Last year was a year of firsts for us.
In 2018, we visited a few old haunts such as Rome and Florence. We took a fantastic bike trip through Puglia with BikeTours.com. But most of the year took us to some new countries (at least new for us.)
Together, we got to go dogsledding and skiing in northern Sweden, cruise the Waterways of the Tsars with Viking river cruises in Russia, and enjoy tiger safaris and Himalayan hiking in India. Kris went by herself to Karpathos, Greece. And I went alone back to northern Sweden to walk part of the Pilgrimage route of Saint Olav. I also made my first trip to sub Saharan Africa for a wildlife research expedition. Somewhere in there, we fit in a break in the resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
More of the details of our year are here in Kris’s yearly roundup post.
And here are my 50 photos out of the thousands I shot. I could have probably picked 50 different ones, but one has to wear the editor’s hat now and then.
I hope you like them.
1Our first trip of the year was to northern Sweden, which was not much of a change for us native Minnesotans, except the snow was deeper and, believe it or not, it was warmer than Minnesota.
2Something I never thought I’d try turned out to be the one of the most fun things I think I’ve ever done. The dogs were amazing, the snow was deep, the wind was fierce, and I managed to hang on to the sled with one hand and shoot this with the other.
3We were in a lot fewer churches than normal this year, but I think this one was sort of special to us. It’s the terminus of the pilgrimage of Saint Olav across Sweden and Norway. The saint is buried here.
4The actual crypt of Saint Olav is quite a simple endeavor, and, I think, quite lovely.
5You don’t expect to see an enormous sculpture on the lakeside in Kristinehamn, Sweden. But there it is. Stranger things have happened.
6Myrtle Beach was not really on our radar, but we ended up visiting there for a few days of spring respite. Really a nice area, and, as the name suggests, a spectacular wide beach.
7I don’t fish myself, but I do like to watch other people fish. Really. It’s fascinating.
8When you walk around Rome at night, you often get the nicest views of churches reflected in the Tiber River.
9Our second big adventure this year was biking for a week in southern Italy. We loved Matera so much that we returned to the town for a few days after the bike trip ended.
10Puglia was generally hilly and provided some challenging biking. But it also featured long stretches of meadows where the biking was easy and the views green and inviting.
11After our bike trip, we trained up to our old friends Florence and Rome, and we visited two places we’d never been in Italy as well. Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe, and hundreds of covered walkways that are nearly as old. You don’t need to mind the rain in Bologna. A pedestrian friendly town, thanks to the foresight of their rulers hundreds of years ago.
12Of course, the first thing you think of when you think of Florence is the art. But, let’s not forget, Italy is for lovers.
13Saint Francis is the most famous denizen of Assisi, but let’s not forget the Saint Clare, Francis’s friend, and also the founder of a religious order. Her church is up the hill from Francis’s and is the first thing you see as you enter the city on foot from the east.
14What would a trip to Rome be without hours spent in the ruins of the ancient empire. Unlikely in our case. Ostia, the ancient port of Rome, is nicely preserved It’s easily reached by local train.
15Hadrian’s Villa, at Tivoli, is also reached easily by train from Rome. Add a short taxi ride from the nearby Tivoli gardens and you can see how the emperor who presided over the greatest expanse of the Roman Empire lived and worked.
16Every now and then, nature puts on a show. You just have to remember to look up while you’re walking among the ruins.
17However much time you think you should spend in The Hermitage, you should at least double it. It’s huge, and the art is extraordinary. The czars who collected it weren’t all bad.
18Just in case you were wondering how bit The Hermitage is, this might give you sort of an idea.
19Catherine’s taste was a bit over the top, but she made up for it by being a collector of extraordinary art.
20A photo can’t really do justice to this church, built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. These aren’t frescoes. They’re mosaics. And the luminance is spectacular.
21There’s some great Russian modern art in this museum. Kandinski, Chagall, and more. But the most interesting stuff is the couple of rooms housing the monumental Soviet art featuring Lenin and Stalin.
22We cruised from Saint Petersburg to Moscow on the rivers, lakes and canals that link the two capitals of Russia. Sometimes the forest came right up to the shore.
23One of our stops on the Russia cruise was in the island village of Kizhi, a Unesco World Heritage site, and a town that doesn’t operate too differently than it did in the 19th Century.
24I always try to visit the food markets in whatever city we’re visiting. So much more interesting usually than the tourist attractions. One can only take so many churches or museums.
25As I said above, the Soviet art scattered over Russia is always monumental, and more interesting than the churches.
26Lovely costumes, and lovely voices. Worth a few rubles in the bag, no?
27Sometimes you just get lucky with the light and the right time of day and the sun breaking through the overcast. Russian churches almost never have free standing sculptural pieces, but this one does. So, I was doubly lucky to see it lit like this. Almost as if they planned it.
28We’ve been in a lot of Metro stations around the world, but Moscow is unique in that nearly every station is artistically decorated. This station paid homage to the citizen soldiers, men and women, who endured the horrible hardships inflicted on the Russian people during World War II.
29The communist rulers of Russia destroyed most of her churches, but had the good sense to preserve the ones in the Kremlin. Maybe they, like the rest of us, just liked the view the domes provided.
30One of the few places you can walk around at random in the Kremlin. If you get too close to where the government works, soldiers blow whistles and shoo you back within the lines. But at least the old churches are pretty much open to wandering, if you have the right ticket.
31Speaking of the right ticket for the Kremlin, you’ll have to wait in line to get it. Sometimes in the rain.
32I visited Sweden a second time in 2018, this time doing a lot of hiking along the old pilgrimage route called The Way of Saint Olav. A lot of views of water like this along the route. In fact, this part of Sweden looks surprisingly like northern Minnesota.
33There’s a hotel outside Åre called Copperhill. They have a gourmet restaurant, a spectacular spa, comfortable rooms, and views like this.
34My first trip to sub Saharan Africa was to Malawi with Biosphere Expeditions. Our camp in a game preserve was the perfect spot to observe baboons, hippos, and elephants, who occasionally walked right up to our camp and helped themselves to our trees.
35We spent several days hiking around the lake near out camp and counting hippos in the water. We only saw a couple on the shore in the twelve days I was there. Keep your distance is the best advice when it comes to hippos.
36One of the most fascinating aspect of my trip to Malawi was participating in research on bats. The bats, captured in ingenious traps, were measured, sexed, identified, and released.
37A big part of the Malawi expedition was observing baboons. It wasn’t difficult as they passed impertinently through our camp and the village just up the hill. Absolutely not afraid of humans.
38On our “day off” from animal research, we visited a nearby Malawian village. As I passed through the village with my cameras, darn near every kid came up to talk to me…and to pose.
39The saddest bit about Malawi is that the country has one of the highest AIDS infection rates in the world. When we visited the nearby village, the number of orphans was apparent. Many of the young adults had died and left the children in the care of the older women of the village.
40One of the benefits of being in the Malawi bush is that the constant dust of a dry climate produces spectacular sunsets.
41On our way to Orchha, India to see the temples, we happened across what we thought were fishermen on the lake. It turns out, they were collecting water chestnuts. I wanted to try one, but eating something out of an Indian lake is really not a good idea for people who don’t have the immunity of a native.
42Our first five days in India were spent jeeping around three national parks in search of tigers. In general they were a bit shy and didn’t show themselves too easily. But we did get a prolonged look at this guy as he lay down for a mid morning nap.
43Of course, we did get the occasional look at the big guys as they came out of the trees to have a look at us.
44Tigers weren’t the only objects of our attention in the national parks. There were lots of deer, monkeys, elephants, and spectacularly colorful birds, like this Blue Roller.
45This guy, from the village of Ranchha in Madhya Pradesh, India was happy to pose. Especially because he asked me after I took this shot for 10 rupees. I figure the equivalent of 15 cents was worth it.
46This lovely young lady was a little skeptical, but she posed for me anyway. And she didn’t ask for any money. She wouldn’t smile for the photo, but she did so when I showed her the shot on the screen of my camera.
47One early morning was spent rowing the calm Denwa River looking for birds. We photographed lots of them, but I like this shot the best.
48As we were driving through the Himalayan mountains on our way to some hiking spots, we stopped in the tiny village at the Jahlari Pass for tea. This guy and his friend were waiting for the bus to the next village. I told him I liked his hat.
49India has the worst air pollution in the world, some of which is caused by the extensive use of wood for cooking and heating. Even far out of the big cities, the haze is constant. Even at 11,000 feet up in the Himalayan mountains. But, sometimes, the smoke makes for a pretty photo.
50If you want to shoot the Taj Mahal, get there early when the sun is still low, and the crowds haven’t overwhelmed the site yet. It’s a small window of opportunity, but worth getting up for.
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