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Lagan Weir

These two shots were taken from an almost identical location one year apart during return visits to my home town of Belfast in Northern Ireland. I like the similarities – lone man crossing bridge shot from below – but I’m also struck by how different they are and how small changes can change the look of a picture.

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In Borisova Garden

I spent a couple of hours today walking in the Borisova Garden, one of Sofia’s many parks. The park is home to the Bulgarian Army stadium, where CSKA Sofia play. Many years ago – 1981 to be precise – I saw CSKA Sofia when they came to Belfast to play my local team Glentoran in what was then the European Cup (now the Champion’s League). The Glens had lost 2-0 in Sofia and no-one thought they had any chance. While CSKA were not one of Europe’s footballing superpowers they were, by a long way, the best team in Bulgaria – 31 times Bulgarian league champions and 20 times winners of the Bulgarian cup. Despite their underdog status, the Glens were 2-0 up with 20 minutes remaining and the game went into extra time. CSKA scored with five minutes left and the Glens were out. CSKA went on to beat defending champions Liverpool in the quarter finals before being overrun by Bayern Munich in the semi final.

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Sofia Metro

I’ve taken very few photographs of the Sofia Metro which is surprising given that metro systems are one of my favourite subjects. Of those few these are the only two I thought worth keeping. The first is the Serdika station in central Sofia, the second is one of the underground walkways at the NDK station. The first of these was shot with my Panasonic LX5. In its day the LX5 was considered a high end compact with a larger sensor than typical for compact cameras of the time, but much smaller than today’s high end compacts like the Sony RX100. Not only is it a small sensor it’s also – in digital years – ancient with the LX5 first introduced back in 2010. Yet despite its small size and older technology I’m always impressed with the quality of the images I get from it.


Haarlem

When the busyness of Amsterdam becomes too much, a fifteen minute journey by train brings you to Haarlem. A small city of around 150,000 people Haarlem has a beautifully preserved and pedestrianised centre focused on the Grote Markt, only ten minutes walk from the railway station.

During the Dutch Golden Age Haarlem was home to Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruisdal and his uncle, Salomon van Ruisdal. Jan Steen also lived and worked in the city for ten years. More recently Haarlem was the birthplace of Harry Mulisch, generally considered one of the greatest Dutch writers, and of Corrie ten Boom whose family sheltered Jewish refugees and Dutch resistance fighters in their home in the city during the Nazi occupation. The ten Boom family home is now a small museum honouring the family.

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Delft

Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North and, like Venice, is struggling to cope with the numbers of tourists, now approaching 19 million every year. This year, 2019, Amsterdam struck a deal with the the Dutch capital Den Haag allowing the latter’s tourist agency to set up at Amsterdam’s Centraal railway station in hopes that some of those 19 million might be persuaded to spend part of their holiday outside the city.

The problem is that the Netherlands is small and the Dutch public transport system is superb, so it is a simple matter to stay in Amsterdam and take day trips to the many surrounding towns and cities, including Den Haag which is less than an hour away by train. While this gets us tourists out of town by day we flood back in like the tide by night. On a trip to Amsterdam to visit friends earlier this year I discovered the value of the city as a base for exploring more widely and while I did not make it to Den Haag on that occasion I did visit Delft and Haarlem.

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