Saturday, March 31, 2012

Milan, Italy

It's one-third arcade, one-third Crystal Palace, and one-third shopping mall. It's the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II: the original galleria. And, it looks as stylish now as it did 150 years ago when it was built. Right in the middle is Milan's coat of arms. [2008]

Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

Vento started in Mexico and is now headquartered in San Diego. The company's scooters are as fast as the wind (get it?), and they seem to have cornered the Mexican market. Just think how much kinder a Vento is to the environment when compared with those big body pickups and vans that require so much more fuel and parking space. [2007]

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Great churches have always used the visual domain to bring Christian scriptures to life. So it is with la Sagrada Família in Barcelona. John of Patmos, in a vision of Jesus' return, "heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps," and here is one of those harpists bringing a little bit of heaven to earth. Gaudí would approve. [2005]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New York, New York, USA

These wee ones are the size of children, but they have the posture and countenance of adults. Their duty is to hold up the arch at the Ukrainian Institute on New York City's Upper East Side. Better hope they're adults; if they're not, we have a labor law violation. [2007]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oxford, England, UK

The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford incorporates a fantastical zoo of creatures both real and imaginary.  Could this be the inspiration for A. A. Milne's Eeyore and C. S. Lewis's Puzzle?  Milne and Lewis both attended Oxford University, as did Dr. Seuss.  And, all were good at creating fantastical characters.  [1984]

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bursa, Turkey

Tradition is to Modernity as (a) Khan is to Quiff, (b) Simit is to Cell, (c) All of the Above. A khan is a traditional inn; a quiff is a modern hairstyle; a simit is a traditional snack; a cell is a modern phone.  The answer is (c). Continue the story by dwelling on the left hand, the napkin, and the snack: Is he abiding by tradition or breaking a sunnah?  [2007]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Paris, France

Île de la Cité hosts one of the world's most well known cathedrals: Notre-Dame de Paris, famous for its flying buttresses. Over a hundred buildings in Paris are now taller than Notre-Dame, but for a millennium these Gothic spires dominated the Paris skyline and anchored the spiritual life of the nascent nation-state which grew into modern France. [2005]

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Munich, Germany

As the tallest structure in town, the Frauenkirche in Munich lifts the eye, fills the spirit, and tells the time. Here, Joseph Ratzinger occupied the cathedra until he was called to the Vatican in 1982. You would never guess that the Gothic tower of the Frauenkirche and the gabled roof of Hirmer's were erected 400 years apart. They fit together so perfectly today.  [1994]

Friday, March 23, 2012

Girona, Catalonia, Spain

Girona may be the most Catalonian of all cities, even more so than Barcelona (hugely cosmopolitan). But, Girona has not retreated into its Catalonian shell. Evidence? The use of English: 'not Español, neither Català.' The folks here are speaking to the world, hoping for support from a wider audience of freedom-lovers. Note the map! [2005]

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Some late afternoon sunbeams slash open the clouds and bring people outdoors after a long day of showers. For vespers, canalside Kaohsiung is the best place to be: no church needed. [2011]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

In most cities a building of 699 feet in height would be the tallest in town. But, in Hong Kong, it ranks Victoria Towers as only the 35th tallest skyscraper. Since the turn of the century, Hong Kong has experienced a high-rise building boom. Of the SAR's 35 tallest towers, 25 date from 2000 or later, this one from 2003. [2011]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Singapore, Republic of Singapore

Singapore is on the equator (actually, 1 degree N), and that's where the direct rays of the sun are today. Northward they will be moving, bringing summer to the Northern Hemisphere. Here on Emerald Hill, just a block off Orchard Road, the sun brings out the vivid colors of new paint atop old pilasters. [2011]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Boone, North Carolina, USA

You can read a landscape the way you read a book. Look for common literary devices such as personification, the practice of giving human traits to non-human subjects. In this case the subject is a place: Boone, North Carolina. The personifier is Doc Watson of Bluegrass fame, now a permanent part of a living text. [2011]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Add a plucker to a strummer and you've made of every walker a happy concert-goer. Add a bass to the street and an axe that sounds so sweet and you've put a happy smile on Boston's Beacon mile.[2008]

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Boyce, Virginia, USA

The fairies of Ireland are called leprechauns, but not all are in Ireland. Some left with the millions of Irish who jumped the pond to settle in America. Here, on the eve of St. Patrick's Day, two were caught looking over their shoulders and saluting the stars and stripes. Or, are they just saying Dia Dhuit? [2012]

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sandown, Isle of Wight, England, UK

Along Sandown's seaside, a Celtic cross commemorates lives lost in war.  At its base, blood-red poppies symbolize the ultimate sacrifice. Today, the cross bears these words: "Remember the love of them who came not home from the wars 1914-18 -- 1939-45." Names follow. The Isle of Wight weeps. [2011]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Douglas, Isle of Man

The triskelion is the Isle of Man's national symbol. It has insinuated itself into every cranny and curve of the island's cultural landscape. Because it looks like a pinwheel, you're tempted to give it a spin: what a perfect reminder of the wheels that make Man a motorspots mecca. [2011]

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ourika Valley, Morocco

The road from Asni to Imlil in Morocco's High Atlas is lined with villages like this, all perched above scenic fields where Berber inhabitants unlock the productive capacities of nature. But there are no 'picture windows' to bring the magnificent scenery into these homes. Why not? What story are the windows trying to tell? [2005]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ourika Valley, Morocco

A rough-hewn bridge over a High Atlas stream leads to the mill.  Water turns the grindstones and also brings life to the fields.  Can you identify the millrace discharging water into the stream?  the door leading into the grinding room?  water cascading down from the terraces above?  branches of walnut trees providing just a bit of shade?  [2005]

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ourika Valley, Morocco

Where do the people of the High Atlas live?  Certainly not where crops could be grown.  They avoid the flat and terraced land along the stream.  Their villages perch above the oasis on land that has no productive potential.  Morocco's settlement geography is finely attuned to the ability of the resource base to sustain human existence in a dry environment.  [2005]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Glenelg, South Australia, Australia

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." With these words, Jesus called his first disciples from the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Andrew heard and followed. Today, his namesake church in Glenelg continues to evangelize, but from a different seaside location. St. Andrew's by the Sea is on South Australia's Gulf of St. Vincent. [2011]

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Luxor, Egypt

Around the turn of the century, the Internet cafe hit Egypt, then came 3G cellular phone service, then came social networking. In little more than a decade thereafter, the regime fell. Did signs like this point the way to Egypt's future? Did this placard turn out to be more of a 'blessing' (baraka in Arabic) than folks at the time could possibly imagine? [2001]

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mumbai, India

Cane juice is one of the world's best thirst slakers, and you can buy a glass (no wasteful paper cups) anywhere in Mumbai. Stalks of sugar cane are fed into a juicer and out comes a deliciously sweet beverage. These women: most definitely Hindu and probably mother and daughter. Do they live traditional or modern lives? Not so easy to decide, is it? [2011]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Portsmouth, England, UK

Historical landscapes are about two types of eras: (1) Classical Eras, periods of conformity that define 'an age,' and (2) Transitional Eras, periods of change that mark the boundaries between ages.  Built in 1860, the HMS Warrior commemorates a transitional era, a change from sail to steam and a change from wood to iron. [2011]

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

It's either a toy ship in a bathtub or a tall ship of the French gov. Since it's the official flag of the Ville de Québec, it must be the latter. Quebec City was founded by the French, and its founder continues to stand watch on the Don de Dieu. Do you see the silhouette of Samuel de Champlain? Do you see the crenelated walls of the old city? [2005]

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Deir Samaan, Syria

You can't grow crops here, but you can pasture animals.  Over many centuries (millennia, really), the landscape of western Syria has succumbed to the pressures of human use.   Erosion of the steeper slopes has turned earthscapes into moonscapes.  [1993]

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ain Dara, Syria

Spring has come to western Syria, a region that once stood as a Byzantine breadbasket. The wet winter has been good to the crops. As for the sheep, they are not welcome here. Their grazing territory is in the degraded uplands where there are no crops to menace. [1993]

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dar Tazza, Syria

Dar Tazza is one of the villages that survives on the limestone plateau of northern Syria, a land of so many 'dead cities.'  The village's economy is now tied to nearby Aleppo, a quick bus ride away.  Here, the limestone underfoot is also the limestone under the arms of these children.  [1993]

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Hong Kong is one of the world's great high-rise cities, and the high-rises are getting ever higher. It's easy to go vertical on the inside: just take the elevator. But how do you meet the challenge of verticality on the outside? One solution is the scissors lift. [2011]

Friday, March 2, 2012

Seoul, South Korea

The palace precinct became a hallmark of the world's great cities from the earliest of times, and it seems to have been a primary element of urban landscapes everywhere in the world.  Seoul's Gyeongbok Palace dates back to the 1300s.  Don't dismiss it as a tourist attraction; it's a nation-building icon, infinitely more valuable to Koreans than to visitors.  [2000]

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cardiff, Wales, UK

Four Norman castles remain in Wales. One is Castell Caerdydd. Here is the keep and bailey on the motte, which would have been surrounded by a moat and palisade. Understand? Not until you master the vocabulary, including the geographic nomenclature and a bit of Welsh! To all: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! [2005]