Estonia - Canada - Portugal - Italy - Montenegro

I try to lighten my ecological footprint by traveling by air only when necessary, and to combine trips where possible, but there is still no complete replacement for direct contact and informal exchange when educating young people or trying to inspire people to become more ethical and sustainable. A personal presence is also important for my grandchildren and young nieces and nephews. However more of my effort is going into teaching at a distance and putting materials on the Internet. Photographs from the 12th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum, which this year was co-organized with the European Baha'i Business Forum in de Poort, the Netherlands on 17-21 September, are available on the IEF web site.


In early May, I traveled to Tallinn, Estonia, to participate in the Fifth International Conference of the Consumer Citizenship Network, of which the International Environment Forum is a member. On the way, I stopped overnight in Helsinki, where I spoke for an AIESEC group at the university, joined the Baha'i community for a Ridvan (holy day) celebration, and had a late evening discussion with some of the youth. At the CCN conference, I gave a keynote on "Assessing information at multiple scales - taking some burden off the consumer" (as a last-minute replacement). I also participated in a symposium on "Indicators for sustainable consumption", and gave a workshop paper on "The ethical challenges of global change as a motivator for consumer citizenship". This was my first visit to Estonia, and since some of my ancestors were Estonian, I enjoyed visiting the old city centre of Tallinn, which is listed by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage.

Tallinn, view from hotel View of the modern city with the Baltic Sea in the background

Dating from the 13th century, the Old Town of Tallinn was one of the most fortified in northern Europe, and 20 of the original 46 towers in the walls survive. The high part of the town on Toompea Hill includes Toompea Castle, seat of the Estonian Parliament, and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral across Castle Square, built from 1894-1900 on the orders of Tsar Alexander III.

Wall and Toompea Castle Wall and Toompea Castle Toompea Castle  

 Alexander Nevsky Cathedral  Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

The Dome Church (Toomkirik) was founded by the Danes in 1219. Its Gothic exterior dates from the 14th century
Dome ChurchDome Church Dome Church  Square by Dome Church  

Toompea Hill includes the comfortable homes of the gentry 

View of the city from the walls of Toompea Hill
  Kiek in de Kök (Peep into the Kitchen) tower (1475-1481) tower . Park outside walls  

The lower town (Reval) was a separate entity and member of the Hanseatic League from the end of the 13th century. Its narrow streets are lined with the Gothic houses of merchants who traded in Town Hall Square

Rooftops of Lower Town rooftops from citadel  . lower town  

Niguliste Church - Museum Niguliste Church - Museum
This 13th century church was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in Soviet times

wall and gate  street  gate through wall    

City walls and towers
wall and towers  towers  towers  

gate . houses  

St. Olaf's Church . St. Olaf's ChurchGothic panels, St. Olaf's Church Gothic panels, St. Olaf's Church
The spire of St. Olaf's Church (Oleviste Kirik) is 124 m tall

street, Lower Townsmall church and wallstreet in Lower Town

Gothic merchants' houses
gothic house . gothic house . gothic house

Town Hall Square with the medieval Town Hall of 1404
main square and Town HallTown Hall  

main square   Raeapteeek pharmacy Town Hall Pharmacy  
                                                                    The Town Hall Pharmacy has been running continuously since before 1422

I wish I knew more about my Estonian ancestors, the Smittens, where they lived and what they did. They were elevated to the Swedish nobility in 1684, and our branch of the family emigrated to England and then Barbados before 1700. 
Smitten arms


At the end of June 2008, I stopped for a few days in Quebec, Canada, on my way to an International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida. This allowed me to visit my son Alexander, his wife Mahalia, and Jérémie, Benjamin and my newest grandchild Alie born in January 2008. My wife Martine was also there for the first few days. I helped to reorganize the garage and built new gates for the deck to increase security for small children. I also gave a public talk in Portneuf on the ethics of sustainable development, and had another meeting with the local Bahá'ís.
Mahalia and Alex    Alie and Mahalia
No, Mahalia is not shooting Alex                 My new granddaughter Alie and Mahalia

The childrens' pool was a favorite place to be in summer
Martine and Benjamin    Alie and Benjamin in the pool
Martine and Benjamin                 Alie and Benjamin in the pool

Jérémie and Benjamin    Alie
Jérémie cuts the lawn                    Alie is a quiet, smiling baby

Benji and camera    Benjamin    Benjamin
Benjamin already knows that cameras take pictures, but at which end?

view from my windowIn December 2008 I returned to Quebec after attending the Baha'i Conference on Social and Economic Development in the Americas, in Orlando, Florida, and spent another week with the Gagnon-Dahl family, including a holiday family gathering of the Gagnons in a rural village, and a Baha'i community meeting in Quebec City. Since the temperature was mostly below freezing and the weather not good (see the view from my window to the right), I spent most of my time at home with my grandchildren and worked on remodelling the basement of Alex's house.

Alex Dahl Alex Mahalia and Benjamin sorting worms Mahalia and Benjamin  

Benjamin Benjamin  Alie Alie


In early August I was invited to speak at the Baha'i Summer School in Santarém, Portugal, in an agricultural school on the edge of a village. It was a lovely gathering of well over one hundred of all ages and many backgrounds.

entrance to main school building  


On the last evening there were artistic performances by talented musicians and the youth of a dance workshop.

Musicians musicians    Dance workshop

dance workshop 



On 23-25 October I took the train to Padova (Padua), Italy, for a conference on Ethics and Climate Change, where I gave a paper describing what the Baha'i community and the International Environment Forum are doing in this area. I also had a chance to walk around the old centre of the city and to see some of the monuments to its long and distinguished past. The University of Padua is the second oldest in Italy, founded in 1222.

Arena garden . Arena garden
Just across from my hotel was the Arena Park alongside a river, with winding paths and the remains of the old Roman Amphitheatre (the Arena), within which the former Eremitani monastery houses the civic art museum, and the adjacent Scrovegni Chapel is entirely covered inside by remarkable frescoes painted by Giotto in 1303-1305 marking an important transition from Medieval to Renaissance art. There were no crowds, so it was a perfect time to wander and appreciate the art from many periods.

wall of the Arena The Arena wall  Arena gate .

Chapel Scrovegni Chapel with remarkable Giotto frescoes

Throughout the city are interesting old buildings and monuments
city building . building with clock
                           (Right) Palazzo del Capitanio (1599-1605) with Torre dell'Orologio (1344)

Square with column . Altinate Gate Altinate Gate in the medieval city wall

square . square by university
In a square by the university, the students were demonstrating. University and Café Pedrocchi (1831)

tower and river Glimpses of ancient monuments through the park

Medieval hall . side of hall
The Palazzo della Ragione, built in 1218, has an enormous hall the full length of the building on the upper floor (81 m long, 27 m wide) with frescoes of religious and astrological subjects dating from 1425-1440, that used to be the tribunal, while municipal offices and a market occupied the lower floors.

Medieval hall


The next week I went to Miločer, on the coast of Montenegro to a conference on National and Inter-ethnic Reconciliation, Religious Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans, organized by the European Center for Peace and Development, associated with the University for Peace established by the United Nations (with which I collaborate closely in our Environmental Diplomacy programme). There were distinguished political and religious leaders, including the Prime Minister of Montenegro, as well as academics from across all the Balkan countries, all united in their search for peace and reconciliation in their region. The Baha'i International Community has collaborated with these conferences since the beginning. I was asked to speak on the environment as a factor for peace. Since most of the time was taken by the conference, there was no time for sightseeing. We did go the Monastery of Cetinje to visit the Metropolitain of the Orthodox Church for Montenegro (who had attended the conference), but at night when pictures were not possible. I did snap the view from my hotel room in the early morning sun.

Speaking at the ECPD Conference
Arthur Dahl at ECPD . ECPD conference

The view from my hotel room
View from Hotel Maestral, Milocer . View from hotel room

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Last updated 28 October 2012

Photographs copyright © Arthur Lyon Dahl 2008