Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Saturday, 26 May 2007

The incomparable Venice.

At the top of this set is another of my favourites, because of its colours, depth and the reflection.

the W()RD

Another interesting bit of information about Venice.
It is twinned with:
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994)
Tallinn, Estonia
Suzhou, China (1980)
N├╝rnberg, Germany (1999)
Istanbul, Turkey (1993)
Kedke, Greece (2000)
Qingdao, China (2001)
Thessaloniki, Greece (2003)

Friday, 25 May 2007

Some miscellaneous photographs from around Georgia, details starting from the bottom on up:

- Stalin
- A granite sculpture near Kazbegi
- The wishing tree near Motsameta Monastery - each rag on it is someone's wish. A fairly common sight in Georgia
- Nodar and his cousin sampling wine mid-process, Samegrelo
- A log cabin where I spent a night after the mountain crossing from Ladreri in August 2005
- Some badly preserved critters, Mestia, Svaneti (the skin is from a bear)
- A local resident of Ladreri, Svaneti

More Venice tomorrow.

the W()RD

Following the recent Venice theme, here are some foreign words of Venetian origin:

arsenal, ciao, ghetto, gondola, lazaret, lagoon, lido, quarantine, Montenegro.
"Venezuela" means "little Venice".

More Venice photographs on the blog tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Of my more than 230 images of the city, this is my overall favourite, just water with reflections of gondolas and buildings. It says Venice to me better than anything else I captured.
Venice: City of reflections, of masks and masquerades, of dreams and illusions. Fifteen centuries old (the same as Tbilisi).

the W()RD

Some Famous Venetians

Titian (c. 1488-90 – August 27, 1576), was the leader of the 16th century Venetian school of the Italian Renaissance (he was born in Pieve di Cadore).
Antonio Vivaldi (March 4, 1678, July 28 (or 27), 1741, Vienna), famous composer and violinist of the Baroque Era
Giacomo Casanova (1725 - 1798), in Dux, Bohemia, (now Duchcov, Czech Republic) was a famous Venetian adventurer, writer and womanizer.
Tintoretto (1518 - May 31, 1594), probably the last great painter of Italian Renaissance.
Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430-1516), he was a Renaissance painter, probably the best known of the Bellini family of painters.
Sebastian Cabot (c. 1484 – 1557, or soon after), was an explorer.
Marco Polo (September 15 - 1254 January 8, 1324) was a trader and explorer one of the first Westerners to travel the Silk Road to China. His travels are written down in Il Milione (The Travels of Marco Polo).
Canaletto (October 28, 1697 - April 19, 1768), was a famous artist for his landscapes or vedute of Venice, but not only.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

In celebration of spring, a few more flora photographs - mostly from western Canada, 1 (above) from southern California, USA. Tomorrow - more Venice.

the W()RD

More about Venice.

Patron: St. Mark the Evangelist (buried there)

Origin: Refugees from northern invasions of the mainland founded settlements in the 5th century AD that were built uniquely on islands as protection against raids. Venice was a vassal of the Byzantine Empire until the 10th century.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Venice, Italy, February-March 2003

In early 2003 I found myself in northern Italy on business. Having travelled there, I could hardly not see one of my dream locations in the world: Venice. As someone who delights in reflections, especially those in water, I could not imagine a better photographic subject. It was only four days, and I stayed in a lousy 1-star hotel because I hadn't booked anything in advance. Not rich enough even to leave the main island on public transport, I contented myself with a good look around it. Carnevale was on as well - good timing. Ignoring comfort, noticing only the city, I walked around in a daze. Over the next while I will be showing some of the results here, mixed in with other photographs on alternate days.

the W()RD

Today's W()RD is

Monday, 21 May 2007

Norio, February 2007

Georgia is full of what I call "African surprises", things which I remember from my Rhodesian childhood. Here from Norio, the village near Martqopi Monastery, is a picture of one of these - Guinea-fowl, which are good eating in Africa and presumably here as well.
Martqopi Monastery, nr Norio, Georgia, February 2007

Three more views of the monastery as we walked up towards St Anthony's former dwelling; followed (higher) by two more pictures of the latter.

the W()RD

Today's pictures finish my walk to Martqopi Monastery. The rather long W()RD for the day concerns St David Gareji, with whom St Anthony travelled to Georgia (Kartli, as it was) in the 6th century. Text, again, from and no commentary from me - I'll let you think what you will.

Saint David of Gareji was Syrian by birth. The future ascetic became a disciple of St. John of Zedazeni and journeyed with him to Georgia. St. David and his spiritual son Lucian settled on a mountain above Tbilisi, the capital of Kartli.

At that time Kartli was constantly under threat of the Persian fire-worshippers. St. David would spend entire days in prayer, beseeching the Lord for forgiveness of the sins of those who dwelt in the city. When he was finished praying for the day, he would stand on the mountain and bless the whole city. Once a week Sts. David and Lucian would go down into the city to preach. A church dedicated to St. David was later built on the mountain where he labored.

St. David’s authority and popularity alarmed the fire-worshippers, and they accused him of adultery, in an attempt to discredit him in the eyes of the people. As a “witness” they summoned a certain expectant prostitute, who accused him of being the child’s father. Hoping in God, the holy father touched his staff to the prostitute’s womb and ordered the unborn child to declare the truth. From out of the womb the infant uttered the name of his true father.
Outraged at this slander, the bystanders savagely stoned the woman to death. St. David pleaded with them to stop, but he was unable to placate the furious crowd. Deeply disturbed by these events, St. David departed the region with his disciple Lucian.

The holy fathers settled in a small cave in the wilderness and began to spend all their time in prayer. They ate nothing but herbs and the bark of trees. When the herbs withered from the summer heat, the Lord sent them deer. Lucian milked them and brought the milk to St. David, and when the elder made the sign of the Cross over the milk it was miraculously transformed into cheese.

Shaken by the holy father’s miracle, Lucian told him, “Even if my body rots and wastes away from hunger and thirst, I will not permit myself to fret over the things of this temporal life.”
The fathers kept a strict fast on Wednesdays and Fridays—they ate nothing, and even the deer did not come to them on those days.

A frightful serpent inhabited a cave not far from where they lived and attacked all the animals around it. But at St. David’s command the serpent deserted that place.

Once local hunters were tracking the fathers’ deer, and they caught sight of Lucian milking them as they stood there quietly, as though they were sheep. The hunters paid great respect to St. David and, having returned to their homes, reported what they had seen.

Soon the Gareji wilderness filled with people who longed to draw nearer to Christ. A monastery was founded there, and for centuries it stood fast as a center and cornerstone of faith and learning in Georgia.

After some time St. David set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He entrusted Lucian to fulfill his responsibilities at the monastery and took some of the other brothers with him. When the pilgrims were approaching the place called the “Ridge of Grace,” from which the holy city of Jerusalem becomes visible, St. David fell to his knees and glorified God with tears. Judging himself unworthy to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he was satisfied to gaze upon the city from afar.

Then he stood at the city gates and prayed fervently while his companions entered the Holy City and venerated the holy places. Returning, St. David took with him three stones from the “Ridge of Grace.” That night an angel appeared to the patriarch of Jerusalem and informed him that a certain pious man named David, who was visiting from afar, had taken with him all the holiness of Jerusalem.

The angel proceeded to tell him that the venerable one had marched through the city of Nablus, clothed in tatters and bearing on his shoulders an old sack in which he carried the three holy stones. The patriarch sent messengers after the stranger with a request that he return two of the stones and take only one for himself. St. David returned the two stones, but he declined the patriarch’s invitation to visit him. He took the third stone back with him to the monastery, and to this day it has been full of the grace of miraculous healing.

After St. David brought the miraculous stone from Jerusalem, the number of brothers at the monastery doubled. The venerable father ministered to all of them and encouraged them. He also visited the cells of the elder hermits to offer his solace. In accordance with his will, a monastery in the name of St. John the Baptist was founded in the place called “Mravalmta” (the Rolling Mountains).

The Lord God informed St. David of his imminent departure to the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he gathered the fathers of the wilderness and instructed them for the last time not to fall into confusion, but to be firm and ceaselessly entreat the Lord for the salvation of their souls.
He received Holy Communion, lifted up his hands to the Lord, and gave up his spirit.

St. David’s holy relics have worked many miracles: approaching them, those blind from birth have received their sight. To this day, believers have been healed of every spiritual and bodily affliction at his grave.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Martqopi Monastery, Nr Norio, Georgia, February 2007

Took a marshrutka (set-route minibus) from Tbilisi to nearby Norio, then walked a few kilometres to Martqopi Monastery. There's frustratingly little about this place on the internet, so instead of directing you to a link I'll mostly just let the pictures speak. One note - the ruin in the second shot from the bottom is where St Anthony of Martqopi lived for 18 years, in the 6th century. I also walked to it, and took some of the views (tomorrow) from there.

the W()RD

The W()RD today concerns a 6th-century Georgian Saint originating in Syria (one of the "Syrian desert fathers") who shares my name. This text comes from, a webpage of the Orthodox Church in America.

"St. Anthony of Martqopi always carried with him an icon of the Savior “Not-Made-By-Hands” which he had brought from Edessa in Asia Minor.

"A lover of solitude, St. Anthony settled in Lonoati Gorge, but the many curious Christians, drawn by his prayers and miracles, disturbed his seclusion. So the holy father built a monastery for his faithful followers, withdrew in reclusion beyond the Alazani River, and later settled on Akriani Mountain. In his new hermitage, he ate mostly plants and the bark of trees, and God sent a bear to bring him food. Later St. Anthony erected a pillar at the top of the mountain and dwelt upon it for eighteen years.

"The venerable father received a sign from God when his death was imminent, and at the moment of his repose he was kneeling in prayer before the icon of the Savior. His disciples carried his holy relics down from the pillar and buried them in the monastery he had founded, in front of the icon of the Mother of God."

See my photos from Martqopi Monastery above, today and tomorrow.