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Month: March 2018

Castle 28

Coimbra & Santarem, Portugal

After 5 years, I was again in Portugal. Lisbon has been checked and explored quite well, so I decided to explore a bit more!

I had a hotel in Oeiras so my friend who lives in Lisbon rented a car and we started a journey towards the north of the country.

Our journey: Santarem – Coimbra – Porto (in next post)



We visited Santarem at first. Just a small half an tour stop. As we parked the car, a small gypsy boy approached us begging the money. Luckily, Nikola has a noble heart. ūüôā


Santarem is a small city with nice streets around so you can really see the influence of  Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and later Portuguese Christians.

There is a story, one of the various legends which tells how the city got its name: the Visigoth Saint Iria (or Irene), who was martyred in Tomar (Nabantia) but her uncorrupted body reached Santarém. In her honour, the name of the town (then known by its Latin name Scalabis) later became Sancta Irene, from which Santarém derives.

Cabaças Tower (Torre das Cabaças) РAncient defensive tower of the mediaval wall of the city


Santar√©m city centre has several monuments, including the largest and most varied ensemble of gothic churches in Portugal. These include fine examples of transitional¬†Romanesque‚ÄďGothic.

The biggest impression left was the Church of the Grace, port. Igreja da Graça, built between the 14th and 15th centuries in a mix of mendicant and flamboyant Gothic styles. It has a main portal and rose window (unique in the world, carved out of a single stone) .


Notable are the street decorations as well, painted names of the streets and saints. I took a photo of some of them as these are actually traditonal colors of the country.


Pedro √Ālvares Cabral, discoverer of¬†Brazil, and his wife are buried under a simple slab near the main chapel of the Church of the Grace.


We continued the way towards Coimbra, but first we needed to get out of the city. The roads to come down the hill and come back to highway again were like this:



Thanks to the Late Middle Ages, with its decline as the political centre of the Kingdom of Portugal, Coimbra became an inspiration for J.K. Rowling to write her searial of Harry Potter books.

This is why nowadays first year students are wearing the black mantle.

So, yes, the University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world and the oldest university of Portugal. Established in 1290 it is charing and romantic by itself.


However, even though succesful in the middle ages, the city, located on a hill by the Mondego River, was called Aeminium, deriving its name from Roman  times.


The Botanical Garden is just there, founded in 1772-1774 and it was integrated with the Natural History Museum established by the Marquis of Pombal.



Soon we got lost in this hilly city center, so I just decided to wander around while taking photos and enjoying the time:


That’s it from Coimbra. Next stop: Porto (in the next blog post). Back to highway.

PS On highway we noticed the burned landscapes from the Great Fire in Portugal last summer 2017 when more than 60 people burned immediately on the road. RIP


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Sintra & Cabo da Rocka, Portugal

Sintra is a popular tourist attraction in Portugal due to its remarkable 19th century Romantic architecture and breath-taking landscapes.


I learned Lord George Gordon Byron visited the place and amazed. And here is where he liked to have  a snack:


But we enjoyed this little and narrow streets, stairs and old stone houses!


The Palace Quinta de Regaleira¬†is¬†romantic¬†palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes,¬†grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”, which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner.

Quinta da Regaleira palace

We continued strolling down the narrow road. Until we reached the west of the west of Europe. ūüôā

Europe‚Äôs westernmost point Cabo do Rocka is found between¬†Sintra¬†and¬†Cascais, and is topped by a lighthouse from 1772 and an inscription by poet Luis de Cam√Ķes noting that “Here, land ends and the sea begins.” It’s one of Portugal’s most emblematic sites, a country always looking out to sea.


It is a place of natural beauty, where you can enjoy a unique landscape, and the sea makes its presence in an imposing way. There is still in operation the third oldest lighthouse on the coast of Portugal.

Usually it is a place for surfers, but also there is a nice bar a bit up where from you can capture the view.


food and drink 28

D√ľsseldorf, Germany

Hop on, hop off with a friend by Thalys train. From lovely Brussels to the city in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area.

Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof, the meain train station

Upon the arrival we realized there are this iconic statues of Dusseldorf citizens everywhere:

We discovered pretty soon why this city is all in business and industry, with the buildings like this:


Anyhow, we continued towards the city center. The reformator’s church was somehow interesting for us because of the statues of fallen angels in front. So we entered, but yet reformator’s church are not welth decorated at all.




So that was the Martin Luther Platz, or square in english with the statue of the emperator or Kaiser Wilhem Denkmal flanked by the two angels of peace and war.


As we were hungry, we continued walking towards the Old town. We decided to  go to local restaurants, beer hauses: Hausbrauereien to eat and drink local.


Boy we had fun there! We soon discovered their local beer: Altbier, a top-fermented, dark beer.

20180203_161256.jpgThere, the ‚ÄúK√∂besse‚ÄĚ (local dialect: waiters) may be somewhat harsh but they are warm hearted. If your beer glass is empty the next Alt¬†comes without you even having to order it. This put is in trouble later afternoon when we ended with sightseeing and sat for one last Alt. Boy, it was a never ending story almost leading us to miss the train towards Brussels. So, the message is: Be careful! ūüôā

Small tip, foreign guests might not know that there is rivalry between the citizens of D√ľsseldorf and their neighbours in Cologne. So never ever order a K√∂lsch¬†(a light beer brewed in Cologne) in D√ľsseldorf. ūüôā

The typical Hausbrauerei decorations are usually talking about the relation between the¬† wife at home and her husband after some time spend in the Brauerei. ūüôā


The¬†Old Town¬†of D√ľsseldorf is famous by bars, restaurants, brewery inns, good weekend parties etc. hence it is called¬†the longest bar of the world.¬†


The Old town has some interesting decorations and statues as well hiding the secrets of its citizens in the past.

Nobody shits the gold, so you better save and invest. ūüôā
Cast boy – true dandey of Dusseldorf
Sinti and Roma gypsie girl who was murdered during World War II.
Another Dandy of Dusseldorf
Heinrich Heine – the poet of Dusseldorf

The main square and the City Hall and kinds in the middle of city happenings. The building dates from the 16th century.

City Hall

We were caught into the city parade with the traditional clothes and orchestra. What a lovely Saturday it was! ūüôā


As we walked around, we ended on the food market. Please look at this booth: I never saw more species of potato, in my life!


Moutard store – the traditions of the region

At the southern end of the river Rhine promenade is the newest landmark of the city. It was nice to walk around even though te cold wind freezed our faces.


Actually, this is how the place looked like before and how it changed to nowadays modernity, sometimes not by its own will since the World War II caused the biggest changes of the veduta of the city.


The new funky place down the river Rhine is called Media Harbour. The former harbour was transformed in a quarter with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, discotheques and hotels. Its flair is based on the mixture of new modern buildings like depots, quay walls and industrial surroundings that stand side by side with modern architecture.


Rhine tower

The¬†K√∂nigsallee¬†is an urban boulevard in¬†D√ľsseldorf,¬†¬†with a landscaped canal that runs along its center, as well as the fashion showrooms and luxury retail stores located along its sides.

By the end of the 18th century, D√ľsseldorf was a small baroque¬†town and capital of the¬†Grand Duchy of Berg.¬†But the Duke decided to¬†give room for a more generous urban plan.



cathedrals 38

Bordeaux, France ūüć∑ūüć∑

So Milica called after a very long and hard day at work: Would you like to fly with me to Bordeaux for the weekend?

– Is Friday included?

-Yes it is, she said.

-Hm, I can’t risk the day off at work, it is too soon. I just got back from Christmas holidays.

5 mins later I am texting my friend: You know what? Life is too short, book these tickets!

Vineyards at Bordeaux Airport

This is how our arrival looked like: vineyards everywhere. We knew the Aquitaine region¬†is famous by vineyards and that the city is the french capital of wine, but still, we were impressed with the surrounding. In fact,¬†Bordeaux is the world’s major wine industry capital. It is home to the world’s main wine fair,¬†Vinexpo.

Our weekend was about fine wine and well dining. ūüôā


Canele cakes


 The historic part of the city is s an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble of the meadiaval period up to 18th century. It was the department of the Girondine Рthe important party of the French Revolution. After Paris, Bordeaux has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France, since the Revolution never included the city of Bordeaux. 

If you ask me, the mediaval period lover, I enjoyed the architecture and hidden streets! ūüôā

But let me start from the beginning:

In historical times, around 300 BC it was the settlement of a Celtic tribe, who named the town Burdigala, probably of Aquitanian origin.

In 2nd century BC the battle was hel and the city became part of¬†¬†The Roman Empire!¬†¬†¬†Later it became capital of¬†Roman Aquitaine with the famous¬†Pont de pierre, or “Stone Bridge”¬†over the river Garonne.¬†

Pierre BAUDIER_2010-08-05 09-23-54 ca cl_11
Pont de pierre, or “Stone Bridge” – the first bridge over the river Garonne

Actually, the bridge you see on the photo above is reconstructed during the First French Empire, under the orders of Napoleon I, and later again during the Bourbon Restoration. 

Rests of the Roman Amphiteatre

Robberies of the city in 5th and 6th century of Vandals and the Franks are ony bringing a period of obscurity for the city. So the city started to build fortresses and city walls.


With the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks the it starts to be recuperated and the battles between England and Franks started.

Grosse Cloche – 13th century bell tower

This bell tower was named after its main feature: fat bell. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of the middle ages in Bordeaux. It used to be a jail as well.

Porte Cailhau

Like the Grosse Cloche, Porte Cailhau was a medieval gateway to pass the city walls.


The inspiring church, out of many, for e was the Church of Saint Pierre with the nice stained glass and high, but really high arches:

The Cathedral of Saint Andrew of Bordeaux is from 11th century, originally romanesque. In this church in 1137 the 15-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen (Queen consort of France and England. She was one of the most powerful and wealthiest women in western Europe during the High Middle Ages. She was patron of literary figures and led armies of the Second Crusade.

Cathedral of Bordeaux

Moving towards 18 century well preserved architecture and Bordeaux facades. As mentined, the Revolution never hit this city so the facades and balconies are french unique.




The very famous is Place de la Bourse which inuguration started in mid 18th century signalling the first breach of the mediaval walls and symbolised an era of prosperity. 

Unfortunately, we were not lucky to capture photos of the recent addition of Mirror d’eau.

Place de la Bourse 

Then, a  vast esplanade with the colossal monument to Girondines at Place des Quinconces: 

Opposite of which are two standing columns of two famous Bordelais philosophers Montaigne and Montesquieu.


The last day we left for walking down the Garonne river and enjoying the sun.

Pont Nouvelle

We entered the Cite du vin Рmuseum of wine, which is kinda futuristic building but is shows you entire history of the wine. How it played the iportant role in the society since the ancioent societies and relligions until today.

Cite du vin


The wine bar at 4th floor 

Oh, and this little cute thing: