Project 28 July 2017

01 August 17

Posted at 11:28

Project Map July 2017

As of 31st July I have travelled to (and photographed) a town in each of 25 of the 28 EU states. By 20th August I will have completed all 28 and will have achieved that in just 12 months. I wonder if any UK citizen has actually visited all 28 countries previously? If they have I seriously doubt it was in a period of just 12 months. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has.

After a fairly quiet period in the first three months of the year in late April I made up for it by travelling to nine countries in just 17 days. Since then I have added four further countries.

Varna BulgariaVarna Bulgaria

 

Suceava RomaniaSuceava Romania

 

Kranj SloveniaKranj Slovenia

 

Pula CoatiaPula Coatia

 

Komarno SlovakiaKomarno Slovakia

 

Gyor HungaryGyor Hungary

 

Ebensee AustriaEbensee Austria

 

Kralupy Nad Vitavou Czech RepublicKrapuly Nad Vitavou Czech Republic

 

Sosnowiec PolandSosnowiec Poland

 

Following the whistle stop tour by train of the above countries I took a short break.

 

Coimbra PortugalCoimbra Portugal

 

Prato ItalyPrato Italy

 

Hennigsdorf GermanyHennigsdorf Germany

 

Groningen NetherlandsGroningen Netherlands

 

Piraeus Greece 

 

So now just three countries to travel to in order to complete stage one of my project, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. 

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Project 28 France, Spain and Ireland

20 March 17

Posted at 4:51

Short days and inclement weather in the early weeks of 2017 resulted in a slow down in Project 28 activity. I did however fit in trips to France, Spain and Ireland. The towns chosen for Project 28 in those countries were Laval, Salamanca and Galway.

Untitled

I chose Laval on the basis it is twinned with Boston, Lincolnshire. Other than being similar sized market towns in rural locations there are few similarities between Boston and Laval. Least of all is their attitudes towards the EU. Boston had the biggest percentage leave vote in the whole of the UK influenced very much by immigration levels. Laval on the other hand, seeing its population fall as its traditional linen industry declined, used EU funds for a technology park to attract new industries to the town offering the people an alternative to moving to major cities.

Musee du Vieux - Chateau and Pont VieuxMussee de Vieux - Chateau and Pont Vieux

This is the iconic image of Laval, the Mayenne, the chateaux and the Pont Vieux.

Laval to me was all about the river, La Mayenne.

Basilique Notre Dame d'AvesnieresBasilique Notre Dame d'Avesnieres

The weather during my stay was bitterly cold, the river turned to ice for much of each day. The clean cold air and winter light made for some nice images though.

Pont de l'EuropePont de l'Europe

Le Viaduct de LavalLe Viaduct de Laval

Pont VieuxPont Vieux

The old bridge with the chateau on the right and the Basilique  Notre Dame d'Avesnieres in the distance.

 

 

I left Laval and headed by train to Salamanca, Spain

City Hall ReflectionCity Hall reflection in Plaza Mayor

Salamanca in January proved to also be bitterly cold (more so than is usual I was told) and quite wet (it is on the plain I guess). Not what one expects when visiting Spain but on the positive side I had far less tourists to wrestle with than would have been the case for most of the year.

Plaza MayorPlaza Mayor

A friend had mentioned to me Lazarillo de Tormes so I sought out the sculpture in memory of Salamanca's most famous son.

Lazarillo del TormesLazarillo de Tormes

Salamanca from Scala CoeliSalamanca from Scala Coeli

If you have been following Project 28's progress you will be aware that since the outset if there is a ariel view available in the town I am visiting I take advantage of it. In Salamanca it was Scala Coeli. The climb there differed from any to date as the staircase was wooden, the stairs are narrow towards the top and finish with a tight spiral to the bell tower. There are two towers de Clerecia joined at the top by a walkway. There is a 360 degree view of Salamanca. My first ascent was met by a squally storm as I reached the top, I didn't venture out, in fact it was difficult to maintain a footing inside the tower. The following day the weather a lttle calmer enabled me to get some shots.

Catedral NuevaCatedral Nueva

The break in the weather enabled me to take a walk across the Roman bridge to the far side of the Tormes and look back at old Salamanca.

My return journey by rail involved a border crossing just South of Perpignan, on my journey to Spain I had crossed into Spain North of Irun on the Atlantic side. The crossing that way was, as one would imagine between Shengen countries, unnoticeable. The only difference I noticed when changing trains at Irun was on board the Spanish train the staff totally ignored the no smoking rule. However on my return my train, travelling from Barcelona to Lyon, stopped at Perpignan for an age. The train was boarded by numerous police and the ID of every passenger was thoroughly checked before the train moved on (40 mintes late putting connections at risk). This was my first experience of border control (other than at airports) during the project so far. I assumed it was prompted by terrorist concerns.

Next on my 'winter schedule' was Ireland, Galway in particular.

The Long WalkThe Long Walk

I guess the colourful houses of the Long Walk are the most photographed in Galway.

The Long Walk (sun)The Long walk with the sun out

Friends have told me I was lucky to see them in the sun and I must admit it was brief. The term 'wild Atlantic coast' is not inappropriate.

Galway Hookers and Browne DoorwayEyre Square

The central landmark of Galway with the Browne Doorway and the Galway Hookers. A man I met told me Galway is 'all about the Craic and the Hookers', thankfully he explained that Hookers are traditional fishing vessels before I got the wrong impression. Eyre Square is also know as Kennedy Square and there is a bust and a plaque to JFK commemorating his visit in 1963. JFK is revered in Galway more than I could ever have imagined. In fact..

UntitledJFK Mosaic

...there is even a mosaic of him in the Cathedral. I've met many from Galway who didn't know that. Rumour has it that JFK's family funded the completion of the Cathedral which was finally finished two years after his visit - progress had previously stalled due to lack of funds.

Fourteen Tribes of GalwayThe Fourteen Tribes of Galway

Galway from Mutton IslandGalway from Mutton Island

Nora Barnacle's HouseNora Barnacle's House

 

As the days now lengthen and Article 50 is served I will ramp up my travels to the 28 EU states. In April I plan a whistle stop tour of nine countries in 15 days which will bring my total to 20 so there will be just 8 to go.

 

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Project 28 Cyprus

15 January 17

Posted at 10:55

Cyprus the eigth country I visited for Project 28. My chosen town is Paphos. This would be my final visit in 2016. With days now short and in general the weather getting grim I would take a few weeks off shooting after Paphos.

Paphos Town 1Paphos Town Centre

Pafos town centre resembles a bomb site. Apart from a small area around the little bus station every street and square is in a state of refurbishment. This all in preparation for Pafos becoming the European City of Culture 2017 which kicks off in February.

Paphos Town 3Paphos Town Centre

I can't see the town being ready by then.

Set MenuEuropean City of Culture 2017

It's difficult to envisage Paphos as the European City of Culture and impossible to envisage any sort of culinary culture. The restaurants, bars and cafes both in the town and the currently somewhat more presentable port area pander to the taste of both tourist and the massive ex pat community. Both are predominantly but not exclusively British. the attraction of Cyprus to the Brits is not only the climate and relatively low cost of living but seems to also stem from the UK's military bases historic and current in Cyprus. I was in Paphos in December so not the tourist high season but I met many Brits who have either emigrated to Cyprus or at least spend the majority of the year there. Many of these had served in the military stationed in Cyprus at some point in their lives. The majority of ex pats I met hailed from Northern towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire and also the Midlands. In my brief encounters with them they gave me the impression of stereotypical 'leave' supporters, middle aged or elderly, white and from 'working class' areas. I must say most also appeared stereotypes you would expect to offer you some moody merchandise or worse. It is wrong to 'judge a book by the cover' of course. I was struck by the irony of probable Brexit supporters currently enjoying the benefits of freedom of movement and the right to reside and work anywhere in the EU. In discussing my project and their situation none volunteered any concerns about their way of life changing. Many had opinions on migrants and migration not appearing to grasp the irony of their comments.

So in the City of Culture it was not easy to grasp what the culture of Pafos or indeed Cyprus is. It looked more and more as though the town had sold its soul. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Kings Avenue.

Kings Avenue MallKings Avenue Mall

Between the port and the town is Kings Avenue Mall. The mall appears to be the pride and joy of the town. A grey metal and concrete monstrosity photographed here from one of the 'archaeological sites of special interest'. I never ventured into the mall but from seeing the signage it contains the usual raft of global corporations from Costa Coffee and Waggamama to Zara, M&S, Mango et al, I'm sure you get the picture. There is nothing particularly Cypriot or Greek about the content or the architecture. For me that's a shame.

There are in and around some examples more typical of the local culture and history. There are many archaeological sites.

Archaeological Site Of Kato PafosArchaeological Site of Kato Pafos

UntitledSaranta Kolones Castle

To the North of the harbour lies the site of Kato Pafos. To the left of the road is a large area with many ancient building remains, catacombes, amphitheatres etc. For a small admission fee you can enjoy walking around the large archaeologocal site.

 Basilica of ChrysopolitissaBasilica of Chrysopolitissa

On the other side of the road are Ottoman and Medieval baths and the Basilica of Chrysopolitissa. The Basilica site for me typifies what I found to be the chaotic management, direction and planning in Pafos. Whereas in the main site one can wander amongst the ruins without restriction, which is nice from a freedom perspective but not good for preservation. Across the way at the Basilica an elevated walkway, wide enough to be able to accommodate two wheelchairs alongside each other, over the site and alongside and in front of the church. This grey metal and wooden structure has really destroyed the aesthetics of the building, it is on top of many ancient stones, foundations and pillars. One gets the impression that the construction of this platform no doubt displaced and moved many of the ruins, add to that the installation of floodlight boxes at ground level. It is difficult to imagine that this site is as it was discovered or that archaeologists had a great deal of say in its current presentation.

Sol AlterSol Alter

In 2014 the Pafos2017 team selected five Cypriot artists to create twelve sculptures along the coastal path at Pafos as part of and ready for the City of Culture year. This is one, Sol Alter by Yiota Ioannidou, the others are a collection of themes with little cohesion.

Paphos Port Paphos Port

The port is pleasant and I imagine very lively in the season.

Banana PlantationBanana Plantation

To my surprise there are numerous banana plantations surrounding Pafos. I was unaware that bananas even grew there, they are unique to the Pafos area.

FishermenFishermen Pafos Port

This scene, somewhat romantically I guess, is in my mind what I would expect. Three fishermen sitting putting the world to rights under guise of fishing. There were at least a smattering of such simple living traditional Mediterranean folk to be found in Pafos but they were lost amongst the 'immigrants' from other EU states, most notably the UK but also Germany and Scandinavia. The economy, businesses and politicians appear to panda to the needs of ex pats and tourists, understandably but sadly as the traditional way of life disappears. I wondered if being a member of the EU had accentuated this change and the globalisation epitomised by Kings Avenue Mall. I also wonder if Pafos will be ready to be the European City of Culture, if the town refurbishment will be complete before the end let alone the beginning of the year. If I'm honest I am unsure that City of Culture will ever be a description applicable to Pafos.

So Cyprus is the 8th country I have visited and the last for 2016. In late January I will be off to France and Spain followed by Ireland. Thereafter I am scheduling Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic and Poland to be covered in one rail trip. By early May I will have photographed towns in 20 of the 28 EU states. I have 8 other states to fit in from Finland to Greece.

Comments

Project 28 Malta

19 December 16

Posted at 4:24

Malta is the 7th country I visited for Project 28. Valletta is my chosen town. The first seven towns I visited for Project28 I had never visited previously however I have been to Valletta twice before, both times in the early seventies, so in theory I had some knowledge of the place albeit a long time ago. Malta is also a place I grew up hearing a lot about. My Dad used to often speak of the time he spent there whilst serving in the Royal Navy, he talked of Strait Street, known as The Gut, the street the sailors headed for when their ship was in port. So imagine my surprise when I realised my AirBnB room was above a bar in Strait Street.

Malta became part of the British Empire in 1814 and remained so until independence in 1964 (although the Queen remained Head of State) and then became a republic in 1974.

Malta received the George Cross for the part it played in WW2 during the what became known as The Siege of Malta.

Malta joined the EU on May 1st 2004 and the Eurozone in January 2008.

Grand Harbour EntranceGrand Harbour Entrance

Malta is an island (one of three I will visit for Project28), its history, economy and people are dominated by the sea, ships and sailing. Valletta's Grand Harbour is an iconic destination for generations of sailors and cruise ship passengers.

Lazzaretto CreekManoel Island Yacht Marina

Look in any direct from either side of Valletta and this will be what you are likely to see.

Recumbent Figure Siege Bell War MemorialRecumbent Figure at Siege Bell Memorial

Valletta is on a peninsular on the east coast of Malta. On the South East point of that peninsular just inside the harbour entrance is the Siege Bell Memorial and the recumbent figure facing out to see in memory of all those who perished in the Siege of Malta 1940 - 1943.

Church of Saint Francis of AssisiChurch of St Francis of Assisi

Malta is a catholic country. Masses have large congregations throughout the week, not just on Sundays.

Valletta from Marsamxett HarbourValletta from Marsamxett Harbour

These wooden balconies are abundant in Valletta and indeed throughout Malta. They became fashionable in the mid eighteenth century. Green became a popular colour introduced and favoured by the British.

St Ursula StreetSt Ursula Street

A typical narrow undulating street in Valletta with popular wooden balconies populating both sides of the street.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Paul's Anglican CathedralOur Lady of Mount Carmel and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

One of Valletta's iconic views. The stone along with churches on the skyline typify Valletta.

Sliema WaterfrontSliema Waterfront

Sliema, a short boat ride across Marsamxett Harbour, along with St Juliens, is today like an extension of Valletta.

Parliament BuildingParliament Building

Freedom Square and City GateFreedom Square and City Gate

 Enter through the city gate and Freedom Square lays ahead and to the right is the new Parliament Building.

Fort Manoel. Manoel IslandFort Manoel. Manoel Island

Manoel Island lies across Masamxett harbour. The fort on the island remains the subject of a 16 year ongoing dispute regarding public access which is currently prohibited.

Malta's economy is dependent on tourism, a freight transit point and increasingly competing with Ireland and Luxembourg in cross border fund administration. There is also a growing business of film production with incentives being offered to film makers. The Maltese are still close to the British with Britons making up a high percentage of of non- Maltese. The population has tripled over the last 100 years and although the smallest population of any EU state Malta has the highest density of population in the EU in fact one of the highest in the world.

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Project 28 Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

15 November 16

Posted at 4:48

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the second smallest country by population in the EU. Population is just above half a million (Malta has just under half a million). The capital and the town I visited is Luxembourg City boasting a population of just over 100,000. Luxembourg is one of the founding nations of the EU and has played a central role from the outset. Luxembourg City is home to institutions like the European Court of Justice, European Court of Auditors, Secretariat of the European Parliament, European Investment Bank, European Investment Fund, European Stability Mechanism and so on, I think you probably get the picture.

Cour Constitutionnelle - Cour Superieure De JusticeCour Superieur de Justice

I chose to make a day trip to Luxembourg whilst I was staying in Liege. I only gave myself seven hours to discover and photograph the city, so, excuse the pun, I wonder if that was enough time to give it justice.

My intial impressions after walking from the station was of a nondescript rather dull town. It had the feel of being populated with lawyers, bankers and civil servants. There is also a feeling of money with some massive construction projects underway. 

From the viaduct over the Pettruss Valley I spotted the Skatepark Pettruss.

Skatepark PettrusssSkatepark Pettruss

Quite an amazing, and somewhat surprising sight.

Skatepark

I made my way down into the valley to have a closer inspection.

Viaduct and SkateparkSkatepark and Viaduct

My intial thoughts were what an 'antiseptic' place it was but having found out that the skatepark only opened in July 2016 I guess after just being open for three months it would be pristine. It took twelve years to actually bring the project to fruition at a cost of over 2m €. 

Old and New Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a contrast of the old and the new and as mentioned earlier there is a lot of new construction underway. 

Old Luxembourg is centered around a honeycomb of tunnels that for centuries have served as fortification and shelter. Up to 35,000 people sheltered in the Bock Casemates during WW2.

Casemates Du BockCasemates Du Bock

The casemates were initially carved by the Spanish in the 1700s. Today it is an amazing area of tunnels and caves beneath Montee de Clausen.

CasematesBock tunnel

The lady in the tourist office assumed that the Casemates would be what I (and all other tourists) would be there to see. The casemates are well worth the visit as is the surrounding area of Old Luxembourg.

NeimensterNeimenster

 

River AlzetteRiver Alzette

 

Historic LuxembourgHistoric Luxembourg

 

In the end I only spent five hours in the city and took an earlier train back to Liege. I achieved my prime objective of documenting the city for Project 28. As time went by I found the city more interesting than my first impressions

 

Comments

Project 28 Belgium

14 November 16

Posted at 5:05

The 5th country I visited was Belgium, the city of Liege. Liege is in the Eastern Wallonia region of Belgium. The Walloon Federal Region is one of three that make up Belgium, Wallonia as the regions government renamed it, is the French speaking part of Belgium with over 80% of French speaking nationals residing there. The federal regions of Belgium enjoy a lot of devolved powers including even setting their own foreign policy and trade agreements. I am currently unsure of how this sits in the context of the EU. Just prior to my visit Wallonia had at the eleventh hour held the other 27 countries of the EU to 'ransom over the competition of an EU trade agreement with Canada that had taken seven years to negotiate.

Gare des Guillemins 1Gare Des Guillemins

I arrived in Liege by train from Brussells. The train station, Gare Des Guillemins is a sight to behold. An ultra modern, futuristic building somewhat at odds with the surroundings but never the less creating a positive, if slightly confusing, impression of the city. The architecture worth of a couple more images I feel.

Gare Des Guillemins 2

 

Gare Des Guillemins 3

 

Paradis TowerParadis Tower

Looking from the station in the direction of the town is Gare Des Guillemins architectural soulmate the Paradis Tower (here seen from the river). A structure as equally out of place in Liege, perhaps both are an indication of the direction of future development in Liege but for now albeit impressive they look out of place.

A walk along the river Meuse towards the centre of town soon exposes more traditional and historic architecture.

Institut ZoologiqueInstitut Zoologique

And then there is the architecture that was 'modern' once upon a time

Cite AdministrativeCite Adminstrative

Then there are mixtures of old and new

Statue Le PlongeurStatue Le Plonguer

Overlooking the city is the Citadelle, the Montagne de Bueren, now the site of a hospital, for me it seemed an ideal spot to capture what is now becoming a Project 28 trademark - an ariel shot.

UntitledLiege from The Citadelle

Citadelle Steps Looking UpMontagne De Bueren

There is just a little matter of 374 steps to climb up. It's number one on the Huffington Post's list of most extreme staircases.

Citadelle Steps Looking Down

No so bad on the way down though.

La Meuse By NightMeuse by night

A walk along the river Meuse is a nice experience in Liege, at night it is transformed with each of the bridges being lit up in ever changing colours.

Belgium of course is one of the six founding nations of the EU and is home to the EU and NATO headquarters. In many ways there is much in Belgium, the way the country is divided and the way at least Walloon appears out of step with the union. It is complex! Whilst staying in Liege I had the ideal opportunity to catch a train to Luxembourg, another founding state and the next country I would visit for Project 28.

 

 

Comments

Project 28 Latvia

08 November 16

Posted at 1:19

The fourth country I visited was Latvia and my chosen town was Riga. Another capital city although it is not my intent to concentrate on capitals it just worked out that for all three Baltic States I visited the capital. I arrived in Riga by bus from Tallinn and gained the impression that, other than Riga, Latvia consists of acres of forest.

The Freedom MonumentThe Freedom Monument, Riga

As I walked into the town in the late afternoon the first thing that struck me was this magnificent monument. The monument honours the fallen soldiers in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-20). The monument was lucky to survive the second occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940.

Latvia joined the EU on 1st May 2004 and the eurozone on 1st January 2014.

The Market, River Daugava, Telecom Tower and beyondCentral Market, River Daugava and Telecom Tower

View from St Peter's ChurchVansu bridge from St Peters Church Tower

St Peter's Church Tower offers an excellent view of the city in all directions and for once without having to climb two or three hundred steps to see it. There is a lift, mind you the entrance fee is a bit steep as I found many things in Riga were expensive compared with Lithuania and Estonia.

Central MarketCentral Market, Riga.

 The central market consists of a large open air area along with five pavilions made from Zeppelin Hangers which when moved to Riga had their height reduced to 20.5m (from 37.4m). The original height made them too susceptible to temperature change. The market covers 72.3 thousand square meters with over 3,000 stalls.

Inside a Market HangerInside a pavillion at central market

 

Latvian Riflemen MonumentLatvian Riflemen Memorial

 

George ArmitsteadGeorge Armitstead

In the garden's of the Riga Opera House is this bronze of George Armitstead, his wife and chao-chao dog. George Armistead presided as Mayor from 1902 to 1912 and surprisingly he hailed from Yorkshire! Armitstead was responsible for the modernisation and transformation of Riga in terms of architecture and elegance in the city outside of the old town. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled this statue in 2006.

Whilst in Riga I read about the Salaspils Concentration Camp  which is located just beyond the boundary of Riga. The concentration camp was run by the Nazis during WW2. The camp housed thousands of German Jews, Soviet POWs and left wing Latvians. The Salaspils Memorial on the site of the concentration camp can be reached by train to Darzini and then a walk of two or three kilometres. I took the train to Darzini and disembarked on to a lonely platform with a brick shelter and nothing else in sight apart from trees. many paths led in all directions through the woods. It took me a while to spot a tiny sign on a tree identifying the correct path to take. After a walk through the dense woods with just a couple of small signs confirming I was on the correct route I came a cross Salaspils and it was quite a shock.

Salaspils - MotherSalaspils Memorial - Mother

At the entrance there is a concrete block housing a walkway it is a 100 metre long ramp signifying a stairway to heaven. On the front of it are inscribed the words in Latvian “AIZ SIEM VARTIEM VAID ZEME” English translation “Beyond this Gate, the Earth Moans”. As you proceed passed the ramp to the left is a large black marble block which houses a metronome, the block is called the "Reminding Heart", the constant heart beat from the metronome breaks the eery silence, echoing throughout the vast area of the memorial. Ahead is a vast clearing in the forest, around the edges stone memorials and concreted slabs. In the centre there are massive stone sculptures built and left by the Soviets as a memorial. They stand in groups, square-jawed and arms outstretched, holding each other up in support, kneeling or stretching out in exhaustion across the grass.

Salaspils - SolidaritySalaspils - Solidarity

 

Salaspils - The HumiliatedSalaspils - The Humiliated

 

I have visited many war memorials around the world but have seen nothing on this scale. Being there alone with the heartbeat constantly booming is quite daunting. It creates an atmosphere provoking thoughts of what this camp meant to those imprisoned and in many cases dying there.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Project 28 Estonia

12 October 16

Posted at 2:43

The third country I visited for Project 28 was Estonia. My chosen town Tallinn. Estonia joined the EU on 1st May 2004 and the Eurozone on 1st January 2011. Estonia has also been a Schengen Area member since 21st December 2007.

I arrived in Tallinn on an overnight bus from Vilnius (Lithuania) at 0630. I was kindly met by my AirBnB host who insisted on giving me an early morning spontaneous tour of the city. The hour spent with him, his name is Marco, proved to be really informative and helped me immensely in deciding where to spend my time. Marco is 42 years old so spent his first 17 years living under the Soviet occupation. His experiences have lasting impressions and he hates the Soviets with a vengeance.

1954Liivalaia

Marco pointed out this building with Soviet star atop. Although keen to see all evidence of Soviet architecture eradicated from the city he seemed happy for this to remain for historical purposes.

Old and NewConsiori

There has been a lot of development in Tallinn over the last 25 years since independence so the old now sit uncomfortably alongside the new. Although Marco was critical of everything soviet the apartment he rented to me was a stereotypical tiny apartment.

Tallinn From St. Olav's ChurchView from St. Olav's Church

The old town is majestic when viewed from either St. Olav's church or the tower of the Town Hall or indeed any one of the three of four viewing platforms around the Old Town.

Town Hall SquareTown Hall Square

Town Hall Square and BeyondTown Hall Square and Beyond

In the centre of the Old Town is Town Hall Square a magnet for the hordes of tourists arriving by cruise ship. When the cruise ship's passengers join the other tours groups and individual travellers in the square it becomes claustrophobic and quite unpleasant. However when the cruise ships depart there is an opportunity to absorb this historic and quite beautiful town.

Freedom SquareFreedom Square

War of Independence Victory ColumnWar of Independence Victory Column 

Vabaduse Vaijak (Freedom Square) is to the south of the Old Town just outside the walls of the town. The square is dominated by the 19th century Saint John's Lutheran Church on one side and a gigantic glass cross on the western side commemorating the Estonian War of Independence.

KGB MuseumKGB Museum Hotel Viru

Despite Marco's desire there is no escaping memories of the Soviet occupation. On the 23rd floor of the twenty two storey Hotel Viru is the KGB museum. Supposedly pretty much as the KGB left it when they fled, it gives an insight into how the KGB both oversaw the construction of the hotel enabling surveillance of all guests and how they functioned in intelligence gathering alongside the day to day running of the hotel. Although the museum tours are somewhat dramatised by the guide it is a stark reminder as to how technology and communications have progressed in a relatively short time. I found it ironic that the concern and criticism of how the KGB and their collaborators spied on everything that  everyone did or said in those pre 'freedom' days when in Tallinn Old town today there are more CCTV cameras per square metre than I have observed in any other town I have visited.

V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and SportV.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport

The V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, today know as Linnahall, is a massive, now derelict, concrete complex with a 5000 seat auditorium and a 3000 seat ice hall. Built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics for the sailing events it lies next to the port and just outside the Old Town. A few hundred metres along the coast the Patarei prison and sea fortress lay in a similar state of disrepair. I am sure both will one day be developed if the required finance becomes available. A plan to develop Linnahall into a sports and entertainment complex including a hotel and casino was agreed in 2010 but six years on there is no sign of that coming to fruition.

Tallinn From the Palace of Culture and SportTallinn from Linnahall

Today it is like a graveyard of the Soviet era, a concrete playground for graffiti artists and inquisitive photographers. Few of the cruise ship visitors who pour into the old town visit here although it is right next to the port. Linnahall looks on whist the rest of the town is developed at a pace. My friend Marco longs for the day that Linnahall is updated and it's Soviet connexions eradicated. I feel it would be better left to decay as a memory of the past.

Tallinn and indeed Estonia prospers though independence and the security that may be offered by the EU. Estonians though live constantly under the cloud that should Russia decide to flex its muscles again re-occupation of their country would be inevitable  and there is little that could be done to prevent it. A percentage of Estonians would even welcome it but definitely not Marco.

 

 

Comments

Project 28 Lithuania

01 October 16

Posted at 4:27

Lithuania, country  number 18 in my project but the second I have visited (the first outside of the UK). Lithuania joined the EU on May 1st 2004 following a referendum held on 10th and 11th May 2003. The referendum had a turn out of 63% with 90% of those voting in favour of joining. Bars and supermarkets encouraged voters to turn out by offering discounts to those who could prove they had voted.

Gediminas TowerGediminas Tower

 Gediminas castle and tower stand at the top of Gediminas Hill, the highest point in Vilinius Old Town. On 23rd August 1989 the tower was the starting point of the Baltic Way.Two million inhabitants of the Baltic states formed a human chain from Vilnius in the South to Tallinn in Estonia in the North in an effort to gain independence from the Soviet Union's occupation.

The Baltic Way The Baltic Way

It was the largest and most effective demonstration in the Baltic State's campaign to regain their freedom.

So the Baltic Way started at Gediminas Tower and so did I. Having been pleased with aerial shots taken in Boston I thought I would take the same opportunity here.

New Town From Gediminas HillView of Vilius from Gediminas Hill

The view across the River Neris in the early morning light is breathtaking.

View from Gediminas TowerOld Town from Gediminas Tower

A view from higher up in the tower looking out over the Old Town.

Vilnius is compact but also has a lot of variation. The skyline is notable for the numerous churches. They are predominantly Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. There is only one Synagogue remaining in Vilnius following the attempted extermination of Jews by the Nazis and more latterly the Soviet Union occupations.

UntitledChoral Synagogue

Before WW11 there were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius, the city was even called the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania' but today only the Choral Synagogue remains standing and in use. Also of note is the absence of a Muslim presence. There are in fact four Mosques in Vilnius (although I never came across one). There is certainly an absence of the visibility of the Muslim religion that we are used to in Western Europe. Lithuania is the only Baltic State with any mosques. In September 2015 all three states discussed the possibility of banning the Burqa  followoing the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany. Politician's in Lithuania resolved it would be a nonsense as none had ever seen a Burqa being worn in their country. It appears that to date migration from the Middle East and North Africa has not impacted the Baltics. Christianity though is always visible especially beneath the Gates of Dawn where from the street you can look up and see through a glass window the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn. Everyday locals and visitors stand in the street below praying, especially when services are taking place on Sundays. You rarely walk far in Vilnius without seeing clergymen or nuns.

 In terms of history, the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6th July 1253. During the 14th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe encompassing present day Lithuania, Belarus, parts of Poland, part of Russia and the Ukraine. For over two centurues a two state union of Poland and Lithuania existed as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the late 1700s the Russian Empre took over much of Lithuania. Then after WW1 Lithuania became independent with the Republic of Lithuania being formed on February 16th 1918 Freedom did not last long though in 1940 Lithuania was occupied by first of all the Soviet Union and then by Germany. At the end of WW2 the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania. Then in 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence. As mentioned before Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, it then adopted the Euro on 1st January 2015.

The objective of Project 28 is for me to visit, and photograph all 28 member countries of the EU at the time of Brexit before there is any change to freedom of travel for UK citizens throughout the EU, so before Article 50 is completed. Today Brexit, the stability/future of the EU, being brought about at least in part by migration across and into the EU, is seen as a major problem both within the EU and across the globe. We hear through the media about unprecedented change and unprecedented migration. Just looking briefly at Lithuania's history one can see that change on an even greater scale has happened repeatedly throughout history. This is not the place to go into the detail but each of the events referred to above have caused mass migration. As no doubt will become obvious as I visit more countries. The persecution of the Jews saw massive movements of populations and indeed the elimination of many. I intend to highlight where history has seen change with similar human and economic impact as some are predicting for the EU. But for now, back to Vilnius today.

Even within Vilnius there is an area which has declared itself and independent republic, with it's own constitution. The Republic of Uzupis.

Republic of UzupisRepublic of Uzupis

Uzupis means "beyond the river". This small area of Vilnius is encircled by the Vilnele River, it is connected to the rest of Vilnius by seven bridges.

The area is described as bohemian and occupied by friendly artists. Uzupis was declared a republic on 1st April 1997. The constitution is posted in nine languages on a long wall in the centre. Uzupis has a national anthem, a president, prime minister ambassadors and a sheriff.

The centre piece is the Angel of Uzupis

Angel of UzupisThe Angel of Uzupis

So it's a quirky tourist attraction I guess. On my three visits there I didn't really meet many bohemian artistic folk, I saw some evidence of sculpture and art alongside the river and many of the bridges are adorned with padlocks although I'm not sure that idea originated here. I did spend an enjoyable hour or two in one of the cafe bars chatting with locals. Chatting in Vilnius is not a problem, I didn't meet a single person who didn't have and grasp on English, whether young or old, busker, sleeping on the streets whatever everyone can understand and speak English - which was not the case when I visited the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia.

Having said I didn't meet the artists referred to in the travel blurb I did find Vilnius in general was at one with all things artistic. My landlady was an artist and photographer. I met numerous street musicians and enjoyed random concerts on stages dotted all over the town and covering all genres of music (all part of the end of summer festival that appears to run throughout September and into October. There was also a lot of interest in Lithuanian culture and history, be it beer production, open air traditional food stalls, or folk in traditional dress. All could be found in the market that runs the full length of  the very long Gedimino Street during the fiesta period.

Then there is the street art. Vilnius has had a street art festival annually since 2013 and artists from around the world are attracted there. Some caught my eye.

Keule RukeKeule Ruke

The mural on the end wall is by Brazillian artists OsGemeos, twins who did this piece for the 2015 festival. Their grandfather was Lithuanian, he is depicted in the giant's left hand. The smaller piece of Putin and Trump with splif and enganged in blowback was originally a piece of them kissing, painted by Dominykas Ceckauskas (co-owner of Keule Ruke) and graphic designer Mindaudas Bonanu and was an interpretation of the 1979 photograph The Socialist Fraternal Kiss. The kissing image was defaced. In September 2016 Ceckauskas and Bonanu repainted "Trump-Putin V2.0" they changed Trumps election campaign words "Make America Great Again" with the phrase "Make Everything Great Again" Great being coloured green symbolising their pro-cannabis stance. The artwork has full backing of Vilnius's mayor. Post Soviet Lithuania, well at least Vilnius, values young creative people and values the freedom to criticise well known public and political figures without fear of reprisal.

Some more images of Vilnius

Gediminas Tower from Pilies StreetGediminas Tower from Pilies Street

Pilies street is one of the central and most popular streets in the old town

Church of Saint ParasceveChurch of Saint Paraskeva

Pilies Street runs into Didzioji Street with this small market and Saint Paraskeva at the junction.

Vilnius CathedralVilnius Catherdral from Gediminas Hill

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Vilnius Cathedral BelfryVilnius Cathedral Belfry

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Sv. Dvasios StreetSv.Dvasios Street

One or two parts of the old town have buildings dating back to the 16th Century when this street was just inside the "Defence Wall" that surrounded the city until the late 18th century. This build and street featured in an episode of a TV series called Moscow Burning.

Vilnius Full Of Space Vilnius Full Of Space

As I left Vilinius to head north to Estonia I still had much to learn about the town. A couple of weeks later I've still not discovered the meaning of this slogan. At first I thought it must refer to the empty building(s) but on investigation `i found it features in a couple of short films on skateboardong and ice-boarding. The phrase is often used on social media but I cannot discover the origin. Do you know? If you can help please give me a shout.

Next stop for Project 28 is Estonia.

 

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Visa Pour L'Image and Project28

07 September 16

Posted at 1:09

Untitled

I spent last week in Perpignan attending the 28th Visa Pour L'Image. The visit was my first. I found the exhibitions, talks and screenings highly motivational, informative on a whole range of topics/issues and all in all a great experience.

I was pleased to read an article by Jean-Jaques Naudet http://www.loeildelaphotographie.com/en/2016/09/05/article/159918097/editorial-visa-pour-limage/ that neatly sums up my own and other's impressions on our first visit. It really reflects how photography and photojournalism are going through fundamental changes. The field is totally different today for an emerging professional that it was 20 or 30 years ago when many of the contributors at Visa were commencing their careers. Visa will have to get up to date, especially on the third floor, if it is to survive. Though photographer or not please don't let that put you off visiting, the photography is superb, the 'meet the photographer' talks are inspiring and give an in depth understanding of the various topics.

Untitled Photo Sophie Fouchier

What's more it is free!!! Free entry to all the exhibitions, most of the talks and screenings. You can, as I did, pay 60 Euros for accreditation, which gives you access to the 'third floor', to portfolio reviews, access to agencies and priority access to the night screenings and some of the events during the  'professional week' which is the first week of the two week event.

It is not my intent to review the whole event here but I would like to highlight one of the exhibiting photojournalists, Brent Strirton, http://www.brentstirton.com/ . What a photographer, what an exceptional human being he is! OK there do appear to be some who are critical of the way he lights his subject - "you use flash in the day- why?" asked a member of the audience, in a condescending tone, at one of Brent's talks. He politely answered the question - a question that to me was simply irrelevant. I say Brent is an exceptional human being after listening to him speak about his Ivory Wars project. He is modest, articulate, passionate about his subjects and about factual, long form, journalism. He talks so much sense, measured  and conscise . He belies his stereotypical South African physical appearance. In a few hours I have the greatest respect for him and his achievements. Check out his work and the film Virunga National Park In Conflict.

 

Above all my experience at Visa Pour L'Image has caused me to reflect on my new venture Project28 . Having been in meetings with so many renowned photojournalists I have concluded that my research must go far deeper than perhaps I intended. Visa was also highly motivational so I really can't wait until it is time to shoot again, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are my next three venues. Over the last 24 hours I have been seeking the most cost effective travel arrangements and scouring AirBnB for the cheapest rooms available (the project does not yet have any funding!!).

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