La Garroxta – Girona, Spain


La Garroxta

Girona, Spain

La Garroxta is an absurdly lush and lovley county in the province of Girona – just north of Barcelona-  by northern Cataluña.   While it is very small, there are many places to explore and all within close distance to each other!

We explored some of the volcanic region around the town of Olot, where we stayed at “Les Cols Pavilions”

There are about 40 volcanoes in the region, with Croscat and Santa Magarida being the more impressive ones.

gabriel-monsaabove photo Castellfollit de la Roca © Gabriel Monsa
RichardAlonsoabove photo Castellfollit de la Roca © Richard Alonso

Castellfollit de la Roca: This beautiful thin town, dating from the 13th century, is situated on the edge of a fifty meter basalt cliff, almost a kilometer long. The cliff  is the  result of the erosive action of the rivers Fluvià and Toronell.

Laureaabove photo Volcà de Santa Margarida © Laureà

AlainMullerabove photo Besalú © Alain Muller

Besalú:  another lovely town with a 12th-century Romanesque bridge that goes over the Fluvià river. The town is also famous for the restored “Miqvé” Jewish Purification Baths.

fageda-den-Jorda_003Fageda d’en Jordà

Fageda d’en Jordà, a cute birch forrest

51ecb531e8e44e67170000b5_parque-de-piedra-tosca-rcr-arquitectes_i18-986-02-1000x792above photo Parc de Pedra Tosca © Hisao Suzuki –  RCR Architects
Portadaabove photo Parc de Pedra Tosca  © Hisao Suzuki –  RCR Architects

Parc de Pedra Tosca:  This rough rock park  was a monumental project.  Constructed  by  RCR Architects, it involves volcanic rock mounts constrained by rusted steel plates creating a pathway to Les Preses Volcano Park.

Sant-Pau__008Nucli antic de Santa Pau

Nucli antic de Santa Pau: yet another tiny Jewish settlement built  between 13th and 14th centuries, with an abandoned castle in the middle

Sant-Pau__002view from Nucli antic de Santa Pau

Sultanahmet Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey



Sultanahmet Mosque

Sultanahmet Cami, 34122
Sultanahmet, Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey

daily except during daily prayers


Visible from many spots around Istanbul, the Sultanahmet Mosque dominates the skyline. Commonly, it is known as the Blue Mosque, because of the blue ceramic tiles of different tulip designs, from Iznik city (Nicaea), that line it’s interior.

Sultan Ahmed I, had it built between 1609 and 1616 over the site of the ancient hippodrome and the palace of the Byzantine emperors.  Facing the Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet Mosque was desigened by royal architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa.

The  tablets on the walls are inscribed by the  17th century calligrapher Ametli Kasım Gubarımare with the names of the caliphs and verses from the Quran. One will also find beautiful examples of Arabic calligraphy by Seyyid Kasim Gubari.

The upper levels of the Mosque’s interior are dominated by blue floral drawings and stained glass windows. The coloured glass for the windows was a gift from the Signoria of Venice to the sultan.   Unfortunately time and poor taste have replaced many of the windows with modern versions with little or no artistic merit.

The mosque has six minarets each with three balconies (Called Şerefes).  This was unusual, and a cause of public unrest, as most mosques only have four minarets. Six was a number reserved only for Mecca.  As a good solution, more more minarets where added to Mecca – and the conflict was settled!

The design of the Sultanahmet Mosque is the culmination of over two centuries of both Ottoman and Byzantine temple development.  It incorporates Byzantine elements, from the neighboring Hagia Sophia, with traditional Islamic architecture.  This wonderful structure is considered the last great mosque of the classical period of the Ottoman Empire.

The Blue Mosque is an active religious site, so it’s closed to non worshipers for a half hour or so during daily prayers.   Before stepping in to Mosque, be sure to take off your shoes, women should bring a large scarf to cover the head and shoulders (but if you forget  you can rent one at the door).  In a kind of kitchy but fun actvity,  you can book  a photo shoot with traditional Ottoman Costumes in the Blue Mosque via the Ottoman dream studio.

The Sultanahmet Mosque is on the must see list of any good site-seeing tour of Istanbul.  It is a true marvel and a testament to builders of another age.  The complexities of its vaults and tiling is a site to behold.









Istanbul Mosaic Museum – Istnbul, Turkey



Great Palace Mosaic Museum

(90)  212 518-1205
Hacımimi Mh., Lüleciler Arastası Sk,
80200, Istnbul, Turkey

Variable:  Better to call before visiting.

A small side stop next to the Arasta Bazaar is the Great Palace Mosaic Museum Museum.  There, restored and displayed, are a myriad of Byzantine mosaics that used to decorate the pavement of a peristyle courtyard circa (r. 527-565).  Quite interesting in terms of style and complexity.

Here is a link to a 3d rendering of the







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