Monday, April 28, 2014

CORNWALL, ENGLAND: Long Lost Kings, Mermaids, Pirates and Cream Teas, Guest Post by Gwen Dandridge


Zennor, Cornwall
My friend Gwen Dandridge and her husband recently returned from a trip to Cornwall and sent me this post.  Gwen has many talents ranging from fantasy writing to gardening to Morris dancing.  She is the author of The Stone Lions which received the Gold Seal of Excellence from Awesome Indies. You can find out more about her at her blog. Here is her post:
 
Last month my husband and I roamed the farthest southwestern edge of England. It was March, a month known for wild and wet weather in a land that is wild and wet.
Celtic Cross at St. Just, Cornwall
We started in Plymouth, Devon to hear golden-throated Mary Black and the Irish musicians/song writers, Clannad. That evening wrapped us in the magic of England’s southern lands giving us a proper welcome.

Gwen at Dartmoor
From there we headed to Dartmoor, climbed some tors and listened through the howling winds for the hounds of Baskerville. We didn’t hear any but nevertheless enjoyed the climb in the wind and rain to view the distant green fields.

Tintagel, legendary home of King Arthur
A short drive later, a drive on the left side of narrow hedged roads, we arrived at Tintagel, possible castle home of the legendary King Arthur. While its history waxes and wanes between fact and lore, certainly it was the remains of a fortification from the Roman-British era, and further developed during the 1100’s--Arthur’s time. In the 1200’s a rich Earl, enamored by the Arthur story, remade Tintagel into a seat of power. 

Whoever inhabited Tintagel, they picked well. The fortress sits on a prime promontory to defend the harbor. No ships or army can approach unseen. The site also feeds the eye as it overlooks the Celtic sea across to Ireland, with views of crashing waves and open skies.
The Eden Project
From there we meandered south, combing the countryside stopping at the Eden Project, working cider mills, forgotten gardens and quaint seaports. Each seaport had it’s charms: St. Mawes,  St. Just, St. Michael Mount, the equivalent of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, and Zennor, if you seek mermaids.
Mousehole
The seaside town of Mousehole lived up to its name, a tiny town with a single carriage road leading in and out, overlooking a small harbor. We had a proper cream tea there: tea and scones served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves.

Lizard Head

While the farthest south point on the western edge, Land’s End, is disappointingly touristy, Lizard Head, the south-eastern most point is a jewel worth walking.
Glendurgan Garden and Maze, near Falmouth
If you are so inspired, there is a footpath that goes from one point to the next, sixty-nine miles. A slow leisurely walk in the Cornish countryside surrounded by sea, pasture and moor.

St. Michael's Mount at Low Tide
This may be the perfect way to explore this region, on foot with the sea and sky surrounding you. And perhaps if you watch carefully, you might see a mermaid sunning on the shore.


 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Maxo Vanka’s Murals, Millvale, PA, photos by Joanne Rocklin

Mural of Christ and St. Peter by Maxo Vanka in St. Nicholas Catholic Church, Millvale, PA
On Easter morning, April 5th, 1942, the Bishop came to bless the newly completed murals by Croatian artist Maxo Vanka that filled the walls and ceilings of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Millvale, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh.  Begun in 1937 and finished in 1941 and 1942, the spectacular tempera paintings depicted Christ and Mary, saints and apostles, life in Croatia, and social commentary on war and poverty. The brilliant colors and mixture of traditional iconography and scenes of daily life make the images memorable and moving. Many Croatians worked in the mines and steel mills in and around Pittsburgh. Murals painted before the war depict Croatian immigrants coming to America to seek a better life, grateful to have escaped the slaughter taking place in their homeland. Their strong sense of pride in their heritage is evident.
Women in Croatia weep over the coffin of a young, dead soldier.
One of the murals is an homage to labor while another documents the tragedy that occurred when one of the mills burned and collapsed. There are a total of twenty murals in the church. Murals painted after the war are much more striking and vivid with very dark and haunting themes. Maxo Vanka was a committed pacifist and the intensity of his beliefs are depicted clearly in these murals. Maximilian Vanka, also known as Maxo Vanka, was born in Croatia in 1889, came to the United States in the 1930's, and died in 1963. Maxo Vanka and his family lived in New York at the time that he painted the murals in Millvale.  To read about his life and other work click HERE.
Altar with Pieta, the Mother of Sorrows weeping over her dead son. 
My parents, Les and Kay Scheaffer, who were graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1940s, made regular visits to Millvale to watch Maxo Vanka work.  In his retirement, my father wrote about their experience. I posted his story on October 29, 2012.  It is a window on Maxo Vanka's personality and process of painting. Although I was born in Pittsburgh, I have never seen the murals myself.  Last summer, when my friend, writer Joanne Rocklin, went to Pittsburgh to research her new book for children, I asked her if she would be interested in visiting St. Nicholas Church and in sending me pictures of the murals.  She did and has graciously allowed me to post them here.
St. Matthew (left) and St. Mark (right)
Joanne Rocklin’s new book is FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY, a middle grade novel, and is the story of Franny, a young polio victim with an unusual soul mate, Fleabrain. It takes place in 1952-53, just before Salk announced the results of his groundbreaking vaccine research, which he did in his lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The book is also an homage to CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E.B. White which was published in 1952, after a summer of the worst polio outbreak in U.S. history, in which 53,000 were stricken. FLEABRAIN LOVES FRANNY will be published next August. Find out more about Joanne Rocklin and her books at www.joannerocklin.com .
Visiting the Murals
A 60-minute docent-guided tour of the murals is a fascinating glimpse into Vanka's art and the experiences that shaped his ideas. Docents discuss Vanka's early life, his success in Europe and his life in America.
Docent-led tours on Saturdays: 11:00am, 12:00noon and 1:00pm. For special arrangements, please call the Docent Manager at 412-407-2570. Weekend masses at St. Nicholas Church are at 6:00pm on Saturday and Noon on Sunday.
The church is located at 24 Maryland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15209, minutes from downtown, just off Route 28 at the Millvale exit.

For more about Maxo Vanka’s murals in Millvale go to www.vankamurals.com . The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka, founded in 1990, is dedicated to preserving the murals for the future.

Monday, April 14, 2014

WHERE IN THE WORLD? Celebrating the Third Anniversary of The Intrepid Tourist

Greenwich, England, Prime Meridian
From the time I was young and followed the progress of our family road trips on the map as I sat in the back seat of the car, I have always been fascinated with geography–both the actual places that we passed and the lines imposed on the map marking arbitrary divisions between towns, states and countries. I love reading atlases and finding geographic markers on the globe.  In celebration of the third anniversary of The Intrepid Tourist I would like to share a few photos that mark some of the geographic points I have personally visited.

My parents and three brothers at the Continental Divide, 1958
The oldest is a family photo at the Continental Divide I took with my Brownie camera on our trip in 1958 from Minneapolis to California.  That trip was the first time any of us had seen mountains–Minnesota, by comparison, being a relatively flat state. We were all suitably impressed.  At Monarch pass, elevation 11,312 feet, we read that water flowing to the east ended up in the Gulf of Mexico and water flowing to the west, in the Pacific.

Standing on Four States at once at the Four Corners, 1990
On that same trip our family camped for several days at Mesa Verde in Colorado. As we headed south we drove through the four corners area where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet.  Many years later I was in southwestern Colorado again researching my book, The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde, with Richard Hewett, the photographer of the book.  On our way back to Los Angeles, we stopped at the Four Corners marker and took pictures.

Caroline in the Northern Hemisphere, Jennifer in the Southern Hemisphere
Another historic photo is the picture of me and my daughter Jennifer taken on the Equator in Uganda in 1971.  Two things impressed me about being on the Equator. I had expected it to be hot, but, in fact, due to the elevation, the climate in Uganda was quite comfortable even in summer. As expected, the sun was almost directly overhead at noon. What surprised me was how quickly it became dark when the sun set.  Conversely, at dawn the sun just seemed to pop over the horizon, and suddenly it was day.

When I was in Turkey two years ago, I crossed the bridge that links Asia and Europe in Istanbul. On our return, we passed a similar sign welcoming us to Europe.

Welcome sign on the Asian side of the Bosporus
In 1999, while spending three months in Australia when Art was on sabbatical, we traveled to Alice Springs where we made a point to visit the marker for the Tropic of Capricorn.  Visiting the Tropic of Cancer is still on my bucket list.  We were relatively close last summer while vacationing in the Yucatan, but not close enough to make it a destination.
At the Tropic of Capricorn, near Alice Springs, Australia 1999
I still have many geographic points I would like to visit. Who knows, perhaps they will become subjects for The Intrepid Tourist someday.  As I begin this fourth year of the blog, I thank all of my friends and family who have contributed to The Intrepid Tourist and all of you who have been my faithful readers.
To another year of Happy Traveling!

Monday, April 7, 2014

DEATH VALLEY: Sunrise to Sunset, Guest Post by Owen Floody



Death Valley, sunrise in the dunes

Last September, our friend Owen Floody went on a photo tour of Death Valley National Park in the California desert.  Owen recently retired from a career of teaching and research at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He has always been an avid photographer and in his retirement has taken several trips that allow him to pursue his passion. Here is a short reflection on his trip to Death Valley and a few of his excellent photographs.

Death Valley Badlands
Early September is probably not the ideal time to visit Death Valley National Park.  But I was in nearby Las Vegas to attend a family wedding and making a quick 4-day tour of Death Valley was too convenient to pass up.  However, the impressive heat (often of 110-120° in the shade) did have a major impact on my schedule of activities, forcing a retreat to my books and the motel pool in the middle of each day, when anything much more vigorous would have been unpleasant. 

A view of the valley from Dante’s View in the course of a sunrise. 

After a very early start, I always attempted to catch an attractive sunrise at one of several vantage points, including the Mesquite Flat sand dunes, the Badwater Basin salt flat, and Dante’s View, overlooking much of the entire valley.  Later in the morning, when it was beginning to heat up, I would look for some shade in one or more of the many canyons in the Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells areas.  
A lucky shot of a sandstorm at sunset in the Mesquite Flat dunes
Then, after my siesta, I would return to the canyons and badlands in the late afternoon before beginning the search for a good sunset, usually in or near the sand dunes. 

A moment shortly after sunrise in the salt flat.
Though this strategy was a matter of choice only in part, it worked out well, yielding pleasant experiences and some good photo ops, especially in the dunes and on the salt flats. Also, even if sunrises had not been a priority, early morning was by far the coolest and most pleasant part of each day.  As a result of my relatively brief visit, I was only able to pay one visit to the salt flats and never did catch a sunrise at the famous Zabriskie Point.  
 
One of the many canyons in Death Valley
Finally, my access to some parts of the park was limited by a series of temporary road closures prompted, surprisingly enough, by recent heavy rains.  This contributed to my failure to see some sights, most notably the mysterious and relatively remote Racetrack, where large rocks seem to be blown across a flat and slippery surface when observers are absent and the conditions just right.  In truth, even more time and clearer roads might not have reversed this failing, as I was strongly advised that a trip to the Racetrack requires 4-wheel drive and tires with puncture-resistant sidewalls, neither of which came with my rental.  The net effect, though, is not an entirely unwelcome one: A return trip to Death Valley clearly will be required, perhaps even timed to exploit the more congenial temperatures of the late fall - early spring. 

Sunrise on dunes
Read more about Owen's travels in these posts at The Intrepid Tourist.