This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Brno Architecture

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 28, 2017

Central nave of St. James’s Church, a late Gothic (13th century) structure. One advantage of a mirrorless camera is that it’s small and can be operated soundlessly. Because there were no other tourists around, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable photographing this interior with a big DSLR.

St. James's Church, Brno

Exterior of St. James’s Church.

St. James's Church, Brno

Detail of House of the Lords of Lipá, an extremely ornate 16th-century Renaissance building (the sgraffito facade is actually 19th century), now a shopping center.

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Cool building decorations in central Brno.

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Brno

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Brno, Czech Republic

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 27, 2017

I went to Brno in the Czech Republic last week on a business trip, to meet my boss (yes, she lives in Brno — welcome to the modern world of remote working) and her team. Brno is the Czech Republic’s second largest town (about 600,000 people), the capital of Moravia, and the center for a lot of high-tech R&D. Its eleven universities, five of them specializing in IT, provide an abundance of student labour!

This is the Vegetable Market in the old part of the city, very close to where my apartment hotel was located. I was lucky with the weather. It was mostly sunny, some clouds, no rain. I took these photos with my new mirrorless camera, a Sony A6300 with 16-50mm kit lens.

Vegetable Market Square, Brno

Špilberk Castle, literally down the road from where I was staying. It’s surrounded by a network of paths that are popular with joggers. Actually, the joggers stick to the gravel paths rather than the cobblestones.

Špilberk Castle, Brno

At the end of my first day at Red Hat, Brno, I went out with a couple guys I had met at NHO in Munich for beer. Afterwards we walked around the castle at night. They told me that Brno is a very safe city and I noticed lots of people wandering around after dark or congregating in groups and drinking beer. Technically, it’s not legal to drink in public places but if you’re not creating a disturbance, the police tend to ignore it.

Špilberk Castle, Brno

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, literally next to the apartment hotel where I was staying.

Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, Brno

Brno’s most famous son is Gregor Mendel, the geneticist. He was abbot of St. Thomas’s Abbey and conducted his plant-breeding experiments in the abbey’s garden.

St Thomas's Abbey, Brno

Art nouveau building on Verevi street, #14. I passed by this building every day on the #12 tram to Technology Park, so on my last day I walked along the tram route for several kilometers and photographed buildings.

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Typical painted apartment buildings that you see all over the Czech Republic. They’re very cheerful and when the sun is shining, the streets look like boxes of pastel macaroons.

Painted Brno apartment buildings

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More Shops in Venice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on January 12, 2017

As a follow-up to my earlier posting, unusual shops in Venice, I’m posting some more shop windows and displays.

In a glass shop in the sestiere of San Marco, I found this chess set showing Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi Jews. I’m not sure this set would be very functional because the pawns are different designs and you would need to agree, in advance, on whether a Jew holding a palm branch or a Torah scroll is a bishop or a knight. Some stores have lights in their display windows that interfere with cellphone photography (the lighting turns bright pink or purple), but DSLRs are not affected.

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I bought this vase in a small glass shop in the San Polo sestiere. It’s probably a knock-off because it’s so cheap (25 euros = 100 NIS); the clerk said it was the last one in that design. Although I looked in lots of glass stores, I saw very few asymmetric teardrop vases, and the ones I did see were half the size, twice as expensive, and not as beautiful. The design is similar to the work of Vetreria Artistica Oball in the sommerso (“submerged”) technique. It’s 10 inches high and weighs about a kilo. The seller packed it in bubble-wrap and newspaper and sealed it in a sturdy, sealed carton. I shlepped it around Italy in my suitcase and hand-carried it on the flight back. The photo was taken when I got home. I love the clean, elegant lines and jewel colors of this piece.

Vase from Venice

All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in Italy, but who knew that they celebrated Hallowe’en with Jack o’lantern and bat cookies? Bakery in San Polo, Venice.

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These dishes with three-dimensional sculpted mice and pigs are adorable. I’m sure they’re decorations. If you were to eat off them, you’d have a tough time getting the food out of the crevices and you’d probably chip an ear or a snout.

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Everyone needs a gondola kit. Gondolier and velvet upholstery not included. They got the shape right–a gondola is asymmetrical. Because the oar is plied from one side of the gondola, that side is less curved, so that it will glide in a straight line.

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I would have loved a cheerful ceramic spoon rest for my kitchen counter, but there was a limit to how many breakable objects I was willing to carry.

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Torrone morbido (soft nougat) is a traditional Italian Christmas confection made from honey/glucose, beaten egg whites and lots of nuts. Here’s a recipe for a large quantity, with a video, Jamie Oliver’s version (requires you to wave a blowtorch around the metal mixing bowl during whisking), a beautifully photographed recipe that makes smaller quantities, and an extremely simple Sardinian torrone that requires only three ingredients: nuts, honey, and a couple egg whites. The commercial torrone have food coloring added. The homemade versions are extremely pale or white.

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Red Shoes in Rome

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 6, 2015

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Italian women really do walk around in high heels on cobblestone roads!

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Campo de’Fiori, Rome

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 14, 2015

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The Campo de’Fiori (literally, Field of Flowers) was only a few blocks away from our flat in the Jewish Ghetto. We bought our fruits and vegetables at the market in the Campo because the quality was much better than what we could find in local supermarkets. The artichokes were huge, big enough for two people. We ate a lot of artichokes during our vacation! Centuries ago, the Campo was the site of public burnings and executions. Now it’s a gathering place

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Coffee is a major religion in Italy. My husband always thought he didn’t like espresso, until he tasted Italian espresso. He was surprised by the small size of the cups; he realized that espresso is the perfect pick-me-up and costs very little when you drink it like the locals, standing at the bar (it costs four times as much if you sit at a table). A significant advantage of adopting the espresso habit is that it gives you access to bathrooms, in a country not over-supplied with public toilets.

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I never bought spices (packed my own), but I was impressed by how clean the spice section was and how they were pre-mixed for different pasta sauces and bruschetta.

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The ubiquitous tourist liqueur in a boot-shaped bottle….

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Castel Sant’Angelo from Vittorio Emanuele Bridge

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 11, 2015

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The Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, is a fascinating site. It started as a Roman tomb, was converted into a fortress, and was used as a papal refuge and a prison. An above-ground fortified passageway connects the fortress with the Vatican.

I took these photos on the same day (May 7, 2015), standing on the bridge that leads from the main part of the historic area of Rome to the Vatican.

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Bouncing Busker

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2015

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Rome has some interesting buskers; I saw a man doing magic tricks on the subway, accordionists walking inside train cars. This shot was taken from the bus to the airport at the end of our trip. As we were passing through an intersection, I noticed this man standing in front of cars stopped at a red light, bouncing a soccer ball on his head without using his hands. It was impressive!

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Fairy Glen near Betws-y-Coed

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 20, 2014

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[May 16, 2014] Fairy Glen is a local beauty spot near Betys-Y-Coed. Admission is half a pound. A lot of people complain about the charge on TripAdvisor, but when you consider the size of the park and the cost of maintaining the paths and fences, you understand why it’s not free. Wear good hiking boots. The stones are wet and slippery and you have some steep steps to descent to reach the glen itself. When we were coming out of the gorge, we met a couple older English tourists waiting on a bench for a younger couple, who were climbing down. They were very grateful when I showed them my photos.

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The paths in the park lead to a confluence of two rivers, with a lot of fishing cottages.

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I love the chocolate sheep!

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Wandering around Conwy

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 12, 2014

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More photos from Conwy, Wales.

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The Aberconwy house is a 14th century merchant’s house that has been restored and is part of the National Trust. We didn’t go into the house itself, although I did check out the bookstore in the basement.

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The Smallest House in Great Britain is not on my list of things you must do in Wales, but it’s amusing if you are traveling with kids. It was actually inhabited until 1900. Now it’s a tourist trap.

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Conwy Castle in the Rain

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 12, 2014

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Conwy Castle, in Conwy, Wales, was built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289. It is considered one of the best preserved and finest examples of military architecture of this period. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good photos of the castle from the outside, because it was raining heavily that morning (we were lucky that during our 10 days in the UK, we had only a half hour of heavy rain). Many of the towers have been strengthened and you can climb to the top.

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Conwy Castle was an integral part of the city walls and fortifications.

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