There are places that make an immediate impression and connect with us in ways we didn’t foresee. Walking through Edinburgh, is like time travelling back through the centuries, to a darker, more challenging time, filled with drama and mystery. The history is everywhere, in every step.
There are many small laneways or closes leading off the Royal Milne. The closes were once used as toilets. Edinburgh was extremely overpopulated and the hygiene and general living conditions were appalling. But now, many years later, the closes hide bars and restaurants or like you see below, the writers’ museum.
Many writers have found inspiration in Edinburgh, like Sir Walter Scott but today the best-known writer would probably be J.K. Rowling who wrote the first Harry Potter book in Edinburgh at The Elephant House Cafe. The tale goes that she wrote at the cafe to save money, not heating her apartment during the day.
There is a saying among writers, “write what you see” and from the cafe, you overlook a George Heriot’s school with its four towers and student houses. Just like Hogwarts.
Just outside the window is Greyfriars Kirkyard with its old tombstones and herb gardens. Rowling often walked here and the name of some characters in her books can be found on the graves. Perhaps the most recognisable is the one of Thomas Riddle, aka Voldemort.
There is a darker side of Edinburgh and body snatchers plagued the city for a long time. It was extremely profitable to steal and sell fresh corpses for medical science.
People in general believed that the soul could only live on if the corpse was undisturbed, so the people did everything they could to keep the graves of their loved ones safe. Wealthy people built iron cages around the graves and watch out towers were built in the graveyards.
As it became increasingly difficult to steal bodies, some body snatchers moved on to simply snatch and murder, often young orphan children or prostitutes living on the streets. In the 1830’s when corpses were legally provided for medical science, the body snatching industry stopped.
Travelling out of Edinburgh, the landscape quickly changes. Heading into the wilderness of the Highlands with its mountains and deep glens and lochs.
Deanston Distillery in Doune.
Melrose Abbey, a partially ruined monastery, in the Scottish borders. Founded in the 12th century.
The rolling hills of the southern Scotland, crossing the border into northern England.
The first parts of Alnwick Castle was built in the 11th century. It has been owned by the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland since the 1400th century, still is. Part of the castle is open to the public throughout the summer and it’s an impressive castle with grand courtyards and castle gardens.
The castle has also featured in several film production, like Downton Abbey and Harry Potter. The scene where Harry and his friends have their first Quidditch class was filmed in the courtyard. The day I visited, there were tons of children lining up for their very own quidditch class.
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a tidal island. The monastery dates back to the 6th century, repeatedly invaded by the Vikings from the 8th century.
Lindisfarne Castle was founded in the 16th century.
There are places that touch the soul, places to return to. Glen Coe is one of them and I have wanted to come back since I last visited the area. The scenery is extraordinary, the untouched beauty of nature.
It’s almost hard to believe that it was the place of Glencoe massacre. The clan Campbell arrived with 120 men at the clan MacDonalds’ in Glencoe claiming to need shelter. MacDonalds offered hospitality, as were custom, and the Campbells’ stayed for two weeks, eating and drinking until their real agenda was revealed and thy executed most of the MacDonalds clan. The red wedding in Game of Thrones was inspired by the real life massacre of Glencoe.
I had been overseas and the sky was pink, but I didn’t realise it was due to the bushfires. It was over 40 degrees in Melbourne when I landed on Black Saturday morning and the heat was brutal. Five years later, we drove through the areas that were burnt. The rolling hills are green and lush once again, yet the black trees are everywhere. Silent statues of memories.
A dear friend gave me a Diana (camera) as a birthday present and I really enjoy the feel of it and playing around with double exposures. The photos are from a recent trip to the Canary Islands. And I got to see wild dolphins for the first time.
The ICEHOTEL is situated above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden. The sun doesn’t rise at all for two weeks in winter but then again the sun shine both day and night during summer.
The ICEHOTEL is made of massive blocks of ice from Torne River and the hotel is rebuilt every year.
The design of the hotel is different every year and artists from around the world are involved in the making of the ICEHOTEL. Artists are credited below.
Reception – Unfold by Susan Christianen & Lena Kriström
I stayed at the ICEHOTEL to photograph an Australian wedding last week. The thick walls of snow inside the ICEHOTEL isolate all sound and the hotel was so quiet, turning voices into whispers. It felt serene, magical almost.
Main Hall – Navigating the Unknown by Marjolein Vonk, Marinus Vroom & Jens Thoms Ivarsson
The Icebar was one of the more popular places to hang out in the ICEHOTEL, perhaps to keep the heat up on the dancefloor, or simply hang around in the bar. Drinks were served in glasses made of ice, obviously keeping the drinks well chilled. The tunes of Fever Ray was playing. Very fitting.
Icebar – Unique by Sofi Ruotsalainen, Mikael “Nille” Nilsson & Viktor Tsarski
The ice church is also rebuilt every year and they many weddings and baptisms are held in the church. Still water will freeze (besides being very cold), so the water is kept in a thermos during the baptism.
Ice Church by Javier Opazo, Ethan Friedman & Rob Harding
There’s a story behind every ice suite, all designed by different artists. Some suits are playful, like Cold And Crazy.
Cold and Crazy by Jonas Gencevicius & Jurgita Gencevicius
There are also more suites with a more serious message, such as Blue Marine, showing the inside of a whale. The commission salary of the artists was donated to BLUE Marine Foundation to protect water life.
Blue Marine by William Bloomstrand, Andrew Winch & Alex Hutchison
Dragon Residence by Bayarsaikhah Bazarsad
Elliptical by Geertje Jacob & Gastón Vacaflores
Iceberg by Wouter Biegelaar & Margot Eggenhuizen
Two Japanese artists created the Flower suite. The tsunami in Japan destroyed almost everything, but shortly after the wild flowers started to blossom. And it gave people hope.
The Flower by Natsuki Saito & Shingo Saito
Eternity by Fernando Inçaurgarat & Alfredo Juan Diez
Nest by Maurizio Perron
Rain Of Memories by Alessandro Canu & José Carlos Cabello Millán
Virgin In Space by Monica Popescu & Petros Dermatas
White Water by Elin Julin & Ida Mangsbo
White Water to the right. Beam Me Up to the left.
Beam Me Up by Karl-Johan Ekeroth & Christian Strömqvist
The Gold Standard is a list of the best hotels, bars and restaurants around the world. It’s put together once a year by Condé Nast Traveller and the Golden Standard of 2013 is published in the February edition.
One Australian bar made the exclusive list, The Croft Institute. It’s a wonderful bar, tucked down in an alleyway in Melbourne. I love this place. It has a funky vibe and it’s simply a great place to hang out.
I have photographed the official photos of Croft Institute and one of them is published in Condé Nast Traveller.
Related posts: The Croft Institute
Spent the week in Edinburgh and I loved the contrasts between the historic buildings and the busy streets. I walked around in the rain early in the mornings and photographed in the many laneways. I have always found that peaceful. We also went for a drive on the countryside.
Downton Abbey Christmas 2012 episode was filmed at Inveraray Castle, Scotland.
I absolutely loved The Blue Lagoon, and the contrast between the rolling snowy mountains and the smoking hot water. It’s a geothermal spa with massive outdoor pools and fabulous SPA treatments. I would go back any day.
The Horse Whisperer
I hadn’t been horse riding since I was a kid, but you can’t visit Iceland and not go horse riding. So off we went.
I was perhaps slightly optimistic when I put on my camera thinking I would get some nice photos from the excursion. The landscape was stunningly beautiful with frozen lakes and snow covered hills and heaths, but the paths were slippery.
The five gaits were new to me and I can’t really say I had much control of the speed. It didn’t feel like an option at the time to give the horse free reins and photograph. I believe I looked slightly less graceful than our young guide, who told me she was a horse whisperer. Yet another thing to love about Iceland, the stories, the magic.
Geysers and waterfalls
It was so bizarre to walk around in the freezing cold while the ground was bubbling. The hot steam from the geysers froze before it hit the ground making the area around the larger geysers pretty slippery.
Growing up in Sweden you are used to snow and you just know by a glance if the ground is slippery or not. In fact, I have never really thought about this until I saw tourists walking around with large steps on the icy snow, obviously falling laughing all over the place. Geysers and all, but that is what I remember the most. People stumbling around.
Heart of winter and it had been snowing all night. It was early in the morning and black outside as we walked up the hill to Hallgrímskirkja. It was only a short walk but the strong winds made the walk painfully cold.
I got some quick shots and we hurried through the storm to the massive doors to get inside. Only to find the doors locked. Luckily, we found a smaller entrance. The interior looks like a Viking ship turned upside down. It’s all white with glass sculptures looking like frozen water.
It was snowstorm when we arrived in Reykjavik and the waves were crushing hard against the black lava shores. No whale watcher boats left the harbour for several days due to the snowstorm, but finally they did.
Only a handful of people were on the boat, all of them Scandinavians brave enough, or perhaps foolish enough, to go on a boat trip in the Arctic during winter. It was not warm, but it was stunningly beautiful.
We were only 20 minutes from the harbour when the guide spotted a humpback whale. I did not. From a distance it takes a trained eye to see them, but as we got closer so did I.
It is common to see whales around Reykjavik during winter, but most of the time they swim off when you spot them. This humpback whale stayed with us; it started to play, splashed his tail against the surface.
As we turned back towards the harbour a group of Orca whales (killer whales) came close to the boat, swimming next to us. It is extremely unusual that Orcas go near Reykjavik and our guide told us that she had only seen it happen twice before.
The humpback whales move slowly, sliding through the water; the Orcas are all about speed. They live and hunt in groups, circling the pray before they strike and that’s what we saw. On the second photo there are baby Orcas too.
The photos don’t make the whales justice, the graceful swimming through the water; the breathing sounds; their impressive length, but perhaps you can sense it. Just like the traces they leave behind them in the water after a dive, like a quiet fingerprint on the water.