A Lion Cub’s Ferocious Yawn – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Lion Cubs Playing at Sunset

There was a brief moment of hesitation. A quizzical look flashed across his furry face and then it started. His nose twitched. His ears circled slightly and then his mouth exploded open in a giant lion sized yawn. Only, he wasn’t a full sized lion yet. No, he was just a lion cub and as he yawned his tongue rolled free of his mouth leaving him temporarily in the most awkward of poses – a mixture between ferocious lion, tired house cat, and silly youth. That’s when I pressed down the trigger and snapped my photo.

This photo was taken just before sunset in South Luangwa National Park in northern Zambia. I was on tour with the amazing folks at Shenton Safaris when we stumbled upon a group of lion cubs relaxing in the late night sun. They tolerated our presence and lazily watched us as we quietly, but far more intently, watched them.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

African Sunset Over Samfya Lake – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Sunset over Samfya Lake

Located in the northern part of Zambia there’s a lake that literally stretches beyond the horizon. It’s a shallow lake – often little more than four meters deep but that lack of depth does little to reduce its feel and character. In many ways it would be easy to confuse with an inland sea. Only this sea varies up to 1.5 meters in depth depending on if it is wet or dry season and is fresh water.

Our visit began late in the afternoon eager to catch the sunset after hearing that it was one of the must-see sights in the region. I’m glad we did. The Zambians had begun to burn a few weeks earlier and the sky was laden with a tolerable, but still visible, layer of smoke. The result was what you see in this photo – a sky on fire awash in rich oranges, reds, and golds. What you can’t see in this photo was the crescent moon and planet which were also brightly visible over the water during the last throes of the sunset. One of the things that really struck me was how the sky and water blended together. For about 20 minutes it was impossible to distinguish between where the calm-as-glass water met the sky….the only indications were the small boats which looked as though they were pushing their way across the clouds. A magical moment!

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) Camera.

The Tallest Building in the World – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Black and White Burj Khalifa at Night

Located in the heart of a brutal, nearly inhospitable desert is a shining oasis of water, steel and light.  It’s a place full of wonders…tributes to all that man can accomplish, build and create.    Beyond the indoor ski slopes, ice rinks, and aquariums there’s one feat in particular that quite literally stands above the rest – the Burj Khalifa, more commonly just called the “Burj”. You probably know it simply as the tallest building in the world.  During a recent layover in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) we made our way to the Burj, ascended to the 124th floor (which is only about 2/3 of the way up) and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  After watching the fountain and light show below us from the observation deck we headed back down to ground level and spent some time staring skyward.  The Burj is lit at night. The result is a giant shining beacon that is 2,723 feet tall and holds a wealth of world records.  One of the most interesting of which is its 144th floor night club.

I snapped this black and white night shot to capture the moment.  I hope you enjoy it – for me it feels like something straight out of a 1920s or 1930s poster.  What thoughts come to mind for you?

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here. This photo was taken on a Canon T3i (600D) dSLR Camera.

Scottish Museum at Night – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Edinburgh_Museum_Night_Scotland

Late on a crisp Scottish summer evening I set out to explore the capital city of Edinburgh. As I wandered the city’s storied streets I eventually found myself standing before a beautifully lit Museum. The museum is built and styled in traditional Greek form with beautiful doric columns and white marble. The museum is situated where the old loch once sat which was drained more than 100 years ago. More recently the area has been replaced by beautiful parks, the central train station, and importantly several museums and monuments.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

A Wheelbarrow Full of Flowers – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Assisi's Beautiful Streets

I captured this photo just before sunset along a side street in the Italian town of Assisi which is located on a small mountain amidst the rolling fields of the rich Italian countryside.  The winding streets of Assisi are delightful and full of small highlights like this wheel barrow.  While the stone facades of the tightly packed ancient homes that line the streets are somewhat uniform most are decorated with vibrantly colored flower pots.  The golden hue of the day’s last night worked to bring out the reds and golds in the stone and wood, casting everything in a warm twilight glow.  I hope you enjoy this shot!

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

Istanbul: The City That Took Me By Complete Surprise

Istanbul City Bench

When I chose Turkey as the destination for my holiday trip, one key factor was weather.  While I still didn’t expect it to be terribly warm, I was hopeful that the weather would be notably warmer than what I had grown accustomed to in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Little did I know what I was in for: the coldest weather Turkey has experienced in over 25 years.  After diving into my bags and layering on just about every piece of warm clothing I had, I quickly set out to explore the historic district of Sultanahmet which immediately surrounds the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque. I have to confess that I was more than a little frustrated by the cold and snow flurries which made visibility difficult.  Still, I decided to take stock of my situation and make the absolute best of it – after all, when was the last time you saw photos of Istanbul covered in snow?  Eager to take care of this rare occurrence, I began to explore the neighborhood..

Blue Mosque in the Snow

The trip was my first to a Muslim country.  It was also my first to an arab-influenced country.  I say arab-influenced country because I know that many Turks don’t consider themselves to be arabs and are regularly frustrated by the mis-association.  As I crunched out into the snow the first time I honestly had no idea what to expect.  I had heard that Turkey was much more liberal, western and progressive than many of the more traditionalist/conservative Muslim countries, but I had no idea just where the boundaries between the two might fall.  Would I see lots of women covered from head to toe in traditional garb? Would beer and alcohol be available – or even legal?   What about pork?  Would people pause during prayer periods to pray in the streets?   Some of these unknowns no doubt seem silly to some of you, especially some of my Turkish friends who have known me for years.  For others, I imagine you likely share the uncertainty I did before my arrival in Turkey.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque in the Snow

What I found was a city full of surprises. While there were some women in full-body traditional conservative outfits, most wore a headscarf, or nothing particularly unusual – choosing instead to dress as one would find and expect anywhere else in the world.  In truth, there are probably more women dressed traditionally in the heavily-Arab district of Norrebro back in Copenhagen than there are in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul.  In part, that’s due to the tourist-centric nature of that part of town.  Mostly, however, it is indicative of exactly what you would expect in any major metropolitan area.  Similarly, despite the loud sing-song of the Muslim call to prayer echoing through the city several times a day, I never saw anyone pause to pray in public. In truth, few Turks even paused as they went about their business. Should I be surprised? Probably not.  Was I?  Most definitely.

Hagia Sofia in the Snow

As my time in Istanbul quickly raced by I came to realize just how far off most of my perceptions about Turkey had been.   During our visits to the Taksim area, which is a shopping sector and bar district within Istanbul, I quickly learned that Istanbul has a thriving bar and nightlife scene.  While drinks are relatively expensive, they’re easily on hand in most parts of the city (though perhaps slightly more difficult to find than some other major cities). Perhaps most surprising was that there even seemed to be unofficial open container laws, as long as you were careful and remained within Taksim.  The city was not at all what I expected or what many of the westernized portrayals of Turkey depicted.  Heck, to our total surprise (and dismay) several fellow hostelers and I actually stumbled into (and right out of) what we thought was a bar which ended up being a brothel – located right in the heart of Taksim.

Blue Mosque in the Snow

Now, all of this isn’t to say that Istanbul doesn’t have its conservative districts and idiosyncrasies.  It does, but it’s also nothing like the city I was expecting.  Another aspect that took me by complete surprise was the city’s size.  A review of online literature about Istanbul in preparation for my trip left me expecting a mid-sized capital city with a hearty population in the 10-12 million range.  What I found was a city that locals claim has at least 19 million residents and, given the population density and size of the city, I believe it.  This, and other experiences during the trip led me to realize that  Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities and it is not discussed as such as often as it should be.

Blue Mosque Area and Obelisk

More than that, it possesses a charm that few cities of its size and scale are able to nurture or retain.   Istanbul is a city of empire.  A city of history.  Of wonder. With its well-manicured boulevards and crumbling historic districts, Istanbul befits a city that straddles two continents – two worlds – that has served as the sentry of the Bosphorus for thousands of years.  Despite spending more than a week in Istanbul, I feel as though I’ve only just scratched the surface.  There are still so many historical buildings, museums, and remnants of the past to explore.  But, it goes far beyond that.  The foods, music, cafes, and cultures of Istanbul are also intoxicating, rich, and complex. I’ll find my way back to Istanbul as soon as the chance permits and as someone who isn’t generally a fan of mega-cities, that is a take away from the city that I found extremely surprising.   If you find yourself considering a visit to Istanbul – don’t be mislead by headlines, silly stereotypes and hear-say.  If you haven’t considered Istanbul and Turkey as a destination in the past – I hope my series on the country will help inspire you to add it to your list and to consider it seriously.   After all, Istanbul is the city of Byzantium and Constantinople – a city that demands every traveler’s attention!

Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo – Plaza de Espana in Sevilla Spain

Plaza de Espana - Sevilla, Spain

Can you guess what decade this photo was taken in?  It might surprise you to learn that I shot this photo in December, 2008.  The Plaza de Espana is located in Sevilla (Seville), Spain.  It was initially built as part of the re-development done in preparation for the 1929 World’s Fair.  The sprawling semi-circle is ringed by a series of long benches, each of which showcases beautiful tile work depicting scenes from Spain’s various provinces.  The exterior building is connected to the interior fountain area by a series of bridges that cross the wide moat (shown without water in my photo due to the weather during my winter visit).  It is still common to see horse drawn carriages which slowly circle the fountain before taking visitors on a charming tour through the nearby parks and tree lined boulevards. A visit to Sevilla isn’t complete without an afternoon pause at the plaza.  I suggest taking a small snack with you as it’s the perfect place to relax while enjoying the afternoon sun!

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Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo – Porch of the Caryatids in Athens

BackpackingEurope-3525

While Greece and Athens in particular have faced significant challenges over the last few months due to the nation’s economic woes I was recently reminded of my visit to the Acropolis.  While the actual Parthenon is without question one of the most impressive buildings in Greece, one of my favorites in the area is the Porch of the Caryatids.  Located within the greater Acropolis along side the Parthenon, it is much smaller but has its own beauty and special personality. The porch is located on the back side of the Erechtheion Temple which dates back to around 400 BC and the Caryatids are a series of beautifully carved women that double as pillars holding up the porch.  Enjoy this photo taken on a brilliant blue December day and make sure to note Athens sprawling in the distance as a fascinating combination of both ancient and modern history.