Tuesday, November 14, 2017

i feel the earth move...(or rather i don't)

I do love a bit of spontaneity, so with that in mind I took a quick trip to Norway at the beginning of the month.

Norway, and Bergen in particular, has been a travel destination for me for over 36 years. This current visit makes it 11 trips which equals London as my most visited places. Though London was an easy target as it was often the most convenient landing place for European  visits.

I have also developed long and lasting friendships with a group of Norwegians.

When I realised that one of my friends there was turning 60 and there was going to be a party coupled with the fact that it had been 5 years since my last visit I decided on the spur of the moment to book a trip.

It was also kept secret from the man in question!

Birthday Boy Bjorn (and Reidar the dog):

He was, needless to say, extremely surprised when I walked in the door.

Having been to Bergen many times - there was little reason to sightsee. Also the weather was crap as is usual in November, being mainly cold and very wet. So I was very pleased to get two full days of sunshine during the week I was there.

Bergen in the sun:

Bjorn lives in a lovely historic old timber house nestled in a city park. And it was the season for autumn colours. Pictures from the park beside the house:

And from my bedroom balcony:

My hosts also had two Singaporeans visiting, one of whom showed me how to make roti:

The party was great and afforded me the opportunity to catch up with some old Norwegian friends who I didn't always get a chance to meet on every visit.

One of my friends is a curator at the city gallery so I was fortunate to have a private viewing of her latest efforts - an installation by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota with a work called 'Direction':

Oh - and surprisingly there were two earthquakes in Western Norway while I was there. Didn't feel a thing - though one of them did set the dog off barking.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

round round get around I get around

Countries I've now visited (100 according to Travellers Century Club!!):

And it isn't just about ticking off countries - I've been to the UK 11 times and eleven also to Norway, 6 to France, 5 times to the USA, 4 to Germany, 3 to each of Belgium, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Thailand and China, 2 times each to Spain, Canada, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Nepal, Vietnam, Czech Republic, India and Kyrgyzstan!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

desiccated and dehydrated in doha

Our last stop on the way home was Doha in Qatar - the 8th country on this trip.

When we booked our flight from Yerevan to Sydney we were faced with a 14 hour stop over in Doha. Too long to spend at the airport I discovered Qatar had begun to offer Qatar Airline passengers who had stopovers more than 4 hours and less than 48, were eligible for a free transit visit to leave the airport.

It had to be booked online and no earlier than 30 days before arriving. So I had to do this during the trip. As the trip neared the end we were still waiting to hear back about the visas. Then I received mine 2 days before we were due to arrive. Then Paul's arrived the day we left Yerevan.

The flight from Yerevan to Doha was short 'n sweet. We arrived at 5.30 in the morning (having been awake for by this time for 22 hours) and the outside temperature was 37 deg C.

The woman at customs, in response to my query as to whether they would accept our visas electronically on my tablet, cheerily told me that 2 days prior Qatar had introduced free visas to 75 countries including Australia.

Doha city I knew was only about 6 - 8kms from the airport so I was a bit shocked when we had quotes of around $35-$40 for a taxi. So we caught the shuttle bus to the old city centre for about $1.50 each!

Unfortunately being a Friday most of the shops were closed (Friday being the Muslim equivalent of a Sunday). Also we were wandering around at 06.30 and most places were shut that early anyway.

The old city was not that old and there was very little to sustain our interest. Also as the day progressed the temperature climbed higher and higher.

Eventually it became so uncomfortably hot we decided to seek refuge in an air conditioned shopping mall. The largest was in the modern city centre another few kms further around the harbour front.

This area was full of high rise modern skyscrapers a little like a mini version of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

After wasting several hours in the mall we headed over to the I.M.Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art on the harbour.

I have to say it is the most beautifully designed museum, the most stylishly presented art and the most magnificent selection of Islamic Art that I've ever seen.

Below are a selection of photos of our day in Doha and some of the works from the museum.

In addition - by 1.30pm the outside temperature had climbed to 52.3 degrees C - and when we were outside we were close to DEATH!!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

roman around

Our last day in Yerevan saw us visiting Geghard Monastery only a couple of hours out of Yerevan.

Set at the end of a gorge it has one of the most picturesque settings of Armenian Monasteries and blends nicely with the local stone. A UNESCO World Heritage site it is partially carved out the bedrock and dates from the 13th Century.

Geghard is short for Geghardavank and means 'Monastery of the Spear' believing to have held part of the spear that was used to pierce the side of Christ during the crucifixion.

Not far from Geghard is the temple of Garni. It was destroyed by an earthquake whose epicentre was in the town of Garni in 1679. It was reconstructed in the late 19th Century.

Dedicated to Helios, the Roman god of the sun, the Garni temple was built by the Armenian King Tiridates I in the 1st century AD and is the only Hellenistic colonnaded temple in Armenia and in fact, in the former Soviet Union.

Our final visit to Armenian Monasteries was to the wonderful Khor Virap Monastery. At around 40kms South East of Yerevan and only a handful of kms from the Turkish border it has the fabled Mount Ararat as its backdrop.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

ta ta tatev

Today was a long day as we were driving to Tatev Monastery which is more than 250kms South East of Yerevan. In addition we were stopping off at Noravank Monastery which was close to halfway to Tatev.

The scenery long the way was a little tedious - fairly flat and very dry for much of the way.

We turned off the main road into a small canyon, the scenery improved immediately and Noravank appeared high up (as with most Armenian monasteries) on the hillside about 6kms down the road. 

And as with most Armenian monasteries, its best perspective is from a distance!

A couple of hours drive later and we arrived at Tatev. Its popularity is reflected in the long queue to buy a ticket on the world longest cable car ride to get to it.

Tatev was undecorated inside and slightly larger than Noravank and, again, looked better from a distance.