Kyoto December


A Different Green

So now we know it. There is no time of year in which Kyoto doesn’t look stunning. Even in the middle of a snow-less, tepid winter, when all the other cities in moderate climates don a grey, torrid coat of slush and bone-soaking drizzle, she just takes another lovely dress out of its infinite wardrobe – one of eye-watering bright azure sky and evergreen leaves, and tops it with its best hat yet, a lavish pyramid of citrus fruits and camellia flowers.

Sometimes it powders it all with a smattering of snowflakes, but not too much; she’s all about understatement, after all.

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The UK trip – all the photos


Here you can find all the photos from our campervan journey around the coast of UK (June-October this year), in one place.

Don’t forget to check out our daily blog, too.

Yaldā Advent Calendar 2012 – Day 18 – a visit to Chinzei


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Another photo gallery today, from my “research trip” to Kyushu. This time it’s various places that show up in the books from all around the island.

It was a strange feeling, to visit the places I wrote about – still, largely, unchanged and recognizable. There really is a hot spring and guesthouse in front of Aso shrine in Hitoyoshi; the forests around Kirishima Shrine are dark and mysterious; Jochibyo stairs are terrifyingly creepy.

There were a few more monuments of famous persons around: the Japanese love putting bronze statues of anyone even remotely famous. And of course, the entire journey took only a few days on fast trains, instead of walking on foot for weeks 🙂

Yaldā Advent Calendar 2012 – Day 11 – a visit to Kiyo


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Day 11. Today something a bit different – a photo gallery.

 

 

 

 

This summer I went to Kyushu, Japan, to see how places I’ve written about in “The Shadow of Black Wings” look like today.

Many locations are still standing or are easily identifiable. Naturally, the Suwa Shrine is still sprawling majestically over the city’s northern district, not far from the largely reconstructed Magistrate. The location of the Keisuke house is fictional (although not the family) but the hill district near Sofukuji Temple is still criss-crossed by a labyrinth of indecipherable narrow streets.

The Takashima Residence was, sadly, blown away by the nuclear bomb, and only the foundations remain. The island of Dejima is being painstakingly reconstructed, and you can walk its streets freely – it’s now one of the city’s main tourist attractions. It’s also no longer an island.

Fukusaya Bakery is now a noble institution, with tiny bits of moist cake sold at extortionate prices.

Italo-Turkish War, 1911-1912


A hundred years ago today started negotiations that would eventually bring an end to the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912.

It was not, by any measure, a major war at the time. The Italian victory did have a certain strategic and geopolitical value – what with Italians gaining control of Libya (the repercussions of which we feel to this day) and the Ottoman Empire showing the signs of weakness that would eventually lead to its downfall in the Balkan Wars and World War I. But that’s not why the war is significant to us, or why I chose to write about it in this blog.

It is a war undeservedly forgotten. The Italo-Turkish War was the first real modern war. It was the first European war of the 20th century – and some might say it was the true end of the 19th century. Along with the Second Boer War, it marks a demarcation point between the old and the new ways of waging war, and between the old and new military aesthetics. In literary terms, I dare say it marks the definite boundary between the steampunk and dieselpunk.

Continue reading “Italo-Turkish War, 1911-1912”

Standing Stones of the British Isles


We went to Salisbury Plain a few days after the Solstice, and this reminded me of the many other standing stones we’ve seen throughout the British Isles over the years.

This was our second visit to Stonehenge – even more people this time of the year, and the weather was much milder.

Further north of the Stonehenge area is the Avebury area, which has, to me, much more spectacular features than its better known neighbour, though not as iconic.
This here is the Silbury Hill – greatest man-made mound in Europe, the size and age of some of the older pyramids in Egypt. Its purpose is unknown, as there doesn’t seem to be anything inside or on top of it.

Just across the road from Silbury Hill is one of the two Kennet Long Barrows

At 100m, it is one of the largest barrows in Britain
The Avebury Circle – what’s left of it – is huge. It encompasses part of the village, including the pub, and is probably the largest in the world. This photo shows just a tiny part of it.
The locals over the ages have removed many stones for construction. Still, what’s left gives a good impression of how the entire thing must have looked like back in the day

‘The Cove’ – a triple formation of stones in the middle of what was one of the smaller concentric circles forming the Avebury complex
Way, way up north from Salisbury, on the wind-swept Orkney there is a set of megalithic monuments rivalling that of the Wiltshire plain. All through the islands the stones are scattered in lesser and greater formation – the Standing Stones of Stenness being one of the most iconic ones

The Maeshowe Barrow is built like the famous Newgrange in Ireland – its entrance pointing at the Winter Solstice sunrise
The Ring of Brodgar, not far from the Stenness Stones, this is the third largest stone circle after Avebury and Stanton Drew, and perhaps one with the best views – sweeping across the Scapa Flow

 

Dwarfie Stane of Hoy – not many tourists even notice the giant slab of rock cast on a hillside, but inside there are tomb chambers carved in solid red sandstone

We now go to Wales – Anglesey. Plenty to see there, from iron age forts to megalithic monuments.
The Bodowyr Dolmen

And the entrance to the Bryn Celli Ddu barrow mound

I have not yet been to Newgrange, so this is the best I’ve got for Ireland. The Poulnabrone Dolmen in the middle of Burren. Hard to notice among all the other naturally strewn boulders.

Maltby Street Christmas


As every week, we went to do some weekend shopping at Maltby Street. Today we bought some more provisions, due to it being Christmas holiday period.

Monmouth Mistletoe
First stop – Monmouth Coffee, of course 🙂
Smooth Nicaraguan brew today, with tiny mince pies!
Nice surprise! Fern Verrow was supposed to not have any veg today, but still they came in force.
Lots of biodynamic beetroot for traditional borscht 🙂
Mons Cheese. Alps and Pyrenees cheeses from individual mountain farms. Fantastic Jura cheese, as strong as Gruyere, as soft as butter.
Poilane bread – the usual 🙂
Long queue for Christmas Stilton at Neil’s Yard
Neal’s Yard Christmas Lights
Bea’s cakes
The fantastic, awesome, terrific, best in the world, cold-smoked salmon from Hansen&Lydersen. We bought half of one for 20 quid.
Live shrimps from Dorset – jumping out of the basket
This had been the best oyster I have ever tasted. Plump, fresh, briny, the taste of the Brownsea Island
Lots of Panettones
Lovely miss La Grotta (Kitty) came after a long break, bringing Choc Ices with hazelnut chunks.
The Shard looming over the Arches

#OccupyLSX Tent City


I made some photos of OccupyLSX tent city yesterday. I have no idea how anyone with clear conscience can be disturbed by this group. People are going in and out of St Paul’s unhindered, the place is clean, very well organized and fun. 

The recycling facilities and access to public library made it a better place to live than some parts of London!

There was a multi-faith ceremony taking place on the steps of the cathedral at the time.

The tent city accepts donations and is in need of some supplies – here’s their wishlist.