Archive for December, 2012

A walk in the park.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Park Güell was built in the years 1900 to 1914 as a real estate development by Count Eusebi Güell. It was established on Muntanya Pelada (Bare Mountain) and intended to be an escape, for the well-to-do, from the smoggy atmosphere of industrial Barcelona.

The development was a total failure with only two housed being built there.

Anton Gaudí designed the park and the accompanying architecture, with its network or pedestrian footpaths, roads and viaducts.

The organic nature of Gaudí’s design is everywhere.

Gaudí was coerced, by the Count, into buying one of the two houses and lived there for 20 years. It’s now Casa Museu Gaudí and houses some of his furniture design and personal items.

Like a lot of Barcelona in the off-season, Park Güell is in a state of repair with workers, jack-hammers and High-Vis jackets everywhere.

We have visited the park before but decided it would be a good place to try out my new Sony DSC-RX100, miniature camera.

I wanted to see how versatile the new camera was, test it out under different light conditions and then compare it with my Sony a55 SLR.

We walked around Park Güell for several hours, I took 79 shots with my original SLR and 119 with its new, younger sibling.

It was a great walk in the park and I was pleasantly surprised with the snaps from the new camera as well.

Ernest has a lot to answer for.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Ernest Hemingway is said to have put Pamplona on the map.

The inhabitants of this, usually quiet, medieval town in Navarra certainly seem to think so. There are bars, hotels and monuments in his honor.

Hemingway first visited Pamplona in 1923 and became fascinated with bullfighting and the bull run or ‘Encierro’ at the the San Fermín Festival.

As a result he wrote “The Sun Also Rises’ and the rest is history.

The San Fermín Festival happens annually, from July 6th to 14th, with vast numbers of tourist converging on Pamplona to watch or take part in the action.

The local authorities have had to do a lot to stop the visitors from killing themselves.

Firstly there’s the bull run, which happens every morning at 8am and involves hundreds of people running in front of 6 bulls.

This is expected to have a fair number of casualties and there are appropriate measures in place to limit the injuries, or at least patch up those who don’t run fast enough.

Then there are the casualties that happen as a result of the ‘idiot’ factor.

With the population of Pamplona swelling from 200,000 to over 1 million there’s a shortage of accommodation. This results in every available bit of spare space being occupied with revelers. Now there is a lot of spare space on top of the ramparts of the Citadel, unfortunately there is also a 5 meter drop to the dry moat bed below.

Fences are now put in place during the festival.

There is also a 4 meter high fountain, just outside the Palace of the Marquis of Rozalejo, that the party goers love to climb and subsequently fall off.

This is now dismantled every year.

We were there in December, there were no bulls and very few tourists, so our adventure was much more sedate.

We stayed at a hotel that was a fair distance out of town and caught the local bus into the old city centre.

The old part of Pamplona is an oasis of classically beautiful buildings surrounded by a desert of very average contemporary architecture.

The people of Pamplona seem to be better off than the average Spaniard. The shops are busy, the restaurants full and the people are elegantly dressed, especially the older men in their oversized berets.

There is also disproportionate number of very young children, all being wheeled around in designer prams.

The biggest surprise in Pamplona wasn’t in fact in the city but a 40 minute bus ride south to the small medieval town of Olite.

A highlight of Olite was the Royal Palace, originally built during the 13th and 14th centuries, with construction continuing into the 15th century. This ongoing building has resulted in a haphazard design that gives it a very Disneyesque feel.

It was badly damaged by fire in 1813 but a painstakingly detailed restoration was started in 1937 by Javier and José Yárnoz and finally completed in 1972.

Next door, the Old Palace or Palacio Viejo, now a Parador, is a more sober structure with a fortress like feel.

The streets are narrow and you can get a real feel of what life would have been like in this medieval town. Even the street names give you an idea of the inhabitance. Rúa de la Judería, is where the Jewish community lived and Rúa Tafureía is the gambling street.

However there was no Rúa Toro.

Democracy is failing us.

Monday, December 10th, 2012

“People are good, it’s the politicians who are the problem.”

We have heard this thought thoughout our travels, expressed by young and old alike.

The majority of people we have met have been honest and open, willing to listen and understand your point of view.

They all see political posturing as a hindrance to understanding and accepting our collective differences.

We heard this in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

We also heard the same thought expressed in Spain, Italy, France and the UK.

These are all countries that have gone through, or are going through, difficult times, of varying degrees.

Politicians polarise opinions and bipartisanism seems to be a strategy of the past.

As the Governator* put it,”…a worldview that put parties ahead of people…”

Political parties have become so partisan that they try to win favour with the voters by doggedly adhering to an extremist point of view.

Political leaders aren’t winning the popular vote by developing an enlightened vision for the future, but rather stagnating the system by offering the voters no real choice.

Immediately they get into power, even if it’s by the smallest margin, their primary goal is to remain there, while the opposition’s approach is to be obstructionist.

Australia, like the rest of the world, is stuck in this malaise. Our problem is that we are in dire need of ‘Big Vision Politics’.

While most of Europe struggles under the flip-flop of political ideals, they are fortunate in that the big thinking in infrastructure has been done and executed.

There is a network of Autobahns, Autostradas, Autoroutes, Autopistas and Motorways throughout Europe. Most largish cities have a highly developed underground or tramway sytem in place. They keep cars out of the city centers and encourage the tourists and locals alike to use public transport and then provide a sytem that will cope with it.

Many cities have a single charge for any trip taken within the hour.

Nuremberg and Bordeaux have an excellent tram and trolly bus sytem, Valencia has a Metro as does Lyon.

These are cities with populations ranging from 400,000 to 1.2 million.

Barcelona has a comprehensive underground, overground, tram and bus sytem. All to service a population of 5 million.

In 2020 Melbourne’s population is expected to reach that number.

It’s time for the politicians to stop talking about more public transport and start to put a plan, any plan, into action.

As the Victorian oposition spokesperson has said, you can’t catch a feasibility study to work.

Therein lies the problem, they had years to do something about it when they were in government and again all they did was talk.

There has to be a better system, the current one is broken.

*(Page 555) Total Recal by Arnold Schwarzenegger