Page 3 of Mert Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Czech Republic » Prague » Malá Strana June 13th 2012

What a coup! What coup? The Velvet Revolution? No, the mere fact of gathering all three girls and us together on one continent, in one country, in one city and even in one apartment. So it happened in Prague. Engineered; not by happenstance, I might add. So who did we choose to show us around this wonderfully photogenic city? Who would show us some different things and give us some quirky information about this jewel of the Czech Republic? Filip was his name. He was the irrepressible, bouncy, pogo person who we were hoping we would not have as we waited with the Sandeman's free tours group. Enthusiasm I like, effervescence in a guide I was not sure of. But young Filip, born in 1989, the year of the aforementioned Velvet Revolution proved himself to be ... read more
John Lennon

Europe » Italy » Campania » Calitri June 5th 2012

Lying in bed. The shuttered door to the terrace is open admitting the warm morning sun and the summoning knell of the church bells. House-martins criss-cross the sky, wheeling and swooping as they carefully bring small gobbets of mud to make their nests under the eaves. Like so many miniature fighter planes they tip their wings and perform a fly past, a flash of a swallow's chestnut breast as it skims the open window. Cockerels crow from the allotments as chickens cackle their achievements. Just another Sunday in Italy. 'Did you put water in the coffee?' An oft repeated phrase denoting the week's holiday. . The pervading aroma of percolating coffee from the 'Verletta' on the hob had been replaced by a distinct smell of burning. The coffee was well and truly roasted, unfortunately not the ... read more
Valle Ofanto
Wine and Water

Europe » Italy » Campania » Calitri May 14th 2012

Gaining access to the castle in Calitri had proved impossible for six years for the cousin and his intended. Thwarted by irregular opening hours they prepared us for the possibility that it just might not happen. A chance meeting at the Manhattan restaurant, where we went for pizza one night and incidentally where the UEFA cup match between Real Madrid and Bayern was being beamed for the edification of local football enthusiasts, with Titti Lampariello ensured that we would have our very own Saturday morning guided tour. Titti works at the Tourist Information Centre as a volunteer and said she would be more than delighted to show us round. The door to the ceramics museum at the base of the castle was open, the main gate was not. The castle caretaker was nowhere to be seen. ... read more
Majolica teapot
Listening to the tales

Europe » Italy » Campania » Ravello May 11th 2012

The Amalfi coast is legendary. So are the crowds and the narrow, winding coast road clogged with traffic. Mid-week, late April, we anticipated that we might avoid the masses. On leaving Salerno it soon became apparent that we had underestimated the effect of a Fiesta day. Tutti il mondo and his wife had decided to head out to the coast before the influx of tourists when the season started in earnest. Our first glimpse was taken as we headed round a bend, sparkling sea, incredibly large lemons in lemon groves, impossibly constructed villas hanging on for grim death onto the craggy hillside. Steep and craggy, my mother said once on a visit to Switzerland, so many moons ago when as obnoxious teenagers we thought it was such sport to make fun of her. Steep and craggy ... read more
Ravello bride
Ravello vines
Which way to go?

Europe » Italy » Campania » Calitri May 7th 2012

After completing auditions for the remake of the Italian Job we dropped down into a mist-laden valley hiding the ski and summer resort of Lago di Laceno. Between seasons, a ghost resort with nary an animal grazing to break the eerie silence. In Summer it is hard to find a picnic spot, competing with vast family groups bar-be-queing, spit-roasting, pasta boiling and generally cavorting. Snaking down through more heavily wooded forests once favoured by Neapolitan mafia in days gone by, we hit the cobbled streets of Bagnoli Irpino. Even through driving rain its picturesque qualities shone through. It should be, said my cousin, the amount of EU money that has been thrown at it. Narrowing into a lane we turned a corner more suited to pedestrians than motor vehicles. The strange purpose built town of Conza ... read more
Melfi cathedral
Bagni Irpino
Spring wildflowers

Europe » Italy » Campania » Calitri May 4th 2012

It must have been a tail wind from England. We find ourselves waiting in a cloudy Sunday searching for some sustenance after our punishingly early start from Gatwick. Two cappuccinos to restore humour. Airport coffee? They were delicious. Don't suppose we'll find a bad coffee in Italy. Croissants and marmelade are fluffy, moist and satisfying even if eaten at a dirty, plastic-chaired airport cafe. Does it feel like Italy yet? Looking out of the picture windows high on the departure level the cars look the same as in every other country we've visited in the last few months – the hoardings, though, display advertising with wording I struggle to translate calling on adolescent Italian learnt before a memorable holiday to Grado in Northern Italy. The local lads taught me quite a few words, none of which ... read more
Calitri doorway
From the old square
Earthquake damage

Overwhelmed by Victorian pomposity;baroque, roccoco, romanesque, byzantine and modern design, and ultimately aching hips I took a seat looking down the Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Collection Room and contemplated the amassing of all these art and design treasures in the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum. Colonialism, imperialism and conviction of unshakeable right has allowed us to see such diverse pieces as the incredible Ardabil silken carpet, an example of Iranian artistry of the 1530s, to Tipu's Tiger, a mechanical wooden sculpture from the 1790s in India. Ethics cast aside one is able to marvel at an Italian chapel, a French medieval staircase and Chinese statuary. So here we have Art and Design over the centuries. Built or created to impress, to advertise wealth and promote greed of ownership. Avarice never having been one of my ... read more
The Ardabil carpet
Roman flooring
V and A foyer

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London » Westminster April 10th 2012

23 degrees Celsius. The end of March. Picnicking on Hampstead Heath in shorts and t-shirts. Sitting at an outdoors café in the sun eating scrambled eggs and mushrooms. Struggling to find some of Boris’s bikes to hire as the heat has brought out every man and his dog seeking to cycle in Hyde Park on a Sunday in an early Spring. Unbelievable but all true. We sat on the steps of Tate Britain waiting for the Picasso exhibition to open, looking at the muddy Thames hedged by glass and concrete towers. What did I find out about Picasso? Confirmation of his dalliances; confirmation of his profound influence on UK painters. Anecdotes from a full life. A delicate pencil portrait of Lydia Lopokova caught my eye. A ‘particular friend’ of Picasso’s from Diaghilev’s ballet company, she kept ... read more
Favourite painting
The Three Dancers
Lydia Lopokova

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Somerset » Wells March 22nd 2012

Traversing the market square we passed through the Penniless Porch at the North East corner where true to its name sat two vagrants. One, bearded, attempted a Bob Dylan tune to sing for his supper or more likely to supply something to his ladyfriend sat beside him in a stupor. Her haggard face and distant gaze recalled better days. A long tatty dress covering multi-coloured stockings and leather boots seemed to freeze her in time. Two strays from nearby Glastonbury frozen in the 80s, waiting for the next festival to begin. The immense West front rose up before us, its horizontal central section adorned with stone statues reputedly the finest examples of medieval sculpture in the world. It's lucky that Cromwell's soldiers couldn't reach high enough to destroy these. The statues in the lower section within ... read more
The Clock
Scissor Arch
Heavenly stairs

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg March 17th 2012

A wonder of the world? Certainly one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever seen. The sheer mind-boggling accumulation of so many works of art in one place in a built for purpose building which is equally fantastic. The Oxford dictionary had to be checked. My understanding of a hermitage bore no relation to this. 'The dwelling of a hermit, especially when small and remote.' What was Catherine the Great thinking of? Named, apparantly, with reference to the retreat in which she displayed the collection to her friends. Some retreat, I say! And no evidence of any hermits living here! I look back for notes I have written. I haven't. I think the experience left me numb. The gilt, the gold, the white and the coloured walls. Walking around the most elaborate wedding cake you ... read more
16th century corridor
Wedding cake frippery

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