Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

We took the bus to Mosta, a market town in the middle of Malta. In the centre of Mosta sits a fabulous domed cathedral built in the mid-1800s. It is an amazing piece of architecture inside and out, featuring the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe. Dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, it replaced a much smaller church that had been on the site since 1619. The Mosta Rotunda is also the site of a miracle.

The Mosta Rotunda

Inside the church

The dome

During WWII, on April 9, 1942, while over 400 parishioners worshipped inside, a 200 kg German bomb hit the church, pierced the dome and landed in the aisle. It did not hit a single person and it did not explode! It rolled to the base of the pulpit and stopped. The military bomb disposal team removed it, defused it and threw it into the sea. A miracle indeed. A replica of the bomb can be viewed in the sacristy.

It gave me goosebumps to see this. My husband pointed out where the bomb entered the dome as the coloration where it was repaired is slightly different.

Ornate vestments from the past.

Statue of Our Lady

The statue of the Assumption of Our Lady, 1868

The church contains a lot of artwork and important icons. The Feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary is celebrated in August where some of the statues are taken out and paraded around town.

The font containing holy water.

Visiting this church proved to be a moving experience for me, providing proof that miracles do happen. Hubby later treated me to lunch overlooking the magnificent Mosta Rotunda. It was definitely worth a visit, one I won’t forget.

I love visiting museums and learning the history of a place, especially one as old as Malta. The only rainy day we encountered during our visit found me mesmerized by the Museum of Archeology in the capital city, Valletta. The museum is located in the Auberge de Provence, a baroque building built in 1571, which was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France. It is a beautiful place to view these amazing ancient treasures.

 

The Museum exhibits artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people giving an insight into their daily lives. Many interesting pottery pieces are also on display.

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This is one huge coffee mug. Perfect for a Venti Latte!

The highlight for me was the 5000-year old ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. It is a small ceramic figurine about 12cm in length and was found in a burial pit at a prehistoric underground burial place. It is an amazing example of craftsmanship from prehistoric times. Seems creativity has been around a long time.

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The Sleeping Lady

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I found the anthropomorphic sarcophagus from the Phoenician Period also fascinating.

 

Parts of prehistoric temples with photographs of the original site they were found in.  Swirls were a popular design those days.

Animals were often depicted

as were fish

Many of the goddess figurines were found headless, the heads found in another location. No one knows why.

Ancient writing unearthed in a neolithic temple.

A  rare Phoenician carving of a human

I like how the museum featured cartoons throughout the displays making them more interesting and understandable for young people.

Do you like visiting museums? I would love to know about your favourite museum?

 

 

Forty years ago, this farm girl took her first ever trip on an airplane to York, England, where I married my dear hubby. We recently celebrated our ruby anniversary by returning to York. We had a marvellous time retracing our steps in his hometown, enjoying the history, walking the cobblestone streets, relaxing in the many teashops and visiting relatives we hadn’t seen for some time. We’ve been back a few times since January 1977 but it had been awhile since our last visit. I fell in love with the city all over again.

The Dean Court Hotel

The Dean Court Hotel

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The York Minster

We stayed at the Dean Court Hotel overlooking York  Minster, in the very centre of the city. The Hotel was originally built in 1865 to house the Clergy of the Minster and is situated on the corner of the main Roman road that ran through the city. Waking up to the lovely bells of the cathedral was such a treat.

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I love the old Tudor buildings scattered throughout the downtown. We had lunch in one of them called Gert and Henry’s.

 

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The Shambles, once the street of butcher shops

 

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Gargoyles are everywhere

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Clifford’s Tower

Clifford’s tower is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. Although there has been a tower on the site since William the Conquerer the present 13th-century stone tower was probably used as a treasury and later as a prison.

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Tons of book shops to explore

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The original Roman walls, still intact. They built things to last in those days.

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I walked the Roman walls as I did the very first time I visited this city.  Eboracum was the name the Romans called the city, the capital of England 2000 years ago.

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York was later a Viking town called Jorvik and I encountered a number of Vikings while there.

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You never know who you will meet in the towers. Richard III was eager to tell his side of the story.

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The Teddy Bear Tea Shop. How cute is that?

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I went on a ghost walk and encountered a few remains of the dead.dscn7395

We enjoyed a proper tea at Betty’s Cafe Teashop, the same place we bought our wedding cake all those years ago.

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Wedding 1977 in York, England. The wedding cake was a Dougal the Dog cake.

It has been a great 40 years. Can’t believe he put up with me all these years! Looking forward to more adventures.

York is steeped in history and there is so much more I’d like to share but will leave it for another post.

 

My good friend, Sheila MacArthur, hosted me while I was in Calgary and drove me to my events and family visits. We had some time to spare between appointments and she treated me to a visit to the Lougheed House, a local historic site and museum.

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Since it was the beginning of December the house was all decked out for Christmas, as it would have been in Victorian times. What a treat to be transported back to the time of Lady Isabella Lougheed and Sir James Lougheed. It felt very Downton Abbeyish.

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This 14,000 square-foot sandstone prairie mansion, built in 1891 for the Lougheed family, was the political and social hub of fast-growing Calgary until 1938. The Lougheeds were among Calgary’s most influential citizens. They entertained many notable guests in this house including Princess Patricia, Edward, The Prince of Wales, Stanely Baldwin and Price Erik of Denmark. Their grandson, Peter Lougheed, served as the Premier of Alberta from 1971 to 1985.

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The house sparkled with 16 decorated Christmas trees, thousands of lights, holly draped bannisters, candle-lit hearths, ornaments, original stained-glass windows and more. A warm, festive atmosphere was created as the temperatures outside dipped to -25 celsius.  Scattered throughout the mansion, furnishings and artifacts from the turn of the 20th century included original objects from the House.

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Lovely stained glass windows

 

 

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I love the birdhouses on this tree.

 

The dining room was open for lunch. It looked appealing but we had another commitment. Perhaps next time. The spacious gardens are open in the summer for tea or lunch as well.

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As you can see, we were very comfortable in the surroundings and were reluctant to go back out into the cold.

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A cosy nook to relax with a good book.

 

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year full of joy, wonder and adventures!

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share a visit I made to a Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Holland earlier this year. 1394 soldiers are buried in this cemetery, all but three are Canadian soldiers who were part of the liberation of this part of the Netherlands.

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The information centre is well presented and provides a fifteen-minute film explaining the liberation and how the cemetery came to be. Stories of some of the soldiers are related in the film. On one wall, the names of each soldier buried in the cemetery are listed. An extensive digital database is available with stories of each of the killed soldiers. There is also a touch screen computer with eyewitness stories of soldiers and the inhabitants of the area at the time of the war. Other touch screens have films of the liberation of several villages and towns. I am sure many people come to research family members who are buried here.  A “tranquillity bench” to sit and contemplate,with soft music in the background, is a nice touch.

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The most remarkable thing for me was a tiled wall made recently by students from the Holten primary school. The children were given a task to paint a tile with the theme “war and peace”. I found it very moving.

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The tattered flag from the battlefield

The cemetery itself is extremely well kept. I was overcome with emotion by the maple leafs on the gravestones depicting the names, ranks and ages of the fallen. The two youngest were only seventeen. I thought of the mothers who would never see their sons again, the wives missing their husbands and the children who would grow up without their fathers.

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When I mentioned to the officers in charge that I was Canadian, I was treated very special. Even after all this time, the Dutch people continue to be grateful to the Canadians for their part in liberating their country. I was proud, saddened and extremely moved by this visit. I could not stop the tears.

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Even though no one in my family was killed in WWII, which happened before I was born, I have been reading books and watching movies of this terrible time in our history for many years. Visiting this special place made it much more real.

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May they rest in peace, these brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could be free.

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On our recent visit to Holland, we took a day trip to Germany to the charming town of Bad Bentheim, just across the border. Bad in German means bath, and this is a popular spa town. In the middle sits a fabulous medieval castle. You know how much I love castles, and this was a great one to explore. Castle Bentheim is the largest hilltop castle in northwest Germany with a recorded history from 1050. For the past five centuries, it has been owned by the Counts and Princes of Bentheim and Steinfurt.

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Burg Bentheim

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The castle keep called the Pulverturn or powder tower

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As we approach the entrance to this massive fortified castle, we are greeted by sheep grazing on the grounds.

Kronenburg Castle

Kronenburg Castle

No one resides in Kronenburg Castle anymore, but it is now a museum depicting how the lords of the castle lived. Both Otto von Bismarck and KaiserWilhelmI once stayed here as guests.

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The Hall of Knights

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A guest bedchamber

My favourite part included the castle keep which holds the dungeon. One of the oldest buildings in the castle, it dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

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In the interior of the tower is a small opening in the floor called “the hole of fear.” It is the only entry to the windowless dungeon 12 meters below. In the Middle Ages, this was the Castle jail.  Entrance to the dungeon is only accessible by means of a rope winch installed above the “hole of fear”.  A bit creepy!

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At the top of the tower are panoramic views of the town and countryside.

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The simple Gothic chapel features a two-sided Madonna, carved in 1503, hanging freely from the ceiling. Both sides depict the front of the Madonna.

 

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In the courtyard is an early Romanesque stone cross of the Crucified Christ discovered in 1828. Called the “Herrgott of Bentheim,” it was created around 1000 A.D. and is considered one of the earliest portrayals of Christ in Central Europe.

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The library holds copies of old books, Bibles, and music sheets. Fascinating.

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Happily exploring a medieval German castle

Schlosspark

Schlosspark

Schlosspark sits beneath the castle with well-manicured gardens and a lovely fountain in the middle. The entire setting is from a fairy tale.

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We couldn’t leave Bad Bentheim, and Germany, without sampling the apple strudel. It was as good as it looks! A great day trip and a chance for me to practise the little German I know.

We read in the local paper about an artisans market, in a small town not much more than an hour away from where we live. Since we both love markets and small Spanish villages, we decided to take a drive and check it out. Alcalali proved to be a delightful, traditional Mediterranean village including original dry stone walls. The name, Alcalali, is an Arabic word meaning place where pots were made.

Pottery in the place were pottery is made with the old dry stone wall behind

Pottery in the place where pots were made, with original dry stone wall behind

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Pottery faces

The market was small but unique in that everything sold had to be hand made and by the person manning the stall. Local potters, weavers, wood carvers, almond candy makers, jewellers, leather and iron workers, and ladies who make lace were willing to chat and demonstrate their work. Some even gave lessons to the children. Throughout the displays, old fashioned table games and traditional delicacies could be found.

Wood carver

Wood carver at work

Lace makers

Traditional lace makers

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon for making almond candy called turron

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon to make delicious almond candy called turron

Pottery lesson

Pottery lesson

Playing a medieval game

Playing a medieval table game

In the centre of the village, a medieval tower built in the fourteenth century served as a watchtower and stronghold to protect the town from pirates and robbers that frequently attacked the village. It is now a museum with incredible views of the town and surrounding valley from the top floor. What I found very interesting was the medieval graffiti on the walls, most of it drawings of ships and weapons. Since Alcalali is an inland village, historians think the drawings were made by sailors imprisoned in the tower at one time.

The village church from the tower

The village church from the tower

View of the town and valley

View of the town and valley from the tower

Roofs from the tower window

Clay roofs from the tower window

Ancient graffiti

Ancient graffiti possibly drawn by prisoners

Alcalali is in an agricultural area, well known for its olive, grape, citrus fruit and almond production. The Arabs occupied the area for over five centuries and were masters in utilising the fertile ground of red clay, developing a thriving agricultural base. Many houses still have the large doors that allowed animals and carts inside, with rings in the entrance to tie up the mules. We enjoyed a visit to the old oil mill that has been turned into a museum displaying some of the original machinery for making olive oil,wine and raisins.  Pictures of when the mill was in operation helped to explain the process.

Museum in the old oil mill

Museum in the old oil mill

Olive picking tools

Olive picking tools used to knock the olives from the tree

Typical Alalali street

Typical Alcalali street including a house with large doors to allow animals and carts inside in the old days

Original dry stone wall

Original dry stone wall

No visit to a traditional Spanish village would be complete without sampling some of the local tapas in a friendly bar, which is just what we did before heading home. Another great day!


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