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Month: October 2016

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All the weirdness in Sofia

Bulgaria is hitting an economic boom! The tech sector is growing and is the main focus of the country’s start-up activity, with the capital Sofia at the centre.

Sofia’s grey communist-era of the cityscape is slowly vanished and gives the place to shine to beautified golden Orthodox domes, leafy parks and the grandeur of the surrounding mountains. There are plenty of lively bars and restaurants too.

The cathedral of Sofia is called The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It is the center of orthodox religion in Bulgaria, built in Neo-Byzantine style in 19 century. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.

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Everything in Sofia is aligned with the cathedral as the center of citizen’s life. That’s the reason we find the several sites around it. I. e. bulgarian Parliament called The National Assembly of Neo-Renaissance style. The slogan on the facade above the entrance “Obedinenieto Pravi Silata”, loosely translated means ”United we are strong.”

On the left side of the main Cathedral is a flea market with lots of old goods from communist period. Definitely something to get  lost in time. My brother – the old coins collector was stunned and spent entire Sunday morning there.

Then again to it’s right is a nice orthodox church that we never managed to find out the name of it. The reason is that my brother and I were in Sofia in 2010 when no tourist office existed yet. When we asked in the street a certain passenger for a tourist office, he asked: why? We said we need a map. Remember in 2010 there were no smartphones yet.

However, the church:

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Then, this:

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Every street corner had this window store in the level of a sidewalk with empty bottles and sacks as the exhibits of items to sell. (I am not saying anything here) o.O

Anyways, my brother Martin and I continued to visit the Archaeological Museum with the ancient heritage and the heritage from the time of Thrace especially the Thracian gold. I found the Lapidarium with ancient remnants of concrete columns very attractive and mystique as the fog was coming down on them.

There is a bar on every corner in the centre of Sofia and in certain residential areas, such as ‘Studentski Grad‘ (Students’ Town),  where simply sitting for a coffee, dinning or having a great night out is just the way to spend the time in Sofia. 🙂 For some reason Martin and I choosed the Budha bar that had something a little different to offer – style, good music and that certain something … well, if you ever meet my brother – ask him… and had a great time!

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Berlin, the I am sorry

The capital of Germany, Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the german capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest.

Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

For 30 years, the Berlin Wall was the defining symbol of the Cold War, separating families and keeping the people from jobs and opportunity in the west. … The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the citizens of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) as an ecstatic crowd swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself. To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.

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The best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War was the Checkpoint Charlie. Today is just a tourist attraction where you approach to the military officer with a  EUR coin and your passport and he hits you 4 stamps that were needed to cross the wall.

If you wanna know more about the Cold war times in Berlin and biased life of the Berlin citizens between East and West, you should definitely visit the DDR Museum. The DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) or GDR in english, contains a kitchen from the 50’s or 60’s with all its wall decorations, the popular car Trabant etc…

Close to Check point Charlie is the The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor). An 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany.

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Next to the Brandenburg Gate is The Bundestag – the national Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is open for visiting and once you get on the top you get a nice view on the river Spree. The Parliament was almost completely bombarded during the World War ll, so the building is renovated like it used to be (19 century building) but the large glass dome was added. At the very top of the Reichstag has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall (debating chamber) of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor.

The dedication Dem deutschen Volke, meaning To the German people, can be seen on the frieze of the building.

When talking about beautiful buildings in the city, I have to mention the cathedral or in german Berliner Dom. It is located on Museum Island in the Mitte (central) borough. It is an evangelistic church and a main work of Historic architecture of the Kaiserzeit – the times of the German Empire.

I got the impression that Berlin is one big I am sorry to the rest of the world. One of the things that made me think about the city this way are the Jewish Memorial and the 2 men kissing statues and murals.

A very popular meeting point is the Alexanderplatz with the world clock. It is where I spotted many colourful bears. These bears are quite popular attraction in the city since 2002. The idea was to bring the street art back and remind the citizens on the origin of the name of the city: german der Bär, english bear.

But my favourite place is Charlottenburg Palace! 🙂 The largest palace in Berlin,  built at the end of the 17th century with much of exotic internal decoration in baroque and rococo styles. The palace is surrounded with amazing gardens and pavilions. The palace was built by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III – Elector of Brandenburg (meaning the prince of Holy Roman Empire) and Duke of Prussia. The visit inside the palace is recommended since the inner rooms are described as “the eighth wonder of the world” like the room filled with porcelain or next to it the Amber Room (Bernsteinzimmer), a room with its walls surfaced in decorative.

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My second favourite place is the Humboldt University. I dreamed about studying here. Well it was one of the dream places… The Uni was founded in 19th century by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt. Since then it has been home to many of Germany’s greatest thinkers of the past two centuries, among them the subjective idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, or Otto von Bismarck the first german chancellor, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Max Weber…

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And of course the night out! If you go out in the night in Berlin, I recommend you to go to the Hackischer Markt. It is a vibrant area with many bars, discos and restaurants. It is a square in the central Mitte locality of Berlin and considered as a starting point for the city’s nightlife. A friend of mine Matea and I went there on a Saturday night and we had amazing time.

 

Books 14

Katherine

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Katherine Swynford  was a wife of John Gaunt – the Duke of Lancaster in 14 century. Their marriage came as a quite scandal. She was poor and shy, raised in a monastery by nuns,  but still kinda sensual and warm. She was a Duke’s lover for many years before their marriage.

All the trouble of Katherine and her honest love to the Duke are described in a quote  “Men of title and privilege simply do not marry their mistresses.”

The book describes the years before the marriage of Katherine with the Duke and the second installement of the book concentrates on their marriage and the later children they had mixed with political affairs and the troubles they brought to the lovers’ lifes.

Reading the book and following the story, it definitely depuzzles all the claims to the throne the later heirs of the Plantagenet family.

The descendants of Katherine and the Duke were members of the Beaufort family, which played a major role in the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII, who became King of England in 1485, derived his claim to the throne from his mother Margaret Beaufort, who was a great-granddaughter of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.

Juggling between romance and history, Anya Seaton  has a sure grasp of the sexual politics of the late Middle Ages.

 

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The Courtesan’s Lover

It’s 1564. Francesca Felizzi is beautiful and talented courtesan that knows how to entertain her customers and make them her patrons so she can enjoy luxury items and moments in her life.

Her loyal servant, Modesto, a castrato, sits always outside her bedroom door ready to defend her if necessary.

Francesca writes her diary about her encounters and any information related to them. She calls the diary The Book of Encounters. Modesto insists that this is her insurance for the future and uncertain times.

She does not allow patrons to visit her at her homewhere her beautiful twin daughters and Modesto are living.

Francesca is popular and expensive, her clothes are exquisite and her lifestyle lavish, but it’s only when, Gianni, a shy widow appears in her life. He treats her with a sensitivity she hasn’t seen before that she realizes she’s never truly been loved. Gianni changes the way Francesca sees herself and her career and she begins to question what she wants out of life.

 

The author of the book is Gabrielle Kim.  She is truly describing the streets and the then life of the citizens of Napoli in such a detailed and imaginable way. Just adore!

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Bavaria! Munich, Legoland and Neuschwanstein castle

Typical Bavarian Lifestyle, I would say is heavy food and beer! And lots of great architecture…just read the following story and conclude yourself 😉

München was named for “near the monks” an area of Germany where monks were living, and more importantly producing beer. Apparently beer was made when monks were fasting for lent. They were not permitted to eat bread and instead developed their own “liquid” form of bread.

Also second evidence of rich Bavarian Lifestyle is a fact that the residents of München consider themselves Bavarians first then German’s second. München falls in the region of Bavaria and there is much pride over that fact.

But let’s start from the beginning!

München is the capital and largest city of the German state of Bavaria, on the banks of River Isar north of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, and the 12th biggest city of the European Union.

The city is a major centre of art, advanced technologies, finance, publishing, culture, innovation, education, business, and tourism.

Marienplatz  is a central square in the city centre of Munich, Germany. It has been the city’s main square since 1158 while the region was part of Holy Roman Empire. There is beautiful city hall in a Gothic Revival architecture style with the column of Virgin Mary.

Just behind the main square is the Frauenkirche. A beautiful Church of Our Dear Lady. Much of the interior was destroyed during World War II. An attraction that survived is the Teufelstritt, or Devil’s Footstep, at the entrance. The legend says, the devil made a deal with the builder to finance construction of the church on the condition that it contain no windows. The clever builder, however, tricked the devil by positioning columns so that the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the devil discovered that he had been tricked, he could not enter the already consecrated church. The devil could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furiously, which left the dark footprint that remains visible in the church’s entrance today.

Another example of typical Bavarian architecture is Fachwerkhaus, germ timber frame house.

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The Hofbräuhaus am Platzl is a beer hall in Munich, originally built in 1589 by Bavarian Duke Maximilian I. Later became famous as a place where Hitler and Nazis were gathering and drinking beer with famous german Bratzel and sausage.

From the modern architecture, a must see is the Allianz Arena – a football stadium in Munich, and the headquarters of BMW company.

Half way from Munich to Stuttgart there is a  Legoland park located in Günzburg which opened in 2002. It is a popular theme park containing Lego reproductions of various German cities and rural landscapes.

The very next day, my brother and I decided to visit a nineteenth-century romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill near small city called Füssen. The Palace was built by  Ludwig II of Bavaria as a hommage to Richard Wagner – a 19 century german composer. It is a constant inspiration for the movie sets like Disneyland’s  cartoon The Sleeping Beauty.

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The castle is called Schloss Neuschwanstein which means New Swanstone Castle. Apparently, Luddwig ll of Bavaria was a bit unstable when it comes to mental health, known as the eccentric and troubled individual. He adored swans and the mentioned composer R. Wagner. In the central of the castle is theatre, opera and Wagner’s works. King Ludwig was entirely obsessed with Wagner, who was a close friend. On his death, Ludwig was said to be devastated. Well, you do the math what happened here 😉

Every part of Neuschwanstein reflects the troubled and eccentric life of King Ludwig. It reflects his obsessions with the work of Wagner, his preoccupations with the noble lives of medieval royalty, and his desire to retreat into a solitary world of fantasy beliefs. The interior walls of the castle are adorned with murals which depict the legends behind Wagner’s operas.

Ludwig’s excessive spending on Neuschwanstein bankrupted the state of Bavaria which made locals furious. He killed himself by drowning in a nearby lake, unhappy and unloved.

Unfortunately, Ludwig ll did not finish the castle but he did himself beautiful inner garden surrounded by a walled courtyard and an artificial cave as an escape of his daily duties as a duke. Inside the cave there is a lake, a boat in a shape of a shelf where he would lay listening the choir performing the Wagner’s operas…

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Venezia, La Serenissima

First time I went to Venice, Italy it was with my grandfather and my brother. We arrived to the outskirts of the city by bus and then took a water taxi to get into the city.

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The city center is a set of islands connected by bridges and channels through which the gondolas are operating as the most important mean of transport. Since Venezia was built on the rotting trucks cut down and transported from the Croatian coast, no wonder it is sinking 4-6 mm per year.

Venice has blossomed in 16 century renaissance. It was a city state firstly but soon became republic, one of the most powerful countries of its times. The supreme authority of the country was a Doge living in his Doge’s palace.

The Doge’s palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice in northern Italy. Next to it is a Piazza San Marco with St Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile of St Mark.

The tower is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show the Lion of St. Mark and the female representation of Venice (la Giustizia, italian Justice).

Another attraction is the Bridge of Sighs.  It connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace and it was named after many convicts would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

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The symbol of Venice is a lion and the patron is St Mark. The fact that the Lion of Venice is having his leg placed on an open book means the building where the statue is set, was erected in the time of peace. If the book is closed, the building was built in the times of war.

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As we wandered a city a lot, following the traces of the italian renaissance, carneval , the famous female seducer Casanova and his courtesans… we finished the day having a coffee at the cost of the Grand Canal of Venezia watching the gondolas passing by in the sunset.

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The black pool of Dublin

Landing in Dublin was like this:

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So from the moment I realised why the city was named dark black pool. Namely, the name Dublin comes from the Gaelic word Dublind, meaning “black, dark”, and lind  meaning “pool”, referring to a dark tidal pool where the River Poddle entered the Liffey on the site of the castle gardens at the rear of Dublin Castle builded by Vikings and later expanded by Normans.

Dublin started as a Viking settlement in the 9th century until the Norman invasion of Ireland was launched from Wales in 12 century. Around this time the Dublin was established and the city became incorporated into the English Crown.

From this time is the most popular battle of irish history: the battle of Clontarf, from 11 century. It is a major part of the irish folklore but in the same time the less understood. It was the battle between (gaelic) high king of Ireland and the Vikings led outside the city walls.

Inside the city walls was the city itself: The Dublin castle. It was until 1922 the seat of the United Kingdom government’s administration in Ireland, and is now a major Irish government complex.

The river Liffey divides the city into north-south division. Traditionally,  The Northside was generally seen as working class, while the Southside was seen as middle to upper-middle class.

The traditional north-south division has come to its peak in early 20 century with the Irish Easter Rising movement when the hungry working class demanded equal rights, following the proclaim of the Republic of Ireland in 1922 from the british rule.

The Irish Potato Famine or the Great Hunger was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. The best description of it is this touching memorial showing barefoot and hungry people walking around.

Just next to it stands proudly anchored Jeanie Johnston ship. A ship that has transport thousands of Irish to North America carrying over 2,500 people who crossed the Atlantic in tall ships, seeking survival and hope in the ‘new world.’ Through to its 16 journeys, the ship has not lost a single life of person on its way to New York.

The ship is now a museum:

Interesting, for the first time in the history, Ireland is immigrating more than emigrating since the lack of the workforce. Many of my friends mostly from Croatia have gone to Ireland looking for a job.

The hunger and poverty and shortages of main food product – the potatoes, and increasing dissatisfaction with the British dominance have led to the Easter Rising in 1916.

gpo The Easter Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in the First World War. The headquarters of the Irish rebellions was at General Post office (GPO) nowadays a museum.

Ironically it is one of the most beautiful Georgian architecture style buildings  from the period of the blooming development of the city of Dublin (from 1714 – the beginning of the reign of King George I of Great Britain and of Ireland to the death in 1830 of King George IV).

The other beautiful georgian-style buildings are The Trinity College – established to propagate new Tudors Protestant religion, the Parliament etc.

How much the British are unloved by Irish and how Irish are pranksters and merrymakers is seen the best in the following photo:

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When the last king George (IV) died, the court in London has declared mourning and painting the front door in black. Well, the colorful Irish doors of Dublin are truly marking the end of Georgian era in its own way.

Furthermore, the poets!

Ireland is very proud on its three Nobel prize winners: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde. Apparently O. Wilde was a true dandy of its time and a bit wanna-be-scholar. 😛 When he arrived to New York, the custom officer asked him if he has something to declare. O. Wilde responded: ‘I have nothing to declare except my genius.’ -_-

The pubs!

The colourful, joyful pubs with live traditional music and instruments, the food…The most famous one is The Temple bar. A bit expensive but great beer and great irish coffee! 😀

The whiskey tasting in the Irish Whiskey Museum.

The origin of the name is coming from the old celtic uisce beata which means aqua vitae in latin. But when the English men arrived they read it wrong pronuncing the word uisce as whiskey. So the beverage got its name.

At the end of my WE escape, I arrived back to my flat in Brussels, bringing souvenirs like the scarf made of irish sheep’s wool, whiskey, clover fridge magnet…

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✮ New York, New York ✮

Not many cities I visited took my breath away. Although I travel a lot and each city or country leaves a different taste in my mouth and it is particularly placed in my travel heart and mind.

A trip to Big Apple was inspiring, amazing, challenging (especially when running for metro lines and trying to figure out which of them will bring me back to my lodging).

I have been dreaming about this city for a long time. Especially because a good friend of mine lives there – K.C.

So I finally decided, did my visa, booked my ticket and arrived with Delta Airlines to New York city. I landed at J.F. Kennedy Airport. K.C. picked me up and we immediately went to Long Island where she lives and where I stayed, at her place.

We went to eat at PJ Leahy’s  –  the great sea food restaurant and got the Long Island cocktails for the dessert.

Although it was 3 am for me, but just before the midnight in US  we took a metro and went to Times Square. Aaaaaand I got my Marilyn Monroe moment when I accidentally stepped on a vent. 😀

Continue reading “✮ New York, New York ✮”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everard_t%27Serclaes
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10 times Bruxelles je t’aime!

Brussels is considered to be boring, dull and overrun by Eurocrats, but it is actually a hidden gem which takes time to discover. When people ask me do I like Brussels and living here, I usually answer that the city and I have a very schizophrenic relationship – we love each other,   we hate each other. Sometimes its qualities are overlooked, so this post is a reminder to myself and those who have come to appreciate all the little things that make this city a beautiful place to live in.

Voilà, the 10 reasons why I love Brussels! 😀

  1. The Clemenceau marché

 

A massive weekend market close to Gare Midi with selling products from fruits and vegetables to stolen ipods.

2. Fresh sea food from the North sea with the glass of white vine

 

3. Of course, her majesty The Chocolate!

 

A major industry since the 19th century, today it forms an important part of the nation’s economy and culture.

4. And the other majesty: La bière!

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5. Walking through the city and unexpectedly discovering parks with fountains, monuments and flowers like Bois de la Cambre.

 

6. Stunning Art Nouveau architecture mostly led by famous architect Victor Horta.

 

Brussels is the capital of Art Nouveau and magnificent structures throughout the capital city are recognized as “world heritage” by UNESCO. The brilliant creative works of Victor Horta, Paul Hankar… bring pleasure to thousands of visitors who enter the private world of these opulent houses every year.

In 19 century Brussels went through a period of unrivaled effervescence. The middle classes, merchants and artists opted to have their houses built in the style in vogue: Art Nouveau, marking the beginning of modern architecture and design.

7. Famous Belgian Flower carpet

 

A biennial event that takes place every other August. Nearly a million flowers are required to create the ephemeral 1,800 square meter carpet. The tapestry always exhibits begonias, one of Belgium’s major exports since 1860.

8. This romantic existing things whenever I walk in the city:

 

9. It goes back to ”medieval” twice a year!

 

For two nights every July and later in September, Brussels goes back in time when 1,500 performers resplendent in 16th Century garb re-enact the entry of Emperor Charles V into the city.

10. The fact I am close to many cities and its airports/stations so I can escape whenever wherever.

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She was living in a constant fear that something important and nice in her life she will miss. She traveled a lot and suffered even more when she did not travel. She felt like the real fun and happiness are always somewhere else.

Constantly she was full of plans and how to catch them by the tail, how to – in constant movement – find that crystalline moment when – at least so it’s said in dreams – life turns into a fairy tail.

 

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Autumn in Belgium. Château La Hulpe.

Living in Brussels is specially amazing in autumn when the trees get beautiful colors of red and yellow. It is the time of plenty, when trees are drooping heavily with the last fruits of the year and thick-skinned gourds lie swollen on the ground.

So we decided to seize the sunny Saturday and took a day trip to the nearby castle La Hulpe in Belgian region Wallonia.

The castle is also known as Château Solvay. It was completed in 1842 by Walloon architects. Erected on the summit of a hill, in Flemish neo-renaissance style, it is flanked by towers at each of the four corners.

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Walking around we enjoyed the sun and colors of autumn. We took a walk in the forests, with the sun shielded by a hillside, we came across this treetop that looked as if it were on fire.

It was quite a route – 7 km wandering around and getting our batteries charged. 🙂 The very special feeling was just to hear the leaves hitting sump under our feet and the last sun rays on our faces.

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As the day was coming to its end, we decided to stop at the nearby market and buy some local season fruits like mushrooms, maroons, a bottle of great wallonian white wine and a pumpkin!❤ The pumpkin will be probably used for a soup.

By the20161009_1210131 way, if you would like to discover the world of mushrooms, there is La fete des champignons  in the nearby Louvain-la-Neuve village with expositions of fresh mushrooms, workshops, presentations etc.

Autumn ❤