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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Matopos – the place of benevolent spirits

Posted by dan on January 25, 2011

 

Charles Dume Sana - meaning Praise the Lord - and his family

Charles Dume Sana - meaning Praise the Lord - and his family

It’s been called the place of benevolent spirits, and Cecil Rhodes, as he wished, was buried there at Malindidzimu hill. Today Zimbabwe is off the main tourist path, but even when it was on the main route few people visited the Matopos region – also known as Matobo Hills. Much of the area is a national park – the Matobo National Park -and it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is close to the town of Bulawayo and shorter or longer safaris and treks can be organized locally. The local people belong to the Ndebele tribe, which is split into a southern and northern branch – first live in South Africa, the second in the southern part of Zimbabwe and parts of Botswana. The following images were made in 1996 in a small Ndebele settlement just outside the national park, where I’ve spent a week staying at Fortune’s family with two fellow travelers, Mark from Holland and Ian from Scotland. People are almost self-sufficient – if the season is good – and earn a little cash from making carvings or working in town – and would love to receive visitors in their homes. It is a magical and sacred landscape – as powerful as the Red Center in Australia, the Sinai mountains in Egypt or Hampi in India – and could develop into a trekking, cultural and retreat destination, if things were going better in the country. The locals would definitely deserve it – let’s hope things will get better one day.

More about the Ndebele:

Northern Ndebele people, located in Zimbabwe, and Botswana
South Ndebele people, located in the South Africa

More about the Matobos National Park:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matobo_National_Park
Matobos National Park official website: http://www.zimparks.org/?option=…

Useful link:

Matobo Conservation Society: http://www.matobo.org/

 

Posted in Africa, Destinations & Sights, Zimbabwe | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Snapshots – Hampi, India

Posted by dan on January 25, 2011

Silence that speaks...

A popular destination with the Goa crowd, Hampi is indeed a magical place. The little town is cute, but the surrounding natural setting is what makes it special. There are ruins of an ancient kingdom, temples, sacrificial places amongst incredible boulders. It is a big area, you could explore it for several days – or just chill out in a nice cafe overlooking the river, like most people do.

More about Hampi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampi

 

Posted in Asia, Destinations & Sights, India | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Muddy water taking back the land

Posted by dan on January 10, 2011

It is very saddening to watch the news of the floods in Australia. While other people celebrated the new year around the world, residents of Queensland were left homeless in one of the worst disasters in Australian history. It’s been weeks now and it’s still not over, with more rains hitting the region. My heart goes out to all the victims of this – or any other – terrible natural disaster of which there are so many these days. Maybe they are the acts of God, but we are all responsible at least a little bit.

In the video images of the floods that stroke the city of Genova in the 70s.

Nick Cave: Muddy water

“Mary, grab the baby, the river’s rising
Muddy water taking back the land
The old-frame house, she can’t take-a one more beating
Ain’t no use to stay and make a stand

Well the morning light shows water in the valley
Daddy’s grave just went below the line
Things to say, you just can’t take em with ya
This flood will swallow all you’ve left behind

Won’t be back to start all over
Cause what I felt before is gone

Mary, take the child, the river’s rising
Muddy water taking back my home
The road is gone, there’s just one way to leave here
Turn my back on what I’ve left below
Shifting land, broken farms around me
Muddy water’s changing all I know

It’s hard to say just what I’m losing
Ain’t never felt so all alone

Mary, take the child, the river’s rising
Muddy water taking back my home

Won’t be back to start all over
Cause what I felt before is gone

Mary, take the child, the river’s rising
Muddy water’s changing all I know
Muddy water’s changing all I know
Lord, this muddy water is taking back my home.”


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Villa Borghese gardens – with kids or without

Posted by dan on December 18, 2010

Rome, Borghese Park

Borghese Park, Rome

Located right above some of the main sights in Rome, such as the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo, it offers a quiet alternative to the busy streets below. Worth even only for the view from the terraces, either you go up from the Spanish Steps or Piazza del Popolo. A short and nice walk would be to go up at one of these locations, and come down at the other. The park can be approached from the top of the Monti area as well, and you could take shorter or longer walks in the tranquil gardens. Apart from the shady trees, ponds, fountains, monuments and sculptures, there are several museums and galleries, including of course the Borghese Gallery. There is also a zoological museum and an animal friendly and educational biopark – it’s not even called a zoo to make a point. You can get around on foot, on hired pedal-powered cars, segway (electronic two-wheeler) or a little train. There are carousels, a toddlers playhouse (maybe closed in winter), kiosks and cafes so you can easily spend a whole day up in the Villa Borghese gardens – with kids of any age, or even without.

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” Tom Robbins

Further information:

Galleria Borghese (Borghese Gallery) official website: http://www.galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/edefault.htm

About the Villa Borghese gardens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Borghese_gardens

Travel TipBioparco (Biopark) official website: http://www.bioparco.it/en/bioparco-in-rome.html

More about Rome: Rome attractions pictures & videos

Recommended hotel in the area:

L'Hotel Cinquantatre, RomeL’Hotel Cinquantatre ***

Via di San Basilio, 53 00185 Rome, Italy
Tel/Fax : (+39) 06 42014708

Official site: http://www.hotelcinquantatrerome.com/

See blog post: 53 – L’Hotel Cinquantatre

Posted in Destinations & Sights, Rome, Travel tips | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Edinburgh – nature walk in the city 2.

Posted by dan on December 17, 2010

Edinburgh Castle, snow, Scotland

Dawn over Edinburgh Castle and the snow covered city. Image: http://www.fohb.org

Another great nature eacape is a walk in Blackford Hill Local National Park, a bit south-west from the Salisbury Crags. There is a pond with ducks and swans, a hill with an observatory from where you can get a beautiful view of both the Castle and the Crags, a little forest with a creek and the Hermitage of Braid, now functioning as the park rangers center.

Further information:

Friends of Hermitage of Braid: http://www.fohb.org

City of Edinburgh Countryside Ranger Service: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/countrysiderangers

See also blog post: Edinburgh – nature walk in the city 1.

Posted in Destinations & Sights, UK | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Adivasi – tribal people in India

Posted by dan on December 17, 2010

The Bondo men still carry bows and arrows

The Bondo men still carry bows and arrows

Although little known, there are hundreds of different tribes in India, a country which has more than 10 official languages and, according to some studies, up to 800 spoken languages. One interesting and diverse region is Orissa where there are 62 different tribal groups. One of the most interesting and smallest is the Bondo who live up in the hills of Khoraput district along with the Didayi and Gadaba. Their way of life is under threat – as the case with indigenous groups all over the world – but they still retain much of their culture. You can get in contact with them in one of the weekly markets where they sell sago wine and buy the things they need. The following images were made in the market of the little town of Onukadeli (also written in many other ways), located at the upper end of the Machkund Dam Project. Most of the photos were taken by a local man who doesn’t want to be named. I gave him my camera for the day while I was drinking with the Bondo. Although he had never used a digital camera before, he made some amazing shots in the market. The images in the villages are mine.

Note: Please be respectful when visiting tribal areas. Apart from their lands being taken, the tribal groups are under enormous cultural pressure from Hindu officials and Christian missionaries – no need to make them feel like exotic animals in a zoo.

Posted in Asia, Destinations & Sights | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Edinburgh – nature walk in the city 1.

Posted by dan on December 4, 2010

The view of the Castle of Edinburgh from the paved path

The view of the Castle of Edinburgh from the paved path

The Salisbury Crags with Arthur’s Seat is a dominant natural sight, rising above Edingurgh and visible from most part of the city. Located at the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament, at end of the Royal Mile, it is easy to reach – even the Hop-On-Hop-Off buses stop at its foot. It is worth to walk at least a little up the Crags – the view of the city is stunning.

There are several paths of different difficulty and shorter or longer walks can be taken. A circuit along the rocky cliffs of the Crags is 1-1.5 hours; a summit circuit to Arthur’s Seat and back 2-3 hours.

“Holyrood Park is a rare example of unimproved grassland. Effectively unchanged since its enclosure as a Royal Park in the 16th century. It is rich in plant species and also provides a home to a variety of important invertebrate, amphibian, mammal and bird species. To find such a wildlife haven in the heart of a capital city is remarkable.”

Travel TipFor more information about the park, guided walks and other activities run by the Rangers, visit: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/ranger

 

(Note: the url printed on the brochure doesn’t work.)

See also: Edinburgh – nature walk in the city 2.


Posted in Destinations & Sights, Travel tips, UK | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A tranquil spot in an elegant neighborhood

Posted by dan on November 21, 2010

Located close to the upper gate of Monceau Park (the Rotunda), Hotel Elysees Parc Monceau is in an ideal location for those who like to enjoy Paris at a slower rate. With Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe only a short walk away, this is an elegant and charming Parisian neighborhood – green streets and parks, simple and upmarket shops, cafes and restaurants. Hotel Elysees Parc Monceau, as the name suggests, is just around the corner from the tranquil park, a great location for all ages. Located in a smaller street, traffic noise is not a concern either. The hotel is a simple 3-star hotel – a bit of old fashioned elegance with a touch of the contemporary. The lounge area is nicely done, the rooms are good but nothing fancy. The breakfast room certainly has a beautiful character. All in all, it is worth the money, especially if you can get a good deal as it is often the case.

Hotel Elysées Parc Monceau ***
38, rue Cardinet – 75017 Paris France
Tel. +33 (0) 1 47 63 88 60
Official site: http://hotel-elysees-parc-monceau.com/

See also blog post: Parc Monceau – a secluded garden in Paris

Posted in Hotels, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parc Monceau – a secluded garden in Paris

Posted by dan on November 21, 2010

Carousel and buffet in Paris, Parc Monceau

Carrousel and buffet in Parc Monceau

Although the Luxembourg Garden is probably the most famous of all the parks in Paris, there are other smaller and bigger gardens and parks in every corner of the city. Parc Monceau is one of the better known ones – still, it is much less visited and more laid back. Located close to Champ Elysees in an elegant and quiet residential area, it is off the main tourist path and this definitely adds to its charm. Popular with locals – families with kids, couples and elder people – it is a nice place to retreat. Open from sunrise to sunset and there is free Wi-Fi.


Facts about the park:

“The park was established by Phillippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, a cousin of the king. He started buying land on which to establish the garden in 1769, and employed Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to design the gardens. He was a close friend of the Prince of Wales, later George IV, and a lover of all things English. As a result, his aim was to create an informal English-style garden in the middle of Paris.”

“In 1793, during the French Revolution, the Duke was executed by guillotine and the garden was taken into public ownership.”

“Claude Monet painted a series of three paintings of the park in the spring of 1876. He painted two further paintings of the park in 1878.”

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_Monceau

Other gardens and parks in Paris: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_parks_and_gardens_in_Paris

.

Suggested hotels close to the park:

Hotel Elysees Parc Monceau
Website: http://hotel-elysees-parc-monceau.com/
See also blog post: A tranquil pocket in an elegant neighborhood

Hotel Ampere
Website: http://parishotelampere.com

 

Posted in Destinations & Sights, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Loi Krathong – thanking nature

Posted by dan on November 20, 2010

This video is produced by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. See video in English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSkriTLhM7A

Loi Khratong is a Thai festival which has its roots in the Hindu Diwali festival. Its meaning has changed in Buddhist Thailand – instead of celebrating the return of Lord Rama, Thais pay their respect to the spirit of waters for sustaining life: the rice fields, fish, men and beast. Held usually on the evening of the fool moon of November, people descend on the rivers, klongs (canal), lakes and ponds, and float lit up wreaths made of banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. It is also a party time, with loud music and restaurants full of people.

More about Loi Khratong: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Krathong

Loi Khratong official website: http://www.loikrathong.net/en/index.php

 

Posted in Asia, Destinations & Sights, Thailand | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »