Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: travel

My stories 06: The old green trains

I remember when I was little, I used to take the old green trains with “the adults” from Guangzhou back to my mom’s hometown in Gansu province of China. Then we’d take the train back again, and each way took two days and one night. That route still exists now and I guess the duration is the same even today. When I was very young, we went in the hard sleeper coaches. We even travelled with hard seats once and that was quite a terrible experience…yep. Along the way, there were three stops that left the deepest impression in my memory. The first stop was Wuchang (one of the three major districts that make up the city of Wuhan now), which I can’t be more familiar with in present day. On the return trip to Guangzhou, the train must cross the Yangtze River Bridge before arriving at Wuchang station. Every time we were crossing the bridge, my third grandpa would remark with excitement, “We’re at Wuchang, we’re at Wuchang!” And that was the earliest that “Wuchang” entered my vocabulary as a place in China. The second stop was Zhengzhou. I didn’t know where Zhengzhou was back then (now I know that it’s the capital of Henan province) and I only knew that it was a major station, as the train stopped there for nearly half an hour. The adults would get off the train to stretch and walk around, but I’d always worry that the train would leave before they returned, so I’d keep urging them to get back onto the train. The third stop was Xi’an, also a major station. During those years, there’d be vendors selling food and snacks on the platforms. You didn’t even have to get off the train – you could open the window and buy whatever you wanted. I remember there was someone selling roasted chicken at Xi’an station and oh man, that chicken looked extra mouthwatering and irresistible. But then, the adults never bought anything from the train stations. As a small child, I could only watch as that delicious-looking roasted chicken, which I never got the chance to taste, disappeared in front of my eyes. Today, I can most certainly afford to buy a roasted chicken myself, but no one sells them on the platforms anymore…

Slow green trains on the platform. Nowadays, many people in China choose to travel with the high-speed trains for speed and convenience, but many of the slow train routes, including the one from Guangzhou to Gansu, still exist.

(This short essay was written on August 26, 2019.)

September 2020

September has historically been my favourite month of the year as it marks the beginning of autumn as well as my birthday 😛 This year, September was extra-anticipated because I took my five-day annual leave at the end of the month, giving me two weeks off work when combined with the eight-day National Week holiday at the beginning of October. Still, let’s see what Annie had been up to this past month.

I’m constantly discovering new places in Wuhan and this time it was a walking path near the Huanglongshan (literally “Yellow Dragon Hill”) area. Who would have thought that there’d be this “I ❤ U" sign in the middle of nowhere! So Jian and I had some fun with it, heh 😛

And at the same time, there is a “I LOVE HUST” sign in front of the HUST (Jian’s university) library. Can’t say I myself love HUST that much but J is a loyal faculty member indeed 😀

Weekly fellowship combined with a birthday party this time, at my place.

Birthday girl making a wish upon a star…or upon a cake?!

Sleep vs. grumpy cat, with that “what are YOU lookin’ at O_O” look. It’s OK, I still like you.

Cat #2 here, looking photogenic as passersby stop to admire the gorgeous beauty.

Dramatic sky one afternoon, with the clouds trying to mask the radiating sun. But Mr. Sun’s like, “Nah bro you ain’t taking the highlight away from me” as it attempts to burst out of the sombre clouds…

The baking experiments continue, this time with…classic banana bread! First bite was like OMG this is delicious but it ended up being too sweet…AGAIN, even with reduced sugar content. I guess I didn’t take into account how sweet ripe banana themselves already are…need to work on my sugar control!!!

Tidbits of street food in Chaozhou in Guangdong province, a small trip taken at the end of September before going to my hometown Guangzhou. Top left: beef and tripe soup noodles; top right: glutinous rice stuffed in pig intestines; bottom left: a variety of street snacks in Chaozhou; bottom right: matcha shaved ice milk. Food heaven! ❤

There are two and a half months left in the peculiar year of 2020 but we’ll see if it could get any more bizarre…see you in November with the next monthly update!

Public sculptures in Glasgow

Having written a post about bizarre sculptures in Oslo, I thought I’d follow it up with one about the public sculptures in Glagsow. This one had been planned for a while, as I had been taking photos of public sculptures that I encountered when I was living in Glasgow. You may have read some of the rather old posts about the murals in Glasgow, but this will perhaps be the only one about public sculptures, as I don’t live in Glasgow anymore 😦 Still missing Glasgow and Scotland till this day, three years after I’d left!

Located in front of the Gallery of Modern Art in the city centre, the Duke of Wellington (sculptor: Carlo Marochetti) is arguably the most famous sculpture in Glasgow and is the subject of an ongoing joke, where a traffic cone is placed on the head of the duke. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the duke WITHOUT his cone hat. Not exactly sure where the humour originated but hey, I think the orange cone looks quite good on him, wouldn’t you agree? 😉 Lookin’ sharp, even in the rain!

The story of the two following sculptures can be found here. First, Lobey Dosser (sculptors: Tony Morrow and Nick Gillon): “Believed to be the world’s only two-legged equestrian statue, it shows Sheriff Lobey Dosser and his arch-nemesis Rank Bajin riding Lobey’s faithful steed, El Fideldo, or Elfie as she is known.” These are characters in the works of Bud Neill, a Scottish cartonnist popular in the mid-20th century. The sculpture was on Woodlands Road when I took this photo but some time later, when I passed by the same spot, it had been removed. Maybe the sheriff was off to some new adventure elsewhere in the city…

Another one of Bud Neill’s characters, G.I. Bride (sculptor: Ranald MacColl), stands at Partick train station in the West End. This lady carrying a baby was a war bride who married an American GI and went to the USA, and she’s seen here trying to hitch a ride back home to Partick. I found the story quite touching, and I’m glad they made it back home!

Mary and Magdeleine – The sculpture of Mary and Martha in The Sisters of Bethany (sculptor: Joh Warrington Wood) is one of the fine works of art found in the greenhouses at the Botanic Gardens in the West End. What struck me in particular were the fine details on the sisters’ dresses and in their hair.

The sculpture of Wincher’s Stance (sculptor: John Clinch) at Buchanan bus station was probably my favourite one out of all of the ones posted here. It seems to tell the story of a passionate reunion between two lovers after some time apart. It is more than fitting that such a representation should be found at a train or bus station, a place of many departures and arrivals, separations and reunions.

This is the sculpture out of all of the ones on the list that I knew the least about, and only with some extensive digging on the Internet did I find its name – The Govan Milestone (sculptor: Helen Denerley). I saw it one day as I was wandering around Govan. More information about this sculpture can be found here and here.

The three famous Scottish men portrayed here (confirmed on this web site) are, from left to right, scientist James Watt, trade unionist Jimmy Reid, and mountaineer Tom Weir (there’s a sculpture of him in Balmaha, near the starting point of the Conic Hill walk).

Rise by Andy Scott, creator of the Kelpies. Somehow the angle from which I took this photo made it look like the “wings” of the lady were slanted, whereas if you looked at her from a direct frontal view, they were more or less horizontal. It got me confused for a while and I even wondered if this was actually Rise

Located in the city centre, Citizen Firefighter (sculptor: Kenny Hunter) commemorates the brave firefighters who have served and fought for the city of Glasgow.

Side view of Diagram of an Object (sculptor: Dhruva Mistry) in front of the Hunterian Art Gallery, next to the University of Glasgow library. What is it exactly? Well that’s up to anyone to interpret, I suppose, and that’s why the “object” isn’t named. At first glance it looked like some sort of chair, but it gradually turned into an abstract image of a parent embracing a child. Do you see what I see?

When I saw the Clyde Clock (sculptor: George Wyllie) outside the Buchanan bus station I thought…somebody must be running out of time! Perhaps that’s why it was there, to remind people running late to hurry up so they don’t miss their bus!

A little something different for this final one – not a sculpture in the traditional sense but one that must have been created purely out of spontaneity. It snowed heavily in Glasgow only once during the 2016 winter season (in January), and someone brought to life this little guy, whom I encountered on my way home. It was a pity that his lifespan was perhaps only one night, but I was glad to have met him before he disappeared 🙂

Norway in a Nutshell, part 4 – Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park in Oslo

So, in the previous post, I mentioned that there is a park in Oslo that displays hundreds of sculptures of nude humans in the most bizarre positions that you could imagine. That would be the Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park. I won’t do much explaining – the photos will speak for themselves.

Upon entering the park, you’re greeted by gates that illustrate nude women or men walking alongside each other. Rather than solely nude, some internal body structures, such as muscles and bones, seemed to be highlighted here too.

The sculptures in the park are works of Gustav Vigeland, a Norwegian sculptor. I was rather impressed at all the different positions that were presented by the sculptures, most of them very peculiar while some even resembled the art of acrobatics.

Here are some of my favourite ones…

…in more acrobatic positions. The one with the man and the four babies was probably the one that stood out the most for me. I wondered if he was actually an ogre that ate babies…or a dad that just really liked juggling?

Not a fan of the single baby ones, mainly because they (or just the angry one) remind me of crying babies. Sorry, just not that fond of babies most of the time…

I’ll end this post with the Monolith, which is a gigantic column of nude figures embracing or just wrapped around each other, a clear phallic symbol. And with this we conclude the Norway series, have a nice day 🙂

Norway in a Nutshell, part 3 – Oslo, the capital of Norway

Though Oslo isn’t officially part of the Norway-in-a-Nutshell itinerary (read about part 1 and part 2), it was one of the endpoints and served as the base of my short exploration of Norway. I had actually considered going to Oslo during my earliest solo travel adventures, when I was staying in Belgium. But after finding out that Oslo Rygge Airport (with unbelievably cheap Ryanair flights from Belgium) was >60 km from Oslo itself, I gave up the thought of a weekend trip to Norway. (I ended up going to Luxembourg instead, a much more feasible choice from Belgium.) Alas, the trip to Oslo finally happened 6.5 years after its earliest inception – better late than never, right!

With all the gorgeous natural sites that Norway has to offer, I think Oslo is often overlooked as an interesting city to visit. I felt similar when I was reading reviews about Warsaw, the capital of Poland which is skipped by many who preferred to visit Krakow instead. Well, turns out that I really liked Warsaw, so this once again proved that online comments are to be taken with a grain of salt 😛 Time to head out and see what Oslo is really all about! (The trip was three years ago so I have to recall a lot of the locations from vague memory…!)

It was mid-October and thus mid-autumn when I arrived in Oslo. The changing foliage transformed Oslo into a golden city, certainly a different type of beauty compared to the quintessential fjords and valleys of Norway, but no less impressive and spectacular.

City exploration here and there. These photos were taken around the Akershus Festning (Fortress), located right by the waterfront in the city centre.

Encounters by the waterfront included a seagull and a sculpture of a nude lady. And this would be the first of the many more sculptures that I’d see in Oslo.

Seems like Oslo loves its nude sculptures and here’s another one in the city center, right in front of the City Hall. In fact, there is a huge park dedicated to sculptures of nude humans arranged in all sorts of bizarre, twisted positions. It was so peculiar that I have decided to dedicate an entire post to it…coming soon!

Let’s return to the autumn displays, shall we. Somehow this post has turned out to be more of an appreciation of autumn colours than a tour of Oslo itself, and I don’t mind that. The trip itself did not focus so much on landmarks and tourist attractions and was more like a leisurely walk in the park.

I guess it is fitting that I arrived in Europe for the first time in the autumn and now I will leave it behind in the same season. Oslo, being the final new city I visit before I end my days of long-term residence in Europe (as I had mentioned in the first Norway post), will remain in my mind as that place that, with the most beautiful golden season, bid me farewell on behalf of Europe.

I’ve always liked seeing cities in the evening, and the Opera House in Oslo offered a wonderful view of the harbour. If there’s a colour that’d remind me of Oslo other than gold, it’d be blue – deep, dark blue that represents the seas and skies against a harbour that is lit up in the evening.

Another view of the waterfront from the Opera House, with the “Gule Sider” building on the right (I’m guessing it’s the “Gule Sider” from searching Google Maps and images).

I said at the beginning of the post that Oslo is overlooked as a travel destination but I was glad to have stayed and explored for a couple of days. Not as glamorous as say, Prague or Paris or Budapest or Rome, but there was a certain sense of comfort and freshness wandering around in a city that wasn’t just full of touristy landmarks. With this, my short trip to Norway came to an end, as did my days in Europe… 😦

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