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Month: May 2017

cathedrals 14

Route de Champagne

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From the Route de Chimay in Belgium, we continued towards France to Route de Champagne.

It is the region in the north-western part of France with the main cities of Reims and Epernay – as the center of the champagne agriculture.

We were driving through hidden villages of north – western France, admiring the green landscape mostly covered with vineyards and blue sky under which many cows were finding its peace.

Oh France, how lovely you are!

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Our destination was the Beaufort family, some 35 km away from Epernay, living in the hills of Champagne and producing its own certified Beaugort champagne since 1599.

Upon our arrival, the host decided to treat us with a glass of champagne rose, served in the atrium of his house. The champagne came as a refreshment since it was 36 degrees.

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After the refreshment, small discussion about the vineyards started and soon we were introduced to the art of creating the wine. As a girl coming from the vineyard region itself and having vineyards at hometown of Krapina, Croatia, I have soon ended up in a discussion with our host about wine producing.

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Shortly after that, we followed our host to his cellars for the industrial part of creation of a champagne and botteling.

The cellar was long, called and claustrofobic but we learned a lot about the process of creating the champagne. For the beginning, I have learnt that the grapes can be white or black, no matter, because anyhow the skin will be removed, what gives the juice the colour.

Then, the wine is stored i to bottles with yiest and turned every couple of days in order to get bubbled. Finally, when all the yiest segmentizes and the neck of the bottle, the special machine is inserted into a bottle which freezes first 3 centimeters of the champagne and pulls out the yiest.

Finally the champagne is ready to be served!

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Capture

In the end, my friend and I bought some products of champagne from our host and we manage to get a photo with a champagne in a bottle of 110 cm. Talking about a big things 🙂

That kind of size of a bottle is usually given to a winner of Formula 1 race.

For me, it was a day of the champions!

My friend and I finished our tour de champagne heading to the city of Reims throug the Valley of river Marna. The sun was up and still hot.

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Valley of river Marna

We decided to give a tour throgh the city of Epernay and have a local dinner there. Of course, with a glass of champagne.

Au revoir!

To be continued in Reims, France.

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abbey 34

Route de Chimay

situation6661My friend and I decided to go on  great Chimay tour for a grand weekend in Belgium. We sat in her car (hot as it was 34 degrees outside) and drove south of Brussels through Ardennes and Wallonie. 

Our first stop was a brewery Beers and Cheeses of Chimay. We tasted samples of beers and decided to continue further.

We were driving to many pitoresque small belgian villagges filled with houses made of stone and detailed with flowers in pots.  It was charmng to drive 30 km/h and enjoy all those things one can not see when driving from the high way.

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Small villages of Wallonie in Belgium

Our second stop was Poteaupré and the abbey of monks. This Abbaye de Chimay, a small group of monks,  during the summer of 1850 established themselves on the wild plateau of Scourmont near Chimay. Around the monastery, soon came a farm, a brewery, and a cheese plant famous today as well.

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Abbaye de Chimay

In the brewery, french brasserie we degustated the pyramide of beers and chimay cheeses.

As there was a small shop, we were even making our own way of shopping – a beer shopping! 🙂

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Beer shopping

From there and the city of Chimay, we continued towards France… towards the sunset and new adventures…

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In the village of Chimay ❤ a beer boiler

 

 

Castle 20

Alicante, Spain

My very good friend and chilean housemate from Spain was getting marry in her hometown of Calpe, close to Alicante. It was a great opportunity to reunite us all met once in Chile, living la vida loca of 2010.

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The region is called Costa Blanca and the city of Alicante is nearby Valencia.

Alicante is one of Spain’s most beautiful cities and a hotspot destination for city breaks in the sun.

The name of the city echoes the Arabic name Al-Laqant, which in turn reflects the Latin Lucentum, meaning the light

Upon my arrival, I gave a tour to through the city and enjoyed spanish sun (my favourite type of sun)!  🙂

Amongst the most notable features of the city is the Castle of Santa Bárbara, which is placed high above the city and the port of Alicante. Unfortunately, I did not have time to climb u and visit it.

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Castillo di Santa Barbara

The mount is called Mount Benacantil where many artifacts from Bronze Age, Iberian, and Roman agehave been found, but the origins of the castle date to the 9th century at the time of Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula, from 711 till 1296 when it was conquered by the Aragonese royal family.

The so called paseo or Explanada de España, is a beautiful walking path lined by palm trees and paved with marble floor that reflects the sun. Together with tiles, it creates a wavy form and is one of the most lovely promenades in Spain.

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Explanada de España

Playa del postiguet is one of Alicante’s loveliest beaches. The beach is huge and stretches the length of the city. A couple of hours on the idyllic white sands and clear blue waters and you forget you’re actually in a bustling city.

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Playa del postiguet

El Barrio is the old town as the historical heart of Alicante. I fell in love with its mediaval streets and stacked Spanish apartments adorned with flowers.

Some old-world charm. ❤

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Barrio de la Santa Cruz

Me personaly liked the baroque city hall made in the 18th century.

Inside there are several remarkable rooms styled from the period of Spain’s Queen Isabel, meeting hall and a chapel in which mass is held.

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City Hall

Throughout the various rooms in the building, visitors can admire interesting works by many spanish authors, suh as Dali.

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Dali’s work  and Cota Zero in the City Hall

Note at the photo, at the building’s main staircase is the so-called Cota cero the reference point from which the altitude of Spain’s various cities is measured in metres above sea level.

The Basilica of Santa Maria was built in Valencian Gothic style between the 14th and 16th centuries over the remains of a former Moorish mosque. It has a beautiful decorated baroque facade, noteworthy among them being an image of the virgin.

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Basilica di Santa Maria
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Inscription on the church wall

The morning after the wedding ceremony, my friends were taking me back to the airport. We passed by next to the mighty rock outcrop of the Peñón de Ifach, the Costa Blanca’s very own mini Gibraltar! It was 4.30 am FYI 🙂

This amazing landmark is home to numerous rare examples of local plant life, 300 different species of animals, and a yearly nest site for many colonies of sea birds…

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Peñón de Ifach
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Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv is the 6th oldest living city in the world and it is the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia dating back to neotlithic settlements 6000 BCE. When Philip II of Macedon, (after which the city was named Philippoppolis) father of Alexander Great conquered it in the 4th century BC, and later came numbers of civilisations like Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks. Finally, in 1878, Plovdiv was liberated from Ottoman rule by the Russian army and it remained within the borders of Bulgaria.

Bulgaria-CIA_WFB_MapBeing situated on 7 fertile hills on the two banks of the Maritsa River, it is often linked to the Roman settlements  as there are numerous famous sites since that times.

This incredibly rich history has given Plovdiv one of the most charming old towns in Eastern Europe, mixing the antic sites with mediaval streets and sacral buildings, recent communist era statues and building and nowadays modern squares and pedestrian roades.

This was my entrance to the city of huge contrasts: for the moment I thought I am passing Dubai. I must admit, the bus driver had a special taste for folk music. -_-

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Entrance to Dubai…

Anyhow,  the ancient myth of Orpheus in the lands of ancient Thrace, is right here in Plovdiv, situated between the Rhodope Mountains (the legendary homeland of Orpheus). Thereby, the Ancient theatre of Philipoppol as one of the best-preserved ancient theatres in the World!

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Roman Amphitheatre of the city of Philippoppolis – as Plovdiv used to be called in the Roman times

The other important ancient site is The Stadium of Trimontium in Plovdiv. It is among the largest structures from the time of the Ancient Rome in the Balkan peninsula. The citizens still nowadays like to gather at the attached Forum / Agora and socialize, as the modern coffee places and bars are incorporated into the site.

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Roman Stadium

As I said, the city was built on 7 hills of Rhodopi mountain. On the one of the hills is nowadays placed the Old town. The complex has been formed as a result of the long sequence of habitation from prehistoric times to present days and combines the architecture from Antiquity, Middle Ages and Bulgarian revival.

1501772_10205418465963567_3549007950600696976_nBehind me, up on the hill is the House of Argir Hristov Kuyumdzhioglu, a merchant from Plovdiv, who built this house in 19 century as a prominent homespun trader who owned a company in Vienna.

The house is mostly made of wood with sophisticated decorations.

After the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878, Argir Kuyumdzhioglu left Plovdiv to settle in Istanbul (Constantinople). The house was converted into a girls’ boarding house.

My favourite part of Plovdiv is the Kapana district! The part of  cty where the craftsmen and rich merchants lived. Kapana means ‘the trap” since once you enter its narrow  and tangeld streets, you get lost easily.

The district was a business-centre for craftsmen 5 centuries ago, so don’t be surprised of street names like Kozhuharska (Leather Str), Zhelezarska (Iron Str) and Zlatarska (Gold Str). Nowadays you will not find traditions craftsmen here but contemporary creative entrepreneurs converting the district into a real art centre and dedicated to creative industries.

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Kapana district

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Speaking about the streets named by craftsmen, I couldn’t not to see the street named after my birth city, also famous by craftsmen and it’s Old town Kaptol.

All little streets are part of the city’s pedestrian zone, so I really enjoyed walking around noticing galleries, workshops, ateliers, studios, cozy restaurants and shops, as well as other art spaces…

Another interesting district was the one with old factories. In 1939 there were 16,000 craftsmen and 17,000 workers in manufacturing factories, mainly for food and tobacco processing. During the Second World War the tobacco industry expanded, mostly led by Jews. It was the time of economic boom.

In 1943 the first deportation of the bulgarian Jews to concentration camps have started, factories are to be shoted down for the war times…

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Old tabacco factory

During the communist times it was in a full speed, producing heavy industrial products, being crowded with busy working class mostly used by the governent.

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Old factoroes district

The district is nowadays is destroyed completely but with the idea to be re-newed again, especially since the Plovdiv is selected as Bulgarian host of European Capital of Culture in 2019.

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Destroyed factory in the district

From that time, the witnesses are many communist monuments and flat buildings with big letters, typical for the architectural style of socialism.

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Communist monuments

Typical example is the post office of the photo below. I learnt, that once stood there a beautiful Bauhaus building…

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Typical communist state building – post office

After the World War II, Bulgaria was deliberated by the Soviet troops, which is perpetuated with the Alyosha Monument – the momument to the unknown soviet soldier that commemorates the arrival of the Soviet troops. It also marks the end of World War II.

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Alyosha Monument – the momument to the unknown soviet soldier that commemorates the arrival of the Soviet troops

The manin street is entirely pedestrian zone with many shops, as the commercial sector is developing quickly in Bulgaria.

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Main street of Plovdiv

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 But what I mostly liked in the main street is the statue of Muljo – the deaf wanderer. 

Apparently, Muljo was a citizen, likeable by the others, but unfortunately dead. The city of Plovdiv, after his death decided to raise the monument dedicated to his social spirit.

10628464_10205418471323701_6406682763307139016_nBulgaria is known by the good wines, as the vineyards around Plovdiv are some of the oldest in the world.

My Bulgarian colleagues have brought me  to a very specific and  traditional place where we stayed long in the night.

 

cathedrals 11

Thεsαlonikki, Pεllα αnd Chαlkidonα, Grεεcε

Thessaloniki is Greece’s Hippest City! It has some of the most beautiful beaches and has some of the finest hotels and best restaurants in northern Greece. 

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The region is called Central Macedonia, claiming the right to posess the FYR of Macedonia (calling it just the Northern Macedonian region) as it use to be entire ly greek region and not recognizing it today as a state.

Following this, upon my arrival, I noticed the title ‘macedonian’ on every institution,  building, statue, bus, etc liaising it with the greek flag. For example, the central station!

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Obligatory inscriptions and names of all stations, cafes and restaurants with the name Macedonia

One of the main disputes is the historical figure is  Alexandar the Great also known as Alexander III of Macedon, but the name is less used for the political correctness of the both countries. Alexander was s born in Pella in 356 BC. As for years ruling on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world by the age of thirty, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.

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Statue of Alexander the Great, 4th century BCE

Pella today, is just the archeological site of the ancient greek city being a huge port and trade center before Thessaloniki erosed. It was occupied by the Romans and re-discovered in 19th century again by the group of scientists  searching for the birth place of Alexander the Great based on the descriptions provided by Titus Livius (roman historian).

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Pella – archeological site, the birthplace of Alexander the Great

Thesalonikki is one of my places I felt great energy but in the same time felt the city is a bit dirty. Could be because of so many graffiti’s left from the Greek crisis that time just a few months ago. Anyhow, the city is full of gypsy children begging for the money. As I was approached by a 3 years old cute ragamuffin, I realised he speaks serbian and that I can understand him as a croatian girl. I saw him and his brother were playing mini accoardian. So I told them to sing me a song, which they did and of course asked the money. I gave them a coin of 2 EUR thinking they ill split it, but actually do oldest brother took and ran away, left the younger one crying. Damn!

What now? I had only banknotes so I told him to follow me to the bakery that was just opposite of us in order to buy him a nice pastry. – No! He wants money.

Usually, I wouldn’t do it, but as I gave unpurposley the coin to his older tricky and astute brother, I didn’t want the younger one to feel like he did not deserve. Even more he was playing the accordian and every work should be payed in the market, right?

Right, he got 5 eur banknote from me.

Never, ever.

But I caught him later enjoying his childhood. I hope he is not forced to beg in the street. I really do.

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My little gypsy ragamuffin ❤

The streets of Thesalonikki are full of different bars and everything is so vivid. The main street leads to the Aristotelous square which is actually at the sea side.

From there, the wide streets will take you to Rotunda – the seat of Roman Emperor Gayus Augustus built in 3rd century. The Rotunda is an impressively stout building which has been a Roman temple, a Christian house of worship and a mosque in its time, as well as surviving several earthquakes with its beautiful mosaics and 30m-high dome intact.

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Rotunda – the seat of the roman emperors

The next attraction I visited was the Little Haga Sofia. The church from 8th based on the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey).  In 1205, when the Fourth Crusade captured the city, the Hagia Sophia was converted into the cathedral of Thessaloniki, which it remained after the city was returned to the Byzantine Empire in 1246. After the capture of Thessaloniki by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II in 1430, the church was converted into a mosque.  It was reconverted to a church upon the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912 in the Balkan Wars about which I will speak later here.

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Haga Sophia, church from 8th century
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Inner frescoes of the Haga Sophia

The city is surrounded by the walls dating from 4th century and upgraded during the Middle Ages and until the late 19th century, when large parts of the walls, including the entire seaward section, were demolished as part of the Ottoman authorities’ restructuring of Thessaloniki’s urban fabric. The main and most famous remained part is the White Tower.

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The White Tower of Thesalonikki

Then of course, whart is the city without the market? I scrolled down the two most famous: Modiano and Kapani markets. 

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Modiano market

The most beautiful part with many bars and restauurants, walking andd cycling paths and entire line of massive hotels with beautiful balconies is when you slide down to the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean sea. When the sky is clear the enormous Mount Olympus, home of the ancient Greek gods, can be seen. Also, there are beautiful sandy beaches below.

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Aegean sea and the Olympus Mountain

I have visited the Museum of Balkan wars in Chalkidona, as well. The villa was used as a headquarters during the wars.  All the furniture in the museum is authentic and has been supplemented by furniture which the army had previously kept in storage.

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Museum of the Balkan wars

The exhibits consist of photographs, military uniforms and decorations awarded by the Greek, Turkish, and Bulgarian armies (a display of medals) of the wars of 1912-13. Particularly important military decoration is an extremely rare Bulgarian medal depicting the heads of the four kings of the Balkan states, symbolising the short-lived alliance against the Ottoman Empire.

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Museum collection of medals, litography and guns

 

Books 14

The Constant Princess

Throughout my life I am constantly reading about the history of women, their position in society, and the struggle for power. The more I read about them as the background rulers in a particularly male world, the more inspiration I find, the more I identify myself.

The last in the series (from the Book of Wars of the Cousins, ie War of the Roses) is Catherine of Aragon – the first woman of King Henry VIII, daughter of Isabelle Castillas and Ferdinand Aragon, who for the first time united Spain, and the mother of the Scottish Queen, Bloody Mary.

Her rise to english throne starts as a wife of older brother of Henry VIII. Catherine was three years old when she was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the English throne. They married in 1501, but Arthur died five months later and she married Henry the VIII who later will separate from Vatican church and establich English Church in order to gain Ann Boleyn.

In 1507, Catherine of Aragon held the position of ambassador of the Aragonese Crown in England, the first female ambassador in European history!

Her and Henry’s  daughter,  was the future Mary I of England.

Regardless of her warlike spirit, she was not Henrik’s true love…

 

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Lens, France and EURO 2016

map_worldcupLast year I went to see football match Croatia vs Portugal in quarter finals at Euro 2016 in Lens, France. Small city on the north – east of France, close to Lille.

The city is not so big at all, but it became famous as the French built the football stadium which can accommodate more fans than the city holds the inhabitants. 🙂  Crazy, right?

The stadium is called oficially The Stade Bollaert-Delelis built in 1933 and renovated for the 2016 European Championships.

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Stade Bollaert-Delelis

Upon our arrival, the atmosphere was great! I was holding my Croatian flag and strumbling upon the city with other football fans, singing songs and trembling before the match.

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The atmosphere of the EURO 2016

Croatia lost the game, sadly as we had a good team. Portugal won the entire championship by not scoring any of the mathes in first 90 mins of the match. Football is a random lottery game sometimes, and CR7 just a vanity.

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But let’s move forward.

We had lunch in the center and some local beer at the tavern La Mi-Temps.

The city has one main pedestrian street which leeds to a main square and the church.

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Main square in Lens
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Wallonia: Liege, Mons, Namur, Dinant – down the Meuse river valley

bf8d639dd89557666529b73e68af8b6cWhat I am mostly surprised of this region of Belgium, is its nature. The heavily forested Ardennes massif occupies the southeast of the Walloon region. Mostly cliffs, forests, river Meuse and many streams. The legend said Hitler will never manage to break through the Ardennes and take over Belgium and later Netherlands. Happens to be the guy invented tenks.

Anyhow, this topographic peculiarity gave the region its name, Wallonie being in the Walloon tongue the ‘land of the valleys’ (vallons). It is a common misconception to think that the region’s name derives from Walha, the ancient Germanic word for ‘strangers’ or ‘non-Germanic people’, after which Wales and Wallachia were named.

As a pat of Kingdom of Belgium,  the economic inequalities and linguistic divide between Wallonie and Flanders are major sources of political conflict in Belgium and a major factor in Flemish separatism.

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This is Wallonia’s largest city. It is one of the longest continuous history of any Belgian cities and some fine examples of 17th- and 18th-century Mosan architecture. It is a vibrant and friendly city known in French as the Citée ardente, due to the warmth and enthusiasm of the local folk.

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The City Hall

As Birthplace of Charlemagne, the place has the present cathedral of Liège which was originally one among the seven collegiate churches of the city built in the times of merovinian dynasty. Today it is called St. Lambert’s Cathedral.

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St. Lambert’s Cathedral

Mons

Mons got its name from Latin “montes“, meaning “mount”, from the geographical feature where it stands, although it is really just a hill. 🙂

At the heart of the city is a beautiful Grand Place with buildings originally built in 1530 in the Gothic style of wealthy local families. Ofcourse, there is a Town Hall (so called “House of Peace”) and the Belfry.

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Grand Place in Mons with the Town Hall and Belfry

mons monkeyOutside the main entrance of City Hall is a small iron statue of a monkey. Its origin is not really known, but it is for sure some centuries old. Some historians claim it was placed there in order to bring luck to the city and its inhabitants. Today, the tradition is that when you visit Mons, you should touch the monkey’s head with left hand and make a wish.

So I did 🙂 So far good…

The Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church is one of the most characteristic churches and most homogeneous of Brabantine Gothic architecture (Brabant is the region of Wallonie).

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Namur

Then my favourite Namur and Dinant! 🙂

Standing at the Meuse river, the town began as an important trading settlement in Celtic times, straddling east-west and north-south trade routes across the Ardennes.

The Romans established a presence after Julius Caesar defeated the local Aduatuci tribe.

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Museum of the Celtic culture
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The tap dating the times of the Celts

Namur came to prominence during the early Middle Ages when the Merovingians built a castle or citadel on the rocky spur overlooking the town at the confluence of the two rivers. When the Dutch gained the right to garrison Namur, although the subsequent Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 gave control of Namur to the then called Spanish Netherlands , the citadel was in the hands of the Austrian House of Habsburg. Note the strategic importance of the citadell, which was later recognized by Napoleon, too.

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The view on the city from the citadel and Pont de Jambes – the oldest bridge in Namur

Middle Ages were also the most interesting time for Namur. It was economically rich and developed, at the crossroads of the German Hansestadts and France.

It was the city of handcrafts, especially the goldsmiths’ work and glass work are valuable and unique to see in the local museum.

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Butchery from 12th century
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Lively 17th century Namur: cabaret!

Dinant

From Namur, I took the train to Dinant! 🙂

The train was passing by beautiful  Ardennes, marked with river Meuse, green forest and high and sharp cliffs. There is a legend about the four nephews of Charlemagne  riding a horse named Reynard, passing by the Ardennes and separating magically the cliff to go through. It is how the valley of Dinant became (he name of the city comes from celtic ”Sacred Valley” or “Divine Valley” ). 

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A cliff that was separated by one of four sons of Wallonie (nephew of King Charles the Great – Charlemagne)

The city is rather small but pictoresque. The main square is Place Reine Astrid, just at the foot of the citadel hill. People climb usually at the top of the citadel with the funicular, and enjoy the view from the restaurant. Below is the collegiate Church of Notre-Dame. 

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Citadel and the Church of Notre Dame

Just opposite the church stands the Meuse bridge. It is a beautiful early Gothic building from the 13th century on which are placed colorful saxophons in the colors of the flags od EU member states. Why saxophones?

Well, the inventor of saxophone – Mr Adolph Sax was born in Dinant. 🙂

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Adolphe Sax – the inventor of saxophone comes from Dinant

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Maastricht, Netherlands

NLMAP_000Upon my arrival to this small city in the southeast of Netherlands, located on both sides of the Meuse river, I could have not notice so many bikes parked along the the train station building. 🙂 Afer all, it is a Dutch city!

There is some debate as to whether Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands. However, Maastricht has become known, by way of the Maastricht Treaty, as the birthplace of the European Union, European citizenship, and the single European currency, the euro.

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Typicall Dutch!

The city’s name has meaning ‘crossing at the Meuse.’ The place started as the Celts then Roman settlement,  continuing as part of the heartland of the Carolingian Empire along with Aachen and the area around Liège, Belgium.

Around 570, the first stone church was built on the grave of Servatius, the present-day Basilica of Saint Servatius – an armenian missionary, today patron of Maastricht.

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River Meuse
St Servas Bridge
Bridge St Barvis

The Basilica of Saint Servatius is a gothic church with a severe religious significance of the city.  The most depicting is south portal’s late Romanesque sculptures for the early development of Gothic sculpture in France.

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St John’s church (left) and St Servaas church (right)

As the day was grey with not many people in the streets, I got lower vibes of the city. But I was recognizing the beauty of the facades here and there… Streets can tell the story by itself, if you manage to read them prperly and give a time to observe them…

One of the attractions is the the old mill, which was built in the 17th century by Franciscan, and now used for making bread. The oven is part of the facility. As you can see on the photo below, everything is made of wood and well preserved.

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The mill dating from 17th century

Home page 25

Flanders: Brugge, Gent, Antwerpen, Leuven, Oostende

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Upon my arrival to Brussels, I started to explore Belgium by visiting other cities. Everyone’s recommendation is always the Flanders and the most popular tourist place Brugge. Although, later I will discover the south of Belgium, Valonie. 🙂

Flanders is a Dutch speaking part of Belgium, at the north of the country with important place in European history. During the late Middle Ages, cities such as Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, having great both domestic import and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy. Flanders was one of the centres of the 19th century industrial revolution too.

Along such developed commerce and business, the society was famous by its own renaissance of the north. Painters like Pieter Bruegel, Jan Van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens are the founding fathers of Flemish art.

Belgium is a beer-lover’s paradise. And that’s not just its proud inhabitants talking. Even UNESCO recognised its reputation for specialty beers, ever since the Middle Ages. Up to this day the enormous quality is met by an unmatched quantity: there are more than 1.500 original Belgian beers. That includes, among others, Belgian ales, raspberry or cherry beer, wheat beer, Flanders ‘Old’ red and brown, Abbey beer, lambic, gueuze and – the grandest of them all – Trappist.

Belgium has even it’s own pipeline that brings the beer directly from the brevery directly to the beerhouse. The pipeline is 2,000 m long and goues mostly under the city of Brugges.

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Brugge

Brugge is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town’s identity.

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Old Town Hall Exterior
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Facade of City Halle

As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Brugge developed cultural links to different parts of the world. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting. The Flemmish (Dutch) painting renaissance (of the north) was carried by the painters like Jan van Eyck.

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Statue of Jan van Eyck, 14 century Flemmish painter

Jan van Eyck was a respectful artist of his time, leading the entire new wave of the paint art in the north of Europe. His most famous paint ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’ is complex double portrait oil painting, depicting the Italian merchant and his wige at their home in Brugge. Because of complex iconography and detailed picture space, it is considered the most complex paintig of the western art. The most interesting detail is the reflection of the painter in the convex mirror on the painting. The paint can be found in Nationall Gallery in London.

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For five centuries, the Waterhalle was a part of the market in Brugge. It was one of the seven wonders of the city with its magnificent covered harbour. The city itself is a place of channals through which the boats were navigating by bringing the groceries and other trades. It was a time of the Golden Ages of Brugge (12 – 15 century) as being part of Hanseatic League, shaping new forms of merchant capitalism.

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Canals of Brugge
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Canals and housing storages

The local river made many chanals, however, a storm in 12th century re-established the access to the North sea, creating a natural channel called Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to newly called Zeebrugge, and city soon became the commercial outpost for Bruges. Today, tourist can wals around the long sandbar of the port and have a great lunch with the view on the North Sea.

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Restaurant at Zeebrugge
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Sandbar walk at Zeebrugge

A magnificent medieval church from 13th century adorns the city, with the altarpiece of the large chapel of the most celebrated art treasure of the church—a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo, 16th century. The sculpture was meant originally for Siena Cathedral, but it was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, and in 16th century donated to Brugge.

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Church of Pur Lady, Brugge

In the choir of the church there can also be find the splendid tombs of Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Maria of Burgundy who died. A she was born in Brussels, she united house of Bourbon with Burgundie dutchy and reigning the Flanders upon her death at age of 25 falling from her horse. She married  in Ghent an austrian archduke, future Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, uniting her house with the House of Habsburgs.

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The final rest of Maria of Burgundy

Ghent

Ghent’s wealth in the early medieval period was thanks to the import and export of wheat, and the manufacture of luxury woollen cloth. Much of the city’s medieval architecture remained intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored.

The most important cityscape’s are the Belfry and the St Bavo’s Cathedral, a rococco buildings of the 15th century.

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St Bavo’s cathedral
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Belfry of Ghent

Today, Ghent is an important university city of Belgium as an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town.

Antwerpen

According to the legend, there was a big giant Antigoon that lived in the river Scheldt and tolled the local fishermen and boatmen. Those who refused to pay, he would soak and kill. But a young hero killed the giant cutting off his hands and flung them into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen, meaning ‘to throw hands.’ 

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Statue of Brabo and Antigoon at main square
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Antwerpen has a beautiful Cathedral of our Lady, same as Brugge, dating from 14th century. It houses triptychs by Baroque painter Rubens. The building was builded on a site of a small church from 9th century, in a gothic style and never been completed.

Later, in 16th century, when Antwerp came under the Protestant Administration, many of its works of art have been destroyed, demolished, removed or sold.

The most famous peace of art is The Raising of the cross, by local glorious paintor Peter Paul Rubens. It is a tryptich painting, masterpiece of the mentioned flemmish art, clearly being influenced by italian renaissance.

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Elevation of the Christ, by P. P. Rubens
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The Statue of the painter Rubens  and the Cathedral of Our Lady behind

Rubens was born nearby Antwerp in 17th century, as a so of reformation’s family (calvinists). He is most notable artist of Flemish Baroque art school. A year after marrying, he designed his house, an Italian-style villa (after spending sme years in Italy doing apprenticeship) in Antwerpen, called Rubenshuis, with beautiful interior courtyard and gardens behind the house.

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In front of Rubenshuis
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Courtyard and garden of Rubenshuis

Antwer is also a famous shopping city of Belgium, fashion place and The World’s Capital of Diamonds, as around 80% of the world’s rough diamonds, and 50% of its cut diamonds are traded in Antwerp each year.

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It is a huge port of Europe since it area is 50 miles inland. As a result, the port of Antwerp has become one of Europe’s second largest sea port by total freight shipped.

Located on both sides of the Scheldt River, the city of Antwerp is connected by three tunnels under the river. The Kennedy Tunnel was opened to road traffic in 1969, and was named after John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States.

The massive Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central) is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations, opened in 1905 – the times of Belgian Art Nouveau.

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Antwerp Central Station

Leuven

Dynamic and thriving city, most famous by its university: the oldest Catholic University in the world, founded in 1425. The historic centre is one of the most beautiful in Belgium.

The most famous citymark is gothic City Hall on the main square.

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City Hall of Leuven

Oostende

Then this city, probably my favourite as it is at the seaside, having long riviera, trying to capture my mood and remind me on the Mediterranean.

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Details on a facade of the house in Oostende

It is a coastal city on the North Seam in the history being constatntly taken by different invadors (French, English, Dutch, then later Flemmish, German…)

Especially during July and August, Ostend is famous for its sea-side esplanade, including the Royal Galleries of Ostend, pier, and fine-sand beaches. Ofcourse, some great sea food is well offered as well. 🙂

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Long sand beach of Oostende, Belgium – ending in eastern France

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Home page 15

Les Traboules de Lyon, France

RSecrets are always fun, aren’t they? Well, I found the second biggest french city very mysterious. Between courtyards and through buildings, there are many secret alleyways and staircases once provided safe and efficient passage for silk workers to get their wares to and from market unmarred. Now partially open to the public, many of the traboules worm through several buildings forming a secret continuous covered passageway and showing the courtyard of beautiful renaissance houses of Lyon.

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Typical merchant’s house from 15th century

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Courtyard of the renaissance house in Lyon

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Romantic corners of historic Lyon

The word traboule comes from the Latin trans ambulare, meaning ‘to cross’. Once inside, every traboule is different, but ist is worth to see some of them and imagine the history of its times. Charming! 🙂

Especially famous is Rue de Boeuf (beef street) as it used to be a long market area, vivid and dynamic.

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Traboules at Rue de Boeuf

The Croix-Rousse district of Lyon was the heart of the 19th century silk trade and some porculain too.

The city is enclosed by two rivers: Rhône and Saône, creating the peninsula of the city or “Presqu’île“, where the city settled at first. This district is called Vieux Lyon – the original mediaeval city. I was impressed! 🙂

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Vieux Lyon, old streets of renaissance

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Renaissance galleries in the streets of Vieux Lyon

The historical centre is also the best place to eat local food. There are many small squares with typical bouchons (small lyonnaise restaurants) offering you a small folding table with carved rustic tablecloth and a romantic flower on it.

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Bouchon – typical restaurant in Lyon

Lyon has a long and chronicled culinary arts tradition. On the menu are mostly offals as local specialty (not my favourite choose), like chicken liver or rinced meat and rinced pork heart in porks bowel. The dish is called ”mâchons,” as it was cooked for workers who ate a late-morning meal after they finished their shifts in the factories. A very well – known red wine comes to this from the valley of Rhone, Côtes du Rhône.

Usually, the aristocracy of later ages (18 century onwards) was living in big bourgeois houses with classical facades.

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Vast Lyon old apartments

The main square Bellecour can be approached by Lafayette bridge. In the late 12th century, the archbishop of Lyon had a vineyard there called Bella curtis (Beau jardin in French or Beautiful garden in English). The statue of Louis XIV adorns the square.

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King Louis XIV, Place Belle Cour

Notice the huge basilica on the Fourvière hill! It took me more then 300 steps and half an hour time through the Rosemary path while climbing up to see this 19 century Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. 

The basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to whom is attributed the salvation of the city of Lyon from the bubonic plague, the Black Death, that swept Europe in 1643. The Virgin is also credited with saving the city a number of other times, such as from a Cholera epidemic in 1832, and from Prussian invasion in 1870.

Anyhow, I believe it s the most beautiful church I have seen from the inside, or at least comparable to the St John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta.

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Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

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Main portal of basilica

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Draws from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture

From the hill stretches beaautiful view on the city of Lyon, its rivers and far far away can be seen Alps as well.

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View from Fourvière hill

The second important church is actually the Cathedrale St- Jean – Baptiste. The cathedral was founded by Saint Pothinus and Saint Irenaeus, the first two bishops of Lyon who are now saints patrons of the city. Firts construction started in 11th century.

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Lyon Cathedral of St John Baptiste

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Interior of the Cathedral – John’s Gospel

The cathedral also has the Astronomical Clock from the 14th century, which is the oldest in France and one of the oldest in the World. The clock indicates hours, minutes, dates, position of the Sun and the Moon relative to the Earth and also rising of the brightest stars above Lyons. The clock’s chime is accompanied by movements of figures situated in the upper part of the clock depicting scenes on religious themes.

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Astronomical Clock from the 14th century

As I was walking down the promenade of the river Rhône, the sun was strolling down the river too, reflecting its rays of the water. There were bar-boats parked next to the jogging pathway with relaxed music on and people having cocktails.

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Promenade of Rhône

I ended up to the Croix-Rousse district where the industrial revolution of 19th century was happening. There were many inventions and movements happening. Brothers’ Lumiere invented the first motioned picture, starting to manufacture the cinematograpy… Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote his short novel Little Prince… and all that and more is commemorated in great murals of this district, capturing the spirit of the epoche…

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Famous Lyonnaise people