Project 28 France, Spain and Ireland

20 March 17

Posted at 4:51

Short days and inclement weather in the early weeks of 2017 resulted in a slow down in Project 28 activity. I did however fit in trips to France, Spain and Ireland. The towns chosen for Project 28 in those countries were Laval, Salamanca and Galway.

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I chose Laval on the basis it is twinned with Boston, Lincolnshire. Other than being similar sized market towns in rural locations there are few similarities between Boston and Laval. Least of all is their attitudes towards the EU. Boston had the biggest percentage leave vote in the whole of the UK influenced very much by immigration levels. Laval on the other hand, seeing its population fall as its traditional linen industry declined, used EU funds for a technology park to attract new industries to the town offering the people an alternative to moving to major cities.

Musee du Vieux - Chateau and Pont VieuxMussee de Vieux - Chateau and Pont Vieux

This is the iconic image of Laval, the Mayenne, the chateaux and the Pont Vieux.

Laval to me was all about the river, La Mayenne.

Basilique Notre Dame d'AvesnieresBasilique Notre Dame d'Avesnieres

The weather during my stay was bitterly cold, the river turned to ice for much of each day. The clean cold air and winter light made for some nice images though.

Pont de l'EuropePont de l'Europe

Le Viaduct de LavalLe Viaduct de Laval

Pont VieuxPont Vieux

The old bridge with the chateau on the right and the Basilique  Notre Dame d'Avesnieres in the distance.

 

 

I left Laval and headed by train to Salamanca, Spain

City Hall ReflectionCity Hall reflection in Plaza Mayor

Salamanca in January proved to also be bitterly cold (more so than is usual I was told) and quite wet (it is on the plain I guess). Not what one expects when visiting Spain but on the positive side I had far less tourists to wrestle with than would have been the case for most of the year.

Plaza MayorPlaza Mayor

A friend had mentioned to me Lazarillo de Tormes so I sought out the sculpture in memory of Salamanca's most famous son.

Lazarillo del TormesLazarillo de Tormes

Salamanca from Scala CoeliSalamanca from Scala Coeli

If you have been following Project 28's progress you will be aware that since the outset if there is a ariel view available in the town I am visiting I take advantage of it. In Salamanca it was Scala Coeli. The climb there differed from any to date as the staircase was wooden, the stairs are narrow towards the top and finish with a tight spiral to the bell tower. There are two towers de Clerecia joined at the top by a walkway. There is a 360 degree view of Salamanca. My first ascent was met by a squally storm as I reached the top, I didn't venture out, in fact it was difficult to maintain a footing inside the tower. The following day the weather a lttle calmer enabled me to get some shots.

Catedral NuevaCatedral Nueva

The break in the weather enabled me to take a walk across the Roman bridge to the far side of the Tormes and look back at old Salamanca.

My return journey by rail involved a border crossing just South of Perpignan, on my journey to Spain I had crossed into Spain North of Irun on the Atlantic side. The crossing that way was, as one would imagine between Shengen countries, unnoticeable. The only difference I noticed when changing trains at Irun was on board the Spanish train the staff totally ignored the no smoking rule. However on my return my train, travelling from Barcelona to Lyon, stopped at Perpignan for an age. The train was boarded by numerous police and the ID of every passenger was thoroughly checked before the train moved on (40 mintes late putting connections at risk). This was my first experience of border control (other than at airports) during the project so far. I assumed it was prompted by terrorist concerns.

Next on my 'winter schedule' was Ireland, Galway in particular.

The Long WalkThe Long Walk

I guess the colourful houses of the Long Walk are the most photographed in Galway.

The Long Walk (sun)The Long walk with the sun out

Friends have told me I was lucky to see them in the sun and I must admit it was brief. The term 'wild Atlantic coast' is not inappropriate.

Galway Hookers and Browne DoorwayEyre Square

The central landmark of Galway with the Browne Doorway and the Galway Hookers. A man I met told me Galway is 'all about the Craic and the Hookers', thankfully he explained that Hookers are traditional fishing vessels before I got the wrong impression. Eyre Square is also know as Kennedy Square and there is a bust and a plaque to JFK commemorating his visit in 1963. JFK is revered in Galway more than I could ever have imagined. In fact..

UntitledJFK Mosaic

...there is even a mosaic of him in the Cathedral. I've met many from Galway who didn't know that. Rumour has it that JFK's family funded the completion of the Cathedral which was finally finished two years after his visit - progress had previously stalled due to lack of funds.

Fourteen Tribes of GalwayThe Fourteen Tribes of Galway

Galway from Mutton IslandGalway from Mutton Island

Nora Barnacle's HouseNora Barnacle's House

 

As the days now lengthen and Article 50 is served I will ramp up my travels to the 28 EU states. In April I plan a whistle stop tour of nine countries in 15 days which will bring my total to 20 so there will be just 8 to go.

 

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Project 28 Latvia

08 November 16

Posted at 1:19

The fourth country I visited was Latvia and my chosen town was Riga. Another capital city although it is not my intent to concentrate on capitals it just worked out that for all three Baltic States I visited the capital. I arrived in Riga by bus from Tallinn and gained the impression that, other than Riga, Latvia consists of acres of forest.

The Freedom MonumentThe Freedom Monument, Riga

As I walked into the town in the late afternoon the first thing that struck me was this magnificent monument. The monument honours the fallen soldiers in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-20). The monument was lucky to survive the second occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940.

Latvia joined the EU on 1st May 2004 and the eurozone on 1st January 2014.

The Market, River Daugava, Telecom Tower and beyondCentral Market, River Daugava and Telecom Tower

View from St Peter's ChurchVansu bridge from St Peters Church Tower

St Peter's Church Tower offers an excellent view of the city in all directions and for once without having to climb two or three hundred steps to see it. There is a lift, mind you the entrance fee is a bit steep as I found many things in Riga were expensive compared with Lithuania and Estonia.

Central MarketCentral Market, Riga.

 The central market consists of a large open air area along with five pavilions made from Zeppelin Hangers which when moved to Riga had their height reduced to 20.5m (from 37.4m). The original height made them too susceptible to temperature change. The market covers 72.3 thousand square meters with over 3,000 stalls.

Inside a Market HangerInside a pavillion at central market

 

Latvian Riflemen MonumentLatvian Riflemen Memorial

 

George ArmitsteadGeorge Armitstead

In the garden's of the Riga Opera House is this bronze of George Armitstead, his wife and chao-chao dog. George Armistead presided as Mayor from 1902 to 1912 and surprisingly he hailed from Yorkshire! Armitstead was responsible for the modernisation and transformation of Riga in terms of architecture and elegance in the city outside of the old town. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled this statue in 2006.

Whilst in Riga I read about the Salaspils Concentration Camp  which is located just beyond the boundary of Riga. The concentration camp was run by the Nazis during WW2. The camp housed thousands of German Jews, Soviet POWs and left wing Latvians. The Salaspils Memorial on the site of the concentration camp can be reached by train to Darzini and then a walk of two or three kilometres. I took the train to Darzini and disembarked on to a lonely platform with a brick shelter and nothing else in sight apart from trees. many paths led in all directions through the woods. It took me a while to spot a tiny sign on a tree identifying the correct path to take. After a walk through the dense woods with just a couple of small signs confirming I was on the correct route I came a cross Salaspils and it was quite a shock.

Salaspils - MotherSalaspils Memorial - Mother

At the entrance there is a concrete block housing a walkway it is a 100 metre long ramp signifying a stairway to heaven. On the front of it are inscribed the words in Latvian “AIZ SIEM VARTIEM VAID ZEME” English translation “Beyond this Gate, the Earth Moans”. As you proceed passed the ramp to the left is a large black marble block which houses a metronome, the block is called the "Reminding Heart", the constant heart beat from the metronome breaks the eery silence, echoing throughout the vast area of the memorial. Ahead is a vast clearing in the forest, around the edges stone memorials and concreted slabs. In the centre there are massive stone sculptures built and left by the Soviets as a memorial. They stand in groups, square-jawed and arms outstretched, holding each other up in support, kneeling or stretching out in exhaustion across the grass.

Salaspils - SolidaritySalaspils - Solidarity

 

Salaspils - The HumiliatedSalaspils - The Humiliated

 

I have visited many war memorials around the world but have seen nothing on this scale. Being there alone with the heartbeat constantly booming is quite daunting. It creates an atmosphere provoking thoughts of what this camp meant to those imprisoned and in many cases dying there.

 

 

 

 

 

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