“ THE GREAT SEA”   —  thoughts and feelings

From the living room window, looking north-east over the leafy suburbs, I see the Mediterranean Sea.  If you’d said to me, ten years ago, that this would be my view from the lounge, I would’ve said, Dream on.  Life has a way of surprising.

In the distance on the taut sea-line there is a feather of a boat.  On what waters in this vessel sailing?

The Mediterranean Sea has been called a cradle and a grave.  For those of us who are Western, it’s our cradle and our grave.

Mnujdra Temples, Malta, 3500 bc – oldest large buildings in Med

Mnujdra Temple Portal – traces of prehistoric architecture

Historians, it seems to me, are a bit like modern journalists:  don’t write anything that bores, even if it’s true.  Write about power struggles, about wars, alliances, betrayals.  Add some seasoning:  art and architecture.  Homer speaks of the wine dark sea … Is the suggested reddish tint by chance?

Greek trireme, attack craft

Imagine a shoebox full of fighting insects.  That is the impression I get from historians.  There were Phoenicians, Greeks, Macedonians, Persians, Egyptians, Romans … and then the dozens of smaller chieftans of indigenous peoples straining against colonialism, forming alliances, becoming slaves or getting slaughtered.  And that was the eastern Mediterranean.

Cycladic head, 2400 bc


Greek head, 400 bc

By five hundred years before Christ, the centre of gravity was moving west.  The two great names were Rome and Carthage. For more than two centuries they cut one another’s throats in breathtaking land and sea battles.

Roman amphitheatre, Syracuse

Eventually, Rome, who had not really wanted to be a sea-faring power, according to historians, overpowered Carthage and razed it to the ground.  So doing, they became the first single power to rule the Mediterranean Sea, from Spain to Syria.  The images of the ruins of Carthage you see in Tunisia today, are probably restorations for tourists.

Ruins of Carthage, Tunisia

In Antibes, formerly Antipolis, I sit on bricks that they know were the site of Roman baths.  These baths were central to any place they established, probably to wash the blood from under their finger nails.

Where Romans bathed, Antipolis

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2018



John Julius Norwich:  The Middle Sea. Vintage, 2007.

David Abulafia:  The Great Sea.  Penguin Books, 2011.



Mnujdra Temples, Malta, 3500 bc.  Oldest large buildings in the Med –  infinito.it

The Temple Portal – dreamstime.com

Greek trireme attacking craft – brittanica.com

Cycladic head, 2400 bc  –  greekartshop.com

Greek head, 500 bc – pinterest.com

Roman amphitheatre, Syracuse – lolhostel.com

Ruins of Carthage – pinterest.com








Karl Marx and the Roulette Tables of Monaco

Less than a year before his death in March, 1883, the ailing Karl Marx visited the French Riviera.  His visit might have prompted Friederich Nietszche to write his Also Sprach Zarathustra between 1883 and 1885 in the coastal town of Eze, to the east of Monaco.  Marx was probably too sick to write anything more than letters to friends and family, letters apparently seldom mentioned in biographies, much like his amorous verse.  

Marx in 1882

Eze – painting by Winston Churhill

In Monaco, Marx stayed at the Hotel de Russie and had to consult a doctor, the physician of Charles III who gave Monaco the appearance it has today.  Marx also visited the relatively new casino, designed in 1860 by Gustav Eiffel.

Casino Reception Hall – my illegal photograph

Extracts from letters to his daughter Eleanor follow:

The economic basis of Monaco … is the casino.  If it had to be closed down tomorrow, it would spread to Europe.  I don’t like the playing rooms … A young Russian woman (wife of a Russian diplomat and agent who stays at the Hotel de Russie) won 100 francs and lost 6000 … Sometimes such people don’t even have the money for their return journey …

In a second letter …

For (a sum of) 600 francs, the boss of the roulette table reveals to you the secrets of science:  how you can, with 1000 francs, win a million.  Victims falling for such  persuasions are not few.  The majority of gamblers believe passionately in science of chance … One would think you’re in the company of inmates of an asylum …

Casino, Monaco – my photograph is legal

He did though, in the letters, also express an appreciation of the beauty of the Riviera.  Less than a year later he was dead, one of the most influential thinkers in history.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2018



Article by André Peyrégne, in NOUS Nice-Matin, June, 2018  (My translations)



Karl Marx 1882 – Wikipedia

Eze – painting by Winston Churchill

Casino – interior, exterior – my photographs 


See Also

La Belle Otero – crack in the crystal  17.7.2017





The seed of Christianity in France might well have been sown by St Paul himself.  There is a legend that he visited Antipolis, today Antibes.  And I am still tempted to write a story about the discovery of the Letter to the People of Antipolis in a long-hidden cave.  We are talking about two thousand years.  Two hundred and fifty years after St Paul, the Cross became the central symbol of French culture and, probably, of Europe.  Imagine then, my surprise and ironic response in seeing the following image on a toilet detergent …

There might be people who would be inspired by this, saying that the Cross is to be found everywhere.  I feel most hesitant.  What other motive could there be for this?  An interesting discussion … Maybe the Maltese form of the cross would suggest a clue.

Richard the Lion Hearted (“Coeur de Lion”), famed crusader, who lead English armies in the Holy Land, who conquered Cyprus and bestowed it on Guy de Lusignan, to mention but one achievement, and whose name will live on as a hero …  Here is that name advertising camembert and coulommier — Doux et Crémeux — which is “fabriqué en Normandie”.   I wonder what he himself would have said.  The coulommier is rather doux and crémaux which does not really fit the image of this great sword-swinging warrior.  The camembert, though stronger, is not really that different.

Then, Garibaldi … In Nice, there is a Place Garibaldi with a statue of the man.  He was born there, when Nice and Savoy were part of Italy.  These two regions became French in 1860 as a result of treaties with Italy, and the French support in expelling the Austrians from occupying parts of the Peninsula.  Garibaldi, who for some reason makes me think of Ché Guevara, hated this arrangement and passionately wanted Nissa la Belle back again, the city of his birth, as part of a unified Italy.  He died without this particular dream being fulfilled.  The French city of Nice honours him, having voted overwhelmingly to be French, rather than Italian, at the time.

The sadness of his face tells the story in this Piedmontese square in the middle of Nice. The bird on his head is not a permanent part of the statue.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

June, 2018



John Julius Norwich: The Middle Sea (Vintage Books, 2007)


My photographs




POST-MODERN ARCHITECTURE :  images from images

The first in a series of two

The Côte d’Azur is a trove of post-modern architecture.  On the one hand, I like to document them;  on the other, I have also made images from images.  It is as interesting to select part of an image for its angles, or to apply graphic techniques.  I share some of these.

This is the Spada building on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice.  It is well away from the traditional buildings of the city.  My graphics follow.




This building in the L’Arenas area, given to post-modern architecture, has a daring design that I call Hole in the Wall.  My graphic follows.



This L’Arenas building has a design which I would expect in an uneasy dream.  The graphic is a reflection in a single window.


The Salle des Spectacles, the modern theatre in Antibes, has a design inspired by the 15th-century Fort Carré which is within view.  The graphics come from images of the theatre.

This graphic is a little abstract  –  the original image has been tipped on its side.  Anyway, I thought it worked quite well.

(c) Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2018



My photographs


The second in a series of two

Architecture is inhabited sculpture.   –  Constantin Brancusi, sculptor (1876-1957)

The images that follow are random.  In part, they document; in part, I have selected aspects of the images.

This is an aspect of the Asian Art Museum, Park Phoenix in Nice.  This building is a masterpiece of minimalist design, surrounded by reflecting pools and housing some remarkable art.


These three images come from L’Arenas on the outskirts of Nice, an area dedicated to post-modern architecture, well away from the traditional buildings of Nice.




Here is the Fondation Maeght near St Paul de Vence, north of Nice.  It is an exceptional art gallery designed by a Catalonian architect and completed in 1961.  It has breath-taking views on the valley below.


This is the Casino in Juan Les Pins.  This building is part of the Garden Beach Hotel.


The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Avenue Felix Faure in Nice, is ranked as one of the “Fifty Unusual Buildings” on the internet.  On the inside, the light through these windows creates intriguing effects.


The Marina Baie des Anges is one of the most remarkable buildings I have seen.  There are three huge apartment blocks organically suggesting the rise and fall of the sea.  These buildings were completed in 1961.


(c) Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2018



My photographs


See too, other related posts:

2012    15.7    Footloose at L’Arenas      12.12    Marina Bay of Angels

2013    27.2    Reflections on L’Arenas



THREE SCULPTURES :  what they are to me

Modernism, in a mere forty years, transformed Western culture.  I offer examples of three sculptures that illustrate this change,  what they mean for me.

Public sculptures were traditionally political or cultural.  The work of Henry Moore changes this.  These “Ovals”, placed in a beautiful park as public works, are for me like a chord of music.  As forms, the one echoes the other; the other anticipates one.   For me, it is an evocation of feeling and this is new in the history of public sculpture.   The symmetry of this work, though organic in form, goes beyond nature.

Constantin Brancusi is considered by some as the father of modern sculpture.  For me, he distills an essence,  seeks out an original form.  He relieves me of complexity, reaching back to what is prime, reaching forward to what is an ethereal purity.   He sheds the clutter of detail, returning to the simple, the pure.

Barbara Hepworth expressed herself in abstraction, a characteristic mode of modernism.   These forms though, do have a representative feel for me – they are somehow a gathering of beings.  The lighting lends a unifying glow, while the figures themselves are individualistic.  The rounded marble evokes a warmth, a spirit of sympathy.  It has a whiff of otherworldliness.

© Will van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2018



The sources of the images have been lost.

My photograph

My “Sleeping Head”; after Brancusi







“The night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day”  –  Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo

I have only seen reproductions of this painting, one about which much has been written.  After “Star Night”, it ranks as one of his most popular.  I share some thoughts.

This image, more than most of his work, reveals the polarity in him — there is warmth, a welcoming, about the café that glows.  Two people approach and it is probably here that Van Gogh could escape his isolation and depression.  There is more than one of these gathering places in his oeuvre.

Outside the café the buildings of the street are ominously dark, more than a symbol of his own darkness.  Still, we see the beginning of the “Starry Night” in the few stars above the darkness, rings of gold.

To think, that I, as a minor creative, have enjoyed many times more recognition than he ever had in his lifetime …

To add something, I don’t know what, I discovered that Vincent’s second name was Willem.

© Willem van der Walt


Les Semboules, Antibes

May, 2018


Source and image

Website Vincent van Gogh : Paintings, Drawings, Quotes and Biography

Refer Don McLean “Starry Starry Night” on You-Tube.

“They did not listen … they did not know how” 




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