‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ Jewish Memorial, Budapest

Towards the end of World War II, between October 15th, 1944 and March 28th, 1945, the Hungarian government was briefly under the control of a fascist organisation known as the Arrow Cross Party. During this dark period, 10-15,000 people were murdered in Hungary by Arrow Cross Militia, and a further 80,000 were sent to their deaths in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

In Budapest, Arrow Cross soldiers would line Jews up along the bank of the Danube, instruct them to remove their shoes, and then shoot them, such that their bodies fell into the river and were washed away. The Shoes on the Danube Bank, envisaged and created by Can Togay and Gyula Pauer, was erected in 2005 as a memorial to those who died in this atrocity.

IMG_0669The monument is located just south of the Hungarian Parliament on the Pest (east) side of the River Danube. It comprises 60 pairs of shoes, appropriate to those worn during World War II, made of iron. The metal footwear is lined up along the very edge of the riverside stone embankment, as if left there by the victims of the Arrow Cross’s reign of terror.

IMG_0668IMG_0672IMG_0666As you might imagine, Shoes on the Danube Bank is an extremely poignant and moving memorial. Standing there, contemplating what happened at that very site, I felt tears pricking at my eyes. I found it almost impossible to comprehend how such events could actually take place. I still do. And even now, thinking back on my visit as I write this post, I feel a lump in my throat.

IMG_0670IMG_0671This post was inspired by the theme Bare Feet and Shoes from Cee (of Cee’s Photography).

IMG_1599After you’ve finished contemplating Shoes on the Danube Bank, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Brad’s Got It Covered!

Despite spending the last few days running around Puerto Rico, when I saw the photo themes from Pete (of The Daily Post) and Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) were respectively Cover Art and Numbers, I knew I had to find a moment to do a quick post.

The Cover Art part leapt at me first, since I don’t have to imagine what my book covers would look like… They already exist for real!

And as there are already three books in the Jaspa’s Journey series, with more on the way. So there’s the numbers part covered, too!

For those that don’t know, the Jaspa’s Journey is a series of travel adventure novels, written by Rich, about the exploits of none other than yours truly! The first book in the series, Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration, is set on Africa’s Serengeti Plain. It was properly published by DreamCatcher Publishing back in 2009, and even won an award as one of USA Book News’ Best Books 2009. Unfortunately, DreamCatcher closed when its owner passed away, and Rich and I are currently looking for a new home for Jaspa’s Journey (anybody know a publisher?).

In the meantime, we’ve made The Great Migration available as an eBook, together with the first two sequels… Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London and Jaspa’s Journey 3: Jaspa’s Waterloo.

To go along with this new phase in Jaspa’s Journey, we got brand new artwork done for all three books by Hollywood Animation Artist, Brad Hughes. Which finally brings me to my photo…

Meeting with Brad to discuss interim versions of the artwork for Jaspa's Journey 3: Jaspa's Waterloo

Meeting with Brad to discuss interim versions of the artwork for Jaspa’s Journey 3: Jaspa’s Waterloo

Brad has worked on a bunch of animated movies and TV shows, including Disney’s recent Winnie the Pooh and The Princess and the Frog. So when he agreed to do the cover art and maps for Jaspa’s Journey (not to mention my cool logo!), we were naturally over the moon!

If you’re interested in learning more about my literary adventures, visit the Books page on my website.

And to help get you started, drop me a email to jaspa@jaspasjourney.com, and I’ll send you a coupon for a free download of Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration.

1! Ah ha ha... Jaspa's Journey: The Great Migration

1! Ah ha ha…
Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration

2! Ah ha ha... Jaspa's Journey 2:  The Pride of London

2! Ah ha ha…
Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London

3! Ah ha ha... Jaspa's Journey 3: Jaspa's Waterloo

3! Ah ha ha…
Jaspa’s Journey 3: Jaspa’s Waterloo

In the meantime, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

Jaspa’s Journey eBooks… Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

I asked Sue for the first travel-related thing that came into her head when I said the word Green. “Ireland’, she replied, without hesitation, invoking memories of one of our earliest trips together, back in 2002.

scan0005Our very first stop upon arriving on the Emerald Isle was Dunluce Castle. This medieval fortress occupies a stunning location on the North Antrim coast, less than five miles west of the Giant’s Causeway. It perches 100 feet above the sea, atop a headland of sheer basalt cliffs, and is only accessible by means of a bridge.

scan0001The oldest archaeological evidence of human habitation at Dunluce dates from the 10th Century. The current castle was begun during the late 13th or early 14th Centuries by Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, although historical records indicate that it was in the hands of the MacQuillan Clan by 1513.

scan0002Ownership of Dunluce Castle passed to the MacDonnell Clan in 1565, after they twice defeated the MacQuillans in battle. Despite temporarily losing the castle more than once, the MacDonnells own Dunluce to this day, even though the building was abandoned in the late 17th Century.

scan0003Beneath the castle is a large sea cavern, known as Mermaid’s Cave.

scan0004In 1588, the Girona, one of the ships from the ill-fated Spanish Armada, was wrecked on the nearby cliffs. More recently, Dunluce Castle has been used as the basis for the House of Greyjoy in the TV series Game of Thrones.

scan0006This post was inspired by the theme Green from Cee (of Cee’s Photography). Apologies for these images being of a lower quality than normal, but our visit to Ireland pre-dated Rich’s first digital camera, so these are scans of actual photographs.

While you’re marvelling over spectacular Dunluce Castle, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Meteor Crater, Arizona

Did you know there’s a subtle difference between a meteor and a meteorite? A meteor is an object that approaches the Earth from space, but burns up during it’s flight through our atmosphere. If, however, part of that object manages to reach the Earth’s surface, it gets promoted to being a meteorite.

So technically, Meteor Crater in Arizona should be known as Meteorite Crater. Because after visiting it, you’re left in no doubt that something not only reached the surface, it smashed into it! With a capital SMASH!

Approaching Meteor Crater

Approaching Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater was always high on my Bucket List. So seeing it in 2011 was a dream come true.

Me at Meteor Crater

Me at Meteor Crater

If you read my post The Day I Saw A Space Shuttle Launch, you’ll know I’ve always been captivated by anything to do with space. So how could I fail to be impressed by a crater almost 3900 feet in diameter, 570 feet deep, and with a rim that stands 148 feet proud of the surrounding flatlands, produced when an asteroid slammed into the Earth?!

A stitched panorama from the upper observation level

A stitched panorama from the upper observation level

Approximately 50,000 years ago, the Canyon Diablo Meteorite struck what is now the Arizona desert about 27 miles east of Flagstaff. Scientists (who incidentally call Meteor Crater, the Barringer Crater, in honour of Daniel Barringer, who first realised what it was) estimate that the nickel-iron asteroid was roughly 160 feet in diameter and weighed around 300,000 tons when it crashed into what was then a grassland plain.

A brief break in the clouds

A brief break in the clouds

At the time of the collision, the meteorite was travelling somewhere between 28,600 mph and 45,000 mph. It’s sudden stop upon reaching the Earth’s surface released the equivalent energy of a 10 megaton bomb.

Looking down into the crater

Looking down into the crater

Remains of a mining operation in the bottom of the crater - if you look very carefully, you might be able to make out the mock up of a NASA astronaut

Remains of a mining operation in the bottom of the crater – if you look very carefully, you might be able to make out the mock up of a NASA astronaut

The rocks from the point of impact were flipped outwards, such that the normal geological layering is reversed in the crater rim. And in the bottom of the crater, you have to go through 7-800 feet of ruble before reaching relatively undisturbed bedrock.

The outside of the crater rim

The outside of the crater rim

The reversed geology of the crater rim

The reversed geology of the crater rim

Unsurprisingly, the asteroid all but destroyed itself in this inconceivably violent impact. In fact, a large proportion of it simply vaporised! The remaining fragments were scattered over an area at least 5½ miles in diameter. The largest piece of the Canyon Diablo Meteorite recovered so far is known as the Holsinger Meteorite and weighs 1409 pounds.

The Holsinger Meteorite in the Meteor Crater museum

The Holsinger Meteorite in the Meteor Crater museum

Being privately owned, Meteor Crater isn’t eligible to be a United States National Monument. It is, however, classed as a National Natural Landmark, and quite rightly so!

IMG_5403This post was inspired by the theme Broken from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) and Fly from Sue (of A Word in Your Ear).

If you’re as awestruck as I am by Meteor Crater, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Copenhagen’s Nyhavn

Despite being Danish for ‘New Harbour’, Copenhagen’s ‘Nyhavn’ is almost 350 years old. It was constructed by Swedish Prisoners-of-War between 1670 and 1673, to link the inner harbour to Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) in the heart of the Old Town.

The view west along the north side of Nyhavn, with Kongens Nytorv in the distance

The view west along the north side of Nyhavn, with Kongens Nytorv in the distance

As I understand it, until it was given a facelift in the 1970s, Nyhavn had become a little unsavoury. Yet today the area is one of the Danish capital’s most popular attractions.

Visitors are particularly delighted by the brightly-painted buildings that line the north side of the harbour, many of which have been converted into canal-side restaurants and cafés. The oldest building along Nyhavn is Number 9, which was built in 1681.

Number 9, the oldest building in Nyhavn

Number 9, the oldest building in Nyhavn

Three of other buildings (Numbers 18, 20 and 67) were home to the author Hans Christian Andersen for a total of 18 years.

The outer part of Nyhavn, with one of Hans Christian Andersen's residences in the background (Number 67 - the tall white one, third from the right)

The outer part of Nyhavn, with one of Hans Christian Andersen’s residences in the background (Number 67 – the tall white one, third from the right)

The inner part of the canal itself now houses a beautiful collection of old ships.

Looking west along Nyhavn - the red sliver on the very left is Number 20, another of Hans Christian Andersen's houses, with Number 18 just beyond it

Looking west along Nyhavn – the red sliver on the very left is Number 20, another of Hans Christian Andersen’s houses, with Number 18 just beyond it

This post was inspired by the theme Vibrant Colors from Cee (of Cee’s Photography).

The inner part of Nyhavn from the bridge, complete with old ships

The inner part of Nyhavn from the bridge, complete with old ships

While you’re enjoying Nyhavn’s vibrant energy, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Thanksgiving in Canada (Revisited)

Everyone has heard of Thanksgiving. In the USA, it can be traced back to 1621, when the Pilgrims at Plymouth gave thanks for the first successful harvest after their arrival in the New World. Abraham Lincoln declared the first official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War.

Today, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November, and in many ways it’s bigger than Christmas there – a fact I can personally confirm, having spent Thanksgiving in upstate New York a couple of years ago. That’s perhaps part of the reason I’m looking forward so much to spending it with friends in Connecticut this year.

However, if you’re not from Canada, you’re perhaps unaware that Canadians have a Thanksgiving celebration of their own. And you’ll probably be surprised to learn that the first Thanksgiving in Canada occurred in 1578, over 40 years before the one at Plymouth.

You have to be thankful for your friends!

You have to be thankful for your friends!

Canadian Thanksgiving takes place closer to harvest time, on the second Monday in October. Which just happens to be today!

For us, Thanksgiving 2012 was particularly special, since it fell on the 1st birthday of Rich and Sue’s Goddaughter, Abi, who was visiting (along with her parents) from the UK. To mark this double celebration, we spent the day at Niagara Falls.

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

We even got to do something I’d never done before in all my visits to the Falls – walk across the Rainbow Bridge, which joins Canada to the USA. (I’ve crossed it many times in the past few years, but always in a car.)

After marvelling at the cascading waters from both sides of the border, we enjoyed our Thanksgiving/Birthday dinner overlooking the Falls from the Canadian side, watching the sun go down behind the plume of mist.

The perfect end to a perfect day. The kind of day that makes you thankful just to be alive!

Sue and Abi

Sue and Abi

Today, I’m especially thankful for all my wonderful friends here in the blogosphere! To celebrate how many people have discovered my blog in the last two years (and seem to like), I thought I’d update this article, which I originally posted back when I was basically writing for Rich’s Mum and Dad!

View from restaurantIf you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, next month, or just on general principles, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

 

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San Marino Dreamland

Similar to the Vatican City, the Republic of San Marino is like a tiny land-locked island surrounded by the sea that is Italy. And at just 24 square miles, with a population of around 30,000 people, it’s a tiny island at that.

IMG_2359IMG_2361IMG_2362Yet while San Marino may be the third smallest country in the world, it’s big on history. In fact, it claims to be the ‘oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world’, with its foundation dating back to 301 AD.

IMG_2364IMG_2365IMG_2366San Marino is situated on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains, which run down the spine of Italy. The ancient citadel within the actual City of San Marino is perched at an elevation over 2400 feet, on the lofty summit of Monte Titano (Mount Titan). Together, the fortifications and mountain are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

IMG_2367IMG_2369IMG_2372Unsurprisingly, the historic towers along the walls of the City of San Marino normally command impressive vistas down towards Rimini and the Adriatic, just 10 miles away across the coastal plain.

IMG_2375IMG_2376IMG_2377But on the evening we arrived, in the interior of the Old Town you could barely see your hand in front of your face, thanks to one of the thickest fogs I’ve ever encountered. It was as if the whole mountain top had been transported into the interior of cloud. Wandering around the deserted streets was like an eerie dream, I can tell you!

IMG_2380IMG_2381IMG_2382This post was inspired by the themes Dreamy from Michelle (of the Daily Post) and Interior from Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?).

IMG_2383IMG_2384IMG_2385If you’ve enjoyed these spooky scenes of San Marino, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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