More pictures of St Vitus cathedral as I took rather a lot of them and it would be a shame not to share them.
They started to build it in 1344, so as you can see, it’s quite new! I can truthfully say this as it was finally finished in 1929 in time for the St Wenceslas jubilee. The style is Gothic, which is very popular for large churches as they look big and important. Even today you can look in awe and wonder how they built them without modern cranes and machinery.
HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN
Ferdinand is trying to reach Princess Isabella to marry her. Eventually, very late the small party of merchants arrive outside the castle of the Count of Trevino. It’s well guarded as the Count is ready for an attack, it’s also well known that he supports Isabella and will give sanctuary to Ferdinand.
(I’m not absolutely sure this is the right castle, but I like the picture and you get the general idea).
The merchant’s party are tired and with no money to buy a meal, they are hungry and thirsty too. They shout for the drawbridge to be let down, but seeing a party of rough travellers, one of the soldiers pushes a boulder off the top of the battlements. Ferdinand is almost crushed to death. Obviously, he wasn’t expected.
I told you this was exciting, didn’t I?
As this bounces out through space and into inboxes, I will be in Miami for the Reader’s Favorite Awards. The book that has won the gold medal is the second book in the Amie in Africa series “Amie and the Child of Africa.”
I got the idea for the story from a news item. On the night of 14-15 April 2014 Boko Haram a fundamentalist group abducted 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. As far as I know not all the girls have been reunited with their families.
In the first book, Amie loses Angelina the little orphan she adopts when the civil war breaks out and so I put the two ideas together. A fast page turning tale with lots of adventure – pure escapism – pun intended.
I don’t think of myself as a travel writer, so it’s always a tussle between noting down what I have seen and taking time to look at things. I didn’t keep a diary when we were in Prague, so I’m relying on my memory here and that’s a very dangerous thing to do.
Many of the roads are quite wide and there are tram lines everywhere. We did take a short ride on one on the last day, and they are more fun than riding on a bus, but don’t ask me why – they just are.
Two views from the Charles Bridge.
HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN
Now we’re coming to another exciting bit. I left off when Isabella is in hiding but under protection and she has decided it’s time for Ferdinand to come and marry her, but he must be quick. Lots of people want to stop them.
But there is a problem – isn’t there always? King John of Aragon, Ferdinand’s dad has fallen on hard times and he doesn’t have enough money to fit out his son with all the clobber needed for a royal wedding. Sad eh?
That’s King John on the left.
First though he tries to fool King Henry of Castille – remember he doesn’t want Isabella and Ferdinand to get married. So King John makes very noisy preparations to send a whole retinue to the court of Castille.
Meanwhile, a party of 6 merchants quietly leave for Valladolid which is where Isabella sits waiting.
That’s Ferdinand on the right. Can you see the family resemblance? No, I can’t either. I just love that saying “Momma’s baby, Poppa’s maybe.”
There are a total of 54 countries on the African Continent, among which are the 5 poorest in the world –
Central African Republic — GDP per capita: $656 (£535)
Democratic Republic of Congo — GDP per capita: $784 (£639) …
Burundi — GDP per capita: $818 (£667) …
Liberia — GDP per capita: $882 (£719) …
Niger — GDP per capita: $1,113 (£907) …
The two richest are Nigeria and South Africa followed by Egypt, Algeria and Angola. Much of this wealth is due to the minerals beneath the ground, especially the oil in Nigeria and a wide range including gold and diamonds in South Africa.
Maps often distort the size of Africa, this one is more realistic. This shows you how large it is in comparison to other places.
Often I get carried away and forget to mention my books, but you can find them all here on my Amazon page,
Whoops, just remembered – Unhappily Ever after my political satire is on sale for $/£0.99 until the end of the month. Picture Fairyland in chaos as the royals wallow in their misery and unhappy marriages and the Green Giant is sent from the Red Party to foment unrest among the happy peasants.
Earlier This year DH and I went to Prague for a few nights. Another venue to tick off the bucket list. There are so many places I want to see and time is running out – not to mention that the money has already run out.
I’d been fantasising about spending a week there as so many people had told us it was so pretty, but DH found a ridiculously cheap four-day trip which included flights and hotel. I honestly don’t know how they can offer so much for comparatively little money.
Having quickly checked there was no revolution brewing, or recent invasion, I rushed off to pack my suitcase.
Considering I’m a dummy when it comes to techie stuff, I’m an expert on organising. I have a file of lists on my laptop – equipment to pack for hot, cold, warm and in-between weather. It cross checks with lists for a weekend, four to five days and longer trips.
What is more, it’s colour coded too. (Yes, I can hear your gasps of admiration from here)
Orange donates what I will carry in my handbag, pockets etc.
Blue donates what goes into the big suitcase
Green is for the contents in the carry- on bag.
And there is a sub total in purple for all the things that need to go into that little plastic zip-lock bag I will waggle at the customs men.
On our last few trips I’ve been pulled over every time for extra surveillance. I’ve no idea why and I could get paranoid about it. I’ve stared very hard into the mirror and honestly I don’t think I look like a drug dealer or any kind of criminal come to that.
As I pack, I cross off each item on the list only highlighting stuff that gets put in last minute.
In the meantime, DH casually throws a few things into his case and gives me one of ‘those’ looks and he’s ready to go.
So, next Monday we will set off for Prague.
Isabella of Spain
There is a lot of fuss about who should be the next king, with everyone taking sides. The next marriage proposal for Isabella is Don Pedro Giron – he would be politically perfect for one faction. He is old, and revolting and once slobbered all over Isabella’s mother – that is conveniently forgotten.
There could still be a small problem, as Don Pedro is the Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava and sworn to celibacy, but everyone knows he’s a notorious lecher. He’s also considered vindictive and vain. It will require a dispensation from the Pope too. But that arrives just in time as the marriage is organised with indecent haste. How is poor Isabella going to get out of this one?
Pic above is the order of Calatrava and the one on the right the pope at that time.
When we started traveling and living overseas in the 1970’s things were very different.
There was no internet – so no Skype, no FaceTime, no WhatsApp and no emails. Communication was by mail – real old fashioned letters composed on real paper with a real pen and folded into envelopes – followed by a trip to the post office, to buy stamps and pop the envelope in the box. Then you had to wait.
Sometimes the letters would not be delivered, or take 3 – 4 weeks in each direction. Questions asking how you were recovering from the flu were so out of date you’d forgotten having had the flu.
Phone calls were astronomically expensive and you had to book them in advance. To make sure the family were at home to take the call, you needed to write weeks in advance and wait for the return letter to arrange the time.
Few of us had phones in the house. So, that often meant a trip to the office to make the call.
This map might give you some idea of distances.
It was difficult for family at home to see how big the grandchildren had grown and often birthday and Christmas gifts were aimed at a lower age group.
Most of us got to go home for a couple of weeks every year, others only got leave every two years. While it was great to see friends and family it didn’t take long to realise you were no longer on the same page – as Amie found out on her trip back home. (to be continued)
Now you probably think that DH (Dear Husband) and I go globetrotting all the time. No, sadly that is not true at all. We manage to get away maybe once or twice a year. If I could, I’d be exploring new places at least 50% of the time.
This week the last few pictures of Vienna (of course, since DH is social media shy I can’t use any that show him).
This first is the hotel we stayed at – highly recommended – and I was particularly impressed to learn that during World War II it was used as lodgings for the German high command. Hedda Hopper the gossip columnist also stayed there. Of course, I had to play the mental history game – imagining I was there at the time.
And a couple of side streets and a restaurant where we had a typical Austrian meal. I think the Austrians have their cuisine just right. I was very sad to say goodbye to Vienna as I really loved the city.
Isabella of Spain
About time we talked about Isabella herself. She’s now at the court and life is much better. Beatriz Fernandez de Bobadilla becomes a maid of honour and a friend to Isabella – a very important servant who helped to change the face of the whole world. I’ll come back to her later and you’ll find out how.
This picture is a little fuzzy as she refused to sit still while I photographed her.
But the dowager Queen (Isabella’s mother who is a bit, no a lot, over the edge) does not behave well at court, and the King sends her back to Arevalo, probably to Isabella’s relief.
Isabella turns 13 years old a ripe age for marriage in those days and the Queen’s brother, King Alfonso V of Portugal, asks for her hand in marriage. The year is now 1464. He looks a heck of a lot older than 13 doesn’t he? And to be quite honest she’s not thrilled at all. Not too cuddly with in all that armour and he doesn’t look as if he has much of a sense of humour.
SANGOMAS PART 3
We had been filming in a rural village where they had recently installed electricity and the local sangoma (witch doctor) acted as a spokesperson on camera. I hesitantly asked her if she would throw the bones for me. She agreed and I returned a few days later and sat in her hut on the floor. She lit incense sticks and threw a mixture of objects onto a grass mat and chanted. There were some small animal bones, together with Coke bottle tops, half a clothes peg, scraps of material and glass and pieces of painted wood.
After quite some time she said “Take care driving as there is danger. Also, your eldest daughter will need to buy glasses.
I was sceptical but kept my speed down to 30 kilometres an hour for days. Possibly as I was driving so slowly the police pulled me over and noticed my rather bald tyres. They said I would hear from them. I didn’t, so missed the time to pay the fine, also the date to appear in court for non-payment and so they issued a warrant for my arrest. (I had to admit it eventually that I’m a criminal). It all got sorted but gave me a hell of a scare.
And, within a year my eldest daughter was prescribed glasses despite having had 20-20 vision up until then.
So, I would never, ever discount what the sangomas say – just in case. There is still much we don’t understand.
Ouma Adede the sangoma appears in all the Amie books, with cryptic messages for her which come true but not in the way Amie expects.
myBook.to/Amie1 At the moment they are all in KU so you can read them for free.
We had a guide while touring the Parliament building in Vienna.
I noticed there was not a lot of furniture around – but maybe there isn’t an IKEA in Vienna?
This is where the 183 members of the National Council meet – I thought it great that we were even encouraged to take photographs. It’s really difficult to get inside the Houses of Parliament in London.
The Federal Parliamentary assembly has naked ladies propping up the pillars. I do hope that the members, while sitting listening to long boring speeches, don’t let their minds wander to other more enjoyable pastimes.
Now life becomes exciting for Isabella. She is no longer under Mummy’s control but that of the king, and she will finish her education at court. Alfonso is put under the care of a tutor and Isabella becomes part of the Queen’s household.
The princess has plenty to eat, lives in a castle adorned with gold and silver and has lessons in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, maths, art, chess, dancing, embroidery and music. She lives a relaxed lifestyle, except for the fact that Henry will not allow her to leave Segovia. However, she is astute enough to have full knowledge of what is going on in the kingdom, the court is a hotbed of intrigue.
SANGOMAS PART 2
A lot depends on the financial status of the family of a sangoma (witch doctor) and how long they have been practising their craft, but many have ordinary, everyday jobs as well. I met them in the health department, working in shops and even road sweeping. Generally, they are treated with a lot of respect by the community, and are partially feared for the powers they have.
It may surprise many to learn that even professionals such as medical doctors (even those trained overseas), teachers, politicians, just about anyone, will consult sangomas for potions to make someone fall in love with them, put spells on those they don’t like, to protect them against enemies or for good crops or successful business deals.
I named my witch doctor in the Amie series as Ouma Adede – Ouma is a respectful term used by Afrikaners which literally means grandmother but is often used as a respectful address to the elderly.
The Amie series has been translated into Spanish and other languages are in production.
We had booked a tour of the Parliament building in Vienna and the MP’s were kind enough to leave the building so we could go and have a good gawk at it.
It’s a very imposing building (I’m convinced I was Christopher Wren in a former life, I love gazing at architecture).
I just love that sign telling you where you will find missing children! There didn’t seem to be any around to claim though.
HISTORY (WELL KIND OF)
Now that Carlos of Aragon is dead, busy haunting the streets of Barcelona, his younger brother Ferdinand is heir to the throne. We can forget about all the girl children, because under Salic law women cannot ascend the throne in Aragon.
This is Ferdinand, but I couldn’t find a picture of him before he got a crown.
Isabella, still controlled by her mad mother spends most of her days praying, but Mummy is now really furious as King Henry’s wife Joan (miraculously) produces a daughter and so Isabella and her elder brother Alphonso are a step further away from the throne to rule Castile. She is not a happy bunny.
Then, King Henry, summons Prince Alfonso and Princess Isabella to attend court at Segovia, probably so Henry can keep an eye on them. Isabella is now 11 years old and Alfonso 9.
SANGOMAS PART 1
Tribal medicine and herbal cures are still alive and well even in the cities in South Africa. You can often see the witch doctors (both men and women) also called sangomas, as they are often dressed more traditionally and are liberally adorned with beads, charms to ward off bad luck and have chicken bladders in their hair.
On two occasions I was told by the sangomas themselves that they woke in the night and followed a voice telling them to leave their homes and walk. They had no idea where they were going but followed paths and roads until they finally arrived – often after days – at the home where they were expected. In each case their host or hostess was an experienced witch doctor who told them they had been chosen to carry on the profession and taught them everything they knew. In both cases the newly trained returned to their home villages to practice.
(More next week)
Amie makes friends with Ouma Adede the best known and most powerful sangoma in Apatu – and I based her on my meetings with the witchdoctors I met and talked to.