Music Fountains – Connection of Art and Water

Music Fountains – Connection of Art and Water

There are some spots that generally attract attention of tourists. The oldest catholic cathedral or the tallest mosque, a boulevard, the main shopping street, and then of course the red light district or a street full of restaurants…. Then you have the monuments, the museums and art galleries (places I prefer to the shops). You’ll find people on these locations each day of a year, from morning to evening. During the main season they are typically so crowded that you can hardly find a peaceful spot there!

All of these places have something in common–they are static. The places, streets, monuments–the points of common interest–don’t typically betray any signs of movement or change.

There is one exception to the rule though–the music fountain. They present a unique connection of natural element (falling water), music, and art. In the evening you can add the ever-changing lights (sometimes following the beat of the music), and you have a perfect place for a visit. Let’s check a couple of pictures of the fountains I vsited on my journeys around the world:

A new music fountain in Vimmitsa, Ukraine, I visited it just a few months after the grand opening.
One of the many huge music fountains in China. Everything’s big in China, except of salaries ūüôā
Famous music fountain in Barcelona. A must visit sight in the city!

 

Perfect spots for both romance and sadness

What I like the most about the music fountains is that you can come there anytime, and you don’t have to pay entrance fee. What’s more, the places are great for a visit regardless of the situation. Whether you are enjoying Barcelona, strolling the night streets with your boyfriend and feeling fantastic, looking for a romantic spot for a long kiss, or whether you are heart-broken, seeking a place for cry and reflection, the music fountain will work in both scenarios. And it won’t disappoint in any other one too…..

 

Best time to visit is in the evening

Visiting the fountain is an experience¬† anytime, but evenings are definitely the best times to go there. The atmosphere is as romantic as it can get, the peacefulness of the place is at its peak, and you also won’t encounter masses of people trying to take a picture with their smart phone–it’s too dark outside to take any good picture of a moving object.

 

Wishing for more fountains

In my personal point of view, every bigger city should install at least one music fountain. It’s a great place to attract tourists to, and it gives a brand new face to the city center. Water is splashing and soft music plays, light are playing their never-ending game…. Suddenly there’s a spot of life in a concrete square, something that will refresh a tourist on a hot day, or a sad one….

While the fountain remains just that–a fountain, a static man’s creation, it’s probably as good as it can get in terms of monuments.¬† Hopefully I’ll see many more of those on my travels.

True Inspirational Story with a Beautiful Cover

True Inspirational Story with a Beautiful Cover

Everybody knows I’m not too much of a book worm. I don’t have time to read books (and hate magazines), and after all prefer to spend my time doing more fascinating stuff than reading. An hour (or an afternoon) for a good book comes just occasionally, when I need to transport from one place to another. You don’t have much options during a long train journey, or a long-haul flight. You can sleep, or watch a movie on those stupid digital cinemas they tend to install on board of every aircraft destined for long haul flights.

But I do not like watching TV at all–it makes my eyes hurt, and the film selection there is very poor anyway. Hollywood and Bollywood, you name it! Nothing worth watching for a minute. That’s why I like to grab a book on the airport (you’ll find a newspaper kiosk offering at least a couple of titles in English), or on the train station. It helps to kill the time, and, as you would suspect, I typically choose something that features a beautiful cover, so it will look good in my personal art selection back home.¬† See a couple of nice covers below:

A beautiful synthesis of colors and lines. I couldn’t get my eyes of that one….
Pink always works for me. The cover designer of this one knew something about feng shui too!
Definitely a one to catch the eye, whether you’re a woman or a man….

 

Content often didn’t meet my expectations

Regretfully, the best cover designers work for biggest publishing houses, and biggest publishing houses produce one kind of books only–the mainstream garbage. That’s exactly what you get on the airports. An easy read, without any value in terms of art, or some benefit for your life. Just a typical American style of writing, with their boring and standardized editing. Duh!

Although I brought a lot of beautiful books from my travels around the world, I rarely read something worthy of recommendation.

 

Surprise in the train – The University of Solitude

Last week I was forced to take a night train from Vienna to Milan. I had a flight canceled and couldn’t afford waiting for a new one. The air company was swift and operative–they paid my money back at once, and so I headed straight for the train station to arrange my journey back to Milan.

I got a place in a sleeper and looked for a good night rest, after a stressful day at the airport. I definitely felt like sleeping! On the ‘bed’ reserved for me, however, a surprise was waiting. Somebody forgot there (or perhaps even left?) a book with a beautiful shiny cover. It was called University of Solitude.

Beautiful cover that betrays a lot about the content

I didn’t plan to read on the train. I just wanted to sleep, and perhaps read a couple of chapters in the early morning, while we reached Milan. The other passengers in my car had other plans, however. They wanted to chat, and weren’t intelligent enough to understand that I wanted to sleep at once. Hoping they’d quiet down in a few moments, I took the book in my hands and started to read….

One hour passed, two hour passed, and the young couple from Vienna went to sleep. But I couldn’t take my eyes of the book! It was indeed a real life inspirational story–they do not lie on their website I visited much later. Very authentic, emotional, and full of reflections that made me think about my own life, and that one particular train journey I was just going through….

The book tells a story of a naive but idealistic businessman from Slovakia, who became the unwitting pawn in covert intelligence games played between the United States and Iran, and ended up in Iranian prison, facing a possibility of a death sentence. But it was much more than a typical prison story of injustice and crime plots…. it was a beautiful and sensitive philosophy of a man who, seeming, had nothing left in his life.

We reached Milan at six in the morning. I was just finishing the last chapter. Considering to leave the book in the train (so another person can enjoy it on the way back to Vienna), I finally decided to take it home with me. It was too good and the cover was too beautiful to leave it on the train.

Cajon – An Interesting Piece of Art

Cajon – An Interesting Piece of Art

I’m not too much into music. Honestly, I tried playing guitar a couple of times, but neighbors kept coming knocking on my door. When I asked them what went wrong–I wasn’t playing at night after all, they just said the noise wasn’t the main problem–the quality of my play was. I played horribly.

On the top of that, I lack the patience. It’s just not one of the many virtues on the long list of personal virtues…. I don’t like things that take long to learn, and playing guitar definitely belongs to those activities. Especially for someone like me–a girl who lacks talent¬† and wants to do things as perfectly as she sees them on YouTube videos! My guitar was quite beautiful though. As with everything else I buy in my life–appearance comes first and the usefulness second :). Have a look at the beautiful painting below:

My guitar, it looked better than sounded. But that was probably not the mistake of the instrument.

New instrument, new era

So I was done with playing guitar.¬† Confused by the words of my neighbors and flatmates, I decided to sell the piece of art. And suddenly, I¬† had nothing to do on rainy evenings. Again….

As a private Arabic teacher, I meet a lot of people every day. And I talk and talk and talk. Typically when done teaching, I am just too tired to go for any other meetings (Wednesdays and Fridays the only exception). And I definitely don’t feel like watching TV, or cooking.

Guitar was my escape from reality, from the never-ending carousel of thoughts and reflections. I played and forgot my life for a while…. When I stopped playing (or, said in better words, stopped trying to play) I was again just thinking, and it made me incredibly tired. I decided to give a shot to another instrument. This time, however, I looked for something that even a complete beginner can make to sound nice, from the very first moment. And of course my ideal candidate shouldn’t be too heavy, and should suit the architecture in our apartment. Cajon was the answer!

I purchased this beauty from Amazon:

A face on the front panel reminded me of myself, that’s why I went for it!

I started to play very simple grooves. Bass, snare, bass, snare, bass, bass, snare…. and so on. I think I got the rhythmic, and even my flat mates looked happy about the instrument (we also used it as a chair when too many people came in for a party).

The problem was just that my cajon didn’t sound as good as other instruments did. I watched a couple of videos, and the other cajons were just better, more dynamic, with much clearer sound. For a long time I though it was my mistake–that I was just playing bad, and didn’t get a basic technique right. So I kept trying to imitate those sounds from the video. Unsuccessfully. The puzzle got solved eventually when a musician came to one of the parties my flat mate organized. He sat on the cajon and started to play. He said it was beautiful, but not constructed well. “You won’t get anything real from this sh*tbox,” remarked he. You need a real instrument, and I know about one such.

 

Mark recommended Rebel

He showed me website of Rebel Cajon (http://rebel-cajon.com/en), and we listened to the videos on their page. I was immediately hooked, and decided to get one from them. The design with the leather seat was truly appealing! Just have a look:

The seat is even more comfortable than it looks. And the sound is just amazing!

I replaced one artistic instrument with another, and then with another. For the third one I had to wait long two weeks, since it was delivered to Italy from another country.

At the end of the day I finally got it. The room stayed beautiful, and I finally had a new instrument for my attempts on escaping reality ūüôā. If you come around, I’ll play some advanced groove for you!

Slovak Folklore Dresses

Slovak Folklore Dresses

I’d never thought about visiting Slovakia before I met Maria in 2016. She’s girl from Bratislava and married a guy from Milan. Actually we met in a cafeteria where I use to come every Wednesday evening. It’s the local place, you won’t find there any tourists. The the girl spoke English so I decided to approach her. What’s more, she had features of a Middle Eastern woman, so I wondered whether the two of us didn’t come from the same country.

My assumptions turned out completely wrong–Maria was originally from Slovakia, but nevertheless we had coffee together and became friends. She didn’t know any people in the city except of her husband’s family, and often had nothing to do in the evening. We started meeting each other every Wednesday, drinking coffee and chatting.

Later in the summer she told me she was going back to Slovakia, to visit her family. She invited me to join her for a week. Free transport (she went by car) and accommodation–that’s the kind of an offer I always struggle to reject. So we went to Bratislava where we spent two days before heading for a folklore festival in Hrusov.

 

My second experience with folklore

I saw folklore dances only once before. It was three years ago, during my short trip to Estonia. The dresses there were rather dull, and the dances quite monotonous. I didn’t like the music too, and the weather was just terrible–rain from the morning to evening, which didn’t add to the experience.

In Slovakia, however, I was deeply impressed with what I saw. The dancers (both male and female) practiced a variety of really complicated group dances, all of them perfectly synchronized. More than people, however, I was interested in the colorful dresses. Every group of dancers seemed to wear a different one, and as I later found out, each region, (and sometimes even each village!) had their own pair of folklore dresses for both men and women. That’s what I call a truly local art! See a couple of shots below:

People dancing folklore on the festival
A couple dancing, I loved the hat and the shirt the man was wearing!
And this one I got for myself. Looks even better from the front ūüėČ

Buying the folklore dresses, enjoying the festival

I am a woman, so literally I wanted the dress at once! I hoped my friend would take me to the shop to buy it there, and was surprised to find out it din’t work so easily with folklore dresses in Slovakia. There is one shop in Bratislava–a super expensive one, and I really couldn’t afford (and I didn’t want to) spending 150 euro for a single dress….

However, there are companies that sew the folklore dresses on demand. Their websites are only in Slovak language, but Maria helped me to make an order. It took about two weeks until the dress arrived in Bratislava, and Maria’s parents then sent it to Milan. The quality of the fabric was just outstanding, and I can’t be more happy about the colors… If you’d like me to help you with ordering folklore dresses, just drop me a message. We’ll manage!

Back to the festival

The festival wasn’t only about beautiful artistic dresses, however. I had a chance to try a lot of local dishes and drinks, and I actually drank too much one night. We slept in tents–I’m pretty used to doing that, and all in all the atmosphere was just great. You don’t get much sleep on such a festival, but you’ll experience a part of a culture and art that’s I believe quite unique in the world. Definitely worth going….

Nepali Handicrafts – Top Quality Souvenirs

Nepali Handicrafts – Top Quality Souvenirs

When I travel somewhere, I like to take a piece of art back home with me. It doesn’t have to be an antique, exporting them is forbidden in many countries¬†after all I am simply looking for something of local production, small, nice, and ideally practical as well (my backpack is always too full to take something big back home, such as a painting).

The problem is that you’ll typically won’t find good things in the tourist parts of the city, or perhaps won’t find them at all unless you know¬† local artists or craftsmen in person. The typical souvenir shops in Europe (and those shops that try looking not so typical) are filled with Chinese crap. I don’t want¬† T-shirt labeled with Barcelona that was made in China. Neither want I a pen bearing the name of the city, since it wasn’t produced there. The same is true about the caps, lighters, bags, handbags (what a pity), and most other souvenirs people typically take home from their journeys. Such things are good for one thing only: boosting about your trip. Everyone can see you’ve been to Moscow, if you wear a t-shirt saying “I love Moscow”. Really, it’s tough to find quality artistic souvenirs in Europe, especially if you look for domestic production.

 

Nepal – Beautiful local handicrafts

When I visited Nepal for a couple of weeks recently, I was very surprised with local souvenir shops. You will still find a couple of cheap Chinese places there as well, but you’ll also find plenty of authentic souvenirs stores, typically run by local merchants, offering only one kind of a souvenir. Whether they are beautiful Kashmir shawls or the ones made from Pashmina (equally soft on touch and even little bit cheaper), singing bowls, local teas, prayer wheels, or beautiful small notebooks made from recycled paper, they’re all authentic and made in Nepal. You can also buy paintings, but they are typically too big to carry them back home. Check a pictures below to see what I brought back home from Kathmandu:

A beautiful colorful shawl made from Kashmir. A nice and useful piece of at!
A miniature prayer wheel, so typical for Buddhist community. Maybe my future religion!
Picture I took in one souvenir shop. you can see singing bowls, prayer wheels, and other local souvenirs.

Don’t forget to bargain for the arts

If you find yourself in Kathmandu, and would like to purchase couple of these colorful beauties, one thing may surprise you: you won’t find any price tags in the shops. You have to ask for a price, and what they say depends strongly on your demeanor and presence. If you look like a rich tourist, be sure they try to sell the things for a double or even for triple the price. This should not discourage you, however, and you should bargain. Tell them that you saw the things¬† cheaper in another shop, or something like that. Or if they say thousand rupees, say you have only five hundred. Typically you can go as much down as seventy percent from the original offer.¬† On the other hand, if you have enough money and can afford to pay more, don’t hesitate to take the original offer and support the local families….

Quality has the price

Having said the thing about bargaining, you can’t expect buying a real Kashmir shawl for 100 rupees. If something looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t. Shop around, bargain, and if possible take a local with you. Try to ask about the origin of things, where they came from and who made them. If they give you a definite answer, e.g. citing a proving in Nepal, or even a group of people who worked on the handicraft,¬† than the items they sell are likely authentic.

Last but not least, you should always buy the souvenirs on site, that means directly in Nepal. If you try ordering them from home, you can easily and up with cheap Chinese crap. And we have just too much of that back here in Italy, and Europe in general….