Monday, September 8, 2008

The Egg of Thought

Whoa, what's this?


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An Egg of Thought, of course, can't you read? ;-)

Okay, it really is only an egg-shaped composite made out of panoramas taken inside and outside the Academy of Mont Cenis in Herne, Germany. This academy for vocational education is a magnificent building with a quite extraordinary architecture. Basically it has two long wings: The first contains hotel rooms for the people attending courses for more than one day. The second offers large and small rooms for lectures, workshops, seminars, and in addition to that a reception, a canteen and - for the evenings - a bar.

These two wings are covered by a large "glass box" with a clever computerized air flow system that allows for a "Mediterranean" climate inside the box (the architects claim that the climate of Nice is replicated here) - with only a low amount of energy used. In addition to that the large roof is furnished with a very large number of solar collectors covering 10.000 square meters, reducing the energy intake of the building even further.

Another thing to know is that this academy was built on the location of an old coal mine also called "Mont Cenis". Since we're in the heart of the Ruhr Area this modern academy at the same spot as the old mine sort of symbolizes the economic change this huge area has made - from the coal and steel center of Europe to a center of the modern service society. At least this is what the politicians like to tell ...

Enough words - now for some pictures; among them some of the panoramic pictures used for the "Egg" you've seen above. This is what the building's glass box looks from its rear end, near some remains of old mine buildings:


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And this is the first panoramic glimpse of the glass box, taken from the side, showing the building and its side entrance:


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And here we go with the first view of the interior of the building, taken from a balcony at the middle of the "office wing", looking towards the "hotel wing" - you can see part of the canteen on the left side:


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This second interior shot is an 360 degree panorama, taken near the main entrance of the building:


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For a change here a another 360 degree view, but now circling from the bottom to the top of the building and back again - taken from another point of view in the rear part of the glass box:


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Well, I admit that this is not really 360 degrees; the picture is cropped at the left and right sides, because those consisted mainly of grey gravel, adding nothing much to the composition. So we've a field of view of around 270-300 degrees only.

Finally a view somewhat similar to the first interior panorama posted above - of the academy's interior at night:


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And that's it! Hope you enjoyed this tour of the academy - a true "Egg of Thought"! :-)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Blue hour in Bardolino

Bardolino is a nice, small town at the Lake of Garda, renowned especially for its popular wines.

It's a quiet, but in the summer quite popular place. Tourists like to stroll in the Old Town of Bardolino in the evening, leisurely walking and looking at the shops in the central, longish Piazza Matteotti that connects to the harbor.

Here some panoramic impressions of Bardolino, mainly of the Piazza Matteotti and the harbor - be careful, some of them are presented in a somewhat unusual fashion, as you will see. Be sure to click on the links below the pictures to see the large size versions of them; sometimes even two sizes are offered. All pictures were taken shortly before or during the "Blue hour", the time between sundown and night.

First a glimpse of the populated Piazza Matteotti with its shops and restaurants:

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Now a panoramic view of the harbor, depicting it in four different stages of light before and during said "Blue Hour":


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A very large version you'll find here.


Another way to combine those different stages of light is not to stack them, but to combine them in a single image, as done here with the first and last one seen above:


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Moving to the back of the harbor here just another possibility to combine day and night scenes of the same panoramic view:


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An even slightly larger version you'll find here.


And with this last view taken at the close of the Blue Hour - a long time exposure panorama of the harbor from a different point of view - we'll finish our special "Bardolino experience" for now:


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Torri del Benaco

Lake Garda has a lot of nice old towns at its borders, but Torri del Benaco is sure one of the prettiest. It is a rather quiet and picturesque place with a long history, dating back to the Romans. This is reflected by the still impressive remains of the castle, built in 1383, but incorporating old parts of a Roman citadel and a castle from the 10th century that resided at the same spot. This is a 360 degree panoramic view from the highest tower of the castle:


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Close to the right to the woman with the red dress you see a wooden construction adjacent to one of the walls of the castle. This is the roof of a "Limonaia", an orchard for growing citrus fruit, that was built in the late 17th century and is still used for that purpose - here a view from below:


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If the weather turns (too) cold, the wooden "roof" construction will be covered with additional material to protect the fruits.

The one remaining edifice of the castle nowadays hosts a small museum devoted to the main trades in Torri del Benaco's history, mainly fishing. Here a look at two exhibits - a fisher boat and its net:


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And some colorful old rudders:


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Directly in front of the castle we find the magnificent harbor of Torri del Benaco, with a grand view of Lake Garda. In the background on the right side you see the Piazza Calderini with the Hotel Gardesana:


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Here the Hotel Gardesana, a building with a rather long history, in a close up view. At the time the Venetians ruled this part of Lake Garda Torri del Benaco was its capital (sort of ...), and the most important public meetings were held in here, in what is today the dining room of the hotel:


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On its long promenade running up towards the north Torri del Benaco has a lot of restaurants that offer terraces with beautiful views towards the lake:



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The Old Town offers us nice views of old buildings and small streets, mostly reserved to pedestrians:


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In fact Torri del Benaco is - because of its romantic atmosphere - a popular location for weddings; they are held for example at the castle's tower we saw in the first picture.
And there is a quite appropiate legend that says that on the highest tower of the castle once no other than the exiled Romeo stood, looking over the Lake Garda and yearning for his Julia ...

That's it! Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gardone Riviera - and the Vittoriale degli Italiani

Today we'll visit a town on the east side of the Lake of Garda in Italy - it's called Gardone Riviera, and because of its special environment - the town is enclosed by some small mountain ranges, providing protection from winds and cold - it's famous for its mild climate. That's why one of the first larger hotels of Lake Garda was built here - the Grand Hotel, built in 1884 by the Austrian (then mayor of Gardone) Ludwig Wimmer:


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Gardone has a small, but nice promenade - here with the Grand Hotel in the background again:


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But today Gardones main attraction is not that it is a nice and peaceful health resort - it's famous because one of the most incredible Italian poets chose Gardone as his old-age residence - now serving as a museum called Il Vittoriale. We'll visit it soon - but first have to climb up to the upper part of Gardone, called Gardone Sopra. On our way we find this nice ensemble of houses:


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And we'll also risk a look at this rather pretty side street:


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But now we're there - let's enter "Il Vittoriale degli Italiani" - that loosely translates to "Victory memorial of the Italians". It's a very, very strange memorial indeed, mainly one of the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio who lived here from 1921 until his death in 1938.

Why is it strange? Because d'Annunzio, an extremely popular poet & writer, was also a war nut, volunteering to participate in the first world war - he was already 52 years old back then! He did some Kamikaze missions in the first world war, e.g. flew a plane to Vienna to distribute leaflets to the enemy, cruised with a battle ship, and at the end of the war in September 1919 even seized the city of Fiume (nowadays Rieka in Croatia), declared an independent state and governed it in pre-fascistic style until December 1920 - before he retired to his new residence at the Lake of Garda.

At the lake he constructed a quite large complex out of a villa he bought there - after he finished all the work he could look at his own private square, called the "Dalmatian Square". You see his main house, the Prioria, at the left and a loggia at the right:


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The loggia BTW is a very nice one; here a look standing inside it, looking towards the "Prioria" (center). On the right you see that the loggia is open in direction to the lake:


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In his Prioria he had a large number of quite dark (he had trouble with his eyesight in old age and shunned light too bright) and immensely richly decorated rooms that show a very special taste - cultures, religions and modern technology clash wildly, e.g. one room was dedicated to death, one to music, one served to receive friends, one to receive enemies, and several were of course used for writing. In the golden and red dining room he had a large sculpture of a tortoise (incorporating its real shell) that died because it ate too much - it served as a reminder to his guests to moderate themselves ...

Photography unfortunately was strictly forbidden in the Prioria, so you have to have to be content with this view of the Prioria taken from the private gardens:


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In the private gardens we now discover some strange things typical for d'Annunzio, like these canon shells on classical pillars:


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Or this rather incredible combination of eagle sculptures and neo-Romanesque arches:


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But it gets really strange when we visit the large area around the villa; here a look from the top of a hill: on the right we see the rooftops of the villa, but what's that slightly left of the center? A ship among the trees?!


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It really is! D'Annunzio requested and got a real large battle ship - called "Puglia" - from the Italian marine, and got it - he planted it in his gardens, looking towards the lake:


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It's fully equipped, as you may see here, taken from the front of it:


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He also requested and got a anti submarine motorboat he had used for one of his other first world war adventures - he used to do fun cruises on the Lake Garda with it, and it's also on display at the Vittoriale:


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And after his death strange things continued to happen - in the 1950s a large Mausoleum was designed and built, providing a very majestic resting place for the poet, overlooking his "Vittoriale" ...


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... and of course also with a nice view of the Lake of Garda, as you may see here - the other sarcophagi are reserved for other compatriots BTW:


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So, that's it from this strange man! I won't dwell on the further political implications of the life and works of d'Annunzio, e.g. his complicated connections to the Italian dictator Mussolini - you can find enough about that on the web.

A few more pics of the Vittoriale - e.g. from the plane he flew with - at my Vittoriale gallery here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sirmione - Pearl of Lake Garda, Italy

A tourist and health resort for more than 2000 years? That sounds interesting - and indeed it is: Sirmione is a very special town at the Lake Garda in Italy, and was a sought after holiday and health location starting even in the first century BC. Main visitors back then were the Romans - coming from Verona, the main Roman city in north-eastern Italy at this time.

Sirmione is located on a long peninsula located on the southern shore of the lake; the main area is shaped like a triangle, and has only one narrow street leading to it - and this street is guarded by a real menacing castle, the Castello Scaligero, built in the 13th century:


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Looking from an inner court we see that this castle is high and intimidating indeed - not built for pleasure, but for fighting:


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And looking to the western side of the castle towards the lake we see a nowadays quite rare example of a fortified harbor, incorporated into the castle:


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Finally this view from the castle towards the Old Town of Sirmione is a reminder that the castle not only protected the town - it also served as a means of oppression; a very inglorious incident took place in the late 13th century, as Mastino I. della Scala ordered the ruthless persecution of a religious movement criticizing the holy church - resulting in a true massacre, because half of the inhabitants of Sirmione belonged to this movement. Knowing this the castle suddenly looks only half as romantic - and the castle reaching out to the town people seems to be really menacing:


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We now wander along the shore of the peninsula until we reach its northern tip - and here, as 2000 years ago, some luxury hotels are located, with their own, very private terraces with a smashing view of the lake:


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It's simply too hot to visit the Roman ruins in Sirmione today, so we walk back to the Old Town to get some shade - and a view of this nice house on a corner:


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We now go to the largest Piazza in Sirmione, the Piazza Carducci, surrounded by bars and restaurants - right now even a concert is going on:


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The Piazza is directly connected to a pier offering another method to reach and leave Sirmione - by ship, on the the eastern side of the peninsula. And with this 370 degree pano (yes!) taken on that pier we finally leave this picturesque and very old town:


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P.S.: This was the ship I left Sirmione with this day - nice, isn't it?


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Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is there fishing in Garda, Italy?

It's an early morning in July, before 6 am. My mission: Find proof if fishing is actually being done in the town of Garda at the Lake Garda in Italy. I'm a bit tired on my way to the harbor of Garda - I must indeed be very tired, because coming into the town I see one of the oldest buildings of the town - the Captain's Palace with its venetian windows - very bended and warped; look at the left:


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Hmm, once the Captain's Palace stood at the waterfront in Garda. Nowadays tourism seems more important, and the harbor obviously has been relocated to give room for some caf├ęs. Nobody I can ask - but I see the water in the background and will head there:


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Ah, what a nice early morning view of the lake! And turning to the right I finally see the harbor. Well, well, lot's of nice boats in it! And on the far right I even see the Captain's Palace again. Seems that I have adjusted to the early morning time - it looks straight now, as it should be!

But let's have a closer look at those boats - quite a lot of them here:


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Are any of them really used for fishing? Or are they only here for touristic purposes - as a nice decoration? They look so clean! Let's wander around a bit, and ... yes, in the back of the harbor there are boats that definitely look like being used for fishing. And since the sun is rising now, we even can see more clearly:


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This fishing gear looks really funny sometimes:


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And another indication that fishing really is being done here - all the nets and ropes lying around:


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Hey, there's actually someone packing his net - gotcha:


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And on the lake there is a boat with a lot of gulls flying nearby - must be somebody fishing:


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Ah, here the proof: one of the fishers comes in.


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More proof: the early morning catch of another one!


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Okay, that’s it - I'm convinced that fishing is actually being done here. Now a last view of the harbor, now brightly lit ...


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... and then back to bed. The fishers are not on vacation obviously, but I am! :-)