Sunday, 28 May 2017


“The Holocaust illustrates the consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on a society. It forces us to examine the responsibilities of citizenship and confront the powerful ramifications of indifference and inaction.” - Tim Holden

Imre Ámos (1907 in Nagykálló, Hungary – 1944 or 1945 in Ohrdruf, Germany) was a twentieth century Hungarian Jewish painter. Following his studies at the Technical University, Budapest from 1927 to 1929, he enrolled in the Art School where he was a pupil of Gyula Rudnay. He married Margit Anna, also a painter.

His painting was initially influenced by József Rippl-Rónai and Róbert Berény. From the mid-1930s onwards, his style emulated that of Chagall whose influence affected his artwork in his paintings such as ‘The Old Church Servant Thinks of Heaven’, and ‘The Dream of Bear Leader’. In 1936, he was elected to be a member of the New Society of Artists, which entailed working in Szentendre during the summer months.

He visited Paris in 1937 where he met Chagall. Ámos became a member of the National Salon in 1938. Some of his works show the influence of legends about the famous Chassidic Kaliver Rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Taub (1744–1828), who was also from Nagykálló.

In 1940 during World War II he became a victim of the Holocaust because he was Jewish. He was taken to a forced labour camp in Vojvodina, then to the battlefield in the east. In 1944 he was deported to a concentration camp in Saxony where he later died cruelly. Throughout the war he painted about his tragic experiences in shocking visions such as ‘A Series of Dark Times’, ‘Escaping’, and ‘War’.

He died aged only 37 or 38. Some of the works by Imre Ámos and his wife can be seen in the Museum of Margit Anna and Imre Ámos in Szentendre. On 23 June 2014, the Jewish Historical Institute opened the exhibit “Where is your brother? - Imre Ámos and the 20th century.”

The painting above is “Sötet Idok VIII: Ember par Apokalipszis ben”. I have been unable to find a good translation of this title, but it encapsulates the notion of a dark couple in an apocalyptic setting. It is a rich yet sombre work, looking toward the past but somehow being oddly prophetic too. It has the immediate appeal of a depiction of a couple enjoying music and literature (perhaps Abelard and Heloise?), but in the background through the open window, the world seems to be collapsing, as it was happening in WWII Europe…

Saturday, 27 May 2017


“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” - Bruce Feirstein 

Sebastian Bodinus (ca. 1700 – 19 March 1759) was a German composer about whom very little is known. Bodinus was born in the village of Bittstädt in Saxe-Gotha and trained as a violinist. It is known that in 1718 he entered the service of the Margrave Karl III of Baden-Durlach at the court in Karlsruhe. Bodinus worked elsewhere but always returned to Karlsruhe and was concertmaster there for two periods.

He left Karlsruhe in 1752, returned in a disoriented state in 1758 and was committed to an insane asylum in Pforzheim where he died. His compositions include concertos and symphonies but there are predominantly chamber works in the late Baroque style, including not only solo and trio sonatas but also quartets, a considerable rarity at the time he composed them in the 1720s and 1730s. Of his quartets it has been said that this “minor master appears to have written first-rate music.”

Here are his “Divertissements” played by Camerata Köln:
1. Siciliana En Pastoral
2. Adagio
3. Giga, Allegro
4. Allegro Assai
5. Adagio Ma Un Poco
6. Giga, Presto/Allegromente
7. Allegromente
8. Adagio
9. Presto
10. Allegro
11. Adagio
12. Allegro
13. Presto
14. Adagio Un Poco
15. Allegro
16. Adagio Ma Un Poco, Allegro
17. Andante E Non Adagio
18. Allegro

Friday, 26 May 2017


“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” - Paul Theroux 

I love the cool, misty days of Autumn when afternoon sun comes out and shines warm, but quickly gives way to a rapidly falling night. Leaves turn yellow and fall, rain comes and goes, puddles shine like silver platters and soon, Winter shows up with cold, dark days when rain, sleet, snow and frost savour the season as if it were tossed in sea salt. Winter afternoons hanker for lots of fragrant, hot tea and a spicy, rich cake… Nothing like this wonderful fruit loaf, the recipe for which was given to us by a dear family friend, who unfortunately has passed away. She is remembered fondly.

Fruit Loaf for Afternoon Tea

150 g dried apricots
150 g pitted dates
100 g dried figs
100 g sultanas
100 g mixed candied peel
2 cups orange juice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups Self-Raising Flour
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Butter or mascarpone cheese, to serve (optional) 

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 7cm deep, 10cm x 21cm (base) loaf pan with baking paper.
Combine dried fruit and juice in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 20 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. Stir in bicarbonate of soda. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Transfer fruit mixture to a bowl. Stir in honey, sugar and eggs. Sift flour and spices over fruit mixture. Stir gently to combine. Spoon into prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Stand for 10 minutes in pan. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. Serve slices at room temperature or toasted, spread with butter or mascarpone cheese if desired.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


“You cannot eat apples planted from seeds. They must be grafted, cloned…” - Michael Pollan

I’ve had a break from Poets United for a few weeks as I have had to attend to several pressing work matters and these did not allow my mind to turn to poetry. As things slowly get back to normal, today’s theme of “Flowers” at Poets United inspired this, my offering for the Midweek Motif this week:

Spring Flowers

Looking at Spring flowers in the garden
Blooming recklessly in the cold wind,
Fulfilling with expediency their purpose,
Repaying in full the gardener’s ministrations,
Reminds me of their origin:

Hailing from some humble wild blossom,
Carefully cultivated for years on end;
Torn from the fickle hillside and grown under glass,
Long inbred, carefully tended, crossed –
So that each new generation breeds true.
Once pale and fresh but insignificant,
Now a gaudy, dazzling display of colour,
But lucklessly sterile…

As for their propagation,
They rely on cuttings,
And the gardener’s whimsical affection,
Their seeds but a distant,
Almost forgotten remembrance...

PS: "Double-flowered" describes varieties of flowers with extra petals, often containing flowers within flowers. The double-flowered trait is often noted alongside the scientific name with the abbreviation fl. pl. (flore pleno, a Latin ablative form meaning "with full flower"). The first abnormality to be documented in flowers, double flowers are popular varieties of many commercial flower types, including roses, camellias and carnations. In some double-flowered varieties all of the reproductive organs are converted to petals — as a result, they are sexually sterile and must be propagated through cuttings. Many double-flowered plants have little wildlife value as access to the nectaries is typically blocked by the mutation.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017


“The only good thing that comes from the East is the sun.” - Portuguese Proverb 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.  
The Azores (Portuguese: Açores), officially the Autonomous Region of the Azores (Região Autónoma dos Açores), is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal, an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,360 km west of continental Portugal, about 1,643 km west of Lisbon, in continental Portugal, about 1,507 km from the African coast, and about 1,925 km southeast of Newfoundland, Canada. Its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, livestock, fishing, and tourism, which is becoming the major service activity in the region. In addition, the government of the Azores employs a large percentage of the population directly or indirectly in the service and tertiary sectors.

The main settlement of the Azores is Ponta Delgada. There are nine major Azorean islands and an islet cluster, in three main groups. These are Flores and Corvo, to the west; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial in the centre; and São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas Reef to the east. They extend for more than 600 km and lie in a northwest-southeast direction. All the islands have volcanic origins, although some, such as Santa Maria, have had no recorded activity since the islands were settled. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 2,351 m. The Azores are actually some of the tallest mountains on the planet, measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean to their peaks, which thrust high above the surface of the Atlantic.

The climate of the Azores is very mild for such a northerly location, being influenced by its distance to continents and the passing Gulf Stream. Due to the marine influence, temperatures remain mild year-round. Daytime temperatures normally fluctuate between 16 °C and 25 °C depending on season. Temperatures above 30 °C or below 3 °C are unknown in the major population centres. It is also generally wet and cloudy. The culture, dialect, cuisine, and traditions of the Azorean islands vary considerably, because these once-uninhabited and remote islands were settled sporadically over a span of two centuries. 

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 22 May 2017


“Egypt is a great place for contrasts: Splendid things gleam in the dust.” ― Gustave Flaubert 

Bes (also spelled as Bisu) and its feminine counterpart Beset are an Ancient Egyptian deity pair worshipped as protectors of households, and in particular, of mothers and children and childbirth. Bes later came to be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad.

While past studies identified Bes as a Middle Kingdom import from Nubia, more recent research indicates that he was present in Egypt since the start of Old Kingdom. Mentions of Bes can be traced to pre-dynastic Nile Valley cultures; however his cult did not become widespread until the beginning of the New Kingdom.

Images of the deity were kept in homes and he was depicted quite differently from the other gods. Normally Egyptian gods were shown in profile, but instead Bes appeared in portrait, ithyphallic, and sometimes in a soldier's tunic, so as to appear ready to launch an attack on any approaching evil. 

He scared away demons from houses, so his statue was put up as a protector. Bes was a household protector, throughout ancient Egyptian history becoming responsible for such varied tasks as killing snakes, fighting off evil spirits, watching after children, and aiding (by fighting off evil spirits) women in labour (and thus present with Taweret at births). 

Since he drove off evil, Bes also came to symbolise the good things in life - music, dance, and sexual pleasure. Later, in the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, chambers were constructed, painted with images of Bes and his wife Beset, thought by Egyptologists to have been for the purpose of curing fertility problems or general healing rituals.

Many instances of Bes masks and costumes from the New Kingdom and later have been uncovered. These show considerable wear, thought to be too great for occasional use at festivals, and are therefore thought to have been used by professional performers, or given out for rent. In the New Kingdom, tattoos of Bes could be found on the thighs of dancers, musicians and servant girls.

Like many Egyptian gods, the worship of Bes or Beset was exported overseas, and he, in particular, proved popular with the Phoenicians and the ancient Cypriots meanwhile she got popular in Minoan Crete. In the late 500s BC, images of Bes began to spread across the Persian Empire, which Egypt belonged to at the time. Images of Bes have been found at the Persian capital of Susa, and as far away as central Asia. Over time, the image of Bes became more Persian in style, as he was depicted wearing Persian clothes and headdress.

The Balearic island of Ibiza derives its actual name from this god, brought along with the first Phoenician settlers 654 BC. These settlers, amazed at the lack of any sort of venomous creatures on the island thought it to be the Island of Bes. Later Romans called it Ebusus.

Sunday, 21 May 2017


“It is always consoling to think of suicide: in that way one gets through many a bad night.” - Friedrich Nietzsche  

Richard Gerstl (14 September 1883 – 4 November 1908) was an Austrian painter and draughtsman known for his expressive psychologically insightful portraits, his lack of critical acclaim during his lifetime, and his affair with the wife of Arnold Schoenberg which led to his suicide.

Richard Gerstl was born in a prosperous bourgeois family, Emil Gerstl, a Jewish merchant, and Maria Pfeiffer, non-Jewish woman. Early in his life, Gerstl decided to become an artist, much to the dismay of his father. After performing poorly in school and being forced to leave the famed Piaristengymnasium in Vienna as a result of “disciplinary difficulties”, his financially stable parents provided him with private tutors.

In 1898, at the age of fifteen, Gerstl was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, where he studied under the notoriously opinionated and difficult Christian Griepenkerl. Gerstl began to reject the style of the Vienna Secession and what he felt was pretentious art. This eventually prompted his vocal professor to proclaim, “The way you paint, I piss in the snow!” Frustrated with the lack of acceptance of his non-secessionist painting style, Gerstl continued to paint without any formal guidance for two years.

During the summers of 1900 and 1901, Gerstl studied under the guidance of Simon Hollósy in Nagybánya. Inspired by the more liberal leanings of Heinrich Lefler, Gerstl once again attempted formal education. Unfortunately, his refusal to participate in a procession in honour of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria further ostracised him and led to his departure. Gerstl felt that taking part in such an event was “unworthy of an artist”. His final exit from Lefler’s studio took place in 1908.

In 1904 and 1905, Gerstl shared a studio with his former academy classmate and friend, Viktor Hammer. Although Hammer had assisted in Gerstl’s admittance to Lefler’s tutelage and their relationship was friendly, it is difficult to determine how close the two men were as Gerstl did not associate with other artists. Regardless of their personal feelings, by 1906, Gerstl had acquired his own studio.

Although Gerstl did not associate with other artists, he did feel drawn to the musically inclined; he himself frequented concerts in Vienna. Around 1907, he began to associate with composers Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander von Zemlinsky, who lived in the same building at the time. Gerstl and Schoenberg developed a mutual admiration based upon their individual talents. Gerstl apparently instructed Schoenberg in art.

During this time, Gerstl moved into a flat in the same house and painted several portraits of Schoenberg, his family, and his friends. These portraits also included paintings of Schoenberg’s wife Mathilde, Alban Berg and Zemlinsky. His highly stylised heads anticipated German expressionism and used pastels as in the works by Oskar Kokoschka. Gerstl and Mathilde became extremely close and, in the summer of 1908, she left her husband and children to travel to Vienna with Gerstl. Schoenberg was in the midst of composing his Second String Quartet, which he dedicated to her.

Mathilde rejoined her husband in October. Distraught by the loss of Mathilde, his isolation from his associates, and his lack of artistic acceptance, Gerstl entered his studio during the night of 4 November 1908 and apparently burned every letter and piece of paper he could find. Although many paintings survived the fire, it is believed that a great deal of his artwork as well as personal papers and letters were destroyed. Other than his paintings, only eight drawings are known to have survived unscathed.

Following the burning of his papers, Gerstl hanged himself in front of the studio mirror and somehow managed to stab himself as well. The incident had a significant impact on Arnold Schoenberg and his opera ‘Die Glückliche Hand’ is based on these events. After his suicide at the age of twenty-five, his family took the surviving paintings out of Gerstl’s studio and stored them in a warehouse until his brother Alois showed them to the art dealer Otto Kallir in 1930 or 1931.

Although Gerstl had never managed to mount an exhibition of his works during his lifetime, Kallir organised one at his Neue Galerie. Shortly afterward, the Nazi presence in Austria hindered the further acclaim of the artist and it was not until after the war that Gerstl became known in the United States. Sixty-six paintings and eight drawings attributed to Gerstl are known, although it is possible he destroyed many more or that others could have been lost over the years.

The painting above is a detail of a portrait of Arnold Schoenberg from 1905.

Saturday, 20 May 2017


“Music, ultimately, is one of the great ways that we as humans have for coding internal life. It’s glue that joins people together.” – Yo-Yo Ma 

Antonio Caldara (1670 – 28 December 1736) was an Italian Baroque composer. Caldara was born in Venice (exact date unknown), the son of a violinist. He became a chorister at St Mark’s in Venice, where he learned several instruments, probably under the instruction of Giovanni Legrenzi. In 1699 he relocated to Mantua, where he became maestro di cappella to the inept Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, a pensionary of France with a French wife, who took the French side in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Caldara left Mantua in 1707, after the French were expelled from Italy, then moved on to Barcelona as chamber composer to Charles III, the pretender to the Spanish throne (following the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 without any direct heir) and who kept a royal court at Barcelona. There, he wrote some operas that are the first Italian operas performed in Spain. He next moved on to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Cerveteri. While there he wrote in 1710 “La costanza in amor vince l’inganno” (Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery) for the public theatre at Macerata.

With the unexpected death of Emperor Joseph I from smallpox at the age of 32 in April 1711, Caldara deemed it prudent to renew his connections with Charles III (soon to become Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI) as he travelled from Spain to Vienna via northern Italy. Caldara visited Vienna in 1712, but found Marc’Antonio Ziani and Johann Joseph Fux firmly ensconced in the two highest musical posts. He stopped at the Salzburg court on his return journey to Rome, where he was well received (and to which he subsequently sent one new opera annually from 1716 and 1727).

In 1716, following the death the previous year of Ziani and the promotion of Fux to Hofkapellmeister, Caldara was appointed Vize-Kapellmeister to the Imperial Court in Vienna, and there he remained until his death. Caldara is best known as a composer of operas, cantatas and oratorios. Several of his works have libretti by Pietro Metastasio, the court poet at Vienna from 1729.

Here are some of his cello sonatas played by Gaetano Nasillo, accompanied by Luca Guglielmi and Sara Bennici.
1. Sonata Ottava in Mi bemolle maggiore 0:00
2. Sonata Undecima in Sol minore 8:20
3. Sonata Sedicesima in Sol maggiore 17:50
4. Sonata Quarta in Re minore 25:22
5. Sonata Quattordicesima in La minore 33:05
6. Sonata Decimaquinta in La maggiore 42:26
7. Sonata Dodicesima in Re minore 51:49
8. Sonata Nona in Sol maggiore 1:01:23

Friday, 19 May 2017


“True nostalgia is an ephemeral composition of disjointed memories.” - Florence King

I received a couple of enquiries regarding the recipe for my grandmother’s Wild Greens Pies. Fortunately my mother makes them as well and here is her recipe:

Ingredients for filling
250 g baby spinach leaves (cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g green, leafy part of silverbeet (=chard, cleaned and washed, chopped)
150 g of leafy part of mallows (=Malva sylvestris, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green, tender leafy part of dock (=Rumex crispus, cleaned and washed, chopped)
100 g green tender leafy part of wild fennel (=Foeniculum vulgare, cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of chervil (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 bunch of parsley (cleaned and washed, chopped)
5 Spring onions (cleaned and washed, chopped)
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoon salt (to taste)
A little olive oil to sauté.

Ingredients for pastry
500 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1.5 to 2 cups of water
Olive oil to fry

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the Spring onions. Add the chopped greens and stir through to coat thoroughly with oil. Cook well until the greens are tender. Add the mustard, salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Leave to cool and strain for a few hours in a colander lined with muslin. Discard juices.
Mix the flour and salt and add the olive oil and lemon juice, mixing thoroughly. Add enough of the water to make a firm but yielding pastry. Knead well and then lay aside in a cool place for 30-40 minutes to rest.
When ready to make the little pies, take some pastry and roll out a very thin sheet a couple of millimetres thick (you may use some corn flour to prevent the pastry sticking). Use a round pastry cutter (8-10 cm diameter) to cut rounds. Fill each round with a heaped teaspoonful of the greens mixture in one half and fold the other half over the filling to make a semicircular little parcel. Use a fork to press the two layers of dough around the filling to seal and decorate the pie. Fry both sides in hot oil until golden brown, and then drain on absorbent kitchen towel. They may be eaten hot or cold.
You may freeze the uncooked pies and fry them unthawed on a later date (ensure the flame is medium rather than high if frying the frozen pies).

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


“Memory believes before knowing remembers.” ― William Faulkner 

I was reminiscing about my grandmother and the special dishes that she used to cook when I was holidaying at my grandparents place in Greece when I was young. One of the wonderful tastes/aromas I remember were the “wild greens pies” (hortópittes) that she made. These were based on stewed spinach leaves from her garden, to which had been added Spring onions, leeks, silverbeet leaves, and more importantly, wild greens and herbs that were collected from the hills near their house. These greens were fragrant and according to the season they were gathered and the various types and quantities included, gave a special taste and aroma to the spinach.

Included in these wild greens and herbs were: Greek dock (Rumex cristatus); wild fennel (Foeniculum vulgare); common mallow (Malva sylvestris); chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium); common stinging nettle (Urtica dioica); wild poppy (Papaver rhoeas); red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum); red valerian (Centranthus ruber); Mediterranean hartwort (Tordylium apulum). All of these were harvested fresh and only the tender green parts were gathered. They were stewed together with all the other ingredients and then used to fill parcels of dough, which were fried in olive oil. One of the herbs I have not found elsewhere is the white hedge-nettle… 

Prasium, common name white hedge-nettle, is a genus of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family, first extensively described in 1982. It contains only one known species, Prasium majus, first reported for modern science in 1753. It is native to Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the Mediterranean region of Europe (Italy and Greece, especially), North Africa, and the Middle East, as far East as Turkey and Israel.

 This is a small spreading herb found on rocky ground. The purplish stems are square in cross section, a feature typical of the mint family. The bright green, nettle-like (but non-stinging, i.e. “dead” nettle) leaves are arranged in pairs along the stem, as are the flowers. The pretty white flowers have fine purple lines leading to the nectary. The protruding stamens are also purple tipped. Prasium majus is often found in thorny underbrush, scrambling through bushes. The flavour of this herb is lovely and contributes greatly to a number of dishes, including my grandmother’s “wild greens pies” (the recipe for them is here)…

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017


“When you move a border, suddenly life changes violently. I write about nationality.” - Alan Furst 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.  
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking, explaining the city’s Germanic name. In 2006, the city proper had 272,975 inhabitants and its urban community 467,375 inhabitants. With 638,670 inhabitants in 2006, Strasbourg’s metropolitan area (aire urbaine - only the part of the metropolitan area on French territory) is the ninth largest in France.

Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman of the European Union. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.

Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Great Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 15 May 2017


“The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground.” – Ancient Egyptian Proverb 

Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god. By the Fifth Dynasty in the 25th and 24th centuries BCE, he had become a major god in ancient Egyptian religion, identified primarily with the noon sun. In later Egyptian dynastic times, Ra was merged with the god Horus, as Ra-Horakhty (“Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons”).

He was believed to rule in all parts of the created world: The sky, the earth, and the underworld. He was associated with the falcon or hawk. When in the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. During the Amarna Period, Akhenaten suppressed the cult of Ra in favor of another solar deity, the Aten, the deified solar disc, but after the death of Akhenaten the cult of Ra was restored. The cult of the Mnevis bull, an embodiment of Ra, had its centre in Heliopolis and there was a formal burial ground for the sacrificed bulls north of the city.

All forms of life were believed to have been created by Ra, who called each of them into existence by speaking their secret names. Alternatively man was created from Ra’s tears and sweat, hence the Egyptians call themselves the “Cattle of Ra”. In the myth of the Celestial Cow it is recounted how mankind plotted against Ra and how he sent his eye as the goddess Sekhmet to punish them. When she became bloodthirsty she was pacified by drinking beer mixed with red dye.

To the Egyptians, the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. This made the sun deity very important, as the sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. The sun disk was either seen as the body or eye of Ra. Ra was the father of Shu and Tefnut, whom he created. Shu was the god of the wind, and Tefnut was the goddess of the rain. Sekhmet was the Eye of Ra and was created by the fire in Ra’s eye. She was a violent lioness.

Ra was thought to travel on the Atet, two solar barks called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years) or morning boat and the Mesektet or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat, he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command), as well as Heka (magic power).

Sometimes, members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms. Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare. During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram.

The night boat would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well. When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well.

The chief cult centre of Ra was Iunu, the “Place of Pillars”, later known to the Greeks as Heliopolis (lit. “Sun City”) and today located in the suburbs of Cairo. He was identified with the local sun god Atum. As Atum or Atum-Ra, he was reckoned the first being and the originator of the Ennead (“The Nine”), consisting of Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis and Nephthys. The holiday of “The Receiving of Ra” was celebrated on May 26 in the Gregorian calendar.

His local cult began to grow from roughly the second dynasty, establishing Ra as a sun deity. By the Fourth Dynasty, pharaohs were seen as Ra’s manifestations on earth, referred to as “Sons of Ra”. His worship increased massively in the Fifth Dynasty, when Ra became a state deity and pharaohs had specially aligned pyramids, obelisks, and solar temples built in his honour. The rulers of the Fifth Dynasty told their followers that they were sons of Ra himself and the wife of the high priest of Heliopolis. These pharaohs spent most of Egypt’s money on sun temples.

When the first Pyramid Texts began to arise, they gave Ra more and more significance in the journey of the pharaoh through the Underworld. During the Middle Kingdom era, Ra was increasingly affiliated and combined with other chief deities, especially Amun and Osiris.

At the time of the New Kingdom, the worship of Ra had become more complicated and grander. The walls of tombs were dedicated to extremely detailed texts that depicted Ra’s journey through the underworld. Ra was said to carry the prayers and blessings of the living with the souls of the dead on the sun boat. The idea that Ra aged with the sun became more popular during the rise of the New Kingdom. Many acts of worship included hymns, prayers, and spells to help Ra and the sun boat overcome Apep.

The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire put an end to the worship of Ra by the citizens of Egypt, and as Ra’s popularity suddenly died out, the study of Ra became of purely academic interest even among the Egyptian priests.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


“Prague is a dark place.” - Fred Durst 

Antonín Chittussi (1 December 1847, in Ronov nad Doubravou – 1 May 1891, in Prague) was a Czech Impressionist landscape and cityscape painter. His father came from a family of merchants who lived in Ferrara and moved to Bohemia during the Napoleonic Wars. After settling in Ronov, he married an innkeeper and later served as Mayor. At first, Antonín was expected to follow in the family business, but displayed an aptitude for art, which was noticed by his grammar school teachers in Čáslav, so he was sent to Kutná Hora where he studied drawing with František Bohumír Zvěřina.

At the age of eighteen, he went to Prague, with the intent to study engineering but, instead, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. However, he was dissatisfied with the courses being offered and went to Munich instead, but he became tired of their Academic approach. He was called to Vienna for military service, but was able to obtain a deferral, and briefly enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. Later, he returned to the Academy in Prague to study history painting.

In 1876, he participated in a protest by Czech students against Alfred Woltmann, a Professor of art history at the University of Prague, who was accused of German chauvinism, forcing him to flee the lecture hall. Clashes between Czech and German students ensued. After a police investigation and five days in jail, Chittussi and Mikoláš Aleš, who were identified as the ringleaders, were expelled from the Academy.

Afterward, Chittussi supported himself by providing illustrations for Česká Včela (The Czech Bee) and other magazines. This work introduced him to Prague’s patriotic social circles and found him a patron in František August Brauner, a member of the Imperial Council. He also befriended Brauner’s daughter, Zdenka, an aspiring artist who influenced Chittussi’s approach by introducing him to the work of the Barbizon school. In 1877, he and František Ženíšek, a friend from school, opened a studio. It was then that he became primarily interested in landscapes.

Following the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish War in 1878, the Austro-Hungarian Army moved in to occupy Bosnia-Herzegovina and, as an army reservist, he was called up and sent to the front. The death and destruction he witnessed had a profound effect on him, which he attempted to work through emotionally by corresponding with Zdenka. He was able to make a series of small drawings and watercolours, which he exhibited on his return and, with the help of friends, succeeded in financing a trip to Paris.

He arrived in time for the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition, but was not ready to accept what he saw. Eventually, though, he concluded that most of his earlier work had been in vain. In 1880, he rented a small studio and began to work on absorbing the new styles. He soon gained the support of the writer Élémir Bourges, who would later marry Zdenka’s sister, Anna. In 1882, he was invited to spend six months painting at the Radziwiłł estate near Ermenonville.

The following year, he exhibited at the Salon. Although successful, by 1884 he was ready to return home and held an auction of his works at the Hôtel Drouot. As it turned out, this meant a cooling of his relationship with Zdenka, as she actually began to spend more time in Paris than before, pursuing her career. He soon discovered an area in Southern Bohemia that inspired him to paint and helped him to assuage his hurt feelings.

Shortly after, he settled near Člunek. In 1887, he developed health problems, which were believed to be related to the time he spent outdoors, painting during inclement weather. He gradually grew weaker and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In an effort to stop the disease’s progress, he went to the Tatra Mountains, but it was too late. In 1891, he died in Prague on the way home from treatment. A street in the Bubeneč district there is named after him and, in 1997, the Czech government used one of his paintings (a castle in Chantilly) on a postage stamp.

The painting above is his “Paris as Viewed from Montmartre” (1887).

Saturday, 13 May 2017


“Music is the poor man’s Parnassus.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Agostino Guerrieri (most probably born in Milan circa 1630 -  died, circa 1684) was an Italian composer and violinist of the Baroque period. Guerrieri was born around 1630 into a wealthy Milanese family. Before 1650 he was singer at the chapel of the Cathedral of Milan and a pupil of Antonio Maria Turati, director of the same chapel. Later he worked for a long time in Genoa, where he also served as a Master of Music at the Cathedral there. In 1673 he published the Opus 1 Sonatas in Genoa for the church and also for lay uses. In 1676 instead published the Partite sopra Ruggiero. Guerrieri died after 1684 and remarkably little is known of his life.

Here are the Opus 1 sonatas, played by the period instrument ensemble Parnassi Musici, whose origins are in the 2nd violin section of the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Freiburg. This group confronts its listeners time and time again with the unexpected, both in terms of its superb musical standards as well as its highly imaginative programming. The members of the ensemble (as of 2008) are Margaret MacDuffie (Violin), Matthias Fischer (Violin), Stephan Schrader (Cello), and Martin Lutz (Harpsichord & Organ). This kernel is augmented from time to time by guest musicians according to the needs of the performed works.

1. Sonata a 4, "La Sevesca" 0:00
2. Sonata a 2, "La Galeazza" 3:03
3. Sonata a 1, "La Sevaschina" 6:09
4. Sonata a 2, "La Brignoli" 9:51
5. Sonata a 1, "La Tita" 13:02
6. Sonata a 3, "La Viviani" 18:31
7. Balletto primo per camera 22:35
8. Sonata a 2, "La Lucina" 25:58
9. Balletto secondo 32:14
10. Sonata a 1, "Malincolica" 35:43
11. Sonata a 2, "La Marchetta" 39:29
12. Sonata a 2, "La Benedetta" 41:24
13. Sonata a 1, "La Rotini" 44:11
14. Sonata a 2, "La Rosciana" 49:57
15. Sonata a 3, "La Pietra" 52:37
16. Sonata a 4, "La Rovetta" 57:20

The painting at the top of the page is a ‘Vanitas’ Still Life by N.L. Peschier (1660).

Friday, 12 May 2017


“I love the food in Thailand because of the exotic spices they use. Their style of cooking is unique to their culture and always amazing.” - Venus Williams 

We ate out a couple of weeks ago and I had a lovely Thai chicken stir-fry. A friend gave me the recipe and yesterday, we tried it at home. The flavour was slightly different, but overall I was very pleased with the way this turned out!

 Thai Chicken Stir-Fry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
700 g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Thai green curry paste
270mL can coconut cream
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 and 1/2 cups chopped seasonal green vegetables
3 cm length of ginger root, peeled and shaved
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
Steamed basmati rice and lime wedges, to serve

Heat a wok over high heat until quite hot. Add half the oil and half the chicken, stir-frying for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden. Remove to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and chicken.
Add curry paste to wok, stir-frying for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Return chicken and any juices to wok, stirring thoroughly. Add the ginger and stir.
Add coconut cream, fish sauce, and vegetables. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until vegies just tender. Stir through coriander and lime juice. Serve with steamed basmati rice and lime wedges.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.