Sights and events

October 06, 2008

The Iris Museum in Agios Nikolaos (at last!)

Whilst we were recently on holiday in Elounda we made a day trip to Agios Nikolaos. Whilst we were there we got to visit the Iris Museum.


We'd wanted to see the Iris Museum during our road trip last year, but when we were visiting then it was shut. It is a folklore-ish museum, about the history of herbs on the island. It is particularly concerned with how Crete's plants were traditionally used to dye wool.

Most of the exhibition consisted of cuttings from the many, many herbs that naturally occur on the island, with descriptions of their medicinal properties. These were framed on the wall. Large cases in the centre of the room contained samples of yarn dyed using different recipes, with booklets explaining the different recipes used for each colour.


At the end of the museum there were a range of sample bottles were you could smell preparations made from herbs. I didn't quite understand the full story, but there was an information panel that made us laugh as it described the process of making "The Raki of the Smelling".


There was also a poem on display, inspired by herbs, written by Costis Hatziphotinos.


It was certainly a quirky little museum, but we really enjoyed it and were glad we'd finally got the chance to visit it.

September 15, 2008

Athens (Slight Return) - for Byzantine stuff, obviously...

Arranging flights from Chania to Macau was a bit of a nightmare, with a lot of the routes offered taking over 24 hours to make the journey. We eventually settled on Qatar Air via Doha, but that meant having a six hour wait in Athens. Having just visited it a few weeks before, we decided that rather than hang around the airport, we would head into Athens on the Metro whilst waiting for our connecting flights.

It was a bit of a risky plan - what if we got stuck in town? And we nearly abandoned the whole idea, because a couple of days before we were due to fly the train drivers of the Athens Metro started staging strikes. In the end though it all worked out fine. Although it is on one of the three main lines, trains from the Metro only depart from the airport every half-hour, and take about 40 minutes to get to the centre of town, so we didn't have a great deal of time for sight-seeing.

We left our baggage in their airport at a 'left luggage' counter that was a wonderfully Greek affair. There were about 5 guys behind the counter, but only one actually serving people. The pricing was done by one of the guys lifting the bags up, and guesstimating the weight (although, to be fair, he was absolutely spot on to the kilogram with our two bags). And there was just one long, long, long, queue, regardless of whether you were doing the lengthy process of checking a bag in, or just trying to quickly collect your bag before your flight departed...

We decided to head straight for lunch, and so went back to one of the restaurants we had visited on our previous trip. Although we often like trying new places, with such a short amount of time to spare we didn't want to waste any hanging around trying to chose a place to eat.

Ευχαρις is in a very touristy area near to the Acropolis and Monstiraki Square, but they seem to go the extra mile in preparing and presenting their food, and, for central Athens, it is reasonably priced. They also have another big attraction - very efficient air conditioning.


After lunch we popped back on the Metro for two stops to visit the Byzantine & Christian Museum. Now, you might think you can have too many Byzantine Icons, but as far as I'm concerned, there can never be enough!


The Museum looks rather small and unimpressive from outside, but turned out to be one of the best exhibitions I've seen in Greece. Not only do they have some great artifacts and preserved wall paintings, but they have an amazing room full of double-sided icons dating back to the 13th century, all beautifully displayed so that you can walk around them to get the full effect.


I was also pleased with another thing - there were a couple of displays with fragments of marble which attempted to recreate what Byzantine Christian Basilicas would have been like. For the backdrops they used several photographs of the Churches that I dragged poor Claire around in Ravenna. At least it proved I had been right when I was explaining to her just how unique and important that umpteenth Church mosaic was!



September 10, 2008

The skull in the Holy House of Mercy

One of the landmarks in Macau's Senado Square is the Holy House of Mercy. (Not to be confused with one of our favourite bands, The Sisters Of Mercy)


We've never paid it much attention, and even when I spotted that there was a museum around the back, we had no burning desire to see it. Until, of course, I found out that the skull of the founding Bishop was on display there! Well, you know us, whether it is an ossuary in the Czech Republic, a severed hand in Budapest or mummified monks in Rome, we can never resist the public display of holy bones and body parts.

You enter the Holy House of Mercy around the side through the Travessa Da Miseriacórdia, and pay at the top of a set of stairs. The first room includes a display of old religious paraphernalia, but it is the main room which features the skull. The room is set out like a board-room, with the main table roped off, and underneath a portrait of the original owner sits the skull of Bishop Belchior Carneiro.


He was the first Bishop of Macau and in 1569 he founded the Holy House of Mercy to take in waifs, strays and fallen women.


I took a couple of pictures of the skull, and the museum guard came rushing in. I thought he was going to tell me off for using the camera, but instead he threw wide open the doors to the balcony and said in very broken English "Pictures! Pictures!" and practically pushed me outside.

The balcony itself was beautifully decorated and laid out, but the main thing was that it commanded an excellent view down upon Senado Square, and was probably the best location on Macau to get photos of this central space.



At the foot of the stairs there was a statue of the Bishop. Whether it was actually modeled on the skull or not wasn't mentioned...


September 03, 2008

Oh, it was *sooooooo* much better in the old days....

Along the fringes of what used to be the edge of Taipa Island, there are a series of stunning Portuguese style villas that date from the 1920s. They are always a popular spot on a Saturday for taking wedding photos.


When you are up on the hill above them, you can sort of get a glimpse of how it all must have looked back then.


In those days the sea would have lapped up against them, but the water there now is an artificial lake. This was formed when the land which is now called the 'Cotai Strip' was reclaimed.

As you can see from this picture, the picturesque villas are completely dwarfed these days by the casino construction going on.


Of course, it is easy to say "Tut, tut, isn't that terrible, things looked much nicer in the olden days" like some disgruntled Daily Mail reader.

I daresay that in 1921 these villas were equally unpopular and all around you could hear people moaning "I mean, fancy building some show-off villas right on the shore spoiling the view for everyone, and that modern European style doesn't fit in with Taipa Village at all - who do these people think they are etc etc?"

Sights and events

We've joked that we would go to the opening of a crisp packet in Hania, but there has been lots of cultural life for us to enjoy in Crete and Salzburg, ranging from art exhibitions, displays of vintage motorbikes, architectural displays and Hania's very own car rally. Here is a list of all the posts we wrote and Sights & Events prior to September 2007.

A lemon tree of our own

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