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Month: January 2017

abbey 27

Lisbon, Portugal

Living in Madrid, I had a chance to sit on a bus and visit Lisabon and some nearby places and wait for new 2013 on the banks of river Tejo.

Taking the night bus, I arrived around 5 am to Lisboa bus/train station, realizing it is actually 4 am cause of the CET+1. I took a walk around since the station is new building called Sete Rios with a beautiful design.

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At Praça do Comércio I noticed that Portugal kinda wears the fenomen of once being world ruler and powerful nation. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established the first global empire, becoming one of the world’s major economic, political and military powers

At the main entrance from the old port, where it used to stand all those mightfull ships that would sail away or enter bringing all kinds of goods, stands the statue of portugeese  King José I and the arch with the descript: Who enters the door of the city to recall that Portugal once ruled the world.  

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Commerce Square

Around the statue is what used to be the king’s palace with the view on river Tejo and Atlantic ocean.

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On the other side, through the arch, there is a shopping street and entrance to the city itself. The triumphal arch is called Rua Augusta and it is historical building and visitor attraction. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake with  coat of arms of Portugal.

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Closeby is the Carmelite Convent dating back to 14 century and once Lisbon’s largest convent, but it was severely damaged in the again 1755 earthquake.

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During this time, Portuguese explorers pioneered maritime exploration in the Age of Discovery, notably under royal patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator and King João II, with such notable discoveries as Vasco da Gama‘s sea route to India (1497–98), the discovery of Brazil (1500), and the reaching of the Cape of Good Hope. To this events it is dedicated Mosterio dos Jeronimos (a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome and and today Maritime Museum and the National Archaeology Museum).

 

The monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Portuguese discoveries are the numerous territories and maritime routes discovered as a result of portugeese intensive maritime exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries in what became known as the Age of Discovery. Methodical expeditions started in 1419 along West Africa’s coast under the sponsorship of prince Henry the Navigator, with Bartolomeu Dias reaching the Cape of Good Hope and entering the Indian Ocean. In 1498, Vasco da Gama led the first fleet around Africa to India, then proceeded to southeast Asia, where they reached Japan. In 1500, the Portuguese discovered Brazil.

 

Portugal monopolized the spice trade during this time, and the Portuguese Empire expanded with military campaigns led in Asia.

 

 

It is intolerable to miss just in front the museums, the Torre de Belem –  a fortified tower which  played significant role in the Portuguese maritime Age of Discoveries. The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus/ Tejo river.

 

But the destruction of Lisbon in a 1755 earthquake, the country’s occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, the independence of Brazil (1822), and the Liberal Wars (1828–34), all left Portugal crippled from war and diminished in its world power.

From the 17 century time is Panteao Nacional. A beautiful and unique church that acts as the national pantheon of Portugal and the final burial location for many important Portuguese. The church is situated in the Alfama district and the massive white dome is a prominent feature of the skyline of eastern Lisbon.

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The Alfama district is the oldest district of the city. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning “hot fountains.” In centuries before  it was inhabited by the fishermen and the poor, and its condition as the neighbourhood of the poor continues to this day.

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Tram 28 through Alfama

Since the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake did not destroy the Alfama, which has remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares, lately the neighbourhood has been invigorated with the renovation of the old houses and new restaurants where Fado—Portuguese typical melancholy music—can be enjoyed.

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It is also important to mention the famous pastries like manteigara.  Rows of flaky, palm-sized pastries fill window displays in stacked pans and it is absolutely amaizing. 🙂

 

Anyhow, back to educational part! After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established, later being superseded by the Estado Novo right-wing authoritarian regime.

 

Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974. On the memory of this military coup, the famous bridge carries the name od the date of the revolution.

 

Shortly after, independence was granted to almost all its overseas territories, marking the end of the longest-lived colonial empire. Portugal has left a profound cultural and architectural influence across the globe and a legacy of over 250 million Portuguese speakers today.

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries.

I was impressed as well by the Oceanario de Lisboa – opened after Lisbon hosted  Expo ’98. It is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe showing the flora and fauna of all the oceans of the planet.

 

Oh yeah, and here is one photo from the Silvester night! 🙂 Waiting for new 2013 in 16 degrees in Lisbon is such a great memory… ❤

 

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Milano, Italy

Lombardia, Italia… beautiful region, beautiful country, great time in expensive, kinda boring but nice city known by  arts, commerce, design,  entertainment, fashion and tourism.

I arrived in the morning to Airport Milanesa and around 10:00 I was in the city center at Piazza del Duomo where the Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II stands as a first italian king from 19 century.

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At Piazza del Duomo, I’ve been admiring the cathedral, ita Duomo. The fifth biggest church the world and only the second (after St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican), the moment when the gothic architecture descends from north and testimonies its glory.

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Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity,  this gothic cathedral derives from 14th century. The first cathedral, the “new basilica,” ita. basilica nova was completed by 355 which archeological rests can be seen below the cathedral together with the old octagonal baptistery, the Battistero Paleocristiano, under the Milan Cathedral.

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It was Napoleon who finished the façade and inner part of the basilica and jump-started the final stages of construction in the early 19th century. Considering its construction is still continuing, this could be considered the longest-worked cathedral in the world.

The floor is 15 century white Candoglia marble with Varenna black marble and Arzo red marble, obtaining its own style amongst the world basilicas.

They say there are more statues on this gothic-style cathedral than any other building in the world. There are 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate Milan Duomo! I climb the stairs to the rooftop to fully appreciate the architecture of the most renowned silhouette in the city.

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I was admiring the archades and kontrafors and after 10 min clinbng up the stairs, I was breathtaken for some time…

From the terrazza you can see breathtaking views across Milan and also the famous Madonnina, the gold-colored statue of Mary that stands on the cathedral’s highest spire.

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View on modern district Palazzo Lombardia from Duomo

After visiting the cathedral I spent some time walking inside the Galeria Vittorio Emanuele – the oldest shopping centre in the world. The floor is a mosaic with the picture of the bull on whose balls one should stand with heel, spin around and make a wish.

Closeby is the statue of Leonardo DaVinci and the museum of his life and discoveries. This world famous scientist and artist lived in Milano for 16 years. He influenced the town planning since severe plagues in 1484 and 1485 drew his attention to problems.

Leonardo’s fresco of the Last Supper is placed in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. This world famous painting from 16th century was ordered by Leonardo’s patron Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.

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Milan is famous for La Scala or the official name Teatro alla Scala. It is is an opera house dating from 18 century. Many of the finest singers and great opera artists have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years as this building has prestige accoustic hall. 

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La Scala

From the other adventures worth to mention, I would state the faboulous 19 century Cental Station building of the Art Nouveau style 🙂 As me living currently in Belgium, I couldn’t resisit falling in love with this architecture style. Later some renovations were done so its bombastic appearance with muscular sculptures was a good fit with Mussolini’s preferred architecture style.

1When mentioning Duke of Milan and Sforza family, their greates oponent was Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor known as Barbarossa (ita. red beard). Spreading his power over Lombardy, the anti-German sentiment was increasing and the locals forced Barbarossa’s wife to ride through the city on a donkey in a humiliating manner. Barbarossa implemented his revenge for this insult by forcing the magistrates of the city to remove a fig from the anus of a donkey using only their teeth.

So the todays insulting gesture, (called fico), of holding a fist with the thumb between the middle and forefinger came by its origin from this event. 🙂

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Almaty, Kazahstan

Upon my arrival to Kazahstan airport, completely dehydrated, sleepy, jetlagged and with the need to go to toilet, I was forced to stand for long two hours in a queue with two men walking around us with the machine guns – completely indulent to help.

There were little children around us, crying and elders unable to stand in line for so long.

My bag was completely damaged, open several times and clearly without my supervision checked and nosed-over.

I took a cab and the taxi driver started to ask me personal questions ending up with political talks and discussions. I closed my eyes in the cab for two mins only and woke up with the car parked beside the highway realizing the taxi driver is masturbating at the first seat watching me in the rearview mirror.

Nevertheless, here is what I captured after spending 3 days in Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, the largest city in Kazahstan. It served as capital of the Kazakh state under the influence of the then Soviet Union. You wouldn’t believe me, but the city is called the Big Apple as old name ‘Alma-Ata’ means ‘father of apples’ in Kazakh, has claimed the honour of being birthplace of the apples.

The city is surrounded with Tian Shian mountain which in Kazakh means the Mountain of Heaven. It is a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia. The nature is beautiful and completely untouched but the city is quite polluted. There is also a  famous Sunkar International Ski Jumping Complex.

What I was surprised with is the diversit of people there. Mainly muslim – orthodox religions with people of different origins or mixed ones, i.e caucasian, mongolian races with lots of indigenous groups and tribes participating the society.

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Symbols of indigenous people of Kazakhstan.

As mentioned before, the most popuar religions are islam and christian orthodox. Hence, this beautiful buildings: first one is Zenkov’s Orthodox Cathedral also known as the Cathedral of Ascension. It is claimed to be the second biggest wooden building in the world. The second one is Central Mosque. Kazakhstan is a dominantly Muslim country and mosques are scattered around.

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Central Mosque

The streets of Almaty are wide and not much to offer in terms of bars, shops, architecture or monuments. But the most impressive part for me was The Golden Warrior: A Kazakh icon of Independence. The monument is a 27 meters tall pillar and on top is a winged snow leopard known in Kazakh folklore as barys. The story behind “Golden Warrior” is very interesting: the man is Scythian warrior found in burial mound, some 70 kilometers from Almaty in 1969. In this burial mound, a skeleton was found with all ceremonial and elite clothes and weapons and its believed to have been an 18 year old Scythian warrior prince dating back to the 3rd century BCE. The Scythians were a nomadic tribal people that inhabited the todays Kazakhstan and described in Herodotus’ The Histories, later they disappeared because of rise of Turks.

 

The next impressive person worth to mention is Philosopher Al Farabi and his statue. Born in Damascus, Syria in 10 century, a renowned philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music scholar who gave the basics of education and judicary basics to the Kazakh state. His name holds Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, also called KazNU.

As mentioned, streets are not quite interesting and entertaining, especially not the Zholdasbekov street – the most famous pedestrian zone in Almaty.Whatever that means… 🙂

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… but I found some traditional houses reflecting the late 19 century architecture.

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But then I turned to Zelyong Bazaar (Green Market) and got inspired by some tastes, like nan,  kazakh bread. There were piles of the big round breads. All of them had a raised edge and some kind of decoration on the central dough, though there are many variations on the theme.

As Kazakhs are nomadic people, their main meal afer the nan is a horse milk and meat and the dishes made of it. On the photo: chocolate made of horse milk. Lovely! 🙂

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Guadalajara, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

As I lived in Madrid , I have visited this small city too. The place has pre-Moorish settlements so I found it attractive for a one day trip.

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El torreón del Alamín (esp. Tower of Alamin) is a tower of the old wall of the city. It is located behind the concatedral of Santa Maria. He originally supervised access to the city from the Alamín suburb. Both buildings are dating from the 13 century.

Close to this is a fantastic 15 century Palacio del Infantado – an extraordinary well decorated building both the facade and the central courtyard. The palace was the seat of the Dukes of the Infantado.

El panteón de la Condesa de la Vega del Pozo y Duquesa de Sevillano is a 19 century building constructed by Countess de la Vega del Pozo in honor of her father and relatives deceased years before to be buried there. It forms part of the monumental complex of the San Diego de Alcalá Foundation.

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I was also impressed by modest medieval historical architecture, usually examples of Castilian mansions with roman or moorish moments.