This and That

Random bits of my life

Festival of Light 2014: First Night

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 12, 2014

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The sixth Jerusalem Festival of Light opened last night. I think this year’s exhibits may be stronger than last year’s, although admittedly I’ve only seen the White and Red trails. The “Garden of Dreams” (above), by Luminarie De Cagna, was a spectacular opening installation. My husband remarked that some of the installations in this space in other years have been a bit wishy-washy. This huge castle was gorgeous once it was lit.

There were several very good video-mapping installations (more on that in another post). Batei Mahsei was transformed into a “Circus of Light” (Nuno Maya and Carole Purnelle, OCUBO), with clever animations and Terry Gilliam-like collages.

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O*GE (Gaston Zahr and Meirav Eitan) constructed an unusual house of cards, based on Jean David’s iconic deck, in the plaza by the Hurva synagogue. The installation took about a month to create, requiring very precise welding at the angles. Gaston pointed out that the corner cards are actually square. When you create a real house of cards, you can overlap them. When the cards are panels of lights, a different solution has to be found.

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The wall at the end of Armenian Patriarchate Road usually has a small video-mapping work. This year’s “Arch” (Theoriz Studio & BKYC) was beautifully coloured.

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This year, unlike the past few years, there was no paid performance in Gan Habonim. However, you could sit on lawn chairs around Philippe Morvan’s “Cosmogole,” watch the pulsating lights and enjoy the music.

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A few final thoughts: The crowd control is much better than it has been in the past. The Jewish Quarter route (White Trail) in particular has had very serious crowd issues in the past. This year a one-way system of traffic has been enforced, so that you enter from Jaffa Gate and leave by Zion Gate, which will take you to one end of the Red Trail. You can do the White and Red Trails comfortably in one evening.

Second, although the festival begins at 8:00, we found that many of the exhibits started late and were much more impressive in full darkness, so I recommend arriving no earlier than 8:30.

Third, in case you have never been before, parking is impossible and there are large traffic jams. It’s a good idea to read the info about traffic arrangements. Leave the car at one of the outlying parking lots and come to the Old City by light rail, shuttle bus, or on foot. Enjoy!

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Crib Goch

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 10, 2014

Before you ask, we did not go on Crib Goch, but I searched for a few YouTube videos to show why. :-) If you suffer from acrophobia or vertigo, you might want to skip these.

Crib Goch in fog (one of the most common weather conditions):

Crib Goch in good weather:

Crib Goch in winter (gets better after the intro because you can hardly hear anything over the wind). You can understand why Sir Hillary did his Mt. Everest practice runs on Mt. Snowdon.

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Snowdon Summit

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 10, 2014

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We were lucky that the clouds had cleared when we reached the top of Snowdon. If you arrive during a cloudy patch, you see nothing but fog and it’s very cold up there. Winds can reach 200 mph on the summit. Above, you can see both Llyn Glaslyn and LLyn Llydaw. The path on the left is part of the Miner’s Trail, which we took on the descent.

The ridge in the next photo is part of the Horseshoe Trail (one of the dangerous routes), which gives you an idea of Crib Goch. One walks along a knife-edge ridge, created by two parallel glaciers carving the valleys on either side, with drops of hundreds of meters on either side. There is no escape route–you go forward or back. When it’s windy and visibility is very poor, you can understand how people run into trouble. About 15 people a year die on Snowdon.

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Hikers eating lunch in the clouds. It looks safe, but you can go rolling over the cliffs if you slip. By the time we got to the top of Snowdon I didn’t feel like climbing down to the grassy areas, so we ate near the steps of the visitor center.

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Brass plaque on top of the cairn points out the landmarks surrounding Snowdon. On a clear day you can see Ireland and England’s peak district.

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This photo shows the ridge of Crib Goch, about a third of the way from the left. the path halfway up the slope is the Pyg Trail. The one winding around the lake is the Miner’s Trail.

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Mount Snowdon: “Pyg Up, Miner Down”

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 10, 2014

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“Pyg up, Miner down” was the advice some rather merry Welshmen in the hotel bar offered my husband. There are six main trails to Mount Snowdon: Llanberis and all the rest. Llanberis is not too challenging and roughly follows the railway line. All the other climbs are a bit more strenuous. One or two fall into the “not recommended unless you are an experienced mountaineer with paid-up life insurance” (that doesn’t stop people from trying). Although Mount Snowdon is only 1000 meters high (in other words, not high by world standards), it’s made more challenging by slippery rocks, high winds, very changeable weather, and poor visibility. If you are in good physical shape and allow enough time (3-4 hours each way is a realistic estimate) and choose good weather, you will have no problem. If you set out 2 hours before darkness or choose a rainy day to walk Crib Goch, your chances of injury or death are a lot higher.

The origin of the name “Pyg” (sometimes spelled “Pig”) is uncertain. It’s a good trail for ascending Mount Snowdon if you’re staying in Betws y Coed because it starts at Pen y Pass, which has the highest elevation of the various starting points (so less uphill climb) and is fairly close to Betws y Coed. We took Sherpa bus #2 to the Pen y Pass parking lot. There is a helicopter landing point at the beginning of the trail. The blue helicopters haul huge stones to repair the paths. The rescue helicopters are yellow.

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The beginning of the Pyg trail is an easy, occasionally steep climb. The peak just ahead is not Snowdon but Crib Goch, a dangerous knife edge with drops of 100s of meters on either side. That ridge also has the most changeable weather. Walking a knife edge in fog is not my idea of a good time.

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Assuming that you don’t turn right up Crib Goch, but turn left over the ridge, you see Llyn Llydaw (Lake Brittany), a large glacial lake with a causeway crossing it. The lakes are blue from the copper (these mountains were mined for copper and slate). The causeway was built in 1853 for the Brittania Copper Mine company, to allow horses and wagons of copper to cross. The lake had to be drained by 12 meters in order to build the causeway. Before that time, a raft was used to transport the horses and wagons.

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First view of Mount Snowden, the peak on the right side of the next photo. The lake is Llyn Glaslyn.

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View of Llyn Glaslyn on the ascent up Mount Snowdon itself. You might notice that the weather is constantly changing in these photos. We chose a partly cloudy day. When it’s sunny, you could walk around in a light shirt. When the clouds descend and the wind picks up, you need a hat and gloves. No joke. You really have to dress for a wider range of weather conditions and rockier paths than what we’re used to.

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Betws y Coed in the Evening

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 8, 2014

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These photos were taken our first evening in Betws y Coed. It’s hard to believe that the placid river in the first photo is the Conwy. By the time it reaches Llandudno, it’s much, much wider and has a strong current.

Suspension bridge over the Conwy river:

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Tombstones around St. Michael’s church, which dates from the fourteenth century:

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I Did Not Visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 3, 2014

Unfortunately, I never did get to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, although I did get a look at Anglesea from the Great Orme.

This is just an excuse to post a cute video. :-)

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Lambs and Landscapes

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 2, 2014

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On our way back from Swallow Falls, we passed lambs everywhere (well, it is spring….).

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This is typical of the landscape–hills with sheep pens behind the houses at the bottom and trees above. It must look amazing in autumn.

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Most of the buildings in Betws y Coed were built as Victorian period hotels. The Pont y Pair Inn is a typical example.

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Staircase made of slate, leading up to a side entrance.

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This is a cultivated garden planted on a steep and narrow hillside between two stone houses. I was amazed at how many plants they managed to fit into the space.

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Typical old stone house built as a single family dwelling, with a stone wall in front and sheep pens at the back.

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Swallow Falls

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 1, 2014

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We arrived at Betws y Coed in the afternoon, with time for one hike, so we went to look for Swallow Falls, over the Llugwy river. It’s an impressive multi-storey waterfall, which you can also reach by road (across from the Swallow Falls Hotel) if you’re not up to the somewhat slippery and wet climb along the river.

We started our walk from Pont yPair, the bridge at the edge of Betws y Coed, and followed a clearly marked trail. The first part of the trail is wheel-chair accessible, with ramps and pavement, so that everyone can see part of the beautiful landscape. We passed through several sheep pastures. At this point we were following the Llugwy river.

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The ground was wet from several days of rain before our arrival. Below, you see the tree roots all over the path.

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Steep bridge across the river:

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Swallow falls

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Beautiful Wales

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 1, 2014

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Northern Wales seems to have it all–stunning landscapes, waterfalls, picturesque buildings, placid sheep grazing on green hillsides, slate mountains, friendly people. Yes, it does get a lot of rain, but we were lucky. We experienced about half an hour of rain during a 10-day holiday in the UK in spring. That must be a record! We just missed a couple stormy days and landed when the weather was dry but the water levels were still high. We stayed in Betws y Coed (“Church in the Wood”), Wales’ most popular inland resort.

Betws y Coed’s tourist industry began in the mid-1800s, when an artists’ colony was founded at the confluence of four rivers feeding into the Conwy river (it’s no coincidence that it the railway was built the same year). The river in the photo above is the Llugwy.

We left Manchester Piccadilly station in the morning and took a 2-hour train to Llandudno. Manchester Piccadilly has lovely ironwork, so I took a couple quick shots while hauling a suitcase up the escalator. From Llandudno, it was a 45-minute bus ride to Betws y Coed.

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Souvenir shop with baskets.

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Even the soccer fields are picturesque. Located across the road from our hotel.

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Water falls near Betys y Coed, photographed from the Pont y Pair (Bridge of the Cauldron), over the Llugwy river. You can figure out the scale by the people standing on a rock. This was by no means the most spectacular waterfall we saw in Wales, just one of the most accessible.

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More Rainy Day Photos in the Old City

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 26, 2014

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I wish I could have photographed this man a second before, when he was positioned in front of the electricity box. Unfortunately, someone was in my way (definite disadvantage when you go on a photo walk–everyone wants the same shot). I thought the shot would look better with a sepia tone and hoped it would minimize the white box behind the subject with the graffiti.

Typical souvenir shop in the shuk. I wanted to create an Aladdin’s cave of treasures atmosphere, so I underexposed this image slightly.

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Hat display. Again, a lot of competition for the same shot, so you may see this elsewhere.

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Man in passageway. I rendered this image in black and white to increase the contrast between the dark arches and the light. Since it was a rainy day, there wasn’t a whole lot of light to work with.

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This photo of an alley in the shuk was taken at a low angle. It’s a good idea to wear old clothes if you’re shooting in a muddy environment because sometimes you do have to get down on the ground to get a certain perspective. I liked the contrast of the woman’s orange coat and the gray paving stones, as well as the lines of the ramp stones leading to the subject.

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Tower of David photographed from the roof of the Petra Hotel.

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