tobacco: havana, part 7

in viñales, we visited a tobacco plantation one day and a cigar factory the next. the tobacco barn the farmers hang the leaves to dry them tobacco seeds are very small the process for rolling cigars is fairly straightforward: cut a leave to size, put other dried leaves into it, roll it, glue the edges down with a flavored glue, wrap it in another leaf, trim the ends – done. it all looks very artisanal and romantic, but when you go to the factory, you can see that the work is a little more monotonous. what we saw were rows…

housing: havana, part 6

one of our projects involved a visit to an apartment building known as a solár. soláres are buildings that were owned by a single family before the revolution, that were then taken over by the state and split up into apartments. the state provides the soláres to the residents for free: free of rent and, apparently, largely free of maintenance except for what the residents do themselves. the solár that we visited, on calle san ignácio, had been owned by a member of the aristocracy, the duque de pinar del rio. the duque’s slaves and servants moved in after the revolution, and…

girls and boys, continued: havana, part 5

on an earlier trip to cuba a few years ago, our group leaders met a transvestite called barbara, with whom they developed some kind of a relationship. during this visit, they thought they saw her on the street, and – if i understand the story they told us correctly – their conversation went something like this: group leaders: “barbara?” transvestite: “cerveza?“ apparently, it wasn’t barbara, but rather a transvestite who called herself yalorde. in short order, thatcher and kirsten arranged with yalorde for us to come photograph her and her friends – in exchange for beer and money – so we could…

havana, part 1

recently, i visited cuba with a group of photographers. with more than 3,000 photos to review, it will take me a while to complete my blog posts on this trip, and longer if i want to actually write something perceptive about the experience … the travel restrictions are still in place, so we were there on a general religious license, which required us to visit churches and charities as part of our activities. i was eager to go, because i wanted to see cuba before the travel restrictions are lifted and planeloads of american tourists overrun the island. this seems…

il duomo di siena

the duomo in siena … words don’t really describe it. the cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263 using black and white marble, black and white being the colors of siena. the amazing walls and ceilings and the illustrated music manuscripts are from the adjoining piccolomini library; the frescoes tell the story of cardinal eneo silvio piccolomini of siena, who became pope pius ii (and was the uncle of pope pius iii), and the books are from his collection. click on any photo to enlarge it.

the anatomical waxes

in tuscany, at the natural history museum, there is a collection of anatomical waxes. i quote directly from the placard at the museum: unique in the world for the quantity and beauty of its pieces, this collection was the inspiration of the grand duke peter leopold of lorraine and felice fontana, the first director of the museum, who conceived it as a means of teaching anatomy without directly observing a corpse. it consists of more than 1400 pieces, done between 1771 and the second half of the 1800’s, contained in 550 showcases presently on display in 9 rooms. enjoy, although…

cyprus 5: abandoned places

we came across a few abandoned villages during our drive through southern cyprus. sometimes, a village has been abandoned because an earthquake or water problem rendered it unlivable; however, it may be the case that a village was abandoned because it had been a turkish-cypriot village before the turkish invasion, and the residents left it for safety in the north.

dang!

dams are impressive pieces of architecture.  when i was in albania, i photographed the vau i dejës dam for a friend who was doing some architectural work for the electric company (including a few pictures with my 6×6 camera): so here have the asprokremmos dam, an earthen dam built from 1978 to 1982. stones on the embankment, a huge concrete overflow reservoir, and a capacity of 51 million cubic meters of water … … and below it all – in case the dang fails – a row of beehives to protect the buildings on the coast from the onslaught of…

do you know the way to agia solomoni

we decided to visit the church and catacombs of agia solomoni, which was located relatively close to our hotel. agia solomoni (saint solomoni) was an early christian who took refuge in a cave to escape persecution by the romans. when the romans located her hiding place, they walled her up inside, condemning her to a long and painful death; however, when the cave was opened up 200 years later, she walked out alive. so the legend goes. amazingly, there is not a wikipedia entry on this. as is typical, there was a only a small sign pointing us toward the…