Places

Two short visits to Prague

Back in 2011, we visited multiple cities in Germany and on the way, we stopped in Prague. It was only for an hour or so while we were on our way to Germany and half a day on our way back. It was about to rain the first time we were there and the second time it was quite hot, even for early June.

Prague is a beautiful city. I was glad to so many historical buildings restored to their former selves. Practically everywhere you turned, there was something beautiful to see. The photos shown here are combined from those two occasions. Enjoy!

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Places

A drive on A1A

I lived in South Florida for a number of years. I went to high school and graduate school there. I did a lot of driving up and down A1A over the years, since 1991 onward. During a stay in South Florida in 2010, we were returning home after a visit to Vizcaya, and we thought we’d drive up A1A from Miami Beach, to see how things had changed.

They had changed. Things have always been in constant change along the coast, at least to my knowledge. When I arrived in Florida and started going to the beach in Hollywood and Hallandale, there were a few multi-story apartment buildings here and there, with a few larger ones down the road toward North Miami, but the rest of A1A was quiet, with nice, Art Deco beach houses tucked away between large palm and mangrove trees and private beaches. Then, sometime in the mid 90s, larger apartment buildings began to rise. The invasion had begun. The traffic began. Whereas A1A had been a leisurely cruise down the coast, it eventually turned into one long traffic jam. People who’d lived in quiet little beach houses for years and years, saw to their dismay the rise of monstrously tall apartment buildings, right next door, obliterating their privacy. There must have been zoning law disputes and lawsuits, but eventually the large real estate developers won, because more and more apartment buildings rose on the beach.

I have to wonder how those things are anchored to the ground, because Florida has no bedrock. Underneath a fairly thin slice of topsoil, Florida is made of coral bed, which is porous and soft. The engineering knowhow required to build a proper foundation for a 40-50 story building right next to the beach, where it’s subject to high winds and hurricanes and the concrete is eaten away by salty water, must be fairly complicated and tremendously risky. But people want to live “the dream”, and for the people clamoring for a beachside apartment in South Florida, the real estate developers are happy to provide it.

The photos you’ll see here were taken from the car, as we drove up A1A toward Hallandale Beach. It was the spring of 2010. Side note: I do like the way they painted the Hallandale Beach Water Tower.

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Places

A jaunt through Geneva

This past summer we visited Geneva, Switzerland, during the Fêtes de Genève. It was a short business trip, if I recall correctly it was about a day and a half, but in-between the business meetings, we snuck in a jaunt or two through the old town. One afternoon we started down by the lake, on the Promenade du Lac, and we climbed uphill on the beautiful stone steps toward the Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville and the Promenade Saint-Antoine, then we came back down to the lake to see the Jet d’Eau. The following day, we visited the Promenade des Bastions, where the Université de Genève is located. And that was it. It was August, it was incredibly hot, even for Geneva, and the only area tolerable enough during the sweltering daytime heat was the lakeshore. It really says something about global warming when Geneva’s weather becomes intolerable in the summer…

Geneva is a beautiful city with a lot of history. It’s a wonderful thing when a country has a chance to develop and to build upon the successes of previous generations without the ravages of war, which to say the least, reset the clock of progress for a place. Switzerland has been in this enviable position for hundreds of years where it has been able to stay neutral and thus its people have had decent lives and have been able to see the fruits of their labor and to leave something worthwhile behind for their successors.

I hope you enjoy this gallery of photographs from a privileged place, full of beauty and value.

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Places

The fortified church in Mosna

The village of Moșna, known as Meschen in German and Muzsna in Hungarian, is first mentioned in written documents in 1283, and there is evidence that a settlement existed there since the 1st century AD (source). Moşna was also the home of Stephan Ludwig Roth (1796-1849), a famous Saxon priest, pedagogue and human rights campaigner (source).

The Saxon settlers in the area first built a Romanesque basilica in the 13th century, which was then modified and expanded in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in the Gothic style. The man responsible for the project was Andreas Lapicidas of Sibiu (Hermannstadt), a master stone mason, known as Endreas Steinmetz in Sachsen. His initials can be seen inside the church, carved on a lintel.

The Moșna fortified church is one of the biggest in Transilvania and it is a remarkable work of Gothic architecture. The church itself is structured around three naves with ribbed vaults for ceilings. The naves are separated through four pairs of columns, the ones in the west side having been made of bricks and decorated differently so as to preserve the eastern group of columns intact, since the latter was erected using stone from the pillars of the former Romanesque basilica. Inside, the most noteworthy architectural elements are the door to the sacristy, the stone pulpit and the monumental tabernacle which measures 11.05 m in height.

The fortifications include five towers and a 9m defense wall that surrounds the church and allows for ample space inside the fortress. The bell tower has seven levels and three bells, the oldest of which dates from 1515. The gate tower in the south-eastern corner has five levels. The northern side of the fortification is guarded by a tower with four levels. A shorter, three-level tower stands to the south and it hosts a museum dedicated mostly to the trades and customs of the Saxon community but which also includes exhibits discovered during various archaeological explorations, such as coins and fragments of weaponry.

When we visited in 2011, we arrived right around noon, which as some of you may know, is the worst time of the day for photos. I also had with me a camera that was more remarkable for its zoom (30x) than the dynamic range of its sensor and the quality of its photos. I plan to visit again soon and take some photographs that will do the place justice. It’s undergone significant repairs and restoration work since 2011, so it looks different now. We’ve actually revisited it just a couple of months ago, but it was for a photoshoot for Ligia’s ongoing project, Straie Alese, so I didn’t focus on capturing the architecture.

Enjoy the photos!

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Places

Sighisoara from a distance

The same day I took these photos, we decided to drive into the hills surrounding the town and see if we could find a scenic spot from whence to photograph it. We found a couple of spots. There are a couple of pensions perched up there, with great views of the valley and the town. While the pensions/restaurants themselves are underwhelming (one was closed, another only served water and bad coffee), the views are worth the drive.

By the time I set up my equipment, it was dusk and twilight was fast approaching. You’ll have to excuse the liberal use of noise reduction in the photographs, but I was shooting with the long end of a 70-300mm lens at f5.6, fast shutter speeds and high ISO. What made the photos more interesting was the creeping fog, which was enveloping the town from all sides. I can see the appeal of such scenery in stories about vampires, but I assure you, there are none there.

When night fell over the valley, we drove back down and I took a few shots of an historic church and of the Târnava Mare river which passes through the town. One last thing: the mountains which you see in some of the photographs are the Southern Carpathians, more specifically the Făgăraș Mountains.

Enjoy the photographs!

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