Friday 30 March 2007

The cinnabar ore

This post is in a way connected to the Mining wind band Idrija or more accurately to the Idrija mercury mine (located in the western part of Slovenia). I was writing about that a few posts back.

Do you want to know how mercury is extracted from ore?
Well... I'm gonna tell you anyway. ;)

The cinnabar (aka cinnabarite) ore is burned in specially designed owens, so that mercury evaporates from it. Mercury is then cooled down and gathered.

Almost everyone knows what mercury looks like, but not many have seen the cinnabar ore from which it is extracted.
Here is my macro photo of it. The red color is where mercury is concentrated at.


Wednesday 28 March 2007

The insides of a tuba

After taking photos of my brother with his new tuba, I have decided to take a deeper look into his new instrument...
I just used the flash for the strange effect and did not edit the photo afterwards.

This is how it looks on the inside.

Then I played some more with the reflections of myself. This time it was done without the flash.

Look at me inside a tuba!

As stupid as it may seem - I like the results.
How about you?


Tuesday 27 March 2007

The oldest European wind band gets new uniforms

My younger brother is a true music enthusiast. He plays tuba in a number of bands some of which are quite serious.
He is just starting a Tuba blog of his own. If you want you can pay him a visit.
Tuba is the biggest wind instrument and usually set somewhere at the back of an orchestra.
One of the bands he is playing in is the Mining Wind Band Idrija. It is supposed to be the oldest European wind band with its beginnings dating to 1665 or even earlier.

A history/geography lesson:
For those of you who don't know this - Idrija is a Slovenian town with more than 500 years of history. Most of it is in one way or another connected to its mercury mine. Nowadays the mine is closing down.
In California, USA there is a town called New Idria, which was named after the above mentioned Idrija. The second thing beside their name they have in common is a mercury mine.

Last week band members got new uniforms, which remain in classical mining coloring and style. A typical miners symbol from the uniforms sleeve can be seen on the above photo.

In addition to that they also bought a new tuba. These things can be quite expensive - the price of this model (Yamaha YBB-841 GE) is in the range of 10.000 USD (7.500 EUR). Ordered directly from Japan it surprisingly took only 10 days for delivery.

I just had to take a couple photos.


Saturday 24 March 2007

Spring sailing in Kornati, Croatia

I decided to post a photo from the last year's sailing trip to Croatia. Our rented Bavaria 37 is anchored in an idyllic island bay in the Kornati region.

For the last few years I went sailing twice a year with a group of friends. It has become more or less a traditional event.

There is only one general rule to this event - no mater how nice they beg - we have all agreed not to take our girlfriends/wives with us. There are other occasions when they are very welcome to come sailing along, but this is a none negotiable one.

Every year we have chosen an early spring and a late autumn date. That means that the first one this year is approaching fast.

Unfortunately a couple of days ago I was informed, that we are looking at a few extremely busy weeks at work.
Sadly this means no spring vacation for me just yet. I hope it is going to be a bit sweeter when it eventually comes to it.


Thursday 22 March 2007

Mosaics of Aquileia, Italy

Three days ago I wrote a post about a trip to Italy. I still have something to write about the second part of the day.

After seeing the town of Grado me and my girlfriend followed a causeway connecting the island with mainland.

Aquileia (Oglej in Slovenian) lies just a few kilometers north from the island town of Grado. It is an ancient Roman town founded in 180 BC and situated about 10 km from the sea. It became a naval station in 4th century AD and also at that time the bishop obtained the rank of Patriarch.

The Cathedral of Aquileia is one of the most important edifices of Christianity. It is a flat-roofed basilica erected by Patriarch Poppo in 1031 on the site of an earlier church, and rebuilt about 1379 in the Gothic style by Patriarch Marquad.

Most of all I was impressed by the mosaics within the cathedral. They are really colorful and beautifully made. All of the cathedral floor is covered with them.

A view from the top of the cathedral tower is also something to mention. You can easily see the sea. Unfortunately on that day the weather wasn't really something to brag about and the same goes for the view.

After we also saw some more ancient remains and a WWI cemetery, we decided to call it a day.
Under the line it was a beautiful and relaxing day, which ended with a mortadella sandwich (Italians know how to make the best ones) and a bag of pistachio. Yummy!


Tuesday 20 March 2007

Late snow

This post was supposed to be about the second part of my Saturday's trip to Italy, but it's not going to be...

Instead of that I'm posting a yesterday afternoon view from my bedroom window in Ljubljana.

The funny thing is that a couple of days ago I was looking at people sunbathing in their swimsuits and today I have been ranting over loads of no-good snow when walking to and back from work. It is true that Grado and Ljubljana are more than one hundred kilometers apart, but nevertheless...

It was snowing for the most of yesterday and until midday today. In some parts of Slovenia this resulted in more than half a meter of fresh snow. In Ljubljana luckily it was just a half of that.

It's a shame really. Last week I was just beginning to enjoy the first signs of spring. Magnolias and cherry trees were all blooming. Now they are all covered in snow, possibly even with broken branches from heavy snow.

As I am writing this post some of the snow has already melted away. It seems it will be gone as fast as it came - at least here in Ljubljana.

This will have to do for today - I have some more work to do. Also my writings about the trip to Aquileia will have to wait for the next time.


Monday 19 March 2007

A day in Grado, Italy

Weather forecast for Saturday was looking good and that was enough to make plans for a trip to Italy. Unfortunately the forecast was not entirely accurate - it wasn't so sunny and hot after all. That wouldn't bother me if the air was clear.

Well it wasn't. That's why the photos didn't turn out as nice as they could. Even without that we had a wonderful time.

This time our destination was the town of Grado. It lies between Trieste and Venezia. It's a very old island town. It is situated just next to mainland and connected by not one, but two roads.

Beside churches, stone coffins, mosaics and all sorts of old buildings one can also enjoy in various beach activities. Nowadays Grado is a popular summer destination. It also had to be important in the past - a church has been standing there since the 4th century AD.

After a short history lesson we went on a walk around the town. With delicious Italian icecream in our hands we wandered through narrow streets and down the beach promenade.

Walking by the beach, we noticed an interesting contrast. Some of the people were sunbathing in their swimsuits, others were passing by still wearing winter jackets and scarfs. Me and my girlfriend were somewhere in between wearing T-shirts.

The sandy beach bellow the promenade was cowered in seashells. Millions of them.

After a few hours of relaxation we decided to move on. We went to see the city of Aquileia a few kilometers north.

More about that in tomorrows post... If you are lucky. ;)


Friday 16 March 2007

Salamander Brandy - a new Viagra?

Salamander brandy. Are you wondering who would ever want to buy it and eventually drink it? Not me! And that's for sure!
Do you believe such a thing even exists?

Well... surprise, surprise - it does exist! You can buy it in Slovenia and I haven't yet heard of any other country where you can get such a thing.
There you have it - your reason to come and visit Slovenia. ;)

For those who still don't believe me - here is a link to an article by John Morris who once visited Slovenia and obviously got a first hand experience with this thing.

Among other things the article mentions the drinks supposed aphrodisiac powers:

"A liquid Viagra?
Not quite, but a traditional medieval method of getting in touch with your deeper sexual feelings - and getting off your face in the process. The erotic charge of the drink is powerful, but tends to be indiscriminate in its target, so that anything in the natural world can become sexually attractive - trees, plants, animals or even humans."

There are quite a few such 'facts' in the mentioned artice. Do you believe any of it?


Thursday 15 March 2007

A salamander

I went on a hike last Sunday. It is already described in my previous post, so I won't repeat myself. If you want to read more on how it went, simply click on the link.

I forgot to post a photo of a beautiful salamander we saw that day. So here are two photos of an interesting creature. Enjoy!


Monday 12 March 2007

A day with the choir

Almost everyone in my family is in some way connected to music. Well, I am an exception. I have never played an instrument or sang in a choir (I am not counting one semester in the first grade).

That doesn't mean that I am tone deaf or that I don't like music. Not at all - I love music and can tell pretty well when someone hits a wrong note. I usually know how something should have sounded but when I try to sing it, it just doesn't come out right. So I have just stopped trying.

My girlfriend also sings in a choir. Occasionally I get to accompany her when they go to perform.
It's not a very serious choir - most of the members have joined to have a good time and because they simply enjoy singing. However that doesn't stop them from organizing many concerts.

Last Sunday they went on a trip which included a short hike near a small village of Ocizla. It lies in the western part of Slovenia, in the vicinity of Italian border and has 106 inhabitants.

Like a couple of times before I have decided to tag along.

It was a beautiful sunny day. Despite of the time of year it was warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt.

The day started with a late morning hike which was from time to time interrupted with a singing intermezzo.
On our three hour round hike we have seen two salamanders and several patches of overturned grass.
A local guy told us that wild boars living in the surrounding forest have done that.

The majority of this choir members likes to drink an occasional glass of wine or home-brewed schnapps. That was often the reason for a short stop.
One of such stops was at a local self-taught artist. Amongst other things he has painted a wall surrounding his house with various biblical motives.

It was around 2pm when we completed our hike. The locals prepared a simple yet delicious meal for us. It was a kind of a local cabbage stew.

Of course the lunch was followed by some more singing.

After that we went on a singing tour through the little village. It ended in one of the wine cellars.

It was decorated with much taste. There were old radios, irons, saws and similar things displayed on the shelves. Even a painting of the late president Tito was hanging on a wall.
We were indulged with local wine and best dried ham I have ever tasted. It has simply melted in my mouth.

After many songs were sang, many plates were cleared and many bottles were emptied, the landlord has kindly showed us to the drying room. The smell was gorgeous and there were some fifty(!) hams hanging from the ceiling.

When we were setting of, one of the singers made a good joke. He said that in the morning edition of the local newspapers we might see a front page article with the following text:
"Last night the Police have seized two kilos of heroin from a drug dealer near the Italian border and confiscated drivers licenses from 18 drunken choir members on a local road to Ocizla."

Luckily no such thing could be read in the morning newspapers and we all got home safely. It was a beautiful day.


Saturday 10 March 2007

A healthy dose of adrenaline

It was a sunny September day on Corsica. In fact it was just a few hours before an encounter with a beautiful fox. You can check its photo a few posts back.

Me and my girlfriend were decided to check out one of the adrenaline parks nearby. Our Rough guide recommended quite a few, but the one near the village of Chisa was supposed to be the best one. It was not until we were done with it, that I have found out it is marked as 'D (Difficult) - for those accustomed to the sport'.

After a morning swim in the sea we drove a few kilometers up a winding road towards our destination. Soon after the start I have noticed a car was following us. It stayed on our tail until the end of the road.

As soon we reached our destination, I have realized that I knew the couple from the other car back from our camping site. It was a French couple of our age and they even spoke pretty good English - that's not so common with the French people we have met.

After a short chat with them we have learned that what we have found is more a 'via ferrata' than a usual adrenaline park. That is a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders and bridges.

All that made me and my girlfriend think. We had no climbing experience whatsoever. We were already thinking about finding some more appropriate terrain for our skill level, but fortunately the couple (Marie and Julien) offered us their guidance and support. They assured us, that with their help it's going to be like 'a walk in the park'. Get the irony of that statement?

The lady that rented us the climbing equipment, had also explained the proper ways to
use it - in French of course. Did I mention that we don't speak French?
The good thing was that Julien has managed to translate most of it.

The standard procedure goes like this: after a couple of minutes of instructions and a few tips you get your climbing belt, helmet and a couple of snaplinks. After that the kind lady gives you directions to the rock wall and a 'bon voyage'. It really isn't something for a non French speaking via ferrata first-timer.

And we were on our way. The beginning was not particularly demanding. Nevertheless we have soon found ourselves in the middle of the vertical rock. I didn't have much problem with that, but my girlfriend had to try hard not to look down too often. On one or two occasions her knees were shaking, but she persisted.

If you follow the recommendations the park is quite safe. There is always a wired rope in the reach. Just before the scariest two elements of the tour there are also two exits.
But if you are new to these things and with all the adrenaline flowing, it can happen that you forget an important thing or two. I can easily imagine some novice doing just that and as a consequence flying through the air and landing a few hundred meters below. No helmet could save you head!

If the climb itself with variations of monkey bridges (a low rope to walk on and a high rope to grab with your hands) would seem a bit monotonous to someone, fear not. To avoid such 'monotony', there were also three 'tyrolian slides. Those consist of two slightly declined wired ropes. Onto the first one you put some sort of a pulley whilst the second acts as a safety and emergency break. In a horizontal position, aligned with the cables, you push of the ledge and slide to the other side of an abyss. The longest of the three is 240 meters long. It was quite a ride!

It took us almost four hours to complete the round tour.
After it was over my girlfriend told us that she would have never believed anybody telling her that one day she'll be doing this climb. We have totally enjoyed the whole thing and have decided to do something like that again as soon as possible.

Thanks to Marie and Julien once again - we wouldn't make it without you.

Buy a Globe Trekker series DVD video about Corsica


Wednesday 7 March 2007

A romantic sunset in Corsica

If I have ever seen a romantic sunset, this was the one.
Especially considering the fact that I am a total opposite to a romantic. ;)

It happened at the end of last summer on Corsica. Me and my girlfriend were driving through the region called Les Calanques. It is a place with loads of weird rock formations glowing in blood-red colors a short time before sunset.

Considering the winding road and all those rocks to look at, it was close to a miracle to spot that heart-shaped hole in one of them. And by pure luck, the timing was just right to catch the sun in a perfect position.

In the end the short stop took us more than a half an hour. It was absolutely beautiful and totaly worth it.


Tuesday 6 March 2007

Bonifacio at dusk

Since I haven't found the time to post another one of my stories from my Corsican adventure, I have decided to share a sunset photo from the same trip. I promise to write a longer one in the following days.

Until then enjoy this scene of - by my opinion the most picturesque walled city on the isle of Corsica - Bonifacio.
It is an old fortified city built on a cliff. Some of the houses are built on the very edge of the cliff and directly over the Mediterranean waves. I was told that a couple of years ago, a piece of the cliff had broken off. Unfortunately the rock fell into the sea together with an old house, killing a few inhabitants.

This photo was taken in the beginning of September 2006.


Saturday 3 March 2007

Chained and hooded men

In my previous post I have mentioned my last year’s trip to Corsica. It lasted for three weeks and my camera had time to capture quite a few interesting things.

One of those things was definitely a fact that many locals who take part in religious processions wear different hooded robes. As you can see on the above photo, they remarkably resemble those of the Ku Klux Klan (or more likely it's the other way around).

What is even more interesting is a specific procession held in a town of Sartene.
Held on Good Friday, U Catenacciu, literally meaning "chained one", is a dramatic night-time re-enactment of Christ's walk to Golgotha. The procession is lead by the Grand Penitent, dressed in a hooded red robe and chained at the ankles, who carries a heavy wooden cross through the narrow candlelit streets of la Vieille Ville.

In the past the Grand Penitent was usually an offender, who volunteered for the role. His identity was known only to a local priest. By doing this the poor guy was supposed to pay for his sins.
The whole event could get quite rough - not so much today than in the past. It could include stoning and beating the guy under the red hood. Hardly anyone made it through this without injury, but it seems like there is no record of a death incident.

In spite of those few insignificant matters the very cross and chain on the photo are already reserved until 2040.
Don't hesitate too long and make a reservation today!

Buy a Globe Trekker series DVD video about Corsica


Friday 2 March 2007

Hey there, foxy!

And for once I am talking about a four-legged, furry one. ;)

This truly wonderful encounter happened on a roadtrip around Corsica, France. We were just returning from a full of adrenaline, climbing adventure near a little village called Chisa (that's a story for another post I guess), when something jumped in front of the car and into the bushes by the narrow road.
I wasn't sure what it was, but it seemed to me like the little creature has stopped not too far from the side of the road behind some bushes.

My girlfriend was not too excited about stopping, but I decided not to listen to her ("once again", she would probably add).

So I stopped the car by the road just a few meters ahead and turned off the engine.
After a moment of hesitation I grabbed my camera, silently opened the door of our car and stepped out. From there I could finally see what it was. A young fox was observing us from a safe distance. My girlfriend decided to join me and tried to take a couple of photos of the lovely animal.
She has tried, but was not satisfied with the results. The problem was that it was too dark to take photos without the use of flash.
The fox didn't seem to appreciate the flash approach. We thought that it was going to run away, but even a couple of flashes couldn't scare the foxy away. It was obviously just too curious. After every flash it has just retreated for a few steps, but always came back after a while.

Unfortunately the photos were no good. It was too dark and the fox too far away. Hoping for a better photo opportunity, we have decided to lay low for a while.

We didn't have to wait for too long - the fox has decided to cross the road just in front of us. It jumped on a stone wall on the left side of the road and got ready for a photo-shoot. It just stood there and flirted with the camera in the late afternoon sun. If I tried to move closer than 3 meters it would get a bit nervous, but after I took a step back, it was in the relax-mode again.

It took several photos for the fox to get bored and to decide that it's time to move on with her afternoon stroll through the forest.

Only then I have realized that we have been absolutely silent for at least 15 minutes. We sat inside the car for another moment and just tried to exchange our feelings and observations.

As we drove on, we were both just so glad that we took some time to "stop and smell the roses". Nature can just be so beautiful!

And the moral of this story is (there just has to be one - there's a fox involved):

Even when with a girlfriend, it's not always a bad thing to notice a foxy walking by. Sometimes she (the girlfriend, that is) might even appreciate it!


Thursday 1 March 2007

Another salty one

Quite a few nice photos came out of the trip to Sečovlje saltpans, described in the previous post. I think this is another one worth posting.

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