This past May, my wife and I headed off to Europe for our honeymoon. We were married last June and saved up enough money to take a three week excursion, criss-crossing the European continent. Our adventure took us, in order, to the following places: Reyjkavik, London, Krakow, Auschwitz, Paris, Versailles, Normandy, Vimy, Champagne, Venice, Munich, Athens, Santorini, Rome and finally, to a flight back home.
Along the way, we shot continuously. Armed with my Nikon D70, a 18-15mm kit lens, a 55-200mm lens, a slew of batteries and a gigantic 32GB memory card – with several 8GB cards for backup – we amassed around 4,600 pictures. I have finally found the time to process them all and the gallery below is the best of the best. The gallery includes shots from every spot we hit. The majority are well-known landmarks/tourist stops, but I have added some personal favourites as well; including several of me and my wife that I especially love. The gallery also includes the only video I took on our adventure, a shot of the Blue Lagoon in Reyjkavik, Iceland.
The obligatory “written in the sand” shot, as done on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, the landing site of the United States invasion forces on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).
The tallest building in Reykjavik by far, the architecture of Hallgrimskirkja is amazing from any angle. The cathedral was completed in 1986, after four decades of construction. Shot as an HDR, this shot shows the iconic bell tower, with a hint of the sprawling wings. At 244 feet, climbing the bell tower can result in some frigid winds at the top, as my wife and I discovered – the 5°C temperature at ground-level didn’t help either.
The interior doors of Hallgrimskirkja are decorated in these stained glass globes. In the reflection, you can see the sprawling ceilings of the main hall.
The interior doors of Hallgrimskirkja are decorated in these stained glass globes. In the reflection, you can see the sprawling ceilings of the main hall.
The interior of the massive cathedral has high-sprawling ceilings, reminiscent of European Gothic architecture. The massive windows along the sides of the hall allow natural light to filter through into the pews below.
The Blue Lagoon, a thermal hot spring just outside of Reyjkavik, Iceland, is a popular tourist destination for obvious reasons. In this panoramic image of the main swimming area, the white-blue water – the white pigment comes from the naturally-occuring silica on the pool’s floor – can be seen. While swimming in the thermal-heated waters, my back tattoo was stared at several times.
In the only video I shot in Europe, Jamie and I walk up the the Blue Lagoon to go for a swim. Walking up pathway the main entrance gives a first glimpse at the white-blue water.
Hyde Park is a Royal Park in the heart of London, England. Spanning over 350 acres, Hyde Park shares its western border with Kensington Gardens, another Royal Park, spanning 225 acres. Famous to landmarks such as “Speakers’ Corner” and the Rose Garden, Hyde Park is a joy for pedestrians and cyclists due to it’s minimal automotive traffic. Hyde Park has several rent-a-bike locations throughout the park and Jamie and I took full advantage of the £1 rental fee while exploring the park. The building and fountains seen here are viewable from a Northern entrance, accessible via Bayswater Road.
Adjacent to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is home to numerous landmarks, including Kensington Palace. A Royal Residence, Kensington Palace is most recently known for being the last residence of the late Princess Diana. The palace served as a mourning place for her admirers and was blanketed with flowers upon her death. On the grounds of the palace lies the garden you see in the panoramic shot above. When we visited, the Palace had a public exhibit entitled “The Enchanted Palace“, showcasing the seven princesses that had previously resided there through fashion (their dresses were hung around the palace), light (including a light projection of a dancing royal couple) and sound.
The Victoria Memorial lies just in front of Buckingham Palace (the upper levels can be seen in the background)in London. Completed in 1914, the memorial contains 2,300 tons of white marble.
The Rose Garden in Hyde Park is a Royal Garden, available to the public. Featuring numerous species of roses, the entire area provides both a visual and olfactory experience. I think Jamie stopped to smell each rose as we passed it by.
One of the largest cathedrals in London, St. Paul’s is a popular destination for both tourists and Christians alike. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the cathedral sits atop Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London. Seen here in a four-shot panorama, the Great West Door and it’s intimidating columns mask the iconic feature of the cathedral, it’s massive dome. The cathedral is so iconic, that during World War II, Winston Churchill insisted that all fire-fighting resources be directed to St. Paul’s, in order that the cathedral be saved. The highlight of the sprawling cathedral – at least for us – is the Whispering Gallery, a viewing gallery about half-way up the dome. As we discovered, the name is highly accurate: you can whisper into the wall on one side of the gallery and an observer standing 240ft away can hear your voice as if they were standing beside you. A word of caution to the faint-hearted: the climb from the nave to top of the dome is well over 600 stairs.
The iconic Tower Bridge – not “London Bridge” – is shown here in a black and white HDR shot. Completed in 1894, the bottom roadway opens vertically to allow large ships to pass on the River Thames, while still allowing pedestrian access across the upper walkways. Currently, the upper walkways are a public exhibit, showcasing the history of the bridge, it’s construction and the massive engines which make it run.
As we traversed across the continent of Europe, we made sure to fly our Canadian colours loud and proud. We were so loud in fact, that as we crossed Tower Bridge, a transplanted Canadian pointed at my Roots Canada shirt, yelled “Eh! Canada!” and gave me a thumbs up as she jogged past.
Big Ben, seen here, is the nickname of the clock tower that sits at the north end of Palace of Westminster, home of British Parliament. The four-faced clock was completed in 1858 and was an integral part of the reconstruction of the Palace after it was largely destroyed by fire in 1834.
Westminster Abbey, site of English coronations, state funerals and Royal weddings, is located just west of Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. The western façade, seen here, shows off the Abbey’s distinct Gothic-style architecture. If you plan to visit Westminster, be sure to check their hours of operation; we arrived at 2:59PM to discover the doors being closed in our face. When they say “closed at 3PM”, they mean it.
One of Westminster Abbey’s towers is shown with Big Ben in the background. Although built hundreds of years apart, the two locations serve as iconic British images.
Big Ben, shown with the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament: The House of Commons and theHouse of Lords. Designed by Sir Charles Barry, the Palace was completed in 1870 after a fire destroyed the original palace (Old Palace) in 1834. Both Houses of Parliament allow public viewing during debates, a chance discovery that we took full advantage of; it was more to say that I had sat in each House, rather than any interest in the debates at hand.
Inaugurated on the eve of the new Millenium, the London Eye has become the most visited tourist attraction in the United Kingdom. Shown here on the banks of the River Thames, the shops and restaurants in the surrounding area make for a great evening. As we found out, having dinner on the River Thames at a local restaurant, with the London Eye, Big Ben and Parliament as a scenic backdrop is something to remember.
Taken from a capsule aboard the London Eye, this birds-eye view of the Palace of Westminster highlights the Gothic architecture of the building as a whole. With Big Ben in the foreground, Victoria tower in the background and the River Thames below, this shot alone was worth the admission fee and 45 minute wait to get on to the Eye. The spectacular views of the surrounding areas were simply bonus material, as was the group of people we ended up with in our capsule – one group, from Boston was especially hilarious.
I had waited six years to see this gate. My undergraduate thesis, entitled “Bombing Auschwitz and The Abandonment of the Jews”, focused on the Allies’ knowledge of the Extermination Camps and the Nazi’s “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, specifically Auschwitz and its satellite camps. In it, I argued that the Allied commanders knew of the Extermination Camps and did nothing to prevent the atrocities they knew were occuring. I had spent four years of my life prior to that thesis studying the Second World War, eventually settling on the topic above as a final thesis. So, to say the least, visiting Auschwitz meant a lot to me. The shot you see above is of the main gate at Auschwitz I. The sign, installed by the SS at numerous Concentration Camps, translates to “Work Sets You Free” or “Work Liberates”.
A shot of one of the Cell Blocks at Auschwitz, Cell Block 15A. Although the most notorious of the Cell Blocks was Number 10, the Auschwitz-Birkeneu State Museum has installed exhibits – some dedicated to national memorials (eg. Russian Jews), some dedicated to public education – in each of the buildings, commerating all those that died at Auschwitz.
In one of the memorial buildings at Auschwitz I, was a wall of Nazi-taken prisoner photos, used to track prisoners prior to the infamous left-arm number tattoo. In one of the more memorable moments at Auschwitz, our tour guide told us of a tourist she had had several years prior, who recognized one of the photos on the wall. “That is my mother”, the man said. The State Museum was kind enough to give him a copy of the picture.
When the Auschwitz I camp was active, the double-fence seen above would have been electrified with over 10,000 volts. One of the perimeter guard towers can be seen in the background, with the rear of cell blocks seen to the right. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum installed public-education exhibits in several of the cell blocks seen here; one exhibit highlighted the sheer volume of Zyklon B gas canisters discovered at the site; another displayed the long hair of women and children, cut from their bodies post-mortem. The latter was especially disturbing, especially to Jamie, who had to leave the building.
A close-up of the electrified double-fence. Built in 1940 by the prisoners, several warning signs still exist today throughout the camp.
One of the brick ovens, used for cremating the remains of victims. While touring through the Auschwitz I crematoria, the room adjacent to this was the “shower room”, so-called because fake shower heads were installed to conceal it’s true purpose. Once the intended victims were inside the shower room, the room was hermetically sealed and Zyklon B was poured in from holes in the ceiling. Once dead, the victims’ bodies were transported to this room to be cremated. Take note of the rails in front, on the floor, so that the trolleys containing the bodies could be transported easier. Although several parts of the tour were especially disturbing, seeing the raw efficiency with which the Nazis approached this task was bone-chilling.
A detail of the barbed wire that surrounded many areas of the Auschwitz I camp. As a part of their “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, the Nazis murdered over one million Jews, gypsies, Slavs and other minorities at Auschwitz and its satellite camps.
When we arrived at Auschwitz II – also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau – one of the first images I recall was the image above: a single candle, placed in a decorative glass holder, on the tracks the Nazis used to transport thousands to their death. It was a solemn memorial in a place that had seen too much death.
Overcrowding in the Concentration Camps was commonplace, with up to 1,000 people forced to live in buildings like this one. Originally created as cattle barns, once the numbers of Auschwitz II blossomed to capacity and beyond, these buildings were converted to include the bunks you see above.
The tracks in the foreground of this images transported thousands to their deaths between 1940 and 1945. To the left, is the “Selection Platform”, where arriving trains were sorted for potential inmates deemed eligible to participate in labour. In the background is the “Gate of Death”, the train entrance to Auschwitz II, and the main guard towers.
As a part of the national museum, the plaque above in installed near the rear of the camp, as a memorial to all those that died at Auschwitz and its satellite camps. The stones which decorate the plaque, have been brought by visitors from all parts of the globe.
Taken from the guard tower at the front of the camp, the 180° panoramic image depicts the massive size of the Auschwitz II camp site. Housing, at its peak, nearly 100,000 prisoners, the former camp site is the size of a small village. To the left and right, the remains of individual prisoner barracks can be seen. In the distance, to the right, the remains of chimneys – two chimneys equals one building – can also be seen. Other details of the image include the main tracks (center), electrified fences (front-left and front-right) and the forest (center-top) where prisoners were shot and buried before the advent of gas chambers.
The east-facing façade, southern half of the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, France. Representing “La Marseillaise”, the French Republic’s national anthem, this sculpture is one of the more recognizable details of any Arc photograph. Our hotel was two blocks away, so I had ample time to shoot the Arc as we walked by it for the three days we stayed in Paris.
The east-facing façade, northern half of the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, France. Representing “Le Triomphe de 1810″, the sculpture depicts the crowning of Napoleon I as Emperor of France.
The east-facing façade of the Arc de Triomphe. Shown in HDR, the shot shows the intricate details that have gone into every aspect of the arch, from the detailed ceiling interior, to the detailed murals that run across the top and sides. To the left and right can be seen two of the main sculptures on the arch, “Le Triomphe of 1810″ and “La Marseillaise” respectively.
Standing atop the Arc de Triomphe provides one of the best 360° views of Paris. The above panorama, one of my favourites shot on this trip, shows the view facing East, highlighted by the Eiffel Tower to the right. Although twelve avenues spiral out from the Arc, the most infamous is the Champs-Élysées, seen with its trademark tree-lined promenade, in the center of the image. In the far distance, atop a hillside to the left, sits Sacré-Coeur.
Standing atop the Arc de Triomphe provides one of the best 360° views of Paris. The above panorama, one of my other favourites shot on this trip, shows the view facing West, highlighted by the silhouettes of “New Paris” in the distance. Five of the twelve avenues that meet at the Arc are visible in the photograph. And as we saw, twelve avenues arriving at the same point makes for some fun traffic patterns. The building that appears to be a transparent square in the distance of image center is La Grande Arche de La Défense. Accessible from the Arc de Triomphe via a direct Metro line, La Grande Arche was running a marathon around it when we arrived. Coupled with the broken elevators, we did not stay long in the La Défense area.
Staying at a hotel only two blocks away from the Arc de Triomphe has its advantages; you can shoot as many shots as you like of the Arc, and some are bound to yield good results. The shot above was taken around sunset, as the moon (image left) was just rising from the east. The names on the inside façade are of great French victories.
Shot in HDR, as the sun set behind the Arc de Triomphe, this is my favourite shot. A hint of La Grande Arche de La Défense can be seen just above roadway, near the bottom of the Arc. The detail work, from the main sculptures on the left and right to the murals adorning the upper parts of the Arc, are all visible.
Since its completion, the Eiffel Tower has been synonymous with Paris, France. Seen here at night, the Tower is illuminated from the inside out and at every half-hour, sets off an even more spectacular light show that resembles a fireworks display. Taken from the north-west corner, on Quai Branley, the base of the toqwer is silhouetted by surrounding trees. It was next to this scene that we first called home to our families.
Crossing the River Seine is a necessary part of exploring Paris and thanks to the plethora of bridges, you can almost cross at any point you like. These bridges vary from your average, run-of-the-mill bridge, to the moderately decorated, highly historic Pont Neuf. Above is one such bridge decoration, with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the background.
Les Invalides, constructed under Louis XIV, was a military hospital, barracks and armory. The location now serves as a military museum, as well as the final resting place of many of France’s prominent militray leaders. Perhaps the greatest leader in France’s rich history, Napoleon Bonaparte lies under the massive dome that is the signature of Les Invalides. His tomb, crafted in red porphyry, is constructed one level below the main promenade (top right), guarded by ever-watchful angels.
This is the view that greeted us every morning we woke up in Paris. The sounds of the market could be heard as early as 7AM, but after walking through the area once, we decided it was worth it. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands, bakeries with fresh croissants (some filled with chocolate!), fresh cheeses, meat, freshly caught fish and fresh-cut flowers were all available by walking out of our hotel.
Ah, the Louvre. Located in the heart of Paris, the Musée du Louvre houses some of the finest works of art from civilizations the world over. You could spend an entire month in the museum and still not see everything. Knowing this, we blitzed through and hit all the major attractions: the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, “La Liberté guidant le peuple“, La Grande Gallerie and La Pyramide Inversée. In the main courtyard stands the Louvre Pyramid, surrounded by spectacular fountains and the grand architecture of the Palais du Louvre.
Notre Dame is considered by many to be the epitome of Gothic architecture. The flying buttresses and main towers of Notre Dame are iconic symbols of the Catholic world, as are the many features of the Notre Dame cathedral (see next image). Walking through the historic grounds of Notre Dame is a spectacular experience; climbing the hundreds of stairs to the top, not so much. Especially when the lineup is an hour and a half long. And just when you think you have reached some sort of summit, you discover it is only the gift shop. The views afforded by the climb are amazing, but getting there takes some willpower.
The gargoyles of Notre Dame are one of the highlights of visiting the six hundred year old cathedral. The climb to reach them will have your legs screaming, but in the end is worth it. This gargoyle overlooks some of the major landmarks of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides (gold dome, image center) and the River Seine below.
The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is another of the more famous landmarks in Paris, France. Constructed in 1914, the basilica sits atop the highest point in Paris and can be seen from all corners of the city. The view from the front of the Basilica is one of my favourite in Paris, assuming you can get through all of the tourist-targeting vendors that sit at its base.
The Palace of Versailles, built by the “Sun King”, Louis XIV, is the penultimate display of Royal French wealth and pomp. Because Versailles is a suburb of Paris, the Metro (subway) does not reach this far out and requires either a train ticket, or the renting of a car. After travelling by car and touring the palace – including the spectacular Hall of Mirrors – the above is Jamie and I in front of the gardens, with the palace behind the camera.
The gardens at Versailles are the highlight of the grounds. Spanning over 800 hectares, the gardens contain over 200,000 trees, 210,000 flowers, 50 fountains and 35 km of piping to feed the fountains. To say the gardens are huge is a drastic understatement. If you arrive at the right time of day, the fountains are turned on to display the true beauty that is Versailles. The above panorama is taken just before the fountains are turned on, but the breadth of the gardens can clearly be seen. The alley down the middle of the image, home to the Grand Canal, continues the east-west axis that connects the Palace of Versailles with Paris via the Avenue de Paris.
The main fountain, entitled “Bassin de Laoton” and designed by André Le Nôtre, can be seen here with the palace in the background. The 50 fountains of Versailles, when turned on, can consume up to 3,600 m³ of water.
A waterfall fountain on the north end of the gardens grounds. The north wing of the Palace of Versailles is visible in the background, showcasing its yellow and gold stonework and accenting.
You could spend days searching the gardens of Versailles and never find everything, due in large part to the sheer size of the grounds. This gold dragon sculpture sat at the foot of one of the larger fountains, near the north-east corner of the gardens complex. To the west of this statue lies Marie Antoinette’s villa, including several shops and restaurants. As we unfortunately discovered, it is better to leave the complex to have a meal, as the restaurant we tried was well short of par.
When the American invasion forces landed on June 6, 1944, this was the landscape they cam ashore to. Taken on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, this 180° view shows off the rugged landscape the Americans were forced to land upon. To the right can be seen a dock, visible only at low tide.
At the American Cemetary on Utah Beach, the Visitor’s Centre contains the above eternal waterfall, with the Normandy invasion map in front. The code-named invasion beaches show the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule: Utah (American), Omaha (American), Gold (British), Juno (Canadian) and Sword (British). Relatively speaking, the American landing at Utah Beach had an easier landing, thanks to the removal of strategic 105mm German guns by the 101st Airborne.
The American Cemetary at Utah Beach (Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France) is native American soil, thanks to a special perpetual concession to the land by France, free of any charge or tax. Established on D-Day+2, the cemetary is the final resting place of 9,387 American soldiers, including two of the Niland brothers, the inspiration behind “Saving Private Ryan”.
Visiting the American cemetary at Utah Beach was one of my higher priorities on this trip. To visit the final resting place of those who sacrificied their lives to liberate a continent they had likely never set foot on is one of the highlights of this trip for me, second only to visiting the Canadian cemetary at Juno Beach. The American cemetary itself is spectacularly maintained; the grass is trimmed, the trees are kempt and each grave marker is free of debris and discoloration. Shot in HDR, the above image gives a view down one of the rows of crosses, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background.
This poster was on display at the Juno Beach Center, in Normandy, France. When Canada joined the way in 1939, many still considered England the “Mother Country”, represented by the lion in the background. The subtle symbols are what make this poster for me: the lion has a cigar (an obvious reference to Churchill, often called “The Last Lion”); the lion is wearing a regal crown; the lion is carrying some type of broadsword, while the Canadian beaver looks to be holding some sort of bayonet; the relative size of each, with the lion being bigger and more menacing than the beaver; and finally, the small field dressing on the lion’s tail.
Anyone who has met me can tell you: I am proud of where I come from. I am proud to be Canadian and I am proud of the heritage that I have inherited from my forefathers. Therefore, standing on Juno Beach, where they landed to liberate an oppressed continent, is one of the thrills of my life. The tattoo reads: “NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM. THE TRUE NORTH, STRONG AND FREE.”
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row, / That mark our place; and in the sky / The larks, still bravely singing, fly / Scarce heard amid the guns below. // We are the Dead. Short days ago / We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, / Loved and were loved, and now we lie, / In Flanders fields. // Take up our quarrel with the foe: / To you from failing hands we throw / The torch; be yours to hold it high. / If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields.” – Lt. Col. John McCrae
After exploring the Normandy beaches area all day, we arrived just before sunset at the Canadian Cemetary in Bény-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. Located about 15 minutes away from the Juno Beach Centre, the Canadian cemetary, like the American and other Normandy graves, is considered native Canadian soil, given in perpetuity and without any cost or tax. When we arrived, we discovered that we were the only ones visiting, which made the whole experience that much more special. The above panorama was taken while standing in one of the two observation towers at the front of the cemetary. The Cross of Sacrifice can be seen in the image center.
Each grave in the Canadian cemetary at Bény-sur-Mer is marked with a maple leaf on the top, and their symbol of faith below – a cross can be seen in the bottom of the grave marker in the top right). Touring the facility by ourselves was so peaceful and serene, it almost bordered on surreal. It was, by far, the highlight of the trip for me.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, has been pointed to by historians as the defining moment of Canada as a self-aware nation. At Vimy Ridge, many of the original trenches, craters and tunnels remain, available for guided tours, but flanked by warning signs that caution would-be explorers of the possibility of still-active mines in the area. Above, shot in HDR, is the figure of a mourning Mother Canada, flanked on her sides by the two pillars meant to represent Canada and France. Much larger than I expected it to be, the Vimy Ridge monument stands in the countryside as a testament to the heroic sacrifice of our fallen dead.
With the Vimy Ridge monument in the background, the flags of Canada and France fly in the foreground. Taken from the parking area, we were fortunate enough to turn around and meet a bus-load of fellow Canadians who had made the trip up to Vimy Ridge. We also met a couple from Burlington, Ontario; literally 20 minutes away from my home town. We went halfway around the world, just to meet someone from our own backyard.
On our way from Vimy Ridge to Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, Jamie noticed a hot air baloon and snapped this shot. The contrast between the vivid colours of the hot air balloon and the sea of blue combine to make a remarkable shot.
Thanks largely in part to Gary Vaynerchuk and a simple email, Jamie and I were put in touch with Jilles Halling, who set us up with two private tours of local Champagne wineries: Pennet-Chardonnet and Bollinger. The first tour, was given to us by the owner of the winery, Alexandre Penet. He showed us around the facility, the cellars and finally, back to his house, to sit in his rose garden and drink champagne with him and his wife. The latter tour of Bollinger – the official champagne of James Bond, 007 – lasted a couple of hours. We were shown the original vines (with Vitis vinifera rootstock), toured the 5km long cellars (which span underground, the town of Ay, France itself) and then spent an hour sipping the finest wines in Champagne, while overlooking the goegrous town of Ay, France. All because of one simple email.
After our tour of Bollinger, we had to drive our rented car from Ay, France, back to Charles de Gaulle Airport to catch a flight to Venice. Along the way, we were greeted with endless fields of vines, quite literally as far as the eye could see.
The Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) Basilica can be seen in this detailed shot of it’s western archways. Venice was a fun city to get lost in; we simply grabbed a map (so we could find our way home) and started walking. We hit a few dead ends, but along the way we discovered some things that we never would have been if we had stayed on the beaten path. We found this nice little restaurant to eat lunch at, and found some quaint little shops along the way.
The Campanile di San Marco (St. Mark’s Campanile) is the bell tower of St. Mark’s Basilica, seen here with the top of the basilica in the foreground. As one of the most recognizable features of Venice, the bell tower has been restored and rebuilt several times over the centuries. After climbing a lot of towers in the first half of our trip, we decided to pass on climbing this one. We went out and got lost instead.
Although our stopover in Munich was quick (less than 24 hours), we made the most of our time there. We jumped on a couple bus tours and along the way were given the rundown of several Munich attractions. The above is the Munich Olympic Tower, built for the 1972 Munich games to a height of 291 m.
Of course, the main tourist attraction in Munich occurs every October: Oktoberfest. The Löwenbräu beer, made in accordance with the Purity Laws of 1516, is one of only six beers that are allowed to be served at the annual Oktoberfest gathering.
The Munich Airport was the most unique airport we visited on this trip. Boasting an outdoor gardens, the entire area is covered with the massive canopy you see here. This shot was taken from the beer gardens at the Munich Airport.
At the highest point in Athens – more climbing – sits the Acropolis of Athens, an ancient settlement, seat of government, garrison headquarters and holy site. Composed of more than 21 buildings, Jamie and I sit in front of the Parthenon, one of the more recognizable features of the area.
The Old Temple of Athena, the bricked ruins in front, was the shrine of Athena, patron deity of the city of Athens. Dsetroyed by the Persians in 480 BC, the foundations of the massive temple are all that remains. The building in the background is the Erechtheum, an ancient Greek temple. On the right side of the building, the “Porch of the Caryatids” can be seen.
Shot in HDR, the iconic columns of the Parthenon can be seen in this shot facing west. The hills surrounding Athens can be seen in the background, as well as some of the suburbs of the city itself.
The Temple of Hephaestus, built around 415 BC, is one of the best-preserved Greek temples, as can be seen above. Standing just north-west of the Acropolis, this shot shows the western face of the temple, with the Parthenon visible in the diatnce to the lower right. This was my last shot in the Acropolis area, as we were escorted out immediately after this was taken. The park closes at 3PM and armed with whistles, ushers begin pushing people out from the base of the Parthenon, out the exits to the north.
When Athens hosted the Summer Olympics in 2004, they relied on their subway systems to get people around. When exiting the subway station at Olympic Park, this archway is the first thign that greets visitors. It is ironic that this shot has someone walking in the distance, as we did not see more than ten people at Olympic Park when we walked around. And this complex is big: it included the massive parking area to the right of this image, two swimming pools, an arena, a velodrome and the Olympic Stadium. It was a ghost town.
Since there was no one around, Jamie and I walked right into Olympic Stadium and sat down. The above panorama is taken from roughly the middle of the field, while sitting at the rear of the lower level.
The Aegean Sea has many well-traversed tourist islands, one of the major ones being Santorini. Chosen for its white-washed houses, dotted with blue-roofed churches, the Santorini topography forces the construction of buildings into the sides of cliffs. The drop-off to the sea is quite steep – as can be seen in the right of the image. The town of Thira, which resides at the northern end of Santorini, can be seen in the shot above. While on Santorini, we took the time to rent a car and drive around the tiny island, landing at several unique locations, including the Black Beach (named for its black sand), the Red Beach (named for its red volcanic cliffs). And of all the people to rent a car from, we rented our car from a transplanted Canadian, who hailed from Edmonton but had recently moved to Santorini.
The ancient Colosseum of Rome is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Seen here in a panoramic shot from its western edge, the tunnels, walkways and stone pillars that supported the ancient floor of the arena can be seen below. Remnants of the seating can be seen up each side of the massive structure.
What would have been underneath the main floor in ancient times, a detail of the incredible masonry work can be seen here. The numerous arches, used for both support and as entrances and exits for both contestants and animals, can be seen to the right.
The Vatican Museum contains countless treasures and is among the largest museums in the world. The figure seen here is the Augustus of Prima Porta, a two meter high marble statue discovered in 1863. It is the iconic statue of Augustus Caesar, and includes cupid riding a dolphin, a reference to the claimed lineage of the Caesar family to the god Venus.
The Castel Sant’angelo peak, atop which stands a figure of the Archangel Michael, from which the castle dreives its name. The view from the top of the castle – again with the climbing – provided great views of Rome and the surrounding areas.
The Castel Sant’angelo as seen from the Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge, leading away from the fortress. Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family, the castle was subsequently used as a papal residence, prison and fortress. It is currently a museum, open to the public.
St. Peter’s Square, designed by Bernini is a fixture as a symbol of Roman Catholic power throughout the world. The matching fountains, one of which is seen here, form the east-west axis of the square, with the obelisk residing the the middle of the east-west and north-south axes. Shot in HDR, the image above shows off Bernini’s fountain, the Tuscan collonades and the imposing basilica in the background.
Trevi Fountain sits at one of the aqueduct terminal points that provided water to ancient Rome. Opened in 1762, the fountain is a focal point for tourists the world over. When we visited, we had to fight to get even a decent vantage point because of the sheer volume of people in the area. The panorama above is shot using an 18-55 mm lens on a Nikon D70.
The National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II was built to honour the first king of a unified Italy. Completed in 1935, the monument takes up an entire city block and is a massive structure composed of white marble. Above, an angelic figures sits at the base of one of two of the massive Italian flags that adorn the monument. The Italian police are extremely protective of the monument, as we were told several time to not sit down on any part of the monument.
Built in 113 AD, Trajan’s Column celebrates the victories of Emperor Trajan in the Dacian Wars. A continuous frieze runs up the column, unbroken, from its base to its peak, depicting Trajan’s victories. The figure on top of the column is Saint Peter, the third statue to adorn this column; the first being an eagle and after his death, a statue of Trajan himself. St. Peter was placed on top in 1587.
One of the final shots taken on this trip is of the the remaining outer wall of the Colosseum. This black and white photo shows the numerous arches that the ancient structure is famous for, as well as some restoration work on the inner side of the wall.
A self-shot of Jamie and I, with the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine as a backdrop. The Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, the arch is a celebration of Constantine’s military victory over his rival, Maxentius. Shortly after this shot was taken, Jamie and I had a seat to the right of this picture and enjoyed the sunshine and the city of Rome for one last time. The next day, we were on a plane ride home.
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