Travel Wishlist: A Painted World

Everyone who knows me knows that I live half of my life in my imagination, dreaming of other places, other paths, other worlds. To celebrate the new year, I thought I would allow my mind to drift to the beautiful places around the world that have captured me with their colours and murals.

No doubt I won’t make it to them all in the next year, if ever (I still haven’t gone to any of the places I included on my last travel wishlist). To me the joy of travelling isn’t just checking off a list of countries, or colouring in a map, it’s also the child-like excitement of fantasising about going somewhere, really aching for it. As my mother said to me every single time I begged her for a horse…

‘There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.’ Oscar Wilde

And so, I hope this list makes you dream of faraway places, even if you never make it to them in person.

Orgosolo

This little town near Nuoro in Sardinia was once known as the ‘village of murderers’ for the high crime rate and banditry. The bandits would post pictures of their next victims on the doors of the church – terrifying!

This town is also known for it’s murals, which started appearing in the late 60’s. Originally these depicted political struggles within Sardinia, however over the years they have grown to portray a more diverse array of topics as well as international issues.

Orgosolo boasts around 150 murals, most of which were painted or at least instigated by a local teacher, Francesco del Casino, who used the murals as a way to get his students engaged with politics.

A fascinating little place and Sardinia is incredibly easy to get around, as I discovered on a trip to Bosa last year!

Tiébélé

This little town is in one of the poorest countries in West Africa – Burkina Faso, – however it’s traditions are rich with culture and imagination.

The custom of decorating the walls dates from the 16th century and is usually carried out by the women of the village.

The walls are painted using natural mud, each colour is burnished separately and finally the walls are varnished using extracts of néré, an African locust bean tree.

I love the geometrical patterns in black and white best, however depictions of people going about their daily lives are also very common in Tiébélé. I wish we had buildings painted so prettily in London!

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen, in the Rif Mountains of Morocco, has long been on my mind and in my dreams. Though I have travelled the length and breadth of the Maghreb, I have not yet made it to the blue pearl city in the clouds.

This fortress city was built to protect against invasions by the Portuguese in the north of Morocco. After the Spanish Reconquista, many Moriscos and Jews fled to this city, however it was then taken by the Spanish in the 1920’s as part of Spanish Morocco and remained Spanish until Moroccan independence in 1956.

The name Chefchaoun comes from the Berber word for horns, ‘ichawen’, as the mountains behind the city resemble the horns of a goat. The mountains don’t just look like a goat though, they’re also home to a number of goats and the goats cheese and milk from the Rif mountains are some of the best in the world!

Chefchaoun is infamous for being situated in the middle of a large cannabis growing region, however it remains a safe place to visit, if navigated with care.

Like Orgosolo, this town in the mountains has a mixed history of both beauty and danger, but I just can’t seem get those blue rinsed houses out of my head – they’re my own personal drug.

Belfast

This last place is on a road more travelled than the previous three, yet it has long drawn me to it.

I have never set foot in Northern Ireland, my family come from the other side of the border in the ‘sunny south east’ of County Wexford. However I have always longed to find out more about the history of Northern Ireland, especially The Troubles.

I’ve studied Irish literature, read and re-read poetry on the violent passions of the loyalists and the republicans. As much as I live by words, they say that a picture paints a thousand, and there are so many pictures painted on the walls of Belfast – at least 300 in fact! That’s 300,000 words of feelings and emotions, a 300,000 word story, or collection of stories, waiting to be read.

Ireland has a haunting beauty, once you’ve been, you can’t get it out of your system, and I’m sure Northern Ireland will be the same. My first trip of 2015 will be to Belfast in January. As well as seeing the murals, I’m really excited about seeing the Giant’s Causeway – I can think of few other places in the world where the idea of the fae folk could feel quite so real.

Happy 2015!

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5 thoughts on “Travel Wishlist: A Painted World

  1. So great to see Belfast/N.I mentioned by you among such other great places. We get a lot of visitors here wanting to see the murals and hear of our (jaded) past, but NI has been hiding a largely undiscovered beauty for such a long time ironically because of that past (people just didnt want to come here), and now that things have changed for the better the doors are wide ooen to come and see why shows like Game of Thrones etc have returned here so many times to film. We have so many sights to see. Anyway, have a look at the pix on my own page (no obligation or “likes” required!) and get an idea of what to expect beyond our troubles ;-)

    • Hi there, thanks for the comment. I completely agree that there is so much more to see than just the sad stories and murals! I love the countryside across the border in the republic, and from what I hear, it’s even more beautiful in Northern Ireland, so really excited to come and see. Unfortunately i’ll only be in Belfast for a short weekend but i’ll make sure to check out your page for some ideas for my next trip! :)

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