CAFE CHAIR, FINSTERWIRT RESTAURANT, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN), ITALY: The map may say Italy, but most everything about this pretty town in northern Italy is Austrian. While formally called by its Italian name, Bressanone, it’s called Brixen by most of the people who live there. When we walked into the “Künstlerstübele Oste Scuro/Finsterwirt’ restaurant, we had no idea what to expect. It was a late summer weeknight and our choices were becoming limited as many restaurants in the old town were closed or closing. As luck would have it, Finsterwirt, as we’d learn later, was the number #1 restaurant in Bressanone as ranked on Trip Advisor. We sat on the semi-covered terrace at a table sheltered from evening rain and were given German language menus.
While my grasp of the language is not great, I was able to discern much of it. Or so I thought. The dish that caught my eye was beef, a green salad and potato salad. When our waiter next appeared, he had an English language menu for us. The dish I was about to order was “Calf’s head, tongue and cheeks with salsa verde and potato salad.” I ordered something else. My friend had the “Slices of cafl, stilt from the oven with rice and vegetables.” The meal really was terrific and Finsterwirt is likely the best resto in Bressanone. Fun Fact: Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spent time in his youth nearby in the village where his mother was born. As a Cardinal he would often visit Finsterwirt during summer visits. One of his favourite meals there is venison filet with cold-stirred cranberries and roast potatoes. It is now a regular feature on the August menu. Click here to visit Finsterwirt’s website.
Shot Handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikon AF-S 70-300 lens at 82mm, f5, 1/10th sec. ISO 1250, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CHAGALL WINDOWS, REIMS CATHEDRAL, FRANCE: The Cathedral of Notre Dame at Reims is an excellent Gothic cathedral that is uncomplicated and straightforward in its layout and execution. Like other French cathedrals, Reims was not spared in the First or Second World Wars. It caught fire in 1918 during a bombardment and lead from the roof oozed through the mouths of the gargoyle rain spouts. Five chapels are tightly placed around the ambulatory and are fairly shallow. The ‘axial’ chapel is slightly deeper and it is here where the beautiful Marc Chagall windows dazzle visitors. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85 lens at 16mm, 1/6 second, f3.5, ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker
MUMM’S CHAMPAGNE CELLARS, REIMS, FRANCE: The tour at Mumm’s in Reims is excellent. It’s centrally located, about a 5 minute drive from the Cathedral. Even in mid-summer, the deep chalk tunnels maintain their fairly constant 52F / 11C temperature. Like every well-run tour, it ends in the gift shop! Mumm’s shop has many logo’d items– from pens to Champagne stoppers– all reasonably priced. As for the bubbly on offer, the shop prices are not discounted. So the only advantage of buying there instead of near home is the thrill of getting it at the source. Fun Fact: Mumm’s is pronounced “Mooom’s”, not “Mum’s.” Shooting without flash in the dim tunnels is next to impossible. Shot handheld/braced, Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm lens at 65mm, f 5.6, 1/8 sec, ISO 4000. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
BASILICA OF ST. JOHN LATERAN: December 27th is the feast day of St. John the Evangelist. This church is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and John the Baptist. It is one of the four major basilicas in Rome. And, while most may think that St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the “Pope’s Church”, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is actually the Pope’s ‘home’ cathedral. Built by the Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century, San Giovanni in Laterano was the first church to be officially built in Rome. The cathedral was dedicated on November 9, 318. It was embellished with decorations given by Constantine, including seven silver altars with seven gilded candlesticks inlaid with images of the prophets. The building has undergone many changes over the centuries following periods of neglect, invasion (Vandals) and natural disasters. Arches are adorned with reliefs of angels, including those shown in this photo. No two angels look alike. Shot handheld with a Nikon D70s, Nikkor 18-55mm lens at 51 mm, f4.2 1/13 sec.
Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
MONT ST. MICHEL, FRANCE: This small rocky island on the coast of Normandy is home to a medieval Benedictine Abbey. Legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared before St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, in 708. The archangel told the Bishop to build a church on the site. The Bishop ignored the call, until Michael burned a hole in the Bishop’s skull with his finger. Construction began soon after! The site was dedicated to Michael on October 16, 708. Mont St. Michel has primarily served as a Benedictine Abbey, but during the French revolution it was converted to a prison. Victor Hugo was a vocal proponent of Mont St. Michel and helped to have the prison closed in 1863. The following year it was declared an historic monument. Over a century later, in 1979, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This has to be one of the most photographed sites in the world. Finding a unique perspective is hard to do. This photo was captured travelling the hard to find paths and small country roads. Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikkor AF-S 70 – 300mm lens at 225mm, 1/500 sec., f16, 800 ISO. P
hoto by John Ecker | pantheon photography
WINSTON CHURCHILL STATUE AND BIG BEN, WESTMINSTER, LONDON, ENGLAND: In Parliament Square is the wonderful 1973 statue of Winston Churchill by artist Ivor Roberts-Jones. Churchill was Britain’s WWII era Prime Minister certainly its greatest 20th century leader. In this bronze Churchill, aka, ‘Winnie’ and the ‘British Bulldog’ faces Big Ben (actually, it’s St. Stephen’s Tower; Big Ben is the largest bell in the clock tower). A visit to the nearby Churchill War Rooms is a must stop for any fan of Churchill and student of World War II history. Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikkor 18-200 lens, at 60mm, 1/30 sec, f7.1, ISO 1600. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CAMPO DEI FIORI, ROME, ITALY: I love visiting this charming market every time I visit Rome. In English, it literally means ‘field of flowers’. It is a vibrant place on market days. From fish to fruit and vegetables to baked goods, this is where it’s at in central Rome for great fresh food, though it’s rather pricey. Best to go early in the morning for the market. At night it’s a great gathering spot with lots of cafes and restaurants at which to pass the time on a glorious Roman evening. Check out the monument to Giordano Bruno who was burnt alive on this spot in 1600 by the Roman Inquisition. His statue defiantly faces the Vatican. Shot handheld with a Nikon D70S, Nikkor 55-200 mm at 60mm, f 6.3, 1/60 sec. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
PAGODA, GOLDEN GATE PARK, SAN FRANCISCO: In 1981, the Chinese government gave this pagoda on Stowe Lake in Golden Gate Park to the people of San Francisco. The pagoda was shipped in over 6,000 pieces and assembled on the site. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, 18-200 VR lens, focal length 85mm, f/36, 1/60 sec, 1250 ISO. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
HAIGHT & ASHBURY, SAN FRANCISCO: Legs hang out the second floor window of this shop near Haight and Ashbury. More that forty years after the “Summer of Love” this neighbourhood still has some of the feel of the old “Hippie Haight.” Pipes, tie-dyed shirts and vinyl records can still be found in the shops of this must-see community. It’s located en route from downtown to Golden Gate Park, one of the best urban parks anywhere. While in ‘the Haight’ cruise by the former homes of Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and… Charles Manson.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300 and a Nikkor 70 – 300 AF-S VR lens; ISO 1250, 1/800 sec., f20, focal length 225mm. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography