September 20, 2015

SOOS abstraction

Do you wonder what I'm getting at with the title of this post? I hope so... Read on and you will see.

Photos presented in this post were taken at and inspired by SOOS, a national nature reserve that is situated just a few kilometres from Františkovy Lázně, the spa I wrote about in my last post. SOOS is a peat bog and fenland area that was declared the reserve in 1964. 

You can get to know part of it by following a 1,2 kilometres long nature trail that takes you through the reserve and lets you see some of its marvels.

In the reserve, there are numerous outflows of mineral springs. Along the trail you can see for example the following Imperial spring, which has coloured the place where it comes to the surface in that wonderful orange. The spring water is drinkable. I loved the tiles placed around the spring, they look quite unusual.

The trail goes across a dry lake bed that used to be full of salty mineral water. Remains of lake algae shells deposited at the bottom of the lake created a deep layer covered with white and yellow layers of precipitated mineral salts. It created a special landscape, they say it looks like a moonscape.

Though the area captured in the above two photos looks quite large, it actually represents just a few square metres.

In several places at the end of the trail, pure carbon dioxide springs to the surface in so called moffets, mud volcanoes, and it's quite fascinating to watch the little water pools bubbling with escaping gas. There were not many pools to watch though. This summer was very dry and the wetland was certainly much drier than usually. 

It was very interesting to feel the atmosphere of the area and here I'm back at the title of my post. My perception of the place was influenced by seeing many abstract motifs and hopefully I was able to capture some of them in my photographs. I loved that SOOS abstraction...

September 07, 2015

Františkovy Lázně

About 15 years ago we spent our holiday in the spa Františkovy Lázně which lies in Western Bohemia near the border with Germany. We were accommodated in a cabin in a camp called "Amerika", which is situated at the outskirts of the town, and made trips in the town's surroundings both in Bohemia and Germany. We liked that holiday and this year we decided to return to that camp for a few days and revisit some of the places, starting with the spa itself.  It's a small town but it's quite impressive.

After our arrival and checking in, we spent the afternoon in the town, walking in its streets and admiring its beautiful buildings.

The first reference to occurrence of mineral springs in the location comes from 1502, the first spa hotel was built in 1793. In the area, there are 20 healing mineral springs, natural bog containing high amount of soluble mineral substances and humic acids, and raw natural carbon dioxide of volcanic origin. All of these are used for treating various illnesses. 

The three photos that follow belong together, they capture a "Hall of Glauber's springs" both from the inside and outside.

In the center of the town, there are many spa hotels...

several parks and a few musical pavilions...

No doubt many events take place there to entertain spa guests and visitors.

During our afternoon strolling the sun was quite harsh, it was exactly that type of light that is not recommended for taking photographs. But I was taking them anyway, though I expected to come back another day under more favourable conditions. Guess what. It never happened as there was so much to see and eventually I was happy to have them even with their harsh shadows and shining lights. Some of them even profited from the shadows as the following one. 

You might have noticed that there are almost no people in my photos and I wonder why there were so few people in the streets. I guess firstly because it was an early Wednesday afternoon and secondly it was scorching hot that day. We saw more people in the evening sitting in restaurant's terraces and the other day in an aquapark, it was crowded. By the way, the aquapark was built ten years ago and we loved it. It's very nice inside and fits the place from the outside, we only regret it's not closer to our home. We would be frequent guests for sure.

August 09, 2015

Technical and musical Vítkovice Ironworks

My husband comes from Ostrava so from time to time we go there to visit his mom and the rest of his family and often we also choose a particular place to visit. Last autumn he suggested we could have a look at the reactivated area of former ironworks and as I work in a company producing steel and steel/cast iron products, it seemed interesting enough to me to agree to that plan. And I didn't regret at all as the area is enormously interesting, fascinating. We even took a guided tour that provided additional information and enabled us access to some parts that are not freely accessible.

*** my husband and sons in becoming hard hats ***

At the time of our visit, I had no idea that I and my husband would come back a few months later to enjoy "Colours of Ostrava", a music festival my husband was keeping an eye on for some time. I'll tell you more about it later. Please take into account that while I was shooting with my DSLR during the first visit, all the photos I took during the festival come just from my cell phone so please excuse their poor quality.

Now come with me and I'll show you at least something of what I saw on both occasions. I compiled a pack of facts but also tried to supplement the official information with my experience so here we go.

Industrial area of "Vítkovice Ironworks" is situated in the Moravian city Ostrava in its part Vítkovice and includes a unique complex which they say cannot be found anywhere else in Europe and which consists of a bituminous coal mine, cookery and blast furnaces. 

Establishment of Vítkovice Ironworks was initiated by an Olomouc-based archbishop Rudolf Habsburský in December 1828 and smelting works named in his honour were put into operation in September 1830. After 170 years of operation, production of pig-iron was brought to an end and in 1998 the area was closed.

Instead of demolishing the old buildings and obsolete equipment, it was decided to reactivate the area and preserve it as a technical monument for future generations. What a great decision! In 2002 the area of the mine, cookery and blast furnaces was decreed a National Cultural Monument and in 2008 it was put on a list of European Cultural Heritage.

The area is not only to be preserved but also transformed and used for the purpose of research, development, education and culture. That has become the objective of the project "Dolní oblast Vítkovice".

In 2012, the first part of the project was finished and three buildings were opened to the public: the Blast Furnace No. 1, gasholder and building of VI. Energy Centre.

The Blast Furnace No. 1 offers an interactive educational tour presenting manufacture of pig-iron. A special elevator takes visitors to the top of the blast furnace in the same way as raw materials used to be transported there and then the visitors walk along the technological flow of production. On top of the blast furnace, an additional structure more than twenty meters high was added which contains a café and whose top in 80 metres above ground offers a wonderful view of Ostrava and its surroundings. When we visited the ironworks in autumn, the superstructure wasn't open yet but we enjoyed the tour and view on our following visit. We took the tour at night and that added an unexpected charm to it.

The gasholder was transformed into a multifunctional auditorium known as "Gong". The sunken gasholder bell was lifted almost 15 metres higher and a structure was built into the space which now contains conference rooms, a cloak room, lobby and gallery, and an auditorium for 1 500 visitors. We had a reservation for a concert in Gong and I was glad to get to know the auditorium. The building looks impressive from the outside and it is interesting inside, but there is quite a bad smell inside, an industrial one, something most probably coming from that original gasholder. With my sensitive senses, I was able to put up with it the whole time the concert lasted which was one hour, not longing to run away, but it is there and it's good to know.

The building of VI. Energy Centre, which was originally used for production of compressed air, was transformed into the "Small World Of Technology U6" which is an interactive exhibition of technical inventions that significantly influenced industrial and technical development in the last two hundred years. The exhibition is divided into 8 sections named after titles of Jules Verne's books.

In the same year – which was 2012 – construction of a brand new Science and Technology Centre designed to interconnect the old with the new started. It was opened to the public in September 2014 and contains four permanent interactive exhibitions: Children's world, World of civilization, World of nature and World of science and discoveries. Look how the old buildings reflect themselves in the new building and the reflection visualises the idea of connection between the old and the new, I just love that!

We decided to explore both the Small World of Technology and the Science and Technology Centre on another occasion, it seemed too much to experience everything in just a few hours. 

For the transformation of the area, the architect Josef Pleskot was awarded the title of honour "Architect of the year" in 2014 and in my eyes he fully deserves the award. The transformation hasn't been finished yet, there are further plans, but the area is already used and visited and that is wonderful. Who would have thought? 

There are many cultural events taking place in the area, especially in summer, one of them the festival I've mentioned before "Colours of Ostrava". When we were strolling through the area during that autumnal visit, we noticed a poster inviting to the festival and I felt intrigued to capture it, not knowing I'd see it again.

A few months later when I did see it again, the feeling was very different…

Colours of Ostrava is a multi-genre music festival having taken place in Ostrava since 2002, since 2012 it's been held in the area of the former Vítkovice Ironworks. It lasts for four days and its musical performances are accompanied by theatre performances, workshops, discussions, films, clubs, there is much more than you can see and hear at that limited time. That was why we tried to prepare ourselves carefully and went through all what the festival offered this year via its website. We were listening to music samples of the bands and singers to be performing and made our personal program of what we wanted to hear. It was quite time consuming but paid off definitely at the festival itself. 

Colours of Ostrava is one of the most visited music festivals in the Czech Republic and its visit rate gets higher every year, this year it was about 43 700 people. What I like about it is a wide range of musical styles and the fact that you can hear songs and bands that are not played here. I didn't know most of the foreign bands and many of the Czech ones either.

The star of the festival should have been Björk but I think she disappointed many visitors by wearing a mask during all her performance and also, her style is very particular. We listened to a few songs though we hadn't included her into our program and yes, it was interesting, but I wouldn't need more. 

The foreign bands whose performance I loved most were the following ones, in no particular order: Augustines * Other Lives * The Mispers * Kasabian * Nicolas Pellerin * Rodrigo & Gabriela * Nidi d'Arac * Owen Pallett * Heymoonshaker * CoCo & The Butterfields. Do you like any of them?

I also loved the performance of Mika who was closing the festival. We thought it wouldn't be quite our cup of tea but went there partly because it was the final performance, partly out of curiosity and I was so happy we did. The atmosphere was unbelievable and his performance was beautifully entertaining. 

This was my first festival ever and after those three weeks that have passed since it, I'm still full of impressions and music and previously unknown experience. I was very glad that we visited the ironworks in autumn as there was so much to take in. Also, it was a great time for me and my husband to enjoy our time together, without our kids, getting to know one another in many new ways. I wish you could see my husband, who doesn't like to dance, dancing tirelessly to the rhythm of Pellerin's violin and me, who hates to make a spectacle of herself, jumping with clasping hands lifted above my head to the rhythm of Mika's singing. :) Have I told you that in a few days we will celebrate 20 years since we got married? This was the best celebration I could have imagined…