"Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive."
William S. Burroughs

A statue is a sculpture representing a person, people, or animals. Some ore so famous that most people have long since stopped noticing them - when did you last look up when walking through Trafalgar Square for example?  - others are so big that they dominate their skylines, like Liberty in New York, but just as interesting are smaller quirkier tributes to the famous or infamous.

Seems to me that any statue tells more about those who commissioned it rather than of the life and times it's commemorating. It's remains largely the state or religious institutions that have deep enough pockets with high-minded enough aspirations.

Here's a look at new or noteworthy statues from around the world... 

The giant babies sculptures that nonchalantly scale Prague's TV Tower...
posted by Richard Green on 04/06/2017

Six of the 10 fibreglass babies nonchalantly crawling up and down the tower. Photo Tower Park Praha

Prague's Žižkov Television Tower was completed in 1992, and since 2000 its distinctive outline was softened by the addition of what look like 10 giant babies crawling up and down the tower. The brief was to help the people of Prague love their tower a little more - and in that the sculptures were only meant to be temporary, and yet they are still there, it seems to have worked.  

As a passing tourist, I was drawn to the tower as a diversion from the swathes of gorgeously attractive buildings in the Old Town of Prague. What caught my eye were the babies crawling up the outside of the structure. 

Prague's TV tower dominates the skyline. Photo Tower Park Praha

The tower has attracted much criticism over the years, not least because it dominates one of Europe's most beautiful and low rise skylines, but also due to the very nature of its rather brutal design. It's an example of Structural Expressionism (also known as High-Tech Architecture), which evolved in the 1970s in reaction to the thinking that modern architecture of that period had become an endless parade of monotonous structures.

The rather brutal design has been softened by the infant climbers. Photos Tower Park Praha

No self respecting East European capital missed the opportunity under Communism of building a very tall, very modern, and usually very much despised TV tower, and Prague's offering is a three column steel structure that is 216 metres tall, and with an observation deck at 93m. 

The 10 baby statues are made from fibreglass by renowned Czech sculptor, David Černý, who has form at creating controversy and making onlookers double take; having in 1991 provocatively painted a Soviet tank bright pink, and courted more controversy by exhibiting a statue of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde in 2005.

Close up the babies are cute enough below the neck, but their heads are actually far from pretty, or even human, but have a strange mutant crease where facial features would normally be. Yet Černý's remit was to help transform the way that people feel about the tower, and in that he seems to have successed. It began as a temporary project, but because the sculptures proves so popularly appealing, they are now very much permanent fixtures. 

I'm a sucker for getting an aerial view of any city that I am visiting, just for some context and plain old interesting views, but the observation deck and restaurant at the Žižkov Tower are well worth a visit, and for a closer look at Černý's daredevil infants.

Three bronze babies to the same design, also by David Černý, in Kampa Park. Photo Anguskirk/Flickr

See Tower Park Praha


Mother Russia, Christ the Redeemer and Mr Patel: the world's biggest statues...
posted by Richard Green on 18/10/2018

England played Tunisia in the World Cup back in June, in the Russian city of Volgograd - in the shadow of the mother of all motherland statues. It was built to commemorate World War II's Battle of Stalingrad, as Volgograd was then known - is 16 times the height of Michaelangelo's David and weilds a sword as long as Rio's Christ the Reedemer is tall.

Below is a look at the where,when and why of this giant figure, with nine other of the world's other biggest statues.

The Motherland Calls

Vital statistics: this sweeping beauty - Socialist Realism on steriods - is 85m tall and weighs over 8,000 tonnes. Also in the memorial complex is an eternal flame, the Memory Museum, and a cyclorama depicting the battle as it might have been seen from the top of the mound.

Where/when? The statue is on the outskirts of Volgograd, known as Stalingrad between 1925 and 1961, and as Tsaritsyn before that. The huge Mother Russia was unveiled in 1967 and stands on the top of an infamous mound called Hill 102 during the batttle, where fighting raged four months in 1942.

Why oh why? Nobody did war memorials quite like the Soviet Union, which erected hundreds of often massive and musular statues to commemorate the country's victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Unsurprisingly then that the Battle Of Stalingrad, a turning point in the conflict that engulfed the city for six long months and cost the lives of perhaps two million people, would host the pinacle of Soviet statuary.

Criticism & controversy: any dissent about the suitability of the staue would have been swiftly snuffed out back in the Soviet day, but the esteem in which the 11 Hero Cities - of which Volgograd is one - are held in Russia, would have meant that the vast majority of the city's population were behind the statue and memorial complex. The sword did need a bit of a rethink though - as the stainless steel and its titanium cladding proved to be too wobbly in high winds. In 1972 the blade was replaced by something lighter, and with the addition of holes in the sword's upper part to reduce wind resistance. 

Visiting: take the tram to Mamaev Kurgan. Volgograd International Airport has flights to Moscow with Aeroflot, Nordwind Airlines, and S7. Other cities served include Rostov-on-Don with Azimuth, Kazan, Krasnodar and Sochi with Utair, and Chelyabinsk with Yamal Airlines.

Related My Bathroom Wall posts include Cycloramas, Moscow's controversial Peter the Great statue, and the Brest Fortress war memorials.

African Renaissance Monument

Vital statistics: undeniably powerful, this oddly Soviet styled ensemble stands 49 metres high. It is Africa's tallest statue and cost £16.6m.

Where/when? The stylised family group faces the Atlantic Ocean on the outskirts of the Senegalese capital Dakar, with the bronze tip of the toddler's left hand the highest point. It was finished in 2010 to mark 50 years of Senegal's independence from France.

Why oh why? Nineteen African heads of state attended the opening ceremony of this powerful work, which depicts an African man, woman and child emerging from a volcano and pointing westwards. The concept is home grown, floated by President Abdoulaye Wade and designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby. However, it was built by the Mansudae Overseas Projects company of North Korea, which has handiwork in Namibia, Benin, Botswana and others. 

Criticism & controversy: the £16.6m price tag proved so crippling that land was ceded to North Korea to pay for it, and controvery rages on. Is it venerating machismo and sexism as some think? And it's irked many that there is a strange lack of African-ness in the facial features, and (in this predominantly Muslim country) accusations of idolatry and immodesty. And guess what? President Wade claims the intellectual propertty rights and wants 35% of the revenue raised from visitors.

Visiting: there's an observation level inside the big man's head. Alas Senegal doesn't have a significant airline of its own, but there are flights to Dakar from across Africa and Europe, with Brussels Airlines flying to Brussels, Air France to Paris,  Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, Arik Air to Lagos, and Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.

Guan Yu

Vital statistics: squaring up for righteous combat, this swiry-robed warrior stands 58 metres tall, weighs 1,320 tonnes and is clad with 4,000 glued-on stripos of copper.

Where/when? the statue stands in Jingzhou, on the banks of the Yangtse River in central China's Hubei Province, and was completed in 2016.

Why oh why? the middle reaches of the great Yangtse River have been strategically important for centuries, and the statue commemorates the great Chinese god-general Guan Yu, who was a heroic leader in the Three Kingdoms period. Guan Yu is revered, even worshipped, and is seen as the epitome of loyalty and righteusness. He has statues galore dedicated to him, not least the 61 metre tall statue in his home town of Chang Ping.

This statue sees him standing proud on the would-be prow of a stylised ancient warship - which actually houses a museum. It was designed by Han Meilin - who designed the cutesy Beijing Olympic mascot. The double-ended spear-like weapon is the Green Dragon Crescent Blade and weighs 136 tonnes. 

Criticism & controversy: the statue seems to have gone down fairly well with locals and visitors, unlike the 30m Guan Yu statue in East Java, Indonesia, which was re-veiled with a vast white sheet soon after it was unveiled, thanks to a social media storm. In this predominantly Muslim country local authorities were accused of idolatry, and of pandering to China.

Visiting: there are trains to Jingzhou from Wuhan and Shanghai, and from Yichang airport (110 kilometres away), flights across China with China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines and others.  

Motherland Monument

Vital statistics: this stainless steel statue is 62m tall, weighs 560 tons, sports a held-aloft sword 16 metres long and a hammer and cycle emblem of the Soviet Union on the 13m shield.

Where/when? the statue dominates the skyline of central Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and was completed in 1981, a decade before the country's independence from the Soviet Union. More livid than Liberty, it glowers in the centre of Kiev and is part of the Great Patriotic War Museum, which includes memorials and tanks.


Why oh why? This monolithic Motherland statue was unveiled by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and commemorates the Soviet victory of Nazi Germany. As a local guidebook has it - ‘the huge statue has impudently intruded onto Kiev’s historic panorama, but there is nothing to be done now’. Inside the base of the statue is the museum, which is well worth a visit for the astonishing wall of sepia photographs inside one of its many galleries. 

Criticism & controversy: it's bad enough that the Soviet union built a gigantic statue to 'the Motherland', but  my 1985 Intourist guide referred to the statue as 'Mother Russia', which is contentious. The orthodox church didn't want another point in the city being closer to God than its tallest spire, on the Kiev Pechersk Lavra in the upper part of the city. So to placate the primate the sword's tip was clipped by three metres. Incidentally, a 2015 law passed by the Ukrainian parliament bans Soviet and Communist symbols - and since independence around 5,000 Lenins have been toppled. World War II monuments are excepted though. The most recent cerfuffle flared up when the statue was illumiated in Visa branding for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest held in Kiev.

Visiting: the museum in the plinth is surprisingly good. Most people are content with seeing the statue from afar, but there are two viewing platforms insude the statue - one at 36.6 meters at the top of the plinth reached by a lift set at a rakish 75 degree angle, and another cage-like area between the left hand and the shield reached by demanding staircases and ladders at the top of the shield - which is closed during cold and rainy weather. See the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

See Visit Kiev. There are flights to Kiev's Boryspil Airport from across Europe and beyond - airlines include Ukraine International Airlines, Windrose Airlines, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways

Spring Temple Buddha

Vital statistics: the world's largest statue is 128 metres tall and weighs over 1,000 tonnes - it's clad with 108kg of gold, 3,300 tonnes copper, 15,000 tonnes steel and cost USD $55 million.

Where/when? the statue is in a remote remote part of China's Henan Province, at the Fondushan Scenic Area, and was built in 2008.

Why oh why? work on the colossus began not long after the Afghan Taliban destroyed the stone-carved Bamiyan Buddhas. This location is auspicious, being by the Tianrui hot spring and the Foquan Temple, with its 116 ton Bell of Good Luck - the heaviest functionaing bell on the planet. The statue is joins a spate of large statues erected across China, largely to boost local tourism, but with more than a nod to China's growing cultural assertiveness and confidence.

Criticism & controversy: to say that the area around the statue is ciommercialised is an understatement, with mountain of tourist tat on offer. A movement by local monks to establish control over the site so as to admist visitors for free has thus far not come to anything.

Visiting: as there is no viewing gallery in the head , you'll have to content youself with 365 stpes and for a selfie with the world's biggest big toe, - as the viewing level is at the top of the pedistal. the Buddha's big toe is the highest viewpoint, which is 365 steps (or a lift) to the top of the 7-story pedestal. Get to Lushan by train, from where it's a two-hour bus ride to the statue. 

Christ the Redeemer

Vital statistics: Latin America's most famous statue by far, this 38 metres tall Jesus is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and weighs 635 tons, made from concrete clad in a mosiac of small soapstone triangles.

Where/when? pedistals don't get any more impressive than the 700 metre high Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, on which the staue is located and can be seen from most places in the city. It was completed 1931. 

Why oh why? the open-armed savoir statue was paid for by donations by a catholic community that in the 1920s was fearful of a moral decay, and beat off concepts of Jesus holding a globe or Jesus on the cross.

Photo Santuario Cristo Redentor

Criticism & controversy; not especially controversial, but since 2006 the statue has been consecrated, allowing local catholics to hold baptisms and weddings here. Batterings by strong winds and lightning trikes are common, and several times fingers and parts of the head have been damaged - in 2008 strikes caused damage to the head, eyebrows and fingers.

Visiting: See Christ the Redeemer.

Gengis Khan Equestrian Statue

Vital statistics: sat atop a rather twee pavillion is a giant 40 metre tall, 250 tons stainless steel statue of Gengis Khan on his horse. It costs USD $4.1m, paid for by the Genco Tour Bureau

Where/when? the statue is located in a remote site on the Mongolian Steppe by the Tuul River is a place called Tsonjin Boldog, 54 kilometres east of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar. It is here that Gengis Khan was said to have found a goden whip when he was fifteen, which was taken as an omen of coming greatness. It was unveiled in 2008 to mark the 800th anniversary of the Mongolian Empire.  

Why oh why? Gengis Khan may be a byword for wanton brutality in much of the world, but not so in his native Mongolia, It is hard to underestimate the local reverence for Khan, who laid the foundations to what was to become the largest contiguous empire in history. Since Mongolian shed Communism in 1989, it has forged a new identity, and many mouments to the founder of the Khan dynasty have been built - this one in 2008. Ghengis Khan is also on bank notes, vodka bottles, cigarrette packets, and the capital city's airport was renamed Chinggis Khaan International Airport. The 36 columns around the base represent the 36 Khans - from Gengis, through Kubla to Ligdan the last Khan.

Criticism & controversy; the Genghis mania in Mongolia these days means that criticism of the statue is hard to find.

Visiting: there's a lift and three flights of steps leading to a viewing gallery on top of the horses head, and inside the base is an archelogical museum, restaurant (horse meat and potatoes predominate), souvenir shop, post office and a yurt camp. The best way to visit the world's largest statue of a man on a horse. The statue is about an hour's drive on a decent paved road from Ulaan Baatar.

Laykyun Setkyar Buddha

Vital statistics: the 116 metre statue took 12 years to build. There is also an 89 metre reclining Buddha in front of it - the world's largest - and a third Buddha lying on his back is in the pipeline. Around the statues are a reputed 9,000 tress and 10,000 Buddha images.

Where/when? the giant statue is at Khatakan Taung, near Monywa, in Myanmar, and was unveiled in 2008. 

Photo Patrick M. Loeff/Flickr

Why oh why? This is a place of worship and was built by the local monk, The Most Venerable Mahabodi Tahtaung Sayadaw Bhaddanta Narada. It's painted yellow, which signifies wisdom in Buddhism and was funded from local donations, hence the slow construction.

Visiting: the statue is a three-hour drive from Mandalay and is only for the intrepid, thanks to the remote location and lack of local infrastructure. inside are steps up its 31 floors - referencing the 31 planes of existance in the Theravada? theology - or a lift reaches the 27th floor. Inside are many gruesome art works - morality tales really, depicting impalements, boiling in oil, and being crushed by a giant spiked metal roller.

Statue of Liberty

Vital statistics: the World's largest Neoclassical monument is clad in copper, stands 38 metres tall and weighs 635 tons. The sculpter was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and Gustave Eiffel designed the clever 'curtain wall' framework that ensures the skin of the statue isn't load bearing.

Where/when? Liberty stands on Bedloe Island - renamed Liberty Island - in New York Harbor, and was unveiled in 1886. The statue was famously constructed in France, while the Americans were responsible for the pedestal.

Why oh why? First muted in the 1865, what became known as The Statue of Liberty, was the dream of Edouard de Laboulaye, who floated that any momument to US independence should involve France, which was allied with the US during its revolution of 1765.  

Criticism & controversy: sculpter Bartholdi pitched his lady with the lamp idea to Egypt as a lighthouse at the entrance of the suez Canal, but when turned down moved on to America. After flirting with Philidelphia and Boston as host cities, Bartholdi plumped for New York. Fundraising for the statue on the American side was slow going and took some 15 years, and the Suffragettes weighed in at the unveiling ceremony by hiring a boat and protesting a statue of a woman called 'liberty' at a time when women couldn't vote. More recently, Trump's 

Visiting:  You'll neeed an advanced booking to visit the viewing gallery inside the crown, and booking ahead is recommended for the grounds and pedestal too. See Statue of Liberty

Statue Of Unity

Vital statistics: the bald head of an old man who is unknown outside of India is set to crown the tallest statue in the world. This un-muscular, unthreatening and unheroic figure will be 240 metres tall, weigh 1,600 tonnes and cost around £227m.

Where/when? The gigantic figure stands on a remodelled islet three kilometres from the Narmada Dam in the Indian state of Gujarat. Work began in 2013 and it should be unveiled on October 31st - Patel's birth date.

Why oh why? Sardar Patel (31 October 1875 – 15 December 1950) was the first Deputy Prime Minister of India and is venerated for his role in the independence movement. He was born in Gujarat and went on to become a lawyer, activist and leader of the Congress Party. His stamp on India's independance was to organise peasant protests against British rule and to integrate the 500 or so British controlled princely states into a united India.

Photo Turner Construction

Criticism & controversy: several mega statues are sprouting in India, all closely associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in tune with its nationalist tendencies. Local opposition to the gigantic Patel galvanises around the fact that the cost and grandeur is at odds with Patel's personality and that some of the steel and expertise may be coming from - heaven forbod - China. It adds insult to injury after the huge Sardar Sarovar Dam's rocky 60-year journey to realisiation.

The dam was conceived by Patel, signed off by Nehru and opened by Modhi. ALong the way the dam suffered schlerotic deliberations on downstream water sharing, the loss of World Bank funding over concerns for displaced peasants and farmers, and increases in the dam's height from 80 metres to 163 metres.

Visiting: the nearest airport is at Vododara, 97 kilometres away, with flights from Delhi with Air India and with IndiGo to Delhi and Mumbai. Jet Airways is starting services to Begalaru, Indore and Udaipur later this year. Keep up to date on the satue's progress at Statue of Unity

Moscow honours Peter the Great with a 98m statue...of Christopher Columbus?
posted by Richard Green on 28/06/2017

Moscow's controversial Peter the Great Statue is a 98-metre-high structure that looks something from Terry Guilliam's 'Adventures of Baron Munchausen' film. It sits on a promontory at the western confluence of the Moskva River and the Vodootvodny Canal in the centre of the city. Muscovites hate it as much as the real Peter the Great hated their city - so much so that it was the 2m tall Tzar who moved the country's capital to St Petersberg.

It weighs around a thousand tons and was erected in 1997 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's founding of the Russian Navy by the Georgian-Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli (born January 4, 1934).

Peter at the helm of one of the world's worst statues. Photo My Bathroom Wall

It's not just Muscovites who loathe the statue - most tourists are left non-plussed too, and several times it's awfulness has been highlighted in various polls - being voted the tenth ugliest building in the world by Virtual Tourist in 2008, and it was included in a list of the world's ugliest statues by Foreign Policy magazine in 2010. 

I know that I don't have to live with it on my horizon, but walking from Red Square, over the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, and coming to the momument unexpectedly, and through the buzzing Park iskusstv Muzeon, I rather liked it. Putting the controversy to one side, in a city as heavy with dourness and brutish symbolism as Moscow, it felt like finding some whimsey, even if it is a gigantic twice-the-height-of-the-Staue-of-Liberty whimsey.    

The artist Zurab Tsereteli is a pal of Moscow's former Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and has received several plum commissions under his patronage. But that mayor left office in 2010 and rumour has it that the current authorities lost little time in offering their dog's dinner of a statue to Saint Petersburg and other cities, but the offers were turned down. 

The statue is across the water from the excellent Park Iskusstv. Photo My Bathroom Wall

Adding to its unloved status is the fact that many people are convinced that the statue is actually based on a design intended to commemorate Christopher Columbus. It's said that it was designed in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage, but even that powerful peg seems to have left an entire continent unmoved. Once it was clear that an American home couldn't be found for it, it was tweaked by the artist and repurposed as Peter the Great.

Peter the Great, Christopher Columbus, or even Peter the Columbus; you be the judge? 

Tsereteli denies the story, but my guide in the city pointed out that the ships piled under Peter are nothing like Russian ships of Peter's period, and instead look like 19th Century Spanish Caravel of the type contemporary with Columbus. 

Seventeenth century European naval ships, or 19th century Spanish galleons? Photo My Bathroom Wall

Two more things...

Zurab Tsereteli's Columbus statue in Puerto Rico. This similarly colossal statue is about twice the height of New York's Statue of Liberty or Rio's Christ the Redeemer, and was also designed by Tsereteli, who began the work in 1991. It was gifted to the people of Columbus, Ohio (who awkwardly said no thanks, it's too ugly), Cleveland (likewise), and then it was snubbed by Baltimore, Boston, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, and New York.

Arecibo's Columbus statue was dubbed 'Chris Kong' owing to its perceived ugliness

At least this time the controversy wasn't over the statue's central character, which does appear to be Christopher Columbus - it was completed in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landfall in the new world. But the 60-metre tall creation, known as Birth of the New World, was touted all over the USA until the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico finally gave in and ended the statue's 20 years in the wilderness by agreeing to stump up the $12m needed to build a plinth and assemble its 2,750 pieces of bronze and steel. 

Since 14 June 2016 Tsereteli's Columbus has stood by Highway 681 outside the coastal town of Arecibo, 70 kilometres west of San Juan, but only after a petition by the Taino people objecting to anything that commemorates Columbus arrival in the new world - as for Puerto Rico, like elsewhere in the region, it lead directly to a genocide of native peoples.

Observers hate the small head, the over-long arms and the flippant raised-hand greeting most, plus sticklers have noted that the steering wheel being clutched by Columbus wasn't invented until 200 years after Columbus' voyage.

As if more evidence were needed as a litmus test in taste, presidential nominee Donald Trump likes it - “It’s got forty million dollars worth of bronze in it...” he told the New Yorker magazine in 1997, adding that “The mayor of Moscow has written a letter to Rudy Giuliani stating that they would like to make a gift of this great work....I am absolutely favorably disposed toward [the statue]". 

Peter the Great in Deptford, London. There is a curious statue of Peter the Great in Deptford, London too. It pays tribute to the fact that Peter made a three-month visit the city in 1698, on a reconnaissance trip to help create Russia's navy. Despite being the first Tzar to venture abroad for over a hundred years, mystery surrounds aspects of the visit, but it seems he travelled disguised as one Peter Mikhailov. He met the King and several other movers and shakers, but informally and without the pomp of a state visit, and eventually relocated to Sayes Court in Deptford, so as to be closer to the shipyards. 

The house in Deptford - long since demolished - belonged the the English writer and diarist, John Evelyn. Peter seems to have trashed the place, leaving over 50 chair damaged or broken up for firewood, 300 windows broken and 25 paintings damaged. The property eventually became a workhouse, and these days is a development of flats. 

The surreal ensemble includes a pin-headed Peter, a dwarf and an empty chair. The dwarf is apparently reference to Peter's fascination with human exotica, as perceived in 17th Century Europe anyway, and this chap was his favourite court dwarf. The chair is his travelling throne.  

The curious Peter the Great ensemble in Deptford, London. Photo diamond geezer/Flickr


puzzle Moscow seems to be underrated as a city break destination, largely because of the hassle and expense of getting a visa, plus owing to the relative distance from much of western Europe. The visa cost does make it tempting to visit St Petersburg in the same trip, or even to tour the famous Golden Ring of ancient Russian cities to the northeast of Moscow. 
31 Moscow has several airports, the largest of which are Sheremetyevo Airport, which is 29 kilometres northwest of Moscow, and handled 31m passengers in 2015, and Domodedovo, which is 42 kilometres southeast of the city and handled 30m passengers in 2015. There are flights to Moscow from all across Europe, plus from Asia, Africa and the Americas. See Aeroflot, S7 Airlines.  
weather The best time to visit Moscow is probably in the Spring, when temperatures reach the 50s and 60s, the sun shines for much of the days, and hotel prices are manageable. Summer are great too, with late evenings and warm temperatures - though it can get hot and gritty at times, plus very busy with tourists, and there is a spike in hotel prices. Winter has its special atmosphere in the city, but it can get extremely cold. 
35 I travelled to Moscow as a guest of Political Tours, which specialises in running politically focussed tours in a number of the world's more contentious regions. Or try the Russia Experience or Cox & Kings. See the Russian National Tourist Office

A waterlogged statue shows General MacArthur permanently returning to the Philippines...
posted by Richard Green on 23/05/2017

The statue marks where General Douglas MacArthur returned to liberate the Philippines on 20th October, 1944 

General Douglas MacArthur was a man who liked to roll his trousers up and get stuck in, and this unusual statue of him striding ashore is at the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park between Palo and Tacloban on Leyte Island in the Philippines. 

The background to seven soldiers wading up the beach goes back to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1942. MacArthur fled the country ignominiously for Australia and in the unlikely setting of Terowie train station in South Australia, he made the famous speech that included the line - 'I came through and I shall return'. A self-centred and vain man, when he seniors in Washington asked him to tweak the line to the less egotistical '...we shall return', he rufused.

The famous photo of MacArthur wading up the beach, as snapped by Gaetano Faillace. Photo MacArthur Memorial Museum

His forceful personality became a symbol of resistance against the Japanese, and especially so for the people of the Philippines. Indeed, MacArthur pushed for the country's liberation as a priority - ahead of dislodging the Japanese from Formosa (now Taiwan) for example. 

MacArthur won the argument and US troops landed on Leyte on the 20th of October 1944, while he watched on from the USS Nashville. The beachmaster was too busy to send a landing craft to the general, and so MacArthur opted to wade. This resulted in the most famous photo of the campaign. Taken by Gaetano Faillace, MacArthur's personal photographer, it also shows Philippine President Sergio Osmena (to MacArthur's right), Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Carlos P. Romulo (at his rear), and Richard K. Sutherland on his left.

Locals pose amongst the twice life size ensemble of statues

The Japanese counter attacked three days later, and what followed was the largest nval battle of the war - in which a combined Australian and American force thumped the Imperial Japanese Navy so badly that the Japanese navy largely remained in thier home port bases for the rest of the war. 

MacAurthur was promoted to the rank of five star general of the US Army in December; one of only four people to achieve the rank in the Second World War. He then lead the invasion of Luzon and the Battle of Manila, and would have been key in the invasion of Japan had not the country capitulated after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.


A spot of maintenance at the Landing Memorial

MacArthur ruled Japan after its surrender through the conduit of Emperor Hirohito from 1945-1948, and saught to protect the emperor from subsequent war crimes prosecution, despite MacArthur enforcing sentences on around 4,000 other Japanese citizens. MacArthur enacted land reform and encouraged trades union membership, in an attempt to strengthen Japan as a bulwark against the spread of Communism. 

After the North Korean invasion of the south, MacArthur was appointed Commander-in-Chief of UN forces, and devised the Incheon landings, an amphibious surprise assualt that took place over four days in September 1950. It established UN forces deep into what before it was North Korean territory.   

The Japanese didn't see the back of MacAurthur until he left Tokyo on 11th April 1951 

Despite flying over the area himself to check that the Chinese Army wasn't building up in the vicinity, in fact they were, and attacked the UN/US forces in November. Within weeks the US?UN forces were pushed out of North Korea, and Soeul fell in January 1951. MacArthur was caught by intercepted communications of wanting to attack Chinese territory as a means of freeing the Korean peninsula, but this was a step too far for President Truman, who relieved MacArthur of his command on the 10th of April 1951.

He flew to Washington D.C. and addressed a joint session of Congress, drawing some 50 standing ovations. He went on a nationwide speaking tour, returned to the Philippines in 1961 to receive its Legion of Honour from its president, and then spent his final years with his wife in a penthouse suite in New York's Waldorf Astoria. He died on the 5th of Paril 1964, and was laid to rest inside the rotunda of the Douglas MacArthur Memorial, the former city hall of Norfolk, Virginia.    

One more thing...MacArthur is commemorated in the USA with schools, bridges, barracks, tunnels, and 'Long Island MacArthur Airport' named after him. And MacArthur Park in Los Angleles was renamed in his honour too, and with a statue/memorial to him. There are more conventional statues of him; including outside the MacArthur Memorial museum in Norfolk, Virginia; and at the US Military Academy at West Point. The Philippines even has two settlements named after him, and another statue where the Luzon landings took place. South Korea has a statue at the Jayu Freedom Park in Incheon; Japan has one at the Atsugi Naval Air Station, and Indonesia's Zumzum Island is commonly known as MacArthur Island, owing to the general spending time there in the war.

Not quite a sailor's corn pipe, but an eccentric smoking device nonetheless. Photo MacArthur Memorial museum

The Missouri Meerschaum Company is based in Washington, Missouri - known rather grandiosely as the 'Corn Pipe Capital of the World', and sells a 'MacArthur Classic Corn Cob Pipe' for USD$13.59. The deep bowl and long step gives a 'cool smoking experience' apparently.  

One more thing...another example of a partly submerged statue was London's 'RisingTide' by UK-born Jason deCaires Taylor. Famous for statues that are entirely submerged, including the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park of the coast of Greneda, Taylor unveiled a sculpural ensemble as part of the 2015 Totally Thames Festival. The four horses and 'riders' were only completely visible for a couple of hours each day, at low tide, when in fact it was possible to walk around them on the exposed pebbly river bed. 

Jason deCaires Taylor's Rising Tide near to low tide in 2015. Photo Maureen Barlin/Flickr

Hamburg has its 'Mann auf Boje' too, which appears to stand serenly on a buoy in the River Elbe. It was unveiled in 1993 and is a work by German-born Stephan Balkenhol, who often uses wood to carve human figures. The perfect place to see it from is either on a river cruise, or from the splendid Strandperle beach bar/restaurant. Read more on MyBathroomWall.

Balkenhol took part in the 1992 Doubletake programme in collaboration with London's Hayward Gallery, which involved placing his Figure On A Buoy on the River Thames between Hungerford and Waterloo bridges. The figure drew unexpected reaction from onlookers, some of whom contacted the emergency services. This culminated in a bloke leaping off a passing river cruise in order to enact a 'rescue', who perhaps unsurprisingly had then to be himself saved, after which the work was removed ahead of time. 

puzzle Fitting Leyte into a holiday: in truth the island of Leyte is a marginal destination for tourists, who head for the beaches of Borocay and Palawan, the rice terraces of Luzon, and the chocolate hills of Bohol. Yet a few hardy surfers and military history buffs do come here for the excellent waves and WWII legacy. Nearby Guiuan for example, was once home to the largest petrol boat base in the world. The region was devastated in the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan. 
31 Getting there: the Memorial Park is seven kilometres from Tacloban City Airport, and easily visible if you happen to be sitting on the left hand side of the plane on landing (when the wind is coming from the north). The airport handled just over a million passengers in 2016, and has flights to Manila with Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Philippine Air Asia; to Cebu with Cebu Pacific, and to Davao with Cebu Pacific. 
weather When to visit: the high season here is the dry season, which runs from November to April. The wet season is May to October, but the rain tends to be in the form of short short showers. Typhoons are threat to the country, especially between August and January. Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 and caused huge damage and considerable loss of life in Tacloban and Leyte Island. The airport was destroyed, and to commemorate the Typhoon and its aftermath, Pope Francis visited the area in 2015 and held an open air mass on the runway which drew a crowd of half a million.
35 More info: see Philippine Tourism
30 Visa and safety: always check your government's travel advice before booking, and ensure that your travel insurance is valid in this part of the country. See the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.

Delhi's Raj era statues have been coralled into its dusty and forlorn Coronation Park...
posted by Richard Green on 01/05/2017

Freeman Freeman-Thomas, Marquis of Willingdon; and Charles, Baron Hardinge of Penshurst. Photos My Bathroom Wall

Scruffy, dusty and deserted, Delhi's Coronation Park is a neglected and forlorn patch of land in the north part of Delhi. Mangy dogs scratching themselves in the heat may be the only company you'll find inside the unloved statue park these days, but sometimes lads play cricket on the adjacent fields. Hard to believe that the Raj era statuary in the park once commanded prime positions on the city's grandest thoroughfares - the largest of King George V for example was once on the city's most impressive street, the Rajpath, and inside the stone gateway that now stands empty.  

The King George Memorial on Delhi's Rajpath; with King George (1936-1961), and sans King George today

The British ruled India for the best part of 300 years, and to show Indians, Britons, and the world, how the Imperial British Raj was the natural order for then and all time, King George V travelled to Delhi in 1911 to attend the Delhi Durbar and his coronation as Emperor of India. It also marked the moving of the capital of British India from Calcutta to what was to become New Delhi. 

The 1911 Delhi Durbar, which saw the crowning of King George as Emperor of India. 

Three giant jamborees took place here - in 1877 to mark the proclamation of Queen Victoria becoming Empress of India, in 1903 to mark the succession of Edward VII and his wife Alexandria as Emperor and Empress of India, and lastly the durbar of 1911 to mark the coronation of George V. The latter saw a tented camp that covered around 10 square miles and accommodate 25,000 people, plus paved roads, water mains, and a train station with 10 platforms.

The obelisk marks the spot where the royals received homage from Maharajas from across India. 

The largest statue in the park id of George V by Charles Sergeant Jagger (1885-1914), which stands six metres high atop a 13 metre plinth. It was purported to have been a gift from the Maharaja of Kapurthala, and pedestal was designed by Edward Lutyens no less - the man responsible for the master plan of New Delhi.

Statue of George V - from pride of place inside the India Gate, to scruffy park in north Delhi

It's easy enough to get a taxi driver to take you to Coronation Park, but don't expect niceties in the way of a visitor's centre, a cafe or museum; there is occasionally talk of sprucing the site up with a landscaped park and visitor's centre, but as yet this hasn't come to pass.

Red stone plinths support some of the city's Raj-era statues at Delhi's Coronation Park. Photo Flickr/Hemanshu Kumar

The neglect sort of sums up the rather awkward relationship that modern India has with its British colonial past. So for now and the foreseeable future, the unmarked statues of the British Raj-era great and good stand marooned in a dusty patch of land in a little visited part of the city.

One more thing...This short clip from the 1911 Durbar shows HH The Maharaja of Baroda presenting himself before the King Emperor. The way in which he did it kicked up a storm. For starters, he wasn't wearing his full bejewelled regalia of state, and worse still from the point of view of the British, he makes just one measly bow, instead of the required three (and of the wholehearted variety). Then he walked off with his back to the King, instead of retreating backwards.

His daughter claimed in her autobiography that he had missed rehearsals and so wasn't aware of the protocol, but as the Maharaja's were famous sticklers for ceremony and protocol - and given that he had previously attended the durbars of 1877 and 1903, it seems only reasonable to assume his slight was intentional. So most likely it should stand as an act of anti-British defiance along India's road to independence. 



Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport is 15 kilometres southwest of New Delhi and handled almost 58 million passengers in 2016. Air India Air India destinations include Birmingham, Chicago, Dubai, Hong Kong, London Heathrow, Madras, Melbourne, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rome, Singapore and Sydney. And also British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly to Heathrow, Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, Emirates to Dubai, Finnair to Helsinki, KLM to Amsterdam, and Qatar Airways to Doha. 


Coronation Park is by the Burari Road about 10 kilometres north of Old Delhi. For info on the city see Delhi Tourism, and for India in general there's Incredible India

A bust of the Cook Islands first premier, Sir Albert Royle Henry, with shell necklace, petal headgear and spectacles...
posted by Richard Green on 29/03/2017

The bust of Albert Royle Henry is always fondly accessorised. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The person: Albert Royle Henry was the first premier of the Cook Islands, and a much loved local figure. He became leader of the island nation in 1965, aged 58, after living for some years in New Zealand. It's common for the islanders to be drawn to the bright lights of Auckland, and while the population of the Cook's is about 20,000, the number if islanders living in New Zealand is estimated at around 60,000.

The gold painted inscription on his funeral plaque has him as 'Sir Albert Royle Henry', as he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974 - the Cooks being a member of the Commonwealth.

There was a snag though. The 1978 election was the first in which the Cook Islanders living in New Zealand weren't allowed to vote in the home elections. Things got murky, as his CIP party used money from the sale of postage stamps to charter Air New Zealand aircraft to fly a select few hundred islanders back home to Raratonga for a free holiday.

As it happens, the day of the trip was the day of the election, and the happy holidaymakers went to vote, overwhelmingly for the CIP and Albert Royle Henry.

The coral built Avarua CICC church; the main church in the capital of the Cook Islands.

The fraud was unearthed and the election was eventually handed to the opposition. Later Henry was taken to court and found guilty of electoral fraud, and robbed of his knighthood in 1980.

His health suffered after the scandal and the loss of his title, and he died on the 1st of January 1981, aged 73.

The peaceful and tropical graveyard by the CIC Church in Avarua. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The Statue: the bust of him is in the cemetery beside the Avarua Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC). The CICC's roots go back to the arrival of the London Missionary Society in 1821, and are said to include almost half of the Cook's population.

It's endearing to see the respect in which Henry is held. You'll usually find glasses on his head and shell necklaces over his coat lapels.

If you are on Raratonga, it is well worth stopping by the church on a Sunday morning, when islanders arrive in their Sunday best and sing Pacific Island harmonies like you've never heard before.

Filing out of church in their finest, one Sunday morning in Avarua. Photo My Bathroom Wall

The place: 15 islands cover a land area of just 240 square kilometres in the South Pacific between Tahiti and Tonga. The capital is Avarua, a small seafront cluster of buildings with a population of just 5,000. The main island of Raratonga is where all international flights land, so many people holiday here for a few days before flying to the northern group of islands and the famous Bora Bora like loveliness of Aitutaki.

One more thing: the Cook Islands are a great introduction to the super friendly and laid back Pacific Island lifestyle. Though there's only really one road on Raratonga, which circumnavigates the island in about 30 kilometres of tarmac, if visitors want to hire a moped and aren't licenced to do so in their home countries, they need to get a local licence. I did this, which meant a cursory written test, and then being watched by a smiling police woman as I put-putted from the Police Headquarters about 150 metres to the country's only traffic island and back. I didn't fall off and so I passed. 

Go with the island flow and the Cooks are sure to warm your heart. On one occasion I went to a political rally by mistake, which was low key on politics and high octane on alcohol. Another evening a night time knock at the guest house door was a couple of blokes with a pick up who asked if I could help them look for an escaped prisoner. I sat in the back with a torch unsuccessfully scanning the foliage for felons, received ebullient thanks, and went back to bed. 

The Banana Court Bar, built in 1905, and still the best place for Pacific nightlife. Photo Tobias Kreuzlinger

And everyone's stay on Raratonga should include a night at one of the South Pacific legendary nightsopts - the wonderful Banana Court Bar. Apparently a spring behind the building was a traditional gathering place for the early inhabitants. The first building on the site was a clinic, which then became the island's first hotel, before its current incarnation as a club. When I was there is was customary for local girls to present blokes that caught their eye with a lei of hibiscus flowers. I'll swerve the obvious puns, but I left extremely drunk and not without several lei's of white and yellow flowers around my neck. 

Getting there: Raratonga International Airport has flights Air New Zealand to Auckland, Los Angeles and Sydney, Air Tahiti to Papeete, Jetstar to Auckland, and Virgin Australia to Auckland. Air Raratonga flies domestically to Aitutaki, Aitu, Mangaia, and Mauke.

An Air New Zealand 777 on the tarmac at Raratonga International Airport. Photo Robert Linsdell

Further information: see My Bathroom Wall's guide to the South Pacific, and the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation


The supersized statues that commemorate the heroic defence of Brest Fortress, Belarus...
posted by Richard Green on 23/02/2017

The Belarussian border town of Brest is a 'Hero Fortress' - as designated by the Soviet Union for the exceptional fighting spirit shown by its defenders at the outbreak of the German-Soviet war of 1941-1945. There are 12 'Hero Cities', including Murmansk, Smolensk and Stalingrad, but just one fortress has the title. 

First impressions of the city would leave anyone feeling pretty flat - just a wide main street with precious few places to eat and drink on it, and housing estates fanning from it on both sides.

But walking through the huge Soviet star of the fortress entrance heralds an exercise in remembrance on an industrial scale. The day I visited it was quiet and cold; an atmosphere only accentuated by the monolithic statuary and pock-marked fortress buildings inside.

I've always found these hyper real and masculine faces and bodies arresting, and the ensemble at Brest is one of the best there is anywhere.

The fortress was built by Russia in the mid 19th Century, and the 1918 treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed here - which ended Russia's participation in the First World War, though on humiliating terms for the country. The German army marched into the town in 1938 in order to hand it back to the Soviets, and then again in 1941 as part of their surprise attack on the Soviet Union.

The exact numbers and dates seem to be controversial, but it is undoubtedly the case that the defenders of the fortress held out for several days against overwhelming odds. The Soviet Union lost approximately 27m dead in the Second World War and it's little wonder that the twelve Hero Cities and one Hero Fortress were heavily used for propaganda purposes during and after the war.

But a visit to the site is a very moving and profound experience, and one heightened by the sculpture park and semi destroyed old buildings.

It was slightly surreal to find a small cafe and bar inside the fortress complex, but I gratefully bustled into its warmth and sat down to eat a bowl of chickpeas and drink a larger. The complex is certainly not the sort of place I'd want to be in the night, and sadly the brutality of the fortress, the cruelty of the occupation, and the killing of the city's Jewish population by the Nazi's, to the casual visitor sort of swathes the city somewhat. At least on a winter's weekend, pavements nearly deserted, hotel dull and overheated, and locals making their way dourly back to their homes, it seems that way to me... 



Reasons to be cheerful: Brest


You can't always get what you want


Fitting Brest into a holiday: Fez


Getting there: the small airport at Brest has seasonal flights to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, operated by the national carrier, Belavia. Alternatively there are around 20 trains per day to Minsk, from where Belavia operates flights to many European capitals.


When to visit: best is Spring (April and May) and Autumn (September and October), when temperatures are in the mid 20’s and the skies are clear. Remember that winter nights can be cold and summer days are regularly over 40 degrees.


More info: UK-based tour operators offering trips to Belarus include Regent Holidays and Undiscovered Destinations. Or there's locally based Paradise Travel. For information on the fortress see Brest Fortress, and for general country information visit the Website of the Republic of Belarus


Visa and safety: Always check your government's travel advice before booking, and check that your travel insurance is valid in this country. See here for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.




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