Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yellow on Yellow

I'm not sure of the name of these dainty blossoms but I like their soft hues against the walls of the castle hotel Burg Oberranna just an hour northwest of Vienna.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Honor of Courtney Milne

The world was made a better place by the existence of nature photographer Courtney Milne. His breath-taking photographs of sacred places throughout the planet including those of his back yard swimming pool combined with his gentle and generous wisdom taught us much about life, the planet, ourselves and our potential. Sadly, I just learned this morning that Courtney Milne died last month. He encouraged us to see the beauty before our eyes, to play with photography, to discover what stuff the planet is made of and just what we are made of.

He shared many of his photographs and much of his wisdom on his website. You may have noticed a link to him in the right column under "Photographers I Like." For a visual feast, visit his "Pool of Possibilities" gallery HERE. And while you're there, be sure to read about him, his philosophy and his exercises for "Seeing with New Eyes." It may change your life for the better.
I was fortunate to hear Courtney Milne speak several years ago at a convention. It was one of the most inspiring, eye-opening and beautiful speeches I have ever heard. In honor of Courtney Milne, here are a few of my own photographs inspired by his work.

This is the Zelenci Nature Reserve near the village of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. An underground spring bubbles up in this spot and forms the headwaters of the Sava River, a tributary of the Danube. Here's to you, Courtney Milne, and the thoughts, courage and insight you encouraged. May your good works and the collective good works from all those you've inspired continue to bubble forth to make a pool, a stream, a river of difference.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Place Your Face Here

All around Izmailovo were these cutouts so you could put your face in a Russian scene:

It was all pretty typical tourist stuff:

The kinds of images you might expect:

Till this one. Yikes!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Architecture of Izmailovo

Note: I'm trying to learn a new version of Blogger's uploader and have succeeded in making a major mess. I've reverted back to the old method but the sizing from the new loader does not fit properly into my layout. As I have put hours into this post already (and have better things to do at the moment) I'm just going to publish it. Future posts should fit better (I hope). Please bear with me. I apologize for my shortcomings.

The colorful rooftops and the fanciful architecture of the Izmailovo Kremlin (fortress) in Moscow reminds me a bit of Disney World's Epcot Center. This collection of new buildings in old Russian styles is a famous market and cultural area with several museums. Unfortunately, nearly everything was closed the weekday that I visited.

I saw a sign that said photography was permitted only if you buy a permit so I went into two of the doors at the entry to pay. Both deserted. I wandered around looking for a sign saying "Pay for your photography permit here." Nothing. So, addicted as I am to picture-taking yet a bit worried that I could get sent straight to some Siberian prison camp, I started snapping photos. Out of nowhere a guard appeared and started speaking to me in Russian. He then pointed to the sign saying a permit was required. In my best sign language and questioning tone of voice I asked him where I should pay but evidently he couldn't imagine what I was asking. He shrugged and walked away. I walked over to two guys with huge camera lenses and they told me that they are professional wedding photographers and do not have to pay and did not know where I needed to go. I asked three other people and finally one woman chased down the guard and asked him in Russian then she kindly led me to the small, unmarked office. She told me that this was ridiculous. As much as I try to be sensitive to and respectful of other cultures I had to agree.

I would later learn that the mayor of Moscow has a reputation for being quite tourist unfriendly, not allowing signs in English in the subway or on the street. Sad. I believe we'd have world peace if everyone could experience the near-universal kindness of people in other countries. Certainly, the heart-warming, proactive willingness of the Russian people to help us with maps, menus and directions makes up for the hardness of some politicians.

At any rate, I hold a great appreciation for the massive yet intricate designs of the Russian Dining Palace:

The exterior of the Dining Palace was one of my favorite sights. What fabulous architecture! Don't these balconies beckon you to explore all these different levels?

I found an unlocked door and walked into one of the dining halls as it was being decorated for a dinner. Wow.

I'm guessing this represents some Russian folk tale:

These pretty rooftops reminded me a bit of Beaune, France. See this earlier post for your own comparison.

I would love to live in a small log cabin with these fairy tale window shutters. Funny, they appear to be too small to cover the window. I can't imagine that they would be purely decorative in old times. I wish I had a guide to answer my questions!

I love the unusual shape of the wooden Church of St. Nicholas; what fantastic architecture!

I like this view even better. What a great, curvaceous roof line. What a beautiful use of wood.

This front door looked inviting and and the style seems comfortable yet festive. I'm so inspired by these log structures I find I'm designing a small log cabin for us in my head. This entry with the carved pillars, stones and vines will do nicely.

It's not beneath me to take photos of trash cans. Especially one this unusual.

I do love this balcony and can't help but wonder how long it took to carve it. Imagine standing here looking into a forest of evergreens...ahhh.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Brides of Moscow

Brides, brides, brides.  Everwhere you look in Moscow you'll see brides.  It seems the custom in Moscow is that newly-married couples have their photos taken all over the city.  If you go to any of the major sights in Moscow on a sunny day, you'll likely see a bride or two or three or four at any single location.  Oh yes, the grooms are there too.   

Here's a bride in the GUM shopping mall:

In a plaza:

Walking down the street:

Throwing a coin over her shoulder and making a wish: 

At a scenic overlook:

Near a church:

Placing her bouquet at the tomb of the unknown soldier:


At Izmailiovo Kremlin:

After a wedding at Izmailovo:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Inside St. Basil's Towers

The colorful towers of Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral are separate churches. While much of the cathedral is undergoing renovation, a variety of dramatic architectural and decorative sights greet the visitor.

The melodious tones of a men's quartet beckoned us to this tiny but tall church. Small holes were strategically placed in the walls to capture unnecessary vibrations, making the acoustics in this room nothing short of spectacular. We were told the pattern on the ceiling of this tower represents infinity.

We are at another infinity.  These walls were painted to look like bricks:

Bells rest silently in the entry of St. Basil's Cathedral:

Examples of painting styles are displayed in the entry:

The ground floor of the cathedral is covered in these beautiful designs.  I think this is a metal floor.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Corridors of St. Basil's

We are all familiar with the exterior of Moscow's St. Basil Cathedral but I've often wondered what the inside looked like. Could it possibly match the drama, the whimsey, the intrigue of the exterior? Recently, I had the opportunity to see—what a pleasant surprise! Each tower consists of a separate, tall and very narrow church, all clustered around a central church and joined by corridors. The interiors have undergone numerous restorations. I found the designs on the walls and ceilings of the corridors to be especially appealing.

The ornate central church on the ground floor:

A ground-floor ceiling under restoration:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Party in Brick and Stone

St. Basil's Cathedral in the heart of Moscow is undoubtedly one of the world's most distinctive buildings. Formally known as the Cathedral of the Intercession on the Moat, this beautiful edifice was commissioned by Czar Ivan IV, known in the West as Ivan the Terrible, to commemorate his defeat and capture of Kazan in 1552. The story that Ivan blinded the architect, Postnik Yakovlev, to prevent him from designing another great building is the subject of some debate.

I do love to look at this inspiring building with its festive, colorful onion domes. It's a party in brick and stone.