Unlocking the mosaics of Ravenna

All memories of yesterday’s storm are forgotten when drawn curtains reveal solid blue sky. Today Ravenna’s secrets are to be unlocked. This is why I love Italy. To walk around narrow streets and piazzas, shaded by ancient buildings and chapels and churches and statues on pillars and surrounded by history and culture and food and coffee. Cafes with tables line the cobbled streets with men drinking their espresso behind their spread newspapers as I seek that restaurant for dinner where the locals will be eating. A gentle trickle of folk pass – mamas with shopping bags half full, classy ladies struggling to keep up with their scuttling dachshunds, tattooed youth on their way somewhere or other. In these car-free streets a constant stream of cyclists gently avoid the pedestrians with a tinkle of a bell – sexy girls with long tanned legs in short shorts, elegant moustached gentlemen and the whole gambit of Italian society on their way to work, to shop, to play.


Nothing out of the ordinary you might think. It sounds like a typical Italian town. But Ravenna is like a geologist’s display cabinet. It has been the capital city of three different civilisations in its time and so is quite an important place. From 400 AD the early Christians have impacted on its society and its buildings. Religious buildings cover the old centre, mostly red-bricked. Crack their dull, dusty shell open and be aghast. As each reveals their glistening, sparkling, crystalled inside,yourr breath will be dragged from your body in awe. Mosaics have used as an art form for centuries to decorate and commemorate the inside of churches and mausoleums. Here are a few.

I am going to start with the old library which is upstairs in the new library. Whilst not a mosaic in sight it feels to me like the Bodleian in Oxford and I wanted to share.


The crypt of the church of San Francesco its mosaics underwater. You may be able to spot the carp.


The Mausoleum di Galla Placidia, an important lady of the 13th century, is small and intimate and glorious. Mosaics, remember. Little bits of tile.

Basilico di San Vitale has these positioning around its dome but the whole alter is surrounded by a gargantuan spread of mosaic saints.


Battistero degli Ariani, Basilica di Apollinare Nuono and the Neonian Baptistry are three more temples to the mosaic.

 

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South to Fishguard: guarding fish?

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South of Llangrannog lie several settlements. First is the small village of Tresaith. Just a few houses huddle around a steep descent to the beach. One tea room serves the few families who are exploring the sands. The ubiquitous mobile homes gaze down from the surrounding cliffs.

Next, just before the estuary town of Cardigan (Aberteifi), comes Aberforth.

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After the glorious view of the two beaches from the cliffs on the approach to the town, my lasting impression of Aberporth is the smell of old oil that oozes into the atmosphere from the chippy and rests in nostrils, hair and clothes. Shame really as the beach is great.

Gwbert lies on the headland overlooking Poppit Sands on the estuary of the River Teifi. Yep, a good location for a holiday home park.

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Newport (Pems) is a lovely small village with tea rooms, quaint nik-nakky shops and a classy oasis for visitors and locals alike. Down through its heart one comes out over Parrog and its beach and harbour. From its flat, muddy banks can be seen the silt of Newport Beach in one direction and the casual meanders to the Irish Sea in the other.

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Finally Fishguard plonks itself on the coast.

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The small old harbour is lovely, lined by brightly coloured homes and a wonderful Victorian factory of some kind. It is overlooked by the fort with its cannon peeking over the battlements, keeping an eye on the far quays & sea defences where the huge Stena Line ferry waits for its cargo of cars and lorries to cross to Ireland. The road climbs up and over the headland and there is the town , the working, seaside port spread below, helping to provide income and jobs to the area.

I’ll let you know when I go back to complete more of the coastal settlements of the UK.

 

 

Across to the high life & markets of Kowloon

With an early start I get the tram to Central & walk down to pier 7.

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Once across the water I head up Canton Road where the rich & famous, well, not famous to me, are seen to do their labelled shopping. It seems bankers & property owners are particularly keen. All the big names are there & provide a wonderful backdrop for some interesting images. Can you guess these –

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Up past the glitter & the golden reflections real Kowloon emerges with ordinary people living & working ordinary lives.

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More to follow as I go deeper into the delights of busy Kowloon.

 

 

Drive along the banks of the Neretva River to Mostar in Herzegovina

The river splits the city of Mostar with Croats on one side and Muslims on the other. The city saw intense fighting during the civil war & still carries the scars with bombed buildings, shell holes & bullet marks throughout. The bridges were bombed and destroyed and were only rebuilt in their original style in 2004.

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The local boys show off to tourists by diving from the centre some 20 metres from the 13° water below. These guys seem to just hang about – doubt if they done much diving recently.

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Some locals like a more chilled Sunday.

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More my cup of tea ( rather coffee). Around the bridge cobbled streets pack in bars & restaurants & tat shops.

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Then on the Muslim side we find the shade & solitude of a traditional Ottoman house.

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