It’s not just Covid-19. The weather forecast influences people’s decisions but often the meteorological office gets it wrong. And so it was today. The temperature was supposed to be around 17ᵒ with cloudy patches but we had wall-to-wall sunshine and it felt like mid-20s. The result was that only a handful of people were walking on the esplanade and fewer still on the beach.
One lonely figure sat wrapped in a blanket on the beach guarding the clothes of the two boys fishing by the pier who were wearing only swimming trunks so at least someone was benefiting from this burst of sunshine.
The Bay sands, once golden, are now less so, and many blame this on the 7 – 9 liners and tankers that used the Bay during the Covid outbreak when they couldn’t get into Portsmouth or Southampton harbours to unload their cargoes of people and goods. For some weeks they sat on the horizon, their engines pumping away to keep the ships ventilated and facilities ongoing. The noise from this was so great that a complaint was made and the harbour masters requested to speed up the entry into port.
Sandown has a new Premier Inn due to open soon on the Esplanade and it was good to see this finished at last. The Covid outbreak had stopped building work earlier in the year and we wondered if it would open for business at all this year. Now it’s looking smart and new and ready to welcome autumn and winter visitors to the town, where the winters are mild and pleasant and the temperature usually about 5ᵒ above that of the mainland.
The High Street was quiet with only a few shoppers hunting souvenirs and tea-rooms. But I noticed that one of our closed-up Banks (a few years ago 3 of the big five operated here) has been graffitied but a theme is not discernible. Intriguing yes, and from what I can see it is a community venture and they are appealing for donations. I wonder if the Bank has thought to donate something to improve the boarded up look of their building? Or am I being naive?
In 1909, Tsar Nicolas ll and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia (Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria) along with their five children, visited Cowes, Isle of Wight at the invitation of King Edward Vll. The occasion was Cowes Regatta, one of the longest-running and most important regattas in the world at that time. A home-movie taken during that visit and shown on UK television last year, shows two of the children, Grand Duchess Olga and Grand Duchess Tatiana who had never experienced such freedom before, enjoying a walk around the town, diving into shops and buying postcards and sweets. An interesting account is to be found here.
On 7th July, 2018 during a weekend of events that remembered the 100th Anniversary of the assassination of the family and their close servants at Yekaterinburg, a 3-metre high granite memorial with bronze decoration was unveiled to commemorate the close connection between the Imperial Romanov family and East Cowes. This magnificent monument was unveiled in the presence of their surviving descendants, Russian Orthodox bishops, the Moscow sculptor of the work Elena Bezborodova, and a choir from Minsk, Belarus.
The memorial was gifted by members of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society who revere the Tsar’s sister-in-law who was later made a saint. It stands in the Jubilee Recreation Ground close to Osborne House the former home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert which the Romanov family visited on their trip to the island in 1909. The Tsar had also been a naval cadet at the then Royal Naval College Osborne House.
The 18th/19th century photos are courtesy of Wikicommons. The Photographs of the Memorial at Cowes are from David Hill, local coordinator for the event working with the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society.
Historical Note: Tsar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated by the Bolsheviks on 17 July 1918. They were buried in unmarked graves, and in 1979 some remains were discovered but were concealed until the fall of communism. In 1991 the graves were excavated and a state funeral was organised for five family members. Remains of two other children were found in 2007 but these are undergoing additional examinations.
Two days of torrential rain had cleared the beaches of all but the most hardy but then on the third day, came the sun and the world changed for the better. The hotel was better, the food was better and even the yapping dog in the next room that woke us at dawn, became bearable. What a difference the sun makes.
I debated with myself whether or not to post these images as some might wish to argue that they are not sculpture. Yet they were brought into being by a sculptor whose name unfortunately, I have not been able to find (I am still searching).
So here is the Monument to the Scottish fallen in World War 1, an unusual sculpture of granite slabs slotted together like dry-stone walling which stands in a field adjacent to the British Military Cemetery on the road between St. Laurent-Blangy and Gavrelle and which was unveiled on 9 April 1922, the fifth anniversary of the battle. Located north of the village of Athies it is not far from the battlefields of Loos and Arras.
Around the field are individual stones with the names of Scottish battalions who fought here.
Just 40 Kl from Görlitz in German Saxony lies Bautzen, the town famous for the fact that all political prisoners were sent here at one time, and which celebrated its 1000-year-old existence just a few years ago. Although heavily damaged during World War II Bautzen has been well restored but it still retains the air of a small country town.
Although a small town it is the capital of Upper Lusatia, the region inhabited by the West Slav Sorbian minority since the 7th century. It is a typical German small town with a castle dating back to the 10th century, an interesting church, a town hall, and a main street lined with colourful old houses.
It may be but a short hop but Bautzen is a world apart from Görlitz by virtue of the fact that it is the centre of Sorbian culture and the seat of the Sorbian nation. It would take more than a few posts to summarise the history of the Sorbian nation but it helps to know that the modern nation was founded by Moravians and Bohemians who had separated from the Catholic Church, long before Luther made his break from Rome. Both Catholics and Protestants live peacefully together although Catholic women wear white caps whereas Protestant women wear black, so one feels there may be some small tension there. Sorbs can be found across Central Europe, in Czechoslovakia and Poland.
The Sorb culture was suppressed by the Nazis during World War II but the end of the war saw the territory under the control of the Soviet Union, and it was this that was a factor in helping them re-establish their culture in 1945. As the communists wanted to prove they were better rulers than the Nazis, they made special efforts to re-instate the traditions and language of this Slavic minority with the result that today, the town is bi-lingual, the Sorbians dress as they did over 100 years ago, publish their own newspapers, have their own radio, perform in and support Germany’s only bi-lingual folk-theatre, educate their children in Sorbian traditions, speak their own language, and have been effective in ensuring that road signs and official notices in the area are in both German and Sorbian. The cultural museum in Ortenburg Castle tells the story of this Slavic people whose language closely resembles that of Czechoslovakia.
Bautzen is unique in other ways too, being positioned on a granite plateau above the Spree river and from the Friedensbrücke Bridge there is an awe-inspiring panorama of the 23 medieval towers that dominate what remains of the town wall. In the town centre stands, or leans, another tower, the 1000 year old Reichen Tower, which is 1.44 metres off the perpendicular. Visitors should climb to the top for a view of the town centre, rebuilt in Baroque style after the 30-years war in the 17th century.
And after all that sightseeing, the essential thing is to visit the famous Wjelbik restaurant with its splendid stained-glass windows for a typical Sorb meal. This may be served by the owner dressed in her 102 year old traditional Sorb costume who will take great delight in explaining every dish to you, from the dumplings in horseradish sauce to the home-made cinnamon ice-cream, or charming waitresses in national Sorb costumes.
Bautzen and Görlitz once formed part of a six-city alliance which wielded power over the whole of Upper Lusatia. That power has waned, but composers, castles, architecture and arts, are once more energising the life of this beautiful province and its power to charm the visitor is once again its greatest attraction.
Featured Image by Rico Lob (Pixabay)
Tourist information for Bautzen: Touristinfo Bautzen/Budyšin, Hauptmarkt 1, 02625 Bautzen: email: www.bautzen.de
For over half a century the delights of German Saxony remained hidden from a large part of the world due to it being part of the former East Germany. Since German reunification however, this lovely state in south east Germany is once again attracting visitors drawn there by its archecture, its craftwork and its traditions.
In Saxony, culture goes hand-in-hand with nature, and one of the many pleasures awaiting the visitor is driving or cycling on roads almost free of traffic. We drove from Leipzig through Dresden and on towards the medieval towns of Görlitz and Bautzen on nearly empty roads, bordered by massive tracts of yellow rape (the size of the fields a relic of communist collectivisation), the wind turbines on the horizon like giants with flailing arms striding across the hills.
The nearly 1,000-year-old town of Gőrlitz shares a border with Poland and Czechoslovakia (Prague is a mere 160 Kl. away) its glorious architecture virtually untouched despite the wars that raged across the land. To stand on the German side of the Peace Bridge and look at the blue, yellow and pink facades of the houses across the river in Zgorzelecon the Polish side, is to feel the full weight of recent history.
Prior to World War II, Gőrlitz straddled both banks of the River Neisse but when the Allies redrew the boundaries after the war and divided Germany between the western powers and the Soviet Union, it lost its eastern suburbs. Fortunately for posterity, the Soviets did not knock down and rebuild the town in utilitarian style as they did in most of Dresden and Leipzig.
A walk through the crooked, narrow streets on the 15th century basalt cobblestones, forged from the mountain just outside the town, takes you on a fascinating journey through the past. Throughout its history, this former textile trading town has exercised political importance, initially by its position and dominance as a medieval trading post and then by its transformation into a residence for the bourgeoisie in the 19th and 20th centuries. If some parts of it look familiar to you it is because it has been used as a location for more than one popular film, the most recent being The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Its position on the trade route to important places like Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Krakow and to special privileges granted to the town, meant that all merchants passing through were obliged to offer their wares in Gőrlitz. This gave rise to some spectacular architecture in the building of houses with impressive inner yards where the textiles could be displayed. Enormous squares, the sides lined by the houses of the rich merchants who dealt in wool and furs, richly decorated house fronts, fortifications and fortified towers, buildings from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau eras have made the town a 3-dimensional reference book of architectural history.
In the part-arcaded Untermarkt (Lower Market Place) is grouped one of the finest collection of Renaissance and Baroque town houses to be seen in Europe, a place of pilgrimage for architects the world over. In fact, 4,000 of Gőrlitz’s late Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Gründerzeit (German Industrial Revolution) and Art Nouveau buildings, are protected as National Monuments.
The older buildings blend harmoniously with the Gründerzeit and Art Nouveau quarters, the Strassbourg Arcade Department Store with its stunningly beautiful chandeliers and the Art Noveau Karstadt Department Store being prime examples.
Gorlitz has a small town charm despite its centuries of architecture and is a good place to see craftsmen work in traditional trades like jewellery making, porcelain painting and toy-making: it is also an ideal place to sample the local specialities – Landskron beer and a fruit schnapps called Görlitzer Geister.
If you are spending time in the region and want a break from the culture overload, there are many kilometres of cycle and hiking tracks along the Oder-Neisse to explore and guided tours by bicycle through the cultural regions of Upper Lusatia, Lower Silesia and Bohemia are available. Frequent stops are made in beer-gardens along the river for local delicacies washed down with the very special local beer or the equally delicious white wine of the region.
Dresden is only 100 kl. away and easily reachable by train or bus but I’m mindful of the fact that you may come to Gorlitz from Dresden, so I would suggest instead a trip to the fantastic town of Bautzen where Sorbian language and traditions still rule.
A few days ago I published a post under the same title using two of Paula’s suggested words, and now I’m following up with another – Cuisine.
A couple of years ago I attended the Artusian Food and Wine Festival in Forlimpopuli in Italy, a festival that runs for ten days (I was only there for two) and which is run in honour of the father of modern Italian cookery Pelegrino Artusi (1820-1911). Mention him to any Italian chef and he will be instantly familiar with the name.
The Festival is about “home cooking” and “eating well”, and during the festival the town is thronged with food lovers, the streets and Piazza’s are re-named to connect with the Artusi cookery book, and day and night there are food tastings, packed restaurants, speciality menus, concerts, events, street musicians and happy people.
I had planned a return this year but the festival was cancelled. I hope to make it next year as I yearn for that full-on festival atmosphere (without drunkenness, muddy fields or portaloos) which, it seems, you only get in the Mediterranean countries.
A scene of peace on what was once the site of unimaginable pain, Hellfire Pass on the River Kwai in Thailand. In this area live the people of the Mons, a distinct Thai tribe. One of these thatched houses is a schoolroom, one a restaurant and one a ‘hotel/restauarant’ (cold water shower with water from the river).
Water buffalo make the houses rock as they pass, the nearby paths are used by elephants and the high-pitched yells of monkeys serve as an morning alarm. I stayed here for a couple of nights and the animals kept me awake all night but I didn’t mind, it was magic.
It actually was a Sunday and the silence was all enveloping, as was the humidity. I had to turn back after half an hour as I couldn’t cope with the perspiration dripping into my eyes, the mozzies, the dampness all around me and the general feeling of too much growth and things rotting. It was a weekend party with some Thai friends but let’s face it, I’m just not cut out for roughing it in the jungle and being uncomfortable.