Romania’s Holocaust Memorial

In October 2009, the Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest was opened. I happened upon it the day it opened and while exploring, I met the artist, Peter Jacobi.

The memorial is dedicated to the Roma, Jewish and Romanian people who were persecuted during the Holocaust and there are several sections of the memorial to represent the various communities.
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Getting dizzy at Sagrada Família in Barcelona

Spiral staircase at Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona is an ongoing project.

Begun in 1882, Gaudí made his plans mainly in his head and on the fly. When he died, no blueprints were left (some had been burned but most were non-existent), so architects taking on the massive project (projected to finish in 2026, 144 years after it was started) must try to imagine what Gaudí would have wanted.

The Sagrada Família feels like it’s just dripping with nature-inspired Gothic architecture. The columns supporting the church are meant to look like trees, the pointy spires become bowls with fruit and berries and the spiral staircases look like snail shells. The ceiling looks like the canopy of a forest and birds soar around the outside of the building.

Lacking any purely flat surfaces, there is a lot to admire in this church.

Visiting the enormous church mid-construction is certainly interesting, but if you head to the side entrance on Carrer Sardenya (just ask someone working), you can attend mass in either Catalan or Spanish. There are no English services.

While everyone is welcome (you won’t be turned away unless you’re inappropriately dressed), the service is intended for the local congregation. You might not understand any of it, but it’s a great (and free) way to see the inside of the church and get a lesson in Catalan or Spanish.

Check out the rest of my visit to Spain, including Barcelona, Girona and hiking in Montserrat with a day hitchhiking to Besalú, Castellfollit de la Roca and Olot.


A giant, some geology and a myth

Basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland is steeped with geological history and ancient mythology. When visiting Giant’s Causeway, you can choose to believe either one.

Geological history says that 50-60 thousand years ago, Country Antrim was at the centre of intense volcanic activity. Lava flowed from the eruptions and dried, cracked and adjusted, giving us the steps or pillars found at Giant’s Causeway.

You can find similar formations around the world, but they’re usually on a smaller scale. The size of the columns partially depends on how fast the lava cooled.

Ancient mythology tells us that the Irish warrior Finn MacCool was challenged by a Scottish giant.

When the giant crossed the bridge from Scotland, Finn has his wife dress him up as a baby.When the Scottish giant saw the size of the baby, he ran, fearing that the baby’s father, Finn, would be even larger. As he fled, he tore up the bridge so the enormous Finn MacCool couldn’t follow him to Scotland.

The remnants of the bridge have come to be known as Giant’s Causeway and similar basalt columns can be found in Scotland.

Check out more of my visit to Giant’s Causeway and my other Northern Irish adventures.


London’s famous bell and bridge

Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

There’s a lot more to the city than Big Ben, but this view is a classic – taken from western Golden Jubilee Bridge, one of the pair of pedestrian bridges with a train line between them. A much better view than from Westminster Bridge, in my opinion.

Interesting fact: ‘Big Ben’ is not the name of the clock nor the tower – just of the bell that chimes regularly. The tower was renamed ‘The Elizabeth Tower’ for the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. It has been renamed before to honour Queen Victoria’s 60-year reign in 1860.

Check out my other posts about my previous trips to England and my relocation to London.


Ancient mounds, Irish sheep and the Ark of the Covenant?

The Hill of Tara, just northwest of Dublin, was the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland, where kings were crowned. Various ditches, mounds and banks can be seen (even on Google Maps) forming circles and spirals on the man-made hill.

Even with its history dating back 5,000 years, containing Roman artefacts from the 1st-3rd centuries and at one point thought to hold the Ark of the Covenant, sheep are still free to roam the mounds with the tourists.

Check out other posts about my time in Ireland.


The coolness of a giant, the warmth of the Northern Irish and the relief of a hot toddy

Northern Ireland is a beautiful place.  I think it incites fear in people who have never been there because of its recently violent history, but it is wonderful.  As evocative as the Republic of Ireland, but part of the United Kingdom, it’s a place I couldn’t leave as quickly as I thought I would.
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Derry or Londonderry? The Troubles related to the name

What do you call this place?  Is it Londonderry or just Derry?  Most people, especially Catholics and nationalist, call it Derry while Protestants and unionists call it Londonderry.  So confusing.  Whatever you call it, there is a lot of history there.
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