As a young boy I had a book of stories from all over the world. It had a drawing of a lone fur trapper in the woods, staring at the northern lights sky. I loved that drawing. Such wildness, such loneliness and such beauty! I dreamt of being in the wild myself and seeing the aurora borealis. But I had visited Iceland in summer once, with 5 days of just clouds and rain and wind (We were camping then, my daughter and I, and after 4 days of rain we fled into the first hotel we could find to get dry. Despite the rain and the clouds and the wind it was a great holiday, for even when it rains Iceland is really beautiful).
So I hesitated. What were the chances of going in winter and having both an active aurora and a clear sky? For years I didn’t dare to take the risk and buy a ticket.
Until last November, when I realised that if I didn’t try, I would surely never see it. I bought a ticket and… well, see for yourself.
There’s no need to go to a special dark place to see the aurora. You can see it right from the city. Reykjavic for instance, or more precisely: the bay of Kopavogur.
Tonight, Venus and Jupiter are standing very close together in the sky. That is: they’re standing very, very far apart, but they appear to look close together to us.
In the sunset picture you can see them cosily in the top right corner, in between the greylag geese. Beautiful sunset today.
I also took a few pictures with the standard 500 mm lens, and was very surprised about the details. You actually see the little balls in the sky, and a few moons around Jupiter. Always makes me feel like that little boy, staring into the sky with a small telescope and dreaming of the stars…
Let me take you to another magnificent place with dinosaur footprints. Above is the breathtaking view from Monte Pelmetto in the Italian Dolomites.
Turning a little to the right youy see a rock that broke off from Monte Pelmetto and came tumbling down. Look carefully! Do you see the tiny dots?
These prints are even older than the prints from Portugal. They date back to some 220 million years ago, the Triassic period, when the mountains still had to born and this was a flat and muddy area. Three different species have left their marks here. According to sources I cannot verify these were probably Ornithischia, Celurosauri and Prosauropoda.
A special place in the Algarve is Salema Beach, Praia da Salema, near Vila do Bispo. There you can find well preserved dinosaur footprints right at the beach. As you can see, the toes are round and without claws, which indicates that these are the prints of a herbivore, an Ornithopod, a bit like an Iguanodon.
It is estimated that these prints are roughly 130 million years old, dating from the Early Cretaceous. Standing in these footprints of dragons long ago spurred my imagination with fantasies of time machines and walking between those animals in another era.
Let me show you one of the magnificent beaches in the Algarve! Lovely to spend some time here, in between the chase for dinosaur prints at Salema.
Incredible to witness these dinosaur tracks and imagine how some 130 million millions years ago, huge lizards roamed this place. Salema Beach has more footprints, but they are well hidden. You´ll probably need a local guide to help you out, for even if you are standing close to these vertical rock formations the prints are difficult to see. António Alfarroba pointed them out. As you can see this one does have claws, so it must have been hunting for prey here. I´m afraid I haven´t been able to find out the exact species – if you do know it, you’re welcome to mention it.
Something completely different. Bread. The very first I ever baked, and it means so much to me! You have no idea. I took a huge risk given the visitor I expected. Simple recipe: whole grain flour, yeast, water and the simplest oven you can imagine. And it worked! It’s like magic.
Lovely to see the first ones of the year. In the backyard here in Hollandsche Rading, the winter jasmine is abundantly flowering.
Seeing this I realised I desperately need more yellow and summer colours. So this one is of a summer that feels so long ago.
Last one is of a visit to the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar. There are a few items on permanent display that bring out the inner child in everyone – at least, they definitely did in me. Like Leandro Erlich’s swimming pool, Ron Mueck’s Couple under an Umbrella, the Open Ended maze of Richard Serra and the tiny elevators of Maurizio Cattelan.
At the moment there is an exhibition of the Italian artist Guiseppe Penone, who works with natural materials like trees and marble and leather, using the objects as a kind of memory or footprint of what has been. If you allow your mind to wander in his world, thoughts of interconnectedness of all visible and physical objects come up, of memories in the physical world and how we give meaning to what we experience with our senses.
This picture below is of Tiger, tiger, tiger; the hidden tigers at the bottom of porcelain of the Ming Dynasty of Ai Weiwei.
After the hailstorm Aphrodite showed her kindness. When we drove back along the coast, right at the place where according to the legends she had come ashore so long ago, she surprised us with a stunning sunset. Aphrodite’s rock, near Paphos, is a mythical place. It is said that if you swim around the rock, you will find true love. I’m afraid I only read that the next day…
Was she angry? For three days already we were on the island and still had not visited her temple to pay her tribute. This was after all her island. Kronos, leader of the Titans, had castrated his tyrannical father Uranus and thrown his thingy in the sea. Then the water had started to fizz and out of the foam arose Aphrodite, goddess of love, sexuality, fertility and beauty.
On the way to her sanctuary we stopped at the remnants of the ancient city Koúrion. We barely had time to see it. Dark clouds descended from the Olympus, and a hailstorm came upon us so fiercely that it damaged the front window of our car. With the last hailstones still drumming on the car, we drove directly towards the holy temple of the Aphrodite near Paphos. Immediately her mood improved, for the dark clouds drifted to the sea and soon even the sun showed itself again.
Thousands of years ago this place had attracted people from all over the world: the Mediterranean sea with all its islands and many countries in Europe, the Middle-East and Africa. People attended ceremonies and made offerings. The Roman historian Tacitus described the altar and a sacred stone: “Blood may not be shed upon the altar, but offering is made only with prayers and pure fire. The altar is never wet by any rain, although it is in the open air. The representation of the goddess is not in human form, but it is a circular mass that is broader at the base and rises like a turning-post to a small circumference at the top. The reason for this is obscure.”
This was the very stone.
Aphrodite was also depicted in her human form. For the goddess of love and fertility and sexuality, an offer could be to sacrifice the own body as in ancient times, making love was seen as a sacred act.
This idea has roots that go back more than 7.000 years ago, to the Sumerian cult of Inanna. In Cyprus the first settlements dated from 3.300 year before Christ. In that time the Phoenician goddess of Astarte was worshipped, also a goddess of sexuality, fertility and war. In the Greek period, Astarte became Aphrodite, and the city of Paphos was known throughout the world for it’s parties, wine and prostitutes. The stone at this sanctuary never became Venus, as the Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all pagan religions in the year 391 and the sanctuary of Aphrodite fell into ruins.