"Gordon's Travels" gordonilla's Profile

Another year and what will it bring?

It is a new year, 2015, and I have a lot of changes in my life. So hopefully my travelling will be different and interesting.

I have no real plans at this point other than a trip to Helsinki and a visit to The Hague in the Netherlands.

I leave the image of Sermitsiaq (Saddle Mountain), Greenland as the image. I remember the scenery well, and it is of course another one of the more remote locations which I always wanted to visit.

Travelling is a passion.

I really enjoy the whole travelling experience - this can be by train, bus, car, boat or plane. It seems that i have something in me which longs to travel even if only from one part of the town to another.

This is Darren who enjoyed a short trip to Copenhagen and Malmo with me. It was his first visit to both locations, and he thoroughly enjoyed the flight and then the train journey across the Oresund rail link between Denmark and Sweden. The knotted pistol is across the street from Malmo's main railway station. The trip to malmo was only for a day, but it was highly enjoyable. The people are friendly and although we were visiting on a Sunday, there was still enough activity to keep us busy.

There was time visit the Blixen Museum - which is of course the former home of Baroness Karen Blixen in Rungsted outside Copenhagen. She is famous for her writings, under the pen name of Isak Dinesen - most famous being her tales of her time in Africa which was made into a film: "Out of Africa".

St George in Stockholm

This statue is located in Gamla Stan, immediately outside Pontus in the Greenhouse, a restaurant which I recommend in my Stockholm pages. For those in the know, and those who don't - it seems that St George is the patron saint for many different countries,places, people and groups. These include England, Istanbul, Moscow, Venice, Catalonia, Portugal and several other countries in both the north and south of Europe.....and Canada!

In addition, his patronage extends to archers, agricultural workers, boy scouts, butchers, farmers, horses, soldiers and sheperds......and of course teutonic knights. The less know areas of patronage include leprosy and lepers; skin diseases and rashes along with several STDs!. The source of all this invaluable but trivial information is the Patron Saints Index - try google and look for St George. The one thing to note is that there appears to be no reference made to Sweden or Stockholm when listing the saint's patronage.

The view from the inside of La Pedrera

This was taken from within the building that many people visit. It is one of Gaudi's best known pieces of work in the city - although his work is seen throughout Barcelona. The building itself is more famous for it's chimneys and it's terrace roof. However with VT we all need to add to every dimension of the location we visit or comment upon.

It should be noted that although Barcelona is a key site for the work of Antonio Gaudi - it is famous for many other people and things. The city is well known for political activity, the Olympic Games and it's authors. I think it is fair to say that a well known, and living, son of Barcelona is Carlos Ruiz Zafon. For those who like a good read, try his bestselling novel "The Shadow of the Wind" - experience the the city from a very different perspective. The novel is excellent and I have to stay it made my interest in Barcelona even more of a passion.

Try and see more than Gaudi when you visit - the old city and the modern are worth spending time around. Visit the parcs and squares of the city - and you will start to see Barcelona in a different light. It is certainly an attraction, but is also home to many wonderfully talented and caring Catalan and Spanish people. As you would expect, design and culture are major constituents of the city's pysche - explore and enjoy! Time as ever will be short for you, so savour what you can and take the whole experience to its limit if at all possible.

A view over the roofs of Munich

The capital of Bavaria has much to offer the visitor - try and spend as much time as you can in the well known tourist areas. However, visiting out of the main holiday season is a good start to experience the real Munich. The weather can be unpredictable, but the city has much to offer and the pace of life is genteel and relaxed. Try and experience traditional Bavarian food and beer; you may at first think this is rather strange to your taste buds, but it is excellent. Explore the beers available and make sure you have some bratwurst to accompany your alcohol.

Munich is both enchanting and exciting - the history of the city starts back in 1156, when the Holy Roman Emporer, Fredrick Barbarossa, gave the Duchy of Bavaria to Henry the Lion. In 1188, Munich was given to the Count von Wittelsbach, whose family would continue to rule Bavaria for almost 800 years. The history of the Freistaat is exciting and mixed - medieval intrigue to Ludwig's castles and onto present day of the former Archbishop Ratzinger being elected as Pope.

The Old Church in Helsinki

The Old Church is located in the city centre, but at one time the ground was outwith the city boundaries. It was consecrated ground where they buried the bodies of cholera victims, and I believe that the park around it is called Cholera Park. The area of the city where both park and church are located in the Hiehalahti area of the city; which is is now rather chic. It was in fact the part of the city I stayed in when I made my first visit to Finland in 1998.

As noted the church is in the city centre, located adjacent to Bulevardi ( a main access road) and on the route of the 3T/3B tram - the tram route will actually give you an opportunity to travel and experience the city in just under 1 hour. It is convenient and easy, getting off and on as you feel the urge.

I should note here, that I am probably doing what everyone else does - I have shown a photograph of Helsinki with the scene being covered in snow. The summer is generally warm and very sunny. I have never failed to come from froma summer trip, relaxed and even tanned from the sun. During the summer, the nearby Kaivopuisto park and waterfront areas are busy with life and events. So truly, Helsinki is not all churches and snow - go and enjoy it!

Helsinki is my most favourite European City, and I have visited it many times since 1998. It is always fresh and invigorating, with much culture both traditional and modern. Being part of the Nordic region seems to allow the Finns to embrace being Scandinavian, but at the same time being a people who are very much not Scandinavian. I add this point and stress it - Finns ARE NOT Scandinavians. Their language is not Germanic, but is in fact from the Finno-Ugaric family; Estonian and Hungarian are related to Finnish. You should also be aware that the country is also home to Swedish speaking Finns, most cities and towns use both Finnish and Swedish for public notices - and now they use English as their third language. Of course they also speak many other languages ranging from Russian to Cantonese and then from Spanish to Serbo - Croat. I am sure that the race for third place will continue for ever.

What should we Europeans be like?

I am not sure if this captures what we should be like when dealing with non-Europeans. However some of it appears to be quite accurate, but others seem to be totally wrong. I shall leave it to the reader to decide what is true and what is not! My own view is that we Europeans are a mix of all of the character traits listed.........

We should all note that the stereotypes shown on the postcard are probably not as true as some people believe. It seems that I know many Europeans who are the complete opposite to those depicted here - so do not judge everyone by what you think.....Finns do talk a lot, Germans do have a sense of humour, I have met genial Spaniards...but I am not so sure about British cooks! (Yes, I know that some of the chefs in the south of England have michelin stars for their efforts, sadly not everyone is into the unusual menu offering the present to customers.)

Maps, more maps, timetables and travel books

It is interesting that when you start to tidy up and clear out files and journals you can uncover so many long forgotten travel momentoes - rail and metro maps in particular seem to be regular find. I am never sure how long to keep these items, especially if there are timetables attached to the maps. If in doubt collect a new travel map when you first use the metro or train system.

Whilst moving home I was amazed to discover how many travel books I own - like many people I buy the usual Lonley Planet and Rough Guide travel books for many of my destinations. In addition, I have spent many pleasant hours reading travel books written by the likes of Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, Nick Danziger, Dervla Murphy and others. With many newer less conventional travel writers such as Anthony Bourdain who wrote "Kitchen Confidential" and "A cook's tour".

There are many other authors who write wonderfully well and I have read some of them but many I have still to experience. One of the joys of reading travel books is that you often encounter an author not known for travel writing. Currently Michael Palin (ex Python) is enjoying a wonderful career change and is now a well seasoned traveller, author and travel programme presenter. Is he a little like George Orwell with "Down and Out in Paris and London"?

Two of my more favourite, and little known, travel writers are:

Charles Dickens - he wrote "American Notes" where he tried to fairly portray the cities and culture of the fairly young Republic. He was expected to extol the USA by it's citizens, however he became slightly disturbed by the cultural experience. In "Pictures from Italy" and the original illustrations add to the experience, he wrote this from his own point of view and his personal experiences. He was a protestant and reacted to it's Catholicism, but was struck by the wonder of Venice.

Robert Louis Stevenson; he is slightly more known for his travels and even his novels had a travel theme running through them. However, I highly recommend VTrs to read -

" Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennnes" and meet many delightful characters, including the memorable Fr Apollinaris.

"An inland voyage" where Stevenson spends some time in the company of his good friend the "Cigarette" (Sir Walter Grindlay Simpson)

"The Silverado Squatters"; which was an account of some of the Stevenson family's stay in the United States.

On a more serious and academic note:

C G E Mannerheim; his Asian travels are documented and photographed. His trip was undertaken from 1906 - 1908; and was a spying mission for the Russian Czar, but Mannerheim also amassed a wonderful collection of antiquities, photographs, diaries and other items from across Asia. Sadly the English version has been out of print for many years; and I have been very unlucky and not being able to find an affordable second hand copy of the book.

I am sure we all have varied reading tastes but travel writing is wonderful no matter how long ago it was written. Keep reading and of course travelling!

  • Intro Updated Jan 25, 2015
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