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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Gjakova

Must wrap up previous trips!

My last stop in Kosovo was Gjakova, A’s home town.  We didn’t get a chance to explore as much here so I don’t have many pics to share, but it is a cute, little town.  The older part of Gjakova has cobblestone streets and old buildings, but we were there in the dark so it was difficult to take good pics.  But if you’re in Kosovo, Gjakova would be well-worth a visit.

Gjakova: Clock Tower and Mosques

Gjakova’s Serbian Orthodox Church

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Prizren

Prizren was my favorite city that we visited in Kosovo.  It’s one of Kosovo’s largest cities and it has a great deal of old world charm.  It’s easy to walk around and see the sites and it’s best to eat your tasty Albanian lunch along the river, preferably in the sun.

Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam or Old Turkish Baths

Climbing to the fortress is definitely worth it, especially if you can catch it at sunset.  Be forewarned that it’s a steep climb!  But it provides great views of the city and the mountains.

Bistrica River
We ate at the cafe with the red umbrellas on the left by the river.

The picture below reminded me of something out of a James Bond movie.  The red and white striped building used to run the dam (which I don’t think is in service anymore) and the blue and white striped building is a sports center.

Communist Era?

Thanks to the film student who caught this artsy picture of us.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Old Stone Bridge (per Wikipedia) over Bistrica River

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The great thing about Kosovo is the myriad of day trips you’re able to take because its such a tiny country.  During my short visit, we took a day trip every day, which was fun.

The village of Gračanica is a Serb enclave just outside Pristina where you can find the Serbian Orthodox Gračanica Monastery.  Security is much more present in Gračanica than in other cities in Kosovo and as you drive through town notices indicate that video cameras are monitoring movements to deter violence and trouble makers.  It’s a sad reminder that reconciliation in Kosovo between Albanians and Serbs is a long way off.

Beautiful Wooden Doors to Gračanica Monastery

Beautiful Gračanica Church at the Monastery

The medieval fortress at Novo Brdo was next up, which allowed us to stretch our legs for a mini-hike.  Incidentally, A had never been to Gračanica or Novo Brdo so it was fun for him to explore, too.  I think more of the fortress can be excavated, but considering it hasn’t really been taken care of over the years, it’s in pretty good shape.

Remnants of Novo Brdo Fortress

This cute guy hung out with us for the afternoon. He was so friendly we wanted to take him home, but he had an owner and promptly deserted us when they called for him.

Beautiful Day. Snow on the mountains!

Very Old Mosque

Pretty sunset just outside of Pristina

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Negombo is one of the closest beaches to Colombo and it’s right by the airport, but I’d never been until recently.  The thought of battling the traffic on airport road to get to Negombo was enough to stop me before, but I’m glad we got the chance to explore.  Negombo is the perfect mini break for one night and it has such a beach town feel with bars and restaurants and tourist shops lining the main drag, Beach Road.  We stayed in a renovated room at Jetwing Sea, which was great.  The food and the service were excellent, both of which can be hit or miss at Sri Lankan hotels.  Two thumbs up!

Afternoon fishing time

Negombo is a predominantly Christian are with lots of impressive churches around town.  But there are also lots of Muslims and Hindus.  Surprisingly, not as many Buddhists.  Wonder why?

Mosque on Beach Road

Catholic or Anglican Church? On Beach Road

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I did find Istanbul overwhelming.  You’d think I’d learn my lesson traveling to big cities–Bangkok, New York, London.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re great cities, but I find them too big to manage, at least initially.  The more I visit a bigger city, the more I like it.  I guess it just takes getting used to for me.

Spice Bazaar

Even though Topkapi Palace was my favorite of Istanbul’s sites, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are still impressive.

View of Blue Mosque from Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia was a church and then a mosque and now a museum.  It’s so interesting to see the design of a church with the high ceilings and the vaulted domes, with elements of a mosque, like the round discs with Arabic on them and the angels whose wings have been rubbed out.

Hagia Sophia

The Basilica Cistern was cool.  If my memory is right, according to our Rick Steve’s Istanbul Guide Book (which I would highly recommend), the cistern was forgotten about for a long time until people started noticing water seeping into the ground.  How do you forget about an awesome place like this?!

Basilica Cistern

My absolute favorite “must do” in Istanbul was the ferry cruise we took on our last day there.  It was a relaxing change of pace compared to hectic Istanbul.  Taking a leisurely ferry cruise to see the Bosphorus was an excellent way to see more sites without too much effort.

Bosphorus

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The predominant religion in Jaffna is Hinduism, but thanks to the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, Christianity is also very prevalent.  There are some Muslims in Jaffna, but most fled as a result of the war, and they are only now slowly returning to the North.  There are some Buddhists, too, but most of the people who visit the main Buddhist temple in town are either Sinhalese Buddhist tourists or members of the Sri Lankan police and army who are stationed in Jaffna.

Large Hindu Kovils are everywhere.  I didn’t make it into any of the kovils in the North, primarily because they were closed when I was going around town, but I hate to admit, that kovils have become like most churches in Europe for me–you’ve seen a few, you’ve seen them all.  But they’re still fun to take pictures of because they are so different from what we experience in the United States.

New Section of the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple

Behind Nallur Temple

For a much better picture of this scene, take a look at the Al Jazeera photos from a few months ago.

At a Purity Ceremony

There are pretty churches all over Sri Lanka, but I think the ones in Jaffna stand out because there is often little development around these churches.

St. James

Inside of St. John the Baptist's

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Before coming to Sri Lanka, I assumed Buddhism would be a theme that would dominate the country.  And it is.  But I have been struck by Sri Lanka’s religious diversity, too.

According to this Wikipedia page 70% of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, 15% are Hindus, 7.5% are Muslim, and 7.5% are Christian.  The page also says that a 2008 survey declared Sri Lanka the 3rd most religious country in the world “with 99% of Sri Lankans saying religion is an important part of their daily life.”  Interesting and I would say, fairly accurate.

I was in Hatton many months ago.  It’s a relatively small town close to Nuwara Eliya, but it’s got all four major world religions packed in next to each other.  This is not that unusual for many Sri Lankan towns, but the proximity of these institutions next to each other did strike me.

Buddhist Temple

Next to a Church

Across the street from a Mosque

Down the street from a Hindu Temple

On the way to Mosque

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