Berlin again…3 days in July 2016

Whoo hoo, first the Eurostar. Eight hours from London to Berlin with quick changes at Brussels and Cologne. Everything about it, the efficiency, the quality of the trains, the comfort puts the public transport system in my country to shame.

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Cathedral, Cologne through the fretwork of the railway station

The tunnel passed in a flash and the only discordant note was the barbed wire along the tracks posing yet another barrier to add grief to the trials of  asylum seekers. Beyond the wire, the French fields were their usual precise soothing patchwork of green and ochre.

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Barbed wire along the line at Calais

How could I go to Europe and not drop into my current favourite city? I first visited 2 years ago (see 8 blogs from 2014) and fell in love with the vitality, the sensitive presentation of history, the architecture…..I wanted to test the impressions of that 2 weeks. Back to the same apartment at Hackescher Markt, I find I am beginning to know my way around the bigger city. Part of the pleasure of Berlin is that it is so accessible.

Why am I so taken with this world city?

  • is it in my DNA? – I do have same  Prussian blood
  • is it the architecture old and new?
  • is it the honest way the city presents its 20th century history?
  • is it the preservation of the Prussian architecture?
  • is it the vitality of the streets?
  • is it the proliferation of cultural opportunities?
  • is it the constant opportunity for street photography?

As a refresher I take the general intro Berlin Walk; the guide gives me new information. He claims that in the past 5 years rents have gone up 65% and house prices doubled. No surprise then that while I was there, residents held a robust demonstration against the gentrification of the city.

Hopefully Berlin will not be a casualty of its own success. Forty thousand people are moving here each year and no wonder. There are 450 publicly funded/subsidised art galleries and museums. 3 opera companies and 6 world class orchestras. Before I wax too lyrical I also have to mention that there were 40,000 instances of pickpocketing reported to the police last year.

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On the way out Saturday night, lots of Goths gathered with their Rottweilers in the park next to the Cathedral

Saturday night I went to the Karl Schinkel designed neo-classical Konzerthaus which was opened in 1821. Its own in-house orchestra preformed Dvorak, Schhostakowitsch and Schumann with guest violinist Julian Rachlin. On the way I detoured around the free open air concert  on a closed Unter den Linden outside the Humboldt University where Daniel Baremboim was conducting the state orchestra. Music in the air, Berlin flowers. I am reminded that 29 Nobel Prize winners studied at this university; Einstein worked and Marx studied here too.

 

The next day all Berlin seemed to be at the flea market in Mauer Park.

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This man describes himself as a performance artist and has a ‘peace’ homily sitting in the sand.

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They say you can put lipstick on a pig but it will still be a pig. what about on a Mauer park bear?

After the market I spend a few hours wandering the streets of Prenzlauer Berg before walking back to Mitte ending with a flop on the deck chairs alongside the Spree contemplating the Dom, still stained black from the fires caused by Allied bombing. I was surprised to be told (by a Scot) that 80% of British bombs didn’t get within 5 miles of their target.

Later I put the skates on to re-visit the architecture of Potsdammer Platz and run accr0ss a #BlackLivesMatter demonstration. I am again reminded of the cultural mix of  young Berlin seeing so many African Americans read the roll call of those who have died by violence and police shooting in the USA.

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Lying down in remembrance of the dead.

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What a contrast to the people demonstrating — these upper class pretenders were meeting next to the demo and paying it no attention

Being so close I slip in a visit to Martin Gropious House which I had missed last time and see an exhibition of photographs by Bernice Abbott who started as Man Ray’s assistant before becoming famous herself. Her most known photos are the New York black and white streetscapes and portraits of people such as Jean Cocteau, James Joyce and Sylvia Beech. Then it’s a beer under the wondrous roof of the always lively Sony Centre.

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I did catch up with other architecture that also inspires me

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I M Pei’s addition to the Museum of Berlin

Again I ask myself in what other city would so many experiences fall into my path.

On my last day in Berlin I have the roller skates on. Back to walk the shopping stretch of Kurfürstendamm before lunch at the biggest store in Europe, the smart KaDeWe. Like Fortnum and Mason the food floor seems to have dumbed down a  little since my visit 2 years ago.

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The cake display remaind inviting

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For the person who has everything – a golden hose!

 

Nearby outside the S Bahn station there is an evocative list of the concentration camps trains left for, from here.

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Not far away there is a sculpture. The words etched on the back say:

Remember: when injustices take place, when people are discriminated against and persecuted – never remain indifferent. Indifference kills.

These are words my own country with its disgraceful offshore detention centres for asylum seekers, would do well to take to heart.

The plaque besides the sculpture says:

A cynical lie: the inscription above the main gate to Auschwitz 1 concentration camp: ARBEIT MACHT FREI (work makes you free). When the SS ordered them to make this sign, the prisoners hid their message in the word ARBEIT. They turned the letter B upside down. It signalled their courage, their will to overcome the paralysing fear and later be able to tell the world what happened in Auschwiitz.

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Then it’s off to Tempelhof Airport, the iconic site of the airlifts during the cold war and now just acres of dry rough grass which reputedly comes alive with local recreational use and concerts.

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Since Berlin is enlightened enough to ban shopping on Sundays, I finish  Monday with a visit to the courtyards of Hackescher Hof, once a centre of German Jewry and marked outside by the bronze plaques with names of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis. (It is worth noting that there were 5 million non-Jewish victims of the holocaus.

Now the Hof is a retail/bar complex and houses my favourite shop for presents of schmick acrylic art jewellery.

One of my best memories of Berlin is the vitality of the street:

the tourists who use bicycles tours, Segway tours, walking tours ,

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the ever new graffiti

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the people

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the buskers

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These guys ride the U bahn dodging the transport authority and bringing joy to passenger (me at least).

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Playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

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There are a few practitioners of the 3 card trick trying to earn a buck in the street. They are wary of police and of photographers.

For the first time in Berlin, in Alexanderplatz, I noticed the homeless people. Why wouldn’t I?  They are in every major city in the world. I hesitated about putting the following photos in, out of respect for them, but really we all need to be confronted with the underside as well as the beauty and fun, so that we are reminded of the real issues that face all of us.

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Berlin has so many experiences. I still regret I didn’t have time  to visit again the amazing Ishtar Gate on Museum Island or to wander the private galleries around Auguststrasse.

I did however see again the murals painted during the cold war on the wall of what was once Goering’s Luftwaffe Building, then the Communist party HQ and now ironically the German Finance Ministry (tax office too!).

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And one can never go to Berlin with the obligatory dues being paid to the Brandenburg Gate. This time with an anti-Brexit demo. in front.

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Next morning after good coffee and croissant at my now fav.and cheap Berlin cafe, it is time to go. Again I believe I have left much undone, especially towards understanding the architectural layers of the city.

So what is the take home message for me? Berlin accessible and now familiar, still has its great world city ambience. A kaleidoscope of colourful and cultural experiences. But I don’t know whether a 3 day or a 2 week visit is what I want anymore. To really know this city, not just sample its complex delights one would need to live her for a while. I wish I could

 

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London…. a whirlwind week 2016

People are amused when I fly posh to London and then take the long underground ride to the centre with all my (overly cumbersome) luggage. What better way to enter this huge metropolis of 8.7 million, to experience its passing parade, the tide of humanity, than on a packed peak hour tube?

On one side, a young woman is reading Facebook in Polish, on the other a screen of Chinese catches the corner of my eye. These are the multi-cultured tired and the weary travelling from the outskirts on the Piccadilly line on a Thursday evening. (Mid-morning Monday the tube has a different profile from Paddington back to Bloomsbury, more polished, affluent, possible Tory voters.)

Since every shop, hotel, restaurant I visit is staffed by people from outside Great Britain, you have to wonder if the retail and service industries will simply implode if Brexit is carried to its extremes as some wish.

After a quick re-group I visit the somewhat disappointing John Sloane museum on Lincoln’s Inn Green. I find it claustrophobic and the Roman pieces badly curated; the Hogaths and the Canalettos were a pleasure though. After a quick visit to the British Museum’s Exhibition Room, I left  – the crowds were stifling.

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The discus thrower of Myron was a Greek sculpture but this, in the British Museum, is a Roman copy found in the villa of the Emperor Hadrian

Extended family

The 4pm to Bristol on Saturday was spent trying to follow the Oz elections on wifi courtesy of western rail though no result would be known for more than a week. Sunday saw a more than generous lunch catching up with 14 of the extended Bristol family, a pleasure to see  the young ones had grown into fine young people since my last visit 5 years ago.

Back to London Monday morning. I lunch at Fortnum and Mason on a sardine pancetta salad. I first visited here wide-eyed in the 70’s and  am underwhelmed this time. Perhaps the sophistication of food in Oz or perhaps the economic contingencies of the modern world…but this place has shrunk. The once glorious variety of delicacies seems to have been replaced by pre-packaged food. And the great indicator – the coffee –  was not as good as the cup my local serves at home.

Indeed the coffee in London (except in Store Street) was definitely not up to scratch. Next to my hotel in the grounds of St George’s Church Bloomsbury (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor), I found a passable brew in a small pop-up but wondered that that they have the gall to charge nearly $5 a cup.

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In a big city, the skirt of an historic church makes a fine coffee spot

Out and about

A visit to the Wallace collection becomes  an odyssey as the teachers are demonstrating and the buses down Oxford Street have been stopped, so I walk from Bloomsbury to Marylebone detouring to Bond Street and a schmick gallery. Left me cold.

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Buskers always brighten up the day

Then a sentimental visit up river all the better to see the distinctive glass boxes both sides of the river near Tower Bridge.

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The Shard (the salt cellar) from the river; then in the city there is the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater. Londoners seem to have a decidedly domestic set of nicknames for the city’s status symbols

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For those of us from countries blessed with sun surf and sand, the annual “beachification” of the Thames is pretty funny.

A special time

One highlight of the trip and one of life’s unexpected small gifts…… I wandered into St Paul’s Cathedral. By chance it was time for Evensong . I was ushered into the choir stalls. The famous St Paul’s choir sang. Their voices soared into Christopher Wren’s ceiling and the purity of sound filled my head. Joy.

My old, dear and now dead friend, Dick Hall urged me to walk walk walk and look up when visiting a new city and I’ve always followed his advice. The street snapshot can give a clue as to the nature and energy of a place.

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London is full of echoes of another time.

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A fine snapshot and a great human moment…outside the Holborn tube. A sharp looking man is holding his phone to the ear of a homeless man playing him some music.

 

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Posh wedding photos being posed in a garden in a ruin in the City.

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This duck doesn’t give a damn about the city folks having themselves a fine lunch. Last time I was in London, a dingo walked down the street near Westminister; today I see a duck.

The tube

In London the tube also gives me much stimulation, not just people watching but the huge satisfaction in conquering it. The underground is like a complex 3 dimensional, often overwhelming, strategic game. This day there is a sign saying the temperature is 21 degrees and if you are “suffering from heat let someone know”. They have to be kidding! (Today in winter in Oz it is 24 degrees).

Wimbledon at last

Sunny though at Wimbledon. It’s a tick off the bucket list when I enjoy the famed strawberries and cream and score a seat at the men’s quarter finals.. not the big one between Murray and Tsonga but just as much fun, Berdych beats Pouille in 3. Besides who can resist an event that produces a 29 page booklet titled A Guide to Queueing?

 

Friends and paintings

Our friend Abi is a gracious London host. We have a few meals, see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Gielgud Theatre and spend my last day in London in a  feast/frenzy of art – the National Portrait Gallery for the Annual Portrait Prize, the Courtauld where I saw my favourite Modigliani and the new wing at the Tate Modern where I have no time for the paintings but enjoy lunch in the new restaurant with its terrific London views. Thanks too,  to Abi for the detailed tour of St Pancras station.

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Here’s the new wing of Tate Modern. Not a fan; to me it looks like powerhouse architecture

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Abi and the b0ab tree – a scene from her past.

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The Meeting Place sculptured by Paul Day at St Pancras Station. Are they meeting or saying farewell?

Last night in London I catch up with my old mate Jo the CEO  who is ever soaring to new career heights in this big metropolis. We eat at the Holborn Dining Room and knock off a good bottle of red as well as….

A great city, so much to see and do, such business, some memories.…..

 

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Forty years ago my friend Dick and I had out photo taken standing thus in Trafalgar Square but that time before a statue of Cardinal Newman. This photo is in memory of Dick, a lion of a man!!

 

 

 

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Sri Lanka 2016

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Temple offerings

 

Sri Lanka is a small island of varied experiences –from urban business, archaeological and Buddhist World Heritage sites, wildlife parks, fine hill scenery and beaches…. to historic Dutch and Portuguese settlements. All there, all accessible.

I visited because it has been painted as a ‘magical’ place. I think the magic is in the fact that all these things are closely and easily accessible not necessarily because of the quality of any one experience.

Sri Lankans do not like their country to be called India Lite but somehow the memory of the vibrancy of my relatively recent trip to South India sometimes exceeded the Sri Lankan colour.

That said, some things stand out:

Firstly, after a 30 year war, the multicultural society is seemingly happily integrated. The 71% Buddhist population appeared to be as equally represented (at least in the built form) as are the many Hindu, Muslim and Christian institutions. Singhalese and Tamils appeared to live peacefully. Indeed driving through the country there seem to be more Catholic institutions and mosques than there are temples and stupa.

The multiculturalism was underlined in a paragraph in Michael Ondaatje’s book, Running in the Family, that resonated with me: “Eric Daniels (a Burgher) summed up the situation for most of them when he was asked by the British Governor what his nationality was. ‘God alone knows, your Excellency’.”

Small quirky moments remind one of the human melting port. Driving through what appeared to be a totally Muslim town, I caught sight of a sign saying MELBOURNE BAKERY.

Secondly, political passions still bubble with 2 major demonstrations in Colombo the first days we were there – one with the Muslims and the former President demonstrating against the government and the other, university students demonstrating against privatisation of education.

Thirdly, wherever we went, there were groups and processions of happy school children of all ages all dressed in the same immaculate white uniforms, coloured socks and ties being the only differentiation.

Before I go into the photo show I must mention our driver Chatura because he seems to personify some people in an aspirational third world emerging economy . He is a young man with the large, tall stature of a Burgher (the descendant of Singhalese and early European settlers – Dutch or Portuguese).

Catholic educated, at the age of 27 he went to Afghanistan and worked at an American base fuelling the fighter planes. He raised enough money to buy land/build a house of 2 bedrooms for him, his new wife and baby, his brother, parents and granny. He is planning to get another overseas job soon leaving his much loved family so he can save more money to finish the house with a second storey ensuring room for all.

If there was any doubt about his dedication to family, whenever Chatura had time off, say for an afternoon and night, he would travel up to 4 hours by public transport to be with them.

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Chatura, our charming gentleman driver/guide.

Rather than a daily diary, these photos are organised along the lines of specific experiences.

Colombo

The capital is an emerging third world city with a population of around 650,000.The area was settled by Muslim traders around 700 AD but only came to prominence during the Colonial period. Portuguese arrived in 1518 and built the fort; then the Dutch conquered in 1656; rebuilt the fort and some of their elegant buildings like the hospital (now a tourist retail/eating centre) remain. In 1796 the British took over and besides expanding the infrastructure of the country, they developed the port as the main trading centre taking over from Galle.

Sri Lanka became an independent Dominion in 1948 and a Republic in 1972. For 30 years until 2002 the Sinhalese majority and the Tamils fought a civil war.

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The women are looking back across Galle Face Green toward the gracious old Galle Face Hotel where a G&T on the fan cooled verandah is one of life’s pleasures.

 

We were not there long enough to get a real feeling for the city but some things stand out like the amazing work being done by the Department of Defence and Urban Development. Sounds like an oxymoron but makes real sense. After a 30-year war with so many in the armed forces, what do you do with them? Put them to work restoring the historic, heritage parts of the city which will bring in the tourists making enough money to pay the army’s wages.

Mark Forbes, another Burgher leads a walk through the Port City sharing his love of the architecture.

Wonderful restoration work is being undertaken in the Old Port area where the Dutch banished the old Portuguese buildings and then the British did their best to obliterate reminders of the Dutch.

 

Tourism with 2 million visitors a year, and factories for overseas manufacturers (like Marks and Spencer and Noritaki), are replacing overseas workers, tea and rubber as major sources of national income. Conditions for the factory workers were reported as being better than for those in say, Bangladesh

The Mark Forbes walk ends on the top floor of the once grand, now run down Grand Oriental Hotel which has fine views of the port and houses the ‘rooms’ of Human Touch Massage. The latter presumably on the dance card of visiting sailors.

The port itself is a story. The Chinese signed a deal with the previous President to build Colombo Port City . The Chinese company will keep half the land on a 99 year lease plus 50 acres in perpetuity– 575 acres of reclaimed land between the harbour and the Green are to be transformed into offices, hotels – you know the kind of deal. It will cost $1.4billion.

The current President stopped the project but it’s on again perhaps linked to the $5+billion Sri Lanka owes China. Colombo port has always been an internationally strategic port between China and India and it adds to the Chinese portfolio which also includes the strategic Australian port of Darwin.

 

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View of the port looking from the waterfront park known as Galle Fort Green

 

Galle Fort Green, the slightly scruffy park fringing the harbour is where Sri Lankans come to relax at sunset; kites are flown; stalls sell snacks and general promenading and water joy happens.

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Paddling

 

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Children squealing

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There is even a snake charmer trying to charm the tourist rupee.

 

As in all emerging economies, the old and the new sit happily together

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These twin towers adjoin the Old Port City

 

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The new architecture of a sports stadium

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This wooden temple was a marvel and full of life

 

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Priests make offerings

 

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Delightful teachers in the temple school

 

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Sri Lankan ‘style’ is expressed here in what was architect Geoffrey Bawa’s office in Colombo. It is now a cafe.

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These girls were celebrating Pakistan’s national Day. The father of one, an Embassy chap, was keen to talk cricket, as were many.

 

 Anuradhapura, Minintale, Sigriya Rock, Polonnaruwa Ancient Kindgom and Dambulla –otherwise known as The Cultural Triangle

Next we drove north to look at the World Heritage sites from the ruins of the early cities to the sites associated with the coming of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Perhaps in hindsight we might have skipped a few!

Below at Mihintale, is the rock where Mahinda is said to have had his cave. The story is that Mahinda was sent from India to introduce Buddhism to Sri Lanka 247BC. He met the king who was out hunting and converted him and his 40,000 attendants. Hence, Buddism came to the island

The Minintale site has a number of ruin, a grand shrine where the ground is too hot for the shoeless feet and a procession of visitors who are entertained by the monkeys.

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The stairway has 1,840 granite steps

 

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Many come for prilgimmage

 

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The many monkeys are endlessly entertaining

 

Below is the Word Heritage Sigiriya Rock  rising 200 metres about the plain. The story is that one ruler built a citadel on top of the rock (between 477-485AD) to protect himself from his brother who disputed his claim to the kingdom. After his brother returned from India and won the battle, the rock was handed back to the Buddhists as a monastic site.

There are ruins of the once grand water and other gardens around the base of the rock and frescos along the climb to the top. I stayed below.

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The queue to climb!

 

My favourite was another UNESCO site, Dambulla Cave Temple. This complex dates from the 3rd century BC and the caves sit in a large rock 160metres above the surrounds and 1.5ks around the base. They house numerous religious and cultural paintings and sculptures. There are 5 caves to see and the biggest one, cave 2 ,contains some spectacular sights.

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Only part of a  magnificent rows of statues. Note the ceiling decorations.

 

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A resting Buddha

 

Below is a small part of the remain of Polonnaruwa Ancient Kingdom which was founded in the 11th century. This was the second kingdom of Sri Lanka, after Anuradhapura, and known as a golden age. The site is compact and the remains well preserved.

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The cultural triangles attract many visitors, some of whom are intent on capturing it.

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For part of the World Heritage hunting, we stayed at the Heritage Kandalama, a great, but tired, hotel built along the side of a cliff overlooking a serene lake. The calm challenged only by the monkeys scampering along the decks. The country’s most famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa, designed the hotel.

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Kandalama’s deck is careful of this bunyan tree.

 

Kandy

Kandy was the last of the Sri Lankan kingdoms to hold out against the British. It is an unprepossessing city famous mostly for the Temple of the Tooth, the famed Kandy dancers and the huge Botannical Gardens.

The Buddha tooth is said to be in the temple at Kandy making it the centre of pilgrimage and known for the accompanying rituals. If crowds don’t worry you then a delightful hour can be spent watching the weekly procession of tributes to the Tooth.

 

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Inside the Temple of the Tooth  the drummers entertain the crowd as they anticipate the procession of offerings which the priests will take into the room behind the doors.

 

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Lots of monks stay in Kandy to pay respect to the Buddha’s relic.

 

We stayed at the Ozo Hotel which had pretensions to being hip and was walkable to town. Apparently there are some quite glamorous retreats out of town. One find was the Queen’s Hotel Bar with its atmosphere colonial stye bar and wide first floor verandah bar. Inside it seems to be the go-to place for smart locals.

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Drummers for the Kandy dancers

 

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The dancers obviously travel as we saw them leading a wedding procession in Galle

 

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Waiting for the bus alongside the river

 

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Downtown Kandy

 

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School girls tour the Botanical Gardens and are more than happy to chat.

Nuwara Eliya

The last outpost of the colonials was Nuwara Eliya the highest town  in the country (1800 metres)  where, in the 19th century, the British would come for the season to escape the heat of the coast.

It is now a trekking and honeymoon favourite with guest houses and gated communities. The town is known as Little England with faux Victorian and even Tudor estate developments happening. Key landmark buildings like the Grand Hotel, St Andrew’s Hotel and the Hill Club still set the scene..

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The Grand Hotel does a charming High Tea

 

We stayed next door to the Grand at Green Hills a large new stark hotel clearly built with rich Islamic visitors in mind. Perhaps in the season when it is full it might feel alive. Anyway since the President’s brother runs the holding company, it will likely thrive

The Hill Club – next door to the President’s estate – is a story in itself. Once described as “the best of empire”, it is the colonial life of days gone by. Every item in the Bar (below) was imported from England even the spoons. Still you must be signed in and gentlemen should wear a coat. English hunting pictures adorn the walls together with photos of the English Queen.

The leopard on the wall below was killed by the Hunting Club and leopards still roam the hills nearby.

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Contrasting with the grand life, the photo below is of the shanty town in another part of town. Nuwara Eliya is a Tamil town. The Tamils were brought in by the British to work the tea plantation when the Sinhalese refused to work for them.

Women are currently paid $4 a day for picking 30 kilograms of tea a day.

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In keeping with its history and its pretensions Nuwara Eliya has a lush municipal golf club, a boating lake and of course, the famous “Royal” race course.

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Paddle boating on the lake

 

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Technology happens everywhere

 

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The starting barrier at the “Royal Turf Club”

 

For me, the most enjoyable event was the hours spent at the Botanic gardens when a gentleman who described himself as the gardener, joined us to show us around making sure we smelt the best perfumes and pointed out the eucalyptus.

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Our guide to the gardens

 

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There is a wonderful orchid house

 

Then an impromptu a capella group called us over to enjoy,

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Young couples were grateful for me to take their pics (with their cameras),

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and finally some joyous young Buddhist monks chatted happily and we photographed each other. One of them carried a photo he had taken years ago on the same spot.

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This was one of those days when happiness suffuses; you live truly in the moment and feel part of the stream of humanity sparkling in the sun.

The hills

We took a splendid train trip down through the mountains and past yet more tea plantations.

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Working in the tea sheds is back breaking work

 

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What a delight the children were as we all waited for the train

Udawalware National Park

We picked up Chatura again and headed for safari HQ, Grand Udalwalware Safari Resort. Like most other places to this point, the rooms were fine and the food less so. We knew we were near the national park when an errant elephant came wandering down the road and further along a gathering of people by the roadside waited to chase him away from their village.

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An early morning wake up to see dawn from one of the many safai jeeps that somehow manage to keep out of each others’ way in the park. There were a few sightings of elephants, many of birds and perhaps a croc.

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Crossing in front of us

 

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A peacock up a tree

My safari photos were so blah that I bought a long distance lens after I came home.

Better than the safari was the visit the next morning to the Elephants Orphanage where little ones are nurtured until they are released back into the park at age 4. Sri Lankans do love their elephants, witness the head monks who was charged while we were there for keeping an elephant in his temple.

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Galle

Another World Heritage site, this time a vibrant walled town busy with tourists.

We stayed at Deco on 44 and for the first time in Sri Lanka enjoyed the food, so much so that we did a short cooking course with the hotel chef. With him we visited the veg, fish and spice markets just outside the fort walls; watched him prepare and later ate a great long lunch.

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Chef Sugath Mendis is a fine teacher

 

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The fishmarket

 

The staff were terrific and one took us on a tour of town.

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Galle has become popular as a destination wedding centre

 

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Kandy dancers lead the wedding procession for these English

Galle has known traders and travellers for 2000 years and has been colonised by Portuguese, Dutch and British rulers. Myth has it that Sinbad the Sailor found a river of gems here and in 1292 Marco Polo called in as did that other fabled traveller, Ibn Butata.

Certainly the many jewellery shops keep the gem tradition alive.

In 1594 the Portuguese built the first fort on the point. Over the next 400 years various colonial powers captured it. Of particular elegance are the Dutch hospital and warehouse buildings.

The fortifications are so strong they withstood the 2004  tsunami which devastated the adjoining coast line and villages.

Now Galle is a bustling tourist town with quite grand heritage hotels, stylish restaurants and bars and more gem shops than I have ever seen in a small space.

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The bunyan tree in the court square is a good place to park

 

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Part of the global village

 

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Tourists from the Philippines take a photo to remember

 

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There are hundreds of crows on parts of the fort walls

 

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Sri Lankans seem to be upfront in recognising base emotions. Have a new building? There will be jealous people who will wish you ill. This construction “scarecrow” is intended to distract attention from your good fortune and stop any jealousy.

 Leaving

We took the coast road back to the airport breaking the trip with a visit to one of a number of turtle sanctuaries and a photo shoot of some villagers replicating traditional pole fishing – in the hopes of catching the tourist photographers’ dollar (400 rupees in this case)

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Most impressive though was the country estate of Geoffrey Bawa still operated by a family trust. Winding jungle roads seemed to keep it well hidden.

These are beautiful gardens said to be surpassed though by the near-by gardens of his brother, Bevis.  One delightful story elates to the Australian artist Donald Friend who is said to have come for a visit to and stayed 5 years. There are scultured planter pots in both gardens designed by Donald.

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The Donald Friend planter pot

 

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The garden room where planning happened

 

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Classical touches

 

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A glimpse through Geofrey Bawa’s country home.

 

 

Back to the coast and a last sunset before flying home.

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Filed under Photographs, Sri Lanka 2016, TRAVEL