Mannequin Monday #30

Ljubljana, December 2012

I know, this hairy dude isn’t really a mannequin. But he is riding a bike which scores big time in my book.

This was snapped in Ljubljana, Slovenia in December 2012, but even though he’s an avid cyclist, he isn’t my favorite santa from the Slovenian capital. This one below is, who I found breaking and entering into a nearby apartment two years earlier. I hope they bring you everything you want and/or deserve.


New to this weekly series, an attempt to create the largest repository of blighted mannequins on the planet? Then you can and should catch up here. Enjoy and do spread the word.

By the way, this image also serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 343rd straight. When you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can and should catch up with some of those here.


Saturnalia Revisited (Pic du Jour)

Saturnalia by Ernesto Biondi, Buenos Aires

They look like they know how to enjoy themselves, don’t they?

This is part of the Ernesto Biondi sculpture ‘Saturnalia’, set playfully in the Buenos Aires Botanical Gardens. The week-long ancient Roman festival which honored the deity Saturn would have reached just beyond the midway point on December 21, providing a good opportunity to remember the celebration that turned Roman society upside down. Catullus call it “the best of days”.

I posted eight photos of the sculpture and more info about the celebration on December 17 last year, the day the celebration began under the Julian calendar. Do check it out. You might get some party ideas!

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 342nd (!!) straight, was snapped in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 25 January 2013.


Weekend Demonstrations Begin in Cleveland to Protest Fatal Police Shooting of 12-year-old boy

Racism kills - demostrator protesting the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland

About one hundred people gathered in Cleveland’s Cudell Commons park this morning to kick off a two-day Weekend of Resistance event to protest last month’s fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed by a Cleveland police officer at the park on the city’s west side. A 26-photo gallery of the demonstration is below.

I posted previously about the Rice case here and here but to summarize: Rice was holding what turned out to be a toy airsoft gun when he was shot on November 22, 2014; he died early the next day. Video footage of the shooting, showing how the police officer shot the boy within moments of arriving on the scene, has sparked outrage nationwide and attracted attention worldwide.

Local residents were joined this morning by some 40 activists who traveled from Ferguson, Missouri, to show their support for Rice and his family, and to join the protest.

As I post this, the protest is ongoing with the demonstrators marching to various parts of the city’s downtown area. You can follow on twitter via the hashtags #Ferguson2Cle and #CleProtests. A pair of actions are also scheduled for Sunday.

All images © Bob Ramsak; for editorial use, please check out the images I filed for Demotix and Corbis.




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Copacabana’s Cerro Calvario, After Sunset – Pic du Jour

After sunset on Cerro Calvario, Copacabana, Bolivia 2

This was taken just after sunset from the summit of Cerro Calvario, or Calvary Hill, above Copacabana, Bolivia, one of the country’s most visited Catholic religious sites. At 4,015m (13,174ft) above sea level, it leave you huffing and puffing. But the views over Lake Titicaca, South America’s largest lake, will be very much worth that minimal effort.

I posted a 22-photo tour and more info about Cerro Calvario last August. Check it out.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 341st (!!) straight, was snapped in Copacabana, Bolivia on 23 March 2013.



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Club Cartagena – Pic du Jour

Club Cartagena, 1925 version

When I think of Cartagena, those thoughts are bathed in bright hues of yellow. Like here, a late afternoon shot of an old home to Club Cartagena, near the city’s Parque del Centenario, or Centennial Park.

Opened in 1925, the building was designed by French-born architect Gaston Lelarge who worked extensively throughout Colombia before retiring to Cartagena in 1920. This was his last project.

For a time it was among the most exclusive buildings in the city, hosting ceremonies, parties and visiting dignitaries —Franklin D. Roosevelt, among others— until the club moved in 1956. It looks as if it hasn’t gotten much love in the half century since.

More about the building and Lelarge (Spanish only) is here.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 340th (!!) straight, was snapped on 09 June 2013, a nice fit for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme, ‘Yellow’.



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Nicaraguan Snapshots, 1990-1999 – Notebook and Image Gallery


I was asked a few days ago by someone who contacted me via my Nicaragua Canal updates page if I had any photos for publication available from Nicaragua; the answer unfortunately is no. At least not at the moment.

I visited Nicaragua five times during the 1990s, a couple of those for extended periods, and have plenty of images on slides and film available. But those are currently about 5,000 miles and some nine months away; these are the only scanned images I have at the moment, all culled from my dormant flickr account, and finally given a permanent home here. They’re divided into three sections:

  • images from the municipality of Teustepe, a community about 75km northeast of Managua that I got to know fairly well when I coordinated a sister city organization linking it with Athens, Ohio. The photo at top is Teustepe’s Primary school, taken in February 1990.
  • the second group are images from the northwestern town of Posoltega taken in April 1999, about six months after storms swept in by Hurricane Mitch devastated the area.
  • and the third a small hodgepodge including a selfie before the word was a thing.

All are low resolution scans of either slides or prints; most had seen better days. Enjoy!


Afternoon shadows, Teustepe, February 1990.

Vendor taking a break during a baseball game at Teustepe stadium. February 1994.

The little boy didn’t seem to mind playing with dried cow dung. Rapid deforestation and clearcutting here, primarily for grazing, left this area among the driest area in the country. Teustepe, February 1990.

Teustepe Police Department, high noon.  As two of the gentlemen worked on the jeep, I asked if I could take a photo. The other two quickly joined to be in the picture. They were playing around with that jeep for nearly three weeks but eventually they did get it to run. Teustepe, 10 February 1994.

Jimmy Sosa. I met Jimmy during my second visit to Teustepe, in 1992, and he immediately stood out from the dozens of kids who would regularly flock to the place where we were staying. Everybody wanted us to give them something, except for Jimmy. He was content simply listening to stories, asking questions, and telling stories. He loved to share an animated tale about how his father, a die-hard Sandinista, was killed by a long-time friend when the two were on opposite sides of the war just prior to the overthrow of the Samoza dictatorship in July 1979. This is taken in front of his house, Teustepe, Nicaragua, February 1994.

At a community meeting just outside town. February 1994.

Humberto Gonzales on his farm, the first entirely self-sustaining farm in the area. He uses/used manure to power his generators. Teustepe, Nicaragua, 11 February 1994

Humberto’s kids at home, February 1994.

Emergency room in Teustepe’s health center, February 1990.

A little more than two years after taking this, I was laying on that hard wooden slab, desperately waiting for a pain reliever. The day before, a hammock I was dozing in collapsed, dropping me about five feet onto a concrete floor. The next morning everything hurt –really really bad. As I waited, a little boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, was brought in. He fell off of a pick-up truck, and had dirt and gravel embedded in his head. He was put on a wooden slab next to mine, face down, with his head over a little garbage can. A doctor arrived and proceeded to scrape the stuff out of his head with a scalpel. No anesthetic. Every scream from that little boy reverberated through my body. Eventually I got my pain killer, administered through the biggest needle I’ve ever seen. July 1992.

I think I really scared the second kid from the right. Scan of a print with pushpin holes. Teustepe, February 1994.

Myriam Largaespada de Oliva, first woman mayor of Teustepe, in her office at the Alcaldia (Municipal Hall). The portrait on the wall is of then Nicaraguan president, Violetta Chamorro, the first woman elected as a head of government in Latin America. Teustepe, Nicaragua, 02-July 1992. (Bad scan of a mediocre print of a slide).

Store owner and his daughter, 23 February 1990.

Tortilla salesman, February 1994. I returned five months later, tracked him down and gave him a copy of this print.

Typically parched. February 1990.

In the countryside some 10 kilometers from Teustepe. What struck me most about this scene was that it could have been taken in some pockets of Appalachia. February 1990.

Donald Cordoba,  one for one of the first friends I met during my first visit in 1990. At 15, Donald was jailed by Somoza’s US-armed and trained National Guard, had his finger nails torn off and was branded. A powerful, passionate speaker, and ardent Sandinista. At his home in Boaco, Nicaragua, Feb 1994.

Aftermath of Hurricane Mitch – April 1999

On 30-Oct 1998, torrential rains brought in by Hurricane Mitch filled the Casitas volcano, forcing the slope, pictured in several of the images, to collapse. It produced a massive river of mud more than a kilometre wide that swept through the area, killing nearly 3,000 people immediately, taking out several villages and smaller settlements, and displacing several thousand more. Some survivors, stuck in the mud for several days, had limbs amputated. These were taken six months later. Normalcy was still a long way off.

Dry river carved by the river of mud. Casitas in the background.

A makeshift refugee camp.

At the refugee camp.

At the refugee camp.

Casitas without its top.

A family at a refugee camp near Posoltega.

In the storage center at the refugee camp.

Posoltega Mayor Felicita Zeledon Rodriguez. Recently (December 2014) deceased.

At Posoltega City Hall.

Barren landscape.

Mudslide aftermath.

Where mud flowed.

A building destroyed by the mudslide.

Sisters playing at a refugee camp.

Bulletin board at city hall.

Camp leader.

And a closing mix

Dugout canoe on Ometepe Island. I walked by these gentleman early in the morning as they began carving out the tree. When we passed by again in late afternoon, they were nearly finished. Near Balgue, Ometepe Island, Lake Nicaragua, 17 February 1994

Student demonstrators, Managua, April 1999. He’s holding a ‘mortero’, kind of like a homemade M-80 launcher. Scan of a slide. More about this image is here.

Monument for the victory over Somoza. Made from melted AK-47s. Managua, February 1994.

Remains of the old cathedral. Along with much of central Managua, the cathedral was destroyed in the December 1972 earthquake which took upwards of 20,000 lives, and left 3/4s of the city’s population, then about 400,000, homeless. Through the newly-formed National Emergency Committee, Somoza, the last dictator of the Somoza dynasty which had ruled since 1936 and head of the ruthless National Guard, personally administered the tens of millions of dollars of international relief aid. Predictably, much of it simply vanished, creating one of the first major upsurges of popular support for the insurgent FSLN (Sandinista) guerillas. Roberto Clemente, the first Hispanic American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame, died in a plane crash on 31-Dec 1972, while en route to Managua to personally deliver and guarantee that relief reached those who needed it. February 1994.

And finally, here’s me with Carlos Fonseca, a co-founder of the Sandinistas and martyr of the revolution. In front of the Palacio Nacional, Managua, February 1994





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Wonder how much illegal migrants pay those who traffic them?

Container port, Cartagena

Prices vary, depending on destination and means of transport. From Turkey to Greece for example, it’s about €1,600 (US$1,966) via inflatable boat, €2,400 ($2,950) by fishing boat and €3,200 ($3,932) on board a tourist boat. The cheapest is by land, about €800 ($900) to Italy or Austria if they’re squeezed into a container on truck.

That’s according to a secretly recorded conversation shared by France 24 Observers in which a human smuggler describes his trade. From a transcript of the recording:

Right now about 80 percent of our clients are Syrian, the rest are Iraqi, Iranian or Afghan. They rarely have a specific destination – we send them to Italy or Austria. They may then choose to go on to other countries on their own. Prices vary greatly between human slingers – it really depends on how much money the slinger himself is willing to spend to secure passage for his customers. If a slinger wants to spend very little money, well, there’s more risk the customers will be caught. And if the client gets arrested or died, who cares? They’ve already received part of the money up-front, so they never lose money.


Most of our customers don’t like the route that goes through Bulgaria, because the police are very violent there. The situation in Bulgarian refugee camps is awful, and in some cases the authorities try to send the refugees back to their home country.


There are always risks – after all, they’re doing something illegal. For example, a smuggler might put 45 people in the back of a truck and drive for 12 hours – and the passengers can’t open any windows. There have been cases where people in trucks are crushed between the loads inside containers, when the driver suddenly hit the brakes hard. I even heard that some smugglers that take boats to Australia will dump containers into the ocean if they find out they’re being tracked by the police.

That’s an accurate account, writes Sam Sarabi, an Iranian journalist and former Human Rights Watch adviser who works on refugee cases on Turkey. He welcomes attention to the issue and plight of migrants seeking refuge, but says there are unintended consequences as the situation continues to spiral.

Governments are cracking down on human smugglers, and this has a secondary impact – smugglers are now sacrificing human lives to escape arrest. I don’t think that government should close their eyes on human trafficking, but they need to think of ways to avoid such a situation.

More of the transcript is in the post, From Syria to Europe: A human trafficker’s tale, which also includes audio of the entire conversation.


Slovenia’s Predjama Castle | Notebook and Image Gallery

Predjama Castle 2

This is Predjama Castle, a gothic dwelling built in the mouth of a cave located in the western Slovenian village that’s given it its name. First mentioned in 1274, it was featured in an episode of Ghost Hunters International and is also the place where an infamous knight was struck down by a cannonball while he sat on his toilet.

The son of the Imperial Governor of Trieste, Erazem (or Erasmus) Lueger was a knight and feared robber baron who owned the castle in the 15th century. He fell out of favor with the House of Habsburg after he killed a Marshall related to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. He fled to his castle where, according to legend, he was under siege for a year and a day. The castle was considered impregnable, so attackers tried to starve him out.

But Erazem survived thanks to a secret tunnel that connected his castle to a nearby valley where was able to collect supplies. A ‘Bat Cave’ of sorts, Erazem also used it to continue his robberies. An act of treachery finally did him in.

A servant was bribed to signal to attacking soldiers when the elusive knight needed to use to toilet, the one place in the castle that was not impregnable. On an afternoon when Erazem indulged in too many cherries and too much wine, the moment came to catch the knight with his pants down. Some believe he’s been haunting the grounds ever since.

Ruined during the siege, it was rebuilt in the opening years of the 16th century, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1511. In 1570 it was rebuilt and took on its present Renaissance look. It exchanged hands between Austrian nobility several times until the end of World War II when it was nationalized by the newly-emerged Yugoslav government and turned into a museum.

The village of Predjama sits nestled in a pleasant hilly landscape about 11km from the city of Postojna and nine from the UNESCO-listed Postojna cave. There is free shuttle bus service between the cave and castle for visitors who purchase a combined ticket. Open year round but with shorter hours in winter. Visiting hours and admission info is here.

I arrived too late in the day, so my visit was limited to the exterior and immediate grounds. I’ll go inside next time to see if I can sneak an obligatory selfie on the toilet.


Predjama Castle 3 Predjama Castle 4 Predjama Castle 5 Predjama Castle 6 Predjama Castle map


All images © Bob Ramsak 2014. All rights reserved.
For stock or editorial use please get in touch.
For print purchases please visit here; for greeting cards and post cards here.


The lead photo serves admirably as today’s Pic du Jour, the 339th straight.



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Portland Clown

Portland clown

A clown made a cameo in a dream last night. But not this one. Hope you’re enjoying your day.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 337th straight, was snapped in Portland, Oregon, USA, on 04-Aug-2013.

Puerto Lopez, Ecuador | Notebook and Stock Image Gallery


Laid back and lacking pretense, Puerto Lopez is the consummate sleepy beach town that doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to wake from that slumber. Dusty and a little rough around the edges, you may not find romanticized scenes of ‘paradise’, but you will find a nice city beach, plenty of attractive views, genuine smiles, lots of budget lodging and dining options and best of all, a destination that should match whatever your definition of ‘authentic’ happens to be.

I planned to spend a couple nights and wound up spending nearly a week.

A pleasant fishing village of about 16,000, it’s the nearest hub for visits to Machalilla National Park, home to the beautiful Los Frailes beach, and to Isla de la Plata, aka the Poor Man’s Galapagos and its large resident population of Blue-Footed and Nazca Boobies, making a stop in Puerto Lopez almost obligatory. It’s also a popular destination for whale watching between June and September when the annual humpback mating attracts a sizable number of the acrobatic mammals.

In town, the most interesting attraction is the morning fish market that draws nearly as many pelicans and magnificent frigatebirds as it does local buyers and brokers eager to head home with the best of the morning’s catch. The commerce begins at about 7; try not to come too late.

Getting there? There is regular bus service from Guayaquil, about a four hour journey to the south, and Manta and Portoviejo to the north. There are also daily buses to Quito, an 11 hour trip.

Getting around? You can and should walk just about everywhere within the city limits. Taxi motos are widely available; round trip to the Machalilla park entrance, about 10km north of town, should run about $12 (as of summer 2014).

A place to stay? You could certainly do worse than the the hilltop Maremonti Bed & Breakfast, winner of my Best Road Office of 2013 award.

Thirty-two images from Puerto Lopez are below, like all my galleries, offering a fair representation of what the town actually looks like. Click on any to view it larger or to watch as a slideshow.

You can also check out a couple previous Puerto Lopez Posts and galleries: Barely legal sharks at the morning fish market and a small gallery of shots from Los Frailes beach.



All images © Bob Ramsak 2013-2014. All rights reserved.
For stock or editorial use please get in touch.
For print purchases please visit here; for greeting cards and post cards here.



[More Puerto Lopez-related posts] [More Ecuador-related posts] [More Galleries]




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Mannequin Monday #29

O'Betty's Mannequin

This week Mannequin Monday features the sentry that keeps a watchful eye over O’Betty Hot Dogs, run by my friend Bob Satmary, in Athens, Ohio. I visited a few days ago and have to pass along a rave review. Check out their Facebook page. And their new logo.

If you’re new to this weekly series, an attempt to create the largest repository of blighted mannequins on the planet, you can and should catch up here. Enjoy and do spread the word.

By the way, this image also serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 336th straight. When you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can and should catch up with some of those here.



Shots from a Moving Train, Slovenia

Commuter train between Bled and Jesenice, Slovenia

Yes, I ignored the warning sign that asks passengers to not stick their arms or heads out the window of a moving train.

This was a quick shot during a slow train ride through the rain between the Bled and Jesenice in northwestern Slovenia. I’m not a big fan of GoPro shots but like the exaggerated wide angle effect here.

For those traveling to and/or from Slovenia by rail, note that the 2015 timetable goes into affect today.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 335th straight, was snapped near Bled, Slovenia, on 24-Sep-2012.

Folklore dancer, Kavarna

Young folklore dancer, Kavarna, Bulgaria

This enthusiastic young dancer was the star of a folklore dance performance I watched a few years ago in Kavarna, Bulgaria, a city of about 12,000 on the Black Sea coast. It’s also home to an urban beautification project that incorporates murals of heavy metal musicians into the cityscape and the world’s only memorial to rock icon Ronnie James Dio. Those influences seemed a world away from this energetic performance.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 334th straight, was snapped on 06-Oct-2012.

Oslo City Hall – a Tour in 24 Photos

Main Hall, Oslo City Hall

Ahead of tomorrow’s Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, here’s a quick tour of Oslo’s City Hall, the building that has hosted the event each December 10 since 1990.  Above is the ‘Great Hall’, or Rådhushallen, the room where Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai will be presented with the prize on Wednesday.

I’ve attended or covered events in the building on six occasions since 2006, and have yet to tire of subsequent quick explorations. While it would be a stretch to describe the functionalist town hall as attractive architecturally, there’s plenty to admire and study; as you’ll see from the gallery below, I’m most drawn to the massive murals and other artworks that decorate the various rooms, entryways and halls. Some depict important moments from the city’s history, others are simple scenes from everyday life. There are also a handful that would not be found inside a public building anywhere in the U.S.

Oslo’s most famous building sits in the Norwegian capital’s central downtown district with the fjord waterfront providing a dramatic backdrop. But it wasn’t always this picturesque.

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Mannequin Monday #28

Mannequin, Potosi

Looks like he bet, lost and couldn’t pay up. Potosi, Bolivia, 31-Mar-2013

If you’re new to this weekly series, an attempt to create the largest repository of blighted mannequins on the planet, you can and should catch up here. Enjoy and do spread the word.

By the way, this image, snapped on 15-May-2013, also serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 329th straight. When you’ve got a few minutes to spare, you can catch up with some of those here.

Essaouira, Euclid and El Salvador: Piran Cafe’s Top 10 photos from November 2014


This shot of a fisherman patiently repairing one of his nets was taken at the fishing port of Essaouira, Morocco in September. The contrast with the lively atmosphere in which it’s set, busy with commerce and trade, made it one of the most memorable moments of the hour or so I spent there. I wondered how many tears needed to be mended, and how many times that particular net had already been repaired. And would he actually fix every rip he found in that massive net? Next time I’ll ask him.

It was also the most well-received image I posted last month, thus giving it pride of place in this second monthly ‘Best of’ review. (Last month’s is here.)

How to decide inclusion?

Back in the early days of Piran Café, some seven+ years ago, I published an almost monthly look back at what I considered to be the best photos I shot during the previous month. (As an example here’s a summary for 2008.) This is an off-shoot of that but with a twist, pushing my personal preferences aside and compiling instead the ten most talked about, faved, viewed, and shared photos published over the previous month on this site, and my Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

Filling out the rest of Top 10 and presented in no particular order are shots snapped in, Ljubljana, El Salvador, Berlin, and among a few others, the Cleveland suburb of Euclid, Ohio.

Got a favorite? Or one you can’t stand? Let me know!


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