Friday, August 22, 2014

Maybe the most beautiful Islamic bridge in all of Europe

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Mostar Bridge
Watercolour and Photoshop™
Charlene Brown

This is a reconstruction of a 16th century Ottoman bridge at Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina.  The original bridge stood for 427 years but was destroyed in 1993 during the Croatian-Bosnian War. The rebuilt bridge opened in 2004.


It is probably well guarded now, but armed guards are not so much in evidence as a solid protective coating of tourists! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Croatia in time for Dinner

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Dubrovnik
Watercolour
©2014 Charlene Brown

We arrived in Dubrovnik just after sunset, and the iconic view of the harbour from the approach along the cliffs looked about as serene and peaceful as any city could be.


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We got a quite different impression in the following days when we toured the fortifications and were reminded of the turbulent history of this part of the world – especially some very recent history.  Some of the now-restored buildings within the walls feature pictures of the night of December 6, 1991 when Dubrovnik was attacked and burned by the Serbian and Montenegrin Army. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Virtual Paintout on Kinmen Island

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Jinsha Township
Watercolour and oil pastel
©2014 Charlene Brown
The Virtual Paintout is on KinmenIsland this month. This island is part of a small archipelago administered by Taiwan. As such it is part of the Republic of China (ROC), but it is also claimed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This issue hasn’t been raised too vehemently lately, as far as I know, and all appeared calm when the Google car was making its rounds.
Here’s the link in Google Streetview to the peaceful scene I selected.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

No longer on the 'Road Less Travelled'

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The churches of St. George and Our Lady of Skrpjela
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Having filed through the narrow streets of the last couple of walled cities with a growing number of tourists, we knew we were no longer on the road less travelled… and when we headed for Croatia along the beautiful Bay of Boka Kotorska, we found ourselves on a route parallel to several huge cruise ships. We were all focused on a striking feature of this bay -- two churches uniquely situated on an artificial island created by sinking old and seized ships loaded with rocks.  According to legend, local seamen, keeping an ancient oath sworn after an icon of the Madonna and Child was found on July 22, 1452, would add a rock upon returning from each successful voyage, and the custom continues… Every year on July 22, local residents go out in boats and add some rocks to make Skrpjela just a little bigger.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Another day, another UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Fortified city of Kotor
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

Kotor is spectacularly situated on the fjord-like Boka Kotorska, beneath and surrounded by massive fortifications built during the Venetian Period (1420-1797 with intermittent Ottoman occupation). During the nineteenth century Kotor was ruled by the Hapsburgs and the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, then was captured by the British and eventually restored to the Hapsburgs. After World War I, during which Kotor had been one of the three main ports of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, all of Montenegro became part of Yugoslavia

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On to Montenegro...

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Stari Bar
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On June 1, we traveled through Montenegro to Croatia, stopping at two spectacular and historic cities. The first was Stari Bar (meaning old Bar) an ancient city with a violent history.

Originally Byzantine, the town came under Serbian rule in 1054, later was in a brief union with Venice until taken back by Serbia, and was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1571. The Montenegrins eventually got rid of the Ottomans by blowing up their own aqueduct in 1878, but then had to abandon the city when the re-built aqueduct was destroyed in an earthquake in 1979.

The new town of Bar was built and is flourishing far below on the coast, and restoration of Stari Bar has begun.



Monday, August 4, 2014

Islam in Albania

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Tabakeve Mosque
Watercolour and CP
©2014 Charlene Brown

In Tirana, the capital of Albania, the Tabakeve mosque and lovely Islamic Tabakeve bridge are now situated amidst a deteriorating apartment complex, begun in 1959 by Russian engineers and completed by the Chinese government after the Soviet Union cut off aid to Albania. Multi-coloured panels were pretty popular everywhere at that time, but most didn’t age this badly.

After a walking tour of Tirana, we continued on to spend the night in Sckoder, where huge Catholic and Orthodox churches were also in evidence, but were reminded by our guide that Albania is the one country in Europe where Muslims form the largest faith group.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Hoxha Bunkers of Albania

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Three of many thousands
Watercolour sketch
©2014 Charlene Brown

On May 31 we crossed the Albanian border and got our first look at a few of these odd structures, installed during the communist rule of Enver Hoxha (1944-1985) to protect Albania from its enemies. The people believed, with some justification, that their enemies were pretty much the rest of the world after Hoxha fell out of favour with the Soviet Union.

Almost three quarters of a million Hoxha bunkers were built, and their removal has proved to be economically impossible for this nation as it slowly recovers from all the years of repression and isolation from the world economy.  Most remain in place, concentrated along the borders and the Adriatic coast. A few have been repurposed as fruit or souvenir stands, and at least one has become an art installation in a park in Tirana, positioned with an equally-elegant piece of the Berlin Wall.