The Singers of Jingshan Park

As I walked through the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing  a tree covered hill stood in front of me, on top two colourful Pagondas. This seemed like a great place to view the surrounding area and after taking a look at my city map it would be possible to visit.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The area was known as Jingshan Park. To enter there was a small fee of 2 Yuan, which was very little compared to the 40 Yuan I had just paid to visit the Forbidden City.

Just inside the entrance a crowd had gathered to watch as a woman waved spirals through the air with a long coloured flag. As I watched I realised that a large amount of the crowd weren’t that interested in the woman at all but instead they were watching me and taking photographs.

The Singers of Jingshan Park The Singers of Jingshan ParkAt the top there were great views in all directions, particularly to the south over the forbidden city and then to the north where the city stretched never ending into the distance.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

View to the north from Jingshan Park

As I stood looking over the view I could hear singing coming from below but little sign of people through the trees. I walked down towards the sound and found several large groups of people who had come together to sing.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan Park

Each group was made up of fifteen or so people, there were no instruments expects for an accordion, and no clear leader. They just sang. When one song finished they were on to the next with little hesitation and with everyone joining in.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The groups were very diverse, men and woman, all from what seemed like different backgrounds. One man came dancing towards the crowd in brightly coloured clothes with a speaker as a hat. Another with a cane and a large black military coat, perfect for the winter weather.

But there was one thing they all had in common, they were all of retirement age.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

The Singers of Jingshan ParkDuring my short stay in Beijing I noticed on several occasions groups of the older generation joining  in activities or socialising together. Sometimes in the strangest of places. A large group of women dancing in unison on a busy intersection. More often than not there would just get together in parks or public spaces to play cards or even board games.

The Singers of Jingshan Park

These photos feature in my new zine OFFBEAT along with many others from my time in Beijing. It’s an exploration into a different side of the city. Highlighting daily life, Chinese culture, architecture and of course metro stations. Copies are limited and can be found here:

allabouttheimage.bigcartel.com

Further Reading:

My visit to Tiananmen Square and The Body of Chairman Mao

Melbourne Trams

Melbourne Trams

As we where staying in an Air BnB a short walk in one direction from Central Station and Queen Victoria Markets in the other, it was easy to get around Melbourne by foot. I find it’s the best way to see a city and stumble across a place you aren’t expecting.

And that was exactly what happened.

A short walk from Carlton Gardens on the way to Fitzroy we came across a neighbourhood of gothic houses, each one very different from the last. They had their own character and distinctive features that made them different but some how they fit together.

The same but different.

Melbourne Trams

Free City Tram

To get further a field I wanted to take advantage of the free city tram that runs regularly in the central area between the hours of 10am – 6pm, with extended hours at the weekend. The tram provides connections for tourists but also information about the city and the areas in which it stops. It’s a fantastic way for people new to Melbourne to move around.

You’ll know the free trams from their distinctive appearance.

Melbourne Trams

we jumped on the free tram outside Finders Street Station heading towards Docklands

Docklands

Though billed as a tourist area it is difficult to see exactly why tourists would come here. During the months I lived in Melbourne I rarely visited this side of the city and wanted to give it another chance, especially as it was still under development back in 2009.

Docklands is home to the Melbourne Star, a viewing wheel much like the London Eye. When I arrived in Melbourne all those years ago it was in the news as an extremely hot summer had caused the structure to warp. Now it was up and running but we had very little interested in taking a ride.

It was a beautiful day and we walked along the water, taking in the views and admiring the modern architecture on display. After a couple of hours I felt like we had exhausted all the Docklands had to offer, though I hadn’t worked out what that was apart from residential buildings and offices. Feeling  defeated we headed back to the tram stop for the pleasant journey back into the city, of course by the free tram.

Melbourne Trams

One thing that for me made the free tram especially appealing was the complex MyKi card system used on all other trams and methods of transport. When I was last in Melbourne in 2011 the new system was being launched with a number of problems and much public criticism. It seemed that those problems had been eventually ironed out and locals were getting around freely.

From a tourists perspective it was a little difficult to comprehend. I had to first purchase a card, that I couldn’t return, then I would then need to added value to it to make my journey, but I had no idea how much that journey would cost. Tickets or cards cannot be bought from the driver or at the tram stops so planning ahead is vital.

Melbourne Trams

Interested to find out about the face on the building in the background? Read my previous post The Face of Melbourne.

The system may seem complicated at first but if you really want to explore Melbourne and its vibrant neighbourhoods then becoming familiar with its extensive tram network is a must. Fitzroy, Carlton and St Kilda are all worth a visit and of course are connected by tram.

Further Reading:

For routes and timetables for the City Circle tourist tram visit the Public Transport Victoria Website.

While living in Helsinki I became very familiar with its public transport and how easy it was to use. Read my post Helsinki Metro to learn more.

The summer heatwave that melted the Melbourne Star.

The Face of Melbourne

The Face of Melbourne
The Face of Melbourne

The first time I noticed the building was from the ANZAC memorial, far off in the distance a black and white face 32 storeys tall staring back at me. It was far away but I could make out the portrait clearly. I was intrigued and needed to know more about the building and, more importantly, whose face it was.

The Face of Melbourne

The face belonged to a man named William Barak.

The Face of Melbourne

William Barak

William Barak was born into the Wurundjeri clan in 1823. After serving as a tracker in the Native Police at 19 he followed in his fathers footsteps and became ngurungaeta or clan leader. Throughout his life he became a political leader and spokesman for his people, becoming a prominent figure in the struggle for Aboriginal rights and justice.

Barak lived during a time of great change. During his lifetime the number of white people living in southern Australia had climbed from almost none to over a million. As a young boy he witnessed the signing of John Batman’s 1835’s land purchase contract, which would have large consequences for his people.

The Face of Melbourne

Today Barak is remembered for his artwork. They depict indigenous life during that time and their encounters with Europeans, many of which have a permanent place in the National Gallery of Australia.

The Face of Melbourne

During the few days I was in Melbourne I came across the building a number of times, mostly by accident, but it was always a pleasant surprise. The building uses shadows created by negative space and white balconies to form the portrait of William Barak which can be seen from many angles.

Though having the face stand out in the Melbourne skyline is an example of times changing many feel that displaying the face of an Aboriginal elder and land rights activist on the front of high-end city real estate is a huge juxtaposition.

The Face of Melbourne

Being in Melbourne was the first time I had seen an example of architecture like this. Have you heard or know of any other examples of people or faces used in architecture? Share them in the comments below, I would be interested to see them.

Further Reading:

Views of the building from above and why Melbourne’s new William Barak building is a cruel juxtaposition from  The Conversation

Enjoy views of Melbourne from the balcony on armarchtecture.com.au

My History of Australian Aboriginals and their part in Tourism in Australia.

A more extensive look at the life of William Barak.

Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall 

Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall is the oldest indoor swimming hall in Helsinki, opening in 1928, and located in Kamppi.  Originally the hall was privately owned until 1954 when it was transferred to the Finnish Sports Federation and then in 1967 to the City of Helsinki.

Being naked was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to about living in Finland. To most Finns it isn’t given a second thought, it’s a part of their culture and almost goes hand in hand with going to the sauna.

I had never been brave enough to visit Yrjönkatu Swimming Hall while it was open, the fear of the unknown was too overwhelming. I had adjusted to being naked in the sauna but there was something about naked swimming that felt like a step too far.

Housed inside is one pool, 25 metres in length and 10 metres wide. The hall has gone through a number of renovations, the last in 1997, though its interior has not been changed since it first opened.

Traditionally people swam naked in Yrjönkatu but since 2001 it became optional to wear a swimming suit or not. As you can swim naked days are separated and alternated between men and women.

I was able to arrange a time to visit the swimming hall before they had opened for the day. The water was perfectly clear and blue, reflecting its surroundings on the still surface of the pool.

Hidden away from view are the changing areas, showers, saunas (of course), and even a cafe on the second floor with seating looking over the pool.

More information about Yrjönkatu can be found on the City of Helsinki’s website.

This place was so amazing I couldn’t stop taking photos, it must be one of the best building interiors I have visited during my time in Helsinki.

What do you think? Have you been there?

If you would like to see more from Yrjonkatu Swimming Hall let me know in the comments and I may post a few more. Don’t forget to visit Instagram for more in the meantime!

Lapland Art – Särestöniemi Museum

Lapland

Statue of Reidar Särestöniemi

Reidar Särestöniemi (1925-1981) was an artist from Lapland. He lived in the Kittilä region of Lapland for his whole life at his family home apart from a few years while he studied in Helsinki and St Petersburg. He gained recognition after his first exhibition in 1959.

Unlike any other museums I have been to in the past this one was in the original buildings that Reider Särestöniemi lived and worked. This meant that the museum was a little off the beaten track and I had to drive 9km down a gravel road once reaching the turning.

Even though the location was difficult to reach it was a excellent place to house the majority of this work. It was great to experience his artwork while in the natural surroundings of Lapland that influenced him.

Lapland Art

 

The natural surroundings of Lapland heavily affected Reidar’s artwork. The culture and stories are often represented in his work, as well as animals, such as reindeer, that are native to Lapland. Even though Reidar is known for his colourful pieces it was the ones that showed the bleakness of the Lapland winter that spoke to me the most.

For a link to Reidar Särestöniemi’s artwork click HERE.

Lapland