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Showing posts with the label travelswithcharie

The mountains are calling

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The Swiss Federal Railways makes it easy for visitors to travel anywhere in Switzerland with its vast and efficient coverage of the country. Even the remotest villages in the mountains can be accessed through a network of trains and cableways. So it was an easy decision to combine my trip to Lauterbrunnen with Wengen and it turned out to be a good decision.

It was warm and sunny in November when I captured this view of the Jungfrau (above).


Wengen sits at the foot of the Jungfrau mountain range, 1,274 meters (4,180 ft.) above sea level. It is a quiet, car-free village with less than a couple thousand residents. This count balloons to 10,000 or so during the ski season when the alpine village hosts the annual International Luberhorn Downhill Ski Race. Wengen is the gateway to the Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe at 11,333 ft.


A cable car dangles above the valley on its way to Männlichen where spectacular views of the Eiger and Mönch await. The Eiger is famous for its treacherous North Face whi…

The Names of Zurich

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How much of Zurich can you see in an afternoon in late fall? The surprising answer is, a lot! I was in Zurich to catch a flight back to the U.S. and had a few hours to sightsee. After checking in at the hotel and reviewing the city map the receptionist gave me, I hurried down to Bahnhofstrasse and followed the busy shopping street towards Lake Zurich. My first stop was at Augustinergasse, a cobblestone street with overhanging balconies. It is in the Alstadt or Old Town which is the historical center of the city. Some of the most important landmarks like the Fraumünster, the Grossmünster, Peterkirche and the guild houses are found in the Alstadt. 

The stained glass windows by Marc Chagall in the Fraumünster was at the top of my "must see" list. As luck would have it, a rehearsal for a music concert was in progress during my visit so I lingered and enjoyed the performances of two gifted singers while studying the works of Chagall and Giacometti. An added bonus was the crypt whe…

Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn

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Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn rises above the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Its spires are symbolic of Mount Meru (center of the world in Buddhist cosmology) and are richly trimmed with ceramic tiles and fragments of Chinese porcelain.

The Khmer style central prang or spire is about 79 meters high (259 ft).

There are four smaller towers surrounding the central spire, an architectural feature that pays homage to Mount Neru. Notice the ornamented figures of Chinese soldiers that seem to support the tower.

These prangs glitter in the light from the ornamentation that define the temple complex.
A gilded door leads to one of the halls in the temple complex.
The Niramitr Buddha sits calmly in the ordination hall
How to get there:
Take the river express ferry to Tha Tien near the Grand Palace and Wat Pho then transfer to a shuttle boat that crosses the river or take one of the more pricey tourist boats that stops at Wat Arun. Entry fee to Wat Arun is 50 baht.

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie


Spirit Houses in Thailand

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Spirit houses are found in many countries in Asia. Some spirit houses are meant for the appeasement of spirits who dwell in the land and others are for the veneration of Phra Brahma, the Lord Creator in the Hindu religion. Sometimes a spirit house becomes a shrine when worshippers believe that their prayers were answered after making an offering at a particular spirit house. 
The image of the four-faced Brahma dwells in this open-sided spirit house. Each of Brahma's faces is symbolic of kindness, mercy, sympathy and fairness. Offerings of flowers, fruits, rice, bottled water and red Fanta fill the dais of the altar. Why red Fanta? The answer could be, according to some sources, the color red is the symbol of blood and red Fanta replaces sacrificial blood. It is also sweet and the spirits like it. Glittering glass and mirror mosaics adorn this spirit house with Brahma surrounded by figurines of people and animals.
This wooden spirit house resembles a Thai house and stands behind a gli…

Waiting for the bus in Ostuni

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Ostuni is a whitewashed hill town in Puglia in Southern Italy. It is referred to as La Citta Bianca or the White Town. It has narrow, often steep alleys that challenge both legs and knees. But the rewards are pure delight for the resolute traveler. Imagine door frames that seem to have time traveled to the 21st century, mesmerizing views of the sea and olive groves which produce some of the finest olive oil in Italy!
The Aragonese defensive walls in the photo above are remnants from the reign  of Isabella of Aragon, the Duchess of Bari and her daughter, Bona Maria Sforza (Queen Consort of Poland) who succeeded her. 

Getting to Ostuni was as simple as taking the train from Bari, the capital of Puglia, for the two-hour ride that provided glimpses of the Adriatic Sea. I found no taxis nor buses outside the station when I arrived in Ostuni. I asked an elderly gentleman standing around if a bus would be passing by and he kindly informed me that there would be one shortly and that it would go…

Finding the relics of St. Nick in Bari

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While searching for the best base for travels in Puglia, I came across Bari, a major city bordering the Adriatic Sea with convenient train connections to Alberobello, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni and Matera in Basilicata. I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to learn that Bari is a destination on its own, with its fortified old town, a Norman castle, a promenade by the sea, a bustling shopping and business district and a variety of restaurants. Bari has also been a pilgrimage destination since the 11th century when the relics of St. Nicholas were brought to Bari from Myra, an ancient Greek town in Lycia (now Antalya Province of Turkey). St. Nick was known for his generosity and gift giving. Sinterklaas or St. Nicholas evolved into Santa Claus. His feast day is celebrated on December 6th. 

Cobble stone passages with religious shrines on every corner greet visitors to the old town.


The narrow alleys of the old historic center are for motorbikes and walking to better appreciate the wrou…

Kiss my Turku

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Nothing can truly describe the wonder of seeing the Art Chapel for the first time. I was at once drawn to the blinding light at the end of the proverbial tunnel as soon as I entered the chapel. But rather than walk up to the altar, I opted to sit awhile on one of the plain pine pews to slowly take it all in and savor the peace and beauty of my surroundings. I enjoyed precious few minutes of blissful contemplation (as I was the only visitor then) until a couple arrived and the missus asked me to remove my handbag from the bench so she could take a perfect photo of the Chapel. :( 

The architect, Matti Sanaksenaho, wanted to incorporate three symbols in his design. One of them is light, in this case, the idea of "the path from darkness to light". The visitor emerges from the shadows at the entrance and is led toward the light at the altar under exquisitely arched Finnish timber.

The model for the design of the Art Chapel was a block of wood inspired by a fish which the architect…