Liverpool marks history

It’s an important time in Liverpool, UK. And we’re envious

The Merseyside city in England’s north-west, has recognised the golden anniversary of the iconic 1960’s Beatles record ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

As well as special festivals, concerts, public art and light shows, the city has unveiled a giant mural named ‘Fixing a Hole’ as a permanent tribute to the album.

A former silo wall in Liverpool’s Stanley Dock has been transformed into a vivid, psychedelic image showing the Beatles either side of a gap in the building’s architecture.

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Photo courtesy Pexels

And, of course, there is the ever-popular statue of the band that attracts legions of Fab Four fans and visitors to Merseyside.

More than rock n roll

I feel privileged to have lived through the 1960’s – and Sgt Pepper was a sacred moment in that tumultuous decade.

It’s said that no album in the history of rock and roll has inspired such consistent approval from critics and fans alike – but it’s relevance goes a lot further than that.

When it was released in June 1967, I was a 14 year old boy feeling almost sufficated in a small Australian outback township.

Amid unprecedented worldwide cultural change, our only radio station played mainly country music and our television relayed grainy black-and-white images that switched off at 10pm.

Records were my way of feeling part of the 1960’s changes occurring so far away.

The Beach Boys masterpiece, ‘Pet Sounds’ had whet the appetite.

And then, Sgt Pepper turned everything on its head.

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I’ve since heard it described as a “burst of colour in a black and white world” and even “a decisive moment in the history of western civilisation”.

For me, it was an explosion!

A conduit for change

The most popular musicians on the planet – who had become so mainstream that even our parents loved their sound – had suddenly exposed everyone to the values of the counterculture.

Music was now undeniably a central plank of a genuine torrent of change – and Sgt Pepper was an important conduit that allowed it to happen.

Regardless of views on whether Sgt. Pepper was the best album ever made, it remains legendary not only because of its musical quality, but because of its profound cultural and social role.

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I played the record constantly, revelling in art that literally opened worlds for me.

That’s why the Sgt Pepper celebrations in Liverpool are particularly significant – perhaps historic.

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An embarrassing travel moment

I like snorkelling, but I’m certainly a novice.

For a start, squeezing my body into a wet suit can be a marathon business and far from a pleasant sight. How those stitches hold together I’ll never know.

And once I do make it to the water, it’s like someone gradually drowning.

Despite my best efforts, water inevitably gets into the goggles and rises steadily before my eyes.

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I’m on the surface spluttering and coughing more often than I am underwater – until I usually give up and head for the shore in utter frustration.

It’s probably inevitable, therefore, that one of my most embarrassing travel moments happened when Sue and I were snorkelling off eastern Australia.

The beach, near the northern New South Wales town of Port Macquarie, was deserted when we dived into an ocean pool known for colourful fish.

Sue is a natural and was soon weaving among rocky outcrops and swaying weed on the sea floor as fish darted around her.

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I tried to keep pace, but as usual I soon encountered problems and was forced to surface several times to empty water from my goggles and tighten their straps.

Glancing around each time, I noticed that the beach was still deserted.

After several attempts to join Sue, I finally gave up in exasperation and decided to return to shore.

With my head looking down in the water, I managed to catch a wave ashore – stopping only when my chest and face ran onto the sand.

Lifting my head from the water, I looked up and realised to my horror that the beach was no longer deserted.

Worse still, unbeknown to me, a young woman had apparently sat on the sand at the water’s edge – and I’d swum ashore head first between her knees.

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She moved backwards laughing; I rolled away apologising profusely; and her husband – quickly on the scene – gave me death stares.

And, to top off my embarrassment, Sue had surfaced just in time to see the whole thing – and was roaring with laughter.

That’s another place I won’t revisit!

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Awkward incident in Italy

There’s a certain hotel at Sorrento, Italy, that we won’t revisit.

To be fair, a toilet cistern perched two metres up the wall is definitely a trap for young players.

We’re hardly young and, in all honesty, we should have realised that the cistern would take quite a long time to refill after each flush. But it just didn’t register.

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That day dawned fine and clear in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

And, in 15 minutes, our bus was scheduled to leave on a trip of a lifetime to the fabled emerald  Isle of Capri.

It was our first visit to Capri and Sue had used the bathroom to apply her cosmetics – a totally unnecessary chore in my biased opinion. It’s like trying to improve on the Mona Lisa.

Ten minutes before departure, I finally got to the bathroom ….. and suddenly the previous night’s huge pasta meal didn’t seem like such a good idea.

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Eight minutes and counting – and I make a dive for the toilet.

Instant relief!

Of course, in my haste, I completely forgot that the cistern was probably still re-filling from earlier use.

Those who have been in my position will know too well that sinking feeling when you pull the chain to no avail.

Just as the bus arrived.

Ice buckets full of water and even a few kettle loads failed to achieve the desired flush.

As Sue tried to stall the bus, my dilemma seemed to come down to two options:

  1. Miss the trip while waiting for the cistern to fill, or
  2. Miss the trip

I opted for Capri and have always cringed at the thought of the poor room service staff on that fine Italian day.

And, as mentioned, we will never revisit that particular hotel.

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The day Sue’s bra caused a near riot

We arrived at Frankfurt Airport in a particularly busy period, enroute from Prague to Rome.

Unbeknown to us, there’d apparently been a security scare.

Baggage checks were more stringent than ever and the metal detectors were sounding almost constantly.

Our incoming flight had been slightly delayed and we were in a bit of a hurry to catch our connection.

Frankfurt is a huge airport, covering 2,000 hectares of land and we knew there was quite a walk between its two terminals. It’s also the fourth busiest airport in Europe, behind London, Paris and Istanbul.

However, we were making great time through the complex and all was good until Sue reached the metal detector.

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Lights flashed; the alarm beeped and Sue was asked to step through again.

No big deal. It happens.

Sue walked back and promptly set it off again. And again – despite turning her pockets inside out this time to show they were empty.

It doesn’t take much to cause a bottleneck at airport security, particularly at one as big and busy as Frankfurt. By now, the throngs of travellers were getting restless.

A German airport officer took a nervous look at the build-up of people pressing toward the gates and asked Sue to step aside for a check with a hand wand.

The result was the same, as she vigorously explained that the culprit was probably wire in her bra.

No luck with the explanation. The officer, by now obviously panicking at the delay this was causing, pointed Sue to an adjoining area, where pat-down body searches were carried out.

She wasn’t alone. At least one other woman was on this ‘Group W’ bench – also attempting to explain about underwire bras.

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Finally, a female officer arrived on the scene and patted down both women, before agreeing that the bras were probably at fault.

We moved on, but the whole incident had taken almost 30 minutes, which forced us to sprint along the corridors to our boarding gate – arriving moments before the doors were closed.

Later, we read that – despite many incidents like this – both airports and airlines are generally slow to be convinced that wire in under-garments can set off metal detectors.

Our take on it: obviously the sensitivity of detectors can be adjusted as needed. We’ve seen people wearing jewellery walk through untroubled.

But, it would be good to hear an explanation by manufacturers of these machines. Perhaps they’ll talk if we make them empty their pockets into a little tray.

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We can’t deny it: we’re clock-watchers

It may seem a bit lame and even a trite humorous, but we always try to take time out of travelling to see extraordinary public clocks

Here’s an updated list of some of the best we’ve come across. Let us know which beauties we’ve missed.

Westminster, London

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Obviously, the daddy of all clocks is this one in England.

Nick-named ‘Big Ben’ this is said to be the biggest four-faced clock in the world. The tower at the Houses of Parliament was built in 1858.

These days, you can get a great view of Big Ben from the London Eye, on the opposite bank of the River Thames.

Weltzeituhr or World Time Clock, Berlin, Germany

Weltzeituhr or Worldtime Clock, Berlin

Standing 10 metres tall, the World Time clock is also a popular meeting point in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

It features a revolving cylinder with the world’s 24 time zones. The current time in each zone is visible.

The clock is topped by a model of the solar system, which revolves once a minute.

Verdensur, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Jen Olsen’s World Clock  is an astronomical clock in the Copenhagen City Hall.

This beauty boasts 12 movements and more than 14,000 parts.

Displays on the world clock include lunar and solar eclipses, position of stellar bodies and a perpetual calendar.

Orion, Prague

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This is a medieval clock in the capital of the Czech Republic.

First installed in 1410, the clock is said to be the third eldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one that is still working.

Mounted on the wall of the city hall in Prague’s Old Town, the clock  features an hourly parade of figurines known as the ‘Walk of the Apostles’.

A skeleton representing death strikes the time.

Eastgate clock, Chester, UK

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This clock and gateway mark an entrance to the original Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.

The Chester landmark is believed to be the most photographed clock in England behind Big Ben.

The original East gate was guarded by a timber tower, which was replaced by stone in the 2nd century.

Today’s gate dates from 1768 and the clock was added in 1899 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.

Grand Central Station, New York, USA

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This four-metre (13 foot) clock decorates the facade of Grand Central Rail Station facing 42nd Street.

The clock is a popular landmark and meeting place for New Yorkers and has appeared in many movies and television shows.

It is the world’s biggest collection of Tiffany glass.

Chronophage, Cambridge UK

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Located in the British university city of Cambridge, this clock is certainly eye-catching.

Opened in 2008, it is called the Corpus Christi Clock or Chronophage, which means ‘Time Eater’ in Greek.

If the gold-coloured disc doesn’t catch your attention, the big grasshopper certainly will

The grasshopper moves around the disc, gobbling up time right before your eyes.

 

Ankeruhr, Vienna, Austria

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This colourful clock was designed in 1911 and completed three years later.

It shows the time by moving different historical figures across the clock face every hour.

The best time of day to see this clock is noon, when all the figures are on display.

Ankeruhr is located in the Hoher Markt.

Others

Other notable clock that we’ve seen, but not photographed, include Saint Mark’s clock at Venice and the Olympic Torch and Clocktower at Barcelona, Catalonia.

We’ve been told that the Cosmo Clock 21 at Yokohama, Japan (shown below) and the Santa Maria Cathedral clock in Comayague, Honduras are well worth seeing. The latter is said to be the oldest functioning clock in the Americas.

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Photo courtesy Popular Mechanics

Share your favourite clocks

Do you have any favourites? Love to hear your thoughts.

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A different way of seeing Prague

Rather than wandering haphazardly through the sights of the Czech capital or taking an organised tour, we decided to follow the legacy of  the famous King Charles IV – who was born just over 700 years ago.

Sounds a bit lame, we know: but  Charles IV is considered the father of the Czech nation and his fingerprints are all over Prague.

Firstly, see a quick video summary of how we did it.

Stone Bell House

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Photo courtesy Imani and Wikimedia

Right in the heart of Prague, in the Old Town Square, we found our way to this splendid Early Gothic house, dating to the 13th Century, where the future sovereign was believed born on May 14 in 1316.

This is one of the most interesting medieval buildings in Prague. It now  belongs to the City Gallery  and various exhibitions and concerts are held there.

There is a replica of the original stone bell on the corner of the building.

Charles Bridge

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According to Prague folklore, milk and wine were mixed with the mortar when this beautiful 16-pillar sandstone bridge was built in 1357. The 518 metre bridge is one of the great iconic structures of Prague – and we thoroughly recommend a visit to its museum.

Old Town Bridge Tower

As we continued on the King Charles IV trail, we marvelled at this majestic Gothic Tower that stands at the Old Town side of the  Charles Bridge. Don’t miss the striking  statues that include the good king ; his son Wenceslas IV; and Saint  Vitus, the Patron saint of  Prague Cathedral.

Krizovnicke Square

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And, while looking at statues, we gawked at the Monument to Charles IV, located in this picturesque  square. The statue  was made in 1848, to mark the 500 year anniversary of the foundation of Prague’s Charles University – the first in central Europe.

Charles is shown  leaning on his sword and holding the  foundation charter of the university.

Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral

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One of the greatest landmarks of Prague, the castle – which attracts huge crowds of visitors almost every day –  owes much to Charles IV, who restored an old royal palace to its former glory.

St Vitus Cathedral is one of the world’s most astonishing Gothic structures, featuring awesome stained-glass windows.

Particularly popular with visitors is  the Chapel of St Wenceslas, long considered the heart and soul of the cathedral.

A door in the chapel is said to lead to the Crown Chamber that houses the Czech crown jewels.

New Town monuments

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No journey in the footsteps of the legendary King Charles IV would be complete without wandering around Prague’s New Town.

In 1348, the king  started the construction of this eye-opening section of Prague, centred around Charles Square, Karlstein Castle and the Benedictine monastery.

Prague is truly one of the most fascinating of European cities, with its cobblestone streets leading from one magnificent sight to another (hence the often huge crowds of tourists in the peak summer months)

The city also boasts a particularly rich history and we were pleased to follow the legacy of its famous King Charles IV as an ideal way of looking back on that past. Try it sometime.

 

 

 

Musings Prague