Posts Tagged With: holiday

Norway: Viking Churches? Not

It’s an ironic story line—after raiding and pillaging towns and villages in countries throughout the north Atlantic, Vikings returned home and went to church.

Perhaps they did, but if so, they didn’t attend services in a stave church—so named for its interior, weight-bearing pillars, or staves. There may be dragons on the roof, but stave churches weren’t built until after the Viking Age ended. That date is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempt by Norwegian King Harald III, who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066. Ireland and Scotland note their own dates, predicated on victories against Vikings.

stave church, Borgund, Norway

stave church, Borgund, Norway

At one time there were more than a thousand stave churches throughout Europe. Most were built between circa 1130 and 1350 AD. Construction stopped when the Black Death started to spread through Europe, and congregating in small spaces became life threatening.

And the stave church is indeed a small space. So small, in fact, that most of its congregation had to stand—men and boys on the right, women and girls on the left. The elderly and sick could sit on benches along the walls.

Today only 28 stave churches survive, and all are in Norway where there is a long tradition of building in wood (remember those sturdy Viking ships). Earlier churches were built on often-soggy ground and succumbed to wood rot. Lesson learned. Stone foundations solved that problem.

stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

Stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

While visiting the stave church in Borgund, I was surprised to see that it—like other stave churches—had no windows. The only light entered through a few small portholes high up on the walls. The altarpiece depicts Christ’s crucifixion. Animal masks adorn the south door, and serpents and dragon-like creatures decorate the main-door side panels and lintel. On the roof turrets, Christian crosses and dragonheads keep each other company. Old legends die hard I guess, and it seems that the parishioners were hedging their bets—honoring old gods and new.

I found it interesting that the timber used in construction of the church was most likely seasoned on the root, strategic cuts drawing the tar to the surface before the tree was felled. After construction and during renovations, additional tar was applied to protect the wood.

carved doorway, stave church

carved doorway, stave church

It was common to bury the dead under the church floor, but that practice stopped at the end of the nineteenth century thanks to the unpleasant smell. However, stillborn infants and babies who died before being baptized could not be buried in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. Tiny coffins were placed under the floor, even in recent times. It seems odd to me that the ground around the church was considered consecrated, but the ground under the church was not.

If you stand inside the church and look up, you’ll see that the roof above the nave looks like an inverted boat with ribs. Hmmmmm! I wonder what inspired that design.

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Categories: Architecture, culture, History, Norway, Photography, Scandinavia, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Travel Theme: Liquid

According to one definition, a liquid is a sample of matter that conforms to the shape of its container, and which acquires a defined surface in the presence of gravity. Another calls it a substance that exhibits a characteristic readiness to flow, little or no tendency to disperse, and relatively high incompressibility. In other words, you would be hard pressed to compress it. Ever tried compressing water? I haven’t, but I feel sure it would be impossible. Squeeze it one way and it squirts out another.

But I digress. A liquid could be many things, but I choose my favorite liquid—water. How much of the human body is water? A Google search supplies conflicting answers, but I rather like this breakdown: the body is more than 60% water, blood is 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water, and bones—yes, even bones—are about 22% water. Now I’m definitely getting off track, so to get back on, I’ll take a pictorial look at water as found on the Garden Isle of Kauai. In addition to keeping our bodies hydrated at an optimum level, water can do all the following and more.

Entry to a great photo challenge by Where’s My Backpack?

Categories: Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Inspired to Blog

That’s me, hiking Kauai’s infamous Kalalau Trail

I am on a hiking trail—the famous eleven-mile Kalalau Trail, carved into the steep cliffs of Na Pali on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. After 35-plus years living in Hawaii, this is the first time I’ve set foot on the Kalalau Trail. I’ve thought about it, talked about doing it and even planned it on a previous trip to Kauai, but this is the first time I’ve ever done it, even though I can only claim the first mile and back. Next time I’ll go further.

And that’s my inspiration to blog—traveling and trying things I’ve never done before, and not letting my age (let’s just call it “advanced”) or physical limitations hold me back. This past summer on a cruise up the coast of Norway, I joined a bird-watching excursion to the Stappen Islands at Norway’s North Cape. My goal was to photograph puffins, Arctic turns and other seabirds in flight, and it proved a tougher task than I imagined. Our little boat rolled and pitched in the sea, and although I wedged myself against the railing, at times I worried about falling overboard (I’m tall and the railing was only waist high). I also admit to a little seasickness. But yes, I did get a few good shots.

A year earlier, I took a tour through Turkey. On the itinerary, our brochure listed a visit to an underground city in Cappadocia. When we arrived at the entrance, I was taken aback to learn that the underground passageways were extremely low, narrow and claustrophobic. Several members of our group declined to continue, but I was determined not to miss anything, so down we went—seven levels, each deeper than the first. The tunnels were so small, we had to crouch or walk on our knees, and our arms brushed the rough walls. Sometimes the line of people in front of me would stop for several seconds. I’d wonder what was happening and imagine getting stuck in there, running out of air, but then we’d move again. Thank goodness I’d worked on squats before leaving home.

One of the larger rooms in the underground city, Cappadocia, Turkey.

Looking back, I can think of other times I was fearful but determined to press on, like when I was faced for the first time with driving a left-handed-stick campervan on New Zealand’s North Island roads where truckers speed madly around slowpoke tourist campervan drivers, jumping off a rocky ledge in Hana Maui to join my friends in the waterfall-fed pool below (and being sure I was going to die by doing so), commanding a sled-dog team on an Alaskan glacier (braking is the hardest part), swirling above the clouds in an open-cockpit biplane over the San Juan Islands and leaning out to take photos while my stomach did some swirling of its own, and even swimming with sharks (no cage) in Midway Atoll’s lagoon.

All these travels inspire me to blog. I can’t wait to share each moment, and conversely, read about others’ adventures. I’ll probably want to try some of those adventures. And if I do, I’ll blog about them.

This post has been a special photo challenge by the Daily Post. For others’ blogging inspiration, check out the link.

Categories: Hawaii, Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Kauai: Hawaii’s Garden Isle

Every February-March, my editor asks if I can once again update the Destination Hyatt books for the Maui, Kauai and Waikiki resorts. I look forward to this assignment because I’m a wordsmith, and it’s a chance for me to get creative, writing new sidebars, little-known facts, and intros for each of the resorts and the islands they inhabit. And that means I have to come up with new themes and ideas each year.

A few years ago, I wrote this one for Kauai. And since I just returned from six days on the Garden Isle, now seems like the perfect time to put words and photos together for a blog post. My husband calls this “flowery” writing, but I call it fitting for a garden island.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any Kauai experiences, do tell.

A father takes a photo of his five children at sunset on Brennecke’s beach, Kauai.

Kauai: The Magician

Abracadabra! Endless stretches of powdery-sand beaches strung together like jewels glittering gold in the sunlight. Throngs of red-footed boobies and other acrobatic sea birds soaring gracefully above the cliffs and lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. An impregnable mountain fortress known as Na Pali flaunting its steepled spires, sea arches, and isolated, idyllic pillows of sand.

When it comes to sleight of hand, Kauai is a master, transforming the raw lava of a once barren volcano into an emerald-robed Garden of Eden complete with groves of coconut palms and a smorgasbord of fruits: papaya, banana, breadfruit, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, and the tempting mountain apple.

Like pulling a rabbit out of its hat, the island reveals hidden gardens filled with colorful tropical flowers, the languid Wailua River and its ethereal Fern Grotto, waterfalls galore, a replica Grand Canyon known as Waimea, and towering Mount Wai‘ale‘ale—the wettest place on earth.

Once Kauai has mesmerized, resistance is futile. You’ll find yourself playing 18 holes on a world-class, cliff-top golf course, hiking into Waimea Canyon’s wilderness of pastel reds and yellows or along Na Pali’s carved-into-the-cliffside footpath, kayaking a rainforest river, sipping coffee made from the island’s homegrown beans, relaxing in a rejuvenating spa, visiting locations where movies such as Jurassic Park and South Pacific were filmed, exploring by horseback or astride an ATV, stretching out on a beach in the company of a Hawaiian monk seal or green sea turtle.

Kauai waves its magic wand and you gladly fall under its spell.

Categories: flowers, Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Travels in Turkey: a Treat for your Feet

the white cliffs of Pamukkale, also known as Cotton Castle

Ouch! Double Ouch! I’m the original tenderfoot, and walking barefoot over little ridges feels like walking on a bed of nails. But the sign said, “remove your shoes,” so I knew resistance was futile, especially since management had conveniently made available plastic bags as shoe carry totes. A short distance to go over the ridged and wet terrain, and I knew the end result would be worth it.

Russian babe enjoying the sun

I was at Pamukkale (pronounced Pah-MOOOK-kah-lay), where calcium-rich water oozes over a cliff and forms lovely white-terraced pools. At one time visitors could climb down to the lower pools and soak in the mineral waters, but no more. To keep hoards of tourists from damaging them, the lower pools are closed to bathing. But all is not lost. Travelers can still try out the healing properties of Pamukkale’s springs.

Making it to the mineral pool: priceless

One way is to patronize the spa. Pamukkale has been home to a spa since the Romans built the city of Hierapolis around the sacred, volcanically warmed spring (once you buy your ticket you can visit both the terraces and the extensive ruins of Hierapolis).

It’s gotta tickle

I didn’t check out all the options at the spa, but I found Cleopatra’s Bath (featuring underwater seating designed as broken and tumbled columns) and two rows of aquarium tanks. Sit on a bench above a tank, immerse your feet, and dozens of itty-bitty cleaner wrasses will relieve you of dead skin and any ectoparasites they can find. It’s their job. And their food supply. One kind gentleman agreed to let me photograph his feet.

Cleopatra’s Bath

The other way is to do what I was doing—gingerly picking my barefoot way over to one of the calf-deep pools on the plateau at the top of the cliff, relieving my feet at little tidepools along the way. I must admit, the warm water felt indescribably good, and whether it was the comfort of the smooth-bottomed pool, or whether the healing waters were actually performing their magic, I won’t ever know. But afterwards, my nagging headcold disappeared. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

Hierapolis ruins in part

Categories: Architecture, culture, History, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Travels in Turkey: People

This time last year I was in Turkey. It’s a place that will not leave my thoughts. Before I went, what I expected was mosques and sightseeing. What I got was a cultural infusion of sights and people that left me feeling both awed and happy.

Today, let’s start with the people. Turks, especially those in the countryside and outlying towns, really like Westerners, perhaps because we’re different, or come from such faraway places.

At one restroom/convenience-store stop along our bus route, a wedding party and family (sitting at picnic tables in front of the store) offered us food from their post-wedding feast. “Turks love to feed foreigners,” our guide told us. Everywhere, groups of wide-eyed schoolchildren and their teachers surrounded me, practicing their limited English by asking the same two questions—what is your name, and where are you from—clamoring to hear me speak or just wanting to stare at me. The lack of a common language didn’t seem to matter. Somehow we communicated. And they were eager to jump in front of my camera.

If you’ve been to Turkey, I invite you to share your stories of this amazing place by commenting below. Or perhaps you’d like to author a guest blog. And look for more—much more—from me on this subject.

Categories: Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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