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Voronet Monastery

Church of St. George, Voronet Monastery Eight churches of Moldavia in northern Romania have been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for the distinct Byzantine inspired frescoes with religious themes that cover their exterior walls. Built between the late 15th and 16th centuries, these churches are remarkably well preserved. I had the opportunity to visit four of these churches namely, the Church of the Beheading of St. John in  Arbore, the Church of the Annunciation in Moldovita, the Church of the Resurrection in Sucevita and St. George in Voronet. The Church of St. George has been singled out for the vibrant blue color background of its frescoes which was made from lapis lazuli, among other elements. This particular shade is referred to as Voronet Blue. The Church of St. George was completed in just three months and three weeks. It was built by Stefan the Great, Voivode of Moldavia, in 1488 to commemorate his victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Vaslui. The photo abo
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Stations of the Cross + 1 by Carlos Botong Francisco

Third Station: Jesus falls the first time 1960. Oil on canvas. Don Bosco Chapel Series It’s been several years since I’ve been trying to see the complete set of paintings of the Stations of the Cross by Carlos “Botong” Francisco but the pandemic got in the way and then in 2023, we were denied entry to the two schools where these stations of the cross are displayed; at FEU University’s Our Lady of Fatima Chapel and Don Bosco Technical College. Both are in Metro Manila. We were denied entry to these chapels because a permit is required for non students to enter school grounds. I did as the staff suggested and sent requests online to view these paintings in March 2024 when I was in the Philippines but neither of them responded affirmatively or at all. I’m saddened by this denial as my intention is simple: to write and inform my readers about the artworks of Francisco. My blogs about his paintings have been viewed by more than a 100,000 readers and it’s obvious there’s a profound interest

The Coastal Towns of Uruguay

La Mano or Los Dedos, Punta del Este There’s a reason why Punta del Este and its neighboring towns are the favorite vacation spots of Argentinians, Brazilians and North Americans. The wild coastline, quiet beaches, rustic towns, art museums and galleries and local cuisine are just some of the draws to this part of Uruguay. It’s time to visit this bewitching corner of the South American continent.  La Mano or Los Dedos (The Hand or The Fingers) has become the iconic symbol of Punta del Este. Sculpted in 1982 by Chilean artist, Mario Irarrazabal, the partially submerged fingers are a warning to visitors of the rough waters of Brava Beach on which it is situated. Abandoned hotel on Highway 10 in Santa Monica Driving along the coastal road from Punta del Este is a pleasurable experience. As you get farther away, there are less houses and the towns are far apart. It seems a world away. Faro (lighthouse) de Jose Ignacio The lighthouse was constructed in 1877 and stands at 25 meters (82 ft.).

Highlights of Bandar Seri Begawan

  Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque One of the most picturesque mosques I’ve visited. It’s even more attractive to view at sunset when the gold domes reflect the sunlight. And it is surrounded by beautiful gardens with fountains that cool and calm the senses. Language and Literature Bureau The history of Brunei spread out across a 30 meter wall. Created from mosaic tiles after a painting by a local artist, it was completed in 1965 and portrays the people of Brunei performing everyday tasks related to its economy. Though Brunei is a small country with less than half a million inhabitants, it has a robust economy driven by oil and natural gas. Its citizens enjoy free education and health care. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) Mosque The SOAS mosque is one of two masjid negara or national mosques in Brunei. It is named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei hence it is sometimes called SOAS 28 Mosque. The large central dome is made of real gold. The mosque is also known as the Taj Mahal of Brun

Buying a rug in Istanbul

Kilim Rug I had no plans to buy a rug in Turkey. My house has one too many rugs and I had recently bought a jute rug for my living room. But a determined salesman persuaded me to look at the rugs his store offers. It was a very short walk from the Basilica Cistern where I happened to spend a couple of hours so I decided to go to with him to his store.  At the store they offered me hot tea served in tulip shaped glasses. I couldn’t even touch it as it was too hot to hold. Anyway, I was immediately distracted by a different salesman unfolding rugs before me. He asked me what type I wanted and I replied, “a peaceful one”. As you can see, none of these rugs are peaceful. They are fully covered with geometric or floral designs. The kilim rug above has cross symbols which protects against the evil eye while the running water symbol framing the edges of the rug represents life. This rug was my favorite of the lot. Here’s another kilim rug but the colors are darker. You can still find the cros

Forestiere Underground Gardens - Updated

Winter Bedroom In 1901 a young Sicilian immigrant named Baldassare Forestiere arrived in Boston with a dream of becoming a citrus grower. He found a job as a subway digger until 1905 when he bought 85 acres of land in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Alas the land he bought turned out to be hardpan so his dream ended there. But being an enterprising man, he worked during his spare time to build a home for himself below the ground where it was mercifully cooler.  Forty years later, he had transformed this subterranean abode into comfortable quarters for himself and planted fruit bearing trees on 10 acres of his land. Passageway Summer bedroom This room has a window overlooking a private courtyard which allowed air to circulate and kept the room cool. Baldassare built this alcove above ground to keep the moisture off his bed. Outdoor Victorian tub Baldassare took a warm bath in this courtyard. The water was supplied by a metal tank above ground and connected by means of a hose. Thes