Sunday, January 31, 2016

A walk around reserva ecológica costanera sur, Buenos Aires

The Buenos Aires reserve is a 3.5 square kilometre park close to the city on the banks of the river plata.

It consists of several lagoons, teeming with animals, navigated by many trails which are excellent for biking or jogging. There are also a large number of scenic picnic spots both by the lagoons and by the river.

I went on a sunny Saturday and it felt like most of Buenos Aires was either jogging, biking or picnicking in the reserve.

Camino de los lagartos
Puerto Madero from the Reserve
One of the lagoons

The trails follow along the lagoons until they eventually converge on the coast of the Rio Plata

The lagoon
Birds in the lagoon
Rio plata picnic ground
Coast of the Rio Plata

Sadly once I had walked to the coast, the walk down to the river was closed due to an over abundance of snakes. Things being closed due to dangerous animals is something I'd expect from Australia but not really here.

Basically - Don't go down, there are snakes

It turned out that the sign was accurate because a little further down the trail I met one of the critters contributing to the closure of the river walk.


Continuing along the trail I encountered several other animals, including a capybara which sadly did not hang around for a photo. However several other creatures were happy to pose.

Birdlife in the park
A black and white tegu
Another tegu hiding in the grass

The trail makes a grand circuit of 8 km back to the entrance of the park where there is a wide boulevard with many food trucks where you can replenish on grilled meat after a healthy walk around the park ;)

The lagoon from the boulevard outside the park - not a bad view while eating asado

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Buenos Aires: Ricoleta cemetery

Ricoleta cemetery is a historic cemetery situated in the Buenos Aires suburb of Ricoleta. It houses a veritable "who's who" of famous Argentinian families, including military figures, academics, politicians (such as Eva Péron) and other notable people.

The family vaults are enormous and it is difficult to show the scale of these amazing pieces of architecture in photos.

One of the original vaults from the 1840's
The church from the cemetery
One of the "streets"
Alter in the church

The reason for these huge vaults was that prominent people didn't want to be buried in the "public" cemetery - so they built their own private spaces.

The cemetery is an interesting few hours walk, if only to see the incredible architecture of the vaults - although it is a little eerie seeing the coffins on full display...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Segovia: The castle, the cathedral and the aqueduct

Segovia is another common day trip from Madrid - about 30 minutes by high speed train (AVE) or an hour on the bus.

The AVE leaves from Chamartín station (not Atocha) and drops you about 6 km from the centre of Segovia, however the Number 11 bus meets all the train arrivals and goes into the centre of Segovia.

The No.11 trip is about 15 mins of travelling through the very ugly outskirts of Segovia until it winds down the hill to give a spectacular view of Segovia's famous aqueduct.

Looking down to the bus mall
Another view of the aqueduct
Aqueduct from the bus stop

The aqueduct was built in 1CE by the Romans and remained in active use until the 19th century.

The aqueduct terminates in the "Well room" of the Segovia Alcázar.

The Segovia Alcázar was originally a Roman fort, however, several newer constructions on the site have all but removed the original Roman structure. The current distinctive construction of the Alcázar is from the 16th century - the slate roofed spires being inspired by northern European architecture.

The inside if the Alcázar houses a museum and several artefacts from its time as a Royal residence up until the 19th century.

The original throne room
Restored hall of amor
Original armoury

Unfortunately, many of the artifacts were destroyed in a fire in the 19th century, but some still remain while others where restored from detailed contemporaneous drawings.

The Cathedral from Plaza Mayor

The other landmark that Segovia is famous for is it's cathedral. In the 15th century its tower was one of the highest in Spain and it still commands impressive views of the city.

The Cathedral from the bellringers quarters
Segovia from the bell tower
Another view from the bell tower
The Cathedral from the bell tower
The bells in the bell tower

Climbing the 300 odd steps to the bell tower is quite exhausting and calls for a calorific lunch - luckily the local specialty is suckling pig's head which is just the thing after a day of wandering around Segovia.

Mmm suckling pig

Segovia is my last entry in Europe - next I am on to adventures in South America...

Monday, January 18, 2016

A day trip to Toledo

Toledo is a small town around an hour out of Madrid by train. It has many important historical features as it has existed since Roman times - there are several examples of Roman construction dating back to 1 CE.

Roman ruins under the glass floor of a clothes shop

These ruins were discovered while renovating a shop. Instead of closing the shop and demolishing the building, a see-through floor has been installed in a clothes shop so tourists can browse hipster fashion and Roman ruins at the same time.

In addition to the Roman ruins there are examples of architecture from the times that Toledo served as a centre of power for the Visigothic church. The current cathedral contains sections from this time.

Toledo Cathedral
Inside the Cathedral
The halls of the cathedral
Toldeo Cathedral from the tower of the Jesuit church

The Cathedral stands on the site of the old Visigothic church which was consecrated in 587 CE (and some elements of that old church can be seen in the base of the alter of one of the chapels). Construction of the current cathedral started in 1227 and it is an excellent example of Gothic design.

Toledo was also famous for its production of swords and armor - and there are several shops in which you can pick up a suit of full plate and chainmail with a stylish broadsword. Tempting though it was, I decided against such a purchase - something tells me I wouldn't be allowed on the plane ;)

Swords and other stuff you can't take on planes

Unfortunately many of the other Toledo monuments (such as the Alcázar) were closed on my visit (due to it being a Monday in the middle of winter), but the town is beautiful in and off itself and definitely worth visiting.

Streets of Toledo
View of the river from the bridge
Toledo town
Puerta del Sol
The bridge into Toledo

The Dachau Memorial

The Dachau memorial is a memorial to the 41, 000 people who were murdered at the Dachau concentration camp. The camp is an important monument because, even though less people were murdered here than in the extermination camps, Dachau was the first concentration camp and a model camp for the whole system of forced labour under the Nazi regime.

The memorial can be reached by train from Munich and, although there is a bus, it is best to take the 30 minute walk of remembrance which traces the route prisoners took from the station to the camp.

The walk of remembrance

The walk is a sombre preparation for the memorial itself and begins to give you a feel of the horrible things that happened here.

The walk ends at the visitor centre where you can take a tour with one if the volunteer guides - after which you can go through the various museum and memorial displays.

The memorial makes for a harrowing day but it is essential that people visit these places to remind us that it is our responsibility to ensure that this never happens again.