Saturday Surprise — Here and There

Hi friends!  No, leave your jackets on, for I’ve had the Filomobile tuned up and we’re going on an adventure today!  We haven’t done this in so long, partly because of my cold and partly because of Mother Nature’s cold.  But today, I’m mostly better, the sun is shining and it’s relatively warm, so let’s go do some exploring, shall we?  Fasten your seat belts and we’ll be on our way to …

The Atacama Desert in Chile

No, don’t worry … the Filomobile is good on all manners of terrain … we won’t get stuck!  What I want to show you, though is a sculpture, right there in the middle of the desert. hand-1.pngIt is called Mano de Desierto (Hand of Desert) and is the creation of Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal.  Built in the early 1980s, it was financed by a local booster organization called Corporación Pro Antofagasta.hand-2.pngThe motion of hands rising from the ground is an obsession of Irarrázabal’s. His other famous works include another over-sized sculpture exploring the same idea: “Monument to the Drowned” is located on Parada 4 at Brava Beach in Punta del Este, a popular resort town in Uruguay.hand-3.pngThe hand rises about 11 meters, or 36 feet from the floor of the desert and is the only break in the deserted monotony.  Isn’t that cool?  Can’t you imagine Irarrázabal spending day after day out here in the desert, on a ladder, building this gigantic hand!  And can’t you imagine some less-than-sober person coming through on the Pan-American Highway and coming upon that?

And now, we move on to …

Krakow, Poland …

… where we will visit yet another sculpture, Wojtek the Soldier Bear Statue.  This one has quite an interesting backstory.

The story of Wojtek the bear is almost like a fairy tale. It begins with a group of Polish soldiers in 1943 who were released from the Soviet Gulags after the Nazis invaded the USSR. Stalin needed whoever he could get and allowed his prior enemies to rejoin the fight against the Axis.Wojtek-cubDuring this trip to freedom, the group stumbled across a lonely bear cub that they decided to adopt. This proved to be a good move as the bear became incredibly good for morale and helped the group through many hardships that way.Wojtek with his regimentOver the years the bear grew up into a fully fledged soldier. He could carry supplies, drank beer, and enjoyed cigarettes. He also enjoyed wrestling soldiers in a good-natured way. The soldiers were very attached to their furry friend, as was Wojtek to them. Because of this, they enlisted the bear into the army as a private, since the army forbade pets at the battlegrounds and it was the only way that Wojtek could come with them. He was so popular he became the mascot of his company, the Polish 22nd Transport Artillery Company.Wojtek with soldierAfter the war, Wojtek and his regiment moved to Scotland where they settled down and built up new lives. The men got jobs and houses and Wojtek got a new home at the Edinburgh zoo, where he lived until 1963. The bear was very popular in Scotland and there is even a statue of him there.

Wojtek statueIn Poland, he is also fondly remembered, and in 2014 this memorial statue of Wojtek was erected in Krakow. The statue was entirely funded by the locals who wished to commemorate the bear and the battles he fought in. The memorial was unveiled on the 70th anniversary of the battle and remains one of the more popular statues in Jordan Park today.

Now doesn’t that one just give you a warm, fuzzy feeling?  One more stop before we head back stateside …

East Java, Indonesia

volcano-1Kawah Ijen is one of several volcanoes located within the 20 km wide Ijen Caldera, but this one is special.  The caldera of Kawah Ijen harbors a kilometer-wide, turquoise colored, acidic crater lake that leaks sulphurous gases constantly. At night the hot gases burn to emit an eerie blue glow that is unique to Kawah Ijen. The gases emerge from the cracks in the volcano at high pressure and temperature, up to 600°C, and when they come in contact with the air, they ignite, sending flames up to 16 feet high. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, and continues to burn as it flows down the slopes giving the feeling of blue lava flowing.

Pretty cool, yes?  Well, it’s almost time to head home, but one last stop in …

Skagway, Alaska …

Red-onion-1 … home of the Red Onion Saloon!  Established in 1898 as a bordello for lonely miners during the Klondike Gold Rush, the Red Onion Saloon preserves the town’s seamy history by operating a brothel museum on site. The ground floor saloon remains a bar and restaurant, but the establishment’s days of providing additional services are long gone.

red-onion-downstairsIn the 1900s, the Red Onion was a popular dance hall, and the space still hosts live music events and drag shows today. There are plenty of items on display throughout the restaurant. Racy, old-time portraits of alluring women adorn the walls and visitors can enjoy a glass of beer underneath a rather extensive display of bedpans.


Wall of bedpans

Upstairs, the museum showcases the 10 original rooms where the saloon’s madam and her girls would entertain their clients. Each room had several doors in case a quick exit was necessary. Customers chose women by picking from one of the 10 dolls placed at the bar, each representing one of the working ladies upstairs. When a doll was chosen, it was laid down on the bar, indicating the woman was at work. When her client came back downstairs, the doll would be seated upright, to let potential customers know she was available


The dolls

Legend has it that Lydia, a former madam at the saloon, haunts the place today. The smell of perfume down the hallways or particularly cold spots near the upstairs rooms are considered signs of her ghostly presence.

Time to head for home … I don’t know about you, but I’m tired now!  I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt this morning.  Have a great weekend, whatever you do, and keep safe!

42 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — Here and There

  1. Good journey Jill.
    There’s something about bears and solidiers. I can recall the threads of a similar one with a russian artillery unit and bear in the 19th century but can’t trace it right now. This one is much better as it has the photos.
    AS for Kawah Ijen….wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the story about the bear! I have such a weakness for critters. And that hand is awesome. We have a strange sculpture out of the salt flats between and Wendover. It’s called the Tree of Utah. It’s just out there in the middle of the Salt Flats.

    Oh, and I’ve been to the Red Onion in Skagway in 2003!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All lovely visits Jill, but is it just me (who has a passion for hands) that thinks it’s a poor sculpture. The fingers seem short and the thumb seems set too low down. A thumb usually comes to about a third of the way up your’pointy’ finger that one doesn’t look as though it will even reach the finger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed the trip! Um … Hugh was disturbed by the hands, but not because of their form … he saw them as sad, rather a cry for help. No, nobody else has commented that they are anatomically incorrect. But heck, the guy was on a ladder working with … what … concrete maybe? In the desert. But now you’ve got me looking at my hands and noticing that my thumb doesn’t seem to come a third of the way up my ‘pointy’ index finger. Does this mean what I think it means??? 😱

      Liked by 1 person

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