Malmøhus Slot (Castle) and the Mexican Suitcase

We take in a little bit of Malmø history and visit the Malmøhus Slot, before heading north to our next Swedish destination.


Originally built in 1434 Erik av Pommem, then King of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, this castle, aka Malmøhus Fortress, was important to Danish sovereignty at the time.  The Sound was a vital passage to the lucrative trade of the Baltic region. Rebuilt and renovated several times, in 1658 it came under Swedish rule. And by the end of the 18th century, the fortress no longer had any military significance so was converted into a prison, housing over 1,000 prisoners until 1914 when the prisoners were moved to a new location.

As we head out the gate after being a little bored by this slice of history, we see a large poster advertising an exhibit inside. The Mexican Suitcase: Rediscovered Spanish Civil War Negatives. Perhaps not a topic of interest to many, but Las Chicas, having lived in Catalunya for two years, have developed an interest in Spanish history. Curious about this seemingly out of place exhibit, we pay the admission fee and head inside to investigate.

In December 2007, a Mexican filmmaker, Benjamin Tarver, discovered three boxes of negatives in the possession of his late aunt. These negatives had belonged to a family friend, General Francisco Aguilar González, a Mexican Ambassador to Vichy, France, in 1941-42. Apparently Aguílar managed to smuggle out the negatives in their twenty trunks of belongings on their return to Mexico.

Upon investigation, Tarver discovered the boxes contained 4,500 original negatives of the Spanish Civil War, negatives taken by Civil War photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Fred Stein and David Seymour (Chim), that had disappeared 70 years earlier.

Pictured from left to right, Taro, Capa, Stein, Seymour (Chim)

Born Gerda Pohorylle, Taro was one of the first recognized female photojournalists. Of German Jewish descent, Taro was raised in Leipzig but fled to Paris in 1933, where she met André Friedmann. The two reinvented themselves as Taro and Capa, and worked together to photograph the Spanish Civil War on the front lines. Taro lost her life in only one year into her coverage of the war, during one of the fiercest battles, the Battle of Brunete. She was the first female journalist to lose her life on the front lines of war.

Robert Capa, aka Friedmann, was a prominent photojournalist in the 20th century. Born to a Jewish family in Budapest, he fled Hungary for Berlin at the age of 17, because of his leftist activities, and enrolled in journalism school. He then moved to Paris in 1933, where he met Taro and Stein.

Third in the crew was Fred Stein. Also born a German Jew, Stein fled to Paris in 1933, when he was unable to practice law in his home country. In Paris he worked as a photographer and kept company with intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt.

Chim was born Dawid Szymin in Warsaw Poland to a Yiddish/Hebrew publishing family. He took to photography early and traveled to Paris to attend the Sorbonne. Recognized for his political  photographs, he photographed the entire Civil War in Spain, but from a distance, centering in on the complexities of the political landscape of that time.

The photographs tell the story of war from a variety of angles: the soldiers and their families,



the political climate, still not well understood by many today.


Translation: Workers! There are only two ways to win the war. Fight with determination at the front, and work tirelessly at the rear. Comrades, work intensively and with enthusiasm! So we will win!

The suffering and destruction,

People pressing against the gate at the morgue, waiting for news about their relatives.

Following a major air raid in Valencia

and images of a proud people supporting their country. (Below: Soldiers working alongside farmers in the fields.)


Taro’s photos depict some of the most hideous results of the war, including her photos from the morgue. They are a bit too much for me to photograph.  Instead, here is the comment attached to these photos,

“Taro showed the atrocious consequence of a new kind of war, in which the civilian population became the main target of enemy forces.”

The content of the exhibition was made into a documentary, “La Maleta Mexicana” (The Mexican Suitcase), available on Amazon. You can read more about the story and related information,  A Secret Archive: On the Mexican Suitcase

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018


Biking Mallorca Hills

Mary loves to bike uphill in Mallorca.

One beautiful sunny day, I head west to explore new territory in the hills above the town of Artá I didn’t expect a false flat, or gradual climb on the way to Artá. I also didn’t expect a guy drafting behind me. But he is a friendly gent who speaks Catalan to the local folks in Artá so we can find the way through the narrow old town streets to our target: the climb to Ermita de Betlem.

We chat in Spanish and ride through some flattish fields and the road turns up again, more steeply. And I drop the friendly gent, “Adeu!” That’s goodbye in Catalan. Up many switchbacks where I call out “Bon Dia” Good Morning to a shepherd tending to his bell-ringing sheep. Views from the way up:



I also hear American cyclists talking as I pass them. Then a couple of dudes pass me.


I finally reach the highest point, or “puerto” and another view of the Bay of Alcudia.


Already a long way from our hotel, I decide not to go down to the Ermita. I chat with the 20 or so Americans who are mostly from Chicago, but one winters in Tucson. Then I head back to Artá and pass the shepherd and his sheep. Tinkling bells of grazing sheep, a few wander in the road.


The false flat works to my advantage on the way home, and I’m back in time for a delicious lunch in Alcudia.

On another beautiful sunny day, I return to Cap Formentor. It is Good Friday and hundreds of cyclists have the same idea: Italians, Irish, Spanish, Brits, Americans, Germans. There are also more cars than expected, which are often stalled behind cyclists climbing as hard as they can. Amazingly, no horns! No dangerous passes! Beautiful road-sharing by everyone.

There’s an unlit tunnel and I’m happy for car headlights behind me. On the other side of the tunnel, the wind really gusts and adds to the difficulty. With the curving road, which goes up and down all the way to the lighthouse, negotiating the wind and various cyclists of various speeds adds to the challenge.

I’m happy to pause for a moment to commune with the wild Mallorcan goats and take in the cliff-side views:



At last, I’m at the lighthouse for a beautiful view back along the Cap:



On the way back, I stop at another overlook and speak to a man from Manchester, England, who says of the wind “It’ll blow the milk right out of your coffee.” We all battled the bluster together!

Another vista:


On the way back to Alcudia, I pause to enjoy the peaceful beach of Puerto de Pollença:


Another great day on the bike!

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Mallorca: Bikes, Sea and Sun

Las Chicas return to Mallorca after a 3-year hiatus. Despite a rainy start, the sun returns on Day 2 and we take to the roads, crowded and busy with cyclists. But who can complain? The sun and the Mediterranean cast a spell, and on two wheels everything in the world is beautiful.

We ride around Bahia de Alcudia to one  of our favorite Mediterranean overlooks in Can Picafort. On the way, new sculptures augment the sea view.


A04E2A80-BC22-48A4-8E93-010EBBD0FFB7View across the bay back toward the Port of Alcudia:


On our second day of riding, we follow the coast roads around the Bahia de Pollença, first on hills with wild Majorcan goats. We relax on the pebbled beach, small waves rippling over the stones, making us want to nap. Even people in wetsuits find the water too cold for swimming.





A quick lunch stop behind the medieval walls of old town Alcudia, then a pleasant coast back down to the Port and our hotel.


We finish the day dining alfresco with friends from our Barcelona days.


Las Chicas spend the majority of our day on bikes or walking by the sea.  Cyclists are everywhere. We ride in the bike lane on 2-lane highways, quieter rural roads, and our favorite, Ecovies, small farm roads with very few cars.





Unexpectedly we meet friends on the road.

We return to the sea every chance we get. But we only view the water from dry land. It is too early to enjoy the warm waters of the Mediterranean.







© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018






Barcelona: The Great Outdoors

Memories of the sea and parks.

Beaches and parks beckon Las Chicas on our warmer-than-Berlin February vacation.

It’s too cold to swim, but we still head for the soothing sea. We greet the David and Goliath sculpture on our way.


Shoes off, toes in sand, we walk along  Bogatell Beach where we have memories of swimming in the summers, and seeing the friendly beach dog named Guapo, “handsome”, alongside his gay padres. We head out to the jetty and watch the masses of sailboats to the north, and container ships on the horizon.



Longing for more time by the sea we take the train to Montgat, just north of the city, where we have the beach to ourselves. More toes in sand, and even a brief moment of toes in the water!

On our first afternoon in Barcelona, we head to Montjuic, home to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (the National Museum of Catalan Art) and the 1992 Olympic Stadium.

IMG_1113View from the front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. with snow-capped Pyrenees!

Up the hill and around the museum, we come across this remembrance from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The sculptor, Kang Dae-Chul, honors the Korean marathon winner, Young-Cho Hwang. The translation,
” Catalonia country favored by art and history,
Barcelona ancient and glorious city,
Kyonggi-do of Korea, land of eastern tranquility, its bright light unites us,
May this warm friendship be perpetual.”

IMG_1119Running group near the Olympic Stadium preparing for the next day’s half-marathon.

The back of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

On the other side of Plaza España we pass, Woman with Bird by Joan Miro, one of our favorite landmarks sadly surrounded by construction fences:


Sunday morning we meet friends for a late breakfast,

followed by a walk in Parc del Laberint, the oldest park in Barcelona.

En route to the park we pass, Velòdrom Municipal d’Horta Miquel Poblet, an Olympic monument built in 1984 in preparation for the 1986 bid for the Olympics.

IMG_8640We enter the park through the jardines, gardens, that include this old estate with it lovely Moorish features.

The labyrinth is formed by tall hedges of shrubbery for us to get mixed up in:

We finally find the way out, and go up the steps for views of the whole maze:


It’s carnival weekend, and we see some kids,

and adults in their costumes:

2 little red riding hoods, and one grandmother/big bad wolf

We have great memories of biking and hiking in Collserola Park, in the hills above Barcelona. It’s close to Lisa’s old school, so we take a walk on Carretera de les Aigues (road of fountains) except in some places it’s called by the Catalan name: “Passeig de les Aigues.”

IMG_1264View of Tibidabo, the highest point in the park. It’s home to an amusement park and Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (church).

IMG_1262Ciclistas bring back memories of rides along the Carretera.

IMG_1261The  Carretera is part of the Ronda Verde or “green route” for cyclists around Barcelona.

IMG_1259Cacti line the trail downhill to the residential area.

IMG_1250Happy to be in the sunshine, with observatory in the background.

IMG_1266Replenishing from one of the many fountains.

IMG_1270Irises along the way mark spring in Spain!

As we remember, in Barcelona there are messages of pride everywhere.

IMG_1245Gay and lesbian pride on a street in Grácia.

IMG_1146Catalan pride symbolized by the Catalan flag and yellow ribbons for “independencia.” Many Catalans want autonomy from Spain–independence, or something similar. These ribbons decorate trees on Carrer Verdi in Grácia, near our favorite movie theater. IMG_1248Feminist Pride on a shop gate in Grácia: Loose translation from Catalan is “Feminists kick
the the mouth of sexism.”

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018