A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Who Mourns for King Leopold?

George Ranting...

overcast 48 °F
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Traveling throughout Europe, and other countries, I am struck about how little I know about history. Or rather, how little I know about how much history there is in the world.
In Europe, there are plenty of beautiful green spaces and parks and within those parks are statues and monuments to somebody I've never heard of. In most cases, these people lived hundreds of years ago and had something to do with the early beginnings of the city. For instance, there is a giant statue of King Leopold I in Brussels. Leopold I was a German prince who became the first King of the Belgians following Belgian independence in 1830. He reigned between July 1831 and December 1865. He established the House of Saxe-Coburg yadda-yadda, blah blah blah.

After being 'tidal-waved' trying to comprehend Scottish history and then trying to take in Irish history, I started to get a little exhausted trying to follow each country's long history of foundings, wars, revolutions, independences etc. etc. Don't get me started on the myriad of Saints that seem to be mentioned in some church somewhere. St. Giles? Never heard of him until I got to the U.K. where there were about 3 churches and two hotels and a square named after him. His story? Apparently St. Giles was a vegetarian hermit from Greece whose humility was so revered that some rich people built a monastery after him. After his death, a cult developed and spread through parts of Europe including Ireland. That's it!
So after awhile I begin to think "So What?" "Who Cares about St. Giles or King Leopold?" "What does they have to do with the 'here and now' and being in the "present?".

If either one of them came back to life and walked around, would they still be worshiped? Would anyone even care if they even came back to life? How relevant would they still feel? In St. Giles case, he might even be upset that his likeness is everywhere and that people would know who he was because, after all, his original intend was to be a hermit and get away from it all! What could King Leopold I do? Would he walk around and proclaim, "I made this country!" To which others might reply, "Who cares King Leopold! Get the hell out of here already!"
I think I can partly understand the need for some young people here to react against this old history of their home country. European history is (by and large) bloody, old, antiquated and filled with folks with massive egos and delusions or mistaken for being some kind of divine/magical creature. what does their past, perceived "great" deeds have to do with the 'here and now' of our lives? Of course there are the big names that are known around the world and for very good reason like Napolean, Jesus and St. Francis. These people really did change the world with their actions or ideas. But folks like Leopold or St. Giles and many, many others, are relegated as simple footnotes in history unknown to most except to certain historians and, of course, Wikipedia. But who needs them now? Their time has come and gone and all that is left is another statue or church that young people pass by while staring blankly into their smartphones hoping to see something new and "fresh".

Posted by woa 12:06 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Love Locks


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On our visit to Cologne, Germany in 2010, we put a lock on the Hohenzollernbr├╝cke bridge over the Rhine. George found our lock nearly five years later and most of the paint has washed off.

I used a sharpie and gave our lock a touch up for 2015.

The entire gate along this bridge is now a sea of locks. Maybe we will check back in another five years.
Our 2010 post can be found here: http://george.aguilar.com/chapter4/Default.html

Posted by woa 01:08 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Tactile Aliveness

by Andrea

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On this blog we share our travel experiences through stories, updates, and photos. 'WOA' is also about traveling into 'aliveness'. For me, that also means waking up dormant senses. I tend to describe things mostly using sight/visual description, and writers are told to engage more senses to try to "show" instead of just "tell".

One time, back in Santa Fe, New Mexico I had a massage treatment where I received a suggestion that when you get too caught up in your thoughts/head, to go "put feet on it." For example, literally rubbing your toes within your shoes to reconnect to the present and "come back to earth". (It helps me, try it if you like.)
One time, in a cenote in Mexico, I was keenly aware of the density and smoothness I felt swimming in the clear blue water. Later on our travels, as we walked along Orange Beach in Pensacola Florida, I noticed how the densely-packed sand felt under my shoes. I also liked how the sand felt at Cocoa Beach, Florida which was solid with a softness on top.

In Reykjavik Iceland, we visited the newly built HARPA Concert Hall/Conference Center which opened in 2011. Its geometric-shaped glass invoked a sort of bubble-plastic texture for me. I also liked the sporadic placement of pastel-colored glass.
I can also remember how the icy snow in Boston felt crunchy when I stepped on it, sort of like a snow-cone. BOS_crystalcove_snow.jpg

Recently, as we hiked up 'Arthur Seat' in Holyrood Park (Edinburgh, Scotland) I felt the stability of the solid stones on the path up the hill.

We both felt the smooth ICE train gliding on the tracks to our next destination.

I consider this new tactile awareness as the sense of touch waking up in new ways that help to remain present, while adding more to my experiences and impressions.

Posted by woa 11:48 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Till we meet again

by Andrea

52 °F
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Our time in Dublin is coming to an end. We had a wonderful stay, saw as much as we could, and learned more about this beautiful country.
We loved the lush green spaces here along with cherry blossoms and tulips in bloom.


I met the lovely Freda at Adelaide Road Pres. Church, who makes and sells this wonderful tea 'Intelligent Tea' here in Dublin. You can learn more here: http://www.wildirishfoods.com/

On Friday, I ran into my friends Joan and Philip from San Francisco unexpectedly even though I knew they were here for a wedding! It was brief but awesome. Then I had the best pistachio gelato, and saw a fire-juggling unicyclist.

We found surprises and inspiration just turning corners, and walking down alleys.

The weather was on the colder side, but the days were beautiful and we only had one rainy day, yesterday. But that didn't keep me from walking downtown again anyway. We also had a chance to skype with friends and family.

And now it is time to pack up the bag and head to Brussels for a couple days. Looking forward to some waffles, and chocolate! And then.... heading to Germany to see our 'creative-foster-daughter' the one-and-only Martina Pfeiler.

Our hearts and thoughts are with the people and travelers in Nepal during this tragic time.

Posted by woa 08:43 Archived in Ireland Comments (1)

All Roads Lead to Molly Malone

George Reporting...

semi-overcast 55 °F
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According to Wikipedia: Molly Malone" (also known as "Cockles and Mussels" or "In Dublin's Fair City") is a popular song, set in Dublin, Ireland, which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin City.

The song tells the fictional tale of a fishmonger who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin, but who died young, of a fever. In the late 20th century a legend grew up that there was a historical Molly, who lived in the 17th century. She is typically represented as a hawker by day and part-time prostitute by night.[1] In contrast she has also been portrayed as one of the few chaste female street-hawkers of her day. However, there is no evidence that the song is based on a real woman, of the 17th century or at any other time. The name "Molly" originated as a familiar version of the names Mary and Margaret. While many such "Molly" Malones were born in Dublin over the centuries, no evidence connects any of them to the events in the song.

Molly Malone is a quintessential Dubliner theme. Its history wrapped in fantasy, shellacked in rumors and wives-tales that have evolved into something that the population identifies with.

So in dedication of the Molly Malone idea, I set to write my own 'Ulysses'. To get into the proper writing mood we enjoy a nice traditional Irish lunch at Sheehan's, an older establishment serving traditional Irish food between Grafton Street and the Temple Bar area.

First we enjoy vegetable soup, chicken sandwiches, fish and chips and, of course, a pint of Guinness. In the background traditional Irish music is playing and the decor is warm Victorian color tones.

I tried to imagine James Joyce eating and drinking something similar whilst he wrote parts of 'Ulysseus'. Not far from us the house from his book 'The Dead' and Dublin center is marked with reminders of characters from Ulysses having "stood here".
I am hoping this blog entry will be so wonderful that it will make Joyce's Ulysses seem like, well, the great piece of literature it is because my blog writing won't compare and you'll long to read great literature! lol

But I'm going to try and harness the spirits of the numerous great writers and poets that have come through Dublin to study, drink and (more importantly) be inspired.
Dublin is a surprise to me. Much more beautiful and sexy than I had ever thought. Sexy in that way the spirit of Dublin wraps her arms around you and breathes the sultry, dangerous history into your ear. A history so filled with numerous ingredients that it becomes the kind of soup you could enjoy over and over again.

Yesterday we hiked along the coastal cliffs along the Irish Sea and eventually up to a cross at the top of a hill.bray_hike_cross_a.jpg The golden blooms of gorse, a thorny bush that smells of coconut, is all around us which force us to declare, "Yes, we did indeed find the pot of gold we were seeking!" The gold of the flowers against the lush green grass set under blue skies conveys a beauty that intoxicates, that makes you kiss and gulp the air into your lungs so that all you see would become part of you.
Is Springtime in Ireland a crucial ingredient that inspired and influenced so much great English language literature? We were somewhere between Greystones and Bray and yet Dublin is only a short 20 minute train ride away and to Trinity College, one of the oldest universities in all of western Europe

It was at Trinity, a few days before, where we talked about 'Time Travel Tourism'. Andrea and I talked about 'Time Travel Tourism', the yet-to-happen marketing phrase that would draw future travelers with the promise of amazing travel opportunities via time travel.

For centuries, writers, artists and scientists studied here including Oscar Wilde (who lived just around the corner), James Joyce, Bram Stoker and several other illustrious writers and poets of which many of us had read and studied in high school and college.

Students passed before us along the very same path that those greats had done in the past. I turned to Andrea and said, " Who knows? Maybe some future great writer, poet, world-changer is walking past us right now. Perhaps in the distant future, people will be able to go back in time and actually see a young, unknown Oscar Wilde or Samuel Becket walking down this path?" Of course time-travel tourism stipulates that you can't be seen or heard or in any way allowed to affect time. You would just be able to observer, like an unseen ghost, any historical place and time you like.

Dublin has an incredibly rich literary legacy and most of the best known writers and poets works made it into my high school curriculum back in San Mateo. I remember reading James Joyce's 'The Dead' and 'Dubliners' and now I see the red brick building where 'The Dead' was based. We get to see Oscar Wilde's home and toured the amazing 'Book of Kells', a richly designed series of biblical books from the 7th Century.
Dublin_Book_of_Kells-Exhibition.jpg kells00.jpg We also toured the must-see 'Long Room' located above the Kells area. Here many great artists, writers, poets an playwrights spent hours conjuring up myths and stories for hungry readers around the world. Even the great Orson Welles traveled to here. The 'Long Room' is probably the quintessential library and is so thoroughly inspiring that I couldn't wait to sit down somewhere and start to write, which is rare for me.

Also located in the heart of Dublin is the free National Library which was having an exhibition on W.B. Yeats. I had used some of Yeat's words in a past cinepoem so I was interested in learning more about him. The exhibit is excellent, very fresh and interactive with the entire exhibit area lit as if in a quiet, dimly lit library. Yeats is a curious person in real life and some of his view were highly controversial. Afterwards, Andrea and I talked about the nature of separating the 'Art' from 'The Author'. I probably would have disliked Yeats the person immensely but his writings are poignant and truthful. One learns quite a bit about many things and people in an exhibit like this and one of the interesting aspects of Yeats' life is that his wife introduced him to 'automatic writing'. I realize the haphazard way of writing for this blog might seem like automatic writing but I have employed the method on a few past cin(e)-poems.

Dublin is also filled with sorrowful and painful historical points. There is a stunning sculpture about the 'Great Famine of the 1800's' and we saw a famine ship that somehow traveled between Ireland and Canada during that brutal period. There is a Peru connection with the Irish famine. Peruvians had over 40 varieties of potatoes growing in their country. This was advantageous whenever a disease hit a particular variety, the people could still depend on the other types for sustenance.
When the Irish came, they took back only one variety to Ireland and hence were put in desperate situation when the disease hit that one type of potato. Nonetheless the great migration to the Americas by the Irish is now an important part of American history. But much more of the pain of the Irish was to come with uprisings against British rule that were put down quite harshly involving numerous deaths. The 1916 Easter Uprising was bloody and violent but eventually paved the way for Ireland to obtain its own independence at a great cost. U2's 'Sunday Bloody Sunday ' is about the more recent 1972 massacre of Irish protestors by British troops. Having learned much about Irish history, I can understand better Bono's need to repeat "How long, how long must we sing this song?" over and over again.

Also, Dublin was once mostly a ghetto filled with the wretched poor and a place that Lord Wellington (defeater of Napoleon) refused to acknowledge as his birthplace, has become a truly great international city of culture, history and burgeoning technology.
Now Dublin is a very walkable city and everywhere I see a mishmash of architectural styles that give the city a unique patchwork-quilt vibe to it. Everywhere too is a fine pub that draws you in and keeps you there until you've written that great novel or passed-out dead drunk.

We visit several free museums and see numerous exhibitions. The Museum of Modern Art is 'interesting' with the highlight being the adjacent formal gardens. The museum was once a hospital and if I were ever sick, this would be the kind of hospital I would go to.

A True Story
While strolling through the former hospital gardens, a little boy (peeking through some bushes) says sheepishly to me in his little Irish boy voice, "hellloooo tough guuyyy." His voice was small but distinctly Irish and I repeated his words back to him. Then his little sister, I surmised
not content to play alone yelled, "Come on Danny!" In the distant background we could here someone playing the bagpipes. High above us in the centuries old trees the birds where chirping gently as if singing, "Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling...."
More Walking
Did you know you could walk through the heart of Dublin, covered in coconut oil, like a freshly plugged gorse, with pistachio and oreo gelato on your tongue and have a chance encounter?

Dublin is a chance encounter. Take one step in either direction and you could miss her. But the Fates guide you to meet as if two cherry blossoms on the opposite ends of the tree fall simultaneously and are carried by different breezes to touch for a moment in midair before falling to the ground.

So as we were walking Andrea has a chance encounter with her friend Joan from San Francisco who is the middle of a wedding procession that started in St. Steven's Green park en route to the church. Neither one planned to meet this way but it happened as if the Fates intended it all the way as some reward for some long forgotten good you had done before.

I liked Dublin more than I thought I would. To see her in reality is to find her as open and adventurous as the stories of Joyce or the plays of Shaw and Beckett. The sexy sweet style of Dublin is perhaps something Oscar Wilde tried to emulate. Perhaps Oscar tried to become like Dublin herself and in the process found his real sexuality and evoked it courageously like those who gave up their lives in the quest for freedom of Ireland from the British.

To walk the streets of Dublin is to trod on the worn out brick cobblestone streets. Worn smooth and shiny by the thousands who sought inspiration from the things they see or from the glass they drink. Who knows how many great writers ended their careers here simply because they got lost in the inspiration of the beckoning glass that awaited them on the candlelit tables in any pub.
If you walk around Dublin enough you'll find that all roads lead to Molly Malone. Because like Molly, Dublin has an inscrutable nature to her. A mystery wrapped in complexity. A frothy mixture of historical fact and unquenchable fantasy. The true story of Molly is forever and unknown but the populace embraces her like a mother, sister a lover, a tramp, an urban goddess that pushes and pulls at the concocted moral centers of your soul.

Yes all roads lead to Molly Malone in your heart and in your mind and therein lies the essence of Dublin.

Posted by woa 12:47 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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