Friday, October 31, 2014

Andorra La Vella, Andorra

Perfect Halloween symbols. You may think they are out of place in Andorra, but in this setting they have nothing to do with Halloween. Perfect reminders of American culture's old world antecedents. [2005]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sofia, Bulgaria

We are coming to the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so it's time to acknowledge the profound impact the pink ribbon has had all over the world. In Bulgaria, it has even been turned into street art thanks to Avon. Here's a pink ribbon that is decidedly green as it preaches the virtue of both being healthy and preserving the environment. [2010]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Prague, Czech Republic

When the Communist government of Czechoslovakia collapsed, state industries collapsed as well. Among those liberated from their jobs were classical musicians, many of whom took to the streets and became part of the informal free-enterprise economy. That era continued even after the country split in two. [1996]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Norfolk, Virginia, USA

October 28 is Independent Czechoslovak State Day in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 until 1993. Prior to 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled Czech lands. Today, the people of those Czech lands proudly fly a flag of their own and always carry it proudly during the annual NATO parade in Norfolk, Virginia. [2014]

Monday, October 27, 2014

Four Corners, Arizona, USA

Straight lines used to divide political jurisdictions are called geometric boundaries. Where they meet you often find "tripoints," but rarely do you find "four points." At the spot where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet, the site has been turned into a "teachable place," the geographer's equivalent of a "teachable moment." [2013]

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lebanon, Kansas, USA

A frustum marks the geographic center of the United States. A free-range leghorn seems to be the only inhabitant of the property. What's happening to the agricultural heartland? It is producing as much as ever, but with fewer farmers. Populations of rural counties across the country are declining as urban centers grow out of control. [2009]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Amman, Jordan

From the T alone, we know that he is an Assyrian not an Arab, that he is a Christian not a Muslim, and that he is a refugee in Jordan not a citizen. Jordan's job in the Middle East is to absorb refugees: first the Palestinians, then the Iraqis, now the Syrians. In fact, the fourth largest 'city' in Jordan is now a Syrian refugee camp. [1998]

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Statistics behind Šmalčič Organic Farm: (1) Each year 500,000 hectares convert to organic in the European Union; (2) 5.4% of the European Union's agricultural land is devoted to organic; (3) the annual growth rate of organic in the European Union is approaching 10%. (One hectare equals about 2.5 acres.) [2008]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Welcome to the Celtic fringe of the British Isles. In Glasgow, as in Dublin, lamp poles are shaped like shepherd's crooks, symbols of each city's patron saint. Let St. Mungo's staff shed some light on the founding of Glasgow: "Here is the bird that never flew. Here is the tree that never grew. Here is the bell that never rang. Here is the fish that never swam." [2004]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Gothic. 'Glasgow Cathedral': High Kirk ay Glasgee. Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). Formerly, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Scotland. Inside is the tomb of St. Mungo, patron saint of Scotland. [2004]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain

Gothic. Toledo Cathedral: Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo. Seat of an Archbishop and the Primate of Spain. Inside is the tomb of Alphonso VII, the first to use the title Emperor of All Spain. [2009]

Monday, October 20, 2014

Zagreb, Croatia

Gothic. Zagreb Cathedral: Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja. Roman Catholic. Seat of an archbishop. Inside are the oldest stained glass windows in Croatia. [2008]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Chartres, France

Gothic. Chartres Cathedral:  Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. Roman Catholic. Seat of a bishop. Inside is the Sancta Camisa, the sacred robe worn by Mother Mary when her Son was born. [2005]

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Agra, India

The Moghul Empire was at its height in the middle of the 17th century. What does the world today remember about the Mogul Empire? Only one thing: the Taj Mahal, a perfect architectural creation, here viewed through a perfect Moghul arch. The arts, and perhaps only the arts, allow civilizations to brag across centuries. [2011]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gambier, New Providence, The Bahamas

What color is the sea? What color is the swimwear? What color is the T? Why is everything in the Bahamas so color coordinated? Even the national flag feels the pressure to conform: All its colors are here if you look closely. [2014]

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mellieħa, Malta

If you were from the British Isles and wanted to go scuba diving, you might think about the Maltese Isles. Why? Hint 1: thermometry. Hint 2: clarity. Hint 3: colony. [2009]

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bangkok, Thailand

The durian does not want you to eat it. Look at that husk. It's like medieval armor and just as tough. Then, there is the odor: not smell, odor! So strong it is that you can only eat it on the street. But, you may not want to eat it at all: It's a taste you have to grow up with. [2011]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monte Carlo, Monaco

How much fun can you have with bronze if you think outside tradition? How much fun with color? Here, in front of Monte Carolo's Casino, with surfaces that are "enfolded and caressed by light that transforms their masses into light shapes," Sophia Vari demonstrates the power of abstraction and color to appropriate open space. [2008]

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monaco-Ville, Monaco

Every country needs a creation myth.Here, in bronze, is Monaco's. François Grimaldi, disguised as a humble friar, took the Rock of Monaco in 1297 by force. See the sword? He needed the rock to launch an attack on Genoa and restore his family to power there. The principality is still governed by the House of Grimaldi. [2008]

Sunday, October 12, 2014

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Some will celebrate Columbus Day today. Some will celebrate Columbus Day tomorrow. Some will celebrate Columbus Day not at all. Some will celebrate Indigenous People's Day instead. [2009]

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The rest of the world could not believe the American electorate had actually voted for a Presidential candidate named Barack Hussein Obama. He quickly became an international rock star. At home, though, the story was different, and you rarely saw Ts like this, especially three years after his election. [2011]

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

How do you explain the staying power of punk rock? Bad Religion recorded its first album in 1989 and had its biggest hit in 2013 by appealing to a whole new generation. Can't tell you what the name of its top-selling single was, but this dude must have liked it. Can't tell you, but you could always look it up. [2014]

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Warsaw, Poland

How could a palm tree be growing in the center of Warsaw? Totally ageographical. Upon inspection, however, you will discover nothing more than a plastic perpendicular meant to be read as a metaphor: Post-Communist Poland has more in common with western Europe, where palm trees grow on Atlantic shores, than with the fur hats to the east. [2003]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

A golden orb represents the human earth. An angel represents the promise of the golden tablets. Together, Moroni and the sphere on which he stands symbolize the power and universality of Mormon Christianity. The message of the Book of Mormon is larger than the earth itself. It's a sculptural sentence that appears atop every Latter Day Saints temple. [2013]

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Geographers are attentive to scale: everywhere, all the time. How does the size of the cross compare with the size of the orb? What does the cross represent? What does the orb represent? When you've answered those questions you've read the sculptural sentence, complete with subject and predicate, in front of Merida's cathedral. [2013]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

What is he doing? What is that thing sticking out of his mouth? For a clue, head 600 miles west to Zagreb and take a look. Still not sure? Continue on to Milan and take another look. [2014]

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jerusalem, Israel

The Way of Sorrows is sacred space for Christians. It is their way of drawing close to Jesus in his last hours before crucifixion. These aren't the sights Jesus would have seen, but if we had a GPS record of his passion, the Via Dolorosa would come close to vectoring his slog to Golgotha. As for the half-arch overhead: Would you call it an arc boutant? [2010]

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Larnaca, Cyprus

You don't have to go to Notre Dame to see a flying buttress. Still, it is rare to find such fine architecture in such a vulgar venue. The talent of what the French call an arc boutant is relieving pressure on load-bearing walls. Vulgar? Definition 2. [2004]

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gaziantep, Turkey

Ballet? Every appendage is working in his favor. He is using both feet, each hand, and his head. They are miraculously coordinated. Our bodies can be more useful than we think. [2014]

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Raqqa, Syria

The Great Mosque of Al-Rafiqa was built by the Abbasids. It's been around for well over a thousand years. If these ancient brick walls and the cylindrical minaret survive Syria's civil war, however, it will be a minor miracle. Does anyone know what happened to them since the Islamic State took control? [1993]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Raqqa, Syria

The official map of the Middle East shows Raqqa to be located in Syria. Now, de facto, it's in the Islamic State, and it's the capital. These two may still be living there: the little one would be in his twenties, and the dad in his forties. Don't you wonder if they are as at ease as they were two decades ago? [1993]