A tulip as a symbol…

October 21, 2010

A large, very large city (15 mio inhabitants) spread over two continents, Europe and Asia, linked together by two bridges and whose symbol is the tulip. A city whose name varied over time  and  civilisations : Byzantium under the Greek settlers,  and Constantinople  as the new Eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Did you guess where I had the great pleasure of spending four short days recently ? Yes, right 🙂 In Istanbul, Turkey, just 3 1/2 hours away from Geneva (by plane). But what a change of scenery and way of life !

One of the bridges linking the Eastern shore of the Bosphorus to the Western part of Istanbul.

Describing and picturing all I saw in this  short time is not really easy. I took many photos of the main touristic  sites we visited. A morning cruise on the Bosphorus,   gardens and palaces visited during a rainstorm that looked and felt more like a deluge,   a Byzantine underground Cistern,  the famous  Bazars, the seagulls that were everywhere and as big as ducks,  ancient Ottoman quartiers and their wooden houses,  small sesame breads sold in the streets which never tasted as good as when eaten under the pouring rain, the bridges and their busy lanes (day and night) that we crossed by bus, and  so much more… There are a lot of blogs and sites about this prestigious historical city – named “European Capital of Culture for 2010” – that will inform you much better than I would about the incredible  and precious treasures of Istanbul. Personaly, I chose to share with you some images that may tell you how I felt about Istanbul,  its contrasts, the traces of its historical past and its ever-present beauty.

A mosaic in blue shades  like the magnificent  domes of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet I mosque) and the Hagia Sophia Museum (formerly a Basilica, then a Mosque and now and museum.

The breathtaking shades of  Hagia Sophia’s stained glass windows, a soft inner light that no words can tell. I felt an  indescribable   feeling of  serenity (in spite of the crowd); I could well imagine the  fervour shared inside the same basilica/mosque  over the centuries by so many believers.

These are various patterns seen during the visits. The tulip (symbol of Istanbul) on a prayer carpet, an intricate mosaic in the Topkapi Palace and a rich embroidery sewed on a Sultan’s kaftan.

The magnificent Topkapi Palace and its gardens were visited under a heavy rain. The sky had darkened considerably but the area was not without any colours…

Deserted benches in a luxuriant vegetation.Group in blue…It was a great day for street vendors 🙂 We were offered blue plastic raincoats and umbrellas. ‘brellas,’ brellas ! was the rather joyous cry people heard all day long in the saturated streets. And of course,  we were only too happy to buy an umbrella on such a wet day !

When rain was just too much to put up with, the Grand Bazar and the Spice Bazar (also called Egyptian Bazar) would welcome you. A feast for the eyes and, in some shops,  a delight for your sense of smell.  Imagine carpets, shawls, embroidered boots,  jewels, spices, soaps, leather goods, glasses, ceramics, coffee,  those very special herbal teas and the sweet Turkish delights 🙂 Just anything you can think of.Walking in Istanbul’s ancient Ottoman areas is a totally different experience and well worth it.

Away from the crowds and the most visited sites, small wooden houses huddle together along  uneven streets where people live and work. Another vision of old Istanbul, its craftmen and shopkeepers, small stores and cafés where tourists are rare.

Fruits, veges  or other food are often sold in the streets. Tempting, delicious.

As the evening comes, a muezzin calls  for another prayer. The sky darkens before rain starts falling again. Will the remaining golden patches of sun between the clouds announce a sunny day in the morning ?

Yes, indeed ! The sky has cleared up and a sunrise over the Bosphorus was one of my favourite moments in Istanbul. Pastel shades over the straight for  boats  which are coming back slowly to the fishing market early morning. A view I never tired of.

Thank you for accompanying me for this short visit through  the ancient part of the city. I thought I would focus on the historical part of Istanbul although the modern area is quite another story and well worth seeing too.

Below are a few links of interest for those of you who would like knowing more about Istanbul.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Bridges_in_Istanbul

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topkap%C4%B1_Palace

Last night I  saw a movie at the cinema, a Franco-Australian fable  called : “The Tree”. Instantly this movie became a favourite of mine. I felt like sharing my enthusiasm and emotion with you and  I made a collage  to illustrate it. The first picture shows  a huge tree I photographed in a park of Melbourne. Apart from its size, it has not much to do really with the immense and symbolic fig tree in Queensland where the story takes place. The second picture is a photo of the film poster featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg (Dawn), the main actress in the movie. More  talented  and natural than ever.

This film is directed by Julie Bertucelli and is based on a novel by Judy Pascoe “Our Father  Who Art in the Tree”. This  delightful movie was presented on the closing night of the Festival de Cannes in France recently and was widely appreciated. Marton Csokas (George) and Morgana Davies, an exceptional and talented young actress (Simone) are amongst  the characters that will be remembered.

The story ? I do not feel like saying too much about it… Just know that the story starts in Australia. Peter and Dawn live happily somewhere in Queensland in the shade of their huge and magnificent fig tree. When Peter dies unexpectely, each member of the family reacts in his or her  own way in order to continue living without their dear partner and father.  Simone, their young daughter of 8 years old, believes her father’s soul lives now in the fig tree.  This little girl illuminates the whole film.

I hope some day you will be able to see  this movie made with a rare sensitivity. Queensland’s lanscapes are breathtaking and the photography in the film  is superb.

Slowing down

August 16, 2010

This post is my contribution to  the new photography  challenge assigned by Scott Thomas, http://stphoto.wordpress.com; its theme is related  to Travel Photography. On the following link you will find  the necessary information if you want to join us. Everyone is welcome ! Photos are to be posted until September 8, 2010.

http://stphoto.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/assignment-8-travel-photography/

For me, Hauterive is not  a faraway place to travel to, 15kms at the most from my home near Fribourg, Switzerland (South of Berne). More than a travel in the usual sense of the word, I would call it an “inner journey”. As soon as you leave the main road leading to the Abbey of Hauterive, you enter a small domain where peace, silence and nature help you slowing down. You don´t even realize it but the way you walk down the path leading to the Abbey is definitely more slow.

I did not meet many people as I strolled under the forest archway. It was a weekday; on Sundays the monastery welcomes many visitors coming to the 10am mass celebrated by the Cistercian monks  in the Abbey founded in 1138.The community of Hauterive is a haven of peace. Whenever I  need some quietness or just a little time for myself , I love to go and sit in the garden in front of the Abbey. Parts of this garden are closed to the public and reserved to the monks. Pilgrims on their long way to St- Jacques de Compostelle in Spain may stop there for the night.Between light and shade, some benches welcome people who come there for a pause in their day. Some – for their own particular reasons at a period of their life – can stay for a longer time at the Abbey and live with the monks according to their rhythm and spirit.  I cannot speak for them but personally I always feel a great inner peace as I stay there, outside or inside the church, also when walking along the river.

This is a view of the Abbey (at the back) and the farm (in front). The monks´s monastic life is essential  (“ora et labora” – pray, work and also fraternal life). The monks also cultivate a certain form of relationship with the exterior world.  Over the centuries they have valorised agricultural land  so  that they can sell their various products which bring the necessary revenues for their subsistence.Silence is appreciated in the areas where the monks are praying, meditating.

Hauterive Abbey (which means “high banks”) is located near a river, the Sarine. It flows quietly; people like to come and spend the day at the edge of the water.  I saw fishermen trying to catch  trouts. Cistercian monasteries  were often built near a river in rather secluded areas. Maybe they used rivers as a way of transportation for their goods to be sold in the towns nearby ? It was often done so in the Middle Age when roads were  unsafe.

To reach the Abbey you can either walk down a peaceful forest path or use  those  old wooden stairs. They have been restored of course and if they could talk, they would tell of all the people and the countless  steps up and down over the centuries. The walls are original with an occasional patch of new cement and paint here and there. No  straight lines for them but slight curves,  a sort of imbalance as if they carried the weight of time and events.Let´s  enter the Abbey itself through the  main porch decorated by a fresco.  I visited Hauterive several times over the years; for this photo assignement I came on a sunny morning which soon turned out to be a rainy one. The colours would have normally been much brighter.

I never took any pictures inside the Abbey but the monk I asked about it said it was all right. Those  are the stained glass windows on the South side of the church, their bright colours subdued under the cloudy sky.  The “rosace” (rose window) is very striking.

Rose windows are particularly characteristic of Gothic architecture and may be seen in all the major Gothic Cathedrals of Northern France. Their origins are much earlier and rose windows may be seen in various forms throughout the Medieval period (Wikipedia).

There were very few people inside the Abbey. I sat for while on the chair on the left. On Sundays and special  celebrations the nave and the lateral aisles are all taken up. The monks are reunited behind the choir-screen for the celebration. Their Gregorian chant fills the  Abbey. Moments of spirituality and sharing. I feel like saying a sharing beyond all religions,  a sheer spirituality that the site inspires and transcends.  The monks´chant is bringing life to the ancient walls.Leaving the Abbey by the quiet forest path, I was surprised by a bird flying right in front of me ! I still don´t know how I managed to take a picture. But here it is, a graceful bird dashing to the purple flower bush. A lovely ending of my travel with you.  I hope you enjoyed this quiet journey near Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks to Scott for another interesting photography challenge.

For more information on the Abbey of Hauterive, here is a link to its  site. An English translation is available too.

http://www.abbaye-hauterive.ch/index.php#bas1

Our National Day on August 1st started like this :

A bright blue sky, some pretty clouds to make it more alive, little Swiss flags fluttering in a light Summer wind. In short, there were great perspectives of a lovely evening with music, dances and some other celebrations that many people in the village had been preparing for quite a while.

Around 9pm, as a band of young musicians from the next village and a folk group from Indonesia had just arrived,  a violent wind almost blew away the big tents where the guests were preparing to play and dance. And the main street in the village looked like this :

People had deserted the tent where the food was prepared. Usually it is a big barbecue and the local famous meal : “raclette”, mountain cheese melted over a open fire (for a smaller crowd) or over a grill and served with potatoes and pickles, like last night. That is my main regret… I so enjoy eating raclette and I was not the only one !

Together with the wind, rain started falling heavily. Only the few courageous ones stayed under the tents hoping for a quieter weather but it did not happen.

People started to rush to the cafés and restaurants. This is where I stayed  for a while and took those few pictures whose quality is far from good but I just wanted to share last night mood with you.

Families of Dutch tourists were waiting patiently and more or less joyfully for clement skies… No usual National Day speeches nor anthem, no official fireworks nor bonfire, no dancing in the streets nor in pubs (too crowded !) but some isolated fireworks who brought cheerful sparkles under the rain 🙂 C´est la vie ! So is life !

To leave, not far

June 27, 2010

“To leave,  not far, just somewhere else”

This is the  meaning of these words in French. The card is drawn by an artist named “marie-antoinette” and I chose it to say good-bye to two of my friends who died a few weeks ago.  Hence my silence on this blog. I just did not feel like writing, please excuse my absence.

They were friends of mine but they did not know each other. We had been writing to one another for about thirteen years. Hundreds of letters from outside to inside and vice versa.  We shared our daily lives, present and past,  our joys as well as our sorrows, our regrets and our hopes, our memories, our reflections and just  anything we felt like writing about.  “Writing – someone said – is like sharing a piece of soul“; nothing was more true than these words in our correspondance.

As fate would have it,  both of my penfriends – and friends –  left on the same day. No accident nor illness, their death was scheduled. It is very difficult for me to explain how I have been feeling since then. Incredulity and shock would be some of my feelings, for sure.  Sadness, helplessness too. And little by little, a feeling of peace for I know they reached the Light that had been so far away in almost half of their life.

Before he left, R. had written this prayer that I wish to share with you  on this Sunday morning:

Holy Spirit, mysterious, ever-present yet invisible,

You are the light of our souls even when we are in darkness.

At the beginning, you brought the Son of God into this dark world, the light of life itself.

You led Jesus to his passion and your eternal spirit was there when he was on the cross.

I greatly need your help and light right now.

Help me that I do not close the eyes of my soul to you out of confusion or fear.

Help all those around me who struggle in the same darkness.

Help each of us in our present sorrow, distress and horror,

To know that you are with us, guiding, strengthening with our gifts of courage, wisdom and understanding.

Lift up our spirits even when there appears to be no human hope.

Amen



Mothers

May 9, 2010

The mother was standing at the side of a country road on the highlands of Madagascar, her baby snuggled on her back. She was selling wild flowers and a few oranges, tomatoes, rice and this special kind of spinach they grow there, “brèdes” (a French name I found no translation for).I stopped and asked to buy the flowers and some tomatoes. I never tasted again such sweet tomatoes. The lady was shy, her baby curious and serious. They both looked so  beautiful and in harmony, I asked her could I take a picture, please. The taxidriver translated this for me, she agreed with a half smile. Then a rapid conversation went on between the mother and the driver. I was to give the picture to her later. She never had had a picture of her and her baby. I did drive to this area again some weeks later,  stopped in the curve and climbed a steep earth track to a hamlet of red houses. They were  of the same colour of the soil, as if they had grown out of it. By the time I arrived,  I was surrounded with children who screamed of excitement and brought mothers out of their homes. The shy lady was there, she embraced me gently and looked,  and looked again at the picture, hardly believing it was her and her baby ! Emotion and laughter and… more demands for pictures 😉

I took more pictures (with my precious Nikkormat!) and for some unfortunate reason, they were lost at the photographer’s in town. The mother and her child is the only one I still have of this episode. The village I went to looked very much like this one. This tapestry (cross-stitching with local wool on the lining of a well-worn carpet I was going to throw away !)  is a unique gift I received from a dear friend as I left Madagascar.

So, these are my thoughts and good wishes for all mothers today, we celebrate their special day. Happy Mother’s Day to each and everyone of you ! A loving thought also for all mothers who will not celebrate with us but who stay in our heart forever.

Des mots d’enfants, kids sayingsand others’ who were kids too 🙂

“When mom is tired, why do I have to go to bed “?

“For the others, my mom may not be the most beautiful, but when one looks at her with My eyes, she is the prettiest”.

“A mother who tucks you in bed leaves behind a scent of sleep”
(Jean Gastaldi)

“Mothers always forgive; this is why they were born”.
(Alexandre Dumas)

“A mother’s love is like air : so obvious that one does not even notice it. Until one misses it”.
(Pam Brown)

Cameras

May 1, 2010

As I visited a photography museum a while back,  this small black cube in a show case attracted my attention. And memories started coming back in  waves. Lovely ones. My grandfather Ulysse owned such a camera, I never saw him using it though. Books were what he mostly had in his hands. He probably gave it to my father who used it quite a lot when the family travelled abroad or simply when he felt like taking a shot wherever we were. The result were tiny b/w pictures with a large white indented frame.

This small camera really saw a lot ! and experienced just as much too… oh, the drama when my sister and I forgot it on the table of a restaurant in France (we were in charge of it) ! My Dad simply turned around his old Chevrolet  and off we went to look for it. And we found it 🙂 Françoise and I kept a low profile about the incident but never forgot the place and the table ! And my Dad’s smile ! So precious was his camera. The first one I ever remember seeing in the family.

While on a journey to the North of Switzerland, I stopped in a pretty old town close to the German border, Rheinfelden, near the Rhine Falls (our Niagara 😉 . It was midday, all shops were closed and as I walked through the narrow paved streets I spotted this second hand place with the most striking ancient cameras behind the window. I wish I could have gone in and get a closer look. Instead I took pictures from the street. This particular camera was an  Ensign, Selfix 20. This is what I could decipher on my picture later on. A real beauty !

As I took the picture, another camera came into view… one from another century, digital, my own camera, a Sony DSC-W5.  A meeting of photographic generations, eyes/lenses’ contact.

A friend of mine experimenting in the Swiss Cameramuseum in Vevey

http://webcammsap.vevey.ch/index.php?langue=2

buds and buddies

April 23, 2010

Sometimes buds can be real buddies 🙂 what a pleasure to look more closely at nature these days ! Buds are coming out  from a long and cold Winter, holding on to each other to bloom into a new Season. Small promises of more to come, foliage,  flowers,  fruits.

Looking out of my  kitchen window I also see other buddies… I hear them before  seeing them though ! Talking, laughing, sometimes they stop and wave at me. Three young neighbours are coming back home from school apparently neither  very hungry nor in a hurry.  They took the long way across the fields. So much more interesting ! The playground is on the way, no cars around,  no cows in the field, all is theirs to linger and observe. Sometimes, when time gets real close to lunch, they pick a few wild flowers for their moms. The type of flowers that brings a smile on anyone’s face, especially mothers 🙂

“Hello Kevin, Mathias, Lori ! I saw you ;)”

In love

February 14, 2010

A young couple looking into each other’s eyes with so much love 🙂

Usually I am not too keen on taking pictures of people, I am a bit shy about it. On this particular occasion, I thought I would not be noticed at all, so totally oblivious were they of the people right beside them.  There were many tourists visiting the ancient castle of Gruyères. Now imagine that for a second they, “les amoureux”,  had looked around  or below the old window they were sitting on. It  was highly unlikely but just imagine 😉 This is what they would have seen : a nicely designed  garden inside  the castle walls. Over the walls, green pastures, forests and mountains. An idyllic landscape.

The castle is built on a hill and is quite a sight no matter what direction you come from. The young couple was sitting inside a large open window that you may notice on the outer wall of the castle. Better seen in the last picture, in Winter time.

Here is  is the  castle of Gruyères in Summer and in Winter. I have seen it many times but can’t help admiring this site whenever I am in the area.

Happy Valentine Day to all !

Carnival

February 11, 2010

Yes, this happy time of the year has come again ! Time also for a school holiday that coincides with the celebration of Carnival for all those who wish to participate. And there are quite a few, believe me !  Of all ages. Last year in February I happened to visit a small town, Bulle. In spite of the freezing temperature, the atmosphere in town was very warm. It was the Children’s Carnival ! For weeks, the kids had been making their own costumes at school or in kindergarten ; they were proudly and joyfully coming and going in the streets of Bulle.

It was a colourful event; imagination, creativity and talent sparkled in those beautiful  costumes . There was music too, dancing, singing and above all the enthusiasm of everyone for those happy confettis-battles !

Some cute little guys  – and far-sighted ! – were collecting   confettis for next year ! Or to bring back home for their parents’ joy 😉

At the end of the parade, a few little heroes were obviously very tired… and happy to be pulled in an old hand-cart. The Children’s Carnival was a great success,  viewers and actors, all enjoyed themselves a lot. Then everybody went back home,  by foot, in a cart or by car… The streets would keep a trace of Carnival for a long time ! And the kids would dream in colours,  with in their ears maybe the sound of exuberant trumpets and drums.