Day 10~ September 10th~ Tuscany

special places

After many years of fascination and research of cathedrals, I have come to discover that these massive houses of worship were mostly constructed over generations in places that held a great historical significance. If you dig deeper into the history of cathedrals like Chartres in France and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, you will find out that the land they were built on used to be home of other much older churches and religious places. This all perhaps points to the significance of the exact location on the planet and much less to convenience or coincidence. It is fantastic to see the villages and towns you drive by in Tuscany and to see that the focal point of each one of them is a church or cathedral around which people gather in the Piazza.

Day 3~ September 3rd~ Tuscany

the Arno by night

I often think about the times when humans lived without electricity, the nights when darkness enveloped all with a shroud of mystery. Where people different then? They must have been forced to gaze at the night skies for any source of light, or at the blazing fires that kept them warm. Does electricity force us into a state of daytime existence in the hours of the night that were meant for stargazing, mystery dreaming and contemplation? Is that why we feel so connected to the planet when we go camping or when we visit the desert at night? I also wonder what this river in Florence looked and felt like at the time of the Renaissance…

Day 2~ September 2nd~ Tuscany

a river of gold

Like all art lovers, I have dreamt of the first time I would lay eyes on Florence. I read, I researched, I gazed at art, I dove into the renaissance, its music, its glorious artists, its astounding architecture, and I thought what I would finally meet would be so awe inspiring. But Florence exceded my expectations by leaps and bounds. I fell in love instantly, I was smitten, I walked around with a mouth gaping open and I could almost hear my camera giggling with delight. It was magical, enchanting, rich in history and golden. I try with this image to paint my feelings about Florence as I superimposed them on what my camera registered.

Day 5~ July 5th~ Vietnam

To trust again

Somewhere along the way during human history, the essence of trust was forced to retreat.

In a country like Vietnam where people had to suffer one occupation after another, and one war followed by the next, seeing a foreigner does not call out the essence of trust as a first principle. Warmth has to be won, encouraged out of people especially if you were like me armed with a camera. It is always a wonderful gift when a smile appears after a frown, and when trust is allowed to soften a human dealing.

Day 23~ June 23rd~ Xinjiang

On the old silk road

Starting around 200 BC, a network of trade routs was created linking China, India, other parts of Asia, Afro Asia and Europe. Its name comes from the German (Seidenstrasse), the silk road saw the trade of silk, tea, spices, glassware, jewelry, gold, silver, perfumes, textiles, precious stones as well as the dreaded bubonic plague.

It felt very moving to drive along a part of this historic road, and to stand and imagine the thousand upon thousands of travelers who spent hundreds of days and nights in their adventures on that very same ground. Our planet’s history is so rich with tales of what has been, and the stories are there to be discovered, marveled at and pondered at. It is after all our story and its events the stepping stones that led us to where we all stand today.

Day 21~ June 21st~ Xinjiang

The little Uyghur lady~Kashgar

More than two thirds of the old city of Kashgar has been demolished and the rest doomed to follow shortly…

I met this girl in one of the narrow alleys of what is left of the old city as she stood framed by her old family door. Old decorated wooden doors are considered a family treasure among the inhabitants of Kashgar and the carry with them a richness of symbology and lore. A half open door for example is an indication that the master of the house is at home and male visitors may call in. I head while in Kashgar that when the homes are getting demolished, the families, unhinge their doors and take them with them to their assigned new homes, because these doors are holders of their family traditions that they are so afraid of losing.

Day 18~ June 18th~ Xinjiang

the eyes of the alley

Houses were built so that we may hide behind their windows and doors…

The old city of Kashgar is a maze of old narrow alleys, meandering around and around, some leading to the city center, others ending with stone walls that bar your entry. I was told that the cobble stones in the alley are shaped in code, letting you know what kind of alley it is. Square stones lead you to a dead end, while hexagonal ones will merge into another alley. The old city is filled with old codes, with mystery, with agreed to signs that only the inhabitants know of. And when you walk down those alleys, there is no knowing what eyes are watching you from behind the old Kashgar doors.

Day 12~ June 12th~ Xinjiang

green eyed girl in Tashkurgan

As children run wild, they carry with them the giggling essences of the land, rivers and mountains…

Tashkurgan, a gem of a city, surrounded by golden grasslands, snow capped Pamir mountains, streams, expansive skies and filled with friendly Tajik people who welcome a traveler with bright smiles as they always have when their city was a main stop on the old silk road.  Drive 2 hours and you will be in Pakistan, Tashkurgan (literally stone fortress) was once the capital of the Sarikol Kingdom. Now Tashkurgan is part of China’s Xinjiang province and access to it is determined by permits and a military checkpoint about tow hours away on the Karakorum highway. I was very lucky to spend time with its children, to walk its streets and to breathe its fresh air.

Day 3~ June 3rd~ Xinjiang

at the barbershop~ Kashgar

To see a culture soaked in tradition, to walk the old streets and be filled with awe, to feel welcome at every corner, to get invited into homes of strangers and to be presented with their finest bread, nuts and sweets, to be amazed by exotic ways of life and to be deeply saddened by the fact that it is all going to disappear so soon…

photo taken: one of the many local barbers who serve their customers in the streets of the old city in Kashgar