The Body of Chairman Mao

Getting into Tiananmen Square was hard enough. We joined a large crowd of Chinese people, shuffling slowly forwarded. We waited while people looked at us strangely, pointed at our feet and laughing, not knowing if joining the group was even the right thing to do. Eventually we arrived at a security checkpoint, where our bags were x-rayed and our passports checked.

We were in.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Monument to the People’s Heroes

Tiananmen Square was a large open space where traffic was prohibited and areas roped off from pedestrians with guard posts throughout. At one end Tiananmen Gate, which lead into the Forbidden City, where a large portrait of Chairman Mao hung.

The Body of Chairman Mao

 

At the other, Mao’s Mausoleum, a building built solely for the purpose of housing his embalmed body. Our first port of call.

But first we had to jump through a number of hoops in order to enter.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Guard in front of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong

First we headed to an entirely different building, where we would have to check in any bags or cameras. While I was travelling in Vietnam I was able to visit the body of Ho Chi Minh so I had an idea of what may be required here in order to enter.

Back at the mausoleum we joined another queue, this one had a lot less people in it, and another security check point, this one just a visual inspection. As we approached the entrance there was a vendor selling white flowers. Almost every Chinese visitor in front of us purchased multiple flowers to take in with them.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Revolutionary statue in front of the mausoleum

Once we reached the entrance and went inside we were greeted by a large seated stone statue of Mao. In front of him a table so full of the white flowers they had been piled up on the floor behind. We watched as visitors placed their contribution with the others and then as a man with a large cart collected up the excess and wheeled them back out to the shop.

Moving through the corridors we came to a small room where the glass coffin was held. Inside lay a black haired Mao in a grey suit. It was a very strange moment which lasted less than a minute. We were ushered around the edges of the room before passing out the other side and into the gift shop.

The Body of Chairman Mao

National Museum of China

No one was prepared for Mao’s death. Like Ho Chi Minh he had requested to be cremated but after his death it was decided his body would be embalmed. Accounts vary but it is thought the process was rushed and ill prepared due to rocky relations with the Russians at the time. They were thought to be the experts as they had already used the technique to embalm the bodies of Stalin and Lenin, as well as assisting the Vietnamese with Minh’s body. It is said that instead they had to settle with verbal instructions from the Vietnamese and try their best.

The Body of Chairman Mao

Restricted areas and guard posts

Since 1977 his body has been here, in his purpose built mausoleum for the world to visit, with some days visitor numbers reaching well into the thousands. Today, who really knows if the body that lies there is in fact Mao’s. Rumours persist and it’s often thought that due to the process not being entirely effective the body had been replaced with a wax figure, highly believable as the process leaves the skin looking shinny and even wax like.

Further Reading:

Preserving Chairman Mao: embalming a body to maintain a legacy by The Guardian

A visitors account from 1997 Resting in Peace or in Pieces

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.

The View from Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral is an icon of the city and goes by many names, in Finnish its called Tuomiokirkko. Events and gatherings take place throughout the year in Senate Square with the Cathedral as its backdrop, locals gather on the steps during the summer, and its domes can be seen from all over the city.

As soon as I knew I was leaving Helsinki one building came to mind, the Helsinki Cathedral. I had little time left in the city and I knew that I must try and visit the dome and see the view from the top before I did. I had seen and heard about others doing it so I made the arrangements.

Since leaving Finland I had buried the photos away in my archives and sat on them a little too long. It is finally time to share those with you and hopefully you will see what is so great about the landmark and the beautiful city that surrounds it.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki doesn’t have the most impressive skyline when you compare it to other capital cities but it still has its fair share of remarkable buildings and some great examples of impressive architecture.. Below you can see St John’s Church, Mikael Agricola Church named after the godfather of Finnish Language, and my personal favourite the tower of the Helsinki Fire Station.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Once we had climbed more than a handful of narrow stairways we came into a opening, In the center of the space were the bells and surrounding them were windows facing in every direction. I was able to walk freely around the room and open any of the windows, allowing me obscured views over the city.

Luckily, the day was perfect. An almost clear sky allowed for excellent views and, even more importantly, some of the best photographs I have been able to take of the city I had called home for the last five years.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The National Library of Finland has also become one of my much loved buildings in the city. From the outside the building carries little dominance compared to the other buildings surrounding the Cathedral but inside the details and architecture are different to anywhere else in the city.

See inside the National Library of Finland, though I won’t spoil the impressive main hall, that has to be seen for yourself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Surrounding the Helsinki Cathedral are many official buildings including the beautiful House of the Estate (pictured below) and opposite it the Bank of Finland, as well as government buildings and part of the campus for Helsinki University.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The tall granite tower of Kallio Church could be seen to the North, it is much closer than it seems and can be reached easily by tram, metro or even walking from the Cathedral. In comparison the two are very different in design, many of Helsinki’s places of worship are, including the relatively new Chapel of Silence in Kamppi and the well-visited  Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church) in Töölö.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Senate Square

If Helsinki had a tourist center Senate Square would be it. The historical buildings date back to the early days of the city and the statue of Russian Emperor Alexander II located in the middle of the square is a reminder of the time Finland spent as an autonomous part of Russia.

Helsinki Cathedral is the jewel of Senate Square and dominates over the surrounding buildings. All built around the same period with many of them being designed by the German architect C.L Engel, the creator never lived to see his masterpiece finished. After his death a number of modifications were made to the design of the Cathedral.

In the harbour you can see the small ferry coming in from the island of Suomenlinna, a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike during the summer months. Another building worth mentioning is the Sederholm House, now the home of the Helsinki City Museum, and the oldest building in central Helsinki dating back to 1757.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

Another reminder of Russia’s influence in Helsinki is the nearby Uspenski Cathedral. Constructed a few years after the completion of Helsinki Cathedral and designed by a Russian architect by the name of Aleksey Gornostayev. Unfortunately, Gornostayev died before construction began.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Inside the Helsinki Cathedral

Hidden inside the structure of the Helsinki Cathedral is the original wooden frame. As we climbed higher and higher the smell of wood grew stronger. Wood is the backbone of Finland. Not only was it used heavily in the early days of construction but it is still relied on today. If you ever manage to venture outside of the cities you will soon understand why, trees grow in such abundance across the entire country.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The old wooden crane that was used to build the structure and lift the heavy bronze bells into place still remains in the roof. It is almost impossible for me to understand how the Cathedral would have been constructed during the 1800’s and the effort needed to lift the bell into the roof is an achievement in itself.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

On the way up we stopped to admire the clock mechanism, a central unit with two metal rods reaching out to the clock faces on each side of the dome. After leaving the Cathedral I went around the outside and looked up to the clock that I had squeezed behind to photograph only a few moments ago.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

The Final View

The final view was from inside the dome itself. It may have not been the most impressive but it was still from the highest point that could be reached inside the Cathedral. A small dirt covered window facing East allowed for a view over the roof tops and into the suburbs. At the time I didn’t realise but this was my last view across the city and what an excellent one it was.

The Views from Helsinki Cathedral

Further Reading:

If you love views then I am sure you would be interested in seeing views from the other places I have visited in the Helsinki.

Helsinki Cathedral from the Fire Station

The View from Kallio Church in summer and winter

Photos of Helsinki Cathedral

Coming soon: Climbing Kallio Church

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!

Helsinki Metro

Over the years that I have lived in Helsinki I have become to rely on the metro to move around the city, as many others do too. It has also been a place for me to explore my photography. Though Helsinki metro doesn’t have the wow factor that other systems may have (I am thinking of you Stockholm), or the extensive reach of others, it still has its charm.

Helsinki Metro

Hakaniemi Metro Station

Helsinki Metro has been a continuous project, opening for operation in 1982 after almost 30 years being planned. The small rail system has gone through many changes with new stations being added up until 2007 and with huge expansions currently under development, Lansimetro.

Helsinki Metro carries 63 million passengers a year, a relative small number when you consider the London Underground carries 1.34 billion a year and that is only the 11th most busiest metro system in the world!

Quick Facts

Helsinki Metro is the Northern most metro system in the world.

63 million passengers a year.

Currently 11 stations, 6 of which are underground.

Plans to extend the metro to the west are under way.

Several of the Helsinki Metro Stations contain a number of art works and installations.

Helsinki Metro

University of Helsinki Metro Station

Ruoholahti

Currently Ruoholahti is the last station, or first depending on your point of view, on the current metro line. From here the plans are to extend the metro to the west, connecting Helsinki with the neighbouring city of Espoo.Helsinki Metro

Ruoholahti contains an installation by artist Juhana Blomstedt, one of the many stations in Helsinki that does have some form of artwork. The station is decorated in blue and white tiles, reflecting Ruoholahti’s maritime location.

Kamppi

Helsinki Metro

Kamppi is the station I use the most. Placed in the rock above the platform are signs pointing in ever direction, each sign has a city from around the world engraved on it.

In between the two platforms is a small space organised by HAM that hosts different art exhibits, changing a number of times a year. At the time of writing the space contains artwork by the street artist Jussi TwoSeven, before that it was the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

See ROAR27 by Jussi TwoSeven in my latest post Art in the Metro.

Helsinki Metro

University of Helsinki

Helsinki Metro

Formerly known as Kaisaniemi, for the park which is located a few hundred meters from the stations entrance, but the name was changed in 2014 to University of Helsinki for the campus that it serves.

University of Helsinki station is one of the most colourful out of all of the stations and that is because of the art installation that starts at the top of the escalators and continues down onto the platfrom. The lighting installation was created by Annikki Luukela and is named Network.

Helsinki Metro

Kalasatama

The first station above ground when heading east from the from city and the last to be completed in 2007. Currently, the area surrounding the station is under heavy development but still one of the most interesting with Suvilahti and Teurastamo on its doorstep.

The station was built around the existing track with little disruption to metro traffic, which is also the reason why there are two platforms, one for each direction of travel, rather than a central platform that serves both directions.

The platform was at one time full of vibrant street art completed by locals and reflected the community that the station serves but upon a recent visit I found to my surprise that it was all gone!

But here is a reminder of its inspiration.

Helsinki Metro

Kalasatama Metro Station from early 2016

Itäkeskus

There is only one mistake, a part from heading in the wrong direction, that can be made when using the Helsinki Metro and that can happen here at Itäkeskus where the metro splits, one to Mellumäki, the other to Vuorasaari.

Helsinki Metro

Mellumäki

Mellumäki is 17km from Ruoholahti station, the full length of the current metro line, and the northern most metro station in the world. After Helsinki the next contender would be St Petersburg and its most northern station Parnas.

Länsimetro

Länsimetro or west metro will continue underground from the already existing Ruoholahti station and stretch for a further 13.5 km to the west of Helsinki. The extension was planned to open in August 2016 but has been delayed for an undetermined amount of time. In recent news it has been thought to open later this year but most likely not until March of next year.

Plans to extent the metro line have been underway since 1997 (though plans made in the 1950s contained stations in Espoo) when the city of Helsinki proposed the idea to the city of Espoo. The plans were continuously rejected until terms were agreed.

The new line will at first include eight more stations with a further five once phase one is complete. These new metro stations will connect the residents of Espoo to Helsinki, along with the current bus and train lines.

Helsinki Metro

Kalasatama Metro Station

Have you enjoyed this? Then I would like to hear from you. What is your favourite metro system in the world? Have you any great pictures from beautifully decorated metro stations? I would like to see them. Also, I am a huge fan of long exposures and moving trains, let me see them in the comments below.

Further Reading:

More information on the art works that feature in many of the stations can be found on HAM Helsinki’s Sculpture Database.

If you like photographs of metro stations, so does Somewhere in Helsinki. His Instagram also includes the beautiful metro stations of Stockholm.

Many of these photos have been added to my own Instagram account.

The Many Faces of Tallinn

I was in Tallinn for the day, as many of you may already know, photographing the city for Day With A Local. I have been in Tallinn many times but this time was different. Firstly, I was alone and could explore at my leisure, secondly, I was able to see the city in a completely different way.

It started with Linnahall, an area I have always wanted to visit but never got around to, even though I have passed by it many times when leaving and returning to the port. Then as I walked through the neighbourhood of Kalamaja, pretty much by accident, I started to see a city of colour. Each building and door different from the last.

Once seeing these details there was no stopping my eyes from seeing more. As I begun walking the streets of the medieval Old Town I started to see faces hidden in the buildings themselves. Maybe it was just me, after looking for so long you can start to trick yourself, so I want to hear what you think.

Here are my best buildings with faces from Tallinn. If you enjoy them I would like to hear from you in the comments below, tell me what your favourite is or share with me a building you have photographed that has its own expression.

The Many Faces of Tallinn

The strange expression of St Nicholas Church.

The Many Faces of Tallinn

Timed this one perfectly when a passer-by appeared down the alleyway, or should I say open mouth.

The Many Faces of Tallinn

This one could be a little bit of a reach but those half circular windows in the roof definitely resemble eyes.

The Many Faces of Tallinn

Looking out of the old town. Many tourists and visitors to Tallinn’s old town come through this way. Doesn’t this entrance look surprised?

Tell me your favourite below.

Further reading:

More from Tallinn HERE, my favourite would be my visit to Linnahall.

I am a team member of Day With A Local and these photographs were taken in cooperation with them.

Another great city I recently visited was Copenhagen.