Tag: Candle

Tallinn

Tallinn

Tallinn, Estonia – January 5, 2015

Our flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Tallinn, Estonia took about two, uneventful hours. We landed around 16:30, but it was already quite dark, snowy, and cold. We walked from the gate to the baggage claim area and began our wait.
The various bags continued around and around on the carousel. I noticed the man I had met in Frankfurt standing at one end of the carousel. Shortly, he and his wife retrieved their bags and headed for the exit. Meanwhile, Leslie and I continued to wait. Finally, Leslie’s bag showed up, but mine did not emerge from the bowels of the airport. We took what bags we had and exited the terminal to meet our Embassy driver. We told him of the missing baggage. He went with us to the baggage counter to file a claim for the missing bags.
We left the warm confines of the terminal and braced against our first bout of winter in several years. It was freezing for two people that have spent the last couple of years in a Caribbean climate.
On the way to our apartment, the driver went by the Embassy. That was so I would have some idea of how to walk to work the next morning.
Another five minutes, and he dropped us at the apartment. It was only about one-half mile from the Embassy, at Tuvi 12/2. The apartment had three bedrooms and a commanding view of the Baltic Sea to the northwest. There were also two terraces, one off the breakfast area and one off the living room area. At the entry, there was a powder room. Just down the hall from the powder room in one direction was a full bathroom. Down the hall, the other way was a room with a Jacuzzi tub, shower enclosure, and sink. That room also opened on to the living room terrace. Beside the shower was the entry to the sauna.

The apartment building in which we lived.
To the north, one could see the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from our apartment.
Panorama to the east from our apartment.
The icy and snow-covered park near our apartment.
Northwestern view from our apartment.
An interesting looking building on Tõnismägi, near our apartment.

All of the bathroom areas, as well as the front entry, had tile floors, all heated by in-floor hot water loops. The sauna became my morning coffee room, at least for my first cup.
When I arrived at the office the next morning, I got into my work email. It is worth noting at this point that we had been waiting for our Pakistan visas since March 24, 2014. When I opened my work email account, I saw an email that had the timestamp of 16:30 the previous day, stating I had my visa and Leslie’s would follow shortly. How ironic I finally received my Pakistan visa when we landed in Estonia!
After finishing the workweek, Leslie and I decided to take Saturday to explore Old Town Tallinn. We walked the three­ quarters of a mile from our apartment to Old Town. Since it had rained a little the previous night, some spots were very slick with ice. Just entering the Old Town area, we saw an outdoor ice-skating rink. I found it interesting that every song played was from the United States, circa the 1950s and 1960s.

Colorful buildings along Rüütli (Knight Street). The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is in the background.
Colorful buildings along Rüütli (Knight Street).
Bird-shaped barriers along Rüütli (Knight Street).
Approaching Old Town Tallinn.
The cafe building at Kullassepa and Kuninga.
A cafe at the corner of Kullassepa and Kuninga.
The view to the north along Kullassepa.

We made it to our destination, Town Hall Square, where a Christmas market was on its final day. I understand it ran into January because of the Russian Orthodox Church calendar. Regardless of why, the market held many sights and experiences. To begin our shopping experience, we bought some of the obligatory warm wine, known as Glögg. At about a 25% alcohol level, the wine packed a punch.

Glögg is a surprising potent, warm wine. It was for sale at nearly every booth at the Christmas market.
More glögg for sale!
One can also buy Christmas trees at the Christmas market.
This sign lists everything happening at the Tallinn Christmas Market.
The Christmas market with the steeple of Holy Spirit Church in the distance.
Looking to the west on Dunkri.
A nativity scene along the side of the Town Hall building.
This sign lists everything happening at the Tallinn Christmas Market.
Many Christmas items for sale in the market.
A wider view of the main plaza.
Two women and two children walking in the main plaza.
The Town Hall building with its tower.
Looking to the north along Mündi.
City Hall and a Christmas tree dominate the Christmas Market.

As we wandered around, we bought several trinkets and souvenirs to bring back with us. One of the items I purchased was wild boar sausage. Later that evening, it went quite well with our wine. It did not have a gamey taste. It had a somewhat summer sausage taste with a very definite smoky flavor.
The town hall building had some unique rain downspouts; they looked like a green dragon. They stick out from the building quite far. I would hate to walk under them during a shower because the spouts looked large in diameter. On the side of the building, I saw a religious painting surrounded by the masonry of the building, something one would not see in the United States on a public building. I saw a nativity scene on the side of the building too, but that was much less surprising. Lastly, an attractive young woman was sitting on the steps with a friend, just strumming a guitar. I thought that made a good photo.

A dragon downspout at the Town Hall building.
A young woman playing guitar on the steps of the Town Hall building.
People gathering outside the Town Hall building.
The artwork on the side of the Town Hall building.

The cityscape in and around Old Town is unique. The home and buildings sport a variety of pastel colors. That, combined with the sharply pitched, red tile roofs make for a quaint scene. Many of the refrigerator magnets sold in the tourist shops mimic those scenes.
At about noon, we finished our shopping and looked for a lunch spot. At random, we selected the “Old Estonia” restaurant, overlooking the Town Hall Square. Lunch started with smoked salmon rolls with a cream cheese filling. A little bit of lemon and fresh dill topped off the rich but delicious course. At the same time, Leslie ordered each of us a large mug of beer… a one-liter beer! At first, I could barely raise the glass containing Saku beer, a locally brewed variety.
Our main course consisted of roast pork with French fries (seapraad friikartuliga). That had to have been the best pork I have had in quite some time. The plate had a bed of large, flat French fries and four very thick and generous slices of pork. The accompanying reddish-clear sauce complemented the pork well. Neither of us could eat it all. We took a large portion home for dinner.

The Olde Estonia restaurant.
Taking a sip of the one-liter beer.
The first sip of the one-liter beer in the Olde Estonian restaurant.
Cheers from the Olde Estonian restaurant.
Leslie was dwarfed by the beers!
An Olde Estonian portrait.
Happy to be inside where it was warm.
Mirrors in the Olde Estonian restaurant.
Artwork above the bar in the Olde Estonian restaurant.
Artwork above the other side of the bar in the Olde Estonian restaurant.

After lunch, we stopped in the Town Hall Pharmacy, the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in all of Europe. I got in on the last of a tour, but I did not hear anything substantial about the shop other than the board game inlaid in the tile floor. They had copies of the game for sale. I opted not to buy one. Outside the pharmacy, mounted on the wall, is the iconic sign. It was a must for a photo.
Above the pharmacy was an antique store. I went up the stairs to check it out while Leslie waited below. In the antique store, I found an early 20th century Russian Orthodox crucifix, made entirely of brass. I bought it for Leslie to add to her cross collection.

A portion of the interior of the Revali Raeapteek, the pharmacy that dates from 1422.
A game on the floor of the Revali Raeapteek.
A coat of arms in the Revali Raeapteek.
The exterior of the Revali Raeapteek.
The sign hanging outside the Raeapteek pharmacy.
People at the arched entry to the small walkway to the smallest store.
The view to the north on Vene.
A group of people walking on Vene to or from an event.
Pedestrians on Apteegi coming from the direction of the pharmacy.
The flags are above the entrance to the Hotel Telegraaf on Vene.
Some graffiti in an alleyway off of Vene.
Several shops along the alleyway off of Vene.
A woman talking on her cell phone.

Essentially behind the pharmacy is the Holy Spirit Church. It is a Lutheran church dating to the 14th century. I wanted to see it because on the face of the church, just above the main entry door is a clock. It is the oldest timepiece in Tallinn. For one Euro each, we entered the church. Some of the woodcarvings inside are amazing — the altar, painted by Bernt Notke, dated from the 15th century.
At about 15:30, when we left the church, it was getting dark. As we walked through Freedom square, on the way back to our apartment, we came upon a candlelight vigil for the Charlie Hebda massacre in Paris. At the time, we did not know what was happening because we had yet to hear the news of the tragedy.

Tourists photographing the smallest store.
One of the smallest shops in Tallinn.
Artwork outside the Saiakangi kohvik (cafe) in Old Town Tallinn.
The yellow building is direct across the street from the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
The clock is just above and to the right of the main entry door to the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
The clock on the exterior of the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church) dates from the late 17th Century.
A stained glass window in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Carving on the side of the stairs to the pulpit in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
I could not quite make out the words on this item in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
A small piece of stained glass in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
A stylized crucifix in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
This ornamentation is directly above the pulpit in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
A blue-themed stained glass in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Wider view of the altar in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
The organ in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Another small piece of stained glass in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Paintings on the front of the balcony walkway in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
A candle in front of the altar in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Detail of the altar in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
An impressionist painting of Luke (left) and John (right) in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Carvings on the front of the pulpit in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
Looking along the main aisle to the altar in the Püha Vaimu Kogudus (Holy Spirit Church).
A plaque for Balthasar Russow, a beloved Lutheran priest. Below his name reads, “From 1563 to 1600 the priest of the Holy Spirit Congregation.” Below that is, “Therefore, the Livonians may say with the Holy Prophet Daniel: You are fair and your judgment is right.”
A memorial for the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris, France quickly formed at the Estonian Free Army site.

We made it back to our apartment that evening without any of the icy treacheries of the morning walk.
When we awoke on Sunday, we saw that it snowed overnight. From the apartment, it appeared that three or four inches had fallen. Regardless of the snow, we set out for the Russian Orthodox St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. A church we had a good view of from our bedroom window. On our way, we saw a bust of Johan Pitka in a small park. He was a Rear Admiral responsible for forming the Estonian Navy.

The Johan Pitka, 1872 – 1944, memorial.
A very stern looking and cold sculpture of Johan Pitka. He was a Rear Admiral responsible for forming the Estonian Navy.
A man walking his dog on Sunday morning. The Maiden’s Tower is on the left.
Outside the walls near the Maiden’s Tower, one could see the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The Maiden’s Tower was closed.
Obviously, something is sold from the wagon, but not on cold, snowy Sundays.

Nearing the church, we saw dozens of people going inside. We figured it must be time for mass, so we decided to take a detour. We ended up at the Maiden’s Tower, hoping to have a coffee in the cafe. Unfortunately, it was closed. Near the tower, down several stairs, we saw a sign for the LT Kohvik-baar. We descended the steep stairs and went inside. When we entered, we found ourselves in an entryway with a couple of doors and a steep staircase leading down one more level. We could tell we needed to navigate those stairs to get to the coffee/bar. The handrail of the stairs consisted of a thick rope strung through several iron eyelets. A knot before each hole kept the rope from ending up in a heap of hemp at the bottom of the stairs. The handrail offered virtually no assistance on the descent. It seemed better suited as a lifeline with which to pull oneself back to the surface when exiting.
Nevertheless, we found ourselves in what may have been a cellar storage vault or a dungeon some 600 to 700 years prior. Before entering the vault, one passed by a small bar from which the served beverages emanated. We both had a coffee.
The only furnishings consisted of nine or ten tables with chairs. The vault had a half-round structure, built entirely of stone blocks. At its highest point, the ceiling could not have been more than eight feet high. One lone window poked through the stone wall. The windowsill, sides, and header tapered down through the two-foot thick wall to its final dimension of roughly ten inches square. The hand-rolled glass made it difficult to see well through the window. It all made for a very quaint an intimate space. Besides the server/bartender and us, no one else was in the establishment. I do not know if that was due to the storm or the fact that it was a Sunday morning.

The snow-covered walkway to the LT Kohvik-baar.
The dungeon-esque seating area of LT Kohvik-baar.
The lone server in the LT Kohvik-baar (the LT Cafe Bar) sat behind a computer screen.

Leaving the coffee bar, we carefully made our way back up to the cathedral. We found the front of the church faces the Estonian Parliament building. The stairs to the cathedral were very steep and, without handrails of any sort, rather treacherous in the continuing snowstorm. At the top of the stairs, we saw through the windows in the doors that everyone inside was standing. We assumed the mass was over, so we walked inside. I was instantly stunned by the ornate beauty of the church. While it dates from about 1900, it feels like a structure three or four times as old. My disappointment at not being able to take photos nearly left me grumpy.

The front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The art on the front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The detail on the front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The detail on the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

The church has no pews. Instead, nearly everyone stood in a large circle. The large circle of people surrounded another, smaller circle, which happened to be a choir. Boys and girls ranging in age from 10 to 16, all dressed in traditional Russian costumes, made up the choir. The songs appeared to be Russian Christmas carols.
Walking around the circle, we finally made it to a good vantage point. There, in the center of the ring, sitting on one of the only chairs in the church, sat the priest. He was lost in the enjoyment of the singing. As we stood watching him, the choir began to sing Silent Night, the first pass in Russian and the second in English. It was so beautiful and moving that it nearly brought tears to our eyes.
While the choir sang, we walked around just a little. The level of decoration was incredible, particularly on the screen separating the people from the altar. During the mass, the priests conduct much of the service from behind the screen, out of view of those gathered.
We noticed two beautiful icons as we wandered around, both depicted Mary and baby Jesus. They were each about two feet by three feet in size. The faces and hands were painted in oils, while the remainder of the figures and background were ornately done with silver. Those made each piece look quite impressive. In front of each piece, as well as maybe another dozen icons were brass stands. The stands had a circular bit on top, each with multiple small candleholders. The candles were about 3/8 of an inch in diameter and six to eight inches long. As we watched, many people approached the icons with a candle, made the sign of the cross several times, bowing each time, and lastly lighting the candle and placing it in a holder. The candle stands provided an ambiance I had never seen before.
The snow came down much harder as we left the cathedral. Just to the north of the church, we found a souvenir shop that seemed to specialize in amber jewelry. On the front door, I saw a sign; Kodak tooted. Being a male, I had to take a photograph. What could be better than international fart jokes?! I looked it up later. In Estonian, that phrase translates roughly to; Kodak sold here. Regardless, I thought it was funny. In the store, Leslie found an amber charm for her Pandora bracelet and an amber ring.

Walking along Toom-Kooli, we got our first glimpse of Toomkirik (Dome Cathedral).
Detail of the clock on the steeple of St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The door to a gift shop.
Even though it is sold here, it is no doubt embarrassing…

Another block or two north brought us to our final planned destination for the day, the Dome Church, located on the Kiriku Plats. It is also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin, currently the seat of the Lutheran Church in Estonia, dating from some time before 1233. Entering the church, one sees seemingly endless coats of arms hung on the walls and building columns.
We paid two Euros each to enter. The attendant said I could take all of the photos I wanted, with or without flash in small part, that made up for my disappointment in the Russian Orthodox cathedral. In years past, when noblemen died, the hand­ carved coats of arms accompanied the casket and procession through town to the church. Once at the church, a crypt in the floor received the coffin, while the coat of arms hung on a wall or building column as close as possible to the place of burial.
Both the altar and the pipe organ in the church were spectacular, but the coats of arms stole the show.

The main aisle leading to the altar in the Dome Cathedral (Toomkirik), also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral.
A panorama view of the altar in the Cathedral.
The main entry door to the Cathedral.
Some of the coats of arms funeral shields on display in the Cathedral.
Paintings on the gospel pulpit.
The organ in the Cathedral dates from 1878.
Detail of the top of the altar.
The bas reliefs and coats of arms funeral shields near the altar.
Marble bas reliefs near the altar.
The altar in the Cathedral. The painting is Christ on the Cross by Eduard von Gebhardt, circa 1866.
One of the coats of arms funeral shields in the Cathedral. The dates read 1808 – 1863. The shield is that of Georg Wolter Baron Stackelberg.
Trying to decide whether or not to come into the Cathedral.
The aisle to the main entry door.
The white marble sarcophagus of the Russian admiral, Samuel Greighi’s. The Roman numeral dates on the sarcophagus read 1735 – 1788.
Joseph Haier’s “Madonna with the Christ’s Father” (1861).
The rather smallish coat of arms funeral shield of General Adjutant Admiral Baron Ferdinand Wrangell, 1797 – 1870.
Flags and coats of arms funeral shields over the white marble sarcophagus of the Russian admiral, Samuel Greighi’s.
Detail of brass items in front of the name plaques in the Fersen Chapel inside St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The tomb in the Fersen Chapel and name plaques inside St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Coats of arms funeral shields were very abundant.
The coat of arms funeral shield of Baron Eduard von Mandell. The dates read 1830 – 1899. Note the seven loaves of bread and three fish.
The coat of arms funeral shield of Alexander Baron von der Pahlen. The dates read 1819 – 1895.

The snowstorm had increased in intensity yet again as we left the church. Walking along the sidewalk, we saw a small frontend loader scooping snow and dumping it in a small dump truck. That activity had to take place, or the roads in Old Town would quickly become impassible.

A souvenir shop across the street from St. Mary’s Cathedral. The domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are visible in the background.
Two women walking on the icy Piiskopi (Bishop) Lane toward the back of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Removing the snow behind the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
The old building containing the Boga Pott Restaurant.

We continued to another set of steep stairs. At the top of the stairs, we found the LB bar. We decided to go in, have a glass of wine, and warm-up. We sat by a small fireplace; unfortunately, it was not lit, maybe because we were the only two in the bar.

Coming through a small arch to the top of the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg).
The sign for the L8 (Late) Bar.
It was a cold and snowy Sunday.
Looking down the stairs of the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg) from the landing in front of the L8 Bar.
The lone server at the L8 Bar.
Light through the Merlot.
Enjoying the warmth and a glass of wine in the L8 (Late) Bar. It is at the top of the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg).

At the bottom of the stairs, after leaving L8, we entered Hindricus Pood – Galerii. I bought some beautiful handmade postcards done on handmade paper. The building, not the gallery, has been around since 1393.
When we left the gallery, the snowstorm was now a blizzard. We fought our way to the grocery store. After we purchased what we needed, we called a taxi and headed home to the warmth of our heated tiles and wonderful sauna.

The snow-covered sign for the Helina Tilk shop.
A woman on the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg), passing by the Helina Tilk shop.
Leslie coming down the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg).
Women walking up the sidewalk known as Lühike Jalg (Short Leg) in a bit of a snowstorm.

After my last Friday in the Embassy, I walked to the National Opera Theater. It has a unique parking arm that looks like a hand holding a baton. From a photographer standpoint, it was a must-see. Walking home from there, I took the opportunity to take some random photographs; including St. John’s church at Freedom Square, some of the street trolleys, a boutique sign, and an advertising sign. All had a definite Tallinn charm.

The Estonia National Opera building.
A memorial to the Estonian Free Army.
An office building in Tallinn.
BonBon Lingerie for women and men.
A different style of love seat at the optometrist…
The side of this trolley is advertising Farmi Yogurt.
The ER Boutique says it like it is, Forget the Rules if you Like it Wear it.
I believe the top sign reads, “Definitely Ahead!” The bottom sign reads, “For the Names!” It is an advertisement for the Socialist Democratic party. He is the Minister of the Interior.
One of the street trolleys during the evening commute.
A conductor’s baton is used as the barrier arm for the parking lot next to the Estonian National Opera building.
The conductor’s baton.
Teguc Tour

Teguc Tour

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – September 20, 2014

Today I went on a Tour of Tegucigalpa, arranged by the Community Liaison Officer. I thought the cost of 600 Lempiras, about US$30, was very reasonable. She was kind enough to stop by my hotel to pick me up. She delivered me to the Embassy. There was a small bus waiting there. I got on, took a seat, and prepared for the ride.
There were 25-30 people on the bus, including four armed security personnel. There was a chase vehicle behind the bus with another four or five armed guards. The level of security is necessary for safety. Unfortunately, crime is rampant in parts of the city. Throughout the tour, we found ourselves in a protective bubble as we walked around. That was a little odd to get used to, but we certainly did feel safe.
The first stop was the small Virgin of Suyapa church. That area had usually been off-limits to Embassy personnel. However, with all of the “firepower” we had, we were able to be in the area with impunity.
The Virgin of Suyapa church is about two blocks east of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. We walked those two blocks with our security contingent. It was easy to tell we were in a very distressed and impoverished area. I was glad I was not there alone.

The interior of the Virgin of Suyapa Church is quite small.
A small statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
A wider view of the altar in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
The altarpiece in the Virgin of Suyapa Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The small figurine of the Virgin is visible in the altarpiece in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
A vase on display near the altar in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.

Several small children seemed to appear out of nowhere. There was a couple in particular that continued to tap on my arm, asking for money. They followed us during our entire walking tour of the church.
Approaching the small church, we saw several vendors setting up stalls from which they sold various religious items related to the Virgin of Suyapa. It was still relatively early. I can only imagine how crowded and bustling the area must be later in the day.

A couple preparing a market stall across from the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
Across the small plaza from the Virgin of Suyapa Church were some restaurants. The green business is a pupuseria. The pupusa is a national dish. I did not eat one there, but they are delicious.

Construction of the Virgin of Suyapa church began in 1777 to honor a small statue of the Virgin Mary found by a young boy in about 1747. One can envision the faithful, but poor farmers that gave their time, talent, and treasure to build the church. It is not very ornamental, but it is awe-inspiring in its own right. If I understood correctly, the small statue of the Virgin Mary on display in the decorative wooden case above the altar is not the original statue. The original icon is safely stored in the nearby Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa, only brought out for display on extraordinary occasions.

The Virgin of Suyapa Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Over time, the large crowds of pilgrims became too much for the small Virgin of Suyapa church to handle. To handle the masses of people, the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa opened in 1954. Our tour guide said it is not a Basilica, but everyone refers to it as such. That may be news to Mr. Google. If one checks Google Maps, Our Lady of Suyapa is a basilica.
After touring the small church, we walked roughly two blocks to the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. Once we got on the grounds of the basilica, there were very few people. Children no longer pestered us. The basilica itself was large but not as ornate as I was expecting. From the west side of the basilica, one has a commanding view of parts of Tegucigalpa. The small plaza just below the west entrance to the basilica contains a statue of St. John Paul II. The then-Pope visited the Cathedral on March 8, 1983. The statue faces the town, looking down over the vast cemetery and valley below.

A mosaic at the entry to the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The banner reads “Our Lady of Suyapa.”
The west facade of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras as seen from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The statue facing the city is of St. John Paul II.
Detail of the statue of St. John Paul II on the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
A view into one of the valleys of Tegucigalpa from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
View of Virgin of Suyapa Church as seen from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa is massive when compared to the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
The altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Viewing the altar from an angle at the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of the altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The tiny figurine of Mary is visible in the center. The Latin phrase translates as “You are all beautiful, Mary. The original stain of sin is not on you”.
The ambo in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of a stained glass depicting Mary and Joseph. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The stained glass window depicting the birth of Jesus. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of the stained glass window depicting the birth of Jesus. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The stained glass window depicting Pentecost. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The pieta in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

We piled back onto the bus for the 20-minute ride to our next stop, a small park, Parque la Leona, overlooking the old-town section of Tegucigalpa. Our travels took us over some of the only remaining cobblestone streets in the city. The roads are incredibly steep, narrow, and have numerous curves. On several occasions, I was surprised the bus was able to continue making forward progress.

This sign seemed appropriate was we entered the old part of Tegucigalpa after leaving the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The sign reads, Jesus Christ is the Way.
A mural on a building near the Parque la Leona in Tegucigalpa.
Detail of the mural on the wall near the Parque la Leona.
A very narrow entry to the home on the right.
A narrow street in the old town portion of Tegucigalpa.
Looking down at the central business district, one can see the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
In this view from Parque la Leona, one can see the National Stadium.
A row of lights along a sidewalk at the Parque la Leona.
Looking up the valley from Parque la Leona.
One can see the broken glass used on top of walls to deter entry. One can also see the odd growth on the power lines.
A house across the street from the Parque la Leona.
Another house across the street from the Parque la Leona.

The current Presidential House is next to my hotel; however, from the overlook, one could see the previous Presidential House.  It looked like an ornate castle, just a block or two away from the Tegucigalpa Cathedral.

The current Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The cupola in the center is at the Museo Historico de la Republica in Tegucigalpa. That building was the former Presidential Palace.

The bus motored down the alleged steepest street in town after departing the park. I cannot speak to the veracity of that claim, but I can say it was by far the steepest street on which I have ever been! At the bottom of the hill, the bus stopped to let us off. From there we began our walking tour, heading to the church at Dolores Park. All totaled, we walked just over two miles (three kilometers) today.
As we walked along the street, I could not help but notice the plethora of wires and cables strung from power pole to power pole. It just looked like a mess to me. I am glad I am not in charge of troubleshooting when there is a connectivity problem.

A very steep street in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
A shop on the corner at the base of the steep street.
The wiring and cabling in Tegucigalpa seem to be quite a maze.
Everywhere one looks, wires and cables zigzag across the street.

When we made it to the small church on the plaza, Dolores Church (Church of Sorrows); I was amazed at the number of pigeons perched on and flying around the front of the church. Since the church was under construction from about 1732 until 1815, I guess the pigeons had plenty of time to find the spot! A small boy in the middle of dozens of pigeons in the plaza mesmerized many of us in the tour group. The pigeons focused on him because of the bird feed he threw to them.

Several small shops selling a multitude of items ring the plaza. Because of the security detail, it seemed the people in and around the plaza were as interested in looking at us as we were in looking at them.

A woman selling tortillas to passersby. She sat beside the Iglesia de Los Dolores (Church of Sorrows).
Detail of the main entrance to the Church of Sorrows.
Detail of one of the reliefs by the entry door.
On 5 Avenida approaching the Church of Sorrows.
Looking at the Church of Sorrows from 5 Avenida.
A young boy feeding the pigeons in the Plaza of Sorrows.
Moments later, something spooked many of the pigeons.
A shopping area directly to the east of the church.
One of the entry points to the shopping area.
Several people gathered around one of the entrances to the shopping area.
People walking by the fountain and statue in the Plaza of Sorrows.
A man and young boy at the base of the statue in the Plaza of Sorrows.
A few shops on the edge of the Plaza of Sorrows.
People walking through the Plaza of Sorrows toward the church.

Inside, the Church of Sorrows is very colorful. I do not believe I have ever seen the primary colors used so predominantly in a church. The colors and the Baroque style made it very eye-catching. The people we observed in the church praying seemed to be very poor.

The altar in the Church of Sorrows was unlike any I have ever seen in the world. Never have I seen the figure of Mary play such a prominent role.
The opening to the cupola above the altar is visible here.
Detail of the figure of Mary at the altar.
Detail of the upper left corner of the altar.
Detail of the mural at the base of the cupola above the altar.
Detail of the upper right corner of the altar.
The intricate plaster ceiling medallion made all the more impressive by the paint.
A woman praying in the side chapel of the Church of Sorrows.
A woman praying at a side altar in the Church of Sorrows.

Leaving the Church of Sorrows, our next stop was the Museo para la ldentidad Nacional (MIN)(Museum of National Identity). We walked for a couple of blocks along Avenida Cristobol Colon (Christopher Columbus Avenue) to get to the museum. The street in front of the MIN was just for pedestrians. It was visually amazing because, for one block, dozens of colorful umbrellas completely covered the pedestrian mall. The umbrellas stretched between the MIN and the Galeria Nacional de Arte (National Art Gallery). It was a fundraiser for the MIN.

A man walking along 5 Avenida toward the Church of Sorrows.
This woman was leaning against a car parked on Avenida Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus Avenue). We passed her on our way to the museum.
Umbrellas were suspended above the pedestrian street (Calle Peatonal) between the Museo Para La Identidad Nacional (Museum of National Identity) and the Galleria Nacional de Arte (National Art Gallery). Our guide was sharing information about the installation.
A group of people walking under the umbrellas.
Detail of the umbrella installation.

In the late 1800s, the building housing the MIN was the first hospital in Tegucigalpa. In the mid-1920s, the government took over the building as the Palacio de las Ministerios, Ministerial Palace. The MIN opened its doors in this historic building in 2006.
When we entered the building for our tour, we found schoolchildren had pre-empted us. We waited for 30 minutes or so. While standing there with my camera, I found out I could not bring my camera into the museum, a crushing blow.
During the wait, the tour guide asked if anyone was interested in seeing the National Theater. He said it was only a block away. A few of us took him up on his offer. The 99-year-old National Theater sits directly across from a small park. It was a quaint theater modeled after one in Paris. A staff member related that the theater would soon be undergoing a significant restoration in preparation for its 100th anniversary.
A few minutes after arriving back at the MIN, we began our tour. A guide led us through the exhibits, describing Mayan artifacts, dinosaur bones, and silver mining artifacts. It was helpful having the guide lead us through with descriptions in English. Otherwise, for me, it would have been a little more challenging to understand the exhibits. The culmination of the tour was a 15-minute movie on the Mayan culture, mainly focused on the Copan site that is very near the border with Guatemala. It was in Spanish, so I only understood about 25 percent. Luckily, that was enough to get the gist.
When we left the MIN, we walked several blocks to the old American Legation. It was the first “Embassy” in Honduras for the United States, but the only identifying feature left today is the eagle above the main door. A bunch of wires and cables somewhat obscures it.

People along the Calle Peatonal.
Several vendors set up shop in the middle of the Calle Peatonal.
Shops in buildings lined both sides of the Calle Peatonal.
Pedestrians on the Calle Peatonal.
There were a lot of people on the Calle Peatonal that day.
Pedestrians on Calle La Leona.
An American eagle sits above the entry to what was once the American Legation building in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This was about a block away from the Central Park.
Taxis awaiting fares along Calle Palace.
A sea of motorcycles complete with protective cardboard covers to protect the seats from the intense sun.

A block further down the road we found ourselves at the Plaza Morazan. What was most striking to me was the number of motorcycles and scooters that were parked, each one with their seats covered by a piece of cardboard. That was obviously to keep the bike seats from “burning” the butts of the owners when they returned.
The namesake of the plaza is Jose Francisco Morazan (1792-1842), a revered founding father of Central America. He was born in Tegucigalpa. There is a statue of him atop a horse in the plaza. There were dozens of people relaxing and talking in the “shadow” of the figure.

The Cathedral of Tegucigalpa faces the Central Park.
People walking by the statue memorializing Franciso Morazan, the father of Honduras.
Two men at the base of the statue memorializing Francisco Morazan.
The Central Park as seen from the steps of the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
People gathered around the base of a tree in Central Park.
A woman walking through Central Park.

Although the statue was impressive, the main draw of the plaza is the Cathedral, built between 1765 and 1782; it is dedicated to Tegucigalpa’s patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel. The richly decorated interior immediately pulls one’s attention to the sizeable Baroque altar.

The west facade of the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
The very large altar in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
A statue of Joseph and Jesus in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
Detail of the altar and crucifix in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.

A few blocks to the east of the Cathedral is the oldest church in Tegucigalpa, San Francisco. It dates from the 1590s.  It was closed, so we were not able to go inside. The building next door housing a military museum used to be the monastery associated with the church.  It was closed too.

The front of the Military History Museum in Tegucigalpa.
A man coming around the corner from Avenida Cristobol Colon.

Just around the corner from the old monastery building, we boarded the bus again. The next stop was an overlook atop Mount Picacho. It provided some fantastic panoramic views of the city. Mount Picacho rises nearly 1,000 feet (305 meters) above Tegucigalpa, which is itself at about 3,300 feet (1,006 meters) in elevation. There were several other people there enjoying the weather and the view.

A panoramic view of Tegucigalpa from the el Picacho Mountain.
A woman looking over Tegucigalpa from El Picacho Mountain.
A detail view of Tegucigalpa from El Picacho Mountain.
In this view of Tegucigalpa, one can see the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa in the center of the frame.
A closer view of Tegucigalpa as seen from el Picacho Mountain.
The National Stadium and the airport are visible in this view from el Picacho Mountain.
A view of Old Town Tegucigalpa from el Picacho Mountain.
A group relaxing together on el Picacho Mountain.
A football game as viewed from el Picacho Mountain.

At the far west end of the ridge is the Cristo del Picacho statue. Our bus took us to the parking lot. There was a small entry fee, about US$0.50, included in the tour fee. Once on the grounds, one is in a garden setting. A path meanders through the gardens, leading to the statue of Christ. The figure is about 65 feet (20 meters) tall. It sits on a 33-foot (10 meters) base, making the entire height just under 100 feet (30 meters). It is a recent addition to the Tegucigalpa skyline, finished in 1987.

A sign designating how much one should contribute to complete the walk to the base of the statue of Christ on el Picacho Mountain.
The path one takes to get to the statue of Christ.
The Christ statue is just short of 100 feet tall.
Looking up from directly below the statue of Christ.
The pedestal is 33 feet tall. The statue of Christ is 65 feet tall. That means the structure is near the height of a ten-story building.
The foot of Christ.
The hand of Christ.
View of the Christ statue on el Picacho Mountain from my hotel room.

At the opposite end of the parking area was a replica Mayan temple. I opted only to look, not walk to the top. After all of the walking during the tour, I was tired.

A group walking away from the pyramid on top of el Picacho Mountain.

From there it was back to the Embassy and then my hotel for some rest and a private meeting with Captain Morgan.

The statue of Christ towers over the trees.
Washington’s Home

Washington’s Home

Mount Vernon, Virginia – August 15, 2014

Leslie and I took a boat from Alexandria to Mount Vernon. I had done that a year ago, but Leslie had never been there.
We took the Metro to the King Street station. It was too early for the free King Street Trolley, so we began looking for a taxi. While we were standing on the curb looking for a cab in the traffic, an unmarked vehicle pulled up. The driver asked us if we had called for a taxi. That was a little creepy. We said no and sent him on his way.
Shortly after that encounter, we were able to flag down a marked taxi, and the driver got us to the waterfront quickly since there was not much traffic at that hour.
The taxi dropped us off near The Torpedo Factory building. Since we had time, we decided to get a coffee and something to eat. We stopped at the first cafe we came to, and each ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. It took forever to make the sandwiches. When we finally got the sandwiches and coffee, we sat at a table right beside the marina. It was a beautiful sight. The lunch was not very good. Each one had just one link sausage split lengthwise. It was a good thing the view was so lovely.

The dock area in Alexandria, Virginia. The Torpedo Factory building is in the distance.
The stern of the boat that takes tourists from Alexandria, Virginia to Mount Vernon.
A US Airways plane on final approach to Reagan National Airport.

We finished our breakfast, picked up our tickets, and waited to board the boat, the Miss Christin. Once aboard, we took the first two seats on the starboard side, near the captain.
As the boat pulled away, one of the crew picked up a microphone and began telling us stories and interesting tidbits as we motored along.
Our first stop after some fifteen minutes or so was National Harbor. The boat stopped at two different docks. We picked up some passengers at each stop. All totaled, our trip from Alexandria to Mount Vernon took about one hour.

Some undoubtedly pricey townhomes fronting on the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia.
Signage on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. The bridge connects Alexandria, Virginia and Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
The Capital Wheel is a Ferris wheel in the National Harbor.
The Sea Star motor yacht docked at the National Harbor.
The Capital Wheel with Maryland in the background.
American Way ends at the sign for National Harbor.
The National Elite docked at the National Harbor.
The cityscape at National Harbor, Maryland.

Continuing down the river, one keeps looking for the first glimpse of the Mount Vernon estate. The first view from the river is a postcard spectacular.

Mount Vernon as seen from the Potomac River.
A sailboat motoring on the Potomac River. Mount Vernon is visible in the distance.

When we disembarked, we received tickets for our tour of the mansion. Printed on the cards was the time, 12:30. That meant we could get in line for the mansion tour any time after 12:30. We walked from the dock to the shuttle bus. The shuttle took us to the visitor center. We opted to go to the gift shop first.
After a quick walk through the gift shop, we stopped in the cafeteria. A couple of slices of pizza later, and we were ready to stand in line to tour the mansion. First, I had to take a photo of the head of Washington in the back-lit glass. It turned out well.

In the education center at Mount Vernon, one can marvel at the larger-than-life convex face of George Washington. As the viewer changes location, the face seems to follow the viewer.

Somewhere I heard Mount Vernon has over 1,000,000 visitors each year. With numbers like that, they have the tour down to a science. Every bit as iconic as the view of Mount Vernon from the Potomac River is the view of the mansion from the west side.  The well-manicured lawn, the Bowling Green, makes it look particularly inviting.

The Bowling Green leading to the west side of the mansion. Many of the trees on the sides were planted by George Washington circa 1785.
The west side of the mansion.
An octagonal privy. At about 50 meters (165 feet), the privy is well away from the mansion.
The west side of the mansion.
The north side of the kitchen building.
Candle lanterns were once used to light the driveway on the west side of the mansion.
A covered walkway leading to the west side entrance point for the mansion tour.
The kitchen building as seen from the covered walkway.
The lines of people to visit the mansion seem endless. That stated the time to wait goes very quickly.

From the time we began to stand in line until we entered the mansion was only about 15 minutes. Given the number of people there that day, I do not think it took very long.

Leslie summed up the tour the best; she said it gave her goosebumps. It is worth the trip to Mount Vernon. Readers interested in a virtual tour of Mount Vernon can click on the hyperlink.

When we left the mansion, we looked at a few of the outbuildings. Then we made our way to the piazza on the west side of the estate. The patio looks over the Potomac River. There are numerous chairs on the veranda. We sat there for 15 or 20 minutes. It was very relaxing. We could imagine the Father of our Country sitting there enjoying a cigar or pipe after dinner with friends. That is a part of history that not everyone gets to enjoy.

People in the queue to enter the Servant’s Hall. That is the starting point for the tour of the mansion. One can see the queue goes well back into the trees.
One of the tour guides in period costume.
Washington’s carriage in the stables.
Detail from the side of Washington’s carriage.
The piazza on the east side of the mansion. Sitting in the chairs, one overlooks the Potomac River.
The east side of the mansion.
A very happy tourist sitting at the piazza.

Descending from the mansion area toward the Mount Vernon Wharf, we stopped to pay our respects at the Washington crypt. It is both eerie and fascinating.

Visitors file by the “new” tomb.
The “new” tomb structure. The Washington family remains were moved to this tomb in 1831. Martha Washington is on the left and George is on the right.
The marker for Jane Charlotte Blackburn (1786-1855), wife of John Augustine Washington. The “new” tomb is in the background.
An archway on the path to the Mount Vernon Wharf.
The path descending to the Mount Vernon Wharf.

A little farther below the crypt is the monument to the slaves. I had not viewed the memorial on my previous visit. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I found it to be a little disappointing.
At the pier, as we waited for our boat to take us back to Alexandria, we saw a fireboat come by the dock. There seemed to be no reason in particular.

A Fairfax County Fire & Rescue boat approaching the Mount Vernon Wharf.
The Miss Christin returning to pick up tourists from Mount Vernon.
A knot on a tree at the Mount Vernon Wharf.

Something else at the pier that caught our eye was a Golden Retriever. The dog was so used to people that all of the comings and goings did not phase it one bit. The dog reminded us of our beloved Biscuit.

…asleep…
…awake…
A sailboat on the Potomac River.
Fort Washington as seen from the Potomac River. The fort is about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) north and east from Mount Vernon.
Some homes on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
The Spirit of Washington passing under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge while a jet passes overhead.
The Spirit of Washington on the Potomac River.
Signage at water level below the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

We made it back to Alexandria at about 17:30. The King Street Trolley was operating, so we hopped on. We took it to the King Street Metro station.

A Free King Street Trolley waits for pedestrians to cross.
An emblem in the Free King Street Trolley.

Right across the street from the Metro station is Joe Theisman’s Restaurant. That is where we decided to have dinner. It was just as good as I remembered from my trip there a few years ago.  Leslie enjoyed the dinner.

We got back to the Metro station just in time to see the sun going down behind the Masonic Temple.

The sunset behind the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. This is the view from the King Street Metro stop.
Salamanca with Hillary & Becca

Salamanca with Hillary & Becca

Salamanca, Spain – July 9, 2011

Today we decided to visit Salamanca. It was a very enjoyable trip. It is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of our home.  It took us about two hours to get there. We arrived around 09:15 and parked very near the first-century Roman Bridge (Puente Romano), on the street called San Gregorio.  From there we walked toward the Cathedral along Calle Tentenecio.

The first-century Roman bridge in Salamanca, Spain.
The remnant of a wild boar carved out of stone.  It dates from the 13th century.
Let the hike begin!
A stone crucifix at the Puerta del Rio.  It is known as Cruz de los Ajusticiados, the Cross of the Executed.  According to popular tradition, the heads of those executed were hung from the crucifix.  A local newspaper debunked that story, stating the cross is simply one from a 14th century church.
The National Historical Archive building.
A man walking toward the side of the cathedral.
The main façade of the cathedral.
Detail of a portion of the façade of the cathedral.
A man entering the cathedral.

Even though the cathedral was open we did not go in because after two hours on the road we were all looking for a restroom. Now, 09:15 in Spain is like 07:15 in the United States, very little is open. I thought for sure we would find a little coffee shop open.  That would have met all of our needs. Not so much! Everything was closed.  We made our way to the Casa de las Conchas. As we were taking a few photos, I noticed the building actually housed the public library. We went inside and were able to use the restrooms.

The Casa de las Conchas (Shell House).
Three men standing near the entrance to the public library at the Casa de las Conchas.
Carved detail on the Casa de las Conchas.
Another side of the Casa de las Conchas with the church of the University of Salamanca in the background.
Stone carving detail in the public library.
A memorial to the beloved Francisco de Salinas (1513 – 1590).

When we emerged we stumbled across a pastry shop. We bought some coffee and pastries and walked back to the small plaza in front of the Casa de las Conchas. After consuming that, we found a little gift store where we bought some t-shirts and a book on Salamanca.

From there we walked back to the cathedral to go inside. It was quite large and impressive; however, it is not as big as the cathedral in Toledo.  Regardless, we all thought it was very nice.

Construction of the “New Cathedral” began in 1513.  The completion did not occur until 1733!  After viewing the detail throughout the cathedral, one understands why it took so long to build.

The north side of the cathedral.
The trascoro of the cathedral.
The very ornately decorated Dorada Chapel.
A statue of Mary and Jesus catching the morning sun.
The main altar.
An ornate ambo used for proclaiming the gospel.
The main cupola of the cathedral.
Detail of the cupola.
The choir area behind the metal gate.
Detail of the choir area.
People gathering at the Chapel of St. Joseph.
The Chapel of the Virgin of the Truth.
A rack of prayer candles.
A depiction of the Holy Family.
A large painting in the cathedral.
A side hall of the cathedral. The woman is rounding a column toward the choir. She provides a scale of the immensity of the cathedral.  The ceiling must be some 60 feet above her, enough for a six-story building.
The pipe organ in the cathedral.
A tomb along the side of the cathedral.

When we departed the cathedral, we decided to walk to the University of Salamanca.  We based that decision on the advice of the shop keeper we patronized earlier.  He told us the façade of the university had a carved skull with a toad on top.  We would enjoy good luck if we could find the skull.  We discovered when we arrived that the façade is very ornately carved.  None of us could spot the skull.  Finally, a person nearby pointed out the skull.  We all had our aha moment when we finally saw the skull.  I am not sure how the assistance we received may have effected the luck we were to have received…

A typical street in Salamanca.
Patio de las Escuelas (schoolyard) complete with a statue commemorating Fray Luis de Leon.
The façade of the University of Salamanca dates from 1218.
Detail of the façade.
The façade is famous for the skull with the toad on its top. One can see the said skull at the upper left.
Another view of the skull and toad.
The sign for Faith Street.
One of the many cupolas throughout the city.
This likeness of the skull and toad was in one of the many tourist shops. The t-shirt at the lower left reads “before death everything was simple.”

From the university, we walked back to the north along Rua Mayor. We stopped at one of the cafes at about noon, sat down, had a glass of wine, some patatas bravas and watched the people walk by.

A fairy on the wall…
Another view of Casa de las Conchas.
A family walking by the tourist information building.
This seemed an odd juxtaposition of signs.

At the conclusion of our break, we walked about a block to the east to the street called San Pablo. We did that because I wanted to see the Torre de Clavero. After taking a few photographs there we continued our trek to Plaza Mayor. We walked around the perimeter of the plaza and departed, heading south along Calle Melendez.

A memorial marking 400 years since Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Torre del Clavero (Clavero Tower).
Torre del Clavero (Clavero Tower).
The façade of Palacio de la Salina dates from 1538.
Detail of the façade.
Plaza Mayor.
Typical medallions around the plaza.
Another view of Plaza Mayor.

Just after leaving the plaza, there were several artisans with tables set up. Hillary spotted one that braided leather into peoples’ hair. She had to have one!  When that was finally done we made our way back to the car and drove home.

Balloons for sale in front of Iglesia San Martin (St. Martin Church).
A woman preparing leather strips to braid into Hillary’s hair.
Hillary’s braiding beginning.
Hillary held the various beads for use in her hair.
The braid ended up being very long.
A dog wandering around the area.
Hillary and Becca standing by a statue of St. Martha.