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Month: January 2019

abbey 14

Luxembourg

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small landlocked country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, together with Brussels and Strasbourg, is one of the three official capitals of the European Union. 

The repeated invasions by Germany, especially in World War II, resulted in the country’s strong will for mediation between France and Germany and, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union.

WW1 and WW2 Memorial

The residents are speaking german, french and letzeburgish which is a mixture of both mentioned languages.

Although it is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe it is the popular center for bank headquarters.

Bank Museum and State Savings Bank

As a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, it is headed by Grand Duke Henri and is the world’s only remaining grand duchy.

Parliament

Groussherzogleche Palais – the Duke’s residential palace and city hall

The history of Luxembourg is considered to begin in 10th century, when count Siegfried I acquired a rocky castle.

By 15th century – the House of Luxembourg became so powerful that it produced Kings of Germans and Holy Roman Emperors.  

Fortress Thungen

The Adolphe Bridge has become an unofficial national symbol of sorts, representing Luxembourg’s independence

The bridge was named after Grand Duke Adolphe, who reigned Luxembourg in 19th century.

Another reminder to the succesful battle times is the Golden Lady or the Gaelle Fra. The Monument of Remembrance is a war memorial  dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War.

Notre-Dame Cathedral is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Luxembourg City. It was originally a Jesuit church, dating since 17th century. It is the only cathedral in Luxembourg.

I have actually visited Luxembourg two times and managed to enter the Museum of the Luxembourg city where I discovered the legend of Meluzines seducing a fisherman on the night of full moon, plotting the destiny of Luxembourg.

Old city: Neumunster villa and abbey from 16th century at River Alzette

River Alzette at Bock Casemates
Castle 10

Vienna, Austria

I studied here.

So coming back to this place brings memories. Of everything.

Let me start with the view on Danube river. We used to drink coffee at the top of the buildings on the left side, having the Austrian cakes and enjoying the view from bars.

Most of my time there I spent living in the times before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

So let’s start from the beginning.

I studied political sciences at Universitat Wien.
It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is one of the oldest universities in the German-speaking world.

Universitat Wien

I was spending loads of my time in the called Harry Potter library: old wooden tables and chairs that make squitchy noise everytime you move a bit, green art nouvea table lamps, chandelier, tall book shelfs that go up until the ceiling…

Making breaks was important so we would sit in the atrium of the University in the back chairs.

Or simply at the near by Votiv Park in front of the Votiv Kirche (church).

Votiv Kirche

As the University is at the Ring 1 or 1 Bezirk (in Vienna the districts are circled areas of the center), at Schotenring the nearby places had other famous Baroque-era monuments like Rathaus or the City Hall.

Rathaus (city hall), Vienna, Austria, Europe

Once we had organized visit to the Rathaus. I remember the jar dropping down as it houses the office of the Mayor of Vienna as well as the chambers of the city council.

Or the another neo – gothic building such as Volkstheater.

Theater

The Innere Stadt is the Old Town of Vienna. Until the city boundaries were expanded in 1850, the Innere Stadt was congruent with the city of Vienna. Traditionally it was divided into four quarters, which were designated after important town gates: Stubenviertel (northeast), Kärntner Viertel (southeast), Widmerviertel (southwest), Schottenviertel (northwest).

The nearby is beautiful Cathedral of Sankt Steffan.
The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral started to be built in 12th century.

St. Stephan cathedral in Vienna, Austria

On the façade of St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a figure of Christ with a Toothache. 
How it came to this name tells the following story?

Once upon a time three jolly fellows lived in Vienna. They often sat together and drank until late into the night and on their way home they used to play tricks on one or the other Viennese. 

One night after the curfew of their favourite pub they strolled frolicsomely through the streets of Vienna. On their way they passed St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 

”Hey, this looks as if the Lord had a toothache! No wonder he definitely stands at a draughty place!”

For a while they continued joking. Finally they went to their homes. 
But that night they couldn’t fall asleep as their cheeks began to burn and a short time later they got a very bad toothache.  They immediately went to the doctor, but the doctor said all teeth are fine. So they went back to Cathedral to apologize for blasphemy and sarcastic comments.

If you walk towards the Hofburg – the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers and today the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria – you will see this:

Hofburg palace

The left and the right wing continues to big big museums called Naturhistorische Museum and Kunst (Art) Museum. Left building was erected in the name of Joseph I Habsburg and the seconf to his mother Empress Maria Therese. 


Museum of Science and History dedicated to Empress of Habsburg Empire Maria Theresa of Austria and the Art museum on the other side, dedicated to her son Habsburg Emperor Joseph ll.

Iron meteorite fell down in Zagorje county of Croatia, in in 1751, today in Naturhistorische Museum

From Schwedenplatz up again towards the old city:

… will bring you to one of my favourite places in Vienna: Alt Wien – a beer house. To meeting point Saturday evening with my friends from Uni. 🙂

If you are looking for something more relaxing, then the coffee Julius Meinl with sweet marzipan Mozartkugeln might be for you. Or perhaps Sachertorte? Cakes and pastries in Vienna are a must try. Actually, even the croissant is comig from Vienna, not from France!

Mozartkugeln

For the good concesrts we used to go to Donauinsel. It kinda makes parallel excavated channel Neue Donau (“New Danube”). I remember celebrating my name day in June with the song Brenna tuats gut – some dialect of austrian german… don’t ask!

For the good Sunday time was the Praterstern. It is a major square in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna but also the amusement park. It derives from the old Latin word which means meadow.

Talking about the fun and amusement – the high fashion is gathered in MariaHilferstrasse.
It is the city’s longest and most lively shopping street. It will be worth your while to explore the side streets in the 6th and 7th districts. This is where many out-of-the-ordinary shops and outlets have sprung up recently.

The same is true for the Naschmarkt area. Although night life there is better 🙂 Pubs, pubs!

When living in Vienna, it feels like a fairytale. The architecture, the politeness, the curtsy, the lifestyle…

Perhaps, the main reason for that is the must visit castle called Schönbrunn. The residential palace of Habsburgs dynasty who rulled half of Europe in its times.

This Baroque palace is one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historical monuments in the country.

The most important rulers and adresees of the palace were Empress Marie Therese and her son Franz Josef l who married Sissi or Elisabeth. Her beauty was astonished, her good heart even more, However, she died from a terrorist act at the lake of Geneva.


Elisabeth of Austria, 19 century, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia. My favourite empress ever! 

However, Vienna is famous for its Christmas markets. So I will finish with the photo below:

food and drink 4

Herculaneum and Pompeii 🌋

From Naples we took the train to Pompeii.

The mount Vesuvio, the volcano was next to us and fertile land just a bit above. We could imagine the catastrophy in 79 CE.

Mount Vesuvio

Pompeii

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern Naples in the Campania region of Italy.

Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of the inhabitants were also buried before they could escape.

Our visit was quite respectful.

A the entrance to Pompeii showing the suburban baths

I have to admit – I did not expect that the city of Pompeii will be so big and spacious. And well designed.

Forum Romanum

Via dell’Abbondanza, the main street in Pompeii

The entire city has squares, streets and houses or should I say – villas – well preserved: doors, frescoes, atriums, gardens, mosaics, painted walls… it is so melancholic and it takes back in time.

The central baths are very well preserved. The complex is big and you can see heating system, the bathing system.

The central baths

Some of the frescoes included the nudity. Pompeii was famous for it. 🙂

Nudity frescoes
The heating system

The Romans of that time used to trade with Greek and Phoenician sailors as they used the location as a safe port.

Via della Fortuna – how odd
Via Stabiana – leading towards the cemetery (necropolis)
Necropolis (cemetery)

As mentioned, Pompeii were known for its erotics and taxed prostitution. In fact, there were many brothels with nude photos and statues. The feluses were indicating the direction to these places.

The old Romans had a very good social life. The taverns were existing already that time.

Tavern

But the most beautiful house for me was the one with the painting of Venus coming out of shell, in the atrium (garden) of the huge villa – obviously belonging to some politician.

House of Venus

As the people were running out of the city, many of them stayed trapped and died of breathe suffocating. The ash covered their bodies and they remained untouched.

The amphitheater remained almost in-tactile as well, with acoustic atmosphere, of course.

The last statue was the Agamemnon – in all its glory. What a times!

Let’s eat! 🙂

Herculaneum

Herculaneum is one of the few ancient cities to be preserved more or less intact, with no later accretions or modifications. Like its sister city, Pompeii, Herculaneum is famous for having been buried in lava and ash.

Unlike Pompeii, the heavy blanket of lava that covered Herculaneum carbonized and thereby preserved wood and other organic-based materials such as roofs, beds, doors, and food.

Although most of the residents had evacuated the city in advance of the lava, the well-preserved skeletons of 300 people who perished near the seawall were discovered in 1997.

Indeed, sad and shocking.

However, you can guess what was our break about.

abbey 16

Naples, Italy

Early morning flight for 25 EUR but it was totally worth it. 🙂 We woke up at 3:30 and landed to Naples just before 9:00.

Upon our arrival we have soon noticed the chaotic city and how nobody respects the traffic lights. However, it took us one day to adjust.

Our accommodation was in the city center in some old 19th century palace.


sdr

However, there is no reception so we talked a bit italian and soon discovered that we should sit at the coffee place opposite of the building, have an espresso and wait the owner. We also tried sfogliatelle or translated: lobster’s tail. It is original napolitano (Campania region) recipe.

Espresso and sfoglitella

We started to wander around through this chaotic city full of grafittis. The old city – Citta Vecchia has some old and high buildings dating from 16h century, creating some narrow passages and really narrow streets. But somehow logical to the Italians.

Citta Vecchia – old city

It is the third biggest city in Italy after Rome and Milano. And one of the cities that have constantly being inhabited.

First settled by Greeks in 2nd millenium BCE, then the Romans, then it became capital of the Duchy of Naples (7 – 12 century – Angevin Dynasty), then of the Kingdom of Naples (13 – 19 century) and finally of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Wherever you look in Naples you will see artworks, even in the streets. It’s not a joke: street artists always loved this city and often leaved a sign of their passage. Maybe, some of the best artworks are just the ones in the streets. Many of them connected to the religion.

Visiting Naples’s historic center means traveling through twenty centuries of history. The design of its streets, piazzas, churches, monuments and public buildings and castles constitute a jewel box of artistic and historical treasures of exceptional importance, so much so that together, they earned their spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

We continued towards the Piazza San Lorenzo Maggiore with the church from 14th century.

Piazza San Lorenzo Maggioere

We entered the church to admire the ceiling above us – indeed painted in 16th century representing the evocative atmosphere.


Precedding further down from the medieval level, we faced the Roman and 3 metres lower the Greek settlements. To be more precise – the catacombs.

The claustrophobic me managed to survive up to 20 min and then run away to some fresh air. The streets were chaotic again but the air was clearer. And the sun was there. Btw, I noticed that the nativity scenes were all over the city still, even though the Christmas passed some weeks ago!

I guess, the people of Napoli never miss their opportunity to sell the souvenirs. Btw, red pepper is the luck charm of Napoli, or should I say Nea Polis? 🙂

Souvenirs, souvenirs!

The patron of Naples is San Genaro thanks to his reliquary of the blood which heals the pilgrims for centuries. Hence we visited the Cathedral where his body lays. Twice a year, the body is taken out for the ceremony and celebration. Don’t know why twice a year?

San Gennaro statue
Cathedral of San Gennaro

The present cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou in early 12th century.

Finally lunch! Pizza or pasta? Hard choice, but we were really hungry, startijng our day at 3:30, already walked more than 15 km that day and had in mind that pizza actually came from Napoli!

Some zucchini as starters

Did you know that Diego Maradona was playing in Napoli football club? Apparently, the Napolitans respecting him so much, calling him Italian and even having a bar to his name with his hair as relics.

Bar Nilo of Maradona

The bar is callled Bar Nilo and contains a chapel with Maradona’s name as santo.

Time for an espresso and something sweet. Boy we became Italians quickly, having our short coffee at the bar, standing while sipping. How should I explain you that a Croatian girl like me takes her coffee slowly, some time for some hours, enjoying every sip? 🙂

Beware! Another did you know on its way!

Did you know that Naples has more than 500 churches. This boasts the highest number of churches in the world: we’re talking about an artistic and spiritual heritage of enormous importance, formed within seventeen centuries; this is the reason, since ‘700, it has been named the “city of 500 domes”. Early christian or gothic, baroque or neoclassical, the churches of Naples can mix contrasting and pluralist styles and traditions, bringing down the visitor both in a magical and almost pagan atmosphere and in a profoundly mystical and Christian experience.

Somehow, we saw this:

And we decided to enter.

It is a double floor church where the grounds floor is a church decorated in familiar style but the lower ground is in grey, black and white, shaddy and reminding of purgatory.

The next stop was National Archaeological Museum: from early Naples until today. I was, as always, impressed with classical statues of Greek and Roman Gods.

Atlas holding the world

The afternoon brought even more sun and we wanted to get some more of it. The sea was so close!

Piazza Nazionale

Piazza del Plebiscito is named after the plebiscite taken on October 2, 1860 that brought Naples into the unified Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy. It is located very closely to the gulf of Naples, and bounded on the east by the Royal Palace  with the statues of all the kingls of Naples (most of them were spanish and french).

Royal Palace
Statues of the so far kings of Napoli

Piazza del Plebiscito, monument to Charles III of Spain in foreground and the cupola of the Galleria Umberto I and Basilica in background.

Then finally we strolled down towards the port and Gulf of Naples. With the terrifying vulcano Vesuvio in the background.

Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvio – the famous vulcano

The colours of afternoon started to be red and our pressure lower and lower. It was time for another espresso but this time with limoncello – a delicious shot from this region of Campania!

Somehow we found the energy to take a promenade and visit the castels.


Castel dell’Ovo (or egg catle) is located on the former island of Megaride, now a peninsula, since 9th century. The Roman poet Virgil put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg been broken, the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events for Naples would have followed.
Castel Nuovo –
one of the main architectural landmarks since 12th century. It was a royal seat for kings of Naples, Aragon and Spain until 1815.

I used to read the Courtesan’s Lover – set in 18th century Naples, so I was daydreaming almost every single moment.

And that was it. We literally smashed into our beds before the 20:00. The next morning was again: eat, visit, repeat! 🙂

We started the day again with espresso schiumato and sfogliatelle! 🙂 With little fragolino as an additive (made of strawberry!).

On our way to Pompeii we visited the church where St Peter held his very first mass.

Basilica di San Petro ad Aram
cathedrals 13

Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland

That big and busy airport in Germany that is spottable even from 12,000 metres above! Brilliant and amazing.

However, my first time arriving there was by train and the second time I was flying.

I took the local newspapers like a local and started to renew my German.

Frankfurt am Main is the 5th biggest city in Germany after
 BerlinHamburgMunich, and Cologne.

On the River Main (a tributary of the Rhine), it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring cities.

I started with Frankfurt’s central business district the so called Bankviertel as this city is famous for banking.

European Central Bank
The symbols of business district in Frankfurt: bull and bear symbolizing ups and downs of the market

And then continued to the shopping area. The most famous shopping street is called Zeil. It contains some weird statues as well..

Frankfurt was a city state, the Free City of Frankfurt, for nearly five centuries, and was one of the most important cities of the Holy Roman Empire, as a site of imperial coronations; it lost its sovereignty upon the collapse of the empire in 1806 and then permanently in 1866, when it was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia. However, the great architecture style continued to grow:

Operahaus

Frankfurt is an alpha world city and a global hub for commerce, culture, education, tourism and transportation. It is the site of many global and European corporate headquarters. I managed to enter the European Bank Headquarters and take the elevator to the 55th floor. This is what I got:

Did you know that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – famous writer and poet was born in Frankfurt? Yes, the one that wrote Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werthe.

Goethe and me 🙂
Birth house of Goethe: Weltschmerzers of the World – reunite! 🙂

I took the photo of the writing on the Evangelistic church which says: Love your neighbour, he is just like you.

Römerberg is a public space located in the old city center dating since the 15th century. There is an old house which even survived the bombing from WWII and surves nowadays as the beer house.


Römerhaus

This is the place of the oldest markets in the world. So much history screaming from here.

Romerplatz

This setting is actually part of the old city called Altstadt.

Altstadt

Next to it is the Paulskirche – the church which was the place of first sitting of the German Parliament.

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Lille, France

So far been there three times and I am pretty sure I will keep visiting this rather Flemish city at the northern France. When you see the architecture, you will know what I am talking about: bricks and gold.

Food is oriented on the fish and shells from the Northern sea. I captured this oyster seller at the streets of Lille, on early Sunday morning just preparing his tent.

That Sunday morning markets, however, were noisy and hectic…

The original inhabitants of this region were the Gauls. Until the Vikings came in 10th century.

The 16th and 17th centuries were marked by a boom in the regional textile industry, the Protestant revolts, and outbreaks of the Plague.

I am particularly in love with the city center of this city!
The charm of this city is that, despite being the largest in northern France, it doesn’t behave like a grand French city  – no pace for arrogance – only warm hearts here.

Place Charles de Gaulle

Opéra de Lille

And then the Bourse just there – the magnificent building open to host the flea market.

Bourse –
17th-century Old Stock Exchang

Then the Post-French Revolution period resulted with another economic growth as being close to the cities like Saint Omer, Brugge or Roubaix. But soon the Europe was back again in World Wars. In the aftermath – the art deco style and the Belle Epoque were present (that was the time of discovery of champagne). 🙂


Lille’s Art Deco city hall (1932)

Lille Cathedral or Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille is a Roman Catholic church dating from 12th century.

Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille

Walking around and across the Old city I stumbled upon the Palace of Justice. Nice building!

Palais de la Justice

The city lays on the river La Doule. Not something particularly amazing but still nice and romantic.

Along the river Doule

Close to it is the citadelle Vauban. Thebuilding was raised in 17th century by one of the notable French kings. However, of course Napoleon used it up most.

Citadelle Vauban

Did you know that Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille?

He was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II.

Time to eat local! As I mentioned, the shells are on the main plate here!

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Porto, Portugal

Short one day trip from Lisbon to Porto! Not much time plus the rain, but oh boy, we enjoyed! 🙂

We rented a car and cross the country driving for almost 4 hours. We arrived to the hill where from you can beautifully sea the river Douro that flows into the Atlantic ocean.

With its historical core which was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 it is medieval and charming city and I have to admit – a unique city.

The city is famous for wine. And many cellars.

Wine, produced in the Douro valley, was already in the 13th century transported to Porto in barcos rabelos (flat sailing vessels). In 1703, the Methuen Treaty established the trade relations between Portugal and England and the rest is history.

Souvenirs from Porto

Porto’s Cathedral (‘Sé’) is the city’s most important church. Built in the 12th century, it’s a national monument. 

The Sao Bento train station has been voted one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations. The outside is super-cool, in a Belle Epoque Parisian kind of way, but it’s the interiors that will really knocked me out: the station lobby walls are covered with 20,000 decorative tiles, which took painter Jorge Colaço 11 years to complete, portraying scenes of Portuguese history, daily life and transportation (for the trainspotters). 

The rain was still falling but we fell in love with the city so despite the weather we continued walking around and enjoy as much as we could!

The last moments we spent in the cellars, of course. At the opposite site of Ribeira – the city center, being hosted by the most charming people enjoying the great wine, great sea food and amazing fado.

Castle 119

Cyprus ⛵

So much mixed feeling s about this island/ country/ land… I didn’t get the best of its beaches because it was winter time – although 22 degrees everyday, I didn’t get the best of the Cypriot food because the locals were so hard to introduce always greek food and greek wine, I didn’t feel safe all the time since the immigrant wave is at its peak (let’s pray for that) but I got some of the history, sunshine in winter and picturesque landscapes.

So let us start!

As you can see on the map, it is very left of Europe, on the East – so close to conflict zones of Middle East but still part of European Union. And let it be like this.

Surrounded with Mediterranean sea and divided between Cypriot Turks and Cypriot Greeks but still offering beautiful beaches. Let me explain!

Larnaca

Landing to Larnaca was like this:

I have never seen such a crystal clean sea. Not even in my lovely Croatia – and we do have clear clear sea.

Anyhow, my friend was supposed to land from Athens to the very same airport but in the evening. So I decided to explore Larnaka while waiting.

I strolled down the city and discovered many old buildings and lazy afternoon since most of the shops and bars were closed.
The home of the Stoic philosopher Zeno – so I acted like this – stoically. 🙂

Finally I found a bar and ordered local beer called Keo. A bit of relax and decision where to go now. (I have to say, after wedding in Serbia just few weeks ago, and Athens just before that – I wasn’t fully prepared for this trip like I usually am).

The first step was the Church of St Lazarus. The church was built in 9th century in homage to Jew Eleazar that converted to Christianity naming himself Lazarus. Apparently, after being dead for four days in the tomb, he was raised by Jesus. Later, Lazarus found his refugee place here in Larnaka.

The church is considered as an indispensable supplement to the pilgrimage of the Holy Land. 

The relics of the Saint Lazarus were first discovered in the end of 9th century close to this churc in a marble sarcophagus on which were inscribed the following: ”Lazarus, the four-day dead and friend of Christ”.  Apparently, the Lazarus and Christ were good friends as Christ visited him at his home many times and enjoyed the dinner with him. The then emperor of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, according to the prevailing custom, carried the holy relics to Constantinople, the capital of the empire, and in exchange, he sent money and technicians to build the church we see today.

The tomb of Saint Lazarus – in nowadays e orthodox church

Larnaca castle was constructed to defend the southern coast of Cyprus and the harbour town of Larnaca and was later used as an artillery station, prison, and a museum.

Larnaka castle

As you can see on the photo below, the castle has been built by the Byzantines in 12th century.

Next stop was Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram. She was one of the companions of Muhammad.
Most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab raids on Cyprus in 7th century. According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca.

When I just arrived, I noticed so many cats around, even inside the mosque where the praying is occurring.

Walking around the mosque you can enjoy peaceful flamingos ending their day in the salt lakes around. Not even the nearby airport can disturb their presence.

Flamingos at Larnaca Salt Lakes

Mt friend finally arrived at 20:00. I walked back to the airport to welcome him as our hotel was in Nicosia. Of course, I left my bag at the airport while waiting for the shuttle bus but luckily, the local police was nice and reactive.

Nicosia

Nicosia is the capital. Divided between Cyprus Turks and Greeks. A bit dirty, lazy, odd, chaotic but with very positive spirit of people.

The first stop was good local breakfast: mpougatsa filled with cheese, minced meat or spinach.

Then we started to wander the streets… it was still calm as it was saturday morning… By the way, they drive on the left side (they are still part of Commonwealth).

We noticed the culture of orthodox saints (iconas) being hanged on the walls in almost every bar or restaurant that we went.

Talking about the city being divided: Barriers have separated the Greek and Turkish sectors of Nicosia, since 1974. The Green Line makes the division across the country and forms a UN-patrolled buffer zone.

Divided territories usually create their own ugly landmarks!

A bit of the history again!
The Cyprus Museum is the oldest and largest archaeological museum in Cyprus. The museum houses artefacts discovered during numerous excavations on the island. The museum is home to the most extensive collection of Cypriot antiquities.

Cyprus Museum
Neolitic figures of The Idol of Pomos (today on 1 euro coin of Cyprus)

Nicosia has been in continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age 2500 years BC.

However, the Greeks inhabiting the land made it glorious. Did you know that Aphrodite was born here?

Sculpture of Aphrodite

After the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire the Venetians arrived and built the wall. Venetian Walls are a series of defensive walls which surround the capital city. The first city walls were built in the Middle Ages, but they were completely rebuilt in the mid-16th century by the Republic of Venice. The walls are still largely intact, and are among the best preserved Renaissance fortifications in the Eastern Mediterranean. They are a major tourist attraction.

Venetian walls

The presence of the Venetians is seen in other architecture buildings like houses with the balconies (typical for the Venetian Republic of its time).

On his way to the Holy Land during the Third Crusade in 12th century, Richard I of England‘s fleet was plagued by storms. He himself stopped first at Crete. Three ships continued on, one of which was carrying Joan of England, Queen of Sicily and Berengaria of Navarre, Richard’s bride-to-be. Two of the ships were wrecked off Cyprus, but the ship bearing Joan and Berengaria made it safely to Limassol – another city in Cyprus. Joan refused to come ashore, fearing she would be captured and held hostage by Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, who hated all Franks. Her ship sat at anchor for a full week before Richard finally arrived a few weeks later. Outraged at the treatment of his sister and his future bride, Richard invaded the island and became ruler of the island, but sold it to the Knights Templar.

Frankish rule of Cyprus started from 1192 and lasted until 1489. During this time, Nicosia was the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Cyprus, the seat of Lusignan kings, the Latin Church and the Frankish administration of the island. During the Frankish rule, the walls of the city were built along with many other palaces and buildings, including the gothic St. Sophia Cathedral. The tombs of the Lusignan kings can be found there.

I found the cathedral on the turkish side of Nicosia having the later added minaret (the muslim symbol in architecture) and being completely empty from the inside.

On 1 July 1570, the Ottomans invaded the island. Since then – the battle takes culturally, politically, including religion. However, they left something nice: turkish baths called hamam!

However, the dominated religion there is greek orthodox so we stumbled upon the Archbishop’s Palace. The statue of Makarios lll is in front as he
was a Greek Cypriot clergyman and politician, who served as the Archbishop and Primate of the Church of Cyprus (1950–1977) and as the first President of Cyprus (1960–1977). In his three terms as president he survived four assassination attempts and a coup d’état. He is widely regarded by Greek Cypriots as the Father of the Nation or “Ethnarch”.[

Archbishop’s Palace with statue of Makarios lll

St John’s Cathedral (Agios Ionnis), compared with the great cathedrals of Europe, is tiny. Its interior, however, is no less magnificent Dating from 16 th century, from the times of Lusignan (I will explain later!)

St John’s Cathedral

Nicosia came under the rule of the United Kingdom in 19th century.
The old Ottoman administrative headquarters (the Saray) was replaced in 1904 by a new building containing Law Courts, the Land Registry, and the Forestry, Customs, and Nicosia Commissioner’s Offices.
In 1955 an armed struggle against British rule began aiming to unite the island with Greece, Enosis. The struggle was led by EOKA, a Greek Cypriot nationalist military resistance organisation and supported by the vast majority of Greek Cypriots. The unification with Greece failed and instead the independence of Cyprus was declared in 1960. During the period of the struggle, Nicosia was the scene of violent protests against British rule.


The Liberty Monument was erected in 1973 to honor the anti-British EOKA fighters of the Cyprus Emergency of 1955–1959

As we were hungry after all these walks and wanders, we tried to find the restaurant. My friend told me to lead by following the map. We went in different direction from the city center where the restaurants are, but this is what we captured:

Sometimes is really good to get lost! 🙂

The last day my friend left back home. I encouraged to go on the turkish side. I crossed the border being briefed about the safety and items I am allowed to purchase.

However, when I crossed this border which is the UN buffer zone – I realized I am in Istanbul.

I entered the Selimiye mosque historically known as Cathedral of Saint Sophia, converted into a mosque.

INext to it is the old market called turkishly bazaar. However, the architecture is mediaval catholic. Seen everywhere!

Paphos

The third day we took the bus to Paphos. W actually wanted to rent a car and make so much more of exploring through the island but the rental companies were rather asking the reservation at least 48 hours before the renting. Also, since it is the winter time, we discovered that the island is not so good connected and that the traffic circulates without the time table. Huh! That was a lot of improvisation. But we arrived!

Paphos is a city on the southwest coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Inhabited since Neolithic times, it has several sites relating to the cult of goddess Aphrodite, whose mythical birthplace was at Old Paphos. New Paphos is the modern city that incorporates the harbor, and the ancient ruins of tombs, fortresses, theaters and villas at Paphos Archaeological Park.

We visited the Tombs of the Kings.

This large necropolis – the underground tombs, many of which date back to the 4th century BCE are carved out of solid rock, and are thought to have been the burial sites of Paphitic aristocrats and high officials up to the 3rd century CE (the name comes from the magnificence of the tombs; no kings were in fact buried here).

Then we visited Paphos Archaeological Park which contains the major part of the important ancient Greek and Roman City.

The park, still under excavation surprised us in many ways. Like the sandy surface, marked with the robe mentioning it is the early christian house only it hasn’t been escavated yet but the certain is that there are some frescos under the sand which are representing the Biblical story of Jesus multiplying the fishes.

Amphitheater
Doric columns
House of Dyonis

However, the dinner was lovely, Even though we tried couple of times to have wine from Cyprus and the waitress was returning twice each time bringing us the bottle from the Greece.

abbey 11

Saint Omer and Nazi bunker visit, France

A weekend trip to northern France. 🙂 The region is called Pas de Calais.

It has been named due to its famous Saint Audomar who brought Christianity to the area.

The first stop was the main square where the Christmas market was held. We decided to have a glass of champagne (which was surprisingly a bit sour) and stroll down the food market to buy cheeses and eggs.

The main square contains typical 17th century buildings sticking together on a small but cold rain. This is the area of constant past conflict between French, Dutch, English and Spanish Army for the territory and dominance. Not to mention World Wars…

We were driving a bit more than two hours from Brussels. 

As it was past noon already we decided to go local and have a local cuisine: the welsh and local Saint Omer beer. 

Odd restaurant where we had lunch

The old cathedral was constructed almost entirely in the 13th century. The church contains Biblical paintings, a colossal statue of Christ seated between the Virgin Mary and St John – all dating from 13th century and presented by the emperor Charles V. 

And of course, the symbol of France like statue of Jeanne d’Orleans.

Walking around before we decided to get warm in some coffee place, I noticed the Palais de Justice and its portal. It was beautiful and richly representative for the small city like Saint Omer – indeed rich country, or at least it used to be.

The next stop was Saint Bertin Abbey ruins. It was one of the most powerful abbeys in Northern Europe during the entire medieval period.

Three monks founded the first benedictine abbey along the Aa river in the 7th century. These three monks, Momelin, Ebertram and Bertin were sent by St. Omer to evangelize the territories on the north.

The night we welcomed in beautiful holiday inn called Villa Saint Marguerite. We had a view on the lake and river Aa and listened the rain.

The next day we visited La Coupole!

Also known as the Coupole d’Helfaut-Wizernes and originally codenamed Bauvorhaben 21 (Building Project 21). It was a Second World War bunker complex located about 5 km from Saint Omer.

It was built by the forces of Nazi Germany between 1943 and 1944 to serve as a launch base for V-2 rockets directed against London and southern England. Luckily, the WW2 ended 2 weeks before they were launched.

We entered into this claustrophobic and moistened and depressive underground building. There were photo exhibitions about rockets from World Wars.

We watched the movie about Nazi occupation of French territory from where the Nazis were building rockets and bombard UK. However, Winston Churchill discovered their intentions and destroyed the rocket constructions by bombing from the air. The Nazis decided to go underground.

Poor engineers and camp prisoners were building the rocket in terrible conditions wearing the prison clothes.

V2 rockets production (photo from museum)

Of course, we all know how the World War ll ended. The main creator of this idea, the Nazi Wernher von Braun was later invided by US (even though he was a strong SS member) to become member of NASA and participate the project of first man landing to Moon. In fact, he created the rocket that landed on the Moon. You do the moral here.

Wernher van Braun and USA president Kennedy

We walked a bit more through the museum of French resistance and then entered the Planetarium. We sat into the chairs (more precisely we laid) and listened the guiding voice of nice French lady explaining us the solar system while the planets and stars were appearing in front of us in 4D technique.

Planetarium
Planetarium

Lunch time! Welsh again, but vegetarian version and brilliant local beer La Goudale 🙂 with pizza, of course!

The last thing we visited was Maison du Marais. Actually, we were not able to enter cause it is closed on Sunday but we made a walk around through the beautiful nature: the bog, birds, river Aa, tall grass…

For the end, let me show you the beer I decided to buy for home. In case you are interested in local dialect: