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Month: January 2022

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Regensburg and Walhalla – Ausweis bitte!

Regensburg

Best visiting is the golden hour visiting – every corner seems enlightened, every rooftop has its moment, every facade shows its magic pulled out from the history of being.

And indeed, when strolling through Regensburg, you encounter evidence of the city’s magnificent history every step of the way.

Regensburg is a city in eastern Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube river. Itis the fourth-largest city in the State of Bavaria after MunichNuremberg and Augsburg. 

The first settlements in the Regensburg area date from the Stone Age and afterwards the oldest Celtic tribes settled around. In 2nd century, a major new Roman fort, called Castra Regina (“fortress by the river Regen”), was built by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It was an important camp at the most northerly point of the Danube; it corresponds to what is today the core of Regensburg’s Old City or Altstadt . The Porta praetoria is considered one of the grandest surviving Roman constructions in Germany.

Porta praetoria

After fall of Roman Empire and Byzant, Regensburg remained an important city during the reign of Charlemagne. In 13th century, it became a Free Imperial City and was a trade centre before the shifting of trade routes in the late Middle Ages. In 15th century, Regensburg became part of the Duchy of Bavaria, but its independence was restored by the Holy Roman Emperor some 10 years later.

This is the time when the construction of the St Peter’s Cathedral started. This gothic cathedral started its construction in 13th century and it took almost 600 years.

In the following ages the city adopted the Protestant Reformation in 16th century and its Town Council remained entirely Lutheran. By this time, the battles of patrician families took the summit, craft guildes, and Hussite wars started Regensburg’s descent. Shortly after that, the city started its own suicide, expelling out Jewish communities out of envy and jealousy of the commerce.

The best example of the Jewish existence is the Jewish quarter where Goliath House is presenting the mural depitction from the Old Testament: the battle of David and Goliath. The mural is from 16th century.

But the most important medieval monument and the monument itself to this city is The Stone Bridge (‘Steinerne Brücke’) – one of the most important symbols of Regensburg. It dates back to 1135 AD and is considered to be the oldest still existing bridge in Germany and a marvel of medieval architecture.

The Bavarian Duke Henry X the Proud started constructing this stone bridge to replace an inadequate ship bridge across the Danube. The bridge is built in Romanesque style with archs and icebreakers below that were creating legendary Danube swirls.

As a tourist, you should definitely walk all the way across to the Stadtamhof quarter on the other side. From here, you can take a lovely picture of the old town and the mills on the river.

The other side of the bridge was for the long time the city of itself – Stadtamhof, as mentioned – which is an island itself, surrounded by another small river that goes into Danube. A place of deep poverty before WWII ended.

For almost hundred of years, there was no other bridge to pass the Danube from Ulm to Vienna.

Old Town Hall from 13th century, built by Frederick ll bestowed the privileged status of Imperial Free City of Regensburg. The rulers and delegates from all over the Europe gathered here.

The wealthier and more influential family, the higher the tower. This was the building practice of patrician families in the Middle Ages. An important testimony to this time is the Golden Tower from 13th century.

Moving forward with the history. Did you know that the founder of Illuminati Adam Weishaupt lived in Regensburg in 18th century? He started the Order of the Federation of the Perfectibilists. Despite what many films and books claim, the goal of the order had nothing to do with sinister and evil powers. On the contrary, ”the light of reason” which was long pressed by church dogmas was to be exposed in order to create the new world order.

The aim was a complete reform of a government, religion and education. Virtue, wisdom and science should prevail over persecution and despotism. High ranking noblemen and celebrities of the time, like Goethe, became members of Illuminati. Shortly after their foundation, some hundred years later, they were forbidden in Bavaria.

The founder walked through the city of Regensburg, near the city gate, they encountered a heavy storm. They were strucked by the lightning and killed on spot. As the God was outraged by their idea. A list of members was found in his clothing which led to the slander and persecution of the rest.

Talking about fun facts, remember the story from Prague about alchemist Johanes / Jan Keppler? He also lived here in Regensburg making his theories on physics and planetary movements. Later he was accused on witchcraft for printing his Rudolphic tables. So he had to run to save his head. Turbulent times this Regensburg brings.

And then a bit of German understanding of the space – Heidplatz. Its name derives from the wasteland, place to be hidden, but large and open. During the Middle Ages, it was a place of Knight Tournaments, attracting jugglers, inventors, and exhibitionists to perform. In 1673 there was a legendary performance by french Charles Bernovin who tight himself into a rope attempting to strape with fireworks. Performance was unsuccessful and he died in front of the eyes of the public.

To the very end, sun was setting, the golden hour was finishing. We took one last walk before the restaurant, in order to use the daylight as much as possible. I remember being amazed how city walk zone is big leaving a lot for the pedestrians to explore.

To the very end, a place to eat and shelter was the Bischofshof am Dom. A pope, numerous cardinals and bishops have already dined here and loved the atmosphere and food when they visited Regensburg.

Walhalla

Not far away from Regensburg, by boat over the Danube or by car via Deutsces Autobahn, you can get to Walhalla. It stands magically above Donaustauf as a vast temple of marble, romantically reminding on antiquity.

It rears up out of the dark greenery around and can be seen the horizon from away with its huge entrance. I remember seeing it from the highway on my way to Croatia. This time I decided to stop and explore. What an episode this will be.

My hotel and restaurant was some local house in Bavaria supercute called die Kupferpfanne. 🙂 On my arrival, I was introduced with big bavarian meals and biers.

But my visit to Walhalla temple was another experience. I spent good hour climbing up the hill, through the forest and hills, overlooking the Danube and the wind directed from there, having -7 degrees. One could not feel more alive.

Upon the arrival, I realised that the winter time instructs the opening in 40 mins. Being motivated, I decided to move further around, explore the area and wait for my time to enter – to admire the German legacy. After all, this place is historical, initiated by Ludwig I, Bavarian King – built in the neoclassical Doric style pantheon. If anything, it is worth to stay just a bit longer to wait for the entrance.

Instead of that, I got the ”Ausweiss bitte,” PCR test = even though I am vaccinated, – proof of the living, birth certificate and blood listing. Overreacting now with the burocracy, of course, but I could have not hide my disappointment, walking down back towards the car, passing through the forest and over frozen fields of corn. Did we overreact a bit with the technocracy during these pandemic times?

Episode finished.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

A girl who spent most of her life next to the border with Slovenia, it is hard to explain what this country is about. To me, the country of Slovenia was a place to do the shopping, the place where people speak my dialect but not my official language, a country that always complicates the border and disputes the frontier, trades politically with the borderline in order to green-light the entrance to EU etc. Also, it is a country with amazing green landscapes, with the history perplexed with my region and my country of origin, the Alps, the rivers and typical continental climate that is shared, again, with my region but not my country of origin.

So. Ljubljana is the capital and largest city of Slovenia.

My point exactly: slovenian dishes vs. the naming of the square after two pre-medieval saints from Bulgaria that were illuminating the peasants teaching Cyrillic letters

So let me start with the dishes. I know this part! Especially if you start with the market visit early in the morning, Surprisingly lot to offer and roast your imagination about slovenian cuisine.

Sometimes the country is a bit slavic – especially when you hear the language. Sometimes it behaves totally germanic. This time, enjoy the slippers and make your own conclusion. 🙂

During antiquity, a Roman city called Emona stood in the area. Ljubljana itself was first mentioned in the first half of the 12th century. Situated at the middle of a trade route between the northern Adriatic Sea and the Danube region. In 14th century it becomes the part of the Habsburg Monarchy and stayed under Habsburg rule from the Middle Ages until the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. After World War II, Ljubljana became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It retained this status until Slovenia became independent in 1991 and Ljubljana became the capital of the newly formed state.

Ljubljana is a city of a dragon that nested around. You can notice this almost everywhere around the city. It symbolises power, courage, and greatness. One of the most important souvenirs is the Dragon bridge over the river Ljubljanica, which is part of river Sava. The bridge was constructed during Habsburg times so the architecture style is typical Vienna secession.

Cathedral of Saint Nicholas is early 18th century gothic church that belongs to Roman Catholicism. The site was originally occupied by an aisled three-nave Romanesque church, the oldest mention of which dates from 13th century.

The central square in Ljubljana is Prešeren Square. A 19th century poet, linking romanticism and politics, searching for history and legends that would form nation-state.

 Just opposite stands the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Built between 17th century, it replaced an older Gothic church on the same site. The layout takes the form of an early-Baroque basilica with one nave and two rows of lateral chapels. The Baroque main altar was executed by the sculptor Francesco Robba – same sculptor of the fountain at Town square. Much of the original frescos were ruined by the cracks in the ceiling caused by the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895. The new frescos were painted by the Slovene impressionist painter Matej Sternen.

The Triple Bridge is a group of three bridges across the Ljubljanica River. It connects Ljubljana’s historical medieval town on one bank and the modern city of Ljubljana. It located at Presern trg and can’t be missed. Apparently the river was wobbly and the three bridges as one had to be constructed. 😀

If you stand opposite on these three bridges and look straight up, opposite of the Franciscan church, your view would eventually sport the Ljubljana castle. It takes quite some time to get up there, but it is worth it.

But before we get there, time to eat local! Cheese, ham, eggs, sparkling wine and pumpkin oil. Acombination that heats cold winter moments and makes you feeling positivity. So we ended up in Slovenska hiša, with a spice of Bosnian accent.

From 1809 to 1813, during the Napoleonic interlude, Ljubljana (under the name Laybach) was the capital of the Illyrian Provinces.  In 1821, it hosted the Congress of Laibach, which fixed European political borders for years to come. The first train arrived in 1849 from Vienna and in 1857 the line was extended to Trieste. A series of earthquakes hit Ljubljana and seriously endangered the castle above and the house in Upper Ljubljana – the Old Town. This actually y favourite part of the city and I always enjoy exploring little corners, hidden behind the squares.

Now the path runs to the foot of the Castle Hill – a castle complex standing on Castle Hill above downtown Ljubljana. Originally a medieval fortress, it was probably constructed in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. It acquired its present outline with an almost complete overhaul in the 15th century, whereas the majority of the buildings date to the 16th and 17th centuries. Initially a defense structure and since the first half of the 14th century the seat of the lords of Carniola – a historical region of nowadays Slovenia.

The best part – the view on the city and surroundings! It was foggy but in certain moment I spotted the Alps and the Triglav – the highest peak of Slovenian Alps which forms the slovenian coat of arms, together with the river Sava.

Slovenia is becoming ever more popular as a prime wine destination. It produces top-quality wines and features abundant wineries, many of which are beautiful for visiting. Not to mention the passionate and oftentimes eccentric winemakers that have got a handful of exciting wine stories to tell you. If you ask me, it is quite specific – fresh but it fits with the local food – as it is supposed to be.

This is the reason we visited the City wine cellar – Grajska vinoteka – and did a bit of the wine tasting across the Slovenia. Some wine were perplexed, confusing, rich, odd. Some were simply not good although they surprised with the color. Here is what we discovered.

To the very end, I leave the images of Ljubljana: cozy, small and historical. Classical and boroqued.

And a Laško Zlatorog beer.

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Nancy of France

It was the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine. Following its rise to prominence in the Age of Enlightenment, it was nicknamed the “capital of Eastern France” in the late 19th century.

The motto of the city is Non inultus premor, latin for ‘”I am not injured unavenged”, a reference to the thistle, which is a symbol of Lorraine.

The exiled Polish king Stanislaus I (Stanisław Leszczyński in Polish), father-in-law of the French king Louis XV, was then given the vacant duchy of Lorraine. Under his nominal rule, Nancy experienced growth and a flowering of Baroque culture and architecture. Stanislaus oversaw the construction of Place Stanislaus, a major square and development connecting the old medieval with a newer part of the city. 

The old city center’s heritage dates from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The cathedral of Nancy is 18th-century baroque monument. King Sigebert III of Austrasia, merovingian king was laid to rest here. Hence the naming Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation and St. Sigisbert.

Arc Héré, the triumphal arch of Nancy, or Porte Héré is a triumphal arch from 18th century, designed to honor the French king Louis XV. The Arc displays motifs of war and peace with an inscription reading: “HOSTIUM TERROR / FOEDERUM CULTOR / GENTISQUE DECUS ET AMOR” (“terror of the enemies, maker of treaties, and the glory and love of his people”), referring to Louis XV.

Arc Héré

When you pass Arc Héré, the alley of trees welcome you to Place de la Carriere. It is named after numerous races, tournaments, games of rings and other chivalrous exercises were held in the past.

Place de la Carriere with Government Palace of Nancy

Passing the Government Palace, on the right is the arch dedicated to Charles de Gaulle.

Another great monument of Lorraine to mention is the Ducal Palace of Nancy – a former princely residence in which was home to the Dukes of Lorraine. It houses the Musée Lorrain, one of Nancy’s principal museums, dedicated to the art, history and popular traditions of Lorraine until the early 20th century.

You won’t help but be awestruck by Nancy’s magnificent architecture. Nancy’s appearance evolved again in the late-19th century when it was at the vanguard of Art Nouveau. Hence the lunch time at La brasserie Excelsior. The finesse of the french waiters, the patience in the meal course and the delicacy of the meals will leave you speechless.

After a meal like this, the best is a walk though the park. Parc de la Pépinière is the largest park in Nancy. It was founded by Stanislas on the site of the historic Dukes’ gardens and the strong holds of the Old City. For kids and families there’s mini-golf, playgrounds, a puppet theatre in summer and a small zoo where you can get close to monkeys, deer and ducks.

To enter the old town, you need to pass La Porte de la Craffe – medieval fortifications, erected in the 14th century. The gate marks the northern limit of the Grande-Rue which connects to the rue de la Citadelle.

The “Ville Vieille” is Nancy’s historic centre, founded in the 11th century and displays some good examples of medieval and Renaissance style architecture. The “Ville Vieille” was the Nancy of the Middle Ages. Around it were to be found only swamps, fields and forests.

Somewhere in the lost streets of Nancy, theSaint Epvre basilica. This flamboyant gothic basilica is built in the 19th century on the place of the 11th century church.

The Basilica of Saint Epvre is placed on the oldest Nancy square of Saint Epvre. It used to be a vibrant medieval market but today only a place to get a good snack a drink.

Next time visiting, on the savoury side I will definitely have a bite of famous quiche lorraine, the pastry made with eggs, bacon and crème fraîche, a familiar dish across Europe. Au revoir!

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Brugge, medieval and mysterious 📜

There is a post on my blog already dedicated to Flemish cities of Belgium . But I have decided that this city deserves one single post for itself. Even more, as I have been to Brugge many times, and as always, there is a place to discover something new. With its cobbled streets, crooked bridges, meandering canals and World Heritage-listed medieval buildings, the Belgian city of Bruges is so pretty it’s almost too good to be true. But anywhere where you can drink 12% alcohol beer and get into medieval history has got to be more than just a pretty face. And Bruges is just perfect for a weekend break – easy to get to and explore on foot, and bursting with charming streets, fantastic beers, boutique chocolate-makers and canalside bars.

Bonifacius bridge

So let us begin with just a bit of history to get you in the story 🙂 Why? Because Brugge is one big outside museum.

The name probably derives from the Old Dutch for ‘bridge’: brugga.

Bruges was a location of coastal settlement during prehistory: Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements. The first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar’s conquest in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century. The Viking arrived in the ninth century prompted Count Baldwin I of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia. The Golden Age arrived soon: 12th to 15th century.

Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was crucial to local commerce which was then known as the “Golden Inlet”. Bruges received its city charter in 12th century , and new walls and canals were built. Soon it became the capital of the County of Flanders and placed itself strategically at the crossroad of the Hanseatic League trading with the south. The new form of merchant capitalism developed and Flanders were leading in it – just some decades after Italian society’s renaissance.

The Bourse opened in 14th century as the first stock exchange in the world and developed into the most sophisticated money market in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared. Numerous foreign merchants were welcomed in Bruges and established their own commercial consulate in Bruges by the mid-15th century. The foreign merchants expanded the city’s trading zones. They maintained separate communities governed by their own laws until the economic collapse after 1700.

Bourse

This attracted a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The new oil-painting techniques of the Flemish school gained world renown. The leaders of this Norther Renaissance and Humanism in painting were Jan van Eyck and maybe Pieter Bruegel (although he comes a bit before in time).

These artists made significant advances in natural representation and illusionism, and their work typically features complex iconography. The painted works are generally oil on panel, or fixed altarpieces in the form of diptychs or triptychs.

The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges. This is also when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood is the relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, and is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders.

The Church of Our Lady dates mainly from the 13th century. This church is a monument to the wealth, sophistication, taste, and devotion to Catholic religion. In the church you can find amazing Madonna sculpture from Michelangelo.

Remaining still in religious timeframe, inevitable is to mention the quiet sacral place called Beguinage. An architectural complex which was created to house beguines – lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world. They are not nuns though. In most cases, beguines who lived in a convent agreed to obey certain regulations during their stay and contributed to a collective fund.

The Minnetwaterpark is just next to it and together with canals, cobbled stones streets and passages creates even more mystery.

Minnetpark

As the Brugge developed thanks to its proximity to the North sea and the tide that was giving peaceful shelter to the trade boats, naturally, Brugge built more and more canals to trade, store and commerce the goods. Today these canals are still in usage – some for the trade and some for the tourist sight seeing purposes. This time, I took a boat too 🙂

On these photos taken from the boat, you can’t miss the tall Belfry – the bigger the better, the nobels would say. The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the centre of the city. One of the city’s most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other dangers.

Just next to it is an interesting Historium experience that will take you in these times just written here. You become on of the characters of the city of Brugge, assisting great Jan van Eyck in the creation of one of his paintings. But just when things start to develop, your character gets lost in the streets and somehow ends up in the storage.

For the rest, I leave you just to walk and explore. There is many more to see. Like the fish guilde from 15th century next to fish market, possibly the wealthiest family of its times.

As one can see, Bruges is the archetypal Flemish city, but it’s so much more than that. Ancient brickwork and winding canals give the city its nickname “The Venice of the North”. I am not the fan of giving the name of one origin to another origin of itself, so I have to admit: its position as the heartland of Dutch-speaking Flanders gives it an unmistakable identity of its own. 

The Hospital of St. John was a medieval hospital in Bruges. It was founded in the mid-12th century. Located next to the Church of Our Lady, the premises contain some of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. The hospital grew during the Middle Ages and was a place where sick pilgrims and travellers were cared for. The site was later expanded with the building of a monastery and convent. In the 19th century, further construction led to a hospital with eight wards around a central building.

To end this, one has to try local dishes. We left the choice with flemmish carbonade and brugge zor bier – which is pipelined from bars to Brugge brewery. Cute.