Fairytale Walks


It’s still dark outside at 6 o’clock in the morning. This morning I had my alarm set that early to be in time in the right place for the sunrise. I started my nightly morning tour at the seaside but I didn’t like the venue. So I drove to a place I knew a nice walk in the woods. And that decision was the best!


In the same place I walked a few years earlier when I bought my new zoom lenses, you can read about it here. At that time I was so happy with them, now I have new ones and they are a much better category. In that older blog post you will find some pictures you see here, too πŸ˜‰

I was definitely in the right moment in the right place. I maybe didn’t see the sun rising on the water but I got the best light for nature photography. I walked for nearly 4 hours and used the light for some really nice shots. Here they are, enjoy!

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Protected area Aalbek/Niendorf, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
Bird Park
Protected area Aalbek

Posted in Europe, Germany, ON TRAVEL, reflections, Schleswig-Holstein | Tagged | 1 Comment

In the Drawing Room of Europe – Piazza San Marco in Venice


Piazza San Marco – or St. Mark’s Square – is the main Piazza of Venice, Italy. The place consists of two parts: the main square, called Piazza, going from west to east, and the Piazzetta, that goes in an L-shape towards the sea facing south. I’ll talk about the whole complex.


It depends on what side you will enter the Piazza San Marco but if it is the west end, then you will face the huge, imposing basilica of San Marco with a separated bell tower (campanile). The huge place makes an L-turn on the other end between the basilica of San Marco and the campanile to lead to the sea. And because of being so near to the sea, during winter time very often happens the today famous β€œAcqua Alta” when the whole piazza is flooding.

Now in summer tourists are ‘flooding’ the piazza, walking in the sunshine and admiring the beauty of the place and especially the basilica.


We need a little bit of history here: In the beginning Venice’s patron was St Theodore but around 830 some relics of Saint Mark were stolen in Alexandria, Egypt, and brought to Venice. The Venetians adopted him as a new patron. At this time the city was fighting to free itself from the domination of Byzantium.

The relics of Saint Mark were stored first in the Doge’s Palace, and he ordered to build a new church for the new patron. Already in 836, just 7 or 8 years later, the church was sufficiently built to house the remains of the saint. Initially there was much more water around were today the piazza is situated. It seems that until the second part of the 12th century the piazza was just a field or small place with canals in use. It was the wealthy Doge Sebastiano Ziani who started building the piazza like we know it today. Venice was growing rapidly and got more and more influence in the middle ages so it needed also an appropriate piazza in front of its main church, the basilica. The canal Rio Baratario was filled, a piece of land bought from a monastery and plans started for buildings surrounding the piazza. These buildings he left to the state after his death. But his son Pietro became Doge later and continued to create the piazza. The exact dates of the buildings are unknown.


The Procuratie, the long building on the right of the piazza (seen from the basilica) was built as offices and residences for the procurators. Opposite there were other important buildings like the hospice Ospizio Orseolo which at that time was a hostel for pilgrims into the holy land.

When Constantinople was captured in 1204, Venice was shipping a lot of valuable objects to its own town as adornment. During this period the mosaics and marble appeared on the west facade of St. Marks, plus the four horses. All coming from Constantinople.

In the end of the century the new Doge’s palace was built, just half, until the 7th pillar (watch out for a circular relief). 50 years later also the remaining old palace was demolished and rebuilt – in the honor of the city.

The clock tower was designed by Codussi and started to be built in 1496. Therefore, a part of the Procuratie was demolished and opened to the Calle Mercerie, leading to the bridge of Rialto. Less than 3 years later the clock-tower was ready, the new, astronomical clock installed.

A fire only 10 years later destroyed a good part of the Procuratie and the whole complex was rebuilt, this time 3 stories high. The beautiful arches were rebuilt, the lower storey was used for shops.

Jacopo Sansovino from Rome as a consultant architect made the plans for the new Procuratie opposite the old one, with a library facing the Doge’s palace. He insisted on enlarging the piazza which until now was limited at the bell-tower. He also finished rebuilding the St. Geminiano church at the south end of the piazza.

The Procuratie Nuove were continued by Vincenzo Scamozzi but not completed before 1640 by Baldassare Longhena and 70 years after the death of Sansovino.

Under Napoleon in the late 18th century the winged lion and the four horses on the top of the doors of the basilica were removed and brought to Paris, as Napoleon wanted to take away the symbols of a free Venice. They only returned in 1815/16.


The piazza originally was paved in a herringbone pattern with bricks. The white lines you see today were maybe laid for the many processions and markets here, to help to set them up. During winter time you can see the piazza often being flooded by the sea water coming in with the storms and then laid around the piazza gangplanks to let people walk above the water.


The famous picture of the many pigeons flying in the Piazza San Marco must be very old. I saw a few, they are not shy, but nothing really special. I enjoyed the piazza not only during the daytime but also in the evening and nighttime.The concert of Zucchero was amazing, the acoustic simply perfect. Early in the morning the place is impressive; nearly no people, the sun slowly coming up and putting a golden veil on the buildings, silence, just another world.

I confess it has been many years that I wanted to visit Venice but always thought about it as the most touristic place. It has a lot of tourists but it is not that bad and there are many hours the lagoon city seems to be nearly empty: in the night and in the early morning hours.

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Venice, Veneto/Italy:

For further information:
Tourism Board of Venice

Some books of Donna Leon I highly recommend:


Posted in Europe, Italy, ON TRAVEL, Veneto | Tagged | Leave a comment

Venice – Metropolis in the Blue Lagoon


One of my highlights this year was a 3 days trip to Venice. I visited the city once about 35 years ago, just for a day and never got back. Not because I didn’t enjoy it but I had in my mind that it is a place full of tourists and also super expensive. But when this summer my friend came to visit me and wanted to go in the middle of summer to Venice, I agreed. I am very happy I did!


We took the train to the lagoon city which was the best choice. The train station Santa Lucia is only a 10 minutes boat drive or even walk from the very center of the old town. We took the boat and arrived at Rialto where some of the little hotel where we booked a room for a very reasonable price, was waiting for us. We had to walk just another 10 minutes to arrive at the very cozy little hotel in the heart of San Marco.

The following two days we found out that nearly everything is just a minutes-walk away.


The name Venezia derives from the people once living here; the Veneti. So far, the city’s foundation by 12 families is associated with the building of the first church on the islet of Rialto in 421 AD. They had Roman ancestors and they elected the first doge. The 1.200 years old former swamp and now lagoon became soon a refuge for religious institutions, more than for people itself.

The city itself was started to built in 697, but only 120 years later also capital of the Ducato di Venezia (Republic of Venice). The near Holy Roman Empire and the far away Constantinople soon made it possible to grow in a flourishing and independent sea power.


Together with the three other sea republics – Genova, Pisa and Amalfi – in the following centuries it will have an important role in many events.

The head of the republic was the doge who lived in a magnificent palace, right to the Basilica of Saint Mark’s. At the peak of its power Venezia was dominating nearly all the coast of the Adriatic Sea plus Cyprus and was an important military power. But with the New World becoming more and more interesting the slowly decline started. The trade was moved more inland now just in the hope of again better times.


In the 18th century Venice was one of the most refined cities, known for its incredible art collections, the architecture and also literature.

Nonetheless, after more than a thousand years of glory and pride on the 12th of May in 1797 the last doge Ludovico Manin had to abdicate, forced my Napoleon. In October of the same year the land of the Republic of Venice became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1866 the Veneto region started to be part of the Kingdom of Italy.

In both of the World Wars Venice was very active and had suffered many damages. After WW II the city started to construct on the mainland as well and today there are twice as many people living than in the old inner city.

The particular position of the city on islands, means literally in the water, makes it also very difficult to maintain the buildings. Additionally, there is very often high water, famous Acqua Alta, and storms than give ulterior damages.


Venice is the city of Marco Polo and Casanova, the city of incredible monuments, the city of the romantic gondolas, and the city of the pigeons on the San Marco Square. It is the city of the many bridges (which are not that many) and of the costly cappuccino. The place where the Biennale every year awards the best movies and actors. Thomas Mann wrote β€œDeath in Venice” and Donna Leon many of her stories around Comissario Brunetti. The city is home of the unique Venetian Gothic architecture. It is home of the precious Murano glass, an art that came from Constantinople in the 13th century, after the 4th crusade. And Venice is famous for its masks and the Carnival in Venice.

Venice was for me like a revelation. It was all but over-crowded, it was not at all so expensive and it was super easy to arrive. There is so much more I would like to discover, another early morning walk would be great and of course Carnival in Venice. I am looking forward to coming back!

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Venice, Veneto/Italy:

For further information:
Tourism Board of Venice
If you are interested in the Biennale

Some books of Donna Leon I recommand:


Posted in Europe, Italy, ON TRAVEL, Veneto | Tagged | Leave a comment

Beef Stew with Coconut Milk


A few days ago I bought some really good-looking organic, pasture raised beef and I thought to make a stew with it. Stews are always a quick, good lunch idea. You can make a big pot and freeze what you don’t eat the first serving. That is always a great idea as my sweet-pie likes to bring some homemade food to work for dinner.


Things with me are, that I buy meat, think about a stew but forget to buy all the rest. So nearly every time when I cook I have to improvise. Same with the stew. So: what is in the fridge? Oh, the eggplant has to be used. Great, in a stew maybe a little delicate but there is no other vegetable here. I had diced tomatoes and potatoes which are always perfect in a stew.

A stew is also a great lunch/dinner because it is so easy to cook: you just have to put the ingredients one after the other in one and the same pot and let it cook for an hour or so.

I like to do the stews the afternoon before I want to eat them. They stay overnight (I personally prefer out of the fridge as the taste to me seems to be better than cooling it so drastically down and stop all the processing) and get better in taste and texture. I usually don’t finish them cooking, so I have them again on the stove for an additional 20 minutes or so. I think the flavor is ’rounder’ this way.

How do you like stews? What kind of stews do you prepare? And are they seasonally for you? I don’t like stews in summer for example, they are more a cold-weather-dish to me.

Enjoy it!


Beef stew with coconut milk
Beef Stew with Coconut Milk
Print Recipe
Beef stew with coconut milk
Beef Stew with Coconut Milk
Print Recipe
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a big pot put some olive oil (bottom should be covered), add the diced garlic and diced onions, mix with a wooden spoon and switch on the stove.
  2. Sautèe the garlic and onion.
  3. Add the beef and and let it get grey on all sides.
  4. Add the wine and let it simmer until the wine is nearly gone and it forms a beef sauce.
  5. Add the cleaned and diced eggplant and potatoes, and after 5 minutes also the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper and ras-el-hanout. Let it simmer for around 1 hour.
  6. In a small saucepan put some of the stew juice and add 3 tsp of tapioca flour. Stir well and add to the stew, stirring with the wooden spoon. Be careful that no clumps are forming.
  7. Now add half of a coconut milk can, stir again and let simmer for additional 5 minutes. The stew is ready.
Recipe Notes

The stew tastes best the day after.

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Middle Ages and Roman Empire – The Village of Ostia Antica


Ostia Antica is first of all known for the archeological site but it is also a little borgo or castle village. You can go inside the castle which offers nice little restaurants and shops.

The little fortified settlement was built when Ostia Antica as a sea port of Rome started to decline. Merchants and sailors started to stay in Ostia and also very often Saracen pirates came often to plunder. The village was fortified by Pope Gregory IV and called after him Gregoriopolis. Because of the shifting course of the river Tiber – which was another reason for the ‘dying’ city – the port got landlocked. Gregoriopolis became a shelter for workers in the salt mills.

Today there is still the impressive castle of Julius II. The castle itself was abandoned after a flood in 1587 which turned the surroundings into marshland. The castle of today was restored in the last century.


We parked near to the castle and outside the historical site of Ostia Antica and near to the Basilica di Sant’Aurea. We had a walk in the ‘rocca’, the castle, where we found a nice little restaurant to sit outside in the cobbled street.

Later we visited the archaeological site, just a 5 minutes walk around the castle. As it was late and after so much history we got hungry again and had also dinner in the same restaurant – this time sitting inside, which was also very nice.

It is a good way to jump from one time to another, modern times into the middle ages into the Roman Empire and back to the middle ages before getting into the car and driving in the present modern times.


Ostia Antica, Lazio,/Italy:

For further information:
Website of Ostia Antica (in Italian)

Who needs information about the Airport Fiumicino


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