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İstanbul’s minarets and mosques

İstanbul’s minarets and mosques

Straddling not just the Bosphorus River, but also two continents, Istanbul is a city firmly pushing itself into the future while holding on to tradition and religion.

Everywhere you turn in the city, you are faced with a mosque or at least one minaret is visible in the distance.

The minarets are where the calls to prayer are made from (six times a day with bullhorn-like loudspeakers), so choose your hotel wisely or you won’t need to use your alarm clock! The first call to prayer is two hours before dawn!

See more of my adventures in Turkey here.

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Nu parcați! No parking! Welcome to Romania

Apparently residents of Romania really don’t like their garages being blocked. The streets are filled with notices – often colourfully painted on garage doors, sidewalks and movable signs across country. I found these in the mountain town of Brașov.

Yes, Romanians have cars. They don’t all drive a horse-drawn cart filled with hay. They have an 80 mph motorway, although that is only a guideline as most Romanians tend to drive way over the speed limit (a perfect match for the large hitchhiking culture in the country).

Check out my post about false images of Romania.

See more of my Romanian adventures here.

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The ‘merci stone’ walls of Nantes Cathedral, France

‘Merci stone’ walls of Nantes Cathedral

The walls of some cathedrals in Europe are lined with stones inscribed with the words ‘thank you’ (in the local language, of course), giving thanks for specific events or just a general ‘thank you’. In Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Nantes (Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul of Nantes, France), I had my first experience with these ‘merci stones’.

The day I explored Nantes Cathedral, the sun was coming through the stained glass just right to bathe the ‘merci stone’ walls with bursts of red and yellow.

Check out posts about my time travelling around France.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Drop your camera to find serendipity and your great blue heron

I love my camera. It’s just a basic point-and-shoot and I’d love to get a nicer, more professional one, but for now, I love what I have. It goes everywhere with me. Recently it came on a walk through Whatcom Falls Park with me. On my way to the park, I was driving past Bloedel Donovan Park, right on Lake Whatcom, and couldn’t help but pull over to take a photo (ok, more than one…) of the sunrise over the lake. Beautiful. I thought it’d be the highlight of my day since the color of the sky was getting more… well… Washington-y… cloudy but not rainy… overcast. It was just typical Washington weather that changes the light to make photos not quite as nice as those with the beautiful colors of sunrises and sunsets here, so I thought this was the end of my picture-taking day.
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