Project 28 July 2017

01 August 17

Posted at 11:28

Project Map July 2017

As of 31st July I have travelled to (and photographed) a town in each of 25 of the 28 EU states. By 20th August I will have completed all 28 and will have achieved that in just 12 months. I wonder if any UK citizen has actually visited all 28 countries previously? If they have I seriously doubt it was in a period of just 12 months. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has.

After a fairly quiet period in the first three months of the year in late April I made up for it by travelling to nine countries in just 17 days. Since then I have added four further countries.

Varna BulgariaVarna Bulgaria

 

Suceava RomaniaSuceava Romania

 

Kranj SloveniaKranj Slovenia

 

Pula CoatiaPula Coatia

 

Komarno SlovakiaKomarno Slovakia

 

Gyor HungaryGyor Hungary

 

Ebensee AustriaEbensee Austria

 

Kralupy Nad Vitavou Czech RepublicKrapuly Nad Vitavou Czech Republic

 

Sosnowiec PolandSosnowiec Poland

 

Following the whistle stop tour by train of the above countries I took a short break.

 

Coimbra PortugalCoimbra Portugal

 

Prato ItalyPrato Italy

 

Hennigsdorf GermanyHennigsdorf Germany

 

Groningen NetherlandsGroningen Netherlands

 

Piraeus Greece 

 

So now just three countries to travel to in order to complete stage one of my project, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. 

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Project 28 Malta

19 December 16

Posted at 4:24

Malta is the 7th country I visited for Project 28. Valletta is my chosen town. The first seven towns I visited for Project28 I had never visited previously however I have been to Valletta twice before, both times in the early seventies, so in theory I had some knowledge of the place albeit a long time ago. Malta is also a place I grew up hearing a lot about. My Dad used to often speak of the time he spent there whilst serving in the Royal Navy, he talked of Strait Street, known as The Gut, the street the sailors headed for when their ship was in port. So imagine my surprise when I realised my AirBnB room was above a bar in Strait Street.

Malta became part of the British Empire in 1814 and remained so until independence in 1964 (although the Queen remained Head of State) and then became a republic in 1974.

Malta received the George Cross for the part it played in WW2 during the what became known as The Siege of Malta.

Malta joined the EU on May 1st 2004 and the Eurozone in January 2008.

Grand Harbour EntranceGrand Harbour Entrance

Malta is an island (one of three I will visit for Project28), its history, economy and people are dominated by the sea, ships and sailing. Valletta's Grand Harbour is an iconic destination for generations of sailors and cruise ship passengers.

Lazzaretto CreekManoel Island Yacht Marina

Look in any direct from either side of Valletta and this will be what you are likely to see.

Recumbent Figure Siege Bell War MemorialRecumbent Figure at Siege Bell Memorial

Valletta is on a peninsular on the east coast of Malta. On the South East point of that peninsular just inside the harbour entrance is the Siege Bell Memorial and the recumbent figure facing out to see in memory of all those who perished in the Siege of Malta 1940 - 1943.

Church of Saint Francis of AssisiChurch of St Francis of Assisi

Malta is a catholic country. Masses have large congregations throughout the week, not just on Sundays.

Valletta from Marsamxett HarbourValletta from Marsamxett Harbour

These wooden balconies are abundant in Valletta and indeed throughout Malta. They became fashionable in the mid eighteenth century. Green became a popular colour introduced and favoured by the British.

St Ursula StreetSt Ursula Street

A typical narrow undulating street in Valletta with popular wooden balconies populating both sides of the street.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Paul's Anglican CathedralOur Lady of Mount Carmel and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral

One of Valletta's iconic views. The stone along with churches on the skyline typify Valletta.

Sliema WaterfrontSliema Waterfront

Sliema, a short boat ride across Marsamxett Harbour, along with St Juliens, is today like an extension of Valletta.

Parliament BuildingParliament Building

Freedom Square and City GateFreedom Square and City Gate

 Enter through the city gate and Freedom Square lays ahead and to the right is the new Parliament Building.

Fort Manoel. Manoel IslandFort Manoel. Manoel Island

Manoel Island lies across Masamxett harbour. The fort on the island remains the subject of a 16 year ongoing dispute regarding public access which is currently prohibited.

Malta's economy is dependent on tourism, a freight transit point and increasingly competing with Ireland and Luxembourg in cross border fund administration. There is also a growing business of film production with incentives being offered to film makers. The Maltese are still close to the British with Britons making up a high percentage of of non- Maltese. The population has tripled over the last 100 years and although the smallest population of any EU state Malta has the highest density of population in the EU in fact one of the highest in the world.

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Project 28 Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

15 November 16

Posted at 4:48

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is the second smallest country by population in the EU. Population is just above half a million (Malta has just under half a million). The capital and the town I visited is Luxembourg City boasting a population of just over 100,000. Luxembourg is one of the founding nations of the EU and has played a central role from the outset. Luxembourg City is home to institutions like the European Court of Justice, European Court of Auditors, Secretariat of the European Parliament, European Investment Bank, European Investment Fund, European Stability Mechanism and so on, I think you probably get the picture.

Cour Constitutionnelle - Cour Superieure De JusticeCour Superieur de Justice

I chose to make a day trip to Luxembourg whilst I was staying in Liege. I only gave myself seven hours to discover and photograph the city, so, excuse the pun, I wonder if that was enough time to give it justice.

My intial impressions after walking from the station was of a nondescript rather dull town. It had the feel of being populated with lawyers, bankers and civil servants. There is also a feeling of money with some massive construction projects underway. 

From the viaduct over the Pettruss Valley I spotted the Skatepark Pettruss.

Skatepark PettrusssSkatepark Pettruss

Quite an amazing, and somewhat surprising sight.

Skatepark

I made my way down into the valley to have a closer inspection.

Viaduct and SkateparkSkatepark and Viaduct

My intial thoughts were what an 'antiseptic' place it was but having found out that the skatepark only opened in July 2016 I guess after just being open for three months it would be pristine. It took twelve years to actually bring the project to fruition at a cost of over 2m €. 

Old and New Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a contrast of the old and the new and as mentioned earlier there is a lot of new construction underway. 

Old Luxembourg is centered around a honeycomb of tunnels that for centuries have served as fortification and shelter. Up to 35,000 people sheltered in the Bock Casemates during WW2.

Casemates Du BockCasemates Du Bock

The casemates were initially carved by the Spanish in the 1700s. Today it is an amazing area of tunnels and caves beneath Montee de Clausen.

CasematesBock tunnel

The lady in the tourist office assumed that the Casemates would be what I (and all other tourists) would be there to see. The casemates are well worth the visit as is the surrounding area of Old Luxembourg.

NeimensterNeimenster

 

River AlzetteRiver Alzette

 

Historic LuxembourgHistoric Luxembourg

 

In the end I only spent five hours in the city and took an earlier train back to Liege. I achieved my prime objective of documenting the city for Project 28. As time went by I found the city more interesting than my first impressions

 

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Project 28 Belgium

14 November 16

Posted at 5:05

The 5th country I visited was Belgium, the city of Liege. Liege is in the Eastern Wallonia region of Belgium. The Walloon Federal Region is one of three that make up Belgium, Wallonia as the regions government renamed it, is the French speaking part of Belgium with over 80% of French speaking nationals residing there. The federal regions of Belgium enjoy a lot of devolved powers including even setting their own foreign policy and trade agreements. I am currently unsure of how this sits in the context of the EU. Just prior to my visit Wallonia had at the eleventh hour held the other 27 countries of the EU to 'ransom over the competition of an EU trade agreement with Canada that had taken seven years to negotiate.

Gare des Guillemins 1Gare Des Guillemins

I arrived in Liege by train from Brussells. The train station, Gare Des Guillemins is a sight to behold. An ultra modern, futuristic building somewhat at odds with the surroundings but never the less creating a positive, if slightly confusing, impression of the city. The architecture worth of a couple more images I feel.

Gare Des Guillemins 2

 

Gare Des Guillemins 3

 

Paradis TowerParadis Tower

Looking from the station in the direction of the town is Gare Des Guillemins architectural soulmate the Paradis Tower (here seen from the river). A structure as equally out of place in Liege, perhaps both are an indication of the direction of future development in Liege but for now albeit impressive they look out of place.

A walk along the river Meuse towards the centre of town soon exposes more traditional and historic architecture.

Institut ZoologiqueInstitut Zoologique

And then there is the architecture that was 'modern' once upon a time

Cite AdministrativeCite Adminstrative

Then there are mixtures of old and new

Statue Le PlongeurStatue Le Plonguer

Overlooking the city is the Citadelle, the Montagne de Bueren, now the site of a hospital, for me it seemed an ideal spot to capture what is now becoming a Project 28 trademark - an ariel shot.

UntitledLiege from The Citadelle

Citadelle Steps Looking UpMontagne De Bueren

There is just a little matter of 374 steps to climb up. It's number one on the Huffington Post's list of most extreme staircases.

Citadelle Steps Looking Down

No so bad on the way down though.

La Meuse By NightMeuse by night

A walk along the river Meuse is a nice experience in Liege, at night it is transformed with each of the bridges being lit up in ever changing colours.

Belgium of course is one of the six founding nations of the EU and is home to the EU and NATO headquarters. In many ways there is much in Belgium, the way the country is divided and the way at least Walloon appears out of step with the union. It is complex! Whilst staying in Liege I had the ideal opportunity to catch a train to Luxembourg, another founding state and the next country I would visit for Project 28.

 

 

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Project 28 Estonia

12 October 16

Posted at 2:43

The third country I visited for Project 28 was Estonia. My chosen town Tallinn. Estonia joined the EU on 1st May 2004 and the Eurozone on 1st January 2011. Estonia has also been a Schengen Area member since 21st December 2007.

I arrived in Tallinn on an overnight bus from Vilnius (Lithuania) at 0630. I was kindly met by my AirBnB host who insisted on giving me an early morning spontaneous tour of the city. The hour spent with him, his name is Marco, proved to be really informative and helped me immensely in deciding where to spend my time. Marco is 42 years old so spent his first 17 years living under the Soviet occupation. His experiences have lasting impressions and he hates the Soviets with a vengeance.

1954Liivalaia

Marco pointed out this building with Soviet star atop. Although keen to see all evidence of Soviet architecture eradicated from the city he seemed happy for this to remain for historical purposes.

Old and NewConsiori

There has been a lot of development in Tallinn over the last 25 years since independence so the old now sit uncomfortably alongside the new. Although Marco was critical of everything soviet the apartment he rented to me was a stereotypical tiny apartment.

Tallinn From St. Olav's ChurchView from St. Olav's Church

The old town is majestic when viewed from either St. Olav's church or the tower of the Town Hall or indeed any one of the three of four viewing platforms around the Old Town.

Town Hall SquareTown Hall Square

Town Hall Square and BeyondTown Hall Square and Beyond

In the centre of the Old Town is Town Hall Square a magnet for the hordes of tourists arriving by cruise ship. When the cruise ship's passengers join the other tours groups and individual travellers in the square it becomes claustrophobic and quite unpleasant. However when the cruise ships depart there is an opportunity to absorb this historic and quite beautiful town.

Freedom SquareFreedom Square

War of Independence Victory ColumnWar of Independence Victory Column 

Vabaduse Vaijak (Freedom Square) is to the south of the Old Town just outside the walls of the town. The square is dominated by the 19th century Saint John's Lutheran Church on one side and a gigantic glass cross on the western side commemorating the Estonian War of Independence.

KGB MuseumKGB Museum Hotel Viru

Despite Marco's desire there is no escaping memories of the Soviet occupation. On the 23rd floor of the twenty two storey Hotel Viru is the KGB museum. Supposedly pretty much as the KGB left it when they fled, it gives an insight into how the KGB both oversaw the construction of the hotel enabling surveillance of all guests and how they functioned in intelligence gathering alongside the day to day running of the hotel. Although the museum tours are somewhat dramatised by the guide it is a stark reminder as to how technology and communications have progressed in a relatively short time. I found it ironic that the concern and criticism of how the KGB and their collaborators spied on everything that  everyone did or said in those pre 'freedom' days when in Tallinn Old town today there are more CCTV cameras per square metre than I have observed in any other town I have visited.

V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and SportV.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport

The V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, today know as Linnahall, is a massive, now derelict, concrete complex with a 5000 seat auditorium and a 3000 seat ice hall. Built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics for the sailing events it lies next to the port and just outside the Old Town. A few hundred metres along the coast the Patarei prison and sea fortress lay in a similar state of disrepair. I am sure both will one day be developed if the required finance becomes available. A plan to develop Linnahall into a sports and entertainment complex including a hotel and casino was agreed in 2010 but six years on there is no sign of that coming to fruition.

Tallinn From the Palace of Culture and SportTallinn from Linnahall

Today it is like a graveyard of the Soviet era, a concrete playground for graffiti artists and inquisitive photographers. Few of the cruise ship visitors who pour into the old town visit here although it is right next to the port. Linnahall looks on whist the rest of the town is developed at a pace. My friend Marco longs for the day that Linnahall is updated and it's Soviet connexions eradicated. I feel it would be better left to decay as a memory of the past.

Tallinn and indeed Estonia prospers though independence and the security that may be offered by the EU. Estonians though live constantly under the cloud that should Russia decide to flex its muscles again re-occupation of their country would be inevitable  and there is little that could be done to prevent it. A percentage of Estonians would even welcome it but definitely not Marco.

 

 

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Project 28 Lithuania

01 October 16

Posted at 4:27

Lithuania, country  number 18 in my project but the second I have visited (the first outside of the UK). Lithuania joined the EU on May 1st 2004 following a referendum held on 10th and 11th May 2003. The referendum had a turn out of 63% with 90% of those voting in favour of joining. Bars and supermarkets encouraged voters to turn out by offering discounts to those who could prove they had voted.

Gediminas TowerGediminas Tower

 Gediminas castle and tower stand at the top of Gediminas Hill, the highest point in Vilinius Old Town. On 23rd August 1989 the tower was the starting point of the Baltic Way.Two million inhabitants of the Baltic states formed a human chain from Vilnius in the South to Tallinn in Estonia in the North in an effort to gain independence from the Soviet Union's occupation.

The Baltic Way The Baltic Way

It was the largest and most effective demonstration in the Baltic State's campaign to regain their freedom.

So the Baltic Way started at Gediminas Tower and so did I. Having been pleased with aerial shots taken in Boston I thought I would take the same opportunity here.

New Town From Gediminas HillView of Vilius from Gediminas Hill

The view across the River Neris in the early morning light is breathtaking.

View from Gediminas TowerOld Town from Gediminas Tower

A view from higher up in the tower looking out over the Old Town.

Vilnius is compact but also has a lot of variation. The skyline is notable for the numerous churches. They are predominantly Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. There is only one Synagogue remaining in Vilnius following the attempted extermination of Jews by the Nazis and more latterly the Soviet Union occupations.

UntitledChoral Synagogue

Before WW11 there were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius, the city was even called the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania' but today only the Choral Synagogue remains standing and in use. Also of note is the absence of a Muslim presence. There are in fact four Mosques in Vilnius (although I never came across one). There is certainly an absence of the visibility of the Muslim religion that we are used to in Western Europe. Lithuania is the only Baltic State with any mosques. In September 2015 all three states discussed the possibility of banning the Burqa  followoing the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany. Politician's in Lithuania resolved it would be a nonsense as none had ever seen a Burqa being worn in their country. It appears that to date migration from the Middle East and North Africa has not impacted the Baltics. Christianity though is always visible especially beneath the Gates of Dawn where from the street you can look up and see through a glass window the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn. Everyday locals and visitors stand in the street below praying, especially when services are taking place on Sundays. You rarely walk far in Vilnius without seeing clergymen or nuns.

 In terms of history, the Kingdom of Lithuania was created on 6th July 1253. During the 14th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the largest country in Europe encompassing present day Lithuania, Belarus, parts of Poland, part of Russia and the Ukraine. For over two centurues a two state union of Poland and Lithuania existed as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. During the late 1700s the Russian Empre took over much of Lithuania. Then after WW1 Lithuania became independent with the Republic of Lithuania being formed on February 16th 1918 Freedom did not last long though in 1940 Lithuania was occupied by first of all the Soviet Union and then by Germany. At the end of WW2 the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania. Then in 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence. As mentioned before Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, it then adopted the Euro on 1st January 2015.

The objective of Project 28 is for me to visit, and photograph all 28 member countries of the EU at the time of Brexit before there is any change to freedom of travel for UK citizens throughout the EU, so before Article 50 is completed. Today Brexit, the stability/future of the EU, being brought about at least in part by migration across and into the EU, is seen as a major problem both within the EU and across the globe. We hear through the media about unprecedented change and unprecedented migration. Just looking briefly at Lithuania's history one can see that change on an even greater scale has happened repeatedly throughout history. This is not the place to go into the detail but each of the events referred to above have caused mass migration. As no doubt will become obvious as I visit more countries. The persecution of the Jews saw massive movements of populations and indeed the elimination of many. I intend to highlight where history has seen change with similar human and economic impact as some are predicting for the EU. But for now, back to Vilnius today.

Even within Vilnius there is an area which has declared itself and independent republic, with it's own constitution. The Republic of Uzupis.

Republic of UzupisRepublic of Uzupis

Uzupis means "beyond the river". This small area of Vilnius is encircled by the Vilnele River, it is connected to the rest of Vilnius by seven bridges.

The area is described as bohemian and occupied by friendly artists. Uzupis was declared a republic on 1st April 1997. The constitution is posted in nine languages on a long wall in the centre. Uzupis has a national anthem, a president, prime minister ambassadors and a sheriff.

The centre piece is the Angel of Uzupis

Angel of UzupisThe Angel of Uzupis

So it's a quirky tourist attraction I guess. On my three visits there I didn't really meet many bohemian artistic folk, I saw some evidence of sculpture and art alongside the river and many of the bridges are adorned with padlocks although I'm not sure that idea originated here. I did spend an enjoyable hour or two in one of the cafe bars chatting with locals. Chatting in Vilnius is not a problem, I didn't meet a single person who didn't have and grasp on English, whether young or old, busker, sleeping on the streets whatever everyone can understand and speak English - which was not the case when I visited the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia.

Having said I didn't meet the artists referred to in the travel blurb I did find Vilnius in general was at one with all things artistic. My landlady was an artist and photographer. I met numerous street musicians and enjoyed random concerts on stages dotted all over the town and covering all genres of music (all part of the end of summer festival that appears to run throughout September and into October. There was also a lot of interest in Lithuanian culture and history, be it beer production, open air traditional food stalls, or folk in traditional dress. All could be found in the market that runs the full length of  the very long Gedimino Street during the fiesta period.

Then there is the street art. Vilnius has had a street art festival annually since 2013 and artists from around the world are attracted there. Some caught my eye.

Keule RukeKeule Ruke

The mural on the end wall is by Brazillian artists OsGemeos, twins who did this piece for the 2015 festival. Their grandfather was Lithuanian, he is depicted in the giant's left hand. The smaller piece of Putin and Trump with splif and enganged in blowback was originally a piece of them kissing, painted by Dominykas Ceckauskas (co-owner of Keule Ruke) and graphic designer Mindaudas Bonanu and was an interpretation of the 1979 photograph The Socialist Fraternal Kiss. The kissing image was defaced. In September 2016 Ceckauskas and Bonanu repainted "Trump-Putin V2.0" they changed Trumps election campaign words "Make America Great Again" with the phrase "Make Everything Great Again" Great being coloured green symbolising their pro-cannabis stance. The artwork has full backing of Vilnius's mayor. Post Soviet Lithuania, well at least Vilnius, values young creative people and values the freedom to criticise well known public and political figures without fear of reprisal.

Some more images of Vilnius

Gediminas Tower from Pilies StreetGediminas Tower from Pilies Street

Pilies street is one of the central and most popular streets in the old town

Church of Saint ParasceveChurch of Saint Paraskeva

Pilies Street runs into Didzioji Street with this small market and Saint Paraskeva at the junction.

Vilnius CathedralVilnius Catherdral from Gediminas Hill

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Vilnius Cathedral BelfryVilnius Cathedral Belfry

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Sv. Dvasios StreetSv.Dvasios Street

One or two parts of the old town have buildings dating back to the 16th Century when this street was just inside the "Defence Wall" that surrounded the city until the late 18th century. This build and street featured in an episode of a TV series called Moscow Burning.

Vilnius Full Of Space Vilnius Full Of Space

As I left Vilinius to head north to Estonia I still had much to learn about the town. A couple of weeks later I've still not discovered the meaning of this slogan. At first I thought it must refer to the empty building(s) but on investigation `i found it features in a couple of short films on skateboardong and ice-boarding. The phrase is often used on social media but I cannot discover the origin. Do you know? If you can help please give me a shout.

Next stop for Project 28 is Estonia.

 

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Project 28

15 August 16

Posted at 6:07

Project 28 is the working title of my latest, and hopefully greatest, documentary project. Born out of the result of the United Kindom's EU referendum result the project will require me to visit all of the 28 countries in the EU at the time of the referendum and to do so before Article 50 is completed.

My premise is that following the somewhat surprising and unexpected result the EU will never be quite the same again. It will certainly no longer consist of 28 members once the UK has exited. In fact the future make up of the EU will only become clear over the forthcoming months and years. Travel to and the right to live and work in EU member states is likely to become more complicated for British citizens. I have decided to visit and document a town in each member state prior the implementation of changes, what ever they may be.

Project 28 Map

Through a somewhat longwinded process I have identified a town in each of the member states. I started with Boston in Lincolnshire in the UK. I chose Boston as its electorate had the highest percentage, 75.6%, voting to leave the EU. I then looked for links between Boston and other EU towns through twinning or sistering. I continued the process until I had a target town in each country with, if somewhat tenuous, links to the other target towns. I prefered this somewhat random approach to going for capitals or choosing towns for any specific reason. Instead having identified a town I will then research its history, culture and in particular its position regarding the European Union.

Last week I went to Boston.

Boston From St Botolph 

Boston from St Botoplhs

I climbed the tower of St Botolph's, known as the Stump. The church dominates the quite picturesque market town. It was an ideal place from which to get bearings and some ariel landscapes.

Port of Boston

Port of Boston

Researching my chosen towns throws up many interesting facts and lots of ironies in relation to my project topic. Here is an example the port's slogan proudly declares "Port of Boston into Europe" yet the citizens have declared their desire to be out of Europe or at least the European Union.

European Food and Wine

European Food and Wine

The prime reason for the vote to leave stems from the massive migration from Eastern Europe countries of Poland, Latvia, Romania and Lithuania in particular. In 2011 13% of the population was made up of migrants from those countries exercising their rights under EU law. They work in the food processing plants of Boston and Spalding and in Lincolnshire's agricultural industry. I estimate that the percentage is now considerably higher than 13%.

I intend to chart my project's progress on this blog. As interesting as it is the blog won't analyse the political situation, I will do that in other places. i will share some images and some interesting details of what I come across in each town.

So to kick that off take a look at Boston's somewhat unique 'auction' where anything and everything is auctioned in the market from 9am until 2pm every Wednesday The Eddie Stobart Jacket

Project 28 will be the subject of a photobook - I have just 27 more countries to visit in order to gather the material! You can see regular updates on this blog.

If you would like more information about the project or would wished to get involved please contact me 

 

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