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Photo Trip: Medieval Hohenfurth Abbey in South Bohemia

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Today I’d like to take you to a famous Cistercian monastery, Hohenfurth Abbey, located in Vyšší Brod, a small South Bohemia town close to the Austrian borders.

A view from the monastery.

In ancient times rivers were what the highways are now. The 750 years old monastery was founded in 1259 near a ford on Vltava river which was used as a trade route from the times immemorial.

The monastery is one of the most important historical landmarks of South Bohemia and one of the two extant Cistercian monasteries in Czechia. It was the spiritual, cultural and economic centre of nearby lands for several centuries.

The monastery church (finished in 1350s).

Unlike many other churches in Bohemia and Austria that were heavily reconstructed in Baroque style, the monastery church has kept many of its original Gothic architectural features.

The monastery church interior.

The traditional Latin Mass (two to three hours long) is still celebrated here, with the monastery’s famous organ and choirs coming for festivals.

The monastery church interior.

The cloister building adjoins the church. It holds a museum with a paintings gallery and a unique rococo style library with tens of thousands books collected throughout the centuries. The monastery complex counts many buildings, part of them still unreconstructed.

The cloister building.

The monastery was abolished three times in its history, first by Austrian Emperor Joseph II in 1786 (happily he cancelled his decree three years later), then by Nazis in 1938 and then by Communists in 1950. Every time it was restored. The last resaturation happened in 1990 when, after 40 years of exile, the last two living Fathers were allowed to return to the monastery and the monastic life was resumed.

The Cistercian Order was founded in 1098 in Burgundy, France, and its original emphasis was on manual labour and self-sufficiency through agriculture and brewing ales. The White Monks’ motto is the famous «Ora et labora» («Pray and work») and they follow the 6th century Benedictine rule reformed by St. Bernard in 12th century.

The Cistercians are also known for their skill in working with water and stone. The example of this is a beautiful pathway with a small channel built along the river in a nearby forest.

The photos were made by me during this month’s trip with some additions from the earlier ones I made this year.

Links

First published on Steemit

Planning the day with the 1-3—5 rule

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If you have too much tasks on your todo list and are burning out under this pressure, you’ll find this little trick refreshing and useful. Just select from your list one big, three medium and five small items and narrow down your to-do list for the day just to these nine things. Like this:

I usually use my own planning system (will share it in one of my next posts), but today I decided not to stick to it and give a try to a different approach. Let’s try it together and then share the experiences!

The idea comes from a book called The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career by co-founder of The Muse, a career portal. Via Chris Guillebeau. Image courtesy of magro_kr

Creative Thinking with Random Stimulus: quickly find new ideas and develop creativity in the process

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Random Stimulus is a simple yet powerful idea generation method. It can be used to find solutions and develop creative thinking. If you want to get the wheels moving on a project, it’s the tool to use.

A random stimulus is an object (word, image, symbol, everyday object) unrelated with the problem to solve and not depending on your intention. By connecting such an object to the problem to solve you become able to look at the problem in a new way and find ideas that otherwise wouldn’t come.

Here’s how it works: name the problem you’re solving, choose a random object and connect them. As simple as that, but God is in the details.

1. Clearly articulate the problem that needs solution

It’s enormously important to understand why you need ideas and what’s the problem you are trying to solve using them. However, it’s equally important not to have a premade solution in mind. Be firm in what you need, be open to what the solution would look like.

It’s good to sum it all up in a question, for example now I am preparing a Steemit contest and am asking myself: «What ideas would help me make an outstanding and exciting contest?».

2. Choose a random stimulus in a formal and binding way

Make clear how you will get the stimulus and promise yourself to accept any stimulus you get. Don’t change your mind out of fear the stimulus isn’t meaningful enough. It would lead you to known paths and known paths are exactly what you should get rid of first when creating something new.

My way of getting a fast and clear random stimulus is to look around for the closest red object. For example, now it’s the bottom soldered contact of a bulb drawn on the cover of Edward de Bono’s book «Lateral thinking: Creativity step by step» lying on my desk which I use as a reference for this post.

By the way this book goes really deep about how creative thinking works. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in creativity. Edward de Bono is an internationally recognized creative thinking expert whose course on creative thinking I took part in at Oxford some years ago. He’s the author of acclaimed thinking techniques, such as Six Thinking Hats.

Another simple way of getting a stimulus is using a random number to select a corresponding word from a list like this one.

3. Connect the problem to the stimulus and generate ideas

Just keep in mind both your question and the stimulus and the free associations will soon start coming. Let them come and pass freely — don’t stop for long at any of them, just remember to write them down as soon as they appear.

I consider this ability to interconnect seemingly unrelated things the most important creativity skill and this skill could be easily trained using Random Stimulus. Gradually you will start seeing even uninvited distractions as answers to your questions.

It could be useful to list the stimulus properties and start free associating from them.

If no ideas is generated within the first 5 minutes of brainstorming, postpone it and ask yourself whether you would feel really comfortable if your problem will be solved. Sometimes things go much deeper than just getting hot ideas and making them work. You could self-sabotage the whole thing, and then no idea generation technique will help you until you resolve that inner tension.

4. Choose the best ideas and develop them

It’s important to take at least a short a break before starting comparing and evaluating the ideas you wrote down at step 3. You need to get calm after the burst of creativity you’ve experienced before proceeding to idea selection.

Be careful when selecting ideas. It’s easy to overlook the idea’s potential if this idea isn’t yet articulated well enough.

Any idea, however good, is no more than a vector pointing to where you need to come. Share your ideas first with a few people you trust and ask for feedback. Work on the best idea to make it really good and then do it.

Useful links

First published on Steemit

Photo Trip: Mountains of South Bohemia

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My today’s trip story is about South Bohemia mountains called Novohradské Hory in Czech and Freiwald («Free Forest») in German. This area is a perfect destination for the lovers of Nordic walking, cycling and classic walking as it offers many beautiful, diverse and well marked trails. Last weekend we went there for a walk with three of my sons and am happy to share with you the photos and stories from this wonderful place.

Sungate Monument with Meditation Bell at Hojná Voda

We’ve started our walk at this unusual bell monument called Sungate located at a small village on the Northern slope of Kraví («Cow’s») mountain.

The village’s current Czech name, Hojná Voda, is akin to its old German name, Heilbrunn, and originally means «Healing Water». This tiny mountain village currently having only a few dozens of dwellers is about 500 years old. Not so long ago, in 1938, it was counting more than 600 inhabitants, mostly of German origin. After the end of World War II the German population was evicted from the borderland by the Communist government and many of their houses were demolished. After that and until the Czech Velvet Revolution of 1989 this area was strictly guarded and forbidden for tourists because it’s where the Iron Curtain ran.

The bell you see on the photo is called Meditation Bell. It was cast in 2012 by a renowned Bavarian bell master Rudolf Perner in the memory of reconciliation between Czech and German peoples.

On the path to Kraví Mountain

To get to the top of Kraví Mountain which is 953 meters above sea level we’ve took an old hunters pathway built in 16th century. Some of its stones are marked with enigmatic crosses with numbers and no one could tell their meaning.

A view to the north from Kraví Mountain

On the top of the Kraví mountain there’s a lookout tower with astonishing views. It was built after the Velvet Revolution in place of a Soviet era military tower guarding the border.

A view to the west from Kraví Mountain

On a rock

There are many bizarre rock formations around. Local folks believe each of these mountains has one special rock as a guardian spirit. The Kravi mountain is guarded by this unusual rock resembling a wizard’s head which is called Napoleon by the locals.

Napoleon Rock

In a spruce forest

After visiting Kraví mountain we took a forest road to climb the other nearby mountain called Kuní («Marten’s») which is 925 meters high.

A view from the top of Kuní Mountain

Kuní Mountain isn’t frequented by tourists, so we were totally alone all the way. It has a steep rocky top all covered with trees. This mountain’s interesting feature is panholes (small round basins in stone), they say there are six of them on the top rocks but we’ve managed to find only one.

The top rocks are quite steep here

After having returned from Kuní, we’ve took another forest road and soon got to Dobra Voda («Good Water»), another mountain village and a once famous pilgrimage site with a beautiful baroque church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary built in 18th century. The water from the spring the church is built on is said to heal eyesight.

The church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Dobrá Voda

Also, local researchers say the site is located on a so called ley line, an invisible line supposedly connecting ancient landmarks. The idea behind lay lines belongs to the archaeologist Alfred Watkins and although it sounds like a pseudoscience, I think it has some grounds when applied to mountain sites because smoke signal, a many thousands years old «telegraph», used bonfires located on high places. Dobrá Voda can be seen from almost anywhere and as the area was inhabited since Stone Age by many tribes including Celtic Boii, such a use of this site was quite possible. But I will keep Celtic stories for my next photo trips. Stay in the air! 🙂

First published on Steemit

Photo Trip: Theresia’s Valley in South Bohemia

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South Bohemia is a beautiful region for those in search of non-mainstream travel destinations. Aside from it’s famous Budweiser beer, South Bohemia’s primary attractions are it’s wonderful nature as well as a rich historic heritage. It’s a land of forest mountains and fields, small winding rivers and large old ponds built by masters of the Renaissance period (Rozmberk, the biggest world’s fishing pond, is here).

It’s a land of magical castles and historic cities (4 UNESCO World Heritage sites and over 130 castles). If there is one country in our planet which would best host elves and hobbits, it would be South Bohemia!

Today’s story is about Theresia’s Valley, a romantic-style park, located south of South Bohemia. This lively valley is a must-visit if you’re travelling to South Bohemia or Northern Austria!

Theresia’s Valley was built in 1756 by Count Jan Nepomuk Buquoy for his wife Theresia. It’s a river valley with beautiful sights, old shady trees and a plenty of water wonders.

The centerpoint of the valley is a spectacular waterfall about 10 meters high. Legend has it that the waterfall was Buqouy’s gift to his wife. An impressive and highly symbolic gesture, this year the waterfall has turned 200 years old, and its songs of romance still vibrate in our hearts.

Exploring further into the south, we come across the Blue House (which is brick red now), a ruin of a summer house near the waterfall. Sadly, this landmark was destroyed by a flood in 1936 and was never restored.

The communist government, which came into power in Czech Republic after WWI, took over the Buquoy lands. They didn’t care about the heritage of German-speaking areas, so they just left the park as it was (which turned out to be rather a good thing). In addition, this land was too close to the Iron Curtain. which saved it from the industrialisation.

The trees you see in front of the Blue House are Sequoias (California Redwoods) brought from North America and planted here by the Buquoys in 1803. As you probably know, redwood trees can live more than 1800 years and are the tallest living things on Earth.

Exploring further to the left of the Blue House, we’ll soon arrive at the Wedding Oak, a big old tree with a reputation as a sentimental location for newlyweds to sit under. I guess it could be as old as Zuckenstein, a late Gothic castle located a few hundred meters away.

If you are planning a trip to Central Europe, then Southern Bohemia should be on the top of your bucket-list!

First published on Steemit

Inside Designer’s Studio: Logo Design Unveiled

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In this post I’ll show you how things work in logo design taking my two recent logos as examples.

About the logos

Both logos were made for Telegram channels. Most of the time people use Telegram’s mobile app, so a channel logo should look fine as a small icon. That’s why I’ve chosen typographic concepts with as less details as possible.

I’ve designed this logo for PyDjango Telegram channel. This channel is about using Django template system with Python. Here I am demonstrating how Python and Django are perfectly fitting together.

This one is for the Russian CryptoSchool channel. The Russian name is КриптоШкола, that’s why I’ve chosen those two initial Cyrillic letters for the logo (the second one is inverted).

The Key to Good Logo Design

I studied logo design in a design school and on my own for many years and while there’s a lot to say about it, the most important single logo design aspect is this:

Create as many concept variations as possible before going any further.

Our brains are lazy. After getting a few first ideas we stop and move on to their development. It’s a mistake. We need a bunch of raw material if we want to create something out of nothing, as is the case with a logo for a new brand or project.

The closest example is the photographer’s work. We admire a brilliant photo without even thinking about how much shots were actually done to choose the best one from. This is how both nature and human creativity work: a lot of small steps in many directions and then a big leap forward.

How it was done

And here’s how I was working on those concepts.

First I’ve done a lot of sketching to find different concepts and variations.

Then I’ve moved to my Mac and did the actual work in Adobe Illustrator.

I usually make a few final versions to choose from:

Often it happens to me that the final result is different from the sketches, as is the case with the second logo.

For more complex work I make even more sketches. I vary the tools (pencil, felt-tip pen, ink pen, brush…), the forms (round, rectangular, sharp, soft..), composition of the parts, abstraction level, graphic style, point of view… the more the better.

When a logo has a textual part, I do the same kind of work with the type, first sketching as much type forms as possible and then choosing a typeface or manually drawing the final letters.

Hope this short overview could help those of you who’d like to design a logo for your website or project. I am also available to make one for you, foe the details check out my steemgigs post here.

You’re welcome to ask questions or share your experience about the topic in the comment section!

First published on Steemit

Freewriting in a non-native language

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When I practice freewriting, I usually start with listening. Sooner or later a word, an idea, an image pops up in my mind. The first sentences are often useless, but soon a powerful word comes, determining the direction of further thought. Does the same scheme work in my freewriting in English language?

The pale sun is faintly shining through the clouds, looking like a light gray circle, and in the same way my personality only barely shines through the veil of the foreign language. When I was writing this sentence, I was lacking some words like shine through or veil, and without them, there was no hint at the next step in my freewriting.

But there’s also another, much more important problem. I don’t feel the magic of the words in the same way as I feel it in my native language. So my main obstacle is not the lack of vocabulary knowledge, but the lack of physical life experience connected with words in foreign language. The foreign words still have meaning, but are neutral, aren’t charged emotionally. As a consequence, I get much less soul nutrition from my writing in a foreign language.

Paradoxically, I freewrite in English even faster than in my native language. I spend less time on evaluating my writing just because I am unable to detect all the content I could then find unworthy, and that’s good for freewriting, even if there’s more noise in it. In general, there’s less self-criticism and shadow in my English writing at the level of meanings, though there’s more of it at the level of grammar — sometimes I am feeling that I speak unclearly, lack the exact words or correct grammatical constructions. If only there could be a way to recreate in another language my inner map connecting words, meanings and feelings! But my thinking patterns are, like a message in a bottle, contained in the sea of my native language and I can’t get access to them from inside the other language. Or maybe there is a way to achieve it? The question is still open to me.

Searching for manliness

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When searching for manliness, a man is actually searching for integrity. He is searching for power, but one of a special kind. It’s a power springing out of inner silence, quietude and wholeness. It’s like the silence of a forest — it’s silent, but not empty. It’s like the silence of Spirit — not ignorant, but knowing. This force is born in the silence of the heart, just like a spring is silently born in the deepness of the earth. It’s like a rock’s silence ready to amplify your voice. It’s like a tree’s silence with the leaves breathing, the juices flowing, the cells growing. The silence of an electrified thundercloud ready to become a fiery arrow. The silence of an age-old pond holding the heavenly abyss.

The Western Canon: Defining Classics

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What people and works could be called the West’s most important classics? The Western Canon is a relatively recent (1994) book by Harold Bloom in which the author tries to select the most influential authors and books of all time. Despites the fact that the very idea of such a canon is disputed, the 26 authors listed by Bloom are definitely worth reading. As for the entire book list (about 2400 items), I only wish I could read them all.