Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ohrid, Macedonia

Zok and I took a couple of days to drive out to Ohrid, Macedonia.
As modern day Macedonia no longer has a coast line, this lake is a big draw during summer when the days are mostly in the upper 30 c.
Ohrid is also a UNESCO site as there are archeological digs not only on land but in the lake.  In the lake there are settlement remains from the neolithic through the end of the Bronze age.
There is a theatre from sometime in the Hellenic period, probably after the Roman conquest.  There are finds from the time that Ohrid was a world power during the early Byzantine era.
They are still uncovering sites - the larger monastery here has been beautifully reconstructed- the interior walls have just about three feet of the original frescoes from the 10th century.  But after the fall of the Macedonian Czar, the walls were whitewashed and parts torn down to convert the building into a Mosque during the early 15th century. On the same site is the remains of a basilica from the 4th or 5th centuries. 
This is activity of building on top of buildings is common as the area was conquered, then liberated, then conquered again.  As I read about the areas, the attitudes of people, and the modern day museum of 'The Macedonian Struggles' make more and more sense.  The Mosques in particular caused much damage because by custom they must be "highest", so Macedonian churches were destroyed, and if allowed to be built they are built in such a way that you must walk down into the church.

People do not have to be religious in the American sense- because religion simply permeates everything.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"...come back to wild Colleen..."

I have traveled to the U.K. quite a few times-and I think of the islands and the Highlands as being remote areas.  However, they actually do a roaring tourist trade; August being the peak of the peak time to go.  Added to that fact were reports that tourism in Scotland reported a record breaking year.  Oh yes, and the Edinburgh Fringe festival was happening as well.

So- booking accommodations and routing out a road trip from Cookie and Steve's place near Chester was a bit of a challenge.
Zok also got to experience his first serious dose of bed and breakfast style lodgings.  We actually got an interesting mix.  None, were the "everyone eats together with their host" style of my early twenties in America.  They seem to be places that are mostly remodeled larger dwellings; halls, boarding houses, farmsteads or they are modernized pub stays.
Therefore, you eat in what was the pub or large dining hall- nearby but not on the same table as the other guests.  The staff is usually small, or a family.
We had the range from a converted pub that dated back to the 1500s-, complete with wonky loud plumbing and lurid wall paper to a brewery that was tastefully remodeled in light colored tartan, with aspirations to be a boutique hotel.

The scenery on the drives were as stunning as expected, and some one lane tracks complete with mist rolling by and deer on the road felt as remote as I wished for.  But there were also stretches that had two tour buses, and maybe six cars all pulled over, so that a small horde of people could take photos of a highland cow near a fence.  Waiting time for the Taliska distillery was an hour.  Of course those details will fade into memory.
But if I went back I would pick a place to rent for a week. A lot of places only rented from Saturday to Saturday, usually something to do with ferry or train schedules.  Otherwise I would really book ahead of time, or go on the edge of the high season- May or early September.  So many areas are lovely, I would have a hard time choosing, but I think I would do more of the islands (we only went to Isle of Skye) and then more time near Royal Deeside to spend time in the Cairngorms park. 

But then there is also the Edinburgh Fringe festival! We did actually go to one comedy show at the fringe.  I would really like to go just for a week of the fringe.  The festival is really well organized.  We listened to BBC Scotland and were able to hear a lot of the comedians during different talk shows.  There were a lot of authors I would have enjoyed seeing, as well as a Philip Glass, Patti Smith event.  There were burlesque, aerial performances, plays, operas, music, comedy, author readings and talks, shows for children, events tied in with the museums- and more.  The comedy show we went to was free- the comedians pass a bucket that you can give donations to if you feel the show was worth it!  I picked partly by time slot and partly by the title.  I think a lot of the jokes about Australia were lost on the small audience but Zok and I laughed quite a bit.  Me- a bit more as much had to do with the perceptions of Australia and living both within Australia and leaving outside of Australia.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pay the piper.

Photo opportunity that mimics your idea of the Highlands? Check!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"...come back to me my wild Colleen..."

Purple heather covered hills so loved by Queen Victoria? Check!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nessie more elusive than the elusive pine marten

Loch Ness monster? Check!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up, world except for my Lola..."

I have gone to Pride parades since the mid 1970s.
Of course I was young and so my personal experience might be colored by that fact.  I do remember, and I think the parades seemed wilder, that there was less of the 'other' that attended.
But then, I see in Stockholm, the fire department, the teachers union, the police, proud parents, the rainbow families (same sex couple with children), local stores that are akin to 7-11- the pressbyran, printed flags that said essentially 'dyke-bryan, home-byran, trans-byran' and so on.
Even the churches and government offices march!  This makes me happy that here, the parade is attended by so many different areas of society.  Also so many kids are out, in outfits full of individual expression, dancing and having a good time in the parade.

Of course the hot topic was Russia.  I was intrigued by the amount of signes that were printed in Russian, Swedish and English.  I thought this was very global minded, that people knew that photos of their signs very likely would make it into the world press. There were many, many signs deploring Russia.  There were signs for what amounts to an injustice in Sweden such as not being allowed to transgender until the age of 18.

 Here are the Rainbow families, this is only a small segment, they were a very, very large group perhaps dominantly female couples but many male couples as well.

"Weapons of mass seduction!"

I have no idea who this skater was- but she was AMAZING.

 Today, the day of the PRIDE parade was one of our HOTEST days this year.  I think many people said to themselves as they dressed to leave their homes..."Or I could wear this bathing costume".