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The Sniper Tower

The Sniper Tower is an abandoned high-rise building in the war-torn city of Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The eerie site is officially closed down but is still in use as a space for graffiti art. During the Bosnian war 1992 to 1995 it was used by Croatian snipers to target the near-by square, also hitting and killing many civilians. Today there is peace luckily, but Mostar is still divided between Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, the sniper tower marking the border of the two parts of the city and standing as a visible reminder and as a warning.

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The City of Thousand Windows: Berati

Berati is situated in southern Albania and well known for its history and architecture. Founded in the 9th century it was always a hotspot for different religions, up until today Christians and Muslims live peacefully in the town. Famous though is Berati mostly for its stone buildings, situated close alongside each other on a hillside facing the river Ishull. Visually striking are the large windows on these houses, so Berati also got the name “The City of Thousand Windows”.

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Greek Series: Mykonos and Delos

This post is part of the so called “Greek Series”, consisting of photographies I shot while backpacking Greece in September 2013. You’ll find a basic introduction to the series here and the last post featuring Mykonos can be accessed here.

Mykonos is part of the Cyclad islands. Today a populous island, living mostly of tourism. It is well known for its beaches and night life. In ancient times though the much smaller sister island of Delos was much more important than Mykonos. It was a sacral island and a place of worship mainly for the gods Apollon and Artemis. After its decline Delos was largely forgotten and rediscovered only in modern times by archeologists from France. Today it is a museum and can be visited easily from Mykonos by ferry. The pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 (the well known lion statues) and 6 are from Delos, while the other are shot on Mykonos.

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Greek Series: Cap Sounio and Ancient Korinthos

This post is part of the so called “Greek Series”, consisting of photographies shot during my backpacking adventure in September 2013. You’ll find a basic introduction to the series here.

In contrast to the last few I feel as this one needs some background information. Basically the first batch of pictures was shot at Cap Sounio and the second one a day later at Ancient Corintho (Archea Korinthos), with some road shots in between. They were the first two stops on a marvelous and mind expanding road trip, which began in Athens and led us through the most terrific and beautiful places within the former centre of the civilized world. The place of many myths and historic beginnings (shout out to the Olympic Games!). As much as I love good legends and factual history the format I chose for this blog isn’t really fitting for either of them. But what is important, especially with temples which can sometimes look a like a lot,  is to provide a basic context for an understanding of the photographed objects / places and a little bit of history maybe. Wrapping the package around with some personal anecdotes and route information. If you are satisfied with looking at blue skies and old stones feel free to skip the letters..

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Cap Sounio is situated at the most southern point of the Attica peninsula, which is basically the land mass around Athens. As sea fearers sailed into Athens they passed the Cap and so it was a natural place for a massive temple. There were sanctual buildings here before, but the pillars you see on the following pictures are remains of the Poseidon temple, build on the hight of Athens power in the classic period (mid 5th BC). It was the most important place of worship of the wrathful god of the sea, whose mercy it was especially useful to have.

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Homer already described the place as holy. So as I am not religious and don’t believe in Greek gods (although on our journey we met some interesting paganists) I can’t talk about any spirits I felt there, but Cap Sounio definitively made a strong impression on me. The view was simply breathtaking. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the sunset, so our journey continued through the Greek countryside over the Isthmus of Corinth (a narrow land strip), crossing the famous canal of the same name which is a marvelous piece of engineering achieved in the end of the 19th century to finally the famous Peloponnes itself. Interestingly the canal turned the Peloponnes, naturally very much like Attica a peninsula, into an island. As the name by itself means Island of Pelops, millennia before the land was actually an island, it seems like there is some self prophecy in there or at least a good anecdote.

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Corinth is very close to the the Isthmus, so the historic role of the city was to secure the passage way to mainland Greece and profiting from being a Checkpoint Charlie for ancient merchants and soldiers. A necessary evil not unlike modern borders. So it was a relative well situated metropole by itself during the Classic periode, bursting with urban life and religious worship. Later it lost much of its influence during the Hellenistic period in the 4th century, regaining importance as redesigned city under the Romans a few centuries later. But in a more modern perspective the most important role for Corinth was having to be an early place of Christian worship. The city is mentioned extensively in the New Testament and it was one of the destinations of Apostel Paul during his journey around the Mediterranean. On the main sight of Archea Korinthos, some kilometers outside of the modern Corinth, you see some remains of a building, which was originally a temple and later reconstructed into a church, retaining features of the old faith and developing them according to the new beliefs. The deep connection Christianity holds to the old Greeks and Romans is apparent here. A sense of continuity in a way which is known but generally not well understood in its full extense it seems to me.

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Comparing the last picture and the next one you see some interesting differences between architectural types in antiquity. The columns of the first one are build in the old Doric style, a more straightforward form factor. Followed by the development of a Corinth style a few centuries later, probably named so because of the heavy use of materials from the region. They were more playful and incorporated decorative elements in contrast to the more formal and function-oriented Doric columns.

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At last our

Route from Athens to Sounio and from Athens again to Archea Korinthos.

Portugal Part III

So if you did like the last two and didn’t get bored I’d like to invite you for a further recapture of Portugal in February 2013.

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In the foreground you see a seller of chestnuts. The nuts are very good and you should definitely try them. Besides of that the sellers add charme to Lisboa. So it is nice to support them either way 🙂 What they are standing on is worth mentioning too. It is a specific Portuguese form of a cobbled pavement called Calçada Portuguesa. An art which the country is known for and which can be seen (and walked on) throughout the city. The patterns are often beautiful and you only have to look down to enjoy them – but don’t run into a tree, please.

In the background you see the Elevador de Santa Justa or also called Elevador do Carmo. It connects the Baixa (downtown) with a higher part of the city (Chiado) and was build by an associate of Gustave Eiffel, the Paris tower guy. It has a steam punk vibe to it, being definitely a genius piece of 19th century engineering. The elevator combines “modern” steel as building material and traditional ornaments as decorative art. But what I personally liked most was the connecting bridge at the top. It lead through a rooftop and – more amazingly – through the remainings of an old church which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755.

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I imagine how the driver saw this house and then a free parking spot and thought MATCH! Or maybe he is the house owner too and fond of the color yellow 🙂

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Another architectural piece of an associate of Eiffel – the Dom Luise bridge in Porto. This one was build by Théophile Seyrig. There is a similar bridge further away from the city centre also build by the same architect before. But Eiffel didn’t give any credit to Seyrig so he decided to compete against his former teacher in the contest for the bridge. After Seyrig won Eiffel was supposedly so angry about it that he decided to build the Eiffel Tower. Or so.

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As Lisboa Porto has many viewing points (miradouros) and even more seagulls 😉 They told us they are can be quite aggressive and annoying. But as a mainlander I enjoyed them very much and I prefer them definitely to pigeons – or the rats of the skies – as I joke sometimes. They are gorgeous.

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The monument for the Portuguese seafarer. It reaches out in to the see and into the unknown with the seamen (and priests 😉 ) longing for a new world. The details are just beautiful and I can very recommend a visit in Belém, an interesting and worth visiting part of Lisbon crowned by this monument. You can also visit the top of it and get a great view on the Tejo.

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A view of Lisboa from the Castelo de São Jorge. You see the main square and a part of the city not laying directly to the water. Being in the old town you don’t immediately realize how big Lisboa actually is. But being up here you are definitely reminded that you are in a European metropole indeed.