Cruising around Kos

After finally getting to grips with our stroke of 5 star good luck (including champagne for birthday breakfast!) we head out to explore Kos town.

20246039_10154601920027353_8341547486263097430_n

Hopping on the bus from the hotel we alight at the bustling harbour which is also where you’ll find lots of restaurants and bars too.

20292728_10154601922012353_5764501411399786777_n

First up it was off to see some cultural sights. Below is the Tree of Hippocrates, a plane tree under which, according to legend, Hippocrates (considered the father of medicine) taught his pupils the art of medicine.

We’re lucky to have seen this early on in the holiday as just days later a huge earthquake shook the island ( and us) to its core and destroyed the beautiful old dome.

We then visit the Mosque of Nefterdar in Eleftherias Square. This impressive building had a beautiful minaret that again was completely destroyed during the earthquake.

20258346_10154601919217353_6938671294299740918_n

Then there’s a quick spin around the markets with traditional products such as olive oil soap and sponges of all sizes.

There are plenty of shopping opportunities in Kos town with its myriad of little back streets all lined with shops and boutiques.

20265115_10154601918827353_3332564024859164607_n

Our final stop on the sightseeing tour is the Castle of the Knights that guards the entrance to Kos harbour, also known as Neratzia Castle.

The castle was built in the 15th century by the Knights of St John on the site of a former fortress.

20246158_10154601921147353_5277905707067752761_n

The name Neratzia means ‘sour oranges’ and is a reference to when orange trees with very bitter fruit once grew around the castle.

20245852_10154601921372353_4027521100080567130_n

It’s a very dry and dusty site so I am thankful for the shade and colour of the bougainvillea.

20229197_10154601920847353_1814043240823294816_n

There’s some wonderful views from the castle walls out over the harbour.

The castle is pretty much a ruin inside littered with broken masonry, few buildings to inspect and not much provided in the way of information.

The outer castle was built with thick walls to defend against repeated attacks by the Turks but finally Kos eventually fell to Turkish invaders in 1523.

During the 19th century it was used as the barracks of the Turkish garrison but in 1816 a gunpowder room exploded and destroyed a large part of castle.

After a few hot and sweaty hours exploring the site we call it quits and head for a little more shopping.

20292863_10154601921797353_6127112289425507582_n

Advertisements

Load of bull ..

This short post is dedicated to a thorny Spanish cultural issue – Bull fighting.

I’ve always believed that part of visiting other counties is about appreciating the many varied parts of their culture and traditions.

However there are always some difficulties for me when it comes to certain elements of societies that celebrate the unnecessary suffering and pain of animals.

So I can’t reconcile myself to the Spanish tradition of bull fighting. Regardless of its revered history I find it abhorrent and cruel with no place in a modern society.

In case you feel this is anti-Spanish I am also anti fox hunting, badger baiting, cock fighting and horse racing. And I’m a lifetime long salad munching vegetarian… (so there!!!)

Purification and Ema

Heading back in the Senso-ji temple grounds for one final snoot around we find more delightful details.

A Tori gate leads the way to Asakusa Shrine also known as Sanja-sama “Shrine of the Three gods”.

The shrine honours the three men who founded the Sensō-ji.

Another of my favourite new photo subjects are the multitude of wooden plaques found at temples.

Known as Ema (絵馬) Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes on them and leave them hanging up at the shrine. Here the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them. They have various pictures – often animals or other Shinto imagery.

p1100557

Fantastical glided beasts adorn and guard Asakusa shrine from the tourist hoards.

All shrines have a purification fountain usually found the entrance and visitors follow a strict ritual.

The purification ritual is usually as shown above – take one of the ladles provided, fill it with fresh water and rinse both hands. Then transfer  water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water beside the fountain.

The man follows the rules to the letter!

Above are the vibrant flags at Zenizuka Jizo Hall, a part of Senso-ji Temple, often visited by those who want to pray for their business to prosper.

Next up we encounter the bizarre raccoon dog that plays an key role in Japanese culture and has an “interesting” physical attribute . .