseet för att informera och även sälja produkter. Vintertid jobbar han också med bin, men då handlar det om kontorsarbete.

The most interesting thing was the bee-keeping and the stories from the bee-keeper himself, Janis Snikvalds. A beautiful idealist and passionate bee-lover with a warm and loving heart. He works part time at the museum, informing about his work and selling healthy products from his bees.

Han berättade att hans far var biodlare, att han själv först var rädd för bin, men genom att hjälpa sin far vann intresset över rädslan. Den harmoni han känner när han arbetar med sina bin är svår att beskriva. ”Man måste älska bin för att kunna arbeta med dem.” Vi fick provsmaka tre fina honungssorter, varav en ljunghonung.

He told us about his fear of bees when he was a kid, how his father made him help out and how this made him develop a deep harmony in working with these interesting animals. ”You have to love bees to work with them”.

Sedan provade vi andra biprodukter (!), bland annat små pollenkulor som bina får med sig på bakbenen när de suger nektar, och ”bee bread”, som kommer från cellerna i honungskakan. Båda är erkända naturmediciner och är, precis som honung, välkänt verksamma mot bland annat inflammationer och förkylning. Janis berättade att man kommer till honom även från närliggande länder för att köpa. Vi köpte ett par pollenburkar med hem.

We tried both the pollen products and the bee bread – both recognized natural medicine working anti inflammatory and fighting infections. Janis told us that people came from neighbouring countries as well to buy these products. We brought home a couple of the pollen products – knowing from old that bees work magic. If you are interested – Janis Snikvalds is also on facebook. Go for ”Baltu Drava”, and find out more about him and his products.

Janis berättade också om hur kuporna transporteras med bil till t ex ljungområden för att kunna få ljunghonung. Biodlingen i världen är i kris, men Lettland är det land i världen som förlorat minst bin och samhällen.

Janis told us about the hives sometimes being moved to, for example areas with heather, in order to get heather honey. But, they were not like in for example the US, transported for days or weeks in big trailers, stressing the bees. These hives were only moved over one night and one day. Latvia is the only country in the world that is not in a critical situation of losing bees .

Han berättade också om de gamla bikupor som vi såg på många håll i friluftsmuseet. De är helt enkelt urholkade delar av trädstammar. Sådan har använts från 1500- till början av 1900-talet. De höll i 100 år. Från början placerades de vertikalt med trätak över, senare horisontellt med en lös bräda som lock. Han experimenterade själv med sådana i sin verksamhet idag.

Vi fortsatte sedan förbi en vävarstuga och ett hus med spinneri till en kvarn, som ligger längst bort i friluftsmuseet. Det är en vindmölla av holländsk typ, där övre delen vrids efter vinden. Den byggdes 1890, och var faktiskt i drift ända till 1950. Man satte segelduk på vingarna när den brukades.

A Dutch windmill – from about 1890. This one was working until 1950.

Rysk ortodox kyrka, tidigt 1900-tal.

Russian orthodox church, early 20th century.

Vi var många som stortrivdes här – mysfaktor hög. Alla katter och fina hus, vacker natur och tystnad – en underbar totalupplevelse av gamla tiders lugn.

We were many people – and animals – feeling good here. Not least the beautiful cats we met. A totally wonderful day in the harmony of olden days.

Light Air

When the air is crisp and cold, your mind soars and your feet are barely touching ground. Breathe.

Breathe again. Let the crispness fill your lungs.

Follow the road…no matter where it takes you – you shall be free.

The old oaks will be watching over you. Learn from their wisdom.

 

Fasader och krumelurer – Looking at façades and ornaments in Rome

My fascination for Rome is also connected to its warm colours and its sculptures, ornaments and façades. Follow me through this collection captured during my walks!

Windows and lamp posts are also beautifully crafted. Even the bridges can boast statues and ornamented pillars.

And – as usual I’m obsessed with laundry hanging outside the windows or between the blocks of houses…

Some a bit gaudy, and some in perfect harmony with its surroundings…

Walking to the other side of the Tiber, for the Pyramide station, we passed this house – a bit scary coming home late at night here…

Close to this station is an old building, looking quite forlorn, but with beautiful staues left on its roof.

On opening the gates to the Botanical Garden, we understand that the gardens are not as well kept as they need to be. On the other hand there are some lovely old buildings and roofs.

Walking back late to our hotel – we are grateful for this lovely and interesting day. Good Night – Rome.

On the Streets of Rome – Musicians and Artists

Walking the streets of Rome fills heart and soul with delight. Your eyes feast not only upon the ancient buildings and the History of Rome…musicians and artists are never ”too much” here, but just as perfect as the old city itself.

Piazza Navona is a good resting place, where you find ice cream as well as entertainment…When in Rome, you seem to always return to this place…

And the streets are even lit up with Christmas deco in November. 22 degrees C.

On the bridges we found some brilliant musicians, as well as close by Castelo S. Angelo whose sunlit walls kept them warm a bit longer.

Later in the afternoon…families were still playing with their enthusiastic children, while some performers were reorganizing…

Don’t we all love visiting markets, especially fruit markets – places of innovative creation concerning forms and colours on display!

Irresistable they are – just BUY ME!

Returning to narrower streets and alleys like this one – was just what we needed to get down to earth again.

On our way home, the atmosphere of the soft evening wraps us up tightly, when suddenly I see a familiar picture…I guess you all recognize it?

And, people on the move…

…are very interesting!

Thank you for walking with me today – and good night!

Trees and Ruins in Rome

Are there really any interesting trees in Rome? In this ancient world city where people have lived for centuries and centuries…and everything built by humans is of interest…Maybe a funny question – but as I’m a tree lover, the question is relevant to me!

Well, let’s start in Ostia Antica, the old port of Rome. The oldest archeological remains so far discovered date back to the 4th century BC. The most ancient buildings currently visible are from the 3rd century BC.

Where is the tree…and where are the bricks? Nature’s patterns have always been an inspiration used in the architecture of buildings and art of humans.

Pine trees are very monumental, and somehow they just…belong together with old ruins. Walking the cobbled stones and narrow paths this early morning here, birds singing and the stillness in the air…

The ruins are very well preserved throughout the whole area, clad with cement on top. The old Forum looking like a maze because of it.

The theatre is well preserved – click the link above to my post on Leya. But, I’m convinced nothing here would be as beautifully shown off without the pine trees.

Back in Rome City, the plane trees are a feast along the Tiber. Trying to reach the water…the sound of their leaves rustling and reaching out in the soft wind…

On our way to Circus Maximus there is heavy traffic, but we are greatly rewarded. The old arena is almost empty and not many  people around. A lonely tree stands in the middle of the remains of the old racing course. Imagine the old days, what buzzle and crowds of people and animals! A magnificent place.

The old city walls are still standing, clad in green. Surprisingly well kept.

I was lucky to hear and spot thousands of starlings on the Avantine. They all moved like One and the flocks were huge and amazingly loud. I sat watching them for at least 15 minutes. In Sweden the number of starlings have decreased terrifyingly fast, and we don’t know why. It’s been suggested they get shot and eaten on their way north – but I don’t know if there’s any sustainable truth in this.

In every city I visit I just have to go to the botanical gardens. I realized I hadn’t been to the one in Rome before, and I wonder how many people who really go there…We had great difficulty even to find the entrance. In the park itself, I think we met about three other persons besides the lonely, reading guy in the ticket ”box”. He was very sweet though and reminded us about their closing the gates within two hours. Two hours in a botanical garden is not enough for me – generally. But, when it’s not really season for plants and flowers that should be enough. Still, we had to hurry in the end. I’d love to go back another time of the year too!

Almost directly I came across an old friend – this strange plant. Flowers and the empty seed shells here below. I first saw this plant in New Zealand, near Auckland zoo . No one knew what it was – and I still don’t have a clue. The foliage reminds me of Nerium Oleander – but the flowers? No…I would be very grateful if someone could tell me what this is! A fascinating plant – small tree.

Ricin, the Castor oil plant, is beautiful but very poisonous. Grown in many gardens for its lush green and red colours.

Many old trees grow here, and the oldest ones are the oak trees. Some of them have fallen and lie on the ground. New to me was a method of heaping up a mound of earth at its roots , making it survive to give new life. Amazing.

Other old trees were fascinating too, and an enchanting ruin was hidden by old plane trees. Magical.

Maybe not a tree, but a bamboo forest is special.

Norfolk spruce hiding a dead palm tree.

Japanese maple.

And an old favourite from China – Gingko Biloba. I have walked a golden autumn alley of these  in Beijing – something I will never forget.

On leaving the grounds, we encountered this beauty, a Verbena,  raining down a stone wall.

Lastly, from Central Asia, ”Rosaceae”, Prunus. Standing dry and leafless against the patched wall of the house – I found it immensely enchanting…

Edinburgh II – The Castle and… Inside

Our last day in Edinburgh we spent a bit more looking inside…windows and alleys at least. On the walk up to the castle, the sun bestowed us with its warming glory – hot!

We walked through Greyfriar’ s beautiful Kirkyard to see Bobby once more. He was a Skye terrier born in the middle of the 19th C. His Master died when Bobby was only two, and legend has it that he stayed by his Master’s grave for 14 years. A Lord payed the city of Edinburgh to build Bobby a little house and to feed him. He was buried close to his master in 1872.

Many people came to see him while we were there. The little ”hut’s” name shows some of the Scottish humour…it’s really inside the gates!

Some ”insides” too on the way…

Colourful clothes and tartans, but also a soft pink and blue tartan made especially to the memory of Princess Diana.

I love signs, and Scotland and Edinburgh has got many of those – my camera was full of them…This one close to Camera Obscura.

And – there my dream came true…to be divided into two and able to do double the things I would like to do, help, visit, create, experience…a.s.o….

Just inside the gates, they were preparing for the Tattoo. This year we didn’t make it, but hopefully next year we will be able to see it!

 

We’ll be back next year – for the Edinburgh Tattoo!

Edinburgh Part I – Old and New

Last time we visited, in the 70’s, the city met us with a gloomy drizzle – this time with it’s most delightful face! A warning – ancient history and the beauty of the old is best found with Seonaid at breathofgreenair. Do enjoy her stories and poetry! Here I will only give you my impressions on this bright summer’s day in August. You are welcome to enjoy it with me too.

Our hostel was not far from Greyfriars, and I guess, being a dog person, the story of Bobby has never left my heart. I will tell you more about him in next part of Edinburgh. We went to see him the first night – and returned our last day too.

The morning after, we started out in glorious weather, walking the Royal Mile. This is the main street between Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyrood House – the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

An endless row of old stone buildings, very well kept. And in the windows – everything from typical kilts to magnificent wedding dresses. If I were to remarry – I would be wearing this! But, I guess this photo is the closest I will ever get …

 

The Parliament building was not here in the 70’s, but was built in 1999 by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles. I read it was both hated and much loved, and won many awards. It is said that he wanted to create a building uniting the Scotish landscape and culture with the Scotish poetry.

I think he succeeded. Colours, materials, structures…I love it. What do you think? Is it that controversial? Maybe it was 15 years ago…

Close by the Parliament is ”Our Dynamic Earth”. On the city map – and in reality – it looks like a cocoon or a monstruous caterpillar. It’s a scientific centre with ”Arthur’s Seat” in the fond.

Here you can for example make a virtual tour inside the Earth, and there is also a visitors’ and conference centre inside. It’s mostly about geology. Very elaborate.

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This little guy was posing for his mother by the globe with – Our dynamic earth. They work very well together…

Of course we had to stop by here…

…at The Writers’ Museum, and go looking for famous names on the ground. Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

And at world famous Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling had a table overlooking (underlooking?) Edinburgh Castle.

We had coffee and a muffin – very tasty and delicious. Then I followed my blogging friend’s (Seonaid) advice to have a look at the toilets… More about what I found of Harry Potter here.

While we were having fun, we continued with Museum of Childhood. Not very big, but very charming and conjuring up old memories – at least for people my age. Enjoy!

 

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From Perth to Edinburgh – S:t Andrews and East Neuk

My husband is a poor golf player, but of course we had to go to S:t Andrews – all golfers’ ”Mecca”. They say golf was born on the dunes by the sea here, and on the Old Course there’s been golf played for  about 600 years. Unfortunately the British Golf Museum was closed because of construction work.

We continued to the ruins of the old Cathedral, which once was the biggest building in Scotland when finished in 1318.

Walking here among these old stones, feeling their stories surrounding us, made me quiet and contemplating. So many souls resting here…what did their lives look like?

Along the shore and further on to Crail, my favourite little village in East Neuk. This area was a wealthy place already in the Middle Ages, because of the trade  with Europe.

Crail has been a town since 1310 and is the oldest community here. Very picturesque with great atmosphere.

In the little harbour dark clouds were sailing in. But with warm winds swirling,  we slowly strolled around enjoying the beauty.

In Pittenweem the harbour offered a charming walk. Now the clouds grew even darker and we could hear thunder far away.

Then the rain came. Heavy drops at first – soon storming in like wild horses. We found a roof and stayed dry, silently watching the scenery of light and darkness.

Leaving as fast as it came – the winds took the storm away to sea.

And we headed for Edinburgh – feeling light hearted after a very pleasant tour.