Skip to content

Month: January 2018

Castle 33

Warsaw, Poland

Great, big, diplomatic, historic, curteous, quite and calm Warsaw. But then comes the night and you start with vodka and end up calling your ex in some Budda club at 2 am.

It all started by my friend’s invitation to Warsaw. I arrived around 22:00 and first thing I saw was the Palace of Culture and Science. Stalin’s gift to the Poles and the building where the Warsaw Pact was signed, in 1955.

12647259_10208777459136297_2907293821530000751_n
Palace of Culture and Science

That same night she told me we will go out with more people. We started with normal fine polish biers, until someone ordered vodka. She told me that the habit is not to leave the table before the entire bottle is finished. It was a blast.

 

 

 

The rest of the week was cultural uplift and foodies. Like this great onion soup discovery in the plate made of bread.

12645003_10208777461416354_3145415249253685743_n

On my way to the Warsaw Uprising Museum I spotted the memorial panel to one of all time politicians: Lech Kaczyński – who served as the Mayor of Warsaw (2002- 2005) and as the President of Poland (2005 – 2010). 12644929_10208777459736312_4896329756414490126_nHe was the identical twin brother of the former Prime Minister of Poland  Jarosław. He died hin 2010 in the crash of a Polish Air Force jet together with more than 96 state officials, politicians like the  the mentioned President of Poland Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria, the former President of Poland in exile, the chief of the Polish General Staff and other senior Polish military officers, the president of the National Bank of Poland, Polish Government officials, 18 members of the Polish Parliament, senior members of the Polish clergy etc. The crash accident is shrouded in conspiracy theory.

Lech is famous by banning the Warsaw gay pride parade twice in 2004 and again in 2005, locally known as the Parada Równości (the Equality Parade), stating that the application of the parade organizers had not been properly filed, and also that he did not respect homosexuals’ right to demonstrate, “I respect your right to demonstrate as citizens. But not as homosexuals.”

So now about the Uprising Museum dedicated to the  Warsaw Uprising of 1944 during the WW2.

12654160_10208777460496331_870636759421911955_n

The museum shows possessions of the Polish Underground State during World War II made of mostly local Warsaw Jews. It collects and maintains hundreds of artifacts — ranging from weapons used by the insurgents to love letters — to present a full picture of the people involved.

The museum’s stated goals include the creation of an archive of historical information on the uprising and the recording of the stories and memories of living participants.

Most of the ruins and passes between buildings have been used by children as they were small enough to go through and bring useful information or small food supplies.

 

 

The Uprising was resistant, the nazi occupation as well. By that, the Allies (Russia and UK) standing alongside watching the battle and waiting the moment to enter triumphantly in the city, claiming the victory which was so obviously won by the insurgents.

The schocking moment was at the end of museum where was a big poster of Jesus Christ thanking God for winning the WW2 and always protecting Polish people. -_- So sad they don’t recognize the irony.

21513_10208777461616359_7586095150911307077_n
One of the heros of Warsaw Uprising, the nurse Mewa

Memorial to the Mothers of the Warsaw Uprising. The anchor and the letter P are the resistance symbol.
Monument to warriors Warszaw

12654114_10208780549333550_8928278848723660585_n
Memorial to the Mothers of the Warsaw Uprising. The anchor and the letter P at the top are the symbol of resistance 

Continuing my way exploring Warsaw, this building appeared: Technical University. It is a typical Warsaw massive building builded in secession.

12651237_10208777460216324_8314046493375598421_n
Warsaw University of Technology

As I was still stuck in history, I decided to sit for a coffee in a place from pre- WW2 era. Everything there is just like in the 30’s. The piano, old radio, chandelliers, walls…

12687967_10208777461136347_4092682173599356233_n
Coffee place from Warsaw 30’s

Now about streets in Warsaw. Each of them tells the story, like Želazna street from the jewish ghetto, or the Street of John Paul II – the first pope non-italian pope coming from Poland.

 

Then some photos from the streets: the tram and the view towards the financial ditrict:

 

It was on my way to Pawiak museum, a former prison that during the January 1863 Uprising  served as a transfer camp for Poles sentenced by Imperial Russia to deportation to Siberia.

1024px-Makieta_Pawiak_05
Model of destroyed Pawiak museum

During the World War II German occupation of Poland, it became part of the Nazi concentration-death camp apparatus in Warsaw. In 1944 it was destroyed by the Germans to hide their traces.

800px-Pawiak_20080720_05
Ruins of the entrance to Pawiak prison
Pawiak_drzewo
Memorial tree

Travelling the world and visiting many museums, I can say I have visited so far around 10 jewish museums and they are always the most expensive ones with the most expensive entrance fee. The last one I visited was Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. And probably will stay like this for long time. With all due respect.

12688335_10208777463536407_7835979814137961929_n
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Museum is on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The Hebrew word Polin means either “Poland” or “rest here” and is related to a legend on the arrival of the first Jews in Poland.

Inside of it you can find features of multimedia narrative exhibitions about the living Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust. It was definitely educational to see how Jewish community lived in Middle Ages surviving by growing their crafts, trades, banks and businesses.

133978
On the Jewish street – reconstruction of Warsaw Ghetto

photo3

POLIN_WalkingCE
Reconstructed vault and bimah

Now about the city center and the city square  a total mediaval history here 🙂 My favourites!

Plac Zamkowy is the name of the main square and it literally means castle square as there is the Royal Castle – the former official residence of Polish monarchs.

castle-square-plac-zamkowy (1)
Plac Zamkowy and Sigismund’s Column
12651177_10208780550733585_9178322931980953640_n
Historic townhouses at Plac Zamkowy

The Square features the landmark Sigismund’s Column to the south-west, and is surrounded by historic townhouses. It marks the beginning of the bustling Royal Route extending to the south.

This square has witnessed many dramatic scenes in Polish history. Patriotic demonstrations took place there during the period before the outbreak of the January Uprising of 1863 against Imperial Russia and its brutality over Polish people, as during that time the bloody massacre was carried out, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

During martial law (refers to the 1980’s when the authoritarian communist government of the People’s Republic of Poland drastically restricted normal life) the square became the scene of the particularly brutal riot, with ZOMO police.

Going through Warsaw Old Town – my friend joined me from work and we had a great time exploring even though it was called and windy.

12662459_10208780552373626_1265215609065773249_n
Rynek Staro Miesto

12647099_10208780553093644_5758837903014693218_n

12644972_10208780555893714_5019233771967061663_n (1)

A symbol of Warsaw represented on the city’s coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery is Mermaid of Warsaw. Actually, more properly woud be a fresh-water mermaid called melusina. The story about it is similar with some European cities especially Luxembourg city.

220px-POL_Warszawa_COA.svg

 The legend says the mermaid was swimming in the river Vistula when she stopped on a riverbank near the Old Town to rest. Liking it, she decided to stay. Local fishermen noticed that something was creating waves, tangling nets, and releasing their fish. They planned to trap the offender, but fell in love with her upon hearing her singing. Later, a rich merchant trapped the mermaid and imprisoned her. Hearing her cries, the fishermen rescued her, and ever since, the mermaid, armed with a sword and a shield, has been ready to help protect the city and its residents.

 

 

 

12644730_10208780552093619_4751081393139371581_n
The mermaid in the centre of Warsaw’s Old Town

The heart of the Old town area is the Old Town Market Place, rich in restaurants, cafés and shops. Surrounding streets feature medieval architecture such as the city walls, the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral.

We treated ourselves properly 🙂

12642670_10208780553573656_597385274089558301_n
Pierogi 🙂 Polish national dish stuffed with sour cherries and beer Tyskie

Poland is well – known by amber. Since my mother was born in the months of this gemstone, I decided to treat her with one.

12688242_10208780551333600_8201679524131130749_n (1)
Polish amber

Warsaw is also a birthplace of Nikola Kopernik –  a Renaissance- and Reformation-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. What a times in mediava l Warsaw!

Thereby the Copernicus Science Centre is placed there too.

12642490_10208780558653783_4637922771163789887_n (1)
Academy of Sciences and Copernicus Monument

But the real hero of there is Fryderyk Chopin – haolding the airport’s name, the church , statue and a museum.

fryderyk chopin fotografia_6023200He was a polish composer and and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He lived in 19th century and died in Paris. But before his dead he said some parts of his shoud rest in his lovely Warsaw. Today, his heart is placed in Holy Cross Church. 

So what happened exactly?

During his final days, famed Polish composer, with fawning Parisian women fainting all around him, he made the gruesome request that his heart be taken from his corpse and sent back to his home country, knowing full well that his body would never leave Paris.

W1siZiIsInVwbG9hZHMvcGxhY2VfaW1hZ2VzLzUzMGFlYzUyMzg3NTljMzIwNF81NzgyMDA2NDg3XzlmYWZjZWM5MjJfYi5qcGciXSxbInAiLCJ0aHVtYiIsIjk4MHg-Il0sWyJwIiwiY29udmVydCIsIi1xdWFsaXR5IDgxIC1hdXRvLW9yaWVudC
The Church in which Chopin’s heart is held after he died in Paris at the age of 39

We visited the Fryderyk Chopin Museum too where you can find out more about his burning life episodes and items like his piano etc.

12662420_10208787499867309_775337828432708492_n
Chopin’s piano

On the way back we visited the place of the first Chopin performance, at age 8. Nowaday is marked with sitting benches performing his songs.

12647245_10208780559773811_3267638912608110480_n
Place of Chopin’s first performance,  he was 8 only

And what is world without women? Marie Curie was also Polish but naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

12715208_10208799229400540_806187443981849743_n
Statue of Marie Curie ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

cathedrals 25

Vatican city

Visiting Rome, inevitable is Vatican city. Having in mind my grandfather who visited Rome and Vatican 35 years ago and always telling me stories, I was walking down the Via Leone IV. He never managed to re-visit with me, but we went other italina cities like Venice and Verona.

I started with Vatican Museum, full of gold and other presents from countries given to popes through centuries. The Vatican Museums is a maze of painted halls where all these gifts are placed for tourists.

These Christian and art museums display works from the immense collection amassed by Popes (Pontifex Maximus – lat. the great bridge) throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display.

12802858_10209027327222843_1008177786522844212_n
Art Gallery

Like these tapistries… also mentioned as a key in the Imprimatur book about pope and political games of the times.

12799023_10209027327382847_7554371473730696345_n
Gallery with tapestries

12805842_10209027327742856_3051684523688908192_n

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. So I started from the beginning whcih is the gallery with gifts in animal shapes:

12801117_10209027325182792_2183880990559835276_n

Or the room with atlases and globes, especially important and significant gifts of the times since the church was not accepting the scientific proofs of gravitation or Earth being round globe – these were the times of inquisition too, when church was spreading its ideology through the world literally holding the Bible in one hand and the sward in another. Just remeber the witch hunts and how many women were burned in the name of some witchcrafting….

12801427_10209027325862809_5046400781680163383_n

One of the most important works of art is the statue of Laocoön and His Sons ancient sculpture ever since, excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican. The work of art is showing the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by sea serpents (biblical allegory).

It is kind of the prototypical icon of human agony in Western art, and unlike the agony often depicted in Christian art like the Passion of Jesus, this suffering has no redemptive power or reward. For example, the faces shown are actually not in agony at all: Charles Darwin pointed out that Laocoön’s bulging eyebrows are physiologically impossible because they are not matched with the struggling body.

12802990_10209027325302795_1746090304081028984_n
Laocont with his sons in a fatal battle with the snake

Of course, it is possible to leave the gallerie and sit outside for a coffee on the terraces or beautiful gardens.

12814049_10209027328182867_5208438897537207991_n12809562_10209027325542801_6178458190804657241_n

Wandering the maze of Vatican chambers I had on my mind one controversial pope about who I read so many historical novel books:  Pope Aleksander VI and his illegitimate son Cesare Borgia (15th century) – politician, and cardinal, whose fight for power was a major inspiration for The Prince by Machiavelli. He was the brother of beautiful Lucrezia Borgia; who has been used by their father for many political marriages in order to expand the Papal states.

So I bumped into this and my jar fell off:

12794518_10209027334503025_2074322082401703760_n
The chamber of  controversial Pope C Alexander VI

In case you are interested more about the story of this controversial and power hungry family, there is a TV show called Borghia:

cesare_and_lucrezia_borgia_by_eden16-d50bv3b
Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia

Moving to the reality, fun fact discovered is this antene which is actually a very strong radio transmitter from the Vatican, so the other radio stations are complaining about disturbances in transmissions.

12814437_10209027325062789_3843138033029128765_n

After the galleris, my tour continued towards the Sistine Chapel famous by ceiling decorated by Michelangelo.  The chapel is the location for papal conclaves and many other important services.

Sistine-Chapel-Frescoes-Michaelangelo-4

The ceiling’s various painted elements form part of a larger scheme of Bible and it’s scenes from Old and New Testament building the story of Christianity, which includes the large fresco The Last Judgment on the sanctuary wall, also by Michelangelo, wall paintings by several leading painters of the late 15th century including Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino,  the whole illustrating much of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

700px-Sistine_Chapel_ceiling_diagram_overlay_composite
Plan of the pictorial elements of the ceiling showing the division of the narrative scenes into three parts themes

Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis of which The Creation of Adam is the best known, having an iconic standing the hand of God and Adam being reproduced in countless imitations.

michelangelo-creation-of-adam
Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

When being in Vatican, one symbol gets repetative at the entrances, walls, ceilings… crossed keys that represent the metaphorical keys of the office of Saint Peter, the keys of heaven, or the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, that, according to Roman Catholic teaching, Jesus promised to Saint Peter, empowering him to take binding actions. It is said that the pope is actually the predecessor of Saint Peter who is the first pope – the predecessor of Jesus Christ.

vatican-019

sveit0485s
Keys of Heaven, Vatican Museums

From the birds perspective, even the shape of Vatican Building has the form of the key:

aerial vatican

It is said that Vatican hides some of the darkest secrets one can imagine.

Hence the inspiration for the book of Dan Brown: Inferno.

 

 

In continuation of symbolism and myths, the Pontifical Swiss Guard or also Papal Swiss Guard is offcial security force  maintained by the Holy See that is responsible for the safety of the Pope, including the security of the Apostolic Palace.

Minolta DSC
Papal Swiss Guard

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its origins in the 15th century. Pope Sixtus IV (15th century) had already made an alliance with the Swiss Confederacy and built barracks in Via Pellegrino after foreseeing the possibility of recruiting Swiss mercenaries.

The best I kept for the end: Basilica of St. Peter. It is an Italian Renaissance church (designed partially by Michelangelo as well), the largest church in the world and the papal enclave.

The construction of basilica started in 4th century. Looking at the building you can spot 12 statues of apostoles on top. The statues of Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right) are flanking the entrance stairs.

800px-0_Place_Saint-Pierre_-_Vatican
Basilica and St Peter’s Square
tour_img-308518-148
Basilica and St Peter’s Square

Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, one of Jesus’s Apostles and also the first Pope (as mentioned above). Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica.

12806243_10209027263821258_7404010103615940483_n

I was actually very lucky visiting Vatican during the Jubilee of Mercy – which means every piglrim entering basilica’s Holy Door washed its sins.

It is actually a a Roman Catholic period of prayer seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12790860_10209027290461924_7654247872618501803_n
Holy Door – entrance to St Peter’s Basilica

The entrance and interior are the most stunning thing I have seen. Covered in marble and combined with the day lights makes an extremely atmosphere of holiness.

WalkinginsideStPetersBasilica (1)

web-st-peters-basilica-detail-interior-at004-shutterstock-12
Altar of St Peter’s Basilica

The remarkable work of art is Pieta – a work of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo (16th century). It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed. This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion – an important work as it balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with naturalism.

basilique-saint-pierre
Pieta by Michelangelo

I also liked this reenactment of Saint Peter holding the keys of heaven – the bronze statue, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio.

12794579_10209027292541976_4457132629639505899_n

 

 

 

Castle 20

🌞 Canary island 🌞

From Tenerife  I took the massive speed boat and went to Las Palmas de  Gran Canaria. On the map it looks like this:

canarie

And the boat that I took looked like this:

 

It is actually quite nice inside, with the TV’s and the bar. The only thing I didn’t get and what I expected is to go out on the deck of the boat. But is it entirely closed during this one hour driving.

When I finally arrived, I went towards the main square of Las Palmas: the St Anna square. Typical spanish colonial-styled houses with balconies and dog statues around,  reminding us all of the origin of the name Las Canarias – nothing to do with the birds, but because they were over-run by canines….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Plaza St Anna – main square in Las Palmas

Just there you can find Cathedral of St Anna. It is a  a Roman Catholic church located in the Old town of the city built in 16th century.

bsd

24899844_10215373676597611_2458638120839469192_n
Interior view, demonstrating the piers as imitation palm trees

Old town was built at the end of the 15th century. Its streets and squares contain historical buildings and monuments.

24991199_10215373707998396_782923551720886004_n24993440_10215373639916694_319387913403820393_n25289471_10215373636156600_3454406950266664412_nccvsfbsvilla_mariana_de_teror-fdbad

There you can find the central market called Vegueta. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived it was already closed. 😦

24991364_10215373718518659_6941232197635193057_n

I was really impressed with the House of Cristofar Columbo, or in spanish Cristobal Colon. 

24909917_10215373664597311_909146187906389442_n
The House of Cristofor Columbo

This is the most attractive buildingswith ornate doorways, beautiful balconies, large courtyard and carved wooden ceilings, representing numerous aspects of the island’s architecture.

thumb_COLOURBOX16127946fhmfmyg vgn14t543t

The house contains the historical items of the Columbo itself, like his diary whit the pages open at his arrival to Canarias, the maritime divider, compass and telescope, the room with the sky showing stars that were navigating him or the room which repsesents the life on the boat.

24862404_10215373654917069_2182544686681678025_n
Diary of Cristofor Columbo

24910105_10215373658077148_3298164751828568399_n24862639_10215373649556935_4057194292100006229_n2915

Cristofor Columbo was  part of local bourgeoisie, who towards the midddle of the 19th century had grown in Las Palmas. I learned he was always very well welcomed at Canarias, bringing the local populations always new groceries and foodstuffs like turkey or potatoes, when coming back from his expeditions.

I was also inspired by the small church alongside with the models of old ships hanging off the ceiling.

 

At the Museum of Canaries you can learna  lot about the people’s history of this place.  The museum represents the pre-hispanic culture in the Canary Islands and conserves and exhibits archaeological and ethnographic items.

24899724_10215373691077973_3943277550847151629_n

347127

So, Guanches were the aboriginal Berber inhabitants of the Canary Islands. They were the only native people known to have lived in the Macaronesian region before the arrival of Europeans. After the Spanish conquest of the Canaries they were ethnically and culturally absorbed by Spanish settlers.

 

Special mention should be made of the collection of more than 2,000 prehistoric sculls and mummies.

24991571_10215373698878168_1515965683538144789_n

Parque Doramas is park of typical flora of Canarias combined with the architecture of Pueblo Canario and local 19th century life of spanish burgoasie.

fger545789g25289209_10215373728638912_2560467283590194965_n25152235_10215373725998846_3388630973100949851_n

I finished my day at Playa de las Canteras. It is a nice walk/ promenade of more than 10km with many bars and restaurants.

 

 

 

Castle 37

Tenerife – climbing the volcano

Tenerife is a volcanic island belonging to Canary Islands, which are part of Spain. It used be portugueese, then english, but in the end Pope Alexander VI took the line and made them spanish spanish (further historical explanation in this article). 🙂

TenerifeTenerife is the largest island of the Canary Islands archipelago, but also is the largest and most populous island of Macaronesia – a collection of four archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the continents of Europe and Africa(Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands and Cape Verde), created by volcanic activity.

I was fying from Brussels to Tenerife South. The flight was 4,5 hours and landig looked like this:

20171207_170802
Landing next to Volcano Teide – 3,718 m

Upon my arrival, I noticed the pleasant 25 Celsius in December and beautiful vegetation around me. So let me show you the photos:

20171208_17094020171208_17155220171208_17043420171208_124851

20171208_152911
Dragon tree  – typical of Tenerife

20171208_12475520171208_11383820171208_170844

My hotel was in Santa Cruz de Tenerife – the capital of Tenerife island. I had views on the riviera so I walked every day next to cruise ships watching the mass people exchanging at the port on a daily basis.

20171208_111911

But wherever you go, the mountains are always around you:

20171208_112304

To get closer to the city center, you can walk or catch the bus – or how they call it here ”GuaGua.” Don’t ask why. I didn’t manage to discover that phenomenon.

Sir_Horatio_Nelson_when_wounded_at_Teneriffe
Richard Westall: Sir Horatio Nelson when wounded at Tenerife, Oil on Canvas, 1806, Nationnal Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, UK

I walked around to explore the city walls famous for the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 18th century, when the british Royal Navy under the command of Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson attacked the then spanish port Santa Cruz.  Having lost several hundred men, Nelson himself had been wounded in the arm, which was subsequently partially amputated: a stigma that he carried to his grave as a constant reminder of his failure.

 

The city has an Auditorium, kinda inspired by Gaudi, if you ask me. The promenade there is nice and you can simply walk around enjoying the view on beautiful ocean.

 

20171208_16561320171208_16544720171208_165801

As it was the time to explore the food, I made another walk through the park and couldn’t notice  the  cross in the park which shows the etymology of the name of the city: “holy cross of Tenerife,” in memory of the foundation of the city, when a Christian cross was planted in the place that is now the center of town.

20171208_113956
Plaza de Espana – where the holy cross used to be

The absolute fascination was the market: Mercado Nuestra Señora de África. It is a famous and imposing collection of market stalls, shops and eating places located on the Avenida de San Sebastián in Santa Cruz.

20171208_13535620171208_14013720171208_14020320171208_14025920171208_140216Talking about the traditional food at Tenerife, I ate madregal fish and typically oven baked salt potatoes and drank local wine.

 

The next day I visited San Cristóbal de La Laguna city  in the northern part of the island of Tenerife. Actually, the city is just above Santa Cruz so you can easily take the tram and visit the city.

20171208_160458

The city used to be the colonial capital so it forms the typical urban colonial style and architecture.

Today is the city of university with many students around forming the Univerisity of La Laguna.

La Laguna is considered to be the cultural capital of the Canary Islands. Also there is in the habit of being calling the “Ciudad de los Adelantados“, for having been the first university city of the archipelago.

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned, the colonial style is still present and one can see small passages between houses with balconies and old, dark, wooden bars that bring you to the old times when important historical figures of the city like Amaro Pargo, one of the famous corsairs of the Golden Age of Piracy, walked around.

20171208_15302520171208_15153720171208_12375420171208_153259

The Catedral de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios is a roman catholic church, of the 20th century. Not so old, but some interesting statues of the Christ can be found inside. You decide why:

bsfbrR
Catedral de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios

 

 

 

And now the best part, the volcano Teide. 🙂

Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife, wwith 3,718-metre summit which is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic and Earth’s third-tallest volcanic structure.

We started our climbing admiring the city that left below us and watching the nature.

20171209_12285620171209_122933

The National Park Teide is fammous for its pine tree that can survive the fire and grow again. The lava flows on the flanks of Teide weather to a very thin but nutrient- and mineral-rich soil that supports a wide variety of endemic plant species.

As we were climbing higher, the city below us looked scary away and some other peaks of canary islands started to rise, not being sure where the ocean ends, sky starts or landmarks appear again. It was unreal…

20171209_122823
The city below us, the ocean, the sky, the clouds and Canary Island peaks from clouds

20171209_12535720171209_125818

I was mostly trying to adapt to this landmark not being sure why I felt so unreal… Teide was a sacred mountain for the aboriginal Guanches, so it was considered a mythological mountain.

20171209_130358

The ore we were climbing, the vegetation was disappearing and landmark turned into beautiful colour representation of lava’s progress.

20171209_160755

Finally we saw the peak from much clearer distance: from the astronomical observatory. But we decided to continue the way to reach it as possible we could. And then the fog came down and the magic started to be even more unreal…

20171209_16072720171209_161401

20171209_135928

We  enjoyed taking the photos around the volcanic structured stone and cliffs, shaped by the wind. When I wanted to pick the rock, I noticed it is quite light.

 

Interesting for us, there was a small church completely built of volcanic stones. 🙂 Of course, with the Teide peak behind.

20171209_150009

The last day, I visited the black beaches of Tenerife. Actually, I visited La Teracita. The sand is black because it is actually made of lava.

 

food and drink 28

Kiev, Ukraine

Never visited the country that is in war… Although my plan to visit Ukraine – both Lavov and Kiev was some 5 years ago. But then the war started and I didn’t have guts. Now actually happened that due to the conflict situation I was sent for work there.

I was supposed to be there on Monday afternoon for meetings. But the traveler and history nerd in me couldn’t agree with that. So I got my Travel Papers and the ticket for Saturday morning. I woke up at 4.00. My flight was at 5:50. Good thing is that I had taxi and priority boarding.

The flight was over Germany, southern Poland and snowy Carpathians.  I was one hour behind the Brussels time and still a bit shaken by the huge turbulences. 😦

20171202_071804.jpg
Flying over Carpathians
20171202_083406.jpg
Landing in Kyiv over river Dniepar
20171202_094128.jpg
Landed – Ukrainian Airlines

Left my luggage at hotel and immediately went to explore. It was -5. First thing was to change money to Ukrainian Hryvnia. No English here, only Russian/ Ukrainian. Or, according to my colleague and local guide Iryna, the slang that happens recently amongst youngsters in Kiev mixing Russian and Ukrainian language together.

So I realized if I talk to people in my native Croatian, we would understand each other better, as it belongs to the same group of languages – Slavic.

I wanted to visit the Museum of Ukraine History, but I was wrongly instructed. So I ended up at some places where nobody understood what I wanted, mostly at wrong museums where old ladies were speaking Russian only but still trying to help. My internet didn’t work, and to call the taxi was mission impossible. Holding a map in my hands, in the middle of the street when the snow is falling and melting my map at the same time, a girl named Kate approached and called the taxi from her own phone and even captured it in the street for me. Trust me, it is not that easy to get a taxi in Kyiv. Long live Kate! 🙂

20171202_130523.jpg
Wide streets of Kiev

20171202_145137.jpg

So I got to the Museum of Ukrainian History. Not many thing is in English, so I missed a lot from history part, but still I enjoyed and could connect the dots from my current knowledge and the exhibited items.

20171202_135416.jpg
Snowy Museum of History of Ukraine

Northern Ukraine and Kiev started as Slavic tribes cohabited with some Greek colonies at that time. In museum you can see the items of old amphoras and some arms of old the Slavic tribes.

20171202_140346.jpg

20171202_141103.jpg

In the 10th century, as a result of a long period of development of Eastern Slavic tribes, the Kyiv Rus State was formed – one of the most powerful states in the medieval Europe. In order to be recognized, it was needed to accept the Christianity. The leaders who implemented the Christianity were Prince Volodymyr and Prince Yaroslav, strengthening political and cultural contacts with European countries and made it possible to use the achievements of Byzantine culture.

The best example of Byzantine influence is the Saint Sophia Cathedral, dating from 10th century. You can still see the original frescoes surrounded with gold. This outstanding architecture example of Kievan Rus bring its influence from Haga Sophia in Constantinople.

20171203_122533.jpg

20171203_122934.jpg
Old and new façade – St Sophia Cathedral

20171203_135709.jpg

20171203_135628.jpg

20171203_135815.jpg

20171203_123823.jpg

20171203_135702.jpg

But the Avars and Kazakhs were the enemy from the East so the Ukrainian Rus State formed some kind of nowadays guerilla called Cossaks. Many items were exhibited in the Museum too. The most famous story about Cossaks is written in the novel Taras Buljba of Nikolai Vasiljevic Gogolj – a Russian realism novelist with Ukrainian origin.

20171202_141144.jpg

20171202_142304.jpg

20171202_142234.jpg

The other famous Cossacks hero is placed in front of the Cathedral. Fun fact, it used to be turned towards East where the Ottomans are – the biggest enemy of that time. Now is turned towards North, where is Russia.

20171203_122442.jpg
Hetman Cossak, in front of the Cathedral

This military structure had its own state called Zaporozhje during several centuries and continued fighting against Ottomans.

Finally, by the end of the 17th century, Ukraine was divided between Poland, Russia and Ottoman Empire.

20171202_142223.jpg
Act from Polish-Lithuanian Union from 1569, by which Ukrainian territory was part of the Union

In 19th century, Ukraine was part of Russian Empire. The citizenry lived in wealth, but poor peasants lived in poor, on country sides with no access to healthcare at all. However, Tsar Katarina The Great and later her son Peter The Second brought new and modern life into society, such as education, healthcare, territorial administrative division etc.

20171202_143637.jpg

The feudal- serfdom structure still existed and the landlords/ nobels represented the privileged stratum.

20171202_143754.jpg

 

20171202_143805.jpg

20171202_143828.jpg

 I found particularly interested the Crimean war – a military conflict fought from 1853 to 1856 in which the Russian Empire lost to an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. The award was the access to Black Sea and ports and cities like Sevastopol at Crimean peninsula or Odessa.

During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale and her team of nurses cleaned up the military hospitals and set up the first training school for nurses in the United Kingdom. It was the first time somebody took care of the war wounded ever. Later the war finished, Henry Dunant founded Red Cross in Switzerland.

20171202_144116.jpg

The crisis of feudal – serfdorm system brought peasants to cities and the First Industrial Revolution started.

20171202_144330.jpgAn important landmark of Ukraine is the part of Soviet Union. Ukrainians are claiming that the big genocide was held over them during the sustained hunger over the country, the Holodomor (1921-22).  I visited the Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor.

20171203_134313.jpg
Memorial to the victims of Holodomor

 

20171203_134348.jpg
Memorial to the victims of the Holodomor

Most of the communist symbols in Kyiv are taken away, but there is one remained at The Motherland Monument, when the strong muscled mother (built by Russians) holds the sword and shield with five-pointed star. The Ukrainians like to joke what is motherhood for Russians, calling them cold and abusive.

20171203_144001.jpg

Approaching the statue, you walk under this:

20171203_143801.jpg

(I honestly don’t have words about it, but; typical communist statues, reliefs, representing the strong commune where each person has its own task/ place).

20171203_143915.jpg

20171203_143843.jpg

A of 1991, Ukraine is finally independent.

20171202_144640.jpg

By the end of visit to the Museum, as coming down the stairs, you can see the bombs hanging, reminding you that the conflict on Crimea is still ongoing.

20171202_145114.jpg

The reminder on the war currently happening at the south of the country is this wall with the faces of the killed. And the wall is long, long…

20171203_120516.jpg
The Wall of killed

In front of the Museum is the St Andrew’s Church. I didn’t enter, but I found very photogenic this orthodox church, with golden cupolas and green façade, giving the contract through the snowy weather.

20171202_151649.jpg
St Andrew’s Church

My very next museum was about Chernobyl.

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was the explosion in Nuclear Power Plant in the northern Ukrainian village Chernobyl and some villages around. At the entrance you can see the tree which is a Biblical alliteration of the fertility and fertile land which is now destroyed by the USSR Nuclear Power Plant. Below the tree are photos of the people who lived in these villages but needed to be evacuated.

20171202_155200.jpg

The catastrophe happened at 01.23 local time. Apparently, the engineer said that the power plant is so safe that it could be placed at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Question is, why didn’t they?

20171202_153810.jpg
The clock from the power plant showing the exact time of catastrophe
20171202_153647.jpg
Plates of evacuated villages
20171202_153723.jpg
Plates of evacuated villages
20171202_154058.jpg
The model of Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl

The next day I was walking around with my host Iryna. We started from the very important square in recent Ukrainian history: Maidan Nezhaleznosti, (Ukr. Independence Square). Since the start of Ukraine’s independence movement in 1990, the square has been the traditional place for political rallies, including four large-scale radical protest campaigns: the 1990 student “Revolution on Granite“, the 2001 “Ukraine without Kuchma“, the 2004 Orange Revolution, and the 2013–14 Euromaidan.

20171203_112946.jpg
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, Euromaidan
20171203_112952.jpg
Statue of Independence at Maidan

images.jpg

 

As a political scientist and a feminist, I have to point you out my favourite Ukrainian politician and leader, currently in jail: Yulia Tymoshenko

 

 

At Maidan Nezalezhnosti I found this huge billboard and kinda liked the idea and design, spreading the message: Liberty is our religion.

20171203_113410.jpg

The story about three brothers and sister founding Kiev is just there, at Maidan, captured as a statue. Their names were Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv and sister Lybid (loosly translated: the swan, the dawn – in 19th century poetry the name is used as a personification of the nation-states).

20171203_113238.jpg
The founders of Kiev: Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv and sister Lybid

The legend is widely recognized as a source of Kyiv’s mythology and urban naming.

20171203_114750.jpg

As mentioned before, Kyiv lays on the river Dnieper. It is the 4th longest river in Europe.

20171203_115009.jpg
River Dnieper
20171203_144301.jpg
The view on the river Dnieper and new Kyiv

The river is the main reason why the city is the deepest metro in Europe. The deepest station in the world is Arsenalna (at 105.5 m), also beautifully decorated in ukrainian medieval style.

20171202_130119.jpg
Deepest metro station in the world
20171202_125633.jpg
Deepest metro station in the world – Arsenalna

Kiev was formed on the cliff, on the right side of the river Dnieper. It was surrounded with the city walls and many doors. The most famous is Golden Gate (ukr. Zoloti vorota).

20171203_130211.jpg
Zoloti vorota, engl Golden Gate

This was the main gate in the 11th century fortifications of Kiev, the capital of then Kievan Rus’. It was named in imitation of the Golden Gate of Constantinople.

20171203_130255.jpg
Yaroslav the Wise monument in front of the gate, holding the model of the city

The most captivating scene that will stay in my mind after visiting Kiev is Pechersk Lavra – also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, a historic Orthodox Christian monastery.

20171203_135336.jpg
Pechersk Lavra
20171203_135238.jpg
Great Lavra Belltower

Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1051, the Lavra has been a preeminent center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. But this is a Russian church, so here you will not see or hear the priest preaching for the independence of Ukraine and heaven bless to the country, as the church in Ukraine is divided into Russian and Ukrainian.

20171203_140541.jpg
Perschk Lavra monastery
20171203_134949.jpg
– one of the entrances to the monastery

There are over a hundred burials in the Lavra. Actually, there are saints buried down in catacombs. My colleague Iryna insisted to visit this place even though I am quite claustrophobic. We got the scarfs that we put around our heads and legs and bought the candle.

I didn’t manage to take many photos because I was hyperventilating, and due to respect to the corps. As you can see, it really narrow and hot below. 😦

226181.p2007130120171203_141413.jpg

Once we got out, I was happy for the -5 degrees temperature and cold air. Hugging my Iryna, we decided to finish our day in a  restaurant.

Walking through the streets of Kyiv, I noticed how the avenues are wide and the influence of iperial Russia of 19th century is present in the architecture:

20171203_130102.jpg
Influence of Imperial Russia to the architecture of Kyiv

20171203_125953.jpg20171203_130355.jpg

Sitting in the restaurant, we were discussing how the city is quite elitist and restaurant dining is designed for the wealthy Russian people.

20171203_152048.jpg
Pervak Restaurant

We were welcomed with the salt and pig belly fat on bread and for the drinks we got the horse raddish apettizer. Bread and salt is a welcome greeting ceremony in Slavic and other European cultures and in Middle Eastern cultures.

20171203_133211.jpg20171203_153056.jpg20171203_154110.jpg

Very traditional is the soup borscht made of beetroot. 🙂

20171204_162235.jpg
Borscht – traditional meal

For al the sport lovers, I was accomodated nearby metro station Olympiska where the Dinamo Kiev stadium is. 🙂 The stadium is best known for the finals of  2012 European Championship and 2018 UEFA finals.

20171203_164033.jpg

Coming to the end, the souvenirs I bought:

20180106_191303
Souvenirs: Ukrainian girl in traditional clothes and Ukrainian Matryoshka/Babushka decorated with Kyiv Churches