Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blue Nile Gorge in Ethiopia

I decided to post a few more photos from Ethiopia this week.  We took a day trip from Addis Ababa, the capitol, to the Blue Nile Gorge.  At the first scenic overlook, not surprisingly, there were some locals selling baskets.  Buying  local crafts is a good way to get people to pose for photos, and the crafts make excellent gifts.
Birds of prey used the up draft winds from the canyon to glide and circle around to try to spot a small rodent or other food.
We were surprised at how green the countryside was in much of Ethiopia.  Mny areas looked more like Tuscany than the drought-stricken land a few years back when most people became aware of everyday living conditions in Ethiopia.
We hiked down a side canyon into the Bue Nile Gorge and were treated with cascading waterfalls
This is a view across a part of the Blue Nile Gorge.  The Blue Nile Gorge is 250 miles (400 km) long.  In places it is 4,900 feet (1,500 M) deep, which is almost as deep a the Grand Canyon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Living Culture of Bhutan

The festivals in Bhutan are colorful and dramatic.  It is worthwhile to time a trip to Bhutan to coincide with one of the festivals.  The festivals feature music, dance, and colorful masks and costumes.   We visited Bhutan at the time of the festival in Punahka, the first of the season.
Families walked from miles around to reach the temple to be able to see the ceremonies  Many of them willingly posed for me..
This photo shows a giant thangka that is covering the wall of the temple.  It is made of fabric and is unfurled and raised for the ceremonies.  It was impossible to move back far enough to get a photo of the entire thangka without the tree in the courtyard obscuring part of it.  It was impressive to watch a large group of people remain and help to take the thangka down at the end of the ceremony.
People lined the temple balconies to watch the ceremonies in the courtyard below.  The monks are easy to spot in their saffron and maroon robes.
The people of Bhutan live primarily in the valleys of the mountainous kingdom in the Himalayas.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Smiles and Students of Ethiopia

The people of Ethiopia are delightful. They willingly posed for photos and have such cheerful personalities, as this photo illustrates.
The children of Ethiopia were especially friendly.  The would at times run towards our vehicle and gatyher to greet us.  I really enjoy meeting and photographing people, especially children, during trips to distant lands.
Children in Ethiopia  go to school for one half of the day.  That enables them to help their families as a shepherd or other tasks during the remainder of the day.
The half-day schedule for school children means that there are lots of children on the streets in the middle of the day, as half the kids are leaving school and half are going to school.
Villages in Ethiopia often have outdoor ping pong tables set up by the side of the road, and children and adults enjoy playing.  This is a practical recreational opportunity, as there did not appear to be many facilities for soccer (football) or basketball.
Ethiopia surprised us whith how green it is.  Because of the news of drought in prior years, we were expecting a more arid country, but the countryside was beautiful.  Prts of it reminded us of Tuscany.  This is a view of the Blue Nile Gorge, which is not far from Addis Abbaba, the capitol city.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It has preserved its Spanish Colonial characer.  Often larger cities, such as Guatemala City, experience too much growth and development to  qualify for World Heritage status.
I love Latin American arts and craftsmanship.  This mask is a good example.
This colorful meal was a work of art.
The line between art and food was also blurred by this ceramic.
Street markets also added color to the already colorful streets of Antigua.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Details of Bhutan

Bhutan is a country that captivated us because of its details. There is a giant monument to Buddha on a mountainside overlooking the capitol, and some of the temples are impressive in scale, but mostly it is the details of the people, their dress, customs, houses and temples that is fascinating to explore, observe, and, for my husband and me, to photograph.  The way mothers and older siblings wrap babies in textiles, as shown above is but one example.  Fancy baby strollers would be of little use in the rugged terrain of Bhutan.
Windows with glass are relatively new in Bhutan.  Shutters were more traditionally used.  But people take pride in the appearance of their homes and express their pride in the painting around the windows.
Temples have prayer wheels that people spin as they pass by in prayer.
The columns surrounding this grand building entrance almost look like a Bhutanese interpretation of a Greek or Roman public building.
The Himalayan countryside of Bhutan is largely mountainous, with people living in terraced plots on the sides of the mountains or in the valleys, which are limited to a very small part of the land area.  It was tricky even to find a level spot for an international airport in the entire country, as jetliners have to snake its way down a valley to reach the runway.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ethiopian Scenes

The Blue Nile Gorge outside Addis Ababa is scenic, with a vast valley surrounded by cliffs.
Driving through the Ethiopian countryside provided many scenes of typical village life.
The people of Ethiopia are very friendly.  They greeted us cheerfully wherever we went and were happy to pose for photos.
Some village houses were brightly painted.  Unpaved streets are common, although the Chinese are building lots of roads in the country to connect the towns and cities much better than only a few years ago.  Some people said that the Chinese are using their own prison labor for the construction crews.
This woman lived on a farm.  The farm huts are in the background.  As reflected by the cross around her neck, Ethiopia is largely a Christian country.   Ethiopians consider their ancient country to be the home of the Queen of Sheba, and mankind's earliest roots are found in the area.  The skeletal remains of "Lucy" go back 3 million years.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Charm of Vienna During the Holidays

The town hall of Vienna becomes a giant Advent calendar during December.  Each day they lift a panel on one of the windows, which are also specially lit, as shown in this photo.
Belvedere Palace is located in Vienna and has a holiday market in front of it.  It has an impressive art collection inside, including masterpieces by Gustav Klimt.
The streets of Vienna at holiday time are accented with Christmas markets selling crafts, food and drink.  Vienna would be charming at any time of the year, but is especially enchanting at Christmas.
A carriage ride through the streets of Vienna would be delightful.  Part of the royal palace complex is in the background.
We met friends from Phoenix who joined us for Christmas dinner in Vienna.  This is the table setting at Nikki's Restaurant.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Starfish, Urchin, Plankton and the Sea of Cortez

Not quite one year ago we took a one week whale watching cruise up the East Coast of Baja California.  We went snorkeling nearly every day, and the variety of star fishes amazed us, such as this blue spindly star fish.
Sea urchins were abundant, but of course we kept a safe distance from them.  Our niece is about to finish her Ph.D. in Marine Biology, and she has done significant research and written papers about sea urchins.
The colors and variety of plant and animal life under the surface of the oceans that comprise most of our planet and sustains our weather and makes possible life on land causes trips like the one we took to provide the perspective that we are inhabiting their world.
A highlight during our Un-Cruise Adventure cruise was swimming wear a group of adolescent sea lions swam out to play with us.   They would swoop past and swirl around us,
While we usually search out larger fish with our underwater cameras, sometimes the density of a school of tiny fish is worthy of a photo.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tour of Budapest

A popular side trip from Budapest is to the village of Szentendre.  It is a village that has retained its charming architecture.  The town was abandoned during he Turkish occupation in the 1600's, but attracted new settlers thereafter.
Central Budapest has monumental buildings, monuments, and building adornments, as is befitting the capital city of a country with a rich history.  This eagle atop a column is near what used to be the royal palace and is now the National Art Museum overlooking the Danube River.
The ceiling tiles on Matthias Church were laid in an intricate, geometric pattern.
This adornment is a detail on the art museum, remaining from its days as a palace.
 Matthias Church is gothic in design, dating primarily to the 1300's, with an earlier church on the site sating back several hundred more years, and renovations occurring in the 1800's.

Underneath Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube there are many caves and tunnels.  Some of them are open for visitors to walk through.  There are exhibits in the tunnels, including statues, such as this startling image of a huge royal head cncrusted in the stone cave.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bhutanese Festival

We visited Bhutan at a time to afford the opportunity to attend the Punakha Festival, which is the first festival of the season.  Monks dance while wearing colorful, flowing robes and large masks.  They twirled in the courtyard of the temple, accompanied by a band.
People gathered at Punahka from miles around to attend the ceremony.  Even the baby on her back was curious to see what is going on.
The valleys in Bhutan are dotted with hillside temples and monasteries.
I set up my tripod on the covered bridge outside the temple, and people were quite willing to pose for me on their way back form the ceremony.  The festival honors the person who is credited with introducing and spreading tantric Buddhism in Bhutan and the surrounding region in the Himalayas.
Architectural details in Bhutan reflect the culture and religion
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