Monday, January 23, 2012


Last December I spent a few days in South Korea  for business - mostly in Seoul. Our agenda was quite full, we visited every day several companies. Typically we were picked up at 8:30 am at the hotel and often we didn’t get back before 8 pm or we had even a business dinner at the evening. That left not much time for sight seeing and taking pictures. At least at the days of arrival and departure I managed to visit some of the palaces.

I stayed at the Westin Chosun Hotel which is located in the vicinity of the town hall and the major department stores.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
The Gyeongbokgung Palace (‘Palace of Shining Happiness’) is a royal palace located in northern Seoul. It is in a walking distance from the city hall. One could describe it better as a palace city than just a palace. First constructed in 1394 was it the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty in Seoul. The palace was once nearly destroyed during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), and then reconstructed in 1867 to form a complex of 330 buildings and 5792 rooms. It was then destroyed again during the Japanese occupation of Korea after 1911, more demolition was happening to the palace city during the Korean War.
More information about the Gyeongbokgung Palace at Wikipedia.

Change of the guards at Gwanghwamun gate, the southern entrance to the palace

The western front of the Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall)

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion
The Hyangwonjeong Pavilion built in the late 19th century. Today the bridge leads from the south to the island. The original bridge was connecting the island from the north, it was destroyed during the Korean War.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, is a hall that was used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty. The present building was constructed in 1867. The first Gyeonghoeru was built during the early 15th century, but it was burned down during the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592

Modern and historic Korea sets a nice contrast.

Changdeokgung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace
Changdeokgung (‘Palace of Prospering Virtue’) is located in the north-eastern part of Seoul. Again this is rather a palace city, it was also heavily destroyed during the Japanese occupation. In 1997 Changdeokgung became a UNESCO World Heritage.

Main gate
A pagoda detail
Towards the Injeongjeon Hall

More impressions from Seoul
Some evening left the chance to discover the neighborhood and also the company visits gave the opportunity for some photographic expressions.

Myeong-dong is a busy modern shopping district…

…but traditional snacks are cooked freshly on the streets

View on the Han River from the LG twin towers
The technology Seoul: Samsung show room ‘d’light’

Other places I visited and I would recommend to visit when staying in a down town hotel are:
Namdaemun Market – a rather traditional market with lots of little stands and shops. In the evening cook shops are dominating.
Insa-dong – a street with an interesting mixture of galleries, boutiques and souvenir shops.

This pictures were taken with the wide-angle (12-24 mm), the standard zoom (18-55 mm) and the tele zoom (70-300 mm). 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Door knockers of Mdina, Malta

During a walk through the historic center of Mdina which was the old capital of Malta during the medieval ages I caught a variety of door knockers. The door knockers are iron, bronze or brass and accentuated on the colored wooden doors.


Last November we spent almost two weeks on the Mediterranean island of Malta. This tiny independent country is located south of Sicily and north of Tunisia and Libya. Malta has an impressive history; different cultures changed the face of the island again and again. The humans of the late Neolithic left huge temples, pottery, mysterious grooves in the rocks and other relicts. The Romans built the cities with catacombs. The Arabs left their language – Maltese is the only Arabian language written with Latin letters - and their architecture. The crusaders and the Maltese order built churches, palaces and fortifications. The Italians brought the cuisine. And the British left driving on the wrong side of the street, more fortification and made the island an important trade place.

We stayed on the west coast of the main island Malta at a hotel in the Golden Sands Bay. There are not many buildings on the west coast, so it is a quite place, but since the distances are never big busier places are easy to reach. We did some hiking and visits to cities, monuments and other scenic points. I would like to share some of my favorite photos I took during the stay. In the cities and inside buildings I used quite often my wide angle lens Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4. It is not at all easy to take pictures that look natural with the wide angle.

View down to the Gnejna Bay during a hike starting at our hotel (click to enlarge)

The Gnejna Bay with the island of Gozo in the background (click to enlarge)

The Dingli Cliffs. A 200 meter vertical drop.

The temples of Mnajdra are today covered by a huge tent (click to enlarge)

The cart ruts can be found at many places on the island. It is not clear what the origin of the ruts is

Typical for La Valetta, the islands capital, are the gazebos…

…painted in all colors.

La Valetta is built on a rock, streets and stairs go permanently up and down. (Sigma 1:4-5,6 DL 70-300 - 230mm, f/8, 1/320s, ISO200)

The city is narrow, why not using a car to display goods.

And this car is owned by a cat. (Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 - 19 mm, f/8, 1/15s, ISO200)

The St. John Co-Cathedral looks plain from the outside…

…but is one of the most impressive baroque churches I have ever seen. (Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 - 12mm, f/4, 1/8s, ISO800, angle slightly corrected)

Over and over full with gold and paintings and the complete ground is covered with artful tomb slabs.

The other Co-Cathedral is St. Paul's in Mdina – the old capital

A very interesting detail Mdina offers are the artful door knockers - see the second blog post on Malta.