Category Archives: towns and cities

Trebinje, Republika Srpska, Eastern Hercegovina

A small town of around 30,000, Trebinje has a lot to commend it.

 

Trebinje 1

It was a very hot day, and I walked up to the top of the prominent hill overlooking the town. At the summit, is the Gracanica Monanstery, completed in 2000. Its a Serbian Orthodox monastery, essentially a fairly faithful modern copy of a monastery of the same name in Kosovo.

As I’m a bit of an atheist, I always take a bit of an atheist’s view of religious buildings, but nevertheless admit to often being in awe of the beauty and splendour of the architecture, or the sheer weight of the presence of the ghosts of all the thousands or even millions of souls that have passed with reverence and religious devotion through the doors of these buildings. I have visited many, often seeking them out as places of quiet, for contemplation, or for refuge from a storm, or from the crowds. And I observe with interest, the trappings of the various theologies; the products of thousands of years in development. The site comprises a ‘ gift ‘ shop, and a restaurant and cafe, with a wonderful city wide vista across the river.

In Britain, the pace of building of new Christian churches is slow; it seems we have  already got enough of them, and congregation numbers are falling. In fact, where I live in Wales, I know that a lot of churches and chapels are being sold, for conversion to dwellings, as the institutions are unable to afford the funds to maintain them, and there’s only so much public money to go round to maintain the architectural essence of the few more interesting examples.  Mosques, in certain part of Britain, on the other hand, are being built, as the congregations seem be growing, albeit slowly.

In the countries of the Balkans, its a more complicated picture. 

Romania has until recently had the fastest rate of construction of new churches in Europe; ten per week. ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23420668 ) and this for a country of not much more than 25 million, with under-resourced public services. Only very recently has the Romanian Government made the decision to withdraw from its major commitment to assisting in the church building programme. ( http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/romania-reduces-funding-for-churches-12-12-2015-1 ) 

The countries of the former Yugoslavia are also booming; if you are a builder who knows how to knock up a place of worship. 

monasteryGracanica Monastery, Trebinje

monastery interiormonastery gift shopGift shop, Gracanica Monastery, Trebinje

I suppose, that after nearly 50 years, from 1945 onwards, when virtually NO churches were built, it’s only natural that the faithful would want to assert their right to worship the religion of their choice, once the prohibition had ended, and I would be among the strongest supporters of that right.  So, now its a busy time for church-builders.

I don’t know what the up to date situation is, but in 2014, researchers Milan Spasojević and Milica Milojević, wrote that in just the previous 15 years, over 200 Orthodox churches had been built, with another 100 in the final phase of construction, in Serbia alone. (http://www.ejournals.eu/pliki/art/3179/ ). 

What is also an interesting observation,  is that during the Bosnian War from 1991-5, ten of Trebinje’s mosques were completely destroyed, and that  from a situation where 5,500 out of a population of 30,000 were self-declared Muslims in 1991, by 2013, only 1000 out of a similar total population, declared themselves to be Muslim. I am not sure how many new mosques, if any are being built, although I did see a beautifully restored little stone and timber one in the centre of the old town.

What this change implies, for the longer term, is beyond the scope of my understanding after a mere two days here. But it does seem that Christian Orthodoxy is in the ascendant at the moment, in this place at least. 

Mosque

Mosque 1Mosque in the Old Town, Trebinje

At the end of this very hot day, I went looking for a place to swim. I had seen on the town’s Tourist Information board, a map, with a municipal swimming pool clearly shown. A wide slow moving river – the Trebisnjica – must surely offer a wonderful swimming opportunity. And indeed it did!

This wasn’t to be the last such municipal swimming pool which I would encounter on my bike. Around a bend of the river, and upstream of the centre of the town, is a pool of several acres! A weir and sluice gates controls the inflow and outflow from and to the river, and a grating prevents anything other than water or small objects entering the pool. The water was deliciously warm, a little muddy, and the warning from a fellow-swimmer about the slimy concrete bottom to the pool, accurate.

Surrounded by a concrete apron, extensive shady lawns, changing booths, showers and enhanced by a diving platform, this place must surely be crowded with families during the school holidays and evenings. As it was, only a handful of swimmers and sun-bathers were here, and I enjoyed a solitary swim, with my eyes on the distant, sun parched karst horizon.

poolTrebinje lido.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dubrovnik & Trebinje, and points between

Properly speaking, its only a sunny and comfortable little uphill cycle ride from the park next to the market in Gruz;  which is just along the coast to the north from Dubrovnik, and up into the interior of this incredibly narrow strip of Croatia, and then to Bosnia & Hercegovina.   I’ve been looking forward to getting away from the coast, with the cruise ships, ice-cream sellers, sun-worshippers, and planeloads of inebriated British wedding party arrivals. I’ve been looking forward to getting the pedals turning on the hills, with the heat bouncing off the tarmac. But its a longer and more complicated journey.

Within less than 15km, I’ve climbed from sea level to just about 400 metres above it,  and to the border crossing at Ivanica. At this point, to my surprise, is an apparently very sound track bed for a railway. This is the surviving evidence of the railway network that was built by the Austro-Hungarian empire towards the end of the nineteenth century; and which fell into disuse in the 1970’s. Now, parts of the network have been developed as part of the Ciro bicycle network. 

 

RAILWAY - nr IVANICA

Overlooking the rail-bed from Republika Srspka, to Dubrovnik and beyond

Mine warning

Mine presence warnings just off the roadway between Ivanica and Trebinje

BOAR

Other roadside warnings; the current gastronomic fashion for ‘ pulled-pork ‘ comes to mind; and not in a good way.

Contrary to the signage, physical hazards along the way are few, but I’m trying to understand the complexities of the territories that I slowly move between and across.

I want to get this right; for one thing, for fear of offending someone for getting it wrong, but fundamentally, because I want to try and understand what has been happening and to be able to follow the course of events that will surely unfold here in time to come.

In the period since Yugoslavia came crashing apart after Tito’s death, one of the countries that came into being was Bosnia-Hercegovina . Its also sometimes known as Bosnia and Hercegovina, and in Bosnian or Serbian, Bosnia i Hercegovina. Its sometimes just called Bosnia, but people from the region known as Hercegovina quite rightly wouldn’t be entirely happy about that.

Bosnia i Hercegovina consists of the two autonomous entities – Republika Srpska and The Federation of Bosnia & Hercegovina. And if that’s complicated to comprehend, then Wikipedia notes the detail about the ethnic groups. There are three constituent nations…and they’re all given equal recognition by the country’s constitution; are Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, not necessarily in any particular order. This is just the little thread of this earth that I am spinning along, and there is this complexity, and these differences. As anywhere else in the world, but perhaps more exaggerated here than in most places, people and societies feel the need to differentiate themselves, to gather around totems, and to note and assert their viscerally felt differences.

The more recent that wars are, it seems the more keenly the need to do that is felt. From my peaceful and safe and unthreatened little corner of the world in Wales, I do not feel this need, but I can understand its origins. What worries me is the ability and ease with which those that want to keep sorting through the entrails to find some difference to highlight,  and to rattle the nationalists’ cages about , and can raise the spectre of internecine warring again. I was struck by a footnote in the Wikipedia excerpt  which I’ve referred to here.

It refers to the study  which concludes ” A Y chromosome haplogroups study published in 2005 found that “three main groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in spite of some quantitative differences, share a large fraction of the same ancient gene pool distinctive for the Balkan area” . ( (1) ) Differences are human-constructs; overlaid and highlighted for all manner of reasons.

By the time I arrive in the lovely town of Trebinje, still in Republika Srpska, I’m ready for a drink. The centre of Trebinje is a very genteel looking place. Tall, poplars and pines shade shiny limestone-paved squares and avenues  and what seem to me to be an inordinate number of places to drink coffee and beer with friends. I join them, and then later walk along the river in the late evening sun. I visit the bridge which this town is renowned for, and draws both tourists and religious pilgrims to.

EVENING PRAYERS

BRIDGEBRIDGE 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dubrovnik, Gruz, and a view of Montenegro

The wonderful thing about travelling by bike is the pace; I notice so much more than if I am in a car….I’m barely off the little ferry from Zaton, arriving in Gruz port, where so much destruction took place in the early 1990’s, and I get my first puncture. Oh well, easily sorted. It gives me the opportunity to visit the market to buy a bit of fresh fruit. And then I bump into Dom!  

DOM - DUBROVNIK

He is standing near these interestingly shabby doors near the market, and I quiz him about the building I can just see through the door if I push it a little bit! ” Come in, and I’ll show you around “, Dom says as he pushes the door wide open, with authority.

ITALIANATE GARDEN 1 - DUBROVNIK

A big, delightfully overgrown garden, with semi-neglected vines, fig-trees, a vegetable patch, and shade from the midday sun lies behind the doors. And surrounded by the garden…a big house, a private chapel and beautifully mysterious, dark and half-revealed interiors, wooden panelled and furnished, of staircases, high ceilings, becomes the absorbing physical setting, for the next two hours, as Dom shows me round, making as he does so,  a valiant attempt to relate the history of the Balkans to me…..dating back to the 8th century…..

ITALIANATE GARDEN - DUBROVNIK

ITALIANATE GARDEN 1 - WATER

Italianate….is probably not the correct adjective, given the date of all this…and the fact that Italy didn’t exist as we know it until the nineteenth century, but that regional architectural influence is clear all down and up the Dalmatian coast.

Two hours later, I’m a little the wiser, and Dom certainly holds strong and informed views about the course of events over the previous centuries in the Balkans! Just then, as we begin to explore the possibility of letting ourselves into the building itself to explore it a little further, a man lets himself in through the garden gate. Its immediately very evident from the tiny amount of language exchanged between the two men, that I can comprehend, and the body language, that we are not welcome…and Dom’s evident authority as a tour guide suddenly evaporates, as we are summarily ushered out into the busy road. Its been a verdant haven, and an elementary lesson in Balkan politics.

Territories in former Yugoslavia as at 1995

1995 - former Yugoslavia territories

The situation is so dynamic in this part of the world; this is then….how is it now? What’s changed since this map….well, Kosovo and Makedonia are two examples…as I’ll discover as I head over into Republika Srpska, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece over the next month.

Looking south-east to Montenegro 

MONTENEGRO KEEP OUT.jpg

Look south to Montenegro

Standing high up and inland from the Old City of Dubrovnik, I can see for miles, into Montenegro, into the magical and mysterious Durmitor mountains, where I’ll be heading. This vantage point was the focus of a vicious armed conflict, and its obvious why.

View of Dubrovnik from The Homeland War Museum

DUB

And all the while, there is a constant reminder of the loss of life…

War Photo Ltd; exhibition. 600 coffins of victims of Srebenica massacre await burial; original photo by Tarik Samarah.

COFFINS

Well, I’m heading off now, and up and over the mountains to Republika Srpska.

CYCLIST

 

 

Addis Ababa Mercato

The ‘ New Market  ‘ – መርካቶ –  is supposedly the biggest open-air market in Africa….its Wikipedia entry says it ” covers several square miles, employs 13,000 people in 7,100 business units! ” Quite how such precise quantification can be arrived at…is amazing….because it goes on seemingly for miles in every direction!

In any case; it is huge, extensive, labyrinthine, seemingly (but actually not) chaotic…but above everything, absolutely my favourite place in Addis! The world is a market-place, where anything and everything is traded and processed….moved, and of course, valued.

Mercato 3

Roof view – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato 2

Roofscape – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato 1

Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato 4

Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

Mercato

Streetscene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

bearings as wheels

bearings as wheels

Street scene – Mercato, Addis Ababa

The Antiqua-Fraktur Dispute….

My first visit to Berlin, was in July 2016, and thus around 80 years after the beginning of World War 2, and also around 80 years after a crucial stage in a long-running discussion in Germany about the use of a typeface – or perhaps, font, as we now call these designs of letters.

Visiting the now non-operational Templehof Airport, a massive example of Third Reich architecture, was an experience which I truly relished. As part of Albert Speer’s plan for the reconstruction of Berlin during the Nazi era, Ernst Sagebiel was charged with the responsibility of the design of this complex; at the time one of the world’s largest buildings. Sagebiel’s building style; very linear and uncluttered, has been called “ Luftwaffe modern “, alluding to the connections he had with the Luftwaffe.

TEMPLEHOF 2

 

One cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer scale of this building, and also the quality of build and detailing. The arc-shaped main building is over 1.2 kilometres in length; the highest number in the elevator is 8, and there are two floors below ground. It is a majestic design, and the build is of such good quality as to seem to represent an eternal and enduring testament to the anticipated durability of the Nazi regime. 80 years after it was built, there are no outward signs of settlement, dereliction or deterioration; and windows and doors are original in many instances. Its precise and un-adorned ( apart from Swastika-stripped Nazi eagles ) two-tone limestone facade shows no structural damage, and the overarching design brief is one of a superbly executed maintenance-free monolith.

 

EAGLE

 

TEMPLEHOF 3

 

On plan, the terminal was to represent a winged eagle, and the facade indeed proudly and haughtily presents itself to the city of Berlin, which was to be re-christened as  Welthauptstadt Germania  , Adolf Hitler’s projected name for the new capital for the world. 

TEMPLEHOF 4

TEMPLEHOF

TEMPLEHOF 1

In the basements, however; away from the vast and palatial baggage and departure halls, the VIP lounges and restaurants, with their acres of polished marble floors, are the bomb-shelters. The tour guide talks of ‘ 300 bomb-shelters ‘, safely and solidly constructed of mass concrete, and capable of being closed off with individual steel doors, each with massive lever handles. 

And, this is precisely where my interest in the Antiqua-Fraktur Dispute was stimulated. Decorating the walls of the half-dozen shelters I visited, and photographed by dim light, are contemporary depictions of what seem to be folkloric and light-hearted tales and scenes. The tour guide tells me they were to be for ‘ the enjoyment and entertainment ‘ of the expected occupants, as if the weeks of protective entombment would pass more swiftly surrounded by this uplifting imagery.

 

BOMB SHELTER 1

BOMB SHELTER 2

For me, unable to read and understand German, and hence the ‘ graffiti ‘ on these walls, and as a child of the ’50’s, the typeface did, however, awake some subliminal connotations of ‘ German-ness ‘. 

I had, as a child read comics in the 1960’s, many of which then still were filled with war stories, and lean and violent ‘ Huns ‘ in helmets, ready to shout ‘ Achtung ‘ and ‘ Schnell ‘ whilst mowing down our brave ‘ Tommies ‘ with their ‘ Mauser ‘ machine guns. Unseen in those strips, but imbibed, was the ever-present ‘ German ‘ typeface, ever thereafter to evoke in me a sense of gothic and Nazi mythicism.

But seeing these images now, I realised I was understanding more about the ‘ brand ‘ of the NSDAP, and its clever packaging of the ‘ völkisch ‘ notions which included a romantic focus on folklore and sentimental patriotic fervour; in its more negative forms later to become overt xenophobia. 

Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf,  “the basic ideas of the National-Socialist movement are populist (völkisch) and the populist (völkisch) ideas are National-Socialist.”  

He saw the advantage of gathering this populist interest in the folklore and history of Germany into the imagery of Nazism, and sense of nationalistic fervour which would be so powerfully harnessed in the years to come.

I left the bomb-shelters and this imagery, intrigued by the profound effect that the simple eighty year-old paintings, and especially the faded, simple arrangement of these few letters had had. In one way, these are incredibly valuable, a sort of time-capsule. 

CEMETERY

Two weeks later, I visited the American Cemetery near Cambridge. And after walking amongst the gravestones, crosses and walking along the path, reading some of the thousands of names inscribed in 1956 upon the monument to the American dead, I walked into the Chapel.

And on a somewhat inclined plaque, against the wall, was a brief but comprehensive description of the War in Europe. And there it was again, that the ‘ Enemy’s ‘  emblematic typeface was evident. 

Every instance of mention of Germany, from the “ Enemy’s military, industrial, and economic system “, or its “ transportation systems and coastal defenses “, to the 

“ German fighters “ and the “ Enemy’s submarines “ , and more, was highlighted by the use of the ‘ German ‘ typeface. In the design of this plaque, clearly there had been a strong association, less than ten years after the end of the war, of the old typeface with Nazism, and the desire to perpetuate this association was very, and surprisingly to me, evident.

PLAQUE

 

But, a dispute? Why?

In most of Europe, both of these ‘ blackletter ‘ typefaces had historically been in common usage, but with the Antiqua typeface displacing the Fraktur version in the 15th and 16th centuries. However, in Germany, both continued to be used into the early 20th century.

So it was, in Germany, that a dispute developed along ideological divides, about which typeface represented ‘ German-ness ‘ . It seems that the dispute began in earnest in the 19th century, when nationalists began stridently to attempt to define cultural values that should be common to all Germans; a classic case of nation state building its sense of identity. 

Some writers suggest that the Antiqua typefaces were seen to be shallow and light by their proponents, in contrast to the darker, denser Fraktur, supposedly representing the German values of depth and sobriety. (1) 

 

220px-Schriftzug_Antiqua

220px-Schriftzug_Fraktur

 

And so, in 1911, on May 4th, the dispute reached a peak, during a vote in the Reichstag. The ‘ Verein für Altschrift ‘ , ( society for old-script ) submitted the proposition to make Antiqua the official German typeface, replacing Fraktur,  which had been the official typeface since 1871 – the date of the Unification of Germany. A long debate followed, and the proposition was very narrowly rejected – by 85-82 votes. And so, from 1911 onwards, Fraktur continued as the official typeface until 1941. 

Fraktur typefaces were hence heavily used early on during the Nazi era, as they continued to be claimed as the true “ German “ script. However, in 1941, the use of Fraktur was banned, its use being increasingly associated with Jewish control of newspapers. Martin Bormann signed an edict banning the so-called Shwabacher Jewish Letters.  ( 2 ) .

Adolf Hitler also expressed his dislike for the Fraktur typeface in a declaration made in the Reichstag in 1934. ( 3) 

“ Your alleged Gothic internalisation does not fit well in this age of steel and iron, glass and concrete, of womanly beauty and manly strength, of head raised high and intention defiant … In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far ..” 

Hilter referred to Antiqua as ‘ Latin ‘ , referring to its origins in Roman inscriptions.

But of course, 1945, the end of the war,  and the de-Nazification of Germany changed everything….

But one still sees the Fraktur typeface, on labels on beer bottles, on hotel signs, on pub signs, all over the world, as well as in Germany, and it certainly continues to convey the notion of ‘ German-ness ‘ .

And the typeface in the bomb-shelters under the Templehof Airport? Looks like Antiqua to me…..but I may be wrong!

 

 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiqua–Fraktur_dispute

    2.    Facsimile of Bormann’s Memorandum (in German)
The memorandum itself is typed in Antiqua, but the NSDAP letterhead is printed in Fraktur.
“For general attention, on behalf of the Führer, I make the following announcement:
It is wrong to regard or to describe the so-called Gothic script as a German script. In reality, the so-called Gothic script consists of Schwabach Jew letters. Just as they later took control of the newspapers, upon the introduction of printing the Jews residing in Germany took control of the printing presses and thus in Germany the Schwabach Jew letters were forcefully introduced.
Today the Führer, talking with Herr Reichsleiter Amann and Herr Book Publisher Adolf Müller, has decided that in the future the Antiqua script is to be described as normal script. All printed materials are to be gradually converted to this normal script. As soon as is feasible in terms of textbooks, only the normal script will be taught in village and state schools.
The use of the Schwabach Jew letters by officials will in future cease; appointment certifications for functionaries, street signs, and so forth will in future be produced only in normal script.
On behalf of the Führer, Herr Reichsleiter Amann will in future convert those newspapers and periodicals that already have foreign distribution, or whose foreign distribution is desired, to normal script”.

    3. from Völkischer Beobachter Issue 250, Sept. 7, 1934.

 

 

 

 

Europe….B…is for Bilbao, S…is for Salamanca, M…is for Malaga….

I’m just back from a few weeks in Spain and France and having trouble ordering my images, so I thought an analphabetical approach would be best.

Bilbao came first….

SPIDER

B…for Bilbao, and the local version of the Guggenheim Museum, with spider.

 

BLUE BUILDING

B…is for Bilbao

 

GUGGENHEIM

B…for Bilbao

 

FLOWER DOG

B…is for Bilbao

 

…then Salamanca…

IC

S…is for Salamanca

 

…a special mention for General Franco ( still warrants egg on his face after all these years)

FRANCO EGGSHELL

S…is for Salamanca

 

…then the Alhambra in Granada…..

 

ALHAMBRA

A….is for Alhambra

 

TILKES

A….is for Alhambra

 

...and Malaga…

MALAGA CATHEDRAL

M….is for Malaga

 

MALAGA PORT

M…is for Malaga

 

SEATS

M…is for Malaga

 

…and P…is for Puerto de la Torre ( where a competition takes place to look Spanish and beautiful, and to dance, and is called the Festival Mayor de Verdiales

VERDIALES 2

P….is for Puerta de la Torre

VERDIALES 4

P….is for Puerta de la Torre

 

VERDIALES 1

P….is for Puerta de la Torre

 

….and G…is for Guadix…where the sun shines a lot and it is converted into electricity…

ANDASOL 1

G…is for Guadix

 

ANDASOL 2

G…is for Guadix

 

…and V is for Valencia…my favourite place for stylish and brave building design…

VALENCIA 1

V….is for Valencia

 

VALENCIA 2

V….is for Valencia

VALENCIA 3

V…is for Valencia

 

….and thats it for now.

 

 

 

 

Colours of Swanage…..beach huts… 2014 style!

Swanage beach huts

Swanage beach huts

swanage 2 (1 of 1)

swanage 1 (1 of 1)

A very sunny and warm weekend in Swanage brought out the ice-creams, the walkers, the railway enthusiasts and showed off the modern iteration of a traditional architectural style – the beach-hut  –  at its very best. The bold colours were striking in the brightness, and the glint of highly polished handrails together with the yellow bands as hazard warnings on the steps look really stunning!

Apparently there are about 20,000 beach-huts in the UK, and I grew up in West Mersea, Essex, where they are alive and well and being looked after much better than they used to be in the 1970’s.